This book covers three separate topics – the use of Panthers by Germany’s wartime partners, the use of captured Panthers by Germany’s wartime opponents, and the use of Panthers in the post-war period.
The use of the Panther by Germany’s allies was on a surprisingly small scale. Although Italy, Romania and Japan were all interested in the Panther, only Hungary actually used the type in combat, and then only in very small numbers.
We then move on to the Allied evaluation of the Panther, with an examination of the Soviet, British and American studies. In all three cases the main focus was on how to destroy the Panther. On the Soviet side these tests played a part in the design of their later heavily armed armoured vehicles. On the Allied side the focus was on finding out which of the available anti-tank weapons were most effective against it, and ways to use the less effective ones.
We then move on to the wartime use of the Panther by the Allies. The Soviets appear to have made the most use of the type, but in small numbers, and with each tank tending not to last for long – the Panther needed a great deal of specialised maintenance to keep it running, and the Soviets rarely had the correct spare parts. The correct ammo was also in short supply. Less than twenty examples are studied here, a far lower figure than might have been expected.
There are two cases where resistance groups operated the Panther against the Germans. This may seem surprising, but in both cases the tanks were used in regular combat. In Poland two were captured and put into use during the Warsaw Uprising. In France the French Forces of the Interior (the Resistance) operated a number of captured Panthers after the Allied invasion, mainly using them against the isolated German garrisons left on the French Atlantic Coast after the breakout from Normandy.
On the British side only two Panthers were used in combat – ‘Deserter’ and ‘Cuckoo’, one in Italy and one in north-western Europe. ‘Cuckoo’ lasted the longest – for almost three months – before a mechanical failure meant it had to be abandoned.
In the post-war world the Panther saw far less use than some earlier books suggest. This would appear to be because Western intelligence over-estimated how many were in use with Romania, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia, and these over-estimates made it into the history books. The reality here appears to be that less than fifty operation Panthers were split between those three armies, and most of these were issued before the end of the war. The Czechoslovaks appear to have been most interested in the type, and we trace several post-war projects for new vehicles based on the Panther chassis, although none entered service.
One of the more interesting incidents was the completion of nine Panthers and twelve Jagdpanthers by the British in Hanover (using German workers). These were used for extensive post-war tests in which the Panther’s unreliability featured highly then gunnery targets.
The most significant attempt to use the Panther in the post-war world actually came in France, where it was seen as a way to avoid dependence on the Americans. However even here only 41 Panthers appear to be found in undamaged or repairable condition. A great deal of effort went into making these tanks combat-worthy, but with limited success.
All of these chapters prove that the Panther actually saw very little service with anyone other than Germany, mainly because of the problems caused by its poor reliability. I was also surprised by how little direct impact it had on post-war tank design. The French appear to have made the most use of it and the post-war AMX 50 tank was partly based on it, although with a rather different turret.
The main conclusion to be drawn from this book is that the Panther simply wasn’t reliable enough to justify the effort of trying to keep it in service after the war.
Panthers in the Service of Axis Allies
Assessing the Threat: Allied Evaluations 1943-44
Panthers in Post-War Service
The Panther as a Template
Author: M.P. Robinson & Thomas Seignon