19 July 1943 – May 1945
1st SS Panzer Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"I SS Panzer Corps
101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion (in German Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 101) was one of the Waffen-SS's elite armored units. With the introduction of new Tiger II tanks in late 1944, it was redesignated the 501st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion.
It was created on July 19, 1943, as a part of the I SS Panzer Corps, by forming two new heavy tank companies consisting of Tiger I tanks and incorporating the 13th (Heavy) Company of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment. It was attached to 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte and sent to Italy on August 23, 1943, where it stayed until mid-October. The 1st and 2nd company were then sent to the Eastern Front while the rest of the unit stayed in the West.
With the anticipated Allied invasion of Western Europe approaching, elements of the battalion in the East were ordered to the West in April 1944. On June 1, 1944, the battalion was located near Beauvais, north-west of Paris. Of its 45 Tigers, 37 were operational and eight more were under repair. With the D-Day landings on June 6, it was ordered to Normandy where it arrived on June 12. The battalion lost 15 of its 45 Tigers by July 5, including in the Battle of Villers-Bocage.
At this time the units' surplus crews began outfitting with the new Tiger II tanks. By August 7 the division left in Normandy with 25 Tigers of which 21 were operational. On August 8, 1944, three of their seven Tigers, committed to a counter-attack near Saint-Aignan-de-Cramesnil, were destroyed by British Sherman Fireflies, and two more were destroyed by the 27th Canadian Armored Regiment, killing Michael Wittman. The battalion lost virtually all its remaining Tigers in the Falaise pocket and the subsequent German retreat from France.
On September 9, the remains of the unit were ordered to rest and refit with the new Tiger IIs. With this change on September 22, 1944, it was redesignated the 501st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. On March 15, 1945, it reported a strength of 32 tanks, of which eight were operational.