- "Who was the one that shot me?"
- ―Panzer III Commander
The Panzer III (short for Panzerkampfwagen III, ordnance designation Sd.Kfz. 141) was a German medium tank, originally designed for fighting other armoured vehicles and breakthrough enemy lines, it was designed to serve alongside the Panzer IV as a support tank. It was considered to be the main battle tank of the Panzerwaffe until the Panzer IV took over after the Battle of Kursk.
As its contemporary, the Panzer IV (designed to provide support with its 75 mm howitzer), this tank was the brainchild of the Panzerwaffe's founding father, Heinz Guderian, who wanted a tank suited for engaging and destroying other tanks, this became the Panzer III (designed and built by Daimler-Benz). While its layout was fairly conventional, a masterstroke was obtained by fitting it with a three-man turret, which by allowing optimal separation of tasks, gave its crews a substantial tactical edge against their enemies.
The first batches (Ausf.A through Ausf.D) were mainly test runs with incremental improvements (as the thickening of the armor and the fitting of a more powerful Maybach engine) and with many tests for the suspension, until the final torsion-bar suspension was finally chosen. The Ausf.E was the first mass-produced version in 1939, but shared with its predecessors the main gun, a 37mm KwK 36 L/45 chosen for standardization purposes with the contemporary anti-tank gun of the infantry.
With the late production tanks of the Ausf.F variant (introduced in 1940), the KwK 36 was discarded in favor of the more performant 50mm KwK 38 L/42, which was later superseded by the longer-barreled 50mm KwK 39 L/60 on the Ausf.J and L (whose production runs went from 1941 to 1942), armor had been continuously upgraded, reaching a maximum with the final Ausf.M variant (dating from 1942/1943), with the tank now having some 70 mm of armor on the front and Schürzen skirts detachable on the sides and fixed on the turret. The last introduced variant, the Ausf.N was fitted with the short 75 mm KwK 24 L/24 howitzer (also equipped on the early models of Panzer IV) and was meant to serve as an infantry support vehicle.
By 1940, the Panzer III's strong, reliable and durable chassis was the basis for the turretless Sturmgeschütz III assault gun/tank destroyer, one of the most successful self-propelled guns of the war.
The Panzer III saw its baptism of fire during the Invasion of Poland (although deployed in only small numbers as the majority of tanks that took part in the operation were composed of either Czech-built Panzer 35(t) and 38(t) or obsolete Panzer Is & IIs), where they outclassed most of their opposition such as the 7TP (although it has a thin armor, its gun could have been a threat to Panzer IIIs) and TK tankettes. During the Battle of France while they had no problems dealing with Hotchkiss and R35s tank, they had to rely on tactics and coordination to fight better armed and protected tanks such as the Matildas, S35 or B1 Bis.
The Panzer III (with short-barreled 50mm and 37mm guns) also saw action in North Africa in Rommel's Africa Korps, while they had no problem with Crusaders and M3 Stuarts, they began to show their limitations against M3 Lees and M4 Shermans which could destroy it with their 75mm gun far beyond its effective firing range.
During Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the Panzer III made up the bulk of Germany's armoured forces, while superior to the most common Soviet tanks like the BT tanks or the T-26, they were inferior to the most modern-Soviet vehicles like the T-34 or the KV. The introduction of the 50mm KwK 39 L/60 allow them to remain a potential threat until 1943 but the introduction of the long-barreled Panzer IV will relegate it to secondary/minor combat roles.
Some saw service on the 1944-1945 Western Front such as the Battle of Anzio, Operation Overlord and Operation Market Garden. A sizeable number of Panzer IIIs also remained as armored reserves in German-occupied Norway and some saw action in the Lapland War against Finland in the fall of 1944.
By the end of the war in 1945, the Panzer III saw almost no frontline use anymore and many of them had been returned to the few remaining armaments/tank factories for conversion into StuG III assault guns.
Twenty-two Panzer III Ausf.M were supplied to Turkey by Germany in 1943, in hope that Turkey would join the war and open a front on Soviet Union southern border but it ultimately failed as Turkey never threatened the USSR and even declare war to Germany near the of the war. The Independent State of Croatia and the Ustashe Militia received twenty-four Panzer III Ausf.N in 1944. Romania was also provided with Panzer III Ausf.N, labelled T.3, in 1943.
In Girls und Panzer
Kuromorimine Girls Academy fielded at least two Panzer III Ausf.J, one commanded by Koume Akaboshi, during the 62nd Sensha-dō Tournament against Pravda Girls High School. While its role during the entire match is unknown the one commanded by Koume unwillingly brought defeat to Kuromorimine, in the last stage of the battle due to heavy rain and muddy terrain Koume's Panzer III, while avoiding a shot, lose its balance and slid off a cliff directly into water and sank. Kuromorimine vice-commander abandoned the flag tank, to rescue the sinking Panzer III crew, leaving it headless. Another Panzer III attempted to shield the defenseless tank but was too late and the flag tank was destroyed by Katyusha's T-34/85.
Kuromorimine Girls Academy fielded one Panzer III Ausf.J, commanded by the Panzer III Commander, during the tournament final match against Ooarai Girls Academy. It stayed in the abandoned city almost the entire match, while Ooarai retreated to the city, it acted as a bait to lure Ooarai tanks towards the mighty Maus. When the Maus restlessly pursuit Ooarai's remnants, the Panzer III followed its trail but it was destroyed by presumably the Panzer IV after recklessly exposing itself by driving out from behind the Maus too much.
The Panzer III Ausf.J is used as a training vehicle for new recruits at Kuromorimine Middle School, alongside the Panzer 38(t). Leila Rou and Miho Nishizumi commanded a Panzer III during their practice sessions as first years. Leila's tank was listed as being surprisingly bad, whereas Miho did quite well in the practice.
Kuromorimine Girls Academy fielded one Panzer III Ausf.J, under the designation Rheinland 10, during the practice match against Jatkosota High School. It was part of the tanks that were isolated by Jatkosota trap alongside the Tiger flag tank, two Panthers and a Tiger II, it was destroyed by an unknown tank when losing foothold on a cliff.
Gekkan Senshado Magazine
Blue Division High School fielded three Panzer III Ausf.J during the tournament first round match against Jatkosota High School. Its role in the match is unknown but it was likely destroyed either during the first encounter, during the destruction of their rear guard by Mika's BT squad or during their last stand trapped in the corridor.
Kuromorimine again fielded their Panzer III during the tournament quarter-finals match against Jatkosota High School. Its role during the match is unknown but it was probably used as recon, it was likely destroyed by Mika's BT Squad.
Viking Fisheries High School fielded two Panzer III Ausf.N during the tournament first round match against Koala Forest High School. They play a major role in the match by performing a surprise flanking attack on Koala's flanks by destroying two M3 Stuarts and one Grant.
Viking again fielded their two Panzer IIIs during the quarter-finals match against Pravda Girls High School. As uneasy on the mud, the two Panzer IIIs stayed in the city to lure Pravda tanks, but when the KV-2 annihilated the city, the Panzer III were at the mercy of the incoming red wave. They manage to damage some T-34s but were ultimately destroyed soon after.
Gregor High School owns at least one Panzer III Ausf.N.
Count High School owns several Panzer III Ausf.N under its Romanian designation T.3.
Yogurt Academy owns numbers of Panzer III of unknown models that they used as agricultural machines. Rumors says that they convert them back into combat vehicles if needed.
The Fir Tree and the Iron-Winged Witch
Count High School fielded two T.3 (callsign Tank N°2 & 3 commanded by Noemi Kohiyama) in a practice match against Saunders University High School. During the battle the T.3 (callsign Tank N°2) is destroyed by a Sherman shielding Count's flag tank while Noemi's one destroyed one Sherman alongside the TA. During the firefight between Count and Saunders's main force, Noemi's T.3 destroyed another Sherman by a well place side shot. After the destruction of the Mareşal, the remaining Count tanks were forced to retreat while Noemi's T.3 stayed behind to buy some time to others by attacking Saunders column only to be welcome by a fierce fire barrage that badly damaged the T.3 and send it down a cliff.
- Originally in the Monthly Comic Alive magazine version of Little Army II, the Panzer II was sometimes mistakenly drawn as a Panzer III (such as in Chapters 4 and 12). It has been corrected in the paper version except in Chapter 3.
- Main article: Panzer III/Gallery
|Light Tanks and Tankettes||7TP • AMR-35 • BT-42 • Crusader • CV.33 • FT-17 • Harry Hopkins • M22 Locust • M24 Chaffee • Mark VI • Panzer II • Panzer 38(t) • R35 • T-60 • T-70 • Tetrarch • TK Tankette • Type 94 Tankette • Type 95 Ha-Go • Type 97 Te-Ke|
|Medium Tanks||Centurion • M3 Lee • M4 Sherman • M13/40 • Matilda II • P26/40 • Panzer III • Panzer IV • Panzer V "Panther" • SOMUA S35 • T-34 • T-44 • Type 89B • Type 3 Chi-Nu • Type 97 Chi-Ha|
|Heavy Tanks||ARL 44 • B1 Bis • Black Prince • Churchill • IS-2 • KV-2 • M26 Pershing • Mark IV • Panzer VI "Tiger" • Panzer VI Ausf. B "Tiger II" • Panzer VIII "Maus" • VK45.01 Porsche Tiger|
|Tank Destroyers||Elefant • Hetzer • ISU-152 • Jagdpanzer IV • Jagdpanther • Jagdtiger • Mareșal • Semovente da 75/18 • StuG III • T28 Super-Heavy Tank|
|Self-Propelled Artillery||Karl-Gerät 040|
|Main Battle Tank||Type 10|