The website for the video game “Armored Warfare” has posted a rather provocative article titles “German Military – Fact or Fiction.” The article focuses almost exclusively on tanks and armored vehicles. The article makes a number of claims that run counter to the popular conception of German WW2 armor. We present it here for the sake of discussion.
Was the Panther the best German armored vehicle of the war? No. That title probably belongs to a less obvious candidate – the StuG III. Built upon the Panzer III chassis, the StuG III was not expensive, had excellent results and remained effective right until the end of the war. Building these vehicles made much more sense during the war than building over-armored heavy tanks, especially in the price per enemy kill perspective.
Contrary to popular belief, Tigers were (especially late in the war) very rare. Many older wartime accounts mention “Tigers”, “Panthers” and “Ferdinands” destroyed in large numbers but most of these tank kills were other tank models and not the dreaded “big cats” – for an average Allied soldier, however, every tank was a “Tiger”, especially in the east.
One issue of interest is German steel. In the past, various popular sources have attributed nearly mythical qualities to it and the “Kruppstahl” was largely a synonym for “durable”. Recent Russian sources have claimed exactly the opposite – that it was brittle and poor, especially late in the war. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. The Krupp steel was certainly hard rather than soft but that is not inherently a good thing. Softer steel has some advantages over very hard steel (which is usually brittle), but it is possible that the (false) “harder means better” notion spawned the German steel reputation. On the other hand, the claim that German steel quality decreased later in the war is false – according to H.L.Doyle the Germans compensated the lack of certain elements of the steel creation process by modifying the formula.