Thursday, 24 April 2014

Pz38(t) Crewman Interrogation

From L.V. Gorchakov's collection.

"To:
Army Armoured and Motorized forces chiefs
Tank brigade commanders
Independent tank battalion commanders
February 28th, 1942

I am forwarding a record of an interrogation of a German prisoner. I propose that you carefully study points 37-60 and consider them in subsequent work when studying the enemy and conducting battle actions against the enemy.

Deputy Chief of the Leningrad Front ABTU, Colonel Salminov
Military Commissar of the Leningrad Front ABTU, Senior Battalion Commissar Lampusov

Protocol of interrogation of a POW, radio operator, 9th company, 21st tank regiment, 20th tank division Emmanuel Schmidt on January 16th, 1942, captured on January 12th, 1942, in the Novoborisovo village.
  1. What unit are you from?
    9th company, 21st tank regiment, 20th tank division.
  2. What is your speciality?
    Tank radio operator.
  3. What type of tank? PzII, PzIII?
    I was in a Czech tank. It is equivalent to the PzII tank, with a turning turret. It is armed with a 37 mm gun and two machineguns. [Pz38(t)]
  4. How many crewmen?
    The crew is 4 men. Driver, radio operator, commander, loader.
  5. Who commands the tank?
    The tank is commander by an officer or unteroffizier.
  6. How many shells are stored in the tank?
    90 37 mm shells.
  7. How many machineguns and bullets?
    There are two machineguns. There are as many as 4-5 thousand bullets, I don't know for sure. If there is a radio, then there is no machinegun, and if there is a machinegun, then there is no radio.
  8. How many tanks in a company?
    17 tanks.
  9. Out of 17 tanks, how many have radio transmitters?
    4 have transmitters. The company commander, and the platoon commanders. The company commander has a spare tank.
  10. How many tanks are left in the 10th company right now, where are they, and what tanks are lacking?
    10 tanks, the rest broke down. They are at Nikolskoye and Novoborisovka.
  11. Who is the commander?
    The company commander is Lieutenant Winter. Before him there was Trier, but he was wounded. The commander of the first company is named Strosser.
  12. What is the radio range?
    3-4 kilometers to receive and up to 4 to transmit.
  13. Is this an ultra-shortwave radio? What frequency does it work on?
    It is an ultra-shortwave radio, it works with a microphone.
  14. Do you encode your communication?
    No, we talk openly, only encode unit numbers.
  15. What party are you a member of?
    I joined the Hitlerjugend at 14 so I could go to school. Now I'm 20.
  16. What is the range of the tank?
    100 kilometers off-road, 150 on a highway.
  17. How many liters of fuel can the tank carry?
    250 liters.
  18. What engine does the Czech tank use?
    There are three companies that make the "Praga" engines, Skoda makes the tanks. The engines are made in Prague, Veirbrach [Beirbach?] sends the engines for German tanks to use.
  19. What is the cooling on the tank?
    The tank is water cooled. In the winter, we use a non-freezing mix called Glizantin.
  20. What is it composed of? How does it smell?
    It is like water, but does not freeze until -30 degrees. I don't know how to make it, we get it pre-made. The driver pours it into the radiator.
  21. Who replaces the driver when he is wounded?
    The radio operator, or anyone that knows how to drive.
  22. What state do you get Glizantin in?
    I don't know, we get it in liquid form, mixed with water. It is slightly thicker than water.
  23. Do you have a powder that you mix with water to make it not freeze?
    No, we only get Glizantin.
  24. Tell the truth, we already know all of this.
    Good, I am telling you all I know.
  25. How thick is the armour of the Skoda tank?
    5 cm in the front, 2 cm on the sides. The tank weighs 10 tons. These are latest tanks, older tanks have 3.5 cm of armour. We only got new ones on October 20th.
  26. What shells do you use against our tanks?
    We use model 1940 shells [PzGr 40] with soft walls but a very hard core.
  27. Do you have thermite shells in your tank?
    We do not have such shells.
  28. When were you drafted into the army?
    I was drafted on October 15th, 1940, in Bromberg. I was in infantry first, then I was moved to a tank unit.
  29. Did you use this book when studying in infantry, or no?
    We used Reiberg's book. I only spent 7 weeks in infantry, as a simple soldier, then was transferred to the 21st tank regiment. The division was located in Turing, the regiment in Stuttgart. I studied for three months to be a radio operator.
  30. When did the division come to Russia, and did it get new men?
    On June 30th, we moved out from our location. On July 22nd, we arrived in Russia. We lost more than 17 tanks.
  31. What is the organization of your regiment?
    Before the war it was divided in there (battalions). Now we have only one, the first and second were combined.
  32. What companies are in your battalion?
    9, 10, 11, 12 companies and the HQ company.
  33. What is in an HQ company?
    There are two tanks for the company commander, a main and a spare.
  34. What tanks are in your company?
    3, 5, 6, 6a, 7, 8, 8a, 10, 14, 15, 16
  35. Do you know an officer called Reichnacht? What about Toma?
    General Toma is the commander of the 20th tank division. I don't know Reichnacht.
  36. Where is your company? The 21st regiment?
    The regiment was in Rusa, since January 5th our company acts independently of the division, regiment, or battalion.
  37. Where is the company and its ten tanks?
    We went from Rusa to Beren, where we spent the night. Then we entered Dudkovo with 6 tanks, 4 were left in Nikolskoye. On January 7th, we attacked Novoborisovo and Vyshgorod with two tanks. Our tank was left to guard Naberezhnaya Sloboda. Two Russian tanks came, and we started retreating to Novoborisovo, met up with 4 tanks, and returned to Vyshgorod. We took it and kept it until 21:00. Then we retreated to Novoborisovo, where we defended until January 12th. From 6 tanks, one broke down, the engine was ruined. Two were sent to repairs for technical reasons.
  38. Were these tanks knocked out in battle?
    No, the Russian tanks did not even shoot shells at us, they only fired machineguns. These tanks broke down. There is no oil, the engines broke, they are very sensitive and always have faults.
  39. What do you do with broken tanks?
    We remove parts, and then tow them to the repair company. The company has 5 tractors, they are now 6 km behind the front line. Usually the company is 10-12 km behind the front line.
  40. Do the tractors tow the tank freely?
    The tank is towed freely. If the suspension is damaged, the tank is put on a special trailer.
  41. Where is your tank?
    I was only in my tank until January 8th. Since then I was in the hospital, I froze my legs. When your infantry captured me on January 12th, I was in a field hospital in Novoborisovo.
  42. How many men in your company?
    There used to be 150, now there is 120.
  43. How do you get food?
    A divisional motorized kitchen comes three times a day. In the morning there is hot coffee, for dinner there is hot soup, for supper also hot [illegible] stock of Christmas presents. For 5 days before being captured, we ate nothing, and constantly smoked, since there was not enough food from the rear.
  44. Did you take food from the local population?
    We did not take food from the locals because we could not leave our tanks.
  45. How did you heat yourselves when the tank was guarding or defending?
    We didn't, which is how I froze my legs. The tank heated me with its engine, but it was still cold.
  46. Does the Skoda tank go through snow well?
    Our tanks cannot pass through snow at all. The tracks do not have traction and they fall through. We only drove on roads.
  47. How do you receive fuel and ammunition?
    After battle, the tanks drive to cars for fuel and ammunition. There is no quota for fuel if there is a lot, you can fuel up as much as you want. If there is not a lot, then there is a quota. There is usually enough fuel, and the tanks were without fuel only once, when there was no fuel at the base at all.
  48. How many cylinders and carburettors does the Praga engine have?
    6 cylinders, one carburettor.
  49. How big is the radio in a Skoda tank?
    The radio is very small.
  50. What schooling did you finish?
    I finished 8 grades of school in 1940.
  51. How many frostbitten men do you have in your company?
    10%. All got frostbite in their tanks.
  52. What fuel does the tank use?
    The tank is fuelled by leaded gasoline.
  53. How do you receive your orders?
    We get our orders over the radio in cleartext. If we are attacking infantry, then there will always be a group of tanks assigned to fight anti-tank guns.
  54. How do you perform small repairs in battle (for example, a broken track)?
    If the track is broken during battle, the crew is obligated to immediately restore it.
  55. If it is not possible to repair the tank, what do you do?
    We wait until the tank company moves forward. After that, we repair the tank. If the tank needs heavy repairs, the crew takes its belongings and we go to get a tractor from the repair company. If the company does not advance and starts retreating, the broken tank is destroyed with a hand grenade. It is thrown into the engine or driver's compartment. Damage from the grenade is insignificant. The crew does not have the right to abandon a tank without damaging it.
  56. What Russian tanks do you know?
    We know T-34, KV, T-40.
  57. What Russian tanks do you like the least?
    The T-34 is a menacing tank. The KV tank is very heavy and brings a lot of damage, but it is not as fast as the T-34. The KV only drives on roads, and does not do well in swamps and off-road. Two KV tanks got stuck in a swamp at Smolensk. The T-34 has an oval form, our shells slide off it.
  58. Would you prefer to fight a T-34 or two KVs?
    I would prefer to fight two KVs. Its gun is stronger, but no matter how much we fight them, they only fire machineguns at us. KVs did not shoot at any German tank. When the T-34 shoots, it is very scary.
  59. How does the T-40 shoot?
    I do not know about this tank, I only saw it once, and not in battle. We are not afraid of Russian tanks, we are afraid of Russian AT guns, they are better than German ones. We are not afraid of tanks because they do not shoot with their guns a lot. There was a KV at Smolensk, it turned its turret back and rammed two of our tanks. It was destroyed by infantry. When we looked at its gun, it was clean, it never shot. Russian tanks did not use their guns, they only shot with machineguns. That is now it was at Novoborisovo, the Russian tanks only used machineguns. 
  60. Why do you not clean up our tanks?
    If we are retreating, we do not clean them up, but if we are advancing, we clean up Russian tanks.
  61. Were you under fire from powerful Russian artillery (Kostikov gun)?
    Yes, at Rusa, it does not penetrate the tank or blow it up. Our top armour is 2 cm.
  62. How many hand grenades are in the tank?
    There is no exact number, we do not need them. Usually 4-5.
  63. What kind of a tank has a bull drawn on it?
    It is the division insignia. Our division has a comb with three tines. Companies have sequential numbers, divisions (battalions) are marked with white paint (1st), red (2nd) or yellow (3rd). All markings go on the turret.
  64. What insignia of other units do you know?
    An infantry division has a green heart.
  65. How do you tell tankers apart from other types of forces?
    Tankers have a skull and crossbones on their collars. The SS has the same symbol, but their uniform is green, and ours is black. All tankers have a government issue sign on their chest, but the SS wear it on their sleeve. Tankers have a pink collar border, communications has green. Communications tanks also have wooden guns.
  66. What about special SS tank units?
    There are SS tank units, but I did not see them. Their uniforms are not different from ours, I think they have a white or blue border. They are in France, they have not been to Russia.
  67. What kind of punishments do you have in the army?
    We have two kinds of arrests, harsh and regular. In a regular one you just sit in a room, but in a harsh one you only get food after three days. In war time, a court-martial can assign either."

2 comments:

  1. I find it interesting in this report where he mentions that several tanks never fired the main guns, and mostly heavies at that.. Was there a shortage in shells at the time, or was the machine guns enough to get hard kills on the smaller tanks?

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    Replies
    1. Even the light tanks had enough armour to resist machineguns, I'd chalk it up to a shell shortage.

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