Wespe
Encyclopedia
The SdKfz 124 Wespe also known as Leichte Feldhaubitze 18 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II ("Light field howitzer 18 on Panzer II chassis"), was a German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 self-propelled artillery
Self-propelled artillery
Self-propelled artillery vehicles are combat vehicles armed with artillery. Within the term are covered self-propelled guns and rocket artillery...

 vehicle developed and used during the Second World War. It was based on the Panzer II
Panzer II
The Panzer II was the common name for a family of German tanks used in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen II...

 tank.

Development

In 1940, during the Battle of France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

, it was apparent that the main tank of the German forces, the Panzer II
Panzer II
The Panzer II was the common name for a family of German tanks used in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen II...

, was unsuitable as a tank; though mechanically sound, it was both under-gunned and under-armoured. Thus, when the need arose for a self-propelled artillery vehicle, the Panzer II was a natural choice, removing the vehicles from front line
Front line
A front line is the farthest-most forward position of an armed force's personnel and equipment - generally in respect of maritime or land forces. Forward Line of Own Troops , or Forward Edge of Battle Area are technical terms used by all branches of the armed services...

 service and extending their usable lifespan.

The design for the Wespe was produced by Alkett, and was based on the Panzer II Ausf. F chassis
Chassis
A chassis consists of an internal framework that supports a man-made object. It is analogous to an animal's skeleton. An example of a chassis is the underpart of a motor vehicle, consisting of the frame with the wheels and machinery.- Vehicles :In the case of vehicles, the term chassis means the...

. Production of the vehicles was carried out at various plants, mainly in occupied Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

. The conversion process itself proved relatively simple, involving the replacement of the Panzer II turret with a 105 mm leFH 18
10.5 cm leFH 18
-History:The 10.5 cm leFH 18 was the standard divisional field howitzer used by the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. It was designed and developed by Rheinmetall in 1929-30 and entered service with the Wehrmacht in 1935. Generally it did not equip independent artillery battalions until...

 howitzer
Howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

 and a gun-shield.

Combat history

The Wespe first saw combat in 1943 on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

, and proved so successful that Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 ordered all Panzer II production to be reserved for the Wespe alone, dropping other projects such as the Marder II
Marder II
The Marder II was a German tank destroyer of World War II based on the Panzer II chassis.-History: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...

 self-propelled anti-tank gun. They were allocated to the armored artillery battalions (Panzerartillerie Abteilungen) of Panzer division
Panzer Division
A panzer division was an armored division in the army and air force branches of the Wehrmacht as well as the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany during World War II....

s along with heavier Hummel
Hummel (artillery)
The Hummel was a self-propelled artillery gun based on the Gesch├╝tzwagen III/IV chassis, armed with a 15 cm howitzer. It was used by the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War from late 1942 until the end of the war....

self-propelled guns.

The Wespe stayed in production from February 1943 until mid-1944. By that time, 682 had been produced, with an additional 158 built as weaponless ammunition carriers.

External links

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