SdKfz 138 Marder III (Ausf. M)

SdKfz 138 Marder III (Ausf. M)

The SdKfz 138 Marder III was a self-propelled anti-tank gun (tank destroyer) that was constructed in two variants, the Ausf. H and Ausf. M, and was built on the chassis of the Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) tank. Both versions of the Marder III were armed with a 75mm PaK 40/3 L/46 anti-tank gun. 975 of the Ausf. M variants were produced by BMM between 1943 and 1944.

All of the Marder series of tank destroyers were improvised designs that used existing chassis. These were intended to provide the Germans with anti-tank capabilities until true, custom-designed tank destroyers, such as the Jagdpanzer and Jagdpanther, were constructed.

The role of a tank destroyer is to engage enemy tanks at long range and destroy them. Simpler and more lightly armored than a tank, the tank destroyer relied on outranging its opponent on the battlefield, something which became increasingly difficult as improved tanks were designed with more powerful and longer-ranged guns. (Modern tank destroyers use missiles to engage enemy tanks).

During a German attack on the French village of Ramelle on June 13th, 1944, a pair of tank destroyers were employed by the I SS Panzer Corps in addition to infantry-supported Tiger tanks. The Marder III was taken out of action when its crew was killed by Molotov cocktails thrown into the open crew compartment. The other tank destroyer (Sav m/43) was destroyed by a bazooka fired by Technical Sergeant Mike Horvath of the 2nd Ranger Battalion.

The two tank destroyers used in Saving Private Ryan were found in Czechoslovakia by Steve Lamonby of Plus Film Services. According to Second Battle Group, a UK World War II Re-enactment Society that participated in the filming of the movie, the chassis of the two tank destroyers were original, but the hulls were rebuilt.

Fact vs. Fiction

A valid point of criticism is the use of lightly-armored and vulnerable tank destroyers within the tight streets of a village. Without adequate support, such vehicles would be easy targets. Neither of the two tank destroyers has a full complement of crewmembers.

Although the first tank destroyer seen is clearly a German Marder III (Ausf. M), the second (the one destroyed by Horvath) was a bit harder to identify, and appears to be a Swedish Sav m/43 assault gun, a type of armor that the 2nd SS Panzer Division would certainly not have been using.


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Crew: 4
Weight: 10,500kg
Engine: Praga AC, 6 cylinder, 140hp
Length: 4.95m
Width: 2.15m
Height: 2.48m
Armament: 1 75mm PaK 40/3 L/46 anti-tank gun (27 rounds) and 1 unmounted MG-34 machine gun
Armor: 8-20mm
Maximum Speed: 42hm/h (road) or 24km/h (off-road)
Maximum Range: 140-185km