Diorama bait! For those modelers who want to bring something different to the show, few things fit the bill quite like an Me 323 Gigant loading or unloading cargo. Big and unusual, this subject combines aircraft and vehicles into a display worth remembering. Here are a few combinations to consider.
A nice color shot of a Marder II being unloaded in Tunisia. The Marder II was built on a Panzer II chassis and mounted a PAK 40 7.5 cm gun. Approximately 650 were built between June 1942 and June 1943, when production shifted to the Wespe self-propelled howitzer. With a total cargo capacity of 23 tons, the Gigant could easily handle the Marder II’s 12 ton weight.
The Sd.Kfz. 2 Kettenrad makes for a small load in itself, but the Me 323 could carry a dozen at a time, or a few as part of a mixed load. The Kettenrad could also be carried by the standard Junkers Ju 52 transport. The officer trying his hand at backing this example into the Gigant seems to lack confidence.
Here is a load which barely fits. This appears to be a workshop or command van built upon a MAN diesel truck, but I have been unable to identify the specific sub type. Nonetheless, an interesting vehicle which illustrates the Gigant’s ability to carry an oversized load.
8.8 cm flak guns were often photographed being loaded, usually along with their prime movers. This one is being man-handled, the log leading off out of frame to the left implies a vehicle of some kind is giving a push.
Luftwaffe troops seated aboard. The Me 323 could carry up to 175 full equipped troops, seated on two levels within the fuselage. Some troops were even accommodated within the wings.
A fully loaded Sd.Kfz. 3 Opel Maultier disembarking in Italy, towing what appears to be a 10.5 cm Feldhaubitze 18/40. The Maultier (“Mule”) was a conversion of the standard Opel Blitz truck made by removing the rear axle and installing Panzer I type running gear. The conversion weighed in at six tons, leaving the Gigant plenty of capacity to carry additional vehicles or supplies. (Bundesarchiv photo)
A mock-up showing one example of just how much equipment could be crammed into a Gigant fuselage. Here we see a Sd.Kfz. 10 light halftrack, a Horch 830 staff car, a motorcycle with side car, and a 5 cm PAK 38.
Looking aft into the interior showing details of the internal structure. Note the fuel drums secured to the deck at the rear.
A variation of the theme, here two vehicles in tandem are being used to tow a loaded Gigant onto the runway in Tunisia. For a modeler wanting to incorporate several vehicles into a display, many different combinations of cargo and towing vehicles could be used.
Wounded being evacuated in Italy, March 1943. Casualty evacuation was a common mission for a returning Me 323, several photographs show ambulances waiting outside the Gigant’s huge cargo doors.
Unloading a standard Opel Blitz, the Me 323 could accommodate two of these trucks in a single load. This photograph provides a good view of the ramps used.
Sd.Kfz 7 with 15cm sFH18 heavy field howitzer. Guns and their prime movers were common loads for the Me 323.