The short-barreled Panzerkampfwagen IV is described in some sources as an infantry support tank. The tank did have the same gun as the Sturmgeschütz III assault gun, which was indeed intended as an infantry support vehicle. However, the role described in contemporary documents does not point to the Panzerkampfwagen IV sharing this role.

Anti-Armor Capabilities, 1935

While the German armored forces were still in their early stages, discussions were held about the ability of the planned tank designs to defeat armored vehicles. In a document dated 30 October 1935, France was estimated to have approximately 1000 tanks with up to 40 millimeters of armor by the end of 1935. The document goes on to describe the anti-armor capabilities of the guns of each of the planned tank types, including the Pz Kpfw IV:1

The BegleitwagenAccompanying Vehicle
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With a barrel length of 21 calibers the 75 mm gun of this tank has a muzzle velocity of 430 meters per second. With this velocity the 75 mm armor-piercing grenade penetrates armor plates up 43 millimeters of thickness at 700 meters at an impact angle of 60 degrees. In terms of pure armor penetrating capability, the B.W. is thereby also fully capable of dealing with the new French tanks (page 1, section 1). However, based on theoretical considerations that must be tested through practical trials in Putlos, it is possible that the low speed of flight due to the low muzzle velocity results in poor accuracy.

Even so it is maintained that the B.W. from a weapon technical perspective is fully capable of facing all tanks except the heaviest Char 2 C, 3 C, and D.

To achieve a greater speed of flight and, as a result, the ability to penetrate the armor of the Char 2 C, 3 C, and D, an increase in muzzle velocity of the 75 mm gun to 650 meters per second must be achieved. Such as increase requires a completely new tank construction that, with an armor of 20 millimeters (that is, not fully safe against 20 mm anti-tank guns), will reach a weight of at least 30 tons. The Supreme Commander of the ArmyOberbefehlshaber des Heeres
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has recently spoken out against such a tank.

While the capabilities of the 75 millimeter gun discussed differ slightly from the final gun of the Pz Kpfw IV, it is clear that it was generally considered a capable gun in terms of armor penetration. In the same document, the 37 mm gun of the Pz Kpfw III was also discussed. In the document, the armor penetration capability at 700 meters is stated as 22 to 27 millimeters, which is similar to numbers of the actual gun installed in the Pz Kpfw III. Alternative guns with higher penetration capabilities were suggested, such as a 37 millimeter gun with a barrel length of 65 calibers and a 50 millimeter gun.

The armor fighting ability of each type of tank were summarized in the document as follows:


Technically suited for offensive anti-tank action is: A) of the vehicles developed for the purposes of the motorized troops

  • the La.S. only very limited;
  • the La.S.100 limited;
  • the Z.W. good, especially if it is possible to use the longer barrels;
  • the B.W. very good in regards to armor penetration, but expected only limited due to the low speed of flight;
  • the Nebelkampfwagen, as above;
  • the light armored car only very limited;
  • the heavy armored var only slightly better than the light.

From this document it is clear that the armor penetration capability of the 75 millimeter gun was expected to be better than the 37 millimeter gun, but that there were concerns about the gun's accuracy. These concerns are similar to the ones expressed when hollow-charge ammunition was introduced. While it is not clear whether the suggested tests were carried out, as can be seen in the 1938 light tank company manual below, it does not appear to have resulted in any later reservations.

Achtung - Panzer!, 1937

In his 1937 book Achtung - Panzer!, Heinz Guderian does mention the concept of an infantry support tank in his description of the early development of Germany's armored forces. However, he does so in a disparaging way, describing a concept that is significantly different from that of the Panzerkampfwagen IV:2

Tanks that are only intended to cooperate with infantry, without any preceding encounters with defensive weapons or artillery, do not need to be particularly fast. However, they need very strong armor as they will be exposed to the effects of enemy artillery and anti-tank weapons for a long time during their slow advance, and at the best firing range at that. Machine guns and at most small-caliber guns are sufficient, so as to not be defenseless against enemy tanks and distant shielded guns. Infantry accompanying tanks generally appear in small units up to battalion strength and are neither equipped nor trained to fight in large formations. The senior tank commanders are reduced to staff advisors. The responsibility for the employment is moved to the middle and lower commanders. The use of the armored forces is fragmented according to the English and French viewpoints of 1918; but the outcome will be significantly worse than back then.

Tanks that during the battle are intended to break through or penetrate deeply into the enemy headquarters and reserves and destroy the enemy artillery, require at least partially armor that protects them against the mass of the enemy defensive weapons, higher speed and mobility than infantry accompanying tanks, and an armament from machine guns up to 75 mm guns. […]

In Germany, the tenet of command and training of armored forces as a separate unit was thus followed. Keeping in mind the wartime experiences, development was not restricted to an infantry accompanying tank, but rather creating a branch that learned how to fight in large formations and was therefore capable of major tasks. […]

Guderian, Achtung - Panzer!

On the topic of the motorized infantry, Guderian rather envisaged them as the support for armor:3

The main tasks of the motorized accompanying infantry is, as mentioned, to rapidly follow the armored attack and immediately exploit and enlarge their success.

Guderian, Achtung - Panzer!

Tank Training, 1937

Also in 1937, a document on the training of armored forces was published by Inspectorate 6, which dealt with the development of armor. This document included a description of the combat role of each type of tank:4

Points of consideration for the action of the Pz.Kpf.Wg. I, II, III, and IV:

The Pz.Kpf.Wg.I (M.G.) fights living targets with its two machine guns.

The Pz.Kpf.Wg.II (2 cm) fights living targets with its machine gun. In addition, it fights against enemy tanks, various armored vehicles, and weapons behind armored shields with its 20 mm tank gun.

The Pz.Kpf.Wg.III (3,7 cm) fights living targets with its three machine guns. Its 37 mm tank guns is a more effective weapon against enemy armored targets than the 20 mm tank gun.

A particular advantage of the Pz.Kpf.Wg.III (3,7 cm) is its strong armor.

Within the scope of the light tank company, the Pz.Kpf.Wg.I (M.G.) and II (2 cm) are especially intended to fight living targets, while the Pz.Kpf.Wg.III (3,7 cm) acts as a strong support.

The Pz.Kpf.Wg.IV (7,5 cm) uses its 75 mm gun against especially important targets, and supports the attack of the other tanks by shooting over or between them.

One of the roles of the Panzerkampfwagen IV is stated to be that of support. However, like the Panzerkampfwagen III, this role is described as support for the other tanks.

Light Tank Company, 1938

In 1938, two different types of light tank companies existed:56

  • leichte Panzerkompanie 1938 (light tank company 1938), which was equipped only with Pz Kpfw I and Pz Kpfw II.
  • leichte Panzerkompanie (a) 1938 (light tank company (a) 1938), which was also equipped with Pz Kpfw III and Pz Kpfw IV.

The organization of the leichte Panzerkompanie (a) was:7

  • Company troop (2 Pz Kpfw I, 1 Pz Kpfw II, and 1 kl Pz Bef Wg)
  • 1st and 2nd platoon (4 Pz Kpfw I and 1 Pz Kpfw II each)
  • 3rd platoon (3 Pz Kpfw III)
  • 4th platoon (3 Pz Kpfw IV)

In a field manual describing the combat roles of the company, the tasks of each type of tank is outlined:8

3. The armament of all parts of the combat section are suited and capable of fighting unarmored targets that they encounter. In addition, the Panzerkampfwagen II and in particular the Panzerkampfwagen III and IV of the 3rd and 4th platoon, are able to fight enemies behind armored protection.

4. Therefore it is possible to fight:

  • Pz. Kpfwg. I living targets with the machine guns,
  • Pz. Kpfwg. II to IV living targets with the machine guns, as well as tanks and weapons behind armored shields with the 20 mm tank gun and the cannons (armor piercing grenades),
  • Pz. Kpfwg. IV also living targets with the cannon (high-explosive grenades).

Furthermore, the Panzerkampfwagen IV can also temporarily blind the enemy with smoke grenades.


6. Within the tank battalion, only the leichte Panzerkompanie (a) 1938 has access to cannons. They are therefore employed where the use of these cannons is expected to be needed.

When attacking with tanks, the companies attacking in the first line, or for encounters those that have the initial encounter, will generally be spearheading the combat against enemy tanks and anti-tank weapons. Therefore, on account of their armament with cannons, the leichte Panzerkompanie (a) is particularly suited for employment in the initial encounter or as support for the first line of fighting of the light tank companies.

7. The 3rd and 4th platoons are primarily to be employed in the support of the light tank companies. Whether they are used together or divided across the tank companies in the first line depends on the situation and terrain.


14. Within the tank battalion, the Panzerkampfwagen III and IV are next to the Panzerkampfwagen II particularly well equipped to fight enemy tanks. If it comes to combat against enemy tanks, all Panzerkampfwagen III and IV must quickly step into battle. […]

It is clear from these guidelines that within the light tank company, the purpose of the Pz Kpfw IV, alongside the Pz Kpfw III, was to support the lighter tanks against targets requiring additional firepower. No distinction is made between the Pz Kpfw III and Pz Kpfw IV in regards to fighting armored vehicles.

General Staff Guidelines, 1939

In the 1939 guidelines for general staff service, the capabilities of the armament of the different tanks largely echo those described previously:9

Gun Rate of fire (shots per minute) Usage
Maschinengewehr 13 (M. G. 13) 100 Generally only against targets that are not in cover or protected, as well as targets with armor protection.
Maschinengewehr 34 (M. G. 34) 120 Ditto.
2 cm Kampfwagenkanone 30 (2 cm Kw. K. 30) 100
  • With armor piercing rounds with tracers against armored vehicles and weapons protected by gun shields.
  • With high-explosive rounds with tracers against aerial targets. High explosive rounds with tracers are only available in the Sd. Kfz. 222.
3,7 cm Kampfwagenkanone (3,7 cm Kw. K.) 14 Main weapon against armored vehicles; also for use against weapons protected by gun shields.
7,5 cm Kampfwagenkanone (7,5 cm Kw. K.) 12
  • High-explosive grenades without delay against living targets, especially against the operation of anti-tank weapons and cannons.
  • High-explosive grenades with delay against targets and light cover.
  • Armor-piercing grenades against armored vehicles.
  • Smoke rounds to blind anti-tank weapons and observation posts.

Medium Company, 1941

In 1941, a medium tank company was intended to consist of:10

  • Company troop (2 Pz Kpfw IV)
  • Light platoon (5 Pz Kpfw II)
  • Three platoons (4 Pz Kpfw IV each)

In the manual for the medium tank company, which at the time was synonymous with the Panzerkampfwagen IV, the combat duties of both the individual platoons and the company as a whole are laid out. The excerpts below outline some of the key duties defined in the guidelines:11

D. The platoon


a) The medium tank platoon


2. The medium platoon in combat

55. Each platoon forms a combat unit within the company.

The employment and subordination of half-platoons is the exception. They can be used

  • to support the light companies in difficult terrain,
  • to support assault units when attacking fortified positions,
  • when fighting in special circumstances.


59. The platoon's usual task is to soften the enemy's defenses and provide overwatch for the light tanks' penetration into enemy territory from favorable positions.

To accomplish this, it is necessary for the half-platoon to make rapid changes to their position. The relocation to a new firing position must be done with the greatest possible speed.

60. The platoon commander chooses the firing position so that he that can overlook at long distances, at which he can defeat or blind enemy targets that are offering resistance to the light companies.

61. Anti-tank weapons and artillery is to be destroyed through the combined fire of the platoon or half-platoon.

62. During the course of the attack the platoon proceeds so that one half-platoon remains and provides overwatch while the other moves to the next position.

The simultaneous movement of both half-platoons is the exception.


64. When fighting against enemy tanks, quickly opening effective fire from advantageous firing positions is of decisive importance.

If the enemy armor has not yet spotted our own formation while taking up the firing position, the platoon commander must strive to create a fire assault with all weapons.

In case of a surprise encounter with enemy tanks at short ranges, each tank of the platoon must initiate fire individually, including during movement.

65. If a medium platoon is subordinated to a light company, which unexpectedly encounters enemy tanks in position while in terrain without cover, it is usually expedient to quickly blind the enemy by firing smoke grenades to allow the light company to disengage and employ again elsewhere.

66. If the platoon unexpectedly comes under heavy fire from enemy tanks or encounters a tank barrier, it must turn around under the cover of smoke, and resume fighting the enemy under more favorable conditions.

67. Live targets and non-armor piercing weapons are to be fought using machine guns and high-explosive grenades, as well as crushing them with the vehicle.

If the platoon encounters enemy forces (reserves, retreating units, or columns that are marching up), it must immediately open fire. All weapons fire at rapid speed. The cannons fire using high-explosive grenades. Enemies that are holding out are crushed.

68. During attacks against fortifications, the individually employed tank platoon is always assigned to work closely together with the troops attacking on foot.

If the terrain and the plan of attack allow the concentrated employment of the platoon, the individual tanks support each other by taking turns to blind or suppress the fortifications. The platoon moves up so close that they can effectively defeat the weapons in the embrasures. If the assault troops have captured a fortification under the fire support of the platoon, the platoon takes over the protection of their further advances by sealing off the flanks and depth.


E. The company


IV. March and combat


c) Attack


129. If the company is employed in the first line of attack, their task is usually to first destroy the enemy anti-tank weapons, then the artillery.

To do this, to the extent that it is not tied down with fighting enemy anti-tank weapons, it quickly breaks through the entire enemy zone of resistance without halting, defeating the heavy weapons and pockets of resistance that have been identified. Parts of the company must always be ready to immediately put heavy fire on anti-tank weapons.

130. The task of the medium company in the second line of attack is to defeat all particularly strong pockets of resistance in the gained ground.


V. Attacking against a position fortified by permanent installations

159. The closest possible cooperation between the company and the troops attacking on foot is required when attacking fortified positions.

The size of the force needed for the mission, and the tasks that they must fulfill, is decided by the commander that the company is subordinated to.

It is mainly the task of the company to in part give supporting fire to the attacking assault troops, in part to suppress the enemy in the fortifications by firing at the embrasures at close ranges.

160. The commander of the assault troops that are attacking on foot is only assigned half-platoons, in exceptional circumstances platoons or the entire company. The other parts of the company are with the tank battalion and do not attack until lanes have been cleared.

161. In view of the fact that the effective firing range of the tank is poor, and that it can only use direct aiming, effort should be made to establish the individual firing positions in advance. The tank commander must be given the opportunity to observe the fortification themself in daylight.

The reconnaissance must extend to the roads of assembly and secondary positions.

162. To preserve the element of surprise, it is expedient to only move the tanks up to 5 to 7 kilometers behind the lines during the night, and only until the forward line or the first firing position immediately before the commencement of the attack.

163. The first position will often be line from which the infantry line up for the attack. However, the tanks will also often have to make one or more leaps forward together with the infantry before they can take up their first firing position. The closer the tanks is to the infantry, the more secure is the cooperation.

Effect before cover!

164. From rearwards positions, the Panzerkampfwagen IV can only provide overwatch for the attack as long as the infantry are still moving in lines and there are sufficiently wide gaps. Due to the close range, overshooting is only possible in particularly favorable terrain.

As soon as the infantry are forced to advance, the tanks belong in their immediate vicinity. Careful individual reconnaissance must be used to prevent tanks from taking up positions that are under flaking fire from anti-tank weapons.

165. The tanks must not hesitate to drive up to the enemy position and - when no other options exist - take up a position without cover to destroy every visible enemy.

166. The tanks do not participate in breaking through enemy obstacles as they are not capable of doing so. They remain back in their last position close to the enemy obstacles and closely watch over the assault troops' work of cleaning lanes.

167. Following the breakthrough the tanks take part in destroying the enemies between the fortifications and firing positions to hold the captured position. An immediate deep penetration by these tanks will only be possible in exceptional circumstances (heavy ammunition consumption).

Likewise, the attack is further continued into the rear positions, which usually requires a new order from the infantry commander and ammunition resupplies.

168. As soon as the enemy position, which can consist of several layers of resistance, has been broken through in the planned attack, the parts of the armored formation that has been held back is deployed to strike in depth.

169. Within the frame of a tank unit, it can be a task of the medium company to quickly break through the rear edge of the position when the enemy position has been successfully penetrated. This is the most effective way to defeat enemy counter-attacks.

VI. Tank versus tank combat

170. Due to its tanks being armed with 75 mm tank guns and equipped with armor-piercing grenades, the medium tank company is particularly well-suited for destroying enemy tanks.

The concentrated employment of the company is rule.

171. Quick actions and the sudden opening of fire by all available armor piercing weapons at effective distances, when possible from covered positions and from unexpected directions, are the means to secure superiority.

172. If the company unexpectedly encounters enemy tanks, the company commander must use smoke grenades to enable the formation of a firing line of the company or battalion.

173. Every tank of the medium company must quickly come to full effect. The company commander must keep their company firmly in hand. No platoon may become independent in the heat of battle.

174. The commander of the armored unit (battalion or regimental commander) decides whether the company should be employed against the flanks or rear of the enemy tanks.

175. If the enemy retreats, the company immediately follows to pursue and destroy them.


Appendix 3 - Tactical data of the medium tank company


8. Ammunition (reference)

a) With the combat unitKampfstaffel
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For Pz. Kpfw. IV:

  • 728 high-explosive rounds (14 × 52),
  • 280 armor-piercing rounds (14 × 20),
  • 112 smoke rounds (14 × 8),

1350 SmK rounds for each machine gun, of which half with tracers.


a) With the combat trainGefechtstroß
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For Pz. Kpfw. IV:

  • 1302 high-explosive rounds (14 × 93),
  • 490 armor-piercing rounds (14 × 20),
  • 168 smoke rounds (14 × 12),

1150 SmK rounds for each machine gun, of which half with tracers.


As can be seen in the section Attacking against a position fortified by permanent installations, the Panzerkampfwagen IV could be used to closely cooperate with infantry when attacking fortified positions. This is, however a very specific use case, and the guidelines are also clear that this is as a precursor of a larger armored breakthrough.

Likewise, it is clear that the Panzerkampfwagen IV was also considered both an important support for light tanks, as well as being fully capable of fighting tanks on its own.


From the descriptions both before and during the war, it is clear that the combat role of the Panzerkampfwagen IV was always intended to be versatile.

As described in the 1941 guidelines for the medium tank company, one of its roles could be that of supporting attacking infantry when attacking fortifications, similar to assault guns. However, this was far from its only role, and usually only included a relatively small number of tanks. More central was the concentrated employment in the first line of tank attacks, targeting both unarmored and armored targets. This is very different from the infantry accompanying tanks described by Guderian in 1937, instead forming an important part of the German doctrine of armor concentration.


  1. Kraftfahrtruppe 1935. 1935. Pages 30-47. Back
  2. GUDERIAN, Heinz. Achtung - Panzer!. 1937. Page 95. Back
  3. GUDERIAN, Heinz. Achtung - Panzer!. 1937. Page 97. Back
  4. Ausbildung der Panzerverbände im Übungsjahr 1937. AHA/In 6 (IV a), 1937. Back
  5. Ausbildungsanweisung für die leichte Panzerkompanie (a) 1938 im Gefecht. Oberkommando des Heeres, 1938. Back
  6. Ausbildungsanweisung für die leichte Panzerkompanie 1938 im Gefecht. Oberkommando des Heeres, 1937. Back
  7. Ausbildungsanweisung für die leichte Panzerkompanie (a) 1938 im Gefecht. Oberkommando des Heeres, 1938. Back
  8. Ausbildungsanweisung für die leichte Panzerkompanie (a) 1938 im Gefecht. Oberkommando des Heeres, 1938. Back
  9. Handbuch für den Generalstabsdienst im Kriege : Teil II. 1939. Page 240. Back
  10. Ausbildungsvorschrift für die Panzertruppe (A. V. Pz.) - Heft 7 : Die mittlere Panzerkompanie. Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres, 1941. Back
  11. Ausbildungsvorschrift für die Panzertruppe (A. V. Pz.) - Heft 7 : Die mittlere Panzerkompanie. Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres, 1941. Back


  1. Kraftfahrtruppe 1935. 1935. 189 p. BArch RH 2/1146.
  2. Ausbildung der Panzerverbände im Übungsjahr 1937. AHA/In 6 (IV a), 1937. 6 p. AHA/In 6 (IV a) Nr. 206/37 g.Kdos.. DHI 500-12451-000155.
  3. Ausbildungsanweisung für die leichte Panzerkompanie 1938 im Gefecht. Oberkommando des Heeres, 1937. 9 p. Oberkommando des Heeres - Az. 89 a/b AHA/In 6 (IVa) - Nr. 220. 11. 37.. BArch RH 12/6-34.
  4. Ausbildungsanweisung für die leichte Panzerkompanie (a) 1938 im Gefecht. Oberkommando des Heeres, 1938. 10 p. Oberkommando des Heeres - Az. 89 a/b AHA/In 6 (IVa). BArch RH 12/6-36.
  5. Handbuch für den Generalstabsdienst im Kriege : Teil II. Berlin, 1939. 271 p. H Dv g 92. NARA T283 R136.
  6. Ausbildungsvorschrift für die Panzertruppe (A. V. Pz.) - Heft 7 : Die mittlere Panzerkompanie. Berlin : Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres, 1941. 107 p. H Dv 470/7. NARA T283 R137.
  7. GUDERIAN, Heinz. Achtung - Panzer!. 1937. 157 p.