The Nazis were obsessed with Darwinian notions of natural selection and survival of the fittest. Aggressive competition was woven into the very fabric of the Nazi state including tank design and production.
The Tiger tank was born from a competition between the firms Porsche and Henschel to produce a 45-ton tank with an 88mm gun, heavy armour, speed and manoeuvrability. A tank that was capable of dealing with the Soviet T-34 and KV-1. The two firms were to have prototypes ready for inspection on Adolf Hilter’s birthday, April 20th, 1942. Despite Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s friendship with Hitler, the Henschel design triumphed.
Tiger tanks started rolling out of the factory at a rate of just 25 per month in 1942. Peak production of 104 Tigers per month was finally reached in April 1944. It took an estimated 300,000 man hours to build one Tiger, and cost the equivalent of $100,000 U.S. dollars in 1941. That’s about $1.25m today. In contrast the Allies went for cheap, mass production, which ultimately proved decisive.
What’s in a Name
The new Henschel tank was officially named the Panzerkampfwagen VI H (88mm) (SdKfz 182) Ausführung H1. However the tank’s project design name was Tiger and the name stuck.
The newly named Tiger tank quickly gained a reputation on the Eastern Front during 1943 and 1944. The fearsome 88mm gun gave the Tiger a clear reach advantage over its Soviet opponents. Often faced by inferior equipment and poorly trained men, German tank crews and individual tank commanders were able to amass impressive combat scores, numbering hundreds of “kills”. The concept of the “Tank Ace” was born and ruthlessly exploited for propaganda purposes. Occasionally just the sight of a German Tiger would make Soviet tanks withdraw.
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