THE GERMAN KING TIGER TANK: THE ULTIMATE WAR BEAST
Without question, Germany produced some of the finest weapons of the Second World War. From Jet fighters, jet fighter bombers, to V2 Rockets, German military technology led the world. In some cases, by leaps and bounds. This was never more true than with regard to tanks. German tanks of the latter half of the Second World War were so massive, so powerful, and so technologically advanced, they were not even, more or less, equaled until the mid 1960's! There were three different models of German Tanks that truly petrified the Allies. One of them was called: the PANZERKAMPFWAGEN VI, or TIGER II. It was nicknamed: THE KING TIGER, and for very good reason.
The King Tiger was the single most fearsome weapon the Germans hurled at the Americans during the BATTLE OF THE BULGE. Originally, Adolf Hitler was determined to send hundreds upon hundreds of these beasts into the raging battle, but construction delays and a lack of materials, such as iron ore, sharply reduced that number to only about 200 total, with 45 of these assigned to Kampfgruppe Peiper.
Enjoy this short video about the legendary King Tiger Tank
The King Tiger Tank was, by far, the single most powerful tank ever built by any nation during the Second World War. Its dimensions were the very essence of the word, astonishing. This mammoth war beast was 34 feet long with its main gun forward, 12 feet wide, and 10 feet, nine inches tall. Right off of the production line, the King Tiger weighed 68.9 tons. In a word, unbelievable. When fully outfitted and loaded to the gills with logistics and its five man crew, it weighed over 73 tons. How enormous is this, might you ask? A simple comparison puts it all into perspective. The main United States' Battle Tank of 2012 is the M1A2 Abrams; a fully upgraded tank design. This tank, which served US forces very effectively in Iraq, is one of the largest and most powerful weapons on the field of battle today. The M1A2 Abrams weighs 67.6 tons. It is 32.04 feet long with its main gun forward, 12 feet wide, and 8 feet tall. So, that means that the German King Tiger Tank,[circa 1944], was longer, heavier, and considerably taller, and just as wide as the highly upgraded M1A2 Abrams, [circa 2011]!! Take a moment to absorb that information.
The King Tiger Tank was powered by a 12 cylinder Maybach HL 230 P30, 700-horsepower engine. It carried at least 80 rounds of primary ammunition for its main gun, and 5,850 rounds of secondary ammunition for its three MG 34 medium machine guns. Despite its tremendous weight, the King Tiger Tank could reach a top road speed of 26 miles per hour, and a somewhat respectable 14 miles per hour cross country. It was also designed and built with extra wide tracks, which gave it superior traction and maneuverability while traversing rough terrain.
The business end of the King Tiger Tank, otherwise known as its main gun, was so awesome, words cannot adequately describe it. For example, the main gun was the L71 version of the legendary and lethal 88 mm cannon, one of the most superb guns in the history of warfare. It was also the longest and post powerful version of the famous 88. Specifically, the L71 was 21 1/2 feet long and weighed more than 4 tons just by itself. It was capable of hurling a 4 1/2 foot long, armor-piercing projectile more than six miles at the mind numbing speed of 3400 feet per second! Not surprisingly, this allowed the King Tiger Tank to completely obliterate any Allied tank with the equivalent power of a sledge hammer smashing a styrofoam cup. Even by today's standards, this gun would be a very effective weapon. Originally, L71 was supposed to be placed upon the chassis of the Tiger I. However, during trials, it became glaringly obvious that even the enormously powerful Tiger I chassis could not sustain the overwhelming weight of the L71 gun. [It repeatedly caused the hull to lean forward] As a result, Adolf Hitler ordered a whole new tank design that would be capable of housing the mammoth gun. And this is exactly how the King Tiger was born.
The King Tiger Tank truly petrified opposing Allied tanks crews. There was a good reason for this. For example, the turret alone was protected by an incredible 7 inches of solid Krupp steel. In addition to this, the frontal armor, which was sloped at 55 degrees just like the Panther's was, was almost a full nine inches in thickness. This made the King Tiger virtually indestructible in an engagement with any Allied tank or tank destroyer of the Second World War. In fact, during a famous demonstration in the Belgian town of La Gleize, an American M4 Sherman couldn't even penetrate it at point blank [Right up next to it] range with repeated shots.
Perhaps the most famous incident involving a German King Tiger Tank occurred in Normandy in late July 1944. An M4 Sherman was hiding behind a building waiting to ambush a King Tiger from behind. The road around to the rear of the building was far too narrow for the King Tiger to travel down. This prevented the Germans from getting around the building to have a clear shot at the Sherman. The American tank crew was convinced that they were safe. The Germans appeared to be in an untenable situation. Nothing could have been further from the truth. After examining the situation, the German tank commander ordered the gunner to turn the turret sideways. He then gave the command to fire. The King Tiger roared. Its main gun was so unbelievably powerful, that the shell blasted right through the first wall of the building, then right through the second wall, and then right through the Sherman Tank as well; incinerating the crew instantaneously while blowing the Sherman's turret some 100 feet into the air, as it exploded into a heap of molten rubble. Nothing in World War Two, save a battleship's 16 inch guns, could match the firepower of the German King Tiger Tank.
All told, the Germans would manufacture 492 King Tiger Tanks during the Second World War. This number was little more than a drop in the bucket, however, when compared to the United States' 102,000 tanks and tank destroyers, along with the Soviet's 55 to 65 thousand T34/76's. So, in the end, Despite the King Tiger's overwhelming supremacy in both firepower and armor protection, it was simply overwhelmed itself by far and away superior Allied numbers.