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A7V: Germany’s WWI Indigenous Tank
With the appearance of the first British heavy tanks in September 1916, Germany started development of its own tracked armored vehicle, setting up the Allgemeines Kriegsdepartement, Abteilung 7, Verkehrswesen (“General War Department, Section 7, Transportation"); the latter part of the designation is where the A7V comes from. Heading the project was German automobile engineer Joesph Vollmer, then the chief designer of the German War Ministry’s motor vehicle department. Like every other early tank, the Germans looked to the American Holy tractor, with examples brought in from Austria, for track and suspension design. In December 1916, it was decided to make the vehicle both an armored vehicle and an non-armored cargo carrier, sharing the same chassis, engine, and drivetrain. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft built the first prototype which was tested in April 1917. During development the rear cannon was deleted and replaced with two machine guns. The first production models were built in October 1917, and first saw use in Operation Michael in March 1918. Weighing in at 36 short tons (32.6 metric tons), the A7V was the first German tank. Typical of early tanks, the crew and engine shared the same space, with the crew being affected by the engine’s noise and fumes. 19 men—three artillerymen, six machine gunners, six MG loaders, two mechanics, driver, and commander—manned the A7V, with some crews reaching 23 in number, the extra men being runners, signalers, infantry, etc. Communication between the commander (positioned in the cupola) and gunners was achieved via lamps, with one lamp for achtung (attention) and one for feuer (fire). Armament was a single 57 mm (2.24 in) gun (which were captured Belgian guns), with 180 rounds of ammo, split between HE, canister, and anti-tank, though some tanks carried up to 300 rounds, plus six MG 08 machine guns, two on each side and two in the rear, with 15,000 rounds of ammo. Continued below! 👇