Battle of Tagliacozzo, 23 August 1268

TAGLIACOZZO, BATTLE OF, 23 AUGUST 1268

Defeat for Conradin, son of Conrad IV (HRE), the last Hohenstaufen in Sicily. He invaded the kingdom of Sicily with German and Spanish allies in 1267, seeking to make good his claim against Charles of Anjou. Suppporters revolted against Charles in Sicily. The battle was fought in central Italy as Conradin advanced south. Charles took position behind the River Salto. Conradin’s men failed to take the bridge but others crossed further up and attacked the Angevins on the flank. Then the bridge was crossed. Charles recovered by leading a charge with a hidden reserve when many of the enemy, thinking victory theirs, pursued Angevins off the field. He then defeated the returning enemy. It was largely a cavalry battle, a costly victory: `never was victory so bloody, for nearly his whole army had fallen’. Conradin fled but was captured and executed in Naples in October. It ended German Hohenstaufen rule in Sicily, leaving the Angevins in control.

Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufens, together with Frederick of Baden, was in command of 5-6,000 cavalry, mainly Germans and Italians but also including Castilians as well as Sicilians. He found his road blocked by an opposing force of some 3-5,000 French horse under Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily. The French drew up behind the River Salto in three divisions; two formed into column by a bridge while the third, including Charles himself, was secreted behind a fold in the ground about a mile from the flank. Henry of Cousances, commanding the second column, wore the royal surcoat and bore Charles’s standard in order to trick the enemy in to believing the entire French family was in view. Conradin’s army also drew up in three battles.

The Van, led by Henry of Castile, stormed the bridge, while the second and third, under Calvano Lancia and Conradin respectively, managed to ford the river downstream and then wheeled to attack the flank of the enemy battle. Henry of Cousances was finally slain and the French, badly mauled, broke in flight. The royal standard was seized in the confusion. Conradin held some of his men, but most chased after the French and set about looting their camp. It was now that Charles, having impotently observed the rout of his main force, charged up with his division and scattered the few troops who surrounded Conradin. When the imperial looters saw their commander in flight, they also took to their heels. Henry of Castile managed to rally a number of horsemen and advanced against the Angevins. However, 40 French knights feigned flight to draw out the enemy. As they broke ranks they were attacked by Charles’ battle, while the 40 knights wheeled to strike their flank. Despite a rally, they could not hold off the Angevins, and fled. Conradin, Frederick and Galvano were caught a few weeks later and, like those taken in the battle, were executed. Henry of Castile was imprisoned for 23 years.

CHARLES OF ANJOU, KING OF SICILY (1220-85)
Brother of St Louis. He conquered the Norman kingdom of Sicily and ruled it as Charles I from 1266. In 1246 he married Beatrice heiress to Provence. The papacy offered Sicily to Charles against the descendants of Frederick II. He invaded and was crowned in 1266. He defeated Manfred at Benevento and Conradin at Tagliacozzo. He suppressed revolts in Sicily. He developed Mediterranean interests. He took Corfu in 1267 but failed to recover the Byzantine Empire for the Franks. He was involved in St Louis’ crusade to Tunis in 1270. He was crowned King of Jerusalem in 1278 and became Prince of Achaea. He developed interests in northern Italy, becoming Imperial Vicar in Tuscany and Senator of Rome in 1268. He was defeated by the Genoese in 1273, and in 1275 at Roccavione. His greatest setback followed the Sicilian Vespers in 1282 with the French loss of Sicily. His fleet was defeated off Naples by the Genoese in 1284. He died on 7 January and was succeeded by his son Charles II. His descendants ruled in Naples and Hungary.

CONRADIN, KING OF SICILY (1252–68)
Son of the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad IV who died in 1254 and descendant of Frederick II, He was named Duke of Swabia, King of the Romans, and King of Sicily from 1254 though his position was challenged by his uncle Manfred. He was named as King of Jerusalem but never ruled there. After the invasion of Sicily by Charles of Anjou, Conradin tried to recover his kingdom in 1268. He was defeated at Tagliacozzo, captured and executed on 29 October.

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28 February–1 June 1807: The Siege of Danzig II

Panoramic view of the Siege of Gdańsk by French forces in 1807.

In practice, Chasseloup – aided by his assistant, François Joseph Kirgener – is faced with a difficult task. Danzig is well-stocked, and as long as ships can reach it from the Baltic, the garrison will never starve or run short of ammunition. The city’s fortifications are sound, and its approaches covered by both natural and artificial obstacles on three sides. Left with little choice but to attack from the west, Chasseloup bites on granite, selecting the great bastion of the Hagelsberg as the focal point of his campaign. But to keep Kalkreuth and Bousmard off balance, a diversionary operation against the Bischofsberg will also be mounted. It will be dangerous work, especially as the trenches creep closer to the city and come within range of shot and shell hurled from the walls above.

On 2 April the ground has thawed enough for Chasseloup’s sappers to start digging opposite the Hagelsberg. This first trench or ‘parallel’ will eventually run for some 1,300 yards (1,200m). The following day sees a see-saw battle for possession of redoubts west of the city. After a bloody hand-to-hand contest, the garrison keeps control. Meanwhile, the digging continues, hampered by collapsing trenches and Kalkreuth’s decision to release dammed floodwaters onto the plain. By 8 April, a second parallel is opened and the sappers are exposed to enemy fire, as well as repeated sorties by the Danzig garrison. In fact, Kalkreuth is conducting a vigorous defence, mounting spoiling attacks on the siege works and disputing every inch of ground. Nevertheless, Chasseloup is determined the trenches must be pushed forward and siege works opposite the Bischofsberg begin. Lefebvre is uneasy about the campaign against the Bischofsberg, which slows the pace of the siege and uses up valuable men and materièl. But Chasseloup is insistent that both forts must be approached, to keep Kalkreuth guessing which one will be assaulted.

On 11 April, the Silesian fortress of Schweidnitz falls to Vandamme and its heavy guns sent north to the besiegers before Danzig. Two days later, Lefebvre receives reinforcements and repulses another sortie by the garrison. By 15 April the second parallel is completed west of Danzig: the besiegers are creeping closer to the city. And to the north, on the Nehrung, French troops under General Gardanne successfully advance along the Laake Canal to cut Kalkreuth’s communication with the sea. Meanwhile, staff officer, Louis Lejeune arrives at Lefebvre’s camp. Although technically an aide-de-camp to Marshal Berthier, Lejeune – a trained engineer – is acting as both a courier and an observer for an impatient Napoleon:

All the best engineer officers of the French Army were collected together under General Chasseloup at the Siege of Danzig, and the operations were conducted with great rapidity, though not fast enough to please the emperor, who, at a distance from the scene of action, did not realize that fresh obstacles were thrown in our way every day by the skill of the directors of the defence.’

On 20 April high winds and snowstorms halt operations before Danzig. But next day, the first big guns arrive at Lefebvre’s camp. Two days later, General Jean-Ambrose Lariboisière – commanding the French artillery – orders a twelve-hour bombardment of the city. Fifty-eight heavy guns open up, smashing buildings and igniting fires. Public morale crashes in a storm of panic, as the cannonades continue over successive days. Meanwhile, during the night of 25 April, Chasseloup’s engineers complete the third parallel before Danzig’s western defences. The besiegers are within musket-shot of the walls and sappers are smashing the palisades of redoubts protecting the city’s approaches. Kalkreuth launches a major counter-attack, and when it is repulsed, the Prussian general is invited to surrender. Kalkreuth refuses to capitulate and the bombardments continue. A few days later, General Gardanne takes the island of Holm on Danzig’s northern flank, killing or capturing the entire garrison. According to Petre: ‘The island was a most valuable prize; it was promptly fortified, and its guns turned against Danzig, the defences of which they took in reverse … The flying bridge connecting Danzig with the island was gallantly cut adrift by a miner named Jacquemart, under a heavy fire.’

But on 10 May, with Danzig encircled and an all-out assault imminent, a fleet of fifty-seven transports appears at the mouth of the Vistula, carrying some 7,000 Russian troops under General Kamenski (spelt ‘Kamenskoi’ in some sources, but no relation to the ex-commander-in-chief). Kamenski has been sent to save Kalkreuth’s skin, his task force sailing from Pillau, near Königsberg, in British ships. Kamenski, so Petre tells us, ‘disembarked on the 11th at Neufahrwasser. He was, till he landed, unaware of the loss of the island of Holm, which seriously compromised his plans.’ So much so, the Russian general resolves to stay-put and dig-in. This passivity plays into Lefebvre’s hands, giving the marshal time to call up Lannes (recovered from his Pultusk wound), at the head of a 15,000-strong ‘Reserve Army’, which includes Oudinot’s élite Grenadier Division.

At 4.00 a.m. on 15 May, Kamenski bestirs himself at last, marching south from Weichselmunde to meet Schramm and Gardanne on the plain north of Danzig. Advancing in four great columns led by Cossacks, Kamenski’s troops are in action within the hour, pushing back Frenchmen, Saxons and Poles. Soon after 5.00 a.m. Schramm is hotly engaged and giving ground. Kamenski pushes on, making repeated attacks, the fury of the fight increasing each minute. But just when a Russian breakthrough seems likely, Lannes’ leading column arrives to rescue the situation. Outnumbered, Kamenski’s force is driven back to the fort of Weichselmunde, leaving some 1,500 dead and wounded on the plain. Kalkreuth’s Prussians remain passive spectators, Kamenski’s offensive collapsing before effective support can be organized.

And so, with Kamenski’s survivors botded up at Weichselmunde, the siege resumes. Louis Lejeune survives the battle on the Nehrung, but brushes with death on his return to Lefebvre’s camp:

During the battle I rode a horse lent to me by Marshal Lefebvre, and on my way back to headquarters in the evening a ball from Bischofsberg shattered a rock beneath me, and the fragments killed my horse on the spot. I remained flat on my face on the ground for some time before I could get up. The effects of the shock and the pain of my bruises soon went off; I was not really wounded, and I was able to drag myself to headquarters, where the rejoicings over the victory soon quite restored me.’

Several days later, Lejeune describes the scene when a British corvette, the Dauntless, enters the Vistula, and sailing past Weichselmunde, attempts to deliver supplies to Kalkreuth’s incarcerated garrison:

on 19 May an English sloop of war with twenty-four guns tried to run the blockade and get into the town by way of an arm of the Vistula which winds through the meadows round Danzig. The bold commander of the vessel hoped to break down every obstacle with discharges of grape shot from his cannon. He had actually got within range of the town, having met with no more formidable obstacles than a few simple booms, which were easily broken through. He was not, however, prepared for the sudden attack opened upon him by several companies of our sharpshooters, who rushed across the meadows and fired a volley into the ship from both sides of the stream, mowing down the sailors and bringing the sloop to a standstill. Without helmsmen, and with sails flapping helplessly, the vessel drifted to the side of the stream and grounded; the soldiers sprang on board and took 150 prisoners as well as the valuable cargo of weapons, ammunition, and provisions which the commander had intended for the use of the garrison of the beleaguered city.’

Cut off from the sea, the Danzig garrison is doomed, and on 20 May Kalkreuth opens tentative peace negotiations. He is offered honourable, even generous, terms by Lefebvre – a sign, perhaps, of Napoleon’s need to close the siege quickly – including the right to march his garrison out of the city, ‘with arms and bag-gage, drums beating, colours flying, matches lighted, with two pieces of light artillery, six pounders, and their ammunition waggons, each drawn by six horses.’ Furthermore, a safe passage is guaranteed to Kalkreuth’s officers, on condition they swear not to bear arms against France for twelve months from the date of surrender. Kalkreuth signs, but inserts a clause stipulating that capitulation will only come into effect if the city is not relieved by noon on 26 May.

But Lefebvre – running out of patience and fearful of another Allied attempt to relieve the city – decides to storm Danzig as soon as possible, as described by Louis Lejeune:

Marshal Lefebvre was as impatient as we were to get into the town and to put an end to the tedious operations … One day the marshal, angry at all the delays, took me by the arm and began banging with his fist at the base of a wall, pierced by the sap, shouting in his Alsatian brogue, “Make a hole here, and I’ll be the first to go through it.” Meanwhile the walls were falling under our bombardment, and a practicable breach had at last just been made. Troops were ready for the assault, and the decisive blow was to be struck the next morning …’

On 23 May, however, events take an unexpected turn: Kamenski’s Russians re-embark at Weichselmunde and sail back to Pillau, while the ethnic Poles among the Prussian garrison start to desert. Then, Danzig’s shopkeepers appear at the city gates, setting up stalls and selling wine to Lefebvre’s troops at thirty-two sous a bottle. It is clear everyone is sick of the siege. Soon the soldiers of both sides are fraternizing, merrily getting drunk together. Finally, the arrival of Marshal Mortier with a further 12,000 French troops decides the issue and Kalkreuth announces his desire to quit. Thus, Danzig is spared the trauma of a bloody assault, and on 27 May the defenders march out and the besiegers march in, led by Chasseloup’s sappers.

In his official report to Frederick William, Kalkreuth blames mass desertion for the fall of Danzig: though it is only after the capitulation that large numbers – some 2,000 Pomeranian Poles forced to fight for Prussia – go over to the French. But it is reasonable to assume that falling morale – rather than dwindling numbers or supplies – is a factor in the Prussian surrender, as Petre notes:

From famine or shortness of supplies or ammunition the garrison had never suffered. Enormous quantities of stores of every description remained in the place, and were of the utmost service to the French. Whether Kalkreuth should not have held out longer is a moot point. The Hagelsberg would probably have been stormed with great slaughter on both sides …’

And so, despite orders from Frederick William to defend Danzig to the last, Kalkreuth opts to save lives by capitulating in the face of lengthening odds. He has lost some 3,000 men during the siege from sickness and enemy action. Among the dead is engineer Bousmard, killed by his own countrymen. But Kalkreuth is not disgraced, the Prussian king quickly promoting him to field marshal. Equally gratifying – perhaps more so – is public praise from Napoleon, who considers Kalkreuth’s defence of Danzig masterly.

But then, Napoleon could afford to be generous to his enemies. In fact, with Danzig’s coffers at his mercy, he could afford to be generous to everyone, each soldier of X Corps being awarded a bonus of 10 francs. Lefebvre, meanwhile, is sent a box of chocolates. The gruff marshal – perhaps baffled at first – is delighted to find 300 banknotes inside, each of 1,000 francs denomination (according to Blond, soldiers will refer to cash as ‘Danzig chocolate’ for years to come). A year later, Napoleon will make Lefevbre duke of Danzig, with a gratuity of two and a half millions. Meanwhile, having scored a major military, political and financial coup at the cost of some 6,000 men (1,500 of them Poles), a gleeful Napoleon announces the fall of Danzig in his 67th Bulletin of 29 May 1807:

Danzig has capitulated. That fine city is in our possession. Eight hundred pieces of artillery, magazines of every kind, more than 500,000 quintals of grain, well-stored cellars, immense collections of clothing and spices; great resources of every kind for the army … Marshal Lefebvre has braved all; he has animated with the same spirit the Saxons, the Poles, the troops of Baden, and has made them all conduce to his end.’

Battleground Berlin

A Soviet T-34/85 tank in Berlin, 17 June 1953.

View from the West: Soviet Tanks in East Berlin (June 17, 1953)

When Nazi Germany fell at the end of World War II, its capital Berlin quickly became a point of contention between the Soviets and the Western Allies of the United States, Britain, and France. At the Yalta Conference, these allies finalized their agreement to divide Germany into zones of occupation. The Americans, British, and French occupied what would be known as West Germany, while the Soviets occupied the East. Deep inside the Soviet-occupied zone, Berlin was also divided into four zones. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin immediately began to put pressure on the Western powers to force them from the city. He directed his occupation forces to blockade routes into the city in 1948, but that gambit failed after the Allies mounted a massive 300-day airlift of supplies. Although Stalin thereafter recognized the Four-Power occupation of Berlin, it was clear that the Soviets and their new ally, the GDR, would never make the occupation easy.

Directly contributing to the GDR’s problems, the Federal Republic of Germany had begun its revitalization under the Marshall Plan while East Germany’s economy stagnated under Soviet occupation. Many Germans abandoned the Soviet sector in a mass exodus for the western sectors to find jobs and a better life, further hampering progress in the East.

In 1952, following the rejection by the US, UK, and France of Stalin’s offer to reunify Germany as a neutral, unarmed state, the GDR government under Walter Ulbricht began a full Sovietization of the country. This meant a crash program of socialization that hit the middle class with high taxes and an emphasis on heavy industry, which led to shortages of personal goods. By April 1953, the collectivization of farms, pressure on churches and opposition parties, and a resulting overall lower standard of living began to cause discontent and resistance. The ruling Socialist Unity Party then decided to increase work requirements by ten percent. With increasing arrests and detentions and signs of impending social unrest apparent, it was clear even in Moscow that a crisis was brewing. Under Soviet instructions to temporarily reverse the socialization measures to avoid a clash, the GDR leadership announced a “New Course” that suspended earlier, unpopular measures. This surprised and shocked the GDR’s Communist party faithful and emboldened the populace, who perceived the announcement as government weakness, to demand more.35 On June 17, 1953, a protest started by East German construction workers the previous day exploded into strikes and unrest that spread to 400 cities, towns and villages across the country.

Berlin—June 16, 1953

The East German construction workers were euphoric but apprehensive as they lay down their tools and descended from their scaffolds. The hardships they had endured in the years following the end of World War II and the empty rhetoric from their masters promising a better life had led to this moment. Nearly spontaneously the workers declared themselves to be free of the yoke of Communism and went on strike, but it was a strike without organization or a plan.

Discontent had been rife in the Soviet-occupied zone of East Germany since early spring that year and even more so after the government announced measures to “accelerate” the move to socialism. But East Germany was already in the grip of an economic downturn that had greatly affected workers and the proposed “New Course” would worsen things even further. The government’s announcement was the last straw for workers who saw their quality of life being steadily degraded.

As the workers marched downtown from the city’s outskirts, they were joined by hundreds of metal workers from the factories and women from the shops; they were almost exclusively blue-collar workers. First they went to the Alexander Platz and then on to the government buildings at Leipziger Straße. There the mass reached 20,000 men and women, as they demanded the government be abolished. Across East Germany, a spontaneous wave of strikes began and by the next day 500,000 people were protesting. The participants were confident of success, but their confidence was based on a misplaced premise. They thought that because Berlin was occupied by the Allies as well as the Soviets, no military force would be used against them. They believed the West would come to their aid if force was used against them. They shouted slogans but had little idea of what to do next.

The East German government also had no idea how to respond. Their failure to act only exacerbated the situation and further convinced the strikers that the regime was about to fall. But Soviet High Commissioner Vladimir Semyonov and General Andrei Grechko, commander of Soviet Forces in Germany, were not about to let that happen. After consultations with Moscow, they declared a state of emergency.

On June 18, Grechko sent in his forces. Soviet T-34 tanks and troops rolled into the city to crush the unrest, and troops fired tear gas and live ammunition to clear the streets. It was the beginning of the end for the protestors. By early August, all vestiges of the revolt had been erased and the government was again in control.

Although American officials had actively encouraged disaffection with the regime, they had avoided the subject of rebellion and the suddenness of the uprising surprised intelligence officials. The United States’ policy had induced many East Germans to believe it would help them. But the Americans did not have the means to support the revolt or any other liberation movement. The message that Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio in the American Sector (RIAS) had transmitted was propaganda without teeth. The military had shed its unconventional warfare capabilities after World War II and was only beginning to rebuild them. In Europe, that capability didn’t exist at all. In the aftermath of the uprising, the commander of US Forces in Europe wondered why. So did many others.

The United States and its allies were not ready to believe that the GDR was in mortal danger of collapse and never contemplated military or covert action to further destabilize the regime. They were ready, however, to plan for the future and the possibility that war would again visit the European landscape. In 1952, the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) had called for “controlled preparation for more active resistance” inside the Soviet-controlled zone. This plan was further expanded upon in NSC Report 158. In peacetime, these activities would primarily be the purview of the CIA. Efforts had already begun to organize and support passive resistance movements that would become active in time of war. In order to support these groups should war begin, the Army would need the 10th SFG and, in the early fall of 1953, the unit was ordered to deploy to Germany for permanent basing. On November 11, Colonel Bank and his command set sail for Europe. By the beginning of 1954, they were ensconced at their new home in the Bavarian town of Bad Tölz with a wartime mission to support resistance movements and organize guerrilla forces in the Soviet-dominated Eastern European satellite countries.

The JCS now saw SF as a valuable tool in their plans to defend Western Europe from a Soviet attack. SF’s task would be to build a guerrilla capability in Eastern Europe to help “retard” a Soviet invasion. The intent was for SF to make contact with existing underground or resistance organizations, some of which were supported by the CIA, in much the same fashion as the OSS had during WWII and then create havoc in the enemy’s backyard.

The future battleground was clear. The eastern borders of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and Austria would be the line of departure for Warsaw Pact forces. NATO expected a spearhead assault of at least 24 Russian army divisions, along with 30 divisions of the satellite states including GDR, Poland and the Czech Republic, to attack through the Fulda Gap. The Soviets could also quickly deploy an additional 38 divisions from its western regions. Supporting attacks were also expected against Norway, Finland, Denmark and through Switzerland, as were raids by Russian “Spetsnaz” special operations forces to disrupt NATO’s command and control points in the rear areas as the Soviets advanced. NATO also thought the Soviets could expand their forces through mobilization of an additional 145 divisions within 30 days. Soviet planners expected their forces could reach the Pyrenees within a month.

Against this juggernaut, NATO could field approximately 75 divisions. The Soviet superiority in naval and air assets was even more pronounced. The Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), NATO’s military command, planned that arresting a Soviet advance would be a key priority. Nuclear weapons were envisioned for early use. Another key aspect of the defense plan would be to cause disruption in the enemy’s rear areas. This is where Special Forces would play their role.

All NATO countries planned for the commitment of special operations forces to take on strategic targets. Most were limited in their ability to deploy units behind the Soviet forces and would rely on keeping them ready for stay-behind roles in their own countries. A stay-behind mission required designated units to remain hidden in place while the enemy pressed forward, emerging only after the Soviets had passed to attack in the rear areas. Even the United States, which planned on parachuting SF far behind Soviet lines, realized that penetration of the enemy airspace by American aircraft would be difficult given the air defenses they would face.

Lord of the Blitzkrieg I

Poland

A few Panzer IIIs, largely the early models though including some Ausf E, had their baptism of fire in Poland in 1939. ‘In this campaign the quality of our materiel left much to be desired,’ wrote Major-General Friedrich von Mellenthin. ‘We only had a few Mark IVs with low velocity 75mm guns, some Mark IIIs carrying the unsatisfactory 37mm, and the bulk of our armoured strength was made up of Mark IIs carrying only a heavy machine gun.’

Guderian, by now a corps commander, insisted the Panzer Lehr Battalion that had the new Panzer III and IV be included in his 19th Corps for the invasion of Poland. This was a training unit but he was determined that they test out their panzers and tactical theories under combat conditions. Because both tanks were armed with shortbarrelled guns, they offered an indifferent anti-tank capability. Fortunately for the Germans, the Polish Army’s own tanks were little more than reconnaissance vehicles, making the panzers shortcomings of little significance.

Hitler visited Guderian in Poland to find out how the new panzers had performed. Guderian informed the Führer that their speed was fine but they needed better armour and guns. ‘I told him,’ wrote Guderian ‘that the most important thing now was to hasten the delivery of the Panzer III and IV to the fighting troops and to increase production of these tanks’, points which Hitler took on board. It was shortly after the Polish campaign came to an end that the Panzer III and IV were accepted as the standard equipment of all the tank battalions.

France

At the start of the campaign in the West in May 1940 a total of 349 Panzer IIIs and 278 Panzer IVs formed the core of the attack. There were also thirty-nine Panzer III command vehicles supporting them. Hitler fielded an overall force of 2,574 tanks. In France the Panzer III proved inadequate against the heavier British and French tanks. The Germans’ ready solution to this was using their flak guns in an anti-tank role and calling on their heavy artillery and dive bombers to deliver high explosives. Rommel was to repeat this highly successful tactic in North Africa.

In contrast, some 3,200 panzers were ready for the invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 with a high proportion of this number being Mk IIIs. By this point the 50mm gun had been introduce into the Panzer III, with the progressive replacement of the 37mm gun in existing vehicles, and as the standard weapon of the new ones being built from the latter part of 1940 onwards.

During the invasion of France, whilst commanding the 7th Panzer Division, Rommel became only too familiar with the capabilities of the Panzer III and IV. He almost lost his life in a Mk III. For the breakthrough on the River Meuse he directed operations from inside one. He does not relate whether he replaced the tank commander or whether he and the five crew were all squeezed into the tank together. Once on the move, his Panzer III was hit twice, once on the upper edge of the turret and once in the periscope. A splinter from the shell that hit the periscope wounded Rommel in the right cheek and he bled profusely. He could have lost an eye or even been killed. Trying to evade French artillery and anti-tank fire, the driver accidently slid the tank down a steep bank, where it became stuck on its side and dangerously exposed. Unable to rotate the turret, Rommel and the crew bailed out and only just escaped to safety. Rommel also briefly employed a Panzer III as an escort for his command vehicle at Le Câteau until it suffered mechanical problems. At Arras his tanks received a nasty surprise at the hands of the British Matildas. Rommel lost six Panzer IIIs and three Panzer IVs, but quickly restored the situation by deploying his artillery to support his tanks.

Had Operation Sealion and the invasion of England taken place, the Panzer III would have played a prominent role. Ultimately though, getting the panzers ashore was an insurmountable problem at the time. The war correspondent and historian Chester Wilmot observed that ‘the Germans would not have been able to land tanks in large numbers until they had captured and opened ports on the southeast coast. At the end of August [1940] the Wehrmacht had available for landing from the sea only 42 Mark IVs and 168 Mark IIIs.’ It was simply not enough.

North Africa

The Panzer III was the most widely-deployed German tank spearheading Rommel’s operations in North Africa, outnumbering the Panzer IIs and IVs by two to one. Until early 1942 the most potent versions available were the Ausf F, G and H with the 50mm L/42 gun. This was capable of penetrating 45mm of homogenous armour plate sloped at 60° at its effective range of 750 yards

The 5th Light Division’s (later 21st Panzer) 5th Panzer Regiment began landing in Tripoli in mid-February 1941, bringing with it an official tank strength of 165, comprising seventy Panzer I and IIs, seventy-five Panzer IIIs and twenty Panzer IVs. Beforehand, the division suffered a mishap in Naples where a cargo ship caught fire and sank with the loss of ten Panzer IIIs and three Panzer IVs. Rommel was fortunate to get the rest ashore unscathed, as shortly afterwards the RAF bombed Tripoli. In one attack on the harbour an ammunition ship was hit and exploded, destroying an entire block of buildings. This good fortune was of Rommel’s own making as he had insisted the tanks be unloaded during the night.

The replacements for the 5th Panzer Regiment did not reach them until the end of April. The 15th Panzer Division’s 8th Panzer Regiment was shipped to Libya in three convoys between 25 April and 6 May 1941. This unit initially fielded 146 tanks, comprising forty-five Panzer II, seventy-one Panzer III, twenty Panzer IV and ten command tanks.

The Panzer IIIs’ first role in Tripoli was to take part in a show of force and an act of duplicity on 15 February 1941. Rommel instructed ‘The moment every panzer is unloaded, the German 5th Panzer Regiment and the tanks of the Italian Ariete Division will parade in a fashion that will not escape the attention of, first the Italian civil population, and second the enemy’s spies. . . . On completion of the paraded the regiment will immediately proceed to the front . . .’

When the parade commenced having rolled down the main street they turned into a side street and circled back to create the impression that there were more panzers than there really were. Lieutenant Heinz Schmidt, who was on Rommel’s staff, was highly amused by the subterfuge when he realized one of the tanks ‘somehow looked familiar to me although I had not previously seen its driver. Only then did the penny drop, as the Tommies say, and I could not help grinning. Still more panzers passed, squeaking and creaking round that bend.’

German observers were disappointed by the Italian crowd’s complete lack of enthusiasm and utter silence. Tripoli’s officials cannot have been pleased that the panzers’ tracks were chewing up the road surface. It was only when the slower moving Ariete Division appeared that they began to cheer. The British, on the other hand, were suitably alarmed by the news of Rommel’s arrival.

Initially the Panzer III’s chief opponent in North Africa was the British Cruiser Mk IV (A13 Mk II), armed with the 2-pounder (40mm) gun capable of piercing 40mm of armour at the same range as the L/42. As neither tank had armour in excess of 30mm and as both had comparable speeds, they were largely evenly matched. Rommel was impressed by the Cruiser Mk VI Crusader which appeared in June 1941 as it was better armoured and much faster. Once again, however, it was only armed with the 2-pounder gun and at first proved very mechanically unreliable. It was later upgunned with a 6-pounder (57mm) gun.

Rommel’s Panzer III crews were photographed in the desert wearing a tropical sun helmet, called the Tropische Kopfbedeckung, which was issued to the Afrika Korps in early 1941. This was stowed on the outside of the turret because it was simply not practical to wear it inside the tank. Not surprisingly the crews soon abandoned them in favour of the more comfortable field cap and even captured South African Army sun helmets that were smaller (though they still ended up hung on the outside of the turret).

To fend off the British summer offensive in 1941, Rommel only had ninety-five Panzer IIIs and IVs. By the time of Operation Crusader, launched by the British on 18 November 1941, he could muster about 139 Panzer IIIs, but half of them were still armed with the 37mm gun, and just thirty-five Panzer IVs.

Views on the Panzer III’s performance differed greatly on either side. Mellenthin, who served as a staff officer with the Afrika Korps, recalled:

The Mark III used by the Panzergruppe in the Crusader battle only mounted a low-velocity 50mm gun, which British experts now admit had no advantage over their 2-pounder gun. Nor did we have any advantage in the thickness of armour. The British heavy infantry tanks – Matilda and Valentine – completely outclassed us in that respect, and even the Crusaders and Stuarts were better protected than our Mark III. For example the maximum basic armour of the Mark III in the Crusader battle was 30mm, while the Crusader nose and hull fronts were protected by 47mm, and the Stuart had 44mm protection there.

Interestingly, after talking to a British tank commander, the war correspondent Alexander Clifford took a very different view:

The Mark IIIs and Mark IVs both had more fire-power than anything we had got. We found ourselves up against the Mark IIIs’ 50mm guns firing four-and-a-halfpound shells and the Mark IVs’ definitely heavier type. It was like pitting destroyers against cruisers. It meant that the British had to start every battle with a sprint of half a mile under fire before they could fire back.

He calculated that 100 panzers could claim thirty British tanks before they could even get in range to engage. ‘It was absurd to pit British and American tanks with their 37mm guns against the Mark IIIs with their 50mm and the Mark IVs with their 75mm weapons and pretend that the terms were equal,’ concluded Clifford. ‘To do so was grossly unfair to our armoured brigades.’

Lord of the Blitzkrieg II

From the end of 1941 the next generation of Panzer III began entering service in North Africa. This was the improved Ausf J dubbed the ‘Mk III Special’ by the British. It was armed with the 50mm L/60 which could penetrate almost 54mm of armour at 900 yards; it could achieve a velocity of up to 3,930 feet per second that enabled it to engage most British tanks with success beyond 1,000 yards. This made it considerably superior to the British 2-pounder. From April 1942 spaced armour 20mm thick was also fitted to the gun mantlet and hull front of the Panzer III including those deployed to North Africa. This advantage was nullified by the 75mm gun on the American supplied Grant and Sherman tanks.

German intelligence on the arrival of the Grant prior to the Gazala battles was good. Mellenthin recalled that in May 1942:

Moreover the [British] 8th Army now had about 200 American Grant tanks, mounting the 75mm gun. These outclassed the 220 Mark IIIs which made up the bulk of our armoured strength, and the only tanks we had to compete with them were 19 Mark III Specials with high velocity 50mm guns. . . . The Panzerarmee also had four Mark IV Specials but these had no ammunition at the beginning of the battle.

Before the Shermans arrived, General Brian Horrocks recalled how grateful they were for the Grant. ‘These were the only tanks which could compete with the German Mk IIIs and IVs; they were known, in fact, as the ELH. Egypt’s Last Hope . . .

Unsurprisingly, British tank crews found it difficult to tell the Panzer III and IV apart at any distance due to their similar appear in terms of shape and general layout. The only give away was the Panzer IV’s stubby 75mm gun but by the time that was visible a tank commander was in trouble. For example, tanker B. H. Milner, who was a 75mm gunner, recalled in late October 1942 ‘I scored one direct hit on a Mk III or Mk IV and put it out of action and put down some very near shots on other tanks and transport. I had a shot at an 88 at long range, but didn’t wait to see if I was successful.’

In terms of firepower Rommel had to rely on his towed and self-propelled antitank guns plus the upgunned Panzer IV F2. Even after his defeat at El Alamein and subsequent long retreat, the Panzer III continued to support Rommel’s operations. During the battle of Tebourba fought in Tunisia at the beginning of December 1942 Captain Helmut Hudel commanded a battlegroup of forty tanks from a Panzer III Ausf N. During the same engagement, Group Djedeida included two Tigers supported by three Panzer IIIs. An abandoned Panzer III Ausf L belonging to the 15th Panzer Division was photographed with a dead crew member at Mareth in Tunisia, following the fighting there in late March 1943 just before the German surrender. By this point the division had only ten tanks left.

Russia

Hitler massed seventeen panzer divisions on the border with the Soviet Union ready for Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. Eleven of these were issued with the Panzer III and six with the Czech-built 38(t). Despite the previous production problems, every light armoured company had its full complement of seventeen Panzer IIIs. This meant that including regimental and detachment level headquarters Hitler had a total of 960 Panzer III Ausf E to J (he also had 438 Panzer IVs).

The Panzer III and IV could only fight the new Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks at very close range, but the latter were initially available in only limited numbers. In contrast the more numerous obsolete Soviet light tanks proved a different matter and were destroyed wholesale. During the winter of 1941 as the T-34 became more abundant, the Soviet 76.2mm tank gun showed just how inadequate the main armament was on both the Panzer III and IV. This and experiences in North Africa made it imperative to upgun both tanks.

By late June 1942, at the start of his summer offensive on the Eastern Front, Hitler had about 600 Panzer IIIs with the 50mm L/60 gun. At the end of the year the Panzer III played a prominent part in the failure to rescue the German 6th Army trapped at Stalingrad. When the 57th Panzer Corps launched its attack on 12 December 1942 to try and relieve Stalingrad, the weak 6th Panzer Division had sixty-three Panzer IIIs, twenty-three Panzer IVs and seven command vehicles, whilst elements of the 23rd Panzer Division had forty-six Panzer IIIs and eleven Panzer IVs. They were unable to cut their way through the Red Army.

The following summer, although the Panzer III had lost its effectiveness as a tank-versus-tank weapon, there were still 432 with the 50mm L/60, 155 with the 75mm L/24 and forty-one Panzer III flamethrowers with Army Groups Centre and South at the start of the Kursk offensive. As a result all the Army’s panzer and panzergrenadier divisions as well as the Waffen-SS SS panzergrenadier divisions fielded quite large numbers of Panzer IIIs. For example, 4th Panzer with Army Group Centre had forty while the 11th Panzergrenadier Division with Army Group South had fifty.

The Battle of Kursk marked the swan-song of the Panzer III. Predictably, losses were high and production of the Panzer III as a gun tank was subsequently stopped. In Sicily to try and fend off Operation Husky, Panzer Division Hermann Göring and 15th Panzergrenadier Division mustered forty-nine Panzer IIIs, constituting about a third of the German tank force on the island.

Normandy

Although superseded by the Panzer IV and Panther, remarkably some Panzer IIIs were encountered by the Allies in Normandy in 1944. In particular the Panzerbefehlswagen radio command vehicles continued to be of service with the panzer divisions. The headquarters units of the 21st Panzer Division’s 22nd Panzer Regiment had two Panzer III command vehicles and four Panzer III gun tanks.

When the 116th Panzer Division Windhund deployed to Normandy in July 1944, its armoured units included about ten Panzer IIIs (consisting of seven tanks with the long-barrelled 50mm L/60 and three with the short-barrelled version – the latter were F models) and six StuG IIIs. Some of these vehicles were largely considered cast-offs and were due to be issued to other units.

The Waffen-SS also retained some Panzer IIIs in Normandy. For example, the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg had three Panzer III command vehicles on its books. Only a very few Bergepanzer IIIs served with some of the panzer regiments in Normandy. These included the 9th SS Panzer Division as well as the 2nd and 116th Panzer Divisions.

Norway

When German forces surrendered in Norway at the end of the war, their tank units included Panzer IIIs with 50mm and 75mm guns that had been relegated to garrison duty. Ausf Ns seized in Norway were late-production models with Schürzen and single-piece hatch covers. In total the Norwegians ended up with over thirty Panzer IIIs and StuG IIIs, some of which were repaired and used for airfield defence for a time.

German Exports

Hitler’s allies received very limited numbers of German-built tanks and these included a few Panzer IIIs. Hungary took delivery of just ten and Romania eleven in 1942. The following year Bulgaria received ten and Italy twelve. These along with deliveries of StuG IIIs, Panzer IVs and 38(t)s made very little difference to the Axis’s struggling war effort.

Most Prolific Panzer

In November 1940 the production target for the Panzer III was set at 108 per month. After the attack on the Soviet Union and the decision to increase the Panzerwaffe to thirty-six panzer divisions, it was decided that 7,992 Panzer IIIs were required. This target was never met, with around 6,100 produced, compared to 8,500 Panzer IVs, almost 6,000 Panzer Vs (Panthers) and 1,800 Panzer VIs (Tiger Is and IIs). However, about 10,300 Panzer III chassis were given over to assault-gun production. This means well over 16,400 Panzer III and its variants were built compared to 13,400 Panzer IV and variants. This clearly made the Panzer III Hitler’s beast of burden when it came to the Panzerwaffe, even if the Panzer IV did prove to be the best German gun tank of the Second World War.

Normandy Beachhead and the Kriegsmarine

The threat posed by the establishment of the Allied armies in Normandy was so grave that the Germans were bound to focus much of their efforts on resisting it. This meant that all along the Channel coast from Normandy to the Dutch border their light forces were engaged in a constant nightly battle against similar units deployed by the Allies. Supply convoys and their destroyer escorts were, of course, fair game for both sides, but neither combatant scored much more than a few isolated successes against this type of protected shipping. As an alternative, the German Kleinkampfverband (Small Battle Unit or K-Verband for short) established originally at Timmersdorfer Strand near Lübeck under Konteradmiral Helmuth Heye came into its own. They began using a force of twenty-six Marder one-man submersibles (slightly larger than the original Neger craft of the same type) from their forward operational base at Villers-sur-Mer in early July to attack the supply traffic off the assault beaches. While they sank and damaged a handful of smaller warships, they sustained such an appalling rate of attrition in doing so that the K-Verband were obliged to leave things up to the Luftwaffe and its new circling torpedo the ‘T3d Dackel’ (Dachshund) to try to take a toll of the Allied shipping off the Normandy beaches. Some success was achieved but how much was due to the Dackel and how much to mines is difficult to judge. What is known is that in the period between 7 August and 11 September only a hospital ship and a balloon ship were sunk, the transport Iddesleigh was beached and eight other vessels, including the seaplane carrier Albatross and the old cruiser Frobisher, were damaged by underwater explosions with mines being the likely cause for most of these seemingly random hits. Further Marder attacks were made in mid- August, but apart from hitting the old French battleship Courbet which had already been sunk as a blockship, and sinking a freighter and a landing craft, the losses of Marder just kept mounting up. Seven out of fourteen committed on 15– 16 August never returned and only sixteen came back of forty-two that left Villers-sur-Mer on the following night. A new one-man midget submarine – the Biber – was introduced at the end of the month but as the original operational base slated for their use – Le Havre – was overrun, Korvettenkapitän Hans Bartels moved them to the port of Fécamp. After an inconclusive operation in bad weather on 29–30 August from which they all returned, Bartels was forced to abandon the port and destroy most of the Biber craft too. In so doing, the K-Verband’s operations off Normandy came to an inglorious end.

Dönitz hoped that his schnorchel U-boats would do much more damage than that achieved by the willing but not wildly successful K-Verband, but by the end of August the record showed that this too was a case of wishful thinking. Although fourteen Allied vessels were sunk in the Channel and four more were torpedoed, the cost was prohibitively high; twenty-four U-boats had been sunk by a combination of mines, destroyer escorts, Search Groups, and accompanying aircraft, and two more had been damaged sufficiently to be forced out of action and into Le Havre and Boulogne for repairs. If ever there was a time for the development of the ‘Alberich’ U-boats with their Oppanol rubber coating to combat Asdic it was now. U480’s trials in August showed that the results were indeed promising, but without this type of masking the schnorchel boats were cruelly exposed everywhere they operated. Coated with sheets of Oppanol synthetic rubber, U480 had been used in the English Channel during the months of August and September 1944 where it sank three victims – a corvette, a minesweeper and the merchantman Orminster – and seriously damaged another merchantman Fort Yale. U480 had then been hunted for a total of seven hours but had successfully evaded her attackers. Reduced to being not much more than an irritant in the Channel, they were rendered so ineffective in the Mediterranean that by the middle of September they had been withdrawn from there too

A depressing exercise in futility was set by the courageous men of the K-Verband in the northern reaches of the English Channel, especially in Belgian and Dutch coastal waters, during the early months of the year. Operational losses were so high amongst the ranks of the one-man midget submarine (Biber) and the one-man human torpedo (Molch) that Dönitz referred to the operators of these underwater vessels as Opferkämpfer (suicide fighters). A far healthier return was experienced by the two-man crews of the new Type XXVIIB U-boat (popularly known as the Seehund). Operating in the same waters as the other members of the K-Verband did, the Seehunde enjoyed far more success – sinking nine ships and damaging another nine – at less cost – losing only thirty-five of their number in making a total of 142 sorties before the war came to an end. Frustratingly for Dönitz and the Kriegsmarine, these vessels came on stream six months too late to be of any real material value to the German cause. It might not have been the same story had they been operationally deployed in sufficient numbers in the waters off Normandy in June 1944 where their presence could have caused significant problems for the Allied invasion fleet.

Fokker D.VII

Easy flier: The Fokker D.VII was considered a fairly easy aircraft to fly – an important consideration, since, by the summer of 1918, pilots were being rushed to the front after a bare minimum of training.

We got into a dogfight with the new brand of Fokkers… we put up the best fight of our lives, but these Huns were just too good for us.” Lieutenant John M. Grider British pilot’s diary entry on first encountering the Fokker D.VII.

By 1918, German pilots were desperate for a single-seat fighter to replace their outdated Albatroses and Fokker Dr.I triplanes. After evaluation trials held at Adlershof, Berlin, at the end of January, the Fokker D.VII was selected for mass production, and the first models arrived at the front the following April. Hard-pressed Jastas (fighter squadrons) greeted their new mounts with relief and enthusiasm. German pilot Rudolf Stark wrote: “The machines climb wonderfully and respond to the slightest movement of the controls.” Their impact on the fighting peaked during the summer of 1918, by which time some 40 Jastas were flying D.VIIs, many of them with BMW engines that gave substantially better performance than the original Mercedes power plants. Operating in skies crowded with Allied aircraft of all kinds, D.VII pilots achieved exceptional kill-rates. For example, one squadron, Jasta Boelcke, scored 46 confirmed victories in a month for the loss of only two of its own pilots. The BMW-powered D.VII was especially effective at high altitude – its pilots were among the first to be issued with experimental oxygen equipment, as well as parachutes. Flying high gave the D.VII the initial advantage in encounters with Allied fighters and also allowed it to hunt down the Allied reconnaissance aircraft, which depended on altitude for safety. About 1,500 D.VIIs were delivered before the end of the war in November 1918.

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Fokker’s chief designer, Reinhold Platz, had been working on a series of experimental planes, the V-series, since 1916. These planes were characterized by the use of cantilever wings, first developed during Fokker’s government-mandated collaboration with Hugo Junkers. Junkers had originated the idea in 1915 with the first all-metal aircraft, the Junkers J 1, nicknamed Blechesel (“Sheet Metal Donkey” or “Tin Donkey”). The resulting wings were thick, with a rounded leading edge. This gave greater lift and more docile stalling behavior than conventional thin wings.

Late in 1917, Fokker built the experimental V 11 biplane, fitted with the standard Mercedes D.IIIa engine. In January 1918, Idflieg held a fighter competition at Adlershof. For the first time, frontline pilots would directly participate in the evaluation and selection of new fighters. Fokker submitted the V 11 along with several other prototypes. Manfred von Richthofen flew the V 11 and found it tricky, unpleasant, and directionally unstable in a dive. In response to these complaints, Reinhold Platz lengthened the rear fuselage by one structural bay, and added a triangular fixed vertical fin in front of the rudder. Upon flying the modified V 11, Richthofen praised it as the best aircraft of the competition. It offered excellent performance from the outdated Mercedes engine, yet it was safe and easy to fly. Richthofen’s recommendation virtually decided the competition, but he was not alone in recommending it. Fokker immediately received a provisional order for 400 production aircraft, which were designated D.VII by Idflieg.

Fokker’s factory was not up to the task of meeting all D.VII production orders. Idflieg therefore directed Albatros and AEG to build the D.VII under license, though AEG did not ultimately produce any aircraft. Because the Fokker factory did not use detailed plans as part of its production process, Fokker simply sent a completed D.VII airframe for Albatros to copy. Albatros paid Fokker a five percent royalty for every D.VII built under license. Albatros Flugzeugwerke and its subsidiary, Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW), built the D.VII at factories in Johannisthal (designated Fokker D.VII (Alb)) and Schneidemühl (Fokker D.VII (OAW)), respectively. Aircraft markings included the type designation and factory suffix, immediately before the individual serial number.

Some parts were not interchangeable between aircraft produced at different factories, even between Albatros and OAW. Additionally each manufacturer tended to differ in nose paint styles. OAW produced examples were delivered with distinctive mauve and green splotches on the cowling. All D.VIIs were produced with the lozenge camouflage covering except for early Fokker-produced D.VIIs, which had a streaked green fuselage. Factory camouflage finishes were often overpainted with colorful paint schemes or insignia for the Jasta, or the individual pilot.

Albatros soon surpassed Fokker in the quantity and workmanship quality of aircraft produced. With a massive production program, over 3,000 to 3,300 D.VII aircraft were delivered from all three plants, considerably more than the commonly quoted but incorrect production figure of 1,700.

In September 1918, eight D.VIIs were delivered to Bulgaria. Late in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian company MÁG (Magyar Általános Gépgyár – Hungarian General Machine Company) commenced licensed production of the D.VII with Austro-Daimler engines. Production continued after the end of the war, with as many as 50 aircraft completed.

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Many sources erroneously state that the D.VII was equipped with the 160 hp Mercedes D.III engine. The Germans themselves used the generic D.III designation to describe later versions of that engine. In fact, the earliest production D.VIIs were equipped with 170-180 hp Mercedes D.IIIa. Production quickly switched to the intended standard engine, the higher-compression 134 kW (180 hp) Mercedes D.IIIaü. It appears that some early production D.VIIs delivered with the Mercedes D.IIIa were later re-engined with the D.IIIaü.

By the summer of 1918, a number of D.VIIs received the “overcompressed” 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa, the first product of the BMW firm. The BMW IIIa followed the SOHC, straight-six configuration of the Mercedes D.III, but incorporated several improvements. Increased displacement, higher compression, and an altitude-adjusting carburetor produced a marked increase in speed and climb rate at high altitude. Because the BMW IIIa was overcompressed, using full throttle at altitudes below 2,000 m (6,700 ft) risked premature detonation in the cylinders and damage to the engine. At low altitudes, full throttle could produce up to 179 kW (240 hp) for a short time. Fokker-built aircraft with the new BMW engine were designated D.VII(F), the suffix “F” standing for Max Friz, the engine’s designer. Some Albatros-built aircraft may also have received a separate designation.

BMW-engined aircraft entered service with Jasta 11 in late June 1918. Pilots clamored for the D.VII(F), of which about 750 were built. However, production of the BMW IIIa was very limited and the D.VII continued to be produced with the 134 kW (180 hp) Mercedes D.IIIaü until the end of the war.

D.VIIs flew with different propeller designs from different manufacturers. Despite the differing appearances there is no indication these propellers gave disparate performance. Axial, Wolff, Wotan, and Heine propellers have been noted.

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The BMW-engined D-VII had the highest ceiling of any (operational) pursuit aircraft of the war.

The most admirable quality of the D-VII may have been the fact that it maintained its performance advantage right up to the limit of that performance and did not degrade long before that limit was reached. It was also an easy aircraft to fly. . .forgiving to the novice, and one that made average drivers seem more qualified than they actually were.

The only plane the D VII didn’t have manoeuvrability on was the Sopwith Camel and that’s only with regards to right turning. Anyways mostly the D VIII was up high where the Camels were mostly low.

The D VII (BMW) was faster than the Fokker Dr 1, could climb better at higher altitudes, shared the same advantages of the advanced airfoil design. In short it had it all on the Dr 1 except manoeuvrability, which it didn’t need since its enemies on the allied side were not as manoeuvrable as the D VIII. In addition it was much easier to fly, take off and land than the Dr 1 which in the general scheme of things makes for a superior pursuit force overall.

Later on, Hermann Göring complained about the problem caused by the unbalance of having some D.VIIs with the BMW motors and the rest having Mercedes motors. He stated, when engaging the high flying allies the Jasta was basically reduced to half engagement strength, since the BMW powered D.VIIs would leave the Mercedes powered D.VIIs in their wake.

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Variants

V 11: Prototype

V 21: Prototype with tapered wings

V 22: Prototype with four-bladed propeller

V 24: Prototype with 179 kW (240 hp) Benz Bz.IVü engine

V 31: One D.VII aircraft fitted with a hook to tow the V 30 glider

V 34: D.VII development with 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa engine

V 35: Two-seat development with 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa engine and undercarriage fuel tank

V 36: D.VII development with 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa engine and undercarriage fuel tank

V 38: Prototype Fokker C.I

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Frontline Strength

Fokker D.VIIs being accepted and being delivered are two different things.

1. When the acceptance flight was made at Schwerin-Gorries Airfield by the Army pilot it is the date listed on the acceptance sheets.

2. Sometime after the acceptance flight the aircraft was disassembled and loaded and blocked on flat cars. When there are enough flat cars to make up the train, the train departs to the designated Armee Flugpark(en). There were probably no trains made up and departed from the Fokker Flugzeugwerke in March 1918. The Front Bestand (Front inventory lists) show 19 Fokker D.VII in the Front Line Inventory on 30 April 1918. None of these D.VIIs had been delivered to units, all were at the Armee Flugpark being reassembled and test flown. Jasta 10 of JG Nr1 “Richthofen” did not receive their Fokker D.VIIs until around the 24-25 of May 1918. It is my understanding that Jasta 10 was the first to receive the Fokker D.VII.