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WW2 German StuG III

Gepanzerten Selbstfahrlafette für Sturmgeschütz 75 mm Kanone Ausführung E (Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.E)

German Reich (1941)
Assault Gun – 284 Built

The success of the whole StuG III series led to further demand for more vehicles to be delivered. This resulted in the introduction of the slightly improved Ausf.E version, of which some 500 were ordered. Such a production order was never fully completed, as the request was made to rearm the StuG III with a long gun to deal with the ever-increasing numbers of enemy armored vehicles. The StuG III Ausf.E would be the last StuG III vehicle to be armed with the short barrel gun. It also introduced a series of internal changes that would be further improved in later versions.

The StuG III Ausf.E. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants

The Purpose of the Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.E

Following the introduction of the StuG III Ausf.A into service, a series of versions were developed to further improve the overall design and combat effectiveness of this vehicle. These were mainly focused on improving mobility and overall reliability. One of the problems noted with the StuG III was the lack of a command vehicle that would have more specialized radio equipment. This is somewhat unusual for the Germans, who especially valued the importance of communication equipment for their armored units. While the existing StuG IIIs were equipped with radio receivers, they could not store additional equipment needed for the unit’s commander. They instead had to rely on Sd.Kfz.253 half-tracks. While these had enough interior space for the radio equipment, which consisted of two receivers and one transmitter, they lacked proper protection. Due to the Sd.Kfz.253’s insufficient protection, it could not be used at the frontline, where the commander would have good situational awareness of what transpired. This, in turn, would interfere with his commanding abilities.

The StuG III vehicles were not known for their large interior, so, in order to accommodate additional radio equipment, some modifications to the superstructure were needed. This was done by increasing the sides of the superstructure paniers, which provided additional external space. It is important to note that not all produced StuG III Ausf.E would be used as command vehicles. Some would be instead allocated as replacement vehicles without the extra radio equipment.

Another shortcoming of the early StuG IIIs was their lack of a machine gun for protection against enemy infantry. The purpose of the vehicles was to provide the German infantry with close support, so the idea was that the infantry was to cover them against the opposing enemy infantry. In practice, this was not always the case, so it was requested to add one machine gun.

Production

Initially, a production order for 500 Stug III Ausf.Es was given. Production began in September 1941. After some 284 (chassis number 90751-91034) vehicles were built, the original production numbers were canceled in February 1942. Priority was given to the longer barrel gun equipped StuG Ausf.F, so the remaining chassis were to be reused for the new version instead.

Despite receiving the largest production order of all StuG III versions by that point, only 284 Ausf.E vehicles would be built. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz
The StuG III Ausf.F. which would replace the Ausf.E version. Source: T. Anderson Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry

Design

Hull

The StuG III Ausf.E’s hull was mostly unchanged from the previous StuG IIIs. It had the same front-mounted drive unit, central crew compartment, and rear-positioned engine. One of the few changes was the replacement of the large cast hinges of the two glacis hatches with new smaller ones. In addition, a bar with 11 spare links was added in front of the lower hull. Lastly, a minor change was made to the two spare wheels, which were placed on both sides of the rear fenders.

The earlier StuG III versions used two large cast hinges for the two glacis hatches (left picture). Starting from the Ausf.E, four much simpler hinges were used instead. Source: Achtung Panzer No.5
In front of the lower hull, a spare track link holding plate was added. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz

Suspension and Running Gear

The torsion bar suspension remained the same as on the StuG III Ausf.D and other earlier models. It consisted of six small road wheels, three return rollers, the front drive wheel, and the rear-positioned idler. Starting from Ausf.E, new torsion bars were used. The first three were 55 mm in diameter, while the remaining three were 52 mm.

Another part of the StuG III that remained relatively the same to previous versions was the suspension. The only difference was the introduction of slightly larger diameter torsion bars at the front. Source: Another part of the StuG III that remained relatively the same to previous versions was the suspension. The only difference was the introduction of slightly larger diameter torsion bars at the front. Source: www.panzernet.net

Engine

The StuG III Ausf.E was powered by a twelve-cylinder, water-cooled Maybach HL 120 TRM engine providing 265 hp @ 2,600 rpm engine. The maximum speed with this engine was 40 km/h, while the cross-country speed was 20 km/h. The fuel load of 310 liters was stored in two fuel tanks placed below the radiators in the engine compartment. With this fuel load, the StuG III Ausf.E’s operational range was 160 km on roads and 100 km cross-country.

Superstructure

The StuG III Ausf.E’s superstructure design received a number of structural changes, which easily distinguish it from the previous versions. The most obvious change was the deletion of the angled side-spaced armor plates. These served to provide additional protection, prematurely detonating enemy rounds or at least slowing them down. In practice, this likely proved to be ineffective and was removed from the Ausf.E version completely.

Earlier StuG III versions had a 9 mm thick side-angled space armor. Its effectiveness was probably deemed insufficient and was removed starting from the Ausf.E version. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants
The Ausf.E lacked the side-angled plates. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants

The early StuG III vehicles were initially equipped with the Fu 15 receiver unit. Battlefield experience quickly showed that commanding vehicles needed better radio equipment. For this reason, the original left armored storage box was slightly elongated. On the opposite side, another armored storage box was added. These were used to store additional radio equipment. The Fu 16 10 watt transmitter was kept in the left armored storage space. Opposite it, two Fu 15 receivers were added. Lastly, a loudspeaker was installed next to the gunner. The vehicles that were equipped with extra radios had two large adjustable antennas. These had to be raised up when the radio was used.

A top view of a later Ausf.E. The two side armor panniers can be clearly seen. Source: P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition
A Fu 16 transmitter was placed on the left side of the StuG III Ausf.E. Source: T. Anderson Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry
Opposite it, two Fu 15 receivers were added. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants
A large loudspeaker was installed next to the gunner’s position. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants
Before the radio equipment could be used, the antennas had to be raised. To do so, both the commander and the gunner had to do it by hand. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants

Armor Protection

The StuG III Ausf.E’s armor protection remained the same as in the previous version. It had 50 mm thick frontal armor. The sides and rear were somewhat thinner, at 30 mm. The crews would add all kinds of stuff that they could get their hands on to their vehicles in the hope of further increasing the protection, for example, some crews added to concrete.

Armament

The main armament remained the same as on the previous StuG III version, a 7.5 cm StuK 37 L/24. It was primarily designed to engage fortified positions using the 7.5 cm Gr Patr high-explosive round. Another round used was the 7.5 cm PzGr Patr armor-piercing round, with a muzzle velocity of 385 m/s, which could pierce around 39 mm of 30° angled armor at a distance of 500 m. The elevation of the gun was -10° to +20°, while the traverse was limited to 12° per side.

Not all StuG III Ausf.Es were provided with additional radio equipment. This meant that there was extra free interior room that could be reused for other purposes. These vehicles were instead provided with six additional rounds, giving a total load of 50. If needed, these vehicles could be quite easily modified to add radio equipment.
The StuG III Ausf.E was also provided with a 7.92 mm MG 34 that was operated by the gunner. The gunner was not provided with a protective shield. When using this machine gun, he was completely exposed to enemy fire. The ammunition load for this machine gun consisted of seven 75-round drum magazines. In addition, two MP38/MP40 submachine guns were provided for crew protection.

Crew

The crew of these vehicles consisted of four: commander, driver, loader, and gunner. The loader was positioned to the right of the gun and the remaining crewmembers were placed opposite. The driver was positioned on the left front side of the hull. Just behind the driver was the gunner, and right behind, the commander.

Distribution to the Units

The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 initially proved promising. The Germans managed to inflict heavy losses on the Soviets. However, the ever-increasing enemy resistance, in combination with the supply problems, the slow disintegration of their own forces, and the weather, prevented the Germans from achieving their goal of capturing Moscow. By the end of 1941, the German forces were greatly depleted, having suffered extensive losses. The StuG III units were not an exception. For example, the 185th Battalion had only one operational StuG III out of a reglementary strength of 24. Only one was lost to direct enemy action. Fifteen had to be sent back to Germany for extensive repairs or they had to be destroyed to prevent capture. The remaining vehicles were under repair and were not ready for service until mid-January 1942.

Given the rather late start of production (which began in September 1941), the StuG III Ausf.E would not be present in the Soviet Union in significant numbers until early 1942. It is possible that smaller numbers were used by the end of 1941. Given the chaotic state of German supply lines in the Soviet Union at that time, the delivery of replacement vehicles took a long time. For example, in order to supplement the losses, the 185th Battalion received a number of StuG III Ausf.E vehicles in April 1942.

Pin-pointing the precise distribution or usage of the StuG III versions in the sources is difficult given the lack of mention of the precise variants used by the Germans. Another problem is that most sources mainly focus on the long-barrelled StuG III from 1942 onwards.

In Combat

The StuG III saw extensive use in the Eastern Front. Given the losses, lack of armored vehicles, and the increasing number of new Soviet tanks (T-34 and the KV-1), the StuG III was often used as an anti-tank vehicle despite not being designed for this role. During the German attempt to capture Crimea in March 1942, the StuG IIIs from the 197th Battalion were used to battle Soviet Armor. From 13th to 19th March, they claimed to have destroyed 70 Soviet tanks, including KV-1s. The after-combat report in April 1942 noted the following:

“ … The Russian T-34 can fire one round with poor accuracy, while a Sturmgeschütz can fire three to four rounds in the same time. If a Sturmgeschütz comes under fire from a T-34 or a super-heavy tank, a change of position using smoke cover has proved to be successful. If possible, another Sturmgeschütz will continue the combat…
During massed tank attacks, fire was normally opened at a range of 600 m. Occasionally, the Russian tanks stopped at ranges of 1,000 to 1,200 m to open fire. Quite naturally, in such situations, any approach by a Sturmgeschütz in open terrain was impossible… We attacked the T-34s by bracketing them with HE rounds first. Fire for effect was then opened with GrPatr 38 (shape-charge round) at 600 to 800 m. Effect: Total destruction of the running gear and fire in the tank’s interior, which caused the death of the crew… Attacking a Soviet superheavy tank at a range of 1,200 m caused some damage but did not immobilize it… Ammunition consumption was very high, since there is enemy infantry to target, also anti-tank and artillery guns to be eliminated. After each commitment, the Abteilung’s last surviving SdKfz 252 was constantly on the move supplying ammunition… In most cases, even a massed enemy tank attack can be repulsed by a platoon of three Sturmgeschütz, but this required careful tactical leadership and a sufficient ammunition supply. ”

The StuG III Ausf.E likely saw combat for the first time at the end of 1941 in small numbers on the Eastern Front. Source: http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/stihace/stug3.php

Given the extensive Soviet threat to the German operations in Crimea, Generaloberst von Manstein (Commander of the German forces there) launched his own offensive, named Trappenjagd (English: Bustard Hunt). The main spearhead of this operation consisted of the newly arrived 22nd Panzer Division, supported by the 197th Battalion equipped with StuG IIIs.

The attack would prove to be highly successful, and the StuG IIIs distinguished themselves well in combat. They provided the necessary infantry support. But, yet again, due to the lack of infantry anti-tank guns, the StuG III was used in anti-tank roles. The German operation lasted from 8th to 20th May 1942. During that time, the 22nd Panzer Division and the 197th Battalion managed to destroy 250 Soviet tanks with the loss of only 3 StuG IIIs and 8 Panzers. Somewhat confusingly, in the after-combat report of the 197th Battalion, the use of 7.5 cm L/41 guns is mentioned. It is not clear what this referred to, as the newer StuG III Ausf.F armed with the 7.5 cm L/43 guns did not yet reach this unit. Interestingly the German firm Krupp did actually develop such a gun. It was fitted to an experimental StuG III. While this project was canceled, at least one built vehicle was given for troop trials, but its fate or its use is unknown. Thus it is unclear if this may actually refer to this vehicle or if this is just a simple typo by the author of this after-combat report.

The unusual and experimental StuG III, armed with the Krupp long 7.5 cm gun. While at least one vehicle was built, its final fate is unknown. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/panzerdb/34066231454/in/album-72157626390233907/

The 245th Battalion, equipped with some StuG III Ausf.Es, was sent to the Eastern Front to participate in the German drive toward the Caucasus in June 1942. It participated in heavy fighting north of Stalingrad at the end of 1942. It still had a number of StuG III Ausf.Es during 1943.

Due to poor German supply lines, replacement vehicles required some time to reach the front line. The 245th Battalion was forced to use the short-barrelled StuG III Ausf.E in 1943, before receiving the better-armed versions. Source: T. Anderson Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry

In the years following the invasion of the Soviet Union, the number of short barrel StuG IIIs dwindled due to losses and being reallocated to training units, such as Sturmgeschütz Ersatz und Ausbildung Abteilung (Eng. Replacement and Training Battalion).

Like its predecessors, the SttuG III Ausf.E would mostly see combat on the Eastern Front, with some reallocated to be used for training. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/stug_iii/

Modifications

StuG III Ausf.D/E Hybrids

In a few instances, due to delays in production, some StuG III vehicles were completed using materials and parts that were available at hand. One of the first cases of this was the small production run (between 6 to 20) StuG III Ausf.As, equipped with a superstructure took from the Ausf.B version. This was also the case with a few Ausf.Es that received the superstructure of the earlier Ausf.D version. Such modified vehicles, as the StuG III Ausf.D/E Hybrids were mostly reused as training vehicles.

Some of the early produced Ausf.Es received the superstructure from the Ausf.D. This picture was taken in September 1941. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants

Fahrschul Sturmgeschütz

An unknown number of StuG III Ausf.Es were used as training vehicles. Their role was highly important, as an inexperienced and untrained crew had little combat potential on the battlefields. Some of these vehicles may have received long guns.

A StuG III Ausf.E without its gun being used as a training vehicle. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/stug_iii/

Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33

Due to the need to fight the well-entrenched Soviet positions at Stalingrad, the Germans hastily modified some 24 StuG III vehicles for this role. The modification was simple, as the original StuG III superstructure was replaced with a new box-shaped one armed with a 150 mm gun. At least a few StuG III Ausf.E chassis were reused during the construction of the 24 rebuilt Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 (English: assault infantry gun).

A Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 built on an Ausf.E chassis and captured by the Soviets. This particular vehicle survived the war and is now located at the Kubinka Museum in Russia. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2006) Panzer Tracts No.9-1 Sturmpanzer

New Armament

A few StuG III Ausf.Es were reused as test vehicles for the installation of new guns, including the 10.5 cm howitzer and the longer 7.5 cm L/43 guns. In both cases, the overall design would be approved, followed by production orders. This would lead to the creation of the 10.5 cm StuG 42 and the long 7.5 cm armed StuG III Ausf.F.

The StuG 42 was armed with a 10.5 cm howitzer that was intended for infantry support. Source: http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/samohybky/stuh42.php
In order to battle an ever-increasing number of enemy armor, the StuG III would be rearmed with the deadlier and longer 7.5 cm guns. Source: http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/stihace/stug3.php

Surviving Vehicles

The only fully surviving StuG III Ausf.E can now be seen at the Motor Technica Museum, Bad Oeynhausen, in Germany. This particular vehicle was recovered from a lake near Saint Petersburg in 1990.

The surviving StuG III Ausf.E. Source: http://www.panzer-modell.de/specials/ontour/autotechnica/autotechnica.htm

Conclusion

The StuG III Ausf.E introduced a new slightly modified upper superstructure which provided a somewhat larger working space inside the vehicle. It enabled the use of additional radio equipment which the previous versions lacked. With this, it was finally possible to supply the unit commanders with their own fighting vehicles, greatly increasing the combat effectiveness of the whole unit. Like its predecessors, while not designed to fight enemy tanks, due to urgent combat necessity, it was sometimes pressed into the role of an anti-tank vehicle. While performing generally adequately in this role, it was far from perfect due to its low-velocity gun, something that would be addressed to great effect in later versions.

Ausf.E from an unknown unit, Eastern front, autumn 1942. Illustrations by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.
Early prototype (Versurchserie) of the Sturmhaubitze 42. Illustrations by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.
German Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33B equipped with the 15 cm sIG 33 howitzer for close infantry support, Stalingrad, fall 1942. Only 12 were deployed here, out of the 24 converted. Illustrations by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Gepanzerten Selbstfahrlafette für Sturmgeschütz 75 mm Kanone Ausführung E Technical specification

Crew 4 (commander, gunner, loader, and driver)
Weight 22 tonnes
Dimensions Length 5.38 m, Width 2.92 m, Height 1.95 m
Engine Maybach 120 TRM 265 hp @ 200 rpm
Speed 40 km/h, 20 km/h (cross-country)
Range 160 km, 100 km (cross-country)
Primary Armament 7.5 cm L/24
Elevation -10° to +20°
Superstructure armor front 50 mm, sides 30 mm, rear 30, and top 10-16 mm
Hull armor front 50 mm, sides 30 mm, rear 30 mm, and the top and bottom 15 mm

Sources

D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
Walter J. Spielberger (1993) Sturmgeschütz and its Variants, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (1999) Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz
D. Nešić, (2008) Naoružanje Drugog Svetskog Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
H. Scheibert (1994) Panzer III, Schiffer Publishing
Walter J. Spielberger (2007) Panzer III and its Variants, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
B. Carruthers (2012) Sturmgeschütze Armored Assault Guns, Pen and Sword
M. Healy (2007) Panzerwaffe Volume two, Ian Allan
T. Anderson (2016) Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry, Osprey Publishing
T. Anderson (2017) Sturmgeschütz Panzer, Panzerjäger, waffen-SS and Luftwaffe Units 1943-45, Osprey Publishing
K. Sarrazin (1991) Sturmgeschütz III The Short Gun Versions, Schiffer Publishing
F. Gray (2015) Post War Panzers German Weapons in Czech Service, Guideline Publications

Categories
WW2 German StuG III

Gepanzerten Selbstfahrlafette für Sturmgeschütz 75 mm Kanone Ausführung C and D (Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.C and D)

German Reich (1941)
Assault Gun – 50 Ausf.C and 150 Ausf.D Built

Following the Ausf.A and Ausf.B, the next vehicles in the line of the highly successful StuG III series were the identical Ausf.C and D. These were mainly introduced to production with some structural changes and improvements to armor protection. Despite the high demand for such vehicles, both of these would be built in rather smaller numbers.

The StuG III Ausf.C/D. Source: www.panzernet.net

Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.C and D 

In mid-September 1940, German Army officials met with the Daimler-Benz representative to consult on the necessary changes to the future StuG III vehicles. The upper gun’s sight aperture was to be removed and the part of the superstructure design was simplified. This necessitated an installation of a new gun sight periscope optic. Following a successful solution, a small production order for the Ausf.C was given. Parallel to the development of the Ausf.C, the German Army requested that additional vehicles should be built to increase the combat strength of available units but also to act as a replacement for lost vehicles. This version, named Ausf.D, was basically a direct copy of the Ausf.C.

Production

Despite the need for such vehicles, only a production order for 50 (chassis number 90551-90600) Ausf.C vehicles was given. The production was to commence in March 1941, but due to some delays in production, it actually started the following month. By May 1941, all 50 vehicles were completed. Also in May, the Ausf.D production began with an order for 150 (chassis number 90601-90750) such vehicles. This production order was completed by September 1941. Both series of the StuG III Ausf.C and D were produced by Alkett.

Both the Ausf.C and D vehicles were quite similar to the previous version. The most obvious changes were made regarding the simplification in improving the upper superstructure. Both were built in rather small quantities. Source: www.panzernet.net

Design

Visually, both the Ausf.C and D were quite similar to their predecessors. But nevertheless, some changes were implemented. These were mostly aimed to improve the upper superstructure design, protection, and some other minor changes.

Hull

The StuG III Ausf.C and D hull design was unchanged. It was the same as its predecessors with the front-mounted drive unit, central crew compartment, and rear-positioned engine. One quite minor change was the use of a new type of locking mechanism on the glacis hatches that were used by the crew for maintenance.

Suspension and Running Gear

The torsion bar suspension remained the same. It consisted of six small road wheels, three return rollers, the front drive wheel, and the rear positioned idler. The only change to it was introducing a newly designed rear idler wheel, starting from the StuG III Ausf.C.

The Ausf.C and D suspension introduced a new type of cast idler. The new cast idler (left) had a much-simplified design in contrast to an earlier version. It is also somewhat common to see that later in the war that older models received newly developed components. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants and www.reddit.com

Engine

The StuG III Ausf.C and D were powered by a twelve-cylinder, water-cooled Maybach HL 120 TRM engine providing 265 hp @ 2,600 rpm engine. Some very minor changes to the engine were made, including new oil bath air cleaners.

Vehicles that were used in North Africa and other warmer climates, such as southern Russia, received additional changes to the engine compartment in order to effectively operate in this challenging theater. This included cutting ventilation ports on the top hatches of the engine compartment and increasing the engine ventilation speed.

Superstructure 

The upper superstructure received a number of changes that clearly distinguished them from the previous versions. During its service life, the early StuG III vehicle had a huge weak spot on its frontal superstructure, namely the left aperture that was used by the gunner’s sight. The German Army Official specifically asked for its improvement, which likely led to the creation of the Ausf.C version. This opening was simply enclosed, and the gunner was provided instead with a longer periscope selbstfahrlafette-Zeilenfernrohr (Sfl ZF) sight that would be used from inside the vehicle. The original two top hatches for the gunner’s sight were replaced with one larger hatch. There was also a bullet splash deflector for this hatch placed on the vehicle’s left side.

The large frontal superstructure opening used in the early models proved to be a bad design. Enemy gunners could easily target this weak spot. Also because of it, the crew was often left exposed to enemy bullets or shrapnel that could enter the vehicle. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info
Starting from the Ausf.C, this opening was replaced by a new top-mounted hatch for the gunner’s periscope that was protected from the left by a bullet splash deflector. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants
A top view of the later Ausf.E which had the same shape of the new top-mounted hatch for the gunner periscope as the Ausf.C and D. Source: P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition

In addition, the front upper armor plate design was greatly simplified as the previous version used a somewhat unnecessary complicated design. The Ausf.C introduced a much simpler arrangement with singular angled plates. This improved the whole design, providing better protection and greatly simplifying the production of the superstructure.

The older series had a somewhat unnecessary complicated upper superstructure armor design. Source: www.panzernet.net
The Ausf.C introduced a much improved and simplified frontal top armor. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants

Armor Protection

The StuG III Ausf.C and D armor protection remained the same as the previous version. It consisted of 50 mm thick frontal armor. The sides and rear were somewhat thinner, at 30 mm. In order to improve the level of protection without adding extra armor, on the Ausf.D, the face-hardening of the frontal armor plates was slightly increased. The crews themselves would add all kinds of stuff that they could get their hands on to their vehicle in the hope of further increasing the protection. For example, some crews added concrete to this end.

The crew of this vehicle added concrete and other materials on the front part of the upper superstructure for extra protection. Realistically, this offered little, if any, kind of improvement in this regard. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz
The crew of this vehicle from the LSSAH (Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler) Division added extra spare track links to their vehicle’s front. Source: T. Anderson Sturmgeschütz Panzer, Panzerjäger, waffen-SS and Luftwaffe Units 1943-45

Armament 

The main armament remained the same as in the previous version. It consisted of a 7.5 cm StuK 37 L/24. It was primarily designed to engage fortified positions using a 7.5 cm Gr Patr high-explosive round. Another round used was the 7.5 cm PzGr patr armor-piercing round with a muzzle velocity of 385 mps, and could pierce around 39 mm of 30° angled armor at distances of 500 m. The elevation of the gun was -10° to +20°, while the traverse was limited to 12° per side. The ammunition load consisted of 44 rounds, mostly stored in front of the loader.

The StuG III’s anti-tank round was more than capable of destroying Soviet tank designs such as the BT series or the T-26. Against the new Soviet designs, such as the T-34 or the KV-series, the use of anti-tank rounds was almost useless. Surprisingly, the high-explosive round was more successful. While it could not penetrate the thick armor of the enemy tank, its explosive firepower was enough to cause serious damage to them by blowing up the suspension or even jamming the gun. By late 1941, due to the ineffectiveness of their anti-tank guns, the Germans were becoming desperate to find a solution. The introduction of tungsten-based ammunition was seen as a simple solution. The downside of it was that Germany was in short supply of this metal. Despite the shortages, anti-tank guns used during this time, such as the 5 cm PaK 38, received this ammunition in limited numbers. Interestingly, due to 7.5 cm L/24’s low velocity, the Germans never developed a tungsten round for this gun.

Instead, they approached this problem from another angle. In December 1941, Adolf Hitler issued an order that the production of the shaped-charge round should begin as soon as possible. This led to the introduction of the 7.5 cm GrPatr38 A and B versions. These had a velocity of 450 mps with the difference that the later version had a slightly better penetration of 75 mm at any range. While on paper this meant that any enemy tank could be defeated, the reality was quite different. For example, the low velocity led to a rather limited accuracy. In addition, the overall ballistic design of this round was far from perfect as it too often simply bounced off or failed to penetrate enemy armor. Interestingly enough, following the introduction of this new ammunition, the production of standard armor-piercing ammunition was discontinued at the end of 1942.

A replica of the 7.5 cm GrPatr38 round. Source:replica-weapons.com

In early 1942, the German 9th Army made a series of firing trials in order to test the new ammunition’s performance. Alongside other available rounds, it was tested against a few different captured Soviet tanks. For example, a KV-2 was targeted at ranges of 150 m at 45° angles of attack. After firing eight rounds (three AP, two HE, and three shaped-charge), all  failed to penetrate the armor and the only damage reported was the jamming of the turret. A T-34 was the next target, engaged at a distance of only 70 m at an angle of 60º. After firing four shaped-charge rounds, only the idler and the track were damaged. The same type of round was also fired at the 80 m range. It blew up the T-34’s hatches but two rounds simply bounced off its slope armor. Basically, this type of ammunition had a mixed performance, but was still a welcome addition for the crews that operated these vehicles.

Two MP38 or 40 submachine guns were provided for crew protection.

Crew

The crew of these vehicles consisted of four; commander, driver, loader, and gunner.  While the loader was positioned to the right of the gun, the remaining crew were placed opposite. The driver was positioned on the left front side of the hull. Just behind the driver was the gunner, and right behind, the commander.

Organization 

In the early years of the Second World War, due to quite limited German industrial capability, the production of new StuG III vehicles was slow. For example, during the German offensive toward France and its allies in May 1940, the 24 available StuGs were distributed to four batteries: the 640th, 659th, 660th, and 665th. Once again, due to a limited number of available vehicles, the Germans were forced to deploy them in small Sturmartillerie Batterie (Eng. assault gun battery). These were divided into three Zuge (Eng. platoons), each equipped with only two vehicles.

In time, as more StuG IIIs became available, their unit strength was increased to Abteilungen (Eng. battalion) strength of 18 vehicles. These battalions were divided into three batteries, each 6 vehicles strong. These would be further reinforced by three additional vehicles which were allocated to the platoon commanders.

In Combat

The StuG IIII Ausf.C and D were used to either replace losses, of which some 105 were reported in 1941, or supplement the creation of new units. Given the use of four quite similar series, sources have rarely made an effort to mention the precise versions used in combat. Given that their production run  began in April and ended in September 1941, this meant that the majority of them went to the Eastern Front.

In the Soviet Union 

For the Invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Germans managed to form 12 assault gun battalions with 5 additional batteries. These were divided into the three Heeresgruppen (English: army groups): Nord (English: North), Mitte (English: Center), and Süd (English: South). Given as it was expected that the majority of the fighting was to be carried out by the Army Group Center, eight assault battalions were allocated to this part of the front, including 177th, 189th, 191st, 192nd, 201st, 203th, 210th, and 226th. The Army Group North received five batteries (659th, 660th, 665th, and 667th) supported by two battalions (184th and 185th). The remaining two battalions (190th and 197th) were later reinforced by the 202nd and 209th battalions participating in the South Army Group.

In the early stages of the war with the Soviets, the StuG vehicles achieved great success. For example, the commander of an unspecified unit, Oberfeldwebel Rudolf Jaenicke, is credited to have destroyed some 12 Soviet BT-2 tanks. Another successful commander was Oberleutnant Peter Frantz, whose unit took part in the heavy fighting for Tula in December 1941. His unit managed to destroy some 15 Soviet tanks in one day of fighting.

The 667th batterie particularly performed very well, during the battle for the approach to Leningrad. During the advance toward their targets, this batterie saw heavy action while supporting infantry formation from the 1st Corps. Thanks to the efforts of the 667th batterie and its commander, Oberleutnant Joachim Lutzow, the following enemy losses were reported to be achieved during the period of 12th to 19th September 1941: some 225 bunkers destroyed, including 301 heavy weapons and machine gun nests. In addition, 6,500 enemy soldiers were taken captive with 92 guns being captured. For this effort, Oberleutnant Joachim Lutzow was awarded the Knight’s Cross Medal. Kurt Kirchner, who during early 1942 is credited with destroying 30 Soviet tanks, was also part of this unit.

A StuG III Ausf.C or D drives in front of the advancing infantry towards Smolensk near Moscow. Source: T. Anderson Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry

The harsh winter and the stiff Soviet resistance during 1941 led to losses among the StuG III units. Nevertheless, a substantial number of the short-barreled version survived and were used extensively in 1942. For example, the 244th battalion, during the Second Battle ofKharkov in May 1942, was reported to have helped destroy some 86 Soviet tanks (T-34 and KV-1 and KV-2). This was possible thanks to the use of the shape-charged rounds. The unit later reported that this type of ammunition was effective, often igniting the destroyed vehicle. The effectiveness of the StuG III vehicles was such that, reportedly, on numerous occasions, the Soviet forces simply ran away after seeing the German vehicles approaching them.

A StuG III Ausf.C or D from the 244th battalion attempting to cross a frozen river. Source: T. Anderson Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry
While the short barrel version would be slowly replaced from 1942, many would remain in service up to the end of the war. Here a short barrel Ausf.C or D next to the later developed Ausf.F which was armed with the long gun. Source: T. Anderson Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry

In North Africa

Somewhat surprisingly, the StuG III in North Africa was quite a rare sight. The first StuG III that was used on this front were three Ausf.D. These were allocated to Sonderverband 288 (Eng. Detachment for special employment) in early 1942. This unit was somewhat bizarre as it had no official organizational structure. It had in its inventory a small group of three StuG III Ausf.D vehicles.

This unit was formed just prior to the Soviet invasions by order of Hitler himself. Its original plan was that once the Soviet lands in Europe were conquered, advances into hot climates such as Iraq were to proceed. Given that this never occurred, it was allocated for the North African campaign. These StuG III saw action during the Battle of Gazala and the Axis capture of Tobruk. At least one was captured by the Allies near Bir Hacheim in May 1942. Only one StuG III was reported operational by August 1942.

Those vehicles that saw service in Africa received a number of modifications in order to improve the ventilation of the engine. The crew of this vehicle added a storage bin for water and fuel to the rear of the vehicle. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants
One of three StuG III Ausf.D that were sent to North Africa. One was captured by the Allies near Bir Hacheim in May 1942. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz

On Other Fronts

In the years following the invasion of the Soviet Union, the number of short barrel StuG III dwindled due to losses and being relocated for training units such as Sturmgeschütz Ersatz und Ausbildung Abteilung (Eng. replacement and training battalion). A number of StuG III Ausf.C and D survived almost up to the war’s end. For example, some were allocated to the training school stationed in Denmark in 1944. At least one StuG III Ausf.C or D was used by the Germans to fight the Czechoslovak resistance near the end of the war. One such vehicle was even taken out by the insurgents.

Different StuG III (from B to G versions) from the Sturmgeschütz Ersatz und Ausbildung Abteilung located in Denmark 1944. Source: T. Anderson Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infatry
This destroyed StuG III Ausf.C or D was used against the Czechoslovak uprising in the closing stages of the war. It was likely hit by a captured shape-charged weapon, possibly a Panzerfaust. Source: F. Gray Post War Panzers German Weapons in Czech Service
An abandoned StuG III Ausf.C/D in the city of Prague 1945. Source: historyimages

Modifications 

Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 

For the need to fight the well-entrenched Soviet positions at Stalingrad, the Germans hastily modified some 24 StuG III vehicles for this role. The modification was simple, as the original StuG III superstructure was replaced with a new box-shaped one, armed with a 150 mm gun. Some StuG III Ausf.C and D chassis were reused during construction of the 24 rebuilt Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 (English: assault infantry gun).

This particular Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 was built on an Ausf.D chassis. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2006) Panzer Tracts No.9-1 Sturmpanzer

Remote Control Tank

Some Ausf.C and D training vehicles were modified as a Leitpanzer (English: control tank) to be used to remotely control via radio equipment and the small Landungsträger (English: demolition charge carrier).

Some Ausf.C and D vehicles were reused as remotely control vehicles. Quite interesting to note is the lack of the left-spaced angled armor plate. Source: T. Anderson

Fahrschul Sturmgeschütz

An unknown number of StuG III Ausf.C and D were used as training vehicles. Their role was highly important, as an inexperienced and untrained crew had little combat potential on the battlefields. Some of these vehicles received long guns. At least one StuG III Ausf.C or D was armed with the long 7.5 cm L/48 gun. It appears to have been lost in combat in the later stages of the war.

The StuG III Ausf.C was armed with the long 7.5 L/48 gun. Other vehicles, such as the older Panzer IVs, were similarly rearmed in this manner and mostly used for training. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants

Surviving Vehicles 

Today, only a few StuG III Ausf.D vehicles are known to have survived. One can be seen at the Arsenalen Tank Museum in Sweden. Another one in running condition is located in the United States of America and is part of the DriveTanks association. This vehicle was actually one of the few operating in North Africa that was captured by the British. Lastly, one StuG III Ausf.D was used as a monument structure on Volokolamsk Highway near Moscow.

The StuG III Ausf.D is located at Arsenalen Tank Museum in Sweden Source: /tank-photographs
The StuG III Ausf.D used as a monument structure near Moscow. Source: tank-photographs
The StuG III Ausf.D running condition and its part of the DriveTanks Association. Source: the.shadock.free.fr

Conclusion

While offering a slight improvement in the overall design of the upper superstructure, the StuG III Ausf.C and D  were in fact just introduced into service to help form new units and replenish lost vehicles. Like all StuG III vehicles, they performed excellently in their designated role. With the availability of a new shaped-charge round, their anti-tank performance greatly increased. Despite being built in rather limited numbers, they would remain in use up to the end of the war.

Ausf.C from the 192 Sturmgeschutz-Abteilung, Russia, early 1942. illustration made by David B.
StuG III Ausf.D from the Sonderverband 288, Deutsche Afrika Korps, 1942. illustration made by David B.
The modified StuG III Ausf.C/D armed with the  7.5cm L/48 gun illustration made by Godzilla

StuG III Ausf.C and D specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.38 x 2.92 m x1.95 m
Total Weight 20.7 tonnes
Crew 4 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, and Driver)
Speed 40 km/h, 20 km/h (cross-country)
Range 160 km, 100 km (cross-country)
Armament 7.5 cm L/24
Armor 10-50 mm
Engine Maybach 120 TRM 265 hp @ 2,000 rpm

 

Sources

Categories
WW2 German StuG III

Gepanzerten Selbstfahrlafette für Sturmgeschütz 75 mm Kanone Ausführung B (Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B)

German Reich (1940)
Assault Gun – 300 to 320 Built

The concept of using mobile, well-armed, and well-protected infantry support vehicles was theorized in German military circles during the 1930s. Production limitations caused by the underdeveloped German military industry prevented the realization of this project for many years, and the production of tanks was seen as a higher priority. By May 1940, the first 30 vehicles, the StuG III Ausf.A, were ready for service and some even saw action against the Western Allies in France and the Low Countries. They quickly showed that this concept had merit and the Germans began a slow but steady increase in production. This led to the introduction of the StuG III Ausf.B version, a slight improvement over the Ausf.A, which had only been built in quite limited numbers.

The StuG III Ausf.B. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz

The Road to the Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B

Production of the first pre-series vehicles of the StuG III series was undertaken in 1937. These 0-series vehicles served mainly for evaluation and as testbeds and training vehicles. While a vehicle that could provide mobile fire support was deemed desirable by the German Army, the lagging industrial capacity was barely able to fulfill the needs of the Panzer divisions. It would take years before the first operational vehicles were actually produced. In October 1938, the Waffenamt (Eng. Ordnance Bureau) issued a production order for 280 vehicles. This included 30 vehicles of the Ausf.A series, and 250 vehicles of the Ausf.B version (chassis numbers 90101 to 90400).

The first production order of 30 vehicles (Ausf.A version) was barely completed by the time of the planned German offensive against the Western Allies in May 1940. Surprisingly, their overall combat performance was not documented by the Germans and was even hardly mentioned in the sources. Only one StuG III Ausf.A was reported to have been lost, but it was recovered and repaired. The performance of the StuG III in France was deemed a success, and the Army officials demanded the production numbers of the newer version be increased. As a result, the previous order of 250 StuG III Ausf.Bs was increased by 50 (chassis numbers 90501 to 90550).

The StuG III Ausf.A, which was visually almost identical to the later Ausf.B version. Source: Anderson Sturmartillerie

Even for famous vehicles, such as the StuG III, sources disagree on how many were built. The previously mentioned numbers are provided by Walter J. Spielberger in Sturmgeschütz and its Variants. T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz) also provide the same figures. On the other hand,  D. Nešić in Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka suggests a slightly higher number, at 320. The difference of 20 vehicles may be explained by the fact that around 20 Ausf.A/B hybrid vehicles were also constructed.

The second StuG version is known as the Gepanzerten Selbstfahrlafette fur Sturmgeschütz 75 mm Kanone Ausführung B, or more simply, as StuG III Ausf.B. It was more or less the same vehicle as the previous version. Nevertheless, some changes were implemented to improve the shortcomings noted on the Ausf.A. The StuG III Ausf.B was to be built using Panzer III Ausf.G and H series hulls. The first production run of 250 vehicles began in July 1940 and ended in March 1941. The remaining 50 were completed between March and April (or May depending on the source) 1941. The production was carried out by Alkett instead of Daimler-Benz. Alkett would remain the factory that would produce the bulk of StuG III vehicles until later in the war, when M.A.N and MIAG joined the production.

Organization and Distribution to the Units 

In the early years of the war, due to the quite limited German mobilized industrial capability, the production of new StuG III vehicles was slow. For example, during the German offensive against France and its Allies in May 1940, the only 24 available StuGs were distributed to four batteries: the 640th, 659th, 660th, and 665th. Due to a limited number of available vehicles, the Germans were forced to deploy them in small sturmartillerie batterie (Eng. assault gun battery). These were divided into three zuge (Eng. platoons), each equipped with only two vehicles. In time, as more StuG IIIs became available, their unit strength was increased to abteilungen (Eng. battalion) strength of 18 vehicles. These battalions were divided into three batteries, each 6 vehicles strong. These would be further reinforced with three additional vehicles which were allocated to the platoon commanders.

Just prior to the May 1940 offensive, the Waffen-SS, a military branch of the Nazy Party, was slowly forming its first larger combat formations. The leader of this formation, Heinrich Himmler, wanted the best weapons available for the LSSAH (Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler) Division. This Division was formed by combining the three SS regiments, Deutschland, Der Fuhrer, and Germania. Himmler himself urged for the creation of SS assault batteries. He received a response on 7th May 1940 from the Oberkommando des Heeres (Eng. High Command of the German Army). In this letter, Himmler was informed that, due to shortages of weapon availability even for the Army, the SS formation was to receive few heavy weapons. This, however, included a unit of four StuG III vehicles. There is a mention of a reduction of the number of vehicles per batterie from 6 to 4 StuG III.

Despite the lack of trust of the German Army towards the SS, given their connections to the Führer himself, it could do little but comply. The LSSAH would receive its StuG III vehicles during May 1940. As crews for these were still undergoing training, they would not see action on the Western Front.

Thanks to the increased production of the Ausf.B and later versions, it became possible to increase the size of the assault batteries to battalion size by summer 1940. In 1941, it became possible to equip more batteries with a command vehicle, replacing the Sd.Kfz.253 in this role. Even with the increased production of StuG IIIs, these still remained part of independent units that would be attached to other infantry units depending on the needs. The first exception to this rule was the Grossdeutschland Regiment which, after the Western campaign ended, permanently received the 640th Battery. The Waffen SS once again tried to receive a large number of the StuG IIIs permanently allocated to them. In this early stage, they had to be content with receiving a battery of only six vehicles. An increase of the number of batteries per Waffen SS division was initiated at the end of 1941, but it took some time to be fully implemented.

Design

While visually quite similar to the Ausf.A, the new Ausf.B incorporated some minor changes that can help distinguish between these two versions. It is important to note that some changes were not implemented on all vehicles, and having elements from both versions on the same vehicle was not that uncommon. The StuG III series was based on the Panzer III chassis and shared many components mainly related to the hull and suspension’s design. In the case of the StuG III Ausf.B, it was based upon the Panzer III Ausf.G and H tank chassis.

The Panzer III Ausf.H served as a base for the StuG III Ausf.B vehicles. Source: www.panzernet.net

The Hull

The StuG III Ausf.B’s hull could be divided into three major sections: the forward-mounted transmission, central crew compartment, and rear engine compartment. The front hull was where the transmission and steering systems were placed and it was protected with an angled armor plate. The two square-shaped, two-part hatch brake inspection doors were located on the front hull.

Above the protected front hull, where the transmission and steering systems were placed, two square-shaped, two-part hatch brake inspection doors were placed. While this vehicle is an Ausf.A version, the later Ausf.B did not receive any change to this part of the vehicle. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

The Suspension and Running Gear

The StuG III Ausf.B used a torsion bar suspension, like the previous version. In order to reduce the chance of accidentally throwing the track off, the first return roller was moved slightly to the front. In an attempt to increase the overall mobility of the vehicle, slightly wider tracks were used on the Ausf.B. They were widened from 380 to 400 mm. A wide rubber rim was added on the six doubled road wheels to increase their service life. Another visual change was the use of modified cast front drive wheels. Some vehicles retained the older type sprockets.

A close-up view of the Stug III Ausf.A suspension. Source: www.panzernet.net
An Ausf.B with the older type front sprocket used on the Ausf.A. Source: www.panzernet.net
This would be replaced with a new cast front drive wheel. Also, note the first return roller, which was moved further to the front. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

The Engine 

The Ausf.B was powered by a slightly modified twelve-cylinder, water-cooled Maybach HL 120 TRM engine providing 265 hp @ 2,600 rpm engine. The difference between this and the previous engine was the use of a new lubrication system.

 

Illustration of the Maybach HL 120 engine.Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants

The Transmission

The StuG III Ausf.A was equipped with an overly complicated ten forward and one reverse speed Maybach Variorex SRG 32 8 145 semi-automatic transmissions. While, in theory, it provided the Ausf.A with a maximum speed of up to 70 km/h, it was overcomplicated and prone to frequent breakdowns. Almost from the start, this showed itself to be unusable in the long run. As it proved too problematic, it was replaced with a much simpler SSG 76 transmission unit.

The Superstructure 

The box-shaped upper superstructure was mostly unchanged, with the exception of slightly modifying the top hatch design. Another small change was the deletion of the two rear-positioned storage boxes.

Top view drawings of the StuG III Ausf.A (top) and B (bottom). Notice the slight difference in the design of the gunner’s periscope hatches, located on the top left side, just behind the driver’s position. Source:T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz

The Armor Protection

The StuG III Ausf.B’s armor protection was unchanged from the previous version. It was well protected, with a 50 mm thick frontal armor. The sides and rear were somewhat lighter, at 30 mm. One minor improvement regarding the Ausf.B’s protection was adding a metal cover for the nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung (Eng. smoke grenade rack system) which was positioned on the rear of the hull.

While a minor modification, the StuG III Ausf.B and later versions that used this system, received an armored cover for the smoke grenade rack system located to the rear of the vehicle. Source: warspot.ru

The Armament 

The main armament remained the same as in the previous version.. It consisted of a 7.5 cm StuK 37 L/24. As it was intended as a close support weapon, it had a rather low muzzle velocity. Despite this, it was a fairly accurate gun, with a 100% hit probability in action at ranges up to 500 m. The accuracy dropped to 73% at 1 km and to 38% at distances of over 1.5 km.

While it was primarily designed to engage fortified positions using a 7.5 cm Gr Patr high-explosive round weighing 5.7 kg (at a 420 m/s velocity), it was also fairly good for engaging enemy armor. This fact is often overshadowed by its close support role. The 7.5 cm PzGr patr was a 6.8 kg armor-piercing round with a muzzle velocity of 385 mps, and could pierce around 39 mm of 30° angled armor at distances of 500 m. The 7.5 NbGr Patr was a smoke-screen round. The 7.5 cm StuK 37 was equipped with a Rundblickfernrohr RblF 32 type panoramic gun sight.  The elevation of the gun -10° to +20°, while the traverse was limited to 12° per side. The ammunition load consisted of 44 rounds mostly stored in front of the loader. Additionally, an MP38 or 40 submachine gun was provided for crew protection.

While being a short barrel weapon, the 7.5 cm StuK 37 L/24 was quite an effective weapon when used against fortified positions and lightly armored tanks. The numerous kill marks on this vehicle is clearly an indicator of this. Source: /www.worldwarphotos.info
The early-built StuG IIIs did not have a machine gun for self-defense against infantry. It was believed by the Germans that the StuG III would work in close cooperation with friendly infantry formations, which would provide sufficient firepower to overcome the enemy infantry. This proved not to be the case and later versions would receive a machine gun with a shield and even a remotely operated mount. The crew of this vehicle appears to have added a small improvised mount for a machine gun operated by the loader. Source: /www.worldwarphotos.info

The Crew

The vehicle had a crew of four: commander, driver, loader, and gunner. While loaders were positioned to the right of the gun, the remaining crew were placed opposite them. Drivers were positioned on the left front side of the hull. Just behind them was the gunner, and right behind them were the commanders.

Due to the small size, there was only room for four crew members. While not perfect, it proved enough for its role. Source: www.panzernet.net

In Combat

In Yugoslavia

The StuG III Ausf.B first saw action during the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece in the Balkans. The war in the Balkans was initiated by the Italians during their failed invasion of Greece. Following the deterioration of their military situation, they asked their German allies for help. Counting on its Balkan allies and the neutrality of Yugoslavia, the German Army prepared for an invasion of Greece. The whole situation was complicated by the overthrowing of the Yugoslavian government on 27th March 1941 by pro-Allied military officers. Hitler was furious with this development and ordered that Yugoslavia be occupied.

For the upcoming Balkan campaign, only four assault gun battalions were available. These were the 184th and 197th, which were allocated to the 2nd Army, and the 190th and 191st allocated to the 12th Army. The 184th and 197th participated in the attack on Yugoslavia. They were meant to attack from Germany towards modern-day Slovenia and Croatia. Their advance was blocked, as the Yugoslavian Army had blown up many vital bridges. They would eventually cross towards Yugoslavia. Given the rapid collapse of the Yugoslavian Army, their combat use was likely limited. Nevertheless, at least two StuG IIIs were reported lost in Yugoslavia.

Four StuG III Ausf.Bs from the 184th Assault Gun Battalion in Slovenia on 12th April 1941. Source: Bojan B. Dumitrijević and Dragan Savić Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu
Probably the same vehicles somewhere in Croatia. Four. Source: D. Predoević, Oklopna vozila i oklopne postrojbe u drugom svjetskom ratu u Hrvatskoj

The other two assault gun batteries were stationed in Bulgaria. From there, they would cross the border to Greece and proceed to attack the Metaxa Line. Unfortunately, similar to the French campaign, their combat use in this operation is poorly documented by the Germans.

Documents from the 190th Assault Battalion mention some combat activity during the first few days of the campaign. The 190th Assault Battalion’s first combat engagement occurred on 6th April 1941, when they provided covering fire for the German infantry at Tchorbadshisko. This attack failed in front of the fortified Greek Army positions. The following day, after a heavy artillery bombardment, this position was taken. From 9th to 10th April, the 190th Assault Battalion helped clean up the remaining defending bunker positions before finally crossing the Nestos River.

The 191st Assault Battalion was tasked with supporting the 72nd Infantry Division. The main aim of this division was to take Rupel Pass. Given the strongly fortified positions and hilly terrain, the StuG IIIs could not be effectively used. The Germans could not overcome the strong enemy positions. By 9th April, the defenders abandoned their positions, which enabled the Germans to proceed through the enemy’s rear lines.

A StuG III Ausf.B from the 191st Battalion advancing through Greece. Source: T. Anderson Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry

In the Soviet Union 

For the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union, the Germans managed to form 12 assault gun battalions and 5 additional batteries equipped mainly with the Ausf.B versions, though also with smaller numbers of the Ausf.A and later C and D versions. These were divided into the three Heeresgruppen (Eng. army groups), Nord (Eng. North), Mitte (Eng. Centre), and Süd (Eng. South). Given as it was expected that the main effort was to be carried out by Army Group Centre. Eight assault battalions were allocated to this part of the front, the 177th, 189th, 191st, 192nd, 201st, 203th, 210th, and 226th. Army Group North received five batteries (659th, 660th, 665th, 666th, and 667th) supported by two battalions (184th and 185th). The remaining two battalions (190th and 197th) were later reinforced by the 202nd and 209th Battalions, working with Army Group South.

Despite expecting a quick Soviet Army collapse, this did not occur. Instead, the Germans started facing strong and stubborn enemy resistance. For example, in the case of the 184th Battalion, of its original 21 vehicles, only 16 were operational by 20th August 1941. Two StuG IIIs were completely destroyed and had to be replaced. In the case of the 203rd Battalion, a report dated 14th August 1941 mentioned that only one vehicle was lost, but it also mentioned that only between 33% to 66% of the vehicles were operational, and the remaining were out of action, waiting to receive new engines.

The StuG III, while not intended to engage enemy armor, could easily defeat Soviet light tanks thanks to their armor-piercing rounds that could penetrate some 34 mm of armor at 1 km. Besides seriously underestimating the enemy’s combat strength and resolve, the German intelligence office also failed to pick up on the new Soviet tank designs, the T-34 and the KV series. The StuG III’s armor-piercing round proved almost useless against the armor of these new tanks. In firing trials carried out on the Eastern Front in September 1941, it was found that the T-34’s front armor could not be penetrated when using the standard armor-piercing rounds. In rare and lucky cases, the turret’s front armor was penetrated. The side and rear were also immune to the German 7.5 cm armor-piercing rounds. The only vulnerable spot was the lower hull side, which could be easily penetrated. The high-explosive round was more effective. While it could not penetrate the thick enemy armor, it was strong enough to seriously damage the vehicle and its mechanical components.

Despite their impunity to German anti-tank guns, the Soviet tank crews were let down by poor leadership, poor logistics, poor maintenance, inexperience, and lack of spare parts. The 201st Battalion mentioned that, on 2nd October, at least two T-34-76 tanks began firing at a damaged StuG III vehicle. The German StuG began retreating back to warn others from the advancing enemy tanks. The two Soviet tanks followed the damaged StuG III.  The remaining StuG IIIs sprang to action and, after a brief engagement, the enemy T-34 tanks were destroyed.

A StuG III Ausf.B somewhere in the Soviet Union during 1941. While the wooden logs acted as improvised protection, their purpose was likely to help cross difficult obstacles. Source: /www.worldwarphotos.info

The losses suffered in the war and the introduction of later improved versions ultimately led to the surviving Ausf.B’s being withdrawn back to Germany. Once there, they would mostly be allocated to training schools, such as the Sturmgeschütz Ersatz und Ausbildung Abteilung (Eng. Replacement and Training Battalion), which was stationed in Denmark during 1944 and had at least one Ausf.B in its inventory.

While being the best protected German vehicle in the early part of the war, the StuG III was not invincible and many were lost during 1941. Source: www.worldwarphotos
Different StuG IIIs (from B to G versions) from the Sturmgeschütz Ersatz und Ausbildung Abteilung located in Denmark 1944. Source: T. Anderson Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infatry

In Soviets Hands

The fighting in the Soviet Union was harsh for both sides which often led to huge losses in men and materials. To compensate for their loss of equipment, the Germans and the Soviets would often reuse captured vehicles. The Soviets operated at least one captured StuG III Ausf.B vehicle, which belonged to the 197th Assault Gun Battalion.

A StuG III Ausf.B in Soviet hands. Source: warspot.ru

Modifications 

StuG III Ausf.A/B Hybrids

Due to frequent delays in production, largely due to the introduction of the new transmission on the Panzer III and as there were no new available chassis, some 20 additional StuG III Ausf.A variant were built using superstructures intended for the StuG III Ausf.B version.

The unusual StuG III Ausf.A/B hybrid, used as a replacement for the delayed production of the later Ausf.B series. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (199) Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz

Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 

Due to the need to fight the well-entrenched Soviet positions at Stalingrad, the Germans hastily modified some 24 StuG III vehicles for this role. The modification was simple, as the original StuG III superstructure was replaced with a new box-shaped one armed with a 150 mm gun. The first prototype was based on the StuG III Ausf.B chassis. Some of the 24 rebuilt Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33 (English: assault infantry gun) used components taken from the StuG III Ausf.A and B.

This particular vehicle uses the front drive wheel of an Ausf.A with a combination of moving return roller and wider tracks of the Ausf.B. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2006) Panzer Tracts No.9-1 Sturmpanzer

Remote Control Tank

At least one StuG III Ausf.B was modified as a Leitpanzer (English: control tank) used to remotely control and carry the small Landungsträger (English: demolition charge carrier). For this variant, the gun was removed and improved radio equipment with a large 2 m long rod antenna was added.

At least one StuG III Ausf.B was modified as a Leitpanzer. Source: T. Anderson Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry

Fahrschul Sturmgeschütz

An unknown number of StuG III Ausf.Bs were used as training vehicles. Their role was highly important, as the inexperienced and untrained crews had little combat potential on the battlefields.

This StuG IIII Ausf.B was used as a training vehicle. Note the sign Fahrschule (Eng. driving school) painted on the right front side of the superstructure. This particular vehicle is quite interesting, as its opening on the superstructure’s top left was completely enclosed. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz

Conclusion

Like its predecessor, the StuG III Ausf.B also showed that the assault gun concept was a success. From the technical side, it resolved some mechanical issues present on the Ausf.A, but also improved the mobility to some extent. It was also built in much greater numbers, enabling the Germans to form additional StuG units. While it would ultimately be replaced with improved versions, some of the Ausf.B’s remained in use up to the end of the war.

StuG III Ausf.B Balkans, April 1941. Illustration made by David B.
Ausf.B, Russia, winter 1941-42. Illustration made by David B.

StuG III Ausf.B specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.38 x 2.92 m x1.95 m
Total Weight 20.7 tonnes
Crew 4 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, and Driver)
Speed 40 km/h, 20 km/h (cross-country)
Range 160 km, 100 km (cross-country)
Armament 7.5 cm L/24
Armor 10-50 mm
Engine Maybach 120 TRM 265 hp @ 2,000 rpm
Total Production 300 to 320

 

Sources

 

Categories
WW2 German StuG III

Gepanzerten Selbstfahrlafette fur Sturmgeschütz 75 mm Kanone (Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.A)

German Reich (1940)
Assault Gun – 30 Built + 6 to 20 Ausf.A/B Hybrids

Prior to and during the Second World War, the Germans developed and introduced into service a series of armored vehicles. While most of these were tanks, there were also a number of modifications designed to fulfill different roles, such as anti-tank or anti-aircraft duties. During the early stages of the war, a new vehicle, known as the Sturmgeschütz III, was slowly being introduced. Its purpose was to provide close fire support to infantry units, a role in which it would perform superbly. While mostly overshadowed by the famous Panther and Tiger tanks, the small and cheap Sturmgeschütz III would become the most widely produced tracked vehicle in the German armored arsenal. Its entry into service in 1940 was rather modest, mostly due to the small numbers of vehicles available at that time, but this was something that would change dramatically in the war’s later years.

Gepanzerten Selbstfahrlafette fur Sturmgeschütz 75 mm Kanone Ausführung A. Source: www.panzernet.net

Sturmgeschütz III Development History

During the Great War, the Western front was bogged down in trench warfare, where fast movement was limited due to the terrain and fortified defenses. In order to break the stalemate, the Germans began employing the so-called Sturmtruppen (Eng. Stormtroopers). These were infantry units that put great emphasis on speed and sudden attacks in order to overwhelm the enemy’s defensive line. In order to support them, towed artillery was used. The close fire support was a welcome addition during an assault, destroying enemy targets like machine-gun emplacements and fortified positions. However, the use of the artillery in this role was hampered by the crews being exposed to enemy return fire and the guns being too cumbersome to move over the rough terrain.

After the war, German Army military officials were quite aware that failing to provide the infantry with adequate close-range fire support would lead to high losses during attacks on enemy entrenched positions. Mobile artillery was seen as a solution to this problem. In 1927, the German Reichswehrministerium (Ministry of Defense) issued a contract for a self-propelled vehicle armed with a 77 mm gun mounted on an experimental Hanomag WD fully tracked tractor. Work on this vehicle had to be stopped due to a number of reasons, like lack of funds and priority being given to other military projects and reorganization.

The 77 mm gun-armed Hanomag WD tracked tractor. Source: Pinterest

Nevertheless, this concept was not completely abandoned, and work on it reemerged in the early 1930s. This was mainly thanks to Erich von Manstein. He argued for the introduction of a highly mobile, well-protected, and well-armed self-propelled artillery gun. Such vehicles were meant to provide infantry with mobile close fire support during combat operations. Thanks to the self-propelled chassis, these could be quickly redeployed to respond to any new threat. Towed artillery, on the other hand, was often vulnerable to enemy return fire and needed time to change positions. This self-propelled artillery gun was to be an organic part of standard infantry divisions, divided into three 6 vehicle strong batteries.

While initially opposed by some elements of the German Army, the project received a green light when it was approved by Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (German Commander in Chief of the Army), Generaloberst von Fritsch, in 1935. The project was to be carried out under the supervision of Colonel Walter Model. The whole project started at a very slow pace, and it took a year for things to finally get going.

Whose Responsibility Was It? 

While the first steps in the creation of such a vehicle were underway, there was a disagreement between the different Army branches, including artillery, infantry, and armor, about this project. While the value of such a vehicle was greatly praised by both infantry and artillery units, military circles that advocated for the use of tanks were less enthusiastic. The main issue that arose was the question of what was the difference between a tank that could fulfill the same role and the proposed self-propelled artillery gun. There was also the question of whether it was worth it to spend the limited production resources on developing both types of vehicles.

In order to find answers to these questions, in early June 1936, an unnamed general in the infantry branch General der Infanterie sent a dispatch to the General Staff of the Army. In it, he noted that, while such a vehicle offered clear advantages over ordinary towed artillery, it was necessary to establish an accurate draft of the requirements for its design and of its tactical usage in combat. Furthermore, he explained at length that it was necessary to make a clear line between the roles that tanks and infantry support guns should fulfill. While their combat role seemed to be quite similar at first glance, they were in fact different.

While the tank force was seen as the main offensive formation, the infantry was meant to follow up and destroy the remaining isolated enemy forces. On the other hand, infantry saw the tanks as support weapons and would request that part of the tanks be left behind to provide close support. This in turn would weaken the tank formations, robbing them of their numbers and firepower. The tanks were an offensive weapon that relied on speed and mobility to attack less defended positions. Fortified targets could not be taken by tanks alone, and they had to be accompanied by infantry. The assault vehicles, on the other hand, thanks to their mobility, armor, and firepower could easily support the infantry. It was not a weapon to be used en masse, but instead, used in smaller numbers as needed.

While other nations, like France, advocated for the use of tanks as primarily infantry support weapons, the Germans also tested this idea. In August 1936, this was discussed by the German General Staff of the Army, but the idea was quickly discarded. They argued that, in order for tanks to fulfill this role, tank armor had to be constantly upgraded to keep up with the development of anti-tank weapons. Adding additional armor would cause the tank to lose its mobility and its tactical offensive advantages.

The generals from the panzer divisions were against the assault gun project. To them, introducing a new vehicle would put enormous stress on the overburdened German production industry. The production of new tanks, like the Panzer III and IV, was limited at best. But, despite their resistance, in the end, it was decided that the artillery branch would be responsible for training and developing tactics for this vehicle.

First Requirements

What followed was a period of design and development requirement negotiation. The requirements were finalized and issued on military document 449/36 dated 15th June 1936. The list of requirements was initially designated schwere Panzerabwehrkanone sPaK (Eng. heavy anti-tank gun). It had to have a small height, no more than a standing soldier. The main armament would consist of a 7.5 cm gun facing forward. It had to have sufficient elevation to reach a 7 km firing distance. Elevation had to be 30° in both directions. In addition, it had to possess enough armor penetration to pierce any known enemy armored vehicle at ranges of up to 500 m.

Surprisingly, initially, it was requested that this vehicle be open-topped. As this was a vehicle that was to provide close fire support, having an open-top would be too dangerous for the crew and this requirement was changed to include a fully enclosed crew compartment. The armor had to be enough to stop 20 mm rounds. Thanks to the weight-saving due to not having a turret, stronger armor plates could be used.

These were all early requirements and some changes would be introduced during initial development. Probably most noticeable were the characteristics of the gun (firing range and traverse), which had to be changed from the initial requirements.

To speed up the development time, a Panzer III chassis was to be used. The Panzer I and II chassis were too small. Why the Panzer IV chassis was not used is not specified in the sources, but there may be a few reasons for this. Roughly at the same time, the Germans had initiated the standardization of tank development. According to plans drawn up by Wa Pruef 6 (the German Army’s design office for armored vehicles and motorized equipment), the Panzer IV, starting from the Ausf.C version was to be built using the new Panzer III Ausf.E chassis, which used torsion bar suspension. Due to problems with the Panzer III development, nothing came from this.

Due to Germany’s general lack of industrial capacity during the 1930s, it would take some time before the first prototypes could be delivered. Daimler-Benz from Berlin-Marienfelde was chosen for designing and building the first prototypes. In 1937, the assembly of a small 0-series based on the Panzer III Ausf.B chassis began. These received a soft-steel superstructure and thus could not be used in combat. Their main purpose was to serve as evaluation, testbed, and training vehicles.

Name

Initially, this vehicle was designated as schwere Panzerabwehrkanone sPaK. The usage of the prefix Selbstfahrlafette or short Sfl. (Eng. self-propelled chassis) was also common. It was also common to see the use of the Sturmgeschütz designation in German documents. As it was based on the Panzer III chassis, sometimes it would also be referred as Panzer-Selbstfahrlafette III (Eng. tank self-propelled chassis III).

At the end of March 1940, the name was officially changed to Gepanzerten Selbstfahrlafette fur Sturmgeschütz 75 mm Kanone, which could be translated as armored self-propelled chassis for 75 mm armed assault gun. The first series of this vehicle received the Ausfuhrung (Eng. version or series) A designation. In addition, the Sd.Kfz.142 number was added to the name. It is generally best known under the much shorter StuG III Ausf.A name. This article will use this shorter designation for the sake of simplicity.

Production of the StuG III Ausf.A

While no StuG III was used during the fighting in Poland in September 1939, experience gained there showed that such a vehicle was desirable. One month after this campaign, the Waffenamt (ordnance bureau) issued a production order for 280 vehicles. This included 30 vehicles of the initially marked 0-series (actually the Ausf.A version) and 250 of the second series.

The five vehicles of the actual 0-series were built using a chassis of a Panzer III Ausf.B. Source: meditationsonahobby.blogspot.com

For the production of the StuG III Ausf.A, several companies were included. The production of the guns and its mounting was carried out by Krupp from Essen. Brandenburger Eisenwerke, together with a couple of smaller firms, was responsible for providing the necessary armored parts and components. The guns and armored components, once available, were transported to Daimler-Benz for final assembly. The chassis, taken from the Panzer III Ausf.F series (starting from serial number 90.001), were also to be produced by Daimler-Benz. Interestingly, according to W. J. Spielberger (Panzer III and its Variants), these were actually completed by Alkett in Berlin.

A slightly modified Panzer III Ausf.F chassis was used for the StuG III Ausf.A. Source: forum.warthunder.com

Official orders for 30 StuG IIIs were issued on the 13th of October 1939. These 30 vehicles had to be completed no later than the beginning of April 1940. The first fully completed chassis was delivered during December 1939. During the installation of the gun mounts, it was noted that, due to a miscalculation, these could not be fitted. This miscalculation led to a one-month-long pause in production until this issue was resolved. The whole order for 30 vehicles was completed by April 1940.

Design

While visually quite similar to the early prototypes, the StuG Ausf.A features a number of improvements to the overall design. In addition, the Panzer III Ausf.F-based chassis was not completely identical to the tank version, as there were some minor differences made to its design.

The Hull

The StuG III Ausf.A hull can be divided into three major sections. These were the forward-mounted transmission, central crew compartment, and rear engine compartment. The front hull was where the transmission and steering systems were placed and it was protected with an angled armor plate. The two square-shaped, two-part hatch brake inspection doors were located on the front hull. In contrast to the tank chassis it was based on, these opened vertically and not horizontally. While the StuG III 0-series had two bolted round-shaped plates added on the front transmission, these were removed on the Ausf.A. There were four towing couplings, with two at the front and two at the rear of the hull.

The 0-series had two round two-part brake inspection hatches located on the front hull. These were removed on the first production StuGs. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz

Suspension and Running Gear

The Panzer III Ausf.F suspension consisted of six pairs of road wheels on each side. These were suspended using a combination of individual swing axles together with torsion bars which were placed in the bottom of the hull. The upper movement of each wheel’s swingarm was limited by contact blocks covered in rubber. Additionally, the first and the last wheels were equipped with a hydraulic shock absorber. At the front, there was a 360 mm wide 21 tooth drive sprocket. On the back of the hull was the idler with an adjustable crank arm. The number of return rollers was three per side. The cast tracks were 380 mm wide.

The Panzer III Ausf.B suspension, which consisted of 8 small road wheels. This suspension was deemed ineffective and too complicated. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info
The Stug III used a simpler torsion bar suspension. Source: www.panzernet.net
Illustration of the Panzer III’s suspension arrangement. Source: warspot.ru

The Engine 

The early prototype version was built on the Panzer III Ausf.B chassis. The production version was actually built using the much improved Panzer III Ausf.F chassis. This included the usage of a stronger twelve-cylinder, water-cooled Maybach HL 120 TRM engine giving 265 hp (in some sources listed to be 280 or even 300 hp strong) @ 2,600 rpm. The StuG III Ausf.A’s engine was placed at the rear of the hull and was separated from the central crew compartment by a firewall. The firewall had a small door. Its purpose was to provide the crew members with access to the engine if needed.

The engine was held in place by three rubber bushings. With this power unit, the StuG III Ausf.A’s maximum speed was increased to 40 km/h, while the cross-country speed was 20 km/h. The fuel load of 310 liters was stored in two fuel tanks placed below the radiators in the engine compartment. With this fuel load, the  StuG III Ausf.A’s operational range was 160 km on roads and 100 km cross-country. To avoid any accidental fires, these fuel tanks were protected by firewalls.

The engine compartment was protected by an enclosed superstructure. On top of this compartment, two two-part hatches were added for access to the engine. Further back, two smaller doors were added to provide the crew access to the fan drives. The air intakes were repositioned to the engine compartment sides and were protected with armor plates.

Transmission

The StuG III Ausf.A was equipped with a somewhat overly complicated ten-speed and one reverse Maybach Variorex SRG 32 8 145 semi-automatic transmission. The transmission was connected to the engine by a drive shaft that ran through the bottom of the fighting compartment. The steering mechanism used on the Panzer III was bolted to the hull. It was connected to the two final drives, which were themselves bolted to the outside of the hull. In theory, with this transmission, the StuG III Ausf.A could reach speeds of up to 70 km/h. In reality, this caused huge problems and the rubber-rimmed road wheels had to be changed frequently due to being worn out. The transmission itself was overly complicated, difficult to produce, and prone to frequent breakdowns. It would be replaced with a much simpler and more reliable SSG 76 transmission on a later version of the StuG III.

The Superstructure 

The box-shaped upper superstructure was taken almost directly from the initial StuG 0-series, with some small differences. The front and side armor plates were flat. On the left front, the plate was a driver vision port. The StuG Ausf.A introduced a new improved driver protective visor, the Fahrersehklappe 50, which was 50 mm thick. When the visor was closed, the driver would use a K.F.F.1 binocular periscope to see through two small round ports located just above the visor. In front of it was a bullet splash protector. Left of the driver’s position, there was another vision port. Both of these were further protected with armored glass. What appears to be doors on the StuG III Ausf.A’s sides were actually angled plates that served as spaced armor. On the left superstructure side, a box-shaped armored extension was used to store the radio receiver (Empfanger h). Just behind it was a folded antenna. The rear armor plate was unusually angled, somewhat complicating the overall design.

The box-shaped upper superstructure was, with some differences, taken directly from the initial StuG 0-series. On the left front plate was a driver vision port, with another vision port placed to the left of him. Source: Anderson Sturmartillerie, Osprey Publishing
The StuG Ausf.A introduced a new improved driver protective visor, the Fahrersehklappe 50, which was protected by an armored glass block on the inside. Source: Anderson Sturmartillerie, Osprey Publishing
When the visor was closed, the driver would use a K.F.F.1 binocular periscope to see through two small round ports located just above the visor. Source: Anderson Sturmartillerie, Osprey Publishing

Probably the most noticeable feature of the StuG III Ausf.A was the large sight tunnel placed above the driver’s position. It led to the gunner’s optics used to aim the gun. In the hope of protecting the optics, zig-zag type deflectors were added. This was slightly redesigned compared to the 0-series. This installation proved to be flawed in design and would later be abandoned. The top of this superstructure was bolted down and could be easily removed to facilitate repair or removal of the gun if needed. There were a few hatches added on the top. Two small hatches were placed above the gunner’s position. One served as an opening for the indirect fire sight. To the rear, there were two larger two-piece hatches used by the crew to enter their positions.

The gun itself was protected by a mantlet. Behind this, a canvas was used to protect the interior of the vehicle from the weather. This was connected to the hull using simple bolts.

The StuG III Ausf.A had a large sight tunnel placed above the driver. It was to be used by the gunner’s optics to aim the gun. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

Armor Protection

The StuG III Ausf.A was well protected for its time. The front and upper hull armor were 50 mm thick and placed at 21° and 52° angles, respectively. The smaller lower hull plate, which was placed at 75°, was 30 mm thick, while the sides and rear were 30 mm thick.

The front superstructure armor plates were 50 mm thick. Like the hull armor, the superstructure side and rear were also 30 mm thick. The angled space armor was 9 mm thick and placed at a 30° angle. The top armor was 10 mm, while the top of the engine compartment was slightly thicker, at 16 mm. The gun mantlet was 50 mm thick. The StuG Ausf.A III was one of the most well-armored vehicles in the German arsenal at that time.

The superstructure’s angled side plates were not doors, despite appearing so. These were, in fact, spaced armor meant to provide additional protection. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

From August 1938 on, nearly all German Panzers were equipped with a Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung (smoke grenade rack system). This device was placed on the rear of the hull. It contained five grenades which were fired through a wired system by the commander. When activated, the StuG would then drive back under the safety of the smokescreen.

The rear hull-mounted Nebelkerzenabwurfvorrichtung smoke grenade rack, seen here mounted on a StuG III. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

Armament 

The main armament remained the same as used on the 0-series. It consisted of a 7.5 cm StuK 37 (Sturmkanone – assault cannon) L/24. It was more or less the same gun used on the Panzer IV tanks. The 7.5 cm StuK 37 was a semi-automatic gun, which meant that, after a round was fired, it was automatically ejected, enabling the loader to insert a new round. As it was intended as a close support weapon, it had a rather low muzzle velocity. Despite this, it was a fairly accurate gun, with a 100% hit probability in action at ranges up to 500 m. The accuracy dropped to 73% at 1 km and to 38% at distances of over 1.5 km. While, initially, it was requested that its maximum firing range be 7 km, it could only reach targets at 6 km.

While it was primarily designed to engage fortified positions using a 7.5 cm Gr Patr high-explosive round weighing 5.7 kg (at a 420 m/s velocity), it was also fairly good for engaging enemy armor. This fact is often overshadowed by its close support role (similar to the Panzer IV). Prior to the war, the Germans were clearly aware of the new French tank designs. When developing the 7.5 cm gun, they also introduced armor-piercing ammunition capable of piercing at least 40 mm of armor. The 7.5 cm PzGr patr was a 6.8 kg armor-piercing round with a muzzle velocity of 385 mps, and could pierce around 39 mm of 30° angled armor at distances of 500 m. The ammunition load consisted of 44 rounds stored in front of the loader. The 7.5 NbGr Patr was a smoke-screen round. When fired, it would create a smoke cloud that could cover an area of 15 to 20 m for a period of some 30 seconds. It is important to note that its effectiveness greatly depended on the weather. The secondary armament of the StuG III was unchanged and consisted of two 9 mm MP 38/40 submachine guns.

The 7.5 cm StuK 37 was equipped with a Rundblickfernrohr RblF 32 type panoramic gun sight.  The elevation of the gun -10° to +20°, while the traverse was limited to 12° per side. Given the nature and role, it was to fulfill, the limited traverse and lack of turret were not major issues for the StuG III.

Crew

The crew of this vehicle consisted of four men, the commander, driver, loader, and gunner.  While the loader was positioned to the right of the gun, the remaining crew were placed opposite of him.  The driver was positioned in the left front side of the hull. Just behind him was the gunner, and right behind him was the commander.

The commander was not provided with a command cupola. In order to look for possible targets, the commander would use a scissors periscope. It was usually placed in a tube-shaped sunshade cover. With this, he could spot potential targets from inside the vehicle. However, he would often have to partly get out of his position to acquire targets, potentially exposing himself to enemy fire.

The crew of this vehicle consisted of four men, the commander, driver, loader, and gunner. In case of emergency, the driver could use the front transmission hatch to escape from the vehicle. Source: Anderson Sturmartillerie, Osprey Publishing

StuG III Ausf.A/B hybrids

The production of further StuG III versions was moved to Alkett. Almost from the start, there were delays in production, largely due to the introduction of the new transmission on the Panzer III. As there were no new available chassis, in order to avoid any major delays, some 20 additional StuG III Ausf.A was ordered to be built. Author T. Anderson (Sturmartillerie: Spearhead Of the Infantry) mentioned that there are two production numbers for this hybrid vehicle. While older sources mention a number of 6, a number of 20 seems more likely to be true. This number is supported by German production statistics published in the works of T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz).  The difference was that these were in essence hybrid vehicles, incorporating a chassis from the Panzer III Ausf.G merged with a superstructure intended for the StuG III Ausf.B version.

The hull front armor plate, which was 30 mm thick, was reinforced with an additional 20 mm of bolted armor plates. On the hull sides, between the front road wheels and return rollers, there were two small escape hatches. In addition, on the front hull armor plate, two enclosed air intake ports were installed.

The unusual StuG III Ausf.A/B hybrid, used as a replacement for the delayed production of the later Ausf.B series. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (199) Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz

Organization 

The initial unit organization for these vehicles was quite simple, as it was limited by the available numbers. Six vehicles were used to form a Sturmartillerie Batterie (Eng. assault gun battery). These were divided into three zuge (Eng. platoons), each equipped with only two vehicles. As more StuG IIIs became available, their unit strength was increased to abteilungen (Eng. battalion) strength of 18 vehicles. These battalions were divided into three batteries, each 6 vehicles strong.

The StuG-equipped units were to be reinforced with armored half-tracks. As the StuG III had a relatively small ammunition load and was on the move constantly, ordinary trucks could not be used as ammunition carriers. Instead, the Sd.Kfz.252 half-track was to be used. It had an interior storage capacity of 64 rounds. An additional 64 rounds could be carried in an ammunition trailer (Sd.Ah. 32/1). The Sd.Kfz.253 vehicle was designed to act as a command vehicle and was thus equipped with radio equipment. The larger Sd.Kfz.251/12 were to be used to transport replacement crews. In total, each StuG battery was supposed to have had 6 Sd.Kfz.252, 5 Sd.Kfz.253, and 3 Sd.Kfz 251s. In addition, an Sd.Kfz.9 was allocated for the recovery of damaged vehicles.

Due to the slow production of this vehicle, not all of these support vehicles were available. The StuG units had to use what was at hand, including Sd.Kfz.10s or modified Sd.Kfz.251s (with a closed top) half-tracks and turretless Panzer Is.

The Sd.Kfz.253 was used as a command vehicle for the StuG batteries. Source: Wiki
The Sd.Kfz.252 had an interior storage capacity of 64 rounds. An additional 64 rounds could be carried in a Sd.Ah. 32/1 ammunition trailer. Source: http://acemodel.com.ua/en/model/296

Training 

The Artillery-Lehr-Regiment (ALR) stationed at Jüterbog was chosen to train the StuG crews. The first five vehicles of the 0-series were used extensively in this role. The whole training process was carried out in secrecy. The StuG crews were all volunteers from artillery regiments. The initial personnel consisted of 90 non-commissioned officers and 250 men.

At the start of 1939, as a Soviet Army Delegation was visiting the Jüterbog artillery center, they noticed the new vehicles and immediately took pictures of them. The German Army officials present felt they had to do something to prevent the pictures from reaching the USSR. They invited the delegation to visit Berlin, where a new (not specified in the source) aircraft type was to be presented. As the Soviet delegation was on their way to see the new aircraft at the Berlin Tempelhof airport, they walked through the corridor where a powerful X-ray gun was secretly placed. The Soviet delegation would be quite surprised when they later opened the films and saw that they were completely destroyed by the X-rays.

In Combat

Prior to the Western campaign of 1940, the 24 available StuGs were distributed to four batteries: the 640th, 659th, 660th, and 665th. The 640th was combat-ready on the 4th of April, followed by the 659th on 20th April, 660th on 8th May, and the 665th on the 9th of May 1940. These were to be attached to various infantry divisions, depending on the combat needs. Two additional units were formed using the StuG III Ausf.A/B hybrids. These included the 666th and 667th batteries. The remaining StuG III Ausf.As we’re used to creating an SS assault battery for the LSSAH (Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler) division.

The StuG III Ausf.A from the 665th Batterie. Source: Anderson Sturmartillerie, Osprey Publishing

When the German attack came on the 10th of May 1940, the 640th Battery was the first to see action. It was attached to the Grossdeutschland Regiment. The 640th would be one of the first StuG batteries to be permanently attached to an infantry unit. After the western campaign, it would become part of the Grossdeutschland Regiment under the new 16th Assault Gun Battery name.

Unfortunately, due to the limited numbers of StuG III Ausf.As used during the Western campaign, not much is documented of their combat use by the Germans. The StuG IIIs from the 640th participated in the defense of German-held positions at Bulson Ridge. On the 14th of May, the French were trying to dislodge elements of the XIX Panzerkorps. The French attacked with FCM 36 tanks, which proved difficult to destroy using 3.7 cm anti-tank guns. The StuG III Ausf.A, together with 88 mm armed 12-tonne half-tracks, helped to turn the tide.

In a report made by private H. Engle from the 660th Battery after this campaign, he noted that:

“.. The French light tanks (R 35) were invulnerable to the 2 cm guns … but lost their turrets after being hit from our ‘Stummel’… We felt safe in our Sturmgeschütz and an after-action check at Givry-en-Argonne showed that our front plate had received 13 hits, but not one penetrated our armor.”

Only one StuG III Ausf.A was reported to be lost, but it was recovered and repaired. The performance of the StuG III in France was a huge success, and the Army officials demanded the production of the newer version be increased.

Following the completion of the Western campaign, the 660th, 666th, and 667th Batteries were used extensively in the preparation for Operation Sealion, which never came. After this, some of the first StuG batteries were transported to Northern Germany, where they were positioned up to early 1942.

After the German victory against the French in 1940, 660th, 666th, and 667th Batteries were used for extensive amphibious exercises for the planned invasion of the United Kingdom. Source: Anderson Sturmartillerie

The 659th, 660th, 665th,  666th, and 667th  Batteries were attached to Army Group North during the early phases of the Barbarosa campaign. Some of them received an improved suspension and wider tracks.

StuG III Ausf.A of the 667th Batterie on the Eastern Front. Note this vehicle had an improved suspension. Source: T. Anderson  Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry

Surviving vehicle

Despite the small production numbers one of the Ausf.A survived to this day. It could be seen at the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum in Cairns.

The only surviving StuG III Ausf.A. Source: shadock.free.fr

 

Conclusion

The StuG III Ausf.A, while only being built in small numbers, proved that such a vehicle was quite desirable. It had a rather simple design, a low silhouette, and a powerful gun. What was most important was that it possessed good mobility, being able to quickly reposition to engage new targets. Nevertheless, the Ausf.A was only the first stepping stone. It would be supplemented by the new Ausf.B version, which was basically the same vehicle with some improvements.

StuG III Ausf.A Ilustration made by David Bocquelet

Specifications

Weight 20.7 tonnes
Dimensions Length 5.38 m, Width 2.92 m, Height 1.95 m
Crew 4 (Commander, Gunner, Loader, and Driver)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TRM 265 hp giving 265 hp @ 2600 rpm
Speed (road/off-road) 40 km/h, 20 km/h
Range (road/off-road) 160 km, 100 km/h
Primary Armament 7.5 cm L/24
Elevation -10° to +20°
Superstructure armor: 10 to 50
Hull armor: 15 to 50 mm
Total Built 30 + 6 to 20

 

Sources

 

Categories
Has Own Video WW2 German StuG III

Panzerselbstfahrlafette III – Sturmgeschütz III Prototypes

German Reich (1936-1940)
Assault Gun – 4 Built

Introduction

The Sturmgeschütz III was the second most-produced German tracked Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) of the Second World War, with over 10,000 vehicles made. They were part of the Sturmartillerie (Assualt Artillery), a separate entity that was not part of the Panzer arm. The Sturmartillerie is often overlooked, despite its importance in the Wehrmacht’s tactics and its multiple roles as a ‘band-aid’ solution to fight the attrition problems that plagued the German military during the war.

The Sturmartillerie – Experience from the First World War

In order to overcome the deadlock created on the Western Front by trench warfare during World War I, two main approaches were chosen by the belligerents. In 1914, Jean-Baptiste Estienne, a French Colonel known as the Père des Chars (Eng: ‘Father of Tanks’), famously declared

“Messieurs, la victoire appartiendra dans cette guerre à celui des deux belligérants qui parviendra le premier à placer un canon de 75 sur une voiture capable de se mouvoir en tout terrain”

English translation: “Gentlemen, victory in this war will belong to that of the two belligerents which will be the first to place a 75 [mm] gun on a vehicle able to be driven on all-terrain”

His statement turned out to be true, as the French and British armies both started developing what would later be known as tanks in the following years of the war. These new weapons, all-terrain tracked armored vehicles carrying artillery pieces and machine guns, were supposed to progress at the pace of infantry while providing fire support.

The German Army, however, chose a completely different stance. They developed lightning infiltration tactics using specialized soldiers known as Sturmtruppen (Eng: ‘Stormtroopers’) operating independently from the high command in combination with intense artillery preparation and a creeping barrage. While these new tactics were certainly effective (similar theories were introduced by the Entente) and were of great influence on future infantry warfare, they were not sufficient to compensate for the major strategic disadvantages from which the German Empire suffered.

In 1916, the Infanterie-Geschütz-Batterien (Eng: Infantry Gun Batteries) were created to accompany the Sturmtruppen. They were armed with relatively light 75 mm mountain guns to allow direct fire support for the infantry. However, the arrival of the first tanks on the Western Front noticeably changed tactics. In response to this, the Oberste Heeresleitung (Eng: Supreme Army Command, or OHL) ordered the establishment of the Kahkampf Batterein (Eng: Close Support Batteries), which were tasked with anti-tank duties. Nonetheless, they were not able to effectively stop enemy armor.

7.5 cm GebK 15
7.5 cm GebK 15 (the German variant of the Skoda Model 15) anti-tank crew in October 1918. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Erich von Manstein’s Report and the Creation of the Sturmartillerie

The famous general (captain at the time) and decorated Great War veteran Erich von Manstein proposed, as early as 1935, the idea of an armored self-propelled gun to support the infantry. In 1936, he transmitted the following memorandum to the General der Artillerie (Eng: General of Artillery) and Chef des Generalstabes (Eng: Chief of General Staff) Ludwig Beck:

Erich Von Manstein
Erich Von Manstein in 1938. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Ludwig Beck
Ludwig Beck in 1936. Source: Wikimedia Commons

“To the Honourable Chef des Generalstabes (Chief of the General Staff).

 

Since the basic idea of creating the armored assault artillery has gained the approval of the Honourable Chef des Generalstabes, it is now necessary to establish the rules for tactical deployment along with the technical development of the Sturmartillerie. Otherwise, we will have a weapon at hand which no one will know how to use effectively.

 

Also, it should be noted that, at present, in many other countries there is the same confusion between the tasks of the Panzerwaffe (Army tanks) and of the Sturmartillerie (assault artillery infantry tanks)… On the one hand, tanks shall be used to break through the lines of the enemy infantry by making full use of their speed to destroy his artillery, reserve and command echelons. On the other hand, the tanks shall not lose touch with our infantry in order not to endanger the ground gained by their attack. Tank commanders tend to be of the opinion that the infantry has to keep pace with them, which is absolutely impossible. The infantry commanders want to keep at least one wave of tanks under their control. In doing so, the tanks would lose the advantage of speed and thus their main protection against the enemy artillery (anti-tank guns).

 

We wish to make it clear that the Panzerwaffe and the Sturmartillerie, although technically similar, are totally different weapons in regard to their tactical deployment.

 

To clarify:

 

I. Panzer units are mixed formations of several services, whose composition allows for autonomous combat and fulfillment of dedicated missions. Although a Panzer unit primarily relies on the tank, it does have motorized artillery to assist in the attack, motorized infantry to exploit any gained territory and other specialist troops under its command. Tank units detailed for independent combat missions will be committed for decisive attacks; where possible, these will be against the flank or rear of the enemy. Also, they can be assigned with the task of breaking through the enemy’s front-line defenses. In each case, they will have to attack independently. The tank unit’s ability to attack is significantly limited by the terrain… However, tank formations will not be successful in an attack against well-fortified enemy front-line positions. In contrast, their impact can be decisive if they hit the enemy at its weakest point, or if they surprise him before he can get ready for combat. Their commitment within the rapid forces (schnelle Division-Panzerdivision) appears to be most promising.

 

II. Panzer Brigades, pure tank formations, will be used at the points of main attack… In contrast to Panzerdivisions, they will not fight independently but will be joined to an infantry division attacking the main target.

 

III. The Sturmartillerie, equally whether it will be provided with tanks or self-propelled guns, is a support weapon of the standard infantry division. It will be used in the same manner as the escort batteries (the elite of the light artillery) in the last war. To enable the Sturmartillerie to conduct further duties, especially in defense, we demand that it has to be used to assist the divisional artillery. Thus, the option to conduct indirect fire, at a maximum range of seven kilometers, has to be permitted. Finally, the assault artillery will be an excellent weapon for defense against mobile anti-tank guns. The Sturmartillerie fights as escorting artillery within the framework of the infantry. It does not attack in the same way as the combat tank; it will not break through, but will push forward the infantry attack by rapidly eliminating the most dangerous targets. The Sturmartillerie will not fight in numbers as the tank unit will do, it will normally be deployed in platoon strength. The platoon or even a single assault gun will arrive suddenly, and then disappear just as quickly so as not to become a target for enemy artillery.

 

It follows from the above, that tactical training for the Sturmartillerie cannot be conducted by units of the Panzertruppe, but only by dedicated infantry units. A strict separation of these units is necessary, as their tactical principles are completely different.

 

Request:
To evaluate tactical methods, we request the establishment of an improved Sturmartillerie battery for trial purposes. To save time, this should happen promptly by bypassing all official channels. An allotment of six vehicles for this battery will be sufficient. Light tanks fitted with a dummy wooden superstructure would be suitable to achieve our purpose of developing tactical techniques.”

General der Infanterie Erich von Manstein memorandum addressed to Generalstab des Heeres Ludwig Beck dated 8th June, 1936. Translation from Anderson Thomas, Sturmartillerie: Spearhead of the Infantry, (London: Osprey Publishing, 2016), 11-16.

The key points of this report are that the Panzerwaffe (Eng: tank forces) had to be an independent arm, operating on its own in order to make use of its main advantages, speed and mobility, to break through the enemy line and exploit the rear. In consequence, the infantry lacked armored support and a new weapon thus had to be created. It had to be equipped with either tanks or self-propelled guns and would be tasked with accompanying the infantry while providing fire support, dealing with the toughest targets. It also had to be able to be used against anti-tank guns and to provide indirect fire along with the artillery. This new arm was called Sturmartillerie (Eng: assault artillery) by von Manstein. In a way, its role is close to a combination of those of tanks and of German escort artillery from World War I.

Despite a lack of support from a part of the high-ranking officers of the Heer (Eng: Army), including Guderian, who feared that the Sturmartillerie would overshadow the Panzerwaffe, Manstein gained the approval of Generaloberst (Eng: Colonel General) Werner von Fritsch, head of the Oberkommando des Heeres (Eng: High Command of the Army, or OHK). It was also decided that the Sturmartillerie would be placed under the control of the Heeresartillerie.

Development of the Sturmgeschütz

The Design

On 15th June, 1936, the Inspectorate IV (Eng: Ordnance Bureau) issued a document authorizing the Heereswaffenamt to design this new vehicle. It gave the specification for an armored artillery close-support weapon for infantry and anti-tank purposes.

1. The main armament of the vehicle must have a caliber of 7.5 cm.
2. The maximum vertical clearance of the gun must be of at least 30 degrees.
3. Optimal elevation of the gun must allow it to fire at a range of six kilometers.
4. The gun must have anti-tank capabilities and be able to penetrate every existing tank at a distance of 500 meters.
5. It must be fully armored with an open-top superstructure, and not have a turret. Frontal armor has to be impervious to a 2 cm shell at an angle of 60 degrees.
6. Total height must not exceed that of a standing man.
7. Other dimensions must take account of those of the biggest existing Panzer chassis.
8. Other imperatives will be established when new armaments and ammunition have been tested by the crews.

Source: Didier Laugier, Sturmartillerie Tome I, (Editions Heimdal, 2011), 8. Translated from French by the author

This text is the first detailed description of what would become the Sturmgeschütz, even though the open-top superstructure would be dropped in favor of a fully enclosed combat compartment in order to improve protection against ricochets, shrapnel and grenades in close combat situations.

The Conception

Following this, in 1936, the Jüterbog Artillery Training Regiment started the development of standards of deployment and utilization of the new vehicle. The Heereswaffenamt awarded contracts for designing the machine. Daimler-Benz was tasked with the conception of the chassis and superstructure. Daimler-Benz was one of the most important tracked AFVs manufacturers and had developed the Panzer III, which would be the base of the Pak (Sfl.) (Panzerabwehrkanone for Anti-tank gun, and Selbstfahrlafette for Self-propelled gun), renamed Pz.Sfl.III (s.Pak) (Panzer Selbstfahrlafette III schwere Panzerabwehrkanone, or Armored Self-propelled carriage III heavy Anti-tank gun) during the year 1937, the prototype of the Sturmgeschütz. The specific model chosen was the Panzer III Ausf.B (Series 2.Z/W, chassis numbers 60201 to 60215) to assemble five 0-series s.Pak with soft-steel superstructures. Krupp, another major armament production company, was in charge of the gun. This was a low velocity, short-barreled, howitzer-like piece based on the 7,5 cm Kampfwagenkanone (Tank cannon, or KwK) 37 L/24. Its official name was 7,5 cm L/24 Sturmkanone (Assault cannon, or StuK), even though the actual barrel length was 23.5 calibers.

In September 1936, four Panzer III chassis were fitted with wooden superstructures. They were sent for trials in April and May 1937. By December 1937, three s.Pak were delivered by Daimler-Benz and successfully tested by the 7./Artillerie-Lehr-Regiment (7th battery of the artillery school regiment, motorized) in Jüterbog. The 7./Art.Lehr-Rgt. (mot.) (mot. for motorized) was therefore created and trials continued during the winter up to early 1938. Two others were probably completed and sent to the Panzer-Regiment I in Erfurt, but the surviving records are unclear. Due to delays, the operational guns were delivered in 1939, the five 0-series vehicles being listed on the Army inventory from September 1939, and completed Pz.Sfl.III (s.Pak) Versuchfahrzeuge (experimental vehicles) reported available by the Heereswaffenamt on 13 October 1939. They were never used in combat due to their soft-steel superstructure and hence used for training within the 7./Art.Lehr-Rgt. (mot.) up to 1941.

Front view of one of the prototypes
Front view of one of the prototypes: note the Panzer III Ausf.B suspension. Source: worldwarphotos.info
Rear view of one of the prototypes
Rear view of one of the prototypes: note the Panzer III Ausf.B suspension and the exhaust configuration. Source: worldwarphotos.info

The Hull

The base of the prototypes was the Panzer III Ausf.B chassis. The welded Panzerwanne (Eng: armor hull) was divided into three main parts: the rear engine compartment in the Heckraum (Eng: rear area), where the Motor (Eng: engine), along with 150 liters Kraftstoffbehälter (Eng: fuel tanks) and the Kühler (Eng: radiator) were located. In the Wannenmittelteil (Eng: middle hull section), the Zwischenwelle (Eng: drive shaft) went through a tunnel in the crew compartment, which was separated from the engine with a firewall. Finally, the Hauptkupplung (Eng: main clutch), Schaltgetriebe (Eng: transmission), Lenkgetriebe (Eng: steering unit), Bremsen (Eng: brakes) and Seitenvorgelege (Eng: final drive) ware in the foremost part of the hull, the Bugpanzer (Eng: forward armor compartment). Furthermore, a couple of 2-piece hatches for the crew were present on the glacis. On the lower hull, two hinged hatches allowed for access to the brakes and side drive shafts. The latter is a characteristic feature of the prototype and permits easy identification from the front.

The armor was made out of 153 kg/mm2 hardness (435 to 465 Brinell) RHA plates, effective against small arms fire from any angle.

Plate Thickness Angle to vertical
Glacis 10 mm @ 87 degrees
Upper hull front 14.5 mm @ 50 degrees
Hull front 14.5 mm @ 20 degrees
Lower hull front 10 mm @ 68 degrees
Sides 14.,5 mm @ 0 degrees
Rear 14.5 mm @ 0 degrees
Belly 5 mm @ 90 degrees
Source: Thomas J. Lentz and Hillary Doyle, Panzer Tracts No.3-1, (Boyds MD, Panzer Tracts, 2006), 32.

Superstructure and Crew Duties

Bolted onto the hull was the superstructure, made of soft steel for the prototypes, making them unsuitable for actual combat. The vision ports and hatches visible on the few remaining photographs of the s.Pak are the following: a direct-vision visor made of a bulletproof glass block was on the left of the front plate, in front of the driver. On his left was another simpler slit. The gunner’s sight sat on the very top of the superstructure front, over the driver’s visor. Then, the roof of the crew compartment was made of thin steel, added in 1939 after an unspecified change in tactical requirements. At the request of the troops, a hatch was cut into the roof to permit the use of a panoramic sight for indirect fire.

The turretless arrangement of the armament allowed for a low profile (in comparison, the Panzer III Ausf.B was 43 cm taller), making the vehicle harder to hit. It also implied that the crew duties and positions were different from the Panzers: the Fahrer (Eng: driver), Richtkanonier (Eng: gunner), and Geschützführer (Eng: commander) sat in line on the left of the breech. In combat, the driver’s only role was to drive the vehicle and thus always had to be on the ready, waiting for the Commander’s orders. The Commander spotted potential targets and threats with his binoculars and ordered the Richtkanonier, who would then acquire the target and open fire when ordered to. Finally, the Ladekanonier-Funker reloaded the gun with the ammunition specified by the Commander’s order.

Inside an unspecified early Stug III variant
Inside an unspecified early Stug III variant with no superstructure in place showing the crew positions. The driver is at the front, behind him are the gunner and commander. The radio-operator/loader is on the left. Source: Sturmartillerie Tome I by Didier Laugier

Armament

The main gun was a 7,5 cm StuK 37 L/24 (Sturmkanone, or Assault Gun), a very close variant of the early Panzer IV’s KwK 37 (Kampfwagenkanone, or Tank Gun), which was originally created for the Daimler-Benz Grosstraktor I. The barrel was actually 23.5 calibers long (176.25 cm), similar to a howitzer in regards to the caliber (fairly large for the time). It was conceived as a gun to support the infantry in its advance, hence the very low muzzle-velocity of around 300 to 450 m/s, depending on the ammunition. The only original shell was high-explosive, with a range of up to 6,000 meters in indirect fire. An anti-tank shell was developed in January 1936, the K.Gr.P (Kanonengranate Panzer). However, its performance was deemed unsatisfying and another project was started.

Close-up view of the StuK 37 L/24 and its breech
Close-up view of the StuK 37 L/24 and its breech. Source: Sturmartillerie Tome I by Didier Laugier
Close-up view of the StuK 37 L/24 and its breech
Close-up view of the StuK 37 L/24 and its breech. Source: Sturmartillerie Tome I by Didier Laugier

Engine and transmission

The vehicle was propelled by a Maybach HL108TR, V12, water-cooled 10.838-liter petrol/gasoline engine developing 250 hp at 2,800 rpm. It was the same as in the Panzer III Ausf.A through D and the Panzer IV Ausf.A. The power then went to the 5-speed SSG 75 transmission, and finally to the differential steering units in the front, connected to the final drives on both sides.

Maybach HL108TR
The Maybach HL108TR, V12, water-cooled 10.838-liter petrol/gasoline 250 hp engine. Source: Maybach Motor HL 108 TR – HL 120 TR Ersatzteilliste

Running Gear

suspension and running gear of the prototypes
A good view of the suspension and running gear of the prototypes. Source: crainsmilitaria

The somewhat complex running gear was made of two large leaf springs suspending four pairs of two Laufrollen (Eng: roadwheels) on each side. At the front, the Triebräder (Eng: drive sprockets) pulled the 360 mm wide Gleisketten (Eng: tracks), in contact with the ground for 3.224 m, over the three Stützrollen (Eng: return rollers). Track tension was taken care of by the Leitrad (Eng: idler wheel) at the back.

Conclusion

As they were not suitable for combat due to their mild steel construction, the 4 prototypes were used as training vehicles in the Sturmartillerie Schule Jüterborg (Eng : Assault Gun School Jüterborg) up until 1941. Their exact fate after that is unknown, but they were most probably scrapped. However, the Sturmgeschütz concept surely did not die. It underwent its baptism of fire in 1940 during the Battle of France, with only 30 StuG III Ausf.A. It only really started being used on a large scale, and to great effect, when Operation Barbarossa was launched on 22nd June, 1941. The StuG became a central element of the Army with over 10,000 vehicles produced in total. Its role evolved from infantry support to anti-tank tasks (every unit produced from March 1942 onward could act as a tank destroyer armed with a high-velocity gun) with excellent results.

Versurchsserie “s.PAK”, StuG III prototype, based on the Panzer III Ausf.B, 1939.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 5.38 m x 2.92 m x 1.95 m
(17ft 8in x 9ft 7in x 6ft 5in)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Total weight 19.6 tonnes
Armament 7.5 cm Sturmkanone (StuK.) L/24 (37-44 shells)
Armor – Hull front 50 mm rolled homogeneous armor (RHA)
Armor – Hull sides 30 mm rolled homogeneous armor (RHA)
Armor – Superstruture soft-steel
Propulsion Maybach HL108TR V12, water-cooled 10.838-liter petrol/gasoline 250 hp engine
Total built 4

Sources

Sturmartillerie Tome 1, Didier Laugier
Sturmgeschütz & Its Variants, Walter J. Spielberger
Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschuetz, Thomas J. Lentz and Hilary Doyle
StuG III Assault Gun 1940-1942, Thomas J. Lentz and Hilary Doyle
Panzer Tracts No.3-1 Panzer III Ausf.A to D, Thomas J. Lentz and Hilary Doyle
Sturmartillerie and Panzerjäger, Bryan Perret

Categories
WW2 German StuG III

Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.E-G

German Reich (1940-1945)
Assault Gun – 9,400 Built

The most prolific German AFV

Production data does not lie. Although quite underrated by Allied intelligence during WW2 and still somewhat underestimated today, the StuG III was, nonetheless, the most produced tracked German AFV during the conflict. Its evolution mirrored that of the more famous Panzer IV. At first, the StuG was a simple derivative of the Panzer III for infantry support only, but ended as one of the most important German vehicles of the war. With its low-profile and low-cost, it was the real battlehorse of the Wehrmacht, shifting from a close support vehicle to a tank-hunter of first magnitude, soldiering without interruption anywhere from North Africa to Europe and Russia. The crews loved it because of its low profile and good armor, and the infantry it was supporting was grateful for its firepower and availability.

Hello dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

Design of the StuG III

Hull protection

The first production version was based on the Panzer III Ausf.F chassis, and had the frontal armor raised to 50 mm (1.97 in), instead of the 30 mm (1.18 in) of the original pre-series. In detail, the 50 mm (1.97 in) thick driver front plate was inclined to 9°, the hull nose was inclined to 30° and 50°, also 50 mm (1.97 in) thick. The superstructure and hull sides were 30 mm (1.18 in) thick, vertical, while the tail plates, also 30 mm (1.18 in), were inclined at 10 and 30°. The roof was almost horizontal, 10 mm (0.39 in) thick. The rear engine deck was 16 mm (0.63 in), while the belly plate measured 15 mm (0.59 in). The gun mantlet and recuperator were 50 mm (1.97 in) thick. Later, the superstructures sides received 8 mm (0.31 in) additional plates inclined at 30°, and aimed at defeating the French tungsten-core AP shells.

Casemate

The armored casemate was short and large, covering part of the mudguards after the addition of 8 mm (0.31 in) side slopes. There was a large opening on the front, for the bulky main gun mounting. The frontal double slope was heavily armored, up to 50 mm (1.97 in) on the Ausf.A. There were two small two-piece hatches for the driver at the front, two larger two-pieces hatches for the crew on the casemate rear, and open space at the left for the commander’s periscope. The engine could be accessed through two large two-piece and two smaller one-piece hatches on the rear deck. The driver had a reinforced vision slit and a binocular sight.

Throughout the evolution of the StuG, this frontal part was up-armored, while the up-gunned version had two kind of mountings, the regular one on the Ausf.F and the “pig nose” for the largely overhauled Ausf.G, which helps distinguish between the two models.

Crew positions & equipment

Because of its small height, access was easy through the roof’s hatches. Three were posted directly above the driver (left), gunner (right) and commander’s (left) seats. In addition, if the tank toppled over or if the hatch was obstructed, the driver could still escape through the steering brake inspection hatch in the glacis plate. The driver was given a visor mounted in the front plate and could use the KFF2 periscopes in fully protected mode. He had a fixed sight slit in the superstructure left wall, but was blind on the right. The commander and gunner’s hatches were of equal size, and hinged to the sides. The gunner had a Sfl.ZF periscopic gun sight at his disposal, with an aperture on the superstructure front. The commander had a SF.14Z scissors periscope that protruded from the opened hatch in raised position. Otherwise it was folded down, the binocular being strapped on the left wall. His seat was spring loaded and could be raised while buttoned up, and was adjustable in height, locked into position with a foot pedal. This allowed a fully raised position for direct observation, or with the periscopes. The seat was hinged on the left wall and could be folded out of the way. However, the gunner’s seat was fixed to the gun mount, a common artillery practice.

Armament

The main gun was the Krupp 7,5 cm Kanone L/24 (24 caliber long). This was basically a short barrel gun tailored to fire HE rounds at fortifications and enemy positions. It was an adaptation of the 7,5 cm KwK L/24 tank gun originally designed for the Panzer IV. It was well capable of destroying blockhauses and pillboxes at short, medium or even long ranges when in maximal elevation. The 7.5 cm Kampfwagenkanone-37 L/24 was given several types of ammunition during the war. The K.Gr.rot.Pz. was an armor piercing capped shell, the Kt.Kw.K. was a canister, anti-personal shot, the Nbgr.Kw.K. was a smoke round, the Gr.38 Hl/A was the main early High Explosive Anti-Tank round, as well as the /B and /C models. Last but not least was the standard HE round, the 7.5 cm Sprgr.34, which was the heaviest of all (7-8 kg).
The HEAT rounds, especially useful due to the gun’s low velocity (385 m/s), were capable of defeating between 39 and 41 mm (1.54-1.61 in) of armor between 100 and 500 m (110-550 yd), whereas at 2000 m (1.24 mi) it fell to 30 mm (1.18 in) with low hit probability. Normal provision was 54 rounds.
With the arrival of the longer Stu.K. L/40, penetrating ability of the rounds was improved, and a battery of tests followed. As a result, the total load was reduced to 44, and the round proportions were changed. 12% of the shells were K.Gr.rot. Pz (armor piercing, capped, with tracer and explosive filler), 65% were HE rounds, or Sprenggranaten, and 23% smoke shells, or Nebelgranaten. Eventually, a fourth type was introduced, with increased efficiency against armor, thanks to the shaped charge principle. This was the HEAT or Gr.38 HL round. It was designed for excellent fragmentation performance, but was still very effective against softskin targets. The initial design was less successful than the K.Gr.rot. But, after the introduction of the HL/A & B, the numbers supplied to frontline units steadily grew. As an indication, an Ausf.D was captured in North Africa crammed with 88 rounds, including 20 HL/As and 35 K.Gr.rot., signalling an increase in tank to tank use.
Initially, there was no secondary machine-gun, the tank relying solely on accompanying infantry for close quarter defense, which made sense when its tactical use was first envisioned. By the time of the up-gunned G version, however (December 1942), a single Maschinengewehr 34 protected by a mask was mounted on top of the superstructure. Personal weapons included, generally, a MP 38 light machine-gun and several P 38 automatic pistols. For maximal “safe” fire, indirect targeting was used, but at the expense of accuracy. Better accuracy was reached at short range (less than 500 m/550 yd), due to the low velocity of the projectile and possible errors when adjusting the proper arc.
In this matter, the quality of optical instrumentation was paramount. With the Ausf.C, D and E, a new ZF1 targeting sight was introduced, with a reticle pattern including seven triangles separated by four mils. The distances between triangles was used for aiming at moving targets. Their separation and height helped the gunner to estimate the range, marked by 100 m intervals out of a range of 1500 m, with a secondary scale for 6000 m range. Due to the limited arc of 24° (12° on each side), the whole tank had to be moved frequently to deal with relatively close moving targets.

Engine

The engine was the mass-produced, dependable Maybach HL 120 TRM V-12 gasoline, giving around 300 PS (296 hp or 221 kW) and a power/weight ratio of 12.6 hp/tonne, connected to a driving six-speed transmission. The wheeltrain comprised six paired rubberized roadwheels mated on torsion arms, and three double return rollers per side. The drive sprockets were at the front, whereas the idlers were at the rear. The tracks were made of mild steel and identical to the Panzer III model.

Performances, facts & figures

Here are the extended specs for the Ausf.D (1941).

  • Top speed: 40 km/h (25 mph)
  • Maximal sustained top speed on road: 24 km/h (15 mph)
  • Cross-country speed: 10-12 km/h (6-7 mph)
  • Range (roads): 155 km (96 mi)
  • Range (cross country): 95 km (60 mi)
  • Trench crossing: 2.5 m (8 ft)
  • Fording: 0.8 m (2ft7in)
  • Step climbing: 0.6 m (1ft11in)
  • Gradient climbing: 30°
  • Ground clearance: 0.39 m (1ft3in)
  • Ground pressure: 0.9 kg/cm2
  • Power to weight ratio: 13.5 metric hp/ton
  • Combat weight: 20.7 metric tons
  • Dimensions (short barrel): 5.40 x 2.92 x 1.95 m (17ft8 x 9ft6 x 6ft4)

The “short barrel” series, Ausf.A to E

These versions were known by the Waffenamt as the Sd.Kfz.142.
Technical drawing of the StuG III Ausf.A
-The Ausf.E replaced the previous version on the production line, with 284 delivered until February 1942. The side superstructure received rectangular armored boxes for extra radio equipment and storing six more rounds (reaching a total of 50), while a MG 34 with 7 drum-type magazines was installed on the right rear side of the casemate for close defense. The commander vehicles were given SF14Z stereoscopic scissor periscopes.

The “long barrel” series, Ausf.F and F8

These series were known by the Waffenamt as the Sd.Kfz.142/1.
-The Ausf.F was an all-out improvement dictated by war experience against Russian tanks and the urgent need for high velocity guns on every platform available. It appeared on the production line in March 1942. The gun was the new 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/43. This 3.3 m long barrel was a real game-changer, with a muzzle velocity of 740 m/s when fed with the armor-piercing Panzergranat-Patrone 39. The Pzgr.Ptr.39 was indeed proven to defeat 99 mm (3.9 in) of sloped armor at point-blank range (100 m), and still 63 mm (2.48 in) at 2000 m. The optimal engagement range was 500 m, due to the lack of a turret, were it could pierce through 91 mm (3.58 in) of armor at a 30° angle slope. This was proven enough to destroy the most common T-34 tanks and saw the role of the StuG shifting from an infantry support vehicle to an ubiquitous tank-hunter. Another change was the exhaust fan added to the rooftop. By June 1942, with the production rate increasing, 30 mm (1.18 in) appliqué armor was bolted to the lower frontal plate, while the gun was upgraded to the StuK 40 L/48. In total, 366 were produced until September 1942.
-The Ausf.F8
This version appeared in September 1942 and 250 vehicles were built up to December. The name was derived from the chassis version of the Panzer III it was based on, the 8th, or Ausf.J/L, which had increased rear armor. The hull was characterized by towing hook holes extended from the side walls. It was armed, from the beginning, with the new 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48, which could defeat 96 mm (3.78 in) of angled armor at 500 m, and 85 mm (3.35 in) at 1000 m (30° slope). With the same ammunition, the 3.6 m long barrel had better muzzle velocity, reaching 760 m/s for the Pzgr.Ptr.39. After October, 30 mm (1.18 in) of appliqué armor were bolted on to the front during the production run. Some were later retrofitted with side skirt armor.
Technical drawing of the StuG III Ausf.G

The Ausf.G

The Ausführung G stood apart from the other production versions. It was, in essence, the main production run for the entire StuG series, with more than 8400 rolling of the line from December 1942 to April 1945, equivalent to the total production of all Panzer IV types combined. This tremendous effort was due to a complete reorganization (by Albert Speer) of the production, spread between other manufacturers like MIAG (in 1943) and many suppliers. This was done in order to avoid disruptions caused by the increasingly efficient Allied bombing campaigns. It was, of course, further increased by the gradual replacement of the Panzer III with the StuG III on the same production lines.
Simplification and standardization helped to further reduce costs and delays. The main superstructure was simplified. The side sloped armored boxes were eliminated, and the casemate sides were extended half-through the mudguard width. This extra storage allowed to store even more rounds. The engine/fighting compartment rear wall was strengthened, the ventilation fan relocated further back and appliqué armor was standardized. Furthermore, the upper MG 34 was factory-fitted, protected by a squared mask.
By March 1943, simplification pushed to drop the driver’s periscope. Metal return rollers were also required due to the lack of rubber. Rubber saving road wheels had been already tested briefly in November 1942, but not adopted. By May 1943, Alkett started fitting Schurzen (spaced armored side skirts), but it was rushed out and the fixations were later proven inadequate at Kursk (this was corrected in March 1944). 80 mm (3.15 in) armor plates were used instead of appliqué armor. The main gun was unchanged, but characterized by its cast rounded topfblende pot mantlet after November 1943. Postwar, it was called “pig-head” (Saukopf or Saukopfblende). There was no coaxial mount, and the mantlet was 45 mm to 50 mm (1.77-1.97 in) thick. By June 1944, this mantlet was in short supply and the traditional trapezoid-shape mantlet reappeared alongside. In June 1944, it received a coaxial MG 34. Another big change was the adoption of a rotating cupola with periscopes, later replaced by a fixed, welded one, because of the sudden shortage of ball bearings. These had shot deflectors generalized by February 1944. Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating was factory applied for just a year, from September 1943 to September 1944.
In all, Alkett was responsible for delivering 7500 StuGs, while MIAG built 2586. The former also carried out the conversion of 173 older Panzer IIIs to the StuG III Ausf.G standard, and 142 were based on the late Panzer III Ausf.M chassis. The massive bombing raids of November 1943 let Krupp devise a substitute based on their Panzer IV chassis, which was presented and accepted by Hitler in December. This model was known as the Sturmeschütz IV and overall 1140 were built, using a modified StuG III superstructure. Until the end of the war, numerous “field” modifications appeared, as older Ausf.C/Ds were retrofitted with the long KwK 40 L/48 gun, vehicles were repaired and fitted with the Panzer IV cupola, coaxial MG 34s were fitted and some vehicles even had their front supestructure cement-plastered for added protection, while saving steel. There was even a Soviet model built on captured StuG III and Panzer III chassis’ (chiefly at Stalingrad), called the SU-76i, and armed with a Soviet 76.2 mm (3 in) S-1 AT gun, with added protection. No less than 201 were delivered by Zavod 37 at Sverdlovsk, including 20 commander variants. Delivery started in the autumn of 1943, but, in the fall of 1944, they were withdrawn and used for training.

Minor variants

The StuH 42

In 1942, a variant of the Ausf.F received a 4.1 in (105 mm) howitzer under the ordnance name Sturmhaubitze 42, Sd.Kfz.142/2. It was a late reversion to the close infantry support rôle, but with a more modern chassis, as more Ausf.F/8s (long) and Ausf.Gs were used for the antitank rôle. The howitzer was derived from a 10.5 cm leFH 18 with electric fire and a muzzle brake, although the latter was often omitted due to the lack of materials. About 1300 vehicles were built by Alkett from March 1943 to March 1945, after an initial delivery of 12 vehicles tested from repaired F and F/8s between the fall of 1942 and January 1943.
Sturmhaubitze III technical profile

StuG III (Flamm)

In 1943, ten early versions, stored in depots, were chosen to be modified, the main gun being replaced by a Schwade flamethrower. Their operational use however is dubious, as no report stated their use in combat and in 1944 they were returned to the depot.

Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33B

As early as 1941, the StuG III chassis was chosen to carry the heavy 15 cm sIG 33 howitzer for close infantry support. Development took time however, and in the end, twenty-four vehicles were so converted and all delivered in October 1942. Twelve of them were diverted to the battle of Stalingrad with the StuG Abteilung 177, and arrived on 8 November 1942, in order to offer an efficient way to to deal with this urban environment. It was already too little too late. All were lost in combat or captured, while the other half was sent to the 23rd Panzer Division. The 15 cm howitzer was the same already used on a Panzer I chassis in 1940, and the Panzer II based “15 cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)” in North Africa. The price tag for the StuIG 33b was 20,450 DM. Thirty rounds were carried in two parts, shells and cartridges, partly stored inside the large bins installed behind the casemate, over the engine deck. The casemate itself was 10 mm (0.39 in) thick, with an extra layer of appliqué armor at the front (20 mm/0.79 in), and entirely enclosed except for the rear, to allow easy access to the ammunition.

Operational history

Tactical doctrine

The manual Instruction of the employment of Sturmartillerie was first published in May 1940 and updated and re-printed in April 1942. By that time, limited war experience permeated the document in a few tactical re-adjustments, whereas advances in technology were more present. Both documents were combined for the second edition, with the contradictions duly noted. It is recalled that due to its nature, infantry support was the vehicle’s chief rôle, with the accompanying morale effect. It was also dependent on infantry in close combat due to its own vulnerabilities: Weak sides, roof and rear armor, lack of visibility, weak arc of fire and, moreover, no close defense system. It is stated that it can be used on the battlefield in the same way as the Panzer IV, and could deal even more successfully with AT guns due to its low profile and thick frontal armor. It could be only “infrequently” used as divisional artillery if the supplies allowed it. It could be attached, however, to theses organic units for special tasks requiring its mobility. It is recalled that it is not to be used for anti-tank tasks, only in case of self-defense. The edition of 1942, due to the improvements in shaped-charge rounds, states that this anti-tank rôle should be plainly approved.
Captured StuGs in Italy
The Sturmartillerie Abteilung, or StuG battalion, comprised a headquarter and three Sturmbatteries, each with six vehicles (three platoons of two StuGs). Revised in 1942, this is raised to seven vehicles, the extra StuG being given to the battalion commander. The Sturmartillerie Abteilungs were independent and only under the High Command authority, but, in some cases, a provisional organic inclusion in Divisions was allowed for special tasks. However, these units were rarely put under the command of an artillery commander. Efficient communication had to be ensured to allow a rapid redeployment of the Abteilung in support of various units inside the Division.
The manual states that the firing positions must be chosen with care, and well camouflaged to hide them from ground, but also air observation. A warning is issued not to split any platoons into smaller units in order to keep some amount of firepower, and only reserve this practice for exceptional short-duration support missions. Security missions, urban combat or night missions were also disapproved. It was recommended to gradually withdraw these platoons for refuelling and re-supply operations at the rear and, in any case, the vehicles had to be thoroughly serviced after 4/5 days of mission. Due to their lack of vision, close infantry cooperation was required to prevent any encounter with obstacles and mines. The rôle of infantry is especially crucial when dealing with possible side and rear enemy infantry attacks. The manual also strongly recommended surprise at any level of the engagement to ensure maximal lethality. Careful pre-positioning, camouflage, sufficient frontal arc of vision and firing without warning were all considered essential. Planning a safe retreat path, without obstacles to safely withdraw for refuelling and rearm is also noted. Smoke ammunition was to be used in this case and to blind the enemy flanking attacks. But, in the 1942 revision, the total allocated for smoke rounds was reduced to 10% of the total.
As breakthrough operations went, the Sturmartillerie Abteilungs only intervened after the breakthrough was done, but right after the first wave of battle tanks, and way before the arrival of tracked artillery and infantry. They were to secure the flanks, like the Panzer IV, of any anti-tank positions, and to prepare the terrain for infantry to follow, destroying fortified positions, especially concrete bunkers. Close cooperation with flame-thrower carrying assault engineers ensured maximal efficiency. It was recalled that only in the case of very close and very strong infantry support should these tanks be used in urban or forested areas.
StuG III of an SS unit in Italy
On the move, it was considered essential for the StuGs to not run at more than 25 km/h (15.5 mph) with large gaps between vehicles and “leap-frog” their way to the objective, allowing the infantry to catch-up and stay close. Crossing bridges had to be carefully handled, at no more than 8 km/h (5 mph) with 30 m intervals. In any case, fording was preferable whenever possible. When operating with an infantry division, the division commander retained the unit as long as possible under his own direct control. They were to be used in the interval between the advanced spearhead and the main body, and only in rare cases on the first line. On the march, they were placed under the column commander authority. With armored divisions they could also find themselves in the advanced guard.
In attack, Sturm. Abt. units were attached to infantry regiments. The manual made it clear that it is questionable to use StuGs for battery tasks on fixed targets, that could be instead disposed of by divisional artillery. The StuGs were best employed to deal with previously unknown enemy positions and nests of resistance, assisting the infantry to carve its way through deep enemy defensive lines, but with a backup of heavy infantry weapons or divisional artillery. In all cases, detailing attack procedures stated that the StuGs had to be ready to intervene after the infantry started the attack, or held in reserve after enemy positions were duly identified. In both cases, never spearheading an assault. The platoon commander was encouraged to constantly cooperate with the most advanced infantry platoons and never be put in control of an artillery commander.
When attacking, their chief targets were enemy AT guns, then fortifications. The initial formation helped make observation easier and favored rapid reaction against any spotted AT position. In case of a defensive action, StuGs were only to be used as a secondary resource, after the AT guns had been decimated or overrun. In that case, the StuGs were to advance to the shortest distance of fire, helped by their low stature. The 1942 manual recommended that 15% of the ammunition had to be AP rounds, instead of the 12% previously mentioned. In pursuit, StuGs had to be kept close to their infantry support at all times, in order to be aware of unseen enemy positions and deal with any resistance. In fighting withdrawal, StuGs were allotted to infantry units and could be used in rear guard actions in support of tanks.
Organisational structure: A Sturmbatterie originally comprised six StuGs -three platoons of two-, five Sd.Kfz.253 light observation halftracks for platoon leaders and battery commanders, six Sd.Kfz.252 light armored ammo carrier halftracks (decreased in 1940 to three each) and three Sd.Kfz.251 Hanomag medium halftracks for the replacement crews. Due to initial production delays, Panzer I, Sd.Kfz.265 recce and Sd.Kfz.111 supply vehicles were used instead. By 7 February 1941, the Sturmbatterie Abteilungs were renamed “Sturmgeschütz Abteilungs” with several “Sturmgeschütz batteries”.

The StuG in action

The StuGs were the unsung heroes of the German defense from 1943 to 1945, with more kills than the Panthers and Tigers altogether (20,000 claimed just in 1944). Their career as support tanks spanned for longer, but they were found efficient against lightly armored vehicles even with HE rounds. Sturmgeschütz crews were artillery men, but considered themselves as an elite, an image reinforced by the propaganda newsreels. Due to its availability, the StuG was used on every single front the Wehrmacht was committed to, from the shores of France and Norway to the Volga in the east, and Africa from the gates of Egypt to the Tunisian hills, and it was also generously distributed along Germany’s allies.
StuG III in Normandy

The Russian campaign (1941-42)

In its first 15 days of operation, Oberleuntnant Pelikan’s StuG unit destroyed 91 tanks and captured 23, destroyed 23 bunkers, ten armored trains and disrupted convoys, claiming hundreds of trucks. After a first engagement at Bialystock, the StuG Abt.285 fought on and built a significant experience on the roads of Leningrad between June and December 1941. Reorganization of the platoons occurred due to the lack of vehicles (only one StuG per platoon) towards the end of the year. The command vehicle was now a Sd.Kfz.253 instead of an open car. It was usual of the StuGs to identify the targets far away first, due to better optical instruments, the infantry providing side and rear close visual cover. In tank-to-tank combat, the StuG III proved superior to any Soviet tank encountered (T-26s and BT-5/7s for the most) until late 1941, when more encounters with the KV-1 drove concerns.
Due to the harsh conditions during the fall of that year, many breakdowns occurred even before the first snow fell, because of the soaked muddy terrain that took its toll in over-stressing the transmission. After that, with the cold sitting down, problems started appearing with the starters, broken torsion bars and broken or torn tracks. The culprit was the snow that, mixed with mud and gravels, froze up each night. Crowbars were used frantically by an exhausted crew each evening and each morning to keep the tank in running order, trying to eliminate the frozen dirt that clogged everything. In this regard, the StuGs did not fare better than the other Panzers, sharing the same mechanical parts on the chassis and narrow tracks more suited for the moderate climate of the west. With such a regime, the Abteilung was left with only ten StuGs operational on 10 December, the situation being even worse for other units. By the 31, the Abteilung 185 lost 6 StuGs in exchange for silencing or capturing 130 artillery pieces, 39 infantry guns, 34 mortars, 79 AT guns, 45 AA guns, 314 MGs, 91 tanks. The unit also spent nearly 60,000 rounds of 75 mm (2.95 in) ordnance of all types.
StuG III in the USSR, summer 1941
Form February to March 1942, Abteilung 185 was resupplied with better HEAT ordnance and claimed more difficult targets, 29 KV-1s, 27 T-34s and 2 KV-2s, but took eight losses. These claims only concerned irreversible losses, like hulls left burning or blatantly destroyed and not lightly damaged tanks that barely lost a track or had a damaged drivetrain. As reported, ammo expenditure was divided into 12,370 HE, 5120 AP, and 1360 HEAT rounds. This figure reflected the success of other StuG Abteilungs in operation on the Eastern Front. Despite having the short barrel, the early StuG Ausf.A to E succeeded in destroying more T-34s than taking losses themselves. But a revolution was brewing, as the new F series was intended to carry the long barrel Stu.K.40 L/43.

The long barrel

Krupp already started worked on the s.Pak L/42 from January 1940, and the project evolved until March 1941. It was then shown to Hitler and an optimistic spring 1942 target was set for production. However, Wa Prüef 4 was ordered to cease work on the new gun design as the OKW, after evaluating the reports from losses due to T-34s and KV-1s, realized that not only protection needed to be increased, but the long barrel gun had to have an even greater muzzle velocity. Wa Prüef 4 then used this letter to require Rheinmetall to design a new gun with a 770 m/s muzzle velocity (with HE) and penetration of 80 mm/30° (3.15 in) at 1000 m. At first, Rheinmetall considered truncating the towed 7.5 cm Pak 40 L/46, born from similar specs. It had to be adapted to be fitted in the StuG casemate, posed recoil problems (90 cm were required) and the rounds were too long (969 mm long). The loading chamber was remodeled and shortened, while the rifled barrel chamber was kept intact. This resulted in the Kanone 40 7.5 cm L/43, complete with new compact shells. The high explosive filler was reduced in size, preventing the shell from breaking up during penetration. The Pz.Granate 39 had an armor piercing cap to prevent shattering on impact and a ballistic cap to reduce air friction, ensuring better velocity. Trials ended in February and production started in March, with 51 deliveries, and 66 in May, before a radical increase. In addition, a removable double chamber muzzle brake with four side ports was added to reduce recoil.
The Sturmgeschutz-Abteilung GrossDeutschland and the LSSAH were the first to receive 22 of the new Ausf.F in operations, built since March-April 1942. At the start of the summer offensive on the Eastern front, there were about 210 Ausf.Fs in operation (18 units). By November 1942, 448 Ausf.F/Gs served with 22 units. By the time Kharkov was retaken in February 1943, GrossDeutschland Division’s StuG units claimed 44 T-34s (whereas the Tigers only destroyed 30). Around Leningrad, the Abteilung 226, with its 41 StuGs (including replacements), claimed an impressive score of 221 T-34s and KV-1s among others, for 13 losses. By March 1943, Abteilung battery composition was changed and increased. By the time the summer offensive started, all 26 units were replenished with new StuG Ausf.Gs, for a total of 727 right before “Zitadelle” took place.
Reports in September showed that, in general, the StuGs fared extremely well (especially compared to the poor performances of the Tiger, Elefant and Panthers), probably giving the best performance so far in combat for any given German AFV. Interogations of captured Russian tank crews revealed that all units were given strict orders to not engage any combat with the StuGs. However, the German losses were attributed to better AT guns served by skillful crews, mines and even better AT rifles that could penetrate the commander cupola. Reports also stated that the regular tanks, like the Panzer IV, were not at ease in this kind of offensive due to their preference for mobility. With less refined optics, a high silhouette and poor cooperation with infantry, they were found less efficient in every way. So much so that it was reported from an anonymous tank commander “I would rather have one StuG Abteilung rather than an entire Panzerdivision”. A total of 423 confirmed kills were reported by the 11 Abteilungen engaged in August 1943, for the loss of only eight vehicles.
During and after the battle, reports also shown the good practice of using Schürzen (spaced) armor, that saved many StuGs from the numerous, well hidden AT rifles and light AT guns the Red Army deployed in prepared positions. Problems were reported with the lightly armored commander cupola and the ineffectiveness of the loader’s machine gun, but also with the engine and transmission. Helped by the flat landscape, the onboard 30-watt radio proved invaluable, with an effective range of 150 km, although sometimes 200 km and more were attained. By February 1944 the former Abteilungen were renamed Sturmgeschütz brigades, 31 vehicles strong each, whereas the Special Brigades 259, 278, 303 and 341 were authorized to have a total of 45 tanks each (14 per battery). In total, since 1940, 57 StuG Abteilungen (Brigades) were formed alongside twelve independent units, and acquired a great deal of experience, showing great versatility with the same success against both infantry and tanks. This was reflected in a very diverse ammo supply. In practice, due to their moral boost effect on the battlefield and to avoid withdrawing to resupply, crews usually preferred cramming extra rounds wherever possible.
According to another report of Hauptmann Markowsky from the III/Panzer-regiment 24, 24th Panzer Division at Krivoi-Rog, the mix of Panzer IV and StuG IIIs also gave excellent results, the StuGs being used like the Panzers, without any form of protection against infantry, and some were detached in the division as an ad-hoc tank-hunter unit. After nine days of heavy fighting, the regiment claimed 184 enemy tanks (mostly T-34s), 87 AT guns and 26 artillery pieces, for only four losses. Results were attributed to excellent training, experience and concentration on the German side. In fact, the attrition rate was mostly attributed to breakdowns. But the Hauptmann insisted that the unit strength was not diminished, but on the contrary, it increased, as instead of 10-15 vehicles per unit, 22 would be preferable.
In December 1943, another report from the III/Panzer regiment 36 stated that at least four scenarios of attack could be successful using StuGs in conjunction with Panzer IVs. One of them was a first wave attack, favored by the StuG low silhouette, spearheading the attack, while the Panzer IVs, with their revolving turret, provided side cover. This was an imperative condition, because if the StuGs were left to simultaneously engage a great number of targets at diverse azimuths, especially on a muddy/snowy terrain, that imposed frequent turns of the chassis and overtaxed the transmission, causing even more breakdowns. It was also noted that the lack of suitable protection for the machine-gun was critical when assaulting enemy infantry positions, due to AT rifle fire. It was also noted that, by far, engagement in close cooperation with Panzer-grenadiers was the most efficient way to deal with enemy infantry positions, both providing a mutual, almost symbiotic protection that worked wonders. In defense, they were also in their element. With their low profile, easy to camouflage, and excellent long-range sights, they could inflict tank damage at a distance without maneuvering, and then retire safely. However, compared results showed the superiority of the Panzer IVs on the offensive. From October to December, 17 Panzer IVs, on average, destroyed 136 enemy tanks, while the 13 StuGs claimed only 75. However, 20 Panzer IVs were complete write-offs compared to only 16 StuGs after 16 days of combat.

North African campaign

The Sonderverband 288 deployed four StuG Ausf.Ds (short barrel version), which participated in the Gazala campaign with Kampfgruppe Menton. One was lost in Piraeus Harbor, and one captured by British armored cars en route. The two surviving were apparently in action at El Alamein (2nd battle). One was apparently used with the 90th Light Division until the surrender in Tunis. When reinforcements arrived in Tunisia, six F/8s from the 1./Sturmgeschütz-Abt. 242 were sent to serve with the Xth Pz. Div., but only four survived the crossing. These were placed with the Fallschirm Regiment Barenthin and Fallschirm Brigade Ramcke and lost in May 1943. StuGs were a rarity in North Africa, contrary to other theaters of operations.

Normandy summer 1944

Among the units which served there was the StuG Brigade 341, which fought at Brecey, Southern Avranches/Pontaubault in late July and Chartres in August. It had Ausf.Gs, as well as a few StuH 42s. Others were the StuG Brigade 394 and 243, the SS-StuG.abt.2, the Panzer Jäger Abteilung 130 and the 902 Sturmgeschütz Abteilung. These were helped, again, by their low profile and, of course, the hedgerow configuration. Also, the 2./Pz.Jg.Abt.331 saw action in the early summer as well as the PzAbt(Fkl)301. As an anecdote, StuG IVs of the 17th SS Pz.Grenadier division “Goetz von Berlichingen” also saw action in the early summer 1944. One was photographed disabled by US. Capt. Taynton after June 15, 1944.

Italy

StuH 42s were used by the FschPzDiv “Hermann Goering” in 1944, and the Ausf.Gs of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division served in Sicily in the fall of 1943 and Italy in 1944. The Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 107 was active with the XIII SS Corps, 1st Army, Army Group G in northern Italy in 1945. The Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 242 was transferred in Italy in May 1943 and served later with the OB Süd reserve, based in Liguria in 1945. The Sturmgeschütz-Batterie 247 was formed in March 1943, served in Italy and later Sardinia, then Corsica. In October, it was sent back to Jüterborg and disbanded. Formed in January 1944, the Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 907 was already sent in Italy, reinforced in Ferentino, and soldiered at Anzio and Monte Cassino. In February 1945 it was based in Liguria. Another “Italian” StuG unit, the Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 914, was also formed in January and sent to Verona, before being renamed Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 720. It soldiered on with 10th Army in early 1945, then passed into Liguria with the LI Corps, 14th Army and mixed forces also comprising StuH 42s. An independent unit, the Fallschirm-Sturmgeschütz-Brigade Schmitz, was formed in Italy in January 1945 and soldiered on with the I Parachute Corps, 10th Army in Liguria. It was then known as the Fallschirm-Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 210. One of the shortest-lived units was the Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 107, formed in March 1945 from the remnants of several units and attached to the XIII SS Corps, 1st Army, Army Group G.

StuG aces

The most incredible score was registered by an Ausf.F from the Stug.Abt.244 in Stalingrad in early September of 1942. It was commanded by Oberwachtmeister Kurt Pfreundtner and destroyed nine Soviet tanks in 20 minutes, which earned him the Knights Cross. Wachtmeister Kurt Kirchner (Stug.Abt.667) also succeeded in destroying 30 Soviet tanks in a few days by February 1942 (Northern Russia). Hauptmann Peter Franz, another “Knights Crosser” with the Stug.Abt. “Grossdeutschland”, destroyed 43 T-34/76s at the Battle for Borissovka (March, 14, 1943). Unteroffizier Horst Naumann (Stug.Abt.184) destroyed 12 tanks in a single action in January 1943 in the Demyansk area, and 27 enemy tanks in all. The Stug.Abt.667 was a reserve of talents, like Oberfeldwebel Rudolf Jaenicke (who destroyed 12 BT-2s loaded on rail platforms in July 1941). Von Malachowski and overall Oberwachtmeister Hugo Primozic also had enviable hunting records. Waffen SS StuG ace Walter Kniep, (2nd StuG.Abt., 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich”) claimed 129 Soviet tanks for his unit between July and December 1943, for only two losses.

Other units

Little known were the Luftwaffe independent field units, the Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 1 der Luftwaffe (formed in January 1944 for the I Fallschirm-Korps), at first partly equipped with Semovente M/42s. It saw action near Nancy (Eastern France) and the Ardennes in the winter 1944-45. The Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 2 der Luftwaffe was formed in March 1944 and soldiered in Normandy, wiped out at the Falaise pocket and later rebuilt in September in Köln-Wahn. It fought at Arnhem and Amersfoot and in February 1945 at the Reichswald battle.

Other operators

The German allies, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Spain, and Finland, also operated StuG IIIs.

Italian StuGs

According to Osprey NV StuG III-IV, page 42, three StuG Ausf.Gs were given to the Italian Army in May 1943. Their combat records are unknown. Photos of these are even rarer and did not help to determine their location or type.

Bulgarian StuGs

When the situation was desperate, 55 early type StuG III Ausf.Gs were sent to the Bulgarian ally, between February and December 1943, forming the bulk of the Bulgarian Armoured Division, along with Panzer IVs. At first, two self-propelled gun battalions were created (Sofia and Plovdiv). These were rapidly deployed and fought hard in Hungary in 1945, the survivors being kept into service until the mid-1950s. Photos shown some late Gs with the cast mantlets.

Hungarian StuGs

By June 1944, the 2nd Hungarian Armored Division received 10 StuG III Gs of the late type. Between August to November, Hungary received 40 StuGs to complement the few 43M Zrinyi. The German vehicles were allocated to tank hunter battalions of three batteries each with 10 vehicles. 130 Hetzers were also given in addition, to equip the newly form battalions. The 1st and 10th were equipped with Zrinyis, and the 1st battalion (7th) was equipped with StuGs and the remainder with Hetzers. According to the “Balaton book” these were of the early, mid and late Ausf.G type and some StuH 42s.

Finnish Sturmi

The latter were given in 1943-44 (59 in all) and served against the USSR with great efficiency (the first 30 destroyed 87 Soviet tanks for only 8 losses). 30 were received in 1943 and 29 in 1944. The second batch saw limited if no action. After the war, the StuGs remained frontline in the Finnish Army until better tanks were provided in the early 1960s.

Romanian TAs-3

100 StuGs were delivered in the autumn of 1943 to bolster the Romanian defense, after the crippling losses following the battle around Stalingrad. Officially, these were known as TAs, more precisely TAs T3 (to avoid confusion with the Panzer IV, which were named T4s). By February 1945, only thirteen were left after combat, with the 2nd Armoured Regiment in early 1945, but all were destroyed afterwards. 31 TAs were in inventory in November 1947. They were not survivors, but captured models supplied by the Red Army or damaged and repaired vehicles captured by the Romanian Army. They joined the scrapyard in 1954, due to a decision to use exclusively Soviet equipment.

The USSR

The Soviets used a few captured units, with specific paintings and large spotting markings. Also, using repaired and captured hulls, they managed to build another 300 SU-76i self-propelled guns and tank hunters, equipped with standard Soviet 76 mm (3 in) guns in 1943-44. A derivative of the latter was the SG-122 “Artsturm”, as nicknamed by the Germans, housing the Soviet 122 mm (4.8 in) standard heavy howitzer. Only a handful (10) were so converted, but the conversion process did not go further, the result being judged unsatisfactory and hard to maintain.

Norway

Norway captured many StuGs in 1945, and Sweden tested the type in 1947, received from Norway. It inspired models like the Strv 103. The Norwegian StuGs were kept in service until 1951 and the ten Spanish vehicles until 1954.
After the war, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Syria also received StuGs.

Spanish StuGs

Due to the inadequacy of Spanish tanks in modern warfare, Franco’s Azul Division was given German Panzer IV E/F8 medium tanks, grouped inside the Tank Hunter Battalion 250. The unit was first blooded in October 1941, but the tanks soldiered on until February. The remnants fought a quite extraordinary defensive battle at Krasny Bor on February, 10, 1943, the armor being entrenched and protected. The “blue” division took 75% casualties in the course of the battle, but held its ground and inflicted around 11,000 casualties among Russian attackers.
Other attacks were repulsed later, but the lines became static for months. By October 1943, the Division was eventually replaced by the 81st Infanterie-Division and the 123rd Infanterie-Division, and was retired to Volosovo. In November 1943, a total of ten StuG III Ausf.Gs* were sent to replace part of the losses. But the unit was afterwards convoyed back to Spain, so battle records are unknown for these. (* Osprey NV StuG III-IV, page 42).

Yugoslavian StuGs

These were captured by Partisans and used sometimes on both sides (Ustachis alike). They survived the war and were kept in the new Yugoslav People’s Army for years.

Czechoslovakian Army StuGs

The post WW2 CS Army upgraded the Sturmgeschütz they had in their possession. They added a new shield for machine gun DŠK that was used on the Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer. They were given the following designation Sh PTK 40/75N (years 1946-1949) and SD 75/40N (years 1949-1960). 40 were sold to Syria.

Syrian StuGs

The Syrian army purchased StuGs from France and Czechoslovakia. In 1956 they were deployed alongside Panzer IVs and T-34/85s, reinforced with extra steel plates. By the war of 1967, all were scrapped or stripped for spare parts, the remainder being used in dug-out positions and static pillboxes on the Golan heights. At least one was captured by Israel and is now displayed at Yad-la-Shiron Museum near Tel Aviv.

Links and resources about the StuG III

– Osprey Publishing – Fighting Armour of WW2 collection, Hilary Doyle, Tom Jentz, Peter Sarson, Sturmgeschutz assault gun 1940-42.
– Osprey Publishing New Vanguard 019 – Sturmgeschutz III, 1940-42, by Doyle, Jentz and Sarson.
– Osprey Publishing New Vanguard 037 – Sturmgeschutz III & IV, 1942-45, by Doyle, Jentz, Fuller and Sarson.-
– Osprey Publishing – Sturmartillerie: Spearhead of the infantry, by Thomas Anderson
The StuG III on Wikipedia
The Shadocks document detailing surviving German assault guns
The StuG on Achtung Panzer
A very thorough Russian article about the StuG.

StuG III Ausf.D specifications

Dimensions
(L-W-H)
4.95m x 2.97m x 2.16m (22ft 6in x 9ft 9in x 7ft 1in)
Track width 41 cm
Track length 12.5 cm
Total weight, battle ready 23.9 tons (52,690 lbs)
Armament 75 mm (2.95 in) StuK 40 L/48
1-2 x 7.9 mm (0.31 in) MG 34
Armor 9 to 60 mm (0.6 – 3.15 in)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Maybach HL120TRM V-12 watercooled gasoline, 300 bhp (221 kW)
Speed 40 km/h (25 mph)
Suspension Torsion bar
Range and consumption 155 km (96 mi), 260 l/100 km
Total production 9408 (10,000)

StuG III Ausf.E
Ausf.E from an unknown unit, Eastern front, autumn 1942.
StuG III Ausf.F
StuG III Ausf.F, Panzer-Abteilung 191, Eastern front, 1942.
StuG III Ausf.F, Grossdeutschland, 1942-43
Ausf.F from the Sturmgeschutz Abteilung 1, GrossDeutschland Division, Russia, 1942-43.
StuG III Ausf.F in Russia
Ausf.F from the Sturmgeschutz Abteilung 210, Russia, 1942-43.
StuG III Ausf.F8, Normandy
Ausf.F8, Normandy, summer 1944.
StuG III Ausf.F, Normandy
Ausf.F/G with an ambush pattern camouflage, Normandy, 1944.
StuG III Ausf.G at Kursk
StuG III Ausf.G, Kursk, summer 1943.
Early StuG III Ausf.G, Tunisia, 1943
Early Ausf.G in Tunisia, February 1943.
StuG III Ausf.G in Dunkelgrau livery, Russia
Ausf.G early type in Dunkelgrau livery, unknown unit, Russia, spring 1943.
StuG III Ausf.G, Panzrgrenadier Division Totenkopf
StuG III Ausf.G from the Abt. Jagdpanzer Grenadier Division “Totenkopf”, Kursk, summer 1943.
StuG III Ausf.G, 23rd Sturmgeschütz Brigade
StuG III Ausf.G from the 23rd Sturmgeschütz Brigade in Russia, late 1943.
StuG III Ausf.G, Kharkov, 1943
Up-armored StuG III Ausf.G from an unidentified unit at the third battle of Kharkov, February 1943.
A StuG III Ausf.G recovered from a swamp in 2002
Ausf.G early type recovered in 2002 from a swamp at Vielike Luki, Russia, previously lost in 1943.
StuG III Ausf.G, Ukraine, fall 1943
Ausf.G early production, Ukraine, fall 1943.
Early StuG III Ausf.G, 202nd Assault Brigade
Ausf.G early production, 202nd Assault Brigade, 15th Panzerdivision, March 1945.
StuG III Ausf.G, Poland, 1944
StuG III Ausf.G operating in Poland, 1944.
Early StuG III Ausf.G, Holland, 1944
Ausf.G, early type, 13th SS Panzerdivision, Frundsberg Maastricht, Holland, September 1944
Finnish Sturmi
Finnish StuG III Sturmi, 1944.
StuG III Ausf.G with the pig snout mantlet
StuG III Ausf.G with pig snout mantlet, Belarus, 1944.
StuG III Ausf.G, Estonia, 1944
Ausf.G of the 2nd PanzerJager Abteilung in Estonia, 12th PanzerDivision, 1944.
StuG III Ausf.G, Laba, Germany
StuG III Ausf.G at Laba, Germany, 1945.
StuG III Ausf G with concrete armour
Ausf.G with extra concrete armor, destroyed in Romania, 1944.
Romanian Tas, Lt.Col. Matei
Romanian TAs of Lt.Col. Matei, September 1944
Romanian TAs in Czechoslovakia
Romanian TAs of the IInd battalion, 2nd Tank Regiment operating in Czechoslovakia and Austria in 1945.
Hungarian StuG III Ausf.G
Hungarian StuG Ausf.G late type of the 7th Assault Gun Battalion, 1944-45.
StuG III Ausf G with extra timber protection
Ausf.G of an unknown unit with extra timber protection, 1944-45.
StuG III Ausf.G, Eastern Hungary, March 1945.
StuG III Ausf.G with Saukopf, Eastern Hungary, March 1945.
StuG III with Saukopf mantlet, Grossdeutschland Division
Ausf.G with Saukopf (late model), GrossDeutschland Division, winter 1944-45.
StuG III command tank, Warsaw Uprising
Ausf.G Funk command tank, Panzer Abteilung 302, 19th Panzerdivision, Warsaw uprising, 1944.
Late StuG III Ausf.G, Hungary, 1945
Late Ausf.G, 7th Assault Gun Battery, Hungary 1945.
StuG III Ausf.G, Eastern Front, 1944-45
Ausf.G, unknown unit, Eastern Front, 1944-45
StuG III Ausf.G, Normandy
Ausf.G of the Panzer Abteilung 301, Normandy, France, 1944.
StuG III Ausf.G of the 2nd Panzerdivision
Ausf.G, 301st PanzerAbteilung (Fkl), 2nd Panzerdivision, Normandy, summer 1944.
StuG III Ausf.G, Warsaw Uprising
Ausf.G, 3rd Company, 302nd Panzer Abteilung, Warsaw uprising, September 1944.
StuG III Ausf.G with concrete armor in American colors.
Ausf.G with Saukopf, protected by concrete armor, captured by the Allies in 1945.
StuG III with Saukopf in Germany
StuG III Ausf.G with Saukopf, 12th Stürmgeschutz-Brigade Germany, February-March 1945.
StuG III Ausf.G in Russia
Sturmgeschutz III Ausf.G, early type, 23rd Sturmgeschutz-Brigade, Russia, 1943.
Another StuG III Ausf.G in Russia
Ausf.G in Russia, unknown sector, 1943.
StuG III Ausf.G in Italy
Ausf.G early type in Italy, 1944.
StuG III Ausf.G, Seelöwe Heights
StuG III Ausf.G, late type, on the Seelöwe Heights, April 1945
StuG III of the 12th Sturmgeschütz Brigade
Ausf.G of the 12th Sturmgeschutz Brigade, unknown location, 1945.
StuG III in Soviet colors
Soviet captured Ausf.G, Eastern Europe, winter 1944-1945.
Another StuG III pressed into service by the Red Army
Soviet captured late Ausf.G in Bohemia, April 1945
StuG III in Syrian service
Syrian up-armored StuG III, with a DshK HMG, in the late 1950s.


sIG-33B

sIG-33b
German Sturm-Infanteriegeschütz 33B equipped with the 15 cm sIG 33 howitzer for close infantry support, Stalingrad, fall 1942. Only 12 were deployed here, out of the 24 converted.

Sturmhaubitze 1942

StuH 42 prototype
Early prototype (Versurchserie) of the Sturmhaubitze 42.
StuH 42 in Russia
StuH 42 of the early Ausf.G type, with spaced armor, Russia 1944.
StuH 42 in Italy
StuH 42 Ausf.G, Flasshchirmjäger Division Hermann Goering, Italy, mid-1944.
StuH 42 with no muzzle brake
Late StuH 42 without the muzzle brake, one of the few produced in early 1945.

SU-76i

SU-76i
SU-76i, Red Army, Eastern Prussia, late 1944.
SG-122 Artsturm
SG-122 Artsturm, conversion of the SU-76i as a howitzer SPG, 1945 (not to scale).


Video about German assault guns

Gallery

Leutnant Walther Oberloskamp on his StuG III
Lieutenant Walther Oberloskamp, Zugführer (platoon leader) in the Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 667, proudly showing his 40 victory rings on his personal StuG III. He was awarded, on 10 May 1943, the Knight’s Cross. This photo says scores about the average kill ratio of Sturmgeschutz units in operations – Credits: Histomil.com.
StuG III in the Serbian military museumAusf.G in the Serbian military museum of Belgrade, 2008 – Credits: Slaven Radovic.
Another view of the same StuG III in BelgradeAusf G in the Serbian military museum of Belgrade, 2008.
StuG III in HelsinkiAusf.G in Helsinki.
StuG IIIG destroyed in Normandy, summer 1944StuG III Ausf.G destroyed in Normandy, summer 1944, perhaps in the Falaise Pocket.
Captured Syrian Army StuG III Ausf G, Yad-la-Shiron MuseumFront view of a former Syrian Army StuG IIIRear view of a former Syrian StuG IIIPreserved StuG III Ausf.BStuG III, Panzermuseum MunsterStuG III with Saukopf, Zimmerit and SchurzenBulgarian StuG III in SofiaStuH 42 at the Sinsheim museumEarly StuG III near StalingradStuG III preserved at the Dresden museumStuG III, Ukraine, winter 1942Finnish SturmiStuG III at the Belgrade museumStuG III, Brigade 303StuG III, Italy, 1944StuG III at the Koblenz museumStuG III being resuppliedsIG-33B, StalingradSU-76iStuG III production line at AlkettStuG III, Russia, summer 1941StuG III, Eastern Front, December 1942Camouflaged StuG III, Normandy, summer 1944Color photo of a StuG III in RussiaStuG III preserved in RussiaStuG crew on their vehicleEarly StuG III at the Victory Park in MoscowSturmi preserved at HaminaSturmi at the Parola museumStuG III in Russia, fall 1943Romanian TA-3 in MoraviaLate StuG III at the Parola museumStuG III Ausf.F8 at the Kubinka museumStuG III Ausf.G at KubinkaStuG III providing fire support, KharkovStuG III gun replacementSturmi in running orderStuG III as part of a memorialStuG III in Russia, August 1943StuG III attacking with infantrySG-122SU-76iSU-76i with commander cupolaSU-76iSU-76i frontsIG 33b blueprintStuG III Ausf.C blueprintStuG III Ausf.F blueprintStuG III Ausf.G blueprint
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2