German Panzerknacker Tank Busters

Merkblatt 77/3 – LW-Merkblatt 220 – Anleitung für den Panzernahkämpfer

German tank buster throwing Tellermine anti-tank mine, 1:72 Miniatures c-p models.

The Soviet T-34 Medium Tank came as a big surprise to the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. This modern tank seriously outclassed German Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks, and it became available in large numbers as production topped 2000 units per month. To counter this threat, particularly when there were no friendly tanks or anti-tank guns in the vicinity, soldiers occasionally resorted to improvised anti-tank devices and tactics. By 1944, more than 10,000 enemy tanks and armoured vehicles were reported to have been destroyed by individual soldiers close-assaulting a vehicle. On 9 March 1942, the German High Command published a directive which retroactively permitted the issue of a Panzervernichtungsabzeichen – tank-buster badge – to honor soldiers who had destroyed or immobilized an armoured vehicle single-handedly, using close-combat weapons or munitions like an anti-tank rifle, rifle grenade, or explosive device. One badge was issued per enemy armoured vehicle knocked out. One or several tankbuster badges could be worn on the upper right arm of the tunic. The tankbuster award was popularly known as the "Panzerknacker" badge, in reference to training manual Merkblatt 77/3 – Der Panzerknacker which was designed to encourage soldiers to close-assault armoured vehicles.

Panzerknacker Miniatures

In military modelling or wargaming terms, any figure courageous or desperate enough to be carrying an anti-tank device may be considered a Panzerknacker.


Historical Employment

  • Any theater of operation from 1941 to 1945

Tens of thousands of soldiers must have been killed in the attempt to destroy a tank with an improvised explosive device, but there are some who learned the trade and survived to talk about it. Oberleutnant Günther Viezenz, Company Commander of 10. Kompanie / Grenadierregiment 7 earned 21 tank buster badges during his military carreer. After the war he joined the West-German Bundeswehr and retired in 1980 at the rank of Colonel.

German Miniatures of World-War Two