I had mentioned in another thread that I had recently indulged in an orgy of WWII book-buying, mostly related to a deeper look at the fall of Berlin in particular and the Eastern Front war in general. Two of the books I got were the two volumes of Wolfgang Schneider's "Tigers In Combat". The works are a wide-reaching treatment of every unit in the German armed forces that was issued either the Tiger I or II, down to Kampfgruppen-size.
The books, which I got in paperback, are the "oversized" 8 1/2 x 11 inches. Vol. I covers the heavy units which were Wehrmacht formations: Schwere Panzer Abteilungen 501-510, Panzer Abteilung 301 (Funklenk) (radio-controlled) and Panzer Kompanie 316 (Funklenk). Vol. II covers the heavy tank companies in the Waffen-SS Panzer Divisions, the SS Schwere Panzer Abteilungen and the "named" non-SS units such as the Grossdeutschland Panzer Grenadier Division, Panzer Kompanie Meyer, etc.
The books are not really aimed at the technical developments end, but rather deal with the units themselves which were issued Tigers I and II: when they were formed, when they got Tigers, which companies the Tigers were in, what they did with them. With each unit Schneider lists an impressive short-hand version of what happened to the heavy tank companies, almost on a day-by-day basis, giving a brief description of the firefights they were in. It's not exhaustive, but it's pretty dang close.
He begins the history of each unit with general remarks, which include extremely detailed notes on camouflaging and numbering systems. He then covers the day-to-day movements and combats of the units. Finally he lists each heavy unit's commanders, its recipients of the Knight's Cross and higher awards, and a list of the "high-scorers" in the unit. He also includes an "accounting page" for each unit, showing the dates Tigers were lost, and how, whether they were knocked out by the enemy or by the crews themselves, etc. He includes a very large section of unit-specific photographs following each unit's history, approximately 600 photos in each volume.
At the end of the volume he has perhaps the most impressive section of stunning color artwork by well-known Tiger artist Jean Restayn, which sets out an example of each kind of camouflaging and numbering system which each unit used at different points during the war. Finally he includes maps of Russia, Germany and middle Europe, and France showing by color-coding the paths which each unit took and where they fought battles, covering the entire war.
These are not books for light reading. They are serious reference books. Schneider has accomplished a great thing in assembling all this information in two volumes, and the amount of sheer data is staggering. ( After one day of thumbing I discovered that that the Wehrmacht Schwere Abteilungen and the SS Schwere Abteilungen were different units. I had always assumed that Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501 was the same unit as SS Schwere Panzer Abteilung 501. But in these books I learned that while the one was in North Africa, the other was in Russia. I had just never paid close enough attention. Doh!
Schneider has used as references dozens of primary- and secondary-sources, many not available in English. (It is very intersting to me that he does not cite Willi Fey's "Armor Battles Of the SS", which one would have thought actually covered some of the same events as Scneider, but in much greater detail. Could it be Schneider, a Bundeswehr tanker, doesn't find SS-tanker Fey, who makes some eye-popping personal-kill claims, very credible?)
These are "lap books" for persons who find it common to read two books at once: the primary one is the one you are reading, and the other lies in your lap as a source, to check a fact or run down a loose thread. These books are for an Anlushac-11-type reader and researcher, who wants to go several levels deeper than the average casual reader.
A few irritating points. First, the maps, which try to show where every single Tiger company is for every day of the war, just bite off far more than they can chew. The maps are much too small and thus far too crammed and hard to follow. It's such a great idea, I just wish he had done it better.
And what is it with so many German military men that they can't accept that it doesn't matter how Germany was beaten in WWII, but that they were beaten? Schneider goes to great pains to try to show that the Tigers were supreme in combat, and were actually lost to enemy action very rarely. He tries to say that those Tigers he lists as "destroyed by crew" somehow weren't combat casualties. He loses points for objectivity over this, and for me his findings about what percentage of Tigers were actually killed by the enemy are thus highly unreliable. Too bad for otheriwise very impressive volumes.
If you know your panzer stuff you can justify buying these books. You can grab both these volumes, in paperback, for a total of around $42 US from Amazon.
*TRA* Spsk. Pilotka VVS
22nd June 2005
Intresting read. I really glad you enjoy this. Did they go in detail about Tigers in Africa? I am very intrested in this and was wondering if you could enlighten me.
FlyGuy45;3295094...Did they go in detail about Tigers in Africa? I am very intrested in this and was wondering if you could enlighten me....
Absolutely. Not only that, they throw in Sicily and Italy too. And Yugoslavia, Croatia, Hungary, Romania. Did I leave any of the "lesser-known" campaign areas out? Take this to the bank: if there was a German unit that had Tiger tanks assigned to it, even for only part of the war, it will be covered somewhere in these volumes, regardless of where it fought. Or even if it didn't fight, becasue Schneider tracks Tigers to training units as well. It's a tremendous resource, and could be the only reference-type books needed by most people who want them and have a use for them.
28th August 2006
I hope you've sent in your application to research for FH2:D If you wouldn't mind, once you're done, telling me what happened to Kurt Knispel. I am interested to know if he was killed or went AWOL since most sources have a plethora of info on Micheal Wittmann or Otto Carius yet seem to forget about the highest scoring and slightly rebelious tank ace of world war 2. I know that he was very hated by his superiors for talking buddy-buddy with them and having long/hippie hair and it wouldn't surprise me if at the end of the war with his king tiger, he simply ran off and blew up the tank due to a "breakdown".
Coca-Cola;3295483If you wouldn't mind, once you're done, telling me what happened to Kurt Knispel. I am interested to know if he was killed or went AWOL since most sources have a plethora of info on Micheal Wittmann or Otto Carius yet seem to forget about the highest scoring and slightly rebelious tank ace of world war 2. I know that he was very hated by his superiors for talking buddy-buddy with them and having long/hippie hair and it wouldn't surprise me if at the end of the war with his king tiger, he simply ran off and blew up the tank due to a "breakdown".
You probably know more than I. Schneider has very limited information. At page 141, vol I, he says only:"April 29, 1945 - Unteroffizier Knispel (162 kills) is killed in action." (Although I think Knispel was finally promoted to Feldwebel the day before his death.)
Then on page 142 under :Top Scorers" , he lists him as the top scorer for the Abt.: "Feldwebel Knispel - 162 tanks". Finally at page 171 he has a picture, well-known to Knispel fans, of Knispel as he leans against the side of Tiger II while talking to two other tankers, and captioned, "Detraining in France. In the middle of the pciture we see one of the battalion's top scorers, Unteroffcizier Knispel." That's it, nothing more.
Schneider does list in his Bibiography that he used as a reference several self-published unit histories of SPzAbt. 503. These are probably very difficult to find, almost certainly in German, and more certainly not translated to English.
I suppose you are familiar with the brief desription of Knispel in "Panzer Aces II" by Fedorowski:
Kurt Knispel was born in 1922 in the former Sudetenland. He had a carefree childhood and grew up to be a broad shouldered lad of medium heigh, whose dark hair was always a little too long, something he would be chided for later in life.
After completing his apprenticeship in an automobile factory in 1940 Knispel applied to join the armored forces. Predestined by build and training, he was accepted immediately.
For his basic training Knispel went to the Panzer Replacement Training Battalion at Sagan in Lower Silesia. There, like all other budding soldiers, he had to learn to march and salute, then progressed to basic weapons training. This included learning to handle the Kar 98k rifle and P 08 pistol, how to throw hand grenades and how to operate the MG 34, later followed training on the Pz I, II & IV.
On 1 October 1940 he was transferred to the 3rd Company of the 29th Panzer Regiment, 12th Panzer Div. Knispel completed his training as a loader and gunner in a Pz IV, training lasted until 11 June 1941 and consisted of courses at Sagan and Putlos.
Knispel was gunner in Pz IV under Lt. Hellman at the time of Barbarossa, where he participated in the initial assault as part of Panzergruppe 3, LVII Army Corps (later LVII Panzer Corps) commanded by General Adolf Kuntzen. Knispel saw action from Yarzevo to the gates of Stalingrad, in the North around the Leningrad-Tikhvin area and also in the Caucasus under Mackensen.
Knispel returned to Putlos at the end of January 1943 and became familiar with the new Tiger tanks, at this time, Knispel was credited with 12 kills.
From Putlos, a group of men was sent to 500th Panzer Battalion at Paderborn. This group was led by Oberfeldwebel Fedensack and included Kurt Knispel, it was to become the 1st Company of the elite 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion, and fought at Kursk as flank cover to 7th PzDiv (Armee Abteilung Kempf). Knispel saw further action during the relief attack on the Cherkassy Pocket (a.k.a. Khorsun Pocket), Vinnitsa, Jampol, Kamenets-Podolsk. The Company re-equipped with Tiger IIs and fought around Caen and the retreat from Normandy. From there back to the Russian front and action around Mexotur, Tookszentmiklos, Cebled, Kekskemet, the Gran bridgehead, Gyula, Neutra, Bab Castle(In one action, Knispel reports 24 enemy hits on his Tiger II), Laa and finally Wostitz, where he was killed in action.
With 168 (all confirmed, possibly as high as 195) kills, Kurt Knispel was by far the most successful tank soldier of the Second World War. He was an exception in the German armored forces. He fought in virtually every type of tank as loader, gunner and commander. He was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class after destroying his fiftieth enemy tank and the Tank Assault Badge in Gold after far more than 100 tank battles. When Knispel had destroyed 126 enemy tanks (with another 20 unconfirmed kills) he was awarded the German Cross in Gold. He became the only non-commissioned officer of the German tank arm to be named in the Wehrmacht communique. As commander of a Tiger and then a King Tiger Knispel destroyed another 42 enemy tanks. This raised his total to 168 enemy tanks destroyed, making him by far the world's top "tank killer". Although it was richly deserved, he was never awarded the Knight's Cross although he was recommended four times."
I've been told he can be seen briefly in the well-known propaganda film which depicts massed Tiger II's (actually most of SPzAbt. 503, plus some other KT's) as an officer in a Tiger II passes reviews them, and then leads them on a march (drive) just before the Ardennes offensive. I've seen other pictures of him with a beard and longer hair.
It certainly sounds like he was an embarrassment to his superiors for some reason, which may explain why his spectactular accomplishments were not recognized in fashion similar to the many tankers who had lower scores. Going by Schneider, I don't think he made it out alive.
*edit Schneider places SPzAbt. 503 near Wostitz (Czechosolvakia?) on the day of Knispel's death. On May 10, 1945, the remnant of the battalion (around 450 men), held a final formal assembly in some woods where a last award of Iron Crosses (donated by officers and NCO's) was made. They then blew up their last two Tiger II's, and surrendered to the Americans. The battalion was eventually handed over to the Soviets.
28th August 2006
I've read a summary of that in many web sites but I don't think it was ever in such great detail and they usually left his death as an unsolved case. I did not know that he was in the propaganda film that pops up everytime you look for movies of tigers or king tigers, interesting.
and Thank you for your megaposts :)