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We've all heard stories after stories of how a lone Tiger or Panther made a practical scrapyard of Shermans by ambushing all day.

But I can't find enough information on what happened when a Sherman would come across a StuG III G (or any other variant of it).

I have many questions regarding this, such as:

  1. What was the survival rate of Shermans against StuGs?
  2. What was standard practice against the StuG as it was hard to kill?
  3. Would every shot from a StuG G penetrate a Sherman if hitting at a decent angle?
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    I think you have missed one point. Panthers, Tigers and Shermans were tanks with turrets. Sturmgeschutz III was a tank destroyer/SPA and had no turret. So as you can imagine, Odds of one Stug against One Sherman would be pretty bad in a head-on battle as Stug had severe disadvantage in turret movement and sight so Sherman could easily outmaneuver it. – NSNoob Jun 14 '16 at 6:06
  • That being said, if camouflaged or used in an ambush, Stug would perform better than Shermans. – NSNoob Jun 14 '16 at 6:07
  • Couldn't the stug turn around on its axis faster than Sherman could get behind it? – user1062760 Jun 14 '16 at 6:46
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    Is there really a point to these "who would win?" questions? Unless we have data to tell us "who DID win?", it remains purely speculative. – Marakai Jun 21 '16 at 3:59
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    Does this M4A1 have the short 75mm gun or the 76mm high velocity gun? They were produced about 50/50. – Schwern Jun 22 '16 at 2:37
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The low silhouette of the StuG III (7 feet high vs 9 feet) made it ideal for ambush tactics. Against the Americans it's likely going to be on the defense and well hidden. It will probably get one or two aimed shots off at an advancing Sherman before the M4 can return fire. The StuG III's 75 mm KwK 40 L/48 gun could penetrate the M4A1's front armor at 1000 meters or more (except the gun mantlet).

Unlike other, heavier Wehrmacht armored vehicles, the StuG III was built in large numbers, over 10,000 though the best information I have says only 1,600 were deployed on the Western Front. And it was mechanically reliable. Unlike heavier German tanks which look fearsome on paper but few were built and many broke down, Shermans faced a large number of Stug IIIs.

The most important variable is the M4A1's gun. Is it using the low velocity M3 75mm/L40 gun or the M1 76mm high velocity cannon? Despite its poor anti-armor performance, the 75mm was retained because of it's superior high explosive shell. US tanks spent most of their time fighting infantry.

If our M4A1 has the 75mm gun, it's in trouble. It will struggle to penetrate the StuG III's 80mm of frontal armor at 500 meters. It is seriously outgunned. Its best bet is to fire a white phosphorous round to blind the StuG III while the M4 maneuvers for a side shot, or withdraws and calls in artillery, or calls in a buddy to flank the StuG III. WP could even cause a German crew to panic and bail out believing their vehicle is on fire.

An M4A1 with the 76mm high velocity gun is in a much better position. With a normal AP shell they can reliably penetrate a StuG III at 1000 meters. With an HVAP (High Velocity Armor Piercing) shell they could do it at 2500 meters. Unlike the Germans, the US was well supplied with specialty ammunition. If they can see the StuG III, they can destroy it.

In a close range fight, the M4 has some clear advantages. Not only does the M4 have a turret, but it has a powered turret allowing it to put the gun on target fast. The StuG III lacked a turret and could only traverse their gun about 25 degrees, and had to do it manually, before they had to turn the entire hull, a clumsy operation after which the gunner would have to reacquire the target.

Armored vehicles, if they're smart, don't operate alone. They operate with infantry. Here, the M4A1 has the advantage. The M4A1 was well suited to fighting infantry with three machine guns (a 30 cal in the bow, another mounted co-axially, and a commander's 50 cal), two of which could be fired while buttoned up. The StuG III G usually had only one machine gun. It was mounted behind a gun shield on top of the vehicle meaning a crewman had to expose themselves to operate it. Some StuG IIIs were modified with a co-axial machine gun as well.

Unfortunately I don't have specific M4 vs StuG III statistics. For further reading you might look into Steven Zaloga's books particularly M10 Tank Destroyer vs StuG III Assault Gun. The M10 was built on the M4 chassis, and carried a 3-inch gun similar to the M4's 76mm. On the other hand, it lacked armor and had an abysmally slow turret.

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    +1, I thoroughly enjoy reading yours and semaphore's answers! – NSNoob Jun 22 '16 at 7:45
  • Tanks, particularly Shermans, were intended to fight the opposing infantry. Tank destroyers (halftracks) were intended to fight opposing tanks. At least early on tanks had HE ammo while tank destroyers had armor piercing shells – TomO Sep 19 '17 at 18:50
  • @TomO That was the original US doctrine. Didn't work out so well in practice. The US severely over-estimated the value of mobility as protection and learned putting a gun on a truck doesn't mean it can fight tanks; so the US quickly developed turreted, tracked TDs like the M10 and M18. Commanders grabbed whatever was available with a gun sufficient to deal with what was in front of them. US tanks and TDs largely shared the same ammunition (75mm or 3") and both were stocked with AP and HE. Here's a good talk on US TDs. youtu.be/7ho8TU_JpoI Regardless, doctrine is not the question. – Schwern Sep 19 '17 at 19:05
  • @ schwem The defacto doctrine had to face reality. Still, the high, blocky Sherman wasn't opptimized for tank on tank fighting. But you're correct- with the right bore and ammo the Sherman could go tank on tank. – TomO Sep 19 '17 at 19:15
  • @TomO Yes, tanks are multi-role vehicles. Optimise too much for one, like the Tigers, and they fare poorly with others. The M4 was an excellent all-rounder, as was the PzIV and Panther. That said, there's A LOT more to anti-tank performance than height or even gun/armor/mobility. Sherman soft stats like visibility, ergonomics, and turret speed meant it could get an aimed shot off faster than the enemy; the single most important factor. Reliability meant it could get to the battlefield. This is off topic. I'll leave with The Chieftain on Myths Of American Armor. youtu.be/bNjp_4jY8pY – Schwern Sep 19 '17 at 19:31
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It really depends on a number of factors.

Who has control of the engagement? Distance to target? Is the armor angled thereby improving the effective cross section? The list could go on. What variant of the M4(M4A1, A2, etc.)? What about the skill and experience of the crew? All these directly impact the outcome, but take these and other factors out of the equation and set up a straight "head to head" engagement in 1944 at 500 meters, with an M4A1 using the M1 76mm firing APCBC and the StuG III Ausf. G using the 7.5cm KwK 40 L/48 firing APCBC, the M4 might survive the first salvo. Again this is totally dependent on on all other factors being equal save those of the vehicles, guns and ammunition as they were at that time.

Hope I helped.

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As nerdy teenagers, me and my high school buddies wargamed this type of confrontation out with miniatures on a living room floor using simultaneous movement rules, a pair of dice for combat resolution, and what data we had on the performance of both vehicles. In head-to-head matchups, both vehicles were approximately equal in terms of speed, firepower, and armor. The Sturmgeschutz with the short 75 mm howitzer wasn't as effective against armor as the Shermans or the Sturmgeshutz with the long-barreled anti-tank canon. We didn't have any models of the 76mm equipped Shermans.

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    That's only going to teach you about your game system, not the tanks themselves. – Gort the Robot Sep 18 '17 at 19:59
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    Welcome to History.SE! This would be better suited as a comment. I'm going to guess you posted it because you don't have permission to post comments yet, that happens at 50 rep. We give out privileges based on reputation so people participate and get to know the place a little and understand how it works, and we'd rather it not be circumvented. Don't worry, 50 rep piles up fast. – Schwern Sep 19 '17 at 2:12
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The Stug series, including the Stug III, were self-propelled infantry support guns. The other primarily infantry support weapons used in anti-tank roles included towed anti-tank guns, the infamous 88, and personal weapons such as the panzerfaust and panzerschreck.

The US lost a lot more tanks to infantry support weapons than it lost to tank on tank combat simply because the US was attacking most of the time. Of those losses the Stug III probably killed the most tanks, more than the 88. It's just that US soldiers blamed 'the 88' for any kills where they could not identify the source of fire, and even some that they could.

Tank on tank losses are greatly overstated. There are some notable instances, particularly with the most ubiquitous models (M4, M4A1 and M4A3). The later Shermans had better performance. For example the M4E8 of Brad Pitt fame had a reasonably powerful gun and in ETO it had additional appliqué armor to to 6 inches in the front. Despite the Brad Pitt movie, the ETO version of the M4E8 could actually penetrate the Tiger I's armor at a greater range then the Tiger I could penetrate the M4E8's armor. However, movie producers play to misconceptions rather than realities.

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