Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Discussions on the vehicles used by the Axis forces. Hosted by Christian Ankerstjerne
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rosstcorbett
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Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by rosstcorbett » 23 Dec 2016 20:35

We recently visited King Tiger Tank 213 in the Belgium village of La Gleize where it was abandoned during the Battle of the Bulge. Standing next to it and reading all of it's stats, I couldn't help but be incredibly impressed. It looks like an absolute monster! BUT, we then sat down to discuss it with Battle of the Bulge Historian Peter Caddick-Adams who gave us some very good reasons to why it was actually a poor tank.

What do you think? Was the King Tiger a poor tank? Opinion seems to be very much divided for many reasons.



Regards,

Ross
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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Mobius » 23 Dec 2016 20:45

Unless that historian actually served in one or took a survey of those that did I wouldn't assume he knows.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Cult Icon » 23 Dec 2016 20:56

The King Tigers (503 and 509) were used to spearhead the Konrad armored attacks. They advanced ahead of the pz divisions.

The Tiger II was okay if it was used in the proper way. In the BoB it was not properly used.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by steevh » 26 Dec 2016 20:02

The Tiger II first went into combat in late (July?) 1944. It would have suffered from serious mechanical issues during its first year in action, like any other German tank.

On a combat basis, it was probably the best tank of the entire war, but it was expensive and a late arrival. So you could argue that it was both an amazing tank and a huge waste of resources. Most Tiger IIs would have been lost to mechanical failure or air attack -- its front armor was impervious to pretty much anything but a 17-pdr at close range.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by JD » 13 Jan 2017 09:25

Well, I'll put my head up for this but I suspect it's got potential for trouble...

The Tiger II represented an evolution in tank design, rather than a revolution. It was developed from ideas which came from the Tiger I and Panther. It was a tank like any other but bigger, heavier and more complex. Unfortunately for Germany, it was one step too far. In part this comes from Hitler's obsession with making things bigger than they needed to be, often for propaganda purposes. As result, he ended up taking too much notice of Ferdinand Porsche and not enough notice of his commanders, particularly Guderian. The result was that the army ended up getting the tanks Hitler liked instead of the ones it wanted.

Under the right circumstances, the Tiger II could control a battlefield. Its 88mm was the most powerful anti-tank gun of the war and it was still capable of delivering a good HE round against infantry and fortifications. Its reliability had been extremely poor at the start but improved with time. It was a tough contender, even against the Ordnance QF 17-pounder.

The Tiger II also cost something like 800,000 RM, used more manpower and steel than Germany could afford and ran up against the limits of automotive engineering as it was at that time. It was eight times the cost of a StuG III. It was very difficult to transport because of its size and did not fit onto rail cars. There were also very significant limits on the bridges it could cross because of its 68 ton weight. It had difficulty fighting in towns, where its long barrel made it difficult to traverse the gun and its prodigious size and weight making access to smaller streets much more difficult. It had equal difficulties in forests. It chewed fuel at a prodigious rate.

Its biggest failing IMHO was a specification which lacked focus. What was the point of such a powerful tank if there were so many limitations on it? What was the point of using this as an assault weapon when there were so many places it couldn't go because of its enormous size and weight? What was the point of such a huge, sophisticated tank when Germany could not afford it? What was the point of such a powerful gun if the hull was so big that anti-tank roles were limited because of it? How were commanders supposed to fit this into their force structure and exactly what role was it intended to fill? Why was Germany producing small numbers of enormous tanks when what they needed was large numbers of smaller ones?

It's clear to me that this was a product of a leader who did not understand tank warfare and imposed his will on those who did. It was the wrong strategy at the wrong time and taxed both industrial and military infrastructure in a way to could not afford. German steel was hard to come by because of the damage to the railways system and was of relatively poor quality, also a product of Allied bombing. The Germans were going backwards and needed a flexible army and more that ever, needed a tank force which could be easily and rapidly deployed. The Tiger II could never be part of that.

In the end, it was a solution to an almost non-existent problem. The same results could have been far more easily and cheaply achieved without going down the Tiger II rabbit hole. That with the added flexibility of far more vehicles in a force which could not be easily ignored. Wonder weapons frequently become battlefield orphans. With relatively low concentrations of them, ignoring them was possible.

It was a tank and had exactly the same foibles as any other tank. It could run out of fuel or it could get stuck. It could throw a track and it could still be penetrated at close range.

I don't think it was a load of rubbish. I just think it was a rubbish idea.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Cult Icon » 14 Jan 2017 06:43

Most King Tigers were deployed on the eastern front and the accounts follow this pattern: 1. They were generally undersupported by engineers, supply chain, bridging, air support, and infantry 2. Not a big difference in operational numbers vs. Tiger I. Struggled with bridges, fuel supply, and terrain issues. 3. As vulnerable to any other tank to mines. 4. Placed in the spearhead of attacks ahead of the main body of units so they operated relatively more exposed. 5. Did well in tank to tank fighting in the defense. Tended to take heavy losses in the offense, either mechanical or through knock outs. Like the Tiger I, it spend much of its career trying to systematically neutralize AT gun belts. 6. The Soviet SU-100 and SU/ISU-122/152 did not have problems against King Tigers and were dangerous opponents. SU-85s could also eliminate King Tigers.

The reality I believe is that being successful in attacking in late 1944/1945 required the use of a strong combined arms team- the Soviet heavy tank units were better equipped and supported for the offensive role than the King Tiger. Fighting the soviets and their AT units required strong engineering and bridging support. Along with artillery/CAS to eliminate the guns.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by JD » 14 Jan 2017 07:45

One consideration I left out of my last post: air power.

By the time the Tiger II came on the scene the Allies had it and Germany did not.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Mobius » 14 Jan 2017 15:16

Cult Icon wrote:6. The Soviet SU-100 and SU/ISU-122/152 did not have problems against King Tigers and were dangerous opponents. SU-85s could also eliminate King Tigers.
Do you have any examples of a Tiger II vs. SU-100 battle?

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Cult Icon » 15 Jan 2017 22:39

Mobius wrote: Do you have any examples of a Tiger II vs. SU-100 battle?
There are skirmishes somewhere in:

Tigers in Combat I/II, Tomb of the Panzerwaffe, History Tiger 503. Sword Behind the Shield (509) and possibly in Days of battle. IIRC I came across some in Stalin's Favorite II.

The King Tigers in the 1945 Hungary offensive operations often found themselves confronted with soviet destroyer units instead of tanks. (SU/ISU).

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Miles Krogfus » 11 Feb 2017 22:50

A picture of Battle of Bulge 501 SS Tiger arrived at Aberdeen. Tiger #332 was commanded by Oscha. Heimo Traue and broke down at Coo. Then taken by US Task Force Lovelady, it was shipped to Aberdeen where this photo was taken. Partly painted RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb (actually in the gray 7000 color range) not the false cream color you saw. See pages 266-267 of Volume 3, DUEL IN THE MIST for a photo and text on the Tiger.
In awhile, I will quote comments from gunners and CO's of King Tigers about SU's and JS tanks to add to my previous reports here at AHF about late 1944 and early 1945 combats of these panzers.
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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Michael Kenny » 11 Feb 2017 23:11

Miles that tank was repainted before it was first exhibited at Washington in 1945. There is no doubt this and all the other colour pics taken at Aberdeen that show up in various books are repaints.
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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Mobius » 12 Feb 2017 00:40

'this"? Are you saying they painted parts of this rust and weathered colored?

Now this looks repainted.
http://abload.de/img/cutaway-king-tigerd3jce.jpg

Spare tracks have been removed.
http://i111.photobucket.com/albums/n158 ... erdeen.jpg
Pretty rusty for a repaint job.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Michael Kenny » 12 Feb 2017 04:29

Mobius wrote:'this"? Are you saying they painted parts of this rust and weathered colored?
I am saying this Tiger was part of a captured Weapons display in Washington in 1945. For that event it was cleaned up and repainted. Thus all colour photos taken after 1945 show the repainted tank.

This is a Washington photo
colourproof.jpg
This is a 1950s view of the same repainted Tiger II
bulge0002.jpg
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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Sheldrake » 12 Feb 2017 08:56

rosstcorbett wrote:We recently visited King Tiger Tank 213 in the Belgium village of La Gleize where it was abandoned during the Battle of the Bulge. Standing next to it and reading all of it's stats, I couldn't help but be incredibly impressed. It looks like an absolute monster! BUT, we then sat down to discuss it with Battle of the Bulge Historian Peter Caddick-Adams who gave us some very good reasons to why it was actually a poor tank.

What do you think? Was the King Tiger a poor tank? Opinion seems to be very much divided for many reasons. [/youtube]

Regards,

Ross
It was certainly a poor tank for the task set Peiper - the swift seizure of the Meuse crossings.

The Kingtiger was at the extreme of German heavy tank design, conceived as a breakthrough tank to punch a hole through fortified positions. There is a question whether the idea of a tank so heavily armoured it could shrug off anti tank shot was doctrinally sound by 1944. By then the main combatants had anti tank guns that would penetrate the strongest armour. The King Tiger was an effective mobile anti-tank gun against heavy soviet tanks and impregnable to the smaller mediums 75mm armed M4s and T34/76.


A bit like the scythed chariots and elephants of ancient armies, the King Tiger was a "gimmick" that forced the enemy to spend time thinking about their threat at the expense of other weapons. Whether this was worth the effort is debatable.

The Tiger probably had a greater moral impact than physical. There weren't many Tigers or King Tigers, but the fear of meeting one led to misidentification of the Mk IV as a Tiger and the Panther as the King Tiger. E.G there are many US accounts from Bastogne of facing non existant King Tigers in Dec 1944. The documentary evidence from allied armour crews reflects the depressing impact on morale of going into battle in a tank that is believed ineffective against the enemy they will meet.

Is 6that much different to Peter C-A's summary?

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Yoozername » 18 Feb 2017 18:10

The Germans evidently believed in the Heavy Tank battalion concept. And accepted it's flaws and limitations. Nations like the Soviet Union, stopped making Heavy tanks till they could field something more reliable than the KV tanks. The USA was hung up on reliability and expected a heavy tank to be as good as the sherman was as far as reliability.

I do not believe that the Tiger II was ever issued to regular Panzer Divisions like the Tiger I was (in company strength)? The initial design must have been started when the German army still believed it was an attacking fighting force. that is, pre-Kursk. As with most German designs during the war, the Tiger II had initial issues with getting to the fight itself. Basically, like the Tiger I, it needed rail transport as close to the front as possible. It's initial actions (or inaction in Normandy), was not impressive. It also was badly used initially on the eastern front.

The design itself showed that the Germans were learning from other designs. The turret front was narrow and the gun was protected by a small cast mantlet. the gun was on trunnions that were actually attached not to the turret front, but rather to an interior ledge. This equates to much greater gun protection. It was much better than the Tiger I or Panther. The side turret armor appears bent to shape and this would certainly have been a production nightmare. The storage of ammunition in the turret is certainly a design flaw. I believe that combat units stopped storing ammunition in the turret.

The bombing of manufacturing probably brought the numbers to a crawl just as design problems were being worked out. So, while it can easily be called a load of rubbish by some, it might have had a bigger impact if it could have reached the number of Tiger Is produced. i doubt the number of runners at any one time might have been 100-200? I believe using them in Tiger battalions only would be correct just given the special needs it had. I would have used them exclusively on the eastern front also.

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