Thursday, May 14, 2015

Czech-Slovak Armoured Forces

AFVs Slovakia (1939-1944/45)
Czechoslovak Skoda OA vz.27 armored cars
Czechoslovak Tatra OA vz.30 armored cars
Czechoslovak CKD Tancik vz.33 tankettes
Czechoslovak CKD LT vz.34 light tanks
Czechoslovak Skoda LT vz.35 light tanks
PzKpfw 38(t) light tanks
Czechoslovak CKD/BMM LT vz.40 light tanks
PzKpfw II Ausf F light tanks
PzKpfw III Ausf N medium tanks
Marder III Ausf H tank destroyers

The Germans benefited greatly from Czechoslovak tanks secured just before World War II in the German absorption of Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939. These were the PzKpfw 35(t) and 38(t). The PzKpfw 35(t) was originally the Czech S-2a and LT- 35 (“LT” standing for lehky tank, or “light tank”), the main battle tank of Czechoslovakia in the years immediately before the German occupation. A fine design for its time, the LT-35 was initially unreliable mechanically. These defects were overcome, and the Czechs produced 424 of them. The Germans utilized 219 of them, and the newly designated PzKpfw 35(t) tanks saw service in the September 1939 invasion of Poland. Virtually all were destroyed by late 1941 in the subsequent invasion of the Soviet Union.

The PzKpfw 38(t) was originally the Czech LT Vz 38, which had not yet entered service when the Germans occupied Bohemia and Moravia. The PzKpfw 38(t) light tank went through eight different models. The Ausf. E and F weighed 23,500 pounds, had a crew of four, mounted a 37mm gun and two 7.92mm machine guns, and had maximum 30mm armor. The PzKpfw 38(t) saw service in Poland and in Norway, indeed in most theaters of the war in Europe, although it did not go to North Africa. Production continued into June 1942.

The Slovak Army seized a total of 52 LT vz. 35 tanks when they declared their independence from Czechoslovakia in March 1939. They were organized into a battalion that was later incorporated into the Armored Regiment. Three of these tanks participated in the Slovak-Hungarian War of March 1939.[46] One tank company participated in the invasion of Poland, but didn't see any fighting. The Army upgraded the internal communications system of its tanks with German intercoms in 1941, but it unknown if they added a fourth crewman as did the Germans. When Slovakia joined the German invasion of the Soviet Union it sent a Mobile Group that included thirty LT vz. 35. The Mobile Group was reinforced and reorganized in early July 1941 as the Mobile Brigade, also known as Brigade Pilfousek after its commander, and it mustered only 27 tanks despite 7 reinforcements because breakdowns had caused 10 tanks to be evacuated back to Slovakia. This was due to a conspiracy among the Slovak tankers that the tanks would be needed to overthrow the regime at some point and couldn't be wasted in combat against the Soviets. This caused a high incidence of crew sabotage to which the officers and maintainers turned a blind eye, which caused the tanks to be withdrawn to Slovakia at the beginning of August 1941. On 1 January 1942 the Slovaks had a total of 49 LT vz. 35 on hand because three had been destroyed in the battle for Lipovec earlier in the summer. However, of these 49 only 7 were operational as part of the conspiracy to keep the tanks in Slovakia. The LT vz. 35s were relegated to the training/reserve role by 1943 when the Germans began to supply more modern tanks to Slovakia. At least eight LT vz. 35s were used by the insurgents during the Slovak National Uprising in 1944

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