During the Battle of the Bulge, famed Nazi Commando Otto Skorzeny and the 150th SS Panzer Brigade were tasked with capturing bridges over the Meuse River before allied forces could destroy them. As a part of their efforts, Skorzeny used captured allied uniforms and equipment. Requests for captured allied equipment sent to other German units fell short of the numbers needed for the Brigade. Of the 15 allied tanks requested, only 2 Shermans could be found, and the Brigade was flooded with Russian equipment by formations that did not understand the request was for American equipment.
To make up for this short fall, the Brigade disguised Mk. V Panther tanks as M10 Wolverines by removing the copula and attaching sheet metal around the hull. In addition to this, the Germans painted equipment olive drab and added white stars in an attempt to fool the Americans and gain the upper hand in the fight. To ensure the disguised tanks were not accidently targeted by friendly German troops a small yellow triangle was painted on the rear of the vehicle and their guns were kept at the 9 o’clock position.
The new release of Ersatz Panthers and StuGs by Battlefront has generated a lot of discussion and debate on various forums over how effective these tank disguise were. Many have commented this German attempt at deception was doomed to fail before it began because any real American would recognize the mock tanks as fakes immediately. In the Battle of the Bulge Volume of the series World War Two by Time Life, Skorzeny was quoted as saying that even he thought the trick would not fool the rawest of American recruits, who would immediately recognize that they where German Tanks painted green. Regardless of the effort put into Skorzeny’s mission, it ultimately failed and the Germans never achieved their objective of capturing Antwerp.
In Flames of War you can field the Ersatz Panthers or StuGs in the Ersatz Panzer Company found in the Devils Charge briefing. Ersatz Tank Platoons have a special rule that requires enemy teams to pass a skill test before they can shoot at them. Once spotted any enemy team can then target the platoon. This allows you to sneak up on the enemy with guns blazing while they busily try to figure out why they are the proud recipients’ of friendly fire.
The Ersatz Panther and StuG models are very nice, crisp, clean and full of detail. The two models I got required very little clean up and only minor assembly. Both tanks came with two barrels, one barrel with a muzzle break and one without a muzzle break. Some Germans removed the muzzle break as a part of their disguise and Battlefront has given you the option to field either one.
The Ersatz Panther had a resin hull and turret with metal gun barrel, tracks, crew and fenders. You will notice that there is no copula on the Ersatz Panther; this is because the Germans removed them in an attempt to make them look like an M10. The Ersatz Panther is one of the cooler models I have seen and even if you don’t plan on fielding a Ersatz Company it is worth buying just to have one.
The Ersatz StuG was one resin piece with metal crew and gun barrel. You will notice that the side skirts are cut in half, which makes this StuG look more like a skirtless StuG. This is not because the skirts are broken; this is how the piece is sculpted and is part of the "disguise". Additionally, I covered both tanks with big white allied stars to fool my allied opponents.
Now that I have one of each of these Ersatz Tanks, I will likely be picking up more in order to field the company. If you interested in picking up some of these tanks or learning more about them check them out over on the Flames of War website and feel free to chime in and discuss them on the WWPD forums.
“Craig Baxter is a miniature wargamer from Anchorage, AK. When he’s not contributing to WWPD.net he is busy blogging, painting, modeling and rolling dice. You can find more of his work and articles at frozengamerak.blogspot.com.”
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