Jump to content


The Chieftain's Hatch: Panther/M10 and the Laws of War


  • Please log in to reply
45 replies to this topic

The_Chieftain #1 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 18:28

    Military Specialist

  • Administrator
  • 9720 battles
  • 9,497
  • [WGA-A] WGA-A
  • Member since:
    09-08-2011

The Panther/M10 is back in the Shop, and it's fun tank to play. However, there are a few misconceptions going around about the nature of the vehicle. Probably the major misconception is the colloquial description of the vehicle as "the Warcrimes Panther." This is understandable, given the tank is very obviously equipped with the insignia of the Allied forces (the white star).

Its background also includes Operation Grief ("Griffon"), which was to sow confusion amongst the Americans, using Germans in US uniforms and equipment to do so. The Germans captured as part of this operation were executed by firing squad as spies. Unfortunately, like many claims as to what the Laws of War allow, the aforementioned misconception is not necessarily the case, and it can be argued that First Army were incorrect in executing the prisoners.

The operable point most folks will look to is the Hague convention of 1907 -- specifically, Article 23, which states that "In addition to the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially forbidden [...] to make improper use of a flag of truce, of the national flag or of the military insignia and uniform of the enemy, as well as the distinctive badges of the Geneva Convention." Well, there you go. The Germans used the military insignia of the enemy in warfare. Case closed.

This misses a few fine details, though. First, the fact that it's under a section entitled "Means of injuring the enemy, sieges, and bombardments." Second, the use of the word "improper" in the prohibition, suggesting there are proper uses. (A basic rule of interpreting law is that words are not needlessly added.)

So what is an improper use of the enemy flag or insignia? Where is the line crossed between a ruse de guerre (ruse of war) and treachery and perfidy?

The idea of "cheating" in a war is long and storied, going back at least to the Trojan Horse. Of course, if you want to get philosophical, why is "cheating" even considered bad? There is no "fair play" award to the loser, for example, and when your own existence is on the line, there is an argument for doing whatever it takes. History has shown that as folks get desperate, they will disregard "honorable combat" to one extent or another. However, the rules exist, and as long as you intend to follow them, the trick becomes figuring out which side of the line an action falls.

Perhaps you're familiar with those old pirate movies where a ship is floating along,the crew waves at a friendly ship approaching over the horizon, only to, at the last minute, react with horror and dread as the approaching ship lowers the ensign she had been flying, and replace it with the Jolly Roger. Avast! But, hey, they're pirates. Such evil trickery is to be expected, and that's why they're hung, right?

Well, no, not really. Such activities were considered perfectly legitimate for naval warfare. Sailing under the enemy's flag was never a problem, but shooting at them was. Now, you can certainly argue that there is little practical difference when you have only however long it takes to run down one flag and run up another in order to prepare yourself, and I'm not sure why this didn't simply result everybody sailing around under everybody else's flag by default. What makes the critical difference under the laws of war is that as long as you're not shooting at anyone, you're not using the enemy flag as "a means to injure the enemy" -- at least, not physically. In the movie "The Eagle has Landed," the Germans are discovered because they were wearing their own uniforms under the British ones in order to not be unlawful, and it's actually an accurate depiction of the laws of war, not just a movie thing. So if you can do that for ships, why should the principle be any different on land? It isn't.

During the postwar trial of Skorzeny, Allied personnel testified that they wore German uniforms as well (similar to the US Navy testifying at Doenitz's trial on submarine warfare). Peter Caddick-Adam's book "Snow and Steel" makes reference to Americans in Aachen leading with German vehicles, though I've not found independent verification. As long as the Germans did not engage the Allied forces whilst displaying the Allied uniforms and insignia, and I have seen no evidence that they attempted to do so, they committed no crimes. Now, quite how they planned on removing the white stars on the Panthers before engaging, I've no clue, but as the Skorzeny trial indicated, there was no indication that Skorzeny ever ordered or intended for the German forces to fire upon allied forces. Remember, it was an operation to sow confusion, not kill people.

What about those German troops executed for being spies? Again a common perception... "If you are wearing foreign uniform, you are a spy, exempt from the protections of the laws of war, and can be shot." What the tribunals seem to have omitted, however, is that one of the requirements for being categorized as a spy is that you are attempting to transmit information.

Take the current US Manual for Courts Martial. For one to be convicted of being a spy, it has to be shown:

  1. That the accused was found in, about, or in and about a certain place, vessel, or aircraft within the control or jurisdiction of an armed force of the United States, or a shipyard, manufacturing or industrial plant, or other place or institution engaged in work in aid of the prosecution of the war by the United States, or elsewhere;
  2. That the accused was lurking, acting clandestinely or under false pretenses;
  3. That the accused was collecting or attempting to collect certain information;
  4. That the accused did so with the intent to convey this information to the enemy; and
  5. That this was done in time of war.

There was no indication that there was an attempt to convey information to the German lines, only to muddle Allied information. Thus, again, the folks conducting Operation Grief were theoretically safe. Of course, there's no accounting for miscarriages of justice, especially when your side has just hammered the side doing the judging.

So that's the legality; what did they actually do?

First, they decided to make their Panthers look like M10s. That in itself is an interesting choice, because the vehicle the Americans were most worried would be mistaken for a Panther and thus fired upon was, in fact, the M18. The Americans focused on the large roadwheels and muzzle brake of the M18 as key, defining characteristics. M10s, of course, had bogies, and no muzzle brake. Although the Panther/M10 in World of Tanks has no muzzle brake, the photographs of the captured real-world vehicles indicate that the Germans decided to keep theirs on.

In any case, M10 it was. Probably because of the large upper front slope, and the straight turret edges. The vismod (visual modification) panels were a little open at the rear, so that the loader's hatch remained accessible.

Up front, the bow machinegun mount was removed, and replaced with a simple removable panel. I haven't seen, but it would not be unreasonable to suspect that the MG mount was taken from an early Panther, which had the letterbox port before the MG ball mount was developed.

Finally, the cupola, which obviously no open-topped vehicle would have, was also removed, and replaced by a simple split-door hatch.

That's the tank! Go forth and have fun!



shapeshifter #2 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 18:36

    Major

  • Beta Testers
  • 17861 battles
  • 2,864
  • Member since:
    09-11-2010

I thought the rear plate was removed either from damage or for photo purposes, the disguise in use would have had it on.

 

http://imgur.com/a/u1ZMa

http://i.imgur.com/4FxC9jF.jpg

 

Unless I am reading this wrong.

 

 

 



Cutthroatlemur #3 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 18:36

    Major

  • Players
  • 17663 battles
  • 10,404
  • Member since:
    08-24-2011
Intriguing and well written as always, thanks Chieftain!

Fasteroid #4 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 18:48

    First lieutenant

  • -Players-
  • 4389 battles
  • 585
  • Member since:
    03-01-2016

My cadet camp always uses this example for all the newbies, telling them that in Combat, if you use any opposition uniform/emblemware/association, and you are caught, you are not protected. You are screwed.

 

And also, the Panther/M10 would never have looked like a wolverine, because most AT crews would look at the gun, and the Panther's unforgettable gun muzzle was there and could NOT be changed... But they look cool :)


Edited by TondaBobl, Aug 16 2016 - 19:05.


_zeke #5 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 18:56

    Staff sergeant

  • Players
  • 5523 battles
  • 394
  • [SISU] SISU
  • Member since:
    01-04-2013

View PostTondaBobl, on Aug 16 2016 - 11:48, said:

My cadet camp always uses this example for all the newbies, telling them that in Combat, if you use any opposition uniform/emblemware/association, and you are caught, you are not protected. You are screwed.

 

Dirty Germans. Playing like low scum against their enemy. I'm happy they were caught and executed as spies, otherwise god knows how many vehicles/AA/Armour and other lives the Americans would've lost.

 

did you even read the post

Fasteroid #6 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 19:04

    First lieutenant

  • -Players-
  • 4389 battles
  • 585
  • Member since:
    03-01-2016

View Post_zeke, on Aug 16 2016 - 10:56, said:

 

did you even read the post

 

nope, read it in  a minute, oops.. Thx will change

Fasteroid #7 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 19:08

    First lieutenant

  • -Players-
  • 4389 battles
  • 585
  • Member since:
    03-01-2016

Who else bought a Panther/M10?

 

I've kitted mine out with full livery of the 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion, heh.

With lots' of M10's there, who would know?

 

Also has the decal of the 805th's Panther jaw in it. :)



InstantKarma #8 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 19:24

    Private

  • -Players-
  • 5742 battles
  • 1
  • Member since:
    12-20-2012
As indicated in the article, passing 'bad' information (German soldiers dressed in American uniforms giving incorrect directions to real American soldiers) can be considered disrupting communications, which can be considered sabotage, thus punishable.

lungustefan #9 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 19:25

    First lieutenant

  • Players
  • 20 battles
  • 639
  • Member since:
    08-12-2012
I feel abit weird when I think about that operation the germans came up with.I mean,you're breaking a law of war...

KaiserWilhelmShatner #10 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 19:56

    Major

  • Players
  • 12965 battles
  • 3,814
  • [GUNS1] GUNS1
  • Member since:
    03-03-2012

View Postlungustefan, on Aug 16 2016 - 10:25, said:

I feel abit weird when I think about that operation the germans came up with.I mean,you're breaking a law of war...

 

I dont think that was on the top of the German priority list at this point.

Blackhorse_Six_ #11 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 19:58

    Major

  • Players
  • 43663 battles
  • 10,030
  • [HHT] HHT
  • Member since:
    03-19-2011
 

View Postlungustefan, on Aug 16 2016 - 13:25, said:

I feel abit weird when I think about that operation the germans came up with.I mean,you're breaking a law of war...

 

You need to do alot of reading ...

Fasteroid #12 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 19:59

    First lieutenant

  • -Players-
  • 4389 battles
  • 585
  • Member since:
    03-01-2016

View Postlungustefan, on Aug 16 2016 - 11:25, said:

I feel abit weird when I think about that operation the germans came up with.I mean,you're breaking a law of war...

 

 

The germans did use allied uniforms and insignia, but they didn't harm anyone.. only to make a sherman commander think: Ayy, wassup mah homie wolvie? b safe man ;P then once it was the rear of the turret: OMGG Kill that PANTHER!?!??!?! I NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR wth!?!?

 

Two weeks later, the commander would commit suicide not knowing wthhad happened.



johnbono #13 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 20:02

    Corporal

  • Players
  • 41799 battles
  • 82
  • [-MOB-] -MOB-
  • Member since:
    08-20-2011
I find the irony here that the Germans would go to the trouble of making a Panther look like an M10 when they probably had enough captured Shermans that they probably could have outfitted a platoon at least.

Fasteroid #14 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 20:04

    First lieutenant

  • -Players-
  • 4389 battles
  • 585
  • Member since:
    03-01-2016

Here is the ACTUAL FATE of these Cute Furry Olive Drab Panthers:

 

When a clash between PzBrg. 150 and a US Army battalion I forgot, no one seemed to make a breakthrough. So these einstein- brained Panthers Pushed up with GERMAN NON DISGUISED ARMOUR. Now, regardless of whether the german tank was disguised, it was common to see captured tanks(PanzerBrigade150 also had captured shermans) but these tanks did not fire at the allies, but the allies knocked out one of the four Olive Drab Panthers, and captured the rest.

 

afaik the tommies thought the disguised tanks to be m10's but closer reveal, intelligence made a report of these captured panthers.

 

Note: These were earlier panthers without latest upgrades. 


Edited by TondaBobl, Aug 16 2016 - 20:07.


Fasteroid #15 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 20:06

    First lieutenant

  • -Players-
  • 4389 battles
  • 585
  • Member since:
    03-01-2016

View Postjohnbono, on Aug 16 2016 - 12:02, said:

I find the irony here that the Germans would go to the trouble of making a Panther look like an M10 when they probably had enough captured Shermans that they probably could have outfitted a platoon at least.

 

That's the irony. However, Panzer brigade 150 had a LOT of shermans, and even with the panthers, they fought with standard panzers(with german insignias, which probably made the Allies think that they were captured tanks, which were pretty common



TwixOps #16 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 20:08

    Major

  • Players
  • 39880 battles
  • 3,836
  • Member since:
    04-29-2011

View Postlungustefan, on Aug 16 2016 - 14:25, said:

 

 

You have one of the most clickbait-y signatures I've ever seen.....



PaperArtillery #17 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 21:09

    First lieutenant

  • Players
  • 7214 battles
  • 928
  • [C_O_G] C_O_G
  • Member since:
    11-18-2011

View PostTwixOps, on Aug 16 2016 - 14:08, said:

 

You have one of the most clickbait-y signatures I've ever seen.....

 

I logged in just to see what you were referring to. I think I'm having a seizure now.

 

On-topic, though, I think the real issue at hand is less "were the Germans breaking 'law'" (I mean, you'd think there'd be a law that just says "don't invade your neighboring countries for no reason", if international courts had any real clout aside from punishing after the fact — e.g. Skorzeny, or more well-known, Nuremberg), and more on a "were the Allied troops in question correct to more-or-less execute them on the spot" sort of level; still, though, we'll likely never really have a perfect conclusion, and it's difficult to judge actions made in combat with a completely clean and unbiased, yet understanding, perspective.

 

Either way, it's a good little blurb on the M10/Panzer, which has been around the game for some time without any real attention paid to it beyond advertising its premium status. :P

 

T(h)anks to Chieftain as always!



stalkervision #18 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 22:55

    Major

  • Players
  • 49304 battles
  • 7,681
  • Member since:
    11-12-2013

Excellent article chieftain. I commend you for addressing this topic . It is a interesting one indeed. Do you think if the German crews ran up a German or Pirate flag before going into battle that would have saved them :)

 

just a aside here, in ww2 the Royal Navy equipped merchant ships in a false flag fashion with hidden guns to lure in U-boats close to fire on them I believe.



Blackhorse_Six_ #19 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 23:00

    Major

  • Players
  • 43663 battles
  • 10,030
  • [HHT] HHT
  • Member since:
    03-19-2011

View Poststalkervision, on Aug 16 2016 - 16:55, said:

just a aside here, in ww2 the Royal Navy equipped merchant ships in a false flag fashion with hidden guns to lure in U-boats close to fire on them I believe.

 

So did the Krauts ...

 

They were known as Q-Ships, or Q-Raiders



stalkervision #20 Posted Aug 16 2016 - 23:05

    Major

  • Players
  • 49304 battles
  • 7,681
  • Member since:
    11-12-2013

View PostBlackhorse_Six_, on Aug 16 2016 - 17:00, said:

 

So did the Krauts ...

 

They were known as Q-Ships, or Q-Raiders

 

​Your right. I do believe one of the best of german q-ship captains allowed the sailors on board the ship to depart before it was sunk. He was quite a famous pirate. :)  

Edited by stalkervision, Aug 16 2016 - 23:06.





1 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users