Ersatz M10 attacks Malmédy
On December 21 the Panther Ersatz M10 of the SS Panzerbrigade 150 attacked Malmédy. These were 5 Panther Ausf. G disguised as American tank destroyers, together with a Sherman “war booty”. This heterogeneous unit formed the spearhead of the surprise attack by Kampfgruppe X under the command of SS-Hauptsturmführer Adrian von Foelkersoam. But the surprise was relative: the day before, a member of the Kampfgruppe was captured by the Americans and confessed to the attack that was to take place in a few hours.
As a result, the troops of the 120th Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division and the 99th Norwegian Independent Battalion had time to prepare the defense of the city. There were supported by some anti-tank guns and M10 tank destroyers. Finally and after a couple of hours of intense fighting, the Panthers were left out of combat mainly by Bazooka fire. As a result, the German assault troops withdrew in defeat.
The debut of the SS Panzerbrigade 150 as an infantry unit could not have been more frustrating. And this in spite the great expectations created around the “liberator of Mussolini”, the SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny and his commandos.
150 SS Panzerbrigade
In order to capture intact the strategic bridges over the Meuse that would secure the way to Antwerp before being destroyed by the Americans, Hitler himself devised operation “Greif”. This would be carried out during the first phase of operation “Wacht am Rhein”, the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes.
The capture of the bridges would be carried out by a special commando unit, called the 150th SS Panzerbrigade under the command of SS-Obersturmbannfurher (lieutenant colonel) Otto Skorzeny. The commandos would have to infiltrate with apparently American vehicles and uniforms to cause chaos among the retreating American troops.
Faced with a shortage of available vehicles, the Germans demonstrated their resolute skills by disguising vehicles to appear to be from the American army. In the case of the Panther Ersatz M10, metal plates were placed over the tank structure to simulate the basic lines of the silhouette of the American 3-inch Gun Motor Carriage M10 TD. In addition, the crews wore American tank uniforms to assist in the deception. However, they added civilian scarves and handkerchiefs in blue and pink as a method of identification so as not to be confused by their own comrades.
However, the Kampfgruppe Peiper and the Hitlerjuged were not able to fulfill the assigned objectives. And the rain and bad weather took care of the rest. As a result, the narrow and muddy roads along the advance routes became completely blocked. With the exception of a few commando groups who managed to infiltrate mounted on US jeeps, the rest of the SS Panzerbrigade 150 was unable to fulfill its original mission and was deployed as infantry.
Although Skorzeny’s unit did not correspond to what it looked like. In fact it was only a panzer brigade on paper, as it barely had any armor. His first panzer battalion had only a couple of captured Shermans and the 5 Panther Ausf. G last model, camouflaged as M10 tank destroyers. Its second battalion had 5 StuG III painted in olive green with allied identifying stars, like those used by the American tanks.
The Ersatz M10 in 1/72 model kit
Our Ersatz M10 corresponds to the Panther G registered as B7 and commanded by the Oberfeldwebel Bachmann. This tank was destroyed by a direct hit from Bazooka on December 21, 1944, after crossing the Warche River during the attack on Malmédy.
This 1/72 scale model is a plastic kit from the Dragon brand and although it is a bit of a simple model in terms of parts and details, the final result is quite apparent. The commander is a 20mm metal figure from Blitz Miniatures.
Comparison of Ersatz M10 with its contemporaries Panther G and GMC M10
Detail of the turret
As mentioned above, the Dragon model is not very detailed, especially if we compare it with other models of this brand, such as the series of Shermans that come full of pieces including photo-etched parts.
The first thing that is missed is that the commander’s hatch is closed. I have opened it with the help of a drill. The work on the hatch is pure fantasy, as I have been able to find graphic documentation about it. To solve it I have been inspired by a website I found that proposed a system similar to the one used in the Panzer III and IV hatches. The material I have used:
- a set of drill bits and mouse tail file to open the hole,
- a round base cut in half from a Hasegawa figure,
- leftover PE frames for the profile of the right door and the 4 hinges -these include a green putty touch-,
- a pin for the closing system on some little squares of tin with some washers also made of tin,
- and a plasticard lever with a green putty nut.
The anchorage points it brings are also a little deficient. To improve them, I have replaced them with new ones made from old guitar strings and round pliers.
For the ones on the sides of the turret, I have used very thin copper wire for electric trains and then flattened it with flat pliers to eliminate the rounded shape of the wire and give them the appearance they had in reality.
The original plastic crossbars have been replaced by chubby pins. Next to the front one, I have touched up with some green putty some tabs that were a little bit devoured when removing the original plastic crossbar.
For the work on the back of the turret, in addition to the new bar already indicated, I have mounted two PE supports not included in the model.
I have also added a stowage:
- a wooden box,
- a gasoline can with new handles made of green putty,
- an American helmet with a tin ribbon,
- a spare jack from another Dragon Panther,
- and a blanket also made of green putty.
Finally, I have also mounted a new handle on the rear hatch.
The commander of the Ersatz M10
The selected figure is an American commander in metal of the Blitz brand with steel helmet and smoking a cigar in Clint Eastwood style. As the hatch is very wide and the figure only has its upper half made, I have added a Hasegawa surplus waist and legs. With a little green putty, I have touched up the trousers and I have modelled his regulation Colt M1911 .45 ACP. The only thing left to do is to put a handkerchief on it: Skorzeny’s commandos in disguise used coloured handkerchiefs to make it easier to be identified by their own troops.
Detailing the hull
On the front of the tank’s hull, from bottom to top, I mounted a bracket with a spare PE frame – I don’t know what function it had, but it was carried by the M10 and M36, perhaps to make it easier to climb into the tank. Then I put the spare dtowing eyes of another Dragon Panther, I had to cut and file a little the hull, as they did not fit. I deformed both front wings with round pliers to simulate blows.
Then come the four anchor points on the front glacis -to place branches for camouflage- . After making several tests with different materials, I mounted them with tin modelled with a piece of plasticard. It has been hell to glue them, I have dirty enough with the cyanoacrylate and we will have to try to clean it.
Then comes the cover that was used to hide the MG34 machine gun from the hull. I made it with a transparent plastic for vehicle glass, because the plasticard I had at hand was a little thick and it was a little disproportionate.
Finally, the two rings were also made with guitar string like the ones in the turret. With the same material I also solved the handles of the driver’s hatches and the radio operator.
On the back of the hull, at the bottom left I have placed a towing eye, the one on the right was lost on the way to Malmédy!
Then I solved the upper back with two towing rings made of guitar string, in which I hooked two more towing eyes that in turn hooked a wire rope left over from another Dragon model. I have improved the original plastic supports where the cable is held with leftover photo-etched modelled with round pliers.
Finally, there is the handle to open the engine access hatch, also with guitar string.
On the sides of the hull are the spare links for the tank tracks, simulating the way the Americans used to put them on their tank destroyers. On the left side, I have mounted – totally invented – with photo-etched surplus, the support where the spare links would be placed, as if they had been lost.
Cleaning the cyanoacrylate
Thanks to the advice of a fellow from unosetentaydos.com I acquired a fibreglass pencil. Although it is not the smallest point, the result is very good from the first time you use it. This pencil, instead of a lead, has a special point with fiberglass threads that allow to sand areas of difficult access, where a traditional sandpaper can not reach.
WARNING: be careful when using it because the fibre threads lose “hairs” that stick like pins and it is very difficult to see them because of their whitish colour. If they get into your eyes they can be very very dangerous, so be very careful when handling this tool!
Painting of the Ersatz M10
For the base paint, the model has been airbrushed with several coats of US Olive Drab, in three different tones: Olive Drab Shadow, Olive Drab Base. Olive Drab Light Base.Then a final handbrush Olive Drab Shine in details and shapes.
After a layer of airbrush gloss varnish, I put the original decals of the model kit with the help of a liquid solution to thin them and make them set better. Based on the documentation on which I have based the model, the external white circle of the identification stars on both sides of the turret is half covered, as if they had tried to erase it on purpose. For this, I have airbrushed with Light Base Olive Drab using a mask. As I went too far and also covered the star, I put a new decal, this time without the external white ring.
Battle tank weathering
After sealing the decals with second gloss varnish, I applied some filters with oils and solvent.
Following a pin wash with a green vehicles. Then a profiling with a green car wash, some flakes and wear, first with an olive gloss layer and then with a chocolate oxide brown. wash, some flakes and wear, first with an olive gloss layer and then with a chocolate oxide brown.o.
Then more dirt and grease with squirts in various shades and in several layers. The tracks are also worked on, painted in black grey, with a commercial Track Wash, and a mixture of pigments, predominantly chocolate brown.
Ersatz M10 last details
The tank commander, painted as a sergeant major, with his tanker cloth jacket and blue scarf, an identifier for Skorzeny’s troops. The different elements that make up the stowage, also painted and soiled, after the constant rain and muddy weather of the first week of the operation “Wacht am Rhein”.