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Panzerkampfwagen Tiger: Germany's White Elephant

Panzerkampfwagen Tiger: Germany's White Elephant

In popular history, there is perhaps no WWII era tank as lauded as the Tiger. The Military
Channel calls it the most feared tank of its time and claims that the mere whisper of its name would
inspire panic and terror1. Other, more specific traits such as impervious to attack, top marks for
firepower, and engineering masterpiece create a picture that is parroted in many movies, articles,
and video games. However, even a cursory examination of archive material reveals a completely
different picture. The Tiger tank was difficult to produce, difficult to maintain, and ultimately
contributed more to the Wehrmacht's defeats than its victories. The picture of the tank commonly seen
in popular media today is a combination of hearsay from Allied trenches and German wartime
propaganda.
In order to be an effective war machine, a tank must successfully balance several characteristics.
The most obvious are tactical characteristics: armour and firepower. However, a tank must not only be
protected from its adversaries and be able to destroy them, but must also be able to get to the
battlefield. This is where mobility comes into play. The tactical mobility of a tank must be enough to
ensure that the tank can around in battle. Strategic mobility must be enough for the tank to get to (and
away from) the battlefield. Finally, operational mobility and production capability are key, as a tank
that snarls at its adversaries from a factory garage or an engineer's blueprint does not do much to win a
war. Despite the assertions of many, the Tiger tank did rather poorly in most of these categories, and
excelled at none. Let us examine them in greater detail
Armour comes first. Impervious to attack, the Military Channel says. No anti-tank gun could
touch it. High praise, but, ultimately, false. A look at hull schematics tells you that the armour at the
front of the hull and the turret is 100 mm thick. The armour on the upper sides and rear is 82 mm thick.
1

Military Channel, Top Ten Tanks #3: Tiger, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoyW83fdJi4, accessed April 3rd,
2014

The lower hull armour, behind the wheels, is 62 mm thick 2. One characteristic is immediately obvious
to any observer of the tank hull: it is rectangular. Unlike the vehicle's contemporaries such as the KV1S and M4 Sherman tank, even earlier designs such as the T-34 and M3 Lee tank, or even absolutely
ancient designs such as the FCM 36 tank, the armour is not sloped in any meaningful way. The reason
for this is found in the tank's design history.
The roots of the Tiger's design, a 1942 model tank, lie as far back as 1935. A vehicle designated
Durchbruchwagen (literally Break-through vehicle) was designed by Henschel and Krupp
companies. The hull of this vehicle, like many of the era, resembled a rather primitive looking box with
tracks. The front of the hull was reminiscent of the Vickers 6-ton tank, built as far back as 1928. A
proven model by the mid-1930s, it is not surprising that German tank engineers, still lacking
experience, would opt to replicate this design for all their tanks of the era. All prototypes and
production models of the German tank fleet had the same front hull: a vertical plate in front of the
driver and radio operator, a nearly horizontal, and much thinner, plate over the transmission, and
another vertical plate in front of the transmission. Between 1935 and 1942, the Durchbruchwagen,
renamed VK 30.01 (1st vehicle, 30-ton class) grew into the VK 36.01 (1st vehicle, 36-ton class) and
then the VK 45.01 (1st vehicle, 45-ton class)3. The final Tiger design weighed in at 57 tons. As the
tank's weight grew, and its firepower and armour plate thickness with it, the overall layout did not
change. Worse yet, the Tiger's turret was round. While the rectangular hull could be angled favourably
during combat, the round turret always presented the tank's adversary with a chance to strike it at a 90
degree angle, assuring optimal conditions for penetration.
Even vertically, the tank's armour was quite thick. 100 mm of steel was a serious hurdle for a
gun on a contemporary tank. By the Red Army's penetration standards, the penetration of a T-34's 76
2
3

Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 38, opis 11377, delo 12, page 60
D. Fletcher and others, Tiger Tank Panzerkampfwagen Tiger I Ausf E (SdKfz 181) Owners' Workshop Manual
(Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2011), 14-16

mm F-34 gun and towed 76 mm ZiS-3 gun at 100 meters was only 75 mm, the penetration of an M4
Sherman's 75 mm gun was 64 mm4. Theoretically, these tanks could pierce a Tiger in the side from only
very close range. The penetration of more common anti-tank equipment in the Red Army, the 45 mm
model 1937 gun (57 mm)4 was insufficient to cut through the Tiger's thick hide anywhere. Looking at
these numbers alone, it is not difficult to see how one could envision the Tiger as an unbeatable
monster.
However, theory is one thing, and practice is another. Perhaps, as many soldiers, members of
the Red Army's 690th Independent Anti-tank Artillery Regiment were not too keen on encountering
these new enemy tanks in their defense of Leningrad. That day, myth fell in the face of reality.

"On March 19th, Senior Sergeant Matveev from this same unit set fire to [a Tiger tank] from 300
meters with his 76 mm gun, thus dispelling the opinion that this tank is immune to AT artillery." 5

Another unit, the 31st Guards Independent Tank Breakthrough Regiment, fought Tigers using
76 mm cannons. Their KV-1 tanks were armed with 76 mm ZiS-5 (equivalent in performance to the F34 and ZiS-3) or F-32 guns (even poorer in performance, capable of penetrating 50 mm of armour
sloped at 30 degrees at 300 meters, equivalent to about 57 mm6). Theoretically, these would be
completely unmatched forces, and yet the result is the same as above: 4 Tiger tanks were destroyed
with AP shells from 300-400 meters. Overall, the Germans lost 14 tanks in that engagement,
compared to 8 KV tanks lost by the Red Army to AT artillery. Out of the 9 Tigers lost, not one managed
to destroy a single KV tank7. Beaten by a vehicle designed three years prior, this was a poor, yet
typical, performance by the invincible fighting machine.
4
5
6
7

Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 81, opis 12038, delo 303
Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 411, opis 10189, delo 436, page 98
Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 38, opis 11353, delo 950
Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 3722, opis 95328, delo 2, page 46

How? The answer is simple: millimeters do not always equal protection. Having no experience
producing armour thicker than 50 millimeters, German factories could not handle armoured steel that
was 100 mm thick. A metallurgical analysis by British engineers revealed that the armour was much
softer than previously seen, and not surface hardened 8. Even this kind of armour fared poorly in
German hands. A Soviet study of a captured Tiger states: The armour is of medium hardness... as a
result of hits by 57, 85, and 122 mm AP shells, cracking and fragmentation occurs. The report is not
too kind when it comes to the welding job, either: The welding seams are very fragile. When the hull
is hit with armour piercing shells, the welding seams are destroyed. An armour piercing shell that
struck the hull of a Tiger tank may not actually penetrate its armour, but the hull would crack from the
impact, and shards of armour and welding seams would fly off from the inside, destroying components
of the vehicle and killing the crew 9. Without a single penetrating hit, a Tiger tank could cease to be a
functional combat unit. Another example of this is covered in Schneider's Tigers in Normandy, where a
Tiger tank was set ablaze by the sparks generated when a shell fired from a Sherman tank hit an
observation port10.
German instructions agree with these findings. The Tigerfibel (Tiger manual) contains a number
of attachments with tactical diagrams of how close a tank would have to be before it could penetrate the
Tiger. The T-34's page does not favour the Tiger's armour quality. It is listed as being able to destroy the
Tiger from 500 meters from the front and 1000 meters from the side, a feat impossible on paper.

8 Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 38, opis 11355, delo 2704, page 3
9 Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 38, opis 11377, delo 12, page 58
10 W. Schneider, Tigers in Normandy (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2011), 525 [Note: due to an electronic copy
being used, the page number refers to a position in the Amazon Kindle version of the book, instead of an actual page
number]

Figure 1: Excerpt from Tigerfibel, showing


ranges at which a T-34 can destroy a Tiger.
(Private collection)
Additionally, the Military Channel's assertion that no gun of the era could penetrate the tank is
absurd. The Soviet 57 mm ZiS-2 anti-tank gun, British 6-pounder gun, and American 75 mm M-3 gun
were found to be more than adequate tools for combating the Tiger at long ranges from the side in the
aforementioned report. Using subcaliber ammunition, even the meek 45 mm gun could penetrate it at
500 meters. Larger guns, such as the 85 mm AA gun (guns with equivalent ballistics were later
mounted on the SU-85 tank destroyer and T-34-85 tank) or 122 mm A-19 gun (later mounted on the IS2 tank and ISU-122 tank destroyer) could destroy a Tiger from any reasonable combat distance 11. This
does not even include the effects of high explosive shells from 122 mm and 152 mm howitzers. Images
of Tigers hit by M-30 or ML-20 cannons are common, and depict an unfavourable scenario for the

11 Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 38, opis 11377, delo 12, page 58

former.

Figure 2: An invincible Tiger tank after meeting a shell from a SU-152. (Private collection)
Armour is not the only method for a vehicle's safety. A small size can help avoid detection, and
a smaller target, once spotted, is more difficult to hit. The Tiger does not win any points here. At 8.5
meters long, 3.7 meters wide and nearly three meters tall, it presented an easy mark for an artillery
spotter or tank commander. This volume did not result in any additional comfort for the crew. The
height of the fighting compartment was only 1580 mm, insufficient for the work of a standing loader
(1800 mm). This results in difficulty for the loader when he reaches for shells stored outside of the
tank's ready rack. The size of the loader and gunner workspace is comparable to other tanks with 3-man
turrets of the era12. The large size of the Tiger proved to be detrimental in another way, discussed later.
Having covered armour, firepower is next. The 88 mm KwK 36 gun, 56 calibers in length, was
indeed a formidable weapon for 1942. When held to the same standards as other guns described above,
12 M.F. Samusenko, Foundations of Design of Armament for Self Propelled Guns and Tanks, (Moscow: Dzerzhinski
Artillery Academy, 1951), 38

it could penetrate 120 mm of armour at 100 meters13, certainly a much higher number than the guns of
Allied medium tanks in 1942. As we have already seen, numbers on paper are not everything. The
Tigerfibel and various other German anti-tank instructions instruct the Tiger's gunner to fire on T-34
tanks starting at a range of 800 meters 14. This only gave the Tiger a 300 meter margin to engage a T-34
tank without being able to be destroyed in return. A 300 meter advantage is pitiful for a tank that
weighs twice as much as its adversary. When compared to a contemporary heavy tank design, the
Tiger's performance is even poorer. An IS-2 could destroy a Tiger at a range of 1500 meters 15. In return,
the Tiger could penetrate the IS-2 at 100 meters, 300 if it got lucky 15. The firepower of the Tiger tank,
while impressive against pre-war designs, failed against tanks closer to its own age.
The power of the Tiger's gun was not even superior to older gun designs. An experimental KV-2
mounted the 107 mm ZiS-6 gun meant for the KV-3 tank in 1941 for trials 16. This gun could penetrate
128 mm of armour at 1000 meters17, while the Tiger's gun could only manage 103 mm at this range 13.
Other more powerful tank gun projects existed in the Soviet Union, such as the ZiS-23 85 mm gun and
ZiS-24 107 mm gun, capable of penetrating over 200 mm of armour18. These projects were cancelled
for one simple reason: guns that powerful simply had no worthy adversary to justify their cost19.
A breakthrough tank does not only fight enemy tanks, but also enemy infantry and
fortifications. To combat those, it uses high explosive rounds. A larger shell could, theoretically, fit
more explosives, and cover a larger area with fragments. However, let's look at some experiments. The
8.8 cm. Sprgr. Patr. L/4.5 shell fired from the Tiger's gun could cover an area 20 meters by 10 meters
with lethal shrapnel20. This sounds like a lot, but the OF-350 high explosive shell fired from the T-34's
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20

Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 81, opis 12038, delo 303
Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 38, opis 11355, delo 158, page 302
Hillary Doyle and T. Jentz, Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-1945 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1993), 20
A.G. Solyankin and others, Soviet Heavy Tanks 1917-1941 (Moscow: Exprint, 2002), 35
Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 38, opis 11353, delo 950
Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 81, opis 12104, delo 147, page 302
Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 81, opis 12038, delo 50, page 170-171
D. Fletcher and others, Tiger Tank Panzerkampfwagen Tiger I Ausf E (SdKfz 181) Owners' Workshop Manual
(Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2011), 117

76 mm gun delivered lethal shrapnel to an area 30 meters by 15 meters 21. The 75 mm M3 gun on the
M4 Sherman, firing an M48 high explosive shell could cover an area approximately 24 meters by 12
meters22. Despite having a larger caliber, the Tiger's shell fragmented poorly and had an inferior effect
on soft enemy targets, even compared to medium tank contemporaries. Comparing it to a contemporary
heavy tank yields even poorer results, as the 122 mm gun on the IS-2 could cover an area 60 meters by
20 meters with lethal shrapnel21.
The penetration of a shell is important, but it is not worth much if its shell cannot strike its
target. As much praise is sung towards the precision of the Tiger's gun as its penetration, but the praise
is misplaced. While it was definitely good (100% chance to hit a 2.5x2 meter target at a kilometer 23),
artillery tables for tank guns of the period such as the F-34 (T-34) and D-25 (IS-2, ISU-122) reveal that
no gun of the era had a problem with those ranges, or even much greater ones. As over 80% of tank
engagements took place at a range of less than 1000 meters24, the Tiger enjoyed no accuracy advantage
at realistic combat ranges.

21 N.N. Nikiforov and others, Artillery (Moscow: Military Publishers of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR, 1953), 147
22 Handbook of Ballistic and Engineering Data for Ammunition (Aberdeen: Ballistic Research Laboratories, 1950), 203
23 D. Fletcher and others, Tiger Tank Panzerkampfwagen Tiger I Ausf E (SdKfz 181) Owners' Workshop Manual
(Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2011), 120
24 P.S. Igumnov, Investigations of Damage to Domestic Tanks (Moscow: Military Publishers of the Ministry of Defense of
the USSR, 1947), 51

Figure 3: Excerpts from F-34 and D-25 firing tables. Average horizontal and veritcal deviations in
meters at 1000 meters are outlined. As you can see, it was not possible to miss a 2.5x2 meter target at
1000 meters (private collection).

Aside from shooting and being shot at, a tank must, of course, move around. The Tiger is a
heavy tank, so a comparison with other heavy tanks of the era (KV-1 and IS-2) is appropriate. The

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Tiger was powered by an impressive 700 hp Maybach engine 25, while Soviet heavy tanks were only
propelled by engines with up to 600 hp. The horsepower numbers appear to favour the Tiger, but its
weight must also come into account. The Tiger's 57 tons resulted in a hp/ton ratio of 12.3 (compared to
the KV-1's 12.7 or the IS-2's 13). The hp/ton disadvantage was slight, but the ground pressure was
much higher. The Tiger's 1.04 kg/cm2 (IS-2's ground pressure was 0.82 and the KV-1's 0.77) resulted in
much poorer off-road performance compared to the other heavy tanks 26. Log roads had to be build to
ensure that the Tiger tank did not get stuck on dirt roads during a march. These roads could not just use
any logs. Only those with a diameter of 15 cm or more could withstand the vehicle's massive weight27.

25 D. Fletcher and others, Tiger Tank Panzerkampfwagen Tiger I Ausf E (SdKfz 181) Owners' Workshop Manual
(Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2011), 57
26 A. Doroshkevich, Complete Encyclopedia of Battletanks and Self Propelled Guns (Minsk: Harvest, 2002), 346-353
27 D. Fletcher and others, Tiger Tank Panzerkampfwagen Tiger I Ausf E (SdKfz 181) Owners' Workshop Manual
(Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2011), 58

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Figure 4: The Tiger's poor mobility was no news to its crews. "The difficult
terrain led to many cases like this... The tank commander, Feldwebel Hermann,
was nicknamed "Hero of the Soviet Union" for spending more days in these
difficult situations than in battle. (Private collection)

All tanks break down or get stuck in mud. A Tiger tank, with its overloaded engine and high
ground pressure, would do so often. The highest availability rate ever reached by Tiger battalions was
70%28, despite a dedicated service company in each battalion. The Tigerfibel (page 43) instructs the use
of 2 heavy half-tracks to tow a Tiger on a road, and 4 heavy half-tracks to tow a Tiger through mud.
Considering that a Tiger battalion only had up to 7 or 8 of these vehicles (depending on the year) 29,
recovery of a large amount of Tigers simultaneously was out of the question. Furthermore, in order to
increase the towing capacity, heavy half-tracks lacked armour, making battlefield recovery impossible.
28 D. Fletcher and others, Tiger Tank Panzerkampfwagen Tiger I Ausf E (SdKfz 181) Owners' Workshop Manual
(Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2011), 140
29 W. Schneider, Tigers in Combat I (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2004), 1-2

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Unless the battlefield was left in German hands, Tigers stranded on it had no hope of recovery.

Figure 5: Tiger tanks towed with two Sd.Kfz. 9 "Famo" halftracks.(Bundesarchiv)


As the war progressed and heavy engineering vehicles began harder to come by, even Tigers
that broke down in friendly territory had to be destroyed. For example, 73% of the Tigers from s.Pz.Abt
504 were destroyed by their owns crews when they broke down and could not be recovered 30. The
difficulty of recovery left no shortage of Tiger tanks for the advancing Red Army31. Even light damage
to the suspension could take a Tiger off the battlefield for a long time; a damaged inner road wheel took
36 hours to replace32.
Even if a Tiger could be towed from the battlefield, not all repairs can be done on site. Major
refurbishments must be done back at the factory, and shipping a Tiger by rail was no small feat. The
large size of the vehicle resulted in it being too wide to fit on railway cars. In order to do this, the tracks
would have to be replaced with narrower transport tracks, which took 25 minutes 32. The mudguards and
outer road wheels (in vehicles where they were present) had to be removed as well33.
The production of the Tiger was also far from ideal. Henschel converted a locomotive
manufacturing plant for Tiger production, an establishment geared towards low-volume manufacturing
30 W. Schneider, Tigers in Combat I (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2004), 219
31 Victory in the Right-Shore Ukraine, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_iBeNeqYOY&NR=1, accessed on April 4th,
2014
32 D. Fletcher and others, Tiger Tank Panzerkampfwagen Tiger I Ausf E (SdKfz 181) Owners' Workshop Manual
(Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2011), 145
33 D. Fletcher and others, Tiger Tank Panzerkampfwagen Tiger I Ausf E (SdKfz 181) Owners' Workshop Manual
(Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2011), 24

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of near hand-crafted vehicles, unlike the efficient high volume assembly lines that produced T-34 and
M4 Sherman tanks. Add complicated welding of thick armour plates 34 that was not automated35, (Soviet
and American factories used automatic welding devices, capable of creating a high quality welding
seam while operated by a semi-skilled and not physically strong worker) and production of a Tiger
turned into a complicated and expensive affair 36. Over the production lifetime of the tank, only 1347
vehicles were built37, a small quantity that was not offset with quality to a degree that would enable any
kind of contribution to winning the war.
But what about the loss ratios? Schneider's reprintings of German heavy tank battalion diaries
list fantastical scenarios where dozens of enemy vehicles are knocked out by only a handful of Tigers.
How can such an ineffective vehicle perform so well? These numbers are used as argments in many
claims of the Tiger's effectiveness, but few question what these numbers represent. For one, these
numbers are the total amount of tanks knocked out during the course of fighting. As the Germans knew
that the Tiger was not an impregnable fortress their propaganda made it out to be, Tigers never fought
alone38. The contribution of StuG, PzIII and PzIV tanks in the battle is falsely attributed to the Tigers,
and the losses of these (much more effective) vehicles are ignored. Additionally, reading over the
diaries, one will notice that a knocked out Tiger does not actually count as a casualty if it can be
recovered (or at least is perceived as recoverable). Tigers that are destroyed by their own crews for any
reason do not count as combat losses either. Conversely, the diaries are happy to credit themselves with
any Allied tank loss, including mobility kills.
All of this does not include kills that are outright fabrications. This was most common for SS
battalions, but ordinary Wehrmacht units did not spend all that much time confirming the claims of
34 Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 38, opis 11355, delo 2704, page 3
35 Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 38, opis 11355, delo 2327, page 11
36 D. Fletcher and others, Tiger Tank Panzerkampfwagen Tiger I Ausf E (SdKfz 181) Owners' Workshop Manual
(Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2011), 20-23
37 H. Doyle and T. Jentz, Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-1945 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1993), 11-13
38 Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 204, opis 113, delo 48, page 58-58

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their crews either. A notable example of these falsifications is a three-fold inflation of kills attributed to
SS-Obersturmfuhrer Michael Wittmann at Villers-Bocage39. Otto Carius, one of the most famous Tiger
commanders, admitted in a 2012 interview that he destroyed about 100-110 tanks (while being credited
with 150-160) and Kurt Knispel (another very famous Tiger tank commander) only destroyed 60-70
(while being credited with 168)40. Carius claimed that these figures were fabrications of the German
propaganda ministry. Indeed, comparing the combat diaries of Tiger battalions to the diaries of their
opponents often bears inaccuracies. One example would be an attack by the Soviet 55 th Army on
Krasniy Bor in March of 194341. The 502nd s.Pz.Abt claims to have knocked out more than half of the
tank strength of the Army42, and yet these losses are completely absent from the Soviet records. The
facts that Tiger tanks are also not mentioned in Soviet reports and that the German battalion retreats
from battle only a few days into the offensive leads to the conclusion that the effectiveness of Tiger
tanks in repelling this attack was negligible.
Due to the relative rarity of Tiger tanks, they appear infrequently in memoirs, but when they do,
the impression is far from the terror that allegedly permeated anyone that ever saw a Tiger tank.
Recollections from iremember.ru are not filled with the fear that one would expect if the Tiger's
performance lived up to its modern reputation.

We used our 85 mm gun on ground targets most often, against tanks and such. It could pierce a
Tiger all the way through. - Ivan Federovich Borisenko, AA gunner.

I saw an SPG come out. We had 122 mm and 152 mm SPGs. The SPG came out, and two Tigers
39 W. Schneider, Tigers in Normandy (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2011), 298-312 [Note: due to an electronic copy
being used, the page numbers refersto a position in the Amazon Kindle version of the book, instead of actual page
numbers]
40 Otto Carius, Yo NO destru tantos tanques, interview by Jose. A. Marquez, Heroes de Guerra, 2012
41 Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, fond 411, opis 10189, delo 436, page 84-105
42 W. Schneider, Tigers in Combat I (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2004), 76

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came out in front of it. The Tiger shot first at the SPG, and nothing happens. Then the SPG shot,
and the Tiger was swept away. - Iosif Yakovlevich Sreznikov, tanker.

A meeting with Tigers awaited us. ...we had to fire HEAT shells at the enemy. The first missed, the
second penetrated the enemy and he stopped. Someone hit the other tank and it started retreating.
Our howitzer hit the Tiger well. As a result of our shot, the Tiger caught fire, the tankers jumped
out, and were all shot. - Aleksandr Stepanovich Sedoy, artilleryman.

I ordered, first, write REMORSELESS on the side of the tank, and second, destroy all cover
where the tank was hidden, as it impeded aimed fire. My orders proved reasonable, and we
successfully fought fascist Tigers and Ferdinands the next day. With the first shot, my crew took
cover at the bottom of the tank, but my aimed fire destroyed the German tanks, and we continued
fighting without losses. Over the next few days, none of my crewmen were even wounded, let
alone killed. - Vladimir Vladimirovich Tolstikov, tanker.

Hitler expected his Tigers, Panthers, and Ferdinands to be invincible, but we had a surprise for
them, HEAT rounds, which could penetrate any armour, even the 76 mm ones. The Germans were
not ready for this. - Ivan Yermolayevich Ryzhkov, mortar gunner.

As a rule, the memoirs that rave about the Tiger's invincibility are written by those that did not
have the means to fight them in any case: infantrymen, medics, communication technicians. When
reading the memoirs of tankers and artillerymen, those that actually had to fight the Tigers, the picture
created is not that of an unbeatable monster, but of an ordinary tank. An ordinary tank that could be
defeated, provided that its opposition was sufficiently brave and adequatly equipped.
In conclusion, the Tiger, once properly analyzed, fails to live up to the hype brewed up around it
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in popular history. Its armour and armament were not exceptional, and came at a great cost in weight,
manpower, and price tag. Its obsolete design had no heirs; even the Tiger II was a Tiger tank in name
only, more closely resembling the Panther. Neither the tank nor its gun served in post-war conflicts.
Unlike the T-34, Sherman, and even PzIV tanks, it was swiftly forgotten by the militaries of the world.

Three of the four attacking vehicles broke down, and the fourth burned up. I want to note that the
tank knocked out on September 21 spent months in no man's land until winter, when it was blown
up by German engineers due to the impossibility of its evacuation. During the months it spent
there, Soviet forces displayed no interest in the vehicle. It was not examined by scouts. No attempts
were made to evacuate this brand new vehicle to the Soviet side. 43 [First T-34s, p. 35]

This laconic paragraph serves well to summarize the Tiger's debut, appropriate for its career on the
battlefield. If the combat performance over the tank's lifetime had to be summed up in one word, many
would opt for a word like invincible, indestructible, feared. However, once one gets down to the
facts, a much more suitable word can be found: uninteresting.

43 A. Ulanov, D. Shein, First T-34s (Moscow: Tactical Press, 2013), 35

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Bibliography:

Archive materials:

Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation:

fond 38, opis 11377, delo 12

fond 81, opis 12038, delo 303

fond 411, opis 10189, delo 436

fond 38, opis 11353, delo 950

fond 3722, opis 95328, delo 2

fond 38, opis 11355, delo 2704

fond 38, opis 11355, delo 158

fond 81, opis 12104, delo 147

fond 81, opis 12038, delo 50

fond 38, opis 11355, delo 2327

fond 204, opis 113, delo 48

Defense Technical Information Center:

Handbook of Ballistic and Engineering Data for Ammunition (Aberdeen: Ballistic Research Laboratories,
1950)

Other:

Tigerfibel

Photographic materials from private collections

Books:

D. Fletcher and others, Tiger Tank Panzerkampfwagen Tiger I Ausf E (SdKfz 181) Owners' Workshop Manual
(Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2011)

W. Schneider, Tigers in Normandy (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2011)

M.F. Samusenko, Foundations of Design of Armament for Self Propelled Guns and Tanks, (Moscow:
Dzerzhinski Artillery Academy, 1951)

H. Doyle and T. Jentz, Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-1945 (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 1993)

A.G. Solyankin and others, Soviet Heavy Tanks 1917-1941 (Moscow: Exprint, 2002)

18

N.N. Nikiforov and others, Artillery (Moscow: Military Publishers of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR,
1953)

P.S. Igumnov, Investigations of Damage to Domestic Tanks (Moscow: Military Publishers of the Ministry of
Defense of the USSR, 1947)

A. Doroshkevich, Complete Encyclopedia of Battletanks and Self Propelled Guns (Minsk: Harvest, 2002)

W. Schneider, Tigers in Combat I (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2004)

A. Ulanov, D. Shein, First T-34s (Moscow: Tactical Press, 2013)

Electronic:

Military Channel, Top Ten Tanks #3: Tiger, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoyW83fdJi4 accessed


April 3rd, 2014

Victory in the Right-Shore Ukraine, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_iBeNeqYOY&NR=1, accessed on


April 4th, 2014

Otto Carius, Yo NO destru tantos tanques, interview by Jose. A. Marquez, Heroes de Guerra, 2012,
http://heroesdeguerra.blogspot.fr/2012/05/avande-de-entrevista.html, accessed on April 4th, 2014

Various memoirs retrieved from http://iremember.ru/ on April 4th, 2014

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