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German Tank Destroyer : Marder III (Sd.Kfz.138; Ausf. M)

Marder III was the name for a series of World War II German tank destroyers. They mounted either the modified ex-Soviet 76.2 mm F-22 Model 1936 divisional field gun, or the German 7.5 cm PaK 40, in an open-topped fighting compartment on top of the chassis of the Czechoslovakian Panzer 38(t). They offered little protection to the crew, but added significant firepower compared to contemporary German tanks. They were in production from 1942 to 1944, and served on all fronts until the end of the war, along with the similar Marder II. The German word Marder means "marten" in English.

Marder III Ausf. M, Sd.Kfz. 138

The last Marder III variant was based on the Geschützwagen 38(t) Ausf.M, a purpose-designed vehicle for self-propelled gun use, again armed with the 75mm PaK 40 anti-tank gun. Ausf. M was the final variant of the Marder series, and was a significant improvement over previous models, with its lower silhouette, sloped armor, and much more functional fighting compartment. In this variant, the engine was moved from the rear to the middle between driver and the rest of the crew. Because there was no engine in the rear, the gun and the crew did not have to sit on top of the engine deck as in previous models. The fighting compartment could be lowered down to the bottom floor level where the engine used to be, which decreased crew exposure and visibility. Unlike the previous two Marder III variants, the fighting compartment was closed at the rear, protecting the crew up to their midsection. It stayed open-topped. The machine gun port at the front was eliminated in the Ausf. M in favor of an MG 34 or MG 42 carried by the crew. In the previous two models, the commander served as a gunner. However, in the Ausf. M, the radio man moved to the rear, with the commander and gunner, to serve as a loader. Only 27 rounds of 7.5 cm ammunition were carried, but combat effectiveness increased because the vehicle commander was freed from manning the gun.

The full name of the Ausf.M was Panzerjäger 38(t) mit 7.5cm PaK 40/3 Ausf. M, Sd.Kfz. 138 . It was the variant that was produced in the largest numbers, with 942 vehicles built in two series from May 1943 to May 1944. Chassis numbers were 2166–2600 and 2601–3600 (overlapping with simultaneous Grille and Flakpanzer 38(t) production).

Model Specifications [wikipedia]