“Kasserine Pass” Afrika Korps Tamiya 1/35 Panzer III L, 10th Panzer Division, Tunisia, February 1943
Here it is... I finally finished this one and have the time to post it. This one will be my 101st article here on Imodeler.
Beware, there is one graphic photo in this article, that has a dead German soldier in it. He was presumably a crewman in the tank I built a model of. I normally like to include original pictures with my models if I can find them. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I was able to find that showed the actual tank.
I want to begin by thanking my friend, Professor David A. Thomas, for coming up with the Group Build for the "Battle of Kasserine Pass". David was there every step of the way during this build, providing a lot of encouragement along the way.
The Battle for the Kasserine Pass was a very significant event, that helped to change they way that the US Army operated in combat. It also was an eye opener for the top brass, and numerous persons in "leadership positions" were sacked for their poor performance.
The actual battle for Kasserine Pass occurred between February 19th, through the 24th, of 1943.
When I picked the Panzer III to model for the Group Build, I was under the impression that this particular tank was used by the DAK, (Deutsche Afrika Korps) in the Battle of Kasserine Pass.
I will abbreviate the name Kasserine Pass by using the initials "K.P." from here on to simplify things...
Lo and behold, after some digging on the internet, I found out that the Battle of K.P. consisted of many other smaller fights, that all played a part in the final outcome. Thanks to the internet, I was able to actually find out the end of the story behind this particular Panzer III tank, #115.
Panzer #115, was part of the 10th Panzer Division, and was used in Tunisia. Immediately after the battle of K.P., The Germans reorganized and started another Battle, only two days later. This new operation was called "Operation Ochsenkopf", which is German for "Ox Head".
Operation "Ox Head" is also known as the "Battle of Sidi Nsir", and the "Battle of Hunt's Gap", depending on your sources. This Operation was another Offensive attack in Tunisia and lasted from February 26th, through March 4th, 1943.
Here is a great article on Wikipedia that covers the Battle more in depth, should you be interested. The original black and white photos, as well as the bulk of the historical information came from this Wikipedia article...
This time, instead of fighting the Americans, the Germans were fighting British forces. The German units involved were elements of the 10th Panzer Division, (where the bulk of the Division was actively engaged in another Operation, called "Spring Storm" elsewhere), The "Hermann Goring Division, and the 334th Infantry Division.
These three German units were to attack the British Forces in three separate prongs, (that looked a lot like an Ox's head on paper), giving the Battle it's name.
My Tamiya Panzer III was used on the "Southern Horn" attack. It was knocked out by a British "Churchill" Tank, like these pictured here.
Who knows ? We could be looking at one of the tanks that actually knocked my Panzer III out in real life...
According the article on Wikipedia, The Germans lost two 88 mm, two 75 mm, and two 50 mm anti-tank guns, four smaller anti-tank guns, 25 wheeled vehicles, two 3-inch mortars, the two Panzer III and inflicted nearly 200 casualties. Here is a graphic picture showing the Panzer III that I built a model of.
Apparently it was one of the two Panzer III tanks lost by the Germans on the "Southern Horn" during the battle.
I tried to replicate the picture by posing my model in a similar fashion.
Initially I wanted to add crew members to this build. But after I found this photo, I decided against it, as I thought it was not the proper thing to do. I almost decided that I would not post the photo with the dead German tanker... but then I wanted to remind everyone that War is horrible. This picture should remind us all that there is a human side to our models...
Getting back to the model, this one was an absolute joy to build. The fit was spot on. I added a metal turned aluminum barrel by Jordi Rubio, and I used individual track links that were made by Dragon / DML, in place of the kit rubber bands.
I like to use individual track links when I build a kit where the tracks normally had a sag to them. Most of the time this is for German and Russian tanks.
I painted this one using Model Master enamels. The primary color used is RAL 8020, Afrika Braun 1942.
Other than these additions, the tank was pretty much built right out of the box.
The turret has a nice 50 MM main gun and breech assembly in it. I painted mine and posed the doors open, since the original plan was to add three crew members. You can see some of the details in this photo...
I was going to add one crewman on each side of the turret, and have the Commander in the center hatch.
I used the kit OVM tools, and mounted them where the instructions advised they went.
This is something that you should be wary of if you are planning on building one of these. More often than not, there are subtle differences with how these tools are placed with tanks from various units.
I added tracks to the front slope in a few places, just as the original had done. This was often done to augment the armor's thickness, but in reality, most of the time this had a negative impact. I'll explain why next.
When an incoming round hits a "hardened" armor plate (the type of stuff tanks are made of), if the angle is good, it might deflect away and not penetrate. However, when the incoming round strikes something that is a softer type of metal, (like that used in track blocks) it might actually allow the nose of the round to dig in, making it easier to penetrate the tank.
Then you have the added weight, which will affect the performance of the vehicle in a negative manner.
However there are some types of rounds where the additional thickness afforded by the track blocks, is the "HEAT" type rounds. These rounds use a chemical reaction from a shaped charge, that literally burns a hole into the armor.
One thing I did immediately notice once I found the original photo, is that the front mantle by the main gun had the additional "Bolt On" armor removed. This was one of the improvements made to the Panzer III "L" series, where they allowed for a space between the first layer and the main armor plates. So I left this additional plate off the model too...
I painted the Fire Extinguisher in Dark Panzer Gray, as these items were manufactured at a different time from the build of the tank. The Dark "Panzer Yellow" that is often seen on mid war German vehicles, was just starting to come out when this battle happened. As such, I decided it would be best to paint the extinguisher Dark Gray... I used the same logic for the spare road wheels ...
The extinguisher is mounted in between the spare road wheel set and the jack.
I used the kit supplied tow cables. Normally I replace them with small diameter copper wire, but these looked pretty good, so I decided to paint them and glue them in place on the rear deck...
To me, the Panzer III was a good looking tank... It had the lines... and it was a good tank for it's time.
The "L" version had the long barrel 50 MM main gun. This was a major step to increase the usefulness of the tank, when it was coming up against better armored and bigger gunned tanks, like the T-34.
Being a former tank crewman, and spending quite a lot of time in the desert, I can only imagine how these men lived and fought. I know that we trained to perfection. It's often the crew that makes the difference. We had great tank crews... I'm sure my fellow tanker buddy Jeff Bailey would say the same of his unit and their crews.
This is the sight you want to see as a gunner... The back side of the opposing tank...
If you cant get into that position, the sides are your next best bet...
If you happen to see the small hatches on the sides, just above the road wheels, that was the escape hatch. It was discontinued on later Mark III tanks.
Once I painted the model, I gave it an overall light dusting using highly thinned Tamiya "Buff" color.
I think it turned out pretty well overall, and I am very pleased with the overall fit and quality of the model.
If you get into a rut with a more complicated build, I highly recommend these Tamiya kits.
They build up rather fast...
You can see how I built this one, by following this link to the build log under the Kasserine Pass Group Build.
Thanks again David, for creating the GB, and encouraging along the way.
Many thanks go to Martin and his staff, for hosting this wonderful website, where we can post our work in a friendly environment.
"As usual, Comments are Encouraged..."
1 additional image. Click to enlarge.