Thursday, 14 June 2012

Gigantic Weapons as Overcompensation

   We have discussed Hitler's testicular deficiencies and the resulting overcompensation before. But surely the worst example is the design and building of three prototypes of the Pz VIII Mauss, the heaviest tank ever made at 188 tons. Its main armamment was the 128mm weapon from the Jagdtiger with a 75mm coaxial cannon.
   Strategically, it was useless. It couldn't cross bridges or be moved by rail or tank transporter so its strategic reach would have been limited to how far it could drive from the factory - at 8.1 mph. That might have been not very far as it was stuffed with complex devices and only had six crew for maintainance so breakdowns would have been common.
   Tactically, it would have been a joke with less capability than a Tiger I or JSII. But it was very, very, big with a very long barrel and that was apparently what impressed mad Adolph. A surviving prototype is now at a tank museum near Moscow, see below.

   The obsession with size affected other weapon systems such as destroyers fitted with cruiser guns, giving them less firepower in practice than a conventional ship, and the little gem above. The 8.3 ton eight wheeled Panzerspähwagen was unnecessarily large for a reconnaissance vehicle. The original production model had a 20mm autocannon, which was big enough. But Nazis being Nazis they could never resist the urge to tinker and fit gigantic weapons, such as a high velocity 75mm AT gun. 
   This was a ridiculous weapon which only encouraged crews to try and take on tanks, in an open topped vehicle with 15mm armour on the front and an open top.
   The fitting of AT guns on open topped lightly armoured vehicles such German Marders or the American TDs was not a success as they were horribly vulnerable. Towed AT guns are low and can be hidden or dug in, while tanks are armoured to withstand fire.
   Stuart light tanks used for reconnaissance by British armoured divisions ideally had their turrets removed to improve vision and resist the temptation to use it as a main battle tank.

   Just to rub the point home, the pic above shows the German AFVs against a Churchill tank, which at 38.5 tons was quite heavy by Anglo-American standards.


  1. Well the designs for the Mk.I Bolo/Ogre had to start somewhere, right? :)

    Beautiful job on the models, I really like how the camo turned out. Keep up the great work!

  2. A confident tank is an effective tank.

  3. Interesting though that in wargaming, a SPG like the Ferdinand is awesome - sit it at the back and blat opposing tanks for fun. I'm sure the Maus would offer similar 'fun'.

    In reality, the Ferdinand in combat was slow and lacked MGs for anti-infantry use - so Russians could literally walk up to it and attach a charge or petrol-bomb it with ease.

    I agree with the analysis of the Puma - rubbish in real conflict but (in wargaming) epic for 'shoot and scoot' tactics -knocking out enemy armour then running away.

  4. Hi John
    nice paint jobs on the tanks and SPG I do wonder how much of the German output was decided by pragmatism i.e. "we have those Russian 76.2mm AT guns we captured; we have those useless (now we can have proper tanks) over engineered armoured cars we built (because the Versailles Treaty meant we couldn't have proper tanks) we could make a tank destroyer not ideal, but better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick". The other side of this coin is the grandiose "we're a super power we ought to have super weapons" e.g.Maus, Tirpitz (about 500 tanks worth of metals that sat in a fjord in Norway for the whole of the war) Actually another wasteful side of the Nazi system was their competition system whereby every weapon up grade had companies producing virtually brand new prototypes rather than the evolutionary system on the allied side (which was by no means a perfect system either but still was a bit better at delivering especially on the aircraft front). Actually of course I think the Ferdinands was built on some 12 spare Chassis for the Tiger II built by Henshel while the Porshe model went in to service as the King Tiger. I think Henshel had difficulties getting the turrets right at first so they just lashed up an armoured cabin to mount the gun in. Good thing Speer didn't get the job as the armaments minister till was it was too late for him to make up for his predeccesors mistakes

  5. Dear Mordian
    RE: Ogre, I guess it did have to start somewhere.

  6. Dear Phil

    It's incredible how impressive-looking weapon systems are great on the wargame table but useless in practice. I think that tells us something about the accuracy of our games. But, hey, I just play with toy soldiers.

  7. Dear Shaun
    I still suspect the Nazi overcompensation on weapons was the sign of a deep-seated inferiority complex.

    Mine is larger than yours, etc.


  8. Sorry John
    I over thought that one (think I got my turrets and manufacturers mixed up too it was Porsche who had problems) never mind I'll get my anorak....

  9. Dear Shaun
    Not the bejewelled battle-anaorak?

  10. Hi John
    I get the Hitch-Hikers reference but don't start rumours like that people will point and laugh...No its just a plain anorak (the black leather and rubber with bright cut steel studding one is only used at the weekends)

  11. Dear Shaun
    "black leather and rubber with bright cut steel studding"
    Sounds like a Max Mosely job.