the Hetzer (G-13)
Did you ever have the feeling that something was about to happen?
Note: The following applies specifically to
the diesel engine Swiss G-13 when speaking to engine related matters.
The Panzerfahrer (abbrieviated as PzFahrer) is responsible for the automotive
well being of the vehicle. He begins by making an inspection of the exterior
of the vehicle, checking for missing track pin retainers, broken track
links, fluid leaks, visible damage to suspension, presence of all vehicle
accessories mounted on the exterior, and any other indications of trouble.
He then climbs onto the rear deck and makes a brief check of the engine
compartment, ensuring that battery connections are tight and clean, v-belts
are properly tensioned and have no signs of damage, fluid levels are proper,
and there is sufficient fuel in the fuel tank. Then the sliding plate which
closes the grating over the cooling fan must be opened to the proper amount
based on the ambient air temperature. The Panzerfahrer then opens the loader's
hatch on the roof of the Hetzer and drops inside the vehicle.
Once inside, the driver opens a plate directly behind
the loader's seat so that the handle on the oil filter may be rotated to
clean the filter and the main engine oil dip stick may be checked for proper
oil level. Another dip stick is checked after opening a small access door
next to the radio compartment in order to ensure that the injector pump
has sufficient oil. The driver then turns on the main power switch which
is located on the rear bulkhead above the left track. The driver then climbs
over the gunner's seat, hangs onto the two handles welded onto the ceiling
of the fighting compartment and swings himself into his seat. The base
portion of his leather padded seat is adjustable in the forward/backward
direction only. The seat back is also padded and is removable for easier
access. The driver inserts one of the two keys into the center of the round
switchplate located on the right half of the instrument panel. This completes
the circuit and allows power to the instruments, lights, and gun circuit.
The second key is placed into the switchplate on the far left of the instrument
panel. This is the switch used for starting the engine.
Inspections are now done on the transmission and
differential oil dip sticks. The valve controlling the transmission oil
flow to the oil cooler is turned to the closed position. Each steering
lever is pulled rearward with the button on the handle pushed and without
it being pushed. This is to check for full range of motion for the steering
brakes in both radius steering and point turning modes. The gear selector
lever is placed into the "O" position for neutral gear and the massive
clutch pedal located to the left is depressed fully and released twice.
A large leather pad exists on the inward sloping hull wall so that the
driver's knee is not bruised when traveling over rough terrain. The parking
brake lever is checked to ensure that the brake is applied. This brake
lever is connected to the vehicle's brake pedal located to the far right
against the transmission and differential housing where one normally finds
the accelerator pedal in a car. The Hetzer's accelerator pedal is located
in the middle between the clutch pedal and the brake pedal. After checking
his episcopes and putting on his headphones and microphones, the driver
is ready to start the vehicle.
The accelerator pedal is depressed fully and the
starter key is rotated counter clockwise to the start position. Once the
engine starts, the key is released and it returns to the neutral position.
The engine is run with the accelerator pedal depressed about three quarters
of the way to the floor until the engine temperature reaches fifty degrees
Celsius. The pedal may then be released to allow the engine to idle. Once
the engine starts, the red generator light on the instrument panel should
go out. The yellow transmission oil light remains on while the transmission
oil flow is cut off. After the vehicle has been driven for awhile, and
the transmission housing becomes warm to the touch, the oil flow is opened
to the oil cooler and the yellow light should go out while the vehicle
is in motion. Proper operating temperature for the engine when driving
is around eighty degrees Celsius. This is maintained by adjusting the position
of the sliding plate over the cooling fan. The bigger the opening, the
cooler the engine.
The Hetzer is now ready to drive. A communications
check is made between the crew members to ensure good communication between
the commander and the driver. The driver moves the gear selector lever
to first gear and released the parking brake lever while keeping his foot
on the brake pedal. Upon the command to move, the driver quickly depresses
and releases the clutch pedal to engage first gear. As the vehicle moves,
the accelerator pedal is depressed to bring the vehicle to speed. The gear
selector is moved to second gear and at the appropriate time, the clutch
is depressed and released to engage second gear. Note that the movement
of the gear selector lever causes nothing to happen until the clutch pedal
is depressed and released. Thus the next expected gear change may be selected
in advance and when the need arises, that gear may be engaged by depressing
Steering of the Hetzer is accomplished in two ways.
Radius steering, used for all normal steering, is accomplished by simply
pulling on the steering lever for the direction of turn desired. This applies
a braking effect to the track on that side, slowing the track in proportion
to the force applied to the steering lever. Release of the lever returns
full power to the track and the vehicle drives straight ahead. Point steering,
used to "turn in place", is accomplished by first depressing with your
thumb, the button on the handle of the steering lever and then pulling
back on the lever with button still depressed. This causes that track to
be disconnected from the final drive and be braked to a full stop. Power
must be applied in all turns to give the tracks the force required to make
the turn without stalling the engine. The Hetzer does not have the capability
to reverse one track in relation to the other and turn in place. The smallest
turn possible gives a turning radius of about 4.5 meters. The steering
levers may be used to make emergency stops by depressing the buttons on
both levers and pulling back, thus disconnecting both tracks and halting
them. This is not to be used for normal stopping as you lose the braking
effect of the engine.
Shifting up and down the gears requires the same
consideration of engine speed, momentum, grade of the terrain etc. as one
would expect. The driver must know his vehicle's capabilities and select
the proper gear to enable the vehicle to complete the climb uphill without
shifting gears enroute as this may cause the transmission to break. The
same gear required to go uphill should be used going downhill on a similar
grade. Whenever possible, the climb uphill should be made in a straight
line without steering since each pull of the steering lever subtracts power
from the engine and stresses the transmission.
Although driving the Hetzer is relatively easy it
always requires a second person acting as the commander or as a ground
guide. The reason is simple. The driver has extremely limited vision out
of his episcopes and cannot judge how close he is to other objects when
turning or backing. His vision is limited to the arc from about the edge
of the left fender to the point where the main gun hangs over the forward
edge of the hull. Anything to the right or left which is outside that arc
is invisible to the driver. Thus he must have someone guide him when maneuvering
in close proximity to something. A simple system of colored lights is provided
above the instrument panel by which the commander may give instructions
to the driver to steer left, steer right or stop should the intercom not
function. The noise level inside the vehicle makes communication between
the driver and commander impossible without the intercom. A commander and
driver who have practiced together for some time become quite capable of
steering around all sorts of obstacles in close proximity to the vehicle.
But it requires experience, practice and a great deal of trust in one another.
The commander must be able to anticipate the ability of his driver to respond
to his commands and must know the capabilities of the vehicle as well.
The driver must have blind faith in his commander to give the correct instructions
at the appropriate times and must respond in a predictable manner to each
command. This coordination is required in order to safely maneuver the
vehicle as well as to engage in combat since the rough aiming of the gun
is done by the driver at the instruction of the commander.
When it comes time to shut down the Hetzer, the driver
brings it to a full stop and places it in neutral. The engine is allowed
to idle for awhile to enable the temperature to level off and to cool.
Oil pressure must be monitored so that it does not sink below 1.5 atmospheres
or the engine may be damaged. The parking brake is applied firmly. The
engine is turned off by pulling back the kill lever located alongside the
left hull wall, shutting off the fuel to the engine. (Remember, this is
a diesel.) Once the engine has completely stopped, the gear selector is
moved to reverse gear and the clutch is depressed and released. Both keys
are removed from the switchplates and the master switch is turned off.
Fluid levels and all other inspections are done as needed. The sliding
cover over the cooling fan is closed and the vehicle is secured until next
Although the above has addressed the driving of the
diesel engine Swiss G-13, except for the matters relating to engine start
procedures, the additional key involved etc., all driving elements are
the same for the German gasoline engine version. The various manuals in
the author's possession, be they war time German, post war Skoda supplied,
or Swiss military all agree on the procedures and techniques involved in
driving. The engines may change but the driving doesn't.
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© 26 June, 1999