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Germany's Sturmgeschütz (Assault Guns)

Photos

Sturmgeschütz III self propelled gun in Tunisia:
Germany's Sturmgeschütz III self propelled gun in Tunisia
United States Army in World War II, Pictorial Record, The War Against Germany and Italy: Mediterranean and Adjacent Areas, 1951, pg 54

Design

Based on experience from World War I the Germany Army wanted a mobile gun that could support the infantry by destroying strongpoints.4 In June 1936, the German Army Weapons Department issued specifications for such a close infantry support vehicle with a low silhouette.1 Daimler-Benz was selected to design and produce a prototype with Krupp developing the main armament.1

The 7.5 cm KwK4 L/24 gun was selected as it was also being installed in PzKpfw IVs.1 It was installed in a fixed superstructure on the chassis of a PzKpfw III tank.1

The experimental series was made from PzKpfw III Ausf B chassis (nos. 90216-90220) and mounted a soft steel superstructure.

In July 1940 the production contract was signed and output was scheduled to reach 50 vehicles per month by September 1940.1 Alkett started the production of the StuGs1, with MIAG producing from February 1943 to March 1945, and Daimler-Benz producing them starting in 1943.

In September 28, 1941 Hitler ordered uparming and uparmoring regardless of the increase in weight or reduction of speed.1 The Ordnance Department named Daimler-Benz responsible for the chassis and Rheinmetall-Borsig for the superstructures with the new longer barrel guns.1 On March 31, 1942, the prototype was shown to Hitler, which he approved.1 These became the StuG III Ausf F.1

Production

Brandenburgische Eisenwerke of Brandenburg, Harkort-Eicken of Hagen, Deutsche Edelstahlwerke AG of Hanover, and Bismarckhütte of Upper Silesia supplied armor plate for the production lines.

  • StuG III: ~10,5005
    • Manufacturer: Krupp (Magdeburg), M.I.A.G., Alkett3
    • Production: April 1940 - ?5

Variants

  • Sturmgeschütz III: An initial series of 30 was scheduled to go into production in February 1940. 30 were produced and equipped five batteries, of which one saw service in the West in June 1940.1 Daimler-Benz was to produce the initial vehicles while Krupp installed the guns.
    Troop trials continued through 1940 and 5 took part in the invasion of France.
    The 75 mm gun had a muzzle velocity of 2,000'/sec when firing a 15.7 lb AP or 12.7 lb HE round.3
    The first model reached units in February 1940 and 24 more were delivered by the end of May. These were used in the Sturmartillerie Batteries 640, 659, 660, and 665 in France.
  • Sturmgeschütz III 7.5 cm Stu.K. L/24 SdKfz 1425:
  • Sturmgeschütz III 7.5 cm Stu.K. L/335:
  • Sturmgeschütz III 7.5 cm Stu.K. 40 L/43 SdKfz 142/15:
  • Sturmgeschütz III 7.5 cm Stu.K. 40 L/48 SdKfz 142/15:
  • Sturmgeschütz III 10.5 cm Stu.H.42 L/28.3 SdKfz 142/25:
  • Sturminfanteriegeschütz 33B: The initial 12 versions were completed in December 1941 and January 1942. These were rebuilt and 12 more were made in October 1942. Used the same hull as the StuG Ausf E and StuG Ausf F/8 with the superstructure redesigned. The fighting compartment was completely enclosed. An hull mounted MG was on the right side.
    A company of the vehicles was sent to Stalingrad in November 1942. A 2nd Sturm schwere Infanteriegeschüutz was formed as the 9th Company, 201st Panzer Regiment, 23rd Panzer Division as was used in the attempt to relieve the encirclement at Stalingrad.
  • Munitionspanzer auf Fahrgestell Sturmgeschütz III Ausf G: In 1944 and 1945 some StuGs were field converted in to ammunition carriers by removing the main armament and using an armor plate over the aperture.
    Vehicles issued to Funklenk Kompanien (Remote Control Companies) had an additional radio aerial installed on the left front of the fighting compartment.

Usage

Initially the vehicles were formed into independent assault gun battalions which had three companies of ten tanks each, and a commander with his own.1 Ten of these battalions were deployed in June 1941, for Operation Barbarossa.1 By July 1942, there were 19 such battalions, and by the end of 1943, there were 37.1

Starting in late 1943, the German High Command started assigning assault guns to the tank destroyer company, which was part of the anti-tank battalion in the 1944 pattern infantry divisions.1

The 42 assault gun battalions in service in the summer of 1944 were designated to be brigades.1 In late 1944 a grenadier platoon was to be added to provide support.1 By January 1, 1945, there were 39 assault gun brigades, and only 7 of these had the grenadier platoon.1

Some StuGs were being assigned to panzer divisions in 1944 to offset the shortages of regular tanks.1

Grossdeutschland and some Waffen-SS units had assault gun units as part of the division.2

Normandy

The 341st and 349th assault gun brigades fought in the Normandy Campaign in 1944.1 The 2nd, 9th, and 10th SS Panzer Divisions had 2 companies each of StuG IIIs in Normandy.1 The 1st and 2nd SS Panzer Division each had tank destroyer battalions supplied with StuG IIIs as the Jagdpanzer IVs hadn't reach the units yet.1

Battle of the Bulge

Many units participating in the offensive through the Ardennes had StuG IIIs.1 One unit, the 244th Assault Gun Brigade, destroyed 54 American tanks for a loss of two of its own.1

190th Assault Gun Brigade

In West Prussia, during the defensive fighting in the spring of 1945, it distinguished itself enough to be mentioned in German High Command communiques twice.1 On February 26, 1945, the brigade destroyed 104 enemy tanks, for a loss of 4 assault guns.1 On March 3, 1945, the brigade destroyed its 1,000 tank since being formed in 1940.1 Because of its success it was evacuated from West Prussia to be used in the defense of Berlin.1

232nd Assault Gun Brigade

It was cut off in the Samland peninsula in East Prussia in the spring of 1945.1 It combined itself with other brigades to form the largest assault gun formation of the Germany Army, with 2,000 men and 47 assault guns in February 1945.1 However, by April 1945, it had lost its last assault gun.1 The remaining personnel were evacuated on May 8, 1945, to Hela from Danzig by barges.1 That night they were crowded onto a torpedo boat and made their way to Denmark.1

243rd Assault Artillery Brigade

After being used as infantry on the Teltow Canal during April 1945, the unit received 40 brand new StuGs straight from the Alkett factory in Berlin.1 On April 14-15 they went into combat against the American bridgehead at Schoenenbeck on the Elbe River.1 They were then joined with the Theodor Korner Division in trying to relieve Berlin.1 They recaptured Treuenbrietzen, with support from Assault Gun Demonstration Brigade Schill, which was raised from the training school at Burg.1

249th Assault Gun Brigade

On April 24, they collected 31 brand new assault guns from the Alkett factory in Spandau.1 On the 27th, German High Command ordered the unit to break through the recently closed encirclement of Berlin by the Soviets.1 The 249th broke through and setup positions at Friedrichshain, which was in the Berlin perimeter.1 The Knight's Cross was awarded to the brigade's commander.1 By the 30th, they only had nine assault guns left and were conducting a fighting withdrawal to Alexanderplatz.1 Its final position was at the Berlin Technical High School.1 After hearing of Hitler's suicide, the remnants tried to break out with its last three assault guns.1 These were destroyed near Spandau, but some of the crews and the commander were able to reach the Elbe and surrender to the Americans.1

Foreign Sales

Some were supplied to Finland, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.1

Specifications

  StuG III SdKfz 142
Crew Commander, gunner, loader/radio operator, driver
41,3,5
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 21.65 tons5, 24.3 tons3
Length 17.75'3, 18'5
Height 6' 4"5, 6.8'3
Width 9.7'3, 9' 8"5
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance 14.8"3
Ground contact length 112.5"3
Ground pressure 13.7 psi3
Armament (mm)  
Main 7.5 cm Stu.K. 37 L/245
75 mm Stuk L/242
75 mm Stu. G. lg K, L/333
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 44, 84 (55: HE, 21: AP, 8: Smoke)1
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 505
Front: 2"+1.2"3
Side: 1.2"3
Hull Front, Upper 50@10°
Hull Front, Lower 50@21°
Hull Sides, Upper 30@0° + 9@30°
Hull Sides, Lower 30@0°
Hull Rear 30@30° + 10°
Hull Top 11@78° to 90° & 17@85°
Hull Bottom 16@90°
Superstructure Front  
Superstructure Sides  
Superstructure Rear  
Superstructure Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Maybach5, Maybach HL 120 TRM3
Bore / stroke 4 cycles3
Cooling Water3
Cylinders V-123
Capacity  
Net HP 3005, 300@3,000 rpm3
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio 6.5:13
Transmission (Type) Synchromesh3
6 forward, 1 reverse3
Steering Clutch brake3
Steering ratio  
Starter Hand inertia and electric.3
Electrical system Starting: 24-volt3
Normal: 12-volt3
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Gasoline3
Octane  
Quantity 82 gallon3
Road consumption 1.7 mpg3
Cross country consumption 0.7 mpg3
Performance  
Traverse 12° each way
24°3
Speed - Road 25 mph3,5
Speed - Cross Country 15 mph3
Range - Road 96 miles3, 101 miles5
Range - Cross Country 59 miles3
Turning radius  
Elevation limits -10° to +20°3
Fording depth 31.5"3
Trench crossing 7.6'3
Vertical obstacle 23.6"3
Climbing ability 30° (57%) slope3
Suspension (Type) Torsion Bar3
Wheels each side 63, 6x2
Return rollers each side 33, 3x2
Tracks (Type) Dry pin3
Length  
Width 15.75"3
Diameter  
Number of links 923
Pitch 4.9"3
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread 8.25'3

Sources:

  1. German Tanks of World War II, Dr. S. Hart & Dr. R. Hart, 1998
  2. Sturmgeschütz 40 (L/43 & L/48) The Long Gun Versions, Horst Scheibert, 1991
  3. Tank Data, Aberdeen Proving Grounds Series, 1968?
  4. Profile, AFV Weapons #55, German Self-Propelled Weapons, Peter Chamberlain, H.L. Doyle, 1973
  5. German Tanks and Armoured Vehicles 1914 - 1945, B. T. White, 1966
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