General Military - Sturmgeschutz Panzer, Panzerjager, Waffen-SS and Luftwaffe Units 1943-1

STURMGESCHÜTZ Thomas Anderson PANZER, PANZERJÄGER, WAFFEN-SS AND LUFTWAFFE UNITS 1943–45 STURMGESCHÜTZ Sturmgeshutz-v5.indd 1 11/08/2017 14:39 STURMGE...

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Thomas Anderson

STURMGESCHÜTZ PANZER, PANZERJÄGER, WAFFEN-SS AND LUFTWAFFE UNITS 1943–45

STURMGESCHÜTZ

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STURMGE

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GESCHÜTZ Panzer, Panzerjäger, Waffen-SS and Luftwaffe Units 1943–45 Thomas Anderson

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Osprey Publishing c/o Bloomsbury Publishing Plc PO Box 883, Oxford, OX1 9PL, UK or c/o Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 1385 Broadway, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10018, USA E-mail: [email protected] www.ospreypublishing.com

Thomas Anderson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the Author of this Work. ISBN:

HB: 978 1 4728 1752 5 ePub: 978 1 4728 1754 9 ePDF: 978 1 4728 1753 2 XML: 978 1 4728 2644 2

OSPREY is a trademark of Osprey Publishing, a division of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. This electronic edition published in 2017 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in Great Britain in 2017 © 2017 Thomas Anderson All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used or reproduced in any form without the prior written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Enquiries should be addressed to the Publisher. Every attempt has been made by the Publisher to secure the appropriate permissions for material reproduced in this book. If there has been any oversight we will be happy to rectify the situation and written submission should be made to the Publisher. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

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Editor: Jasper Spencer-Smith Design & layout: Nigel Pell Index: Shaun Barrington Produced for Bloomsbury Plc by Editworks Limited Bournemouth, BH1 4RT, UK Originated by PDQ Digital Media Solutions, Bungay, UK

Osprey Publishing supports the Woodland Trust, the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity. Between 2014 and 2018 our donations are being spent on their Centenary Woods project in the UK. To find out more about our authors and books visit www. ospreypublishing.com. Here you will find extracts, author interviews, details of forthcoming events and the option to sign up for our newsletter.

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CONTENTS

Introduction

6

chapter 1 Waffen-SS

24

chapter 2 Luftwaffe Field Divisions

52

chapter 3 1943 – in the Panzertruppe

86

chapter 4 Special Formations

124

chapter 5 Infantry Formations

156

chapter 6 Increased Production

194

chapter 7 ‘neuses Sturmgeschütz’ in 1945

228

chapter 8 Conclusion

256



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Index 266

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Introduction The Sturmgeschütz was a genuine German invention and, although the idea of mounting a gun in a fixed superstructure was neither new nor futurelooking, the type became a vital weapon in the arsenal of the Third Reich and was produced in very large numbers. As described in my book Sturmartillerie (Osprey, 2016) the Sturmgeschütz assault gun was originally intended to be a support weapon for the assault infantry. The requirement for such a vehicle was noted in a letter, dated 8 June 1936, written by an officer of the Generalstab des Heeres (GenStdH – General Staff of the Army) to his superiors: We have to ascertain that the Panzerwaffe and the Sturmartillerie, which are both similarly equipped, will follow absolutely different tactical approaches. I.) Panzerverbände [tank formations, here Panzer divisions (PzDiv), author] are mixed units able to fight independently and pursue their own combat missions. These PzDiv are equipped with motorized artillery and infantry to enable success. II.) Panzerbrigaden [tank brigades] is the force for the focal point of an attack. In contrast to the PzDiv, the Panzerbrigade is unable to operate independently. III.) Sturmartillerie, it is relevant as to whether it will be produced as a tank or a self-propelled gun, or a support weapon for the infantry. It should be able to provide support fire at a minimum range of 7km as part of the divisional artillery. The Sturmartillerie is deployed as escort artillery to support an infantry assault by directly attacking dangerous targets. Unlike a tank formation, which attacks in large numbers, the Sturmartillerie will only be committed in platoon strength. Each infantry division will have to be issued at least with one battalion of Sturmartillerie formed of five batteries with six assault guns each. The division should consider the removal of a light artillery battalion or the tank destroyer battalion.

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Generaloberst Heinz Guderian, Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, making a speech to an assembly of tank crews while standing on the engine deck of a Sturmgeschütz. Initially he had vehemently opposed the introduction of the type, but by 1943 he was forced to realize that the Sturmgeschütz was vital if the combat strength of his armoured forces was to be maintained. (Historyfacts)

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8 carrying Luftwaffe infantry, possibly during a training exercise. The only markings on the vehicle are the solid Balkenkreuze (the word is for a cross made from two baulks of timber and not a reference to the Balkans) which were applied by the manufacturer. (Anderson)

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The GenStdH replied in a letter dated 16 June 1936, with these comments: 1) In general, we agree on the specification and tactical deployment for the proposed Sturmgeschütz. 2) It seems necessary to emphasize the difference between the Sturmartillerie and the divisional [conventional, author] artillery to set clear requirements for the development of the type. 3) It is the task of the Sturmgeschütz to destroy enemy machine-gun nests by direct fire; thus it is a weapon of the infantry, and must not be committed as artillery. Also as the infantry operates at ranges up to 4km only, sighting devices for indirect fire up to 7km range are not necessary. 4) Also it must be explored if the Sturmgeschütz can perform as the (currently under development) tank destroyer. Thus duplicated development can be avoided.

However, the demand for the production of such a large number of Sturmgeschütz was beyond the capacity of the German armaments industry. In 1939, the first phase Mobilmachung (general mobilization) resulted in the formation of 39 infantry divisions, five tank divisions, three mountain divisions and four light divisions. As part of this plan, the GenStdH decided

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Introduction

that there was a far from realistic requirement for more than 1,100 Sturmgeschütz. At the beginning of Fall Weiss (Case White), the Polish campaign, the Panzerwaffe was equipped with some 3,000 tanks, but only 750 were truly of combat value. German military planners accepted the situation, and all plans to provide an infantry division with a Sturmgeschütz detachment were forgotten. This was possibly instigated by Generaloberst Heinz Guderian (one of the ‘fathers’ of the Panzerwaffe and certainly its most influential supporter), who had identified the financial limitations. Subsequently he strongly opposed any suggestion of supplying the infantry with tanks, being convinced that the establishment of an armoured element for the infantry would weaken his creation; a battle-winning powerful and efficient Panzerwaffe. However in 1940, when forces commanded by General Erich von Manstein – who supported the idea of armoured elements for the infantry – received 30 Sturmgeschütz a new military force was born: the Sturmartillerie. Due to severe financial constrictions, Sturmgeschütz production commenced in late January 1940 and proceeded at a very slow rate. Over the next 12 months some 184 were produced, and a further 540 were built during 1941. Five independent batteries were established, before and during the invasion of France, possibly to trial how the type could be used

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In early 1944, to allow an increase in production of the Sturmgeschütz it was decided to use the chassis of the PzKpfw IV resulting in the Sturmgeschütz IV. The vehicle has been coated with Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste and is fitted intact with Seitenschürzen (side skirts). Although no unit markings are visible, the vehicle is known to be from SS-PzAbt 17, part of 17.SS-PzGrenDiv Götz von Berlichingen. (Schneider)

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A Sturmgeschütz carrying infantry advances towards Banská-Bystrica (an antiNazi stronghold) to attack partisan forces fighting in the Slovakian National Uprising, which began on 29 August and was put down on 27 October 1944. (Anderson)

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Introduction

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A Sturmgeschütz from 24.PzDiv; this was the only PzDiv to maintain the traditions of a former cavalry division. Instead of batteries or companies, the unit had Schwadronen (squadrons). The vehicle appears to be new and has a chassis number (95210) stencilled on the front, identifying it as having been built by Mühlenbau und Industrie AG (MIAG). (Münch)

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Introduction

in combat. In the autumn of 1940, the first assault gun battalions with three batteries of six Sturmgeschütz each were established. Despite the original intention to provide each infantry division with a StuG battalion, these units were organized on Heerestruppen (army troop) level. The staff at higher command level decided that they should be deployed at the focal point of an attack, either concentrated during a major assault or divided into single batteries.

The Sturmgeschütz The leading idea behind the Sturmartillerie was to give the attacking infantry battalions an armoured spearhead, a ‘battering ram’ intended to neutralize enemy infantry or anti-tank gun positions. However, it is interesting to note that before World War II began discussions were taking place as to whether the Sturmgeschütz could also be used as a tank destroyer, possibly replacing the dedicated tank destroyer battalion in an infantry division. At that time the GenStdH preference was for open-topped vehicles which allowed the crew to have to a clear (but dangerous) view of the

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The crew of a Sturmgeschütz Ausf G from 1.Skijäger-Division are wearing the standardpattern field grey Sonderbekleidung (special clothing). The vehicle is fitted with Winterketten (winter tracks) to improve mobility over muddy or snow-covered terrain. A wooden beam, for recovery purposes, has been placed on the track cover. (Anderson)

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battlefield. This was soon dropped, since the vehicles would operate near or at the front-line and under heavy fire from all types of weapon. By 1939, the design and development of a very low-profile vehicle with a multi-angled superstructure built on the chassis of the PzKpfw III Ausf F had been completed. It was armed with a short-barrelled 7.5cm K 37 L/24 in a mounting which allowed limited side traverse. The somewhat (at that time) heavy calibre gun had a flat trajectory ideal for attacking enemy positions with high-explosive (HE) ammunition. Combat against an enemy tank was to be avoided and only occur in an emergency. After the launch of Unternehmen (Operation) Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, Sturmgeschütz units were compelled to attack a wider range of targets when German infantry divisions were faced by masses of Soviet tanks. The situation became more desperate when the Red Army deployed the T-34 medium tank and the KV heavy tank, in ever-growing numbers on the battlefront. German tank destroyer battalions had become depleted and could not cope; the situation began to threaten the front-line positions held by the infantry. When available, Sturmgeschütz proved to be capable of defeating the superior modern Russian tanks; at close range the 7.5cm gun, when firing HE ammunition, could seriously damage the turret or destroy the running gear on a T-34 or KV. If armour-piercing (AP) ammunition was available then the gun could penetrate the side and rear armour of an enemy tank. However, the clear tactical superiority of the better-trained crews and their well-functioning radio equipment should turn out to be of greater importance in deciding many battles. The men of the Panzerwaffe, including Guderian, had no choice other than to accept that the Sturmgeschütz was a very versatile weapon and that the Sturmartillerie was a valuable asset to the army. Alkett, at that time the sole manufacturer of the Sturmgeschütz, was ordered to increase production; around 80 were completed in April 1941, and this number would steadily be increased. The Panzerschock (tank shock) became more prevalent among German forces as ever-increasing numbers of T-34 and KV tanks appeared on the battlefront. To improve the situation a number of measures were expedited, the most important being the development of a new and powerful tank (also anti-tank) gun: the 7.5cm KwK 40 L/43 (for tank use) or StuK 40 L/43 (for Sturmgeschütz use). The gun had a long barrel which produced a much higher muzzle velocity. In March 1942, this high-performance gun began to be mounted in the Sturmgeschütz and the PzKpfw IV Ausf F2 and Ausf G. A short time after the first KwK 40-armed Sturmgeschütz reached frontline units it was found that it could be successfully used as a Panzerjäger (tank destroyer). Many Sturmartillerie units, deployed to support the infantry, were re-tasked to this new role and the Sturmgeschütz became a weapon much feared by Soviet forces on the Ostfront (Eastern Front).

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Introduction

One question, seemingly a ridiculous one, arises: What exactly defines a Sturmgeschütz? Is it the technical layout; the lack of a turret, or is it how it was deployed tactically? It is my opinion that combination of all these features that characterizes the German Sturmgeschütz. While the original task of ‘supporting an assault by the infantry’ was the primary deployment for the StuG as part of the Sturmartillerie, assault guns were being issued in growing numbers to other services. For a number of reasons (which will be discussed later), Sturmgeschütz were assigned to the Waffen-SS, and also to the Panzerjäger detachments of Luftwaffe field units. By 1943 the situation with the supply of tanks became desperate: inadequate production in the Reich forced military planners to divert assault guns to Panzer grenadier and tank divisions. At around the same time the meaning of the term Sturmgeschütz would also change. As enemy equipment improved, military planners initiated the

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December 1944: A Sturmgeschütz in a battledamaged German town during fighting to the west of Aachen. Retreating German troops would soon set up positions in the Hürtgen Forest, in an attempt to delay the advance by US forces. The Seitenschürzen (side skirts), intended as protection against the Soviet anti-tank rifle. (Anderson)

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Introduction

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Sturmgeschütz of an unidentified unit advance along a mud-covered road: The crew has fitted a large tarpaulin over the superstructure to prevent rain from entering the fighting compartment. (Getty)

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A factory-new Sturmgeschütz Ausf G: The single numeral ‘7’ possibly indicates that it is from a smaller unit, such as a company issued to an infantry PzJgAbt. The cast-metal deflector fitted in front of the cupola was added on the assembly lines. The crew has used concrete to further reinforce the armour. (Andserson)

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rapid development of new weapons. Parallel to the work on heavy tanks, a schweres Sturmgeschütz was produced, using the chassis of Ferdinand Porsche’s ill-fated design for the Tiger tank. Known as the ‘Ferdinand’ it was intended as a schwerer Durchbruchspanzer (heavy breakthrough tank), thus strengthening the offensive arsenal of the Sturmartillerie. The schweres Sturmgeschütz was assigned to five Sturmartillerie battalions; three existing (StuGAbt 911, 197 and 912) and two new units. However, all were transferred to the Panzerjäger Truppen (tank hunter Troop). Adolf Hitler’s obsession for a heavier tank had been temporarily satisfied. However, German engineers were compelled to design and produce ever heavier types, culminating in the 70-ton Jagdtiger. During this period, at the instigation of Guderian, a time-consuming conflict of interests began in the military. While the artillery was confident of getting new heavy weapons, the new Generalinspekteur des Heeres persuaded Hitler to supply the new Ferdinand to the Panzerjägertruppe, and

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thus under his control; the Sturmartillerie had finally lost any prospect of receiving more effective weapons. Despite the fact that the Sturmgeschütz had proven to be a reliable and effective tank destroyer on the Eastern Front, continued availability of the type was put into question. To facilitate the manufacture of the PzKpfw V Panther, all production of the PzKpfw III was halted despite the effect this would have on the supply of assault guns. In medium turn, it was considered that all Sturmgeschütz would be produced on the chassis of the PzKpfw IV. However, these plans were not implemented. More importantly, in late 1942 the development of a ‘neues Sturmgeschütz’ (new assault gun), which was intended to replace the Sturmgeschütz as a tank destroyer, began. Guderian demanded that these new developments were placed under the control of the Panzerjägerwaffe; ultimately the new assault gun became the Panzerjäger. The tank destroyer units were clearly identified, and the Sturmartillerie had to be content with the Sturmgeschütz. Thus with the Jagdpanzer IV, an improved Sturmgeschütz, which had an improved sloping superstructure providing in increased level of protection for the crew, entered service. Initially the 7.5cm KwK 40 L/48 gun was installed, but later versions (Panzer IV/70 [A] and [V]) mounted the 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70 gun as used for PzKpfw V Panther. Interestingly, development of the well-known Jagdpanther commenced under the designation ‘8.8cm Sturmgeschütz 42’, and the later Jagdtiger under ‘schweres Sturmgeschütz mit 12.8cm Kanone’. Heavy bombing of the Alkett factory at the end of 1943 destroyed vital parts of the StuG production line which forced planners to reactivate earlier plans to utilize the PzKpfw IV chassis. The resulting vehicle was the StuG IV, and nearly all were delivered to tank destroyer units. The older type was designated StuG III and remained in production until 1945. In 1944, a new leichter Panzerjäger (le PzJg) was developed using the chassis and running gear of the obsolete PzKpfw 38(t). This vehicle, the le PzJg 38 Hetzer (Baiter), was issued to Panzerjäger companies and some StuGBrig.

Identification My research for this book has been based on wartime documentation only, much of which is stored in the archives of NARA and Bundesarchiv/ Militärarchiv and others. Original and relevant photographs are important to support the text, but the choice of such material is not without problems. Having collected thousands of images of Sturmgeschütz over the past decades, I have having always tried to assign the vehicle shown to its respective unit; I must admit that identification has been only 20 or 25 per cent successful. Where photographs have been found in surviving albums assembled by veterans or private collectors, clear identification can be made with much greater certainty. If a unit badge is visible the task is easy, but such

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A Leutnant from PzJgKp 1021 in 21.Luftwaffe Felddivision (LwFeldDiv – air force field division) stands beside a Sturmgeschütz from the unit. After the crew had camouflaged the vehicle with whitewash, they welded metal rods around the commander’s cupola to allow the application of concrete for extra protection. (Anderson)

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Introduction

distinguishing features are not always visible. Furthermore, investigation was made more complicated due to the fact that many units never used a specific emblem, or they were not applied. If an identified unit fitted some specific alterations or modifications to their vehicles, then this can be also be used when identifying images. A fine example of this are the different types of lamp guard fitted by the workshops in some units, and these distinctive features provide reliable identification of a number Sturmgeschütz batteries or battalions. Unfortunately not all units introduced such modifications, or there was not time to fit them on the battlefront. For instance, lamp guards were fitted during a short period which ended late 1941. In late 1942, a growing number of Sturmgeschütz were beginning to be issued to tank destroyer detachments in Luftwaffe and infantry divisions; later to tank units. A number of these units were equipped with only 14 or even ten Sturmgeschütz, making identification virtually impossible.

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G from Lw-PzDiv Hermann Göring has been fitted with smoke candle dischargers. In Italy, the Sturmgeschütz was highly-valued by crews fighting Allied armour, but was dogged by mechanical reliability; particularly the delicate final drive units. The small box on the track cover, which was normally fixed on the engine deck, contained the track tools. (Anderson)

Thomas Anderson July 2017

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An instructor lectures personnel of a Luftwaffe field unit on how to recognize and attack Soviet tanks by using a scale model of each type currently in service. (Anderson)

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Waffen-SS

1

From the very first beginnings of the ‘Bewegung’ (the Nazi movement), Hitler relied on paramilitary units. Most noticeable of these in the 1920s was the Sturmabteilung (SA) – a band of thugs which provided a ‘security’ service during the first public appearances of Adolf Hitler – commanded by Ernst Röhm. In parallel to the SA the Schutzstaffel (SS) was created, a protection guard for Hitler and other leading member of the Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP – Nazi party). While the SS initially remained a small and elite organization, the SA quickly expanded. During the early 1930s, the tasks of the SA were quickly broadened to spreading terror to undermine public order and to intimidate dissenters. Personal animosities soon led to rising tensions between the SA leadership and the NSDAP. While Hitler was certain of seizing power by ‘democratic’ means, the SA preferred violence and endorsed a military coup. History shows that Hitler achieved his aim in 1932 in a quasi-democratic election, which was accompanied by almost civil war conditions. These were mainly promoted by the SA, which at that time had more than 200,000 members.

Sturmgeschütz for the Waffen-SS It is difficult to determine when exactly Hitler changed his attitude towards the SA. Despite the strong and possibly decisive support it gave, the now Führer finally decided to neutralize the organization. In the so-called ‘Röhm-Coup’, the SA leadership was put down in July 1934 and many, including Röhm, were executed by men of the Schutzstaffel. Soon after Hitler became Führer he began to take measures aimed at depriving the Reichstag, the elected parliament, of its powers. In Hitler’s eyes the Reichswehr formed a last obstacle to his claim for absolute power, and although the armed forces were led by strictly apolitical officers, Hitler had an obsessive mistrust of the military.

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Surrounded by SS-officers, ReichsführerSS Heinrich Himmler inspects one of the first Sturmgeschütz Ausf A issued to Sturmbatterie Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH). Himmler was eager to assemble a political army and WaffenSS units attracted his particular attention; many were to receive privileged treatment. (NARA)

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In March 1943, SS-PzGrenDiv Das Reich (DR) was in combat in the vicinity of Kharkov. A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G (from the December 1942 production batch), has the tactical mark stencilled on the glacis plate identifying it as a vehicle from 2.Batterie (StuGAbt). Note the ventilator mounted on the top of the superstructure. A Maschinengewehr 42 (MG – machine gun) is carried but without a gun shield. (Anderson)

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In summer 1934 Adolf Hitler, as a first step, laid claim to being the supreme commander of the armed forces, and all servicemen were forced to swear an oath to their Führer. The Reichswehr became the Deutsche Wehrmacht (German armed forces) which supported Hitler and his government, but his paranoia would lead to the slow conversion of the SS to a political army – loyal soldiers devoted to their Führer. By August 1938, the armed elements of the SS had been formed as an elite division, and a year later the term Waffen-SS emerged. In a Führererlass (Führer decree) dated August 1938, Hitler authorized the establishment of the first fully-armed SS infantry division – Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH). On 16 October 1939 a second unit, the SS-Division Totenkopf was established, and this was followed by the SS-Verfügungsdivision on 1 April 1940. In parallel to these units, the SS-based Ordnungspolizei (Order Police) was authorized to form a dedicated SS-Polizeidivision. In a letter dated 17 April 1940, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler informed Generaloberst Walther von Brauchitsch, the commander-in-chief of the army:

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Herr Generaloberst Despite our conclusions agreed at the meeting on 8 April 1940, I send the promised letter today. 1) Based on today’s population of some 82,000,000, and the eligible Volksdeutsche [people of pure German origin], I do not plan to establish any further units other than the Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler, the Verfügungsdivision, the SS-Division Totenkopf and the SS-Polizeidivision.

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf A from StuGBttr Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler; the last four of six vehicles from the first production batch were issued to this unit, proving privileged treatment. The StuG is fitted with the narrow 38cm tracks and road wheels. (NARA)

In case the Germanic countries [Scandinavia, Finland and the Netherlands] will prove to be able to recruit SS-suitable men, and also racially suited and indoctrinating politically reliable volunteers in the future… the establishment of new units can be possible without affecting the overall quota of German conscripts.

The above statement warrants no further comment. History would show that more and more Waffen-SS units were to be established during the course of the war, a significant number manned by foreign volunteers.

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Above: A Sturmgeschütz Ausf A being loaded on a railway wagon before being transported to frontline units; even a small error by the driver could cause the 20-ton StuG to topple off the wagon. (NARA) Right: This StuG carries the markings used by Leibststandarte-SS Adolf Hitler in 1940; a thin, outlined white Balkenkreuze was applied to the sides and the top of the superstructure. Also the unit’s distinctive key symbol was stencilled on the front and rear. (NARA)

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The combat history of the Sturmgeschütz (within the Sturmartillerie) commenced in 1940 when five small detachments were declared combat ready in time for Fall Gelb (Plan Yellow); the invasion of France. Under command of the artillery, these Sturmbatterien (StuGBttr – assault batteries), were semi-independent units each equipped with six Sturmgeschütz, attached to various infantry divisions and deployed according to tactical requirements. In January 1940, production of the Sturmgeschütz began but at a very slow pace and by May only 30 had been produced, exactly the number required for equipping five Sturmbatterien. However, a short time before the invasion of France, Reichsführer-SS Himmler intervened. At that time the expansion the SS had been decided, and three the Standarten (regiments) Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer were combine into the Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH). In December 1939, the term Waffen-SS was used officially for the first time. Himmler demanded the creation of SS-Sturmbatterien, and equipped exactly the same as units in the Sturmartillerie.

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Three StuG crewmen from StuBttr LSSAH in France during summer 1940. At the left is a Schütze (private), centre an Oberscharführer (staff sergeant), possibly the vehicle commander, and right an Unterscharführer (NCO). (NARA)

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On 25 April 1940, orders were given by the Oberkommando des Heeres (ObdH): 1) The commander of the Artillerie Schule [artillery school] is herewith ordered to establish an SS Sturmbatterie according to KStN 445 dated 1 November 1939. 2) Establishment: 20 May 1940 Combat readiness: 20 June 1940 3) Reichsführer-SS will be in command of the required SS leaders, subordinate commanders and enlisted men. Date of arrival: 14 April 1940 at 18.00hrs. 4) Weapons, equipment and soft-skinned vehicles will be issued by Sonderverfügung [special decree] of the Chief of Ordnance department.

On 7 May 1940, the ObdH wrote to Himmler:

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SS infantry, supported by a StuG from StuBttr LSSAH, slowly advances during the initial phase of Unternehmen (Operation) Barbarossa. A Soviet Komsomoletz heavy gun tractor towing a 45mm anti-tank gun burns after being hit. (Anderson)

Herr Reichsführer I acknowledge receipt of your letter, and herewith wish to explain my statement: As for paragraph 1: The establishment of SS-Verfügungsstandarte Nordland has been ordered by the Führer on 10 April 1940. This regiment will receive light weapons and machine guns for one battalion. In contrast to that, it is at present not possible to equip the unit with light and heavy mortars and also soft-skinned vehicles, due to the difficult situation with replacements. As for paragraph 2: f) The Sturmbatterie for the Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler will be established at the artillery school, Jüterbog as follows… In the first instance the battery

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The order of battle for Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler, dated February 1941, noted a Sturmbatterie equipped with six Sturmgeschütz integrated in the V.Abteilung (tank destroyer battalion). A short time later, the term Batterie (battery) was substituted for Kompanie (company). (Anderson)

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will receive (as will all other batteries to be established by the army) only four Geschütze [StuG].

This letter confirms the difficult supply situation with new equipment due to a desperate shortage of raw materials and an inefficient armaments industry, which had not been sufficiently prepared for the war. The temporary reduction to four Sturmgeschütz for each newly established Sturmbatterie is interesting, but cannot be confirmed. However, with the establishment of Waffen-SS units the long history of Sonderverfügungen began. This was nothing more than the Waffen-SS receiving preferential treatment in regard to the supply of equipment.

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The commander of a StuG had a Scherenfernrohr (scissors-type periscope) to observe the battlefield, which could only be used through an open hatch. A number of StuG commanders were killed by shrapnel or by a sniper: from early 1943 all production StuGs were fitted with a cupola for the commander. (NARA)

Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler To obtain Sturmgeschütz for the first SS Sturmbatterie, the planned establishment of Sturmbatterie 666 had to be postponed. On 16 May 1940 the OKH ordered that due to the difficult supply situation, the establishment of Sturmbatterie 666 was to be moved to 17 June 1940, and the unit was to be combat ready by 17 July. The Sturmgeschützbatterie in LSSAH was organized according to Sturmartillerie standards. By coincidence the same organizational structures were adopted, in this case Kriegsstärkenachtweisung (KStN – table of organization) 445 dated 1 November 1939. Due to its late establishment

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By mid-1942, the Sturmgeschütz Ausf F was becoming available in slowly increasing numbers. It mounted the long-barrelled 7.5cm Sturmkanone (StuK) 40 L/43, (later L/48), which gave German forces a weapon capable of defeating the modern Soviet tanks. (NARA)

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LSSAH Sturmbatterie did not see combat during the invasion of France, but remained in Germany to undertake further training on the new and unfamiliar StuG. After the fall of France, LSSAH was reinforced (the unit was given the prefix verstärkt [strengthened]) and brought up to the strength of a motorized infantry brigade, despite being designated as a division. The infantry elements consisted of four ineffectual battalions equipped with only light weapons. A fifth infantry battalion comprised the support weapons, a Flugzeugabwehrkanone (FlaK – anti-aircraft gun) company with 16 SdKfz 6/2 (3.7cm FlaK self-propelled [SP] guns), a tank destroyer company with nine 4.7cm PaK (Sfl) on PzKpfw I, two infantry artillery companies (7.5cm leichte Infanteriegeschütz [le IG – light infantry gun] and 15cm schweres Infanteriegeschütz [sIG – heavy infantry gun]), and finally the Sturmbatterie with six Sturmgeschütz. These support echelons were divided to suit the combat to the requirements of the infantry battalions. Further support units (reconnaissance, artillery, pioneers, signals and supply convoy) completed the division. During the invasion of Greece, LSSAH (and Das Reich) were deployed as part of the occupation forces, but due to them having little combat experience they were at first used as reserve troops. Respective afteraction reports regarding usage of SS Sturmgeschütz are not available as the detachments were too small. However, it is most probable that the SS assault guns were used as intended to support infantry assaults by eliminating enemy strongpoints when required. LSSAH Sturmgeschütz formed part of the German victory parade in Athens.

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During the first month of the invasion of Russia, LSSAH advanced to Kiev, Uman and Perekop, before turning east to Rostov on the River Don. A short time after capturing Rostov, the city had to be abandoned during the winter and LSSAH retreated to positions near Taganrog, which were held until May 1942. Earlier in February, SS-Führungshauptamt (supreme executive office) had decided to reinforce the unit in the field. Two StuG batteries, which were then called Infanteriegeschütz-Kompanie (InfStuGKp – infantry assault gun company [see below]) were used to form a Sturmgeschützabteilung (StuGAbt – assault gun battalion) with 22 vehicles; the existing battery was also reorganized to this standard. The weakened LSSAH was then used for coastal defence in Mariupol, before being sent to France for refitting in July 1942. As noted in later tables of organization, the StuGAbt in LSSAH was still authorized to have 22 assault guns. After a short deployment to Toulon, France, LSSAH was again sent east to Kharkov in early 1943.

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A column of carefully whitewashed Sturmgeschütz from 2.SS-PzGrenDiv Das Reich in the spring of 1943; the lead vehicle is an Ausf G from the December 1942 production batch, and has the temporary unit badge introduced for Unternehmen Zitadelle (Operation Citadel). (Anderson)

Organization of Early SS Sturmgeschütz Units At the beginning of their service life, Sturmgeschütz were organized as small batteries of six assault guns, plus command, support and supply vehicles. Quite understandably, this structure (KStN 445) was also adopted for the first Waffen-SS StuG battery. By mid-1941 production of Sturmgeschütz had reached a level which allowed a battery commander to have a dedicated Sturmgeschütz, replacing

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Above: The headlights on early StuGs had thin protective covers which, when closed, worked as blackouts for night marches. A Notek Nachtmarsch-Gerät (nightdriving lamp), visible on the right-hand side track guard, has been turned backwards to prevent it being damaged. (NARA) Right: In theory the Scherenfernrohr (scissorstype periscope) could be rotated through 360°, but in practice the cramped interior conditions made this impossible for the commander. (NARA)

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Above: A Sturmgeschütz from 3.SS-PzGrenDiv Totenkopf (Death’s Head) has been immobilized by a damaged track, possibly after striking a Soviet anti-tank mine. The unit’s distinctive emblem, a black rectangle with a white skull, has been stencilled on the glacis plate. (von Aufsess) Right: A column of Sturmgeschütz from 2.SSPzGrendDiv Das Reich drive through a destroyed town on the Eastern Front in 1941; the unit’s distinctive emblem a Wolfsangel (a Runic symbol) has been stencilled on the flap of the right-hand track guard. On the left flap a white letter ‘G’ – Guderian – indicates that the unit was part of Panzergruppe 2. (Anderson)

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High-ranking army officers inspect one of the first 7.5cm StuK 40 L/43armed StuG Ausf F/8 issued to 1.SS-PzGrenDiv LSSAH in the summer of 1942. The vehicle has been painted in tropical camouflage at the factory. (NARA)

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the leichte gepanzerte Beobachtungswagen (le gep BeobKw – light armoured observation vehicle) Sonderkraftfahrzeug (SdKfz – special purpose vehicle) 253. This was introduced in table of organization KStN 446 and welcomed by all active StuG units. An alternative version of the table, KStN 446a, even authorized the provision of single platoons each with either two or three assault guns, depending on the situation and availability. This measure allowed the establishment of batteries with seven or ten assault guns, and also made provision for each Zug (platoon) leader to have a Sturmgeschütz. With creation of more Waffen-SS units, it was decided to provide them all with integrated Sturmgeschütz detachments. This was more than that provided for all existing army infantry divisions. However, there is no indication that more than six assault guns were ever authorized for each SS-StuGBttr in 1941. By summer 1940, the Sturmartillerie had established battalion-size units with three batteries formed with six or seven Sturmgeschütz each (as noted in the relevant artillery KStN). As noted earlier, these units were deployed on Heerestruppen (army troop) level, and were allotted to infantry units as and when required at points of main effort. In 1940 only one army unit, InfRgt Grossdeutschland was allowed to keep Sturmbatterie 640 with six Sturmgeschütz as an integrated element.

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In late 1941 decisions were taken to enhance the combat value of the SS-Divisions; infantry elements were authorized to be reinforced with six instead of four battalions organized in two regiments. The units also received a Panzerabteilung (PzAbt – tank battalion) formed of three companies. A significant improvement to their fighting power was achieved by enlarging the Sturmgeschütz detachment to a battalion with three batteries. However, all the above did not happen immediately. The LSSAH was the first unit to be authorized to have a StuGAbt. However, careful examination of the organization shows an anomaly. While the staff and staff battery relied on the common artillery structures KStN 416 (Staff Section in a StuGAbt) and KStN 588 (Staff Battery in a StuGAbt), the three combat batteries, previously established according KStN 446, followed a new structure. By the end of 1941, a further KStN was produced for usage of Sturmgeschütz within infantry formations. The reason for this measure is unknown. This KStN 190 InfStuGKp (Sfl) (Selbstfahrlafette – self-propelled), dated 1 November 1941 resembled the

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The sloped sides of the superstructure, on both sides of the gun, had a number of bullet traps. StuG crews saw them as a distinct hazard and filled the gaps with concrete or track links. (NARA)

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The crew of a Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8 unloads spent shell cases; the vehicle has been camouflaged, with patches of whitewash painted over the original dark grey, to blend into the snow covered sparselywooded terrain. The tank crew and grenadiers are wearing reversible winter uniforms; a serious shortage during the first Kriegswinter (winter war) caused many problems. (Anderson)

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A Sturmgeschutz Ausf G, armed with the 7.5cm StuK 40 L/4 from the December 1942 production batch, passing a farmhouse set on fire by retreating Soviet forces. The crew has used spare track and running wheels to provide some additional protection and also block bullet traps. (Anderson)

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previous artillery KStN 446, indeed only a few differences can be noted. A possible explanation for this could be that Kriegsausrüstungnachtweis (KAN – table of allowances) associated with the KStN 190 matched with the rest of the division’s equipment. But this does not explain why the staff and staff battery were still organized according to artillery structures. With the above changes, the four Waffen-SS divisions had been practically improved to Panzergrenadierdivisionen (PzGrenDiv – armoured infantry divisions) standard, despite keeping their original names. Again this shows how preference was given Waffen-SS units for the allotment of men and equipment. Available documents show that LSSAH, Totenkopf, Das Reich and Wiking had, in some detail, deviated from the organizational structures. This was most probably due to the supply situation and the implementation of these orders took place over a long period. The organizational structure for LSSAH, dated February 1942, can only be used as an indication. In November 1942, the SS-Führungshauptamt finally announced that it would be renaming the SS units. By Führerbefehl (Führer command) the four main SS units were declared as Panzer grenadier divisions.

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Infantry Sturmgeschütz Company (Sfl) Table of organization according to KStN 190, dated 1 November 1941.

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A year later the assault gun element in LSSAH was expanded to a complete Abteilung (battalion) with 21 Sturmgeschütz formed as three companies. (Anderson)

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Das Reich In December 1940, a second Waffen-SS unit was officially established when SS-Verfügungsdivision was renamed as SS-Division Das Reich. The organizational structure differed from that of LSSAH; by having three regiments SS Das Reich had a much stronger infantry. In late 1940, the unit was positioned in France preparing for Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sea Lion) the planned invasion of Great Britain. On 14 January 1941 orders were given to establish a Sturmbatterie for the division; not as a sub-unit as it was listed separately. In April 1941, Das Reich was deployed to the Balkans for the invasion of Yugoslavia. During the early days of Operation Barbarossa, Das Reich fought in the central sector and advanced towards Moscow. During the winter of 1941/42, a series of heavy counterattacks by the Red Army forced the unit to retreat. In February 1942, parts of the battle-worn unit were sent back to Germany for refitting, while remnants fought as part of a battle group before returning home in June 1942. After having been reformed to almost PzGrenDiv standard, Das Reich was then sent to France. After refitting, their Sturmgeschütz detachment had been increased to a battalion formed of three batteries each with seven assault guns, as detailed in KStN 446. Documents note an SS-StugAbt 2 (beside

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The lack of an integral close-defence weapon was a serious problem for StuG crews defending against Soviet anti-tank teams and other infantry. Many earlier versions were fitted with a simple pintle-type mounting for a Machinengewehr 34. In the early part of 1943 production vehicles began to be fitted with a mounting protected by an armour. (NARA)

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This new Sturmgeschütz of 1.SS-PzGrenDiv LSSAH has been loaded on a railway wagon ready to be delivered to German forces fighting on the Eastern Front. A large tarpaulin covers the top of the vehicle and gun mantlet. The muzzle brake is protected by a fitted cover. (NARA).

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the SS-PzAbt 2), proving that there was no standardized designation system for SS units, a fact that leads to some confusion. The SS-Führungshauptamt would change this in late 1943, when a more exact numbering system for Waffen-SS units was introduced. In November 1942, SS-Division Das Reich was renamed as PzGrenDiv Das Reich, and in January 1943 it was transferred east to Kharkov.

Totenkopf (Death’s Head) In October 1939, SS-Division Totenkopf was established using concentration camp personnel. The unit saw action during the western campaign, fighting through The Low Countries and into France. On 14 June 1941, a third SS-Sturmgeschützbatterie was established and attached to SS-Division Totenkopf. The division saw action in the Baltic region, before advancing to Dno (Pskov Oblast) and Staraya Russa. During the winter of 1941, the division was engaged in heavy fighting around Demyansk, where large elements of the unit were annihilated. After the successful breakout in April 1942, what remained of the battleworn division was positioned in the northern part of the Eastern Front. In October 1942, the division was sent to France for rest and re-equipment, where the unit was issued with a StuGAbt with 21 Sturmgeschütz. In January 1943, the renamed SS-PzGrenDiv Totenkopf was deployed to Kharkov on the Eastern Front.

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Wiking (Viking) In November 1940, SS-Division Wiking was established. In June 1941, the unit was ordered east to support the German forces fighting in the southern sector of the Eastern Front. At the time the division was not equipped with Sturmgeschütz, but in October 1941 the unit was allotted a StuGBttr, organized according the current artillery-type KStN 446 dated 18 April 1941. The division was to suffer heavy losses in the ensuing battles. In March 1942, the battery was reorganized as an InfStuGKp (Sfl) (KStN 190), but there is no information available detailing these changes. The company was subsequently attached to LSSAH, leaving Wiking without Sturmgeschütz. In August 1942, an SS-Führungshauptamt ordered the establishment of a new StuGBttr, once again organized according KStN 446. Unfortunately there is no information available. The combat ability had been severely weakened, which was exacerbated (according to some sources) by the inability to recruit enough ‘Germanic’ volunteers. Apparently it was also not possible to provide Wiking with sufficient well-trained non-commissioned officers, a problem familiar to the other SS units.

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The crew of a Sturmgeshütz from 8.SS-Kavellerie-Division (Cavalry Division) greet men of the mounted infantry in the division. (Anderson)

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The crew of this StuG Ausf G has captured a number of Soviet soldiers, who are sitting on the engine deck waiting to be taken back to German lines. The roof ventilator which was prone to damage from bullets and shrapnel was moved to the rear on all vehicles built in 1943. (Anderson)

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Regarding the equipment situation, Waffen-SS units were well-supplied in comparison to their army comrades. In September 1942, Himmler mentioned an order from Hitler to provide Wiking, along with the other larger SS formations, with a further PzAbt, resulting in two regiments each with four battalions. This letter also described the efforts to equip the units with a StuGAbt. Finally in March 1943, the division now renamed as SS-PzGrenDiv Wiking received a StuGAbt. The combat batteries were organized according KStN 446a, and were authorized to have ten Sturmgeschütz each.

Equipment The first SS-StuGBttr was equipped with up to six (some sources say four) Sturmgeschütz Ausf A, but since the first production run is well documented, six seems appropriate. Up until the end of 1941, only the short-barrelled versions Ausf B, C and D had been delivered. In early 1942, the performance of the main gun in the StuG was being questioned. During the first battles in France and

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also the Balkans, the short-barrelled 7.5cm KwK 37 L/24 had proven able to cope with all challenges. Using high-explosive (HE) ammunition, prime targets – enemy machine gun and artillery positions – were eliminated. Occasionally enemy tanks, when encountered, could be defeated by firing armour-piercing (AP) rounds. The opening weeks of Operation Barbarossa showed that new solutions were necessary after encounters with the T-34 and KV tanks. Among the many measures taken was to mount a longer barrelled gun for the Sturmgeschütz and the PzKpfw IV. The new gun, which for the Sturmgeschütz was designated the 7.5cm Sturmkanone (StuK) 40 L/43, proved to be capable of defeating Soviet armour. The long-barrelled gun was first mounted in the PzKpfw IV Ausf F2 (an up-gunned Ausf E). Langrohr (long barrel) Sturmgeschütz were normally supplied to units about to be established; however a smaller, but increasing number were being sent as replacements to front-line units: Result, a mixed inventory. Waffen-SS divisions, which had relatively small detachments, were usually issued with new Sturmgeschütz during refitting. Before leaving their frontline positions, normal practice was to transfer their old equipment (StuGs and all types of soft-skinned vehicles) to units remaining at the front.

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A column of StuG Ausf G possibly from to 3.SS-PzGrenDiv Totenkopf, the unit’s distinctive skull emblem is just visible on the glacis plate. The vehicles are fitted with wider Winterketten (winter tracks) which provided better traction in mud or snow-covered terrain. (Anderson)

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Troops prepare to attempt the recovery of a StuG which has crashed through thin ice in a marsh. All are StuG Ausf F/8s armed with the 7.5cm StuK 40 L/43; the gun on the first StuG is fitted with a single-baffle muzzle brake. The vehicles are possibly from 3.SS-PzGrenDiv Totenkopf; the unit’s skull emblem has been badly painted which makes exact identification difficult. (Anderson)

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Luftwaffe Field Divisions The tank destroyer detachments of the Heereseinheiten (army, infantry and tank divisions) were vital parts of their mother units, especially for the infantry which lacked any armour. Evolved during the 1930s, their main armament was the 3.7cm Panzerabwehrkanone (PaK), which was designed to combat tanks fitted with up to 30mm armour. The gun was light, easy to move and had similar ballistic performance to anti-tank guns then in service with the armies of other nations. During the invasion of France it became apparent that the 3.7cm PaK was not powerful enough to defeat the majority of French tank types. Deliveries of the more powerful 5cm PaK 38 had begun, albeit at a slow pace, in early summer 1940 and only a few reached front-line troops. From the launch of Operation Barbarossa, all divisional PanzerjägerAbteilungen (PzJgAbt – tank hunter battalions) came under extreme pressure as the Red Army deployed increasing numbers of T-34 and KV tanks, and all available weapons had to be used to stop this threat. Unfortunately the new 5cm PaK 38 could not defeat the latest Soviet armour, and the 3.7cm PaK could only be used to attack light tanks. On 27 March 1942, Armeeoberkommando 2 (AOK 2) summarized the situation on the Eastern Front and submitted a report to Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South): 1) The earlier provision of anti-tank weapons to the army was, regarding calibre, not sufficient to effectively destroy all types of enemy tank found in Russia. During the winter fighting, it proved necessary to move artillery or 8.8cm Flugzeugabwehrkanone (FlaK guns) forward to assist the tank destroyer companies. Newly-designed ammunition allowed troops to combat against enemy tanks with some chance of success. However, the overall situation requires an increase in the calibre of our tank destroyer weapons. As a consequence, this development resulted in an increase in the number of

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Sturmgeschütz of PzJgAbt 1014(L); between November and December 1942, four Ausf F/8s were delivered before the unit was incorporated with 14.Luftwaffe-Felddivision (LwFeldDiv – air force field division). These vehicles were finished in tropical camouflage despite being sent to Norway, where they remained until October 1943. (Anderson)

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The Sturmgeschütz of 14.LwFeldDiv were used for field exercises in Norway until being withdrawn. An exercise Schiedsrichter (arbitrator), recognizable by the white band around his field cap, is on the engine deck. (Kocsis)

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different gun types, many of different calibre. Furthermore, guns from the artillery, 8.8cm FlaK and Sturmgeschütz also had to be used. The assorted problems caused by this great variety of weapons, i.e. training, the different equipment, organization of the tank destroyer units on the battlefield and the ammunition supply are obvious. However, these points shall not be explained here in detail. For example, according to the order from OrgAbt to increase our anti-tank capabilities, a PanzerjägerKompanie can have up to three different guns in its inventory. 2) The above-mentioned weapons, which are at present available in many variations, are the most effective against tanks. It would be wise to give them back into the hands of the specialists, the artillery. The previously available selfpropelled guns delivered to the tank destroyer units are the result of attempts to regain a sufficient mobility. However a better-suited weapon is already available in the shape of the Sturmgeschütz, which has proven to be highly effective in the Ostfeldzug [eastern campaign]. After the failure of all other defensive weapons, with respect to their inadequate calibre (anti-tank guns in the infantry) or because of poor mobility (le FH and FlaK guns), the Sturmgeschütz was often the last armour-defeating weapon combining sufficient calibre and mobility.

These few concise lines repeat and summarize the situation in the German infantry divisions on the Eastern Front after late 1941. With the knowledge that their own towed anti-tank guns were totally inadequate for defeating

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current Soviet armour, conventional artillery and anti-aircraft artillery weapons had to be used; especially light and heavy field guns. Any pieces withdrawn and moved forward left serious gaps in the artillery defences, and there was the logistical problem of moving large quantities of ammunition. Military planners decided to expedite the development of more effective 7.5cm guns. By early 1942, four different designs for 7.5cm and 7.62cm had been completed with little thought given to a more complicated ammunition supply. Another problem that was underestimated was the inability of German industry to deliver sufficient numbers of tractor units to tow these heavier guns. A logical solution was to mount a number of these new guns on obsolete light tank chassis, resulting in Selbstfahrlafetten (Sfl – self-propelled guns). The unknown writer of the summary came to the conclusion that these self-propelled guns would not be the last word on the subject. He pointed out that the Sturmgeschütz would continue to fulfill all requirements and had the advantage of already being available. The report continues:

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During the period November 1942 to March 1943, Sturmgeschütz were delivered to units painted to suit the deployment. This interesting photograph shows an early production Ausf G from PzJgAbt 1021 (L) finished in Dunkelgrau (dark grey). Although the vehicle has a standard superstructure, it is fitted with track guards from the first production batch. (Anderson)

3) The question is as to whether the Sturmgeschütz design should be improved:a) Mount an 8.8cm gun in place of the 7.5cm: This question can be answered after the designers have checked if this is at all feasible. b) Continue to utilize the standard gun mounting or change to a rotating turret: Importantly it should be noted that the extraordinary accuracy of the Sturmgeschütz is mainly due to the excellent gun mounting. Also it must be

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A Sturmgeschütz from PzJgAbt 1014 (L) finished in light tropical camouflage which has been ‘modified’ with patches of a darker colour applied by brush. The name ‘Erika’ has been painted on the side pannier. The frontal plate had been reinforced to 80mm by bolting on an extra 30mm of armour. (Anderson)

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confirmed that a turret-mounted gun will have the same performance before progressing. The principle weakness with the Sturmgeschütz – the lack of 360° traverse – has been noted. c) The firing range has to be increased to 2,000m. 4) We suggest that each division be provided with a Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung within the framework of current organizational structures. Thus the division will receive a potent tank destroyer and also an effective infantry escort weapon. It is obvious that an upgrading from 7.5cm to 8.8cm gun will result in a higher kill rate, and needs no further explanation. With assignment of an integral Sturmgeschütz element, the [infantry] division will be independent from Heerestruppen [army troops]. The previous Heerestruppen-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilungen will then be solely available for the creation of points of main efforts. Furthermore, HerrestruppenStuGAbt can substitute the Heeres-Panzerjäger-Abteilungen [tank destroyer battalion at army troop level].

The demands noted in item 3, are understandable as Panzerschock (tank shock) was still prevalent in troops on the front line. At that time all Sturmgeschütz mounted the short-barrel 7.5cm KwK L/24 gun, but the more potent 7.5cm KwK/StuK 40 was entering production and StuGs mounting the weapon would soon be available to front-line units. However, the existent StuG design would not allow installation of a heavy weapon such as the 8.8cm gun.

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However, the suggestion of re-designing the StuG as a turreted tank is most interesting. The gun mounting in the StuG was fitted with a periscopic Zielfernrohr 1a (ZF – sighting telescope) gunsight which proved to be superior to the Turmzielfernrohr 5f (TZF – turret sighting telescope) used in the Panzer IV, and this advantage was considered more important than a traversable turret. The request for a StuGAbt for every division had already been proposed during the creation of the Sturmartillerie. By 1942, the priorities had changed, combat against enemy tanks was considered to be more important than the originally proposed infantry support role. Also it must be remembered that production in Germany’s heavy industries was stretched to capacity, and this demand could never be realized. The summary continues: 5) The sensitivity of the Sturmgeschütz to attack on the flank made it necessary to deploy 2cm FlaK 38 guns. It should be considered to provide two anti-aircraft batteries for every StuGAbt (each with three StuGBttr). The 2cm Flak will be used as a light support weapon, and also it will provide the division with the urgently needed anti-tank protection.

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A Sturmgeschütz from a LwFeldDiv. The unit used single letters (here the letter ‘D’) to identify their vehicles using the old-style German ‘Fraktur’ script. Note the name ‘Ruth’ stencilled on the pannier and that this Ausf F/8 has an extra 30mm of armour welded on. At right a soldier wears a Fallschim-Schützenbluse, (paratrooper combat blouse) also known as a Knochensack (sack of bones). (Historyfacts)

Item 5 highlights one of the main disadvantages of the Sturmgeschütz design; the lack of a close-defence weapon which caused assault gun crews to rely on close cooperation with the escorting infantry. These troops specially trained to eliminate enemy anti-tank teams and also locate targets for a StuG commander:

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The crew in this photograph of a Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8 confirms that the men of Luftwaffe Felddivisionen were not always supplied with Sonderbekleidung for Panzer (special tank uniform); two are wearing overalls and two are in standard field uniform. A Luftwaffe eagle is clearly visible on the jacket of the seated soldiers. It was common practice for crews to reinforce the thin armour of the side panniers by adding spare track sections, in this case wider Winterketten (winter tracks). (von Aufsess)

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vision from inside a StuG was dangerously restricted (as in any fully-enclosed armoured vehicle). In reality, many superior officers in the infantry were often unable or just unwilling to assist the commander of a StuG. In 1944, this development was taken into account by adding an integral GrenBeglBttr (escort grenadier batteries), and in some cases PzBeglBttr (escort tank batteries) equipped with the PzKpfw II mounting a 2cm gun. The summary continues: 6) We herewith suggest the tank destroyer detachment of the [infantry] division be organized as follows: a) The Infanterie-Panzerjäger-Kompanie in its previous form with 7.5cm PaK 40. b) A StuGAbt with three StuGBttr and two FlaKBttr (2cm Sfl), placed under the command of the divisional artillery leader. 7) Ultimately, this solution will result in an amalgamation of the Panzerjägerwaffe (tank destroyer army) in the Sturmartillerie. It will also lead to a simplification of leadership and organization. The solution will still be known as the Sturmartillerie, since it complies with the nature of the weapon, and its deployment.

Again this is not surprising.Towards the end of 1942, the General der Sturmartillerie feared that his force would no longer be autonomous. His counterpart Guderian,

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who should effectively reorganize the Schnelle Truppen (rapid forces) into the Panzertruppen, demanded that all armoured formations would come under his control. However, he only achieved parts of his demand. A further report submitted by AOK 2, dated September 1942, is more interesting as it underlines the increased importance of the Sturmgeschütz for anti-tank defence: The report emphasizes that the enemy suffered heavy tank losses due to our new anti-tank weapons. This fact led to him changing how he deployed his tanks. During an attack, the majority of his tanks will be held back behind his infantry, supporting it similar way to our assault guns but from longer ranges. When we counterattack, his tanks will be quickly dug-in for shelter and establish a most effective, actively led defence. With this method, the enemy weakens his offensive power on behalf of saving his equipment. He sacrifices his infantry to a considerable extent, and slows down the speed of his advance. On the other hand we cannot effectively follow his tanks as our heavy PaK rely on motorized traction. Thus our counterattacks are impeded to a very high degree. This development makes the replacement of all army and divisional tank destroyer battalions by StuGAbt more important and urgent. As all other after-action reports have shown, Sturmgeschütz are the most effective, most mobile and best-protected anti-tank weapon.

After-action reports from a number of PzJgAbt have confirmed the superiority of Sturmgeschütz to towed or self-propelled anti-tank guns. In February 1943, PzJgAbt 41 of 6.PzDiv submitted its combat experiences in a report: PzJgAbt 41 The following experience report is based on the offensive and defensive battles fought by six Panzer divisions in the Don/Donets area over the period of 1 December 1943 to 9 February 1943. A. General The combat of [enemy] tanks against [our] tank destroyers was of a special character… Referring to the tactical commitment, the majority of enemy tanks were impervious to the armour-piercing weapons of the PzJgAbt. Unfortunately the greater penetration power of our defensive weapons could not be brought into effect. The Soviet tanks [T-34 and KV-1] have the following advantages: a) Strong armour protection b) Longer firing range with both AP and HE rounds c) Mobile deployment in the artillery role from ranges where our armour-piercing weapons could not be effective. In particular, our weapons showed the following problems:

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8 from a Luftwaffe unit loaded on Sonderanhänger 116 (SdAnh – special-purpose trailer) for recovery. This Ausf F/8 is fitted with an eight-hole type drive sprocket as used on early PzKpfw III tanks, and also external Filzbalgfilter (air filters) mounted on the engine air vents both of which suggest that it is in service with a Ausbildungs und Ersatzabteilung (training and replacement unit). (Anderson)

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a) PaK 40 (mot Zug) (motorized platoon) High weight Poor mobility Lack of armour protection In general destructive only against advancing enemy tanks, but not against tanks used as under (c) b) PaK 40(Sfl) (self-propelled gun) Large target easy to see from long range Weak armour protection Inferior cross-country mobility c) Experience with 7.5cm PaK(Sfl) This self-propelled gun must be regarded as not ideal, but a sufficiently suitable interim solution. e) The comparison of losses and performance figures for a PzJgAbt with a StuGAbt – in combat at the same time and area – shows a measurable improvement:

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Panzerjägerabteilung Number of anti-tank guns: Total losses: Personnel losses: Score:

18 10 86 45 enemy tanks

StuGAbt Number of StuG: Total losses: Personnel losses: Score:

21 1 19 114 enemy tanks

The quality of the Russian tanks and how they are tactically deployed requires the creation of superior ways to combat them. Today as always, we need ‘Panzerjäger’. The Sturmgeschütz is the ideal solution as it ensures maximum results at low effort.

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A group of officers of the PzDiv Hermann Göring gather around a Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8. The side panniers and frontal areas have been covered with spare track links to improve protection; standard practice for many crews of early StuGs. The narrow ravine gives a good impression of the difficult combat conditions experienced in southern Italy. (Anderson)

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Kolberg 1945: This most unusual Sturmgeschütz thought to be from a Luftwaffe unit, possibly 12.LwFeldDiv. The vehicle is based on a PzKpfw III hull, but is fitted with Sturmgeschütz Ausf G superstructure without the commander’s cupola. The vehicle is fitted with Seitenschürzen (side skirts) and has a protective cover mounted over the driver’s visor. A thick coating of concrete has been applied to the superstructure for added protection. (Netrebenko)

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The crew of this Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8 have carefully whitewashed their vehicle; only black Balkenkreuze and its thin outline is visible. It has welded-on armour at the front and the crew has placed track links on the front and sides to improve protection. Note the wire mesh cage fitted over the gunner’s periscope was used only on this particular production batch. (Anderson)

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In late 1942, the first infantry units were issued with Sturmgeschütz, but for reasons unknown the newly established Luftwaffe-Feldeinheiten (air force field units) were given preferential treatment.

Luftwaffe field units Generalfeldmarschall Göring had been planning the establishment of Luftwaffe-Feldeinheiten (field units) since 1941. In 1942, at a time when the armed forces first experienced a problem in finding sufficient replacements for the many personnel lost during fighting in the Russian winter, Göring managed to receive wide approval for his plan. His argument was eased by the fact that a large number of well-trained troops were available in Luftwaffe regiments stationed in France. Similar to the establishment of SS units, Göring would also put great emphasis on better treatment of his men. Possibly this was the reason his units received Sturmgeschütz from when they were formed. Meanwhile, the depleted army infantry divisions had to continue fighting with the equipment they had available, before finally receiving StuGs. A short entry in the war diary of Organisationsabteilung (OrgAbt – organizational department) dated 25 August 1942 confirms a conflict of interest:

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The Luftwaffe demands that the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht changes the previous ratio of Zugkraftwagen [ZgKw – tractors] allotted to its benefit. Such a demand does not comply with the actual situation, and was sharply rejected by the OKW.

The ambitious plans initiated by Göring saw the establishment of 20 LuftwaffeFeldbrigaden (infantry brigades) and the first eight units were formed in October 1942. Despite their size, these units were referred to as divisions. The establishment did not happen without some problems, as noted in the diary of the OrgAbt on 26 October 1942: The order for the establishment of Luftwaffe-Feldbrigaden decisively impairs the current state of material planning. The effect is greatest in the supply of softskinned vehicles. Faced with a difficult situation, OrgAbt applied for the number of cross-country vehicles to be reduced by 50 per cent. This request was accepted. Likewise only 33 per cent of the required ZgKw can be supplied and 66 per cent will be substituted by agricultural tractors and trucks.

This comment confirms that Germany’s armaments and heavy industries were unable to satisfy the demands of the military. The Luftwaffe units were all destined to fight on the Eastern Front where heavy Zugkraftwagen were essential, but an agricultural tractor would be useless and not even a poor substitute.

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A battle-worn Sturmgeschütz from PzDiv Hermann Göring in service with forces sent to defend Sicily in 1943. (Anderson)

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Above: A Sturmgeschütz from PzDiv Hermann Göring crashes through a shallow stone wall for the benefit of a propaganda photographer. Such action would not be possible if the StuG had been fitted with Seitenschürzen (side skirts) as they would have easily ripped off. (Anderson) Right: A Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8 from PzDiv Hermann Göring passes some German infantrymen concealed in the shadow of a large cactus plant. The vehicle has been fitted with a shield for the machine gun by the workshop company. (Münch)

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A month later the OrgAbt noted: Despite our determined concerns expressed during the formation of the first ten Luftwaffe field divisions, the establishment of a further ten field divisions has been ordered. The requirement for 6,000 soft-skinned vehicles will result in the postponement of re-equipping four to five Panzer divisions.

At the same time as the note was written, some 16 Panzer divisions in the east were in urgent need of being re-equipped. The first eight Luftwaffe-Felddivisionen (LwFeldDiv) were in fact not more than reinforced infantry regiments, formed with four infantry battalions, a PzJgAbt, a schwere Artillerie-Abteilung (s ArtAbt – heavy artillery battalion) and support elements. From the very beginning, a Sturmgeschütz detachment was an integral element of the s ArtAbt. On 21 November 1942, Göring as Reichminister der Luftfahrt (Secretary of Aviation) and Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe (Supreme Commander of the Air Force), ordered the establishment of further Luftwaffe field units: II) 20 LwFeldDiv will each be issued with: a) A leichte Artillerie-Abteilung [light artillery battalion] with three batteries each with four 7.5cm Feldkanone 243(h) or three batteries each with four 7.65cm Feldkanone(t) b) A schwere Artillerie-Abteilung [heavy artillery battalion] with c) Two batteries each with four horse-drawn 15cm Feldhaubitz 414(f),and one StuG battery with four Sturmgeschütz. d) One FlaK-Abteilung [anti-aircraft battalion].

Once again the parlous state of Germany’s industry revealed. Even the artillery battalions of the Göring ‘elite’ units had to rely on captured light and heavy artillery pieces of either Dutch (h), Czechoslovak (t) or French (f) origin. Even by the end of 1942, the heavy artillery battalion was horse drawn. However, one should remember that the actual organization of the Luftwaffe field units was dependent on what equipment was available which resulted in many variations. The small StuG detachment was initially attached to the heavy artillery battalion, but later assault guns were also issued to the tank destroyer detachments; proof of a change in priorities. These Luftwaffe StuG batteries were authorized to have only four assault guns each, possibly this was due to the delivery situation. Despite of this reduced allotment, workshop and supply elements were identically equipped as that for an independent StuGBttr equipped with six or ten Sturmgeschütz, similar to that noted in KStN 446a. The Organisationsabteilung would repeatedly regret this oversupply. One of the few available documents describing the commitment of Luftwaffe field divisions was submitted by AOK 18 on 2 April 1943. The reason for this

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Sturmgeschütz Battery for Luftwaffe Feld-Divisionen Table of organization with four Sturmgeschütz, KStN unknown.

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report is unknown as it was compiled by a Sonderbeauftragter für Panzerabwehr (special envoy for anti-tank defences). However, details taken from it allow an interesting view on the efficiency of German weapons, and possibly the basic tactics employed. 18.Army was part of the force surrounding the city of Leningrad in the northern sector of the Eastern Front. Among the forces having tanks or Sturmgeschütz were s PzAbt 502, StuGAbt 226, and 1, 10, 12 and 13.LwFeldDiv. Three combat missions were evaluated: 1) 12 January to 5 February 1943, south of Lake Ladoga near Ssinajavino 2) 12 February to 17 February 1943, near Nishkino 3) 19 March to 31 March 1943, south of Krassnyj Bor (still not captured)

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A rare view into the loader’s hatch of a Sturmgeschütz Ausf G from PzDiv Hermann Göring; the empty bracket was for a Maschinenpistole (MP) 40 machine gun. Note the thin armour plate used for the roof of the fighting compartment; this could be penetrated by a hit from infantry mortar shell. (Anderson)

During these commitments, s PzAbt 502 had a maximum of six PzKpfw VI Tigers and 15 PzKpfw III tanks combat ready. StuGAbt 226 had 41 Sturmgeschütz, including recently allocated vehicles. The four LwFeldDiv had 20 StuG in total, again including recently allocated vehicles. In terms of anti-tank defences; the remaining field units were equipped with 253 medium PaK (5cm PaK 38) and 383 heavy PaK (7.5cm PaK 97/38, 7.62cm PaK (r) and 7.5cm PaK 40) the heavy being towed and self-propelled (SP). The results are interesting:

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Initially StuG units were issued with SdKfz 252 armoured ammunition carriers. When production of this highly-specialized vehicle ended 1941, a simpler variant was built on the chassis of the SdKfz 250 light armoured halftrack. The SdKfz 250/6 (Ausf A) carred 70 rounds of 7.5cm StuK L/24 ammunition had the Ausf B variant carried 60 rounds 7.5cm StuK 40 L/48 (Ausf B) ammunition. The Sonderanhänger (SdAnh) 32 trailers were originally design to carry the much shorter L/24 round, but it was modified to carry 56 L/48 rounds. (Anderson)

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s PzAbt 502 StuGAbt 226 Luftwaffe Towed and SP anti-tank Sturmgeschütz guns (other units) Enemy tanks destroyed 160 210 17 49 87 32 Personnel losses Own losses (total) 9 Tiger 13 5 13 PzKpfw III

482 ? ?

The Luftwaffe infantry units (presumably) used their small Sturmgeschütz detachments for long-range tank defence and local counterattacks. On 14 April 1943, 13 Luftwaffe field divisions were in combat, and those fighting with 18.Army reported their availability:

1.LwFeldDiv 10.LwFeldDiv 12.LwFeldDiv 13.LwFeldDiv

Combat ready 4 2 4 – In need of repair – 1 – 1 In supply – 1 – 3

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The Sturmartillerie unit, StuGAbt 226, reported on 14 April 1943 that it had 13 Sturmgeschütz combat ready and a further 15 awaiting repair. At that time the battalion had implemented KStN 446a, which authorized 10 StuG in a battery, giving a total of 31 in a battalion, including a StuG for the commander.. If the unit could keep its batteries operational, then StuGAbt 226 would be a formidable combat force which could be deployed for attack missions in close support of the infantry or establish a strong tank defence. On 25 September 1943, long after the failed offensive at Kursk, the number of StuG in LwFeldDiv detachments would not exceed four. At the end of 1943 it was decided that all surviving LwFeldDiv were to be transferred to the army, but they would retain their original organization. This was accepted and 14 weakened Luftwaffe units passed to the army. At this time of organizational chaos most LwFeldDiv relinquished their Sturmgeschütz batteries; their surplus equipment was used to establish new Heerestruppe StuGAbt, or passed to other units as replacements.

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A thoroughly camouflaged Sturmgeschütz parked in the main street of a town in Italy while being re-armed from an SdKfz 250/6 Munitionswagen (ammunition carrier). Note the bag filled with Stielhandgranate (stick grenades) on the rear of the vehicle. (Anderson)

Hermann Göring Units Hermann Göring promoted the establishment of Luftwaffe field units early. By 1935, police units served as a cadre for what was to become the Regiment Hermann Göring.

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A Sturmgeschütz had racks installed to carry 54 rounds of 7.5cm GrPatr ammunition. However, StuG crews were known to increase the ‘official’ amount by removing the racks. Often they packed up to 90 rounds into the interior, with the crew virtually sitting on shells. (Anderson)

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The regiment served during the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia. During the invasion of Poland, most forces remained in Germany to guard Göring and his entourage. Later Regiment Hermann Göring participated in the Western campaign. During the initial phase of the invasion of the Soviet Union it served in close cooperation with 11.PzDiv. By mid-1942 the unit was expanded to a brigade. During this process, it was decided to further enlarge it to a division. In September 1942, orders were given to establish the Division Hermann Göring with Panzer and Sturmgeschütz to the same extent as the Panzerdivisions in the West. At roughly the same time OrgAbt announced it would establish StuGAbteilungen for 6., 7. and 10.PzDiv using the material of StuGAbt 209. Here usage of the term Abteilung is misleading, as the units intended for the PzDiv were to have the size of a company battery, with a maximum of 11 assault guns, and should be part of the PzJgAbt. However, these plans were not continued in 1942. Instead, Hermann Göring (HG) division should receive two PanzerAbteilungen, and an entire StuGAbt in its artillery regiment. When, by the end of 1942, the situation in North Africa came to a crisis, parts of the Division Hermann Göring were sent to Tunisia. By May 1943, the unit had capitulated to the Allied forces.

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Organizational structure for the Hermann Göring Division in October 1942.

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The remaining remnants were now ordered for re-establishment as a Panzerdivision, now forming the PzDiv Hermann Göring (HG). By June it was transferred to Sicily to defend the island against the anticipated landing. Compared with the older division, PzDiv HG showed a much stronger material equipment. The Panzerregiment now consisted of two PanzerAbteilungen with four mittlere Kompanien each, summing up to 176 tanks. The Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung “HG” was now part of the PzRgt, as its III. Abteilung. This accoutrement complied with the early new 43.PzDiv organizational standard (with PzRgt 43). This standard was not adopted for other units – PzDiv “HG” was much stronger than any other Panzerdivision, which were organized according the normal 43.PzDiv standard, lacking the StuG-Abteilung. PzDiv HG’s III.Abteilung (10., 11., 12. Batterie of PzRgt HG) was organized according the KStN 446a dated 1 November 1942. Each battery had ten Sturmgeschütz, of which three were Sturmhaubitzen. The commitment of Sturmgeschütz in the southern theatre of war (Sicily and Italy) was not without problems. The 11. (StuG)/PzRgt HG submitted an after-action report by October 1943 when in defensive positions near Caivano and Cardito near Naples::

Organizational structure for Fallschirmjäger-Panzerdivision (Paratroop tank division) Hermann Göring 1943 to 1944.

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Report about the loss of a Sturmhaubitze 42 of 11. Batterie After strong enemy infantry and tank forces broke through our positions near Cardito at 16:00hrs, I met the leader of the PzAufklAbt [reconnaissance battalion], Hauptmann Lübke. He gave the order to launch a counterattack with my available Sturmgeschütz. I manned two assault guns, whose crew had been relieved after being wounded, with the crew of a Sturmhaubitze whose vehicle had a jammed gun breach. I decided to lead the counterattack with my own and the other two Sturmgeschütz, and called for infantry support. Lübke told me to grab any man I could find. With 30 men I started the attack by slowly moving forward, with both sides guarded. We moved into positions at the southern boundary of Caivano. The enemy opened a heavy mortar bombardment. After 10mins, Lübke ordered a withdrawal to centre of the village. I retreated for some 200m. A short time later, Lübke joined us and ordered us to proceed with the counterattack. Approaching an S-shaped bend in the road at the southern edge of Caivano, our view ahead was completely blocked by a high stone wall. I informed Lübke that any further advance was impossible, since our line of fire was totally obstructed. I stopped 10m before the second curve and ordered the

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This Sturmgeschütz Ausf G has been built using the hull of a PzKpfw III; one of a number of expedients employed to keep a constant supply of this valuable battlefield asset. The original 50mm hull armour has been reinforced by welding on extra 30mm armour plate. (Anderson)

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infantry forward to scout the road. They reported that several Sherman tanks were stationary on the road. Lübke gave orders to immediately cross a field in a right-hand direction and open fire on the enemy tanks. I argued that this position was very unfavourable. Lübke replied, “Move up, there is no alternative, it’s either you or the Shermans.” I drove to the ordered position, but due to the muddy ground my vehicle moved very slowly. It took some 5mins to move into position. Although their engines of the enemy tanks were not running, their guns tracked our advance exactly and aimed at us. Despite this I fired my first round. A second later, I received the first hit and our engine stalled. I tried to fire a smoke candle, but received a second hit which struck the left slope above the driver’s visor. The impact lifted off the roof plate over my gunner and hit and damaged the cupola, then slowly fell into the fighting compartment and struck my hand. I instantly ordered the crew to abandon leave the Sturmgeschütz, but I was catapulted out by

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the shockwave of a third hit. When I regained consciousness, some 40m from my vehicle, I became aware of two infantrymen dressing my wounds. A short time later a second Sturmgeschütz moved up, but also received a direct hit. As I was still able to move, I climbed onto the assault gun and returned.

The after action report sent by the Batterieführer was instantly commented on by the StuGAbt commander: To Panzerdivsion Hermann Göring Attached to this letter is an after action report of 11.(StuG)7.PzRgt HG describing the total loss of a Sturmhaubitze, the temporary failure of a further Sturmgeschütz and the considerable loss of life.

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8 from PzDiv Hermann Göring has its tactical number ‘34’ stencilled on the gun’s armoured sleeve and has been retrofitted with a machine-gun shield. The Ausf F/8 is followed by a Sturmhaubitze (assault howitzer) armed with a 10.5cm light field howitzer; proof that they were also issued to units other than Sturmartillerie (assault artillery) . (Anderson)

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After-action report, 7 October 1943.

S

150m

2m-high stone wall

80m

Field position is 1.5m above the road

Platoon Wallhäuser

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All losses were caused by the absolutely wrong commitment of the Sturmgeschütz, ordered by Hauptmann Lübke. It is absolutely impossible to commit Sturmgeschütze in such a combat situations – especially in darkness – without determined infantry support. A StuG cannot defend itself at night. At 16.45hrs, the order was given to move into an absolutely inappropriate position to combat the enemy tanks. The leader of 11.Bttr rejected the order due to the onset of darkness, but this was overruled and he continued the deployment. The battalion considers that by ignoring the legitimate objections of a battery leader, we regard the actions of this officer, who lacked experience and any knowledge of the tactical commitment of Sturmgeschütz, as intolerable. With his exclamation “you or the Shermans”, the loss of men and equipment was recklessly accepted. If the Sturmgeschütz had been deployed correctly, we could have inflicted serious damage on the enemy without any loss of personnel. The Abteilung hereby issues a reprimand Hauptmann Lübke for his poor judgement.

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The low silhouette of the Sturmgeschütz made it simple to conceal by using camouflage, perfect for an ambush missions. However, high walls and tall hedgerows were a constant obstacle in Italy, and in dense scrub close cooperation with the infantry was indispensable. (Anderson)

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8 from 11.LwFeldDiv moves up on a dusty road during the assault on Greece in May 1943. The vehicle appears to have been delivered in tropical camouflage, certainly suitable for the conditions. For better ventilation, the large maintenance hatch over the gunner has been opened, and the wire mesh protective cover for the periscope is visible. Note the tactical marking ‘A’ stencilled on the gun mantlet. (Anderson)

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This short report again proves that in the difficult Italian terrain tanks, and especially Sturmgeschütz were certainly not the best possible tools. Their commitment was severely limited by their design and their poor observation means. Steep ascents and descents overrated the performance of engines, brakes and the steering mechanism, leading to many technical losses. Especially in built up areas with narrow roads, walls and debris, the turretless Sturmgeschütz were dangerously handicapped. This problem, however, was known after Stalingrad at the latest. Here infantry would have to do the dirty job. The reaction of the Abteilung’s leader to protect his subordinate is comradely, but hardly expedient. A better understanding, target-oriented training of the different subunits and subsequently improved cooperation is one of the pillars of success of any armed conflict. From an after-action report of 11. (StuG)Kp/PzRgt Hermann Göring: 7 October 1943 The battery was attached to Abteilung Rossmann and deployed near Cardito. Two StuG commanded by Wachtmeister (Wm) Boerner were positioned as a forward observation post at the junction of Cardito-Afragola-Casavia road. The platoon of Stabswachtmeister (StWm) Schulze-Oswald was positioned with two StuG at

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the southern entrance to Cardito. Platoon Wallhäuser, with two StuG, secured the area 2km southeast of Cardito. At 17:45hrs it was reported that enemy tanks were advancing from Afragola. At around 18:00hrs, Oberleutnant Jekosch and Leutnant Roebig took a Beikrad (Beiwagenkrad – motorcycle with sidecar) to get in contact with the Platoon Boerner, which had become trapped. In the following action, Leutnant Boerner was fatally shot in the head; Jekosch and the driver were wounded. This alarmed the commander of Platoon Boerner who then decided to forcibly break-out to Cardito. During the fight two Sherman tanks were destroyed. Schulze-Oswald, in the following the StuG, destroyed the Sherman tank which had fired on the battery commander’s Beikrad. After Jekosch had been wounded, Schulze-Oswald assumed command of the assault guns positioned at the southern exit of Cardito. From 19:00 to 23:30hrs we heard the distinctive sound of tank tracks, and estimated that 25 to 30 enemy tanks were advancing. The two reconnaissance patrols sent out by Schulze-Oswald and Lübke failed to find the enemy. Two further patrols led by Schulze-Oswald also failed. Possibly the patrols did not advance far enough. Success: Three enemy tanks (Sherman) destroyed. Two trucks with mounted infantry destroyed, and the following infantry was repulsed by machine-gun fire. Losses: Leutnant Roebig; dead: Oberleutnant Jekosch and Gefrieter Rabitsch; wounded. No material losses.

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The same Ausf F/8 carrying a group of infantry during a field exercise. The vehicle is fitted with two 2m rod aerials, indicating that Sturmgeschütz ‘A’ was possibly a command vehicle. (Anderson)

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This Sturmgeschütz Ausf G photographed during a field exercise carrying a Schiedsrichter (arbitrator), identifiable by the white band around his Schiffchen (forage cap). (Anderson)

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(Note: The ranks Wachtmeister and Stabswachtmeister were by tradition only used by the artillery and cavalry, therefore also by the Sturmartillerie. Division Hermann Göring, as part of the Luftwaffe would normally use the same rank designations as the army. This remains a mystery.) The 7.5cm StuK 40 main gun in the Sturmgeschütz proved to be superior to the 75mm Gun M1 used in early versions of the Sherman tank. However, combat tactics were much more important than just firepower and armour. An attacking tank was always at a disadvantage, especially when advancing against well-camouflaged enemy armour. In December 1943, PzDiv Hermann Göring was in defensive positions to the north of Naples, before slowly retreating as superior Allied forces continued to advance. An after-action report from 9.(Bttr) PzRgt Hermann Göring: 1 November 1943 Enemy has advanced in unknown strength and is attacking Height 670, some 2.5km east of Presenzano. Our reconnaissance squads were taken by surprise by the assaults. Oberleutnant Schröder is in the area with his Stabskompanie.

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Oberleutnant Bellinger has launched a counterattack into the flanks of the Americans with Chefgeschütz (commander’s StuG), he has one infantry man as a dispatch rider. No combat possible from the road, so the StuG retreated to the cover of a hillside. Opened fire with a hollow-charge round and destroyed an enemy anti-tank rifle [Bazooka] position. Successes: Enemy almost annihilated. Some areas of the hillside caught fire. One enemy officer and 12 troopers taken as prisoner, also two US anti-tank rifles [Bazooka] with ammunition, a machine gun with mounting, several rifles and other material were captured. Due to the burning scrub, other material and a number of seriously injured enemy soldiers could not be recovered.

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The marking for Sturmgeschütz, a unit badge and a single identifier letter have been stencilled on the glacis plate, but the identity of the unit is unknown. The letter ‘A’ possibly indicates that it is from a small unit with only four to ten StuG; perhaps it is from a Luftwaffe field unit. (Anderson)

2 November 1943 Late in the afternoon the enemy had attacked from the southeast, hitting the right flank of the staff company. The tank destroyer platoon was taken by surprise and had to abandon two guns plus tractors. Two Sturmgeschütz were moved into positions on the road and prevented the enemy from advancing with welldirected fire. Despite this, our front-line positions had to be re-taken. To recover the abandoned anti-tank guns, an advance commenced at 20:00hrs, supported

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by the grenadiers, and one gun was recovered. A short time later a second attack, led by Bellinger, was launched. Under supporting fire from the Sturmgeschütz, the second anti-tank gun and tractor was recovered undamaged.

A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G, photographed with 8.8cm-armed Nashorn tank destroyers, during the winter of 1943/44 on the Eastern Front. The vehicle carries the number ‘III’, in Roman-style numerals, on the rear of the hull and also the commander’s cupola. The vehicle is fitted with Sternantenne (star antenna) indicating that it is a command vehicle. (Anderson)

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3 November 1943 In the early afternoon, the enemy tried to infiltrate our lines to the left the RomeNaples road, which ran along the foot of the mountains. These assaults were repelled by two Sturmgeschütz led by Bellinger by making use of the gun and the machine gun. The enemy was forced to retreat after suffering heavy losses. Later in the afternoon, the enemy launched three further attacks but all were repulsed.

The assault gun crews of PzRgt Hermann Göring had shown, despite the terrain in Italy, their ability to successfully combat a superior enemy attacking with large numbers of well-equipped infantry. The clear advantage of a mobile anti-tank defence over a towed anti-tank gun is evidenced by the fact that the Germans had to abandon two guns. However, the situation favoured German forces as the attacking US force was not supported by tanks and also little or no air cover was provided by Allied air forces.

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A Sturmgeschütz from PzJgAbt 1011 (L) (11.LwFeldDiv) during the occupation of Greece; The 80mm frontal armour could resist fire from most enemy tank and anti-tank guns until 1944. However, it remained vulnerable to attack from the side and rear until the end of the war. (Anderson)

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1943 – in the Panzertruppe Due to the lack of resources and limited production capacity in Germany, there were not enough assault guns available to be issued in battalion strength to each infantry division as was initially planned. Instead, all SturmgeschützAbteilungen (StuGAbt) were integrated at Heerestruppen (army troop) level, from where they were requested by infantry and tank units to assist at points of main effort. Thus the new weapon became the responsibility of and was controlled by the General der Artillerie. However, there were many exceptions. With the establishment and expansion of the armed forces, the Waffen-SS units would have preference when Sturmgeschütz (if in small numbers) were issued. Other permanent subunits integrated for infantry support also received Sturmgeschütz in relative small numbers. As Operation Barbarossa progressed an urgent requirement arose for an effective weapon to combat and defeat superior Soviet armour: the Sturmgeschütz would quickly prove to be absolutely suitable for this task. Motivated by this development, the Organisationsabteilung (OrgAbt), seconded to the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH – High Command of the Army), again considered issuing Sturmgeschütz as a permanent subunit to various field units, more precisely the infantry divisions. However, despite of the high-flown plans of 1938 to 1940, Sturmgeschütz were now to be issued in company, rather than battalion strength. Again the army was treated as a subordinate service. Hermann Göring, the chief of the Luftwaffe demanded that his Luftwaffe-Felddivisionen were to be the first to receive issues. But again, the number was small. A new chapter in the history of the Sturmgeschütz service would be opened in1943.

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3

In October 1943 the 3.PzGrenDiv was reformed according to PzGrenDiv 43 standard, when it was planned to provide the unit with a PzStuGAbt equipped with 42 Sturmgeschütz. However, these were in short supply forcing the unit to use Italian-built Semovente (self-propelled) guns. Their situation changed in 1944 when they were supplied with a full complement of StuG. (Anderson)

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Left: Painted in a three-tone camouflage scheme, newly delivered Sturmgeschütz of III.Abt/ PzRgt 2 (16.PzDiv) parked in a yard at their garrison before shipping-out to the Eastern Front. Note the Seitenschürzen (side skirts) are non-standard, the last plate appears to be another middle section. (Wilhelm) Left below: A Sturmgeschütz of III. Abt/PzRgt 2: The crew has attached lengths of track to the side of the hull as extra protection for this vulnerable area. A large wooden crate, fabricated in the field, is mounted on the rear of the engine deck. (Wilhelm)

Stalingrad German armies won a last series of battles in 1942. In North Africa, El Alamein was reached, and in southern Russia the Caucasus and Stalingrad. However, the Allies continued to increase pressure on the German war machine. Although a failure, the amphibious assault by British-Canadian forces at Dieppe awakened the German military to the prospect of a second front in Europe. While the situation at Leningrad in the north and also Moscow was relatively quiet, Hitler ordered his forces to advance south. His aim was to seize Stalingrad, the city bearing the name of his enemy, and understandably he wanted the oil; a strategic necessity. But he carelessly ignored the vastness of Russia. The initially successful offensive was split in two wedges; while the 6.Army advanced along the northern flank to finally reach Stalingrad, the southern forces spread out to take the Black Sea coast and finally advance to the Caucasus Mountains. If there were any critics, the speed of the advances silenced them. Hitler was so confident of achieving his targets that he would not listen to the Chief of Staff of the Army (Halder until September 1942, then Zeitzler). But was Hitler right; was he the military genius he truly believed he was? History would show that by November 1942 German troops trying to take Stalingrad were overstretched and battle weary. A continuation of the

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Three Sturmgeschütz of III.Abt/PzRgt 24 (24.PzDiv) during a short halt. The second StuG has lost the complete right-hand side set of Seitenschürzen (side skirts) making the vehicle vulnerable to attack by Soviet infantry armed with anti-tank rifles. (Münch)

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attack on Stalingrad was fraught with danger, since neither replacement equipment nor fresh personnel could be sent. Nevertheless, 6.Army did succeed and occupied the most of the city. Despite being weakened and also battle weary, Soviet commanders combined all their offensive formations power and launched Operatsiya Uran (Operation Uranus). After some five days the Red Army had surrounded and trapped significant parts of 6.Army. On 31 January 1943, Feldmarschall Friedrich von Paulus was forced to surrender. The capitulation at Stalingrad had a disastrous effect on the German armed forces, despite all the fanatical propaganda spouted by Goebbels. A complete army, three Panzer divisions and 12 infantry divisions were lost. The landing by US forces in North Africa on 7 November 1942 also came at a crucial moment. Rommel’s forces had all but exhausted their supplies and were under attack on two fronts, which forced Panzerarmee Afrika back to Tunisia where it held out until 12 May 1943.

Sturmgeschütz in Panzer Divisions In October 1942, the OrgAbt suggested forming Sturmgeschütz-Abteilungen for 6, 7 and 10.PzDiv, using the men and equipment of StuGAbt 209. The term ‘Abteilung’, which normally described a battalion size unit, should be understood as a battery or company in the case of the above Panzer divisions. The reason for this decision remains unclear, and to the knowledge of the author was never realized.

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The loss of 6.Army would change everything. In March/April 1943, the order was given to re-establish those divisions destroyed at Stalingrad. By 1 January 1943, temporary tables of organization had already been published which indicated as to how the ‘new’ 6.Army would be formed. These provisional plans provided for three rifle battalions and a PanzerjägerKompanie (PzJgKp) with nine self-propelled anti-tank guns for each infantry division, and one Panzer grenadier battalion and a PzJgKp with 12 selfpropelled anti-tank guns for each tank division. As an option, the PzJgKp could be substituted by a Sturmgeschütz-Batterie (StuGBttr). Thus these documents prove, for the first-time, the integration of a StuGBttr in both infantry and Panzer divisions on a regular basis. When compared to a fully-equipped 1942-style infantry/tank division the overall allotment appears weak. To the author’s knowledge, these suggestions were also never instigated. However, it was standard practice to merge battle-worn units as Kampfgruppen (battle groups). In order to restore their combat value, subunits were also reinforced by sparingly allotted equipment. The table may have served as an organizational help. Around March/April 1943, the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppe decreed that the three tank divisions (14, 16 and 24.PzDiv) lost at Stalingrad

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This Sturmgeschütz armed with the 7.5cm StuK 40 L/48 is from III.Abt/PzRgt 24. The vehicle carries the tactical number 1134, stencilled in plain black, which identifies it as being from 11th Schwadron (squadron) in the division. The style in which the Zimmerit coating has been applied indicates that the StuG was manufactured by Alkett. (Anderson)

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This preliminary table for the re-establishment of PzDiv and InfDiv destroyed in Stalingrad was published in early 1943. Upon availability, Sturmgeschütz were to be issued as a (better) alternative to towed antitank guns.

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were to be re-established. Beside the standard I.Abt and II.Abt, all the divisions were authorized to form a III.Abt (Sturmgeschütz). Guderian, who had vehemently opposed the large-scale introduction of Sturmgeschütz from the beginning, had finally to accept out of sheer necessity. In 1943, German tank production was barely able to replace the heavy and continuous tank losses and at the same time satisfy the requirements for the establishment of new units. Only the manufacturers of the Sturmgeschütz would prove to be capable of significantly increasing production.

Organization of Panzer-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilungen At around this time, a new organizational structure for the Panzertruppe was published, the ‘Panzerdivision mit PzRgt 43’, which served as a pattern for the three Panzer divisions. This proposed structure recommended a significant combat strength, intending to issue 96 PzKpfw V Panther tanks to the I.Abt, and 96 PzKpfw IV to the II.Abt and also 96 Sturmgeschütz to the III.Abt. However, since production of the new PzKpfw V Panther tank was beset by many problems, it was to be temporarily replaced by the PzKpfw IV until sufficient numbers became available. The order to establish three Panzer-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilungen was given in March 1943 by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW). The newstyle units were to be issued in the following order:

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The commander (wearing a forage cap) and the loader (a field cap) of an unidentified Sturmgeschütz unit (possibly Waffen-SS). Both are wearing throattype microphones and headphones, connected to the intercom system. The gunner’s periscope is visible, and as is the Scherenfernrohr (scissorstype periscope) in front of the commander. (Hoppe)

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III.Abt/PzRgt 2 for 16.PzDiv until 30 April 1943 III.Abt/PzRgt 24 for 24.PzDiv until 15 April 1943 III.Abt/PzRgt 36 for 14.PzDiv until 30 April 1943 At the time respective new KStNs were not available, so the PanzerKompanien (Sturmgeschütz) were organized according to the available Panzertruppen structures: Abteilungsstab (battalion staff) according KStN 1107 dated 1 April 1943. Stabskompanie (staff company) according KStN 1150b dated 25 January 1943 Four medium Panzerkompanie (22 StuG) according KStN 1175a dated 25 January 1943 One PzWerkstKp (workshop company, without 1.Zug [platoon]) according KStN 1187 dated 1 June 1942.

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Sturmgeschütz on the firing range during a unit’s establishment phase: The vehicle mounts a 7.5cm StuK 40 L/48 and has a Saukopf (pig’s head) gun mantlet indicating that it is a late series StuG. Note the gun barrel cleaning Rohrwischer (rod brush) leaning against the rear of the vehicle. (Anderson)

Establishment took place in France during the summer of 1943. At approximately the same time the KStNs for the PzStuGAbt in PzRgt were finally adapted, and at the same time the allotment of Sturmgeschütz was intended to be a provisional and temporary measure only. Subsequently, when new organizational structures were introduced in late 1943, neither the Infanteriedivision n A (neuer Art – new order) nor the 43.PzDiv would show any integral Sturmgeschütz subunits.

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The mixed establishment of III.Abt/PzRgt 36 (14.PzDiv):The unit was sent to the Eastern Front in October 1943, and was equipped with 49 Panzer Ausf G IV (lang), 42 Sturmgeschütz, nine Panzerbefehlswagen (PzBefWg) command tanks and nine Flammpanzer III (flamethrower tank). The Panzer IV tanks are fitted with Seitenschürzen (tank skirts). (Münch)

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The Seitenschürzen (side skirts) were made up of two layers of armour; small inner plates (visible here) to protect the superstructure covered by larger plates to protect the vulnerable sides of the hull. The Sturmgeschütz carries the tactical number 421, which is repeated on the cupola. (Anderson)

STURMGESCHÜTZ

Abteilungsstab according to KStN 1107 dated 1 April 1943 StbsKp PzStuGAbt according to KStN 1157 dated 10 April 1943 Four PzStuGKp (22 StuG) according to KStN 1158 dated 10 April 1943 One PzWerkstKp according to KStN 1187 dated 1 June 1942 On 3 June 1943, the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppe published an instructional leaflet, which again underlined Guderian’s principal reservations in regard to the Sturmgeschütz: Instructional leaflet Application of a StuGAbt within a PzRgt 1) Some PzDiv will be temporarily issued with Sturmgeschütz as an interim solution. 2) The PzAbt will receive 96 Sturmgeschütz Structure of the Kampfstaffel [combat echelon]: Staff section: five command tanks (PzKpfw III) Staff company (reconnaissance and Zug) five StuG 1. to 4.Company: KpTrp (co HQ) two StuG 1. to 4.Zug each with five StuG 3) Compared to the PzKpfw IV the Sturmgeschütz has certain advantages: a) Thicker frontal armour (beginning in April, new production PzKpfw IV will have the same level of protection). b) Its low height results in a small target.

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Disadvantages: a) The lack of commander’s cupola results in poor observation [from December 1942, all new StuG were fitted with a cupola]. b) Due to the lack of traverse, no all-round fire is possible. c) Lack of a machine gun with all-round fire results in impaired close defence. 4) The performances and characteristics of the Sturmgeschütz do not allow an independent deployment without support of Panzer or PzGren. Due to its advantages, the Sturmgeschütz can be considered a tank destroyer. Thus deployment of PzAbt with StuG within the PzRgt and the PzDiv is clearly determined. 4) Assault: a) The StuGAbt cannot fight independently like a PzAbt. Close cooperation with Panzer or PzGren is necessary. Thus StuG will be deployed in the last wave, closely connected with PzGren. b) PzAbt equipped with PzKpfw III or PzKpfw IV with thin armour can be reinforced by StuG platoons or companies to accomplish limited missions. The Sturmgeschütz will then be deployed in the front lines. c) When encountering enemy tanks, StuG units will advance allowing the other PzAbt to surround and subsequently totally destroy the enemy tanks.

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Cleaning the bore of a gun barrel with a stiff Rohrwischer (rod brush) required a serious amount of muscle power. It was important to regularly clean the rifling as a build-up of residues could cause a barrel burst. (Anderson)

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Panzer-Sturmgeschütz Company Table of organization with 22 Sturmgeschütz, according to KStN 1158, 1 November 1943.

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d) StuG units deployed as tank destroyers will follow the open side of the PzRgt, so that they can guard the flanks and assist the PzAbt when engaging enemy tanks. e) In case PzGren are deployed to create the requirements for the PzRgt’s mission, the StuG units can assist with their gunfire. 6.) Defence On the defensive, StuG units will be reserved ready to counterattack and supported by PzGren. The Sturmgeschütz will be used as tank destroyers. 7.) Retreat During attacks with limited targets, Sturmgeschütz can assist when disengaging from the enemy. Heinz Guderian

Having in mind the conceived limitations of assault guns, these guidelines appear appropriate. While the Sturmgeschütz were not intended for tankversus-tank combat, occasionally this did happen if a commander made an error on the battlefront. From March to October 1943, 14.PzDiv was positioned in France for refitting and training. The unit received its new Sturmgeschütz spasmodically, as noted in the following strength report dated 1 September 1943:

Sturmgeschütz

PzKpfw III

PzKpfw IV

PzKpfw V

Authorized target 49 18 142 3 Combat ready

38

In workshop

6 7 3 –

39

9



The gap between the delivered StuGs and PzKpfw IVs provides a hint as to the situation at the manufacturers. The surplus PzKpfw III were in part, tanks authorized for the flame-thrower platoon and the Funklenk (Fkl) platoon. Possibly some were used as substitutes for the missing PzKpfw IV (the large authorized target would soon be reduced) and the PzKpfw V Panthers used as training vehicles. At that time, the commander referred to his unit as a Kampfgruppe (combat group) rather than a Panzer division. A month later, 14.PzDiv had deployed to Russia and fighting at Krivoj Rog, in the northern region of the Crimean peninsula. At that time only III.Abt/36. PzDiv was available, and had a mixed establishment of two StuG companies and two PzKpfw IV companies. This fact proves that given standards were easily adapted by the unit’s leadership, who in fact were forced by reality. The commander Oberst Unrein reported 30 StuG out of 44, and 31 PzKpfw IV out of 49 as being operational. Panthers had not been issued at that time. In his report he noted PzGrenBtls 9.Kp, with their 15cm s IG 33 as missing and deplored the shortage of radio-equipped SdKfz 250.

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A Sturmgeschütz of III.Abt/ PzRgt 24 hidden under the branches of trees in a fruit orchard. In early summer 1943, the vehicles of this unit were fitted with smoke candle dischargers on the superstructure. The chassis number of the vehicle, 95210 is painted on the front plate. (Anderson)

STURMGESCHÜTZ

On 7 December 1943, Unrein submitted an after-action report, principally affirming (or zealously copying) Guderians list of shortcomings: After-action report on the commitment of Sturmgeschütz within the scope of a le Panzer-Abteilung [light tank battalion] For the commitment in the east III.Abt/36 was equipped as follows: Two Kp and recce platoons with PzKpfw IV (lang) = 49 + four PzKpfw IV (lang). = 44 StuG Two Kp with StuG The first combat took place on 28 October 1943, and the action continued until 1 December 1943. The commitment of Sturmgeschütz took place as follows: 1) 2) 3) 4)

In In In In

the first wave of the attack the second wave as flank guard close cooperation with Panzergrenadiere the defensive operation

All four methods were practically tested over the six-week commitment, resulting in the following experiences.

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Item 1.) The commitment of the StuG in the first wave had only the advantage of offering a smaller target. We noticed the following disadvantages: thanks to its turret, a tank commander can observe the direction of the assault, and is able to combat targets emerging from both sides. In contrast, the Sturmgeschütz must always turn head-on to the enemy. These turns delay combat of these targets and slow down the speed of the tank advance. This will be even more difficult during the mud season. The [StuG] driver has to brake repeatedly to point the barrel in the required direction. The rapid steering movements overstress the gearbox and especially the brakes. Very heavy soil led occasionally led to a thrown track. When breaking through enemy infantry positions containing anti-tank rifles, the lack of a close-defence machine gun with armour protection was crucial. The machine gun shield is not sufficient against anti-tank rifle fire from the front, and offers no protection against infantry fire from the side. Item 2.) Sturmgeschütz proved to be more suited for use in the second wave or guarding the flanks. Any enemy counterattack can effectively be neutralized. However, if a menace from the flanks has to be encountered with a counterattack, the same weaknesses occurred as explained under item 1) … Item 3) Sturmgeschütz performed best when committed in close cooperation with Panzergrenadiere. StuGs will give the PzGren strong moral support, especially

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Despite their undoubted advantages, smoke candle dischargers on the Sturmgeschütz were soon removed, as they easily ignited after receiving a hit by small arms fire or shrapnel. (Anderson)

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The mighty schwere Zugkraftwagen (s ZgKw – heavy tractor) 18t (SdKfz 9) was one of the most valuable vehicles in a Panzer unit. A Sturmgeschütz from III.Abt/PzRgt 36 is being used to attempt a recovery, but the narrow tracks on the assault gun had poor traction and there was the danger that it would also become bogged down. (Münch)

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when engaging attacking enemy tanks. Supported by the PzGren, Sturmgeschütz can combat the enemy’s heavy weapons… the PzGren will guard the StuGs against enemy infantry and anti-tank rifles. Item 4) Sturmgeschütz performed well in defensive fighting. Committed as mobile anti-tank defence by using prepared positions, the enemy was effectively combated. Survey of successes and lossesof the mixed le PzAbt from 28 October until 1 December 1943 Tanks Anti-tank guns Artillery Own losses Success Panzer IV 136 117 20 20 StuG 75 59 34 16

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G parked outside the shop of a ladies’ tailor in a small French town. The vehicle is fitted with a cast Saukopf (pig’s head) gun mantlet which indicates that was produced in 1944 by Alkett. Note that it is fitted with later type mounting brackets and rails for the Seitenschürzen (side skirts). (Hoppe)

In conclusion, it can be stated that in a mixed PzAbt, the PzKpfw IV proved to be superior to the Sturmgeschütz, especially during attack missions.

Indeed this after-action report reveals nothing new, as StuGAbt fighting in the east had to deal with similar problems. The establishment of Begleitgrenadier-Batterien (escort grenadier batteries) was the logical answer

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StuG-Abteilungen in PzDiv and PzGrenDiv

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a

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The crew of a Sturmgeschütz from 90.PzGrenDiv has carefully concealed their vehicle on the edge of wood. In such a position gun traverse would been very limited and should it come under fire it would be almost to move out rapidly. (Anderson)

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to the threat imposed by Russian infantry equipped with large numbers of anti-tank rifles capable of penetrating the thin side armour on the StuG or Panzer IV. In theory, the three Panzer divisions with integrated PzStuGAbt were of significant combat value. However, the maximum allotment of 96 Panther, 96 PzKpfw IV and 96 StuG proved to be nothing but a pipe dream. Normally the II and III.Abt would have been merged. In the case of 14.PzDiv, its I.Abt with only ten PzKpfw V Panthers was attached to PzBrig 10 that was being established in France during summer, 1943. Thus 14.PzDiv lost its intended allotment of Panther tanks. Bearing in mind the actual allocation of StuG and PzKpfw IVs, the unit’s combat power decreased to 30 per cent of the initially authorized strength; 14.PzDiv would wait until August 1944 to receive Panthers.

Sturmgeschütz in PzGrenDiv At the start of World War II, the tank turned out to be a battle-deciding weapon. The successful operations during the invasion of France and the Balkans, and later in North Africa and Russia were decisively pushed forward by tanks. Infantry divisions normally lacked this offensive potential. The temporary or permanent subordination of armoured elements was a solution.

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Fully aware of this problem, a number of German infantry divisions were issued with PzAbt by mid-1942, making best use of the limited resources. Among these units were PzAbt 103 (3.InfDiv), 116 (16.InfDiv), 129 (29. InfDiv) and 160 (60.InfDiv) and 190 (90.le Div). These battalion-size tank detachments were organized according to the 1942 Panzer division standards. Each Abteilung had two leichte and a mittlere Panzerkompanie, or, according the actual delivery situation, three m PzKp. Indeed there were many exceptions from the rule. When the new GenInsp d PzTrp Guderian enforced the reforming of the schnelle Truppen to the Panzertruppen in April 1943, he also ordered a new form of organization for selected infantry divisions, the PzGrenDiv. After reorganization these motorized units were put under his control. Some of the new PzGrenDiv still had a small number of tanks, but in future Sturmgeschütz were to be issued. Initially Guderian was allotted 100 assault guns a month. This is confirmed by a memorandum dated 26 August 1943, in which Guderian reported the following Sturmgeschütz deliveries for the Panzertruppe: d) Sturmgeschütz issued since 1 August 1943: 14.PzDiv Fkl Kp 315 10.SS Division 11.SS Division

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Four (in total 44) 10 34 14

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A Sturmgeschütz of PzAbt 190 (90.PzGrenDiv): The Zimmerit coating has been applied in the checkerboard pattern as used by MIAG. A Balkenkreuz and the tactical number 223 have been stencilled on the Seitenschürzen. (Anderson)

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In formation are: PzJgAusbAbt 3, 5, 9 15 One Fkl Kp (of July) 10 (subsequent delivery) 16.PzGrenDiv 14 10.PzGrenDiv 12 20.PzGrenDiv 12 Furthermore the September planning has to be considered: 10.PzGrenDiv 30 20.PzGrenDiv 30 18.PzGrenDiv 42 16.PzGrenDiv 28

In September 1943 a new organizational structure was published, the 43.PzDiv As the successor to the motorized infantry division, the unit

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To defeat the Allied forces which had landed at Anzio on 22 January 1944, the Germans assembled a strong force to halt a breakout and advance into Italy. The Sturmpanzer is in service with StuPzAbt 216; the Panther is with PzRgt 4. The Sturmgeschütz is from either 3.PzGrenDiv, or PzAbt (Fkl) 301. None of these weapons proved to be effective in the difficult conditions encountered on the battlefront in southern Italy. (PeKo)

comprised two Grenadier-Regimenter, a formidable PzJgAbt with two PzJgKp (Sfl/SP) and a PzAufklAbt (tank reconnaissance battalion) and a Heeres-Flugzeugabwehrkanone-Artillerie-Abteilung (HFlaKArtAbt – army anti-aircraft battalion), and also other support services. To underline the offensive character of the new unit, a Sturmgeschütz detachment of 45 StuG was added, replacing the three tank companies. The decision to issue Sturmgeschütz in place of tanks followed the same requirements as those for 14, 16 and 24.PzDiv. This is confirmed by an entry in the war diary of the OrgAbt on 10 December 1943: Amendment: 31 October 1943 Since tank production is, at this time, not sufficient to equip all PzDiv with a PzKpfw IV Abt or a PzKpfw V Abt, and all PzGenDiv with a PzKpfw IV Abt, a provisional solution was introduced. For 25.PzGrenDiv, a PzAbt with 45 Sturmgeschütz has been

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A train of goods wagons carrying German military equipment has been derailed by Italian partisan forces at Vincenza in the north of Italy. The Sturmgeschütz, possibly from PzAbt 190, is a late production vehicle and is fitted with a remotecontrolled RundumfeuerMaschinengewehr (all-round fire machine gun). (PeKo)

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Panzer-Sturmgeschütz Company Table of organization with 14 Sturmgeschütz, according to KStN 1158, 1 November 1943.

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established and will be incorporated as a PzAbt. All existing tanks will be diverted to a PzDiv in Heeresgruppe Mitte [Army Group Centre].

However, the ‘provisional solution’ would continue for longer than anticipated. For implementing in PzGrenDiv, the following organizational structures were published: Abteilungsstab (battalion staff) according to KStN 1107 dated 1 April 1943 StbsKp (staff company) PzStuGAbt according to KStN 1157 dated 10 April 1943

Organizational table for Panzer Division 43 (43.PzDiv).

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The Sturmgeschütz Ausf G of III.Abt/PzRgt 36 (14.PzDiv) mounting 7.5cm StuK 40 L/48 with a Saukopf (pig’s head) mantlet. The vehicle has been camouflaged with whitewash paint and has the tactical number 1201 stencilled on the Seitenschürzen (side skirts). (Anderson)

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Three PzStuGKp (14 StuG) according KStN 1159 dated 20 June 1943 One PzWerkstZug (workshop platoon) according KStN 1187 dated 1 June 1942 In June 1943, orders had been given to establish ten PzGrenDiv by converting or renaming existing infantry divisions: PzGrenDiv Feldherrnhalle (FHH) PzGrenDiv Grossdeutschland (GD) 3.PzGrenDiv 10.PzGrenDiv 15.PzGrenDiv 16.PzGrenDiv 18.PzGrenDiv 20.PzGrenDiv 25.PzGrenDiv 29.PzGrenDiv 90.PzGrenDiv A number of Waffen-SS units had also been reorganized, and some were in the process of being reorganized to PzGrenDiv:

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SS - Nordland Reichsführer - SS SS - Polizeidivision SS - Nederland (in formation) SS - Götz von Berlichingen (in formation) Due to the current situation (combat and insufficient production) these organizational changes could not be implemented immediately but did over an extended period. Lack of personnel and material restrictions created a desperate situation, and it took longer to convert all the units to 43.PzGrenDiv standards.

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Many PzJgAbt in Italy, planned to be refitted to 43.PzGrenDiv, had to be equipped with Italian-built Semovente until replacement Sturmgeschütz were delivered from Germany. A German crew drives a 105mm Semovente M43 105/25 up a steep incline during training on the type. (BAMA)

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A Sturmgeschütz and a column of Borgward B IV Ausf B Ladungträger (demolition charge carriers) from Panzer Versuchsund Ersatzabteilung (PzVersAbt – experimental and replacement battalion) 300(Fkl): The StuG is possibly an experimental Leitpanzer (control tank), but the additional aerial for the radio-control equipment is not fitted. (Anderson)

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A German soldier, from an unknown unit, stands beside an Italian-built Semovente da 105/25. In German service it was designated ‘Sturmgeschütz M43 mit 105/25 853 (i)’. The vehicle is finished in Italian-style camouflage, but has a prominent Balkenkreuz painted on the superstructure. (Regenberg)

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In October 1943, the OKH gave orders to reform 90.PzGrenDivs: Subject: Reallocation of 90.PzGrenDiv to 43.PzGrenDiv standard I.) 90.PzGrenDiv The unit will be reformed according to ‘43.PzGrenDiv’ standard as soon as conditions allow. II.) Organizational regulations: 3.) PzAbt 190 PzAbt 190 has to be reformed as a PzAbt (Sturmgeschütz)… Until a regular supply of Sturmgeschütz is achieved, a mixed establishment with PzKpfw IV has to be accepted (existing PzKpfw IV will be deployed as Sturmgeschütz). However, within the single companies a common stock has to be ensured. 5.) PzJgAbt 190 b) The PzJgAbt will be issued with Italian-supplied Sturmgeschütz [Semovente]. Respective orders for the training on these types will be given later. IV. Transport a) Motor vehicles All motor vehicles must be taken from stocks of captured (Italian) equipment. b) Weapons and Equipment Missing German and Italian Sturmgeschütz will be replaced by the office of the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen.

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The above confirms the enormity of the problem faced by the Organisationsabteilung, the German army and finally the units in the field. Organizational changes could not be implemented within a feasible timescale, and short-term allotment of material was not guaranteed; units had to live with mixed establishments. In the case of 90.PzGrenDiv, the tank destroyer battalion had to be content with Italian-built Semovente (self-propelled) guns. This practice led to a non-standardized establishment within the mother unit and the usage of PzKpfw IV, StuG III and Italian Semovente, caused serious problems with the supply of spare parts to the workshop units. All PzGrenDiv were fully-independent units, but their combat strength existed merely on paper: 10.PzGrenDiv is a prime example. The division emerged from what had been the 10.InfDiv, and was reorganized at the same time it was re-equipped in the area of Heeresgruppe Mitte during April/ May 1943. The division was deployed for Unternehmen Zitadelle (Operation Citadel), and was involved in defensive action to halt Soviet counterattacks to Orjol/Brjanks. The unit was then sent to Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South), to participate in defence of the river Dniepr, followed by a slow retreat to Kirovograd. The division’s PzAbt 7, was authorized to have 45 Sturmgeschütz, but on 31 October reported that it had only three assault guns and all were in need of repair. Two weeks later, the Sturmgeschütz-Lage

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A new Sturmgeschütz M43 mit 105/25 ready for delivery to a German unit: the relatively light 16-ton vehicle was powered by a 192hp FIAT-SPA engine and had a top speed of 38kph. When the type entered Italian service in April 1942 the troops gave it the name Bassotto (Dachshund). (BAMA)

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(a strength list prepared every 14 days by the GenStbdH) still reported only three Sturmgeschütz, but two were ready for combat and one was in need of repair. However, the list showed the authorized strength of 42. Reinforcements finally reached the unit in late November, bringing it up to authorized strength. After a series of battles fought between 30 November and 4 December, PzAbt 7 submitted an after-action report: 30 November 1943 Unloading of the Stabskompanie, 3.Kp and Werkstatt-Zug in Bobrinskaja. 1 December 1943 Attack with 3.Kp, attached to 3.PzDiv west of the Rollbahn [railway track] to Cherkassy in close cooperation with PzGren and PzAufklAbt. We crossed an anti-tank ditch and several trench systems. One PzBefWg [reconnaissance tank] was lost due to a direct hit after being ordered to scout towards Cherkassy. 2 December 1943 Attack by the Abt attached to 72.InfDiv (without 3.Kp, which remains with 3.PzDiv) supported by 1.Kp and 2.Kp with a total of 24 StuG. The advance penetrated enemy positions near Dolgaja-Grab, Plisnezy-Grab on the northern boundaries of Kirilovka. After fighting against several anti-tank guns, a farm was taken. Our infantry is weakened (100 men with two light machine guns, young recruits and Romanian-Germans) and cannot be forced further. Due to ammunition shortage, the battalion is forced to retreat for 2km. a second advance cannot be launched due to nightfall. The failure of the attack was attributable to insufficient preparation, hasty issue of orders and very weak infantry support due to inexperienced troops. 3.Kp fought with 3.PzDiv to clear the southern boundaries of Cherkassy and the Rollbahn. 3 December 1943 PzAbt 7 with 1.Kp and 2.Kp again attached to 3.PzDiv, reached positions 3km south of Kurgan-Grab… Due to mechanical failures during the previous day the Abt has been reduced to 13 Sturmgeschütz, and combined into one company under the command of Oberleutnant Schönherr. The company is attached to the regiment. At 11.00hrs the attack on Kirilovka begins, in closesupport of the infantry southern parts of Kirikova are soon captured. However, our infantry is forced to retreat from the village by a Soviet counterattack supported by five T-34s accompanied by infantry. Schönherr then attacks and destroys three T-34s, before pulling back by 300m. After reforming, a further attack delights our infantry and the action ends with the successful capture of the complete village. The night hours are spent securing the village, eating, sleeping and collecting supplies. 4 December 1943 Seven Sturmgeschütz under command of Leutnant Marré commenced an attack in a northerly direction, attacking and defeating enemy anti-tank guns, before crossing the main railway line. During the fight three T-34s were destroyed,

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and the line was cleared. They then continued to advance a further 2km, during which another two T-34s were destroyed. 5 December 1943 Elements of PzAbt 7 are being pulled out of the front line and transported by rail to northern area of Kirovograd.

By the end of the deployment, PzAbt 7 had reported the destruction of 11 enemy tanks (ten T-34, one M4 Sherman) and 19 anti-tank guns for the total loss of one reconnaissance tank and six Sturmgeschütz. On 10 December 1943, the strength report stated that PzAbt 7 had 15 Sturmgeschütz operational and 21 in need of repair. This report also shows that PzAbt 7 was deployed away from 10.PzGrenDiv, its parent unit, another problem that was widespread among many German units on all fronts: The reason was the ever-present shortage of armoured fighting vehicles – a problem that worsened as the war progressed.

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A Sturmgeschütz M43 concealed in an ambush position. In October 1943, it was ordered that 3.PzGrenDiv, 15.PzGrenDiv, 29.PzGrenDiv and 90.PzGrenDiv were to be the first units equipped with the ‘Sturmgeschütz M43 mit 75/46 and M43 mit 105/25’; others would follow. German crews operating the type considered it to be a very good combat vehicle. (Regenberg)

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Special Formations Up until the beginning of 1943, the majority of Sturmgeschütz were issued to Sturmgeschütz-Abteilungen commanded by the General der Artillerie. At around this time the General der Artillerie fought a battle with the General der Schnellen Truppen; their Waffenoffiziere (ordnance officers) and subordinates were given a high level of autonomy to liaise between the Oberkommando des Heeres (army high command) and the respective services in reference to allocation of equipment, training, deployment and improvements. In April 1943, the Schnelle Truppen was disbanded and replaced by the Panzertruppen. General Guderian, who initiated and monitored this process, then took command of this new service. As part of his reorganization, Guderian passed responsibility for the Kavallerie (cavalry) and the Radfahrtruppen (bicycle troops) to the infantry so that he would be able to concentrate on the Panzertruppen, Panzergrenadiere, Panzerjäger, Panzeraufklärung (armoured reconnaissance) and Eisenbahn-Panzerzüge (armoured railway trains). After his reorganization he was certainly the most influential Waffenoffizier in the German military. When a schweres Sturmgeschütz (heavy assault gun) – built using the chassis of ill-fated Porsche design for the Tiger tank – which mounted the powerful 8.8cm PaK 43/2 L/71 gun became available, it was issued to two schwere Sturmgeschütz-Abteilungen, still following the ‘old order’. The General der Artillerie, who had for a long time been demanding a heavy weapon for ‘his’ Sturmartillerie, saw this come true. However, matters would develop in a different direction. Guderian ordered that the schwere Sturmgeschütz come under his control. Re-designated as schwere Panzerjäger, these weapons (SdKfz 184s known as Ferdinand; later Elefant) and their respective units were transferred to the Panzerjägertruppe and formed schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung (s PzJgAbt – heavy tank hunter battalion) 653 and 654.

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G in service with StuGBttr 247 attached to StuDiv Rhodos. A Maltese cross, the unit’s emblem, has been stencilled on the glacis plate, together with the tactical marking for an assault gun. (PeKo)

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A late production StuG Ausf F of StuDiv Rhodos: Note the 30mm of additional armour welded to the front and the longer-barrelled 7.5cm StuK 40 L/48. The bullet traps in the superstructure have been covered with concrete and also extra armour has been fitted to the side panniers. In the background are the medieval fortifications of Rhodes. (PeKo)

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At around this time, the General der Panzertruppe was promised a regular proportion of the 100 Sturmgeschütz produced each month to make up the shortfall in tank production. Furthermore, a number of Sturmgeschütz units were removed from responsibility of the General der Artillerie and attached indefinitely to army units.

78.StuDiv with StuGAbt 189 By end of 1942, 78.InfDiv had almost been annihilated during the defensive battles near Rshev. The surviving units were pulled out of the front line to be replenished and reorganized. As a division of a second-level establishment, 78.InfDiv (or 78.Div) originally had three infantry regiments, each with eight companies and had a motorized schnelle Abteilung (rapid battalion) formed of reconnaissance and tank destroyer elements. The artillery regiment relied on horse-drawn guns and had an authorized strength of nine 15cm schwere Feldhaubitz (s FH – heavy field howitzer) 18 and 27 10.5cm leichte Feldhaubitz (le FH – light field howitzer) 18. In early 1943 orders were given to re-establish 78.Div to a new structure; a Sturmdivision (assault division). The reason for the creation of this Sonderverband (special unit) was to create an infantry formation with enhanced offensive power, possibly as a pattern for future assault divisions.

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An early organizational table for a new assault division shows three infantry regiments each with only four companies, a significant reduction. However, this was compensated for by being equipped with improved weapons for the infantry. The artillery elements were to be dramatically improved by adding Panzerartillerie (tank artillery) with an unspecified number of Selbstfahrlafette (Sfl – self-propelled [SP] guns), the artillery element was to be motorized. To underline the offensive character, an assault gun battalion was to be assigned long term to 78.Div; subsequently StuGAbt 189 was disbanded from the Heerestruppen. The three batteries of StuGAbt 189 (each with seven StuG) remained organized according KStN 446. The staff battery comprised recovery, workshop and supply services. However, 78.Sturmdivision (StuDiv – assault division) would never receive the Panzerartillerie, as shown on later organizational tables. An after-action report, dated 16 March 1943, submitted by 78.StuDiv after its first battle near Orel reveals a number of shortcomings: Subject: The deployment of 78.StuDiv from 27 February to 15 March 1943: preliminary experience concerning the organization.

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The tactical number 100 indentifies this as the StuG of the commander of StuDiv Rhodos 1.Kp. This assault gun was equipped as a BefehlsSturmgeschütz (command assault gun): note the the Sternantenne ‘d’ mit Panzertopf (star antenna ‘d’ with armoured pot mounting). The markings on the front of the vehicle were also repeated on the rear plate. (PeKo)

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G of StuDiv Rhodos fitted with smoke candle dischargers. The crew has mounted additional spare road wheels on the track covers. (Beraud)

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I. Deployment 1) The division was attached to XXXVI.PzKp with elements of the Kampfstaffel [combat echelons], with two reinforced Sturmregimenter [assault regiments] to avoid a breakthrough by enemy forces at Dmitrovsk (78km southwest of Orel). The advance of the reinforced StuRgt 14 and StuRgt 215 by continuous day and night marches was slowed by narrow tracks, snow-drifts on roads and several blizzards. To avoid the impending enemy breakthrough, the division could not wait for the arrival of heavy weapons and artillery. Our attacks were made against superior enemy forces, which in parts showed a notably higher degree of combat readiness. Many attack missions were hindered by chest-deep snow, dense woodland and deep ravines.

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The weariness of our troops, many with severe frostbite (caused by wet clothing freezing) had a negative effect. The successful fighting against a dogged defence by the enemy led to heavy casualties in the grenadier and pioneer companies. When we turned onto the defensive, the many ravines impeded the movement of our heavy weapons. Enemy attacks by four to six rifle divisions were partly repelled after a fierce firefight. 2) The following figures give an overview of enemy losses during the period 28 February to 15 March 1943: 986 taken prisoner 4,486 casualties (counted) 950 (estimated) Six T-34 tanks 102 anti-tank rifles Our losses over the same period: 682 wounded 310 dead

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G of StuGBttr 741: Note the bear emblem for this unit and also the rhombus-shaped tactical mark for a StuG on the glacis plate. In September 1943 StuGBttr 741 was incorporated to 18.ArtDiv. This Ausf G was constructed using a PzKpfw III hull and has 30mm of armour weldedon. The vehicle carries the word Fahrschule (driving school) indicating that this photograph was taken when the unit was being established. (Anderson)

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Our equipment losses were low. The success achieved by the division was reported by the Wehrmachtsbericht (army broadcast services) on 13 March 1943. II. Preliminary experiences: 1) In the attack: The StuRgt with its sole grenadier battalion has too little impact 2) Organization of the StuRgt: Grenadier-Battalion The StuRgt with one GrenBtl with four StuKp proved effective neither in the attack nor in the defence. Seen from the infantry aspect, the four companies are disproportionate to the great firepower of the heavy weapons of the regiment or division. The heavy weapons would allow a wider combat front that would allow the firepower of the infantry to be employed to best effect. Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung: The integration of this battalion in the artillery regiment did not prove successful. Conclusion: Detachment of the StuGAbt from the ArtRgt and directly attached to the divisional commander is advisable.

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StuGBttr 742 was assigned to PzDiv Norwegen (Norwegian) but only for a relatively short time. Their Sturmgeschütz Ausf G, were returned to Germany and then distributed to other units. The vehicles are not fitted with Seitenschürzen (side skirts) although they were a standard fitment by this time. (PeKo)

This after-action report describes the harsh conditions during the winter fighting on the Eastern Front. Although considerably redacted, the report finishes with a direct request for reorganization; this was realized in part. The organizational structure (after reorganization) proves that a considerable strengthening of the infantry (now 18 companies) had been accepted. As requested, the StuGAbt was detached from the artillery regiment. In July 1943, 78.StuDiv was deployed, as part of 9.Army, for the attack on the Kursk salient. After the offensive was cancelled, the unit was used to defend against Soviet counterattacks around Smolensk, Bryansk and Jelnya. When the Red Army launched Operatsiya (Operation) Bagration, 78.StuDiv was deployed with Heeresgruppe Mitte. As the fighting progressed the division suffered heavy casualties and severe loss of equipment which brought it to the point of annihilation. After the collapse of Heeresgruppe Mitte, what remained of the assault gun element was disbanded from 78.StuDiv and sent to Burg for reestablishment. Again it became StuGBrig 189, and formed as an independent Heerestruppen StuGBrig. In this form, 78.StuDiv was unique in the German army, and remained the only assault division in service.

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StuDiv Rhodos with StuGBttr 247 In March 1943, an occupation force for the island of Rhodes was established; Sturmbrigade Rhodos was formed from elements of 22.InfDiv. This unit received an independent assault gun element, StuGBttr 247, equipped with ten Sturmgeschütz. In May, the brigade was reorganized as (StuDiv) Rhodos. The division was then allotted an additional tank company, forming PzAbt Rhodos with the assault guns of StuGBttr 247.

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On 11 September 1943, StuDiv Rhodos attacked the Italian garrison in order to prevent them from surrendering to British troops, which had invaded a number of islands near Rhodes. The Sturmgeschütz (numbered 100 to 109) formed 1.Kompanie (Kp – company) and 2.Kp was issued with PzKpfw IV tanks (numbered 200 to 209). A strength report dated December 1943 confirms ten StuG for StuGBttr 247. However, by the end of February 1944 the authorized strength was increased to 15 StuG. Despite its name, StuDiv Rhodos cannot be compared with 78.StuDiv.

Skijäger with StugAbt 279 The first winter on the Eastern Front forced German military planners to hastily increase the number of ski-troops, to maintain a certain degree of mobility, and a number of ski-battalions were provisionally established.

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Established in 1943, 78.StuDiv was intended to be an elite division with massive offensive firepower. This was further enhanced when the newly-established StuGAbt 189, with 22 assault guns, was attached to the division. This Sturmgeschütz Ausf G was produced by Alkett in 1944, and is fitted with the late type of widened Ostketten (east tracks). (Anderson)

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However these formations were only a temporary expedient and all were disbanded during 1942. However, the Generalstab des Heeres was aware that winter would remain a problem as long as German troops continued to fight in Russia. At the end of 1943 the decision was made to form a Sonderverband (special unit) in brigade strength, which became Skijägerbrigade 1, a unit suited for mobile operations during the snow period of winter. In a similar fashion to 78.StuDiv, Skijägerbrigade 1 had an assault gun battalion, StuGAbt 270 equipped with 31 StuG. This unit was again integrated with the artillery element; a leichte Heeres-Artillerie-Abteilung (light army artillery battalion). For an unknown reason, StuGAbt 270 was later permanently transferred to the Panzerjägertruppe and renamed PzJgAbt 152. In mid-1944, Skijägerbrigade 1 was brought up to full divisional strength, and re-designated as 1.Skijäger-Division. In a strength report, dated 1 December 1944, PzJgAbt 152 reported that it had eight Sturmgeschütz and three Sturmhaubitze out of an authorized strength of 29 (this reduced number cannot be explained) as operational. The commander wrote a note of complaint:

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G of 78.StuDiv can be positively identified as Alkett-manufactured by the pattern of the Zimmerit. Note the vehicle is fitted with a Saukopf (pig’s head) mantlet and that the gun barrel has been lowered onto its travelling cradle; also work has been completed to fit a RundumfeuerMaschinengewehr, (allround fire machine gun), but the gun has not been mounted. (Anderson)

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Right: A MIAG-built (identifiable by the style of Zimmerit application) Sturmgeschütz, from 78.StuDiv, during transport to the front. Contrary to regulations the wide tracks overlap the width of the wagons and the Seitenschurzen (side skirts) have not been removed. The second vehicle is a Bergepanzer III recovery tank. (Anderson Below: A trainload of Sturmgeschütz, newly delivered to 78.StuDiv, being transported to the east in early summer 1944: Note they are fitted a factory-made frame around the engine deck to allow the carriage of the crew’s personal equipment. All are fitted wide Ostketten (east tracks). (Anderson)

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Above: A Sturmgeschütz Ausf B modified for trials as a Leitpanzer (control tank) with remotecontrolled Landungsträger (demolition charge carrier). The gun has been removed and a 2m rod antenna, for the radio-control transmitter, has been fitted on the roof above the gunner’s position. (von Aufsess) Right: The crew of this Sturmgeschütz Ausf G has attempted to camouflage the vehicle by applying ‘squiggles’ of light-coloured paint (or clay) over the original dark grey. (Anderson)

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Brief judgement by the commander: Due to the steady commitment in the muddy and mountainous terrain, the battalion has retained only 50 per cent of its combat strength. The spare parts situation at the moment is desperate, especially the lack of final drives and transmissions for the StuG, but also for the Volkswagen [Kübelwagen]. All repair work is delayed since spare parts cannot be supplied in time. My battalion is only suitable for limited attack missions. Hauptmann Stock, Battalion Commander

In 1945, PzJgAbt 152 was still attached to 1.Skijäger-Division, but now had only two companies each with ten Sturmgeschütz; possibly the result of an internal reorganization. The unit had a Skijägerbegleitzug (infantry support platoon) attached.

18.ArtDiv with StuGBttr 741 In September 1943, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW – army high command) ordered the formation of artillery divisions able to provide support gun fire at points of main effort. According to the order, these measures were issued on the personal instigation of Adolf Hitler. The unit selected to form the first artillery division was 18.PzDiv. This tank division had been deployed to the Orel salient and had received a severe mauling during the six week deployment. By 1 September, only eight

In 1944, StuGAbt 270, the StuG detachment of 1.Skijäger, was transferred to the Panzerjägertruppe (tank destroyer troop), and re-designated PzJgAbt 152. (Anderson)

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of 53 PzKpfw IIIs and just four out of 14 PzKpfw IVs were reported as being operational. At that time, the commander referred to his unit as a Kampfgruppe (combat group), an indication of actual weak combat strength. The remaining tanks and armoured fighting vehicles were transferred to other units in Heeresgruppe Mitte. The personnel and other sections were used to form the new unit: 18.ArtDiv. Owing to its intended purpose, this experimental unit was initially equipped with three artillery regiments (ArtRgt 782, 109 and 88) each with nine batteries, and ArtRgt 88, which was to have two self-propelled artillery batteries. A short time later, a re-organization was ordered. Further support units such as an observation battalion and further supply units were added. The self-propelled artillery battalion was increased to one heavy battery equipped with the 15cm Panzerhaubitze 18 (tank howitzer) Hummel (Bumble Bee) and two light batteries equipped with 10.5cm Panzerhaubitz 18 Wespe (Wasp); at the time this was a standard establishment. On 16 September 1943, two independent assault gun batteries (StuGBttr 741 and 742) were ordered to transfer from 20.Gebirgs-Armee (mountain army) in Norway to the Eastern Front. On 29 September 1943, StuGBttr 741 was ordered to be incorporated with 18.ArtDiv.

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Two Sturmgeschütz Ausf F Leitpanzer (control tanks) of Panzer Versuchs und Ausbildabteilung 300, (PzVersundAsbAbt – tank experimental and training battalion) located at Eisenach in 1944. Both are fitted with the longerbarrelled 7.5cm StuK 40 L/48. (Anderson)

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G Leitpanzer (control tank) and a number of Borgward B IV Landungsträger (demolition charge carrier) from PzKp (Fkl) 314, at the Berka, Thuringia, Germany exercise area in 1943, when preparing for their forthcoming deployment to Kursk. (Anderson)

The remote-controlled Landungsträger (demolition charge carrier) was developed to clear minefields or obstacles. The Borgward B IVb was designed to carry a 500kg explosive charge, and directed to the target via radio control; a driver operated the vehicle up until it was deployed against a target. The marking PV refers to Panzer Versuchs und Ausbildungsabteilung (PzVerundAusbAbt – tank experimental and training battalion) 300, and the vehicle is numbered 394. (Hoppe)

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In April 1944, a new organizational structure showing many alterations was introduced. The reason was possibly to improve self-defence capabilities. ArtAbt 88 was changed to a Schützenabteilung (mot) 88 (motorized rifle battalion).The self-propelled artillery battalion, now enlarged to three heavy batteries equipped with the Hummel, was incorporated alongside the remaining artillery regiments. The assault gun element was now to be replaced by an entire StuGAbt with 31 StuGs. However, it is questionable whether this further reorganization ever happened, since 18.ArtDiv was disbanded in July 1944.

PzDiv Norwegen with StuGBttr 742 PzDiv Norwegen (Norwegian) was established near Oslo in August 1943. The unit relied on a small team of officers and NCOs seconded from 25.PzDiv, which at that time had been transferred to Norway from France for refitting. However, PzDiv Norwegen was never established as a full Panzer division; for instance, the unit only ever had a small number of outdated PzKpfw III tanks supported by the independent StuGBttr 742. But in September 1943, the battery was detached and deployed with StuGBttr 741 to the Eastern Front. This order was cancelled, StuGBttr 742 was sent to Altengrabow to be disbanded, and its equipment distributed for establishment of new StuG units.

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Sturmgeschützbatterie (10 StuGs) Table of organization according to KStN 446 dated 1 November 1941. Equipment state as an independent battery in mid 1943.

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By May 1944 the PzDiv Norwegen reported one PzBefWg I command tank, 14 PzKpfw II, 20 PzKpfw III (7.5cm [kurz]) and 25 PzKpfw III (5cm [lang]) in its inventory. For the division’s PzJgAbt, a new PzJg-StuGAbt with 10 StuG (lang) was issued (see respective chapter). In July 1944, PzDiv Norwegen was disbanded and some of its equipment was used to re-establish 25.PzDiv, which had been annihilated in February 1944. Independent batteries were organized according the current organizational standards, and were often attached to other units (infantry divisions) which lacked an armoured component and associated heavy workshop and recovery services. In a StuGAbt, these services were normally provided by the Stabsbatterie (staff battery), or by single Werkstattbatterie (workshop battery). For the small detachments in battery strength, the minimum of specialist equipment had to be allotted. The respective KStN shows a small alternative section, proving that there was a surplus. However, deliveries of the schwere Zugkraftwagen (s ZgKw) 18t (SdKfz 9), heavy tractor needed for the recovery of a failed Sturmgeschütz was not always guaranteed.

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G, built on the chassis of a PzKpfw III, in service with PzVersundAusbAbt 300 as a control tank. As the war progressed, the supply of fuel became desperate and vehicles at training establishments began to be run on gas: Note the cylinders mounted on the engine deck. (Hoppe)

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A Sturmgeschütz from StuGAbt 279, which was attached to SkijägerBrigade 1, has broken through the ice over a frozen river despite being fitted with wider Winterketten (winter tracks), which were intended to reduce ground pressure. The vehicle has additional air filters, which were normally fitted on vehicles operating in hot and dry conditions (Anderson)

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Funklenkeinheiten (Radio-Controlled Demolition Carrier Units) During World War II, tank formations faced many menaces; an enemy would protect his front line with infantry in an elaborate system of trenches supported by machine-gun nests and protected by concealed anti-tank guns. While the advancing tanks, or Sturmgeschütz supporting their infantry, could eventually make a breakthrough, there were more dangerous obstacles. If the enemy had sufficient time, he would protect his positions by laying a staggered system of minefields invisible to attacking armour, where a tank could be immobilized and become an easy target for the enemy anti-tank forces: A simple method of defence which could even halt a massed tank attack.

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Germany developed an unconventional solution to combat the mine threat, which began with the simple expedient of dropping an explosive charge from a specially modified tank to the development of small remotecontrolled tracked vehicles. Directed to the target from a control vehicle, the carrier would be signalled to drop the charge and return, or the carrier could be detonated to destroy the obstacle. The first Funklenk units were established in 1940, but it would not be until 1942 when the type was deployed on a large scale. Initially the PzKpfw III was used as a Leitpanzer (control tank) to direct the carrier to a target. With the slow withdrawal of the PzKpfw III from tank divisions, the Funklenktruppe was in need of a replacement Leitpanzer. Instead of using the current version of the PzKpfw IV, it was decided to

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Vehicles of PzKp (Fkl) 314 in training shortly before being deployed to fight on the Kursk salient; in the background is a PzKpfw IV Ausf G armed with a 7.5cm KwK 40 L/43 and fitted with Seitenschürzen (side skirts). (Historyfacts)

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use the Sturmgeschütz, now being produced in sufficient numbers. The low profile and heavier armour of the StuG could possibly have influenced the choice. The Fkl companies had an authorized strength of 10 Sturmgeschütz as Leitpanzer, and 48 Borgward B IV Landungsträger (demolition charge carrier). The companies could be deployed as a semi-autonomous force or attached to other units, or combined as a FklAbt with three companies.

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In August 1944, PzAbt (Fkl) 302 was transferred to Poland to assist German forces fighting to put down the Warsaw uprising. The explosive charge carried by a Borgward B IV was powerful enough to demolish a very large building. During street fighting, the control tanks would use gunfire to support advancing infantry. (Getty)

In May 1943, three independent PzKp (Fkl) were dispatched to the Kursk salient in preparation for the forthcoming attack; PzKp (Fkl) 313 and PzKp (Fkl) 314 were to support an attack by PzJgRgt 656 equipped with the Ferdinand (SdKfz 184s). PzKp (Fkl) 312 was attached to s PzAbt 505 equipped with the PzKpfw VI Tiger. The deployment at Kursk was to show the limitations of the B IV. The terrain, rutted by heavy artillery bombardment and intersected by trench systems, prevented the vehicles getting to their targets.

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On 4 November 1943, the bureau of the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen issued the requirements for one FklAbt in battalion strength, and seven independent FklKp: FklAbt 301 31 StuG FklKp 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 315 and 317 70 StuG

A Sturmgeschütz Ausf D, possibly it has been converted from a control tank at Ersatz und Ausbildungsabteilung (ErsundAusbAbt – replacement and training battalion) 500. Note the mounting for a 2m radio antenna. on the superstructure and the sloped armour plate in front of the pannier has been removed, but the brackets are still visible. (Anderson)

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After the deployment to Kursk, all Fkl units were returned to Germany to be re-established. PzKp (Fkl) 313 and 314 were now attached to to PzKpfw VI Tiger units (a PzAbt 504 and s PzAbt 508 as a number of the heavy tanks were converted to Leitpanzer. At the end of February 1944, PzAbt 301 (Fkl) was sent to Nettuno, Italy as part of the force to stop Allied forces attempting to breakout from their Anzio bridgehead. But again the terrain created an obstacle; the numerous canals, waterways and marshes in the area impeded a successful deployment for the B IV. In April 1944, the unit was sent to France to re-equip. After the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, PzKp (Fkl) 315 and PzKp (Fkl) 316 and also 4.Kp/PzAbt (Fkl) 301 were deployed against Allied forces advancing into France. In July 1944, PzAbt 302 (Fkl) was established by amalgamating PzKp (Fkl) 315, PzKp (Fkl) 316 and PzKp (Fkl) 317. In August, PzAbt 302 (Fkl) was ordered to Warsaw, as support for German forces fighting Polish partisans. On 4 December 1944, the commander of PzKp (Fkl) 319 submitted a status report, noting that three out of ten StuGs, and 32 out of 36 B IVs as being operational. He added his judgement:

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Combat value and application possibilities: Deployment of the B IV was not possible. PzAbt (Fkl) was used as a StuGKp for defence.

PzAbt (Fkl) 303 had a short service life. Established as an Fkl unit in January 1945, it was soon downgraded to a PzAbt and equipped with Sturmgeschütz; a fate that was befall all Fkl units. The Borgward B IV Landungsträger was designed as a purely offensive weapon and was almost impossible to use for a defensive operation. On a rare occasion beleaguered German troops would deploy a Landungsträger to cover a retreat: the massive explosion and resulting shockwave would be devastating. The utilization of the demolition carrier can hardly be described as being successful: Technical failures with the radio-control equipment was a constant problem, and heavy mud restricted the type’s mobility. The B IV despite having a very limited field of application still had to be transported to a target, squandering precious fuel and personnel resources. More detail of these units, their equipment and deployment is available in my earlier book: Ferdinand & Elefant: Tank Destroyer (Osprey 2016)

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A wrecked Borgward B IV Landungsträger (demolition charge carrier) of PzAbt (Fkl) 302 lies abandoned in the debris of Warsaw. The uprising was defeated by German forces in October 1944, but despite having reached positions near the Polish capital, the Soviets were not able (or interested) in supporting the Polish fighters. (Anderson)

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Two Sturmgeschütz control tanks of PzAbt (Fkl) 302 protect each other as Landungsträger (demolition charge carriers) are radiocontrolled towards their targets. (Getty)

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Infantry Formations In 1943, tank production in Germany was, for numerous reasons, forced to diversify. Production of the outdated PzKpfw III had almost ended by January 1943 (only a few vehicles were due for delivery in the summer), and it was replaced by the PzKpfw IV Ausf H armed with the long-barrelled 7.5cm KwK L/48; the same gun as mounted in the Sturmgeschütz Ausf F and able to defeat any contemporary enemy tank. At the same time, prototypes of the new PzKpfw V Panther medium tank were undergoing trials, and these should soon be in production, and were intended to replace the PzKpfw IV. This transition to the PzKpfw IV proved to be difficult as those companies manufacturing the PzKpfw III could not easily be changed over to the PzKpfw IV production. To ensure a steady supply of tanks, Sturmgeschütz planners decided to streamline production in an attempt to improve efficiency: Alkett was ordered to increase production of the StuG. Mühlenbau und Industrie AG (MIAG) was ordered to begin production of the StuG in March 1943. MAN and Daimler-Benz was to produce the new PzKpfw V Panther medium tank. Henschel, having designed and developed the PzKpfw VI Tiger heavy tank, was to concentrate on manufacturing the type. Maschinenfabrik-Niedersachsen-Hannover (MNH) were to begin production of the PzKpfw V Panther in February 1943. Unfortunately such sweeping changes required time. Consequently, tank production could not be increased quickly enough to fulfill the demands of the Panzertruppe. It proved to be impossible to replace the enormous losses on the Eastern Front at the same time to provide tanks for re-establishments and new formations. German industrial output, particularly in the armaments sector, was being severely affected by strategic bombing by the RAF (night) and the USAF (day).

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Generaloberst Heinz Guderian, standing in a mittlerer Schützenpanzerwagen (medium half-track armoured carrier) SdKfz 251/3 Funkwagen (radio car) issuing orders to his Kampftruppen (combat units) to be transmitted by the two operators: one uses radio equipment while the other encodes the message using an Enigma machine. (Getty)

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Above: The Sturmgeschütz IV entered production in early 1944, after the Alkett factory had been destroyed by an Allied bombing raid which halted production. Basically the Sturmgeschütz IV was built by adapting the superstructure of the Sturmgeschütz III and fitting it on a PzKpfw IV hull, but with a small armoured extension for the driver due to the longer fighting compartment in the PzKpfw IV. (Historyfacts) Right: Due to the lack of specialized crane trucks, a 2-ton capacity Behelfskran (auxiliary crane) was designed. The simple device could be used to replace the engine or gun. However, the standard production Behelfskran was mounted on top of the vehicle, making it impossible to lift the gun. (Historyfacts)

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The campaign to destroy industrial capacity was also intended to have a demoralizing effect on the German population, many of whom worked in the factories. The effect of the bombing on German industry must not be overestimated. From September 1940 to August 1943, the raids were carried out without any regularity (or accuracy) and in general output was not affected. However, when the bombing changed to day and night attacks and increased in frequency during September 1943, the effect on industry became noticeable, but the Germans proved able to increase the monthly tank production figures. As the destruction continued it began to affect vital parts of the German economy, such as steel and petro-chemical production supply became more difficult as significant parts of the railway network was destroyed. It must be remembered that the Sturmgeschütz was at that time an important, if not vital, part of the German war machine due mainly to the type’s undisputed combat success on the Eastern Front. On the other hand, assault guns formed a large part of the German armoured force’s inventory; the number would continue to increase.

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A Sturmgeschütz IV with a Zimmerit coating identifies it as being from a mid-1944 production batch. The vehicle is fitted with the versatile RundumfeuerMaschinengewehr (allround fire machine gun). Two Flammenvernichter (flame suppressor) pipes have been fitted in place of the standard exhaust. (Historyfacts)

Sturmgeschütz IV In February 1943, Krupp-Grusonwerk, one of the main contractors for the production of the PzKpfw IV, presented plans to mount a slightly modified superstructure from a StuG Ausf A on the chassis of the PzKpfw IV. The reason for their decision is unknown, and is made even more puzzling with

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Tank engines had a limited service life and had to be exchanged on a regular basis. Engineers from a workshop company have assembled an auxiliary crane to lift the Maybach engine from a damaged Sturmgeschütz. (Anderson)

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the knowledge that the development of an improved Sturmgeschütz had already begun at Vogtländische Maschinenfabrik AG (VOMAG), leading to the leichte Panzerjäger (PzJg) IV. In September 1943, the Alkett factory was seriously damaged in an Allied bombing raid which resulted in a considerable drop in output of the Sturmgeschütz, at a time when every single tank was needed. Due to the situation the original plan to use the BW-chassis (BW was the in-plant designation for the PzKpfw IV) for the Sturmgeschütz was resurrected. A letter sent by Krupp-Grusonwerk, dated 11 December 1943 states: At this time, the Alkett facility at Berlin-Borsigwalde is unable to continue production of Sturmgeschütz on the ZW chassis [ZW – PzKpfw III]. At the instigation of MunMin [Reichminister Speer], the ZW-Sturmgeschütz will be built on a BW chassis as an interim solution. It must be mentioned that a BW-Panzerjäger with 7.5cm KwK L/48 will soon be produced by VOMAG in large numbers. In the next days both BW-Panzerjäger (VOMAG and Daimler-Benz) will be displayed in the Führerhauptquatier [Hitler’s headquarters].

This letter underlines the absolute necessity of using all available production sites to produce tanks. In late 1943, the new le PzJg IV had completed

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development trials, and instead of concentrating production on this type a further vehicle, the StuG IV, was also ordered into production. Realizing the situation, Krupp referred their StuG IV as a Panzerjäger. It is obvious that Hitler was fully aware of this as the development was the subject of a presentation to him on 6 December 1943: The Führer appreciates the suggestion of using elements of the StuG III superstructure for a similar solution based on the PzKpfw IV. This proposal gives the chance of supplying these vehicles to the tank battalions, and standardizing the spare parts situation.

In this context it is interesting to note that Hitler agreed with proponents of the Sturmgeschütz. A report to Hitler from August 1943 reads:

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This Sturmgeschütz, without armament, has been fitted with a dozer blade and was possibly used to clear roads of debris left after Allied bombing raids. Front line use of the un-armed vehicle seems to be highly unlikely. Also the extra weight of the blade and clearing operations could overload the mechanically vulnerable drivetrain. (NARA)

Reports from the front passed to the Führer underline the extraordinary merits of the Sturmgeschütz, which have proven their superiority to the PzKpfw IV, in many cases under equal combat conditions. Therefore all efforts must be made to set up the conversion of PzKpfw IV production, without affecting overall output, even if the new Panzerjäger IV proved its combat ability.

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Two Sturmgeschütz IVs and one Sturmgeschütz III loaded for rail transport. The first two vehicles are Befehls-Sturmgeschütz (command tanks); note both have an additional Sternantenne ‘d’ (star antenna ‘d’) for the extra radio equipment. (Anderson)

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The crew of this Sturmgeschütz IV has painted eyes and nostrils on the Saukopf (pig’s head) mantlet, and also reinforced the front of the superstructure with a thick layer of concrete and sections of track. The vehicle is fitted with wider Ostketten (east tracks). (Anderson)

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These lines proved the immense value of Sturmgeschütz on the Eastern Front. However, the proposed successor was intended to replace the PzKpfw IV in production entirely. While the General der Artillerie certainly would have agreed, Guderian as Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppe heavily opposed the plan, demanding continuation of the production of the PzKpfw IV. The argument continued for nearly a year, without being resolved. In June 1944, during a conference with the Führer, Guderian again presented his opinion: Presentation to the Führer on 26 June 1944 Conversion of PzKpfw IV production to Sturmgeschütz L/48 and the L/70. 1) Within a tank regiment the experiences gathered from all available troops confirms that the tank with a rotatable turret is clearly preferred to the assault gun. No contrary message is known. 2) All previous types of enemy tanks and assault guns can be effectively combated with our present armour-piercing weapons, including the 7.5cm KwK L/48. 3) A conversion of PzKpfw IV production to Sturmgeschütz would imply that all future replacements for PzKpfw IV battalions would consist of Sturmgeschütz. This would result in having two types of tanks with entirely different principles of deployment within the PzKpfw IV battalions. The Generalinspekteur suggests the continuation of PzKpfw IV production, which at this time is hardly sufficient to balance the losses by units in the field,

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until the Panther output is also sufficient to provide a second battalion in a regiment with the Panther. The final aim must be to raise Panther production to 900 units a month. Furthermore, we suggest provision of the le PzJg IV by mounting the 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70 beginning in August, and to mount all PzJg III/IV Einheitsfahrgestell [universal chassis] with the 7.5cm PaK 42 L/70 beginning in November. Signed: Guderian

Subsequent to this presentation to the Führer, a final decision was made: As for the question of transferring all PzKpfw IV production to Sturmgeschütz, the Führer has decided according the proposals made by Generaloberst Guderian and Herr Saur as follows: Production of the PzKpfw IV will continue with 300 units per month, plus Flakpanzer, until further notice. All tanks exceeding this number will be immediately used for the trials of the 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70 in turretless vehicles.

Infantry Divisions In the period after the loss of Stalingrad, the demand for Sturmgeschütz continued to increase. Proven to be able to defeat the Soviet T-34 and

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A standard production Sturmgeschütz IV finished with a manufacturerapplied coat of Zimmerit. Although the unit cannot be identified, the Romanian soldier standing at the right suggests that it was part of Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South). (Anderson)

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Above: A Sturmgeschütz IV has a full set of undamaged Seitenschürzen (side skirts), despite having been in action on the front line. The crew is wearing the standard grey artillery-style tank uniforms and their badges suggest that they are in a Waffen-SS unit. (Anderson) Right: A Sturmgeschütz IV from a Luftwaffe infantry unit has had the 80mm frontal armour reinforced by welded-on thick armour plates. Extra armour has also been added to the front of the positions for the driver and radio operator. (Anderson)

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KV tanks, plans were now made to equip the infantry divisions with an assault gun element, ultimately strengthening the divisional PzJgAbt. The discussion continued until it was decided the prime task for Sturmgeschütz within infantry divisions would primarily be as a tank destroyer, and not in the original role as an assault offensive weapon. In October 1943, several meetings were held at the Organisationsabteilung (OrgAbt) and a decision was made to equip the majority of infantry divisions with assault guns, as follows: Subject: Establishment of further Sturmgeschütz units Amalgamation of the Sturmgeschütz and Panzerjäger services

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The crew of this Sturmgeschütz IV from an unidentified unit has attempted to improve the armour protection on their vehicle. A short length of Ostketten (east tracks) has been welded to the front of the driver’s position and covered with a thick metal plate. Parts of he superstructure has been rounded off with a smooth coating of concrete. (Anderson)

1) The Sturmgeschütz was originally introduced as an infantry support weapon. 2) Experience would show that the Sturmgeschütz proved to be able to effectively fight enemy tanks 3) The service Panzerjäger (tank destroyer), which started with the 3.7cm PaK, evolved into using the Sturmgeschütz. 4) Ideal situation a) One StuGAbt in each division b) Heeres StuGAbt for creation of points of main effort Due to the production situation, this ideal is not feasible.

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A Sturmgeschütz carries a grenadier unit to its next assignment. Mobility was a continuous problem for supporting infantry units, as sufficient numbers of Schützenpanzerwagen (armoured half-track carriers) were not always available. Assault guns crews greatly appreciated the infantry as they provided effective protection during an advance. (Anderson)

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A damaged Sturmgeschütz IV being recovered by a schwere Zugkraftwagen (s ZgKw) 18t (SdKfz 9): The markings on the halftrack indicate that it is from Panzer-Bergekompanie (tank recovery company) 4. To the left a Bergepanzer (recovery tank) III. (Anderson)

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5) Alternative situation a) One StuGBttr (company) in division b) StuG-Abt as army troops

220 Batteries 312 Batteries ------------------------532 Batteries

It is impossible to realize both alternatives (5a and 5b) at the same time. With the present Sturmgeschütz situation only one alternative is practicable. An increase in StuG production to fulfill the needs of both Heerestruppen units and those of the infantry divisions and also to maintain them… is impossible. To realize the above would require the production of 13,150 Sturmgeschütz within a 15 month period; a monthly production of 875 units.

The OrgAbt was completely aware of the desperate production situation. In mid-1943, the Waffenamt (ordnance bureau) reported monthly delivery figures of 167 Sturmgeschütz and Sturmhaubitze (StuH – assault howitzer); just 20 per cent of the figure indicated under item 5). It was hoped that monthly production would peak at some 500 vehicles by December 1944. The realities are clearly detailed in a report on the production of tanks and Sturmgeschütz, published by the OrgAbt in December 1944. The related table Panzer und Sturmgeschütz Auslieferung (Delivery of Tanks and Assault Guns) compared the total annual production figures for 1941 to 1943, and the monthly numbers for 1944 (January to November), plus the planned number for December and for 1945. From late 1943, the term Sturmgeschütz was not only applied to the earlier SdKfz 142 (another official designation for the StuG III), but also for

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later vehicles; the StuG IV, Sturmpanzer (assault tank), le PzJg IV, Pz IV/70, PzJg 38(t) also the Jagdpanther and Jagdtiger. Indeed, production figures for Sturmgeschütz/Panzerjäger clearly exceeded those for tanks. The report does underline the fact that the distribution of tasks between Sturmgeschütz and Jagdpanzer/Panzerjäger over the years 1943/44 was diminishing. For German forces, the war had changed: an assault led by massed tank formations was a thing of the past. Due to the desperate situation on all battlefronts, especially in the east, all armoured forces had to be utilized for the defence of infantry divisions against emerging masses of enemy tanks. Although the accumulated numbers in the table do not allow a specified view of the ‘original’ Sturmgeschütz (Ausf G, 7.5cm StuK 40 L/43 [SdKfz 142/1], including 10.5cm StuH 42 L/28.3 [SdKfz 142/2]) production, it becomes apparent that the table was compiled by other sources.

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The combined yearly tank and Sturmgeschütz production figures for 1941 to 1943, the monthly production figures 1944, and the proposed production for December 1944 to March 1945.

Production of StuG, PzKpfw IV and Panther

SdKfz 142/1

SdKfz 142/2

StuG IV

1943 3,011 204

PzKpfw IV

Panther

– 2,938 1,768

1944 3,840 903 1,006 3,125 3,777 1945 863 192 105 365 439

The table clearly shows the numerical importance of the ‘original’ Sturmgeschütz.

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A Sturmgeschütz IV in service with Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) has been immobilized and abandoned in an unknown town during winter 1944. (Anderson)

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Organizational Changes to the Infantry Divisions With adoption of new organizational structures for the Infanterie-Divisionen (InfDiv – infantry divisions), the Jäger-Divisionen (JgDiv – light infantry divisions) and Gebirgsjäger-Divisionen (GebJgDiv – light-infantry mountain divisions), finally an armoured component [Sturmgeschütz] was introduced. At the beginning of the war, initial ideas saw the integration of an entire StuGAbt per division. However, this was not feasible, and instead the formation of smaller StuG detachments was discussed. The new October 1942 ‘Infanterie-Division neuer Art’ (infantry division; new style) had, among other changes, a reformed PzJgAbt. This battalion-size subunit had one Panzerjäger-Kompanie (PzJgKp – tank destroyer company) with 12 schwere Panzerabwehrkanone (s PaK – heavy anti-tank guns), equipped with either the 7.5cm PaK 50, 7.5cm PaK 98/38 or 7.62cm PaK 36(r), and one FlaK company as well as one PzJgKp with 14 s PaK (Sfl) with 7.5cm self-propelled guns. Alternatively, the new structure authorized an establishment with Sturmgeschütz, depending on availability. The basis for establishing a StuG or PzJgKp in a PzJgAbt mot Zug (motorized platoon) was organizational table KStN 1159 Ausf B dated 20 June 1943, [see Chapter 3]. In contrast to this earlier version (now referred

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to as Ausf A), a unit would be equipped with 14 Sturmgeschütz, and a full establishment of support elements including workshop and recovery services. This was deemed necessary, since the infantry divisions did not have the facilities to maintain heavy equipment. A tank destroyer subunit, still in company strength was now organized according the new KStN 1149 (StuG Abt [10 or 14 StuG in PzJgAbt]) dated 1 February 1944. At least on paper the company had been raised to battalion strength – the reason for this is not known – despite actually remaining a company. For 1944-style division, this organizational structure allowed an establishment of 10 or 14 Sturmgeschütz. At this time a unit could be equipped with Sturmgeschütz, the leichte Panzerjäger (le PzJg – light tank hunter/destroyer) IV or the le PzJg 38(t) Hetzer – [Baiter]. As noted in a table published in January 1944 by the GenStbdH, the majority of those InfDiv, PzJgDiv and GebrigDiv issued with Sturmgeschütz (34 divisions) would ideally have 14 assault guns in their inventory. Apparently this authorized strength was reduced in the second half of 1944 to ten Sturmgeschütz, made possible by KStN 1149. However, there was criticism. In October 1943, the OrgAbt gave a hint of a special problem with the planned large-scale introduction of independent StuGKp for infantry units:

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173

A Sturmgeschütz IV, from PzJgKp 1021, about to be loaded on a Marinefährprahm (MRP – sea-going lighter) at Gotenhafen (Gdynia), during the evacuation of German forces from Poland in early 1945. The StuG is fitted with swivelling-type Seitenschürzen (side skirts) a modification introduced by the manufacturer. (Anderson)

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175

Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung (in PzJgAbt) Ausf A (10 StuG) or Ausf B (14 StuG) Table of organization according to KStN 1149, dated 1 February 1944.

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176

An unusually marked Sturmgeschütz III; it has been painted with an oversize Balkenkreuz and a large letter ‘G’. The latter possibly indicates that the vehicle is being used for training in an Ersatzabteilung (Ers-Abt – replacement battalion). (Anderson)

STURMGESCHÜTZ

Subject: Independent StuGKp 1) Armoured vehicles need many specialists and special tools to be maintained, both of which are in short supply. So far the battalion is the smallest unit to have a workshop element. Conclusion: Since independent companies will also require workshop elements, there will never be a sufficient number. 2) PzJgAbt (independent at army troop level) and StuGAbt will in future be issued with all types of Sturmgeschütz (StuG and Jagdpanzer). The tasks given to these services are identical: however the training will be conducted by two different services, and therefore cannot be consistent. Conclusion: Panzerjäger and Sturmgeschütz units must belong to one service with standardized training. Suggestion: All StuG and Panzerjäger within tank units must be part of the Panzertruppe. All StuG and Panzerjäger outside tank units must be attached to the artillery. Thus the Panzerjägertruppe should be transferred to the artillery and be trained accordingly.

Although this line of thought was understandable, the OrgAbt would not be able to enforce these ideas due to opposition by Guderian. Not surprisingly, the service would remain the responsibility of the Panzertruppe. However, the document had an appendix, which reveals vitally important facts:

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a.) One StuGKp for every infantry division = 2,000 StuG, or b.) alternatively 65 StuGAbt = 2,000 StuG A total of 200 StuGKp will require 200 crane vehicles and 200 recovery tractors (SdKfz 9). A force of 65 StuGAbt will require only 65 crane vehicles and 65 SdKfz 9. This will result in an additional demand for 135 crane vehicles and 135 SdKfz 9.

These few lines once again give proof of the inability of the German armaments industry to fulfill the demands of the military. Indeed heavy tractors and crane vehicles were not being built in sufficient numbers and OrgAbt faced a continuous shortage of some 270 vehicles. Furthermore, OrgAbt saw the planned provision of infantry units with small numbers of Sturmgeschütz/Jagdpanzer as critical due to a number of reasons. Early campaigns were successful because the Panzertruppe could assemble massed tank forces in order to achieve a breakthrough. Although the Panzer divisions had lost this operative power by late 1943, the fundamental idea behind it remained valid. Due to a shortage of resources, an equal distribution of Sturmgeschütz among a great number of infantry divisions could result in a fragmented commitment. OrgAbt began to think that a concentrated commitment using StuG or PzJgAbt (with 31 Sturmgeschütz ) would have a greater impact against Soviet armour than would be possible by attaching ten or 14 StuGs to each infantry division. However, it must be considered that OrgAbt preferred to continue with earlier, proven offensive tactics against enemy armoured forces. This was even

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A Sturmgeschütz III Ausf G, which has been painted white for winter operations, receives maintenance ready for operation in the spring of 1944. Engineers from the workshop company have removed the early type of Winterketten (winter tracks) and have placed them on the engine deck, ready to fit standard tracks. The vehicle carries no markings other than a Balkenkreuze and a letter ‘D’ in black. (Anderson)

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178

A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G from a late production batch lies abandoned in the main street of a battle-damaged town. The vehicle has a travel rest for the gun and there is a cast deflector on commander’s cupola. (Anderson)

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at a time when the overwhelming numerical superiority of the Red Army made the establishment of new spearhead units impossible. Beginning in 1943, Sturmgeschütz were delivered to infantry divisions to establish an effective defence against the Soviets, rather than launch an offensive operation: the times had changed. By January 1944, a total of 34 PzJgKp had been established. The units received the designation of their mother unit. For example, StuGs of the PzJgKp attached to 1.InfDiv received the number 1001, and those issued 344.InfDiv were numbered 1344. However, there were many exceptions.

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The table on page 180–181 clearly indicates the situation in February 1944. At that time the large majority of StuGAbt intended for infantry, Panzerjäger and Gebrigsjäger divisions were in the process of being formed. At that time the table shows a shortfall of 366 Sturmgeschütz: Note the very low number authorized for the Luftwaffe field divisions which had been transferred on the authority of GenStbdH a few months earlier. The new target allotted only four Sturmgeschütz to an entire division. In April 1944, the Panzeroffizier at the GenStbdH reported the status of reorganization in the respective Heeresgruppen (HG – army groups). At that time the vast majority were issued with StuG III or IV, and some with lePzJg IV. Heeresgruppe ‘C’ (Italy) had to rely on Italian-built Semovente (selfpropelled) guns, being replaced by German vehicles as they became available. The infantry divisions noted under Heeresgruppe ‘D’ (France) were marked as being ‘bodenständig’, a hint to the fact that the majority of material was taken from ex-French stocks, thus reducing their combat value significantly. By late 1943, all Luftwaffe-Felddivisionen had been transferred to the responsibility of the army, but identified by the suffix (Lw). These units had been authorized to have a very small StuG detachment.

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179

A column of Sturmgeschütz having been unloaded at a harbour, (possibly Gotenhafen [Gdynia]), pass through a small village in Poland. Each vehicle carries two 200ltr drums containing fuel in preparation for a long march. Note the two horizontal band-type camouflage schemes on the Seitenschürzen (side skirts). (Hoppe)

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181

StuG-Abteilungen in Inf and LwFeldDiv

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182

The crew of this Sturmgeschütz has decorated the Seitenschürzen (side skirts) on their vehicle with a cartoon image of the famous ‘Baron Münchausen’, a fictional character from German literature. Note the Sturmgeschütz in the background has been fitted with Panzer III-style side armour. (Anderson)

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1.) Units already being rearmed Heeresgruppe Südukraine (Army Group South Ukraine) 3.GebDiv 17.InfDiv 46.InfDiv Heeresgruppe Nordukraine (Army Group North Ukraine) 1.InfDiv 72.InfDiv 214.InfDiv 349.InfDiv 367.InfDiv 100.JgDiv

Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) 5.JgDiv 14.JgDiv 6.InfDiv 7.InfDiv 102.InfDiv 129.InfDiv 131.InfDiv Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) 8.JgDiv 28.JgDiv 21.InfDiv

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32.InfDiv 93.InfDiv Heeresgruppe ‘D’ 243.InfDiv (bodenständig – locally sourced equipment) 326.InfDiv (bodenständig) 344.InfDiv (bodenständig) 346.InfDiv (bodenständig) 348.InfDiv (bodenständig) 353.InfDiv (bodenständig) 352.InfDiv (bodenständig) Heeresgruppe ‘C’ (With Italian equipment) 5.GebDiv 65.InfDiv 71.InfDiv 94.InfDiv 162.InfDiv 305.InfDiv 334.InfDiv 356.InfDiv

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362.InfDiv 278.InfDiv 114.JgDiv Reichsgrenadier Division Hoch und Deutschmeister Heeresgruppe ‘F’ SS-Polizei-Rgt (2 Kp) Luftwaffe Field Division (each with 4 to 6 StuG) 4.Lw FDiv (HG Mitte) 6.Lw FDiv (HG Mitte) 12.Lw FDiv (HG Nord) 13.Lw FDiv (HG Nord) 21.Lw FDiv (HG Nord) 16.Lw FDiv (West) 17.Lw FDiv (West) 18.Lw FDiv (West) 19.Lw FDiv (West) 21.Lw FDiv (West) 14.Lw FDiv (Norwegen)

A Sturmgeschütz III fitted with the early type of Winterketten (winter tracks) crossing an area of marsh-like terrain with a truck in tow. This was standard procedure on the Eastern Front. (Anderson)

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2.) Units in the process of rearming

The Seitenschürzen (side skirts) on a StuG could easily be damaged or completely torn off by heavy contact with an obstacle such as a stone wall, a tree or even thick scrub. The crew of this vehicle has made a repair by welding tubing to the upper brackets and securing the skirts with thick wire. (Anderson)

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Heeresgruppe Mitte 12.InfDiv 26.InfDiv 31.InfDiv 35.InfDiv 36.InfDiv 45.InfDiv 95.InfDiv 110.InfDiv 129.InfDiv 131.InfDiv 134.InfDiv 206.InfDiv 267.InfDiv 342.InfDiv

Heeresgruppe Nord 23.InfDiv 30.InfDiv 81.InfDiv Befehlshaber der Ersatzarmee (BDE – commander-in-chief replacement army) 57.InfDiv 88.InfDiv 389.InfDiv In the process of being rearmed with Italian material 65.InfDiv 162.InfDiv

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3.) Units to be rearmed Heeresgruppe Südukraine 4.GebDiv 320.InfDiv Heeresgruppe Nordukraine 101 JgDiv 75.InfDiv Heeresgruppe Mitte 197.InfDiv 337.InfDiv

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253.InfDiv Korps-Abt E Heeresgruppe Nord 11.InfDiv 58.InfDiv 61.InfDiv 121.InfDiv 126.InfDiv

185

Prague 1945: A StuG III fitted with PzKpfw III style Seitenschürzen (side skirts) carries no identification markings, only a Balkankreuze on the side of the superstructure. (Anderson)

329.InfDiv

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186

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187

A Sturmgeschütz III Ausf G without Seitenschürzen (side skirts) or any unit identification passes a well-camouflaged supply truck. The small swastika on the door of the truck possibly indicates that it is from 5.SS-PzGrenDiv Wiking (Viking). (Anderson)

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188

A recovery team has attached Leichte Abschleppstangen (light towing bars) to the towing eyes on this Sturmgeschütz III Ausf G in preparation for it to be hauled away. The maintenance hatches over the brake/final-drive units have been opened indicating the location of the failure. (Anderson)

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PzJgAbt 246 of 246. Volks-Grenadierdivision From late 1943 onwards, it was planned to complete the equipping of infantry units with Sturmgeschütz companies swiftly and to a set a standard. However, this process would be affected by the low number of Sturmgeschütz available, exacerbated by an overall shortage of soft-skinned vehicles and heavy halftrack tractors. The ordnance office was forced to deliver what was available, including captured and foreign-built vehicles. Furthermore, the course of the war influenced the effectiveness of the infantry divisions (InfDiv) and VolksGrenadierdivisionen (VGD); both were faced with many logistical problems. A strength report from 246.VGD dated 1 November 1944 illustrates the problem. The unit, originally established as 246.InfDiv before the war, had been virtually annihilated during the Soviet assault on Heeresgruppe Mitte in the summer of 1944. What remained of the unit was then withdrawn to Milowitz training ground near Prague, were it was re-established as 246. VGD. It was then transferred to defend the border of the Reich near Aachen. In August 1944, 246.VGD, had a complement of over 11,000 men and PzJgAbt 246 was attached as its tank destroyer element with 14 Sturmgeschütz

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and 27 towed anti-tank guns as originally authorized. The anti-aircraft company was reinforced by a Flak-combat unit with seven 8.8cm FlaK. Beside the PzJgAbt, 246.VGD had 36 guns in the artillery regiment and a vehicle allotment of 14 NSU Kettenkräd, 138 motorcycles, 125 crosscountry cars and 28 staff cars, also 17 Maultier (Mule) half-track trucks, 60 cross-country trucks, 134 cargo trucks, three half-tracked tractors and 56 Raupenschlepper-Ost (RSO – fully-tracked carrier: east). In March 1944, the OrgAbt attempted to make a comparison between German 44.InfDiv and a typical British partly-motorized infantry division. While the German unit had a theoretical complement of 804 motor vehicles of all types; a comparable British unit had a total of 3,572. Also 44.InfDiv had more than 3,000 horses in service, while the British had none. This astonishing difference would worsen as the war progressed. When compared to the proposed structure of 44.InfDiv, the VGD had an even weaker allocation of motor vehicles. So much for theory: For instance, the reality of 1944 forced VGD to drop the Kettenkräd, and reported that only 44 per cent of its cross-country cars were operational, while the promised number of Maultier half-tracked trucks and cross-country trucks were never delivered. The artillery regiment had to

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189

A late production Sturmgeschütz III Ausf G passes through a small town during the retreat from France in 1944. The crew has painted an image of the cartoon character ‘Mickey Mouse’ in front of the spare track carrier on the side of the superstructure. The vehicle is in a desperate state, two of the six road wheels are missing and the remainder have lost some of their rubber tyres. (Anderson)

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190

A Bergepanzer III (recovery tank), from an unidentified unit, is fitted with the later type of Ostketten (east tracks); most units deployed to the Eastern Front were issued with these useful tracks. Additional ice grousers were mounted in the track links, whose incorporated grousers were totally worn off. (Anderson)

STURMGESCHÜTZ

utilize captured equipment (seven 7.62cm Fk [r] and five 12.2cm le FH [r]), and the standard German material (nine 10.5cm le FH 18 and nine 15cm s FH 18). In November 1944, an unknown commander delivered his own personal judgement, shortly before the Ardennes offensive: Level of training The subunits in the division were thrown into the Grosskampf (very heavy commitment) before the training could be accomplished. The immense losses were replaced by poorly trained soldiers taken from units without any combat experience. Half of the Panzerjäger complement is uneducated and also untrained. Training of drivers, especially those for the Raupenschlepper-Ost tractors, is difficult due to the shortage of fuel. Constant fighting to hold defensive position, and the steady regroupings caused by the overall situation impedes the very necessary continuation of the training. Troop Morale Although reliable and eager, many soldiers are depressed by worries about their relatives suffering the terror bombing and the loss of their Heimat (home).

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The situation is made worse by our poor postal service, the Ostfreiwillige (volunteers from occupied eastern countries) are orderly and industrious, but they are not much use in combat near the front. Their commitment in the rear area is advisable. Special problems Command in the grenadier regiments is weak, and only few trained Panzerjäger soldiers are available. The lack of footwear, tents, water, anti-tank mines, flare pistols and the following munitions: heavy mortars and 3.7cm FlaK only add to our problems. Overall mobility is poor due to the lack of cross-country vehicles: 40 per cent of all our motor vehicles are in a poor mechanical state.

191

This Sturmgeschütz III Ausf G has been modified beyond recognition. Additional armour plates have been attached to front of the superstructure, and the machine-gun shield has been replaced with a simple steel plate. Note that the commander’s periscope has been fitted with lens hoods. (Anderson)

A strength report published in December 1944, shows that the vehicle situation had continued to deteriorate. Of the 14 authorized Sturmgeschütz, only five had survived and two of these were in need of short-term repair. Also the number of anti-tank guns had decreased from 27 to four; and only seven of the 54 Raupenschlepper-Ost remained serviceable. Subsequently, the commander gave his unit a low combat rating (IV).

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192

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193

Denmark, 1944: Vehicles of Sturmgeschütz Ersatz und Ausbildung Abteilung (Ers und AusbAbt – replacement and training battalion) 400, at their base in Viborg. The unit had been transferred to Denmark in July 1943. At least four different variants are visible; an Ausf B and an Ausf D, also an Ausf F and an Ausf G. Such a very mixed allotment of short and long-barrelled StuGs was quite normal for training cadre and regular units. One of the vehicles is fitted with air filters for hot and dry conditions. (Anderson)

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Increased Production A year after the catastrophic winter of 1941, the situation for the German army in the east, especially the infantry divisions, worsened. After the stalemate during the winter of 1942, the Soviets would achieve many great (if costly) successes beginning with victory at Stalingrad, the recapture of Velikiye-Luki and a short time later the recapture of Demyansk. Slowly but surely, and with growing confidence, the Red Army was able to increase its operational opportunities. German forces now faced ever increasing numbers of Soviet tanks and vast numbers of infantry were forced back on the defensive. Although German anti-tank capability had been significantly improved with the introduction of the 7.5cm Panzerabwehrkanone (PaK) 40, there was still a problem. The weight of the 5cm PaK 38, already in service, made it very difficult for the crew to move, but the PaK 40 was even heavier. Any change of firing position relied on the use of a prime mover and since these vehicles were in short supply, the situation for PaK 40 crews became untenable. Infantry units in a PzAbt were issued with an increasing number of self-propelled guns, but there would never be enough. If attacks by enemy tanks could not be repelled, the defensive front held by German infantry would be overrun and enemy infantry, following the tanks, would then occupy the positions, forcing a retreat. On many occasions his had a disastrous effect on the morale of the German troops and Panzershock (tank shock) returned. When the situation on the Eastern Front was affected more and more by these breakthroughs, the question of anti-tank defence finally required an urgent solution. Reality would show that attack missions or an effective defence was only possible when a StuGAbt was available. Quite logically, it was now discussed whether to provide the infantry divisions with integral assault gun units, similar to those elements attached to the Luftwaffe Feld Divisionen (LwFeldDiv – air force field divisions).

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6

Troops of 8.SS-Kavalleriedivision (cavalry division) Florian Geyer wait in a Ukrainian village as a Sturmgeschütz from their PzJgAbt passes. (NARA)

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196

A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G in France, 1944: The Zimmerit coating is of the pattern applied by Alkett and the vehicle has a standard-type stowage frame fitted around the engine deck. The Seitenschürzen (side skirts) are of a later improved type fitted with triangularshape hooks. Note the Maschinengewehr (MG) 34 has been mounted on top of the gun shield, to allow fire against enemy aircraft. (Hoppe)

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On 22 September 1943, PzJgAbt 31 (31.InfDiv) submitted an after-action report on the effectiveness of its anti-tank weapons. Reports like this were numerous, and all more or less underlined the need for better weapons in the infantry divisions. Subject: Meeting on questions regarding anti-tank defence I. Experiences with PaK [Sfl] and StuG 1) The 7.5cm PaK 40 Sfl 38(t) (148hp Praga engine) performed extremely well and fully met the requirements, in contrast to the 7.62cm PaK 36(r) Sfl 38(t) (125hp Praga engine). 2) With regard to the critical equipment situation, any delivery of selfpropelled anti-tank guns for the tank divisions is unnecessary. Instead, it is more sensible to issue these weapons to infantry division. Reasons: a) Anti-tank defence in tank divisions is guaranteed by the arrival of vehicles armed with 7.5cm KwK 40 L/48 gun. During the recent fighting, selfpropelled guns were used by tank divisions mostly in the same manner as a tank. This is a task self-propelled guns cannot fulfill, therefore this commitment turned out to be very poor. b) Since size and weight of the PaK mot Z (towed anti-tank guns) are

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Increased Production

significantly increasing, a rapid move into position and having time for camouflage is becoming more difficult. 3) The best solution for the question of new equipment for the tank-destroyer battalions would be to issue them exclusively with Sturmgeschütz. As long as this is not possible, we suggest provision of one company PaK (Sfl) (selfpropelled anti-tank guns) and one company with assault guns. Reasons: a) The PaK (Sfl) and the Sturmgeschütz complement each other. b) A sole establishment of an PzJgAbt with PaK (Sfl) is not practical, since the infantry compares it with assault guns resulting in exaggerated expectations, which the PaK (Sfl) cannot fulfill. c) A further advantage of a StuG company within the PzJgAbt is the fact that the commander (of the InfDiv) will always have direct access. This is in most cases is not feasible with a Heeres-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung, with batteries dispersed over two or three divisions. This split will lead to problems with supply lines for the battalion and workshop units in the rear.

197

This early production Sturmgeschütz Ausf G does not have a Zimmerit coating and is fitted with NebelkerzenWurfgeräte (smoke candle dischargers). The chassis number 92991 stencilled on the front plate indicates that it was built in early 1943 by Alkett. (Münch)

This opinion was supported by many identical after-action reports. The commander of PzJgAbt 31 clearly recognized the advantages of allotted assault guns.

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Above: Having been almost annihilated at Stalingrad, what remained of 60.InfDiv was re-established at St Raphaël in the South of France, and subsequently renamed as PzGrenDiv Feldherrnhalle (FHH). The unit had a mixed PzAbt with two tank and two Sturmgeschütz companies. In December 1943, FHH was transferred to Heeresguppe Nord (Army Group North) at Narva, Estonia. (Anderson) Right: A Sturmgeschütz of PzGrenDiv FHH in St Raphaël, November 1943. The gun mantlet is protected by a factory-made dustcover. (Anderson)

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In September 1943, the commander of 16.PzGrenDiv complained of declining morale in his infantry: The Panzerschreck [tank shock] in our infantry is still alive, and it can be only overcome when: a) The infantry positions a sufficient number of heavy anti-tank weapons directly in the Hauptkampflinie (HKL – main line of resistance) b) If the infantrymen can be absolutely sure that enemy tanks which have broken through will definitely be destroyed.

199

A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G: The crew shows the workings of their vehicle to Italian townsfolk. (Anderson)

The report continues that if these conditions are not met, the infantryman will not be able to withstand tank assaults as a direct result, and he demanded a sufficient allotment of heavy anti-tank guns. However this was not possible and due to the relative immobility of these towed anti-tank guns, even the powerful PaK 40 would have been of little value. At this time of mobile warfare, a fixed anti-tank position was always in danger which inevitably led to the loss of the weapon. In his report, the commander explained that his PzJgAbt was not able to perform as Panzerjäger in the true sense of the word – the mission to actively hunt down enemy tanks. His report continues: The Räder-PaK (towed anti-tank guns) can never be a Panzerjäger, since it cannot be used against enemy tanks that have broken through. This applies also

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200

A Sturmgeschütz of 2.SS-PzDiv Das Reich during the funeral ceremony for a comrade killed in action. The name SS-Unterscharführer Hoffmann, possibly the person killed, is painted on the side of the superstructure. (Anderson)

STURMGESCHÜTZ

to the 8.8cm PaK. The only weapon suitable to hunt and destroy tanks is the Sturmgeschütz. If the infantryman can be sure to have a sufficient number of Sturmgeschütz supporting him, or if he has had first-hand experienced as to how easily Sturmgeschütz can destroy broken through tanks, he will keep calm and will learn to keep low in his hole until the tank has passed-over him, knowing that the assault guns will keep his back and flanks safe. Heeres-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilungen, which will be distributed over the combat sector of an entire corps, cannot fulfill this task. To give the infantryman the security he requests, the infantry division must have a battalion with at least two batteries. The PzJgAbt can be dropped. Signed: Generalleutnant Gerhard Graf von Schwerin

The statement of the commander of 16.PzGrenDiv is fully understandable. However, it is interesting to note the degree to which the officer (among many others) is fixated on the Sturmgeschütz. A tank such as the PzKpfw IV Ausf G to H armed with the 7.5cm KwK L/48 would have been equally effective. There were some examples where a small number of infantry divisions were issued with tank battalions. However, the troop demanded assault guns. Finally, the OrgAbt took the decision to issue only one company/battery as a reinforcement to the divisional PzJgAbt.

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Increased Production In January 1944, a table ‘StuGAbt in PzDiv and PzGrenDiv’ was published showing the actual unit strengths. Firstly 12.Heeres (Army) and Waffen-SS PzGrenDiv were each issued with a Panzer-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung (45 StuG), with three more to be established. Furthermore, 11 Panzer divisions were available; six for the Waffen-SS, four for the army and one for the Luftwaffe with reported strengths varying from seven to 43. The Grossdeutschland unit was listed here as a Panzer division (still with a 1942-style Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung of 21 StuG), although it had officially been called a PzGrenDiv since June 1943. PzDiv Hermann Göring is also noted although officially being a Luftwaffe unit, it fought under the command of the army. Some special units also received assault guns. These miscellaneous formations showed a very varying establishment. Despite the ‘temporary’ character of the Sturmgeschütz allocations for the Panzer divisions, the practice would continue. In late summer 1944, more units would receive Sturmgeschütz or Panzerjäger, among them new Panzer brigades. Sturmgeschütz had to replace missing PzKpfw IV tanks, or Panzerjäger such as Panzer IV/70 (V) and Jagdpanther:

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The Sturmgeschütz carrying this coffin was built on the chassis of a PzKpfw III, identifiable by the horizontal exhaust silencer (muffler). (Anderson)

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Thought to be a vehicle from PzJgAbt 1095 from 3.GebDiv, this Sturmgeschütz has what appears to be an Ausf F chassis fitted with the superstructure of an Ausf G. The vehicle is fitted with late-type Ostketten (east tracks) and Seitenschürzen (side skirts). (Anderson)

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August 1944 PzJgAbt 559: two companies with 28 StuG III September 1944 PzJgAbt 519: two companies with 28 StuG III PzBrig 111: one company with 10 StuG III PzBrig 112: one company with 10 StuG III PzBrig 113: one company with 10 StuG III October/November 1944 2.PzDiv: 49 StuG III December 1944 9.PzDiv: one company with 14 StuG III 116.PzDiv: one company with 14 StuG III February 1945 PzJgAbt 510: three companies with 30 StuG III March 1945 PzRgt 2 (army troop): 31 StuG III

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By late 1944, further PzJgAbt of PzDiv and PzGrenDiv had Sturmgeschütz in their inventory, although not officially authorized. PzJgAbt 38 of 2.PzDiv PzJgAbt 61 of 11.PzDiv PzJgAbt 2 of 12.PzDiv PzJgAbt 53 of 5.PzDiv PzJgAbt 51 of 26.PzDiv PzJgAbt 18 of 18.PzGrenDiv PzJgAbt 29 of 29.PzGrenDiv PzJgAbt Das Reich

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Concealed at the side of a peasant’s cottage, the crew of a Sturmgeschütz III Ausf G from 5.SS-PzDiv Wiking (Viking) cover their vehicle with a heavy tarpaulin for protection against the Russian weather. (NARA)

Distribution Problems On 23 March 1944 during a Führervortrag, Guderian demanded clarification of reports relating to an alleged increase in the number of StuGAbt (under the command of the General der Artillerie) to 54. He reminded the military officers and civil officials attending the meeting of the recently agreed limitation of 45. Any further increase in the number of StuArt units, with all associated problems such as replacement equipment, would be impossible due limited production capacity.

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In early 1944, SS-PzDiv Das Reich was engaged in combat near Cherkassy on the River Dniepr during the Battle of Korsun. A column of Sturmgeschütz from SS-StuGAbt 5 is shown; all are fitted with the early type of Winterketten (winter tracks) to improve traction. The crews of all the vehicles have used spare track links to protect the superstructure. (Anderson)

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G built on a PzKpfw III hull, in service with an SS-Ersatz und Ausbildungsabteilung (replacement and training battalion) on the Debica training ground in Poland. The vehicle carries the name Montabon (a commune in the Loire, France) on the side of the superstructure. Note that some links of early-type Winterketten (winter track) have been randomly inserted in the standard 40cm tracks. (Schneider)

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Guderian also said that he was fully aware that production was barely sufficient to satisfy the demands of the Sturmartillerie and his Panzerjäger. Furthermore, he had to accept that the ‘temporary’ substitution of tanks in the Panzer divisions by Sturmgeschütz would continue for longer than expected. However, Guderian would continue to demand that the number supplied to the Sturmartillerie should be limited to 200 each month. Quite naturally, his argument did not impress the General der Artillerie: In June his department insisted on the agreed delivery of 375 Sturmgeschütz each month as the lowest number to guarantee expansion of all 45 battalions (at that time renamed to brigades) to the target of 45 assault guns each, and to replenish the number lost in action. Guderian also complained of the poor situation in regard to recovery and maintenance; a lack of recovery vehicles, spare parts and a shortage of supply vehicles resulted in a decreased number of tanks and assault guns being available for front-line units. This was a misleading complaint as the overall number of tanks and assault guns/tank hunters being produced was slowly increasing. In his report, Guderian cited from the problems of Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South): At Uman some 300 tanks were captured by the enemy, Heeresgruppe Süd, as the responsible authority, reported: The repair of the damaged tanks at Uman was impossible due to the lack of spare parts. With a sufficient supply, the repair of the majority of these tanks

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would easily have been possible. An evacuation of the immobilized tanks was not feasible because of the lack of heavy half-track tractors and an overall inadequate transport situation.

In the first half of 1944, Guderian attempted to accelerate the equipping of infantry divisions with assault guns. On 2 June 1944, he wrote to the Chief of the General Staff, Generaloberst Zeitzler: Der Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen

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SS troops swearing an oath to the Führer during a commissioning ceremony: All the Sturmgeschütz are standard early-type Ausf G. (Anderson)

2 June 1944

Re: The employment of Panzerjäger-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilungen. Various reports submitted to me indicate that some erroneous conceptions exist about the employment and affiliation of the Panzerjäger-SturmgeschützAbteilungen. This makes me give the following opinion: The decisive importance of the Panzerabwehr makes a fundamental re-arming of the PzJgAbt necessary. At my instigation, the rebuilding of the PzJgAbt was therefore initiated and the first goal was set for the re-arming of one company of each battalion with Sturmgeschütz and Panzerjäger. The outfitting of the Panzerjäger units with this equipment does not mean a fundamental change, but at most an extension of their duties. This was already clearly defined in earlier reports.

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A mid-production Sturmgeschütz has an Alkett-applied Zimmerit coating, and is fitted with a cast Saukopf (pig’s head) mantlet and the cast deflector in front of the commander’s cupola. (Anderson)

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The most important task of the Panzerjäger-Sturmgeschütz units is the destruction of enemy tanks, the most dangerous opponents of our infantry. They, therefore, are the prime support for the infantry, because the solution to anti-tank defence is that it is of prime importance to hold any position. If the Panzerjäger is not bound by this task, they then can be used in direct support of the infantry in attack and defence. The Panzerjäger-Sturmgeschütz units have not taken over the tasks of the Sturmartillerie, but they only operate as Panzerjäger. Any use under other terms or unauthorized creation of other subordinated attachments (i.e. under the Artilleriekommando (Arko – artillery command) means an alteration to their original tasks and endangers the structure of the Panzerjägerwaffe. I therefore request to issue an order on the attached proposal to the Oberkommandos of the Heeresgruppen and the Armeen. Guderian

Personnel of struggling infantry divisions were transferred to Truppenübungsplatz (military training ground) Mielau in central Poland to undergo conversion to the Sturmgeschütz. The pace was slow; an average of only ten battalions was established each month. In April 1944, Mielau

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reported having trained five StuGAbt (i.e. companies) and that a further ten units were selected. From lessons learned during the first conversions, Guderian insisted that only tank destroyer personnel were to be considered. He also ordered that any soft-skinned vehicles that were in good condition were to taken back with the unit. This was unusual, as only personnel were transferred; equipment was left behind and distributed to other frontline units.

Combat The disadvantages of Sturmgeschütz with tank units were known. In June 1944, PzAOK 3 reacted by publishing a note explaining their view for the tactical deployment of a StuGAbt:

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SS Hauptsturmbannführer Rennert of SS-StuGAbt 9 wears the standard communications equipment for a StuG commander; headphones and a throat-type microphone. He has turned the cupola so that the open hatch will provide some protection against fire from the front. (Schneider)

A number of divisions of the tank army received a Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung within the frame of their divisional tank destroyer battalion; further divisions

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A Sturmgeschütz III from 5.SS-PzDiv Wiking hidden in the lea in a Russian farmhouse. Note the massive 80mm frontal armour plate. (NARA)

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Above: In early July 1943, SS-PzDiv Das Reich was positioned near Kharkov waiting to be replenished with new equipment. At around this time Seitenschürzen (side skirts) were being fitted to production Sturmgeschütz, and also began to be sent to front-line units to be fitted by workshop companies. The skirts of this vehicle have been modified by field engineers. (NARA) Right: The crew of a Sturmgeschütz prepares their vehicle for service. This was a mid-production vehicle manufactured by MIAG, identified by their style of applying Zimmerit. (Ullstein)

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A photographer from a German intelligence/ reconnaissance unit uses a camera, fitted with a high-performance telephoto lens, to take images of enemy positions and equipment. Ground-based and aerial reconnaissance was vital for positioning defensive forces or the planning of an assault. (Getty)

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G of 2.SS-PzDiv Das Reich moves past grenadiers in a trench during fighting around Kursk in 1943. Parts of the Seitenschürzen (side skirts) are missing, and the rear plate has been damaged by shell splinters. (NARA)

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have transferred tank destroyer units to Mielau for being rearmed with the Sturmgeschütz. The purpose of this measure is to provide the division with a strong armoured punch for attacks and counterattacks. At the same time the StuGAbt represents a mobile reserve against any further enemy tanks. The divisional StuGAbt should not be deployed outside the frame of its mother unit. The grenadier elements in the division should be, according to the situation, trained to support the StuGAbt.

This note shows that the commander of PzAOK 3 did not understand the purpose of the new Panzerjäger-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung and is in clear contradiction to the earlier statement made by Guderian. However, weapons like the Sturmgeschütz were a true enhancement to the arsenal of an infantry division, and would be used when and where they were needed, independent of the guidelines set by Guderian. The note also highlights the shortcomings of a Sturmgeschütz and the dependency on the infantry to protect their flanks during a battle. In previous years, Sturmgeschütz with the artillery were attached to either an infantry or a tank division. Coordination with these units was not always positive, the benefits of the Sturmgeschütz were overestimated, and the shortcomings ignored. In the worst case, occasionally StuGs were sent into action without infantry support in the vague hope that their armour and firepower would overcome all odds.

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As a direct consequence, Sturmgeschütz units (artillery, deployed at army troop level) were issued with Begleitgrenadier (escort grenadier) units; purposely trained, specialist support units with the sole task of supporting the Sturmgeschütz in the attack or retreat. In case of the battalion size units for the Sturmartillerie, these were to be organically incorporated as the fourth battery in a StuG brigade. For the much smaller Panzerjäger-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung (PzJgStuGAbt) in infantry divisions similar escort units could not be allotted. Aware of the shortcomings of the Sturmgeschütz and Jagdpanzer, the department of the Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppe (GenInsdPzTrp) decreed the establishment of Grenadier-Begleitzüge (GrenBeglZg – escort grenadier platoons) as follows: Grenadier-Begleitzug for Jagdpanzer and also Sturmgeschütz.

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Seitenschürzen (side skirts) became standard equipment from early summer 1943. Although very effective against Soviet anti-tank rifle fire, their mounting brackets were extremely vulnerable to damage. Front-line units did their best to improve these items by adopting their own modifications. Here heavy bolts have been welded directly to the superstructure (NARA)

In October 1944, OKH/GenInsp d PzTrp decided that all infantry, grenadier, Volksgrenadier, Gebirgs and JägerDiv, which have already been issued with Jagdpanzer or Sturmgeschütz are instructed to establish Grenadier-Begleitzuge “auf dem Kommandowege” (using their own means). The GrenBeglZg will be directly attached to the PzJgAbt and its sole mission is to escort the attack by the JgdPz or StuG. The GrenBeglZg must not be used to hold an area after the JgdPz or StuG have been withdrawn. Only the best soldiers are recruited for the GrenBeglZg. After probation the

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Above: Axis forces (Italian, Romanian and later Hungarian) attached to Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South) did not have tanks able to fight modern Soviet types. Small numbers of Panzer IV and some Sturmgeschütz were supplied to Hungary as military aid. This Turan II has been destroyed by a direct hit on the turret. (Anderson) Right: While trying to pass a peasant’s hut, a Sturmgeschütz Ausf G has become boggeddown. The recovery crew has attached a schwere Zugkraftwagen (s ZgKw) 18t (SdKfz 9) in an attempt to haul the assault gun out of the deep mud. (Anderson)

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members of the GrenBeglZg will get the note in their service papers: “To be used only in Grenadier-Begleitzug”. A GrenBeglZg is formed as follows: Platoon leader (One officer) Platoon command group (One NCO, Four troopers, including a pioneer) Three groups (One group in each JgdPz platoon) 1 special purpose group (One NCO, 14 troopers, including a pioneer) 1 reserve group (One NCO, Two troopers) Combat train (A commander, Five troopers, Three riflemen, a pioneer) To ensure high firepower and great mobility, all should be armed with the Sturmgewehr 44. This is a priority.

In September 1944, the GendPzTrp decided to rename the StuGAbt within PzJgAbt to Panzerjäger-Kompanien (PzJgKp) but retained their numerical identification.

After-action Reports There are few after-action reports known of StuG-equipped PzJgAbt or companies. Two were published in the Nachgrichtenblatt der Panzertruppen (bulletin of the armoured troops) dated September 1944.

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The amphibious VW Typ 166 Schwimmwagen was probably the most versatile and mobile German vehicle used in World War II. Powered by an air-cooled four-cylinder engine the type was used on all battlefronts. This vehicle belonged to PzJgAbt 1095. (Anderson)

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G from SS-StuGAbt 1007 of SS-FreiwilligenGebirgsdivision Prinz Eugen when the unit was in Yugoslavia during August 1944. This notorious unit mainly fought partisan forces and was feared for its brutality. Note the searchlight fitted on the superstructure. (Anderson)

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The crew of a Sturmgeschütz III Ausf G from StuGAbt 1095, 3.GebDiv, begin to apply a coat of whitewash to their vehicle in preparation for winter operations. Behind the StuG is an SdKfz 10/5 half-track vehicle mounting a 20mm cannon used to provide heavy support fire; many afteraction reports praised the effectiveness of the type. (Anderson)

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During the course of the collapse of Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre), 45.InfDiv with PzJgAbt 45 was annihilated. In July, re-establishment took place at Döllersheim, a military training area in Austria, where it was renamed as 45.VolksGrenDiv. The unit was then sent to Poland, where it was involved in heavy fighting south of Warsaw at the Warka bridgehead. The unit’s PzJgAbt included a Sturmgeschütz company, PzJgKp 1045. The commander of PzJgKp 1045 submitted this in August 1944: After-action report from Panzerjäger-Kompanie 1045 equipped with Sturmgeschütz III: The company was provided as a divisional reserve. In the afternoon, the enemy launched an attack after a preparatory heavy artillery bombardment. The assault by 30 tanks, mostly T-34/85 and KV-1 was supported by Schlachtflieger (strafing aircraft). Using elements of five to six divisions the enemy strove to enforce a breakthrough in this sector. The terrain was favourable to the enemy, small areas of scrub and woodland offered cover for his gun positions and assembly areas. The company countered the enemy with nine Sturmgeschütz. During the first day of combat we destroyed: 16 T-34/85 One KV-1

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Two T-34 (immobilized) 17 Machine guns Two Infantry mortars Two Forward observers with radios One Anti-tank gun One Artillery gun During the second day: Two T-34/85 One Self-propelled gun 21 Machine guns Three Anti-tank rifles Two Anti-tank guns

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G from the Prinz Eugen division: The Maschinengewehr (MG) 34 has been mounted on the top of the gun shield to enable the gunner to engage enemy aircraft. Note the slot in the shield has been enlarged, possibly to improve gun elevation and side traverse; the latter was important for combat in forested terrain. (Anderson)

The tanks were destroyed at a range of between 600 and 800m, one assault gun destroyed five tanks out of the column within 15 minutes. HE shells had an extraordinary success on soft targets. The provision of the Sturmgeschütz with Maschinengewehr (MG) and Maschinenpistole (MP) proved to be advantageous, and enabled the suppression of enemy close-combat [anti-tank] teams and infantry. It must be added that on the harvested fields the corn was stored in stooks. During a counteroffensive, the Russians fired incendiary shells and

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three Schützenpanzerwagen [SPW – armoured half-track vehicle], concealed on the field were set on fire.. Some 30 minutes after the beginning of the attack, the Russians began using our radio frequency in an attempt to discover the position reports from our Sturmgeschütz using the code name given to our company commander. The commander was forced to change the frequency three times during the battle. Finally, it can be said that after his great losses, the opponent did not continue to accompany his infantry assaults with tanks, but positioned them in prepared positions.

Another report was submitted by PzJgKp 1253 of 253.InfDiv. This unit was also part of Heeresgruppe Mitte, which in summer 1944 was forced to make a defensive retreat to Kovel:

A Sturmgeschütz of 3.SS-PzDiv Totenkopf (Death’s Head) moves through front-line positions during the Kursk campaign. All infantry trenches could be dangerous to the armour of both sides during the heat of battle. (Anderson)

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After-action report Sturmgeschütz IV.

from

Panzerjäger-Kompanie

1253

equipped

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with

Owing to the situation, the company was almost exclusively be deployed in platoon strength. This will be necessary time and again for a PzJgKp (StuG) of an infantry division. Therefore, training must be focused on a smaller-scale deployment in platoon strength. Due to its hasty commitment and the following retreat, the company lacked any time to practice cooperation with the infantry. The situation did not allow any contact with the lower commanders (non-commissioned officers). Assaults by our troops were hindered by the low combat strength of the infantry and the lack of cooperation on the battlefield.

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Barely recognizable in the field, this Sturmgeschütz III Ausf F/8 has been fitted with Seitenschürzen (side skirts) to improve protection (and losses) against Soviet light antitank guns and anti-tank rifles. (NARA)

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Even the enemy’s tanks and anti-tank guns avoided any contact during our counterattacks. He put up a stiff resistance only if our infantry was not involved. The company was issued with Sturmgeschütz, which were not fitted either with a machine-gun and shield, or the new Rundumfeuer-Machinengewehr [all-round fire machine gun]. In some situations the enemy can only be fought by machinegun fire, and the lack of a machine gun cannot be substituted by firing more HE shells. Supply: The deplorable state of our motor vehicles has led to serious supply problems. The workshop unit was unable to operate, since it had only a few trucks to transport equipment.

In the bulletin, the department of the Generalinspekteur commented: Statement by the Generalinspekteur 1) The deployment of a Sturmgeschütz-Kompanie in platoon strength can only be condoned by the situation, and must not become the rule… Only by utilizing the combined firepower and impact of the entire unit in close

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cooperation with the infantry can the desired result be achieved without a significant loss of men and equipment. The results achieved by StuGKp 1045 provide positive proof. 2) Camouflage consisting of flammable material must be attached in a way that it can be remove very quickly. 3) The rapid change of radio frequencies has to be practiced during training. 4) Sustaining the operational readiness of a StuGKp’s, all the time necessary to prepare for a mission has to be allowed 5) The lack of the self-defence machine gun is a great disadvantage, and the Generalinspekteur underlines his urgent call for this weapon to be installed in the Sturmgeschütz and Panzerjäger. Great emphasis must be attached to the training with this device.

Combat in Normandy The Allied landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944 brought the long-expected second front in Europe (Italy was an almost isolated theatre of war, since the French Alps formed a natural obstacle). For German troops, the situation became challenging due to a lack of reinforcements and a shortage of heavy equipment. Any available forces

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The Seitenschürzen (side skirts) on this Sturmgeschütz of 5.SS-PzDiv Wiking have been painted with an interesting camouflage scheme. Note T-34 track links were added at the superstructure sides. (NARA)

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A Sturmgeschütz from SS-PzDiv Wiking ploughs through thick mud in a Russian village. The vehicle is fitted with Winterketten (winter tracks) which supplied much-needed improved traction. (Anderson)

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had been sent to the Ostfront (Eastern Front) or Italy, but these were now under pressure from an advancing enemy. The units sent to halt the Allied landings soon reported very specific problems. A report by a staff officer dated 3 July 1944 reads: Tank defence on the Normandy invasion front: 1) The available experiences regarding the tank defence refer to combat against the Allied invasion force in the period of 6 June to 24 June. The fighting took place in the hedgerows of Normandy. The experiences made here cannot be applied to other theatres of war. 20) The hedgerows of Normandy are not suited for the deployment of tank units. The terrain is also not favourable for the usage of a single tank. The numerous tall hedges impede vision and hinder the weapon’s impact. Ridges and ravines make a speedy advance impossible. 19) Any major assault of enemy tanks took place, as anticipated, along paved roads or streets.

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21) Combat operations: The character of this ‘bush war’ is neither the classic assault nor defence, but raiding operations. 25) Deployment: Panzerjäger and Sturmgeschütz: Both have tactically favourable characteristics, since they are trained for combat in small detachments or groups (half platoon). On the other hand, Sturmgeschütz are considerably at a disadvantage in combat in scrub-covered land due to their limited traverse and low-firing height. In ravines or gullies, they are defenceless against any attack on the flank. Conclusion: Any advance by Panzerjäger, PaK (Sfl) and Sturmgeschütz in this area must be protected by a larger number of infantry than an advance by tanks.

This report is not surprising, as the basic problems for the deployment of tanks in ‘Le Bocage’ (hedgerow country) are obvious and Sturmgeschütz were certainly not suited for this area. The suggestion to provide StuGs with better flank protection by simply reinforcing the escort infantry did not always work; there were many instances where Sturmgeschütz became separated from the escorting infantry after being attacked by artillery barrage or ground-attack aircraft.

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A Sturmgeschütz III Ausf G of 9.SS-PzDiv Hohenstaufen positioned at the edge of a forest on the Belgian border with Germany as part of the force assembled to halt the US Army. The 7.5cm StuK 40 L/48 would take its toll among the M4 Sherman tanks. (Anderson)

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‘neuses Sturmgeschütz’ in 1945

7

During the final phase of World War II the number of important Sturmgeschütz in service with German armed forces increased dramatically. The first Sturmgeschütz entered production in 1940 and was initially manufactured only by Altmärkische Kettenfabrik GmbH (Alkett) at Spandau (assembly) and Falkensee (chassis). As demand increased, Mühlenbau und Industrie AG (MIAG) at Amme Werk, Brunswick began production in 1943, and monthly output grew from 130 in January to 400 in October 1940.

An improved Sturmgeschütz Due to several reasons, the tactical value of the Sturmgeschütz was seen as so important that a new weapon was developed – the Jagdpanzer. By 1942, both the military and political leadership had realized the seriousness of the supply situation. At the same time, a re-evaluation of German tank design began, which added to the already considerable amount of uncertainty. New types were conceived, developed and finally rushed into production without a preceding and extremely important trials phase. The main development was a massive increase in armour protection and sloped armour as used for the new PzKpfw V Panther medium tank. The aim, at all levels, was to achieve an increase in combat power. In early 1943 work began on a new type of assault gun, for which the latest requirements were naturally adopted. The ‘neues Sturmgeschütz’ would have the following characteristics: • A high level of armour protection: Sloping armour plates of 60mm (later increased to 80mm) at the front, and sloping 40mm armour for the sides. • A more powerful main gun: 7.5cm KwK 40 L/48, later replaced by the 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70.

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A Leit-Sturmgeschütz (control tank) of PzAbt 302 (Fkl) in the ruins of Warsaw: The assault guns firing high-explosive (HE) ammunition proved effective against insurgents holding positions in buildings. However, there was the constant threat of enemy snipers firing down from the buildings. (Getty)

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It appears that the crew of this Sturmgeschütz has applied Zimmerit to the Seitenschürzen (side skirts). Why would they do this? To author’s knowledge no army used magnetic anti-tank hollow charges in the war. (Anderson)

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• Improved self-defence: Front-firing port for a Maschinengewehr (MG) 34 and the installation of a short-lived Rundumfeuer-Maschinengewehr (all-round fire machine gun), and a Nahverteidigungswaffe (close-support weapon), which were never delivered in sufficient quantities. Vogtländische Maschinenfabrik AG (VOMAG), which had been producing the PzKpfw IV tank since the end of 1941, was contracted to design, developed and produced this promising vehicle. In May 1944, all production was converted to the new leichte Panzerjäger IV, to be superseded a few months later by the Panzer IV/70 (V). During development it was planned to eradicate the known shortcomings of the original Sturmgeschütz. However, this was only partially achieved. Whatever improvements were implemented, most were negated by the decision to fit the vehicle with unmodified PzKpfw IV suspension originally designed for a 17-ton tank. However, the Panzer IV/70 (V) weighed 26t due to it having 80mm frontal armour and mounting the powerful (and heavy) 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70 gun. The vehicle was dangerously overweight causing the chassis, suspension and the running gear to be over-stressed. The ‘ultimate’ new assault gun proved to be nose-heavy and almost impossible to steer over soft ground. Yet another ‘new’ Sturmgeschütz arrived in April 1944 when BMM/ Škoda delivered their PzJg 38 (Hetzer – Baiter) based on the chassis of the PzKpfw 38(t). To make up for the loss of production caused by Allied bombing it was decided, in January 1944, to produce the StuG IV. This was technically

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almost identical to the StuG III and was to be built by Krupp-Grusonwerk at Magdeburg, replacing PzKpfw IV production. However, despite the fact that production of the type’s successor had actually started, it was virtually impossible to terminate production of the old type of Sturmgeschütz in favour of the new type, as Adolf Hitler had demanded during a meeting on 20 April 1944. Both the StuG III (SdKfz 142) and StuG IV (SdKfz 167) would remain in production until end of the war. The Nibelungenwerk in St Valentin, Austria now remained the only company manufacturing the PzKpfw IV, and production was increased temporarily to 300 units a month. StuG III Alkett, MIAG StuG IV Krupp-Grusonwerk 1943 3,215 1,006 1944 4,743 1945 1,055 105 Totals 9,013 1,111 The true importance of the ‘old’ Sturmgeschütz (and all the different Jagdpanzers based on this concept) for the German war machine becomes apparent by examining the production figures for the last months of the war. The total of Alkett and MIAG-produced ‘old’ Sturmgeschütz is approximately the same as that for all other tanks. Moreover, if the assault gun-armed Panzerjäger are added, the proportion grows to 2.6 to 1. The conversion of the Panzerwaffe to modern equipment had finally failed.

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December 1944: US troops inspect an immobilized Sturmgeschütz of an unidentified unit in the town of Obergeich near Koln (Cologne). (NARA)

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1945 StuG III StuG IV PzJg 38 PzIV/70 (A) & (V)

Jagdpanther PzKpfw IV

Panther

Tiger/B

January 391 46 434 235 72 170 211 40 February 189 18 398 155 42 160 126 42 March 235 38 301 51 52 55 102 30 April 48 3 113 – 21 50 – – Total 863 105 1,250 441 187 435 439 112 (Figures taken from: Panzer Production (Jentz) and the website Panther 1944.)

A Sturmgeschütz III Ausf G mounting a 10.5cm Sturmhaubitze 42 (StuH – assault howitzer) on the firing range during trials. Note the nonstandard search light mounted on the roof of the superstructure, which suggests that the vehicle is in 7.SS Freiw GebDiv Prinz Eugen. (Anderson)

StuG in Non-Artillery Use As noted earlier, the decision to deliver some of the Sturmgeschütz produced to services other than the Heeres-Artillerie was sensible, particularly after the latest disaster at Stalingrad. In conclusion: • Sturmgeschütz were used to reinforce the tank destroyer elements of Luftwaffe-Feldeinheiten and later, infantry and mountain divisions. • For the establishment of PzStuGAbt in PzGrenDiv. • Finally to compensate for missing tanks in the Panzer divisions. The reason for the slow conversion process dates back to the time when the Soviet T-34 and KV tanks were first encountered in 1941.

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While the tank force quickly learned how to fight this threat, partly by tactical skills, and partly by much better leadership, all other units remained in desperate need of better weapons. Widening the range of Sturmgeschütz duties was a logical step; in 1942 the type had proven its effectiveness and was highly appreciated by the fighting troops. However, the actual combat value of the Sturmgeschütz depended on how the type was deployed, the overall competence of commanders, the equipment situation at the mother unit and the efficiency of the supply chain. Even in late 1944 on the Ostfront (Eastern Front), a certain level of tactical superiority was still being maintained. However, this superiority was limited to only small-scale deployments. Faced by the Soviet numerical superiority on the ground, the massive artillery bombardment before any large (or even small) attack, followed by ground-attack aircraft, German commanders realized that defeat could only be delayed. Taking a broader view, German forces had made rapid advances on many battlefronts and achieved most of their objectives, but had become dangerously overstretched. As a consequence of the above, the Ostheer (Army East) had been forced to begin a slow withdrawal in 1944. A rare example of an after-action report from Sturmgeschütz issued to a PzJgKp of an unknown infantry division in the east was published in the January 1945 issue of Nachrichtenblatt der Panzertruppe:

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A MIAG-built Sturmgeschütz is a transported over a river on a ferry assembled from pontoons by field engineers. Note spare track pins have been placed into the spare road wheel mounted on the rear. (Anderson)

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Sturmgeschütz in the last winter of the war: All three are packed with ‘riding’ infantry; the first appears to be towing the following vehicle, although this was officially forbidden. However, units regularly ignored the order, as every Sturmgeschütz was regarded as precious and recovery was (when possible) essential. (Getty)

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Experiences of a StuGKp with fighting the Josef Stalin tank: The company had the mission of holding an important village in cooperation with the divisional reconnaissance battalion. After the Bolsheviks failed three times to take the place, they decided to set up an attack after very heavy preparatory bombardment. The fourth attack was launched, supported by two Josef Stalin [JS] and their four remaining T-34s. The enemy tanks made best use of heavy smoke from the burning village blowing over our front line. When the smoke cleared, the tanks (the JS in the lead) were at in 300m to 400m distance among some destroyed tanks, opposite our Sturmgeschütz. When they lost the cover of smoke, they turned and retreated. During this manoeuvre, all were knocked-out within 20 minutes, one JS by a clear penetration on the left-hand side of the turret, the other by a hit on the rear armour of the turret below the machine gun port. The next day the Russians attacked only with infantry, but positioned two JS at 2,000m distance, providing fire support for the infantry. The attack was repulsed; our Sturmgeschütz had no losses since they constantly changed position.

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Two Sturmgeschütz move up through a village at the Ostfront (Eastern Front) in 1943: Only the first one is fitted with side skirts; the German military attempted to deliver these items to all front-line Sturmgeschütz and Panzer units before Unternehmen Zitadelle (Operation Citadel), but failed. (Getty)

At dawn the next day, the Russians attacked with three JS, carrying infantry, from the northern flank without any artillery support. Since the JS had been spotted early enough, the company was regrouped in a way that the tanks would inevitably run in a Feuersack (fire sack [trap]). The company had at this time six Sturmgeschütz: Two were used to lure the JS into the trap and four were positioned in the flanks to open fire at the ideal range. The attack of the three JS was aimed at the centre of the village, where the two centrally positioned Sturmgeschütz waited in their positions. At a range of 300m an anti-tank gun of the reconnaissance battalion opened fire. A direct hit on the front of the JS was achieved, but did not penetrate. However, the crew, abandoned their tank immediately. One Sturmgeschütz moved into a better position to get clear field of fire. Its first round hit the tank, blasting off the commander’s cupola of the abandoned tank, which then burst into flames. The remaining JS turned without opening fire. After nightfall they moved again into position some 700m away from the northern of the village and opened fire on our anti-tank gun positions. In this situation they were attacked from the left flank by two Sturmgeschütz from a favourable range (600m). After being hit by four shells, one penetrated the side of the turret

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A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G being disembarked from a Marinefahrprähm sea-going lighter. Images of other units using ferry transport show that the Seitenschürzen (side skirts) were removed before loading. (Hoppe)

STURMGESCHÜTZ

and the JS caught fire. The tank burnt out completely; the crew did not escape. The crew of the second JS abandoned their tank after the first hit, which did not penetrate. With three further rounds, of which one penetrated the side of the turret, the abandoned tank caught fire and finally exploded. In these few days the company, which held the village with six Sturmgeschütz, destroyed nine T-34 and five JS without loss. Proof of that it is possible to destroy the JS by fire from the 7.5cm StuK 40 with PzGr 39 at ranges of up to 700m. That will need only good nerves, a cool head and a correct tactical deployment. During the combat it became obvious that the JS catches fire as easily as the T-34. In rough terrain, the JS lacks the mobility and agility of a T-34, so that it can be attacked and destroyed by two Sturmgeschütz with well-trained and aware crews. It is important to change position after two or three rounds are fired. The JS has a low rate of fire that should be always exploited.

The bureau of the Generalinspekteur of the Panzertruppe gave a telling comment: The success of this StuGKp again shows that the Josef Stalin, the heaviest Russian tank, can be defeated by the 7.5cm L/48 gun. The prerequisites for a successful attack are thorough camouflage, best possible usage of the terrain, and hit-and-run style deployment at favourable combat range.

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These remarks show how far some officials were from reality in 1945, although the successful combat by this un-named infantry division shows that it was possible to defeat even the mighty JS-2 heavy tank by tactical planning and careful deployment. In France after the invasion, German forces had to face a different opponent whose massive army was well equipped with modern armour, anti-tank weapons and which was tactically well organized. Air superiority, which halted any movement by German forces, which was also used to attack road convoys and railway trains carrying supplies to the front. The few Sturmgeschütz attached to the infantry divisions were not able to withstand the power of the Allied advance. When attached to a tank division, the basic design of the StuG made any effective combat against a well-trained enemy force a difficult task. The table ‘StuG lage 2 February 1945’ was published by the Quartermaster General to show the number of Sturmgeschütz operational within all (except Sturmartillerie) German units. The list also contains some interesting detail: • Even in 1945, not all infantry divisions had been reformed with a ‘new style’ PzJgAbt. • Some units were equipped with Sturmhaubitze. • A small number of 7.5cm KwK L/24 and L/43-armed StuG remained in service.

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These German soldiers give scale to the low height of the Sturmgeschütz. Although normally deployed in the offensive role, if it was carefully dug in hulldown it would be virtually invisible and ready for a deadly ambush. This StuG Ausf G was produced after August 1944 is fitted with the Saukopf (pig’s head) mantlet and no factory-applied Zimmerit. (Anderson)

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A Sturmgeschütz and a column of Borgward B IV Ausf B Ladungträger (demolition charge carriers) from Panzer Versuchs-und Ersatzabteilung (PzVersAbt – experimental and replacement battalion) 300(Fkl): The StuG is possibly an experimental Leitpanzer (control tank), but the additional aerial for the radio-control equipment is not fitted. (Anderson)

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It was essential to remove all the mud and other debris from the running gear on a Sturmgeschütz. All moving parts required periodic lubrication, but the oil in the transmission and engine had to be changed regularly. Note that the crew had improved the mounting brackets for the side skirts by welding on a section of angle steel. (Anderson)

STURMGESCHÜTZ

• Units deployed in Italy and the Balkans had to use Italian-built Semovente (self-propelled guns). • Some battle-worn units only had the status of a Kampfgruppe (KpfGr – battle group). • Even a small number of PzKpfw II light tanks had been issued to a few units. In August 1944, 14.PzDiv with PzRgt 36 was re-equipped after its deployment to Bessarabia (Moldova and Ukraine). According to an August 1944 strength report, the unit was authorized to have a PzStuGAbt (III.Abt/ PzRgt 36) with 44 Sturmgeschütz, and also 21 PzKpfw IIIs and 54 PzKpfw IVs forming a II.Abt. After being issued with PzKpfw V Panther medium tanks in France, I.Abt/PzRgt 36 was immediately transferred to the Kurland (Courland) peninsula in Latvia to support German forces involved in heavy fighting against the Red Army which was determined to overrun the area. 6.Abt/PzRgt 36 Combat report dated 12 October 1944 Attached to I.Abt/GrRgt 23 Course of the fighting: Shortly after 06:00hrs the enemy attacked on both tracks from the south towards Skuodas [Lithuania]. The company moved into position in the western

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part of Skuodas with two Sturmgeschütz. After a Russian infantry attack was repelled, at 08:30hrs three JS and five assault guns advanced to support the infantry in the southern part of Skuodas. Three JS and four assault guns were destroyed; the remaining assault guns turned and retreated. The company remained to safeguard the positions. While moving into new positions we destroyed an anti-tank gun. At 16.30hrs two further assault guns were reported to be advancing on Skuodas. When the company arrived, one had already been destroyed by our anti-tank guns; the other was then destroyed by a Sturmgeschütz of the company. In the following hours, our positions were hit by heavy fire from artillery, anti-tank guns, tanks and mortars. Daily report: combat ready: under repair within 14 days: under repair over 14 days: Losses: Enemy losses:

243

Soviet soldiers leave their US-built GMC truck to inspect a knockedout Sturmgeschütz. The crew had applied concrete to the front of the superstructure, but it appears that this StuG has received a direct hit which has blown the roof off of the fighting compartment. (Anderson)

Two StuG Five StuG One StuG None Three JS Five Assault guns One Anti-tank gun

This stunning combat success was achieved with only two operational Sturmgeschütz. Other documents show that commitments such as this were not the exception; German losses were always disproportionately lower than those of the Soviets. However, the equipment situation in PzRgt 36

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Effectively camouflaged with whitewash, a Sturmgeschütz Ausf G travels along a narrow track in a snow-covered forest. The vehicle has Seitenschürzen (side skirts) and two spare road wheels are carried on the track guard. Note that the vehicle is fitted with smoke candle dischargers. (Anderson)

STURMGESCHÜTZ

was critical, and by November 1944, II.Abt/PzRgt 36 reported that it had a mixed establishment of only a few tanks. This was quite usual for Panzer divisions in the east; many infantry and Volksgrenadier units involved in the fighting had an even worse establishment of armoured vehicles and heavy anti-tank weapons. The war reached its bitter end. II./PzRgt 36 13 October 1944

PzKpfw IV (lang)

StuG

PzKpfw III

Flakvierling

Combat ready 5 3 1 3 Short-term repair 12 2 1 – Long-term repair 4 1 – – Total losses 15 5 1 –

PzJgAbt 4 of 32.InfDiv For infantry forces without integrated mobile armour such as tanks, the requirement for an effective mobile anti-tank defence was essential. Although this was recognized early it became crucial during the fighting in the east between 1943 and 1944.

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When winter arrived in 1944, 32.InfDiv had an integrated StuGKp with ten Sturmgeschütz and was part of the German force defending East Prussia. On 2 December 1944, 32.InfDiv submitted an after-action report detailing their experiences of the second Battle of Kurland: Experiences: Enemy 1.) Before the assault We noticed that the enemy launched very strong reconnaissance missions before his main attack. From 19 to 21 November he launched heavy assaults with limited objectives, supported by combined preparatory artillery bombardment and tank charges, in order to gain favourable starting points for the commitment of his main tank force. For us, these preparatory assaults had an advantage – the enemy could not disguise of his intentions. Subsequently the enemy suffered heavy losses. Furthermore we were able to take prisoners. Enemy propaganda units started to free German POWs after showing them his large arsenal of heavy weapons and tanks, in order to demoralize our troops. This attempt failed.

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The crews knew about the problems with the side skirt mountings, so many units tried to convert and improve them using their own means. This particular vehicle received a small deflector in front of the first plate. (Anderson)

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Theoretical structure of Grenadierregiment 4 in the depth of the battlefield, showing position of PzJg (StuG) Kp 4

Key:

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StuG-Zug 4 Stug

Infantry in trenches

Machine gun (MG)

7.5 PaK 40 anti-tank gun

7.5cm sIG 18 Light infantry gun

Company Commander

Gun positions

Panzerschrek

15cm sIG 33 Heavy infantry gun

Mortar

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2.) During the major offensive Because of the unfavourable terrain and weather conditions, the enemy could neither commit his superior air force nor deploy his tank units to full extent. The enemy tried to compensate for the lack of these forces by keeping up an intense bombardment from artillery of all calibres. Despite this heavy barrage, enemy infantry could only gain success at places where our infantry had been virtually wiped out. Even surviving machinegun crew was able to deter a number of massive infantry assaults. A number of counterattacks led by an energetic officer with a few brave men and Sturmgeschütz have repeatedly repelled away strong enemy battalions. Our night attacks, even in moonless conditions, proved to be most effective. The Russians ran in fear from our advancing men, who were shouting “Huzzah”, and firing their Sturmgewehr [MP44] from the hip. 3.) The enemy’s peculiarities a) Infantry Enemy infantry was, despite constant replenishment, poorly trained. They were never encouraged forward during an assault, and as soon as they met stiff resistance they always retreated. Exception: The Russian punishment battalions: The troops of these units see their only chance for parole to take part in valiant combat. Any appearance by our Sturmgeschütz or tanks impressed the enemy in such a way that every attack collapsed; whereas our counterattacks supported by armour usually succeeded. c) Tanks Even if the operational deployment of the enemy’s tank forces was impeded by the terrain, smaller Panzerrudel (pack of tanks) were used at points of main effort to support an infantry attack. It was noticeable that the Russian tanks still have better mobility than ours. The impact of their tank guns was powerful enough to destroy our heavy tanks (Tiger). However, when they suffered their first losses to our anti-tank defences, they quickly became discouraged and retreated to fire their weapons from longer range. d) The Russian commanders proved to be unable to exploit any initial success. Own forces: 1.) Infantry The performance of our infantry was exemplary despite being under constant attack and suffering almost total exhaustion. Officers and the few remaining proven senior NCOs were at the heart of our resistance. 3.) Anti-tank defence The backbone of our anti-tank defence were the mobile tank destroyers (Sturmgeschütz and Panzer), and close-combat anti-tank weapons. The PaK mot Z

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The rubber tires, especially those of the inner road wheels, wear out often. In most cases loosening of the bonding.

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(towed anti-tank guns) of the PzJgAbt could be only used as infantry strongpoints. Organization of the anti-tank defence by the divisional Stabsoffizier für die Panzerbekämpfung (Stopak – staff officer anti-tank defence) proved effective. Defensively the Sturmgeschütz and Tiger tanks proved to be a success, but their mechanical vulnerability remained a constant problem. The commander could only rely on a third of these vehicles being operational.

It is interesting to note that the Sturmgeschütz, despite their many shortcomings, were still being rated as successful even in late 1944. The reduction of the wellarmed PzKpfw VI Tiger heavy tank to a ‘mobile anti-tank weapon’ is telling, but understandable due to the special circumstances of the Kurland battlefront.

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The outcome of the second battle for Kurland was decisively influenced by the terrain and the weather. Despite having a great numerical superiority, and unlimited supplies the Soviets proved to be unable to decisively defeat the German forces after fighting six battles. It is true that in late 1944 the Red Army had concentrated its forces in the central and southern sector of the battlefront and was steadily advancing on Berlin and other centres of power. To a certain degree, Kurland was regarded as being a secondary battlefront. However, the number of Soviet forces being concentrated on the Baltic front was far superior to the fragmented units which made up the trapped Heeresgruppe Kurland. German forces held their positions on the peninsula until the Third Reich surrendered on 8 May 1945.

Königsberg in 1945: A Russian soldier walks down a path cleared through equipment abandoned by a German armoured anti-tank battalion. To the right are the wrecks of two StuG IVs; the StuG III Ausf G (left) has been fitted with improvised side skirts. The Bergepanzer III in the background has been fitted with an armour plate with a slot for a light weapon, possibly an antitank rifle. (Anderson)

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Sturmgeschützlage by 2 February 1945

All army groups, no Sturmartillerie units, operational vehicles only Unit/ordnance

PzKpfw II StuG L/24 StuG L/43 StuG L/48 StuH 42

StuG IV L40 47/32 (i) M42 75/34 (i) M43 105/25 (i)

Heeresgruppe Süd 4 357. InfDiv PzJgKp LXVIII. AK 3 71. InfDiv 3 6 2. SS StuG Kp 105 118. JgDiv 6 Armeegruppe ‘Balck’ 1.PzDiv 1 3.PzDiv 9 1 23.PzDiv 4 PzDiv FHH, no report 3.KavBrig 7 4 1 4.KavBrig 7 3.SS PzDiv Totenkopf 15 5.SS PzDiv Wiking 2 96.InfDiv 1 3 22.SS KavDiv 4 46.InfDiv (1052) (KpfGr) 4 8.JgDiv (1008) 5 101.JgDiv 5 4 Heeresgruppe Mitte 10.PzGrendDiv (KpfGr) 26 291.InfDiv (1291) 10 88.InfDiv (1188) 10 72.InfDiv (1072) 9 342.InfDiv 9 17.InfDiv (1017) 10 45.VGrenDiv (1045) 9 6.VGrenDiv 9 Armeegruppe Heinrici 254.InfDiv 8 1.SkiJgDiv 8 1 253.InfDiv 1 10 StuGZug PzAOK 1 3 3 208.InfDiv (1208) 6 3.GebDiv (KpfGr) 4 545 VGrenDiv (1545) 9 344. InfDiv no report 544.VGrenDiv (1544), no report 371.InfDiv (1371) 8 20.PzDiv 10 712.InfDiv 10 100.JgDiv 8 168.InfDiv (1248) (KpfGr) 12 StuRgt PzAOK 4 12 ArtBrig Grossdeutschland, tbd 32 8 PzGrenDiv Brandenburg, tbd 21 16.PzDiv 24 tbd: to be delivered.

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Unit/ordnance

PzKpfw II StuG L/24 StuG L/43 StuG L/48 StuH 42

20.PzGrenDiv (KpfGr Jauer) Fallsch PzDiv 1 Hermann Göring, tbd

251

StuG IV L40 47/32 (i) M42 75/34 (i) M43 105/25 (i)

46 17

Heeresgruppe ‘Weichsel’ 4.SS Polizei PzGrenbDiv 10 8 PzJgKp 1021 (L), tbd 10 10 PzJgKp 1269, tbd 251.InfDiv 7 542.VGrenDiv (1542) 14 252.InfDiv (1205) 1 35.InfDiv (1035) 13 5.JgDiv 13 7.InfDiv (KpfGr) 13 PzAbt 302 (Fkl) 26 Heeresgruppe Nord 32.InfDiv (1032), tbd 10 227.InfDiv (1227), tbd 10 24.PzDiv 1 1 PzJgKp 1233 9 StuGAbt 1006 (L) 11 4.PzDiv, advancing 14 18.PzGrenDiv 31 2 28.JgDiv (1028) 10 541.VGrenDiv (1541) 14 102.InfDiv (1102) 10 14.InfDiv 11 292.InfDiv (1292) 8 PzGrenDiv Grossdeutschland 2 1 299.InfDiv 9 562.VGrenDiv (1562) 9 131.InfDiv 9 558.VGrenDiv (1558) 9 170.InfDiv (1240) 3 367.InfDiv (1367) 8 50.InfDiv (1150) 10 21.InfDiv (1021) 2 Fallsch PzGrenDiv 2 Hermann Göring 29 61.InfDiv 5 5.PzDiv 1 549.VGrenDiv (1549) 4 1.InfDiv (1001) 9 69.InfDiv (1169) 10 56.InfDiv (1156) 10 561.VGrenDiv 10 95.InfDiv (1195) 8 8 548.VGrenDiv 6 58.InfDiv (1158) 7 1 7 Heeresgruppe ‘Kurland’ 190.InfDiv 6 30.InfDiv 9 tbd: to be delivered.

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Unit/ordnance

STURMGESCHÜTZ

PzKpfw II StuG L/24 StuG L/43 StuG L/48 StuH 42

StuG IV L40 47/32 (i) M42 75/34 (i) M43 105/25 (i)

14.PzDiv 14 87.InfDiv (1187) 4 7 11.SS Freiw. PzGrenDiv Nordland 126.InfDiv (1126) 10 11.InfDiv (1011) 10 218.InfDiv (1218) 7 263.InfDiv (1263) 8 2 9 563.VGrenDiv (1563) 121.InfDiv (1121) 8 132.InfDiv 7 225.InfDiv (1225) 2 5 12.PzDiv 22 329.InfDiv (1329) 4 5 389.InfDiv (1389) 9 215.InfDiv 10 24.InfDiv (1024) 3 8 122.InfDiv (1022) 10 93.InfDiv (1193) 8 81.InfDiv (1181) 6 205.InfDiv (1205) 7 AOK 20 (Norwegen) PzBrig Norwegen 10 14. Lw Fdiv 4 Dänemark 233. Res PzDiv 4 West 1.SS PzDiv Adolf Hitler 2 2.SS PzDiv Reich 7 9.SS PzDiv Hohenstaufen 13 25.PzGrenDiv 2 Führer-BeglDiv 10 7 Führer-GrenDiv 1 361. VGrenDiv 8 Heeresgruppe ‘H’ Fallsch ErsuAusbRgt Hermann Göring 1 346.InfDiv (1346) (KpfGr) 10 84.InfDiv (KpfGr) 2 190.InfDiv, no report Fallsch StuGBrig 12 (mot) 17

2

Heeresgruppe ‘B’ 116.PzDiv 2 PzJgAbt 559 7 85.InfDiv 2 353.VGrenDiv 7 12.VGrenDiv 1 3.FallschJgDiv (1348) 8 15.PzGrenDiv 16

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Unit/ordnance

PzKpfw II StuG L/24 StuG L/43 StuG L/48 StuH 42

253

StuG IV L40 47/32 (i) M42 75/34 (i) M43 105/25 (i)

3.PzGrenDiv 1 13 9.PzGrenDiv 8 89.InfDiv (189) 9 2.PzDiv (KpfGr) 9 9.VGrenDiv 6 276.VGrenDiv (1276) 2 PzJgAbt 519 5 5.FallschJgDiv 1 PzAbt (Fkl) 319 5 Heeresgruppe ‘G’ 212.VGrenDiv (1212) 3 2 11.PzDiv 3 17.PzGrenDiv Götz von Berlichingen 12 256.VGrenDiv (1256) 5 36.VGrenDiv 5 19.VGrenDiv (1119) 3 559.VGrenDiv (1559) 7 ‘Oberrhein’ 553.VGrenDiv (1553) 2 338.InfDiv 10 159. InfDiv (1089) 4 Heeresgruppe ‘C’ 356.InfDiv 5 3 Armeegruppe Ligurien 162.(Turk) 6 5.GebDiv (1085) 12 34.InfDiv (1034) 10 90.PzGrenDiv 25 362.InfDiv 6 16.SS PzGrenDiv Reichsführer SS 30 65.InfDiv 1 1.Fallsch JgDiv 2 334.InfDiv 6 4 305.InfDiv 4 2 26.PzDiv 6 278.InfDiv 2 114.JgDiv 5 PzAbt Süd 4 10 PzAbt ‘Adria’ 1 1 Fallsch StuGBrig ‘Schmitz’ 41 Heeresgruppe ‘E & F’ 369.Kroat InfDiv 5 SS StugAbt ‘Skanderberg’ 3 117.JgDiv 2 373.Kroat InfDiv 1 392.Kroat InfDiv 1 SS PzKp B 1

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Warsaw in the summer of 1944: A Sturmgeschütz of PzAbt 302 (Fkl) fires on a building occupied by partisans. The pile of empty shell cases lays testimony to the fierce battles fought during the uprising. (Getty)

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‘neuses Sturmgeschütz ’ in 1945

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Conclusion Even in the modern era, the Sturmgeschutz assault gun; its subsequent technical development and tactical deployment (from 1940 onwards) continues to hold a certain fascination for military enthusiasts and historians. The soldiers of the new Sturmartillerie considered themselves as members of an elite force, possibly comparable the British SAS or to the infamous Waffen-SS. This feeling of superiority led to a formidable esprit de corps which the German propaganda machine exploited in a vast number of newspaper and film reports. After the end of World War II, this spirit continued as veterans of the Sturmartillerie kept in contact by forming Alte Kameraden (old comrades) associations which met on a regular basis. Over the years, the author has been able to speak to many of these veterans and heard their tales, many interesting and some moving experiences. However, he did have to learn that as more years passed, the veterans began to spend more time glorifying their role in the war and extolling the power of their assault gun. The author has made an effort not to be over-awed by this and concentrate on assimilating the facts. This was not always easy as even an inquisitive author can be affected by emotions. However, every single piece of information gathered had, whenever possible, to be cross-checked against information found in archives. In some cases documentation just did not exist. Nevertheless, the achievements of the Sturmartillerie equipped with Sturmgeschütz, especially on the Ostfront (Eastern Front), were numerous and formidable. (See Sturmartillerie: Spearhead of the Infantry. Osprey: 2016.)

Sturmgeschütz vs Panzer Perhaps Guderian’s concept of armoured warfare and the type of tank required to break through enemy lines was forward-looking, but it was not revolutionary.

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Developed as an answer to the Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks encountered in 1941, the 7.5cm StuK 40 L/48 became the standard ordnance for the Sturmgeschütz. This powerful weapon proved to be effective against all enemy tanks up until the war ended. (Anderson)

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Above: A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G passing a column of infantry supported by horse-drawn transport. Note the square plate which has been welded on the front plate to cover a hole left by a shell. (Anderson) Right: The commander of a Sturmgeschütz in the cupola: First introduced on the Ausf G, this item fitted with seven vision blocks was a great improvement and allowed all-round vision of the battlefield. (NARA)

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However, in 1940 when German forces launched their Blitzkrieg (lightning war) attack through northern Europe, French and British forces collapsed in the face of concentrated tank assaults. The Sturmartillerie units attached to infantry divisions to provide fire support were of equal importance during the invasion. Whenever and wherever Sturmgeschütz were available, they would play a vital part in every German advance, in company with tanks of the Panzerwaffe, from 1940 to 1942. After German forces were routed from Moscow in December 1941, the strategic situation began a slow change. From 1942, there was a urgent requirement to develop weapons powerful enough to defeat the ever-increasing numbers of Soviet tanks. A simple solution was to deploy the Sturmgeschütz in the anti-tank role. In the coming years, the type was improved and when up-gunned with the 7.5cm StuK 40 L/43 it became an effective tank destroyer and much feared by attacking tank forces. The parlous economic situation in the Third Reich seriously delayed the building of new production facilities to meet the requirements of the Panzerwaffe. The subsequent shortfall in tank numbers forced military planners to increase Sturmgeschütz production.

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A Sturmgeschütz concealed behind a heap of straw in the yard of a farm in Russia. The vehicle is fitted with late-type Ostketten (east tracks) and a Bosch headlamp, an item usually fitted on German tanks, mounted on the left track guard. (Anderson)

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The Sturmgeschütz was conceived to support the infantry by directly attacking the enemy in their positions. Combat against an enemy tank was to be avoided, but if it did occur (at close range) the Sturmgeschütz was often the victor. However, in a counterattack against enemy tanks, the StuG was very vulnerable to any attack on the flanks. Also being turretless the vehicle could not be quickly manoeuvred to gain line-of-sight on enemy armour, advancing from the side, or a well-hidden anti-tank gun. The lack of a close-defence weapon (machine gun) was a grave error. This tactical disadvantage called for certain measures to be taken. Soon specialist infantry support platoons were provided to guard the Sturmgeschütz serving with other forces – Sturmartillerie, Panzertruppe and Infantry. However, deployment of the Sturmgeschütz remained difficult. It was important for the commander of the unit to be as tactically aware as his

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StuG commanders, and be aware of the type’s limitations under certain battlefield conditions. A number of after action reports in this book will have enlightened the reader. Development of the Sturmgeschütz (in the context of this book the StuG III, and later the StuG IV), and with it the Panzer IV began in the mid-1930s, but by 1941/42 both were outdated by the modern T-34 and KV tanks; also to a certain degree by the US-built M4 Sherman. In this critical situation, both the Panzer IV and the Sturmgeschütz proved to be in need of updating. The short-barrelled 7.5cm KwK L/24 gun mounted in the StuG was replaced by the more powerful 7.5cm StuK 40 L/48, and frontal armour was increased to 80mm. Now the problems with the structure of the German armaments industry became apparent. It proved to be impossible to produce sufficient numbers of the planned successor to the Panzer IV; the PzKpfw V Panther medium

In early 1944, 11.PzDiv was positioned in France to be re-equipped and undertake training exercises. While there it received a Sturmgeschütz company to strengthen PzJgAbt 61, its tank destroyer battalion. (Anderson)

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Hungary 1945: Men of PzJgAbt 1052 in front of a late production Sturmgeschütz III mounting RundumfeuerMachinengewehr (all-round fire machine gun). The tactical number 124 has been stencilled in black on the Seitenschürzen (side skirts). (von Aufsess)

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tank. And while the development of a ‘neues Sturmgeschütz’ (new assault gun) would eventually lead to the leichte Panzerjäger (le PzJg) IV and the Panzer IV/70 armed with the 7.5cm KwK 42 L/70, they would also, due to many diverse reasons, never be produced in sufficient numbers. Subsequently it proved to be indispensable to keep both the Sturmgeschütz III and the PzKpfw IV in production until end of the war. It is important to remember that towards the end of the war Sturmgeschütz units in the east, whether under the command of the Sturmartillerie or attached to subunits in the infantry divisions, were still achieving a great number of victories over Soviet forces: The number of enemy tanks they destroyed is astonishing. Although there is the danger of careless simplification, it seems that the German units were able to overcome their numerical inferiority on the Eastern Front by utilizing much better tactical skills. Fighting against Allied troops, this advantage was nullified. After-action reports made in Normandy and in Italy show that the lack of a turret was a major problem. In the narrow tracks through the Italian mountains and the hedgerows of Normandy, it would be almost impossible for the gunner in a Sturmgeschütz to align his gunsight on a target.

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The Sturmgeschütz, a low-profile, turretless assault gun was a true German invention and was possibly the most significant armoured fighting vehicle of World War II; particularly in the vastness of Russia. The Sturmgeschütz will remain an iconic weapon, thanks to the incredible number of tank kills, and the combat history of StuG units contains incredible stories of success and many defeats. The Soviets were impressed by the Sturmgeschütz, and used the concept to design their own assault guns (SU-122, SU-85, SU-100 and ISU 122 and ISU 152). The concept continued after the war, as the Soviets developed the heavily-armed mobile weapons such as the SU-122/54. In the 1960s two turretless types entered service; the Swedish Army, developed the Stridsvagn 103 (S-Tank) and the 90mm Kanonenjagdpanzer (tank destroyer gun) for the Bundeswehr of West Germany Possibly the last ‘ancestors’ of the Sturmgeschütz. The main battle tank in the armies of today is a multi-functional and more versatile weapon.

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It was common practice for the crew of a StuG to burrow-out a hole under their vehicle as a shelter from enemy artillery fire. On the rear of the vehicle the tactical marking ‘G’ is just visible; the Balkenkreuz has a nonstandard black outline. (Anderson)

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The Seitenschürzen (side skirts) were never intended to give protection against fire from a heavy weapon. This late production Sturmgeschütz has received a direct hit which has penetrated the skirts before punching a hole in the side armour of the hull. (Getty)

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INDEX 1.Skijäger-Division 13, 22, 135, 139, 252 12.Luftwaffe Felddivision 63, 70, 180, 183 18.Artillerie-Division 129, 139, 141, 143 21.Luftwaffe Felddivision 20, 181, 183 24.PzDiv 12, 90–1, 95, 111, 253 43.PzDiv standard 74 78.StuDiv 126–7, 131, 133, 135–6 90.PzGrenDiv 108–9, 116 reorganization October 1943 120–1, 123 A Aachen 15, 188 Abteilung, proposed change of definition 90 Aerial 81, 213 Alkett manufacturers 14, 19, 91, 105, 133, 135, 157, 158, 160, 196–7, 208, 229, 231 Anzio 111, 152 AOK 53, 59, 67, 209, 214, 252, 254 AP (armour piercing) 14, 49, 59, 138 Armour plate 69, 75, 138, 152, 166, 167, 191, 211, 229, 249 Austria 72, 220, 231 B Balkans 8, 45, 49, 108, 242 Balkenkreuze 8, 28, 64, 109, 120, 176–7, 263 Banská-Bystrica 10 Bagration, Operation 131 Barbarossa, Operation 14, 31, 45, 49, 53, 87

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Begleitgrenadier-Batterien (escort Grenadier batteries) 105 Behelfsfkran (auxiliary crane) 158 Beiwagenkrad 81 Belgium 178, 227 Beobachtungswagen 38 Bergepanzer 136, 170, 190, 249 Borgward B IV 142, 150, 153 C Chefgeschütz (commander’s StuG) 23 Cherkassy 122, 205 Cologne 231 Crimea 101 Cupola 18, 20, 33, 63, 76, 84, 98–9, 178, 208–9, 237, 258 Czechoslovakia 67, 72 D Daimler-Benz 157, 160 Denmark 193 Dniepr River 121, 205 Dozer blade 161 E Eisenach 141 El Alamein 89 F Fallschirmjäger Panzerdivision 74 Fall Weiss (CaseWhite) 9 Ferdinand (Elefant) 18, 125, 151, 153 Finland 27 Fitzbalgfilter (air filters) 60, 147, 193 FlaK 34, 53, 54, 57–8, 67, 111, 165, 172, 189, 191, 244 Flammpanzer III 96

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Index

France 9, 29, 34–5, 45–6, 48, 53, 64, 95, 101, 108, 143, 152, 179, 189, 196, 206, 239, 242, 261 Funklenkeinheiten (radio-controlled demolition vehicle units) 148 Funkwagen 157 G Generalstab des Heeres (GenstbH) 7, 135 Goebbels, Joseph 90 Göring, Generalfeldmarschall Hermann 64–7, 71–2 Greece 34, 80, 85 Guderian, General Heinz 7, 9, 14, 18–19, 37, 58, 93, 98, 101–102, 109, 125, 157, 164–5, 176, 203, 206–9, 214

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H Halder, Army Chief of Staff 89 Henschel 157 HFlaKArtAbt (Army Anti-Aircraft Battalion) 111 High-explosive (HE) ammunition 14, 49, 59, 221, 224, 229 Himmler, Heinrich 25–6, 29–30, 48 Hitler, Adolf 18, 25–9, 31–3, 48, 89, 139, 160–1, 231, 254 Holland 27, 67 Hummel 141, 143 I Infrgt Grossdeutschland 38 Italy 21, 61, 71, 74, 79, 84, 111–12, 117, 152, 179, 225–6, 242, 262

267

April 1944: A Sturmgeschütz Ausf G of PzDiv Hermann Göring has been positioned on a bridge near Monte Cassino in preparation for an attack by advancing Allied forces. The unit deployed its Stug, with much success, against enemy troops attacking the Benedictine monastery and the surrounding area. (Getty)

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J Jagdpanzer 19, 171, 176–7, 201, 215, 229, 231–2 Josef Stalin tank 236, 238 JS-2 239 K Kharkov 26, 35, 46, 210 Kiev 35 Kolberg 63 Korsun, Battle of 205 Krupp 159–61, 231 Kübelwagen 139 Kurland 242, 245, 248-9, 253 Kursk/Zitadelle 71, 131, 142, 148, 151–2, 214, 222 KV tank 14, 49, 53, 59, 165, 220, 232, 257, 261 KwK 37 49 KwK 40 14, 19, 56, 148, 196, 229 KwK 42 165, 229–30, 262 L Landungsträger (demolition charge carriers) 138, 142, 153–4 Latvia 242 Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) 25–7, 29, 31–5, 38–9, 42, 44–7 Leningrad 69, 89 Lübke, Hauptmann 75–6, 79, 81 Luftwaffe 8, 15, 21, 53, 58, 60, 63–5, 67, 71, 82, 83, 87, 166, 201 Luftwaffe-Feldbrigaden 65 Luftwaffe-Feldeinheiten 64, 232 Luftwaffe Field Divisions 73–85, 183 M MAN 157 Mantlet 46, 80, 95, 105, 116, 135, 164, 198, 208, 239 Saukopf 95, 105, 116, 135, 164, 208, 239

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Maultier (Mule) half-track truck 189 Maybach 160 MG 34 22, 196, 221, 230 MG 42 22 MIAG 12, 109, 136, 157, 210, 229, 231, 233 Mielau 208, 214 Milowitz 188 MNH 157 Mobilmachung 8 Moscow 45, 89, 259 N Naples 74, 82, 84 Netherlands see Holland Nibelungenwerk, Austria 231 Normandy 225–6, 262 North Africa 72, 89–90, 108 Norway 53–4, 141, 143 NSU 189 O OKH 33, 87, 120, 207, 215 Organisationsabteilung (OrgAbt) 54, 64–5, 67, 72, 87, 90, 111, 121, 167, 170, 173, 176–7, 189, 200 Ostketten 133, 164, 167, 190, 202, 259 P PaK 38 53, 69, 195 PaK 40 7.5cm 58, 60, 69, 165, 172, 195–6 PaK 40 (Sfl) 60, 172, 196–7, 227 PaK 43 8.8cm 125, 200 Pak 97/38 69 Panzerbefehlswagen 96 Panzerjäger 61, 91, 125, 160–1, 167, 173, 176, 179, 190–1, 199, 201, 206–8, 214, 225, 230–1, 262 Panzerjäger-Sturmgeschütz 207–8, 214-15 Panzerschock 14, 56 Panzerschürzen 96, 148

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Index

Panzer-Sturmgeschütz-Abteilungen establishment 93-5 Panzer-SturmgeschützKompanie organization November 1943 100 Periscope 33, 36, 64, 80, 93, 191 Poland 72, 150, 173, 179, 206, 208, 220 Porsche, Ferdinand 18, 125 Praga engine 196 PzAOK 209, 214, 252 PzDiv Hermann Göring 21, 61, 65–6, 69, 74, 77, 82, 201 Organizational structure October 1942 73 PzDiv Norwegen 131, 143, 145, 183, 254 PzGrenDiv Feldherrnhalle 116, 198 PzGrenDiv organization April 1943 109–10, 116 PzGrenDiv-SS Nordland 117, 254 PzGrenDiv Wiking 42, 47–8, 186, 203, 211, 225–6, 252 PzJgAbt 29 203 PzJgAbt 31 196–7 PzJgAbt 41 59

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PzJgAbt 45 220 PzJgAbt 152 135, 139 PzJgAbt 244 188–9 PzJgAbt 559 202, 254 PzJgAbt 1011 (L) 85 PzJgAbt 1014 (L) 53, 56 PzJgAbt 1021 (L) 55 PzJgAbt 1052 262 PzKpfw III 19, 60, 63, 69, 70, 75, 98-9, 101, 129, 141, 143, 145, 149, 157, 160, 201, 206, 242, 244 Ausf F 14 PzKpfw IV 9, 14, 19, 49, 93, 98–9, 101–2, 105, 108, 111, 120–1, 133, 141, 148–9, 157–61, 164–5, 171, 200–201, 230–2 PzKpfw V 19, 69, 93, 101, 108, 111, 151–2, 157, 165, 171, 229, 242, 261 PzKpfw VI 18, 69–70, 125, 151–2, 157, 171, 232, 247–8

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The commander of a Sturmgeschütz Ausf C or D from LiebstandarteSS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) observes a target in preparation for providing support fire. Note the Scherenfernrohr (scissor telescope) fitted in his position. (NARA)

R RAF 157 Romania 165

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Rommel, General Erwin 90 Rostov 35 Rundumfeuer-maschingewehr (allround fire machine gun) 112, 135, 159, 224, 230, 262 S Schnelle Truppen 59, 109, 125–6 Schönherr, Oberleutnant 122 Schutzenpanzerwagen (armoured half-track carrier) 157, 169, 221 Schwere Artillerie-Abteilung 67 Schwimmwagen 217 SdKfz 9 145, 170, 177, 216 142 (Stug III) 170–1, 231 167 231 184 125, 151 and see Ferdinand 248 70–1, 101 249 157 252 70 253 38 Seitenschürzen 9, 15, 63, 66, 89–90, 98, 105, 109, 106, 116, 131, 136, 166, 173, 179, 182, 184, 186, 196, 198, 202, 210, 214–5, 224–5, 230, 238, 244, 262–5 Selbstfahrlafetten (Sfl) self-propelled guns Semovente Italian self-propelled guns 34, 39, 43, 47, 55, 58, 60, 87, 111, 127, 172, 196–7, 227 Sherman tank 76, 79, 81–2, 123, 227, 261 Sicily 65, 74 Skijäger 13, 22, 133, 135, 139 Škoda 230 Slovakian National Uprising 10 Smoke candle discharger 21, 76, 102–3, 128, 197, 244 Smolensk 131 Sonderanhänger trailer 60, 70 SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs division Prinz Eugen 218, 221, 232 SS-PzDiv Hohenstaufen 224, 254

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SS-PzDiv/ PzGrenDiv Totenkopf 26–7, 37, 42, 46, 49-50, 222 SS-PzGrenDiv Das Reich 26, 34–5, 37, 45–6, 200, 210, 214 SS-StuGAbt 5 205 SS-StuGAbt 9 205, 209 Sternantenne (star antenna) 84, 127, 163 Stielhandgranate 71 Stock, Hauptmann 139 Stritdsvagn 103 Swedish turretless tank 263 StuDiv Rhodos 125–8, 132–3 StuGAbt 189 126–7, 133 StuGAbt 197 18 StuGAbt 209 72, 90 StuGAbt 226 69–71 StuGAbt 270 135, 139 StuGAbt 279 133 StuGAbt 911 18 StuGAbt 912 18 StuGAbt 1006 253 StuGKp 153, 173, 176–7, 225, 236, 238, 245 StuK 40 14, 34, 38, 42, 4950, 56, 70, 82, 91, 96, 116, 126, 141, 171, 227, 238, 257, 259 Sturmabteilung (SA) 25 Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 56, 74, 87, 90, 93, 125, 130, 197, 201, 207, 209, 214 and passim Sturmgeschütz Ausf A (O-series) 25, 27–8, 48 Sturmgeschütz Ausf B 138 Sturmgeschütz Ausf D 152 Sturmgeschütz Ausf F Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8 8, 40, 58, 60–1, 63, 66, 77, 80, 141, 157 Sturmgeschütz Ausf G 13, 18, 21, 26, 42, 63, 69, 75, 82, 84, 105, 116, 125, 128–9, 131, 133, 135, 142, 145, 178, 196–7, 199, 206, 214, 216, 218, 221 Sturmgeschütz IV (StuG III) 9, 158–9, 163–7, 170, 172–3, 223

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Index

Sturmgeschütz Ersatz und Ausbildung Abteilungen 193 Sturmgeschütz M43 mit 75/46 123 SturmgeschützM43 mit105/25 ‘Bassoto’ (dachshund) 120–1 Sturmgeschütz-tank production1941–43 171 Sturmhaubitzen 74–5, 77, 135, 170, 232, 239 Sturmkanone see StuK 40 T T-34 tank 14, 49, 53, 59, 122–3, 129, 165, 220–21, 225, 234, 236, 238, 257, 261 Telescope 57 Turan II 216 U Ukraine 182, 185 196, 242 Unrein, Oberst 101 Uranus, Operation 90 USAF 157

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V Ventilation 26, 48, 80 Vincenza 112 VOMAG 160, 230 Von Manstein, Generaloberst 9 Von Paulus, Feldmarschall Friedrich 90 W Wachtmeister 80, 82 Warsaw 152–3, 229 Warsaw uprising 150, 153, 242 Winterketten 13, 49, 58, 147, 177, 183, 205, 206, 226, 208, 210, 230, 239 Wolfsangel 37 Y Yugoslavia 45, 218 Z Zeitzler, Army Chief of Staff 89 Zimmerit 9, 91, 109, 135–6, 159, 165, 196–7 Zugkraftwagen 65, 104, 145, 170, 216

Two Sturmgeschütz Ausf F/8 of PzDiv Hermann Göring pass along a street in an unknown Italian city during the retreat to the north after Allied forces were victorious at Monte Cassino on 25 May 1944. (Anderson)

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Acknowledgements To write this book I have used information found by researching in a number of public archives, including the Bundesarchiv/Militärarchiv (BAMA) in Freiburg, Germany, and the National Archives & Records Administrations (NARA), Washington, USA. A new and valuable resource is the internet-based Project for the Digitizing of German Documents in the Archives of the Russian Federation which was used to gather and confirm historical detail. I referred to only a small number of post-war publications, but mainly the commendable Panzertracts series produced by Thomas Jentz and Hilary L. Doyle. I also wish to express my gratitude to John Nelson who has kindly shared with me much precious and revealing newly discovered information. My sincere gratitude to the following individuals who granted me access to their collections of photographs: Florian von Aufsess, Peter Kocsis (PeKo), Sergei Netrebenko, Peter Müller (Historyfacts), Jürgen Wilhelm, Dr. Werner Regenberg, also Wolfgang Schneider, Yves Beraud, Karlheinz Münch, and Henry Hoppe. Further images were obtained from NARA and Getty Images (including the image on page 4–5 from Getty). Finally, my sincere thanks to Jasper Spencer-Smith, my editor and an everpatient gentleman. Thanks also to Nigel Pell, for his most pleasing layout, and to Shaun Barrington for the index. Bibliography Panzertruppen, Volume 1 and 2, Thomas Jentz, Podzun-Pallas Verlag Panzertracts, several issues, Panzertracts, Maryland, USA Verbände und Truppen der Deutschen Wehrmacht (16 Volumes), G. Tessin

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