Book Review: Pershing Vs Tiger Germany 1945 (Duel 80)

Book Review

Pershing vs Tiger: Germany 1945 (Duel) by Steven Zaloga

Osprey Publishing

Pershing VS Tiger is the 80th entry in the Osprey Duel series, and the eleventh authored by Steven Zaloga.  Several of his past Duel series titles have dealt with US versus German armor during the last year of the war, including Sherman vs Panther, Sherman vs Pz IV, M10 vs Stug III and Bazooka vs Panzer.  With this title, he addresses one of the very last contests between German and American armor, the handful of encounters between the US Pershing heavy tank and the heavy German “cats.”

The first thing worth noting is that the title of the book is perhaps a bit misleading.  The artwork on the cover depicts the US Pershing and a German Tiger I tank.  And while the book does describe a combat encounter involving these two types of vehicle, there is only one incident of this type.  The other examples involve other types of German armor, including a Panther, Nashorn, Pz IV, and possibly a Jagdpanther.  This is not surprising, since the number of Pershing tanks operating in the ETO in 1945 was very low.  As Zaloga points out, by March of 1945 there were only 20 Pershing tanks in the field.  It is no wonder that the number of tank vs tank clashes involving Pershing tanks can be related individually in one volume.

For those who have read previous Duel series books, the layout of this book will be familiar.  The first section of the book traces the design and development of the Tiger, Tiger II and the Pershing. This is followed by a technical description of each tank, focusing on crew layout, firepower, armor and mobility.  After this are chapters on the combatants and the strategic situation, describing the activities of the Tiger heavy tank battalions and their encounters, or more accurately, their lack of encounters with US forces in the ETO.  All this sets up the heart of the book, which is the descriptions of the various combats by Pershing tanks and German armor.  The book delivers on its title with a description of the duel at Elsdorf, in which a Pershing tank destroyed a German Tiger and several other German tanks in exchange for the loss of one Pershing tank named “Fireball.”

The book finishes up with an analysis chapter, focusing primarily on the Tiger tank.  For those invested in the idea that the Tiger was some sort of super-tank, this analysis will prover rather deflating.  Zaloga points out that Tiger units were relatively rare in the West, suffered from low readiness rates due to poor reliability and high maintenance demands and were generally less effective than the Tiger units in the East.  The Tiger II he refers to as “an extravagant waste in the West”.  Little final analysis is offered regarding the performance of the Pershing in the final chapter.  Zaloga notes that the number of Pershings in the field were so few, and the state of the German opposition so poor by this point in the war, that few lessons regarding the tank can be learned (for more on the combat record of the Pershing, check out Zaloga’s T-34-85 vs M26 Pershing: Korea 1950)

For those interested in US and German armor in the West 1944-45, this book is certainly worth picking up.  With this volume, Zaloga seems to have covered most of the well-known US and German tanks that faced each other after D-Day until the German surrender.   This volume may prove particularly useful for those looking for an antidote to the Tiger myth.

Book Alert: Pershing vs Tiger: Germany 1945

Osprey Publishing has released a new entry in their Duel series,Pershing vs Tiger: Germany 1945 (Duel) by Steven Zaloga.  This book follows the pattern set out in other Osprey Duel books, and is a softcover of 80 pages.  Next week we will be posting a more detailed review of this new book.

Publisher’s Description:

During the final battles on World War II’s Western Front, the legendary German Tiger I heavy tank clashed with the brand-new M26 Pershing fielded by the United States. The Tiger I had earned a formidable reputation by the end of 1944, although its non-sloped armour and poor mobility meant it was being superseded by the Tiger II or ‘King Tiger’. While the Tiger I had been in the front lines since 1942, the US Pershing first entered combat in late February 1945, and more than 20 Pershings would see action before war’s end.

This book examines the dramatic Tiger/Pershing duel at Elsdorf in Germany, and also assesses the clashes between German armour and the sole ‘Super Pershing’ deployed to Europe. Featuring full-colour artwork, carefully chosen photographs and specially commissioned maps, this is the story of the first US heavy tanks in combat with the fearsome Tiger I during the last months of World War II in Europe.

Video: Second World War Tiger Veterans At The Tank Museum

The Tank Museum at Bovington recently posted this video featuring WWII veterans from both the UK and Germany as part of their Tiger Exhibition.

Photo(s) of the Day: The View from Inside a Tiger II

Today’s Photo of the Day feature comes courtesy of author and researcher Ken Estes.  These are some pictures he took while climbing around and inside the Tiger II tank housed at the Musée des Blindés (“Museum of Armoured Vehicles”) in Saumur, France.  These pictures show the view from the various crew positions and give a pretty good idea of just how limited a range of vision WWII era tank crews enjoyed.

Driver’s periscope

6-31

Gunner’s sight

6-37

Commander’s cupola periscope

6-20

Commander’s open hatch position

6-5

The Tiger Collection video from Bovington Tank Museum

Here is a short video showing off the new “Tiger Collection” Exhibition at the Bovington Tank Museum.

TFB: P-47s, Tiger Tanks, and Bouncing Bullets

Over at The FirearmBlog (TFB), contributor Nathaniel F has written a post examining the peculiar myth of P-47 fighter bombers “bouncing” .50 cal bullets into the bottom hulls of Tiger tanks during the fighting in the ETO in 1944-45.  The piece is in response to this clip from a TV show documentary.

 

 TFB – P-47s, Tiger Tanks, and Bouncing Bullets: The Limitations of Eyewitness Accounts

As a researcher and history enthusiast, one of the issues I often have to wrestle with is that of eyewitness accounts, specifically when to trust them and when not to. That subject itself is one for another time, but today I want to look at a specific example of an eyewitness account as an illustration of how they can be misleading to someone trying to reconstruct historical events.

The account in question is this one, apparently from an unknown television documentary, in which a former P47 pilot describes attacking German tanks by bouncing bullets off the ground and into the underside of the tank’s hull.

Read the full post here.

Document of the Day: Tigers in Syria

Instead of a Photo of the day, today we present a Document of the day.  This one is chosen more for entertainment value than anything else.  Over at the Sturgeon’s House forum, regular contributor Priory_of_Sion found this browsing through the online content at the CIA.gov reading room website.  This unusual memo from 1950 states that the Syrian government had ordered 50 Tiger Tanks and 20-30 Panther tanks from France.  It also notes that “some Tiger tanks were observed being driven in the streets of Damascus.”  We guess the trend of identifying Panzer IV tanks as “Tigers” didn’t end with WWII! (the only former German tanks operated by Syria following WWII were relatively small numbers of Panzer IV and Stug III.)

cia-report