An Abandoned Panzerkampfwagen VI ausf B (SdKfz 182) Tiger II or Konigstiger (Bengal Tiger) of Schwere Panzer Abteilung (Heavy Tank Battalion) 506, Sixth Panzer Army, is inspected by American soldiers of the 137th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division. Note the Tiger II's 88mm (3.46 inch) locked in the recoil position, destroyed by the retreating crew. The 35th Infantry Division was rushed into the area to stop the German offensive around December 20, 1944. On December 28, the Division had fought their way to Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, near Bastogne, attempting to relieve the 101st Airborne Division and elements of the 10th Armored Division. By December 31 the 137th Infantry had lost two companies captured by the 1st SS Panzer Division, attempting to retake the village after Bastogne's relief. The 137th had lost 200 men killed or captured. On January 10, the 137th retook Villers. The 506th was the only Heer (Regular Army) unit equipped with the Tiger II, as opposed to the Waffen SS Abteilungs in operation in Belgium. The unit had only operated Tiger tanks, and for the Ardennes Offensive, a fourth company, Schwere Panzer Abteilung Hummel, was attached operating Panzerkampfwagen IV ausf E Tiger Is. On January 17, 1944, as the Sixth Panzer Army retreated from American breakthroughs around Bastogne, the 506th was forced to abandon two Tiger IIs and one Tiger I. While individually superior to any Allied tank, the Tiger II consumed considerable resources and was yet another tank type that a strained German quartermaster corps had to supply with fuel, ammunition, and spare parts. The Tiger II had a range of only 90 miles (145 kilometers). In its rush to combat it suffered from mechanical reliability defects; most Americans saw abandoned, not destroyed, Tiger IIs. This was a blessing for the Americans, whose M4 Sherman medium tanks and M10 Wolverine tank destroyers, both armed with 3-inch guns, could not penetrate the 180mm (7 inch) thick frontal armor. Only the M36 Jackson, with a high velocity 90mm gun, could stop a Tiger II, and only at a range within that of the German tank. All of the American tanks and tank destroyers had armor that was easily defeated by the Tiger II's 88mm KwK 43 L/71 main gun. The Americans counted on their superiority in artillery and air power to destroy Tigers.
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Caption ©2007 MFA Productions LLC
Image in the Public Domain