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German Sturmgeschutz III, Part 1,

StuK37 L/24 Gun Models

Picture 1:
Originally designed to provide
close support for the infantry, the
Sturmgeschutz III, or StuG III,
was based loosely on the Panzer
III tank chassis. The StuG III
assault vehicle mounted a low
velocity 7.5cm gun in a limited
traverse mounting and provided
room for four crewmen- driver,
gunner, loader and commander.
There were many improvements to
the initial design but the full
production of Ausf.A through E
only amounted to around 620
vehicles. Yet the German
designers were on to something
big and more powerfully gunned versions would be produced later by the thousands. We will examine the early
StuG III versions, the models Ausf.A through E, in two pages, Part 1 and Part 2. There is a third page (Part 3) that
will provide you with interior information on StuG IIIs with the longer 7.5cm gun (Ausf.F, F/8 and G). This photo
of StuG III Ausf.D in Russia is from the Bundesarchiv.

Picture 2:
As with the Panzer III, the StuG III driver sat in the forward left side of the hull and his driving controls were also
of the Pz.III variety. In this sketch of an Ausf.C/D originally drawn by artists at the British School of Tank
Technology (but used since by a number of publishers) you can see the driver's seat, his controls, and the
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instrument panel. Directly behind the driver sat the gunner and directly behind him, the commander. The loader
was positioned to the right of the gun and he was provided with a seat bolted to the sponson. Forward of the loader
were storage racks for steel cases containing main gun ammunition. The 7.5cm weapon and floor mounted gun
cradle just about divided the hull in half but there was still room behind the recoil guard to slide from one side of
the vehicle to the other. The Ausf.C/D model was the first with the gunner's sighting aperture window removed
from the original alcove in the forward armored plate and relocated up through a special plate in the roof hatch.
This helped eliminate the shot trap of the original gunner's forward mounted sight of the Ausf.A and B models.

Picture 3:
This drawing shows a bit more of the detail of
the driver's position. He steers the vehicle with
traditional steering levers attached by linkage
to the DB/Wilson Clutch and braking system,
which is hydraulic. The transmission sits in
the middle of the front hull, to the right of the
driver, and consists of a ZF SSG 77 Aphon
unit with 6 forward and 1 reverse gears. This
simplified transmission took the place of the
Maybach SRG 328 145 unit of the Ausf.A.
Gas, brake and clutch pedals are all in the
normal position at the driver's feet (clutch to
the driver's left, brake in the middle and gas to
the right). The driver's main instrument panel
is mounted above the transmission at the right.
To change gears with this synchronized
transmission the driver shifted the preselector
lever to the desired gear and then depressed
and released the clutch pedal. The
transmission would then automatically change
to that new gear and the driver could then
select the next gear to engage by moving the gearshift lever again before pressing the clutch pedal once again.

Picture 4:
The instrument panel is dominated by a large
tachometer flanked by gages on the left for oil
pressure and temperature, and on the right for
speedometer. To the right also are 4 fuse box
covers and further right are
connections/switches for lights and the gun's
electrical system. This is the typical panel
layout for early StuGs, later versions, as with
the Pz.III, varied a bit from time to time. Above
the tachometer and speedometer are two small
horizontal lights to illuminate the panel. These
same light bulb holders can be seen elsewhere
in the vehicle for general lighting purposes,
usually attached directly to the armor.
Instrument panels were typically painted black,
or the same ivory as the interior color, and the
dials were white with black lettering. The
tachometer dial indicated dangerously high rpm
levels with colored warning bands, first yellow and then red.

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Picture 5:
This archive photo shows some detail of the
driver's forward area, including the forward
view block. The Kinon bulletproof glass block
is typical for the time and was used as the
primary viewing device during relatively safe
periods of operation. The holder and outside
armored flap is called a Fahrerseh Klappe50
and when in combat the outside armored cover
was closed over the glass block by the large
handles you can barely see on either side. The
handles are seen here near the top and the visor
cover, indicating the cover is in the closed
position. Once the Klappe50 was closed, the
driver's KFF binocular optics were swung
down into position over his glass block inside
the hull. The binocular KFF was attached to
the front armor plate above the viewing block and allowed a very restricted view through two small holes bored
through the armor just above the armored cover. At the top of the photo are the clips that hold the two telescopes
when pivoted up and not in use, in this case the KFF is the KFF2 model. Typically, there was a padded face guard
attached to keep the driver from banging his head into the optics when bouncing over the ground (not shown here).
To the left is a rubber speaking funnel and tube with elastic support band that was used to communicate with the
commander in the early vehicles that did not have an intercom system (vehicles prior to the Ausf.D). The speaking
tube system is seen occasionally in later vehicles as a back-up measure. Above the tube is the driver's left side
Kinon viewing block and holder, here painted black as are most of the mechanicals that appear dark colored in this
photo. By the time of the Ausf.G models, this left viewing block would be replaced with a simple pistol port plug.
Down below are two steering levers with black rubber hand grips and to the right is the round knobbed gear shift
lever. Also visible here is the lower left corner of the instrument panel--the remainder is blocked by part of the gun
support. The left-hand drive shaft passes through the large tube seen forward and the main brakes are housed in the
larger diameter cover seen on the left. Way down at the lower right of the photo is the handle for the starter
carburetor control with locking button at the end.
A word about StuG III interior paint is probably appropriate here. Notice that the sponson walls and floor are a
darker shade of paint than the superstructure walls in this training vehicle. In many vehicles this floor color was a
greenish gray paint, varying only slightly in the Alkett factory. At about the same time the order came to
discontinue applying zimmerit paste to assault vehicles at the factories (the fall of '44), manufacturers were also
ordered to stop over-painting interiors of vehicles Elfenbein (ivory) and allow only the original factory primer, a
fairly bright brick red, to be used. This was to cut production time and would have affected only the later StuG IIIs
(Ausf.G) or only a few earlier models that had been returned to the manufacturer for repair/rebuild. There is
evidence that suggests some early vehicle's floors were painted with this primer instead of the gray paint I
previously mentioned, but the walls and roof were painted the typical Elfenbein. There is at least one StuG III in
captivity with original paint suggesting a genuine white paint was used, even on the floor, although it is in two
slightly different shades (perhaps a rebuild or repaired vehicle). It had been sitting in a swamp for 40 years before
recovery so the actual original paint shade is debatable.

Picture 6:
Lucky for us, the German Army was proud of their engineering
skill and expertise, and extensively recorded by photographs the
interior of many of their AFVs. These next few photos are from
the Bundesarchiv and taken of a StuG III Ausf.E (with the short
L/24 gun) said to be used for crew training. Here the crew is
installed in their proper positions and the superstructure and

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engine compartment roof have been removed. Chassises for the

early StuG IIIs changed markedly during the vehicle's production
and mirror what was available at the time. The first StuGs,
Ausf.A vehicles, used the Pz.III Ausf.G chassis, some with side
escape hatches as you will find in the tank. Since the Pz.III
Ausf.G was made with only 30mm front armor, the StuG armor
was augmented with an additional 20mm plate bolted on from the
very beginning. Ausf.B StuG IIIs used the chassis of the Pz.III
Ausf.H, although with wider track. StuG III Ausf.C/D vehicles
used the same Pz.III Ausf.H chassis except for the change of
transmission mentioned before and new globular oil bath engine
oil filters replacing the early felt types. Like the Pz.III tanks,
those StuGs to be shipped to North Africa, Italy and Russia were
"tropicalised" by increasing the radiator fan speed and altering the
engine deck hatches with additional vented covers.
The most important modification for the Ausf.E StuG III was the
lengthening of the left armored pannier and the addition of an
armored pannier on the right side. This was necessary for the
inclusion of additional radios in these vehicles, due in part to the fact that the Sd.Kfz. 253 observation half track
was no longer used in the units and the StuGs took over this command responsibility for platoon leaders and
battery commanders. The vehicles that mounted the additional radios can be identified by the two antennas on the
back of the superstructure. The lengthened left pannier fit both the radio (FuG15) and additional six rounds of
Notice in this picture of the StuG III Ausf.E the small rack on the right side of the gun (with lightening holes all
around) for storing cases of 7.5cm ammo. Additional ammo boxes have been stored behind it, stacked freely on the
floor. The recoil cylinders for the short 7.5cm gun are mounted to either side of the barrel and require an armored
surround on the mantlet to protect them. A bit of detail can be seen of both the gun breech/recoil shield and the rear
engine and black air cleaners. Way at the back of the engine compartment are the two radiators (fans are behind the
radiators and not seen) and their coolant feed hoses originating from the top of the engine are also visible. The
engine compartment walls were probably painted with the same red lead primer as the rest of the vehicle and the
paint would appear quite bright in a newer vehicle. Notice that the thick, black rubber gun shield pad on the back of
the recoil guard that was used for deflecting ejected shells down into the catch bag has been marked by the spent
shells bouncing off it.
Notice also the two "inspection" hatches on the front armor plate forward of the driver. They were initially
designed as both inspection hatches for the steering and braking mechanisms mounted below and as escape hatches
for the driver and hull machine gunner. But the transmission and steering boxes made it almost impossible for the
crew to squirm out through the hatches so you will find the "escape hatch" part of the description abandoned by the
time of the Ausf.C. For more information about the hatches and their changing design on the Pz.III tank see the
web pages in AFV INTERIORS on the tank in the Archives section.

Picture 7:
Here is the left side of the short 7.5cm Stuk37 L/24
gun used in the early StuG IIIs. The loader is looking
up the open breech and the gunner is to the left. In
these earlier vehicles the gun elevated -10 to +20

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degrees by hand wheel and traversed equally left and

right for a total of 24 degrees, again, by hand wheel.
The breech is a semi-automatic vertical sliding block
and, as I mentioned before, the spent shells were
ejected with some force to the rear during recoil.
Most of the mechanicals seen to the left of the gun
breech are shafts and gears of the elevating
mechanism and connections for the two different
sights that we will see more clearly later. The L/24
fired Gr38 HL/A ammo (HEAT) 450m/s and was
also fitted to all Pz.IV models prior to the F2. The
gun weighed over 490kg and for indirect fire support
the Rundblickfernrohr 32 panoramic periscope with
4X magnification was used. At the upper right corner
is the loaders safety switch to notify the gunner the
weapon is loaded via the light you see on this side of
the gun recoil guard. Notice also the flat space
machined on the left side of the breech ring for attaching the gunner's quadrant for indirect firing without using the
elevation markings on the gun sight.

Picture 8:
Another view of this vehicle, this time from the
left side, shows a bit more of the gunner's control
mechanism. The elevation hand wheel is now
clearly seen at the right while the traverse wheel
is partially visible underneath. The gun was fired
via a switch on the operating handle of the
traverse wheel. You can also find the traverse
gear on the base of the mount--the round box just
about centered at the bottom of the picture. The
gun is mounted on a traversing cradle that sits
atop large steel beams, which in turn cross the
hull from side to side along the floor. A direct fire
sight is seen here attached to the elevating gear
housing. This sight was added to the StuG C
when the sight window was removed at the front
of the vehicle. Along the side of the sight mount
can be seen the metallic ammo range rings, but
the black periscopic sight does not show well in
this photo. The sight mounting was considerably
different between the short and long gun versions
of the AFV, the early versions with ranging rings to the left of the mechanism as seen here and the later mounts
with the rings down below the mount.

Picture 9:
This view shows the gunner installing a
Selbstfahrlafetten-Zielfernrohr 1 (Sfl.ZF1) direct fire
sight into its mount (Ausf.A and B used shorter

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Sfl.ZF sights). The stub rod on the sight fits into a

channel attached above the traverse wheel and the
sight is tightened into place with a set screw held in
the gunner's left hand. This is a fairly simple
periscopic sight with rubber eye ring surrounding the
optic eyepiece. The attaching mechanism below is
the actual guts of the system and three ranging rings
for ammo types (PzGr39 and 40 as well as SprGr34)
are located to the left of the mount body. When the
new sight was first mounted in the Ausf.C, the
gunner's overhead hatch was altered to allow the
sight to elevate through the hatch for viewing.
Although the indirect sight was already one that
required an overhead opening, the new direct fire
sight was mounted slightly to the right of the indirect
fire, and required further altering of the roof panels.


(c) 2001, 2003 AFV INTERIORS Web Magazine

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