|“||Careful. That recon vehicle can even damage tanks.
- Andrew Campbell, West Meets East
The SdKfz 234 'Puma' (in-game: Puma) was the German Aufklärungs-Abteilung (Recon battalion) answer to their Recon falling prey to Allied armor attacks. This eight-wheeled Reconnaissance Armoured Car is armed with a 7.92mm Maschinengewehr 42 (Machine Gun 42) and a 50mm tank cannon, making it capable of striking down even medium armor from its concealed recon positions. These, along with improved armor, make the Puma tougher and much more nimble than its predecessors, without sacrificing speed or concealing ability. German commanders should keep in mind, that despite impressive armor for its size as well, to only use the Puma when in attack as a raider, rather than battle tank.
Based on the combat experience of previous eight-wheeled vehicles, there were deficiencies in the design. Thus, the Third Reich started an improvement program in August of 1940, based on new requirements created as a response to the shortcomings in the existing design. The result was the Puma. Based on predecessor Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (heavy armored scout car) SdKfz 232, the vehicle was designed to have an eight-wheeled, monocoque chassis like its predecessor, and an air-cooled engine for use in North Africa.
The 234 series of armored cars was one of the most advanced concepts in wheeled fighting vehicle designs to appear during the war. It had improvements in armor, speed and range. In its original 1940 concept the 234 series was to operate in hot climates. The Czech firm Tatra produced its air-cooled V-12 diesel engine that had an out put of 220hp. The Bussing organization made the hull, which was made of monocoque construction. Daimler-Benz and Schichau were jointly responsible for the turret.
The Puma also addressed the most common complaint among armored car crewmen; the lack of firepower when forced to engage the enemy. It included the same 50mm KwK L/60 gun carried in the Panzer III Ausf. J and L tanks in a cramped enclosed turret with 360 degree traverse. The gun did feature and muzzle brake and the vehicle carried 55 rounds for the main gun. The weight of the 50 mm gun and turret did result in the loss of some speed for the Puma, but this proved to be insignificant in the vehicle's combat performance.
By the time of the Normandy campaign the basic organization of the armored recon battalion had changed from its original 1939 organization. In practice this organization was only theoretical. The Pumas were to make up the Panzerspähkompanie of all Panzer divisions, but by the summer of 1944 there were not enough Pumas to fill the organizational needs of Germany's Panzer divisions.
The SdKfz 234/2 would see action in Normandy in three Panzer divisions. 2. Panzerdivision and Panzer-Lehr Panzerdivision were both fully equipped with the “Puma” having a compliment of 26 vehicles. The 2. Panzerdivision's along with the Panzer-Lehr division's “Pumas” can be represented with the Panzer-Lehr Panzerspähkompanie .1. SS Panzer-Division “Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler” also had a number of Puma armoured cars but did not posses a full compliment of them.
The combat techniques of the Puma were to see but not be seen and engage the enemy only when necessary. The radio was its most important weapon for its primary mission. Most of the time the Pumas were organized into three car groups for intelligence gathering missions on enemy movements and locations. Of all the missions the Puma crew were assigned infiltration was the most difficult. Oberst aD Fabian von Bonin von Ostau explains:
- “The initial penetration into unknown enemy territory was difficult. For this purpose our own local attacks were taken advantage of before the enemy could recover his balance. When on had achieved some penetration, the advance became easier.”
German crews learned important techniques to improve stealth such as easing the vehicles in to gear and running in low gear so they made very little noise. This was opposed to American crewmen who were known for 'gunning' their engines and thus giving away their positions to a skilled observer.
The Puma were used to find the enemy, screen the flanks, and the companies were only used together in certain situations such as to screen the division during a withdrawal. According to Heinz Guderian they conducted, “the ground reconnaissance for the Panzer-Divisions they were assigned to. Only in open terrain, when being followed or to protect a withdrawal is the company used together.” The Puma performed well in its traditional role and even showed strength on the attack.
The Pumas first saw combat in Normandy with the Panzer-Lehr division's drive into the invasion zone on 8 June. A few days later on the night of 13 June Pumas of 2. Panzer Division engaged elements of the US 26th infantry near Caumont which had inconclusive results.
The Panzer division's greatest enemy in Normandy proved to be the Allied fighter-bombers and the Pumas struggled with the foe as well. The stealth and infiltration techniques practiced by the Aufklärungskompanie whose emphasis was on seeking cover during the day did help a high percentage of Pumas to survive the heavy damage the Panzer division took during Normandy. Of the original 26 Pumas from the Panzer-Lehr division that started the campaign 8 survived Falaise Gap. In that same time only 20 tanks survived out of the starting strength of 109. SdKfz 234/2 Puma As the Panzer divisions involved in the Normandy campaign were rebuilt in the fall of 1944 the SdKfz 234/2 was no longer available in any numbers and was replaced with the more readily available SdKfz 234/1 and SdKfz 234/3 at that time. With the end of the campaign in Normandy, so too ended the reign of the Puma as the Panzer division's premiere armoured car.
Pros & Cons
+She will outrange tanks with 300m range ontop of falling back by itself, grinding them down safely.
+It can take on light, medium and even early heavy tanks if it gets off the first shot from a forrest.
-The game does not feature the artillery variants such as the 234/3 and 234/4 with 7.5cm (L/24 and L/46) guns leaving it unable to attack buildings or infantry effectively. (not including the improved MG 42 stats)
-It is somewhat slow for a recon unit.
Medium cal. AP shell
MG 42 Machine-gun