At the conclusion of the First World War, the victorious Allied nations implemented the Versailles Treaty, setting back Germany economically, politically, and militarily. The peace terms imposed sweeping sanctions that severely limited the extent of Germany’s armed forces. Viewing this as an insult to their national pride, German military leaders began planning for rearmament in the mid-1920s. They aggressively sought to expand their arms production while under the watchful eyes of Britain and France.
Long-range, yet cumbersome artillery had dominated the battlefields of the 1918. Understanding that the future of warfare was in lightning-fast strikes against the enemy, German planners began to refine existing designs for horse-drawn guns. They imagined a lighter, faster gun that would be able to follow front-line troops into enemy territory. But by the early 1930’s, it was evident that a new design was needed.
Utilizing magnesium-alloy wheels, the re-designated 3.7cm PAK-35/36 began to replace older model infantry guns in 1935. It first saw action the following year during the Spanish Civil War and performed well in a variety of conditions.
Despite its success against lightly armored vehicles and tanks, the PAK-36 was outclassed by 1940. It was particularly ineffective heavier British and French tanks, and soon became all but impractical as an anti-tank gun. It fared no better on the Eastern Front, where the fast-moving Soviet T-34 could take countless direct hits from the PAK-36 without effect.
German PAK-36 crews soon named their weapon the “Door Knocker” for its ability to give away the weapons location by harmlessly bouncing rounds off a T-34’s armor. Countless Germans learned this nickname the hard way, leading to the gun being replaced by heavier and heavier anti-tank weapons. However, the PAK-36 could still achieve a kill shot against a T-34, but it required a near point-blank shot aimed at the tank’s side or rear armor.
These guns stayed in service until the end of the war and were frequently turned over the Germany’s allies fighting in the East. Although completely obsolete by 1942, the PAK-36 still proved effective against scout cars, reconnaissance vehicles and enemy infantry units. This weapon, as featured in The Vanquished, plays a crucial role as 5th Kompanie GrossDeutschland begins to see their fortunes in Russia turn against them, much like the parallel story of the PAK-36 anti-tank gun.