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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > World War II > Armor in World War II > German and Axis Armor

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German and Axis Armor Discuss German and Axis armored fighting vehicles in World War II. This is also the forum for Achtung Panzer.

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  #1  
Old 28 Aug 17, 11:00
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Problems with a Panther

After the war the US Army Historical Division produced a series of studies known collectively as "The German Papers". These were written from the perspective of the Germans by former field commanders and specialists who had been involved at the time, and then translated into English. One such study was German Tank Maintenance produced by a team of generals, general staff officers and tank maintenance experts headed up by General Burkhart H Mueller- Hillebrand who had commanded various panzer units on the Eastern Front and who was the main author.

If you are not familiar with this document you might find what he has to say about the Panther interesting

Quote:
In a desperate attempt to speed up production the Ministry of Armaments had ordered the mass production of this new model before it had been properly tested. Early in 1943 the first Panther tanks arrived in the Russian theater and were immediately committed. Almost at once major defects in design and construction - particularly in the steering and control mechanism - were discovered with the result that all 325 Panther tanks had to be withdrawn and returned to the zone of interior for complete rebuilding.
To perform the necessary work as special tank-rebuild plant was established near Berlin. By the time the initial deficiencies had been corrected, the engine proved inadequate. It was not until the autumn of 1943 that a fully satisfactory engine became available. Under these circumstances it was hardly surprising that most of the Panthers shipped to Russia arrived without sufficient spare parts
Many a Panther was lost because of the shortage of some elementary spare part or because it could not be repaired in time
Later he describes how German industry proved incapable of supplying adequate numbers of spares (a problem made worse by inadequate control of the issue of improvements, upgrades and redesign of individual components) and the desperate shifts some tank units went to to keep their tanks in service - even to the point of stealing from other tank units.
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Last edited by MarkV; 28 Aug 17 at 11:05..
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  #2  
Old 28 Aug 17, 11:54
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Available here:

http://www.merriam-press.com/germant...orldwarii.aspx
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Old 28 Aug 17, 19:15
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Also available here as a free pdf:
German Tank Maintenance in World War II
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Old 29 Aug 17, 03:56
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The Panther was basicly too big and too complicated to mass produce.
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Old 01 Sep 17, 15:50
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General Burkhart H Mueller- Hillebrand
Quote:
In a desperate attempt to speed up production the Ministry of Armaments had ordered the mass production of this new model before it had been properly tested. Early in 1943 the first Panther tanks arrived in the Russian theater and were immediately committed. Almost at once major defects in design and construction - particularly in the steering and control mechanism - were discovered with the result that all 325 Panther tanks had to be withdrawn and returned to the zone of interior for complete rebuilding.
To perform the necessary work as special tank-rebuild plant was established near Berlin. By the time the initial deficiencies had been corrected, the engine proved inadequate. It was not until the autumn of 1943 that a fully satisfactory engine became available. Under these circumstances it was hardly surprising that most of the Panthers shipped to Russia arrived without sufficient spare parts
Many a Panther was lost because of the shortage of some elementary spare part or because it could not be repaired in time
There is a couple of issues with this statement. Panthers were not committed into combat until the summer of 1943 and no Panthers went east until June 1943. The number eventually committed in July 1943 was about 200.

The rebuild programme, he is referring, to happened when the Panther battalions were training in Germany, recieving their first Panthers in January
1943. The first 90 Panthers produced were issued directly to the troops for training. Starting April 1943, all newly produced Panthers were sent from the assembly plants to DEMAGs plant in Falkensee west of Berlin to be rebuilt. As the rebuilt vehicles were issued to the troops, they returned the first 90 Panthers to DEMAG for rebuilding.

So all Panthers, that went to the eastern front, had been rebuilt prior to entering combat.

As it happens, more problems appeared as this rebuilding circus was extended upon, as more changes to the vehicle was proved necessary. Rebuilt vehicles issued to the troops in Germany were further modified with the aid of the troops prior to their departure to the front.

(PS: Text edited for a couple of errors).

Last edited by cbo; 02 Sep 17 at 03:55..
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Old 01 Sep 17, 16:06
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbo View Post
General Burkhart H Mueller- Hillebrand


There is a couple of issues with this statement. Panthers were not committed into combat until the summer of 1943 and no Panthers went east until June 1943. The number eventually committed in July 1943 was about 200.

The rebuild programme, he is referring to happened when the Panther battalions were training in Germany, recieving their first Panthers in January
1943 and returning them for rebuild in April 1943. Part of the rebuild program happened at MAN in Nürnberg but starting April 1943 with first deliveries in June 1943, a small number were being rebuilt at DEMAGs plant in Falkensee west of Berlin.

But it would appear, that the troops that went into combat in July 1943 would mostly have used factory fresh vehicles, as the rebuilds may not have reached the front until later - at least not from DEMAG.
Well he was there and ought to know.
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Old 01 Sep 17, 17:11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merkava188 View Post
The Panther was basicly too big and too complicated to mass produce.
It was "mass produced". I think you mean efficiently and in greater numbers?

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Old 02 Sep 17, 04:44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkV View Post
Well he was there and ought to know.
I'm not sure whether you are really that obtuse or just that naive

But OK.....

Where "was" Burkhart Müller-Hillebrand actually when this took place?

From October 1942 to February 1943, he was a Lt. Colonel in the officers reserve in Berlin. Starting February 1943, he was in France, commanding the staff assembling the remnants of the 16. Panzerdivision, destroyed at Stalingrad. In March, he was commanding Panzerregiment 24 as it was being rebuilt after being destroyed at Stalingrad. He stayed with this regiment until January 1944.

In other words, Burkhart Müller-Hillebrand was nowhere near the place where decisions about Panthers were made and had nothing to do with the units, factories or anything else dealing with Panther production in winter, spring and summer of 1943.

Burkhart Müller-Hillebrand was captured by the British in 1945, transferred to the US Army in 1947 and then in 1948 became a member of the "Operational History (German) Section der Historical Division der United States Army" in Germany. The people who worked in the historical section had access to some primary material, but would also have to draw on their own experience and whetever they've picked up along the way. They did not have the anywhere near the means available for historians today.

And in this study, the comments about the Panther are just given as an example in a text about the supply of spareparts. Obviously, they did not go to great lenghts in finding the details of the rebuild operations as it was not the main point of the study.

Just above the statement about Panthers, there is a claim that almost all Tigers comitted to the Eastern Front in the autumn of 1942 were "lost or deadlined" due the lack of spares. A breif look at the statistics for s.Pz.Abt. 502 make that statement seem equally dubiuos.

That does not necessarily mean that the whole text is useless as a source, my guess is that it is probably correct when it comes to the organization of German tank maintenance, but the examples, the details and the analysis of causes and effects may suffer from the way and conditions under which the study was made.

Another thing worth considering, when reading these materials, is that they were written at a time when the former Wehrmacht officers were doing their damnedest to dissociate themselves from any responsibility regarding the failure of the Wehrmacht in WWII. Blaming Hitler, the Party, the homefront, arms production and whatnot was not uncommon when explaining the defeat. I doubt any German general at this time would conclude: "We suck at war - lets go home and make Volkswagens...."
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