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Panzer IV: The Best Tank to Fight During World War II?

Panzer IV: Nazi Germany’s Most Powerful Tank Ever? While not built in the numbers of the American M3 Sherman or Soviet Red Army T-34, the German PzKpfw IV, more commonly known as the Panzer IV, was the Nazi’s World War II workhorse. The original Panzer IV Ausf A model was introduced in 1937, and it was built around several common components with the Panzer III, including the same engine.

The 25-tonne tank was the brainchild of the German general and innovative armored warfare theorist Heinz Guderian, who saw the need for a tank that could fill the role of fire support, while engaging ant-tank guns and enemy strong points in support of infantry or other tanks. The Panzer IV was produced throughout the war, and some were even supplied to Germany’s allies.

Panzer IV – Steadily Improved

Approximately 8,500 were built in all variants during the war, and the early models, A-E, incorporated various modifications and were deployed in the early stages of the conflict, including the invasion of France in 1940.

Experience gleaned from the battlefield led to a redesign that became the Ausf F1 model, which appeared in 1941 – in time for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. As the tank as originally developed as a close-support tank for panzer regiments, even the F1 model was fitted with a short, stubby 75mm gun that was able to fire high explosive and smoke rounds.

However, the tank proved ineffective against the Soviet Red Army’s T-34 medium tanks, and beginning in 1942, numerous modifications were made to the Panzer IV. The Ausf F2 variant was equipped with a long – and much more powerful – 75mm gun. It proved more capable of penetrating the armor of the T-34 and other Soviet tanks. Yet, the trend towards greater hitting power continued with the Ausf G model, which had an even larger main gun. The Panzer IV Ausf H was also fitted with a long-barreled L/48 gun, which was considered at least as effective as the 76.2mm (three-inch) main armament of the Soviet T-34. The gun could fire a variety of rounds.

Later models of the Panzer IV also incorporated features that were designed to simplify and speed up production, which was a necessity due to the immense demand that Nazis faced in the latter half of the Second World War. In fact, many tank experts have also argued that Germany might have better opted to concentrate on the production of the proven effective workhorse that was the Panzer IV rather than expending huge resources on the more complex – albeit impressive – Panzer V Panther and Panzer VI Tiger. Those heavy tanks had proved expensive to develop, slow to build, and absorbed resources that could have been served in producing a larger number of Panzer IVs.

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