Historical Information for Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III)
The Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III) assault gun was Germany's most produced armoured fighting vehicle during World War II. It was built on the chassis of the proven Panzer III tank. Initially intended as a mobile, armoured light gun for infantry support, the StuG was continually modified and was widely employed as a tank destroyer.
The vehicles of the Sturmgeschütz series were cheaper to build than the contemporary German tanks; at 82,500 RM, a StuG III Ausf G was cheaper than a Panzer III Ausf. M which cost 103,163 RM to build. By the end of the war, 10,619 StuG III and StuH 42 had been built.
The Sturmgeschütz III originated from German experiences in World War I when it was discovered that during the offensives on the western front the infantry lacked the means to effectively engage fortifications. The artillery of the time was heavy and not mobile enough to keep up with the advancing infantry to destroy bunkers, pillboxes, and other minor obstacles with direct-fire. Although the problem was well-known in the German army, it was General Erich von Manstein who is considered the father of the Sturmartillerie. This is because the initial proposal was from (then) Colonel Erich von Manstein and submitted to General Ludwig Beck in 1935, suggesting that Sturmartillerie ("assault artillery") units should be used in a direct-fire support role for infantry divisions. On June 15, 1936, Daimler-Benz AG received an order to develop an armoured infantry support vehicle capable of mounting a 75 mm (3.0 in) artillery piece. The gun was to have a limited traverse of a minimum of 25° and be mounted in an enclosed superstructure that provided overhead protection for the crew. The height of the vehicle was not to exceed that of the average man.
Daimler-Benz AG used the chassis and running gear of its recently designed Pz.Kpfw. III medium tank as a basis for the new vehicle. Prototype manufacture was passed over to Alkett, which produced five examples in 1937 of the experimental 0-series StuG based upon the Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. B. These prototypes featured a mild steel superstructure and Krupps short-barreled 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 cannon. This model was known as the Sturmgeschütz Ausführung A.
While the StuG III was considered self-propelled artillery it was not initially clear which arm of the Wehrmacht would handle the new weapon. The Panzer arm, who was the natural user of tracked fighting vehicles, had no resources to spare for the formation of StuG units, and neither did the Infantry branch. It was therefore agreed, after a discussion, it would best be employed by becoming a part of the artillery arm.
The StuGs were organised into battalions (later renamed "brigades" for disinformation purposes) and followed their own specific doctrine. Infantry support using direct-fire was its intended role, and later there was also a strong emphasis on destroying enemy armour whenever encountered.
As the StuG III was designed to fill an infantry close support combat role, early models were fitted with a low-velocity 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 gun to destroy soft-skin targets and fortifications. After the Germans encountered the Soviet KV-1 and T-34 tanks, the StuG III was equipped with a high-velocity 75 mm StuK 40 L/43 main gun (Spring 1942) and later – the 75 mm StuK 40 L/48 (Autumn 1942) anti-tank gun. These versions were known as the Sturmgeschütz 40 Ausführung F, Ausf. F/8 and Ausf. G.
When the StuG IV entered production in late 1943, early 1944, the "III" was added to the name to separate them from the Panzer IV-based assault guns. All previous and following models were thereafter known as Sturmgeschütz III.
Beginning with the StuG III Ausf. E a 7.92 mm MG34 was mounted on the hull for added anti-infantry protection while some StuG III Ausf. G models were equipped with an additional coaxial 7.92 mm MG34.
Overall, Sturmgeschütz series assault guns proved very successful and served on all fronts as assault guns and tank destroyers. Although Tigers and Panthers have earned a greater notoriety, assault guns collectively destroyed more tanks. Because of their low silhouette, StuG IIIs were easy to camouflage and a difficult target. Sturmgeschütz crews were considered to be the elite of the artillery units. Sturmgeschütz units held a very impressive record of tank kills – some 20,000 enemy tanks by the spring of 1944.As of April 10 1945, there were 1,053 StuG IIIs and 277 StuH 42s in service. Approximately 9,500 StuG IIIs of various types were produced until March 1945 by Alkett and a small number by MIAG.
In 1944 the Finnish Army received 59 StuG III Ausf. Gs from Germany (30 Stu 40 Ausf.G and 29 StuG III Ausf. G) and used them against the Soviet Union. These destroyed at least 87 enemy tanks for a loss of only 8 StuGs (some of these were destroyed by their crews when they abandoned the vehicle to prevent capture). After the war, they were the main combat vehicles of the Finnish Army until the early 1960s. These StuGs gained the nickname "Sturmi" which can be found in some plastic kit models.
StuG IIIs were also exported to other nations like Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Romania, and Spain.
Many German Sturmgeschütz IIIs were captured by Yugoslav Partisans and after the war they were used by the Yugoslav Peoples Army until the 1950s.
After the Second World War, the Soviet Union donated some of their captured German vehicles to Syria, which continued to use them at least until the Six Days War (1967)
Technical Information Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III)