alecsandros - http://www.kbismarck.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=43993#p43993 wrote:
In the last weeks I’ve made an analysis of Tiger tanks deployment and operations. I am trying to share the most important findings, many of which, at least to me, were quite novelle:
1. Tiger tank deployment:
>>> 35-38 Tigers deployed in North Africa, nov 1942 – may 1943. The maximum number of Tigers operational at peak force in Tunis was about 15-20 units.
>>>180-190 Tigers deployed in Italy, jun 1943 – may 1945. The average number of Tigers available at any given time since their deployment in Italy was about 30-40 units, with a probable peak at about 50.
>>>230-240 Tigers deployed on the western front (France/Rhine defense)
Out of these, about 150 were present during the Normandy campaign (June – Aug 1944). About 60-80 were available at peak force. Only 4-5 Tigers escaped from Normandy, but it appears that they were all blown up/abandoned on their way back anyway.
The rest of 80-90 Tigers used on the western front were mostly Tiger II’s, deployed during the Ardennes offensive and subsequent battles (dec 1944 – may 1945). No more than 30 were available at any given time, and never en masse.
>>> ~ 1300 Tigers deployed on the eastern front (72%), between aug 1942 and may 1945. The maximum number of Tigers deployed in the east was about 350-400 units, in late 1943. Out of these, no more than 250 were operational at peak force.
I’ve added up the numbers starting from Schneider’s “Tigers in Combat” and Jentz’s “Tiger I Heavy tank 1942-1945”. I numbered deployed Tigers starting from their final resting place. So in Tunis about 35-38 were lost; in Italy – about 180-190, and so on. There were also several independent Tiger units, which spread the remaining 100-150 tanks between them. These units made many moves across the fronts, and there aren’t to many information about them.
The number of operational Tiger I’s was about 50% of the batallion’s strength. So, from a 45 tank unit, only 22-23 were available at any given time. Most of the tanks in maintenance were there because of mechanical problems and not enemy activity.
There were rare instances when a battalion had 0% operational Tigers, although the battalion was quite large – over 30 tanks. There were also, extremely rare occasions, when 100% of a batallion’s tanks were available, for 2-3 days in a row.
The number of operational Tiger II’s was 25-30% of the battalion’s strength from mid-1944 to late 1944. Only after Dec 1944 the operational status went above 40%, on average, and did not exceed 50% allmost never. The reason was fairly simple – the engine and distribution were to underpowered to carry a 70-ton tank. Breakdowns were even more common than in the case of Tiger 1.
Tiger 1 / Tiger 2 (Henschel prod.):
Max speed: 45,4km/h / 38km/h
Maximum sustainable speed: 20km/h / 20km/h
Cruise speed: 15km/h / 15km/h
Radius of action, road: 195km with cruise speed / 170km with cruise speed
Radius of action, cross-country: 110km with cruise speed / 120km with cruise speed
Smallest turning radius: 3.44m / 2.09m(?)
Trench crossing: 2.5m / 2.5m
Fording: 1.6m / 1.75m
Gradient climbing: 35* / 35*
Ground pressure: 0,735kg/cm2 / 1.034kg/cm2(?)
On snow, mud, and usually bad terrain, the Tiger 1 and 2 was more manouvreable than the Sherman/Churchill/Cromwell, due to its wider tracks and better length/wide ratio.
4. Effectiveness of the main armament
The 88mm L/56 and 88mm L/71 were amongst the most powerfull tank guns available for their times. Coupled with extremely accurate sights and thorough training of the crews (up to 1 year for some units, and never below 6 months for all), the guns were deadly at all battlefield ranges and against all targets (for their time). The ammunition used was also top-quality, with APC shells using tempered round ballistic caps, favoring perforations at various obliquity angles.
The Tiger 1’s used both APCBC (pz gr 39) shells, capable of perforating ~ 90mm of homogenous armor plate, laid back at 30*, at 2km AND APCR (pz gr 40) shells, capable of perforating over 120mm of armor, at 30*, at 2km. (Jentz)
The accuracy of the shooting at 2km varied between 50-90%. This made the JS-1 (90mm) and Churchill MkIV (102mm), the tanks fielding the thickest-armor-plates up to mid-1944, vulnerable at 2km or more.
The Pz.gr 39 had a weight of 10,2kg, while the Pz.gr.40 – 7,3kg. The latter was a sub-caliber tungsten-core round with no filler. The damage was done by impact alone.
The sight for the Tiger I was the binocular Leiz “Turmzielfernrohr 9b”, mounted parallel and on the same axis as the main gun. From Apr 1944, the “T-9c” replaced the previous model.
Both sights were extremely accurate, each being capable of aquiring targets at up to 3000m for AT-combat and 5000m for HE coverage. The T-9c also featured 2 magnification levels 2.5X and 5X. With the latter, a unit at 5km away could be seen as one situated at only 1km distance.
The turret could be turned 360* in about 60sec, if the engine was turated to the max (3000rpm). For lower rpm’s, the turning time was consequently higher.
The Tiger 2’s used also APCBC/APCR shells. At 2km, they could perforate 132/153mm of armor laid back at 30*, with accuracies of 45-85%. This made the JS-2 (100mm), Churchill mkVII (152mm) and Pershing (100mm), the thickest-armored-tanks from mid-1944 to the end of the war, vulnerable at 2km or more. APCR shells were, however, in very short supply in 1944-1945, so I doubt they would be used to often in the final stage of the war.
The sight was Leiz Turmzielfernrohr - 9b.1 (binocular) and Turmzielfernrohr – 9d.1 (monocular). The T-9.d featured 2 levels of magnification: 3X and 6X. Target practice was done in testing grounds for 2x2,5m targets located at 500-4000m away. The accuracy at 4km was 25% during practice and 13% during combat (Jentz.)
The turret could be turned 360* in about 10sec, if the engine was turated to the max (3000rpm). For lower rpm’s, the turning time was consequently higher.
A few combat examples:
• 21Jul1944, area of Iwaczow (Poland): 1 Tiger I destroys 1 JS-1 at 4000m ! (Schneider)
• 6Mar1945, area of Seregelyes (Hungary). 2 Tiger II’s destroy 6 JS-2’s at 2000m (Schneider)
• 19Apr 1945, Bollersdorf (Germany): 4 Tiger 2 attacked and destroyed 120 T-34-85 and JS-2’s, at ranges of 1,5 – 3km. The battle raged for a few hours, with about 30 T-34s destroyed during the night. (All tank commanders were given the Knight Cross on the 28th of April)
• 20Apr 1945, Klostendorf, Germany: 1 Tiger 2 of the SS-103rd Panzer destroyed 13 soviet tanks at ranges of 2-4km.
The rate of fire for the main gun was good, at about 4-6 shells/minute for the KwK36 and about 2-3 shells/minute for the KwK44.
The HE ammo was also effective, the Tigers being used as artillery support many times.
5. Effectiveness of armor protection
The armor used in the construction of the Tiger 1 was of very good quality homogenous steel. Brinell hardness for the face of the plates was ~ 260-280, significantly better than the Allies tank plates (200-240). A British study, performed on a captured Tiger in Tunis showed Tiger plate to be ~ 13% more resistant to perforation than a similar British plate.
The relatively high-Brinell hardness also served as a deterrent to some AP shells. Soviet AP shells ballistic caps especially had Brinell hardness of 225-250 until mid-1943, and they frequently bounced off the armor, even if, in theory, they should have perforated it.
Even in late 1943, problems with Soviet APC shells remained. In one action, 1 SU-122 hit a Tiger 1 8 times, at about 1km, without perforating it even once.
There were also cases in 1943 when Tiger tanks received 100+ shots, and still made it back to their own lines.
Contrary to popular belief, the “eastern” Tigers were not threatened in a larger extent than their western counterparts. Usualy, at least until mid-1944, the contrary was true.
Soviet anti-Tiger weapons were, on paper, quite effective. However, on the battlefield, there were numerous instances of 85, 100 and 122mm shells bouncing of the front and ever the side-armor of Tiger I tanks. This was mostly a problem of the soviet AP shells (see above), which was only remedied late in the war. Even soviet AT guns had big problems taking out Tigers.
In one engagement in 1943, 1 Tiger (T-121 of the 503rd Schw-tank battalion) received over 250 hits (from calibers 14,5mm to 100mm) and still managed to crawl back to base on its own power.
The most effective weapons available on the eastern front were the US-built 90mm AA/AT gun, firing, naturally, US-built ammunition. In one engagement of the 8th SS Pz-Regiment, out of 6 Tigers attacking, 4 were destroyed and 2 crippled by 4x90mm AT guns, near Owskanikowka, in Jan 1944.
Only with the arrival en-masse of Su/ISU-52 and JS-2’s, and the imporovement of APC shells, were the soviets able to knock-out/destroy numerous Tigers in battle. That’s why the number of Tigers lost in battle on the eastern front rises dramatically since Sep-1944.
In “the west”, 6pdr, 17pdr and the tank-destroyers yielding the same AT guns, were many times effective in destroying or knocking Tigers out of the battle. In Tunisia, even since Jan 1943, the British troops fielded several 17-pdr guns. 2 Tigers had their frontal armor perforated in an engagement in Fev 1943. However, there weren’t enough such weapons available, or they were rarely deployed in the battles were Tigers were involved.
For instance, on the 12th of July 1943, 6 Tigers of the 504th heavy tank battalion launched a counter-attack in Italy, towards Vittoria. They were met by 40-50 US tanks and surrounded. In the fierce battle that followed, 16 US tanks were knocked-out (10 burned), and 3 Tigers lost on the battlefield. The other 3 Tigers got away, although each suffered over 100 hits !
There were also cases in which M10 tank-destroyers and 6-pdr guns managed to damage Tigers, when firing from the sides, at ranges of 500-600m.
By late 1944, APDS ammunition became more common for the majority of British and US tanks. This type of ammo was based on a sabot-shell, firing a sub-caliber, non-filler round. The precision of the shot wasn’t to good, and the damage was done only by impact alone. But the concentration of allied armor made these problems less apparent. Also, the average range of western tank engagements was < 1000m, because of the hilly/rugged terrain. This made the precision problem even less apparent. Consequently, the number of Tigers destroyed in tank combats increased dramatically from Oct 1944 onwards.
So, it appears that the Tiger armor was very effective against tank/AT guns rounds up until late-1944. After that, most potential enemies had the necessary “punch” to put rounds inside the armored hull of Tiger tanks at ranges of about 1000m (and sometimes more. However, the quality of soviet optics was not to good, and generally a 1,2km hit was very uncommon even in 1945. But, in theory, a good quality 122mm APC shell could perforate Tiger 1 front at 1,5km. On the western front, hits at up to 1700y were reported, but they were non-penetrative hits AFAIK)
The most important improvement in the armor pattern was the increase and sloping of frontal armor. The frontal hull of the T2 was sloped at 55* from the vertical, and had a thickness of 150mm. The frontal turret armor was 150-180mm thick (the first 50 Tiger 2’s had “only” 150mm of frontal armor, the others - 180). The gun mantlet had 150mm of armor.
The sides were protected similarly to the Tiger 1, with 80mm of armor. The top was better protected than the T1, with 40mm of armor.
Allthough some soviet sources claim inferior quality of the armor of Tiger 2’s, British 1944 tests performed at Chobbam testing grounds proved the armor to be of sound quality, comparable to the quality of British plates. However, the brinell hardness of the armor varied from 210-240, about 20% lower than that of the Tiger 1.
Despite those impressive characteristics, the Konigstigers faired worse than the Tiger 1’s on the battlefields of Europe, mainly because by the time they were rushed into service, the Allies had already learned many lessons from confronting the Tiger 1’s. On the one hand, Allied armor would almost always respond en-masse to German heavy-tank threats, and on the other hand, new weapons and ammunition were available, many capable to defeat at least some portions of the Tiger 2’s armor. Coupled with the first rule (attacks en-masse), this helped a lot in destroying King Tigers: the concentration of AT rounds on a single tank quickly worn out it’s armor, caused spalling, and almost always found a “weak-spot”, usually in the sides, through which one or more AP rounds would enter the armored hull.
By late-1944, most soviet AP shells had been improved, and thus had superior armor perforation capabilities. A large number of heavy tank destroyers and heavy tanks were also available to the soviets, thus decreasing Konigstigers survivability rate.
ISU-152: 2000 built; ISU-100: 2500 built; ISU-122: 2000 built; JS-2: 3000 built
The western allies also fielded new APDS, HVAP and HEAT ammunition, which was available for most of the tank guns (British 75mm / US 75mm/ US 76mm/ US 76,2mm/ US 90mm/ British 6-pdr/ British 17-pdr being the most common). All the above shells could perforate at least some portions of the Tiger 2 at ranges of at least 700-800m, and many times 1500-2000m (17 pdr firing APDS for instance).
Western tanks and tank destroyers, late war:
Sherman Firefly – 2200 built
Achilles 17pdr – 1100 built (conversion of Wildcat)
M36 Hellcat 90mm
M10 76,2mm – about 6000 built
Comet 77mm HV
M26 Pershing 90mm, about 500 produced by the end of the war
• 13th March 1945, Hungary: 16 King Tigers of the 509th Heavy Tank Battalion attack 24 entrentched ISU-152’s. In a ferocious battle, all the soviet SP artillery was knocked-out, but 3 Tigers were destroyed, 13 heavily damaged and put out of action for days or weeks.
• In another battle, waged on Lisow (Poland), in Jan 1945, 25-30 Tiger 2’s attacked the soviet positions. They fell in an ambush and were all destroyed by 76/100/122mm AT guns, T-34’s and JS-2s. A single Tiger (Tiger 111), which got stuck in the mud about 2km away from the enemy positions, managed to knock-out about 20 enemy tanks before being itself destroyed.
• In Dec 1944, in a forest in France, 1 King Tiger met 2 Sherman 76mm. The Tiger fired first and destroyed 1 Sherman, but in the mean time, the second Sherman scored 2 penetrating hits, which set the Tiger aflame. The engagement was fought at about 500m and the shells penetrated the lateral turret armor.
[Schneider, Jentz, Fprado.com, achtungpanzer.com ]
6 Operational achievements
90% of the Tigers used in the war were organized in Schwere tank Battalions, with a nominal strength of 45 tanks. These units fought independently most of the times. Rarely, they were subordinated to divisional commanders, but usualy only for brief periods of time. Only afew divisions received “permanent” Tiger battalions: Panzer Lehr, Totenkopf, Das Reich, Grossdeutschland.
The Tigers were designed to break enemy defense lines, eliminate strong-points, pass over trenches and almost any kind of barriers (barbed wire, wooden structures, concrete structures), with the only problem being the purpose-built anti-tank “teeth”. The heavy tanks should have also absorbed enemy concentrated fire from machine-guns, AT rifles, AT guns, tanks, etc, leaving less mortal danger to be directed against the medium/light tanks and the panzer grenadiers, which were supposed to help in obtaining the breaktrough.
In tank battles, the Tigers were supposed to engage the largest and most dangerous enemies, preferably at long range, while leaving the lesser ones for the PzIIIs and PzIVs.
Tiger battalions were expected to be kept at 12-15 km behind the front lines and deliver hammer counter-attacks immediately after the first waves of the enemy assaults were contained or threatened to penetrate to deep the defenses. They were to be kept as an operational reserve, used on a point of crisis.
6.2 Historical strenghts
The Tiger 1 was a formidable tank from Nov 1942 to spring 1944. Allthough some foreign designs were also built with the heavy-tank role in mind (KV-1, KV-2), and some even were purposefully built to destroy Tigers (JS-1), the battlefield advantage stayed with the Tigers for about 1,5 years.
The very high-quality armor cast, the very high-quality gun/sights/shells, and, of course, the very high quality tank commanders and excellent trained crew-members made this animal a ferocious predator. The tank was also surprisingly nimble for its size, being capable of turning on the spot in less than 15 seconds. Maximum speed was also very good, at over 43-44km/h on roads.
In those 1,5 years, Tigers were deployed in Tunis, Italy and the great Russian steppes – ideal tank countries. The large open-fields of the deserts, of the long Italian valies and of the almost neverending Siberian planes made enemy tanks visible and engageable from afar. Kills at 3km were reported; kills at 2km were not uncommon, and kills between 1-1,5km were the norm. In this kind of terrain, the Tigers could manouvre at will, engage and retreat with no fear of being stuck/blocked by various natural elements. But the key point remained visibility: as far as the enemy could be seen from the distance, the Tigers had the upper hand. Also, of crucial importance, was the air support available. The Luftwaffe played a good role in all theatres of operations until early 1944, and sometimes even after that (mainly on the Eastern front). But after spring 1944, over most of the battlefields, enemy jagd-bombers were mostly un-opposed and frequently harassed Tiger battalions. More about this on the “weaknesses” area.
Another remarkable “historical strength” was the incredible delay of the Allied response. Reports of heavy German tank prototypes were known in Britain and Russia from June 1942. The tanks were credited with 80mm of frontal armor, 88mm HV guns and 32-35km/h top speed. However, nobody moved a muscle. Worse still, after capturing their first Tiger in Aug 1942 (after the first Tiger assault, which was a fiasco due to the numerous teething problems a new model almost always has) the Russians concluded that it was a flawed design, cumbersome, and with to many mechanical problems so as to represent a real threat. The British-Americans, after encountering their first Tigers in Nov 1942 in North Africa (and even capturing 1 in Fev 1943) also remained dubiously un-moved in their tank designs and production priorities.
Mistakes in war cost lives.
• 14th of Fev 1943 – 6 Tigers of the 501st Schw.-tank battalion engaged and destroyed in open combat 20 Shermans and Stuarts for no loss in North Africa.
• 20th of March 1943 – 6 Tigers of the 504th Schw.-tank battalion attack elements of the 9th US armored division, destroying or knocking-out 35 light/medium tanks in battle of Maknassy Pass.
• 7th Fev 1943 – 3 Tigers and 3 Pz-IIIs engage a large soviet armored column during the Second Battle of Ladoga. The 6 tanks destroy 32 tanks and force the others to retreat (many of the retreating enemies being damaged). Only 1 Pz-III was lost.
• 17th of Fev 1943 – 1 Tiger of the 502nd of Schw.-tank battalion is guarding an area south of Leningrad from up a hill. It engaged a KV-1 formation, which broke and fled in a few minutes. 10 KV-1s were destroyed and exploded in the field.
• 21st of Apr 1943 – 6 Tigers support the defense in Tunis. They knock-out 40 tanks [unknown number of actually destroyed vehicles] of the 9th British armored Division, and force the others to retreat. Only 1 Tiger is lost to enemy fire.
• 5th of July 1943: 30 Tigers of the 505th Schw.-tank battalion cross the Oka river towards Podolian. Over 100 enemy tanks try to encircle them. The Tigers move coordinately and suppress enemy tank formations with killer accuracy. 42 T-34s are left burning, the others retreat. Left with no armored protection, 15th soviet Infantry Division collapses under the Tiger attack! One Tiger is lost.
• 6th of July 1943 – 10 Tigers of the 8th SS Pz-Regiment destroy 12 T-34s and 1 armored train which was backing the soviet tanks with its powerfull guns. No loss.
• 15th of July: 2 Tigers of the 505th Schw.-tank battalion knock-out 22 soviet tanks near Teploje.
• 25th of July 1943 – 1 sigle Tiger attacks and destroys 13 T-34s during the Third battle of Ladoga. Panic spreads across the soviet armor and retreats.
• 18th of Sep 1943: 12 Tigers counter-attack after a successful soviet breakthrough near Diatlowka, Rusia. 26 T-34 are left burning, the soviet attack is broken and beaten off. 1 Tiger lost.
• 18th of Oct 1943: Tiger C33 of 3rd Pz-Regiment Grossdeutschland is under attack by 40 soviet tanks. He destroys 17 while the others flee. The tank receives heavy damage, but the crew is alive. The tank gets back for mentenance on its own power. Repairs are scheduled to last about 1 month.
• 14th of Nov 1943. 4 Tigers of the 9th-SS Pz Regiment engage the full-strength 32nd Guards Soviet Division. 19 enemy tanks are destroyed on the spot, the others break away, fleeing in all directions. No losses.
• 27th of Dec 1943: Mr Wendoerff leads his single Tiger tank against a T-34 column. He destroys the first and last tanks and then picks off each of the others. 11 T-34s destroyed.
• 12th of Jan 1944. 5 Tigers from the 508th Schw.-tank battalion fall into an ambush set up with 5 T-34-85s near a forest. The leading Tiger takes 20 AP hits, none penetrates. The other 4 Tigers open fire and destroy all 5 T-34s.
• 7th of Fev 1944- 8 Tigers remain out of fuel while retreating near Tatjanowka, Ukraine. They keep the enemy at a distance until fuel-trucks arrive. 20 soviet tanks are destroyed. No tank manages to close at less than 1000m. No Tiger lost.
• 7th of April 1944 – 3 Tigers engage a soviet armored brigade. 24 enemy tanks are destroyed for no loss.
The most important Tiger losses I’ve noted for the period of Nov 1942 – May 1944 are the following:
• Jan 1943 – 7 out of 8 Tigers of 501st Schw.-tank battalion are imobilised in a mine field in North Africa, during operation Beja. Their repair takes a while.
• 18th of Oct 1943: 13 Tigers of the 505th Schw.-tank battalion attack towards Chwoschno, Ukraine, supporting the attack of the129th. Infantry-Division. “The offensive is stopped by the enemy; 9 out of 13 Tigers are heavily damaged. 3 total losses”.
• 18th of Oct 1943 (bad day for the Tigers). A train delivering 10 Tigers is captured intact by the soviets!
• Dec 1943 – 21 Tigers in mentenance facilities are blown up because of the soviet approach.
• Dec 6th 1943 – all 22 operational Tigers of the 509th Schw-tank battalion are imobilised in a mine field. All are damaged in various degrees. The regiment loses more than half its combat strength for more than 1 month.
• 16th of Jan 1944: 6 Tigers of the 9-th SS Pz-Regiment perform an attack near Owskanikowka. 4 are destroyed and 2 damaged by US-built 90mm AT guns.
• 21st of Jan 1944: 12 Tigers of the 502nd Schw-tank battalion are encircled by strong enemy armored formations in the vicinity of Gatschina. They try to figth their way out, but 11 succumb to enemy fire. They destroy 8 tanks and 6 AT guns before the end.
• 13th of Fev 1944 – 9 Tigers of the 501st Schw-tank battalion are lost in “abortive counter-attacks” against soviet lines.
For the given period, there are very rare reports of Tigers destroyed in tank to tank -combat, excluding AT-guns. Even concentrated enemy armor assaults, of either T-34+KV-1 or Sherman + Cromwell/Churchill were not always successful in destroying the German heavy tanks. There are at least 8 reports of Tigers hit 100 times or more, and still retaining their crews “intact” and being able to get back to base on their own power (although slowly). There are also at least 2 reports of Tigers receiving more than 200 strikes of various calibers, and getting back to base, albeit in very poor condition. These actions and events testify to the formidable staying power of the Tiger tanks, and their combat achievements are praise-worthy, to say the least.
As a tactical weapon, they were very valuable, and made a difference almost every time they were employed. There are no “mix results” for Tiger assaults or counter-assaults for this period. There are occasional setbacks and failures, but they are drastically overshadowed by the number and scale of successful engagements they were in (the decisive blows given during IInd and IIIrd battles of the Ladoga and early phases of Kursk and Kharkhov, amongst others). Also, most of the “failures” are attributable to poor deployment – either spreading the Tigers to thin amongst infantry, with insufficient recon and air cover, or throwing them away in mine fields.
Finaly, an often disregarded “Tiger strength” for this period was the overall strength of the German military. A very good supply chain, excellent information gathering, analysis and decisions, and very good combined-arms tactics made many German assaults or counter-assaults successful, even though severly outnumbered. After all, the Tiger was a weapon amongst other weapons, and their greatest successes usually came in connexion with other arms of the German military (Luftwaffe, motorized Infantry, “normal” panzers).
As the war raged, all the factors above gradually worn out: experienced battlefield commanders and generals perished, the supply chain was battered throughout its length (from the oil refineries to the transport of spare parts and new units to the battlefield, all military “movement” within the 3rd Reich was becoming increasingly dangerous because of the Allied Air Offensive and the Partisans sabotages), and the other arms of the military were hopelessly thinned: panzer divisions only had 50% or even 25% of their nominal strength; infantry divisions many times had only 2000-3000 fighting soldiers, etc.
Practicaly, the golden years of the Tigers mostly coincided with the golden years of the German military, albeit somewhat shadowed in North Africa and in the second half of 1943 in the east.
6.3 Historical weaknesses
As the Wehrmacht reached the zenith of its successes, so did the Tiger battalions. Essentialy an offensive weapon, the Tiger was difficult to retreat from the battlefield, due to its frequent breakdowns, high gasoline consumption and difficulty crossing bridges. The Tiger battalions needed to be loaded onto trains, which weren’t always available or close enough.
Worst still, by spring 1944 all the Allies managed to deploy anti-heavy tank units in much greater numbers than during late 1942-early 1944: in the east, the ISU-122 and ISU-152 proved effective in knocking-out, and sometimes even destroying Tigers with one single hit. The new JS-2 tank was also coming on the frontlines, although APC shells problems still remained (there are reports of Tiger tanks hit by JS-2s in fev – mar 1944 from distances of 500m or less. The 122mm APC shells bounced off the frontal armor) and various types of tank-destroyers had the capability of severely damaging Tigers. In the west, the 17pdr (UK) and 90mm (US) AT gun were becoming more numerous, and also were tank-destroyers such as the 17-pdr Achilles and 76-mm M10.
Tactics for all allies had improved, and so has combined-arms approach. The panzers were more frequently detected from the air, and later attacked by armored formations, many times supported by artillery. The terrain type was also different – the vast steppes of Rusia were replaced by forested, hilly or swampy terrain in Ukraine/Poland; the deserts of North Africa were replaced by the rapid valleys of northern Italy. And the bocage terrain of Normandy was also very bad tank terrain – as the enemy couldn’t be seen unless at 800-900m or closer (US and British tank crews noted average tank combats at 900m in Normandy until Aug 1944). Thus, the advantage of the long-barrelled gun was diminished.
Also, Lutwaffe no longer controlled the skies, and only seldom posed a threat on all theatres of operations, with only sporadic resurgences in the east.
Thus, great achievements of the Tiger battalions were less numerous:
• 22nd of June 1944 – Mr Rohrig leads 4 Tigers in the area around Maritima, Italy. They engage a formation of 25 Shermans. 11 are set alight, the remaining 14 crews open the hatches and flee, leaving the tanks to the Germans. No losses.
• 11th of July 1944 – battle of Colombelle, south of Caen. Commander von Rosen leads 12 Tigers against a formation of about 20 Sherman tanks. During the night, the Tigers approach at maximum speed and open fire. The Shermans respond, dozens of hits bouncing off the frontal armors. In 5 minuntes, 12 Sherman explode or burn, and 2 more are abandoned by their crews; the others retreat. No loss.
• 28-29th of June 1944 – 18 Tigers of the 505th counter-attack around the Bobr river (PL) against 2 soviet armored columns (60, 30 tanks respectively). 55 enemy tanks are knocked-out [unknown number destroyed], for the loss of 6 Tigers.
• 23rd of May 1944 – one of the very few massed attacks of Tiger tanks. 40 Tigers of the 508th attack towards Cisterna-Latina (IT). All 15 US tanks in the area are destroyed. 1 Tiger damaged.
• 8th of Aug 1944 – 7 Tigers of the 102nd destroy 15 Shermans near Chenedolle; 1 Tiger damaged.
• 9oth of Aug 1944 – battle for Hill140, Normandy. 13 Tigers and several Pz-IV of the 12th SS Panzer counter-attack against elements of the Canadian II corps (with 55 tanks). The Tigers take position on the hill and start pounding at long range. 47 Canadian tanks are knocked-out, no Tiger lost.
During this time, the combined effects of the factors enumerated above made Tiger losses to increase.
Another major weakness was the tanks weight and size. We often find mentions of Tigers “having difficulties crossing bridges”. In fact, at least 20 Tigers were lost after crashing through the bridges they were on.
The size was another disadvantage: the tank was easy to spot by the enemy and more easy to hit; it was wider and longer than normal tanks and thus had great problems tackling narrow passages, such as the Italian mountain ravines. At least 15 Tigers were lost in Italy after falling on the sides of the roads, into the ravines…
Finaly, these tanks were incredibly time consuming to maintain. Jentz mentions an average of 10 hours of mentenance for 1 hour of active combat. I find it hard to believe, but not impossible.
Also, the fuel consumption, lubricant consumption, and the special spare parts required for these beasts made them even harder to keep on the battlefield. Thus, not once were Tigers cannibalized for parts, or blown up/abandoned due to the lack of fuel.
7. Analysis of “kill-ratios”
There are very few “clean” Tiger engagements available for study. A clean engagement is one of pure tank vs tanks combat, with no other categories of forces present, and with no other types of German tanks in support.
Many times the Tigers were knocked-out and later abandoned (or blown up) by AT guns or mines. And also, many times Allied tanks were destroyed by PZ-IVs, Stugs or German AT guns, while they were focusing on tackling the Tigers. A broad discussion can be held regarding the merits of having a heavy tank to absorb the punishment of the enemy, so as to let the lesser forces to destroy the enemy at will. However, this is not the point we are trying to make. The point we are focusing on is exclusively the effectiveness of the Tiger tank battalion in tank vs tank combat, with no parts of the engaging forces on the defensive. That is, a pure head-to-head combat, with no traps, ambushes, casemates, etc, helping either side.
An engagement of at least 4 Tigers against any given number of enemies.
The battles I’ve came about are only a few:
Battle of Oka River, Russia, part of the battle of Kursk, 1943
30 TigerI engage a large (over 100 tanks) Russian armored formation on the open fields. They opened fire at over 2km, scoring hits early. 42 T-34 destroyed, the rest fled. 1 Tiger was lost to enemy tank fire.
Battle of Collombelle, Normandy, part of the battle for Caen, 1944
12 TigerI attacked in the night a formation of 75mm Shermans. 12 Shermans were destroyed, 2 captured, 3 Tigers lightly damaged (repaired in 3 days or less). The battle was in the open terrain, no ambush, no air cover.
Battle of Tatjanowka, Ukraine, part of the strategic German retreat, 1944
8 TigerI remain without fuel out in the open fields. A large (over 30) formation of soviet tanks approaches them. 20 are destroyed, the rest flee; no Tiger lost or severely damaged.
Battle of Maritima, Italy, part of the battles for the Gustave line, 1944
4 TigerI engage a formation of 25 US Shermans. 11 are burned, the rest are abandoned by their crews. All Tigers moderately damaged.
Battle for Grunow, Germany, part of the final drive to Berlin, 1945
8 TigerII, occupying a small hill, engage a formation of over 100 soviet tanks. They open fire from over 4km. 70 enemy tanks are claimed knocked-out for no loss.
Battle for Bollersdorf, Germany, part of the final drive to Berlin, 1945
4 TigerII are attacked on the open by 30 T-34-85s. All soviet tanks are knocked-out [unknown number destroyed]. No Tiger lost.
So my conclusion is that, when fighting head-on, and with no other enemy present (AT guns, trenches, jabos, etc), the Tigers were devastating in their role and got the fame they deserve.
• Scheider, Tigers in combat, I and II
• Jentz – King Tiger heavy tank
• Jentz – Tiger 1 heavy tank
• Jentz – Germany’s Tiger 1 and Tiger II. Design. Production. Modifications.
• Buckley – British armor in Normandy campaign 1944