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  • Tigers in North Africa

    A small Tiger battalion was sent to Tunisia, though this is mentioned in many books the logistical problems in that simple statement are immense. Most of the Italian merchant fleet had been destroyed by that time. I've read that very few ports were capable of handling heavy tanks (one of the reasons that the U.S. did not develop them since they would have problems transporting them).

    What ships or craft did the Germans use to transport these heavy tanks? What port did they use? How did they protect them in the fact of Allied naval supremacy and the growing Allied air superiority?

  • #2
    Do you mean, how did the Axis protect the transport ships from Italy to Tunisia?

    Locally the Luftwaffe still had sueriority over Sicilly & Tunisia until March of 1943. The Allied air forces were dealing with two problems. First their aircraft and base equipment/supplys were starting in the US. Britian, and Egypt. It took about four months to haul to Tunisia enough of the men & material to support a winning air campaign. The Axis had long before built numerous airbases in Sicily and stocked them with a fair amount of fuel and ammunition. Its a short sea voyage from the Italian & Sicilian ports to Tunis & Bizerte, so intially the Axis could extablish air superiority.

    The second problem was the ports of Tunis & Bizerte had several large paved airfields nearby. The Axis siezed these imeadiatly and brought in their air base equipment/supply quickly. When the campaign stated in November 1942 the nearest existing air bases the Allies captured were hundreds of kilometers away in Algeria. While the Allied army advanced guard moved swiftly into Tunisia it proved extremely difficult to supply much more than that for many months. The roads from the Algerian ports to Tunisia were very bad and there was only a single track railroad built for hauling light loads of oranges & dates. There was also a shortage of locomotives and wagons for the railroad. Consequently it took three months to move enough material forward to Tunisia to establish proper air bases.

    So from November to Febuary the Axis had the air superiority necessary to protect their transports from Allie air & sea attack. From March the Allies were able to destroy the Axis air forces over Tunisia and interupt the sea transport.

    Bizerte & Tunis both had docks able to accomodate the ferrys & cargo ships that carried the Axis tanks. Generally large ferrys were prefered to carry the tanks as they did not require cranes to load & unload. Barges, such as ore carriers might also be used as they could be adapted to roll the tanks on & off. If there werre no large capacity cranes capable of lifting a Tiger tank in the Tunisian port it was possible to disassemble one in Italy & send it along. But, I cant say if that was actually done.

    I dont recall exactly what portion of the Italian cargo fleet had been destroyed by then. Jeff Lesser has done much research on this subject. From reading his coorespondence and remarks by some Italian historians it seems there was still a fair sized cargo fleet existing in late 1942. Suffcient to supply a Axis army group in Africa, at least until the Allies interdicted the sea lanes in the spring of 1943.
    Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 29 Oct 07, 20:01.

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    • #3
      Hi Jeff, Welcome to the forums here. You'll find a great bunch of guys to answer most of your questions, just like Carl did up above. Hope to see you around and posting more!
      http://i225.photobucket.com/albums/d...200pixwide.jpg

      Kampfgruppe - A Wargaming Clan Since 1998

      NorbertSnyderJr.com

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      • #4
        JeffF, if you have "Tigers in Combat I," there is a photo on page 51 (bottom) that states:

        "The company (of Tigers) was loaded on a ocean-going ferries at Reggio on 20 November 1942 for sea transport to Tunisia."

        See page 52 for a photo of a Tiger being loaded on a ferry.

        Also, see page 27 of a Tiger on a ferry. The photo caption states in part:

        "In this image, we see Tiger 222, the last tank being evacuated on a ferry across the Strait of Messina."

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        • #5
          Tigers in North Africa

          Tom,

          Thanks, that is what I was looking for. I was having a discussion on a similar topic about how the US did not develop heavy tanks one reason for which was the inability of most ports to handle such heavy equipment. This made me wonder about how the Germans managed to transport Tigers to Tunisia. Sea-going ferries answers that, it also explains why such craft would not have been a solution for transatlantic voyages, the Med being a much calmer body of water compared to the North Atlantic.

          thanks for the welcome, I was a member years ago but let my membership run out. Glad to be back.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by JeffF. View Post
            A small Tiger battalion was sent to Tunisia, though this is mentioned in many books the logistical problems in that simple statement are immense. Most of the Italian merchant fleet had been destroyed by that time. I've read that very few ports were capable of handling heavy tanks (one of the reasons that the U.S. did not develop them since they would have problems transporting them).

            What ships or craft did the Germans use to transport these heavy tanks? What port did they use? How did they protect them in the fact of Allied naval supremacy and the growing Allied air superiority?
            Jeff,

            I think only a Company made it to North Africa. The build up for Kursk was the priority.

            Kevin
            Kevin Kenneally
            Masters from a school of "hard knocks"
            Member of a Ph.D. Society (Post hole. Digger)

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            • #7
              The first Tigers in North Africa arrived late october '42 if I recall correctly n' saw action early november '42. That's a tad early for the build up for Kursk. The first Tiger's alltogether went to the Leningrad front in august '42
              The safest place in Korea was behind a platoon of Marines. Lord how they could fight! - MGEN Frank Lowe, U.S. Army.
              ----
              We got a kinder, gentler, Machine gun hand - N.Y.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by McCoy View Post
                The first Tigers in North Africa arrived late october '42 if I recall correctly n' saw action early november '42.
                The first time Tiger I's saw action in the North African Campaign was an attack on British positions near Pont du Fahs in Tunisia in February 1943. The attack was a disaster for the two Tigers I involved as both were KO'd

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                • #9
                  Two Tiger Battalions were sent to North Africa, the 501st & 504th. See:

                  http://www.lonesentry.com/panzer/tig...abteilung.html

                  For more on Tiger Battalions, see:

                  http://www.fprado.com/armorsite/tigers.htm and:

                  http://www.fprado.com/armorsite/tigers-02.htm

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                  • #10
                    First action

                    Originally posted by redcoat View Post
                    The first time Tiger I's saw action in the North African Campaign was an attack on British positions near Pont du Fahs in Tunisia in February 1943. The attack was a disaster for the two Tigers I involved as both were KO'd
                    Sorry redcoat, but you are mistaken this time. The first action occurred on 25 November 1942 by the 501st Battalion (see page 41 of "Tigers in Combat"):

                    "25 November 1942: Kampfgruppe Lueder starts operations at 1100 hours at Djedeida. After dawn, a successful counterattack is conducted."

                    It is interesting that in "Sledgehammers" by Christopher W. Wilbeck, page 39, he states

                    "...elements of the battalion (501st) formed part of an ad hoc Combat Group immediately upon disembarkation, fighting their first action on 1 December 1942."

                    "Tigers in Combat" on page 42 states:

                    "1 December 1942: First employment of 3 Tigers and 4 Panzer IIIs of the 1./schwere Panzer-Abteilung (Hauptmann von Nolde) starting from assembly area 7 kilometers east of Dschedeida brings relief for own forces. (9 US tanks knocked out). The company commander is killed in action. Oberleutant Deichmann takes over and destroys 2 British tanks before he himself is killed by a sniper."

                    Page 56 of "Sledgehammers" states:

                    Heavy Tank Battalion 501 destroyed more than 150 Allied tanks in North Africa while losing only 11 Tigers. This amounts to a kill ratio of 13.6 enemy tanks destroyed for every Tiger lost."

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                    • #11
                      If you continue with the record for the Tiger in Tunisia you find that in a 10 day period 19 April to 29th April 1943 6 Tigers are directly destroyed in action.
                      One indicator of the veracity of the high number claims made can be gauged by the entry in TIC 1 for 4/12/44. On this day a claim 134 out of 182 Allied tanks is made. The Allied losses for the day came to 55 tanks and all were left in enemy territoty. You would think they could have counted them better!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by m kenny View Post
                        If you continue with the record for the Tiger in Tunisia you find that in a 10 day period 19 April to 29th April 1943 6 Tigers are directly destroyed in action.
                        One indicator of the veracity of the high number claims made can be gauged by the entry in TIC 1 for 4/12/44. On this day a claim 134 out of 182 Allied tanks is made. The Allied losses for the day came to 55 tanks and all were left in enemy territoty. You would think they could have counted them better!
                        Say what... 4/12/44 ?! The Germans surrendered in Tunisia on 13 May 1943. You are not "mixing apples and oranges" are you?

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                        • #13
                          Not mixing anything but simply typing too fast.
                          Try 4/12/42 for sPzAbt 501 and 504 for the other example.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by m kenny View Post
                            Not mixing anything but simply typing too fast.
                            Try 4/12/42 for sPzAbt 501 and 504 for the other example.
                            OK, I see the claim of 134 out of 182 tanks for 4 December 1942 in "Tigers in Combat," page 42.

                            In "Sledgehammers," page 42 (bottom), it is stated:

                            "Throughout three days of fighting (ending 3/4 Dec 42), Allied forces lost a total of 55 tanks. Of these, elements of Heavy Tank Battalion 501 claimed the destruction of at least 15."

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Tom D View Post
                              Sorry redcoat, but you are mistaken this time. The first action occurred on 25 November 1942 by the 501st Battalion (see page 41 of "Tigers in Combat"):

                              "25 November 1942: Kampfgruppe Lueder starts operations at 1100 hours at Djedeida. After dawn, a successful counterattack is conducted."

                              It is interesting that in "Sledgehammers" by Christopher W. Wilbeck, page 39, he states

                              "...elements of the battalion (501st) formed part of an ad hoc Combat Group immediately upon disembarkation, fighting their first action on 1 December 1942."
                              So it would appear

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