Panzer Division Development

The structure and operational employment of the German Panzer division was developed over many years before World War II. Here is a discussion of some of the stages and issues as the design of the German Panzer Division evolved:


Several key people were involved in the decisions that led to the early development decisions of the Panzer Division:

Platoon (Zug) - started at seven tanks and reduction to five tanks was under consideration.

Panzer Kompanie (Company) - either light or heavy; at the time a light company at first included seven MG Panzers (aka Pz I) and twenty five 20mm or 37mm Panzers (aka Pz II/III); at the time a heavy company would include seven MG Panzers (Pz I) and sixteen 75mm Panzers (Pz IV) - obviously Pz III and Pz IV tanks were not actually available so other were substituted for trials. Essentially a Panzer company was four platoons (Zug) for a total of 32 tanks. On January 9, 1936 Beck suggested the current 30 panzers was too many and a leichte Panzer Kompanie should consist of: one company commander tank (37mm), one platoon (5) for recon and scouting (20mm), three platoons each with five 37mm tanks (plus an allotment five reserve tanks). A schwere Panzer Kompanie should have: one company commander tank (75mm), and four platoons of three 75mm tanks each.

Panzer Abteilung - a "battalion" with less than five companies; in 1935 the Germans felt a Panzer Abteilung should consist of one heavy (schwere) company and three light (leichte) companies. On January 9, 1936 General Beck recommended a Panzer Abteilung should consist of a Stab (HQ), Nachrichten Zug (signals platoon), Erkundungs Zug (scout platoon), three leichten (light) Panzer Kompanie and one schweren (heavy) Panzer Kompanie.

Panzer Regiment - whether to use two or three Panzer Abteilungen to make up a regiment was debated

Panzer Brigade - whether to use two or three Panzer Regiments to make up a brigade was debated.

The 1st Panzer Division of 1935, consisted of one Panzer Brigade supported by essentially one Motorized Infantry (Scheutzen) Brigade. The Panzer Brigade consisted of two Panzer Regiments. The first trial exercise was of 1st Pz Div with 12,953 officers and men, 4,025 wheeled vehicles and 481 tracked vehicles (Panzers). The 481 Panzers averaged 600 km each. There were only 27 mechanical breakdowns (i.e. 5.6%). This excellent reliability was attributed to the panzers being factory fresh and supported by maintenance services capable of repairing minor damage overnight.

Beck wrote on December 30, 1935 (in report 2655/34) proposing for the peacetime army, that in addition to having three panzer divisions that twelve panzer regiments be formed and organized into panzer brigades to be assigned to the Armee Korps nearest the location of each panzer brigade. Beck does some double talk about whether or not the Panzer Division will be proven to be the best offensive formation and uses the excuse that being limited to 36 divisions would mean that further creation of Panzer Divisions would mean fewer infantry divisions and thus the armor should be formed in Panzer Brigades.

In report 5000/35 dated January 22, 1936, Allgemeine Heeresamt (Fromm) wrote that it cost 243 million RM per year for 36 Panzer Abteilung and that to increase this to support 48 Panzer Abteilung would cost an increase of 81 million RM for a total of 324 million RM per year. If we use a figure of roughly 128 tanks per Abteilung this would give us a cost of approx 52,700 RM per tank per year. This is suspiciously close to the production cost of 52,640 RM per Pz IIa, and thus I conclude this is not a maintenance cost but rather an annual production cost.

Thus at the beginning of 1936 the proposed Panzer Division should consist of (supported by a motorized Infantry Brigade):