More history on the Tiger 1:
The German heavy tank used in World War II was the Panzerkampfwagen VI. The first official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausfhrung H but the tank was re-designated as Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. E in March 1943. The panzer also had the ordnance inventory designation SdKfz 181.
The Tiger tank was to be fielded by the Germans from late 1942 and all the way up until the defeat in 1945. It was given its “Tiger” nickname by Ferdinand Porsche (the Roman numeral was added after the Tiger II was manufactured). The design served as the basis for other armored vehicles, the Sturmtiger heavy self-propelled gun and the Bergetiger armored recovery vehicle. Tigers were capable of destroying the American M4 Sherman tank or British Churchill tank IV at ranges exceeding 2,000 m. In contrast, the Soviet T-34 utilizing with the 76.2 mm gun could not penetrate the Tiger tank frontally at any range, but could attain a side penetration at just about 500 m firing the BR-350P APCR ammo. The T34-85 tank 85 mm gun could penetrate the Tiger from the side at about range 1,000 m. The IS-2’s 122 mm gun could destroy the Tiger 1 at ranges
beyond 1,000 m. From a 30 degree angle of attack the M4 Sherman tank’s 75 mm gun could not penetrate the Tiger tank frontally at any range, and needed to be within 100 m to achieve a side penetration against the 80mm upper hull superstructure. The British 17-pounder as used on the Sherman Firefly, firing its normal APCBC ammunition, could penetrate frontally out to over 1,000 m. The US 76 mm gun, if firing the APCBC M62 ammunition, could penetrate the Tiger frontally out to just over 500 m, and could be at ranges in excess of 1,000 m to achieve penetration against
the upper hull superstructure. Using HVAP ammunition, which was in constant sparse supply and primarily issued to tank destroyers, frontal penetrations were possible out to just over 1,500 m. It is worth mentioning that many of the penetration capabilities at longer ranges had little relevance compared to combat engagements of the real war, especially that which was fought in Western Europe, where tank battles seldom happened outside of one kilometer due to scattering and chance for human mistake, which is amplified greatly as range increases regardless of the ability of any cannon. For example, while a 17pdr could penetrate the front armor of a Tiger tank at one kilometer in tests, during actual combat, a 17pdr gunner would probably never find himself in a position to actually attempt such a feat.
As range gets smaller in combat, all guns can penetrate additional armor (with the exception of HEAT ammunition, which was rare in WWII). The great penetrating power of the Tiger tank’s 88mm gun meant that it could destroy many of its opponents at ranges at which they could not respond. In open terrain, this was a major tactical advantage. Opposing tanks were often forced to make a flanking attack in order to knock out a Tiger.
The Tiger 1 was first used in action in September 1942 near Leningrad. Under pressure from Hitler, the panzer was put into action months earlier than planned and many early models proved to be mechanically fragile. In its first action on 23 September 1942, many of the first Tiger tanks broke down. Others were taken out by dug-in Russian anti-tank guns. One panzer was captured largely intact, which gave the Russians a chance to study the tank and prepare a response. In the Tiger tank’s beginning actions in North Africa, the panzer was able to master Allied tanks in the open terrain. Notwithstanding, mechanical failures meant that there were rarely more than a few in action. In a replay of the Leningrad experience, at least one Tiger tank was knocked out by towed British six-pounder antitank guns. The panzer’s extreme weight limited the bridges it could cross and made drive-throughs of buildings, which may have had basements, hazardous. Another weakness was the slow traverse of the hydraulically-operated turret. The turret could as well be passed over manually, but this choice was seldom used. Early Panzerkampfwagen VI's
had a top speed of about 45 km/h over optimal terrain. This was not recommended for normal operation, and was discouraged in training. Crews were told to not exceed 2600RPM due to reliability problems of the early Maybach engines at their maximum 3000RPM output. To combat this, the Tiger’s top speed was reduced to about 38km/h through the installation of an engine governor, capping the RPM of the Maybach HL 230 to 2600rpm (HL 210s were used on early models). Despite being slower than medium tanks of the time, which averaged a top speed of about 45 km/h, the Tiger still had a very respectable speed for a tank of its size and weight, being nearly twice as heavy as a Sherman tank or Russian T-34 tank. The Tiger tank had reliability problems throughout its service life; Tiger tank units frequently entered combat understrength due to breakdowns. It was rare for any Tiger tank unit to complete a road march without losing vehicles due to breakdown. The tank also had poor radius of action (distance a combat vehicle can travel and return, in normal battle conditions, without refueling). Due to its very wide tracks, the Tiger had a lower ground pressure bearing than many smaller tanks, the most notable exception being the Red Army T-34 tank. The Tiger tank’s armor and firepower, however, were feared by all its opponents. In tactical defense, its bad mobility was less of an issue. Whereas Panthers were the more serious threat to Allied tanks, Tigers had a bigger psychological effect on opposing crews, causing a “Tiger phobia”. Allied tankers would sometimes evade rather than confront a Tiger, even a tank that only looked like one, such as the Panzer IV with turret skirts applied. In the Normandy campaign, it could take four to five Shermans to knock out a single Tiger tank by maneuvering to its weaker flank or rear armour; the Red Army T-34s fared similarly against the German panzers, as had the German Panzer III earlier against the Soviet heavy tanks. An accepted Allied tactic was to engage the Tiger tank en masse, one attracting the attention of the Tiger crew while the others attacked the sides or rear of the vehicle. Since the ammunition and fuel were stored in the sponsons, a side penetration often resulted in a kill. This was a risky tactic, and often resulted in the loss of several Allied vehicles. It took a great deal of tactical skill to eliminate a Tiger 1.
Tiger tanks were usually employed in separate heavy panzer battalions (schwere-Panzer-Abteilung) under army command. These battalions would be deployed to critical sectors, either for breakthrough operations or, more typically, counterattacks. A few favored divisions, such as the Grossdeutschland or some of the low-numbered Waffen-SS divisions had a handful of Tiger tanks. The Panzerkampfwagen VI was originally designed to be offensive breakthrough tank but by the time they came into action, the military situation had changed dramatically, and their main use was on the defensive as mobile artillery. Unfortunately this also meant scrambling the Tigers constantly from location to location causing excessive mechanical issues. As a result there are almost no instances where a Tiger Battalion went into combat at anything close to full strength. Furthermore, against the Soviet and Western Allied production numbers, even a 10to1 kill ratio would not have been sufficient for the Tiger tanks. Some Tiger tank units did exceed the 10to1 kill ratio, including 13. Kompanie/Panzer-Regiment Grossdeutschland (16.67to1), schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 103 (12.82to1) and schwere Panzer-Abteilung 502 (13.08to1). These numbers must be set against the opportunity cost of building the expensive Tiger tank. Every Tiger tank built cost as much as four Sturmgeschutz III assault guns.
On 7 July 1943, a single Tiger tank commanded by SS-Oberscharfuhrer Franz Staudegger from the 2nd Platoon of 13th Panzer Company of 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler engaged a group of about 50 Russian T-34 tanks around Psyolknee (the southern sector of the German salient in the Battle of Kursk). Staudegger used all his ammunition in destroying 22 Soviet tanks, while the rest retreated. For this, Staudegger was awarded the Knight’s Cross. On 8 August 1944, a lone Tiger commanded by SS-Unterscharfuhrer Willi Fey from the 1st Company of sSSPzAbt 102, engaged a British tank column, destroying some 14 out of 15 Sherman tanks, followed by one more later in the day using his final two rounds of ammunition. sSSPzAbt 102 lost all of its Tiger tanks during fighting in Normandy, but reported 227 Allied tanks killed in six weeks.
The Tiger tank is particularly affiliated with SS Haupsturmfurher Michael Wittmann of schwere SS-Panzerabteilung 101. battled his way by, commanding assorted vehicles and then finally a Tiger I. In the Battle of Villers-Bocage, he destroyed over two dozen Allied vehicles including several tanks; and single-handedly defied the advance of the entire 7th Armored Division until his panzer was destroyed and abandoned.More than 10 Tiger panzer commanders had over 100 vehicle kills on their account, including: Kurt Knispel with 168 kills, Otto Carius with 150+ destroyed, Johannes Boumllter with 139+ destroyed, and Michael Wittmann with 138 destroyed.