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StuG III Thread (and also other German vehicles I guess)


EnsignExpendable
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14 hours ago, Collimatrix said:

SdKfz 251s do not get enough attention, given that:

1)  They were pretty common.
2)  They're mechanically insane.  They did work, but why why why would you ever design a half-track that way?

The Czechs kept making them after the war as the OT-810. They were despised so much by the troops they were nicknamed "Hitler's Revenge".

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6 minutes ago, EnsignExpendable said:

The Czechs kept making them after the war as the OT-810. They were despised so much by the troops they were nicknamed "Hitler's Revenge".

 

I had heard of the Czech clones.  Didn't realize they were disliked.  What was wrong with 'em?

 

My objection to the SdKfz 251 is that it basically defeats the purpose of a half-track.  Since a half-track has wheels that it can turn in the front, it is possible to dispense with the complicated steering system while still having some of the lower ground pressure of a tracked vehicle.

Except that they didn't do that.  They just had to put a Cletrac controlled differential steering system in, which is a more advanced steering system than most of their tanks had!  On top of that they had interleved road wheels, torsion bar suspension and the lubricated tracks (which the Czechs sensibly dropped).  At that point they might as well have made it full tracked.

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56 minutes ago, Collimatrix said:

 

I had heard of the Czech clones.  Didn't realize they were disliked.  What was wrong with 'em?

 

My objection to the SdKfz 251 is that it basically defeats the purpose of a half-track.  Since a half-track has wheels that it can turn in the front, it is possible to dispense with the complicated steering system while still having some of the lower ground pressure of a tracked vehicle.

Except that they didn't do that.  They just had to put a Cletrac controlled differential steering system in, which is a more advanced steering system than most of their tanks had!  On top of that they had interleved road wheels, torsion bar suspension and the lubricated tracks (which the Czechs sensibly dropped).  At that point they might as well have made it full tracked.

My thoughts exactly.  The US basically built a an armored 4x4 truck that happened to have tracks in the rear instead of wheels.  The Germans built a light armored tracked AFV that happened to have a couple wheels in the front.  

 

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12 hours ago, Collimatrix said:

 

I had heard of the Czech clones.  Didn't realize they were disliked.  What was wrong with 'em?

 

My objection to the SdKfz 251 is that it basically defeats the purpose of a half-track.  Since a half-track has wheels that it can turn in the front, it is possible to dispense with the complicated steering system while still having some of the lower ground pressure of a tracked vehicle.

Except that they didn't do that.  They just had to put a Cletrac controlled differential steering system in, which is a more advanced steering system than most of their tanks had!  On top of that they had interleved road wheels, torsion bar suspension and the lubricated tracks (which the Czechs sensibly dropped).  At that point they might as well have made it full tracked.

Wheels up front = a dozen extra components to charge for.

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15 hours ago, Walter_Sobchak said:

The US basically built a an armored 4x4 truck that happened to have tracks in the rear instead of wheels.  The Germans built a light armored tracked AFV that happened to have a couple wheels in the front.  

 

Observant point that the two countries viewed their half-tracks in markedly different ways; this would continue after the war as well. The Germans were known to use theirs as fighting vehicles, and the US Army did essentially view theirs as trucks. In Deciding What Has to Be Done, MAJ Paul Herbert notes that although the US used tactics similar to Germany's for its WWII armored infantry, "the adoption of enclosed armored personnel carriers in the late 1950s, the Reorganization Objective Army Division (ROAD) reorganization of 1963, the separation of doctrinal proponency between Forts Benning (for infantry) and Knox (for armor), and especially the war in Vietnam all conspired to dilute American understanding of the essence of Panzergrenadier tactics, which had been the union of tanks and armored infantry in a single concept of mobile warfare." (However, his assertion that the US used tactics similar to Germany's in WW2 isn't supported by the November 1944 edition of FM 17-42, which says, "Armored infantry usually fights dismounted. Under favorable conditions vehicular armament either mounted or dismounted is used to support the attack." And later: "The armored infantry battalion uses its transportation to move quickly to initial attack positions where the infantry dismounts to fight on foot. Vehicles, except those used for fire support, are then withdrawn to the best available concealed and protected positions.")

Germany's aggressive use of their half-tracks during the war, and similar use of the HS.30 postwar, was a factor in finally prodding the US Army to change its armored infantry doctrine: General William DePuy had admired the Germans as soldiers since fighting them in World War II, and in the mid-70s he became enamored with their Panzergrenadier tactics to the point that he started using the term to describe what he had in mind for new American armored infantry tactics; DePuy even invited General Fritz Birnstiel, the German Army staff chief of combat arms, to lecture US Army combat branch schools on the German tactics in late 1974. The new version of FM 100-5, partly written by DePuy himself, was released a couple of years later.

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It seems the Germans expected to fight mounted for as much as possible and then use their vehicles in direct support, which contrasts to the prescription laid out by FM 17-42, for example. I don't have actual German manuals to quote, but Culver and Feist in Schützenpanzer say, "It took several years of trial-and-error combat experience for the Germans to realize that the armored personnel carrier was the weapon, and that the infantry should be trained to serve that weapon...The most important aspect of the new training, aside from instructing the Panzergrenadiers to fight from the vehicle as much as possible,was the proper training of drivers. The unique role and unusual driving characteristics of the Sd.Kfz.251 made the driver's task critical for proper handling of the vehicle...Training for the Panzergrenadiers themselves covered a number of areas, all of which had been learned - at not small cost - on the battlefield. Platoon and section leaders had to be trained in new combat tactics for the SPWs, and all the enlisted men also were trained in fighting from the vehicle, or in support of it."

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Am I the only person fascinated by the idea that an army which just crushingly won a war would so enthusiastically embrace the doctrine of their defeated enemy?

 

It's like the Romans, having conquered Gaul, decided that all this legionary shit was for pikers and that they should instead embrace a pseudo-feudal system of mounted nobles and vassals drafted on an ad-hoc basis.

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It certainly is interesting. Postwar, the USSR and Germany reversed their places in the friend and enemy categories, and the Germans' reports of their experience against the USSR was perhaps lauded without critical analysis. Also, there seems to have been a deeper resonance for some US officers. Back to GEN DePuy, since he was after all the first commander of TRADOC and very heavily influential in the Army's 1976 doctrinal revision: he fought with the 90th Infantry Division in WW2, which was a bit of a problem unit upon deployment, and the deficiencies he perceived in the training and early leadership of his unit was almost traumatizing. Quoting Herbert again: "German tactical techniques also influenced DePuy, so much that he integrated some of their ideas into his battalion's procedures. He was especially impressed by their ability to organize terrain for the defense, using its every fold to site their weapons along probable enemy approaches with little regard for a neat, linear pattern. Also, DePuy admired their ability to camouflage and conceal their positions, as well as their ability to integrate combat vehicles with their infantry, either as roving guns in the defense or as direct-fire support platforms in the attack. The Germans also excelled at what DePuy later called 'suppression.' This was their generation of a superior volume of fire against an enemy position, forcing that enemy to take cover so he could not return fire accurately and thus making him vulnerable to assault."

In his biography of DePuy, Gole quotes DePuy on pursuit operations: "...we just ran into little groups that were pretty much incoherent insofar as a general defense was concerned. But, being good German soldiers, they fought well. So, we would run into a company here, a Kampfgruppe there, a couple of tanks here, an assault gun or two there...the thing that impressed everybody at the time was how a handful of Germans could hold up a regiment by [siting] their weapons properly."

When DePuy was in command of the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division in 1954-5, he taught his soldiers to dig foxholes staggered in depth, which contrasted to the contemporary US Army method. Later, while J-3 of MACV, he proposed a counterambush scheme using a 3-platoon company totally armed with automatic weapons so that the ambushers could be suppressed by "a withering barrage of fire" and friendly forces could regain the initiative and ability to maneuver. So apart from a growing familiarity and friendship between the US and Germany engendered after WW2 and the union against a common foe in the USSR, it seems for better or for worse some important US Army decision-makers harbored deep-seated experiential motives for pushing for the widespread adoption "Germanic" concepts like the operational level of war (also used by the Soviets, of course), mission-type orders (which had also been common in Patton's Third Army), and Panzergrenadier tactics.

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I thought part of the reason for fighting from infantry vehicles was the notion that the next war in Europe would involve at least limited use of nuclear, biological and/or chemical weapons. So it behooved troops to be able to be able to fight from a more mobile platform which would either shield them or at least let them avoid contaminated areas.

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NBC protection was definitely another factor in the proliferation of infantry fighting vehicles. But while the US had a history of bussing infantry to an attack position where they dismounted for action, the Germans had already been historically fighting mounted from machines that were either open-topped (e.g., Sd.Kfz.251) or lacked firing ports, necessitating using large roof hatches (e.g., HS.30), so the basic premise behind the use of mechanized infantry in the two countries seems to have differed even before concerns about contaminated battlefields arose.

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Zaloga gives a pretty good comparison of US Armored infantry vs German Panzergrenadier in his new Osprey Combat series book of the same name.  One thing to keep in mind is that regardless of what the official German doctrine was, they so seldom had enough half tracks available that they had to resort to carrying Panzergrenadiers in trucks or riding on tanks.  What half tracks were available in a unit oftentimes got earmarked for the recon units.  

51QK+0YMMFL._SX369_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

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6 minutes ago, Walter_Sobchak said:

Zaloga gives a pretty good comparison of US Armored infantry vs German Panzergrenadier in his new Osprey Combat series book of the same name.  One thing to keep in mind is that regardless of what the official German doctrine was, they so seldom had enough half tracks available that they had to resort to carrying Panzergrenadiers in trucks or riding on tanks.  What half tracks were available in a unit oftentimes got earmarked for the recon units. 

Too true. Simpkin says that under 12% of Panzergrenadier battalions rode in the Sd.Kfz.251 even when these vehicles were at their most prevalent. Did Zaloga have any thoughts on mounted-versus-dismounted differences?

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31 minutes ago, DogDodger said:

Too true. Simpkin says that under 12% of Panzergrenadier battalions rode in the Sd.Kfz.251 even when these vehicles were at their most prevalent. Did Zaloga have any thoughts on mounted-versus-dismounted differences?

He agrees with your description that the German Panzergrenadier was trained to fight mounted in the vehicle when possible.  

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