Categories
WW2 German Assault Guns

Sturmgeschütz IV für 7.5 cm Sturmkanone 40 (Sd.Kfz. 167)

German Tanks of WW2Germany (1943)
Assault gun – 1,141-1,500 built

When the Alkett factory was heavily bombed by the Allied Air Force in November 1943, the production of the StuG III was almost put to a halt. In an attempt to find a relatively easy solution, the Germans simply merged the Panzer IV chassis with a StuG III upper superstructure, creating a new vehicle, the StuG IV. Production was conducted relatively quickly, with 30 vehicles completed by December 1943 and, by April 1945, over 1,000 would be built. Like its StuG III cousin, the StuG IV was also an effective assault gun which would see service on all major fronts up to the end of the war.

The StuG IV. Source: www.panzernet.net

Sturmgeschütz concept

During the Great War, German (and many other nations) infantry formations were supported by towed artillery. For German Sturmtruppen (Eng. Stormtroopers) that depended on mobility. The necessary towed artillery proved to be slow and inadequate for the supporting task in taking more fortified enemy positions. Based on this experience, after the war, the great German Army tactician, General Erich von Manstein, proposed using highly mobile, well protected and armed self-propelled artillery. They were to provide infantry with mobile close fire support during combat operations. These were to be organic part of standard Infantry Divisions at a battalion strength of around 18 vehicles.

Due to Germany’s general lack of production industrial capacity during the 30’s, it would take years before the first prototypes were completed. The Germans were also forbidden by the Versailles Treaty to develop and produce tanks, which Hitler, when he came to power, publicly denounced. The development of these vehicles was also hindered by conflict in different branches of the Germany Armed Forces. Eventually, it was decided that these vehicles would be put under direct supervision of the Artillery. These vehicles would be known as Sturmgeschütz III (assault gun vehicles) but were generally known simply as StuG III.

To speed up the development, it was decided to reuse many elements of Panzer III vehicles. The design was very simple and consisted of a new superstructure armed with a short barrel 75 mm gun placed on the Panzer III chassis.While the first prototypes were completed in 1937, it was not until 1940 when the initially limited production actually started. Once pressed into service, the StuG III proved to be an excellent infantry support vehicle. When the Germans invaded Soviet Union in 1941, the Germans noticed that their available anti-tank weapons were almost useless against the Soviet modern tank designs (T-34 and KV’s). To address this problem, in 1942 the Germans introduced a new StuG III armed with the longer 75 mm gun that was more effective as a tank destroyer. As production of the StuG III shifted more towards the anti-tank role, the Infantry was left without a proper support vehicle. To address this, a new version of the StuG III armed with a 10.5 cm howitzer was introduced in 1943. Both versions would remain in production until the war ended with over 10,000 being produced, making them the most numerous German armored vehicle of the war.

The 75 mm L/24 short-barreled StuG III served as an excellent infantry support weapon during the war. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info
To address the ever increased threat of more advanced enemy armor the Germans upgraded the StuG III with the longer L/43 and later L48 75 mm anti-tank guns. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

The first StuG IV

In early 1943, Albert Speer approached Krupp officials with a suggestion for producing a new Sturmgeschütz. Soon after, Krupp began working on the first basic drawing of this vehicle, which was to incorporate a number of already produced components. These include a StuG III Ausf. F superstructure, Panzer IV Ausf. H chassis and a 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 gun. The superstructure of the StuG III Ausf. F was chosen as, at that time, Krupp did not possess the design plans for the newer Ausf. G version. Unlike the later produced Sturmgeschütz based on the Panzer IV that used the unchanged StuG III superstructure, the initial Krupp design was different. The front part of the superstructure incorporated a highly angled (50 mm thick) armor plate which would have provided excellent protection. Other changes included increasing the armor protection on the sides to 45 mm, compared to the original 30 mm, and the increase of the track’s width.

Drawing of Krupp’s initial project for the new StuG vehicle based on the Panzer IV chassis. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.20-1 Paper Panzers

After the first drawing and calculation were completed, Krupp informed the Germany Army and Wa Pruf 6 officials that, although it was feasible, they did not recommend producing it. Despite removing the turret, the vehicle would have the same weight as an ordinary Panzer IV tank. In addition, the redesign and sloped armor would cause production delays which were not acceptable at that time, so the project was quickly abandoned.

A new start

While the idea for a new StuG vehicle based on the Panzer IV chassis was discarded, several months later, due to desperate necessity, it would come to life again. In November 1943, the Allies heavily bombed the Alkett factory which was instrumental for the overall StuG III production. As the production of vital StuG III vehicles was temporarily stopped, the Germans needed a new quick solution. At a military conference held in early December 1943, Adolf Hitler was informed that the StuG III Ausf. G superstructure could be, with minimal effort, mated with a Panzer IV Ausf. H or J chassis. This time, however, the new vehicle had to have minimal changes to the components used for its construction. The only major modification was the extension of the driver compartment. Hitler was impressed with this proposal, as it would be easy to implement due to available parts and production capabilities. Hitler also suggested giving this new vehicle to the Panzer Abteilungen, as it would facilitate maintenance and procurement of spare parts.

The negative side of this decision was the reduction of available chassis for the Panzer IV tank. But, as the production of the Panzer IV was to be terminated in favor of larger Panther tanks, this was not seen as a huge issue. The actual production of the Panzer IV, due to the high demands for tank vehicles, was never canceled and it lasted almost up to the end of war. As the need for the StuG III vehicles was great, Hitler gave a green light for the realisation of the project.

Production

According to Hitler’s initial orders, the StuG IV was to be produced in great numbers in a short period of time. Some 350 vehicles had to be built in December 1943 and an additional order of 500 to be built by the end of January 1944. Of course, this was impossible to achieve given Germany’s dire economical and industrial situation.

Despite these optimistic numbers given by Hitler, Krupp actually received orders to produce the first 10 trial vehicles at the end of 1943. Nevertheless, Krupp managed to quickly produce 30 vehicles by the end of December 1943. The production goal for January and February 1944 was 210, whereas Krupp managed to produce 214 vehicles. During 1944, monthly production goals were around 90, with the exception (beside January and February) of November, with 100, and December with 110 vehicles. Despite the bad economical situation and the Allied bombing raids, Krupp managed to obtain a relatively smooth production run. 87 vehicles were built in March, 91 in April, 90 in June and July, 70 in August, 56 in September, 84 in October, 80 in November, and 49 in December 1944. In 1945, the production numbers dropped down severely due to many factors, but probably most important were the Allied bombing raids and lack of resources. In January 1945, the number of produced StuG IVs was 46, 18 in February, 38 in March and the last 3 were completed in April. By the time the production run stopped in April, Krupp had managed to produce 1,111 Stug IV vehicles. Beside Krupp, Alkett also produced some 30 StuG IVs with the chassis provided by Nibelungwerke.

Of course, like many other German production numbers, there is some disagreement between authors. The previous mentioned numbers are according to T. L. Jentz and H. L. Doyle in Panzer Tracts No.23 Panzer Production from 1933 to 1945 and Walter J. Spielberger in Sturmgeschütz and its Variants. A. Lüdeke (Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg) suggests 1,500 produced vehicles. On the other hand, D. Nešić (Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka) estimates that some 1,139 were built from December 1943 to March 1944 (this year is probably a print or author error). An interesting number is the 632 built vehicles speculated by B. Perrett (Sturmartillerie and Panzerjager 1939-45). This is almost less than half the numbers that all other sources give and it is likely incorrect.

While the final assembly, together with the manufacturing of chassis and running gears, was done by Krupp, all other necessary components were supplied by other companies. Additional frame chassis were supplied by Eisen Hüttenverein, Eisenwerke Oberdonau, Krupp (Essen) and Böhler. The guns were built by Škoda and Wimag. The StuG III superstructure was provided by Brandenburgische Eisenwerke.

One of the first produced StuG IVs at the end of 1943. Source: http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/stihace/stug4.php

Name

Being designed to supplement the StuG III, this vehicle also inherited its name of Sturmgeschütz IV für 7.5 cm Sturmkanone 40. In general, it was also simply known as StuG IV, which this article will use for the sake of simplicity.

Specifications

As previously mentioned, this vehicle was built using a combination of Panzer IV and StuG III elements. Thus, it was logical that the changes introduced on the StuG III were also implemented on the later StuG IV. The manufacturers of Panzer IV chassis were not always informed in advance for which role their chassis would be used (for ordinary tanks or assault guns). Many changes that were to be introduced to later built StuG IVs were not necessarily always applied to all vehicles.

The Hull

The StuG IV hull was built using surface-hardened steel plates which were welded together. It was divided into the rear engine compartment, the central crew compartment and the forward-mounted transmission and the new enclosed driving compartment. While, originally, the Panzer IV hull had an emergency escape hatch door placed beneath the radio operator’s seat, it was removed on the StuG IV. This was done mainly due to changing the position of the radio equipment.

The front hull was where the transmission and steering systems were placed and was protected with an angled armor plate. To gain better access for repairs, a square-shaped transmission hatch located in the middle of this plate and two rectangular steering brakes inspection hatches with ventilation ports were added.

The Superstructure

The vehicle’s superstructure design was more or less a copy of that of the StuG III. It consisted of a box shaped base with angled frontal armor plates. The most obvious change was the introduction of a new box-shaped driver compartment which protruded to the front. On top of it there was a hatch door and two periscopes with armored covers. Initially, there was a problem with the hatch door accidentally closing back and potentially injuring the driver. Thus, it was changed to include a mechanism that locked the door in the open or closed position. Just above the driver compartment, during the production run, a rain guard was added to avoid water getting to the driver. In addition, as the Panzer IV chassis was longer, next to the new driver compartment, an armored plate was bolted down to fill the gap.

As the Panzer IV chassis was longer than the original StuG III, the opening next to the driver compartment was simply closed up using a bolted plate. This plate is visible just under the main gun. Source: J. Ledwoch Sturmgeschütz

On the top left of this superstructure, a command cupola was placed. On its hatch, there was a second smaller hatch which allowed the commander to use a periscope to observe possible targets. The design of the commander’s cupola changed during the production. Initially, welding was used during its construction while, later in the war, some elements were cast. While a rotary cupola was more desirable, due to production problems, it was only fit from August 1944 onwards. The frontal part of the cupola was reinforced with a protective deflector , which proved to be a weak spot on the earlier StuG III.

In front of the command cupola, there was a sliding plate which held the gunner’s retractable stereo telescope. On the superstructure’s right side, the loader’s two-part hatch was placed. This would be replaced by a single-piece hatch later in production.

Front view of the new box-shaped driver compartment, with its two protected sights. Just above the comparpent, the diagonal line is a rain guard. On top of the superstructure, the commander cupola was placed. Its hatch had an additional smaller hatch that the commander could use for his own telescopic periscope. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants

From June 1944, the newly produced StuG IV received mounts placed on top of the superstructure. Their purpose was to be used to mount a fold-up crane with a lifting capacity of some 2 tonnes, to help with maintenance and repairs. The superstructure top was held in place by a simple bolt and, if needed (for example to change the gun), could be easily removed. On the rear flat armor of the superstructure, a ventilation port was added. It was protected by an armored cover.

The StuG IVs produced from mid-1944 on had an option to install a 2 tonne crane to help with the vehicle’s repairs and maintenance. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants
The protective ventilation port is placed to the superstructure’s rear. Note this picture is from a StuG III but the superstructure was in essence the same. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants

Suspension and running gear

The suspension consisted of eight small (470 x 75 x 660 mm) wheels placed on each side, suspended in pairs and placed on four bogie assemblies. The small road wheels were suspended by leaf-spring units. The distance between each bogie shaft was 500 mm. There were also four return rollers (250 x 65 x 135 mm) on each side. While use of three return rollers per side was tested in June 1944, its implementation on StuG IV vehicles was delayed up to December 1944. Due to the shortage of rubber, steel return rolles were used instead on many vehicles. At the front, two drive sprockets were placed. To the rear, the two (650 mm) idlers had an adjustable track tensioning mechanism.

Close up view of the unchanged Panzer IV suspension. Source:https://imgur.com/a/4tamYs6 http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/stihace/stug4.php

The ground clearance of this vehicle was 40 cm. While the StuG IV used standard Panzer IV tracks, for operating in the East and during Winter, specially designed and wider Ostketten tracks would be employed.

This vehicle was equipped with enlarged Ostketten tracks. Additional track links were placed on the front of the hull to act as spare parts and improvised armor. Source: Worldwarphotos

The Engine and Transmission

The engine compartment was mostly left unchanged. The StuG IV was powered by a standard Maybach HL 120TRM, which produced 265 [email protected] rpm. With a weight of nearly 26 tonnes (or 23 depending on the source), the maximum speed was 38 km/h (or 20 km/h cross-country) with an operational range of 220 km and 130 km cross country. Some sources give a number of 320 km and 198 km cross country. The fuel load of 450 l (430 and 470 l capacities are also listed in different sources) was stored in three fuel tanks placed under the crew fighting compartment. The engine and the crew compartment were separated by a fire resistant and gas-tight armored firewall. This compartment was provided with an automatic fire extinguisher system. While the Ausf. H chassis used a canister shaped muffler, the later Ausf. J used two vertical Flammentöter mufflers.

The two vertical Flammentöter mufflers indicate that this is a Panzer IV Ausf. J chassis. Source: Pinterest

According to Wa Pruef 6’s instructions to Krupp beginning in March 1944, the auxiliary DKW gasoline engine that was originally used to provide traverse for the Panzer IV’s turret was to be removed from tanks. To use the extra available space, Krupp engineers added additional fuel tanks instead of the DKW engine. While using this as an auxiliary ammunition bin was briefly considered, it would require removing parts of the firewall, which only would delay and complicate production. This also carried over to the StuG IV.

The ZF SSG 75S six-speed (and one more for reverse) transmission was connected to the engine by a drive shaft that ran through the bottom of the fighting compartment. The steering mechanism was the same ‘Wilson’ type which was designed and produced by Krupp.

The Armor Protection

The frontal armor protection of the StuG IV was relatively good. The upper front glacis armor plate was 20 mm thick at a 70° angle, front glacis was 80 mm placed at a 12° angle and the lower glacis was 30 mm placed at a 60° angle. The side armor was 30 mm thick, the rear was 14.5-20 mm and the bottom was 10 mm.

The front superstructure armor was 80 mm thick, with the upper armor 30 mm placed at a 50° angle. The 80 mm thick frontal armor on some vehicles was increased with an additional 30 mm armor plate. The additional armor plate was held in place using six bolts. As this proved too difficult to be accomplished in the field, those that received the extra plate were instead connected using welding. The extended armor plate of the superstructure was 50 mm thick placed at 15° angle. The sides were 30 mm at a 10° angle.

The flat mantle was protected by 50 mm of armor. The rear part of the superstructure was 30 mm thick. The superstructure and engine compartment top parts were 10 mm thick. The commander’s cupola had all-around 30 mm of armor. The new extended driver compartment was protected with 80 mm front and 30 mm side armor.

The StuG IV, similar to many other German vehicles, could be equipped with 5 mm thick side protective skirts, known in German as Schürtzen. The primary mission of these was to provide extra protection from Soviet anti-tank rifles. During rail transport, the protective skirts could easily be taken down and later put back on again. Some were also protected by Thoma Schürtzen wire mesh. While these were lighter and provided the same level of protection, their use was delayed due to problems with production. The use of Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine coating was quite common, though, by the end of September 1944, it was no longer applied to the StuG IV.

A brand new Stug IV with Schürtzen protective skirts. Source Pinterest

Crews would often make improvised attempts at uparmoring their vehicles, hoping to increase the combat survivability of the StuG IV. A somewhat common practise was adding layers of concrete (to a greater or lesser extent) on the front part of superstructure (this was also done on some other vehicles, such as the StuG III). This improvised concrete armor proved to be ineffective in combat. Even the General Artillery Inspector gave a report stating that this improvisation was almost useless. Nevertheless, many StuG IVs continued to receive ‘concrete armor’ up to the war’s end. Other crews added what they had at hand, ranging from captured enemy or own tracks, spare parts, such as road wheels, and some even added logs or ordinary wooden branches. Some vehicles were equipped with extra armor plates welded to the front and placed at great angles. The effectiveness of these improvised attempts was more psychological than realistic.

This vehicle had the usual concrete armor added to the front. The space between the vehicle superstructure and the Schürtzen was filled with wooden branches. Source:https://imgur.com/a/79uR9kG http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/stihace/stug4.php
This vehicle had wooden logs put on the superstructure sides. The log may have been used for other purposes too, not just for protection. Source: Pinterest
Besides the concrete armor, the most common practice for the StuG IV (and on many other German vehicles) was to use spare tracks. Sometimes even those captured from the enemy. Source: worldwarphotos
The crew of this particular vehicle (left abandoned in Italy, 1944) added an extensive concrete layer on the driver compartment. In addition, tracks and two armor plates were also added. One extra armor plate was to the front and the second, somewhat unusually, atop the gun mantlet. and Source: J. Ledwoch Sturmgeschütz IV

The Crew and Radio

The StuG IV had a crew of four, which consisted of the commander, gunner, loader and driver. The driver was positioned to the vehicle’s left front side of the hull, in the box-shaped driver compartment. Just behind him was the gunner. To the rear of the gunner was the commander, who had a command cupola for better observation of the surroundings. The last crew member was the loader, who was placed alone on the right side of the vehicle. He was perhaps the most overburdened crew member. Beside his primary role of loading the main gun, he also operated the Fu 15 or 16 transmitter-receiver radio set. This equipment had an effective voice range of about 2 km. A 2 m long antenna rod was fitted on the superstructure. Beside the radio, the crew could use the Walther LP signal pistol to communicate with other vehicles. In addition, the loader was charged with using the machine gun placed on top of the vehicle and using the grenade throwing close defence weapon (if the vehicle had one).

StuG IV crew. Source: Worldwarphotos

The Armament

The main armament of the StuG IV was the 7.5 cm StuK (Sturmkanone – assault cannon) 40 L/48. This gun was developed by Rheinmetall-Borsig especially for the StuG III and was, in essence, a modified 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun. The length of the barrel was 3.6 m and had 32 grooves, each 7.8 mm deep and 6.05 mm wide. It had a semi-automatic breech, which means that, after firing, the spent cartridge would be self-ejected, thus increasing the overall firing rate. It was fired electrically.

This gun had a muzzle velocity of 790 m/s. The armor-piercing (Pz.Gr.39) round could penetrate 85 mm of armor (sloped at 30°) at 1 km. The maximum range of the high-explosive rounds was 3.3 km while, for armor-piercing, 1.4 to 2.3 km, depending on the type used. The gunner used the ‘Selbstfahrlafetten Zielfernrohr Sfl.Z.F.1a’ gun sight to acquire targets. This sight had a magnification of x5 and a field view of 8°.

The elevation of this gun went from –6° to +20° (or –5° to +15° depending on the source), while the traverse was 10° (or 20°, depending on the source) to both sides. The ammunition load, depending on the source, consisted of 61 to 63 rounds. The ammunition was stored in holding bins located mostly on the right side of the vehicle, with some placed under the gun or to the back. Krupp specially designed ammunition box containers that were to hold 8 rounds. These could be used on the StuG IV or Panzer IV tanks without problems.

While, initially, the gun was locked at a traverse angle of 0° during driving, this would be changed to 12° later on. The main reason why this was done was to provide the driver with a better view to his right during driving. In addition, a frontal travel lock would be added to a number of vehicles during production.

Behind the gun breach, a small metal shield was placed to provide protection for the gunner. In addition, a shell sack was added to the rear of the gun, which caught spent cartridges. While, initially, the first produced StuG IVs used the earlier box type mantle, this would be replaced by the new cast Saukopfblende (sow’s head mantle), generally known simply as Saukopf.

The dismounted 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 gun. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants

The StuG IV’s secondary armament consisted of one (or two) 7.92 mm MG 34/42 machine guns with 500-600 rounds of ammunition. The MG was not fired from inside the vehicle, but instead was mounted with a protective shield on the superstructure’s top, on the right side. This protective shield could be folded down if needed. Additionally, there were also two different mounting brackets for the MG, depending on if it was used against ground or air targets.

The raised protective machine gun shield is clearly visible in this photograph. Source: worldwarphotos

Some vehicles were equipped with the Rundumfeuer machine gun mount that was operated from inside the vehicle. This mount provided an all-around firing arc. In addition, the operator did not have to expose himself to fire when he was using the machine gun. However, he still needed to go outside to manually load the machine gun. The installation of this machine gun required some changes to the loader’s escape hatch (it had to be rotated at a 90 degree) before being fit to the vehicle. The machine gun was protected by two small angled shields.

Some vehicles received the Rundumfeuer machine gun mount. With this mount, the machine gun operator could fire it without exposing himself to enemy return fire. Source: Pinterest

It is also mentioned that, on rare occasions, some vehicles did not receive the machine guns and were forced to use only high-explosive rounds against enemy infantry, while some vehicles received a coaxial machine gun that was fired by the gunner. The machine gun was fired through a hole that was cut in the gun mantle. This modification was implemented only from June to October 1944 and it is not clear how many vehicles were actually equipped with this machine gun configuration.

Smaller numbers of StuG IVs were equipped with the Nahverteidigungswaffe (close-quarters defense weapon). In essence, this was a close-range grenade thrower that was to be used against infantry. Due to shortages of this weapon, mass use on the StuG IV was not possible. The Nahverteidigungswaffe was placed in front of the loader’s escape hatch. When not installed, the hole was covered by an armored cover.

The close-quarters defense weapon mount was placed in front of the original machine gun mount (the gun itself is missing) on the vehicle superstructure’s top right side. Due to production problems, this weapon was not a common sight in the StuG IV vehicles. Also note that this vehicle had the Rundumfeuer machine gun mount, the installation of which necessitated the redesign of the loader hatch door, which now opened to the side (instead of the original forward and back). Source: worldwarphotos
A close-up view of the Nahverteidigungswaffe (Note that this particular one was used on the Panther tank) Source: S. J. Zaloga Bazooka Vs. Panzer IV

Besides all these, the crews also had their own personal weapons for protection. This usually consisted of one or two 9 mm MP 40 submachine guns and sometimes even a 7.92 mm MP 44 assault rifle.

Distribution to units

The StuG IVs were used to equip various German formations. They were used to supplement assault gun units equipped with StuG IIIs. Which precise assault gun units received the new StuG IV is difficult to pinpoint, as the German documents do not make a distinction between the Panzer III and IV-based vehicles. The first produced StuG IVs were given to the 311th StuG Brigade which operated on the Eastern Front.

By the later stages of the war, German Infantry Divisions were supplemented by a Panzer Jäger Abteilung that contained a company of the towed 7.5 cm PaK 40 guns (or self-propelled versions, if any was available) and one company of 14 assault vehicles. As the StuG IV became available in sufficient numbers, these were also allocated to Infantry Divisions. During 1944, the number of assault vehicles was reduced to only 10.

Other units, such as Panzer, Volksgrenadier, and Panzergrenadier Divisions also received a number of these vehicles. German Panzer Divisions in early 1943 were severely lacking tanks and, for temporary replacement purposes, StuG IIIs were used. By late 1944 and early 1945, for the same reasons, some Panzer Divisions were equipped with StuG IV vehicles as replacements for lost tanks, as there was nothing else available in sufficient numbers.

Lastly, during the summer of 1944, Waffen SS units received some 70 StuG IV vehicles. For example, the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division, due to an insufficient number of tanks, was instead reinforced with 42 StuG IVs.

Combat

The StuG IV, similar to later better-armed StuG III vehicles, were highly effective anti-tank vehicles. For example, the 394th StuG Brigade, which had two StuG IV-equipped batteries, fought the Allies on the Western Front. On 6th August, elements of these units destroyed 26 Allied tanks. The commander of the 3rd Battery claimed to have destroyed six Sherman tanks in combat with his StuG IV.

The previously mentioned 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division, which had 42 StuG IVs, participated in the fighting against the Allies in France. In the following battle with the Allies, it was left with only 11 operational StuG IVs by early July 1944.

A destroyed StuG IV that belonged to the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division in France, 1944. Source: Pinterest

At the start of October 1944, during the German defense of Aachen against the Allied forces, the 12th Volksgrenadier Division had 10 StuG IV vehicles. These would be reallocated to the 49th Infantry Division several days later. During the Allied attack on Aachen that started on 7th December, they came under fire from the StuG IV vehicles. While the German defenses were breached near Alsdorf, the Allies lost 2 tanks. These were destroyed by Feldwebel Peter Klimas (a veteran with 22 destroyed enemy tanks). The following day, the Germans made a counterattack toward Alsdorf, supported by 6 StuG IVs. During the following engagement, one was lost due to a breakdown, three were lost due to enemy fire and only two managed to reach Alsdorf. These two surviving StuG IV vehicles (one was commanded by Feldwebel Peter Klimas) engaged the Allied forces that held the town. While the German vehicles were heavily involved in the ensuing fighting, the Germans lacked support to retake the town and had to withdraw. While both StuG IVs survived the defense of the Allied soldiers, some even armed with bazookas, they were damaged and Feldwebel Peter Klimas was wounded by enemy rifle fire.

Larger numbers of StuG IVs would see service on the Eastern Front. Some of these were part of the 236th StuG Brigade that fought against Polish Forces in the area of Niesky at the very end of the war in Europe. Another example was the 912th StuG Brigade, which had 30 StuG IV vehicles, all of which were lost by May 1945. Unfortunately, the sources do not give more precise information about the StuG IV’s combat operations in the East.

A StuG IV somewhere in Ukraine, 1944. Source: J. Ledwoch Sturmgeschütz IV

The StuG IV also served in smaller numbers on other fronts, such as Italy or the Balkans during 1944 and 1945. One such unit was the 914th StuG Brigade. Interestingly, this particular unit was supplemented with over 30 Semovente 105/25 M43 Italian assault vehicles.

Some StuG IVs would also be deployed in Greece during 1944. Source: J. Ledwoch Sturmgeschütz IV

One of the last combat actions of the StuG IV was during the defense of Berlin and its surroundings from the Soviets. There were some 29 StuG IVs with the Heeresgruppe Mitte and 20 with Heeresgruppe Weichsel. On 10th April 1945, there were still some 282 StuG IVs available on all fronts. There were 219 on the Eastern Front, 40 in the West, some 16 in Italy, and 7 in Denmark and Norway.

Other Operators

By the end of the war, the Soviets had managed to capture an unknown number of StuG IV vehicles. These vehicles were part of the 912th StuG Brigade which was originally equipped with 30 StuG IV vehicles. At least one was possibly operated by the 366th Guards Heavy Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment during the end of the war in Hungary.

A StuG IV operated by the Soviet Forces during 1945. Source: J. Ledwoch Sturmgeschütz IV

According to B. B. Dumitrijević and D. Savić (Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu 1941-1945), some StuG IVs were captured by Yugoslav Partisans and were used for a short time after the war. Their final fate is unknown as none were preserved, and they were probably scrapped.

Modifications

While, officially, there were no sub-versions of the StuG IV, there were still at least two adaptations of it for other roles. One of these consisted of a StuG IV (minus the weapons) that was equipped with a large fixed dozer blade. This vehicle, named in some sources as the Räumschaufel Panzer StuG IV, was to be used for helping rebuild bombed German cities during the war, by clearing up the remains of destroyed buildings. It is unclear how many were used for this role, but unlikely more than a few. The second version was probably a field conversion, possibly used as an ammunition carried vehicle. Its main gun was removed for some reason (possibly damaged) and replaced with a simple armored shield. How many besides the one photographed were converted is not known.

The StuG IV equipped with the large dozer blade. Source: https://imgur.com/a/yIzfcKD https://www.reddit.com/r/MilitaryPorn/comments/ia9yl2/sturmgesch%C3%BCtz_iv_with_dozer_blade_r%C3%A4umschaufel/
Possibly an ammunition supply vehicle field conversion. Source: Pinterest

Surviving vehicles

Despite over 1,000 vehicles being built, today, only a few StuG IVs exist. Two can be seen in Poland at the Armored Weapons Museum in Poznan and White Eagle Museum in the Skarżysko-Kamienna. One more is in the Russian Kubinka Museum. The last vehicle can be found at the Australian Armor and Artillery Museum.

A StuG IV located at the Armored Weapons Museum in Poznan, Poland. Source: Wiki

Conclusion

Despite having been designed as a temporary replacement for its StuG III cousin, the StuG IV was actually produced up to the war’s end. While the Germans also fielded the Jagdpanzer IV anti-tank vehicle also based on the Panzer IV, the StuG IV was much easier and cheaper to produce. It was, in general, a good design with low height, solid armor protection, and a good gun. The downsides of this vehicle were that it was not produced in sufficient numbers and was often used in lieu of other vehicles for roles it was not meant for.

StuG IV, Ukraine, 1943
Sd.Kfz.167 in Ukraine, December 1943.
StuG IV, Ukraine, 1944
StuG IV in Ukraine, early 1944.
StuG IV, Russia
Unknown unit with Schurzen, Russia, summer 1944.
StuG IV with Schurzen
Unknown unit with space armor, Russia, 1944.
StuG IV, Eastern Prussia
StuG IV in Eastern Prussia, September 1944.
StuG IV, Germany
Late production StuG IV in “ambush camouflage”, Germany, April 1945.

Specifications

Weight 25.9 tonnes
Dimensions Length 6.7 m, Width 2.95 m, Height 2.2 m
Crew 4 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, and Driver)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 265 HP @ 2600 rpm
Speed (road/off-road) 38 km/h, 15 km/h
Range (road/off-road) 220 km, 130 km/h
Primary Armament 7.5 cm StuK 40
Secondary Armament One 7.92 mm MG 34
Elevation -6° to +20°
Armor 10-80 mm
Total Built 1,141-1,500

Sources