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Tiger Tactics - East Front - July 1944

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Here's A Little New Year's Gift For All The Armor Enthusiasts Out There

Tigers In The Mud by Otto Carius. - The Ambush, July 1944

Behind the village (Malinava), an assault gun battalion has already suffered heavy casualties (7). It would be too dangerous for us to attack the village on line. Two tanks will drive into the village at full speed and surprise Ivan. He must not be allowed to fire a shot. Lt. Nienstedt will bring the remaining six tanks. Herr Nienstedt! You will remain on the reverse slope until I give you further orders. Let's just hope that the patron saint of radios isn't sleeping! Remember one thing more than anything else: as long as you are patient, everything will work. The first two are Kerscher and me. Everything else should be obvious. What will happen later will be determined by the situation as it develops.

I then took my trackmate (Kerscher) aside and discussed everything with him that was important. I'll lead and both of us will advance to the center of the village as quickly as possible where we will quickly get our bearings. You will orient to the rear, and I'll orient to the front. We will then take care of anything that stands in our way. I estimate that at least one company is in the village, unless the rest of the Russian battalion has closed in the meantime.

We quickly checked our radios, and the engines were started up. In a flash, we were over the rise, and in the Russians' line of sight. My driver got everything out of our crate that he could. Each of us knew at that point that only speed was decisive. Both of the Russian tanks covering toward our side didn't initially react at all. Not a shot was fired. I immediately drove just past the center of the village. Kerscher, who had approached the village about 150 me behind me, noticed that the turrets of both Russian tanks were moving. HE immediately stopped, and knocked out both of them. At the same instant, I also began to mop up on the other end of the village.

After Kerscher had closed on me, he radioed and pointed to the right. A Stalin tank was broadside to us next to a barn. It was a vehicle that we hadn't yet seen. We were startled for a moment, because the tank was outfitted with an extremely long 122 mm cannon.

This was the first Russian tank cannon with a muzzle brake. More-over, the Stalin tank looked somewhat similar in its shape to our King Tiger. After I initially hesitated, just as Kerscher did, it occurred to me immediately that only the running gear was typically Russian. I fired and the tank burst into flames. After this short digression, we finished off all of Ivan's vehicles in the village (17 Stalins, and 5 T34s). There had been no Russian infantry in the village. To judge by the lack of movement they (1st Tank Brigade, "Joseph Stalin") had felt completely safe, and the drivers and radio operators had already gone into the houses when we suddenly appeared.

At the same time I started firing in the village, I gave Lt. Mienstedt the order to move slowly over the high ground. He was to ensure that no Russians could flee from the village. They could have then warned the main body of the enemy, which was closing. This measure proved of great importance for the later conduct of our operation.

The entire affair in the village hadn't lasted a quarter of an hour. Only two Russian tanks tried to flee to the east. None of the others found any opportunity to move. The surprise attack had succeeded without a hitch because we had arrived at precisely the right time. As it turned out, the Russians had reported to their unit that everything was in order on the road. The main body could proceed without alarm.

Time was pressing, and I had the six Tigers go into position as quickly as possible behind a small rise in the ground. They were set up in such a manner that they had a field of fire onto the road where we expected Ivan. The position was magnificently camouflaged by my men. We controlled the road for a length of about two to three kilometers. It disappeared behind a rise to the left of us.

We were in the greatest suspense for the next half hour. We finally recognized some dust clouds to the east. Using my scope, I was soon able to identify the tanks that were slowly approaching. Ivan didn't know anything about the bad luck of his advance guard because infantry was sitting on the tanks, the cannons were in the travel position, and the Russians were moving as if on a road march behind the front. We could also make out trucks between the tanks. These were most likely transporting fuel and munitions.

Those guys were moving past us, at most, they were a kilometer away. Ten to fifteen men were standing or sitting on every tank. Just as the first Russian tank wanted to disappear behind the protective high ground, I gave the order to fire. What then took place would make the heart of every tanker beat faster. I was so beside myself, that I jumped out of the tank to better view the spectacle.

The panic was unimaginable. Not a single shot was fired from a Russian tank. Naturally, we didn't have any time to spend with the fleeing Russian infantry. After we finished off all the vehicles the entire column was burning. Some of the trucks were overturned. Twenty-eight tanks were in front of us, burning and smoldering. With each passing moment, a fuel tank exploded; the ammunition rattled and ripped the turrets apart. We then withdrew our tanks back to the village.

All the best,

Andy

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