The Panzerkampfwagen III was one of the major tanks of the German Army. At first it was the main tank of the Panzer forces but the need to mount a heavier gun than the chassis could handle led to the swapping of roles with the Panzer IV.
Panzer Tracts 3-1: Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. A, B, C, and D was created by Thomas Jentz with scale plans by Hilary Louis Doyle. It was published in 2006 by Panzer Tracts (ISBN 0-9771643-4-9). The book has 72 8.5"x11" pages. All scale drawings are 1/35 scale. Most are left view only with 66 black and white photos.
This is the first of three volumes covering the development and evolution of the Panzer III tank. Variants built on the Panzer III chassis are covered in volumes on those variant types (StuG III for example is covered in "Panzer Tracts #8: Sturmgeschuetz"). This volume covers the first 37mm gun armed tank design secretly tested in the Soviet Union, the design that led to the Panzer III, the first four production versions of the Panzer III as they experimented with different suspensions, and a design for an export tank which British Military Intelligence had thought was the predecessor to the Panzer III but was actually developed separately.
Leichttraktor Originally called the Kleintraktor, this was the first post World War One light tank to be designed. Further research led to the perceived need for another smaller tank (which would result in the Panzer I) so the name for this design was changed to Leichttraktor. This vehicle was to be armed with a 37mm gun with a co-axial machine gun and manned by a crew of four. The engine was in the front with the turret and drive sprockets at the rear. Two each of the Krupp and Rheinmetal designs were built and tested at the secret Kazan tank base in the Soviet Union. There are left view scale drawings of the Krupp and Rheinmetal vehicles with the original suspension and with modified suspensions. There are 18 exterior photos with 2 of them showing the part of the turret interior.
Zugfuehrerwagen The codename means Platoon leader's vehicle. This was the design where the familiar form of the Panzer III was born. Several different chassis were made spawning the Ausf.A-D models. There are 3 exterior photos and a drawing of the cross section of the turret.
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. A This chapter is larger than the next three as it describes the base Panzer III used for the first four versions. The Ausf A used 5 large road wheels with vertical coil springs for each wheel. Another major recognition feature is that the commander's hatches no longer overlapped over the edge of the cupola. There is one left view scale drawing and 9 photos; 2 of which show the armament mounts.
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. B The Ausf B used 8 smaller road wheels, much like the Panzer IV would use. Each side had two groups of four wheels sprung with large leaf springs. The cupola was changed into what we would more recognize as a Panzer III type cupola. There is one left view scale drawing and 5 photos.
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. C The Ausf C altered the road wheel groups on each side into a group of two, a group of four, then another group of two. The two wheel groups had small leaf springs. There is one left view scale drawing and 5 photos.
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. D This was an alternative to the Ausf C in that the small leaf springs for the two wheel groups was changed into a larger leaf spring inclined at an angle. There is a 4 view (top, left, front and rear) scale drawing as well as 16 photos; 4 of which are interior photos.
Modifications This section covers modifications made to the tanks after they left the production line.
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf. A-D Production This section covers what was produced when. There are 3 photos.
Organization and Issue This section covers what units got what and when.
Combat Service This covers the actual service use of the tanks. Most were used in the Polish Campaign although they were immediately sent to training units as soon as replacement Ausf E tanks were produced. Oddly enough, after Ausf G production ended in 1940, there were 5 Ausf B turrets from hulls that were diverted to Sturmgeschuetz development. The Army decided to have 5 Ausf D hulls produced to use up these leftover turrets. These 5 actually saw service in Norway. There are 5 photos.
mittlerer Kampfwagen fuer Ausland This section covers a tank that was completely designed and built by Krupp for export. For the Panzer III, Krupp had built the turret while Daimler-Benz had built the hull. This tank was to be armed with a 45mm gun. Only one prototype was built. There are 2 photos.
This is an interesting book for those wanting to know about the early tanks of the German Army. I wish there had been 5 view plans for all the tanks to help those modelers who want to build something unusual but I suppose the authors did not feel they had enough references to be able to do that as well as their high standards would demand.
Highs: Great coverage of the Leichtraktor and Ausf D.Lows: Only the Ausf.D has multi-view scale plans.Verdict: Recommended for those who are interested in the very early versions of the Panzer III.