Historical Information for Marder III
Marder III, Sd.Kfz. 139
While the Panzer 38(t) had largely become obsolete as a tank in early 1942, it was still an excellent platform for adaptation into a tank destroyer, among other roles. Since the Soviet 76.2 mm field gun was captured in large quantities, the decision was made to mate this gun to the Panzer 38(t).
To do so, the turret and upper superstructure of the Panzer 38 were removed and a new superstructure was bolted on to the chassis. The upper part, which housed the gun, was open at the top and back and only lightly armoured. Armour protection overall ranged from 10 to 50 mm. A major disadvantage of this variant was its high silhouette, which made it more vulnerable to enemy fire.
The now-called 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) was rechambered to be able to use standard German 75 mm ammunition, of which 30 rounds could be carried inside the vehicle. Apart from the main gun, there was a 7.92 mm machine gun mounted in the hull.
This tank destroyer was put into production as the Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.62 cm PaK 36(r), Sd.Kfz. 139. A total of 363 of this Marder III variant were built from April 1942 to 1943.
Marder III Ausf.H, Sd.Kfz. 138
The next variant of the Marder III fielded the standard 7.5 cm PaK 40 German anti-tank gun on the Panzer 38(t) Ausf. H. This had the engine in the rear of the vehicle (Ausf. H standing for Heckmotor (rear engine)), with the gun in a fighting compartment in the centre of it. Thirty-eight rounds of ammunition for the gun were carried. As with the Sd.Kfz.139, this also carried a 7.92 mm machine gun in the hull, of Czech manufacture.
The full name of this variant was the 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 auf Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) Ausf.H,Sd.Kfz 138. The production figures for the 418 Ausf. H Marder IIIs are as follows; 243 (including a single prototype were built new from November 1942 to April 1943. 175 converted from Panzer 38(t)s in 1943.
Marder III, Sd.Kfz. 139
The last Marder III variant was based on the Panzer 38(t) Ausf. M (with Ausf. M standing for Mittelmotor (middle engine)), again armed with the 75 mm PaK 40 anti-tank gun. In this variant, the gun and fighting compartment were located at the rear. Unlike in the previous two Marder IIIs, this compartment was closed at the rear, though still open-topped. It could only carry 27 rounds of ammunition. The Ausf. M did not carry a machinegun in its hull, instead a MG 34 or MG 42 was carried by the crew.
The Ausf. M was the variant which was produced in the largest numbers, some 975 vehicles being manufactured in 1943 and early 1944. Its full name was the Panzerjäger 38(t) mit 7.5 cm PaK 40/3 Ausf.M, Sd Kfz 138.
The various Marder IIIs fought on all fronts of the war, with the Sd.Kfz. 139 being used mainly at the Eastern Front, though some also fought in Tunisia. Even in February 1945 some 350 Ausf M were still in service.
The Marder IIIs were used by the Panzerjäger Abteilungen of the Panzer divisions of both the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS, as well as several Luftwaffe units, like the Hermann Göring division.
The Marders were mechanically reliable, as with all vehicles on the Czechoslovak 38t chassis. Their firepower was sufficient to destroy any light or medium armored vehicle on the battlefield at reasonable range.
The Marder's weaknesses were mainly related to survivability. The combination of a high silhouette and open-top armor protection made them vulnerable to indirect artillery fire. The armor was also quite thin, making them highly vulnerable to enemy tanks and to close-range machinegun fire.
The Marders were not assault vehicles or tank substitutes; the open top meant that operations in urban areas or other close-combat situations were very risky. They were best employed in defensive or overwatch roles. Despite their weaknesses they were much more effective than the towed antitank guns they replaced.
Marder III were also used in Operation Market Garden to counter the British 30th Corp that was sent to relieve their airborne division. The attack halted the British 30th Corp's advance in Holland and contributed to the failure of Operation Market Garden.