Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Tiger Tank: German armor and why the Tiger I got made.

 Chillin' on a Tiger's back.

   I got pretty much burned out on Middle East rioting this week so I thought I might cheer myself up and write about Tiger tanks instead. World War II armor is the kind of thing that cheers me up when I'm down. There's something about the way Germans over engineered their tanks that makes me happy. It's like even in the midst of WWII the Germans were still churning out vehicles that could win not just militarily but also on style points. Even if those production actuary tables cost them the war.

   Sure, the Germans could never win. Not with 30 million Russians punishing them on the OstFront and the Americans and British running an effective strategic bombing campaign on German factories. That's why it's fun to play "what if" with history and wonder what the Germans were thinking when they came up with the Tiger Tank. My favorite  thing is that the Germans named their new main battle tank in 1942 the "Tiger". Well actually Ferdinand Porsche gave it that name. Officially, it was known as the 'Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausführung H' which is somehow not as sexy. What was it with the WW II era Germans and sexily named vehicles? The Americans at the time tended to name their tanks after stuffy old Civil War generals like "Sherman" and "Lee". Hell, the British named one of their best tanks of the war the "Matilda", which is possibly the worst name for a tank ever. It conjures up an image of your granny in combat boots. Psychologically damaging yes, but not that scary.

   But the Germans?

   They called their tank a "Tiger" just to mess with the average infantryman's head.

   The Tiger I gets a lot of flak for being expensive, heavy, slow and prone to break downs. And it was all of those things. But it was also a damn fearsome piece of engineering. Before we talk about all the fun stuff though, first let's get to the point in the war where the Germans realized a need for such a heavy tank.

   When the Germans invaded France in 1940 and first unveiled Guderian's Blitzkrieg to the world they did so with some pretty shitty tanks. Panzer Is, IIs and IIIs. The Panzer I had paper thin armor, a two man crew and sported two 7.92mm machine guns. Yes, you heard that right. No anti tank gun of any kind fitted. One fifth of German armor in the Battle of France in 1940 was composed of Panzer Is. Keep in mind here that the French at the time were no slouches in tank design. They fielded the frighteningly powerful Char B1 which was a heavy tank with 40mm armor, a 47mm anti tank gun and, I shit you not, a 75mm howitzer poking out of its belly. Sure, it was slow and heavy but it could blow Panzer Is and IIs in half in a pitched battle.
The French Char B1. An ugly fucker but formidable if driven by anyone but the French!
   The French fielded it wrongly though and used it as some kind of movable arty piece and tended to spread them out across the front rather than bunching them together in single tank units where they might have been more effective against the oncoming Wehrmacht tank rush. The Germans merely bypassed the isolated Char B1s when they stumbled across them (the one thing the light Panzers had on their side was a top speed of 50 km/h). There is one fun story though of a Char B1 taking out 13 German Panzers IIIs and IVs (the 'better' German tanks in 1940) and returning to its staging point having been hit 140 times to no effect by German guns. Even Guderian himself relates a similar story and laments his casualties after a face to face encounter with one of these Gallic behemoths.

   But it was Barbarossa that finally convinced the Germans that they needed to up the ante in terms of heavy armor design. The single catalyst was a little Red Army tank known as the T-34. Probably the best tank of WW II, maybe the best tank ever, it deserves its own post, but, in short, it was a beast and an all rounder. Fast, with sloped armor, a reliable diesel engine, and with a nasty 76.2mm short barrel high velocity gun, the Russians spammed these from factories behind the Urals and in many cases rushed them onto the battlefield unpainted. Suddenly, for the first time in the war, the Wehrmacht found its armor totally outclassed. The German's best medium tank in 1941, the Panzer IV, was hurriedly fitted with a new 75mm gun and as much extra armor slapped on as the engine could handle and designated the Panzer IV Ausf. G. It still proved vulnerable to the oncoming Russkis.

   And this was where the Germans lost their minds.

   Much has been made of the lack of a German heavy bomber in WWII. The Battle of Britain was lost because the Luftwaffe design philosophy in the 1930s (and due to the Versailles restrictions) stipulated/forced a preference for fast twin engined medium bombers like the He 111 or the Ju-88 over four engined heavy bomber designs. That Germans were capable of producing such aircraft as the Focke Wulf Fw 200 'Condor' clearly proves that there were no technological hindrances to production of four engine bomber designs. Those Condors the Germans did produce were used as maritime patrol craft rather than pressing some variant into service as a heavy bomber and getting with the strategic bombing program that the Americans and British had such a hard on for.

   It was perhaps because of such mistakes that the Wehrmacht went decidedly overboard when they dreamed up the Tiger I. They overcompensated. Of course, another factor in this whole equation was Hitler himself, who was always interfering in every design decision and invariably fucking things up royally. When the Germans pulled off the amazing feat of producing the world's first jet fighter, the ME-262, Hitler decided it would make a good "fighter bomber" when it was obviously way ahead of its time as a high altitude interceptor. A war changing weapon was hobbled and never given its chance to turn the tide, relegating it to the dustbin of "what if's" in military history. Hitler similarly messed with the Tiger design.

   In response to the T-34, two designs for a 45 tonne plus tank were submitted. One by Ferdinand Porsche and the other by Henschel & Son, a German locomotive manufacturer. The Porsche prototype looked decidedly T-34ish in the chassis with a familiar Tiger I turret bolted on top. Porsche was zealous enough to produce over a hundred working prototype chassis before he was told that the Fuhrer had gone with Henschel's design.

The failed Porsche prototype chassis was later adapted as the Elefant self propelled anti tank gun.

   Henschel won the contract and the Tiger went into production in August 1942 at a rate of twenty five per month. Yes, I shall repeat that. Twenty five per month. Meanwhile, the American 'arsenal of democracy' Chrysler factories were churning out tin can Shermans at a rate of fourteen per day.

   Could the Germans have matched this production rate if they had a simplified generic tank? No they could not have. Could they have made life easier for themselves and come up with a simpler tank design than the Tiger I that would have made production faster? Absolutely. But they pressed ahead with their over engineered and expensive uber tank nonetheless. So what was the rationale here?

   For one thing, part of the Tiger was already proven technology. That was the main gun. The legendary German 88mm. Originally an AA gun, Rommel proved its lethality in North Africa as a potent tank killer. It had a high muzzle velocity and a remarkably flat shell trajectory which made it ridiculously easy to hit targets and penetrate 150mm of frontal armor at ranges beyond 2 km. Those stats spoke for themselves so it was understandable that the Germans would try anything to marry such a weapon to a chassis that could accommodate it.

An 88mm in action.
   Of course, having figured out how to mount an 88 in an enclosed turret and mounting that turret on a chassis that could carry it, you'd already pushed up the cost of your new tank significantly. Now, after having spent that money, the designers were almost forced to up armor the thing. I mean, after creating something so formidable attack wise you didn't want to lose it to a couple of pot shots from a Sherman or T-34. So the Germans packed on the armor plate to the point where its engine, suspension and gearbox met the stress limits of structural steel. The Tiger operated right at those limits which is pretty badass if you ask me.

   But obviously there were many design sacrifices made.

   The Maybach diesel engine was underpowered for the 60 tonne weight but even despite this the Tiger I managed the respectable top speed of 38 km/h. That's something often overlooked when historians rag on the Tiger. It was slow but not 'useless slow' as many like to portray it as. It was actually quite maneuverable and even boasted less ground pressure than a Sherman due to its 725mm wide tracks, unprecedented at the time. One big weakness was the traverse time of the turret. Housing that heavy 88mm meant a hydraulic motor was needed and it took a full minute to turn through 360 degrees. That proved problematic especially because Russian and Allied tactics dictated that when attacking a Tiger the attack was carried out by four tanks, all of them attempting a flanking maneuver to land a rear shot where the Tiger's armor was weakest. This could work but involved the sacrifice of three Shermans/T-34s before the fourth one could flank in and land a rear shot to the Tiger's ass.

   58,000 Shermans and 36,000 T-34s were produced as opposed to a mere 1350 Tiger Is. And here comes the fun part. The Wehrmacht even went so far as to develop a whole new variant, the Tiger II, otherwise known as the 'King Tiger"! Holy shit, run for the hills! Seriously, the dying German Reich under assault on two fronts attempted to rectify the Tiger's design problems and win the game on style points alone. You must admit the King Tiger wins on every metric except rationality and a reliable drive train. But doesn't it look damn beautiful?

The King Tiger. They accidentally the whole German war economy.

   I'm not sure if the Allies or Russians got to try out the four tank attack tactic on a lurking King Tiger. It must seem to the generals that sacrificing three cheap tanks to kill a really expensive one looks good on paper when you break out the actuary tables. But when you look at it from a purely human perspective, you are talking about sacrificing 15 guys to kill 5.

   Stupid me, getting all philosophical and viewing war from a "human" perspective. That's never the way to look at it right? Because, I suppose, if humans had any real perspective, there would be no wars at all.


  1. Although your focus is correct, you somehow fail to address the main issue here: doctrine, and the fact that the Tiger project spawned when Germans were still thinking in offensive terms, but was completed during the exact time that offensive was becoming an impossibility to them (strategic, meaningful and with a sporting chance of success offensive I mean).

    The Tiger was thought, at least by Guderian, as a pure and simple tank killer. No infantry support, all-round capabilities, multipurpose shit. Just tank killing. So it was more of a human decision that what you assume. It was meant to help the fear of the German tankers to being pitted, again, against far superior enemy tanks that could do to them what the Tiger has become famous for doing to allied tank crews.

    Besides, you are giving too much credit to it's mobility. It was quite good in Russian stepe (and would have buttfucked the Desert Rats also), but that was an accident. By 1942 the Germans had already learned that you need wiiiiide tracks to operate in Russia anytime between late september and early june. In civilized country, were the matter is road macadam, bridge weight limits and road space between buildings it was a nightmare. Also, 38 km/h might look impressive, but please remember it was top speed, and you certainly are not willing to drive your weak gearboxed Tiger at top speed to everywhere. Practicable and usual speeds were around the 20 km/h range, which means, only double than Big Willy at top speed.

    What Tigers called top speed was cruise road speed for an easy ride in a Sherman and most other tanks of the war.

    Also, not one of those Jentz&Zaloga fans, but I recall that the gun on the Tiger was not exactly a Flak 18. More of a parallel design by Krupp that anyway got the contract because the 75mm gun intended (and which ended on the Panther) was not going to be ready on time.

    Hitler said that the Tiger was going to have a gun with the penetration stats of a Flak 18 (the best thing around when the 37mm was still the main AT gun), and that he would be buying anything with those stats that was smaller in caliber (as that meant more ammo onboard and less raw materials), and ready on time. It was the second soundest thing to ask, once you are not saying just build me a tank around a Flak 18, which nobody said.

    But, ey, yeah, it's cool stuff to look at in photographs. I'm more of a Sherman fan (cast hull versions), and certainly can't see anything sissy about a superb automotive product being called after old William Tecumseh, which, as mr. Breecher once, and very rightly, put it, was Curtiss Le May before airplanes, and one of the creators of modern strategy according to sir Basil. I'm not surprised at all that people in Georgia are cursing his name to this date.


    1. New upcoming book on the Sherman Tank-

      "For Want of a Gun: The Sherman Tank Scandal of WWII"



  2. " Superb automotive product " Really ? Putting an airplane engine in a piece of shit that came with a gun that couldn't penetrate the broad side of a chicken's ass. It wasn't superb it was a sorry excuse for a tank. It was a mass produced piece of shit that came at the heavy cost of human life to get the Job done and you call it superb ?

    Stop being disillusioned with american garbage. When your entire doctrine involves " Throwing tanks at the problem until it goes away " then you're doing something wrong.

    1. It's not the tank, it's the guy in the tank that counts. That U.S. garbage had the highest kill rate against Tiger and Panther tanks at the battle of Arracourt, Sep-Oct 1944.

    2. Someone Does not know their History. At the time of it's introduction,
      The Sherman (as he Brits named it or M4 as the Americans knew it) was as superior to german tanks as the T34 with more powerful guns.
      It was the gun=armor race begun by the Shermans and T34s than made the Shermans and T34s increasingly obsolescent but their advantage was they could fight and fight most of the time and were made in the hundreds per month. The Panzer 3 which won the blitzkreig and Barbarossa on the ground was inferior to both.
      Also as to doctrine, the Hsermans and T34s could go palces where the Tigers could not and be in more places than the tiger so what did it matter that the tiger had a longer reach if it was broken down more often than it was fighting. The allies simply used the same techniques as the Blitzkreig in bypassing strongpoints and taking out weaker yet more important units. Like island hopping for the Americans in the Pacific. Like Rommel in the the Desert.
      To compare the Sherman to the Tiger is stupid since American doctrine did not pit them against each other. Comparing the 254 Jumbos with M1A1 76mm guns is more fair but look at the numbers.
      254 Breakthrough tanks while 10s of thousands of tank were available for conversion? Reliability and being able to saty fighting were more important. What does it matter if you were the strongest and most invulnerable fighter if you can't follow your opponent to hurt him and he keeps destroying the food you need in order to fight. I've been in war, food, water and mail ARE important. Without those, the extra weight of armor, ammo, and superior rifles don't mean shit if you can't hump it or see straight to shoot it or hold it if you have something to shoot with.

    3. Using stupid in an intellectual discussion makes you look stupid.

    4. the sad story of the sherman is that it was a mule , a cross between the French B1 warhorse and the faithful donkey of mass production , the US had no tanks , they used their laughable M3, a pretty good tank for the 1930'ies, a museum piece in 1942
      war does this thing of accelerating obsolescence.
      When thing got hotter and in spite of the small fast tank outlook of the cavalry minded generals , some redesign took place and the M4 Sherman was made , and hybrid conversion reluctantly acknowledging reality .
      the Sherman was good for 1942 ,barely OK during 1943 and really a steel coffin for 1944 ,1945 was pretty tough for all tanks , tank killers of all kind were swarming the battlefield from the lowly panzerfaust to the brilliantly simple and deadly Czech Hetzel.
      The Sherman was a dog for tank versus tank confrontation but was much loved and quite efficient as an infantry tank , picking out machine guns strong point and racing along thanks to its quite respectable reliability .
      on the ultimate armor testing ground , the Russian front ,the crews liked its comfort , mechanical sturdiness and disliked its inferior cross country capability , high silhouette and weak armor.

  3. Well said anonymous

  4. When talking about production rates it should be rationale, not rational. Great article!

  5. Great article. I was always a fan of the German "Panther" myself which was basically Germany's answer to the the T-34.

    LOL at the guy above thinking the Sherman was a great tank. That piece of shit was an embarrassment and got many guys killed.

  6. About the superb quality of the Sherman.

    I always look in amazement to the point American self-punishment has reached. Maybe you are too young to remember, or have been for too long immersed in the cool looking over useful built-to-last culture that has driven your country to the decadent point it’s now, but World War II was won just, and only, because the American automotive industry was able to deliver reliable automotive products in high numbers that were easy to handle and repair by conscript armies.

    World War II is all about Math. Forget the fancy shit, it’s about numbers. Period.

    Anything benefiting from quality control and specialized high-wage work instead of slave labor is going be running more hours a week. That’s why a Sherman is a far superior weapon any day. Because it’s much more likely it’ll be running (either with petrol aircraft or truck engines, or diesel ones) and firing any given time. The main cause of Tiger loss (in the West at least) was mechanical breakdown, followed by lack of petrol and then Allied AT weapons, mainly Jabos. A broken down weapon is the worst sort of weapon I can think of.

    So while you fancy black dressed blond guys spend half the day doing maintenance work the Sherman would be in the lines doing lots of useful stuff like infantry support, recce by fire, harassing artillery work, or simply destroying the most common German tanks, the Pz IV, which the Sherman was more than able to destroy on it’s own with no need for 4 vs 1 proportions (not getting the relative ability of the respective crews into the equation). Even if you were not spending the day doing mechanics there would be enough Shermans to feed you and still do all the other chores.

    So the Sherman’s weaknesses cost lives. Granted. But war is about taking loses. That’s not a great comfort when it’s your life the one in the accountancy books, but that’s a pretty egoistic view, and war is not about oneself. The ones caring about oneself in wars are those getting neutral passports. And, anyway, the average Joe tanker did not had it so tough as the History Channel would like us to think.

    The American industry was able to address some of the worst weaknesses of the Sherman. It gave the Sherman wet storage to prevent easy burning, and a gun (76mm) able to defeat the most common enemy APC in practical ranges, and the less common ones in several, not so uncommon, circumstances. And of course the HC is only counting tankers lives.

    (ends in the next)

  7. The Sherman saved many more infantrymen’s lives being there to support them, blast pillboxes, etc… than the Tiger ever did. We'd better not get in to the equation the millions of lives spared thanks to the profligate availability of cheap reliable armor to destroy the Third Reich despite Wunderwaffen and superb tactical performance.

    So, it’s ok for me, go on and choose the Tiger. I’ll get the Sherman any day of the week and after the Hollywood style 4 Sherman vs 1 Tiger showdown I’ll still be -not counting the chances of any given Tiger being able to reach the front and get into position to deliver that ambush so cute in the video- having 1/20 chances of getting through alive and unscathed and a Tiger guy just a 1/5 chance.

    That if I play fair enough and after seeing something like 10 of my buddies roasted in various degrees (not everybody inside a Sherman died if the tank was hit, there was an average 3 casualties per lost –i.e. totally brewed up- tank, usually walking cases) I don’t grab the 50. cal and machinegun you all down as you bail out of your totally unpractical overcomplicated burning German tank produced in ridiculous low numbers due to poor decision making and low industrial adaptation capability.

    I'll read gladly any reasonably argued refutation of the above Sherman facts by any daredevil delusional individual or group of.

    See you. I'm not going anywhere.

    1. Refreshing to see a whole heated supporter of the sherman not using the words stupid and idiot over and over again. You must not be one of the chieftains crowd.

      It was a decent tank. I hope to rebuild one before I die. just no match for most of the German armor.
      It performed admirably doing the things you stated. Made a hell of a better bulldozer than a panther would to.

      The problem is people get emotional attached to these things. I hate the Nazis but love the tiger. I love the sherman too.
      I knew several sherman drivers personally. They did not love it.

  8. Anon For a Good ReasonFebruary 9, 2011 at 11:03 PM

    John Figler, I communicate outside my native language. What`s your blog`s name?

  9. I apologise for the the grammatical error however no one here has claimed a preference to the tiger my counter point is that the sherman is no a superb automotive product. From an assembly line standpoint sure it was easily mass produced but from a performance standpoint it was anything but superb - It Filled its doctrine role as an infantry support vehicle but considering the shortfalls later encountered versus heavy armor shows that this doctrine was flawed beyond belief - If the doctrine was in fact a correct approach then there would have been no reason to upgrade the sherman or build the Pershing.

    I'm sorry to disappoint you however if you think anyone here is under the belief that Uncle Sam won World War 2 - I'm pretty damn Confident that it was the Reds who broke hitler's back. The same claim of the ability by the americans to mass produce tanks was shown by the russians who produced arguably the most reliable tank of the war.

    The Point of superior technology in war is to avoid as many human losses as possible of course in war losses are unavoidable but losing experienced soldiers is a grave mistake however loss of resources is another big factor that must be taken into consideration which is what made the tiger such a grave mistake it was way too expensive at a point when the germans didn't have a huge amount of resources.

    " But war is about taking loses " War is not about taking Losses - War is a dick measuring contest and thats all it has ever been - that good men have to die to prove that their leader is a bigger dick is a horrible thing but apparently its the only way humans see if fit to solve their differences.

    You are correct in stating that war is not about one's self but I spit on any leader or general who does not do anything and everything in his power to keep his men safe from harm.

    Pardon any mistakes but feel free to correct them.

  10. Typo alert: the caption below the last photo reads, "The King Tiger. They accidentally the whole German war economy." Is there a missing word?

  11. Thoroughly enjoyed this post...God how I miss Strategy & Tactics and wargaming in high school.

  12. Actually, there's no typo.

    [X] accidenly the whole [Y] is an internet meme. Google it for details.

  13. The real annoying thing is that the Tiger (and the German armed forces in general) are treated with religious reverence by certain people. If you try to inject a little truth into the picture that is on Wikipedia, for example, it gets taken down in a second, even though you have ample references. They believe that this tank was actually hopping from hilltop to hilltop, with a speed that would put most Cold War armor to shame - when, in fact, the whole thing was much about the length of Hitler's dick, than anything else. Other similar cases: Maus, and Dora.)

    1. If you are annoyed by people's preferences, then die being annoyed.

      My fellow anon above is simply laughable.

    2. Keep the anonymous name. it works for you.

  14. While the Tiger was a powerful tank that could make it's presence known on the battlefield, slow production and combat losses meant that there were only about 200 in service at any given point in time.

    And their mechanical reliability was their greatest problem. On the day of the Normandy landings, ALL 24 Tigers of the 1st SS Panzer Korps were in the shop for repairs and maintenance. None were operational. But once operational and in the hands of a skilled operator such as Michael Wittmann, they could be very effective on the battlefield.

    The Sherman did have one major advantage and that was mechanical reliability. The tanks that landed at Normandy and survived to VE-day, were still running on their original engines and drivetrains. That reliability meant they were available as combat tanks.

    As for the gun power, the Sherman was an infantry support tank and, according to US Army doctrine, enemy tanks were supposed to be dealt with by dedicated tank destroyer units using the M10 (and later M36), M18 Hellcat, etc.

    It was the Sherman Firefly using the British 17-pdr AT gun that restored the firepower balance.

    1. I agree with you, but for the others let me quote and state:

      "As for the gun power, the Sherman was an infantry support tank and, according to US Army doctrine, enemy tanks were supposed to be dealt with by dedicated tank destroyer units using the M10 (and later M36), M18 Hellcat, etc."

      Which is very fair considering that Uncle Sam probably knew the ratio of German infantry compared to German tanks. The Sherman helped the overall win on the style of war that was actually in place - by and large an infantry war.

      Sure, it would have been poetic and stylish to imagine the war as a tank war, but the reality was that between numbers and break-downs, Germany wasn't posing a tank war. They made some interesting tanks, for sure, but that was about it.

      Germany would have been far better off to have manufactured enough semi-automatic rifles for their hoards of infantry than they were to keep the infantry with bolt action rifles in an infantry war while their enemies had much better platforms. I own a K98, and it's OK, but it isn't tactically comparable to what many of the Americans and some Soviets were using.

  15. If you want a really good, readable, and accurate assessment of M4 Shermans from both the combat and maintenance perspectives look no further than Belton Cooper's 'Death Traps'.

    1. Belton cooper "death traps" is the cause of all the sherman myths . His unit was never in contact with a tiger but he says it was , he is a lyer

    2. Belton Cooper's book is almost completely false. He often speaks of things he has no direct experience and references for, and even the facts which he should know are incorrect in even the most simplistic details. Horrible, horrible book.

  16. Hi great article as usual.

    I'd like to quibble, however, that the Tiger was already well on the way to being built, before the nasty surprise of the T-34 made the Germans hurry things along. And the engine was petrol. Sorry to nitpick, but it's so much easier than making a brilliant military history website.

    Fidler is right the Tiger was planned as the 'point of the wedge' in an attack formation, but it worked just as well in defence so that's all good.

    Your basic premise for the article- that Jerry just couldn't let go of his 'build the best' engineering mentality- is well chosen.

    A note or two on the Sherman. It was okay when it came out but the scandal was the wasting of pretty much a year, mid-43 to mid-44, on the abortive T20, and thus failing to improve the Sherman which the Armour Board considered to be brilliant.

    The 76mm gun was hardly better then the 75 and Eisenhower was very pissed off when 76mm Shermans were no better. This belated realisation was the result of the Allies not engaging in any large-scale armour battles between May 1943 and June 1944, which I think proves a certain point about the Eastern Front being where it was all happening.


    1. The T-34 was not a good tank, it was worse than the Sherman in terms of quality. That 76mm gun couldn't hurt the Panther even if it shot at the side of the turret or hull. The armor was virtually non-existent, true the 37mm and 50mm guns could not get through but once Germany started introducing good tanks with decent guns they started slaughtering the Russians. The Pz. IV once it got the long 75mm gun was powerful enough to take out the KV series heavy tanks that the USSR fielded (they were the most heavily armored tanks in the world before the Tiger was fielded). The reason the T-34 is so idolized is because of its massive use during WW2. The real nasty surprise that faced the Nazis was the IS series of Russian heavy tanks. Armed with a 122mm gun the standard AP shell if it hit the corner of the Panther's front plate, it would rip the entire front plate off at the seam. Did I mention that a single high explosive shell from an IS-2 could demolish a 3-4 story building?

    2. T-34s also had notorious quality control issues and primeval optics, which affected main gun accuracy.

      The tracks were made of glass, having a tendency to throw in heavy mud when the vehicle wasn't even shot.

      It also was limited to a three-man crew, with command and control profoundly affected for the worse because the commander also had to fill in the role as a gunner. In terms of training and internal vehicle doctrine, the Germans were lightyears ahead of the Soviets. A well trained gun crew could fire 2-3 shots for every shot a T34 crew fired.

      The IS tanks were pretty gnarly. Unknown to many, they also inherited the Tiger's and heavy tank category's problems, although the Soviets had the industrial capacity to overcome its shortcomings.

      There was also the ISU152 self propelled gun, infamously known as "animal killer" because a single 152mm round could demolish a Tiger and Panther.

      In a nutshell, the Nazis were screwed. I mean royally. For their sake, they should have spammed as many Panzer IVs, STUG IIIs and Panzerjaeger IVs (which were extremely effective and utterly reliable platforms that also had the attribute of being less expensive and easier to maintain) keeping the Soviets out of Germany and just allowing the western Allies to walk in through the back door (a new peace treaty would have rendered the Yalta Converance null).

    3. The real scandal on the US side of things was how much resources were tied up in the "Tank Destroyer" concept. Some good vehicles came out of the debacle like the M18 or M36 but there was huge resource wastage on all these sp artillery that never really got full use. If McNair who had these as his fiefdom hadnt been killed by a short bomb during the start of Operation Cobra there might have been 200 battalions of these less tactically useful afvs in US inventories.

      On the tigers manufacturing what really hits home is that the 90 odd ferdinands made at the st Valentin austrian works were chosen instead of what the works was originally supposed to make which would have been over 1000 Panzer 1V which could have come out in the same time period!

      The other shocker was the Panzer 1V J. Of all the things to trim if you were trying to economise on build time would you want the electric motor to turn the turret to be thrown out. The gun may be a bit better than that in the Sherman but some poor sods were in there spinning wheels like manic hamsters

  17. The Sherman vs. the Tiger after 1943 was the equivalent to the PzKpfw III vs. the Char B in 1940 and the KV1 in 1941. Nathan Bedford Forrest's misquote still has merit "git thar fustest with the mostest".

  18. i agree with all the comments about the sherman being a shit tank, it was even nicknamed the Ronson, a popularly used lighter brand at the time, because it got brewed up so easily

    1. It was not nicknamed the ronson until 1947 after the war and Belton coopers , shit book came out with all its lies

    2. Belton Cooper served admirably in the line of fire. He expressed his opinion which coincided with many veterans of this conflict that I personally knew.
      The question citizen Dale, what kind of shit book are you going to write about your heroic trolling of an American hero.

    3. Belton Cooper never saw a second of combat. He was a high level liaison officer who wrote a shitty book where almost every significant detail was incorrect. He even could not correctly describe the units he writes about. Most veterans of the conflict lacked the background and context to make an educated judgment of their own experience. Or, they heard stories passed on and eventually adapted them as their own.

  19. Figler,
    1/20 chance is much worse than 1/5... four times as worse. Though you are right on a strategic sense, it wasn't much of a comfort for the people who were burned alive in the Shermans.
    The T-34 was THE tank in this respect - cheap, easy to make, easy to handle, and if handled correctly, quite a lot better suited for mobile warfare in both tactical and operational sense, than the German uberweapons.

    1. The T-34 only succeeded in those roles because it zerg rushed just about everything it met. The T-34 had 45mm of armor all around it. Given the slopes were good but when you need to protect yourself from enemy 75mm shells you tend to want more armor than a Humvee.

    2. Sherman crews had the exact same chance of burning alive as most tanks. In fact, the Panther had a much better chance of burning its crew based on a horrifically bad fuel system. How does the T34, which has 10-20 mm LESS armor protection than an M4, horrible sights, a weaker gun, and a truly awful fire control system become THE tank, again? Granted, it was the cat's ass in 1941, but at no time was it the equal of the M4 of the day. BTW, M4A3E8s pretty much slaughtered T34-85s in Korea.

  20. What people often don't take into account enough when considering such things is how dire Germany's supply situation was.

    What if they would have had an easy to mass-produce tank design and the facilities to produce it in?
    They still wouldn't have had the resources to churn out huge numbers of tanks and keep them running.

    When you haven't enough steel or even fuel, building 5 cheap "throw away" tanks to do the job of one and losing 4 of them in every battle isn't a viable strategy, is it?

    Many of those 1350 Tiger 1 tanks, 300 Tiger 2 tanks and 5000 Panther tanks had to be abandoned on the battlefield (or often on the way to or off the battlefield) due to lack of fuel or spare parts or even simply due to a lack of recovery tools.

    What would the Germans have done with 5 or 10 times the number of tanks?

    Building a superior tank that gets the most bang out of every ton of steel and out of every litre of fuel was the only viable strategy for the Germans.

    That has little to do with a German tendency for over complicated designs or anything like that.

  21. Actually, the Russians tested the U.S. 76mm and found it to be notably superior to their 85mm in tests against the armor of German Panther and Tiger II tanks. That would make it significantly better than the 75mm. By summer of 1944 the M4A3 with the 76mm and wet stowage was coming down the pipe. By winter of 1944, the M4A3E8 with all the upgrades of the previous and wide tracks with HVSS was coming along. By January 1945, these started to receive HVAP ammo that could kill Tiger I's frontally, at combat ranges. The Sherman was not a poor tank. It was a MEDIUM tank that was progressively improved, and forced to fill the gap left when the U.S. abandoned its heavy tank. When the T26E3 arrived in March 1945, that was rectified. Oh, yeah, the Pershing killed Tigers too.

    "The 76mm gun was hardly better then the 75 and Eisenhower was very pissed off when 76mm Shermans were no better. This belated realisation was the result of the Allies not engaging in any large-scale armour battles between May 1943 and June 1944, which I think proves a certain point about the Eastern Front being where it was all happening."

  22. The Sherman was a joke of a tank and any war historian, like myself, that is worth their salt agrees. The Pershing was another disaster of a tank, under powered and with poor armoring. Many people credit the T34 which I feel is credit undeserved. They were little more than guns on wheels; mass produced throw away tanks.

    Truth be told, the USA didn't produce a SINGLE true tank until the M60. Why do I say this you ask? Simple. Durability and reliability. World War 2 era USA tanks were rolling deathtraps equipped with main guns that rarely even DENTED German armor.

    The Panther, Tiger, King Tiger and I'm going to include the Jadgpanther and Jadgtiger as well, embodied something no tank or tank killer has ever done since. This something is a defining trait of what a tank is supposed to be and do.

    Create fear.

    The mention of Panther tanks in the area was almost immediately responded to by all Allied forces with an attempt to get numerical and positional advantage over them. Fear.

    The presence of a Tiger tank usually resulted in pulling ALL armor out of the area and attempting to set up AT gun and infantry equipped with Bazookas, Recoilless Rifles and explosives with the intent of destroying the tank sneakily or at least crippling the tank. Fear once again.

    Finally the King Tiger. The Germans almost NEVER used this in any kind of offensive way, due to its slow speed and the problems with the transmission. However, they were extremely fond of just parking one of these in a key village, or at a key bridge crossing with a small infantry detachment because they saw that the Allied response to spotting a King Tiger was almost always the same. AVOID THE AREA. Fear yet again.

    A tank should embody certain concepts, none of which is "how fast can we make more" or "its very cheap to make". To be a tank it must embody these concepts -

    1. Be able to destroy opposing armor
    2. Protect its crew
    3. Be a mobile or stationary threat
    4. Create fear amongst the enemy

    American tanks in WW2 fail at 1, 2, and 4.
    Russian tanks in WW2 fail at 2, 3 and 4
    British tanks in WW2 fail at 2 and 4.
    Italian tanks in WW2 fail at 1, 2, 3, and 4.
    Japanese tanks in WW2 fail at 2, 3, and 4.
    German tanks succeed in all 4 areas.

    Tanks have evolved from somewhat mobile gun and infantry forts into spearheading assaults. A tank being "disposable" because its "cheap" or "easy to mass produce" is not what makes a for a spearhead.

    Shermans and T34s created a numerical advantage. Panthers and Tigers created genuine fear in the enemy with only their presence.

    "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." - Sun Tzu

    1. German Tank Operators used to call the sherman's door knockers.. as US Sherman's non piercing ammo would just create dents in German tanks

    2. Everyone here seems to disregard the soviet attitude towards soldiers. While Americans and Germans had crew protection in mind, soviets probably did not. This is best described by what Marshall Zhukov allegedly has said - whenever a soviet military unit came to a mine field they used to send a squad of soldiers across the field to blow a corridor for the tanks to pass. Human life apparently meant very little to soviets. If Im not mistaken Zhukov sent around 600k men to their death to capture Berlin in May 1945. The total death rate for the entire war also says pretty much the same.
      Therefore no. 2 in your list probably has never really been on the agenda for those who designed T-34.

    3. Hey!
      King Tigers were very much involved in the western front fightings late 44 to early 45...!!! One example is the Buttle of the Bulge... and another and the same is.... Kamphfgruppe Pfeiffer.... Haa haa haa

    4. I don't even know where to start correcting this pile of utte ridiocy and bullshit.

      Well, let's start with your worth as an anonymous internet historian, which I consider to be roughly infinitely less than that of actually established historians like Jentz, Zaloga etc.

      Well, let's start off with some simple facts: These "rolling deathtraps" you call the M4-series were quite literally the most survivable-upon-hit tanks in the war once wet ammo storage was introduced. And they were perfectly able to bust the overwhelming majority of german armor (Panzer IVs, StuG IIIs and diverse tank hunters and assault guns) through the front while being able to take most any heavies out through the side at any range.

      Next, no, the purpose of a tank is not to create fear. It's to provide heavy direct fire support for other troops and to exploit breakthroughs. The M4 was brilliant at these tasks thanks to it's mobility, reliability and small logistical footprint. Tank-on-tank engagemnts were a miniscule minority of actual armor losses on any side. Mechanical breakthrough, anti-tank guns and close-in attacks by infantry (using means such as satchel charges, flamethrowers, anti-tank rifles and later on shoulder-launched ordnance) were the big tank killers of WWII.

      The whole Tiger-phobia angle is 90% post-war embellishments in the first palce, mind you. And let's not even talk about the Jagdtiger, which literally saw more vehicles of its type lost to mechanical breakdowns than it destroyed allied/soviet armor. Worst tank destroyer ever.

      "The mention of Panther tanks in the area was almost immediately responded to by all Allied forces with an attempt to get numerical and positional advantage over them. Fear.

      The presence of a Tiger tank usually resulted in pulling ALL armor out of the area and attempting to set up AT gun and infantry equipped with Bazookas, Recoilless Rifles and explosives with the intent of destroying the tank sneakily or at least crippling the tank. Fear once again."

      Neither of these was a unique reaction to german heavy armor. Neither of these is fear as much as it is a rational reaction to developments on the battlefield. Move and counter-move. Welcome to Warfare 101.

      "Finally the King Tiger. The Germans almost NEVER used this in any kind of offensive way, due to its slow speed and the problems with the transmission. However, they were extremely fond of just parking one of these in a key village, or at a key bridge crossing with a small infantry detachment because they saw that the Allied response to spotting a King Tiger was almost always the same. AVOID THE AREA. Fear yet again."

      Wrong. ALL german armor was used in groups at any time. A single tank with a couple infantrymen would have simply drawn an artillery strike and forces moving to flank and destroy it. In any case, evading the german heavy tank units was de facto the best way to kill them: Breaking through at another point and forcing them to destroy themselves trying to roadmarch with their inadequate drivetrains. Again nothing to do with fear as much as with rational thinking.

    5. "A tank should embody certain concepts, none of which is "how fast can we make more" or "its very cheap to make". To be a tank it must embody these concepts -

      1. Be able to destroy opposing armor
      2. Protect its crew
      3. Be a mobile or stationary threat
      4. Create fear amongst the enemy"

      Wrong. The cardinal tasks of a tank are to provide mobile fire support and exploit breakthroughs, with the specific role of the tank dictating specific needs in its design. The whole "create fear" nonsense is far and away a miniscule secondary concern for literally any of these roles. Avaiability and reliability are roughly infinitely more important than any arbitrary psyhcological factors. Especially given that the least scary tank in existence is the one that isn't there to begin with because it once again broke down on the way.

      "Tanks have evolved from somewhat mobile gun and infantry forts into spearheading assaults. A tank being "disposable" because its "cheap" or "easy to mass produce" is not what makes a for a spearhead."

      Wrong again. Avaiability of sufficient armor is far and away THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT aspect in industrialised war. No tank is worse than one that is not on the field. Moreover, allied armor was perfectly capable of spearheading attacks time afdter time after time. Let's not forget how the largest tank battle on the western front, Arracourt, ended: In M4 Shermans destroying three Panthers for every Sherman lost.

      ""The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." - Sun Tzu"

      Funny qoute given that the Gemrans UTTERLY failed at heeding the advice.

      The facts are clear and simple: Soviet and american WWII tanks were designs amde to win an industrial war. Germna heavies were designs made to line the pockets of industrialists and look good in propaganda.

    6. As for the replies:

      The only thing the Germans nicknamed "doorknockers" during the war were their own 37mm guns in 1941 after those yet again failed to take out enemy medium and heavy tanks.

      And for the Soviets: The specific quote from Zhukov has been ripped massively out of context. In context, it dealth with the problem of the Germans creating fake minefields (warning signs and perhaps a dozen mines scattered over an area; with no depth) to try and bog down breakthrough attempts. Ordering the attackers to keep advancing anyway was simple the smartest move faced with that tactic as getting the attack bogged down would have resulted in more casualties than the odd poor sod getting blown up because he took a wrong step. In any case, overall death toll on the Eastern Front is quite a lot more even once one remmebers to count in the Axis minors (Romania, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia and Finland) and discount POWs dying in captivity. (The Axis powers scored an impressive 6:1 ratio when it came to getting unarmed prisoners killed.) Overall, the war in the east was a de facto war of survival for the russian people and they paid for their early misfortunes in blood before the Red Army turned into the finely-honed steamroller that crushed the Wehrmacht at its own game.

    7. to Bullshit anonymous:
      I don't think panther destroyed equals destroyed by shermans. I am sure the tankers claimed them. Hell, I would have too. Your riding a deathtrap into hell and you see some desperate Germans blow their tank up and run like hell. Claim it!
      There were no umpires.

  23. Probably no one will ever read this but oh well.

    Russian tanks don't get nearly enough credit. The T-34 had protection, firepower, and mobility all superior to its opposition at the start of the war, and you could churn them out by the thousands to be driven by raw recruits. It STILL wasn't the "best" Russian tank of the war. The KV series, IS series, T-44, and their assault guns (SU-152, SU-100, ISU-152, just to name a few) were easily a match for contemporary German armour.

    If the Russians had invaded western Europe in 1945, they would have positively giggled off the dinky little Shermans. Compare the Sherman with the T-34-85, for example: Sherman has worse armour, less speed, and a weaker gun. It's also more complicated to use, and isn't substantially easier to produce.

    There is no excuse for the USA's failure to produce a decent heavy (or even medium) tank for combat in Europe.

    1. i read it 25/4/13 ;)

    2. During Korean War, N. Korea employed few dozens of T-34-85 recieved from Soviets. Over the course of the war US' M4A2E8 Sherman encountered T-34 several times. The conclusion from this conflict was that the machines were roughly equal. While T-34-85 had stronger armor and better High Explosive shells as well as better mobility in muddy terrain, Sherman enjoyed better optics, was more comfortable for crews and much greater chances of crews' survival upon armor penetration.

      So no, Soviets wouldn't laugh at Shermans.

    3. The T-34, ironically, wasn't as neat as people seem to think it was.

      When it was first introduced against Panzer IV and below tanks, sure, it was great. It has sloped armor, good mobility, and comparatively more powerful gun. It also had a superior diesel powerplant. The Germans were surprised at the T-34 during the last days of Barbarossa because they had nothing to match it.

      Fast forwarding to 1945, It was a acceptable tank. However, it retained the "ideosyncracies" of Soviet equipment, namely, some parts were of less than desirable quality. For one, its tracks were notoriously very delicate. Two, its drivetrain ensured a well-exhausted and fatigued crew by the time a battlemarch was completed. Three, its optics were inferior, with various anecdotes at the time demonstrating that equivalent Panzer IV's could fire three well aimed shots for every shot the T34 fired. Four, new developments in armor and gun technology rendered it obsolete.

      These are four main issues, although Zaloga highlighted in his book "T-34 Tank".

      During the Korean war, the Shermans wrecked the shit of North Korean T-34-85s. It can be attributed to crew training, although the "easy eight" Sherman was a tough nut to crack with its superior suspension, very reliable powerplant and chassis, decent mobility, and improved measures of survivability such as a wet rack ammunition stowage. Last but not least, the 76mm gun, which could defeat Panther and Tiger tanks and certainly T-34s.

      In 1950, however, THE best tank was the British Centurion. Indespitably. It deserves its own article. It was actually the first to spearhead into "main battle tank" territory by combining the desirable attributes of "light, medium, heavy" (or, if you were british at the time, "cruiser, infantry" tanks) vehicles and allowing technology to improve the family rather than make it conceptually obsolete.

      The Soviets wouldnt have laughed at Shermans. They also wouldnt have laughed at the M10, M36, and the M26 Pershing, which would be good counters to their T-34s, SUs, and Stalin Tanks (another heavy tank, like the Tiger, that was destined to become conceptually obsolete).

  24. It is said that amateurs think of tactics and professionals think of logistics. Throughout this whole discussion, I see that no one has brought up the key point. Shermans had to be shipped half way around the world to get to the fight. The primary reason that all the different Sherman replacements (several of which were fielded in multiple battalions in CONUS never went bigtime was logisitical. The M-6 could have brought heavy armor and the 76 gun to Tunisia. But when they realized it took 5 time the shipping space as a Sherman, it put a lot of cold water on the thought. Not to mention that introducing a completely new tank meant an entirely new logistic tail of spare parts. American (and Allied) combat units in the end had to be supported accross oceans. Too many armchair generals do not bother to think of what that implies. Despite this logistical handicap, one must always realize that yes, sometimes the Sherman ended up opposed by the big cats. But for every time that happened, there were ten times that the germans had absolutely nothing to put up against the advancing Sherman. That is why strategically, numbers were far more important.

    1. Exactly. If the Germans had to ship every one of their WWII-era tanks to, say, Mexico or Canada, their tank designs would have looked nothing like the Tiger or King Tiger. Period.

    2. And if WWII was fought principally in North America, I'm pretty sure our tanks would have borne little resemlance tot he M4.

  25. Very enjoyable article and comments! i hope you do take the time to write one on the T-34!!

  26. nicely said both u anony and darrell !! GREAT points, and nicely explained/analysed.

  27. It's a good article. You should do one on the Panther.

  28. Thing is I just finished watching "Greatest Tank Battles" on NetFlix Battle of the Bulge Shermans vs German Tigers (Medium) and Panthers (Heavy)

    1. and dude keep up posting awesome shit on this blog, cause I usually have the same thought of mind you do...

  29. Good read, surprised you never mentioned the Maus, with the three (Tiger, King Tiger and Maus) it shows a nice progressive line of German mentality towards tanks and how far they strayed from the original tank movements that started the war.

  30. They had the highest kill ratio because of fuel, ammo and other suply limits. The Sherman was no match for the Tiger, Tiger hunting parties of 4-5 were common,also, bombing the crap out of them was the first response. period. Tigerphobia was real,I have seen interviewed tank commanders still scared. In addition, American, British, and Russian tank commanders picked the Tiger over their own tanks if having a choice. Finally, the weaknesses/design flaws were stated but over ruled by you know who. If they were let to put the better, cheaper and faster design into production, along with heavy bombers and long range fighters it would have been another ballgame.

    1. Oh you mean like what the germans did in the Blitzkreig and opening stages of Barbarossa against french S35, Matilda2s and the KV and KV2?

      And at a time they when were winning with their own "shit" tanks.

    2. Since there were only a handful of Sherman v. Tiger engagements in Europe in WWII, and Shermans deploy in platoons of five, the "Tiger hunting parties" is a myth. Oddly enough, when you read German tank crew interviews, they also universally believed their tanks were crap as well. The lesson here is that the other guy's kit is always seen as better and tank crewmen are seldom tank experts.

    3. A better question, considering the logistics, might have been: "Would you rather have been in a Sherman or Sherman-type tank, or in no tank at all?"

      I'm betting that German infantry would have been happier facing 1500 Tiger-type tanks than 50,000 Shermans.

  31. Guys, you can't really compare the Tiger and the Sherman. The Sherman was a medium tank (I'm being gracious here) while the Tiger was a heavy tank. Very different vehicles with very different combat roles. Compare the Pershing with the Tiger...a much more even fight. And, the upgrade to the Sherman, the Firefly with the 17pdr could disable a Tiger at a very respectible range. And that's all one had to do...disable it. Knock of a tread, damage the turret travese mechanism, etc., and poof...a 60 ton sitting duck. True, wherever the Tiger went it ruled...but the fact is almost all the Tigers were lost through air and artillery attack or mechanical breakdown. And, as the author noted, 1,350 tanks just ain't enough.

    1. Let's look at the tanks made from the beginning of the war to the end of the war. T34, Panzer 4 and Sherman. These made up the bulk of fighting tanks. Less than 1500 Tigers while over 100 thousand other tanks including the T34 and Shermans were battering German forces.
      Most Tigers were lost because they were abandoned by lack of supplies, breakdowns and scared inexperienced crews near the end of the war.
      No comaprison. Besides, Who won?

    2. Paul, Finally someone hits the nail on the head. These world of tanks kids seem to believe that the conflict was an armor fairyland.
      I have been researching tigers for a few years, (building an armortek model) nearly all of the deceased tigers were rolled from the air.

      Sure there was the lucky sherman driver who nailed a tiger and a panther here and there.
      If the Luftwaffe could have achieved any kind of parity over France it would have been a different story.

      By the way you can always spot the chieftains army of basement nerds by their call sign..Stupid idiot

    3. And out of those Tiger's that were rolled from the air, the great majority were abandoned from mechanical breakdown/lack of fuel.

  32. Enjoyed this. It makes me tear a little when you consider German engineers refuse to give up quality despite the worst circumstances

  33. You tiger lovers need to chill and look at everything he said about it. Not the fact they could sit and blow a Sherman off the face of the map at 2000 yrds. The first fact is, tanks were not made to go up against each other unless they came across each other. Otherwise anything less then a heavy tank let alone a medium tank was just infantry support. Duh. The Sherman. The Sherman did exactly what it was designed to do and did a damn fine job of it and the soldiers of that time could 100% rely on it at any time. Not so much for the Tigers, huh? I like the Tigers just as much as the next guy, but you need to seriously look at everything and not just the fact it has a lot of armor and a big gun. To even consider putting a Tiger against a Sherman is just insane and is not what tanks were and or are meant for. However, I don't recall ever seeing where the Sherman crews were ordered to go against a Tiger, they did so because that's what they were trained to do and did it with what they had. Not like today where everyone sits and whines until they get exactly what they want. Remember that. Go talk to some of the tank crews. I have. Those men are nothing like the boys of today. They knew exactly what they were going into and likely not walking away alive. And they did it on there own because they were men. Real men! Period.

    Was the Tiger a marvel? Yes. Was it heavily armored? Yes. Did it have a impressive gun? Yes. Was this a heavy tank? Yes.

    Was this thing expensive to produce? Yes. Did it have major break downs? Yes. Did it have a lot of break downs? Yes. Was it expensive to maintain? Yes. Was it a fuel hog? Yes. Could they take it everywhere it needed to go? No.

    You guys get all hung up on the fact it is a heavy tank with a lot of armor and a big gun and weighed a lot. Look at everything. Not just portions of it. And for the whiney babies complaining about the lives lost from a Sherman. Don't you ever forget, those men died for us to be here today. They did what they did because they knew they had to and not because of orders. That is the difference from today to 70 years ago. They did what they needed to do to get the job done and didn't whine!

    1. Wow a Sherman fan who doesn't punctuate with stupid. idiot. Thank you .
      I agree with most of what you said.

  34. Both of those tanks were great at what they were designed for. Remember that the Sherman was massed produced and was a medium tank. It formed the back-bone of most western tank battalions in 1944 - specifically the tank battalions that were organic to armored regiments/brigades/divisions. It was intended to be the workhorse of the allied advance.

    In contrast, the Tiger 1E was only deployed to heavy tank battalions which were usually independent. That is to say, the Schwere-Panzer Abteilungen were usually shuffled back and forth between army corps. They were designed to be, and used as a stop-gap counter to enemy armor. Specifically the heavier Russian KV's and T-34's, but were of course employed that way in the west as well. They were not intended to rapidly exploit breakthroughs in the same way that the light and medium tanks were.

    There are several recorded instances (both in the East and in the West) where 3 to 5 Tiger's had held up advances by vastly larger formations. For Example, Villers-Bocage (1944) in the west and Malinava (1944) in the East. The Tiger (and the Tiger aces that commanded them) were really very good at that kind of thing, but the Tiger and it's method of employment, still doesn't compare well with a Sherman. They were two different tools built for two different jobs.

  35. In capable hands (such as tank ace Michael Wittmann), the Tiger was absolutely devastating as a weapons platform.

    Its weaknesses (bad engine, transmission, tracks, mechanical complexity) could have been solved, had Germany possessed the industrial capacity to rapidly do this.

    However, it was a Adolf Hitler penis size comparison with Stalin, who fielded the...Stalin series of heavy tanks. :D

    By the time World War 2 ended, the heavy tank was already obsolete. The British Centurion and Soviet T54 (the younger brother of the T55, the most produced tank in history) were destined to be the future, being "main battle tanks" incorporating the strengths of all classes of tanks at the time.

    Heavy tanks were slow, mechanically complex, less reliable, their weight handicapped them from European bridges at the time, and consumed more fuel. That is why they weren't even desired for spearheads after hard lessons were initially learned about their limitations (Soviets with their KV-1 in the Winter War and the Germans with the Tiger at Kursk), using them rather as "assault guns" and "tank destroyers" to shell fortifications, support infantry, and destroy some armor. The T-34 in the Soviet Army, Panzer IV and V "Panther" in the German Heer, and the Sherman in the US Army were all breakthrough tanks for a reason: They were the best compromise between mobility, firepower, and armor.

    Afterwards, the "heavy thank" faded into history due to advancements of tank gun technology and anti-tank missiles, which prohibited armies from "just adding more armor", to alleviate the penetrating power of enemy munitions, and "upgunning it", to outreach enemy weapons. The T10 (changed from the Iosif Stalin 10 following the butcher's untimely death), the latest successor to the much loved (but equally penis showing) Stalin series of tanks, demonstrated its obsolescence when was used in the Six Day War.

    1. There is no such thing as a tank ace!!!! It's the whole crew

  36. I don't get why war nerds only ever discuss the Tiger from the "heavy, slow hulk vs light economy class tank"-angle. People ignore Germany's supply situation and macro economics here.

    The Wehrmacht was hardly able to keep the few thousand tanks it had running and move them where they were needed. What would they have done with a small, cheap, easy to produce tank design like the Sherman?

    Despite all its shortcomings, the Tiger had about 4 to 5 times the "fighting power" of a Sherman or a Stalin 1 tank, but it didn't need 4 to 5 times the steel to be build, it didn't need 4 to 5 times the amount of people to run it and it didn't use up 4 to 5 times the amount of fuel.

    Also a single Tiger tank is easier to hide from air attacks than 4 to 5 smaller tanks and it is easier to transport than 4 to 5 smaller tanks.

    So considering Germany's situation, a design like the Tiger was actually the better choice compared to the smaller cannon fodder tanks their enemies relied on.

    Have you seen the pictures of whole German battalions being stuck on roads in the Ardennes on their way to "the battle at the bulge"? If they would have had to get 4 to 5 times the amount of tanks to the battlefield, they would have needed another week or two or even longer to get there, assuming (and it is a big assumption) that they would have had the fuel and the spare parts to keep a 4 to 5 times bigger fleet of tanks running.

    The odds the Germans faced were just insurmountable. They would have lost in any case, but the Tiger wasn't a stupid prestige project that sped up their defeat. Ignoring its mechanical shortcomings, in theory and in concept it was the best thing they could do, given the economic limitations they had to deal with.

    I think the only such big "they bet on the wrong horse" mistake they made technology and gear wise was that they didn't prepare their air force for long range attack runs before starting the air raids on Britain. Wasting their air force by sending small, short range interceptor aircraft like the Me-109 into a long range offensive was what lost them the war, not the Tiger.
    If they could have kept air superiority over Europe and Western Russia, the Tiger with all its shortcomings would have done just fine.

  37. Great article here but one thing above all remains,where any of ye experts there in WW2

  38. One correction. The Tiger's Maybach engine was running on gasoline, not diesel.

  39. Why do you tell us that "the legendary German 88mm. Originally an AA gun" was used in the Tiger 1?
    People keep saying this, but I haven't found any evidence for it.

    1. The 8.8 cm KwK 36 looks so similiar that a lot of people just automatically confuse them. I feel like most people get confused when you have a bunch of numbers and designations for weapon systems that they easily miss that one or two letters that can tell you a lot about a weapon systems design (example an M1A1 Abrams and the exponentially superior depleted-uranium armored M1A1HA). A laymen would just gloss at the 88mm KwK 36 and the Flak 88 (36) and automatically assume its the same weapon as opposed to a parallel design but with slight variance better suited for mobile armored combat.

  40. The flanking idea only works well when the tiger was alone. Flanking is much easier on paper than it is in practice

    #1 Tigers moved
    #2 Tigers often appeared in groups.

    Hence, the tiger kill ratio was over 10 to 1... not 3 to 1.

    1. Ah the Tiger racked up most kills at extreme range where flanking was not possible. Remember, it had a 50 percent chance of hitting a 1 meter square target at 1 km/h on its first shot. ( Most tanks needed two-three, using their other shots to judge how to re aim.

  41. One thing often missed is that by the time the German army faced Shermans in numbers ('44) the German armoured forces were a shadow of their former selves, not so much in equipment, but in trained tankers. While critics (rightly) laugh at the movie, 'The Battle of the Bulge' - it actually got this right. No matter what vehicle you put them in, barely trained (there was no fuel or time for proper training) crew will perform badly. The stats show that the US forces in '44 and '45 took a dreadful toll of the Wehrmacht armour, and in my view, it was principally down to the relative experience of the crews. For every skilled tank crewman in a 'Big Cat' there were another 15 who were barely shaving. If you read the divisional accounts like 'Armoured Bears' - the experienced crewmen were trying to shepherd children through their first actions.

  42. A couple things.
    1. Tigers really where years ahead of the technology. Or more specifically, 2 years ahead. They were initially almost impervious to any attack, and most Tigers taken out early in the war were not destroyed, but simply had the crews bail out after taking a few minor hits. The Tiger would be later challenged by the Soviets with the IS series, as well as the powerful SU-152 and ISU-152. In the western front tanks such as the Pershing, and more heavily armed american tank destroyers, like the Jackson.
    2. The Tiger was not slow. Not really. Its engine could break down with too much pressure, and it was not quite as nimble, but it definitely could move. The Tiger 2 on the other hand, was far too heavy for the engine. Back to the point, the Tiger was quite effective in mobility.
    3. In a Sherman vs Tiger fight, the Tiger would win. Not a contest. The Sherman could barely penetrate its side armor. A better comparison would be the American Pershing, of which 1000 were made, and 20 saw combat in ww2. The one time these two tanks saw combat it was actually not a Pershing and a Tiger. It was a Super Pershing and a Tiger 2. Their battle was kept in an account told by one of the Pershing's crew. The SP, as i will call the Super Pershing, rolled around a corner, with HE loaded against the enemy AT guns they thought they would be facing. Instead, the turned into the firing lane of a Tiger 2. It fired the HE harmlessly off the Tiger 2s frontal glacis, then backed up, receiving a hit against their turret, which ricocheted. It then loaded ap and fired at the Tiger 2, which was advancing. The Tiger 2 was destroyed as the 90 mm high velocity round penetrated its ammo storage. Link to the site:http://www.3ad.com/history/news/super.pershing.1.htm

  43. Look

    The Sherman tank is basically an unloved kid whose potential is pretty much ignored by the assholes in the U.S Army (Especially that dumbass Gen. McNair). The Israelies gave the Sherman a FREAKING 105. Were talking about a little country surrounded by a shitload of enemies around it and they used it to its utmost capabilities. How is it that the Army never gave it even a chance ? Immagine if D-day was filled with 90mm shermans (With Merlin Engines and better suspension coz when they made a prototype,, the engine was overtaxed and the suspension was strained)instead of the dinky 75 and 76 they went through the whole war. There wont be a 5 shermans = 1 panther / tiger equation

  44. I wonder how the war would have turned out if the Germans had picked a good reliable tank instead of building a small number of large scale tanks. Although, that is one of the things we can thank Hitler for, he loved large tanks. It seems as time goes on we love them too. But what if the Germans stopped at the Panther and massed produced it and made it more reliable.

    Looking at the war, I feel that the war would have lasted longer and the Germans might have even won. Although, that would have solved the ground war but not solved the air war problem.

    I wrote a post about about building full scale replicas of rare tanks. It would be great to see these beasts rolling around again.


  45. I think a decently writen article, but I think it has some serious flaw. While it is factual correct, the interpretation of the data is a whole different matter.

    Like the design decisions behind the Tiger, the name it self is a hint here actually. It was based on the Durchbruchswagen concept of the Germans. A rough translation would be, braketrough tank. Not unlike the concept you had with the Churchill, KV2 and IS2. Those tanks have NOT been designed with the main purpose to fight enemy armor. And neither was the Tiger. The fact that it also excelled in taking out enemy armor, doesn't change the intended idea of the Tiger design.

    Let us take a quick look at the situation of 1940 and 41. Particularly when the Germans encountered their first restiance in Russia. This was long before the T34 made a real lasting impression on the German tank formations of 1941, which have been pushing the advance deep in to the Soviet territory. Of the total of 20 500 Soviet tanks lost in 1941, approximately 2 300 were T-34s and over 900 were mostly KV heavy tanks. If the Germans lost so many armor in just a couple of months, it would surely be seen as a complete failure. So why would the Germans actually believe it to be this "schock" or some revolutionary design? The numbers and performance alone shows that the German panzerforce was quite capable of defeating the T34 and KV tanks in the field. There is, as with any tank including the Tiger 1, the Legend vs the Performance. The battle performance of 1941 for the T34, was rather poor. And it actually didn't influence German tank design as much as some believe. The differences between the Panther and the T34 are to large for that. In fact, what costed the Germans the most, was the heavy restiance by Soviet anti tank guns, artillery and defencive strong points. Not their overhwhelming tank formations. Remember, we are talking about 1941. The early stages of the eastern front, where the Germans still accomplished a lot of their victories by succesfull pincer movements.

    And this is where the Tiger comes in. Or well, let us say the idea behind it. As support for the infantry, adcanging on heavyil defended positions. The armor of the Tiger I was chosen primarily to deal with the most common Soviet towed anti tank gun of that time, the 76mm divsional gun ZIS 3. A very effective weapon for it's time by the way. Capable of defeating tanks and beeing effective against infantry. It also shows why they chose the 88mm gun over the 75mm gun of the Panther, which was also available at that time. The 75mm gun had better armor pearcing characteristics. But the 88mm had the larger shells, better suited in dealing with enemy artillery and infantry. The Panther is much more of a pure tank killer than the Tiger I.

    So while the Tiger was very often used to fight enemy armor, it was actually not its intended design. And in reality, the Tiger was very often accompanied by infantry units which it supported them in their attacks and defences. The Panther due to its advanced tank killing qualities, was used when ever possible, in conjunction with the Panzer IV, as flank protection.

  46. A fine thread , one should consider that tanks are the expression of a whole nation philosophy and need , I have been confronted with German mechanical excellence , I though they were a bit precious about it ,fit for purpose is good enough .
    Germany went for major investment in their machine , lasting longer , more efficient , preserving their manpower and ressources, this kind of thinking .
    the soviets went for excellent design , mass production , inferior quality control and finish ,.
    the engine was only good for 500 hours before major overhaul,the running tracks were wearing out at an astonishing pace , didn't matter , the average life expectancy of a machine was calculated at 15 minutes during an attack , and the Soviets were attacking , didn't matter if the crews were barely trained factory girls who volunteered or crack guard veterans , those losses were good for everyone , so why bother .
    before this seems too "Russian" as careful a general as Montgomery threw his armor at entrenched positions in Normandy during operation Goodwood , and Epson for little gain and stunning losses , that's because when one attack , there is a price to pay . if one think that was Normany fever , before the El Alamein attack ,a bright young staff officer was giving their battle orders , a frontal assault through minefields to a ridge bristling with AT guns.
    when the commander demured that it would be costly he was told
    ". was aware of the risk and has accepted the possibility of losing 100% casualties in 9th Armoured Brigade to make the break "

    One hundred tanks , that's 400 men out of action ,more or less ,
    the alternative is to loose 10,000 infantry

  47. Really enjoyed this discussion.
    However, I didn't see anyone take the discussion this away:

    Set the Sherman, Firefly, Tiger, and T34 side by side.
    Then, ask yourself,
    Which tank was and engineering masterpiece? And, if these engineers had time to perfect this masterpiece, would have fulfilled its mission with distinction?

  48. As a student of WWII, I would like to thank all above (including the author) for such an amazing break down of the Tiger Tank. The article and this comment section is the best resource I have found.