In Depth Look at the German Panzer III

Panzer III - baku13 CC BY-SA 3.0

The Wehrmacht from the first day of World War II used the Panzerkampfwagen III (or Pz.III) tank. It was used as part of Wehrmacht divisions until the middle of 1944, and single tanks fought until Germany’s surrender. Despite its shortcomings, the Pz. III made a significant contribution to the success of the German army.

In February 1934, the Armaments Department organized a tender for the development of a new tank, code-named “Zugführerwagen” or “Z.W.”

Four companies created designs in response: MAN, Krupp, Daimler-Benz and Rheinmetall. After testing was completed, the Daimler-Benz chassis assembly was chosen in August 1935.

Photo: Alan Wilson / CC BY-SA 2.0

The various produced modifications of the Pz.III tank are as follows:

  • А-Е – tanks with 37-mm cannons.
  • F-N – tanks with 50-mm cannons.
  • M-O – assault tanks with a 75-mm howitzer.
  • Self-propelled flamethrower.
  • Armored commander’s car.
  • Armored observation machine.


Crew atop a Panzer III 5

Pz.III modifications A-D were equipped with a Maybach HL 108TR engine with a capacity of 250 horsepower, and modifications E-N had a Maybach HL 120TRM engine with 300 horsepower.


Panzer III Ausf J of the 12 Panzer division

The first engine allowed a tank weighing from 15.4 to 16 tons to reach speeds of up to 21.7 mph on a flat road, while the second engine accelerated the slightly heavier E-N series to a speed of nearly 25 mph or more, depending on the modification. The power reserve remained unchanged and the tanks’ range was about 96-102 miles.

Panzer III Kursk 1943

The main armament of the Pz.III in modifications A-G was the 3.7 cm Rheinmetall-Borsig KwK L/45 cannon. Versions G-J were armed with a 5 cm KwK38 L/42 gun, J-M modifications were armed with a 5 cm KwK39 L/60 gun, and modification N was armed with a 7.5 cm KwK 37 gun. In addition, modifications A-G were equipped with 3 MG 29 machine guns, while the G-M versions had only 2 MG 34 machine guns.

Panzer III Ausf J during operations on the Eastern Front in the summer of 1942

From 1940 to 1942, Pz.III tanks were the mainstay of the German tank divisions. Due to their inferior armor and armament, they were used as special vehicles after 1943. In total, during the production period from 1938 to 1943, 5,691 Pz.III tanks of various modifications were produced.

At the end of the summer of 1940, 168 tanks of modifications F-H were redesigned to operate when submerged. In addition, based on the Pz.III, self-propelled artillery was created for various purposes.

Panzer III of the 10th Panzer Division on a march through France, 1940

The Pz.III tank took part in hostilities against Poland, France, North Africa, the USSR, and in other conflicts during the war. Germany also supplied Pz.IIIs to other Axis armies, and the Red Army and Allies used some captured Pz.IIIs.

Panzer III Ausf L of the 7th Panzer Division Toulouse France 1942


Panzer III 5 in the snow during operations in the winter of 1941-42


Panzer III 134 DAK tank being loaded into a ship


Panzer III Ausf M lang with provisional winter camouflage


British soldiers inspecting a captured Panzer III of the Deutsches Afrikakorps 2 May 1941


Panzer III Tank 221 DAK


Panzer III Tanks with front spare tracks


Crew atop a Panzer III


StuG III Ausf.B Stalingrad 1942


StuGs III with Winterketten, Eastern Front


StuG III covers advancing SS Panzergrenadier Division “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” troops in Sevastopol 1942


Panzerkampfwagen III


StuG leading a long column of troops and vehicles somewhere on the Eastern Front


Early StuG III in Besancon 1940


Crew atop a Panzerkampfwagen III 502


Panzer III on railroad car


Panzerkampfwagen III in Italy


German tank officer atop Panzer III on outskirts of Wjasma 1941


Panzer III of the 11. Panzer Division

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Panzer III of the 2 Panzer Division
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