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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Simon H
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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Simon H » 10 Mar 2017 16:38

The Tiger II was a defensive tank, not a good offensive tank purely because of the power to weight ratio. But the myths of its invincibility were enough for the Allies, you only have to talk to the veterans who believed they had been in action against them, only to be surprised when they are told that the enemy tank they saw was more likely a Panther or a Pz IV with schurtzen.

For all that, they were still a great tank and had the Germans had more luck with air support during the Ardennes offensive then things might have been quite different.
WW2 Battlefield Relics: German Erkennungsmarken Identification.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by AloeSS » 21 Apr 2017 16:43

JD wrote: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.
Great.

But in retrospect, how many more panthers 'G' or PzIV 'J' could have been built if the tiger 2 had remained a prototype? I don't think it would have made an impact at all. the 3rd reich simply could not wage war against the whole world and win, even if they had had modern leopard tanks. They had no fuel basically, no spare parts and more importantly, no veteran crews to fill the panzer output, which had increased at the end of the war despite the heavy bombing of German factories.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by GhostOfKorsun » 23 Apr 2017 00:56

Reading the book on Abteilung 653 and the battle/retreat from the northern sector of Kursk you would have thought the Germans would have learned their lesson. I believe most Elefant's were abandoned/scuttled and there are pics of the tanks mired on collapsed bridges. I don't even think the unit had the proper recovery vehicles. There are several pics of an Elefant attempting to pull a disabled Elefant which had to have been against operating procedures. How could they miss this?

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by AloeSS » 23 Apr 2017 10:30

What could they have done to save them? nothing is my guess. They were too heavy to pull away and they didn't have time to bring cranes strong enough to load them on a railroad (they had to be brought there anyways) The thing is, elefants, jagtigers and such, were built in such small numbers, that overall they didn't influence the war much. Us in forums like to talk about them, but that's about it. We have to see them for what they were, concepts, ideas, prototypes, Hitler's folly (arguably they should never have been put into production).

Also, the Ferdinands were the tiger "P" converted into TD. the tigers P could have been more useful, who knows.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by JD » 30 Jun 2017 08:59

Thinking about this at a range of a few months, I think I have little reason to change my opinion but probably have a different way of coming to it.

Again, I think the Tiger II suffered from a very fuzzy mission. That was a simple matter of political focus.

The thing that makes it such a problem child is the difficulties of supporting such a behemoth. It wasn't just its performance in the field either. In fact, that was a small part of it. It was a resource hog everywhere you looked. It took approximately 100 tons of steel to build it and that kind of load on German manufacturing in 1944 made it very difficult to justify. Kurt Arnoldt, who was an engineer at Henschel, said the Germans could have and should have been building "sensible" 30-ton tanks. This dovetails very neatly with the Heer's desire for something to supplant the PzKpfw IV as their primary infantry tank.

With Hitler, Porsche and Speer constantly politicising the army's choice of tanks, the Germans ended up going down a rabbit hole of huge tanks with no clearly defined mission. As a result, they wasted years of potential tank development and the army just had to soldier on with tanks which by 1944 were past their use-by dates.

The other problem is that these enormous tanks take all the limelight and a clear picture of what happened is a lot harder to find than it should be. People can readily produce statistics on how many tanks they claim to have destroyed but the offset is that nobody seems to know the effectiveness of anti-tank gun platoons or the lesser known types like the Hetzer.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by yantaylor » 30 Jun 2017 12:35

I recall reading [probably years ago on this site] that the Panzer Lehr division had a few [maybe a platoon or even a company] in France in 1944 and that these were sent back to Germany prior to the Normandy landings.

I agree that the Germans should have stuck with what they had and not bother with heavy armour at all, I would have thought that they would have more use of of Panthers and Pz Mk IVs and other vehicles like Hetzers and Jadgpanthers, and not forgetting to very useful and dangerous StuG III.

Yan.

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

Post by JD » 22 Aug 2017 13:56

AloeSS wrote:Great.

But in retrospect, how many more panthers 'G' or PzIV 'J' could have been built if the tiger 2 had remained a prototype? I don't think it would have made an impact at all. the 3rd reich simply could not wage war against the whole world and win, even if they had had modern leopard tanks. They had no fuel basically, no spare parts and more importantly, no veteran crews to fill the panzer output, which had increased at the end of the war despite the heavy bombing of German factories.
Only just saw this, so apologies for not responding.

The Germans had little hope of winning anyway. Theirs was a short war strategy and they failed in a similar way to the First World War. If they could not get a quick victory, they would not get a victory at all.

However, this is kind of beside the point. I wasn't ever suggesting that the Germans could have or should have won the war. I was suggesting that the idea of the super tank was flawed and there were better solutions, ones which were less taxing on the industrial base of the German war economy. I'm just trying to see it from their point of view. In the 1950s, both the British and the Soviet Union did separate surveys to find the relative value of tank types. They found that the Tiger II was worth up to 3 times the combat value of another tank (I think it was a Cromwell). But the fact remains that to be three times as good wasn't enough. To win they had to be ten times as good and that was never going to happen.

I don't think the Panther would have been a very good choice either. It wasn't a very good infantry tank. The Heer wanted something in the 30-ton class and the Panther was 44 tons. They liked the idea of sloping armour but they needed a different gun and a smaller chassis. What they were really looking for was something to replace the PzKpfw IV and StuG III, which were getting to be pretty long in the tooth.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by delete013 » 12 Feb 2019 01:20

As opposed to general opinion found on the Internet I got a quite different impression of the second generation of German tanks.

I considered the following. These tanks came into use at more dire situation that the predecesors or particualrly tiger 1. In the East they fought consistently numerous oponents with steadily improving tactics with a diminishing defence assets. In the West they were exposed to a similarly dire situation but for other reasons. Apart from uneven numbers, German army literally lacked components of combined arms. Added to it is a much less homogeneous order of battle, filled with improvised Volksgrenadiers and units without finished training. This led to a consistent lack of support and greater reliance on the tanks. GH appears to be aware of this and accepted the higher vehicle losses since those were the only vehicles that could receive fire relatively well. I this sense were Tiger 2s in France used like disposable battering rams in hope of forcing a breakthrough against overwhelming firepower of the Allies. This wasn't the best utilisation of these vehicles but there was no better known alternative. And consider this for a moment. These vehicles were capable of taking repeated hits and even allowed the Germans to conduct the specific mobile defence that held off 6 British offensives around Caen with minimal forces available.

The impression from the fighting in France in 1944 is that panthers and both tigers could accept a considerable amount of beating and offered quite high crew survivability, since first hits were usually not enough to destroy a tank. It was reported around Rouray that armoured units had to perform reconaissance on their own due to lack of dedicated recon units. In a specific case a single tiger would drive up as a recon in force to determine the location of advancing British. It turned on a dozen of shermans that shot it repeatedly but failed to penetrate the tank. The crew bailed unscathed and got a new tank later. The commander, curiously, considered it a very usefull mission.

Another example is Arracourt where the unfinished panzer brigades were running against US advance with no artillery support or recon and with disclosed plans, yet managed to stabilise the front. They were basically used as a throw away joker since there was nothing else to use and I believe German generals knew it.

So my conclusion is that precisely because of the heavy armour, which caused so many automotive issues, a defence without artillery and air support and with little reconnoitring was even possible. If they were employed within the fully equipped combined arms team then I don't think Allies would have anything to stop them.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Michael Kenny » 12 Feb 2019 01:58

delete013 wrote:
12 Feb 2019 01:20
These vehicles were capable of taking repeated hits and even allowed the Germans to conduct the specific mobile defence that held off 6 British offensives around Caen with minimal forces available.
First use of TII was July 16 and the 12 TII played no part in the defence of Caen.
delete013 wrote:
12 Feb 2019 01:20
The impression from the fighting in France in 1944 is that panthers and both tigers could accept a considerable amount of beating and offered quite high crew survivability, since first hits were usually not enough to destroy a tank. It was reported around Rouray that armoured units had to perform reconaissance on their own due to lack of dedicated recon units. .
EPSOM ('Rauray') was a total disaster for the Germans. It led to the destruction of their last reserves and the attack that was split the Allies and reach the beaches was utterly defeated with huge panzer losses. Not a bad result for the 'held-off' British.
delete013 wrote:
12 Feb 2019 01:20
In a specific case a single tiger would drive up as a recon in force to determine the location of advancing British. It turned on a dozen of shermans that shot it repeatedly but failed to penetrate the tank. The crew bailed unscathed and got a new tank later. The commander, curiously, considered it a very usefull mission.
A fairy story from Agte. The Tiger commander had to come up with a reason as to why he was forced to walk home and a claim for the usual 'dozen Shermans' is a nice excuse for failure.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Nautilus » 23 May 2019 12:52

delete013 wrote:
12 Feb 2019 01:20
In the West they were exposed to a similarly dire situation but for other reasons.
Peiper, who did serve in Tiger II, asked quite logically: what to do with the biggest, heaviest and strongest tank in the world on a road for bicycles? :D

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Cult Icon » 23 May 2019 13:04

I would like to see this question analyzed with german sources- english language sources are limited with only a few books that cover various units equipped with the KT (501 SS, 502 SS, 503, 507)
Last edited by Cult Icon on 23 May 2019 14:44, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Yoozername » 23 May 2019 14:13

It seems that even the Panzer Divisions, that had a company of Tigers, such as the Death's Head (Totenkopf), had both Tiger I and Tiger II.

https://www.amazon.com/Tigers-Deaths-He ... 081171313X

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Cult Icon » 23 May 2019 14:26

^
That book has only a small amount of information on the use of Tiger IIs. (mostly on 509th Heavy Tank Battalion)

The 4 Tiger companies (1.SS, 2.SS, 3.SS, G.D) were equipped with Tiger Is. The Tiger company of 1.SS and 2.SS were disbanded after the creation of the SS Tiger battalions. The G.D tiger battalion never was equipped with any Tiger IIs. Only the 3.SS retained its Tiger company, and almost all vehicles were Tiger I until the end of the war.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Yoozername » 23 May 2019 16:59

Cult Icon wrote:
23 May 2019 14:26
^
That book has only a small amount of information on the use of Tiger IIs. (mostly on 509th Heavy Tank Battalion)

Only the 3.SS retained its Tiger company, and almost all vehicles were Tiger I until the end of the war.
My post was in regards to any Tiger II being used in Panzer Divisions as I posted earlier.

Totenkopf appears to be using Tiger I (and some Tiger II), right up till the end of the war. Including a Tiger II leftover with a Porsche turret. Also used, Panther, Panzer IV, JagdPanzer IV and StuG.

The book does describe the contentious battles where the 509th was attached to Totenkopf. Among the many complaints by the 509th, they had fuel and ammunition supply issues. They did not seem over-pleased with the way things went.

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Re: Was the King Tiger a Load of Rubbish?

Post by Cult Icon » 30 May 2019 14:44

I have "Totenkopf Tigers" by Schneider on order now. Hopefully it's a lot better than the Death's Head book.

Also with King Tigers the 503 SS had significant success with them in 1945, having trained for a year.

There is coverage in "Tragedy of the Faithful/Tiecke", Armored Battles of the WSS/fey", Tigers in combat II/Schneider and snippets from books about the battle of Berlin & 11th SS Nordland.

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