- "Who was the one that shot me?"
- ―Panzer III Commander
The Panzer III (short for Panzerkampfwagen III, ordnance designation Sd.Kfz. 141) was a German medium tank; originally designed for fighting other armoured vehicles, it was superseded by the bigger and heavier Panzer IV, being reduced to the infantry support role. In the anime, it was seen through a flashback in Episode 1, and first appeared in Episode 11.
As its contemporary, the Panzer IV (designed to provide support with its 75 mm howitzer), this tank was the brainchild of the Panzerwaffe's founding father, Heinz Guderian, who wanted a tank suited for engaging and destroying other tanks; this became the Panzer III (designed and built by Daimler-Benz). While its layout was fairly conventional, a masterstroke was obtained by fitting it with a three-man turret, which, by allowing optimal separation of tasks, gave its crews a substantial tactical edge against their enemies.
The first batches (Ausf. A through Ausf. E) were mainly test runs with incremental improvements (as the thickening of the armor, and the fitting of a more powerful Maybach engine) and with many tests for the suspension, until the final torsion-bar suspension was finally chosen. The Ausf. E was the first mass-produced version in 1939, but shared with its predecessors the main gun, a 37 mm KwK 36 (chosen for standardization purposes with the contemporary anti-tank gun of the infantry).
With the late production tanks of the Ausf. F variant (introduced in 1940), a more performant 50 mm KwK 38 began to be introduced, which was later superseded by the longer-barreled 50 mm KwK 39 on the Ausf. J and L (whose production runs went from 1941 to 1942); armor had been continuously upgraded, too, reaching a maximum with the final Ausf. M variant (dating from 1942/1943), with the tank now having some 70 mm of armor on the front and Schürzen skirts fixed on the sides. The last introduced variant, the Ausf. N, was made of old Panzer IIIs refitted with the short 75 mm KwK 24 howitzer, and was meant to serve as an infantry support vehicle.
Seeing its baptism on fire in the Invasion of Poland, up to the Campaign of France the Panzer III formed a small part of the tanks deployed (the majority being obsolete Panzer Is and IIs, or Czech-built tanks like the Panzer 35(t) or the Panzer 38(t)). In these campaign, they outclassed most of the opposition, and were capable of defeating even bigger, better protected or armed opponents like the SOMUA S35 or the Char B1 bis, thanks to better tactics and coordination. During Operation Barbarossa in 1941 the Panzer III made up the bulk of Germany's armoured forces; while superior to the most common Soviet tanks like the BT or the T-26, they were inferior to the most modern vehicles like the T-34 or the KV, even though their better training and tactics enabled them to defeat them in many cases. With the introduction of the 60-caliber 50 mm gun, the Panzer III was able to remain dangerous in the battlefield up to 1943, but the introduction of the better-armed Panzer IV spelled the end of its frontline career, usually placed around the Battle of Kursk. Performing in secondary roles, many Panzer IIIs were rearmed with the surplus short 75 mm howitzer.
With some 5'774 produced, the Panzer III originated a number of variants, the most known and successful of which was the StuG III assault gun; this SPG was later adapted to become a powerful tank destroyer, and was the most produced German AFV of the war (by 1944 even Panzer IIIs were rebuilt into StuGs).
In Girls und Panzer
Several Panzer IIIs appear on the presentation to encourage girls to enroll in Sensha-Dou in Ooarai Girls High School.
During the battle between Ooarai and Kuromorimine Girls High School, a lone Panzer III Ausf. J under the command of the Panzer III Commander is found in the abandoned city, acting as a bait to lure the Ooarai tanks towards their team massive Maus heavy tank. As the Maus began to follow their opponents, the Panzer III followed its trail, but it was destroyed by an uknown Ooarai tank(most likely the Tiger (P) judging by the positions that the Oorai tanks were in) after recklessly exposing itself by driving in S shape too much.
The Panzer III (J) is used as a training vehicle for new recruits at Kuromorimine Girl's High School, alongside the Panzer 38(t). Leila Rou and Miho Nishizumi commanded a Panzer III J. during their practice sessions as first years. Leila's tank was listed as being surprisingly bad, whereas Miho did quite well in the practice.
Tank basic characteristics (Panzer III Ausf. J)
- Main gun: 5 cm KwK 39 L/60
- Other: 2x 7.92 mm MG 34s
- Hull armor / Turret armor
- Front: 50 / 50 mm
- Sides: 30 / 30 mm
- Rear: 50 / 30 mm
- Speed: 42 km/h (26 mp/h) on road, 19 km/h (11,2 mp/h) off road.