PzKpfw III file photo [6411]

PzKpfw III

Primary RoleMedium Tank


ww2dbaseThe Panzerkampfwagen III medium tanks, PzKpfw III for short, or Panzer III mainly in English, were designed by the German Army Weapons Department in 1935 following Heinz Guderian's specifications requested in early 1934. Manufacturers Daimler-Benz, Krupp, MAN, and Rheinmetall all produced prototypes which were tested in 1936 and 1937, and Daimler-Benz's design was chosen for production in early 1937. The first Panzer III medium tank came off the assembly line in May 1937, but true mass production would not start until 1939. By the mid-1940s, they were the standard tanks of the German Army.

ww2dbasePanzer III medium tanks had boxy fronts with vertically sloped armor. The drivers were seated to the left, and the radio operators to the right. The turrets atop the tanks seated three men, which was more than some of their contemporaries, making them more efficient in firing successively in battle. The commanders' cupolas were on top of the turrets. The engines were in the rear, coupled with air-cooled radiators. They carried 15-mm of homogeneous steel armor on all sides, 10-mm on top of the tank, and 5-mm at the bottom. In variants D and after, the side armor thickness was increased to 30-mm. Contemporary tank armor tended to be thick in the front and minimal on the two sides and in the rear, but the Panzer III medium tanks went the route of equally thick armor on all sides because of the threat of infantry-carried anti-tank weapons, which might come from all directions. The unusually thick armor was done at the sacrifice of vehicle speed. Later variants further bolstered armor thickness to as much as 70-mm, though these later upgrades tended to go back to the conventional wisdom of reinforcing front hull armor. The primary guns of the first Panzer III medium tanks built before the Polish invasion were 3.7-cm guns, which served well in Poland and even in the subsequent French conquest. Later in the war, however, they were upgraded with 5-cm guns in the face of better enemy tanks.

ww2dbasePzKpfw III Light Tank Production, 1937-1943

Model (AusfĂĽhrung)Production Year(s)Quantity
C1937-1938 15
E1938-1939 96
F1939-1940 435
J1941-1942 1549 
Total --5668 

ww2dbaseBy 1942, the Panzer IV medium tanks had taken over as the main medium tanks of the German Army, but Panzer III medium tanks continued in production until 1943 and remained in use until the end of the war; some late production Panzer III tanks even had their primary guns upgraded so they could operate beside Panzer IV tanks in support as tank destroyers, but most of them served mainly as infantry support tanks.

ww2dbaseWhen production ceased in 1943, 5,774 Panzer III medium tanks were built.

ww2dbaseSources: M3 Medium Tank vs. Panzer III, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Aug 2008


MachineryOne Maybach HL 120 TRM 12-cyl gasoline engine rated at 320hp
SuspensionTorsion bar
Armament1x5cm KwK 39 gun, 2x7.92mm MG34 machine guns
Armor50mm front, 30mm sides, 10mm top, 5mm bottom
Length5.52 m
Width2.90 m
Height2.50 m
Weight22.0 t
Speed40 km/h
Range155 km


Fritz Todt on the radio in a Panzerkampfwagen III tank while observing the preparation of German forces on the French coast for the invasion of Britain, fall 1940German Generaloberst Heinz Guderian holding a map during a field briefing with his division commanders in Russia in front of a PzKpfw III medium tank, summer 1941Panzer III tanks and SdKfz. 251 halftrack vehicles in Poland, Jun 1941Panzer III tank and SdKfz. 251 halftrack vehicle near Aiviekste, Latvia, Jun 1941; note rangefinder on the halftrack
See all 25 photographs of PzKpfw III Medium Tank

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PzKpfw III Medium Tank Photo Gallery
Fritz Todt on the radio in a Panzerkampfwagen III tank while observing the preparation of German forces on the French coast for the invasion of Britain, fall 1940
See all 25 photographs of PzKpfw III Medium Tank

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