Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Panzerkampfwagen I

by Phil Gardocki

The Panzer I was built from the mid 30’s to 1939. It had a 2 man crew and was armed with 2 machineguns.  Even though it was only intended as a training vehicle, it saw service during the Spanish Civil War. Where 64 of them were shipped to General Franco’s forces. They were greeted with much enthusiasm. This changed when it was discovered how easily the armor could be penetrated by antitank or even heavy machineguns.  Eventually, prisoners were used to man the vehicles, with the promise of a pardon after completing only one combat mission.

Panzer I
As photographed by the author.
Used with permission from the US Army Ordnance Museum.

The Panzer I was also used during the Anschluss, the German occupation of Austria.  Despite the fact that the panzers were driven on roads, and faced no combat, an alarming number of the were rendered combat ineffective due to mechanical failure.  This lead to a considerable increase in the number of panzer support personnel.  Between 10 and 25 mechanics and other support personnel per tank were assigned to the panzer divisions.  As a side note, on the Soviet side the numbers were almost reversed, about 1 mechanic per 15-20 tanks. It is well known that all German tanks were out fitted with radios, what is not well known, is that only commander's tanks had transmitters, and then at a considerable reduction in the onboard ammunition.  In the case of the Panzer I command tank, all of the magazine was required.  Dummy machine guns were placed to decieve the enemy into thinking the tank was armed.

The Panzer I continued to see service in 1939, in Poland and then France, but was being quickly phased out as quickly as industry could replace it. The chassis for the Panzer I become the base for a number of vehicles, including the Sd. Kfz 138/1 "Bison", and the s.I.G.* 33.

Panzer I ASpecificationPanzer I B-FSpecification
Gun2 MG 13Gun2 MG 13
Weight5 tonnesWeight6 tonnes
Max Hull Armor1.3 cmMax Hull Armor3 cm
Horsepower57hp, 43kwHorsepower98hp, 73kw
Top Speed37 kphTop Speed50 kph
*s.I.G.  Self propelled Infantry Gun.  Commonly a
large caliber, low velocity infantry support artillery.  In the case of
the s.I.G. 33, the Germans just bolted down an I.G. 15 cm/L11 to the chassis of
a Panzer I.
Panzer I

As photographed by the author.
Used with permission from the US Army Ordnance Museum.

Flammpanzer I
Stolen from the internet, and used without permission.

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