Which WW2 tank had the best optics

Sturmgeschütz III - the army's all-purpose weapon



Middle of April 1945, near Oldenburg. This is where part of the "sea lion position" ran, a line of defense of the Wehrmacht that stretched from North Holland eastwards to the Weser. It was the last attempt to stop the advancing Allies in the region, and in order to achieve this goal the Germans had thrown some of their most trusted tanks to the front: Type III assault guns.

The crews of the 24-ton vehicles were on the lookout for enemy tanks. The commander, gunner, loader and driver each formed a well-rehearsed team. That was indispensable, because as soon as the fire fight started, every move had to be perfect in the stuffy confines of the closed fighting area. They all knew that the strong front armor and, above all, the low silhouette were important trump cards in the duel with the opposing Sherman tanks. The 75 mm cannon of their assault guns could take on all Allied tanks, the target optics were superior to those of the other side. Actually, the boggy ground was unsuitable for heavy combat vehicles, but this also made it difficult for the enemy to sideways bypass the assault gun (with its small lateral directional area of ​​the main weapon). However, the main concern of the men was the "Typhoons", powerful, fast fighter-bombers that could appear at any time. They knew full well that the anti-tank defense of the German front was based on the assault guns of their unit; from the original 31 copies, however, not many were left.

The soldiers waiting for the enemy here belonged to Parachute Assault Gun Brigade 12 under Captain Gersteuer. They had already fought with their assault guns in Normandy near Saint-Lô, then near Arnhem. A powerful troop - which now had to face a powerful opponent again. It was the combat experienced 4th Canadian Armored Division approaching from the south. And it had equipment that the Wehrmacht soldiers and Volkssturm men could only dream of. Above all, the almost non-stop support from fighter-bombers and artillery made it possible for the Canadians to form a bridgehead over the coastal canal at Edewechterdamm on the night of April 17th and thus break through the sea lion position.
When the Parachute Assault Gun Brigade 12 finally met the Canadians the next day, a short but fierce battle broke out. Although the brigade could not prevent the enemy from advancing further, they inflicted heavy losses on him. Only the example of Lieutenant Heinz Deutsch is given here, who on April 24th put a Canadian tank out of action with his Sturmgeschütz III; overall it was his 44th kill. He was awarded the Knight's Cross. By the end of the war, Parachute Assault Gun Brigade 12 had shot down a total of 260 enemy tanks. An impressive record - which it owed not least to the fighting power of its Sturmgeschützen III.

The development

The Assault Gun III (StuG III or Sd.Kfz.142) was in action on almost all fronts during World War II. Technically and tactically, this combat vehicle was somewhere between tanks, tank destroyers and self-propelled guns. Although assault guns were organizationally part of the artillery and had their greatest value in anti-tank defense for infantry support, they were often used as “armor substitutes”. The versatile weapon system was the most widely built armored combat vehicle on the German side during the war years. The states allied with the Third Reich also bought assault guns, and even after 1945 they remained in service outside Germany for decades.

The development of the Sturmgeschütz III goes back to a memorandum by Erich von Manstein (at the time still a colonel) from 1935. In it he called for an armored vehicle armed with an infantry gun to provide fire support to the infantry. Its main purpose was to combat enemy bunkers, field fortifications and similar objectives. The Reichswehr had already made a few attempts at this, but the vehicles used offered little protection to the gun crew.