Armored Fist of Germany – Photos and Video of the Panzerfaust Anti-Tank Weapon

 
 
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The enormous scale of tank warfare during World War II consequently lead to creating counter-measures. The armor of early tanks was relatively thin. However, that changed after 1942. Thus, anti-tank weapons had to adapt, especially their armor penetration characteristics. In a close combat situation, without air or tank support, infantry was vulnerable and consequently pushed onto the defensive. Arming soldiers with a weapon capable of disabling enemy armor became essential.

A Wehrmacht Gefreiter aims a Panzerfaust using the integrated leaf sight. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-710-0371-20 / Gronefeld, Gerhard / CC-BY-SA 3.0
A Wehrmacht Gefreiter aims a Panzerfaust using the integrated leaf sight. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-710-0371-20 / Gronefeld, Gerhard / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941. Early successes for either side were achieved only by taking heavy losses. The battle of endurance was ultimately won by Soviets in early 1943 when the Germans were encircled at Stalingrad. A few months later, the Battle of Kursk sealed the fate of the German offensive operations on the Eastern Front.

German Fallschrimjagers passing by a destroyed Sherman tank, Normandy, 1944. Note Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust anti-tank weapons.
German Fallschrimjagers passing by a destroyed Sherman tank, Normandy, 1944. Note Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust anti-tank weapons.

The Wehrmacht desperately needed more tanks, but the speed of their production couldn’t be increased, especially under the constant bombing by Allied aircraft. German engineers had designed a prototype Faustpatrone in 1942, which led to the development of the Panzerfaust. Tests proved that the weapon was reliable and achieved excellent ballistic results.

The first delivery of Panzerfausts 30 (first model) occurred in mid-1943 on the Eastern Front and they quickly earned a reputation among German troops. The weapon was cheap, simple in design, easy to use and most important, effective. It was to be used by a single soldier, which meant that Soviet tank crews could be hit by it from anywhere within a range of just over 30 yards. With a penetration capability of 0.75 inches, it was deadly in the hands of a skilled soldier.

A soldier from 11th Armoured Division guards two youthful German prisoners and a haul of ‘Panzerfaust’ anti-tank weapons, 7 April 1945. The Germans were part of a bicycle-mounted tank-hunting unit.
A soldier from 11th Armoured Division guards two youthful German prisoners and a haul of ‘Panzerfaust’ anti-tank weapons, 7 April 1945. The Germans were part of a bicycle-mounted tank-hunting unit.

The Panzerfaust 30 was good but that didn’t stop German military minds from upgrading it. Soon, the Panzerfaust 60 entered service, doubling the range. The range was still an issue so the next variant, the Panzerfaust 100, increased it to over 100 yards. The final Panzerfaust, designated “150”, had both the range and its armor piercing capability improved, with the range increased to 165 yards and armor penetration performance to 1.2 inches. A “250” version was also planned. However, none were produced before the end of the war.

Panzerfaust armed German soldiers on the Eastern Front, 1945. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H28150 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.
Panzerfaust armed German soldiers on the Eastern Front, 1945. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H28150 / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

From 1943 until the capitulation of Nazi Germany in May 1945,  around 7 million Panzerfausts of all variants were produced. Except for the last “150” version, it was a single-use weapon. Its simplicity of use became handy in late 1944 when Adolf Hitler ordered that every male between 16-60 years old should be armed.

A short training session, or even just a simple display, was all that was required to teach the Volkssturm members how to utilize the weapon – and time was of the essence.

Volkssturm members with Panzerfaust, late 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J31320 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Volkssturm members with Panzerfaust, late 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J31320 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The reputation of the Panzerfaust reached beyond the borders of the Third Reich and was commonly used on other fronts in Europe. The Finns especially made impressive use of it while fighting against the Soviets and later their former allies, the Germans. Without a doubt, the Panzerfaust was one of the most effective weapons of the entire war, from which Russian RPGs were developed after the war.

More photos…

Instructors at a 59th Division school for potential NCOs at Vienne-en-Bessin demonstrate various German anti-tank weapons, including a Panzerschreck, two types of Panzerfaust and anti-tank mines, 1 August 1944.
Instructors at a 59th Division school for potential NCOs at Vienne-en-Bessin demonstrate various German anti-tank weapons, including a Panzerschreck, two types of Panzerfaust and anti-tank mines, 1 August 1944.

 

German officer demonstrating the use of Panzerfaust, Eastern Front, 1943. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-700-0258-21A / Muck, Richard / CC-BY-SA 3.0.
German officer demonstrating the use of Panzerfaust, Eastern Front, 1943. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-700-0258-21A / Muck, Richard / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

 

Another shot from the same series. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-700-0258-22A / Muck, Richard / CC-BY-SA 3.0.
Another shot from the same series. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-700-0258-22A / Muck, Richard / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

 

Volksturm in Berlin, 1945. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1971-033-15 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Volksturm in Berlin, 1945. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1971-033-15 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Finnish troops inspecting the remnants of a destroyed Red Army T-34 tank in Ihantala June/July 1944. SA-Kuva
Finnish troops inspecting the remnants of a destroyed Red Army T-34 tank in Ihantala June/July 1944. SA-Kuva
Two Finnish soldiers with a shoulder-fired Panzerfaust.
Two Finnish soldiers with a shoulder-fired Panzerfaust.

 

US soldier posing with a captured Panzerfaust, c. 1944
US soldier posing with a captured Panzerfaust, c. 1944

 

German soldiers in a ruined factory, Germany, 1945. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J28810 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
German soldiers in a ruined factory, Germany, 1945. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J28810 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Panzerfausts being transported, Italy, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-313-1004-19A / Vack / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Panzerfausts being transported, Italy, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-313-1004-19A / Vack / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Fallschirmjäger in Normandy, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-586-2221-14 / Thönessen (nn) / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Fallschirmjäger in Normandy, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-586-2221-14 / Thönessen (nn) / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

German soldiers in Budapest, Hungary, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-680-8282A-11A / Faupel / CC-BY-SA 3.0
German soldiers in Budapest, Hungary, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-680-8282A-11A / Faupel / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

German soldier presenting the use of Panzerfaust. Note the warhead in his left hand. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-313-1005-04A / CC-BY-SA 3.0
German soldier presenting the use of Panzerfaust. Note the warhead in his left hand. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-313-1005-04A / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

German soldier with Panzerfaust, Ukraine, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-710-0371-18 / Gronefeld, Gerhard / CC-BY-SA 3.0
German soldier with Panzerfaust, Ukraine, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-710-0371-18 / Gronefeld, Gerhard / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Captain W Guest-Gordons, Intelligence Officer with No. 2 Infantry Brigade, examines a German Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon, Anzio, 27 February 1944.
Captain W Guest-Gordons, Intelligence Officer with No. 2 Infantry Brigade, examines a German Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon, Anzio, 27 February 1944.

 

German soldier on the Eastern Front, 1943. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-709-0337A-10A / Gronefeld, Gerhard / CC-BY-SA 3.0.
German soldier on the Eastern Front, 1943. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-709-0337A-10A / Gronefeld, Gerhard / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

German soldier armed with Panzerfaust in Normandy, 1944. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-301-1953-16 Kurth / CC-BY-SA 3.0
German soldier armed with Panzerfaust in Normandy, 1944. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-301-1953-16 Kurth / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Finnish soldiers in 1944. Photo: SA-Kuva
Finnish soldiers in 1944. Photo: SA-Kuva

 

Finnish soldier posing with Panzerfaust. Photo: SA-Kuva.
Finnish soldier posing with Panzerfaust. Photo: SA-Kuva.

 

German woman learns about the Panzerfaust. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1973-001-30 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
German woman learns about the Panzerfaust. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1973-001-30 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Soldiers of the Panzergrenadier-Division “Großdeutschland”, Eastern Front, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1995-081-15A / Otto / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Soldiers of the Panzergrenadier-Division “Großdeutschland”, Eastern Front, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1995-081-15A / Otto / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Volkssturm member in Western Germany, 1945. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H29033 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Volkssturm member in Western Germany, 1945. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H29033 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Somewhere in Belgium/Northern France, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-300-1897-07A / Aschenbrück / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Somewhere in Belgium/Northern France, 1944. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-300-1897-07A / Aschenbrück / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

German soldier in a foxhole, Normandy 1944. Note the second Panzerfaust. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-721-0375-28A / Koll / CC-BY-SA 3.0
German soldier in a foxhole, Normandy 1944. Note the second Panzerfaust. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-721-0375-28A / Koll / CC-BY-SA 3.0

 

Finnish soldiers armed with Panzerfausts, c. 1944.
Finnish soldiers armed with Panzerfausts, c. 1944.
 
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