Despite its disastrous debut at Kursk in July 1943, the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther soon became a feared and respected machine. In the beginning, the Panther had the usual teething troubles expected of a complicated weapon rushed into production without proper testing.
The Ausf A model was equipped with a machine gun mounted on the turret in a ball mounting, in addition to the one mounted in the hull. A redesigned road wheel was installed, and more protection was added to the turret.
Extra cooling fans were added to the engine as were improved bearings to help the chassis bear the tank's weight of nearly 50 tons.
In 1944, when the need for tanks was critical, steps were taken to simplify the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther's manufacture.
Armor plating on its vulnerable sides was increased. The driver's hatch was eliminated, and the driver was given a 360° periscope instead.
Toward the end of the war, an infrared searchlight was added, and Panther crews successfully engaged enemy tanks at night out to 500 yards.
The Panzerkampfwagen V Panther's massive frontal armor showed to best advantage in a static defensive position or in areas where there was little maneuvering room.
Panthers of the 47th Panzer Corps fought a largely defensive battle among the hedgerows of Normandy to prevent a breakout. They bolstered Nazi German infantry forces and held up the Allied advance until they were finally defeated by superior Allied air power and tank numbers.
The Panzerkampfwagen V Panther is considered by many tank experts to have been the finest tank design of the war. Its only drawback was a lack of agility.
It became standard practice in Allied armies not to engage the Panther in a frontal attack whenever it could be avoided. Instead, tank commanders were instructed to flank the Panther and try to take it from the side or rear.
The Panzerkampfwagen V Panther was a complex tank to manufacture, and it required far too much of Nazi Germany's dwindling resources. Nevertheless, 5,508 Panthers were built before the Third Reich collapsed in May 1945.
Find Panzerkampfwagen V Panther specifications on to the next page.
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