Marder III systems was yet another hastily modified conversion model of existing Panzer II tank chassis overstock.
With the Panzer II system as a whole virtually obsolete on the changing battlefields of World War 2 and the production lines of the Panzer II chassis still warm and ready to churn out new models, it was seen fit to add a static superstructure to the Panzer 38(t) (Panzer II) chassis to create a formidable mobile heavy gun platform (Panzerjager).
The result was yet another capable self-propelled gun and tank destroyer capable of meeting the armor of Allied forces of the time.
The Marder III series would be the most-produced model of the Marder family which had the Marder I and Marder II precede it.
Design varied from class to class and the Marder III was no different.
The III series featured a more refined purpose-driven look with a stable chassis mounting four road wheels to a side.
The main gun sat fixed in the superstructure which was opened on top and the rear, exposing the gun crew to grenade attack, small arms, shrapnel and the elements while at the same time saving on weight and improving speed.
First appeared in March of 1942 as the Panzerjager 38(t) Sd.Kfz 139, Marder III fitted with captured specimens of the Soviet-built 7.62-cm main gun. Some 340 examples of this type were produced.
The follow-up version became the Panzerjager 38(t) Sd.Kfz 138, Marder III Ausf H, this one fitted with the 3″ 7.5-cm Pak 40 anti-tank gun with a better armored sloping shield superstructure.
The final main version became the Panzerjager 38(t) Sd.Kfz 138, Marder III Ausf M.
This model saw a major revision to the Marder III’s layout in that the engine was moved closer to the middle of the hull and the superstructure was mounted further aft to balance the vehicle out more efficiently.
A newer engine provided for a greater output of 150 horsepower over the original types.
Production lasted up until 1944 to which over 800 Ausf H and Ausf M models have produced alone to the tune of 1,143 Marder III’s altogether.
Defensive armament was two 7.92mm MG34 or MG42 machine guns – one in a trainable (yet exposed) mounting in the upper superstructure and the other in a fixed position in the bow.
Like the models before it, the Marder III was primarily concentrated to the East Front, though the weapon could be found everywhere German infantry forces operated.
The Marder III’s proved just as resilient as her predecessors and the main gun could face off against any of the Allied armor with the exception of the Soviet heavy tank systems.
The exposed crew in the tall superstructure and light armoring along the sides meant that the vehicle was not without weakness.
An additional factor was that, with the static superstructure being fitted to the chassis, the entire vehicle had to be positioned to the direction of desired fire.
This made it adequate in an ambush role, fixed defensive role or calibrated offensive artillery role from a distance but a liability in a moving or close-in standup fight.
In any case, her main armament was respected and feared alike and her proper use and ease of production ensured her a mention in any listing of World War 2 mobile artillery systems.
*This article was originally published at www.militaryfactory.com