The SdKfz251/9 was developed as a close support vehicle for Panzergrenadier troops to help in engaging enemy strong points and defensive positions. It consisted of a low velocity 75mm L/24 gun mounted either low in the front of the cab next to the driver or, as in this case with later versions, mounted on the roof of the cab. The guns that were used for this conversion were left over after PzKpfw IV tanks had been up-gunned to the long 75mm KwK 40 or recovered from severly damaged StuG IIIs. With this particular vehicle, a 75mm StuK from a StuG was installed. In the early versions, significant changes were made to mount the 75mm by removing a large portion of the front armor plate and roof normally used for the commander. This was necessary because a gun mount based on that used in the Sturmgeschutz III was installed, but which had the advantage of keeping the vehicle at a normally low profile. During 1944, new vehicles were equipped with the 75mm K51 (sf) with a simplified mounting that was installed on the roof of the cab, as in the case of this 251D/9. This new mount also incorporated a coaxial MG42. Extra upper side armor was also added to protect the gun crew.
Other modifications consisted of the left rear seat being removed and replaced with an ammo bin that carried 52 rounds of 75mm ammunition and the radio set was moved to the left side of the hull. The gun increased the weight of the vehicle from 7.81 to 8.53 tons. The 251/9 normally had a crew of four - commander, driver, gunner and loader.
From former Patton Museum curator Charles Lemons, "The German half-track first arrived at Fort Knox in September of 1946, part of a group of vehicles selected from a collection yard in southern Germany by order of General G. S. Patton Jr. In early 1947 a number of the vehicles were photographed for record - and the first view of the half-track was in the background of a photograph taken of the Munitionschlepper 38(t)."
"The 20th Panzer Division never fought against the American army, but was reported wiped out by the Soviet Army near Prague in April/May 1945. This vehicle, and its partner, apparently traveled the 100 miles separating the Soviet and American armies and surrendered to elements of the US Third Army near Pilsen."
The restoration of the 251 was began by museum restoration staff in 1989 but the project was put on hold for several years until resumed by the Patton Museum volunteers in 2004. The restoration process was lengthy as the whole vehicle was dismantled, sand-blasted, cleaned primed and then painted. The engine was also overhauled and made operational. Unfortunately one piece of coolant piping was missing, and although a replacement was constructed, there was not enough time to install the piece and run the halftrack before it was shipped to Fort Benning.
The amount of time, attention to detail and the investment of personal expenses by members of the Patton Museum volunteers show in the result of one of the most complete examples of World War II German vehicles in the world.
Click on the links below to see photos of the restoration of the 251D/9. Use your back button to return to this page to see each gallery. Hover your cursor over each photo to see captions.