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WW2 German Marder

Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 ‘Marder 38T’ (Sd.Kfz.138)

German Reich (1943-1945)
Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Gun – 942 Built

The experience gained during the invasion of the Soviet Union, but also in North Africa, showed the Germans that their anti-tank and tank guns could not effectively deal with the newest enemy tanks. In response to this, the Germans introduced the new 7.5 cm Pak 40 anti-tank gun in 1942. While effective, problems were its weight and lack of towing vehicles, which often led to losses that could have been avoided. In response, the Germans mounted these guns on any available chassis, creating a series of vehicles best known today by their nickname Marder (Eng. Marten). One of these was the Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3, of which nearly 1,000 vehicles were built.

Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 ‘Marder 38T’. Source: http://www.panzernet.net/panzernet/stranky/stihace/marder3.php
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History

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Germany spent time and resources on developing a large tank force. However, due to rather limited industrial production capabilities, many shortcuts and temporary solutions had to be implemented. This can be best seen in the armor and armament of these early Panzers. The campaigns in Poland and later in the West were won not by firepower but by better tactics and organization. This gave the Germans a sense of false superiority which, to some extent, slowed down the rearmament projects. During Operation Barbarossa, the Panzer Divisions were once again spearheading the German advance. Initially, the lightly protected Soviet tanks such as the BT series and the T-26 proved to be easy prey for the advancing German Panzers. However, the Panzer crews were shocked to discover that their guns were mostly ineffective against the armor of the newer T-34 and the KV series.

German infantry units also discovered that their 3.7 cm PaK 36 towed anti-tank guns were of limited use against these. The stronger 5 cm PaK 38 towed anti-tank gun was only effective at shorter distances and it had not been produced in great numbers by that time. Luckily for the Germans, the new Soviet tanks were plagued by not-yet-matured designs, inexperienced crews, a lack of spare parts and ammunition, and poor operational use. Nevertheless, they played a significant role in slowing down and eventually stopping the German assault in late 1941. In North Africa, the Germans also faced increasing numbers of Matilda tanks which also proved to be hard to knock out.

The experience gained during the first year of the invasion of the Soviet Union raised a red alert in the highest German military circles. To combat these new threats, the Germans rushed to introduce the new 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun into service. After 1942, it became the standard German anti-tank gun used until the end of the war, with some 20,000 guns being built.

The PaK 40 was an excellent anti-tank gun, but its main problem was its heavy weight, making it somewhat difficult to deploy and hard to manhandle. The Germans went for the most simple solution and tried to improve its mobility by placing it on a series of obsolete tank chassis. These new Panzerjäger (Eng. Anti-tank) vehicles followed the same pattern: most were open-topped, with limited gun traverse, and thin armor. They were armed with an effective anti-tank gun, and usually with one machine gun. Their somewhat primitive construction meant that they were cheap and rather easy to build. To the Germans, these were only temporary solutions until better and more dedicated tank-hunters were developed.

The 7.5 cm PaK 40 auf Sfl.LrS Marder I was one of the first major attempts to mount the 7.5 cm PaK on a fully-tracked chassis. While some 170 vehicles were built, the captured French Lorraine 37L chassis proved unsuited for this task. Source: panzerserra.blogspot.com
The Germans even mounted the 7.5 cm PaK 40 on the Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO), creating a poorly designed self-propelled anti-tank vehicle. Less than 100 were built, given the RSO’s low speed and the crew being completely exposed. Source: https://tankhistoria.com/experimental/pak-40-auf-rso/

Marder 38T’s Development

Production of these anti-tank vehicles began to gain traction with the Marder II series. These were built using the Panzer II‘s chassis. There were two versions, one armed with the German 7.5 cm and the other with a captured Soviet 7.62 cm gun. Both variants were used to bolster the anti-tank capabilities of the German army, especially in situations where heavier tanks were not readily available. However, the production of the Marder II was halted in mid-1943 due to the shifting of resources towards other projects, such as the Wespe self-propelled artillery based on the same chassis.

To fill the gap, the reliable and well-proven Panzer 38(t) chassis was chosen as its successor. The TNH – LT vz.38 tanks, as they were originally known, were developed and built by the Czechoslovak ČKD company (Českomoravská Kolben Daněk) in the second half of the 1930s. Production of the vz.38 began in late 1938 but, by the time of the German annexation of Czech territory, not a single tank had been handed over to the Czech Army. Germany captured many brand new vz.38 tanks and, in May 1939, a delegation was sent to the ČKD factory to examine their operational potential. The Germans were so impressed with this tank that it was quickly introduced into Wehrmacht service under the name Panzer 38(t) (the ‘t’ stands for Tschechoslowakei, Czechoslovakia in German). The ČKD factory was completely taken over for the needs of the German Army under the new name BMM (Böhmisch-Mährische Maschinenfabrik).

The Panzer 38(t) was built in relatively large numbers, seeing combat from the invasion of Poland to the end of the war, and was considered an effective tank for its class. But, from late 1941 onwards, it was obvious that it was becoming obsolete in the role of a first-line combat tank. The Panzer 38(t) chassis, on the other hand, was mechanically reliable and highly suitable for other purposes, a fact which the Germans exploited to the maximum by developing a series of auxiliary vehicles, like tank destroyers or self-propelled artillery.

The Panzer 38(t), while not of German origin, would become one of the most important vehicles in the Wehrmacht. While it quickly became obsolete as a frontline battle tank, its superb chassis was reused for many other roles, including anti-tank, anti-aircraft, self-propelled artillery, etc. Source: Panzer.net

Based on this chassis, the Germans introduced three self-propelled anti-tank vehicles. These included the initial variant, known as the Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.62 cm. It was armed with the 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) anti-tank gun, similar to the aforementioned Marder II variant. It had a relatively crude design, with a tall profile and inadequate armor protection for the crew manning the gun. The crew was particularly exposed to enemy fire due to the open superstructure The next in line was the Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 Ausf.H. This variant represented an improvement over the initial design. It was armed with the German 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 anti-tank gun. The superstructure of this variant was better protected compared to its predecessor, but it still remained lightly armored. Despite the enhancements, the crew remained somewhat exposed, albeit to a lesser extent than the earlier version.

The Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.62 cm, while having an effective gun, it had a high profile, which is evident here. This meant that camouflaging this vehicle was not an easy task. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info
The Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 Ausf.H was somewhat better designed, also offering better but still light protection for its crew. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

While the Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 Ausf.H introduced many changes over its predecessors, there was still room for improvements. In early 1943, BMM began working on creating an improved superstructure for the next version of this anti-tank vehicle series. The primary goal of the redesign was to increase the stability of the vehicle during firing of the gun. The new rear-mounted superstructure provided better protection for the crew and allowed for more stable operation of the anti-tank gun. Moving the engine compartment to the middle of the vehicle created more space for the crew and the gun mount. This arrangement allowed the crew to operate the gun while standing, improving their comfort and effectiveness during combat. Additionally, it reduced the gun overhang and improved the overall balance of the vehicle, both during movement and firing. Placing the driver in a separate compartment at the front of the vehicle provided increased protection and ensured better concentration on driving duties without distraction from the crew operating the anti-tank gun. Last but probably most important were the efforts that were made to standardize the chassis so that it could be utilized for various roles, including anti-aircraft and self-propelled artillery. This approach aimed to optimize production efficiency and logistics by using a common platform for multiple purposes. The prototype was completed and presented to the German Army officials in February 1943.

Designation

During its service life, this self-propelled anti-tank gun was known under several different names. Starting from May 1943, it was referred to as 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 auf. Sfl.38 (Ausf.M) Motorn vorn (Eng. Front engine). Normally, an alphabetical designation was used by the Germans to designate changes implemented on that particular armored vehicle series (for example Panzer IV Ausf.A, B, etc.). For the Marder vehicles, this alphabetical designation had a slightly different meaning. The previous version was designated Ausf.H and the capital letter referred to the position of the engine, in this case, Heckmotor (Eng. Rear-Mounted). In some sources, the Ausf.M designation referred to the German word Mitte (Eng. Middle).

In July 1943, this was replaced by the much simpler Panzerjäger 38 designation. The designation Marder III was suggested by Hitler himself in November 1943. The following month, the Sd.Kfz.139 numerical designation was allocated to this vehicle.

However, in September 1944, the last known change to its designation was implemented, when it was known as 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 Sf. Marder 38T. This particular designation was authorized by Heinz Guderian Himself. Authors T. L. Jentz and H. L. Doyle (No.7-2 Panzerjäger) point out that the Marder III name, while a suggested designation for this series (based on the Panzer 38(t)), was never used commonly by the frontline troops. Thus for the sake of simplicity, a more correct designation would be Marder 38T, which this article will be using.

Production

As the final design was accepted, the production of the first Marder 38T began in May 1943. The production was carried out by B.M.M. The following production numbers are according to T. L. Jentz and H. L. Doyle.

Marder 38T production 1943 1944
January / 67
February / 72
March / 64
April / 59
May 20 46
June 45
July 90
August 62
September 101
October 141
November 100
December 75
Total 942

Variations in monthly production numbers are attributed to a lack of materials. In addition, some of the production facilities and chassis were allocated to the Flakpanzer 38(t) project. Vehicles built from May to October 1943 were constructed using the Panzer 38(t) Ausf.K chassis, while the remaining used the Ausf.M chassis.

Not surprisingly, like many other German vehicles, production numbers differ slightly between the sources. For example, D. Nešić (Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka) gives a slightly higher number, at 974. These were built between April 1943 to May 1944. Older sources, such as U. Feist and M. Dario (Panzerjäger in Action) give a much lower number, with over 800 vehicles being built. H.L. Doyle and C.K. Kliment (Czechoslovak armored fighting vehicles 1918-1945) mention 975 built.

Given their expertise and the detailed research they have undertaken, we can say with some certainty that the numbers presented by T. L. Jentz and H. L. Doyle were the correct ones. The previously mentioned sources are somewhat older and in recent years more research was done to give us more accurate numbers. In any case, the production of the Marder 38T stopped in May 1944, as the Germans shifted the focus to procuring and manufacturing the better-protected Jagdpanzer 38(t).

Design

Hull

The new Marder 38T was built using the Panzer 38(t) chassis with a redesigned superstructure. The originally rear-positioned engine compartment was moved to the center of the vehicle, creating a rear-positioned fighting compartment. To the right front side, the fully enclosed driver compartment was located, and in front of it was the transmission unit.

The glacis armor that protected the front-positioned transmission was placed at a high angle. It retained the large hatch, which provided the crew with easier access to the brake and transmission assemblies (in case of emergency and repair). It was protected by an extended ‘U’ shaped splash ring. The hull and the remaining parts of this vehicle body were constructed using armored plates riveted or, to a smaller extent, welded together.

The modified chassis of the Panzer 38(t) used for the Marder 38T was later used also for the 15 cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) Grille self-propelled gun and the Flakpanzer 38(t).

A good front-view of the Marder 38T. The front-mounted transmission was fully enclosed but could be reached through a large hatch for repairs or replacement. The fully enclosed small driver compartment is also visible here. Source: https://www.tankarchives.ca/2018/03/marder-iii-german-tank-destroyer-on.html
The 15 cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) Grille was built using the Marder 38T Ausf.M chassis. Source: worldwarphotos.com

Suspension and Running Gear

The suspension of the Marder 38T was mostly unchanged in comparison to that of a normal Panzer 38(t). It consisted of four road wheels with split rubber tires with a diameter of 775 mm. The use of large-diameter wheels was meant to reduce wear on the rubber tires. These wheels were connected in pairs and were suspended using semi-elliptical leaf springs units. In addition, there was a front drive sprocket, rear idler, and two return rollers per side. The only visible difference was the reduction of the number of return rollers from four in total to only two (with one on each side).

The Marder 38T inherited the Panzer 38(t)’s simple but distinguished suspension. The only visible difference was the reduction of the number of return rollers to one per side. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/marder/

During the production, the sprocket wheels and idler wheels were modified to speed up production. The sprocket lost its characteristic holes while the idler wheels received different ones. The dry pin track links were 293 mm wide and counted 93 per side. The ground pressure was 0.70 kg/cm3.

Engine and Transmission

During its production history, the Marder 38T was powered by three different engine types. From May to July 1943, the first Marders were equipped with the older Praga EPA AC/2600 6-cylinder water-cooled engine, delivering 150 hp ​​at 2,600 rpm. This was a licensed production of the Swedish Scania-Vabis Typ 1664 and had a volume of 7,754 cm³.

From July to November 1943, a more powerful version, known as Praga Ausf.IV was installed. This version had a maximum power output of 180 hp at 2,800 rpm, but because of the aluminum head block, under stress or due to a lack of proper maintenance, the pistons would blow the head gaskets. From November 1943 to May 1944, a newer 6-cylinder Praga Typ NS with double Solex 46 FNUP carburetors was installed on the Marders. The last engine gave out 160 hp at 2,600 rpm. The fuel capacity was 218 liters placed in two tanks on the sides of the engine, protected by a bulkhead. A large ventilation grill was placed on the right side of the engine compartment.

A Praga EPA AC/2600 engine. Source: Marder III; Grille

The on-road consumption was 120 liters for 100 km with the Praga EPA AC engine. This means that, with this early engine version, the vehicle had a maximum range on-road of 180 km. Off-road, the fuel consumption was 160 liters per 100 km, meaning that the maximum range was reduced to 135 km.

A scheme showing off the engine and transmission positions on a standard Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) and the Marder 38T. Source: fishki.net

The gearbox was a Praga-Wilson TN-100 TNHP with 5 gears + rear gear. The gearbox was placed frontally and connected to the engine with a cardan shaft.

The muffler was located at the rear of the superstructure, protected by a perforated metal sheet. The pipe connecting the engine to the muffler passed, in early models, through the inside of the fighting chamber while, on late production models, it exited through the ventilation grille on the right side of the vehicle and ran alongside the superstructure externally.

The radiator was placed behind the engine and had 64 liters of water at its disposal. To start the engine, the crew could rely on a Bosch BPD 3/12 starter with a power of 2.5 kW or a crank connected to a Bosch controller.

To start the engine at low temperatures, on early production models, there were two pegs placed on the rear to hold a 2-cylinder petrol engine to heat the engine. On later models, a port for an engine coolant heater was added on the right side of the rear.

An early production Marder 38T with the exhaust gas tube that runs inside the fighting compartment. Source: https://www.tankarchives.ca/2018/03/marder-iii-german-tank-destroyer-on.html
A late production Marder 38T equipped with a longer exhaust gas tube outside the superstructure. Note that the tarpaulin was placed, covering only part of the fighting compartment leaving free the crossbar to quickly respond in case of aerial attack. Source: https://www.tankarchives.ca/2018/03/marder-iii-german-tank-destroyer-on.html

Superstructure

While the previous Marders used a slightly changed Panzer 38 superstructure, the Marder 38T incorporated a completely new one. The thick armor plates that characterized the previous Marder Ausf.H model were substituted with thinner ones. Also, the vehicle’s shapes were changed. The machine gunner’s position on the left side was removed, along with his machine gun, leaving only the driver at the front of the hull.

The driver had at his disposal a driving port with bulletproof glass with dimensions of 170 x 40 mm and a thickness of 50 mm. Over his head, he had a two-part hatch to enter and exit from his position. On the front vertical transmission cover, there were two towing hooks and a spare track links rack. On the left-angled plate was the Notek night driving device, an inspection hatch for the transmission, and another spare track link rack.

The left side of the front was angled, increasing the theoretical thickness of armored plates. The engine compartment was placed in the middle of the chassis, dividing the driver’s position from the rest of the crew. On top of this compartment, two large inspection hatches were placed for maintenance. The gun travel lock was fixed on the engine deck.

A pair of Marder 38Ts awaits in the square of Eeklo in Belgium. Visible in the foreground are the towing hooks, the track links racks, the transmission inspection hatch, and the Notek night driving device. Source: https://www.tankarchives.ca/2018/03/marder-iii-german-tank-destroyer-on.html
Interior of the driver’s compartment. The picture may be of one the other two versions that shared the same chassis, but the overall design would be mostly the same between the three. Source: https://www.armedconflicts.com/2-cm-FlaK-38-auf-Pz-Kpfw-38-t-Ausf-L-t6373

Lastly, the fighting compartment was located at the rear of the vehicle. Thanks to the position of the engine in the middle, the engine compartment floor was lowered compared to previous Marders.

The main gun was placed in the middle, with a rounded gun shield that permitted limited traverse. It was protected by an armored superstructure without a roof and with a partially protected rear.

On the gun shield and superstructure’s sides were a total of four supports for periscopes for the crew members. On the interior’s right side were the radio apparatus and a 12-round rack, while on the left side there were, starting from the front: a 3-round rack, the anti-aircraft machine gun support, and a 12-round rack.

An image of an early production Marder 38T after assembly. The left-side ammunition racks are covered with waterproof tarpaulins. The rear armor plate was lowered to 90°, making the entrance and exit from the vehicle easier. The Rohrstuetze (Eng. Barrel Support) was raised. Source: pinterest.com

The equipment fixed inside the superstructure was completed by a gas mask, a submachine gun for self-defense, a fire extinguisher, spare periscopes, machine gun ammunition boxes, and maintenance kits. Attached ton the fenders were sapper and repair tools such as crowbars, axes, shovels, a jack, a small toolbox, and the rods for the waterproof tarpaulin. The barrel cleaning kit was on the engine deck.

For the medium machine gun, there was a crossbar over the fighting compartment, fixed on both sides of the superstructure. The machine gun was mounted on a special sliding support to increase its traverse range against low-flying air targets or approaching infantry.

On the rear of the side walls of the superstructure, two rods could be misidentified with radio antennas. These rods were for the waterproof tarpaulin. They maintained the tarpaulin horizontally, increasing the internal volume and permitting the loader to operate standing up, even with the tarpaulin.

Armor Protection

In contrast to the previous two Panzer 38(t) based Marders, the armor of the Marder 38T was sensibly decreased, putting more emphasis on the mobility and speed of the vehicle at the expense of protection.

While the previous tank destroyers on the same chassis maintained the armor of the Panzer 38(t) Ausf.F, with a maximum thickness of 50 mm on the front glacis and transmission cover, the Marder 38T reduced the thickness to 15 mm. The chassis armored plates were all 15 mm thick except the rear one, which was 10 mm thick.

The driver’s compartment was 15 mm thick too, with the roof and engine deck protected by 8 mm thick armored plates. The angled plate placed on the driver’s left was angled at 67° and 10 mm thick in early production models. For late production ones, its thickness was increased to 15 mm. The whole gun shield and fighting compartment superstructure were made of 10 mm thick armored plates that protected the crew from small arms fire and artillery splinters.

A Marker 38T with a curious camouflage and track links to increase protection of the front arc. Source: T. Anderson The History of the Panzerjäger: Volume II

The overall protection was adequate to defend the crew in case of enemy infantry attack at short ranges. Unfortunately, it was not adequate to protect the vehicle from anything more powerful than a light infantry weapon. In fact, the Marder 38Ts were vulnerable to fire from ground attack aircraft, such as US P-47 Thunderbolts or Soviet Il-2 Sturmoviks, which could easily destroy them even with just their wing-mounted automatic weapons.

This Marder 38T was destroyed by 23 mm cannons of a Soviet Il-2 Sturmovik near the city of Jánosháza in Hungary in March 1945. Source: reddit.com u/sasha_man123

The total weight of the vehicle was 10.15 tonnes compared to the 10.80 tonnes of the Marder III Ausf.H, increasing the overall mobility of the vehicle.

Primary Armament

The main armament chosen for the Marder 38T was the standard 7.5 cm PanzerabwehrKanone 40/3 (Eng. Anti-Tank Gun) L/46, specifically developed for the Marder IIIs chassis. The maximum firing range was 7,700 m with High Explosive. The operational life of the barrel was 6,000 rounds and the gun could reach a rate of fire of 10 to 15 rounds per minute with a well-trained loader thanks to the semi-automatic sliding block. The total weight of the gun with gun shield is unknown, but it was probably not far from the 750 kg of the 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 of the later variants of Panzer IVs.

A Marder 38T undergoing maintenance removing the gun and gun mantlet. Estonia 1943. Source: T. Anderson The History of the Panzerjäger Volume II

The gun was placed in the center of the vehicle, above the engine’s radiator. The elevation of the main gun was -8° to +6° and the traverse 25° to the left and 25° to the right. In order to relieve the stress on the elevation and traverse mechanisms during long drives, two travel locks were added, one on the engine deck, while the second, called Rohrstuetze (Eng. Barrel Support) was fixed to the cradle inside the fighting compartment.

The gunner had at his disposal a PanzerabwehrKanone Zielfernrohr 38 8×3 (Eng.: Anti-Tank Gun Telescopic Sight 8×3) produced by Zeiss, with a magnification up to 3x and a visibility arc of 8°. The reticle was graded at intervals of 100 m up to 2,000 m for armor piercing rounds, and up to 1,000 m for HEAT rounds.

Fighting compartment of a late production Marder 38T. The Rohrstuetze is fixed to the cradle. The ammunition racks are visible on both sides of the superstructure, together with the supports for the radio apparatus (not installed). Source: T. L.Jentz and H. L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.7-2 Panzerjäger
A heavily damaged Marder 38T. The superstructure was totally blown-out, leaving only the gun and its shield. Clearly visible are the traverse and elevation cranks and the protection for the gunner. Source: P. Thomas Images of War Hitler’s Tank Destroyers

Secondary Armament

For short-range air defense and self-defense against approaching enemy infantry, the Marder 38T was equipped with a medium machine gun produced by Mauser, being either an MG 34 or an MG 42.

A Mauser MG42 mounted on the superstructure’s crossbar in Anti-Aircraft position. This gun sensibly increased the defensive capabilities of the vehicle at short ranges. Source: Marder III; Grille

Both machine guns were chambered with 7.92 x 57 mm Mauser rounds and were fed by 250-round belts. The firing rate was 1,000 rounds per minute for the first and 1,200 rounds per minute for the latter.

The same Mauser MG42 mounted on a side support, better suited for shooting against approaching infantry. Source: pinterest.com

The machine gun could be placed on the crossbar over the superstructure to fire against enemy aircraft or on the front of the superstructure to engage enemy infantry. In case of necessity, the machine gun could also be used on the ground thanks to a carried bipod.

Also for self-defense or in case the vehicle had been destroyed, there was a Maschinenpistole (Eng. Submachine Gun) Model 1938 or 1940 placed under the gun trunnion. However, it was not so uncommon for the crew to carry other personal weapons on board, such as rifles or submachine guns for close defense.

The crew of a Marder III Ausf.H open fire with a Mauser MG34 and a captured PPSh-41 during fighting on the Eastern Front. Source: pinterest.com
A crew member of a Marder 38T aims with his K98 rifle on board of his vehicle. Source: pinterest.com

Ammunition

The total ammunition load consisted of 38 rounds placed in four racks: a three-round rack was placed on the superstructure’s left, followed by a second one with 12 rounds. On the right was another 12-round rack, while the 11-round rack was placed under the gun breech. On Befehlsjäger 38T, the ammunition reserve was reduced to 26 rounds, removing the right side rack.

A scheme of the ammunition deployed on German armored vehicles. Even if the cartridges were different, the projectiles were the same, except for the smoke round that was probably not deployed on Marders. Source: armorama.com
Ammunition for the PaK 40/3
Name Panzergranate 1939 (PzGr. 39) Panzergranate 1940 (PzGr. 40) Sprenggranate 1934 (SprGr. 34) Hohlladung pattern C grenades. (Gr.38 HL/C)
Type APCBC-HE-T APCR HE HEAT
Muzzle velocity (m/s) 790 990 550 450
Weight (kg) 6.80 4.05 5.74 4.57
Penetration (RHA angled 0° from vertical) 150 mm at 100 m; 110 mm at 1000 m 175 mm at 100 m; 140 mm at 1000 m // 80 mm

Being derived directly from the PaK 40, the main gun of the Marder 38T fired the standard round for the field version of the anti-tank gun, with a cartridge length of 75×714 mm R instead of the shorter version for the KwK40, which was 75×495 mm R.

In addition, the vehicle had six ammunition boxes for the machine gun on board, with a total of 1,500 rounds, and six magazines for Maschinenpistole, for a total of 192 9×19 mm rounds.

Crew

The Marder 38T had a crew of four soldiers. In the hull was only the driver, placed on the right side and separated from the rest of the crew. The other three crew members were placed in the fighting compartment, at the rear of the vehicle.

The gunner was on the left side of the gun breech, the commander on the right side and the loader operated standing up behind the gun breech. Communication between the driver and commander was made via an intercom system connected to the radio apparatus.

The crew of a late production Marder 38T posing for a photo on the Eastern Front. Source: https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/germany/tanks-2-3/marder/

Radio Equipment and Electrical System

The Marder 38T was equipped with a Funksprech Gerät Ausführung D (Eng. Radio Speaker Device Model D), also abbreviated to FuG. D or Fu.Spr. D or Fu.Spr. Ausf.D. This model was specially developed for tank destroyers.

The radio had 10 channels and an operating frequency between 23.11 to 24.01 MHz, with a range of 5 km when stationary and 2 km when moving. The radio apparatus was placed on the right side of the superstructure, under the intercom system. The batteries and speaker were placed under the gun trunnion.

The Fu.Spr. D installed on a Marder 38T. Over it, the intercom system is covered by a metal sheet to protect it from the rain. Between the breech and the radio is the speaker, while on the upper left side of the superstructure are two periscope supports. Source: Marder III; Grille

The Stabantenne (Eng. Rod Antenna) was placed on the side of the superstructure and was 1.4 meters long. There were a total of two headphones coupled with throat microphones, one for the driver and one in the fighting compartment, for the commander.

On the Befehlsjäger 38T (Eng.: Command Tank Destroyer 38T), the radio apparatus also included a Funk Gerät 8 or FuG. 8 medium-wave transceiver. The FuG. 8 was composed of a receiver and transmitter coupled together. The transmitter was a Transmitter Typ A with an operating frequency between 1,130 to 3,000 kHz.

The Receiver could be either a Receiver Typ C or Typ D. The first one had an operating frequency between 580 to 3,000 kHz and the latter had a frequency between 835 to 3,000 kHz.
The maximum range of the radio station was 50 km in telegraphic mode and 15 km in voice mode when stationary. During moving, the maximum telegraphic range was 40 km and the maximum voice range was 10 km.

The FuG. 8 was equipped with a Sternantenne Typ D (Eng. Star Antenna Type D) with a length of 1.8 meters, mounted on a support of porcelain on the right of the superstructure.

To accommodate the FuG. 8 radio apparatus, the total number of rounds transported by the vehicle was decreased. The Fu.Spr. D was used to connect the various vehicles of a Panzerjäger Abteilungen (Eng. Anti-tank battalions), while the FuG. 8 was deployed by the unit’s commander to contact the divisional headquarter.

A Befehlsjäger 38T abandoned after a direct hit. On the right side of the superstructure is the FuG. 8 radio apparatus. Source: pinterest.com

In case of malfunction of the radio apparatus, the crew was also equipped with a set of flags and with a Walther Leuchtpistole 34 flare gun with 12 rounds.

The electrical system was supplied by a Bosch Typ 12B110P lead battery with a tension of 12 V and a power of 110 Ah. The battery was connected to a Bosch GQLN 300 12-19 generator with a power of 300 Watt. This battery also powered the Notek night driving device, the horn, the dashboard, and the radio apparatus.

Organization and Unit Distribution

Initially, the Marders were used to form small 9-vehicle strong Panzerjäger Kompanie (Eng. anti-tank company). These were divided into 3-vehicle strong platoons. By the end of 1942, the number of vehicles per company had increased by one more vehicle. The single-added vehicle was used as a command unit which was, on some occasions, accompanied by a command vehicle based on an obsolete Panzer I. In June 1943, the anti-tank company’s size was increased to 14, with two vehicles given to the command platoon and four vehicles to each regular platoon.

In some cases, the anti-tank battalions were formed with a strength of 45 vehicles. A battalion was divided into three companies, each with 12 vehicles plus 3 command vehicles per company, with 650 men in total. Given the general lack of men and materials, the formation of such larger units was rather rare, as single companies were more commonly used.

There were also cases when independent Heeres Panzerjäger Abteilungen (Eng. German Army anti-tank battalions) were formed. Such units were created by simply relocating anti-tank companies from various infantry divisions into a larger battalion. The actual strength depended on what was available. Most of them were formed using three companies, while the 742nd German Army anti-tank battalion had four companies. In March 1944, it was ordered that the official strength of these independent battalions was to be 45 vehicles.

Distribution of the first Marder 38Ts began in May 1943. Hoewer, it is important to note that the German records do not distinguish between the Ausf.M and H Marders. That means that it is almost impossible to know the units that were issued with this vehicle. Another important fact is that the Marder 38T was not allocated to only one specific unit set, but was supplied as a replacement or to reinforce depleted units. Companies or battalions that had different types of Marders III were common. This was not a major logistic issue, as these were based on the same vehicle Panzer 38(t) and were armed with the same gun. The surviving 7.62 cm armed vehicles were by that point modified to be able to use normal 7.5 cm PaK 40 ammunition.

The last Marder 38Ts were mostly used as replacements for depleted frontline units. It was not uncommon to see anti-tank companies equipped with various types of the Marder series. Source: I. Baxter Operation Bagration

Tactical Employment

Despite their title, the Marder 38T was indeed not designed for frontline tank-to-tank combat due to its relatively light armor and open-top design, which made it vulnerable to enemy fire. The frontline experience quickly showed the Marder crews how to properly use the advantages and disadvantages of this vehicle. It was often utilized in a supporting role, providing fire support from the rear or flanks of Panzer divisions. They would typically be positioned strategically to engage enemy tanks or vehicles that managed to penetrate the frontline defenses or to counter enemy counterattacks.

To enhance their effectiveness and survivability, Marder crews would often be supported by infantry or towed anti-tank guns, which could provide additional firepower and cover from the flanks. This collaborative approach allowed the Marder to capitalize on its advantages, such as its potent 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun, while minimizing its vulnerabilities.

In defensive operations, the Marder 38Ts were used as a mobile reserve, ready to respond to threats wherever they arose. They were rarely employed in static defense due to their mobility and adaptability on the battlefield.

While the Marder 38T could be effective when used according to its intended role, attempting to use it as a frontline tank or in direct close support, akin to tanks or assault guns like the StuG III, would expose its weaknesses and lead to high casualties among its crews. Thus, it was essential for German commanders to understand and utilize the Marder’s capabilities effectively to maximize its contribution to the overall combat effort.

In Combat

Unfortunately, despite being a highly important vehicle for the German Army during the war, the combat history of the whole Marder series is quite poorly documented in available sources. Besides describing that they were used on specific fronts, not much else about their more detailed combat use is usually mentioned. It is indeed unfortunate that documentation regarding their combat use is limited, but reports, such as one from the 31st anti-tank battalion, offer valuable perspectives. The report, dated 22nd September 1943, highlights the Marder 38T’s strengths, particularly its mobility and ability to quickly respond to enemy threats. This mobility likely allowed the Marder to effectively maneuver on the battlefield, exploiting favorable positions and engaging enemy targets as needed.

Interestingly, it also highlights that the Marder 38T was best used when supported by the StuG III assault guns. While the StuG III may have had better armor protection, the Marder’s superior field of vision allowed it to identify and engage targets more effectively, complementing the StuG III’s firepower and armor.

However, the report also underscores the challenges faced by German commanders in properly utilizing armored vehicles like the Marder. Despite their extensive knowledge in armored warfare, infantry commanders often lacked an understanding of the specialized roles and limitations of vehicles like the Marder. This led to instances where the Marder was employed in roles it was not designed for, such as assaulting enemy positions, resulting in heavy and unnecessary losses. This misuse of armored vehicles reflects broader challenges faced by the German military during the war, including issues with doctrine, communication, coordination between different branches of the armed forces, and the lack of equipment. Despite their technological sophistication, the effectiveness of German armored units was sometimes hampered by these organizational and doctrinal shortcomings.

The Marder 38T saw action across Europe until the end of the war. For example, in June 1944, the German occupation forces in the West had at least six infantry divisions equipped with 14 Marder 38T vehicles (84 in total). In addition, there were four static infantry divisions (reduced in size), tasked with the defense of the Atlantic Wall, that were supplied with 40 older Marder I vehicles. In the case of the Marder 38T, most were of the Ausf.M version, while the Ausf.H was rarer. The 352nd Infantry Division tried to throw back the landing Allied forces with Marder 38Ts, but was devastated by air and naval fire. Between June and September, the German lost 91 Marder 38Ts. The majority of these (71) were lost during the heavy fighting in September 1944. Interestingly, not a single vehicle of this type was reported lost in August 1944.

The Marder 38T participated in defending against the failed Allied Operation Market Garden in September 1944, and provided the vital firepower to the Germans. In December 1944, during the last large German offensive in the West, Operation Northwind, the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division that participated in the offensive had 31 StuG IIIs, two Jagdpanzer IVs, and one Marder 38T vehicle.

Two destroyed Marder 38Ts from the 2nd SS Panzer Division in the Roncey pocket in Normandy during July 1944. Source: S. J. Zaloga German Tanks in Normandy 1944
An abandoned Marder 38T next to a destroyed Sherman tank, The picture was taken north of Ste Mère-Église along route N13, near Neuville-au-Plain. There, a group of Marder IIIs engaged Allied armored forces. Source: S. J. Zaloga German Tanks in Normandy 1944

On the Eastern front, the Marder 38T saw extensive use. For example, they saw action during the German recapture of Kharkiv in March 1943. In June 1944, the Germans had some 290 vehicles of this type (including all three versions). Of these, 244 were operational, while the remaining were under various conditions of repair or maintenance. The Soviet 1944 offensive took a heavy toll on the already depleted German forces. From June to September 1944, Germany lost 386 Marder 38Ts. The lowest number was in June, when just 11 vehicles were reported lost. The heaviest losses were suffered the next month when 264 Marder 38T were lost.

Lastly, some of the Marder 38Ts also saw service in Italy. The German 3rd Panzer Division fought in the area near Monte Cassino and had in its inventory some Marder 38Ts. In any case, the Marder 38T and its older cousins began to rapidly dwindle in numbers after 1944. At that time, better-designed tank hunters, such as the Jagdpanzer IV and Jagdpanzer 38(t), began to enter production in increasing numbers. Despite this, they remained in use up to the end of the war.

Not surprisingly, many of the Marder 38Ts saw service on the Eastern Front. Source: V. Francev and C. K. Kliment Marder III and Grille
This Marder 38T is well hidden by its crew inside a building, somewhere in Italy. Note the three kill markings painted on the gun barrel. Source: R. J. Edwards Panzers Forward

Other Modifications

The Marder 38T’s chassis would be used for a limited number of modifications, which included training vehicles, experimental ammunition carriers, infantry transport, and lastly a mortar carrier.

Fahrschulpanzer

In 1943, one Marder 38T was modified by replacing its fuel with liquified gas. For this modification, two large gas cylinders were positioned in front of the vehicle superstructure. The purpose of this contraption was to save on precious fuel, as it became a rare commodity for the Germans. Thanks to its simple construction, it could be placed on any Marder 38T, as it did not necessitate any major change to the engine itself. This vehicle was meant to be used for training new crews while conserving fuel, and was not meant for frontline usage.

Installation of liquified gas cylinders was tested on the Marder 38T in order to be reused as a Fahrschulpanzer (Eng. training tanks). Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/TankPorn/comments/cs062r/the_fahrschulpanzer_marder_iii_a_spg_that_ran_on/

Munition und Mannschaftrager auf Fargestell 38(t) Ausf.M

At least one Marder 38T chassis was modified to act either as an ammunition or an infantry transport vehicle. The gun was removed and the upper superstructure was slightly redesigned. Given the photographic evidence, at least one such vehicle was assembled, but unfortunately, nothing else is known about it. As it was not put into production, it is likely that the project was rejected.

Munition und Mannschaftrager auf Fargestell 38(t) Ausf.M was intended to be used as an ammunition or infantry transport vehicle. Source: https://www.armedconflicts.com/Munition-und-Mannschaftstraeger-auf-Fahrgestell-38-t-t35296
For this modification, the crew compartment was slightly enlarged and the gun was removed. Source: https://www.armedconflicts.com/Munition-und-Mannschaftstraeger-auf-Fahrgestell-38-t-t3529
It should not be confused with the ammunition supply vehicle of the 15 cm armed Grille, which shared the same chassis as the Marder 38T. Source: https://en.topwar.ru/96513-transporter-boepripasov-munitionspanzer-38t-ausfk-germaniya.html

Morserträger auf Panzer 38(t) Ausf.M

Another interesting but experimental proposal was to reuse the Marder 38T Ausf.M chassis for a fully protected mortar carrier. While one wooden mock-up was built, the German Army was less interested in its development, and the project was canceled.

A proposal to build a mortar carrier based on the Marder 38T Ausf.M chassis was rejected and the project did not go beyond a wooden mock-up. Source: https://panzerpedia.fandom.com/wiki/Morsertr%C3%A4ger_auf_Panzer_38(t)_Ausf.M

7.5 cm PaK L/60 Panzerjäger 38(t) Ausf.M

Another project intended to rearm the Marder 38T was the 7.5 cm PaK L/60 Panzerjäger 38(t) Ausf.M. This is essentially an attempt to further increase its firepower by installing a longer gun. The project did not go beyond a wooden mock-up and was canceled.

A wooden mock-up of the 7.5 cm PaK L/60 Panzerjäger 38(t) Ausf.M. Source: H.C. Doyle and C.K. Kliment (Czechoslovak armored fighting vehicles 1918-1945

In Use by Other Armies

In Slovak Service

Wanting to bolster their defenses against advancing Soviet forces, the Slovak Army approached BMM with a request for 28 Marder 38Ts. In July 1944, they received only 18 such vehicles. The outbreak of the Slovak Uprising in August 1944 drastically altered the situation. The uprising aimed at liberating Slovakia from German control. However, the German response was swift and brutal. They managed to capture a majority of the Marders provided to the Slovak Army with minimal resistance. The two remaining Marders offered resistance and managed to destroy two German tanks and damage another one. Eventually, the Slovak resistance was crushed and the two remaining vehicles were destroyed.

After the war, with the reconstruction of the Czechoslovak Army, the collection of nearly 50 Marder vehicles and their subsequent integration into service reflects the practicality of repurposing captured or surplus equipment to bolster post-war military capabilities.

Hungarian Marders

The Hungarian 1st Cavalry Division’s engagement against Soviet forces in eastern Poland and western Ukraine during Operation Bagration resulted in significant losses for the Hungarian armored forces. With their own resources depleted and unable to replace their losses adequately, the Hungarian military relied on assistance from the Germans.

This assistance came in the form of armored vehicles, including Marder anti-tank vehicles. It is likely that the Marders supplied to the Hungarian 1st Cavalry Division in 1944 were indeed Marder 38T Ausf.H and M variants. These vehicles, with their potent anti-tank armament, would have been valuable assets for the Hungarian forces facing Soviet armored formations.

Given the limited availability of Hungarian crews and the urgency of the situation, it is plausible that the Marders were operated by their original German crews and temporarily placed under the command of Hungarian units. This practice of temporarily assigning equipment to allied forces was not uncommon among Axis powers during the war, as it allowed for more efficient utilization of available resources on the battlefield. The earlier provision of Marder II vehicles to Hungary in 1942 is an example of this.

German-operated Marder 38T drives past a Hungarian Turan tank during a military exercise. To boost their ally’s shattered force, the Germans provided an unknown number of Marder 38Ts to the Hungarians in 1944. Source: S. J. Zaloga Tanks In Operation Bagration 1944

In Allied Hands

The Allied forces that fought the Germans across Europe occasionally got their hands on Marders. Of course, given their light armor and the availability of tanks, the Western Allies rarely employed them in battle. Those captured by the Soviets likely saw more extensive use, as they were known to have put the German vehicles to use against their former masters on occasion.

A British-operated Marder 38T, probably used as self-propelled artillery. Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/TankPorn/comments/4svjt9/your_tank_no_our_tank_captured_marder_iii_ausf_m/
The US forces also occasionally got their hands on the Marder 38T. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/panzerdb/9971363983

Surviving Vehicles

Today, at least several Marder 38T Ausf.M are known to have survived the war and can be seen in various museums across Europe and two in the USA. One is in a private collection in the UK, one in the Musée des Blindés in France, and one more in Museo di Guerra per la Pace Diego de Henriquez, Italy. Two more can be found in the U.S. Army Center for Military History Storage Facility Anniston, and Victory Museum, Auburn.

The Marder 38T at the Musée des Blindés in France. Source: Wiki
The Marder 38T exhibited at the Museo di Guerra per la Pace Diego de Henriquez in Trieste, Italy. Positioned behind the tank destroyer is a 17 cm Kanone 18 heavy artillery piece. Source: lasegundaguerra.com

In the Movies

At least one Marder 38T saw some screen fame in the Saving Private Ryan (1998) movie and Band of Brothers series. This vehicle is from Steve Lamonby’s private collection in the UK. It was found in Czechoslovakia and is in working condition.

Source: https://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=14391&start=15
A Marder 38T from the Band of Brothers series. Source: https://www.imcdb.org/v056771.html

Conclusion

The Marder 38T Ausf.M was the last 7.5 cm armed lightly protected self-propelled tank hunter vehicle that was put into production. It incorporated many improvements over its predecessors. It was more properly designed to offer great stability during the firing of the main armament and had better working space for the crew. Another benefit was that it used the Panzer 38(t) chassis, which was known for its good reliability. These improvements not only addressed existing issues but also introduced new features aimed at enhancing the vehicle’s performance and crew comfort. Overall, the redesigned Marder 38T represented a more refined and purpose-built design compared to its predecessors, reflecting ongoing efforts to adapt to the evolving demands of armored warfare.

This does not mean that the vehicle was perfect. For a start, it was less protected than its predecessors, as the Germans put more emphasis on speed and mobility. This meant that the armor realistically provided minimal protection against small caliber rounds and shrapnel. A direct hit by a proper anti-tank or even high-explosive round had a good chance to outright destroy this vehicle. Despite this, experienced German crews learned to exploit their vehicle’s mobility, and Marder 38T losses, when used and supported properly, were generally low. Once it was used for the direct support of infantry or other units, unnecessary losses were incurred that could have been avoided.

Thus, if used properly, the Marder 38T was an effective tank destroyer despite its weak armor. The Germans never considered it as a proper solution and mainly served to fill the gap until fully protected tank hunters were introduced in 1944, after which Marder numbers began to rapidly dwindle due to attrition and lack of replacement vehicles.

Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 ‘Marder 38T’
Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 ‘Marder 38T’ in desert camo
Fahrschulpanzer on Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 ‘Marder 38T’ with liquified gas cylinders
Munition und Mannschaftrager auf Fargestell 38(t) Ausf.M. All illustration by David Bocquelet

Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 Ausf.M Specifications

Crew 4 (Commander, Gunner, Driver, Loader)
Weight 10.150 tonnes
Dimensions Length 5.02 m, Width 2.15 m, Height 2.35 m
Engine Praga AC, 150 hp @ 2,800 rpm
Speed 47 km/h | (off-road): 20 km/h
Range 185 km | (off-road): 140 km
Armament 7.5 cm PaK 40/3
Armor 6 to 15 mm

Sources

T. L. Jentz and H. L. Doyle Panzer Tracts (20) No.7-2 Panzerjäger

D. Nešić (2008) Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd

U. Feist and M. Dario (1973) Panzerjäger in Action, Signal Publications

D. Doyle (2005) German Military Vehicles, Krause Publications

A. Lüdeke (2007) Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Parragon books

P. Thomas (2017) Images of War Hitler’s Tank Destroyers, Pen and Sword Military

T. Anderson (2020) The History of the Panzerjäger: Volume II, Osprey Publishing

Z. Borawski and J. Ledwoch (2003) Marder III and Grille, Tank Power Number 175, Wydawnictwo Militaria

P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press

H. C. Doyle and C. K. Kliment (1979) Czechoslovak Armoured Fighting Vehicles 1918-1945, Bellona

V. Francev and C. K. Kliment (2001) Marder III and Grille, MBI

S. J. Zaloga (2021) German Tanks in Normandy 1944, Osprey Publishing

S. J. Zaloga (2023) Tanks in Operation Bagration 1944, Osprey Publishing

S. J. Zaloga (2010) Operation Nordwind 1945, Osprey Publishing

W.J.K. Davies (1979), Panzer Jäger: German Anti-Tank Battalions of World War Two, Almark Publishing Co.Ltd.

Ian V. Hogg (1975) German Artillery of World War Two, Purnell Book Services Ltd.

G. Rottman (2005) German Self-Propelled Guns, Concord

3 replies on “Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 ‘Marder 38T’ (Sd.Kfz.138)”

The first two pictures of the munition carrier variant were taken in Czechoslovakia, the sign in the back says “No smoking”

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