Humain’s Panther – then and now

While doing some research for another article that might (or might not) be published in the near future I wound up writing something that was slightly too long for the original article so I’ll be putting it up here as a separate article here instead ūüėČ

It all began with this photo of a Panther Ausf. G #80 of II./Panzer-Regiment 33 knocked out in December 1944 during the Ardennes Offensive in the town of Humain, Belgium.

humain panther

The authors of Panther | External appearance & design changes provide a colour profile for this vehicle and mention that it was photographed multiple times after its capture. The camouflage patterns show a typical late war РOctober Рscheme as applied by the M.N.H. assembly firm, that is: alternating vertical bands of red and green with dark yellow sprayed loosely over these bands. The pattern was first described in Duel in the Mist (appendix 4).

mnh bell 1

Both photographs were said to have been taken in Humain, Belgium. For some reason, a bell was mounted to its gun to ostensibly serve as a makeshift church bell. Even though it seemed highly unlikely, all information pointed to both photos showing the same Panther. I’m not quickly convinced and so decided to take a closer look at this Panther.

A first indication of these Panthers being the same is that they both have suffered some damage to their hull machine gun. This is a starting point, but it’s not conclusive. An additional identification mark presents itself in the form of the tactical number ’80’ painted in the corner of the turret, next to the interlock with the trunnion armour. Both vehicles have the same number, but the number doesn’t seem to be present on the port side of the turret (any more) in the photo below.

mnh bell 3
Side view of this tank. The number 80 seems to be missing here

While numbers regularly don’t just vanish, it’s entirely possible that the – thin – layer of paint has worn off.¬†Duel in the Mist mentions the Panther was knocked out near the school and later moved 50 meters down the road. A quick peek at the map of present day Humain shows only a couple of possible T-sections where the initial photo could have been taken. Apparently, it was taken along the Rue d’Aye. Even today it looks like a school is settled in the building. Note that the foremost building visible in 1944 has since been demolished.

snip 20180409200836

A lot more vegetation is present hiding a large part of the building in the background, but essentially it’s all still there. Except the Panther that is. In the meantime I dug up some more period photographs showing the Panther from slightly difference angles. The head-on shot seemingly shows the Panther against the building also visible in the initial photo. The other one shows a building with a quite recognizable shape.¬†Looking around using Google Street View shows the exact building just down the road at the right.

Putting all pieces together it looks like these photos are indeed showing the exact same vehicle. The Panther was parked against the tree in front of the house at the intersection. The photos being taken only some 50 meters apart confirms the story that the Panther was moved down the road. To close off, here’s a little side-by-side now and then:

7 thoughts on “Humain’s Panther – then and now

  1. Fr Mark Van Wassenhove says:

    Hello Melcher,
    I am very interested in reading your detailed research concerning photos of the Panther G knocked out in Humain, Belgium during fighting in late December 1944.
    My interest comes from the fact that I possess detailed information (“after action reports,” a Signal Corps photo, etc.) regarding action which occurred in Humain in the early morning hours of Christmas Day 1944. During this action, 3 German Panthers from the Panzer Lehr Division were destroyed by troops from the American 635th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Company A, 3rd Platoon, working in support of Troop A of the 24th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. These 635th Tank Destroyer Battalion troops were led by my great-uncle, 1st Lieutenant John Thompson. For this action and his personal heroics, my great-uncle received a Silver Star.
    Therefore, please know that I will gladly share this information with you if you are so interested. Additionally, I hope that you might share any additional or new information regarding actions in Humain in December 1944. Also know that to commemorate and honor my uncle and all those brave troops, I am currently building a diorama depicting events that fateful day. In so doing I am assembling a Dragon brand Panther G model depicting the Panther tank you have so thoroughly investigated. And I hope that your extensive knowledge of the Panther in question might increase the authenticity of my modest efforts.
    I hope to hear from you soon.
    Mark S. Van Wassenhove
    (Note my Belgium surname! My grandfather was a 1st generation immigrant in 1904.)

    1. Melcher says:

      Hey Mark,

      Thank you for your comment. I have tried to reach you by mail, but got no response so I’ll leave a reply here (maybe check your spam folder? ;)) Amazing to hear it was your great-uncle that was responsible for knocking those Panthers out! I’m not very familiar with the events around the Battle of the Bulge myself, so any additional information is very welcome. Panther #80 featured above was part of II./Panzerregiment 33 and features a camouflage scheme which was introduced by M.N.H. around October to November 1944. Just recently some photos came to my attention of a Panther #725 also knocked out in or around Humain (


  2. Rusen Mihai Ionut says:

    Do you have any more info regarding the use of the Panther tank as an improvised bell tower? I m a PhD Lecturer at the National University of Arts, Bucharest, Sculpture Department and quite passionate about bells and their artistic values for contemporary sculpture. That s why I consider this iconic image as a sculptural installation avant la lettre and hope to gather more info about the story. Thank You in advance.

  3. Dan MONTANUS says:

    Bonjour, j’habite Humain et j’ai r√©alis√© un Pz Divpetit travail de m√©moire sur le village donc inclus sur la bataille.
    Une grosse erreur est de dire qu’il y a eu de gros combats dans ce village, l’erreur vient du fait qu’√† l’√©poque il y avait UN village HUMAIN-HAVRENNE donc 2 petites entit√©s √©cart√©es de +/- 1 Km les gros combats ont eu lieu dans Havrenne ( colonne 2 Pz Div et liebenstandart Div) √† Humain m√™me le seul vrai combat a eu lieu le Dec lorsque un d√©tachement Tk/Inf de la 9Pz Div est sorti de l’autre c√īt√© du village (vers l’Est) et le Tk de t√™te ainsi qu’un second en base de feu se sont fait d√©truire par des canons US en d√©fense sur la route √† 800 m.
    Pour l’histoire du char, plac√© au d√©part devant l’√©cole il a √©t√© d√©plac√© √† 20m plus bas et on a regroup√© d’autres v√©hicules √† cet endroit . Un /deux autres chars √©taient aussi plus ou moins d√©truits dans le village mais je pense qu’il s’agit comme le char en question des photos qu’il s’agissait de v√©hicules endommag√©s ant√©rieurement et laiss√©s pour r√©parations ce qui n’a p√Ľ se faire.
    Si vous voulez d’autres photos c’est possible.

    1. Mihai Ionut says:

      Bonsoir, comme r√©sident du village de HUMAIN, avez-vous des informations suppl√©mentaires sur la photographie de le char Panther avec le cloche d’√©glise plac√©e sur le canon? Je fais r√©f√©rence aux histoires ou traditions orales locales, s il fonctionn√© ou non comme un clocher temporaire, qui y transportait et montait le cloche sur le e canon, combien de temps cet ensemble y restait, etc. Toute information ou photographie vintage est bienvenue. J’√©tudie ce sujet pour un article scientifique sur les arts visuels contemporains.

    2. dan says:

      bonjour, il s’agit d’une situation r√©sultant de la destruction de l’√©glise du village par un bombardement alli√© accompagnant la retraite des troupes Allemandes, une bonne partie du village √©tait en ruines ou durement touch√©e. Ce char ramen√© devant l’√©cole par les logisticiens US devenant g√™nant devant cette √©cole a √©t√© d√©plac√© de quelques m√®tres. Qui a pens√© et plac√© une des cloches √† cet endroit aucune personne pr√©sente √† cette √©poque et en √Ęge de le savoir n’ a pu me r√©pondre, une “√©glise” de remplacement en bois a √©t√© refaite, et les cloches ont par la suite √©t√© plac√©es sur un b√Ęti sommaire en bois puis vraisemblablement abrit√©es dans cette √©glise jusqu’ a la reconstruction de l’√©glise(termin√©e en 1956) Des personnes ag√©es vivant encore vers 2005 m’ont confirm√© que l’acolyte allait actionner la cloche pour annoncer les √©v√®nements, je pense aussi que la messe devait se tenir dans une grange toute proche avant l’√©dification de l’√©glise “”d’ attente””.Cette situation a dur√© probablement quelques mois seulement car toutes les photos montrent un environnement de printemps et/ou d’√©t√© et tous les v√©hicules √©paves ont √©t√© enlev√©s pour √™tre remis au commandement alli√© (US)

    3. Rusen Mihai Ionut says:

      Bonsoir, merci beaucoup pour les informations, elles sont extrêmement utiles pour mes recherches. Je vous suis reconnaissant et si possible, je publierai ici parties de mon article ou son link après la conférence à laquelle je participerai en mai de cette année. Salutations les plus chaleureuses de Bucarest!

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