One of the more important “overlooked” vehicles is the Sd.Kfz.8 12 ton prime mover. It was part of a series of half-tracks developed by the Military Procurement Office (Heereswaffenamt
, often shortened to Waffenamt
) to augment the strategic doctrine of Bewegungskrieg
("maneuver warfare")— which became popularly-known as Blitzkrieg
(“lightning war”) after the fact. Intended to avoid the horrendous static battles of the Great War that killed millions and produced continental-wide stalemate, Bewegungskrieg
relied on fast-moving spearheads, including tanks, motorized infantry and transport to pull the heavy guns needed for smashing enemy strong points.
The first vehicles tested were trucks intended to make use of Europe’s expanding network of paved roads, but soon half-tracks replaced trucks once track systems were developed that could handle the requirements of speed and quiet on paved surfaces, as well as off-road needs, especially in the East. A series of schwerer Zugkraftwagen
(“heavy towing vehicles) with towing capacities ranging from 1 to 18 tons was developed, later included into the half-track category in general (Sonderkraftfahrzeug
, or "specially-powered vehicle," and abbreviated Sd.Kfz.). The group became the workhorses of the German army, their various forms a source of endearing interest to armor modelers.
parceled out contracts for the various vehicles depending on their size and mission to different Patentfirmen
(“contract manufacturers”) across the spectrum of Germany’s emerging truck and car companies, with the newly-merged Daimler-Benz getting the 12 ton version (later designated Sd.Kfz.8). The Sd.Kfz.8 is in the middle between the more-famous Sd.Kfz.7 and Sd.Kfz.9 (“FAMO”), and was intended to pull heavy guns like the 15cm Kanone
, and the 21cm Mörser
(“heavy mortar,” but really more like a huge cannon). Throughout the war, the Sd.Kfz.8 towed a wide variety of artillery pieces, including the famous 88 and the many large artillery pieces captured in France, Belgium (including guns turned over by Germany as part of the reparations following WW I) and later Russia.
Currently the Sd.Kfz.8 is available in 1/35th scale only in a $140 resin kit from France’s DES Kit
; there are several resin kits in 1/72nd scale from Romania’s Wespe Models
. Thankfully, Heiner Duske has not waited for a new styrene version to devote the latest edition of his “Nuts & Bolts” series to this important half-track. With over 4,000 produced, the Sd.Kfz.8 served on all fronts, and is one of the real lapses in styrene, especially following Trumpeter’s recent release of the 15cm Kanone.
The 136-page volume is printed on high-quality glossy stock with a soft cover, and opens with a 13-page detailed discussion in German and English dual-language versions laying out the history of Germany’s half-tracks. One of the book's few failings is its assumption you own— or at least have access to— the previous publication, Nuts & Bolts #12: Schwerer Zugkraftwagen 18 To and Variants, Famo "Bulle" (Sd.Kfz. 9)
) which chronicles that history prior to the war in more detail. The good news is the background material here is still pretty thorough, setting up the particulars about how the vehicle came into production and its evolution into the final model. Included are tables, a thorough bibliography, and a list of all surviving vehicles and their locations.
The introduction is followed by a 52-page collection of period historical photos showing a mix of pre-war, production, action and wrecked Sd.Kfz.8s. The pages contain 3-4 photos each in reasonably high-quality form, hampered mostly by the poor resolution of many wartime German snapshots. A variety of loads are shown, including captured guns, and all the major theaters of war. Unlike its more-famous, smaller cousin, the Sd.Kfz.7, the Eight was not adapted extensively for other uses, serving mostly as a prime mover for heavy artillery. One exception was the mounting of a FLAK 18 88mm gun for a truly formidable-looking tank-hunter.
The next section is a four-page set of color illustrations of the Eight in a variety of camo schemes, including the pre-war tricolor green-brown-gray, “panzer gray,” two Dunkelgelb
-based variants, one Winter scheme, and an “Afrika Korps” version that is incorrectly “sand yellow” instead of one of the two-tone patterns recent scholarship has identified.
The final 55-page section chronicles the 12 surviving examples of the vehicle. Stuck in the beginning of the section is an 11-page set of line drawings showing the technical specifications and detailing of the body, chassis, suspension, etc. These will be invaluable, whether for assembling the resin kit (or hopefully a future styrene one), or for aiding the hardy scratch-builder.
Sandwiched around the book on the inside of the front and back covers are eight color photographs of a DES kit built and painted by Tony Greenland. It served to whet my appetite for a model of this important and unjustly little-known vehicle.
This is THE book about the Sd.Kfz.8 for both the hobbyist and anyone interested in German halftracks of WW II. The only limitation I see for its acceptance is the current lack of a good styrene kit in 1/35th.