Panzer IV or Sturmgeschütz
By Christian Ankerstjerne
This document is part of a note by Heinz Guderian as Der Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen (inspector general for the armored forces) to a briefing by Hitler. While there is no explicit context, it is known that assault guns production was not under the control of Guderian, while tanks were. Thus, while the arguments may be sound, the document should still be viewed in the possible context of political rivalry.
Panzer IV or Sturmgeschütz?
Despite reports to the contrary, the assault gun is not superior to the Panzer IV, because the assault gun:
- Does not have a [fully-]traversable gun, which can only fire forwards (24° versus 360°). This means that, to engage targets at the sides or rear, time-consuming re-location of the vehicle is necessary.
- Is worthless against close attacks (no built-in machine gun), and thus require constant infantry protection. (See the artillery guidelines for use of assault guns.)
- Has poorer cross-country (1½ tons heavier than the Panzer IV).
These tactical and technical disadvantages of the assault gun against the Panzer IV are not made up for by its advantages (lower higher and 80 mm over 50 mm frontal armor). The assault gun lacks the decisive, lightning-speed combat options against all sides, as well as the ability, in emergencies, to fight without the support of other forces. The Panzer IV can do both.
The Panzer IV can, when circumstances so necessitate, be used as an assault gun. The reverse is not true.
Ceasing production of the Panzer IV would mean the replacement of a multi-purpose weapon with a single-purpose one.
Reports from the front, which speak of the superiority of the assault gun over the Panzer IV, are subjective. Assault guns are employed in conjunction with infantry, while tanks are often used for other assignments. This is the source of the great sympathy for assault guns.
Re-tooling factories would, in addition to creating unavoidable production delays, not be easily reversible.
Suggestion: Do not convert production, rather, when necessary, employ tanks as assault guns.
- Führervortrag am 5.9.43. Berlin : Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, 1943. 8 p. NARA T78 R623.