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German cross  The Panzerschreck in foreign service  German cross

Allies of the Third Reich
Germany 

Beside the obvious fact that the Germans used their own weapon, it is interesting to see pictures with German soldiers handling the origin of the Panzerschreck. So let's start with a few pictures of Germans with the US M1 Rocket Launcher in hand.

This picture taken by the WaA-prüf  is of course the most significant one. Displaying the Rocket Launcher with a grenade that was captured in Tunis. With this specimen in hand the development of the Panzerschreck was started.
 

This picture was taken in Italy in September 1943 by PK photographer Haas. The soldier is carrying two examples of the US M1 Rocket Launcher, probably captured during fighting with US troops in Italy. Both weapons are missing the mesh screen.

This photo is part of a series taken by PK Photgrapher Zwirner in La Luzerne, St. Andrč de L’Epine, France June-July 1944. The German soldier and Unteroffizier are posing with a captured US M1 Rocket Launcher with ammunition. Note that the soldier has added a US camouflage helmet cover and is using US lace-up boots (not visible in this picture.). No evidence so far suggest that the Germans actually used captured Rocket Launchers in combat.

Romania

The Panzerschreck was a product of the Third Reich, but was also made available/exported to Germany's allies during WW2.  Unconfirmed sources claim that Romania received and used the weapon system. The only proofs I have been able to find about this “export” are two pictures taken by the German Propaganda Kompanie (PK) photographer Paul Wolf in 1944. 


The pictures show German instructors training Romanian officers and soldiers somewhere south in the Soviet Union. The shot up tank in the background serving as a target is a Soviet SU85, the assault tank version of the T34. No further information about Romanian use of the weapon is known.

Hungary

Hungary had developed a rocket launcher of their own, with much closer resemblance to the mother of all rocket launchers; the US Rocket Launcher M1. The Hungarian version was called Páncélrém (Tank Fear.) and had a calibre of 60mm and a shield resembling the one on the Panzerschreck. 


The Hungarian Páncélrém


A Hungarian
Honvéd with the Páncélrém in position


Late 1944. Hungarian troops sing as they march along, heavily armed with German guns. Picture courtesy of Adam V.
I haven't been able to find any information about the Panzerschreck in Hungarian service, but from the picture above it seems likely that they must have received them, much the same way that the Romanian forces did.

Italy
Italy was one of Germany's most important allies until mid 1943. Mussolini's fascist regime fell on July 25, 1943, and efforts began immediately to arrange a cease-fire with the Allies. Italy withdrew from the Axis Alliance on September 8, asking for, and received, an armistice from the Allied powers. Germany responded with the raid that freed Mussolini from his imprisonment at Gran Sasso and established the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana, RSI) in northern Italy. The RSI established a Army of their own that fought alongside the German forces against the Allies in Italy. The Panzerschreck wasn't even fully invented when the state of Italy signed the armistice with the allied powers. The RSI army was equiped and trained by the Wehrmacht. In November 1944 they received the Panzerschreck. The number of Panzerschrecks or further details is unknown.

     
The above pictures show the RSI army armed with the Panzerschreck. Note the Bersaglieri with their distinctive hats on the left picture and the Italian helmets on the right picture. The grenade still has the wooden handle taped to the drum and would of course not be possible to fully load
.

Finland

I am able to give you the following information much due to of the assistance of Jarkko Vihavainen, Finland. His web page is worth visiting for more information about the Finish use of these weapons. Finland is by far the most interesting German ally when it comes to the Panzerschreck. Finland received several shipments of both Panzerfausts and Panzerschreck with ammunition during 1944. The Finnish army ordered 2000 Launchers and 20.000 rockets for the grand price of 200.000 Reichmarks. The first shipment arrived with S/S Aune on 11th April 1944 and was followed by several deliveries during the summer. The last batch arrived on 25th of August 1944.  From the total order 1854 launchers and 18650 rockets were delivered before a political change stopped all arms exports from Germany to Finland. The weapons delivered had both types of front sight frame (early/late) and both types of safety catch.

The Panzerschreck in Finish service was named “Panssarikauhu” (Tank fear/horror). The official Finish name for the weapon was “88 mm:n raketinheitin mallia B 54” , abbreviated to “88 Rakh/B54”. All ammunition delivered to Finland was the RPzB Gr 4322 Wintermunition 43/44. The official name of the grenade was “88 mm:n panssari- h-raketti mallia B-27/30 iskusytytimellä”,  abbreviated to “88 psh-rak/B-27/30”. The Finish army also printed a manual translated to Finish that also included the use of two models of the Panzerfaust (listed first on the front page).

No (specific Finish) modifications has been found on the Finish used Panzerschrecks, beside the added serial number that was positioned on the metal band under the trigger. More info about this can be found on the page concerning “Markings, makers, paint & numbers”. My own Panzerschreck came with a shoulder pad in leather added to the original carrying sling, stamped with the Finish army property mark. All Panzerschrecks delivered to Finland was finished in the German Dunkelgelb (tan) colour. In July 1944 orders was issued by the Finish army HQ to repaint all Panzerschrecks. All weapons already in use were to be repainted by the units, and un-issued weapons should be painted prior to being issued. Based on the many surviving examples it appears to have been common practice to completely remove the tan paint before the Panzerschrecks were repainted in a Finish army green. Some launchers (most probably the ones already issued to the units) just got a secondary layer of green. The application of a 3-tone camouflage scheme also appears to have been widespread. The Finish army green is a thin paint which tends to make badly stored weapons rust easily.

The Finish army property mark was applied to both the launcher and the shield. It consists of a large square with the letters “SA” (SA = Suomen Armeijan) inside in black, painted on with a stencil. On the actual launcher tube I have only observed it applied on top of the Finish green paintwork, normally in the area around the trigger. 

On the shield it was positioned to the rear side. Several shields in original German colour have been observed with the “SA” property mark applied directly on the original German paintwork. 


The above shield is somewhat of a mystery, as it is repainted in Dunkelgrau and then property marked SA in white. The only explanation I can come up with is that it was issued to a German unit in Finland, and then got captured during or after the German retreat from Finland. And the Finish army didn't bother to repaint it, only property marking it. 
German units often repainted Dunkelgelb items to Dunkelgrau in the field. But there are no Finish reports about conquered Panzerschrecks from the retreating German forces, only Panzerfausts...


Note the SA property marking applied on a tan (Dunkelgelb) shield

My own shield had the property mark applied to the German tan paint, and then covered again with a 3-tone camouflage. 

On top of this, a quick reference guide for the gunner was painted on the rear side of this shield in the form of a T-34 silhouette. The SA marking is behind the black paint.

At the end of September 1944 Finland had signed an armistice with the Soviet Union and started a military campaign against the German Forces in Finland, forcing them to retreat through Lapland towards Norway. This is known as the Lapland war. Several pictures show Finish soldiers armed with Panzerschreck, with the caption that they display scenes from the Lapland war. Since the armistice with Soviet Union was already in place, this would have been the last combat use of these weapons by the Fins, against their former owners.

The Panzerschreck remained in service in the Finnish army until the late 1950’s when it was placed in storage. The long service time was much due to the fact that the SA had plenty of ammunition left when the war ended.  Only 17% of the German deliveries had been used when the war ended, so they still had more than 14.000 rockets left in storage for the cold war era that was to follow.

The complete stock was bought by International Armament Corporation (also known as Interarms or Interarmco) and was imported into the USA sometime during the 1960’s.  A part of the export apparently ended up in their warehouse in Manchester, England. The fate of the ammunition is unknown today, but it was most probably destroyed in Finland.  This export/import of the Panzerschrecks has turned the market upside-down. It is today close to impossible to find a Panzerschreck in good condition in Europe, while they are in plenty in the USA. Almost without exception they will still carry the property markings of the Suomen Armeijan, with the letters SA inside a square painted on both the tube and shield.

Allied forces

Several pictures (in fact quite a few) show the Panzerschreck as “war-booty” and souvenirs. It must have been considered an interesting/impressive weapon, as most photos show the “finder” aiming it, pretending to shoot.  So far I haven't heard about any Veteran bring-backs of the Panzerschreck.


Posing for a photo. Note that the "gunner" is pulling the wrong trigger.


The Panzerschreck erection.

There is one photo that claims to show US troops firing a captured Panzerschreck at a disabled King Tiger to check the actual effect of the weapon on armour. According to the picture caption the US Rocket Launcher M1 is also fired at the same target. The Bazooka was able to penetrate 80mm of steel, while the Panzerschreck was listed with a 160mm effect. The frontal armour plate of the King Tiger is 100mm thick, but it is sloped at 400, so the effective thickness of the plate would be 153mm for a shot fired directly from the front. (The dynamics of this will be explained in the pages about ammunition) It stands to reason that the Bazooka would merely have scratched the paint, while the Panzerschreck would have had a theoretical chance of penetrating the King Tiger front armour.


La Gleize -- Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division test fire the American bazooka and the German Panzerschreck against the frontal armor of a German Tiger II in January 1945. The Tiger II (officially Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger B) belongs to schwere SS-PanzerAbteilung 501 attached to Kampfgruppe Peiper of the 1st SS-Panzerdivision. The abandoned Panther tank is also part of Kampfgruppe Peiper.


The very same tank that acted as a target in the previous picture. I assume this picture was taken in the spring of 1945. According to the reports none of the rounds penetrated the frontal armor. It is interesting to see the comparatively small holes from the shaped charges, and to speculate on which is which...


During 1944 and 1945 the Panzerschreck saw alternative service in the US army as part of the “Weapons of war” exhibit that toured the United States to help promote the 5th war loan. The show displayed US and German weapons and equipment both static and in use. This picture is from May 1944. The keen observer would note that the Panzerschreck firer above has the tunic of  a specialist supply NCO; "Der Spiess", denoted by the two white stripes on the lower arm. Also note that the grenade isn't held correctly according to the manual, during loading.

There is no proof available that suggest that the Panzerschreck was ever used in combat against German forces under any other circumstances than by the Finns in the Lapland war.

Poland
An unconfirmed story has come to my attention that suggests that the
Panzerschreck rocket was used by the Polish resistance during the Warszaw 
uprising in the Mokotów district. According to the known details a former school in the Madalińskiego area was used by the Germans as a barrack during the occupation. On 2. August 1944 the Polish resistance found an ammunition cache of 180 pieces of the Panzerschreck rocket there, left by the Germans during their withdrawal from certain areas of Warszawa. On the 9. August the same forces captured a German mobile gun repair workshop. According to the legend the Polish resistance was able to manufacture a dozen of (I assume) simplified rocket launchers that would be able to fire the rocket. In theory, all they would need would be an old drainpipe and a battery. As stated previously; the "weapon" part of the Panzerschreck was the actual ammunition. The rockets would have been excellent to use as remote controlled anti-tank booby-traps etc. For the fighting inside the city perimeter against infantry the grenades would have been less than useful. The grenade has a shaped charge, and it would have had little effect on "soft" targets such as infantry and buildings. The Germans used tanks in these fightings, so the captured Panzerschreck rockets may have found use. Unfortunately there are no official reports or even any pictures that can confirm this story.

Many thanks to Wojciech Andrzejewski for bringing this story to my attention.

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