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Weapons of World War Two

The Battle of Anzio (Jan-Jun 1944)

Sonderkraftfahrzeug 302 Goliath

Sonderkraftfahrzeug 302 Goliath

In the afternoon of the 4th July 1943 the German troops started the "Zitadelle" operation in the Kursk sector. During its progression, the largest battle of armored elements which took place during the whole conflict would be seen in the Russian plains. Convinced, with reason, about the importance of this encounter, both contenders threw to the battle the latest findings of military technology, with the hope of obtaining not only the victory but also the definitive supremacy upon their antagonists in this field. Naturally, a battle between armored vehicles involves clashes which go far beyond the simple engagement between tanks, especially if it takes place in a theater which has been provided with fortifications and field installations due to its strategic importance. The area of Kursk, for example, had been sown with wide minefields by the engineers of the Red Army, on which the German tanks would soon get stuck, suffering losses. But the German, who had anticipated an eventuality of this kind, besides proceeding with cleaning the zone by means of traditional methods, due to either reasons of quickness or the difficulty of eliminating particularly dangerous minefields, resorted to a new invention: the minitank "Goliath". It was a small, not to say tiny, wire-guided tank which was directed toward the mined areas. Once it had arrived to the intended place the explosive charge which it carried, composed of 91 kilograms of explosives, was exploded. This was more than enough for opening a "clean" passage of 45 meters in width. In Kursk the German occasionally used Borgward tracked vehicles as well, fitted with an explosive charge of 450 kilograms, to which a remote control was applied. As it can be deducted, the "Goliath" had not been devised, unlike what many believed, as a secret anti-tank weapon, but as a mere demolition element for being used in certain occasions. The desperate situation, the necessity of anti-tank weapons or the particular inventive of some commanders would lead these vehicles to be used against tanks as well, but they would not show a especially shining performance in this role. The "Goliath", which would effectively perform their role of mine sweepers or obstacle destroyers, were however not free of defects. Built by Borgward, the B 1 (which was the commercial denomination, whereas for the Wehrmacht it would be SdKfz 302) reminded the tanks from the First World War because of their silhouette. Divided into two main compartments, a fore one for the explosive charge and a rear one for a coil of 700 meters of cable for the remote guidance, they could be moved by either two electric motors or a petrol engine. The remote control allowed to give very simple instructions to the B 1: "to the left", "to the right" or "explosion". Because of this, they could not be stopped once they were moving, and no devices existed for changing the speed or reversing the direction. In those fitted with a petrol engine, the steering control actuated on the transmission, as in normal tanks; in those fitted with two electric motors fed by batteries, it was enough to momentarily stop the motor which moved the track on the side where it was intended to turn. Besides the Russian front, the "Goliath" would be used in Varsovia as well, always against static targets. But in Anzio and Nettuno they would be used against tanks as well, albeit with rather disappointing results. Their poor speed (more or less that of a man walking at brisk pace) and their vulnerability to light weapons would cause the destruction of a good number of them. Their last utilization in significant quantities would be in Normandy, and thereafter, until the end of the war, they would be used only occasionally and in the role which the situation demanded.

Year: 1943

Length: 160 centimeters

Width: 85 centimeters

Height: 60 centimeters

Total weight: 365 kilograms

Weight of the explosive charge: 91 kilograms

Propulsion: One gasoline engine or two electrical motors

Maximum speed: About 10 kilometers/hour

Operational range: About 700 meters

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