The Marder II was a German tank destroyer of World War II based on the Panzer II chassis.
About this creation
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.
It was decided to use light tanks like the Panzer II as the basis for makeshift tank destroyers. The result was the Marder series, which were armed with the new 7.5 cm Pak 40 anti-tank guns.
Two versions of the Marder II were produced, the SdKfz 132 and SdKfz 131. The SdKfz 132 had a Christie suspension and 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), thin armor of only 30 - 10mm. There was no armour on the top or rear, leaving the crew with very little protection.
The SdKfz 131 was based on the PzKpfw II Ausf. F chassis. 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.
The Marder II had a crew of three, a commander who acted also as a spotter, a loader and a gunner. 37 rounds of 7.5cm Pak 40 rounds were carried on board.
The Marder II served on all fronts until the end of the war. The Marder's weaknesses were mainly related to survivability. The combination of a high silhouette and open-top fighting compartment made the crew vulnerable to indirect artillery fire, shrapnel, 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 they replaced.