The Tiger Tank was one of the truly remarkable tanks produced by Germany in WWII that carried with it the aura of almost complete invincibility on the battlefield. Talk to any WWII buff and the odds are that the Tiger I or Tiger II is one of their favorite topics. They were large, heavily armored and featured a deadly 88mm gun capable of destroying any allied tanks from long range. They were costly to produce and required a large number of man hours to manufacture, thus limiting the quantity which could be produced. To make the best use of these fearsome weapons they were formed up into individual battalions (both in the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS). In this book, George Forty examines and succinctly covers the origin and history of the Tiger and Tiger II, the organization of the battalions, order of battle, brief battle history of each battalion, insignia and markings as well as biographies on four notable personalities and commanders associated with the Tiger Battalions.
This paperback book measures 9.6” x 7.1” and is about a half an inch thick. Contained within the high quality glossy cover are 128 pages of text, photos, maps, diagrams and tables. For such a small volume, it certainly contains a lot of useful information. The book is broken down into seven chapters.
“Origins and History” covers the origin and history of the development of the Tiger I. For such a small book the author manages to cover the main points of the Tiger’s development pretty well. He gives a good overall summary of how the Tiger came into being as well as details and statistics on various prototype designs that were competing with what would eventually be chosen to be the new heavy tank. There is a nice chart that includes production figures broken out by month and year. The first battlefield actions are covered in this section including the first which was an unmitigated disaster. Hitler rushed the 1st Platoon 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion to northern Russia pre-maturely in small numbers on terrain that was completely unsuitable for these heavy tanks. This chapter also includes information on the formation of the Tiger Battalions, the Tiger Crews and various logistics and tactical concerns regarding the deployment and use of the Tiger battalions.
“Ready for War” covers the formation, organization and expansion of the Tiger Battalions including both Wehrmacht and SS formations with the Tiger I and Tiger II. There is also some information on the demolition carriers (Funklenk units), company formations and their supporting Pz.Kpfw. III tanks.
“In Action” begins with the actions of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 501 in Tunisia and the later arrival of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 504. Included is a great map showing their routes into battle and where important combat engagements took place. Sicily and the campaigns in Italy are covered next, again with some great maps showing the routes of the Tiger Battalions and major battles. The Eastern Front is up next with information provided for each of the Tiger Battalions that fought there, 502nd, 503rd, 505th, the reformed 501st. Kursk is covered as is the formation of several additional Tiger Battalions to include Grossdeutschland’s 3rd battalion, 506th, 507th, 508th 509th, 510th and 301st “Funklenk”. The major campaigns in Russia, Poland and Hungary are recapped including information on units upgraded with the Tiger II. There are many great black and white period photos throughout. The author then moves to the Western Front with coverage of the campaigns in Normandy, Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. This chapter concludes with battles on the Oder and the final defense of the Fatherland as well as the SS 501st, 502nd and 503rd. There is a small section on individually attached Tiger units with some interesting information on their first encounters with the Pershing.
“Equipment & Insignia”briefly discusses topics such as turret numbering, unit insignia with some nice drawings/examples in color, vehicle camouflage, uniforms, tanks and support vehicles. This chapter was interesting but I found a few misleading statements regarding the Elefant / Ferdinand.
“Personalities” covers a few key players as there are just too many to cover in such a small volume. Included in this chapter are Generalmajor Dr. Franz Bäke, Major Helmut Hudel, Oberleutnant Otto Carius, and SS Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittman. There are some nice tables that show who were the Battalion Commanders of each of the Tiger Battalions, Knight’s Cross Winners and a list of some of the most successful Tank Aces.
“Assessment” discusses some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Tigers. There is an interesting section in this chapter on “Tiger Tamers” which discusses engagements between Tigers and the M26 Pershing, M36 Tank Destroyer, Sherman Firefly and the Russian IS-2 and IS-3. If memory serves me correctly the IS-3 never saw combat action in WWII, although they were in the victory parade in Berlin at the end of the war. There is a nice table that compares the main armaments of these tanks with those of the Tiger I and Tiger II, including penetration tables for the guns broken down by type of ammunition ex. APCB, APCR, APC etc.
“Reference” identifies the surviving Tiger I & Tiger II tanks, where they’re located and whether or not they’re in running condition. The author mentions some good reference books and websites, but the list is far from comprehensive.
There is a lot of information packed into this book which was a pleasant surprise given that there are only 128 pages. The photographs are excellent, the maps are a nice touch as are the many tables scattered throughout the book. This book gives an excellent overview of the Tiger Battalions and makes for a great starting point for researching these units. I recommend this book to all fans of German armor and the Tiger.
Highs: This book is loaded with great information, pictures, maps and tables packaged into an attractive, high quality paperback book. Lows: My copy had a publishing error, the wrong index was printed in the back which the publisher corrected by gluing the correct index over it, cheesy but not a deal breaker. Verdict: This book is a great starting point for researching the Tiger and the Tiger Battalions and makes a fine addition to anyone’s reference library.
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About Scott Espin (Spiff) FROM: NEVADA, UNITED STATES
I have been an avid student of military history for over 35 years, especially World War II with my focus mostly on German military equipment (tanks and aircraft). I'm especially interested in anything relating to the Eastern Front and North Africa.
My Dad ignited my passion for modeling when I...