Development of the Marder II
During the winter 1941-42 and early 1942, the en masse apparition of the T-34 and KV-1 threw the German OKH into disarray. It was decided, among other things, to bolster the anti-tank capacity of the Panzer Divisions by any means necessary and on a short notice. One of these developments was the Marder (“Marten”) series. These were tank hunter SPGs using the standard 75 mm (2.95 in) Pak 40 or captured 76.2 mm (3 in) Soviet anti-tank gun. First, an attempt was made on captured French Lorraine 37L chassis (Marder I), and later the Panzer II was used as a basis. This gave rise to the Sd.Kfz.132 Marder II. Alkett and Wegmann would produce 201 vehicles based on the Ausf.D & E (removed from service due to the unsuccessful Christie suspension), which were tall (2.60 m/8.5 ft high) and offered little protection for their crews. This led to a redesign of the Marder II, now based on the regular Ausf.F chassis.
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Alkett modified many aspects of this vehicle, using the numerous Ausf.A-C chassis and the upgraded Ausf.F chassis which became available as the Panzer II was withdrawn from frontline service. The 75 mm (2.95 in) Pak 40 anti-tank gun was wrapped in a lower, sloped hull, and still retained some traverse. Part of the chassis superstructure was open, lowering the gun by 40 cm (1ft3in), and the overall height was reduced to 2.20 m (7ft2in). The side armor, although thin (8 mm/0.31 in), protected the crew against small arms fire, but for practicality, the rear and top were opened. The chassis had a 35 mm (1.38 in) glacis plate and the wrapped gun shield offered good frontal protection. 37 rounds were carried, seven more than on the Sd.Kfz.132. The Maybach HL 62 TRM 138 hp (103 kW) petrol engine gave 12.96 hp/tonne and a top speed of about 40 km/h (25 mph), as the weight was almost 2 tonnes bigger than on the regular Panzer II (8.9 vs 10.8 metric tonnes).
FAMO, MAN and Daimler-Benz took charge of the production and, from June 1942 to mid-1943, delivered 576 Marder IIs of the Sd.Kfz.131 version. Later on, from mid-1943 to early 1944, 75 recently deactivated Panzer IIs were converted as Marder IIs, apparently by FAMO. This gave a grand total of 651 operational Marder IIs of the Sd.Kfz.131 type. No sub-variants exist, although sometimes they are separated based on the version (Ausfuerung) of the chassis they were based on: A, C and F.
The Marder II in action
Marder IIs were allocated to various Panzerjäger Abteilungen (tank hunter battalions), attached to the Panzer Divisions of the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS, but also some Luftwaffe units operating close to the frontline. Due to a lower silhouette and slightly better protection, this version was more appreciated by its crews than the Sd.Kfz.132. However, overall protection forbade any tank-to-tank engagements, especially in close quarters. The crews were trained to use their vehicles in pre-positioned spots and withdraw when engagend, while using their speed to maneuver at a safe distance, stop, fire and change position again, using their main gun range to maximum effect on the flat steppes of central Russia. For this reason, the bulk of the Marder IIs produced were sent on the Eastern Front. A few saw action in Normandy and, gradually, in 1944, some were transferred to Hungary. The open-top left the crews vulnerable to artillery, mortar fire and grenades. Despite of this, the Marder II was well shown in propaganda movies of the time, especially the “Kohlenkau”, or “coal thief”, from a popular cartoon, which scored 20+ kills. The individual symbol became a familiar surname for all Marder IIs.
Sd.Kfz. 131 specifications
|Dimensions||4.81 x 2.28 x 2.30 m (15.78 x 7.48 x 7.54 ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||10.8 tonnes (23,800 lbs)|
|Crew||4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)|
|Propulsion||Maybach Maybach HL 62 TRM 6 cyl, 140 hp (104 kW)|
|Top speed||50 km/h (30 mph)|
|Maximum operational range||220 km (137 mi)|
|Armament||75 mm Pak 40 L/48 (2.95 in) – 37 rounds|
|Armor (Ausf.F)||Front 35 mm (1.18 in)
Sides 14.5 mm (0.57 in)
Rear 14.5 mm (0.57 in)
|Production||Total 576 + 75 converted|
The famous “Kohlenkau”, 3/Pz.jg.Abt.561, Geschützfuhrer Uffz. Helmuth Kohlke, Russia, February 1943.
Marder II Ausf.C, Afrika Korps, Tunisia, 1943.
Marder II from the Panzejäger Abteilung 50, 9th Panzerdivision, Russia, winter 1942-1943.
Marder II Ausf.F from the Pz.jg.Abt.40 attached to the 24th Panzerdivision, Russia, 1944.
Hungarian Marder II Ausf.F, late 1944.