Two StuG IV's - Normandy (Probably from the 17th SS Pz.Gdr. GvB)
The Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III) was one of a series of assault guns/tank destroyers produced by the Germans during World War II. Assault guns were easier, cheaper and less time consuming to produce than turreted tanks and that is why German factories built them in large numbers. The cost of single StuG III Ausf G was 82,500RM making it cheaper than both PzKpfw III Ausf M at 103,163RM and PzKpfw IV Ausf F2 at 115,962RM. Almost four Ausf Gs could be purchased for the cost of single King Tiger!The StuG was originally designed as an assault weapon, but as war progressed it became more of a defensive one. It evolved into an assault gun and tank destroyer in one. Its main role was providing anti-tank support to the units in its area of operation. Its design underwent many changes including various modifications made to the suspension (e.g. sprocket and idler design), superstructure (e.g. headlights, shape, size, ventilator, cupola) and other equipment (e.g. sight, remote control machine gun). Each variant featured some modifications to the overall design, creating the visible difference between Ausf B-G. All StuG IIIs were operated by the four men crew - commander, gunner, loader / radio operator and driver. History In 1935, Colonel Erich von Manstein proposed that Sturmartillerie units be formed and used for direct support of infantry divisions. They were to be equipped with assault guns mounted on tracked chassis. Used to accompany the infantry into the attack, the assault gun's main aim was to knock out pill-boxes, machine gun nests, anti-tank guns and other obstacles. On June 15, 1936, the order was given to Daimler-Benz AG to develop and produce an armored infantry support vehicle mounting 75mm gun. The gun was to have a limited traverse of 25 degrees in order to provide direct support up to 6 kilometers. The gun was to be mounted in a superstructure that provided full protection for the crew. The height of this vehicle was not to exceed the height of an average man.
Daimler-Benz AG being already involved in the development and production of Panzerkampfwagen III tank decided to use its chassis and components for this new vehicle. The experimental "0" series of five prototypes (chassis numbers 60201 to 60215) were produced in 1937 by Daimler-Benz - Pz.Sfl.III (s.Pak). Prototypes were pre-production Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf B tanks mounted with mild-steel superstructures housing short-barreled 75mm StuK (Sturmkanone) gun designed and produced by Krupp. Vehicles were extensively tested at Kummersdorf, Doberitz, Jueterbog and other testing / training facilities.
The prototypes remained in use as training vehicles as late as 1942. The first production vehicles based on Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf F chassis and components, entered production in 1940. The 75mm StuK 37 L/24 gun was mounted offset to the right in a sloped superstructure. Superstructure was made of armor plates and were mounted on the welded hull. Side hull escape hatches present in the original Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf F hull were removed and frontal hull armor protection was increased from 30mm to 50mm.
From January to May of 1940, 30 Sturmgeschütz III Ausf A were produced by Alkett. Ausf A was followed by improved Ausf B, C, D and E, all armed with short 75mm StuK 37 L/24 gun. All versions featured number of modifications specific to vehicles that followed them in production. The last Ausf E was produced in March of 1942. Total of 822 Ausf A, B, C, D and Es was produced by Alkett and their official designation was Gepanzerter Selbstfahrlafette fur Sturmgeschütz 7.5cm Kanone Ausf A-E / Sd.Kfz.142. Early StuGs remained in active service until mid 1943. Many Early models were recalled to the factory to be rearmed with newer guns and up-armored by addition of armor plates. Some older variants returned for repairs were often re-equipped with parts from newer variants creating completely non-standard variants (e.g. StuG III Ausf C armed with 75mm StuK 40 L/48 gun in Saukopf mantlet destroyed at Altdamm in 1945 and StuG III Ausf E armed with 75mm StuK 40 gun destroyed in Berlin, May 1945). The StuG III Ausf E was the first of the series to be provided with 7.92mm MG34, which was carried inside the superstructure for local defense. In March of 1942, Ausf F entered production. It was not only an assault gun but also a badly needed tank destroyer. Early models were mounted with long 75mm StuK 40 L/43 and late models with longer L/48 gun. The Ausf F was produced until September 1942 for a total of 360 units.
The Ausf F was then replaced by Ausf F/8 armed exclusively with L/48 gun. It was manufactured until December of 1942 with 250 being produced. Most if not all Ausf Fs were upgraded to the Ausf F/8s standards. The Ausf F/8 paved the way for final Sturmgeschütz III model - Ausf G. StuG III Ausf F, F/8 and G's were also called StuG III (40), because they were all armed with 75mm StuK 40 guns. StuG III Ausf F and Ausf F/8 were produced by Alkett and their official designation was Gepanzerter Selbstfahrlafette fur Sturmgeschütz 7.5cm Sturmkanone 40 Ausf F-F/8 / Sd.Kfz.142/1
Ausf G entered production in December of 1942 and remained in production until March/April of 1945. It was the most numerous from all Sturmgeschütz III guns and some 7,893 were produced by Alkett (Altmaerkische Kettenfabrik GmbH) and MIAG (Muehlenbau-und-Industrie AG). Production reached its peak when in 1944, 4,013 Ausf Gs were produced. Alkett produced over 5,000 Ausf Gs, while MIAG began production in March of 1943 and produced some 3,000 vehicles. Production numbers include 165 PzKpfw III Ausf M chassis used to produce Ausf Gs in 1943 and 173 PzKpfw III Ausf Ms converted to Ausf Gs by Alkett and MIAG in 1944.
Ausf G was produced in four production series - chassis numbers 76101-77550, 91751-94250, 95001-unknown and 105001-unknown. Ausf G used Ausf F/8's hull, suspension, engine and other components, while superstructure was modified. Superstructure was widened, its 30mm sides were sloped at 79 degrees, and the roof was raised in the rear and its rear 30mm superstructure wall was mounted at 90 degrees. This provided more room for both the commander and loader. Other changes included:
* Changes to the layout of the roof. * Adding a commander's cupola with seven periscopes (each could be moved up or down). * A sighting flap for binocular spotting telescope. * A 10mm thick machine gun shield in front of loader's hatch (from December of 1942 to April of 1944).
Early vehicles had movable cupola (until October of 1943), mid vehicles had it mounted in a fixed position (until October of 1944) and late vehicles again had movable cupola with additional protective cover. Also, early vehicles had 50mm frontal hull armor increased to 80mm by addition of 30mm bolted armor plate, while vehicles produced since May of 1943 by Alkett and since October of 1943 by MIAG had 80mm frontal hull armor.
Early models were also mounted with KFF2 (Kampfwagen Fahrer Fernrohr) driver's episcopes. During the production, modifications were made to Ausf G. They included introduction of 80mm cast Topfblende (nicknamed Saukopf ) mantlet in February of 1944; the coaxial MG in early 1944, installation of Nahverteidigungswaffe (90mm NbK 39 close-in defense weapon) and roof mounted remote controlled MG (Rundum Feuer) in late spring of 1944.
In addition, vehicles produced since January of 1943 had the fighting compartment fan mounted on the rear superstructure wall instead of the roof. Two kinds of Topfblende were produced and mounted on StuG III Ausf G, one housing only the gun and other housing the gun and coaxial machine gun (from September of 1944). Original "boxy" gun mantlet was made of 50mm (front) and 30mm (sides) armor plates. Ausf Gs were also mounted with 5mm Schürzen since mid 1943. Odds ‘n Ends StuG III Ausf F, F/8 and G's were also called StuG 40 Ausf F, F/8 and G, because they were all armed with 75mm StuK 40 guns. Those last three models performed the role of tank destroyers rather than that of assault guns. On August 1st of 1940, it was planned to convert 12 Sturmgeschütz IIIs into submersible assault guns in preparations for the Invasion of England (Operation Sealion) but the conversions never took place. Three Ausf D vehicles were sent to North Africa and saw service with Sonderverband z.b.V 288 - special deployment unit.In 1942
it was reported by the Allies that a small number of various StuG III models (from Ausf B to Ausf F) was rearmed with 75mm Stuk L/33 guns, which externally resembled 105mm StuH 42 L/28 howitzers causing confusion. In reality Sturmgeschütz was never armed with this of gun. 75mm Stuk L/33 gun was invented by the British, who misinterpreted German photos of StuG III Ausf F with its longer L/43 gun, which had the muzzle break, painted out by German censors, as a new type of gun - L/33. In May and June of 1943, 10 of retired and battle damaged StuG III Ausf F/8 were converted into flame-thrower tanks armed with 14mm Flammenwerfer. They were designated as Sturmgeschütz III (Fl). From June of 1943 to January of 1944, all Sturmgeschütz III (Fl) were used for training in Germany. They never saw combat. By April of 1944 all had been rearmed with 75mm StuK 40 L/48 guns. From April to June of 1943, some 61 StuGs were assigned to Panzerkompanien (Funklenk) as command vehicles for SdKfz.301 (Schwere Ladungstrager Ausf A/B/C - Borgward) tracked demolition charge layers, which were radio-controlled.
A very common field practice was the addition of a layer of concrete added over the armor plate above the driver's position to improve the protection.
Since mid 1943, StuG IIIs were also equipped with 5mm Schürzen (armor skirts) for further protection.
Many earlier versions were recalled to the factory to be rearmed with never guns and up-armored by addition of armor plates. Many vehicles also had mounted additional armor plates during their service by field workshops. Some older variants returned for repairs were often re-equipped with parts from newer variants creating completely non-standard variants. Models produced between September of 1943 and September of 1944, were factory applied with Zimmerit (anti-magnetic paste) with "waffle plate" or standard design. At the same time, many StuG IIIs already in service were also applied with Zimmerit.
Very common were the canister/storage racks or steel rails mounted on the engine compartment. Conclusion Overall, Sturmgeschütz series proved to be very successful, and served on all fronts as assault guns and tank destroyers in both offensive and defensive mode. Sturmgeschütz III with its low silhouette was a difficult target and a dangerous opponent. Sturmgeschütz crews were considered to be the elite of the artillery units and were issued special field grey (version of panzer) uniforms.
Sturmgeschütz units held a very impressive record of tank kills, totaling some 20,000 enemy tanks by spring of 1944. As of April 10th of 1945, there were 1,053 StuG IIIs and 277 StuH IIIs in service. Approximately 9,500 Sturmgeschütz IIIs of various types were produced until March of 1945 by Alkett and small number by MIAG.
Sturmgeschütz III - Sd.Kfz. 142 Ausf A - 75mm StuK 37 L/24 Ausf B - 75mm StuK 37 L/24 Sturminfanteriegeschutz 33 Ausf B - 150mm sIG33 L/11 Ausf C - 75mm StuK 37 L/24 Ausf D - 75mm StuK 37 L/24 Ausf E - 75mm StuK 37 L/24 Sturminfanteriegeschutz 33 Ausf E - 150mm sIG33 L/11
Sturmgeschütz III (40) - Sd.Kfz. 142/1 Ausf F - 75mm StuK 40 L/43 and L/48 (10.5cm) Sturmhaubitze 42 Ausf F / Sd.Kfz. 142/2 - 105mm StuH 42 L/28 Ausf F/8 - 75mm StuK 40 L/43 and L/48 Sturminfanteriegeschutz 33 Ausf F/8 - 150mm sIG33 L/11 Ausf G "Frühe" - 75mm StuK L/48 Ausf G "Spät" - 75mm StuK L/48 (10.5cm) Sturmhaubitze 42 Ausf G / Sd.Kfz. 142/2 - 105mm StuH 42 L/28 Sturmgeschütz IV - Sd.Kfz. 167 Sturmgeschütz IV - 75mm StuK 40 L/48