The Tiger Tank was without a doubt the tank which was most feared by the Allied forces during the Second World War. The thing that made this tank so feared and respected was the 88mm gun, which could destroy a Sherman tank at ranges up to 3600 feet – far beyond the range of the guns mounted on the Allied tanks. An Allied tank had to be well inside the Tiger’s range before it had any chance of destroying it.
Designer Ferdinand Porsche called the tank ‘Tiger.’ This was a lot shorter than the official German designation: Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausführung H, changing to Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausführung E later in the war.
The Tiger Tanks were first deployed in 1942, when they were used in North Africa against the American and British forces. Subsequently, they saw action on all fronts until the very days of the war.
After their first encounters on the battlefield, Allied tank crews reported virtually every tank they encountered as a Tiger Tank, which was unlikely because the Germans only managed to build 1,347 before production stopped in August 1944. This illustrates the fear that these machines instilled in the Allied soldiers.
The Tiger Tanks were well ahead of any tanks the Allied forces had in their inventory, but they were not without flaws. The tanks were over-engineered, used expensive materials and were very labour-intensive to build. When it broke down, it was difficult and expensive to fix.
Some of the tracks used were prone to break, and its high fuel consumption made it a strain on the already bad fuel situation for Nazi Germany.
After the war had ended, the remaining Tigers Tanks were scrapped and today, very few remain. Only a handful can be seen in museums and even fewer survive outside as monuments.
At this time there is only one Tiger left in running order; The Bovington Tank Museum in the United Kingdom has Tiger 131 which is the star of many tank shows and has been used in the 2015 movie “Fury.”
The common name of Nazi Germany’s heavy tank is “Tiger II” but it is also known under the informal name Königstiger, which often is translated as Royal Tiger, or somewhat incorrectly as King Tiger by the Allied soldiers.
The Tiger II was built to succeed the Tiger I and it combined the latter’s thick armor with the sloping armor that was used on the Panzer Mk. V Panther. The tank weighed almost 70 tons and was protected by 100 to 180 mm of armor at the front of the tank. It was armed with the long barreled 8.8 cm (88mm) KwK 43 L/71 gun. The chassis was also the basis for the Jagdtiger turretless tank destroyer.
Only 492 Tiger II tanks were ever completed, the development started very late in the war and the Henchel factory was severely bombed by the Allies causing the loss of 657 tanks which were still in production.
The Heavy Tank battalions of the Waffen-SS and the Army used the Tiger II, the Allies were the first to encounter these tanks in Normandy one month after invading on D-Day, June 6th 1944. In the East, they made their debut in September of 1944.
All image Bundesarchiv