Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eight Jagdtigers with 8.8 cm Pak 43s

Jagdtiger with 8.8 cm Pak 43

The existence of eight Jagdtigers with 8.8 cm Pak 43s is documented through German documents (see the original Panzer Tracts 9), however no photographs have been shown of this at this point. Michael Reynolds states in his book, that 2 Jagdtigers were delivered to 1.SS Pz.Div LAH between 1st and 8th May in order to replace lost the Tiger II tanks (should be the last 2 to be delivered at all), but one of them a mechanical breakdown during delivery-run, the second ran out of gas and was used as a road-blockade.

There is quite a bit of information on these last Jagdtigers used by the LAH in Patrick Agte's book on Jochen Peiper, at pages 528-9

    During this period the latest version of the Tiger II, the Jagdtiger ("Hunting Tiger"), was issued to the Leibstandarte's Panzer regiment. This oversized tank destroyer, with 20cm of frontal armor and its mighty 12.8cm gun, was practically invincible. There were 70 Hunting Tigers produced. To pick up the Hunting Tigers, veteran crews from schwere SS-Panzerabteilung 501 were pulled out of infantry action and sent by truck in the final days of April through Amstetten to St. Valentin an der Enns. 

There were six Hunting Tigers at the Hermann Goering Works there which, however, were not provided with the 12.8cm but the 8.8cm gun. The tank destroyers were not yet operational, so that the crews themselves had to lend a hand. SS-Untersturmfuehrer Waldemar Warnecke, responsible for getting ammunition for these tank destroyers, was able to take delivery of sufficient rounds and stow them inside the Hunting TIger. After all the machine guns, radios and other pieces of equipment were installed and a few driving exercises carried out, all six Hunting Tigers moved into Panzergruppe Peiper's operational area. SS-Untersturmfuehrer Warnecke and Hahn drove four Hunting Tigers on 4 May 1945 through Amstetten and Purgstall into the area of Schreibbs. The two other Hunting Tigers moved on Federal Highway 8 (Linz-St Polten) on the following day.

Agte cites an unpublished manuscript written by SS-Unterscharfuehrer Hans Dorn of the LAH as his source.

Agte also sets out a long report by SS-Sturmann Ernst Kufner (a radio operator in one of the Hunting Tigers) in which Kufner describes the events of 7-9 May 1945 including the destruction of his Hunting Tiger by the crew to make a roadblock to stop pursuing Soviet forces.
Agte goes on (citing Dorn's manuscript):


After Waidhofen, Jochen Peiper's car headed southwest to Weyer-Markt, where he met SS-Untersturmfuehrer Warnecke and the four Hunting Tigers providing covering. He ordered him to blow up the tank destroyers. After they had been driven into an open area, the Hunting Tigers were blown up and the crews crossed the Enns and went into captivity on 10 May 1945 at Altenmarkt.

It seems these last Jagdtigers may have been intended for sPzJAbt 653 but that the LAH grabbed them first, at page 450 of Munch's combat history of 653 he sets out a report by Unteroffizer Horst Theis, which includes this passage:

Sixteen crews were assembled here and departed for the Nibelungen Works on 30.04.45 to pick up new guns [ie Jagdtigers] for the "Final Battle". During the night of 6 May 1945 the Americans reached the Enns, the demarcation line with the Russians. Since the SS had snatched the new Jagdtigers out from under our noses, we drove to the Alps as a consolidated group on 06.05.45 as we had no desire to be captured by the Russians.

So it seems like these last six Hunting Tigers with 8.8cm guns did see active service with LAH, but there is no reference in Agte's book to them actually seeing combat.

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Unless we can verify that the manuscript Agte is referring to was actually written at the time the events happened, and not after the war, it has no true authority. Unterl├╝ss reports made by the German scientists for Allied intelligence around 1947 has many errors. The number of Jagdtigers manufactured is wrong in the text piece, and the fact that this information is included leads one to believe that the manuscript was written well after the war, at a time where memories would be far to blurred by post-war books to have any significance at all.

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Andrew Devey in his book Jagdtiger The Most Powerful Armoured Fighting Vehicle of World War II states that only 4 8.8cm vehicles were completed in April 1945: Wk nrs 305078 - 305081. He also states that none were issued as there were no optics for the guns and no ammunition available. Wk nrs 305082 - 305084 had 12.8cm guns while 305085 - 088 with 8.8cm guns probably were not completed.

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In the book Tigers in the Mud, Carius mentioned how he was impressed by the outstanding penetrating capability of that gun when he once knock out a Sherman after shooting through a house...going at least through 2 bricks walls and after that knocking out the Sherman behind the house!

Carius also had some less than flattering remarks about the vehicle. He mentions the loss of zeroing once a move was made unless the external travel lock was engaged. Also the strain of having to point the vehicle overtaxed the drivetrain.

It is established that the Jagdtiger's weight did strain the drive train and caused mechanical problems but Carius keeps on whining mostly about the Jagdtiger not having a traversable turret. He was a very experienced tanker but not used to commanding assault guns/tank destroyers. That was actually his first combat engagement in a Jagdtiger so he couldn't have been certain of the "tank’s” full potential.

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