[Lone Sentry: www.LoneSentry.com] [Lone Sentry: Photos, Articles, and Research on the European Theater in World War II]
Photos, Articles, & Research on the European Theater in World War II
"75-mm Assault Artillery" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   Intelligence report on the Sturmgeschütz assault artillery based on the Pz. III chassis, from the Intelligence Bulletin, July 1943. The article is based on translated Russian reports and contains several inaccuracies including confusing the 105-mm and 75-mm guns and mislabeling the superstructure as open-top.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data is available in postwar publications.]



The German 75-mm assault gun is a weapon comparable to the U. S. 75-mm and 105-mm self-propelled guns. The gun and mount weigh about 20 tons. The maximum speed across country is about 7 miles per hour; on roads, about 22 miles per hour. It can average about 15 miles per hour. On normal roads its radius of action is about 100 miles; across country, about 50 miles. To move an assault-gun battery 100 kilometers (about 65 miles) requires 4,000 liters (about 1,050 gallons) of gasoline. The range of the 75-mm short-barreled tank gun, with which this weapon was originally equipped, is about 6,000 yards.

Apparently there are now three types of German assault guns in service: the short-barreled 75-mm tank gun, with a bore 23.5 calibers in length; the long-barreled 75-mm tank gun, with a bore 43 calibers in length; and an intermediate gun which seems to be a 75-mm gun with a bore 30 calibers in length. It seems probable that the long-barreled 75, which is the principal armament of the new Pz. Kw. 4 tank, may be primarily an antitank weapon, while the intermediate gun will take the place of the old short-barreled 75 as a close-support weapon.

A 1940 German document states that the assault gun "is not to be used for antitank purposes, and will only engage enemy tanks in self-defense or where the anti-tank guns cannot deal with them." However, a 1942 German document states that "the assault gun may be used successfully against armored vehicles and light and medium tanks." This apparent contradiction can perhaps be explained by the fact that prior to the invasion of Russia in 1941, this weapon had been used in limited numbers. Experience in Russia may have shown that it could be used successfully against tanks, although Russian sources refer to it as an infantry support weapon, essentially. Perhaps a more logical explanation lies in two German technical developments since 1940, namely: hollow-charge ammunition, which is designed to achieve good armor-piercing performance at relatively low muzzle velocities, and the reported replacement of the short-barreled, low-velocity 75-mm with the long-barreled, high-velocity 75-mm gun on some of the newer models.

The following information about German assault artillery is a condensation of a recent article in "Red Star," the official Soviet Army publication, and deals with only one of the three types—the short-barreled 75-mm.

The Germans make extensive use of self-propelled guns as assault artillery. Their most important mission is to destroy the opposition's antitank and heavy infantry weapons. The German self-propelled mount under discussion is a Pz. Kw. 3 chassis armed with a short-barreled 75-mm gun, which has a semiautomatic breech block. The gun's traverse is limited. The armor on the front and sides of the vehicle has thicknesses of 50 mm and 30 mm, respectively. The top and rear of the gun carriage is open. The speed of the self-propelled gun is about 31 miles per hour, and its range is about 84 miles. The gun's initial muzzle velocity is about 1,389 feet per second. The gun carries 56 rounds. The ammunition is fixed and consists of the following types: high-explosive, armor-piercing, and smoke.

The gun crew consists of a gun commander, a gunner, a loader, and a driver. Two self-propelled guns make up a platoon. The platoon commander's vehicle is equipped with signal flags, rocket pistols, a two-way radio, and a speaking tube for communication between the commander and his gunner and driver. The radius of the radio is about 2 1/2 miles when the vehicle is at the halt, and from 1 1/4 to a little less than 2 miles when it is moving. The second vehicle in the platoon has only a receiving set and signal flags.

There are three platoons in a battery, as well as a separate gun for the battery commander, three armored vehicles with supplies, and an ordinary supply truck. In a battalion (the largest unit) there is a headquarters, a headquarters battery, and three firing batteries. The battalion commander has a gun under his own personal command. According to the German table of organization, the battalion of assault guns is an independent unit and is part of the GHQ artillery pool. The assault artillery battalion can be placed under the command of an infantry commander or tank unit commander, but not under an officer of lower rank than regimental commander. It is important to note that if an assault-gun battery has the necessary supplies to permit it to take care of itself, it may assume an independent role, apart from that of the battalion.

Assault batteries, which are assigned a limited number of targets, have the mission of supporting the attacks of the infantry, and of destroying the opposition's heavy infantry weapons and strong points disclosed during the course of the attack. In supporting tank attacks, the self-propelled artillery assumes some of the normal tasks of the heavier tanks, including the destruction of antitank guns.

The assault artillery never serves as antitank artillery in an attack; only in self-defense does it open fire at short range, shooting armor-piercing shells against tanks. Its shell has almost no effect against heavy tanks.

The battery is part of the combat echelon, and marches ahead of the trains. All seven guns and three armored supply vehicles are in this echelon. In deploying for battle the guns come first, moving abreast toward the front and ready for instant action. The guns of the platoon commanders are on the flanks. The battery commander is stationed to the rear, in a position which is dictated by the type of firing and the terrain. Behind him, the supply vehicles move by bounds from one protected position to another.

If a position lacks cover, these vehicles follow at a considerable distance, maintaining radio communication with the rest of the battery.

In carrying out its special task of facilitating an infantry breakthrough into the rear of the opposition's defenses, the assault battery may follow one of two methods of maneuver: the battery may take part in the initial assault, or it may be held in reserve and not committed until the hostile dispositions have been discovered. In all instances the battery cooperates closely with the supported infantry battalion or company.

Assault guns use direct fire. To achieve surprise, they move forward stealthily. In supporting an infantry attack under heavy enemy fire, assault guns halt briefly to fire on target, which offer the greatest danger to the infantry. The assault guns fire a few times, and then disappear to take part in the battle from other positions. When an assault artillery battalion is attached to an infantry division cooperating with Panzer units in an attack, the battalion's primary mission is to destroy the hostile antitank defenses. If the battalion is supporting tanks in a breakthrough, its batteries seek positions permitting good observation. In other cases each battery moves into the attack after the first wave of tanks, and as soon as the latter encounters opposition, the assault guns cover them with protecting fire. It is believed that the Germans regard close cooperation between the assault battery and the first echelon of tanks as essential in effecting a quick destruction of antitank defenses.

If hostile tanks counterattack, the German antitank guns engage them, and the assault artillery unit seeks to destroy the hostile guns which are supporting the attacking tanks. When the German antitank artillery is unable to stop the hostile tanks, as a last resort, the self-propelled assault guns engage the tanks, opening fire on them with armor-piercing shells at a distance of 650 yards or less.

In the pursuit, the assault guns give the infantry close support to strengthen the latter's fire power.

The most important role of the assault battery in defense appears to be in support of counterattacks. However, in special instances, they have been used as artillery to reinforce the division artillery. When an assault battery is to support a counterattack, it is freed from all other tasks. The battery, knowing the limits within which the counterattack will operate, acts just as it would in supporting an infantry attack. Assault-battery officers and infantry commanders jointly make a careful reconnaissance of the area in which the counterattack is to take place.

The most vulnerable points of a German self-propelled assault gun, according to the Russians, are the moving parts, the rear half of the fighting compartment, the observation apparatus, and the aiming devices.

The Russians contend that their antitank rifles and all their artillery guns, beginning with their 45-mm cannon, are able to fight successfully against the German assault guns. Heavy losses of self-propelled guns, the Russians say, have greatly weakened the German Army's aggressiveness in the attack and tenacity in the defense.

[Back] Back to Articles by Subject | Intel Bulletin by Issue | T&TT by Issue | Home Page

Copyright 2003-2005, LoneSentry.com. All Rights Reserved. Contact: info@lonesentry.com.  

Web LoneSentry.com