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This Marder II (Sd. Kfz. 131) was nicknamed "Kohlenklau" (Coal thief), after a propaganda caricature which was very popular in Germany from 1942 onward.
|Place of origin||Nazi Germany|
|Weight||10.8 tonnes (23,809 lb)|
|Length||6.36 m (20 ft 10 in)|
|Width||2.28 m (7 ft 6 in)|
|Height||2.2 m (7 ft 3 in)|
|Armor||5-35 mm (.19 -1.37 in)|
|1x 7.5 cm Pak 40
|Engine||Maybach HL 62 TRM
140 PS (138 hp, 103 kW)
|190 km (118 mi)|
|Speed||40 km/h (25 mph)|
During the very first days of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Germans were shocked to encounter Soviet T-34 medium tanks and KV heavy tanks. Although the Wehrmacht succeeded in most operations due to superior tactics, morale, and supply, it had few anti-tank weapons capable of successfully engaging these vehicles at normal ranges. An urgent need arose for a more mobile and powerful anti-tank weapon than the existing towed anti-tank guns or tank destroyers like the Panzerjäger I.
Among a series of solutions, it was decided to use light tanks, like the Panzer II, and captured vehicles, like the Lorraine Schlepper, as the basis for makeshift tank destroyers. The result was the Marder series, which were armed with either the new 7.5 cm Pak 40 anti-tank guns or captured Soviet 7.62 cm F-22 Model 1936 field guns, large numbers of which had been acquired early in the war.
The Marder II came in two major versions. The first version (Sd.Kfz. 132) was based on the light Panzer II Ausf. D/E and Flammpanzer II chassis with a new torsion bar suspension featuring four large road wheels and a "slack track" with no track return rollers. It was armed with captured Soviet 7.62 cm guns, re-chambered to accept German 7.5 cm Pak 40 ammunition, which improved its penetrative capabilities. These early Marder IIs had a very high silhouette (2.60 m high) and thin armor - only 30 mm (front) and 10 to 15 mm (sides). There was no armour on the top or rear, leaving the crew with very little protection. Alkett and Wegmann produced 201 Marder II (Sd. Kfz. 132) from early 1942 to early 1943.
The second version (Sd.Kfz. 131) was originally based on Panzer II Ausf. A to C hulls removed from active service, but later newly produced Ausf. F chassis were also used. This Marder II had a redesigned (widened) fighting compartment and used the German 75 mm Pak 40 anti-tank gun. The silhouette was lowered by about 40 cm to 2.20 m, but the armor was thin and the compartment was open to the top and rear, as in Sd. Kfz. 132. FAMO, MAN and Daimler-Benz produced 576 Marder II (Sd.Kfz. 131) conversions from June 1942 to Mid 1943. 75 more were converted (probably by FAMO only) from mid 1943 to early 1944 when the last Panzer IIs were taken out of active service.
The various Marder IIs fought on all fronts of the war, but especially on the Eastern Front.
The Marder's weaknesses were mainly related to survivability. The combination of a high silhouette and open-top fighting compartment made them vulnerable to indirect artillery fire, aircraft strafing, and grenades. The armor was also quite thin, making them vulnerable to enemy tanks or infantry.
The Marders were not assault vehicles or tank substitutes; the open top meant that operations in urban areas or other close-combat situations were very risky. They were best employed in defensive or overwatch roles. Despite their weaknesses, they were much more effective than the towed antitank guns that they replaced.
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