Osprey's Panzerfaust vs Sherman

Author:

Steven Zaloga

Publisher/Distributor

Osprey Publishing

Price

$22.00 MSRP

Reviewer:

Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softcover
ISBN: 978-1-4728-3231-3

When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, they ran into the T-34 and KV series of tanks. These were basically impervious to the anti-tank guns then in service and it was a real shock and threat. Even the larger anti-tank guns were not always as effective as one would like. This wasn't the first time the Germans had run up against well armored tanks as they had to deal with British and French infantry tanks in 1940, but the overwhelming victories of that time put the need to deal with them on the back burner.

The thing about penetrating a lot of armor with a standard AP round is that the thicker the armor the much larger the charge has to be to penetrate it. It ends up with a factor of diminishing returns as armor gets thicker. However, there was a fix. That was the development of shaped charges. It was discovered that these charges, which were being used by engineers to destroy bunkers and the like, were able to penetrate a very thick amount of concrete. These charges basically concentrated all the blast into a small point, turning a metal shield inside the charge into a high speed and incredibly hot plasma jet that penetrated the wall. The super-hot spall created once the jet penetrated was usually enough to destroy whatever was inside.

This sort of thing was too large for a standard tank shell to be effective so it was determined that some sort of propelled charge was needed. After much trial and error, as well as picking up some US bazookas in North Africa, two methods of delivering this charge were developed. One was the Panzershrek which was basically a larger form of bazooka and was developed in several sized, each larger size being able to propel larger warheads a longer distance. The other was the Panzerfaust which was a disposable munition that was really only good for a short distance (about 100 feet) and required a lot of courage to get in place to use. These two weapons were, like the bazooka, fairly short range and most effective in ambush situations. They were rarely used on the Eastern Front due to the open spaces.

The greatest use was in European theater. Initially, these were very effective against the Sherman which simply did not have the armor to protect the crew from a hit. However, right after Normandy the number of these weapons was not as great as later on. Still, there were a myriad of attempts to do something to enhance protection against these. Things like sandbags, additional welded on armor plate, track links and concrete were tried with various levels of success, though nothing was really able to be 100% effective.

In this book, the author takes a look at the development of the weapons, their use and their effect. On the other side of the situation was the attempts by US tank units in both an official and unofficial manner to provide protection against these weapons. The book also provides several major combat operations where the two adversaries were present and the results of those engagements. It makes for a fascinating read on a subject that isn't all that well known to most enthusiasts. A well done read and very much worth picking up.

October 2019

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