August 8, 2014

German Prisoners Discuss the Tiger

Two German NCOs, former members of a Tiger battalion, that were taken prisoners by the Allies, express their views on Wehrmacht’s heavy tank. 

Maintenance
Maintenance

After Pz.Kw. VI’s have had to move long distances, and before they can then go into action, a number of adjustments must be made. For example, bogie wheels must be changed. It is therefore unlikely that the tanks will often be sent directly into action after a long approach march on tracks.

Organization

Originally, it was planned that Pz.Kw. VI’s should be supported by an equal number of Pz.Kw. III’s to provide local protection. The latter would move on the flanks of the main body of the Pz.Kw. VI’s and cover them against hostile tank hunters attempting to attack them at close range. During an assault, the Pz.Kw. VI’s would attack hostile heavy tank battalions or heavy pillboxes, and the Pz.Kw. III’s would attack machine-gun nests or lighter tanks.


This method was altered in Sicily, where ground conditions repeatedly kept tanks to the roads and limited their usefulness—thereby decreasing the need for local protection. At least one battalion, which should have bad nine of each type to a company, exchanged its Pz.Kw. III’s for the Pz.Kw. VI’s of another unit, after which the company was made up of 17 Pz.Kw. VI’s only.

Attack Formation
Tigers on the attack

In a “model' attack by a Tiger battalion, the standard company formation is a wedge or an arrowhead, with one platoon forward. This platoon is generally led by an officer, whose tank moves in the center of the formation. The company commander is forward, but not necessarily in the lead. The battalion commander is not forward, as a rule. It must be remembered, however, that the “model” attack cannot take into account such factors as variable terrain and the strength of the opposition. Therefore, deviations from the “model” formation are not only sanctioned, but are actually common. Frontal attacks were considered no less usual than outflanking attacks.

Command & Control
Tiger commander

The chain of wireless communication is from battalion to company to platoon. The latter link is a frequency on which all the tanks in the company are tuned, but each platoon and headquarters has a code name by which it is called up. For special operations—for example, long-range reconnaissance patrols—tanks can be netted by a frequency other than the company frequency. However, this entails altering the sets. Alternatively, tanks can be given two sets tuned to two frequencies, but this is seldom done except in the case of the company headquarters tank, where it is the normal procedure. All priority and battle messages are passed in the clear, but important tactical terms (such as “attack,” “outflank,” “assemble”) have code names (such as “dance,” “sing,” and so on). Each tank carries a list of these code names.

In Russia, where German troops often were 4 miles or so from headquarters, Soviet troops made a practice of intercepting traffic between battalion and company, so that they would have enough time to take preparatory measures before company orders came through.

Camouflage
Camouflage

Great pains were taken to camouflage the Tigers. Every effort was made by one particular battalion to make their tanks look like the 3-ton personnel carrier. A dummy radiator and front wheels were fitted to the front of the tank, the top of the radiator being about level with, the top of the tank's hull. A thin sheet metal body was fitted over the entire tank. This metal body was supported by a metal projection fitted to the top of the turret, and was not in contact with the hull of the tank at any point. The gun projected through a hole. Apparently the camouflage body was rotated by the turret, and did not have to be removed when the gun was traversed. This rather elaborate form of camouflage exceeded the dimensions of the 3-ton personnel carrier by at least 3 to 6 feet.


Bibliography
U.S. War Department, Military Intelligence Division. Intelligence Bulletin Vol. II, No. 8. 1944. 


Photo attribution
1. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-310-0899-15/Vack/CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons
2. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J15865/Grimm, Arthur/CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons
3. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-278-0873-24/Wehmeyer/CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons
4. Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-022-2936-13/Wolff/Altvater/CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons



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