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.