World War II Infantry Hand-held Anti-tank Weapons

World War II anti-tank weapons
Figure 1.--The German Panzerfaust was one of the most effective infantry weapons of the War. It was the best hand-held anti-tank weaon of world War II. It was light and easily carried as well as simple to operate. Even a boy could effectivelybuse it with almost no training. With it a Hitler Youth boy could single-handely destroy a tank, especially a lightly armored Sherman. The Germans relied on it in the final nonths of the War after losing air superority and being overweakmed by Allied and Soviet artillery and tanks.

Until relatively late in the War, infantry units had no effective defenses against tanks. They could call in artillery support or air support, but this might or not come. Here the Americans by 1943 were able to provided substantial support to their infantry. Virtually every 2nd leiutenant had radio contact abd could call in artillery support and airstrikes. In close quarters combat, however, this could be as dangerous as the Germans. The German infantry was largely on their own. This changed with the invention of hand-held anti-tank weapons. The last major tank battke if the War was Kursk (July 1943). The infantry fought the battle without portable anti-tank weapons was Kursk. Infantry anti-tank weapons began to appear midway in the War (1942), but were not common until about 2 years later (1944). The first was the British PIAT. It was a tricky weapon to use, but scored perhaps the most important tank kill as part of D-Day. It helped the British glider troops hold Pegasus Bridge. the American Bazooka and German Panzerfaust were the twon most important. Tanks could be stopped with properly armed airplanes or anti-tank artillery, but not at first by small infantry units. The Red Army made do with improvised weapons like Molotov cocktails or training dogs with mines strapped on the head for tanks. The new weapons gave a single infantryman the ability to stop a tank in its tracks. And as a result, tanks could not be sent into battle without strong infantry support. This dramatically changed the World War II battlefield. The American Bazooka 2.36" was not capable of penetrating front armor of the Panthers, let alone a Tiger, but could do damage from the sides or in close-quarers combat. Even if they just not a track off, the tank was of little use to the Germans. Despite its short comings, the U.S. Army was still using it in the Koean War (1950-53). The Bazooka was not up to the German Panzerfaust. It had inferior penetration capability. The Panzerfaust was the precursor of the modern Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). The British PIAT was also inferior to the Panzerfaust. The Germans produced the Panzerfaust in large numbers--200,000 a month. In the final year of the war when the Germans expeienced shortages of the 88mm gun and other artillery, the Panzerfaust played an important role in slowing the advance of Allied and Soviet armor. The American Army had the added advantage of strong communications capabilities and strong artillery capability. This allowed any second lieutenant to call in a devestating artillery barage when faced with tanks as well as strong air support. This was somnething German infantry units did not have in the second phase of the War. They had to rely almost entirely on the Panzerfaust unless anti-tank guns were available, but this was support small infantry units commonly did not have. With a Panzerfaust a diminuative Hitler Youth boy could stop a tank and in many cases did precisely that.


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Created: 12:19 PM 1/16/2013
Spell checked: 6:58 PM 1/16/2013
Last updated: 6:58 PM 1/16/2013