Zimmerit

By Christian Ankerstjerne

Development History

In November 1942, Germany began issuing the Hafthohlladung anti-tank grenade. The grenade was attached to a tank with magnets by infantry, and used a shaped charge to defeat the armor.

Expecting that the Allies would copy the concept, a countermeasure was developed. The company Zimmer AG invented a non-magnetic material called Zimmerit, which could be applied to German tanks to prevent magnets from sticking to them. The Zimmerit consisted of:

40% barium sulphate (BaSO4)
Made from barium treated with sulpheric acid H2SO4, and is water insoluble.
25% polyvinyl acetate (PVA)
White carpenter's glue.
15% ochre pigment
Earth-tone color.
10% zinc sulphide (ZnS)
A naturally occuring zinc ore. 70% zinc sulphide and 30% barium sulphate gives lithopone, a white pigment.
10% sawdust

On 9 September 1944, it was ordered that Zimmerit application should cease immediately. This order was given due to rumors that shells could set the Zimmerit on fire, destroying the tank. While later investigation revealed that the rumors were false, Zimmerit application was never restarted, likely because the Allies had not made their own versions of the magnetic mines that Zimmerit was intended to defeat.

Application

In an order dated 29 December 1943, Zimmerit was to be applied to the following vehicles:

Zimmerit was usually applied at the factories. An even layer was applied to the armor plates, which was left to dry for four hours. After drying, it was hardened with a blow torch, and shaped into the final pattern using spatulas or stamps.

Zimmerit was applied to all vertical and sloped surfaces, except where it would impede normal operation (such as hinges, automotive parts, and tracks), or where magnetic mines would not seriously damage the vehicle (such as lamps, tools, and side skirts). It was, however, applied on surfaces behind side skirts. It was also sometimes applied to turrets, even though magnetic mines could not easily be attached to them by infantry. There are also a few examples of Zimmerit which has been applied to side skirts.

Zimmerit was generally only applied to other vehicles than tanks and tank destroyers. Soft-skinned vehicles, self-propelled artillery, etc. did not receive Zimmerit. There is one example of an Sd Kfz 251/1 Ausf. D with Zimmerit, which was most likely been applied in the field.

Patterns

The table below illustrated observed patterns used on different vehicles. Note, that some patterns were very rare on some vehicles, while common on other. Note that the patterns are stylized, and not to scale.

Pattern Vehicles
1. Vertical columns of horizontal ridges.
  • Pz Kpfw III
  • Pz Kpfw IV Ausf. H
  • Pz Kpfw IV Ausf. J
  • Pz Kpfw Panther
  • Pz Kpfw Tiger Ausf. E
  • Pz Kpfw Tiger Ausf. B
  • Pz Bef Wg IV
  • Panzerjäger IV
  • Panzer IV/70 (V)
  • Jagdpanther
  • Elefant
  • Jagdtiger (Porsche)
  • Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G
  • Sturmgeschütz IV
  • Sturmpanzer
  • Panzersturmmörser
  • Wirbelwind
  • Ostwind
  • Bergepanther
2. Horizontal columns of vertical ridges.
  • Pz Kpfw IV Ausf. H
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. G
  • Panzerjäger IV
  • Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G
3. As pattern one, but with one-way vertical ridges.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. G
4. As pattern two, but with vertical intervals, seperating the columns into rectangles.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. A
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. G
  • Sturmgeschütz III
5. Small squares.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. A
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. G
  • Jagdpanther
  • Sturmgeschütz III
6. Waffle pattern.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther
  • Pz Kpfw Tiger Ausf. E
  • Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G
  • Sturmhaubitze
7. Similar to pattern two, but with the ridges being interchaning diagonals.
  • Pz Kpfw IV
8. As pattern three, but with the diagonal ridges going both ways.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther
9. As pattern four, but with horizontal, rather than vertical, ridges.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther Ausf. G
  • Sturmgeschütz III
10. Similar to pattern six, but with the waffle pattern seperated as rhombs, rather than squares.
  • Sturmgeschütz III
11. Continuous vertical ridges.
  • Pz Kpfw Panther
  • Sd Kfz 251/1 Ausf. D