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Blog topic: German Mechanized Artillery - early WW2

February 19, 2015

German Stug

Damaged German Stug, 1944. Public Domain photo.

This mobile artillery piece was a significant development in Blitzkrieg warfare. Since the Stug assault gun did not require complicated maneuvers, it was manned by German artillery units, who took half the time to train as did Panzer units.

Also, there was a major improvement in the ability to manufacture this Stug type of armored vehicle compared to a tank. Tanks were time consuming and expensive to manufacture because the ring at the base of the turret had to be precision machined so that the turret would smoothly rotate a full 360 degrees. And you had to have dedicated, large scale precision equipment to machine these turret rings. The Stug had no turret. It was just a tracked tank chassis with a metal box on top, with the gun emplaced with limited mobility. You had to point the whole tank rather than move the turret.

Intended to supply support for assaults on enemy positions, the Stug was initially one of the pieces missing from Blitzkrieg. German tanks would attack a weak point, break through and take off into the enemy rear, leaving the infantry to come up to finish surrounding and attacking the strong points. To do so required artillery. And artillery was very slow moving in 1940.

Most German artillery at this time was drawn by horses or mules. It could easily take a day to move an artillery battery out of one position, to another five miles down the road. Then the piece had to be set up, so it could be fired the next day. This was quite a bottle neck in terms of moving an army forward 20 or 30 miles a day. But the Stug had the artillery gun mounted on the tank chassis and when it had driven to its new position, it could be ready to fire almost immediately.

The Stug was a tremendous improvement in terms of artillery support. And because it was an armored vehicle, it basically had the presence of a tank when your soldiers were assaulting enemy infantry or enemy fortifications. It's only when enemy tanks were present that the Stug was in danger of being outmaneuvered. Even so, the aggressive nature of the Stug crews often bested the poorly organized Russian tank assaults.1 So with this mobile component supporting the infantry finally in place by mid 1941, these types of units could follow close on the heels of German Panzer divisions and commence the mopping up and holding of territory which had initially been conquered by Panzer units.

The other key piece in this whole business of Blitzkrieg attacks was the armored half-track, which could take up to 12 soldiers and their gear. I addressed this topic last week, and will cover more next week.

Franz Kurowski, Sturmgeschutze vor! Assault Guns to the Front! Winnipeg, Manitoba: J.J. Fedorowicz Publishing. (1999).



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