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German Reconnaissance and Support Vehicles, 1939–1945

German Reconnaissance and Support Vehicles, 1939–1945

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German Reconnaissance and Support Vehicles, 1939–1945

2/5 (1 valutazione)
162 pagine
52 minuti
Sep 30, 2018


This WWII pictorial history illustrates the full range of Nazi vehicles used in reconnaissance and support missions throughout the war.
The German military used reconnaissance and support vehicles widely in the Second World War. This book illustrates the full range of these vehicles with authoritative information and more than 200 rare wartime photographs.
Both tracked and wheeled vehicles were employed for reconnaissance and screening. These included light tanks such as the Panzer I and Panzer II, armored cars such as the six- and eight- wheeled Schwerer Panzerspähwagen, and motorcycles such as the famous BMW R75 or the Zundapp KS750. In addition to their recon role they would, on occasion, engage similar light units. Support vehicles such as the tracked Sd.Kfz.2 Kettenkrad, and the renowned Sd.Kfz.251 halftracks were used in the follow-up role, frequently with mounted grenadiers to mop up over-run enemy positions.
Sep 30, 2018

Informazioni sull'autore

Paul Thomas earned his master’s degree at the University of Chicago in social science, with his work emphasizing ethnography and fandom studies. He currently works at the University of Kansas as a library specialist and is enrolled in the Library and Information Management Ph.D. programme at Emporia State University.

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German Reconnaissance and Support Vehicles, 1939–1945 - Paul Thomas



In military operations, probing forward under cover outside an area occupied by friendly forces to obtain a wide variety of information is known as reconnaissance. Special reconnaissance units were employed on the battlefield to undertake these missions, and a variety of armoured vehicles and motorcycles were used. In fact, occasionally the reconnaissance units were more powerful than the enemy they would encounter. These missions were probably the most perilous carried out on the battlefield and, as a result, vehicles were required that were either quick such as motorcycles, or armoured machines which could defend themselves and counterattack if required. However, some lacked the firepower to fight their way out of danger, and as a result support vehicles such as the tracked Sd.Kfz.2 Kettenkrad or the renowned Sd.Kfz.251 halftrack might be brought up to assist in mopping up the positions in which reconnaissance found themselves fighting. Frequently grenadiers onboard these halftracks would dismount into battle and fight.

The aim of reconnaissance missions was to ascertain the enemy’s strength and intentions. They maintained their advantages of stealth, speed and surprise, and were constantly ready to fight off the enemy if required.

Before the war motorcycles were first thought to be the answer for gathering battlefield intelligence. After all they could quickly cross ground and then retire at a moment’s notice. It was believed that both the motorcycle and the sidecar combinations suited this task, and as a result each infantry and panzer division had a capable motorcycle company.

Alongside the motorcycle, armoured vehicles had been built and distributed amongst the armoured and infantry divisions for reconnaissance. They contained light tanks, mainly the Pz.Kpfw.I, armoured cars such as the four-, six- and eight-wheelers, and often halftrack personnel carriers in support.

Under cover, all these vehicles were intended to probe forward and survey enemy positions until they encountered fire and then return with the necessary information they had acquired. However, while the initial stages of the war would see these vehicles successfully operate in their defined roles, it would not be until the Eastern Front that heavier enemy firepower would result in second generation vehicles entering service which would be able to combat the increased threat from heavy Soviet armour.

Chapter One


For the invasion of Poland a typical reconnaissance unit had a complement of nineteen officers, two administrators, ninety non-commissioned officers and 512 enlisted men. Their weapons comprised twenty-five light MG34 machine guns, three light grenade launchers, two heavy MG34 machine guns on tripod mounts, three PaK guns and three armoured scout cars. Reconnaissance units during this early period of the war were partly motorized and there was a variety of vehicles available including animal draught. These comprised seven horse-drawn HF wagons and a mounted squadron of some 260 horses. The vehicles consisted of fifty motorcycles, twenty-eight of which were sidecar combinations, twenty-nine vehicles many of which were armoured, and twenty trucks including workshop and supply.

A reconnaissance unit comprised two armoured reconnaissance squadrons or Panzerspähschwadronen, a motorcycle machine gun squadron or Kradschützenschwadron, a heavy squadron or Schwere Schwadron, a mobile workshop, and the supply and transport elements. It comprised four-wheeled Sd.Kfz.260 and 261 armoured radio cars, a six-wheeler Sd.Kfz.263 signals vehicle, and an armoured car platoon with a number of Sd.Kfz.221 and 222 light armoured cars. There might also be the Sd.Kfz.231 six-wheeler heavy armoured car and the Sd.Kfz.233, which was the army’s first wheeled heavy support vehicle. The motorcycle machine gun squadrons, with BMW or Zündapp with sidecar combinations, often mounting MG34 machine guns, comprised three rifle troops with three light and one heavy MG34 machine gun crew, supported with light mortars.

Each armoured reconnaissance unit comprised a squadron headquarters via the divisional signals battalion. A signals squadron comprised one radio command vehicle, four armoured cars fitted with radio, one heavy troop of half-a-dozen six- or eightwheeled cars, and two light troops, each of which had six four-wheeled cars. These reconnaissance battalions or Aufklärung Abteilung were controlled by battalion headquarters which was responsible for receiving information from reconnaissance and transmitting it to divisional headquarters via the divisional signals battalion, or intelligence section known as Nachrichtenzug.

The heavy squadron comprised various light infantry gun troops equipped with two 7.5cm infantry guns, a Panzerjäger troop with three 3.7cm PaK guns and one MG34, and an assault pioneer troop of three sections, each employed with MG34s. While out in the field an artillery observer would often escort the patrol, especially in an urgent situation when supporting artillery was required.

Reconnaissance units in Poland employed animal draught as well as armoured vehicles of both tracked and wheeled type. The tracked vehicle notably used during this period was the reliable and diverse Sd.Kfz.251 halftrack. At the outbreak of war there were only some sixty-eight of these in service. They were not intended to be a combat vehicle, but simply to support the infantry and reconnaissance units on patrol by transporting troops to the edge of the battlefield.

When reconnaissance units were sent out on patrol it was vital to take into consideration the terrain, the situation, and the range of the signal equipment. Normally an hour’s drive ahead of the battalion lasting one or

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