Skip to content

Countdown to Bagration: the tanks of Bagration – German Sturmgeschütz III/IV SdKfz 167 (aka Stug III/IV)

by on August 16, 2012

Image

The Sturmgeschütz III originated from German experiences in World War I when it was discovered that during the offensives on the western front the infantry lacked the means to effectively engage fortifications. The artillery of the time was heavy and not mobile enough to keep up with the advancing infantry to destroy bunkers, pillboxes, and other minor obstacles with direct fire. Although the problem was well known in the German army, it was General Erich von Manstein who is considered the father of the Sturmartillerie. This is because the initial proposal was from (then) Colonel Erich von Manstein and submitted to General Ludwig Beck in 1935, suggesting that Sturmartillerie (“assault artillery”) units should be used in a direct-fire support role for infantry divisions. On June 15, 1936, Daimler-Benz AG received an order to develop an armoured infantry support vehicle capable of mounting a 75 mm (2.95 in) artillery piece. The gun mount’s fixed, fully integrated casemate superstructure was to allow a limited traverse of a minimum of 25° and provided overhead protection for the crew. The height of the vehicle was not to exceed that of the average man.

Daimler-Benz AG used the chassis and running gear of its recently designed Pz.Kpfw. III medium tank as a basis for the new vehicle. Prototype manufacture was passed over to Alkett, which produced five examples in 1937 of the experimental 0-series StuG based upon the Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. B. These prototypes featured a mild steel superstructure and Krupp’s short-barreled 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 cannon. This model was known as the Sturmgeschütz Ausführung A.

Image

While the StuG III was considered self-propelled artillery it was not initially clear which arm of the Wehrmacht would handle the new weapon. The Panzer arm, the natural user of tracked fighting vehicles, had no resources to spare for the formation of StuG units, and neither did the infantry branch. It was agreed, after a discussion, it would best be employed as part of the artillery arm.

The StuGs were organised into battalions (later renamed “brigades” for disinformation purposes) and followed their own specific doctrine. Infantry support using direct-fire was its intended role. Later there was also a strong emphasis on destroying enemy armour whenever encountered.

As the StuG III was designed to fill an infantry close support combat role, early models were fitted with a low-velocity 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 gun to destroy soft-skin targets and fortifications. After the Germans encountered the Soviet KV-1 and T-34 tanks, the StuG III was equipped with a high-velocity 75 mm StuK 40 L/43 main gun (Spring 1942) and later – the 75 mm StuK 40 L/48 (Autumn 1942) anti-tank gun. These versions were known as the Sturmgeschütz 40 Ausführung F, Ausf. F/8 and Ausf. G.

When the StuG IV entered production in late 1943 and early 1944, the “III” was added to the name to separate it from the Panzer IV-based assault guns. All previous and following models were thereafter known as Sturmgeschütz III.

Beginning with the StuG III Ausf. G, a 7.92 mm MG34 could be mounted on a shield on top of the superstructure for added anti-infantry protection from December 1942. Some of the F/8 models were retrofitted with a shield as well. Many of the later StuG III Ausf. G models were equipped with an additional coaxial 7.92 mm MG34.

The vehicles of the Sturmgeschütz series were cheaper and faster to build than contemporary German tanks; at 82,500 RM, a StuG III Ausf G was cheaper than a Panzer III Ausf. M, which cost 103,163 RM. This was due to the omission of the turret, which greatly simplified manufacture and allowed the chassis to carry a larger gun than it could otherwise. By the end of the war, 10,619 StuG IIIs and StuH 42s had been built.

Image

Overall, Sturmgeschütz series assault guns proved very successful and served on all fronts as assault guns and tank destroyers. Although Tigers and Panthers have earned a greater notoriety, assault guns collectively destroyed more tanks. Because of their low silhouette, StuG IIIs were easy to camouflage and a difficult target. Sturmgeschütz crews were considered to be the elite of the artillery units. Sturmgeschütz units held a very impressive record of tank kills—some 20,000 enemy tanks by the spring of 1944. As of April 10, 1945, there were 1,053 StuG IIIs and 277 StuH 42s in service. Approximately 9,500 StuG IIIs of various types were produced until March 1945 by Alkett and a small number by MIAG.

The StuG assault guns were cost-effective compared to the heavier German tanks, though in the anti-tank role they were best used defensively, as the lack of a traversable turret was a severe disadvantage in the assault role. As the German military situation deteriorated later in the war, more StuG guns were built compared to tanks, to replace losses and bolster defences against the encroaching Allied forces.

In 1943 and 1944, the Finnish Army received a total of 59 StuG III Ausf. Gs from Germany and used them against the Soviet Union. Thirty of the vehicles were received in 1943 and 29 in 1944. The 1943 batch destroyed at least 87 enemy tanks for a loss of only 8 StuGs (some of these were destroyed by their crews to avoid capture). The 1944 batch saw no real action. After the war, the StuGs were the main combat vehicles of the Finnish Army until the early 1960s. These StuGs gained the nickname “Sturmi” which can be found in some plastic kit models.

Image

100 StuG III Ausf. G were delivered to Romania in the autumn of 1943. They were officially known as TAs (or TAs T3 to avoid confusion with TAs T4) in the army inventory. By February 1945, 13 units were still in use with the 2nd Armoured Regiment. None of this initial batch survived the end of the war. 31 TAs were on the army inventory in November 1947. Most of them were probably StuG III Ausf. G and a small number of Panzer IV/70 (V), known as TAs T4. These TAs were supplied by the Red Army or were damaged units repaired by the Romanian Army.    All German equipment was scrapped in 1954 due to the Army’s decision to use Soviet armour.

StuG IIIs were also exported to other nations such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, and Spain.

Many German Sturmgeschütz IIIs were stranded in Yugoslavia after the war. These were used by the Yugoslav Peoples Army until the 1950s.

After the Second World War the Soviet Union donated some of their captured German vehicles to Syria, which continued to use them along with other war surplus AFVs (like long-barreled Panzer IVs and T-34/85s) during the 1950s and up until the The War over Water against Israel in the mid-1960s. By the time of the Six Days War all of them had been either destroyed, stripped for spare parts, or interred on the Golan Heights as static pillboxes.

Image

Number produced:  7,720
Produced: December 1942-March 1945
Length: 6.77m
Hull Width: 2.95m
Height: 2.16m
Crew: 4
Weight: 23.9 tons
Engine: 320hp Maybach HL120TRM
Max Speed: 40km/hr
Max Range:  155km/ 95 miles
Main Armament: One 7.5cm StuK40 L/48
Machine Guns: One to three 7.92mm MG34 or MG42

Armour

Armour Front Side Rear Top/ Bottom
Superstructure 80mm* 30mm 30mm 17mm
Hull 80mm* 30mm 50mm 16mm
Gun mantlet 50mm or
50mm+30mm or
80mm
30mm 30mm

* Sometimes as one 80mm plate and sometimes as a 50mm base with 30mm extra armour

 

Advertisements

From → Flames of War

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: