SS PANZER BATTALION 501
Tigers in the Ardennes
Author: Hugues Wenkin and Christian Dujardin
Chapters: 5 with an Introduction, a Conclusion, Notes and Bibliography
Publisher: Pen and Sword
This book contains over 200 original B&W photos with information for each photo. There are various first-hand accounts from soldiers that served during the Ardennes Offensive.
As I began reading this book I started flipping through the pages and found some amazing photos of many Tiger tanks that fought in the Battle of the Bulge. The back cover provided some interesting information.
- Most comprehensive study published
- The fate of each Tiger tank analyzed in depth
- Over 200 original photos
- Based on archival documents and visits to the locations
- Written by historians with a technical background
When I read the back cover, I was very intrigued as to what was in store when I read this book. I found that it is well written and very accurate. If you are scale modeler that likes to build Battle of the Bulge Tigers, this book is an excellent resource. Both for information and photos. So, let’s dive into the book.
The Introduction (4 Pages) summarizes the goal of “Wacht am Rhein” operation; to take Antwerp. The who, what, when and where of how the plan would be executed.
Chapter 1: (33 Pages) The Station of the Cross of KG Pieper (16 Dec 44 – 15 Jan 45)
This chapter discusses the Order of Battler for Obersturmbannfuhrer Joachim Peiper Kampfgruppe, known as Peiper’s KG. It details the equipment of Peiper’s KG, the objective of his mission, and the delays in his schedule. There is a recount of K. Wortman who was a crew member of a Wirbelwind Flak gun. Also discussed are the events of December 17th with the capture of Honsfeld and the massacre of American POWs. There is also a testimony Peiper gave to Major Kenneth W. Heckler on 7 September 1945 about his failed attempt to capture Stavelot.
There is much more detail in this chapter. You will read about the flight to safety and how the Thunderbolts caused many losses to the KG, and how Pieper was stopped at La Gleize. You will also read about the courageous efforts of the 1/504 Parachute Infantry Regiment in recapturing Cheneux. One interesting fact I read that I did not know was that the 1/504th Parachute Infantry Regiment from the 82nd ABN received one of their Presidential Unit Citations during the battle of Chenuex. The Endgame in the Northern Sector will explain how Peiper lost all his “rolling stock” and barely escaped. And the final sections discuss the Road to Bastogne and the disastrous outcome for the German Army.
Chapter 2: (7 Pages) The Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 501
This chapter discusses the history of the Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 501 from its inception on 10 May 1942 to the day the “Wacht am Rhein” operation started. One very interesting section titled “A Band of Wild Animals” provides a detailed list of each company, the staff, Tiger tank numbers and the commander of each Tiger. It also tells you the color of the numbers for each Tiger, which is very valuable if you are building that particular Tiger.
Chapter 3: (41 Pages) Tigers Lost Between the Start Line and Stavelot
This chapter discusses the Tigers that were lost from the beginning of the campaign through the battle for Stovelot. It details how the “Big Cats” 131, 105, 008, 222, and 132 met their demise. This was either by enemy fire or mechanical issues. This chapter provides the order of battle for these tanks along with maps detailing the terrain and locations. Just a side note this chapter mentions that tank 222 was the most photographed King Tiger.
There are also quite a few first-hand accounts from both US and German Soldiers about some of the various battles. Some very detailed photos of the disabled tanks and some descriptions about how they were knocked out are in this chapter.
I will say it again, the photos and detailed information about the various Tigers and commanders are and will be an excellent resource for AMPS members who are looking to get their research points.
Chapter 4: (30 Pages) From Trois-Ponts to La Glaize
Similar to the previous, this chapter details the King Tigers (KTs) that battled from Trois-Ponts to La Glaize. One of these KTs included the famous 332 that was evacuated to Aberdeen Proving Ground MD, and finally found its way to the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, KY. This is the one where the sides were opened up for visitors to see the inside. It now resides at Fort Benning/Fort Moore. Other KTs included in this chapter are 223 – The Giant with Clay Feet, 104 – The Sacrificial Martyr, Tigers 221 and 213, Tiger 334’s Last Stand, and Tiger 204.
As with Chapter 3, this chapter details the mission and demise of the aforementioned KTs along with detailed accounts from the soldiers and civilians that were present and some great photos and maps. They show a series of photos of Tank 332 being loaded.
Chapter 5: (25 Pages) Scattered in Small Detachments
This is a very interesting chapter. Why? One of the reasons is there is a first-hand account by Colonel George K. Rubel commander of the 740th Tank Battalion where he describes in detail the attack on a King Tiger. There also the after-action report that also describes this encounter. Along with great photos and personal accounts the authors describe how the Shermans dealt with the King Tigers. Being outgunned by the tigers, the Shermans would out maneuver them and attack. But you will have to get the book to learn more.
In this chapter you will also find how Tigers 312, 331 taken out of commission and the discussion about Tiger 304. B Battery 987th Field Artillery Battalion is involved in this discussion and their history is also provided along with some photos.
The German retreat from Bastogne is also cited in Chapter 5 with an account from the 30th ID G2 describing the German Defensive method.
Conclusion: (9 Pages) Autopsy of a Fiasco
In this conclusion the authors dissect the Wacht am Rhein battle plan. They discuss the mistakes made in planning, like the routes, equipment, Order of Battle, fuel and resupplies. There is an interview with Peiper after the war about what he would have done differently. It is quite interesting, especially his last comment – “Put a general on every street corner to regulate traffic” LOL. I guess he didn’t care much for them. Also, Albert Speer provides a report to Hitler from his inspection on 31 Dec.
The authors also discussed how the King Tiger was not utilized correctly based on Doctrine. They also compare the KT with the Tiger and Panther and provide details about weight, fuel consumption and more. Finally, they provide a “Balance Sheet”. They identify 18 KTs and how they were lost during the battle.
I highly recommend this book if you are interested in the Battle of the Bulge and how the Germans lost. There are also some great references to various King Tiger tanks if you are modelling one from the Ardennes. I summarized this book, but there is much detailed information in the pages of this book. It seems from reading there may be second book down the road because they keep finding more details of this battle in their research. The photos are great, the first-hand account stories are interesting and the details of each KT well-defined.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Casemate Publishing for this review book.
Reviewed by Frank Froment (AMPS Sponsorship Coordinator, Minuteman AMPS)
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