Here is the official report regarding the conclusions of the two German specialists that studied "Maresal" tank destroyer.
MILITARY CABINET of STATE LEADER
- Cabinet -
I have the honor to bring to your attention that the two German specialists, Lieutenant-Colonel Ventz and Naymann, who came to study the tank destroyer and the self-propelled howitzer, built by the Military Cabinet at Malaxa Workshops, made the following assertions:
1. Considerations on the tank destroyer.
Lt.-Col. Ventz from the Waffen-Amt, the architect of the improvisation “Hornisse” (88mm anti-tank gun mounted on the Mark III tank on top of the chassis, in the place of turret) and a modern tank destroyer, based on “Panther”, presently in construction, declared that his report regarding the “Maresal” tank destroyer will be positive. As a first consequence, he will propose to Berlin that in 8-10 days a construction engineer to be dispatched, in order to assist us in perfecting the details.
Lt.-Col. Haymann, from the OKH, affirmed his belief that the Romanian Army, when it will have one thousand of such tank destroyers at disposition, will have a considerably greater combat strength. In his opinion, “Maresal” tank destroyer, mobile, with great operating range and armed with a powerful anti-tank gun, will be “ein grosser Hetzer” (a troubling enemy) for the Russians. He also added: General Guderian wishes to have units of tank destroyers, to be able to throw them wherever the enemy launches an armored attack; once this attack being weakened, these units reorganized in the rear, being ready to intervene in another threatened area. The presented tank destroyer, light, fast, with reduced fuel consumption and great range, has the qualities needed for such a role.
The opinion of Lt.-Col. Haymann is that the mobility characteristics of “Maresal” tank destroyer should be kept, and the temptation of increasing the armor protection should be resisted.
As relative value, both specialists - after examining also the two improvisations of tank destroyers, based on: the ex-Russian light tank T.60 and the R.2 tank, armed with Russian 76.2 anti-tank gun - have classified the various anti-tank motorized weapons in the following manner:
1) Tank destroyer special built for this role,
2) Sturmgeschutz armed with anti-tank gun,
3) Tank armed with anti-tank gun,
4) Tank destroyer improvised by mounting an anti-tank gun on the chassis of a tank, in the place of turret,
5) Towed anti-tank gun.
Referring to the two tank destroyers improvised from the T.60 and R.2 tanks, Lt.-Col. Ventz said: “50% is better than nothing”. Lt.-Col. Haymann: “in spite the solution being an improvisation, it is better than the towed anti-tank gun”.
Lt.-Col. Haymann, when asked on the ratio of engines that should be used for the tank destroyer and the auxiliary vehicles (command, supply, security vehicles) he said firmly: given the evolution of the Russian tanks, none of the ordered Hotchkiss engines should be used for anything else than tank destroyers. As command vehicles, Horch, Stoewer and other all-terrain vehicles can be employed, while for supply 3-ton trucks are adequate, by replacing the rear axles with a simple track, a model that can be delivered and adapted for any model of truck.
As factory priority, both agreed that the building of the tank destroyer should be top of the list, being a solution superior to any other anti-tank systems.
In detail, the observations of the German specialists were the following:
Given the power of the engine (15-16 hp/ton), the mobility was found very advantageous.
Even if Lt.-Col. Ventz said that the armor of a light tank destroyer must offer protection only against Russian anti-tank guns, and any increase in armor is inutile, if the armor plates is not 80-100 mm thick, therefor prohibitive weight, he would favor a slightly thicker armor for our tank destroyer, this being certainly the requests of the crews after the first engagements.
Lt.-Col. Haymann did not agree with thicker armor, because it would result in a heavier vehicle, therefor a reduced mobility, its essential feature.
A tank destroyer can often be found in the enemy lines, either amid infantry supported by anti-tank guns, or tanks armed both with anti-tank guns and machineguns. Ideally, the tank destroyer should be able to withstand this fire from every direction. The German heavy tank destroyer resists the Russian 76.2 anti-tank gun from the distance, even up to 100 m, but it’s weight is 47 t and becomes a moving plant; for a light tank destroyer protection against bullets, shrapnel and anti-tank rifles is sufficient.
The conclusion is that while the heavy tank destroyer has unlimited use, in principle the light one should not overpass the lines of friendly infantry or armor.
In combat the tank destroyer exposes its front, this must be better armored. The German heavy tank destroyer the frontal armor plate is 80 mm thick and an inclination of 35; “Maresal” tank destroyer has a 20 mm thick frontal armor plate at a more favorable inclination of 25.
Lt.-Col. Ventz proposed that its thickness to be increased to 30 mm, which will be attempted after evaluating the effect of fire of the Russian 45 mm anti-tank gun that will took place at Suditi trial grounds.
The thickness of the side armor plates must be about 1/3 of the front plate. The Germans have a tank destroyer with 50 mm in front, while only 15 mm on the sides. We were advised to keep the actual thickness of … mm for the side armor plates.
The shape of the hull was found to be very simple and very successful. Lt.-Col. Haymann compared it with the shape of a turtle, low profile, hardly detectable from the distance and easy to build.
The 75-mm D.T.U.D.R. anti-tank gun is considered powerful enough, even against the T-34 tank.
The following observations on its setting were made:
- The horizontal field of fire of 15 degrees is very good; the German heavy tank destroyer has a horizontal field of fire of 30 degrees, but given the ease of turning “Maresal” in direction, the 15 degrees are considered as very sufficient; it could be even reduced if required by other needs;
- The vertical field of fire was considered sufficient: +10 and -5; the German tank destroyer has -8 because of its notably higher ground clearance;
- The clearance should be increased in order to avoid hitting the ground with the barrel while crossing trenches and …. . This will be accomplished by raising the frame with 18 cm (suspension raised with 10 cm and the side traverses inside the chassis lowered with 8 cm)
- Retreating the gun inside the hull with 20-30 cm, as suggested by Lt.-Col. Ventz, is not possible because of the loader position, only mounting a special anti-tank gun like the Germans did could achieve this request.
- Placing the gun on a special mount was found good; we were advised to research the possibility of placing a cardanic suspension, between the armor plate and the floor of the chassis (we will receive blueprints). This idea can be conveniently used to place a light machinegun in the armor plate, near the gun;
- Taking out the gun for repairing only after lifting the armor plates was found as unpractical. But as the repairing take place only at mobile workshops, lifting a hull of 1.5 tons is not a problem for these workshops. To make possible taking out the gun through the hull would mean weakening the hull or complicating the design.
- The exhaust of the gasses resulted from the firing is made by the Germans with the help of a special ventilator. If the exhaust produced by the Hotchkiss engine’s ventilator would not prove sufficient, we will mount an electric ventilator.
The German improvised tank destroyers, which are armed with 75-mm guns, carries up to 70 rounds. “Maresal” tank destroyer will carry 45 rounds.
The speed and low profile of our vehicle, as well as the higher muzzle velocity of our shell, allows firing at closer range and with greater accuracy, therefor a lower ammunition consumption.
e) Engine and transmission, were found as very good. The transmission fared very well at the trial consisting of starting up on a slope of about 30.
f) Manning the tank destroyer
In order to allow a better aiming of the tank destroyer, the steering implemented for “Maresal” is contrary to the one of the actual tanks: the direction is changed by braking the two tracks with the legs (not with the hands). This system allows changing the direction of the vehicle even when the gunner (which is also driver) has the two hands busy with the handles for elevation and traverse (when stopping, the driver switches to first gear and declutches - braking with both legs; any lifting of one of the legs causes the rotation of the vehicle in the opposite direction).
The system was found ingenious by the two German specialists and it was examined with a lot of attention and thoroughly. Lt.-Col. Haymann entered the tank in order to see it running and asked driving on a straight line across a paved road to see the sensitivity of the vehicles at braking the tracks with the legs.
The second innovation, the combination of declutch with the acceleration, was the object of a same careful examination.
“Maresal” tank destroyer has a crew of two men only: a driver-gunner and radio operator-loader. The basic idea was: the driver does not fire while driving and he does not drive while firing (except when changing the vehicle’s orientation, which is accomplished only by using the legs, in case of a moving target).
Lt.-Col. Ventz declared that a German constructor presented a fairly similar project of combining the roles of crew, but it was rejected. He provided the combination of gunner and loader functions, though.
No criticism was brought to this innovation. Even more, Lt.-Col. Ventz asked: how did you manage to find a solution to the problem of combining roles for reducing the crew, an issue we are also researching?
Both specialists pointed that for the role of driver-gunner should be used battery commanders, section commanders and NCOs. The two crew members should have enough room for conducting their combined tasks in good order, more than the cramped space of the actual tanks, where everybody has a separate function.
“Maresal” tank destroyer complies with this requirement.
h) Suspension and tracks
There is nothing to remark for the suspension. For the track, even having a ground pressure quotient of 0.6, and at the German tanks it goes up to 0.9 and even 1, we were recommended to widen it.
For this purpose we will try to use the track of a 38 T tank brought from Crimea.
As the ground clearance was found to be too small (30 cm) we were advised to raise it to 40 cm. In order to prove us that the actual clearance is too small, Lt.-Col. Ventz asked to make three full turns in place, operation that was supposed to mire the vehicle, due to the earth gathered underneath it. Even if the ground was soft, the tank destroyer turned three times in one direction and three times in the other, and then left, leaving behind deep ditches and a pile of turned up soil. The track of the Russian tank T.60 proved to be very good: it does not gather earth and it does not produce detracking by sticking sideways into the ground at turns.
We were recommended to reconsider the distance between the track and its guard, where earth could pile up.
After driving in soft, moist and partially snowy ground, as well as in an autumn plowed field, all done with ease, Lt.-Col. Haymann declared: such a small and mobile vehicle (ein solches kleiness Ding so beweglich) I have never seen before.
i) Organization in units
The two specialists provided the following organization:
The tank destroyers are to be organized in independent groups (battalions) at the disposition of higher HQ.
The commander drives behind in an all-terrain vehicle equipped with a radio on 2-3 channels: one for the HQ, another one for the companies, and - if possible - a third one for the tank destroyers.
Beside him a small command group, in all-terrain vehicles.
The battalion is to be organized on 3 companies, the company on 3 sections, each section with 3 tank destroyers.
Company commanders and section commanders have their own tank destroyers. The tank destroyers of company commanders should have one more radio operator (if possible) for communication with the battalion, by reducing the ammunition on board.
For the fighting trains, all-terrain trucks are to be used.
The battalion has a regimental train, which could be split among companies if needed.
The true opinion of the 2 specialists on “Maresal” tank destroyer is not known. By some estimation we could deduce their valuation of our achievement. In our discussions, Lt.-Col. Ventz, speaking about the ingenuity of Romanians, regretted that the German mentality, by means of keeping secret their achievements, prevents collaborations that could be useful to the German industry itself.
The interest that was shown by the 2 specialists for the tank destroyer was constantly vivid. Especially the innovations were carefully examined and they repeatedly requested explanations on their origin and development (inverted steering, clutch combined with acceleration, combined roles of the crew, ammunition storage, placement of the gun on the lower part of the hull).
The impression of specialists was that the 2 German officers had more lessons to take than to give, judging by their questions and remarks. This can be concluded also from the comparison with the most recent German tank destroyer, armed with 88-mm anti-tank gun, therefor superior with one class over our 75-mm D.T.U.D.R. anti-tank gun, and which has ... tons, over the 7.5 tons of our tank destroyer.
Questioned about an industrial collaboration for fulfilling the needs of the German and Romanian armies, for mass production of the “Maresal” tank destroyer, the German specialists replied that they are not empowered for such arrangements.
Nevertheless, at our request they promised we would receive official answers, through the constructor that will come, to some of the technical questions. By amiability, Lt.-Col. Ventz confessed that Waffen-Amt would not consent to answer all of our questions, but by their willingness to help and in return for the attention they were welcomed, the German officers promised they would offer verbal and confidential answers to the rest of our questions, through our military attaché.
Both specialists intervened by Colonel Assmann, from the German military mission, and Colonel Busch, from the German economic mission, to offer full support for building the tank destroyer, by deliveries of raw materials and German products. For the components that are made in Germany only, such us the rubber coated ratchets for the suspension, we received no formal promise. We are to receive the answer via Colonel Busch on the possibilities of delivery. For training the armor welders we are offered a course of 8 days with the latest technique of the German industry.
It is still to find out what these 2 specialists reported to General Hansen, whom they saw before their departure, in a 15 minutes audience. He will be questioned with the occasion of his visit at the Malaxa factories, this week.
2. The self-propelled howitzer.
The documentation for the self-propelled howitzer (annexed) presented to the 2 German specialists was found judiciously prepared.
The German Army has such self-propelled howitzers of 150 mm caliber (old model) mounted on the chassis of the Czech tank C.K.D.-38 T. Presently they are still employed in Italy, as tracked artillery (Sebsfahrlafett) organized in independent groups (battalions), at the disposition of HQ. The solution answers to the need for motorization of the artillery by mounting the cannons on self-propelled chassis, solution that is superior to the old procedure of towing the cannons.
The low ground clearance of our self-propelled howitzer was found advantageous; the Russian 122-mm howitzer was considered adequate: its relative short range does not constitute an inconvenient, since the assault artillery is required to execute direct fire, so at short distances.
The ensemble is conceived in such way that this howitzer can be used both for the static defense of a front and for the preparation of an attack against a defiladed position. The maximum gun elevation angle of 23 degrees allows a range of about 6500 meters, and the panoramic sight allows indirect fire.
Loading the heavy shells, with separate propellant charge, justifies the increasing in crew from 2 to 3 or even 4, being plenty of room.
The separation of the roles of gunner and driver was also found justified, given the great importance of the gunner, which has to deal with hardly detectable objectives: camouflaged casemates, improvised automatic weapons emplacements on the ground etc (unlike the tank destroyer, whose objectives have tall profile and are easy to spot).
We were recommended to provide the self-propelled howitzer with a (large?) number of rounds, because the tonnage does not play any role: the movement of the self-propelled howitzer does demand neither swiftness nor crossing heavy obstacles that cannot be taken sideways. The storage of ammunition on the top side of the engine being inevitable, a good thermal isolation is required in order not to affect the temperature of the propellant charges, and therefor the range of the shells.
The employment of self-propelled howitzers, said the specialists, must be well known by the troops, that are to receive their support. The howitzer must have HE shells for its usual missions. But as any cannon, it must have a small percent of Hohlladung shells for protection against tanks (these shells are to be fired at ranges up to the muzzle velocity of the shell, which is 400 m).
Therefor, when dealing with tanks, the self-propelled howitzer should act defensively and it should search for cover or concealment, in order not to be spotted before the enemy tank enters its effective range.
It is a mistake to have these pieces, in case of an enemy tank attack, “forward” (Panzer vor), by employing them in this manner, pushed offensively in the tank battle, they would be easily destroyed because of their insufficient protection (15 mm) and their characteristic visible profile. This mistake is common in the German Army and they are trying hard to repair it.
The opinion of the German specialists is that the 122 and 150-mm howitzers should not be mounted on the chassis equipped with Hotchkiss engine until the needs for tank destroyers would be fulfilled.
Since this year there are chances to have the 1000 engines which have been ordered, but 500 anti-tank guns only, it will be decided during production which purpose will serve the available chassis. They receive:
- other type of anti-tank gun, German for example;
- the 75-mm Vickers AA gun, fitted as anti-tank gun;
- 122 or 150 mm howitzers.
3. Various information.
a) Russian armor.
The 2 German officers declare that both in technical quality and in quantity, the Russian armor is superior.
The Russian T.34 tank cannot be matched by the German industry because of its light engine, of aircraft type, built of light metals. Germany does not posses such metals therefor she cannot build light yet powerful engines.
The German tanks are trying to counter this inferiority by employing a more powerful gun, improved interior installations and a better trained, conscious and disciplined crew.
Regarding the value of the Russian 76.2 gun that arms the T.34 tank, the German officers admit that, having a shorter barrel and no muzzle break, its power is inferior to the 75 mm German gun. But it has the advantage to fire the same shell as the field cannon or as the anti-aircraft gun, an advantage of capital importance in this war. The unification made by the Russians in the armament, engineering, aviation, is of an unimagined utility besides the diversity of models that the German army fights with.
Considering this, Lt.-Col. Ventz expressed his concern that our anti-tank gun wouldn’t be able to accept German ammunition.
The Russians produce only the T.34 tank. The K.W.1 and K.W.2 stopped being produced. The Russian prisoners talked about 100 tons tanks, but they weren’t seen and their tonnage seem to limit their utility.
Regarding the production capacity of T.34 tanks, no figure can be given. It is known only that the Russian specialists, arrived in Germany in 1940 to receive the plans for the German tanks M.III and M.IV (in accordance with the agreement from august 1939) have asked to be shown the factories, not only the experimental workshops (which were in fact minuscule compared to the Russian ones).
The Russian self-propelled howitzer, put together by placing a 122-mm howitzer upon the T.34 tank chassis, is little valuable: too tall, few ammunition and rudimentary installation.
On the other hand, a recent Russian assault gun is successful and dangerous.
b) German armor.
The latest modified M.IV tanks, Tiger and Panther, are superior to the Russian tanks, according to the German specialists, as a sum of their qualities.
Among the German armored units it is noticed a preference for the assault gun (Sturmgeschutz), more than for the tank. The assault gun, having no turret, carries a gun of a caliber superior to the one of the tank of equal tonnage, offers a smaller profile and has fewer chances to be hit.
The tank finds its typical utility only in the big armored units called to penetrate deep in the battlefield and fight in unexpected situations. In all the other cases, the assault gun, which resembles a bit with “Maresal” tank destroyer although it has a weaker armor, has a much large utility.
c) Anti-tank ammunition.
The unit reports from the German front shows that the Hohlladung shell loses its importance. The troop prefers the armor piercing shell that gives a more reliable effect. The divisional artillery has and uses the Hohlladung shell to protect itself when attacked by tanks at short range.
d) The progress of war.
Germany makes great efforts into the armor, new weapons (about which we have no knowledge) and aircraft areas.
Although air raids hit some of the factories, the reconstruction began the very next day.
Yet we can expect neither these weapons nor those assembled on the coast of the Channel to be decisive.
It is only believed that the Russians won’t be able to continue the attrition war forever and that Germany will be able to defeat them only after the Russian’s shortages and straggling weaken the strength of its army.
Lt.-Col. Ventz, without showing any concern for the German army potential, believes that if it hadn’t been so many German units scattered across Europe, the Russians could have been defeated in 4-5 months.
Lt.-Col. Haymann, although thoughtful when told about the progress of war, says that, with the help of new weapons, the new light and heavy German bombers and with the reprisals upon England, the chances for Germany to win the war increase.
CHIEF OF MILITARY CABINET
Colonel R. Davidescu