Tiger Abteilung Employment
By Christian Ankerstjerne
This is a translation of the leaflet Merkblatt für den Einsatz der schw. Panzer-Abteilung "Tiger" (Leaflet on the Employment of the Heavy Tank Battalion "Tiger") from 20 May 1943, which was used as a quick guide to the proper employment of Tiger tanks. Of particular interest is the emphasis on frequent maintenance of the Tiger.
A. Nature, Tasks, and Organization
Armament and armor, combined with high mobility, makes the Tiger the most potent weapon of the armored forces.
In the hands of the commander, the Tiger battalion is therefore a powerful weapon in the heaviest combat. Its strength lies with the concentration, aggressive assault. The more fragmented the employment, the weaker it is. Thorough preparation of employment against a critical area guarantees success.
Tiger battalions are army-level units. They are assigned to other armored units at the most important areas of the battle, to force through a decision. They must not be used prematurely for less important tasks.
They are especially suited for use against heavy enemy armored forces, and must seek out such combat. The destruction of enemy tanks allows our light tanks to successfully carry out their missions.
It is forbidden to assign missions to Tigers, which could have been carried out by light tanks or assault guns. They are also not to be used for reconnaissance missions and guard duties.
The Tiger battalion is organized as follows:
- Battalion staff,
- Staff company with intelligence platoon, armored reconnaissance platoon (armored half-tracks), reconnaissance platoon, engineer platoon, anti-aircraft platoon (and a group for management and supplies),
- Three heavy tank companies,
- One tank workshop company.
The basic guidelines that apply to other tank units, apply to the Tiger battalion as well. Due to the nature of the Tiger, the following special rules also apply:
- Because it is used against critical areas, the Tiger battalion must be in the forefront of the march column.
- The commander must be particularly careful in selecting the march route.
- The battalion commander is responsible for in-depth reconnaissance. Locating and reinforcing bridges, fords, and roads is of particular importance. To accomplish this, it is necessary to thoroughly study maps and available aerial photographs, and ensure the timely employment of the reconnaissance and engineering platoons.
- For long marches, it is for technical reasons not possible to mix Tiger units with other tank units.
- When crossing bridges of dubious strength, it is preferable to use light tanks to Tigers, as they can be more readily replaced.
- Average march speeds:
- Daytime: 10-15 km/h
- Nighttime: 7-10 km/h
- Regular technical march breaks are required. A technical break must be ordered after the first five kilometers, and after that every 10-15 kilometers.
- Uneven roads, and roads with hard surfaces, are to be avoided.
- To preserve the element of surprise, the assembly area must be located far enough from the enemy to prevent him from heaving the loud howl of the engines. Wind direction and strength should be observed.
- After having moved into the assembly area, the distinctively broad and deep trails of the Tigers must be blurred, to hide the presence of heavy tanks from enemy aerial reconnaissance.
- Combat reconnaissance is carried out by the armored reconnaissance platoon at the instructions of the battalion commander. If necessary, the light tanks of the tank units to which the Tiger battalion is assigned can also be used.
- In battle, the Tigers are to be used at the area where the ultimate success is going to be accomplished. The battalion must engage the critical area from the very beginning. All other units must support the battalion in carrying out its assignments. Timely cooperation with mine clearing units and engineers is required to remove mines and obstacles.
- Swift actions and strong leadership are essential when fighting enemy tanks. The enemy must be deceived and confused by ever-changing attack methods. The following combat methods have proved successful:
- Light tanks are used to engage the enemy tanks from the front, drawing their attention. The Tiger battalion then attacks the flanks or rear, while the other tanks support the Tiger assault with frontal fire.
- The Tigers make a swift frontal or flanking attack to defeat the enemy through fire superiority, while supported by other tank units.
- Because of its large blind spot and its long gun, the Tiger is not to be used in urban combat. The same applies for forest combat.
- The Tiger is particularly suited for pursuing combat, though advance reconnaissance and preparation (fuel and ammunition) are required for this employment.
Every possible rest period of the Tiger battalion must be used for technical maintenance.
After long periods of action, sufficient time must be given to maintenance and overhaul to restore the unit to full combat strength.
The maintenance section must support all other section and commands.
- Heereswaffenamt. Merkblatt für den Einsatz der schw. Panzer-Abteilung "Tiger". Berlin : Oberkommando des Heeres, 1943. 4 p. Merkblatt 47a/30.