The following article comes from the US War Department’s Intelligence Bulletin for January 1944 (Vol II, no. 5.). The Intelligence Bulletin, which contained summaries of Allied intelligence on German equipment and tactics, was published every month and distributed in limited numbers (usually about 150 copies per division) for use by officers and enlisted men in the field. Copies of the Bulletin provide a fascinating insight into what Allied intelligence officers knew about German capabilities, and also what they felt the men in the field needed to hear. As can be seen from this article, which downplays the threat posed by the Panther tank, the gulf between what Allied intelligence knew and what it felt should be passed on to the troops was often quite wide.
Section IV: The New Heavy Tank: The Pz.Kw. 5 (Panther)
When the Pz.Kw. 6 (Tiger) became standard, the Pz. Kw. 5 (Panther) was still in an experimental stage. Now that the Panther has joined the German tank series as a standard model, a general description of this newest “land battleship” can be made available to U.S. military personnel. Much of the data presented here comes from Russian sources, inasmuch as the Pz. Kw. 5 has been used only on the Eastern Front.
The Panther (see fig. 16) is a fast, heavy, well-armored vehicle. It mounts a long 75-mm gun. Weighting 45 tons, the new tank appears to be of a type intermediate between the 22-ton Pz. Kw. 4 and the 56-ton Pz. Kw. 6. The Panther has a speed of about 31 miles per hour. It corresponds roughly to our General Sherman, which the Germans have always greatly admired.
The following table of information regarding the Pz. Kw. 5 will be of interest.
Weight: 45 tons.
Width: 11 ft 8 in (same as the Pz. Kw. 6)
Length: 22 ft 8 in (6 inches longer than the Pz. Kw. 6)
Clearance: 1 ft 8 in (3.9 in more than the Pz. Kw. 6)
Motor: gasoline, 640hp, in rear of tank (the gas tanks are on each side of the motor)
Cooling system: water
Caterpillar section: drive sprockets at front rear idlers; 8 double rubber-tired bogie wheels, 33.5 in in diameter, on either side; torsion suspension system; hydraulic shock absorbers inside tank; metal caterpillar treat 25.6 in wide.
Armor: front of turret and cannon shield, 3.94 in; upper front plate, 3.45 in, 57º angle of slope; lower front place, 2.95 in, 53º angle of slope.
Armament: 75-mm gun, long barrel; one 7.62-mm machine gun (MG 42)
Ammunition: 75 rounds (AP and HE)
Maximum speed: approx. 31 mph
Range: Approx 105 miles
It is believed that the 75-mm gun is the Kw. K. This tank gun is a straight-bore weapon with a muzzle brake, and has an overall length of 18 feet 2 inches.
Although equipped with the same motor as the Tiger, the Panther has lighter armor and armament. For this reason it is capable of higher speed and greater maneuverability. The Panther is also proved with additional armor plate, 4 to 6-mm thick, along the side, just above the suspension wheels and the sloping side armor plate.
When a flexible tube with a float is attached to the air intake, the Panther has no difficulty in fording fairly deep streams. There is a special fitting in the top of the tank for attaching this tube.
Like the Pz. Kw. 6, the Pz. Kw. 5’s are organized into separate tank battalions. During the summer of 1943, the Germans used many of these new tanks on the Russian front.
Although the Russians have found the Pz. Kw. 5 more maneuvrable than the Pz. Kw. 6, they are convinced that the new tank is more easily knocked out. Fire from all types of rifles and machine guns directed against the peep holes, periscopes, and the base of the turret and gun shield will blind or jam the parts, the russians say. High explosives and amor piercing shells of 54-mm (2.12 inches) caliber, or higher, are effective against the turret at ranges of 875 yards or less. Large calibre artillery and self-propelled cannon can put the Panther out of action at ordinary distances for effective fire. The vertical and sloping plates can be penetrated by armor-piercing shells of 45-mm (1.78 inches) calibre or higher. Incendiary armor-piercing shells are said to be especially effective, not only against gasoline tanks, but against the ammunition, which is located just to the rear of the driver.
The additional armor plate above the suspension wheels is provided to reduce the penetration of hollow-charge shells. According to the Russians, it is ineffective; ant-tank grenades, anti-tank mines, and molotov cocktails are reported to be effective against the weak top and bottom plates and the cooling and ventilating openings on top of the tank, just above the motor.
However, it should definitively be stated that the Pz. Kw. 5 is a formidable weapon—a distinct asset of the German Army.