This week, Osprey author Leigh Neville, in his new series on WW2 German armoured fighting vehicles, looks at the iconic Sturmgeschütz 40 Ausf F/8, better known as the StuG III.
Based on the Panzer III tank, the StuG was the German Army’s preeminent assault gun. Perhaps surprisingly, the StuG initially equipped especially raised artillery batteries rather than the armoured or infantry corps. Designed not to tangle with tanks but to provide high explosive support for infantry units as they assaulted towns, villages and bunker complexes, the StuG went through a number of variants during the war.
During the Blitzkrieg and the early part of Barbarossa into Russia, the short barrel, low velocity 75mm L/24 was the most common. After encountering Red Army T-34/76s and KV-1s and coming off second-best, the StuG was retrofitted with longer barrel L/43 and L/48 guns, the same armament mounted on the Panzer IV.
Its first real use as an anti-tank platform came with the Finns in 1943 who employed a small number against the Red Army to great effect. Increasingly the harried German Army also employed the StuG against enemy tanks, necessitating the development of an infantry support version, the Sturmhaubitze 42 or StuH 42, mounting a 105mm howitzer.
Infamously, the StuG was used by German forces in the Battle of the Bulge disguised as American armour. Five Panther Vs and five StuGs, along with a number of 251 Hanomag half-tracks, were operated by a special unit under Otto Skorzeny for Operation Greif, an ambitious but ultimately flawed plan to infiltrate American lines and cause havoc in the rear areas.
More than 11,000 StuGs of all variants were produced during the war. Incredibly the StuG soldiered on in a number of Middle Eastern conflicts in the 1950s with a number deployed by the Syrian Army during the Six Day War as static bunkers. It also remained in Finnish service right up into the 1960s.
King & Country offer a distinctive winter finish StuG with Zimmerit paste to counter magnetic mines, spare road wheels, and tank commander, designed for the Bulge but eminently useful for the Eastern Front or European winter battles in 1944 and 1945.