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German heavy tank battalion

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German heavy tank battalion

German heavy tank battalions (German: schwere Panzerabteilungen), were elite battalion-sized World War II tank units, equipped with Tiger I, and later Tiger II, heavy tanks. Originally intended to fight on the offensive during breakthrough operations, the German late-war realities required them to be used in a defensive posture by providing heavy fire support and counter-attacking enemy armored breakthroughs, often organised into ad hoc Kampfgruppen.

Contents

Formation

Early formation units experimented to find the correct combination of heavy Tiger tanks supported by either medium Panzer III tanks or reconnaissance elements. In 1942 this consisted of 20 Tigers and 16 Panzer IIIs, composed of two companies, each with four platoons of two Tigers and two Panzer IIIs. Each company commander would have an additional Tiger, and battalion command would have another two.

Later formations had a standard organization of 45 Tiger Tanks, composed of three companies of 14 Tigers each, plus three command vehicles. Maintenance troubles and the mechanical unreliability of the Tigers posed a continuous problem, so often the units would field a smaller number of combat-ready tanks.

The limited number of these heavy tanks, plus their specialized role in either offensive or defensive missions, meant they were rarely permanently assigned to a single division or corps; but shuffled around according to war circumstances.

Army units

By the end of the war, the following heavy panzer detachments had been created. Early units were re-built several times by the end of the war.

Independent units attached to the German Army (Heer) were:

  • 501st Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 504th Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 505th Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 506th Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 507th Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 508th Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 509th Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 510th Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 511th Heavy Panzer Battalion
  • 301st Heavy Panzer Battalion (radio control)
  • The only battalion permanently attached to a division:

  • 3rd Battalion, Grossdeutschland Division
  • SS units

    Units attached to the Waffen-SS were:

  • 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion renamed in 1944, as SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 501, part of I SS Panzer Corps
  • 102nd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion renamed in 1944, as SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 502, part of II SS Panzer Corps
  • 103rd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion renamed in 1944, as SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 503, part of III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps
  • 104th SS Heavy Panzer Battalion was planned 22 October 1943, for IV SS Panzer Corps, but was never formed
  • Combat performance

    Tank losses include losses inflicted other than by enemy tanks. Also, many tanks were abandoned by their crews due to a lack of fuel, ammunition or breakdown, especially at the end of war.

    References

    German heavy tank battalion Wikipedia


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