Know Your Weapons: Grenades of WWII

Jumping on a Grenade? Make Sure It’s a German One!

 

Finally, we have the German Model 24, Steilhandgranate, or “stick handle grenade.” Also known as the “Potato Masher” by Allied forces. This grenade was an offensive type containing a charge between six and seven ounces for a large, concussive blast effect but its thin-walled canister produced very little shrapnel. This was in line with German infantry tactics at the time, which consisted of using these grenades to stun and shock enemy troops in a trench or emplacement until German troops could rush the position and overwhelm the defenders. Its very large size made it a bit unwieldy for an infantryman to carry but, among grenades of WWII, it was unmatched for throwing distance.

Gripping the bottom of its wooden handle and throwing it the grenade would spin in the air. With practice, the soldier could drop it on top of a target with great precision. There were several instances in WWII where German and American troops chucked grenades at each other at ranges under 50 yards. The Americans found that the Steilhandgranate’s concussion was indeed stunning while the Germans found the U.S. grenade was more lethal when it exploded. But the Potato Masher could be thrown farther and with better accuracy. In an enclosed space it was especially deadly with its whopping six-seven ounce charge, which could kill a man with the overpressure of the detonation. But there are numerous reports of the stick handle grenade going off just feet from U.S. troops in the open without them being seriously harmed. Outside of an enclosed space, its concussive power was mostly wasted.

The Steilhandgranate represented the operational philosophy of the German Army in the 1930s which held that the next war would also involve trench warfare and battles over towns and fixed fortifications. In such environments, an offensive grenade with a concussive punch would be useful. That was the war the Wehrmacht fought in France in 1940. But from there they went on to fight in the deserts of North Africa, the Italian mountains, and the vast steppes of Russia where this grenade was not very effective.