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Tactics in
Fading Legions




Germany’s Panzerkampfwagen IV
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
September 2012

In an earlier installment, we looked at Germany’s early panzers and their appearance in the Panzer Grenadier series. These light tanks did not serve for the entire war, as newer enemy vehicles (in particular, the Red Army’s T-34 and KV-1) made them not only obsolete but positively deadly to their crews. Germany needed a tank that had at least some chance on the battlefield against the big Soviet machines.

The feudal nature of the Nazi regime made it difficult to react quickly to an economic problem such as producing a new tank. Each power bloc needed to gets its share of power and profit, else the project could not advance. Adolf Hitler’s first order, to reverse-engineer the T-34 and get it into production as quickly as possible, did not meet the needs of his Nazi barons. The vehicle that eventually emerged from the process, the PzKw V Panther, would have many fine qualities but entered the lines years after the troops needed it.

An early-model PzKw IV, probably taken pre-war.

With a new tank design not forthcoming, the army sought a stopgap measure. Its largest tank, the PzKw IV, would be re-fitted with a long-barreled 75mm gun. This weapon could defeat the T-34’s sloped armor on the Eastern Front, and in North Africa would penetrate anything the British could put in the field except possibly the thickly plated but slow Matilda.

The Panzerkampfwagen IV had been ordered in 1935 as a support vehicle for the medium tank companies of the new Panzer regiments. Its short-barreled 75mm gun would deal with infantry and “soft” targets, while the PzKw III served as the main battle tank. However, slightly more of Krupp’s PzKw IV were ordered than of Daimler-Benz’s PzKw III, due to problems with the PzKw III suspension and Krupp’s greater political weight. Despite lacking an impressive name, it would become Germany’s most important tank, produced in the greatest quantity among German tanks and the only tank of any nationality to serve on the front lines for the entire war.

The first large-scale production model, the PzKw IV Ausf. C, appeared in 1938. It saw combat during the campaign in Poland, and remained in use until 1943 when the last of them had been lost.


The Ausf. D differed mostly in improved armor protection, and began production in October 1939, with 229 of them built. Nineteen of them were diverted to other uses, mostly armored bridge-layers. Because the D was split over two purchase orders, it was actually built alongside the improved model E. Another 223 of the model E were built.

When that order completed in April 1941, Krupp received an order for 500 of an improved type, the PzKw IV Ausf. F. Another 125 machines were ordered from Vomag and Nibelungenwerke. The F model had improved armor, but appears in Panzer Grenadier folded into the PzKw IV E series.

A pair of late-model PzKw IV, with armored “skirts”
on their turrets to set off hand-held anti-tank weapons.

The F model, still carrying the short-muzzled 75mm gun, was in production when the Army issued desperate orders to upgrade the tank’s firepower as quickly as possible. The Army had already ordered planning to begin, and Krupp intended to produce the Ausf. G model with the bigger gun when the F order completed in the summer of 1942.

Instead, the last 200 became PzKw F2 models, with the long 75mm L43 gun and considerably more anti-tank stopping power. The production lines halted at all three contractors for a month in March 1942, while the new tooling was installed. The first re-armed tanks appeared late that month, and proved a very satisfying upgrade to the old vehicle, if not yet a match for the powerful Soviet tanks.

An experimental model D with a 50mm L60 gun, the same type then being fitted to the PzKw IIIJ in a similar emergency upgrade, was constructed in November 1941 but Krupp’s engineers recommended waiting for the 75mm gun and the army concurred.


Following models continually improved the tank’s armor protection. The L/48 gun introduced with the model G remained the tank’s main gun until production halted in March, 1945. Orders spiralled ever upward: 1,687 for the model G, 3,774 for the model H, and 1,758 for the model J. The model J represented a step backwards in one respect: To cut production time, the turret traverse’s electric drive gave way to a hand-cranked system.

Even with the short 75mm L24 cannon, the PzKw IV could destroy enemy tanks using hollow-charge rounds. These became available in the summer of 1941 in both Russia and North Africa.

By the end of the war, each panzer division on paper had one battalion of PzKw IV tanks and another of Panthers. Several instead had two of PzKw IV’s, some just one. The tank could still hold up against the American-made Shermans and British Cromwells, but had never been a true match for the T-34 and this became even more apparent when the T-34/85 entered the battlefield.

The PzKw IV appears in almost all of the Panzer Grenadier series games. And it will continue to show up in many more.

Put the PzKw IV into action! Order Eastern Front right now!