Hitler was opposed to the development of an assault rifle as he was afraid widespread use would cause a strain on ammunition supplies. The original version banned by Hitler was the Maschinenkarabiner 42(H) so the German Army renamed it to the Maschineenpistole 43 (MP 43), started production and tested the first examples on the Eastern Front, where they proved their worth. This version was able to fire single shot or automatic. Front line troops soon learned that the added firepower was well worth the cost in ammunition and also gave infantry platoons tactical flexibility as the were not wholly dependent on less maneuverable machine guns for firepower. By 1944, its worth proven many times over, Hitler officially authorized the weapon which was renamed to the Sturmgewehr 44 (StG 44).
The weapon fired 7.92mm rounds from a 419mm barrel with a muzzle velocity of 650m per second at a cyclic rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute. Magazines held 30 rounds. Effective up to 500 meters, after which stability and accuracy greatly decreased. The basic issue was 26 assault rifles in each 32 man machine pistol platoon. Each company had three platoons and the third platoon was designated as the infantry platoon and armed with Mauser 98K rifles. This was the official issue though many VG formations only received 50% or less of their allotment of StG-44’s.
Not to be confused with the Panzerfaust this weapon was also known as the Panzerschreck (tank terror) and the design was influenced by the American bazooka. Served by a two man crew the weapon fired a 88mm hollow charge projectile with an effective range of 120 meters. Allied tank commanders gave great respect to this weapon and eventually learned to call in heavy artillery fire wherever it was suspected this weapon was deployed. The Panzerschreck teams were vulnerable to high explosive fire and the back blast and smoke given off after firing, quickly gave their position away.
In the Campaign Series game system I believe that this AT capability is included in individual platoon’s anti-tank firepower. The VG platoons will knock Allied tanks around if they are allowed to get close and this weapon is one of the main reasons for that high unit value.
Each VG Division was to be assigned an anti-tank battalion consisting of 14 light tank destroyers, the Jagdpanzer Jg.Pz. 38(t) Hetzer though due to bombing of the Czech Skoda Factor and lack of raw materials StuG III assault guns were usually substituted.
The chassis of the early war Pz Kpfw 38(t) was used but the turret with its 3.7cm gun was removed and a rigid 7.5cm PaK39 gun installed in its place. Additionally, the vehicle was up armored from roughly 25mm and 15mm thick front and side armor versus 60mm and 20mm for the Hetzer and the thicker armor plates were angled up to 50 degrees more in the front and 20-30 degrees more angle on the sides.
For a light tank, the Hetzer lives up to its name and with a little luck and tactical prowess the Hetzer is more than a match for any Allied light tank and can give Allied medium tank commanders something to worry about. Though the 7.5cm Pak39 gun was slightly less powerful as the 7.5 cm KwK 40 gun mounted on the latest Pz IV models, the Hetzer’s thicker armor allows this weapon system to compare favorably with the German medium tanks. In Campaign Series game play the Pz IV’s are allocated about a third more firepower, against both armor and soft targets but woe behold the Mk IV tank commander that winds up next to (i.e within bazooka range) an American infantry platoon. The Hetzers may retreat or only be disrupted where a Mk IV platoon will suffer losses.
After the war surviving Hetzers served in the Czech Army while the Swiss Army purchased 158 and designated them as G13.
Using a hull design similar to the Pz III this G version of the assault gun mounted a 7.5cm StuK40 gun. Armored was increased in the rear hull from 30mm to 60mm and an extra 30mm armor plate bolted to the front which already had 50mm thick armor.
In Campaign Series this unit has equivalent offensive factors (8 versus armor, 12 versus soft target) as opposed to the Pz IV factors (12 versus armor and 16 versus soft targets) despite the 7.5cm StuK40 gun being similar to the 7.5 KwK 40 gun mounted on the Pz IVs. The only reason I can think the game designer did this was the Stu G III was less effective with a fixed gun as opposed to the Pz IV’s gun mounted in a turret.
At Panzerworld.com I discovered a translation of assault gun employment guidelines. Information in this document will be of interested to wargamers and game designers. Relevant to the Battle of the Bulge I note the following below, especially the last two bullets on forest combat and winter usage: