The tiger tank was one of the most feared weapons of World War II. The tiger tank was very heavily armoured and carried powerful weapons on board. In the war in North Africa in an early encounter with the Allies in Tunisia, a 75mm artillery gun fired eight rounds and simply bounced off of the side of the tiger. From a distance of just 50 metres, such was the potency of the Tiger, that it got an aura of invincibility. However, such a status was not necessarily deserved as the tiger could be stopped and it’s sheer size caused problems.
The development of the tiger began as early as 1939. The development program was accelerated after May 1941 when the Wehrmacht asked for a 45 ton tank which had as its principle weapon an 88mm gun. The 88mm gun had already proved itself in battle as an artillery weapon, the thinking behind carrying such a heavy gun was that it would allow the tiger to outshoot any gun carried by enemy tanks.
The tiger was the main spearhead at Kursk. Here it did not do well. Many tanks left their factories before mechanical checks as a result many of them suffered major malfunctions during the battle, the tiger could hit a T34 from 1500 metres but when the two got to close quarter fighting, the T34 was superior.
By 1944 the tiger proved its defensive qualities that were to hinder both the Russians and the Allies, Michael Wittmann a tiger commander of the LSSAH, had kills of 119 tanks including great success in Normandy after D-Day. In Normandy, Wittman’s tigers destroyed over 25 British tanks,14 half-tracks, 14 bren gun carriers in a short and bloody battle around the village of Villers Bocage. At the Battle of the Bulge, the tigers did very well to start with but they literally ran out of fuel and men from Joachim Peiper’s SS unit, had to abandon their tanks and walk back to their lines.
By the end of the war, other tanks had been developed that outclassed the tiger - the Joseph Stalin II and the American M26 Pershing were among them.