German Vehicles - StuG III

I take great pleasure in writing this article. This vehicle is one of my favourites and also was one of the most important of the German AFV's of World War Two.

The StuG III was a common self propelled gun which first saw action in France during the 1940 campaign.


StuG III Self Propelled GunThe temptation to include various other related vehicles such as the StuG IV, Jagdpanzer IV and Hetzer, within the framework of this article will be overcome.

That is not to say that those vehicles could not singularly or as a group be included with the StuG III, but I would prefer to allow a moment of literary limelight to fall upon the StuG III alone.

History of the StuG III

The SturmGeshutz (assault gun) III began life as a result of a decision made in June 1936 to provide an armored assault gun for the support of infantry and also for anti-tank duties. The vehicle was to be based on the Panzer IIIF, although the initial prototype vehicles were based on the Panzer IIIB.

The silhouette was to be kept as low as possible by mounting the gun directly onto the hull of the vehicle and not mounting it in a turret. The gun chosen was the 75mm L24, then being employed on the Panzer IV.

The StuG III ausf A version, of which some 30 were produced, was sent into action for the first time in France in 1940. After the ausf A came the ausf B, C, D and E versions (320, 50, 150 & 272 produced respectively). All of these mounted the 75mm L24 and incorporated various modifications, including wider tracks and consequently different drive sprockets and rear idlers and changes to the superstructure, amongst them.

In early 1942, the experiences learnt on the Eastern Front, especially the early encounters with the Soviets superior T34 and KV-1, led the Germans to up gun and up armour the StuG. The result was the StuG ausf F. This had a 75mm L43, paralleling the introduction of the same gun into the Panzer IV. 359 of the ausf F were produced.

In September 1942, the StuG ausf F/8 was introduced and 334 were produced. This model had improvements in hull design and used the hull of the Panzer IIIJ or L. The StuG III was so successful and such was the demand for it, in preference for the Panzer III, that Alkett - one of the major producers of the Panzer III - ceased production of the Panzer III, in favour of the StuG.

December 1942 marked the beginning of production of the most produced single "ausf" of any German AFV of World War Two (excluding the ausf D version of the Sdkfz 251). I am speaking of course of the StuG IIIG. 7720 were produced plus 173 converted from Panzer III's.

While the hull remained unchanged, this version saw a number of changes made to the superstructure. Many of these modifications were the result of combat experience. The roof was altered and a cupola of cylindrical structure, with periscopes for the commander, was added. This had a hatch hinged at the rear. A shield for the machine-gun was also installed in front of the loader's hatch. The ventilator and fan were moved from the top of the roof plate to the rear wall of the superstructure, over the engine deck. The superstructure sides were now slanted.

During the production run, various improvements were introduced. These included -

  • The Saupkopf (pig's head) gun mantlet (in February 1944)
  • The co-axial machine-gun (early 1944) and the close in defence weapon
  • Remote control machine-guns onto the superstructure roof (late spring 1944).

"Schurzen" – anti bazooka plates – and Zimmerit (anti-magnetic paste) were added during production, although they could be affixed "in the field", if not fitted during production.

Overall, compared to a tank, the StuG was less expensive and less complex to produce. Coupled with this, was its low silhouette and relative mechanical reliability. Needless to say, the StuG was popular vehicle within the German Army, both to its crews and to those it supported. More of that later.

Manufactured:
Number Manufactured:
First issued to combat unit:
Weight (tons):
Dimensions - Length (m):
Height (m):
Width (m):

Armament & Ammunition
Main:
Secondary:

Armour
Maximum:
Minimum:

Crew
Maximum Speed (km/h)
Range (km/h)
Jan 1940 - Mar 1942
822
Feb 1940
19.6 - 20.8
5.38 - 5.4
1.98
2.93


75 L24 44 rounds



50 mm
11 mm

4
40
200
Mar 1942 - Mar 1945
8586
Spring 1942
21.6 - 23.9
6.31 - 6.77
2.16m
2.95m


75mm L43/48 44/54 rounds
1 x 7.92mm MG34 600 rounds


80mm
11m

4
40
140 - 155

Some notes of explanation, for the table above. StuG III (early) are ausf A-E, StuG III (late) are F, F/S and G. Also, I have deliberately omitted the specific details for the 105mm versions of the StuG – known as the StuH (StuH 42). This is for the simple reasons that, for all intents and purposes, the 105mm versions had no significant differences to the 'normal' 75mm versions, other than the substitution of the 105mm gun. The StuH 42 (Sdkfz 142/2) were based on the ausf F, F/S and G versions of the StuG III. A total of 1211 were produced between October 1942 and February 1945.

StuG III - Organisation

The StuG III (and other similar assault guns) was organised into separate battalions – Abteilungen. This title - Sturmgeschutz Abteilungen - was changed in 1943 to Sturmgeschutz Brigade (StuG Brigade). This was in order to confuse the enemy into thinking that they were encountering a much larger formation that was the case. Many of these became integrated into the Panzer and Panzergrenadier Divisions, as the war progressed. If not integrated into one of these divisions, the assault gun battalions were usually held at corps or army level and assigned as the need arose.

However, as the StuG was considered artillery, the command for these units attached to the Panzer or Panzergrenadier divisions was separate from the division. This command structure was somewhat confusing and one that became worse when the proportion of assault guns to tanks tipped in favour of the assault guns. Regardless of this, at their peak, some 70 battalions were in operation. This figure excludes those sent to reinforce under strength Panzer divisions and the specially trained tank destroyer units.

It is interesting to note that the assault artillerymen were volunteers. They won numerous Iron Crosses, both firs and second class, some 325 German crosses in Gold and 140 Knights Crosses and, of these, 14 were also awarded the Oakleaves. Amongst the latter was Hugo Primozic, the first NCO in the German Army to win the coveted Oakleaves. His personal tally numbered over 60 kills.

Getting back to the organisation of the StuG. I will endeavour to keep these as simple as possible.

Initially, in 1941, StuG battalions were organised into 3 batteries of six plus a HQ, this usually being a Sdkfz 250. By 1942 this had evolved into a battalion of 27 vehicles, 3 batteries consisting of 3 sections of StuG's. The end of 1942 saw the addition of an extra StuG per battery, used for the HQ, making 30 StuG per battalion.

This increased to 31 in 1943, with the addition of an extra StuG for the battalion HQ. This formation remained as standard for the rest of the war.

With the advent of the StuG Brigade title, some of these were reinforced, in 1944, to form Assault Artillery Brigades. These were to have 45 vehicles;

3 batteries of 14 StuG

- 3 sections of 4 StuG and 2 StuG in the battery HQ

Plus 3 StuG in the battalion HQ

In this configuration the third battery was often the StuH 42. Added on to this was a fourth battery, the Grenadier Escort Battery. This consisted of about 200 Infantry, including a pioneer unit (often this infantry was equipped with a high proportion of assault rifles). This made the StuG Brigade even more effective.

The StuG III was used by several of Germany's allies. These included -

  • Bulgaria - receiving 25 in 1943
  • Finland - 30 in 1943 and 29 in 1944
  • Hungary - 40 in 1944
  • Romania - 4 in 1943 and 114 in 1944

Thus concludes the thumbnail sketch of the StuG; development, history and organisation. Should you require any further information, I would suggest the references mentioned at the end of this article.

Moving right along, what are the wargaming prospects for the StuG? As one of the most prevalent AFV's of the German Army of World War Two, it goes without saying that the StuG is an essential component of any serious German player's wargaming army.

As I have implied, the basic distinction between StuG variants, is in the gun. This is especially relevant from the wargaming perspective, where things can be as simple or complicated, as you desire. Put simply, you use the "short barrelled" L24 version for games for the period up to the introduction of the "long barrelled" L43/L48 versions.

Models of the StuG III

Airfix makes a late model of the StuG IIIG with Saupkopf mantlet, but no skirts. Fujimi/Nitto make two versions; one is the short barrelled - they call it an ausf D - and the other, the long barrelled StuG IIIG. The Nitto/Fujimi StuG IIIG kit comes with the option of the 75mm gun or the 105mm gun, both having the square mantlet. Esci make a 1/72nd StuG IIIG, similar to the Nitto/Fujimi kit in that it has the optional barrels in the square mantlet. All are useful and I won't comment on the accuracy, scale, etc of these.

Painting the StuG depends on the version and theatre you are representing. A little research will facilitate this process, but I will attempt another "thumbnail" sketch to simplify this.

The StuG followed the standard German army pattern: for early war years , a base colour grey, (either Humbrol 27 or 124) and for later years - 1943 and after - sand tan primer (Tamiya XF60 or Humbrol 83). Over the sand tan primer, medium green (Humbrol 30, 86 113 or 133) may be applied, in an appropriate scheme. I told you this colour guide was simplistic.

(See Vehicle Painting Guide for a more detailed description of painting AFV's)

To cover the German allies use of the StuG is probably a little beyond the scope of this article, but I will attempt to do so, if only in brief.

According to sources I have, the following is correct (For extra information, regarding markings and such. I would suggest reading "The Eastern Front" by Steven Zaloga and James Grandsen.)

Bulgaria received 25 StuG III beginning in 1943, prior to its defection in September 1944. The Bulgarians received versions with the square and Saupkopf mantlet. The Bulgarians also used their StuG's against the Germans and Hungarians in Hungary. There is photographic evidence to suggest the StuG's were left in the original German paint scheme of sand tan primer only.

The Romanians received 4 StuG's in 1943 and 114 in 1944, again prior to their defection. Romanian StuG's were used in their German paint schemes. There is some evidence to suggest that this was both sand tan primer only, as well as the addition of the green and red-brown over- spray. The Romanians also used their StuG's against the Germans, this time in Czechoslovakia and Austria.

Finland received 30 StuG's in 1943 and 29 in 1944. The Finns repainted their 1943 shipment of StuG's in their unique colour scheme of moss green, grey and sand brown. Their 1944 shipment was left in the original colour scheme of sand tan primer, due to the constraints on the Finnish armed forces at that stage of the war.

The Hungarians received 40 StuG IIIG in 1944. The Hungarians remained in action with the Germans right up to the end of the war, in eastern Poland and elsewhere. Due to the confusion present, within the armed forces at that stage, the colour schemes used on the Hungarians StuG's are a little hard to properly identify. However, it is fairly safe to assume that Hungarian StuG's are sand tan primer. After that, it's anyone's guess as to whether they were over-sprayed in green and/or red-brown. The same is true of the markings for these vehicles. Maybe your research will be more fruitful – I'd like to hear.

Once the painting is done, as well as the weathering and markings, extra 'junk' (and the possibilities are endless here!) can be added and the model is complete.

The prospects for using the StuG are fairly obvious. One of the beauties of the StuG lies in the flexibility. It can be used with devastating effect in defence and is quite comfortable supporting an attack. My personal preference is taking on T-34's. Any excuse to shoot up Soviet T-34's is a good one, regardless of the historical precedent. I remember many moons ago some of my StuG IIIGs taking on Mr Tregenza's T-34's in an early display game and scratching at least 8, plus some supporting Soviet Infantry without loss – at least, that is the way I remember the story and you were not there so you cannot question it! The allies can provide the same satisfaction, as the Sherman is a worthy adversary and there are usually lots of them.