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date of publication: 21-03-2013

StuG III, Panzer V, German Tank

Selected Panzer III Variants (continuation)

StuG III Ausf G

Since the assault gun concept originated with the artillery branch of the before World War II, the StuG III was manned by a specially trained artillery crew rather than panzer troops. Experience gained during the fighting in France clearly demonstrated to the German army that its tank and antitank weapons did not possess the hitting power or range necessary to kill enemy tanks from anywhere but close range. Early engagements with well-armored during the invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 only reconfirmed this fact. This would result in a widespread demand for upgrades to the armament on most of Germany's armored fighting vehicles. Krupp developed a more powerful 75-mm gun that was compatible with the StuG III chassis. In late 1941, the new gun was mounted on the Ausf F version of the StuG III. Between March and September of 1942, 359 units were built.

This vehicle was a highly effective tank destroyer. Between March 1942 and the end of the war in Europe, StuG III vehicles armed with new 75-mm guns accounted for more enemy tank kills than all the other different-turreted German tank combined.

Panzer StuG III Ausf G

The Ausf F version of the was followed by a version with extra armor called the Ausf F/8. Production totaled 334 vehicles and ran between September and December of 1942.

Despite their success as tank destroyers, the StuG III Ausf F and F/8 were never officially classified by the as Panzerjaegers or as Jadgpanzers. This situation reflected the fact that many German self-propelled weapon systems like the StuG III series were forced by military necessity to serve dual purposes. On some occasions the Germans made up for shortages of tanks in their panzer divisions with StuG III vehicles.

The most common version of the StuG III was the final production model designated Ausf G, with 7,720 produced before Germany's surrender in May of 1945. The StuG III Ausf G was 17 feet 9 1/2 inches long (excluding the gun), 9 feet 8 inches wide, and 7 feet tall. It had a crew of four and weighed about 26 tons. The frontal armor of the vehicle's low-slung superstructure was a little over 3 inches thick. The armament of the StuG III Ausf G consisted of a 75-mm gun. Protection from infantry on the StuG III Ausf G came from a roof-mounted 7.92-mm machine gun, later changed to a coaxial 7.92-mm machine gun.

Panther Ausf A

Some StuG III Ausf F and G chassis were Fitted with limited-traverse 105-mm howitzers. This configuration was designated as the 10.5 Sturmhaubitze (assault howitzer) 42. Between October 1942 and February 1945, 1,211 assault howitzers were built.

Panzer V Panther

The biggest surprise for the U.S. Army after the June 6, 1944, invasion of France (D-Day) was encountering the German Panzer V medium tank. American tank crews who faced it in battle feared the Panzer V as a formidable and deadly adversary. Sergeant Rains M. Robbins, an American M-4 Sherman medium tank commander, and his driver Corporal Walter McGrail described their first impressions of the Panzer V in a wartime report:

The German Mark V tank, mounting a 75-mm gun with a muzzle velocity of about 3200 feet per second, is able to travel on a highway at 38 mph, 15 to 20-mph cross-country in soft going, and better as the going improves.

It has to our mind greater maneuverability, being able to turn in the space it's sitting in, while our mediums require half a field. It also has more armor protection, with approximately four inches of armor on its front end and enough rearward slope to make it the equivalent of six to seven inches. The consensus of opinion is that the German Mark V can outspeed, outmaneuver and outgun us, in addition to their added protection of heavier armor.

Panzer V Panther Ausf A

In early 1944 a personal directive from Hitler ordered the Panzer V designation be dropped, and the vehicle thereafter be designated only as the "Panther" tank. The German policy of applying "cat" names (such as Tiger, Lynx, and Leopard) to tanks and tank destroyers began in 1942 as a propaganda tool to catch the public's fancy. Insect names (such as Cricket, Hornet, and Bumblebee) were reserved for artillery pieces.

To determine what it would take to destroy a Panther, General Omar Bradley's First Army took captured vehicles to test sites and fired every weapon in their inventory at them. To their dismay, only the most potent projectiles fired at close range would penetrate the thick, well-sloped frontal armor of the vehicle.

The only American weapons that could kill a from the front at a realistic range were the army's towed 90-mm antiaircraft gun and the 105-mm howitzer firing a shaped-charge warhead. However, the army could not spare 105-mm howitzers from their artillery fire sup-port duties. This left only the 90-mm antiaircraft gun. Unfortunately, this weapon was large and cumbersome and was difficult to set up and fire. Despite this problem, Bradley positioned a number of 90-mm gun units behind his First Army's front lines to defend from any breakthroughs by German Tank Panther or Tiger Tank in July 1944.