The Germans were masters of retasking obsolete equipment. The Hetzer is one excellent example of an outdated tank chassis finding new life as a tank destroyer.
After the jump, a late war tank hunter.
At the start of World War Two Germany’s most numerous medium tank was the Czech built Panzer 38(t). This was roughly the size and capability of the German Panzer III. This seems to be one of those dirty little secrets. Most buffs are familiar enough with the type, but it never seems to have penetrated main stream awareness. Maybe its no big deal. But the Skoda Arms Works had long been a major manufacturer in Europe and their designs were used all over the world. The 38(t) was a reliable and well made little tank, that quickly entered obsolescence as tanks grew bigger and more dangerous.
The Germans were apparently not eager to farm out their newest and biggest hardware, but had no desire to see a major builder sit idle either. So a decision was made in 1943 that Skoda would build a tank destroyer on the chassis of the 38(t). The design was derived from a project originally commissioned by Romania. A 75 mm anti-tank gun was mounted on low box with thick armor and good angles. The result was a tough little destroyer that was ideal for ambush attacks. Like other vehicles of this sort it sacrificed the versatility of a true tank with the elimination of the turret. And the big gun on a little box meant for a very cramped interior. Additionally the weight of the armor reduced the reliability the type had previously been known for (very hard on suspension and road wheels). But when the type was introduced to service in July of 1944 it quickly proved itself for the type of warfare the Germans were now faced with.
Apparently the name “Hetzer” (“Baiter”) is somewhat disputed. General Guderian claimed, in a letter, it was nickname bestowed on the type by its crews. Skoda used the name on a similar tank destroyer, but not the 38(t). During the war it was only the Jagdpanzer (“tank hunter”) 38(t) in German documents. But post-war the “Hetzer” name came to be frequently used for it.
This is the Tamiya kit. The subject was captured in France, 1944. This is a common type to see in museums and with re-enactors. With over 2800 built, many seeing service post war with Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Switzerland, there are plenty still around.
Up Next: Nakajima A6M2-N Rufe
I’ve built a 38(t) in 1/35th. It is a fascinating tank, and the derivatives that come from it are interesting too. At the start of the war it was considered a dependable and formidable tank. How quickly that changed is part of the story of the rapid changes in technology WWII brought. One example is the riveted armor we see on the 38t. Every country using that quickly abandoned it when actual combat showed that riveted armor was often deadly to crews even when the armor resisted penetration. Still, the real end of the 38t as a viable tank was probably the T34.
Oh yeah I love the riveted armor! It’s got sort of a steam punk look. Nothing like being being impaled by your own armor…
I think the T-34 made a lot of German armor obsolete! The 38(t) being a little smaller than a Panzer III was the most inadequete of the German tanks. Well, excepting the Panzer I and II that everyone knew were obsolete anyway.
But dang I wish Tamiya would do a 38(t). They’ve already done the lower hull!
Gotta admit, I’m one who finds the SteamPunk esthetic rather baffling.
Well, it just looks like its from an earlier age. And it was, but not by much. Riveting was replaced by welding or casting early in the war.
But for steam punk in general, its a strange thing. I know The Henry Ford has a pretty big collection of late 19th, early 20th century industrial equipment; and its fascinating to me the detail and craftsmanship of the stuff. There was obviously great pride taken in how the equipment looked. Far more so than in our own rational and functional age. And I would guess that’s a big part of its appeal.
Something like the 38(t) really falls short of that. Its just the big rivets that suggest the aesthetic.
Genuine functional real things that had both some ornamentation and real function I do tend to like, old typewriters for example, but so much of steampunk esthetic that I see is useless over ornamented and clearly non-functional to the point it’s a waste of brass. I’m sure to some people there is a certain fantasy appeal, I just don’t see it.
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