Zimmerit on the Front Hull of a Panther Ausf. A (Radio Operator's Position)
Zimmerit on the Front Hull of a Panther Ausf. A (Driver's Position)
Zimmerit Zimmerit was first made available during the summer of 1943 as a counter to magnetic and adhesive anti-tank mines. The British had an adhesive "sticky bomb" for this purpose, and the Germans had lost several panzers to it during the attacks on France and the Low Countries, Greece and North Africa. Oddly, the German’s were the only large scale users of magnetic AT mines. How It Works The coating worked by providing a non-conducting, irregular surface that would reduce the area of contact between a mine and the tank's hull, as well as putting more distance between the hull and the mine. This would cause a magnetic mine to fall off due to its own weight and the vibration of the vehicle. Zimmerit possessed no anti-magnetic properties of its own; rather it defeated the mines by simply disallowing contact and providing distance.
The reported anti-magnetic properties of Zimmerit stem from a British war-time report, "'Zimmerit', Anti-Magnetic Plaster for AFVs", ( by Major J.W. Thompson and Mr. C.E. Hollis, July 1945). According to the report, Zimmerit was a mixture of: 40% barium sulphate 25% polyvinyl acetate 10% saw dust 10% zinc sulphide 15% ochre pigment Zimmerit was factory applied to all tanks and closed top SP guns but rarely to anything else.There are however, pictures of a Marder III Ausf. M and a SdKfz. 251 Ausf. D with Zimmerit application. Deployment and Use There were orders issued late in 1942 that outlined several temporary measures for use before production Zimmerit became available. This may explains the variety of Zimmerit patterns and applications on odd vehicles during the first half of 1943.
Production Zimmerit was applied only to an AFV's vertical surfaces, and the protection gained was twofold: first, it created a rough surface and consequently reduced the area of contact - this defeated the "sticky bombs"; second, it put distance between the hull and the mine - this defeated magnetic mines. It is important tore-iterate that Zimmerit possessed no "anti-magnetic" properties of its own, rather it defeated the mines in the previous manners. In Sept 1944, the application of Zimmerit was phased out.
There were of rumors that impacts from shells would set the Zimmerit on fire, destroying the tank even if the shell didn't. These rumors were investigated, and found to be untrue.
Zimmerit may have been phased out due to its being rendered obsolete by greatly improved AT weapons.
Application of Zimmerit also added several days to the time required to produce each AFV, and this was unacceptable when a shortage of AFVs existed
Application Zimmerit was applied to the armor plates in an even layer, which would then be separated into small squares of approximately five by five mm., after which it should be left to dry in four hours. It was then hardened with a blow torch, after which the Zimmerit should be raised with a spatula, in a series of ridges. It was usually applied at the factories, which resulted in relatively uniform patterns (which varied from factory to factory, though, as not all used the methods described above). In an OKH order dated 1943-12-29, Zimmerit was to be applied on the following vehicles:
It was applied to all surfaces of the hull and superstructure, including surfaces under the armor skirts. Zimmerit should not be applied to armor skirts, turret, external engine parts, lamps, tools, tracks and similar places. The Zimmerit would have either worn of these places quickly, or wouldn't have had any effect, as the magnetic mines couldn’t have been placed on the locations (such as the turret), or wouldn't damage the vehicle (such as armor skirts and lamps) anyway. Zimmerit is still often seen on turrets, and sometimes on armor skirts, regardless, but rarely if ever on tools or tracks Zimmerit Patterns Zimmerit was applied in a number of different patterns. Photographic evidence suggests that certain "standardised" patterns were applied to certain vehicles. This may have been the result of preferences at particular plants. Below is a table showing which vehicle received what pattern, (this is a general guide and contradictions abound).
All but very early and final
Not on Ferdinand
Not known if applied
Jagdpanther (very early)
Early mantlet vehicles only
Possibly only on Porsche suspension vehicles
Kingtiger (early, mid)
All Porsche turrets and early Henschel
Panther D(late), A(all), G(early)
Vertical ridged with secondary cross-hatch
Ausf. D rebuilds only
Pz. III M,N (late)
Pz. IV H(mid/late), J(early)
Sometimes on side skirts
Pz. IV L/70 (early)
Pz. Jg. IV Ausf. F
StuG III G (early, mid)
Waffle / Ridged
StuG. IV (early, mid)
Ridged, "zigzag" on hull sides.
Zimmerit left over from conversion
Tiger I (mid, late)
Raked on hull, ridged on turret.
SPIELBERGER, Walter J.Sturmgeschutz & Its Variants, (Spielberger German Armor & Military Vehicles Series, Vol 2). Schiffer Publishing, 1933