The Panzerkampfwagen II (Sd.Kfz.121) light tank formed the backbone of the Panzer divisions during the Blitzkrieg and soldiered on throughout the war. Even in 1939 it was outclassed by its adversaries and considered a training tank, but used anyway because there was not enough Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks constructed before the war began.
The Panzer II had a three man crew armed with the 20mm KwK 30 gun derived from the 20mm anti-aircraft gun and a coaxial 7.92 MG34 machine gun. It had thin armor which only protected it from bullets and shrapnel and was susceptible to any anti-tank gun in existence. Its running gear consisted of five individually sprung road wheels per side and its engine produced a maximum speed of around 25 mph. The last version, PzKpfw II ausf F, is the vehicle featured in this article. It differed from earlier models by having increased armor, a new front driver's plate configuration with a new visor, a cupola and improved 20mm gun. More detailed information is readily available on the Internet.
This Panzer II ausf F was once part of Panzer-Abteilung 190 in the 90. Liechte Division in North Africa. It was captured, along with an SdKfz 233 8-rad armored car by the U.S. 1st Ranger Battalion at El Guettar, Tunisia in the Spring of 1943. After its capture, it was painted with U.S. markings and the Presidential Unit Citation insignia that the 1st Rangers earned from its actions at El Guettar. Several photos taken after its capture show some interesting details. First, the Panzer II had originally been painted in dark gray, but was repainted after it arrived in North Africa. The original Balkenkreuz was not over painted and the original gray paint can still be seen around the Balkenkreuz. The spare road wheel normally stowed on the front of the vehicle can be seen stowed on the left side of the rear hull. The photos of the front of the Panzer II show the wheel missing. Either the crew had another road wheel added to the rear and used the one normally stowed on the front, or preferred the spare road wheel stowed on the rear.
Other alterations are the "L" shaped brackets welded to the top of the glacis brackets normally used to hold the spare road wheel and tow cable in place. Also, a small stowage box normally attached to the top of the stowage box on the right rear fender had been moved and attached to the top of the muffler screen. There is an extra stowage box on the right fender between the front and rear stowage boxes. It is in the place where the jack block would normally be stored. Interestingly enough, this box was removed by its U.S. captors and a field-improvised rack to hold jerry cans was installed. Another photo shows the Panzer II repainted in possibly an olive drab color with a new turret star, a stripe around the turret and the name "SNAFU" painted on the side of the turret.
The Panzer II was shipped to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds for trials and placed in the Ordnance Museum collection after the war. It had the side of its turret cut away so that the interior was visible to spectators. After the Ordnance Museum lost its museum building, the Panzer II was placed outside after the opening in its turret side was plated over. It was painted in a scheme that reflected its captured use by having the Presidential Unit Citation insignia painted on its side, in white, the turret stripe but still having the German Balkenkruez instead of a white star.
The Panzer II, along with the other loaned vehicles, were eventually returned to the United States and placed in the National Armor and Cavalry Museum collection at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Click on the links below to see interior and exterior photos of the APG Panzer II now at Fort Benning. Use your back button to return to this page to see each gallery. Hover your cursor over each photo to see captions.