Development History

In November 1942, Germany began issuing the Hafthohlladung (sticky hollow-charge) anti-tank grenade. The grenade was attached to a tank with magnets by infantry, and used a shaped charge to defeat the armor. Shortly after their introduction, concerns arose that the Allies would start copying the concept.

These concerns led the Heereswaffenamt (army armaments office) to conduct experiments in January 1943 with five potential approaches:

  1. Three to five millimeters of poured concrete mixed with fine rubble.
  2. Painting with alphalt or tar mixed with fine rubble.
  3. Applying a thick layer of oily substance (alphalt, tar, lubricants, etc.)
  4. Painting the vehicles in a very thick (two to three millimeters) of paint.
  5. During winter conditions, pouring water over the vehicle to form a thick later of ice.

Only suggestion 1 was considered to be useful. It was found that suggestion 2 and 3 were not suited for hot climates, and that suggestion 4 was of uncertain value. In addition, feedback from representatives from the armored forces rejected the oil-based suggestions due to the fire risks.

Instead of these approaches, the company Zimmer AG developed a material that was first tested in the development center at Kummersdorf on 5 and 8 June 1943. On 30 June, it was decided to begin troop trials with 4. Panzer-Division and 7. Panzer-Division.

The material developmed by Zimmer AG was named Zimmerit and consisted of:

40% barium sulphate (BaSO4)
Made from barium treated with sulpheric acid H2SO4, and is water insoluble.
25% polyvinyl acetate (PVA)
White carpenter's glue.
15% ochre pigment
Earth-tone color.
10% zinc sulphide (ZnS)
A naturally occuring zinc ore. 70% zinc sulphide and 30% barium sulphate gives lithopone, a white pigment.
10% sawdust

Application

Application of Zimmerit started in the fall of 1943. Different factories began applying Zimmerit at different times, with Tiger application beginning in August, and Pz Kpfw IV and Panther application beginning in September. In an order dated 29 December 1943, Zimmerit was to be applied to the following vehicles:

Zimmerit was usually applied at the factories. An even layer was applied to the armor plates, which was left to dry for four hours. After drying, it was hardened with a blow torch, and shaped into the final pattern using spatulas or stamps. The Zimmerit was then left to dry for six days.

Zimmerit was applied to all vertical and sloped surfaces, except where it would impede normal operation (such as hinges, automotive parts, and tracks), or where magnetic mines would not seriously damage the vehicle (such as lamps, tools, and side skirts). It was, however, applied on surfaces behind side skirts. It was also sometimes applied to turrets, even though magnetic mines could not easily be attached to them by infantry. There are also a few examples of Zimmerit which has been applied to side skirts.

Zimmerit was generally only applied to other vehicles than tanks and tank destroyers. Soft-skinned vehicles, self-propelled artillery, etc. did not receive Zimmerit. There is one example of an Sd Kfz 251/1 Ausf. D with Zimmerit, which was most likely been applied in the field.

Stop to Application

On 9 September 1944, it was ordered that Zimmerit application should cease immediately. This order was given due to rumors that shells could set the Zimmerit on fire, destroying the tank.

On 11 November, a test was conducted using armor-piercing, shaped charge, high explosive, and indendiary ammunition against a Zimmerit-covered T-34 that had been left to dry for five days, and heated to an internal temperature of 35. None of the ammunition was able to set the Zimmerit on fire, including the burning phosphorous of the incendiary ammunition that came into direct contact with the Zimmerit.

Despite the test results, Zimmerit application was never restarted, likely because the Allies had not made their own versions of the magnetic mines that Zimmerit was intended to defeat.

Patterns

The table below illustrated observed patterns used on different vehicles. Note, that some patterns were very rare on some vehicles, while common on other. Note that the patterns are stylized, and not to scale.

Pattern Vehicles
1. Vertical columns of horizontal ridges.
  • Pz Kpfw III
  • Pz Kpfw IV Ausf. H
  • Pz Kpfw IV Ausf. J
  • Pz Kpfw Panther
  • Pz Kpfw Tiger Ausf. E
  • Pz Kpfw Tiger Ausf. B
  • Pz Bef Wg IV
  • Panzerjäger IV
  • Panzer IV/70 (V)
  • Jagdpanther
  • Elefant
  • Jagdtiger (Porsche)
  • Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G
  • Sturmgeschütz IV
  • Sturmpanzer
  • Panzersturmmörser
  • Wirbelwind
  • Ostwind
  • Bergepanther
2. Horizontal columns of vertical ridges.
  • Pz Kpfw IV Ausf. H
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. G
  • Panzerjäger IV
  • Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G
3. As pattern one, but with one-way vertical ridges.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. G
4. As pattern two, but with vertical intervals, seperating the columns into rectangles.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. A
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. G
  • Sturmgeschütz III
5. Small squares.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. A
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. G
  • Jagdpanther
  • Sturmgeschütz III
6. Waffle pattern.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther
  • Pz Kpfw Tiger Ausf. E
  • Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G
  • Sturmhaubitze
7. Similar to pattern two, but with the ridges being interchaning diagonals.
  • Pz Kpfw IV
8. As pattern three, but with the diagonal ridges going both ways.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther
9. As pattern four, but with horizontal, rather than vertical, ridges.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. G
  • Sturmgeschütz III
10. Similar to pattern six, but with the waffle pattern seperated as rhombs, rather than squares.
  • Sturmgeschütz III
11. Continuous vertical ridges.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther
  • Sd Kfz 251/1 Ausf. D

Sources

  1. Schutzmasse gegen Haftladungen. 1943. 1 p. BArch RH 10-39.
  2. Gegenmittel gegen Haft-Sprengladungen. Berlin : Der Panzeroffizier beim Chef Gen St d H, 1943. 1 p. Der Panzeroffizier beim Chef Gen St d H - Bb. Nr. 751/43 geh.. BArch RH 10-39.
  3. JENTZ, Thomas L. & DOYLE, Hilary Louis. Germany's Panther Tank : The Quest for Combat Supremacy. Atglen, PA : Schiffer Military History, 1995. 156 p. ISBN 0-88740-812-5.
  4. JENTZ, Thomas L. & DOYLE, Hilary Louis. Germany's Tiger Tanks - D.W. to Tiger I: Design, Production & Modifications. Atglen, PA : Schiffer Military History, 2000. 190 p. ISBN 0-7643-1038-0.
  5. PAWLAS, Karl R. Waffen Revue Nr. 27. Nürnburg : Publizistiches Archiv für Militär- und Waffenwesen, 1978. 160 p.