The Sd.Kfz 251 half-track armored personnel carrier was a German design from the Nazi regime and is thought by some to be one of the top ten military vehicles. The Sd.Kfz 251 was first introduced into service in 1939 and remained in service through 1945. The Kingdom of Romania and Hungary also used this half-track vehicle.
The design of the Sd.Kfz.251 was based on the previous Sd.Kfz 11, which was an unarmored vehicle. Its main purpose was to transport the infantry corps of Germany (the panzergrenadiers) into battle. Production of this vehicle exceeded that of any other World War II German half-track. In all, over 15,252 Sd.Kfz were produced. This total included a number of different variants and manufacturers. German and Allied soldiers both often called it “Hanomags”.
The Sd.Kfz 251 was able to withstand small arms fire and even some artillery fire. This armored personnel carrier could also provide fire support for the disembarked infantry squad with one of the standard mounted machines guns – The MG 34 or MG 42. Though the top of the carrier was open, many considered it a design benefit as it allowed for better visual awareness and crews could throw grenades and fire over the top of the fighting compartment while still maintaining a good horizontal cover. The downside was the obvious vulnerability to any type of incoming, plunging fire.
The large track area on the Sd. Kfz. 251 made for a lower ground pressure but still provided the necessary traction for better cross country performance. The one downside to the tracks design was the risk of mud and/or snow accumulation between the wheels of the tracks which could freeze during the winter months and potentially immobilize the vehicle.
Variants of the Sd.Kfz 251 – 23 in all - were designed for a number of different purposes. The basic design was used as a personnel carrier, but additional variants were used as rocket launchers, communication vehicles, mortar carriers, infrared detection, gun-towing tractors and a number of other objectives.
Specifications on the Sd. Kfz. 251
- Crew: 2
- Passengers: 10
- Main Armament: MG 34 (or) MG 42
- Secondary Armament: MG 34 (or) MG 42
- Range of Operation: 186 miles
- Speed: 32.5 miles per hour
The Sd. Kfz. 251 half-track armored personnel carrier was widely utilized by the German military throughout WWII.