Amercom ACBG08 German Steyr RSO/01 Crawling Tractor with PaK 40 Anti-Tank Gun - 2.SS Panzer Division 'Das Reich', Normandy, 1944 (1:72 Scale)
"If the tank succeeds, then victory follows."
- Major-General Heinz Guderian, "Achtung Panzer!"
In August 1943, Raupenschlepper Ost, literally "Crawling Tractor - East", is more commonly abbreviated to RSO. This fully tracked, lightweight vehicle was conceived in response to the poor performance of wheeled and half-tracked vehicles in the mud and snow during the Wehrmacht's first winter on the Soviet Front. The RSO may have been inspired by very similar full-tracked small tractors in use in other armies, mostly originated from the pre-war light to medium series of Vickers artillery tractors.
After the Wehrmacht's first winter (1941-1942) on the Russian front, the lack of a vehicle capable of dealing with the extremely difficult terrain (as a result of the muddy periods before and after the winter) became evident. Steyr responded by proposing a small fully-tracked vehicle based upon its 1.5 tonne truck (Steyr 1500A light truck) already in use in the army. The vehicle was introduced in 1942 as the Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO). It was initially designed as a prime mover and artillery supply vehicle but eventually served in a wide variety of roles. Immediately after the vehicle reached Eastern front the combat units started using it for general transport duties. In this respect it gave outstanding service due to its reliability, its ease of maintenance and its capability to take over a variety of roles - in every kind of terrain - that other vehicles lacked. Soon the orders for this carrier surpassed Steyr's production ability and more manufacturers became necessary in order to meet the demand.
The original version had a pressed steel cab with a truck-like configuration similar to the wheeled trucks. The next two versions - RSO/02 and 03 - had a simpler, soft-top, slab-sided metal cab. All models had wooden, drop-side cargo beds typical of light trucks of the era. It had an impressive ground clearance for its size of 55 cm and was originally powered by a gasoline Steyr V8 cylinder engine of 3.5l giving 85 hp, which in the RSO/03 Magirus produced vehicles was replaced by a superb (although of lower power -66 hp-) Deutz diesel air-cooled engine. The later also utilized a Cletrac-type final drive (instead of the automotive-type differential unit used previously) along with many other improvements. The engine was mounted on the floor of the driving cab with the drive taken through a single plate clutch to the transmission. The transmission had four forward gears and one reverse. The suspension consisted of four large pressed-steel disk wheels on each side mounted in pairs with elliptic springs. Steering involved upright steering levers to four hydraulic brakes on the sprockets and idlers. A spring-loaded pintle was fitted at the rear and towing hooks were fitted in the front. It had a speed of about 30 km/h.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a German Steyr RSO/01 towing a PaK 40 anti-tank gun that was attached to the 2.SS Panzer Division 'Das Reich', then seeing action at Normandy during 1944.
Release Date: April 2014
Historical Account: "Hedgerows" - The Battle of Normandy was fought in 1944 between Nazi Germany in Western Europe and the invading Allied forces as part of the larger conflict of World War II. Over sixty years later, the Normandy invasion, code named Operation Overlord, still remains the largest seaborne invasion in history, involving almost three million troops crossing the English Channel from England to Normandy in then German-occupied France. It is most commonly known by the name D-Day.
The primary Allied formations that saw combat in Normandy came from the United States of America, United Kingdom and Canada. Substantial Free French and Polish forces also participated in the battle after the assault phase, and there were also contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway.
The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks, naval bombardments, and an early morning amphibious phase began on June 6. The 'D-Day' forces deployed from bases along the south coast of England, the most important of these being Portsmouth. The battle for Normandy continued for more than two months, with campaigns to establish, expand, and eventually break out of the Allied beachheads, and concluded with the liberation of Paris and the fall of the Falaise pocket in late August 1944.
The Battle of Normandy was described thus by Adolf Hitler: "In the East, the vastness of space will... permit a loss of territory... without suffering a mortal blow to Germany's chance for survival. Not so in the West! If the enemy here succeeds, consequences of staggering proportions will follow within a short time."