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.