DUEL AT DESSAU - Super Pershing vs. King Tiger

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MAX_theHitMan
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DUEL AT DESSAU - Super Pershing vs. King Tiger

Post by MAX_theHitMan » 10 Mar 2005 17:20

This could either be posted at the Allied section of the forum or here.
But since you guys like a good war story (specially involving King Tigers) I will post it here.

Check it out.
http://3ad.com/history/wwll/article.pag ... hing.1.htm


I was wondering if anyone has any pictures of the aftermath of this battle between these two tanks?



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If link is down. I´ll put it here for future references and for researches

DUEL AT DESSAU

3AD's "Super Pershing" vs. Germany's "King Tiger"
WWII's two most powerful tanks meet in a historic encounter

DUEL AT DESSAU - on April 21, 1945

A Spearhead One-on-One Tank Victory
by Website Staff

Only three days before the 3rd Armored Division's final combat action of WWII, a Super Pershing of the 33rd Armored Regiment met and defeated the most powerful and most heavily armored German tank of the war - the legendary 77-ton King Tiger, also known as the Tiger II or Tiger Royal. It would be the first and only meeting between a King Tiger and the Super Pershing, a modified standard M26 Pershing weighing 7 tons heavier at 53 tons - an almost "secret" tank that, to this day, remains largely an enigma to military historians.

Only two Super Pershings were ever built, and the 3AD had the only one in the European Theater - an experimental version with its remarkably long barrel. Arriving very late in the war (March, 1945), it was field tested and modified inside Germany and subsequently saw about ten days of actual combat action, beginning several days after the Battle of Paderborn and ending with the Battle of Dessau near the Elbe River.

The Super Pershing (aka T26E4-1) was equipped with a new long-barreled T15E1 90mm gun that was designed to out-perform the German high-velocity 88mm on the King Tiger. In testing, this new U.S. gun had successfully penetrated 8.5 inches of armor at 1,000 yards at 30 degrees. Even more remarkable, it had penetrated 13 inches of armor at 100 yards. The special 90mm ammunition had produced a muzzle velocity of 3,850 feet per second, or some 600 feet per second faster than the 88mm of the King Tiger. The new 90mm round also proved to have superior range and accuracy over the previous version.

Army ordinance technicians (in the U.S. and Europe) had been anxious about getting the new tank into combat, hoping to match it against a King Tiger. But by April, 1945, German armor west of Berlin had dramatically thinned out, not to mention an extreme shortage of fuel, and the odds of spotting the monster German tank were slim. But in Dessau on April 21, "luck" would befall the Super Pershing crew commanded by SSgt Joe Maduri, a veteran 3AD tanker in his tenth straight month of combat.

The 3AD had begun a four-pronged attack on the city, which was heavily defended. Division armor were finally able to enter the city slowly after numerous concrete tank barriers were destroyed. With 3AD tanks fanning out, and 36th Infantry riflemen following, the Super Pershing reached an intersection and began to round a corner to its right. Unknown to its crew, a King Tiger had apparently been waiting in ambush at a distance of two blocks or roughly 600 yards away, and in the same direction that the Americans were turning into.

At this distance, easily within its capability, the Tiger fired at the Super Pershing. But its infamous high-velocity 88mm shell, of the type that had destroyed so many American tanks and vehicles during the war, went high and was not even close. Gunner Cpl John "Jack" Irwin, only 18 years old, responded almost instantly with a round that struck the Tiger's huge angled glasis, or front plate. But the shot, a non-armor-piercing high explosive (HE) shell, had no effect. Ricocheting off the armor, it shot skyward and exploded harmlessly. The Super Pershing had been loaded with an HE only because Irwin had been expecting urban targets, such as buildings, personnel, and light anti-tank guns. "AP!", he shouted to his loader "Pete," which meant an armor-piercing shell would be next.

Maduri and crew then felt a concussion or thud on the turret. It was never known if this shot came from the Tiger, or from some other anti-tank weapon. In any case, no serious damage was done - probably a lucky glancing impact. In the next instant, Irwin aimed and fired a second time, just as the royal monster was moving forward and raising up over a pile of rubble. The 90mm AP round penetrated the Tiger's underbelly, apparently striking the ammo well and resulting in a tremendous explosion that blew its turret loose. With near certainty, the entire crew was killed.

But there was no time to examine their "trophy." A battle was raging, and the Super Pershing continued down the street, passing the lifeless and burning King Tiger. Tough fighting still lay ahead, as German bazooka, Panzerfaust, and machine-gun fire came from windows and doorways.

The encounter with the King Tiger had been "short and sweet," lasting less than twenty seconds. It may not have been the titanic "slug fest" that could have occurred on an open field, but it was an overwhelming victory for the quick-reacting Super Pershing crew. The battle for Dessau would end completely on the following day, but not without the Super Pershing destroying another German heavy tank (believed to be a 50-ton Panther Mark V) with two shots. The first disabling its drive sprocket, and the second round completely penetrating the tank's side armor. That apparently set off an internal blast, again probably from stored ammo. And, still in Dessau, that was followed by Maduri and crew forcing the commander of a German medium tank to surrender without firing a shot. For the German crew, out of ammo for their main gun, the intimidating "look" of that long-barrel 90mm gun that must have destroyed any remaining will to fight or flee.

[Note: Sources include the book Spearhead in the West (1945 version); the book Death Traps by Belton Cooper; and the book Another River, Another Town and personal writings by John P. Irwin.]




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More background on the "Super Pershing" (T26E4-1)

In mid-March, 1945, fresh from gunnery trials in the United States, a single Pershing T26E4-1 arrived at the Maintenance Battalion of the 3rd Armored Division inside Germany. In his book Death Traps (see feature story in ths same website section) Belton Cooper writes, "Having already lost several of the new [Pershing] M26's [aka T26] to high-velocity German anti-tank guns, we knew that its armor was still inferior to that of the Mark VI Tiger."

Cooper writes, "Anyone standing behind an M4 Sherman could see the projectile go out and curve down slightly as it sped toward the target. This new high-velocity gun was entirely different. When we fired the first round, we could barely see the projectile. It appeared to rise slightly as it struck the target. This was an optical illusion, but the effect was awesome. When it hit the target (a knocked out German tank-destroyer/assault gun), sparks shot about sixty feet into the air, as though a giant grinding wheel had hit a piece of metal."

Cooper described how, despite the 3AD maintenance crew painstakingly and very creatively adding seven tons of weight in additional armor to the Super Pershing, its highest speed had only been dropped by about five miles an hour. Its 550-horsepower engine had proven itself. Cooper felt that the tank's maneuverability and firepower had it marked for great success in combat. "We realized that we had a weapon," Cooper writes, "that could blast the hell out of even the most powerful German Mark VI Tiger."

But, finally, on April 4, 1945, between the Weser River and Northheim, the Super Pershing was to fire its gun in anger. Cooper writes, "Some of the German units that had fallen back from the bridgehead set up a few isolated strong points along our route. One such position on a wooded hill ... opened fire as the column passed. The Super M26, in the forward part of the column, immediately swung its turret to the right and fired an armor-piercing shot toward an object on the forward slope of a wooded hill about fifteen hundred yards away [over three-quarters of a mile]. A blinding flash of sparks accompanied a tremendous explosion as debris shot fifty feet into the air ... The unknown object was a tank or self-propelled gun; had it been a half-track or other vehicle, the flash would not have been as large ... The rest of the column let go with a deluge of tank and automatic weapons fire, and the Germans soon broke off the action ... we didn't know what the Super M26 hit ... no one was anxious to go over and check it out."

Some days after the above event, the Super M26 was transferred to a new crew with the 33rd Armored Regiment, where more of it's great potential would be realized, if only weeks before WWII would end.



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Post by weiss » 10 Mar 2005 20:42

Good story, but...eh, I still like the King Tiger better!

I read Belton Cooper's book "Death Traps" a while ago and thought the "Super Pershing" was an interesting anomaly, but because there were only two ever made and their operational history was so limited, its really little more than a interesting sidenote to WW2 armor operations.

It was certainly a case of "to little to late" for the thousands of tank crewman who had already died in the Sherman and other US tanks against German armor.

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Post by RB » 10 Mar 2005 20:55

weiss wrote:It was certainly a case of "to little to late" for the thousands of tank crewman who had already died in the Sherman and other US tanks against German armor.


Very true: Sherman was a poorly designed constraction. The Germans nicknamed it as "Tommy-oven", because it cought fire easily after a hit. Both the armament and armor was inferior compared to Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. H and Panther. (except some special models such as Firefly)

RB

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Uni
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Post by Uni » 11 Mar 2005 21:26

Any idea as to what unit the Tiger II was part of?

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Post by Jan-Hendrik » 13 Jan 2006 19:51

Still no evidence that a Tiger II was in that area ...

Jan-Hendrik

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Post by Sitzkrieg » 13 Jan 2006 20:03

Interesting...I have read the Osprey Publications' book on the Pershing by S. Zaloga and mentioned that the Super Pershing fired its gun in anger only once during the fighting along the Weser River, destroying an unidentified German tank, probably a Tiger or a Panther. If true, this account provides the missing link in the Super Pershing's story, namely the ID of its unlucky adversary.

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Post by C.GILLONO » 13 Jan 2006 20:26

Sitzkrieg wrote:Interesting...I have read the Osprey Publications' book on the Pershing by S. Zaloga and mentioned that the Super Pershing fired its gun in anger only once during the fighting along the Weser River, destroying an unidentified German tank, probably a Tiger or a Panther. If true, this account provides the missing link in the Super Pershing's story, namely the ID of its unlucky adversary.

The info on the battle in Dessau appears in the memoir book "Another River, Another Town", written by a member of the crew (at first crewing a regular Sherman and changing to the uparmored T26E4 when it was disabled).
But regarding the KT "destroyed" there, I still doubt...

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Post by Ome_Joop » 14 Jan 2006 02:15

Its 550-horsepower engine had proven itself.....does this mean the Super Pershing was underpowered at 53 ton?

BTW With near certainty, the entire crew was killed....they didn't even know what tank they hit...how do they knew all died?
When you look at it, it could easily have been another Sherman...no-one knows for sure...did they just fire or what...no recognition of the target at all....just fire and forget...strange story :?

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BIG BOOM!

Post by AikinutNY » 14 Jan 2006 02:52

If I remember what I read the Super Pershing's second shot went thru the bottom of the hull and detenoted the Tiger's ammo for a big explosion. No one would have survived and if they did the tank was not going to be working to shot back. Sort of like hitting a Sherman an seeing it turn into a Ronson lighter, if the crew got out they did not have a tank to use.

I guess the big explosion was a quicker way to go then burning. But Patton said, "Let the other guy die for his country!"

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Re: BIG BOOM!

Post by Ome_Joop » 14 Jan 2006 03:11

AikinutNY wrote:If I remember what I read the Super Pershing's second shot went thru the bottom of the hull and detenoted the Tiger's ammo for a big explosion. No one would have survived and if they did the tank was not going to be working to shot back. Sort of like hitting a Sherman an seeing it turn into a Ronson lighter, if the crew got out they did not have a tank to use.

I guess the big explosion was a quicker way to go then burning. But Patton said, "Let the other guy die for his country!"


That is what im talking about! How did they know what tank it was as they didn't check it...it could have been anything...so no-one knows what happened for sure!

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300 Yards

Post by AikinutNY » 14 Jan 2006 04:15

They were about 300 meters/yards apart in a city, not at max ranges in the forest. I would tend to believe them.

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Post by Michael Kenny » 14 Jan 2006 05:25

This 'incident' is not well enough referenced to make it any more than a rumour. The book 'Another River, Another Town' has had doubts raised as to the detail contained within. I would love it to be true but no photos of this kill have surfaced. If it were true I think we would have had the US experts all over the TII wreck and it would have been well studied.
I may be wrong and it might be genuine but the balance of probability is against it.

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Post by David C. Clarke » 14 Jan 2006 05:59

Indeed Hunnicutt's very well researched "Pershing"--the standard reference book on this tank--states that no encounter between the Super-Pershing and a King Tiger occurred. Hunnicutt's book was written in 1971, but it is quite explicit in documenting Pershing kills (including pictures that exist) as well as battle damage suffered by Pershings and contains a complete listing of the units employing the tank and acccounts including its Pacific service.

It may be that he missed this incident, but I tend to doubt it.

Best,
David

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Post by ekke » 14 Jan 2006 12:29

Well that story is quite interesting, but penetrating the bottom of a tank (even if it's a Kingtiger) is not that hard. You could have done that with far weaker gun than a pershing's, so this story doesn't say anything about the "real" combat strenght of the super-pershing.

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Re: DUEL AT DESSAU - Super Pershing vs. King Tiger

Post by Kra-Wumm! » 15 Jan 2006 14:20

MAX_theHitMan wrote:But, finally, on April 4, 1945, between the Weser River and Northheim, the Super Pershing was to fire its gun in anger. Cooper writes, "Some of the German units that had fallen back from the bridgehead set up a few isolated strong points along our route. One such position on a wooded hill ... opened fire as the column passed. The Super M26, in the forward part of the column, immediately swung its turret to the right and fired an armor-piercing shot toward an object on the forward slope of a wooded hill about fifteen hundred yards away [over three-quarters of a mile]. A blinding flash of sparks accompanied a tremendous explosion as debris shot fifty feet into the air ... The unknown object was a tank or self-propelled gun; had it been a half-track or other vehicle, the flash would not have been as large ... The rest of the column let go with a deluge of tank and automatic weapons fire, and the Germans soon broke off the action ... we didn't know what the Super M26 hit ... no one was anxious to go over and check it out."


Small error - wrong date, according to “Death Traps” this incident happened between the Weser River and Northeim, but the Weser River was crossed on 8 April, not earlier. There is no date given in “Death Traps”, so the error was made by the 3rd AD website. CCB of the 3rd AD crossed the Weser River on 9 April at Gieselwerder and there was indeed an incident on the advance route of CCB on 9 April, which fits to Cooper’s story.

To my knowledge there are no German books available about the end of the war in the Dessau area, which might at least contain information about any abandoned or destroyed German tanks in Dessau. This part of Germany became part of the Soviet Occupation Zone in July 1945, so I am afraid that a lot of information has been lost during the years behind the iron curtain.

Regards

Oliver N.

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