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Was the Ferdinand/Elefant really a failure?

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by Walter_Sobchak, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

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    I'm not sure if this has been addressed here before, but I was wondering what everyone thought about the Ferdinand/Elefant? Ever since I was a kid, I kept running across books that described the vehicle as a failure, usually noting that it's lack of secondary armament made it vulnerable to soviet infantry. In my youth I imagined soviet soldiers non-nonchalantly strolling up to them and slapping magnetic charges on the vehicles with impunity. Of course, as I got older and read more, I gained a more realistic picture of the Elefant. Still, I kept running into books describing the vehicle as a failure or a waste, even when they would acknowledge it's firepower and armor. This all got me thinking, was the Ferdinand/Elefant a failure? Some sources have noted that it finished the war with a 10:1 kill ratio. That hardly sounds like a failure to me. Many accounts make it sound as if these vehicles all got wiped out at Kursk, and yet sources say there were 50 left after the battle. Considering that only 91 total were built, that means more than half of them survived the battle. Considering the appalling attrition suffered by the tank forces at Kursk, this ratio does not seem so bad.

    Certainly this vehicle had some serious shortcomings. It was slow and heavy and suffered from reliability issues. In that way it was not much different from most late war German designs. It also gets criticized as a waste of resources, but that seems odd to me. The chassis for the vehicle already existed, Porsche counted his chickens before they hatched and had made 100 or so hulls of his failed tiger prototype. By converting these into Elefants, it seems to me the Germans got pretty good value out of something that was essentially waste. So why does this vehicle seem to get so much hate? I half suspect part of it is because it was so damn ugly, being not nearly as elegant looking as many other German late war designs. Thoughts anyone?
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The use in Kursk as leading forces into battle was totally wrong. They were used perfectly for instance in Orel battles were thereĀ“s clear view for miles and these "beasts" were able to knock out tanks in big numbers.
     
  3. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    Like the Tiger the problem was the Ferdinand was only useful in one situation. Stand off defence. How useful were Tigers in the battle of the Bulge? The Germans could have gotten a lot more value out of using the material for other tanks or Stugs. The stat of the 10 to 1 is misleading because like the Tiger, for every real successful tank there were others who never got off a shot. Say instead of the 90 built, the Germans made 250 stugs and they only got a 4 to one ratio that is 1000 tanks killed and you have a vehicle that is of more use.
     
  4. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    The short answer is yes an no in nearly equal propotions.

    Yes it was ugly, but intimidating to those going up against it.

    Yes it was a waste of materials, yet a clever use of existing chassis.

    The problem stems from the lack of focus Germany had in tank design, and in nearly all weapons designs as well. After the Battle of France Germany should have realized that the Pz. III and 38t simply could not cut it as a main battle tank, yet they remained in production well into 1942. Ganted the made do with the various Marder's and StuG's, but they weren't tanks per se. As Kai points out using them as such didn't pan out.

    Someone somewhere should have not let Porcshe build 90 odd chassis for a design not yet approved. Germany was trying to keep too many designs running at the same time. In 1943-45 a German Panzer division might have an ungodly mix of Pz III, IV, V, VI, Marder, Hetzer and StuG's all at the same time. From a logistical standpoint a nightmare.

    It really doesn't matter how good a kill ratio the Elephant had, in the numbers Germany could produce it would not make any real difference. However many StuG's Germany could have produced for the same amount of steel and time (120-150?) they wopuld have gotten nearly the same results without adding to their logistical troubles. That the chassis was mechanicly unreliable only compounds the problem.
     
  5. Walter_Sobchak

    Walter_Sobchak Member

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    Something else I was wondering about was why did they send these vehicles to Italy? A vehicle as heavy and as well armed at the Elefant was best suited for open terrain such as the steppes of Russia. Why send it to the much more broken terrain of Italy?
     
  6. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    This likely stemmed from Hitler's belief that his wonder weapons could indeed work wonders where-ever he might decide to employ them. Also it was far easier to deploy a company of Elephant's than it was to find a spare division laying about.
     
  7. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Have to agree there were too many tanks, They should have limited them a lot more, For example the StuG III, Stop that production and switch to the StuG IV entirely.. producing both the Pz IV and StuG IV would make Germany's logistical nightmares easier..

    As for the Elefant, Great tank in a purely defensive role however, Being in such a role you would think it would be just as easy to produce 10 times as many static defenses to do the same role, Would rather 900 heavy pill boxes spread out across the field and in depth rather then just 90 Elefants that would break down half the time...
     
  8. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    A passing point, but one I believe is always worthwhile mentioning when it crops up:
    Equating base steel used in larger machines with a greater number of potential smaller ones isn't really logical.
    Every extra machine requires Gun, sights, engine, MGs, etc., with all the special materials and production problems that implies - it's never a question of a straightforward material swap, particularly in Wartime Germany's industrial context. And then there's Fuel & other logistical support per-vehicle on top.
    The material requirement for an Elefant's BFG are broadly similar to a much smaller armament, when you consider the steel tube itself as perhaps the easiest part of it's production, though ammunition may indeed be a different burden, there's still always a case for the Bigger F-ing G.
    Just saying...
    http://www.ww2f.com/what-if-other/20263-german-favour-mark-iv-main-battle-tank.html#post241280

    Has to be noted re. Elefant, that once the chassis had been made (whether an error or not), it was industrially more efficient to use them for 'something' than break them up and start again.

    ~A
     
  9. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    10:1 ratio so roughly 900 kills by a single batallion that rarely had more than 30 operational vehicles is a bit hard to believe. But the beast at long range it was likely to survive hits from most alliet AT guns while very few alliet tanks had a chance a resisting a KwK 43 hit. One element to consider is that in 1944 Germany was more short of trained troops than tanks, this led to the tank heavy panzer brigades that usually failed miserably, IMO the choice to attempt to match allied quantity with quality made a lot of sense.
     
  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    It was a heavily armoured long range anti tank gun, manned by the german artillery. When used to pick off enemy tanks at long range it was the right tool for the job. It could pick off KV1 KV2 and KV85 and any old T34 variantS it was Ok if you could see for 3km and were fighting at long range. It was not very effective as an assault gun and not very effective in the attack at Turks and useless at Anzio, but, then it was an anti tank gun and not an assault howitzer.

    It was also very heavy and had a complex engine and transmission system which made the Tiger I (H) appear low maintenance. Although nearly invulnerable to fire, most were abandoned or destroyed by their crews when they broke down somewhere awkward.

    I am a little sceptical about the claimed kill/ loss rates for this gun. It is claimed that at Orel the Germans knocked out 300 tanks for the loss of 13. How did they know how many russian tanks were knocked out? The Russians held the field at the end of the battle. These were long ranged shots? These are ideal circumstances for over claiming. I am not saying that I know it to be false, but I am not convinced by a one sided analysis of the battle.

    One test of how good a weapon is is whether anyone else tried to copy it. The Soviets, British and US armies at some stage all felt disadvantaged when engaging enemy armour at long range. The Soviets used each emerging generation of tanks to carry the next generation of big tank gun. The SU85, SU100 and SU152 follow this pattern, and the pattern was extended post war. But they used common very reliable tank chassis and deployed enough to make a difference. Both the British and US army were developing a heavily armoured anti tank gun, but neither came into service.

    It was a yet another German gimmicky freak weapon system only built because the German armaments industry was completely out of control. The same production effort might have added two division's worth of panther tanks. Whether the psychological impact on the enemy was worth it? Who knows , but despite the rogue elephants the Germans still lost.




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  11. ptimms

    ptimms Member

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    The whole lack of an MG thing is a legend, if you read the notes from the battalion commanders after the battles one says the lack of am MG is not an issue and the other is not greatly concerned. I haven't the figures to hand but I think only 3 were lost to infantry and these weren't total right offs. I think it stems from the fact that about half their losses were to mines, but these were buried in the ground ones not magnetics (and bizarrely the highest cause of loss was an unmarked German minefield they went through)..
     
  12. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    I agree that using the already built chassies to create the Ferdinand was the correct move, And must say wouldn't have been against them producing more but the biggest problem is that they failed to use them effectively. Under better leadership they could have served as very useful mobile strong points being able to take out the strongest Russian armour at range leaving the Pz IV's, Stug's etc to deal with the remainder. All in all, I'd actually have to say by that time in the war with there ability to actually launch a decent enough offensive depleted that half of the Tiger's they were building should have been converted into Ferdinands.

    50/50 mix of Ferdinands/Tigers
    more Stug IV's while phasing out production of Stug III's,
    More Pz IV's while working out the kinks in the Panther's.

    Would have made a more capable all round force that could effectively defend as well as attack when needed.
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Except the Tigers that were being built were the Henschel Tigers, and the Ferdinand/Elephant were based on the Porsche's Tiger chassis. Porsche had begun production of his "Tiger" before it was accepted/rejected by the German Army. Even after it's rejection, Porsche continued to produce his "Tiger" - until some 90 chassis had been produced. Converting the Henschel Tiger into something that resembled a Ferdinand/Elephant would have been an entirely new beast.
     
  14. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    While it would be different to an extent it's still in simple term's the same modifications producing the same capabilities, A strong moveable defense.
     
  15. Panzer4000

    Panzer4000 New Member

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    The Stug IV was only invented because Panzer III hull's were running low so they switched to Panzer IV hulls
     
  16. Panzer4000

    Panzer4000 New Member

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    The Ferinard/Elefant were expiremental vechiles and Porsche (the guy who made them) thought since he was close to Hitler he would win so he built about 90 and the main deference between Ferinard and Elefant is that the Elefant has a MG on it. Both had great range and in a book I read the Russian's were amazed at the range
     
  17. CalanorM

    CalanorM New Member

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    The Elefant was not elegant, but is was a big killer. Because of the massive armor the crew was well protected. The long 88 gun made it able to knock out tanks at 3 km distance. The big problem with the Elefant was its weight. It was to heavy and underpowered. In Russia it can become very muddy. Getting a Elefant out of the mud is not easy not even with 2 heavy half tracks. This made the Elefant (also because of it low speed) inflexible and expensive to maintain. Still they had a perfect killing record and after Kursk the remaining Elefants were revised.

    In earlier posts i read that the Tiger was not so suited for a offensive role. I think it was perfect for this role. It had a perfect balance of firepower, armor and horsepower to weight ratio.
     
  18. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    That depends on what the objective of the "offensive" is. The Tiger I made a fairly excellent "breakthrough" tank. However, once that breakthrough is achieved you would likely want something with some more range to make the run into the enemy's rear areas.
     
  19. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

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    RE use in Italy, the TIger was introduced in the swamps near Leningrad where it got stuck and captured by the Soviets.
     
  20. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Maybe Hitler thought that Italian mud was less gooey and Italian bridges were more sturdier than those of their Rooskie counterparts.
     

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