Hanomag designed the Sd.Kfz. 251 and it was adopted in the Wehrmacht from 1939, it stayed in service until the end of the war. Other companies like Adlerwerke, Horch, Skoda and Borgward built the halftrack under license, and together with Hanomag they constructed 15252 Sd.Kfz. 251 halftracks in 22 variants.
The Sd.Kfz. 251 came in four versions, from A to D, every version had its own upgrade. The Halftrack had a crew of 2, a driver and radio operator / navigator and carried a single squad of 10 panzergrenadiers. Today it is customary for soldiers ride armored car but back in 1939 – 1940 it was a new concept. The German panzer divisions needed Wehrmacht infantry support. Vehicles were specialized to transport Wehrmacht soldiers, Sd.Kfz. is an abbreviation of Sondern Kraftfahrzeug, eng. special motorized vehicle. Vehicles like this halftrack were used in supporting roles for Blitzkrieg tactics, and other fast army displacements. They made sure that artillery, infantry and pioneer units, the combat engineers, kept up with the panzers on all terrain.
The Hanomag Halftrack was medium armored with 6 to 12 mm of sloped armored plates. It had one or two MG34 or MG42 machineguns to support assault or defense. It had a top speed of 52,5 km/h and a operational range of 300 kilometers. It was 5,8 meters long, 2,1 m wide, 1,75 meters high and weighed 7,8 tons. It was powered by a 6 cylinder Maybach engine. It was open topped and had only one door at the back of the vehicle.
There were variants specialized for the pioneers, the combat engineers, with small bridges and inflatable boats, or a variant with a 7,5 cm gun, a communications halftrack with radio’s or Anti-aircraft gun attached, a flame throwing halftrack and an artillery vehicle with launch frames attached to the side – Stuka zu Fuss (walking Stuka). Telephone cable laying vehicle, ambulance, reconnaissance, artillery observation halftracks and in the last months of the war a Sd.Kfz. 251 was equipped with a huge infrared search light named Uhu or Owl another was equipped with the smaller Vampyr resembling infrared scope named Falke, Falcon. Next to the numerous field modifications.
On our photos is a Sd.Kfz. 251 ausf. D. This late version D was photographed in 2012. Today in 2023 this halftrack has been outfitted with bridges and it is turned into a Sd.Kfz. 251/7 Pioneerpanzerwagen, a bridge laying Assault Engineer Vehicle. It is photographed next to a smaller Sd.Kfz. 250 Light Armored personnel carrier, also a German Halftrack.
Two short movies on a Sd.Kfz 251 in action.