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OTH-114 Tiger German WW2 Tanks on the Eastern Front. Part 1 book
OTH-114 Tiger German WW2 Tanks on the Eastern Front. Part 1 book
With the advent of the new Soviet tanks and anti tank artillery pieces on the Eastern Front in the middle of 1943 - beginning of 1944, the Tigers superiority gradually disappeared. But still, the Tigers crews often gained the upper hand even in the battles with such a formidable foe as IS-2 tank. The Tigers' cannons had a unitary loading system and thus higher rate of fire than IS-2 tanks (a 122mm cannon of an IS-2 tank had a separated loading system). For instance, in the battle on January 12, 1945, Tigers of 3/507 s. Pz.-Abt destroyed 22 IS-2 tanks.
A better training was an additional advantage of the Tigers' crews over its Soviet opponents. Only volunteers with a previous combat experience were selected into heavy tank battalions.
During the Battle of Kursk from July 4th till August 23rd, 1943, the Tiger tanks vividly demonstrated its might as the heavy tank battalions and companies suffered minimal casualties. The 503rd and 505th heavy tank battalions lost only three tigers each during the course of the Operation Citadel and another 13 tanks were lost during the retreat from Kursk region. In other words, for 50 days of engagement at Kursk, two tank battalions lost only 19 tanks. Approximately two thirds of all Tigers available at Kursk salient were concentrated in 503rd and 505th heavy tank battalions. The fairy tales of Soviet propaganda about hundreds of destroyed Tiger tanks had nothing to do with the reality.
A Tiger tank was a very formidable weapon, but it still had its technical drawbacks. These tanks often suffered from mechanical failures and engine fires. Besides, the tank formations experienced the lack of fuel and sometimes had to abandon tanks. The other enemies of Tiger tanks, except Soviet tanks and guns, became weak bridges that could not support the huge weight of these mammoth armored vehicles.
Luckily for the Germans, the weather at the Eastern Front was often very bad with low cloud cover that prevented the air forces operations. There was no "hunt for tanks" by the Russian pilots at the Eastern Front, similar to the one at the West.
But the main drawback of Tiger tanks was low engine power capacity. The engine of 642 horsepower at the tanks of earlier batches and 694 horsepower at the later variants was clearly not sufficient for such a heavy vehicle. The power/ton ratio of the earlier Tigers was 10.5 hp/t, the later ones was 12.3 hp/t. In addition, those engines used too much fuel. The transportation of Tigers was another problem as they were too wide. It is rather paradoxical that the replacement of the "Tiger I" tank became even heavier vehicle "Tiger II" with weight of 68 t. As it turned out later, the "King Tiger"` was not the limit, "Jagdttiger" weighting 70 t. came later, and than a monster called "Maus".
The "Maus" tank project was started at Krupp design bureau in 1941. In March of 1942 the work was transferred to Porsche. The first 188 tons "little mouse" was assembled on the 25th of December 1943. The "Maus" armament consisted of a 128-mm main cannon and a 75-mm auxiliary cannon. The front armor was 240 mm thick, the sides armor - 180-200 mm. For its size and weight the tank had rather good moving abilities but the fuel consumption was prohibitively high.
The excellent results of Tigers tank crews in combat were possible due to an intensive work of the maintenance teams. Technicians sometimes managed to repair a damaged tank overnight. Very often they had to use rather primitive tools and practically lived in the damaged tanks.
Overall, approximately 1000 Tiger tanks took part in the battles on the Eastern Front, and they destroyed around 8000 Soviet tanks. This ration of kills over losses (1:8) was not equaled by any other tank of the Second World War.
List of Contents
Swhwer Panzer-Abteilung 501, 424 s.Pz-Abteilung
Schwer Panzer Abteilung 502
Swhwer Panzer-Abteilung 503 "Feldhernhalle"
Swhwer Panzer-Abteilung 505
66 pages, 190 photographs, 20 illustrations
1. Tiger tank of the 3rd Company, 501st heavy tank Battalion depicted as of spring 1944. The tactical number is red, the figures are outlined and not over-painted. The number was drawn on the both sides and the back of the turret. April 1944 was not the worst month for the 501st battalion as the sufficient quantity of spare parts allowed keeping of up to 30 Tigers in combat duty. In the following months the fortune showed its back to the battalion.
2. The first Tiger tanks tested in battle belonged to the 1st company, 502nd heavy tank battalion. The battalion cooperated with 170th infantry division in the battles with the 2nd Army of Leningrad Front. The Tigers had a very simple camouflage: green spots over gray background. The front armor plate was decorated with the picture of a mammoth - the emblem of s.Pz-Abt.502. There were only seven Tiger tanks in the 502nd tank battalion in September 1942. Note the absence of Feiffel filters, exhaust tubes and side fenders. The front fenders are characteristic to Tiger tanks of earlier production batches.
3. Tiger Tank
4. The photograph was taken during Operation Hubertus. In the background there is Pz.Kpfw IV tank of the 20th Panzer Division
5. Tiger tank of the 1st Comapny of the 502nd heavy tank battalion. The photograph of summer 1943. This vehicle does not tactical numbers either.
6. Tiger tank of 502nd heavy tank battalion with tactical number "14". The tank is covered with mud all over. A situation very typical for Russian conditions.
7. Tiger tank with tactical number "311", the view from the front. One can hardly see a picture of a mammoth on the front armor plate to the left of the machine gun. A stripy, distorting camouflage was very characteristic for the vehicles of the 3rd Company.
8. A typical Russian condition: one horsepower against six hundred. But this does not mean that the Tiger would win! The most advanced equipment was often inferior to a horse in the harsh conditions of Russian winter.
9. A Tiger tank demonstrates its agility to a Turkish delegation. The picture was taken on the 26th of June, 1943 in the course of the last exercise before Operation Citadel.
10. Unter-Offizier Gartner introduces a Tiger tank to a Hungarian delegation
11. Tiger with tactical number "214" of the 2nd Company, 505th heavy tank battalion. Note the clear picture of the battalion emblem on the left side of the front armor plate.