As the Second World War progressed, the German Army faced an ever-increasing amount of enemy armor, while its own tank forces were steadily being reduced. Due to losses and meager production capabilities, the Germans were forced to introduce a series of improvised anti-tank vehicles. While these were nothing more than ad hoc solutions, they were effective thanks to their powerful guns and cheap cost. On the other hand, their survivability was quite limited due to their limited armored protection. Additionally, a series of vehicles, such as the StuG III, performed excellently in the anti-tank role when equipped with long guns. Further development of the StuG III concept armed with even stronger guns would lead to the creation of Germany’s first dedicated anti-tank vehicle, the Jagdpanzer IV.
The Need for a Mobile Anti-Tank Vehicle
The German Army’s main anti-tank weapon before and in the first period of the Second World War was the 3.7 cm Pak 36. This was an effective anti-tank gun when used against pre-war tank designs. It could be easily concealed or transported by a few men. Despite being lightweight, this gun still needed to be towed for longer distances and required some time to be set up for combat. Later, stronger anti-tank guns provided a huge boost in firepower when engaging enemy armor, but their weight greatly increased too, which limited their mobility. An anti-tank mounted on a tank chassis that had sufficient mobility to follow tanks and motorized units was seen as a desirable concept even before the war. Given the lack of German industrial production capacity, little could be done in this regard prior to the war.
The first attempt to produce an improvised self-propelled anti-tank vehicle was made just prior to the German invasion of the West in May 1940. This was the 4.7 cm PaK (t) (Sfl) auf Pz.Kpfw.I, generally known today as the ‘Panzerjäger I’ (Eng. tank destroyer or hunter). This vehicle consisted of a Panzer I Ausf.B chassis combined with a 4.7 cm PaK (t) gun (a captured Czechoslavkian 4.7 cm gun – hence the ‘t’ for ‘Tschechoslowakei’ after the name). This vehicle, technically speaking, was not new. Instead, it was constructed using obsolete Panzer I chassis and guns that were taken from Czechoslovakia. Despite being a hasty improvisation, it performed well, which showed the Germans that this concept had merits. But, given the nature of its design, it was also flawed in many aspects, such as using an underpowered chassis, the fact it was a relatively large target, and its weak protection.
In the following years, as the Germans made progress on other fronts, namely the Soviet Union and North Africa, the need for mobile and effective anti-tank vehicles became urgent. Once again, due to a lack of production capabilities, they were often forced to reuse already existing tank chassis and, in rare cases, half-tracks in order to mount the effective 7.5 cm Pak 40 anti-tank gun. This would lead to three different series of vehicles, known generally as ‘Marder’. In 1943, the 8.8 cm armed Nashorn anti-tank vehicle based on the Panzer IV and Panzer III chassis was also introduced. While these vehicles did their job well, they were also plagued with many shortcomings.
On the other hand, officials such as Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, one of the brains behind the German invasion of the West in 1940, 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. These vehicles were known as Sturmgeschütz (Eng. Assault gun), or simply ‘StuGs’, which would be introduced into service at the same time as the first anti-tank vehicles during the attack on the West in May 1940. These were dedicated designs that were fully protected and strongly armed. By late 1941, out of desperation, the Germans began refitting these vehicles with long guns to create new anti-tank vehicles. Combining their low silhouette, good frontal protection, and powerful gun, the Germans unintentionally created a highly effective tank destroyer. The StuG III would go on to be built in great numbers and used up to the end of the war. These misgivings and the addition of a more powerful gun led to a creation of a new series of anti-tank vehicles based on the Panzer IV chassis.
The ‘story’ of the Jagpanzer IV began in September 1942, when the Waffenamt (Eng. Army Weapon’s Office) issued a request for the development of a new Sturmgeschütz design – the ‘Sturmgeschütze Neue Art’, Stu.Gesch.n.A. (Eng. Assault Gun New Type). The new vehicle was to be armed with the 7.5 cm KwK L/70 gun and protected with 100 mm frontal and 40 to 50 mm of side armor. It was intended to have the lowest possible height, a top speed of 25 km/h, 500 mm ground clearance, and a weight of up to 26 tonnes. Additional armament proposals included a 10.5 cm and 15 cm gun for the infantry support roles, but these two projects were never implemented.
At first glance, the obvious choice was to reuse the StuG III vehicles for this purpose in order to reduce the time of development and to reuse already produced components. The StuG III, despite not being designed for that specific role, performed excellently when used in the anti-tank role thanks to its improved weaponry. Their 7.5 cm L/24 short barrel gun was replaced with a 7.5 cm L/43, and later, the more mass-produced L/48 gun. These proved more than capable of destroying most enemy targets at ranges greater than 1 km.
The Germans predicted that, in the future, more capable guns with superior anti-tank performance would be needed. With the development of the Panther tank project, a new gun, the 7.5 cm L/70, would be made available. Attempts to install this gun were initially to be tested using the VK16.02 Leopard chassis. Given the rather small chassis, insufficient space to install the large gun, and the cancelation of this vehicle, the project did not go beyond the drawing boards.
Alkett, the main producer of the StuG III series, went to work on figuring out a way to install the 7.5 cm L/70 in the StuG III vehicles. In late 1942, a wooden mock-up was completed. This mock-up had a much larger upper superstructure, somewhat resembling the later Jagdpanzer 38, in order to accommodate the new gun. It quickly became obvious that such an installation on the Panzer III chassis was impossible, so another solution would be needed.
The Panzer IV chassis was seen as a much better solution, given that it was larger and that the installation of the new superstructure and gun were feasible. Alkett once again presented a project of such a vehicle based on the Panzer IV chassis that could be armed either with a 7.5 cm L/70 (Gerät No.822) or 10.5 cm (Gerät No.823) gun. In late October 1942, a scale model was even presented to Adolf Hitler, but nothing came of it.
Vogtlandische Maschinenfabrik AG (Vomag) proposed its own version of the new tank hunter based on the Panzer IV to Adolf Hitler on 2nd October 1942. Hitler was impressed by what he saw and gave the project the go-ahead. The wooden mock-up was completed by May 1943, when it was presented to Hitler. This wooden mock-up was different from the later-built vehicles, as it was based on an unchanged Panzer IV Ausf.F tank chassis. After the presentation of the new vehicle, Hitler was satisfied and ordered the production of the first prototypes as soon as possible. In September 1943, Vomag began the assembly of two soft-steel 0-series vehicles. These prototypes were similar to the wooden mock-up, having rounded front corners, but the Panzer IV’s front hull was heavily modified with new angled armor plates. Additionally, on the Jagdpanzer IV’s superstructure sides, firing ports for a 9 mm MP-38/40 submachine gun were placed. Both of these features would be dropped on the production vehicles in favor of a simpler armor design and deletion of the side-firing ports. In January 1944, the second prototype was completed. After a brief examination, it was chosen as the basis for the production series.
The new tank hunter was, in reality, a further development of the assault tank concept, but more specialized and purely dedicated to the anti-tank role. It is not surprising that it was initially designated as Sturmgeschütze Neue Art. This project was initiated months before the position of the General der Panzertruppe was even created. The close involvement of the assault gun branch of the Army in this project can be seen in a letter written by General der Artillerie Fritz Lindemann to Heinz Guderian in early 1944.
“.. Because Sturmgeschütz fire 25 percent of their ammunition at tanks and 75 percent at other types of targets, the designation “Panzerjäger” relates to only part of the Sturmgeschütz assigned tasks. The designation “Sturmgeschütz” is a well-known concept to the infantry. Therefore, the General der Infanterie is for retaining the Sturmgeschütz designation.”
Parallel to the StuG III development, the Germans also employed anti-tank vehicles that were known as Panzerjäger. The term Panzerjäger originated in the First World War. The use of Jagdpanzer (Eng. tank hunter) in some sources is also interesting. Nowadays, the term Panzerjäger is often associated with improvised lightly protected, usually open-top vehicles, while Jagdpanzer is associated with fully enclosed anti-tank vehicles. This is a recent assignment, as both terms were, according to German military terminology and concepts, essentially one and the same.
Throughout its development and service life, the new tank hunter received several different designations, which was quite common for the Germans during the war. One of the earlier designations was Kleine Panzerjäger der Firma Vomag (Eng. Small Tank Hunter from the Vomag Company), dated May 1943. Other designations included: Panzerjäger auf Fahrgestell Panzer IV (Eng. Tank Destroyer on the Panzer IV Chassis) in August 1943, Stu.Gesch.n.A. auf Pz.IV (Eng. New Type Assault Gun on the Panzer IV Chassis) November 1943, and Leichter Panzerjäger auf Fgst.Pz.Kpf.Wg.IV mit 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48 (Eng. Light Tank Destroyer on the Panzer IV Chassis) in December 1943. From 1944 onwards, much shorter designations were used: Panzerjäger IV 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48 (March 1944), Jagdpanzer IV Ausf.F (September 1944), and Jagdpanzer IV – Panzerjäger IV (November 1944). Interestingly, despite being allocated to Panzer units, the designation Sturmgeschütze Neue Art mit 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48 auf Fgst.Pz.Kpfw was used during the period of February to October 1944. Given that the vehicle is generally best known today simply as the Jagdpanzer IV, this article will use this name throughout.
After Germany’s defeats in 1942, Heinz Guderian was brought back from retirement by Hitler, who hoped that he could somehow magically rebuild the shattered Panzer divisions. Guderian set immediately to the task of rebuilding this formation. At that time, the German industry was in the process of developing various new tanks and other armored vehicle projects, even more than it was realistically able of successfully mass-producing. With the support of Albert Speer, the Minister for Armaments and War Production, Guderian wanted to introduce rationalization programs and discard projects that could not be immediately put into production. The Jadgpanzer IV was deemed one such project. Both Guderian and Speer were not enthusiastic about this vehicle, as they deemed that it would only cause delays in Panzer IV production. In addition, the StuG III vehicle performed this role excellently and they believed its production should be increased instead.
On the other hand, Hitler, based on the field reports regarding the StuG III’s performance when used in the anti-tank role, had a very enthusiastic view of the new Jagdpanzer IV. He urged that its mass production should begin as soon as possible and that this vehicle was to totally replace the Panzer IV tanks. While without a doubt an effective vehicle, the Jagdpanzer IV’s lack of turret means that, if it was used in offensive operations as a tank substitute, its combat effectiveness would be greatly reduced. Both Guderian and Albert Speer could do little to convince Hitler of the opposite. Thanks to their insistence, though, only Vomag was selected for Jagdpanzer IV production in order to avoid causing delays in tank production.
The production of the Jagdpanzer IV was meant to commence with the first 10 vehicles being completed by September 1943. In the following months, the production rate was predicted to be increased by 10 vehicles every month. This meant that, in 1943, the production run should have been as follows: 20 in October, 30 in November, and 40 vehicles by the end of December. This did not occur and Vomag was only able to complete only 10 vehicles during that year. The problem with the delivery of sufficient numbers of gun mounts, in addition to the poor quality of the armor plates, led to delays in production. Up to May 1944, Vomag was involved in the Panzer IV’s production, after which it solely focused on the Jagdpanzer IV’s production.
By the time the production of the Jagdpanzer IV stopped in November 1944, some 750 vehicles had been built by Vomag. Monthly production was as follows. Note the sudden drop in numbers in September, which was due to the Allied bombings of the Vomag factory.
Of course, like many other German vehicles, the exact production numbers differ depending on the author. The previously mentioned numbers are according to T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No. 9-2 Jagdpanzer IV). Author T. J Gander (Tanks in Detail: JgdPz IV, V, VI, and Hetzer) gives a number of 769 built vehicles. Authors K. Mucha and G. Parada (Jagdpanzer IV L/48) give an estimation of 769 to 784 produced vehicles and that some 26 more chassis reused for other projects. Author P. Thomas (Images of War: Hitler’s Tank Destroyers) mentions that some 800 were built.
The Jagdpanzer IV was built by using the chassis of the Panzer IV Ausf.H tank, which was, for the most part, unchanged. It consisted of the front transmission, central crew, and rear engine compartments. The most obvious change was the new angled superstructure and the redesigned sharply angled lower front hull. This was done to provide an increased level of protection by using thick angled armor plates interlocked to each other. In addition, some internal redesigns were needed in order to accommodate the new superstructure and the gun mount. One example is the changing position of the bottom escape hatch. Originally, it was located under the radio operator on the Panzer IV, but on the Jagdpanzer IV, it was moved close to the gunner.
The Suspension and Running Gear
The suspension and running gear were other elements reused from the Panzer IV. They consisted of eight small double road wheels suspended in four pairs by leaf-spring units per side. There were two front drive sprockets, two rear idlers, and eight return rollers in total. The standard Panzer IV return rollers were replaced with ones made of steel due to the lack of rubber later during production. In addition, by the end of production, some vehicles had only three return rollers on each side. Depending on the need or availability, wider tracks could be used instead of regular tracks in order to increase driving performance on mud or snow.
The Jagdpanzer IV was powered by the Maybach HL 120 TRM which produced 265 hp @ 2,600 rpm. The maximum speed was 40 km/h (15-18 km/h cross-country). With a fuel load of some 470 liters, the operational range was 210 km. The engine and the crew compartment were separated by a fire-resistant and gas-tight armored firewall. In order to avoid any fire accidents, an automatic fire extinguisher system was installed in the engine compartment. The original position of the Panzer IV’s fuel tanks, under the turret, had to be changed in order to lower the vehicle’s height. Two fuel tanks were placed under the gun and a third smaller one in the engine compartment. In order to refuel the front fuel tanks, two (one on each side) fuel filler pipes were located behind the front drive sprockets.
The added front armor plates caused huge stress on the front suspension. To somewhat overcome the issue, most spare parts and auxiliary equipment were moved to the rear engine compartment later during the production. This included things such as spare tracks, wheels, repair tools, fire extinguishers, and the crew’s equipment.
The new superstructure was well protected, with its angled, thick, and simple armor design. The angled shape of the superstructure provided thicker nominal armor and also increased the chance of deflecting enemy shots. Also, by using larger one-piece plates, it was much stronger and easier to produce. This way, the need for more carefully machined armored plates, like on Panzer III or IV, was unnecessary. Using single-piece armor plates interlocked to each other greatly strengthened the overall structure, making it more durable.
On the front plate, the gun with its mantlet was positioned slightly to the right of center. The gun mount was protected by a large ball-shaped shield, further protected by a larger cast gun mantlet known as Topfblende. On each side of the gun was a movable conical-shaped armored machine gun port cover. Lastly, to the lower left, the driver vision apparatus was placed. The side and rear plates did not receive any kind of vision port.
On the top part of the superstructure were two escape hatches. The right round-shaped one was for the loader. Left of it, the commander’s hatch had a small rotating periscope in the middle. The commander had a small additional hatch for the use of a retractable telescope. In front of the loader and commander hatches was a sliding armored cover for the gunsight.
Armor and Protection
The Jagdpanzer IV was well protected, with thick and well-angled armor plates. For the lower hull, the upper front armor plate was 60 mm thick at a 45° angle and the lower plate was 50 mm at a 55° angle. The side armor was 30 mm thick, the rear 20 mm, and the bottom 10 mm. The hull crew compartment had 20 mm of bottom armor.
The new upper superstructure frontal armor was 60 mm at a 50° angle, the sides were 40 mm at a 30° angle, the rear armor was 30 mm, and the top was 20 mm. The engine compartment design and armor were unchanged from the Panzer IV, with 20 mm all around and 10 mm of top armor.
Even before this vehicle entered production, it was estimated that, in order to further improve protection, the armor plates had to be placed at even greater angles. This would be rejected, as it would lead to a huge delay in production and problems with space management.
Finally, in May 1944, it was finally possible to use 80 mm thick frontal armor plates. This was initially planned from the start, but the use of such thick plates would lead to delays in production which were deemed unacceptable, and their application was temporarily postponed.
The upper hull was built out of surface-hardened steel plates manufactured by Witkowitzer Bergbau und Eisenhütten. It is important to note that, by 1944, when the Jagdpanzer IV entered production, the quality of German production steel was not always guaranteed. The constant Allied air raids, lack of resources, and the use of slave labor greatly affected the quality of many constructions in Germany at that time, even armor plates.
The Jagdpanzer IVs were also provided with Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating, but after September 1944, its use was abandoned. Additional 5 mm thick armor plates were also provided for extra protection of the engine compartment’s sides. The Jagdpanzer IV could be equipped with additional 5 mm thick armor plates (Schürzen) covering the side of the vehicle. They served mainly to protect against Soviet anti-tank rifles.
The first few prototypes were equipped with 7.5 cm L/43 guns. For the production version of the Jagdpanzer IV, the 7.5 cm PaK 39 L/48 was chosen. This gun was developed and produced by Rheinmetall-Borsig AG with the support of Seitz-Werke GmbH. In essence, this was the same weapon as the 7.5 cm StuK 40 gun used on the StuG III vehicles, but it was modified to be mounted on the new Jagdpanzer IV. This gun had a semi-automatic sliding block. This means that, after firing the gun, the spent round would be self-ejected, increasing the firing rate.
The elevation of this gun went from –8° to +15° (–5° to +15° or –6° to +20° depending on the source) and the traverse was 15° to right and 12° left (or 10° in both directions, once more, depending on the source). The main gun was not placed at the vehicle’s center, but was instead moved some 20 cm to the right side, mainly because of the gun sights. The gun was protected by the round-shaped gun mantlet. The ammunition supply for the main gun was 79 rounds. Usually, half were armor-piercing, and the other half were high explosive rounds. This was not always the case as, depending on the combat situation and needs, the ammunition load could be changed. In rarer cases, tungsten armor-piercing ammunition would be used. The standard armor-piercing round was capable of piercing 109 mm of flat armor at 1 km distance. The rare tungsten core round, at the same distance, could defeat 130 mm of armor.
Initially, the Jagdpanzer IV vehicles produced were equipped with a muzzle brake. The crews that operated these vehicles quickly noticed that, during firing, the muzzle brake would create extensive dust clouds in front of the vehicle due to Jagdpanzer IV’s small height. This reduced visibility, but more importantly, gave away the vehicle’s position to the enemy. As a result, crews began removing the muzzle brake from their vehicles. To compensate for removing it, Vomag engineers designed an improved recoil cylinder to help ease the recoil during firing. As this was being put into production, the troop field reports indicated that, despite removing the muzzle brake, the 7.5 cm gun worked without problems. Because of this, the introduction of the new improved recoil cylinder was actually not needed. Nevertheless, some newly built vehicles were equipped with it during production. From May 1944, the muzzle brake would be removed from the Jagdpanzer IV program. The later-produced vehicles did not have threaded ends on the barrel, as they were no longer needed.
There were also experiments with fixed non-recoiling mounts, known as ‘neur Art Starr’ (which could roughly be translated as ‘new fixed mount version’). Two Jagdpanzer IVs were modified for this purpose in September 1944, though this was unsuccessful and soon abandoned, but continued on the Jagdpanzer 38(t).
For self-defense, a 7.92 mm MG 42 machine gun with some 1,200 rounds of ammunition was provided. Unlike most other German armored vehicles, a ball mount was not used on the Jagdpanzer IV. Instead, the machine gun could be fired from two front gun ports located on the left and right of the main gun, which were 13 cm wide. These two machine gun ports were protected with conical-shaped armored covers. The left machine gun port proved difficult to use by the gunner and would be abandoned from March 1944. The vehicles that were at that time under production received a 60 mm thick round plate to cover the now useless machine gun port. The newly produced vehicle would receive the front superstructure armor plate that did not have this hole at all. From May 1944, the conical-shaped armored cover for the remaining machine gun port was slightly enlarged. When not in use, the machine gun could be pulled into a small travel lock that was connected to the vehicle’s roof. In this case, the machine gun port could be closed by pivoting the armor cover.
The prototype vehicles initially had two pistol ports placed on their superstructure sides. These were not adopted for service, as it was planned to add a remote-controlled machine gun mount (Rundumsfeuer) with a 360º firing arc on top of the superstructure. In theory, it would provide the crew with effective anti-personnel fire on all sides. However, the Rundumsfeuer machine gun mount was deleted early on. Some Jagdpanzer IVs were tested with this weapon system during March and April 1944, but it was noted that there was not enough room for it to be effectively mounted. This is peculiar, as the same machine gun mount was used without major problems on the much smaller Jagdpanzer 38(t) tank-hunter.
The Jagdpanzer IV was also equipped with the Nahverteidigungswaffe (Eng. close defense grenade launcher), with some 16 rounds of ammunition (high explosive and smoke rounds), located on the vehicle’s top. Due to the general lack of resources though, not all vehicles were provided with this weapon. In such cases, the Nahverteidigungswaffe opening hole was closed off with a round plate.
The four-man crew consisted of the commander, the gunner, the loader/radio operator, and the driver. The driver’s position was on the front left side. While he was provided with two front-mounted vision slits, his overall awareness of the surroundings was limited. For example, due to the position of the gun, the driver had a huge blind spot to the right. Just behind him was the gunner’s position. He was tasked with operating the main gun, using two hand wheels, one for elevation and the other for traverse, located in front of him. A Sfl.Z.F.1a gun sight for acquiring targets was used. When in use, the sight was projected through the sliding armored cover on the vehicle’s top armor.
The commander was positioned behind the gunner. For observation and finding targets, the commander had at his disposal three periscopes. These were a fixed sight (Rundblickfehrnrohr Rbl F 3b), binocular rangefinder (Scherenfernrohr SF 14 Z), and a rotatable periscope. The commander had a small additional hatch door for the use of a retractable Sf.14Z telescope. Lastly, the commander was also responsible for providing the loader with the ammunition located on the left sidewall.
The last crew member was the loader, who was positioned on the vehicle’s right side. He operated the radio, which was located to the right rear, and he also doubled as the 7.92 mm MG 42 machine gun operator. There was a small opening located above the machine gun which provided the gun operator with a limited view of the front. Nearly all periscopes were protected with an armored flap cover.
In the previously mentioned letter by the General der Artillery to Guderian, a desire and hope were expressed that the new vehicle would also be allocated to assault gun units. This actually never occurred, mostly on the insistence of Guderian himself. While the Jagdpanzer IV’s development history seems straightforward at first glance, it was actually followed by a fight between the German artillery and tank branches. The Jagdpanzer IV’s development was initiated by the artillery branch, in the hope of improving its StuG III vehicles with a new design, known as the Sturmgeschütze Neue Art. But, during its development, General Heinz Guderian insisted that it should be reclassified as a Panzerjäger and assigned to the Panzer units. In the end, Guderian won and the Jagdpanzer IV was allocated to existing Panzerjäger units, which were part of Panzer and Panzer Grenadier divisions, instead of the assault artillery units. This meant that the new Jagdpanzer IV was allocated to units that had little prior experience with this kind of vehicle. At the same time, the assault artillery units, which had experience operating such vehicles, were denied a weapon that could have potentially increased their effectiveness.
The Jagdpanzer IV was used to equip Panzerjäger Abteilungen (Eng. anti-tank battalions) of Panzer or Panzer Grenadier divisions. The anti-tank battalions assigned to a Panzer division were usually divided into two companies, each 10 vehicles strong. One more vehicle was to be assigned for the battalion commander, reaching the total strength of 21 vehicles.
Panzer Grenadier anti-tank battalions had two companies, with 14 vehicles each. Three more vehicles were used for the battalion commander’s platoon. In total, its strength was 31 vehicles. In both cases, a third company consisted of towed anti-tank guns. Depending on the availability and combat situation, the number of vehicles per Panzerjäger Abteilung varied depending on many factors, such as losses or availability of vehicles.
At the end of 1943, on the insistence of Guderian and with Hitler’s approval, the Panzer Lehr Division was to be formed, which would serve as a training point for armored formations. It would include experienced personnel from various other units. This unit was actually the first German division to be supplied with the Jagdpanzer IV. On 1st June 1944, its Panzerjäger Lehr Abteilung 130 was equipped with 31 Jagdpanzer IVs. Its structure was a bit unusual, with each of the three anti-tank companies being equipped with 9 Jagdpanzer IV. The remaining four vehicles were attached to the Battalion command. The reason for this unusual organizational structure lies in the fact that this unit was originally meant to be equipped with 14 Jagdpanzer IV and 14 Jagdtigers. As no Jagdtigers were available at this point, additional Jagdpanzer IVs were provided instead. Another unit with Jagdpanzer IVs was the Panzer Division Hermann Goering.
During the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, various German units had been meant to receive the new Jagdpanzer IV. Some were already equipped, including the 2nd Panzer Division, 116th Panzer Division, and 12th SS Panzer Division, having 21 vehicles each, while the Panzer Lehr Division and 17th Panzergrenadier Divisions had 31. In the case of the 17th Panzergrenadier Division, its Jagdpanzer IVs arrived in France in August due to delays. The 9th Panzer Division was meant to receive the Jagdpanzer IV to replace its Marder II anti-tank vehicles, but these were not available by the time of the Allied invasion of the West in June 1944. Other divisions that would be included in this campaign that had the Jagdpanzer IV were the 9th, 11th, 116th, and 10th SS Panzer Divisions.
In the days following the Allied landings in Normandy, heavy fighting took place as the Allies tried to extend their beachhead and the Germans to turn them back. In the area between Caen and Bayeux, elements of the 12th SS Panzer Division were quite active. On 9th June, the Panzergrenadier Lehr Regiment 901 and Panzerjäger Lehr Abteilung 130 proceeded toward Bayeux in an attempt to recapture this city and prevent future Allied advances. During this drive, some six Jagdpanzer IV were left behind the line, as they had faultily aligned gunsights. Given that the Germans were unsure as to what the next Allied main objective would be, even expecting a second landing in Belgium, organizing an effective offensive operation could not be easily achieved. The superior Allied air power and the long supply lines greatly affected the German overall combat performance.
On the 10th, heavy fighting occurred, as both sides tried to engage each other. Fighting in this area, due to bocage-terrain in this part of France, was not easy nor suited for larger armored formations. On the evening of that day, some 5 Allied Cromwell tanks found themself behind the enemy line and even threatened the headquarters of the Panzergrenadier Lehr Regiment 902. Unfortunately for them, some Jagdpanzer IVs, with their unit commander, Oberleutnant Werner Wagner, were close by and prepared to engage the enemy. After positioning the vehicles to have the best possible firing range, they engaged the enemy tanks. Soon, one Cromwell was hit and set ablaze. A second Cromwell was immobilized by two hits before a third one destroyed it. A third Cromwell was also reported to be destroyed. The remaining Allied tanks tried to retreat but were unable to, forcing the crews to surrender.
The following day, the Allies mounted a great offensive in the area of Tilly-sur-Seulles. As the German defense line held the onslaught, the Allies dispatched another group of Cromwell tanks. Six Jagdpanzer IVs spearheaded the German’s own counter-attack. After destroying a few Cromwells, the remaining retreated back. The Jagdpanzer IVs proceeded with the attack, pushing the Allies back.
On 9th August 1944, the Allies launched large armored formations that moved toward the Caen-Falaise road, in order to liberate Cauvicourt. The Allied advance was met by Jagdpanzer IVs of the SS Panzerjäger Abteilung 12’s 1st Company, positioned around Hill 112, together with other German armor. During the engagements, of 22 destroyed Allied M4 tanks, between 16 to 22 were credited to the Jagdpanzer IVs. The German losses were four Panthers, six Panzer IVs, five Tiger Is, and five Jagdpanzer IVs. Two Jagdpanzer IVs would be sent forwards in reconnaissance missions and would go on to destroy 5 additional tanks.
Later that day, the Allies, frustrated by the lack of progress, dispatched some 9 Cromwell tanks from the 10th Mounted Rifle Regiment to try to outflank the German positions at Maizières Estrées-la-Campagne road. All would be taken out by the German Jagdpanzer IVs. Due to the heavy Allied artillery barrage though, the Germans began evacuating their positions. They quickly came under a night attack from the tanks of the Polish 1st Armoured Regiment. The SS Panzerjäger Abteilung 12’s Jagdpanzer IVs defeated the Polish-operated tanks, destroying some 22 M4 and Cromwell tanks.
The Jagdpanzer IV did not always perform well against the Allies. For example, during the fighting in the area of Laval and Le Mans, the 17th Panzergrenadier Division lost 9 Jagdpanzer IVs.
Nevertheless, overall, they performed excellently during the French campaign of 1944. For example, Oberscharfuehrer Rudolf Roy of the 12th SS Panzer Division claimed to have destroyed some 36 Allied tanks before being killed by an enemy sniper in December 1944.
Ardennes Offensive and the End of the War in Western Europe
During the Ardennes Offensive, on the Western Front, the Germans had 92 Jagdpanzer IVs. Some 20 Jagdpanzer IVs were part of the 2nd SS Division Das Reich. By the end of 1944, there were 56 Jagdpanzer IVs, of which only 28 were operational.
In December 1944, the Jagdpanzer IVs participated in 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 vehicle. The 22nd Panzer Division had four Jagdpanzer IVs and the 25th Panzergrenadier Division five Jagdpanzer IVs. The operation ended in another German failure by late January 1945, further depleting the strength of its armored units.
The Jagdpanzer IV also saw action in Italy, albeit in limited numbers. Three Panzer divisions received this vehicle: the Panzer Division Hermann Goering, the 3rd and the 15th Panzergrenadier divisions. Their combined combat strength was 83 Jagdpanzer IVs. By the end of 1944, this number was reduced to only 8 vehicles, of which 6 were operational.
The majority of the Jagdpanzer IVs produced were deployed on the Eastern Front, in an attempt to stop the Soviet advance. They saw heavy action there, but were also used in the role of tanks or assault guns, the former of which the vehicle could not fulfil. The heavy fighting in Poland during October 1944 cost the Germans many casualties, including at least 55 Jagdpanzer IVs.
Other examples included the heavy fighting in Hungary. While attacking Soviet lines at Homok (Hungary) on 19th December 1944, Panzerjäger Abteilung 43 lost three out of four Jagdpanzer IVs. On 23rd December 1944, the Kampfgruppe “Scheppelmann”, which had 8 Panzer IVs and 13 Jagdpanzer IVs, engaged a Soviet force north of Kisgyarmat. They managed to take out some 12 tanks, 3 American-supplied anti-aircraft half-tracks, 1 armored car, and 2 armored personnel carriers. By the end of 1944, there were some 311 Jagdpanzer IVs, of which 209 were operational. In an attempt to relieve the besieged city of Budapest, the Germans employed the IV SS Panzer Corps, which had some 285 armored vehicles in its inventory, of which 55 were Jagdpanzer IVs. All attempts to reach Budapest ultimately failed, with many losses among the German forces. During the last few months of the war, there is little information about the Jagdpanzer IV, as the sources mainly focus on the later improved version armed with the long gun. Like other German forces, they fought a fighting retreat all the way to the Battle of Berlin.
Jagdpanzer IV Versions
Panzer IV/70 (V)
From the very start, the new Jagdpanzer IV project was intended to be armed with the longer 7.5 cm L/70 gun. As these weapons were not available in sufficient numbers, this was initially not possible. Once the 7.5 cm L/70 gun production was increased sufficiently that sufficient numbers could be spared for the Jagdpanzer IV project, work on an improved Jagdpanzer IV armed with this gun was immediately started. After a period of modification and testing in the first half of 1944, the production of a new Jagdpanzer IV version armed with the long 7.5 cm gun finally began in November 1944. The new vehicle was named Panzer IV/70 (V) and, by the time war ended, under 1,000 had been produced.
Jagdpanzer IV Befehlswagen
An unknown number of Jagdpanzer IVs were modified to be used as Befehlswagen (Eng. command vehicles). These vehicles had an additional FuG 8 radio station installed and one extra crew member. The Befehlswagen can be easily identified by the second radio antenna located on the rear left side.
After the War
Strangely, the Jagdpanzer IV would see limited combat action after the Second World War. Around five vehicles were given to Syria in 1950 by the French, although, depending on the sources, it is possible that the Soviets actually supplied them. During combat with Israeli forces in 1967 during the Six-Day War, one Jagdpanzer IV was lost when it was hit by a tank round. The remaining were withdrawn from the front and probably placed in reserve or even stored. These Jagdpanzers IV were still listed in the Syrian Army inventory during 1990-1991. What became of them is, unfortunately, not currently known.
As Bulgaria was part of the Axis alliance during World War II, it was supplied with German equipment, including some StuG IIIs, Panzer IIIs and IVs, and a small number of Jagdpanzer IVs. During the Cold War, in order to protect its border with Turkey, Bulgaria, a member of the Communist Eastern Bloc, used the older German-supplied armored vehicles, including the Jagdpanzer IV, as static bunkers. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these vehicles were abandoned by the Bulgarian Army. They would remain there until 2007, when the Bulgarian Army made extensive recovery operations in order to salvage these vehicles. One of the salvaged vehicles was a Jagdpanzer IV.
The Jagdpanzer IV’s Grandson?
For the reorganized West German Army after the war, the concept of an anti-tank vehicle was not completely lost. They would develop and build the Kanonenjagdpanzer, which was, by design, very similar to the Jagdpanzer IV. While such a vehicle was effective during the Second World War, the technological developments and the introduction and widespread use of anti-tank rockets and missiles made such dedicated tank hunter vehicles obsolete.
Today, several vehicles have survived the war around the world. One Jagdanzer IV can be found in the Bulgarian Museum of Glory in Yambol. There were three vehicles, including one of the 0-series, located in France, at the Saumur Armor Museum. The 0-series vehicle was given to Germany and can be today seen in the Panzermuseum Munster, together with another Jagdpanzer IV that was already there. One more can be seen in Switzerland at the Panzermuseum Thun. There is also one located in Syria.
The Jagdpanzer IV was the first German dedicated anti-tank vehicle. It had excellent protection and firepower and a low silhouette. The Jagdpanzer IV had all the characteristics needed to be an excellent tank hunter. It would see action on nearly all fronts the German Army fought on at the time, in the East, in the West, and on the Italian Front.
When used in combat, it quickly proved to be an effective anti-tank vehicle. While an adequate vehicle for sure, its overall performance was slightly better than the mass-produced StuG III. It shared many elements with it regarding the overall design, firepower, and small height. In retrospect, the Germans could well have been better suited had they followed Guederian’s advice and focused more on the production of an even greater number of StuG III vehicles. The Jagdpanzer IV drained significant and necessary resources from Panzer IV production. In the end, like many German late-war projects, it was built too late and in too few numbers to really have any impact on the whole war.
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||6.85 x 3.17 x 1.86 m|
|Total weight, battle-ready||24 tonnes|
|Crew||4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)|
|Propulsion||Maybach HL 120 TRM, 272 hp @ 2,800 rpm|
|Speed||40 km/h (25 mph), 15-18 km/h (cross-country)|
|Operational range||210 km, 130 km (cross-country)|
|Traverse||15° right and 12° left|
|Elevation||-8° to +15°|
|Armament||7.5 cm (2.95 in) Pak 39 L/48 (79 rounds)
7.9 mm (0.31 in) MG 42, 1200 rounds
|Superstructure armor||Front 60 mm, sides 40 mm, rear 30 mm and top 20 mm|
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