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Tiger Question

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by denny, Jan 17, 2013.

  1. Dave55

    Dave55 Member

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    Hi Arthur.

    To paraphase Bill Lumbergh, "I'm going to have to disagree with you there." :)

    The Ford GAA was a very advanced and very good engine. What's not to like about an 1100 cubic inch aluminum V8 with shaft driven double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder? It made the Shermans faster than anything the Germans had. The Continental radials and duel GMC diesels were also very good. The only engine that seemed 'ify' was the Chrysler multibank, but from what I've read they were very reliable as well, albeit super complicated So we had many decent engines to choose from.
     
  2. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Sheldrake, nice summation!

    It should be pointed out though, that Mortain was a defensive battle. So, those towed AT guns were in their element and thus able to be used effectively. The problem with the whole Tank Destroyer philosophy was that the head of Army Ground Forces, General Leslie McNair, decided that a towed gun was a "Tank Destroyer" rather than an "Anti-Tank" gun. That's fine if you're being attacked (like Mortain), but not so helpful if you're the attacker. Of course, air power filled the gap, but a lot more tankers would have survived the war if mobile AT guns had been a priority earlier.

    The problem with the Tiger II's in the Ardennes is that Peiper inexplicably drove past the fuel dump at Stavelot and was running out of gas 24 hours later when hit by US armor. Why he did that has never been explained. He knew the gas was there, made one little feint towards it and then drove on. A Tiger II without gas is just a steel fortification.
     
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  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I wonder if McNair and the US Army get too much of a bad press over the TD concept. The US Army knew a lot about German army doctrine. Attacking US infantry (and armour) would expect the Germans to mount a counter assault or counter attack to try to dislodge them before they had consolidated their gains. If the Germans had tanks they would be part of the counter attack. Towed Tank Destroyers" would be expected to follow up the attack and deploy ready to kill the counter attacking German armour. The US 3" TD units were better equipped than the British 17 pdr units because the US TD units' armoured half tracked were better suited than the Quad FAT for crossing ground not yet free of the odd bullet to mortar round. That is a sensible doctrine and not very different from the techniques used by the Germans against the British or the Soviets. It wasn't McNair's fault that the US Army faced infantry rather than armour in Italy and Normandy. It would have been had the US Army not been adequately armed with anti-tank guns.

    Re Peiper. I am not sure that Peiper was aware of the fuel depot at between Stavalot and Franchorchamps, or needed to top up fuel at that point in time. The previous day he had refuelled from captured stocks at Bullingen less than 20 miles back. His vehicles should have had well over half a tank of fuel even if idling for most of the day.

    On the early hours of the 18th December he was behind time and thought he had a clear run to the Meuse - and only a narrow window of opportunity to get there before the Allies blocked his route. If fact he was already too late. There is a bigger question about Peiper. Why did he allow his vehicles to halt for most of the night of the 17/18th on the road ESE of Stavelot? There was an ambush by a tiny US force of engineers which stopped the KG for many hours, but the Germans didnlt seem to do anything until dawn. We know Peiper had a meal in the evening of the 17th with his divisional commander in the rather smart restaurant in Leigneville. Had he switched off? Was he and his men exhausted having been on the road since 15th Dec?
     
  4. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    Im not sure why Monty did not plan for the Hedgerows, but the allies clearly did not expect the Germans to fight for as long as they did in Normandy. The belief was that the Germans would withdraw to the Seine.
     
  5. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    There are two interviews with Peiper during his captivity immediately after the war. In one, he clearly states that he was aware of the depot outside of Stavelot - it was marked on his map. In the other, the interviewer asks him if he was aware that he was within 300 yards of a fuel depot at "Spa" (obviously meaning Stavelot). In that interview, Peiper just shrugs and says "I'm sorry" and the interviewer interprets that to mean he was unaware of the depot. I think that shrug meant he hadn't been near Spa, or something like that.

    Yet, a column of his did get within 300 yards of the depot at Stavelot and it was on fire - or, a portion was since they had set fire to thousands of gallons to block the road. That would be pretty hard to miss. Yet, Peiper drove on towards Trois Ponts.

    Why did he stop outside of Stavelot? He stopped because his column was strung out and needed to catch up. That's what he said, but it is only in hindsight that we know how big a blunder that was. As far as he knew, he'd cracked the line and had little to fear at that time. Still, it was a poor tactical decision since he could have taken the bridge and secured the town, then waited for the rest of his column.

    All in all, Peiper wasn't a very good leader.
     
  6. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    The British high command were fully aware of the dangers of the Tiger and Panther before D-Day, it was the reason they rushed into service the Sherman Firefly and modified M-10's both fitted with the powerful 17 pdr gun.
     
  7. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Kodiak Beer,

    I don't think Peiper came at all close to the the fuel depot on the road between Stavelot and Francochamps. I used the After the Battle photos to find the place on the road.where the photos of piles of burned jerry cans were taken. Its at least 2 km North of Stavelot and after a steep one Km climb from Stavelot at 90 degrees to the direction Peiper was supposed to be advancing. I can see how Peipe would have turned left in the valley as soon as his men had taken the bridge at Stavelot.

    Peiper wasn't exactly a shining example of incisive leadership between 16-18 Dec 1944. However, I am not sure many of us are at our best after 36-48 hours with little sleep. The exfiltration of the remains of his command after a week was carried out with determination. . I suspect he and hsi command knew that the game was up by night on 17th Dec when they should have been on the Meuse. One of the accounts describe's Peiper's men having a party the night before the break out. (Though It may have been in a Charles Whiting book and therefore unreliable)
     
  8. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    He did - or a column of his did. A column of armored vehicles drove up that road to within sight of the fire and the GI's and Belgian military people there. They didn't take any aggressive action, just turned around and went back. Nobody really knows who they were or what their purpose was. They could have been a company that got lost in the streets of the town and just exited there. Or, they could have been a recon for the fuel depot who decided it was on fire and lost (it wasn't, only a fraction of the depot was burned) and went back to join the main force.
     
  9. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    That is what it says in the official History so it must be correct. ;)

    It is true that some of the fuel dump was set on fire. There is much less certainty about what the Germans were doing and where. The transcript of the post war interviews with Peiper which formed US National Archives Foreign studies Kampfgruppe Peiper, 15-26 Dec 1944 MS # C-004, makes no mention of any force advancing North from Stavelot, and the orders are to head West for Trois Ponts.
     
  10. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    First we must accept the statements made by German officers post war, either in iterrogation's or memiors with an element of caution. For a legion of reason's they have incentive to be less than candid and in Peiper's case I believe he was an unrepentent Nazi until his death.

    As for what happened or did not happen when, I believe there is a much simpler, though perhaps much less appealing answer.

    Peiper was the lead element of an attacking force with objectives to capture. The German phylosophy was to give objectives, then allow the office commanding to choose his means and method for himself. In the early war Germany had the best tactical officers while facing some who were l;ess skilled, looking brilliant by comparison.

    By 1944 the shoe was on the other foot, and even a simple mistake or choice of action could turn the battle against you. Likely he considered the quality of his troops, both in numbers and ability, against what he knew the Allies could eventually throw against him and gambled.

    Gambled and lost.
     
  11. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    It happened. A number of GI's and Belgian military (guarding the depot) saw them. If you recall, the latter portion of Peiper's column began taking alternate routes through Stavelot because the town square was never really controlled by the Germans. The first part of the column just got through by "shoot and scoot" but as the morning wore on, the 1st Battalion, 117th, began arriving and fire around the square became very heavy. Some AT guns that were already there went back into action (now that they were supported) and a number bazooka teams began harassing the column. Also, some heavy mortars were deployed north of town and began shelling key intersections.
    The German column began detouring through various side-streets. That part of the battle is most famously remembered by the events around King Tiger 105. It dodged into a narrow street to avoid the square and took a hit on the mantlet from something (rifle grenade, bazooka, mortar....) then backed into a building and buried itself.

    At any rate, the last portion of Peiper's column did not simply drive through town on the main road. It was broken up and vehicles were shooting their way through every street in town. The column that came out to the north may simply have been one of these groups. They may not have been trying to seize the depot, but they did come very close to it. Unless somebody can find out who they were, we'll never know if they were simply lost or actually ordered to seize the depot.

    This aspect of the drive through Stavelot also comes into play in the subsequent murder of civilians. The first part of the column came through unscathed, with only a little light fire after destroying the AT guns at the bridge. But, the last part of the column was being fired on by two newly arrived companies (A and B) of GI's from the 117th, many of whom went into buildings and began sniping at the armor. The Germans thought it was the Belgian resistance and it was one of the excuses they used for subsequent reprisals against civilians.
     
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