Historical Information for Marder II
Even in the early stages of Operation Barbarossa, the Wehrmacht already felt the need for a more mobile and more powerful anti-tank weapon than the existing towed anti-tank guns or tank destroyers like the Panzerjäger I. This need became urgent in late 1941, with the appearance of the new Soviet tanks like the T-34 and Kliment Voroshilov.
As an interim solution, it was decided to use both obsolete tanks like the Panzer II and captured vehicles like the Lorraine as the base for makeshift tank destroyers. The result was the Marder series, which were armed with either the 75 mm PaK 40 anti-tank guns or the Soviet 76.2 mm F-22 Model 1936 divisional field gun, of which large numbers had been captured.
The Marder II came in two major versions. The first version Marder II (Sd.Kfz. 132) was based on obsolete Panzer II Ausf. D/E and Flammpanzer II chassis with Christie suspension. It was armed with captured Russian 7.62 cm guns. These Marder II had a very high silhouette (2.60 m high), thin armor of only 30 mm (front) and 10 to 15 mm (sides). There was no protection for the top or rear leaving the crew with very little protection. Alkett and Wegmann produced 201 Marder II (Sd. Kfz. 132) from early 1942 to early 1943.
The second version Marder II (Sd.Kfz. 131) was based on Panzer II Ausf. A to C removed from active service but later also newly produced Ausf. F chassis were used. This Marder II had a redesigned (widened) fighting compartment and used the German 75 mm PaK 40 anti-tank gun. The silhouette was lowered by about 40 cm to 2.20 m of height but the armor was thin and open to the top and rear just like in Sd. Kfz. 132. FAMO, MAN and Daimler-Benz produced 576 Marder II (Sd.Kfz. 131) from June 1942 to Mid 1943. 75 more were converted (probably by FAMO only) from Mid 1943 to early 1944 when the last Panzer II's were taken out of active service.
The various Marder IIs fought on all fronts of the war, mainly at the Eastern Front.
The Marder IIs were used by the Panzerjäger Abteilungen of the Panzer divisions of both the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS, as well as several Luftwaffe units.
The Marder's weaknesses were mainly related to survivability. The combination of a high silhouette and open-top armor protection made them vulnerable to indirect artillery fire. The armor was also quite thin, making them vulnerable to enemy tanks or infantry at close range.
The Marders were not assault vehicles or tank substitutes; the open top meant that operations in urban areas or other close-combat situations were very risky. They were best employed in defensive or overwatch roles. Despite their weaknesses they were much more effective than the towed antitank guns they replaced.