[Lone Sentry: Dummy German Panther Tanks]

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Weekly Photo Feature 4

This section will feature different pictures from our collection of WWII documents, publications, and photographs. Each week or so, a new features page will be added with several interesting pictures or documents.

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This week features a report from the December 1944 issue of the U.S. Intelligence Bulletin on the German use of dummy Panther tanks for camouflage in France during 1944. The report includes two photographs of a dummy tank encountered in France.



Although German use of dummy tanks in France and Italy has not been extensive, such instances as have been reported make it clear that the enemy is capable of imaginative work along this line. For example, a typical enemy procedure is to site dummy tanks and real antitank guns in such a manner, with respect to the terrain, that Allied tanks maneuvering to engage the dummies will present enfilade targets to the German anti-tank guns.

It is believed that there are no standard German dummy tanks, and that local improvisation is the rule. The reproductions have been sufficiently accurate to look like the real thing when observed from a distance, but have been fairly easy to detect at close range.

Eight non-mobile dummy tanks discovered behind the AH Line in Italy were particularly notable for the realism of their gun barrels which had been constructed from telephone poles, with a recoil mechanism of stiff cardboard and a shield at the point of entry to the turret. However, the general construction of these dummies was by no means elaborate; for the most part, the Germans simply had used scrap lumber covered with tar paper. The turrets were of plywood, but no makers' plates, numbers, or other identification marks appeared on them; evidently the turrets, too, were of local manufacture.

The dummy tank shown in the photographs... was encountered in France, and is a much better job. In the locality in which this specimen was found, all the dummy tanks had wooden frameworks, but were covered with different materials, such as sheet metal, canvas, or wood. The guns on the turrets were lengths of thin-gauge stove piping joined together. One specimen had a gun made from a felled sapling. Evidently these tanks had been prepared in sections, so that they could be transported to tactically suitable points, and assembled there.


[WWII dummy German Panther tank in France]
[Click to Enlarge Photo]

[WWII dummy German Panther tank in France]
[Click to Enlarge Photo]

During WWII, the Allies also used dummy vehicles and aircraft for camouflage. In preparation for the invasion of Normandy, the Allies built and deployed a large number of inflatable rubber tanks and aircraft and, in addition, mockups of landing craft were constructed in English harbors.

For additional U.S. intelligence reports on the German Panther tank, see: New Heavy Tank: The Pz. Kw. 5 (Panther), Ferdinand & the Panther, and The Pz-Kw 5 (Panther) Tank. For further information on camouflage during WWII, see U.S. field manual FM5-20B: Camouflage of Vehicles.


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