The German army of World War II is known for its vast variety of fighting vehicles. On one hand the Germans were adept at extemporized mating of weapons to chassis for immediate needs and for design and planning of weapons for specific purposes. The Sturmpanzer fits into the latter category.
The Sturmpanzer, also designated as Sturmpanzer 43 or SdKfz 166, was a purpose-built heavy support vehicle for the infantry used in taking down enemy fortified positions. It provided direct fire support with its 150mm howitzer and could withstand most anti-tank fire with its heavy frontal armor. It consisted of a casemate armored superstructure built on the existing and well-proven Panzer IV chassis. The superstructure housed the Skoda-built 150mm StuH 43 L/12 howitzer that fired the same shells as the sIG 33 infantry gun.
There were four different models as designs changes were made during the Sturmpanzer's production. While there is much information in books and on the Internet, here are the primary features that evolved. The first and second versions had a Fahrersehklappe 80 driver's vision port, adapted from the Tiger I, which was changed to a periscope with vision blocks in the third version and remained with the fourth version. The second version also had a ventilator added in the roof to extract fumes from the fighting compartment and a lengthened armored shroud for the gun tube. For the first three production versions the crew only had pistol port plugs they could use to fire their pistols or MP40 submachine gun at attacking infantry. The loader's hatch also had a port that, when the hatch was open, was used to mount an MG34 similar to the gun shield on the StuG III. The last production model had a ball mount for the machine gun, another Tiger I feature, on the front above the driver's position for self-defense. The last model also had a cupola from the StuG III G for the commander. While the first version was built on reconditioned Panzer IV ausf E-G chassis, the second and third versions were built on the ausf H and the final version was built on the ausf J chassis. Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste was applied starting with the second and subsequent models until the practice was terminated in September 1944.
Because of the heavy armor, gun and ammunition, the engine, drive train and suspension were under severe strain. Frequent failure of the front road wheels caused by the 100mm front armor and gun necessitated that four spare wheels were carried on brackets on the rear of the vehicle. Later versions had a lighter gun, the StuH 43/1, with a lighter gun mount. To remedy the failure of the front road wheels, all-steel road wheels were installed at the front stations. Eventually, on some Sturmpanzers, all of the road wheels were all-steel.
One problem that remained throughout the Sturmpanzer's operational history was it's meager supply of on-board ammunition. Only 38 main gun rounds of AP and HE could be stored inside the vehicle along with the separate propellant. War-time photos show Panzer IIIs converted into Muntionspanzers carrying spare ammunition accompanying Sturmpanzers. All Sturmpanzers had radios consisting of a FuG 2 USW receiver and a FuG 5 transmitter/receiver.
Even with its high silhouette and mechanical shortcomings, the Sturmpanzer was an effective weapon with over 300 built between 1943 and 1945. Sturmpanzers were organized into three independent battalions, Sturmpanzer-Abteilung 216, 217 and 218. The Sturmpanzer first saw action with Sturmpanzer-Abteilung 216 during Operation Citadel, the German attack on the Kursk salient, in July 1943. The battalion carried out operations on the Eastern Front until December. After the allied landings at Anzio, Italy, the battalion was transferred to Anzio in February 1944. There it conducted counterattacks against the Anzio bridgehead. It remained in Italy until the war's end in May 1945.
The Sturmpanzer in this article is a third production type and was from Sturmpanzer-Abteilung 216 captured near Anzio and shipped back to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds for testing. For many years it was an outdoor exhibit at the Ordnance Museum at APG until the museum closed due to BRAC recommendations and then transferred to the Field Artillery Museum at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Click on the links below to see interior and exterior photos of the Aberdeen Proving Ground Sturmpanzer now at Fort Sill. Use your back button to return to this page to see each gallery. Hover your cursor over each photo to see captions.