19 June 2013

Tiger Commander of Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503 Confers With "Totenkopf" Panzergrenadiers

Image size: 1600 x 1152 pixel. 723 KB
Date: Friday, 13 August 1943
Place: Khruschevo, Nikitovka Line, Belogrod Oblast, Soviet Union
Photographer: SS-Kriegsberichter Willi Merz

In most publication (also on the internet), this famous picture (which was taken by SS-Kriegsberichter Willi Merz) always attributed to the German offensive in the Kursk battle (5-16 July 1943), but actually it is AFTER that (the Soviet counterattack, 12 July-23 August 1943). It shows Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I ausf.E (Sd.Kfz.181) Turmnummer (Turret Number) 313, 3.Kompanie, 1.Zug (Platoon) 3rd Vehicle, leads another Tiger of Schwere Panzer Abteilung (Heavy Tank Battalion) 503 that has stopped to confer with panzergrenadiers of III.Bataillon/SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment 6 "Theodor Eicke"/3.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division "Totenkopf" (Death's Head) as they attack during a commanders' roll-call, ironing out the details of co-operation during the advance along the Khruschevo - Nikitovka Line, August 13, 1943 (part of the Battle of Belogrod on August 13-14, 1943). The Panzergrenadiers are wearing the distinctive SS camouflage smocks, the Tarnschlumpfjacke. Note that the one in the center has a matching pair of trousers. Note also the type of improvised turret stowage bin, distinctive for the s.Pz.Abt.503! After the failure of Operation Zitadelle (Citadel) to take the city of Kursk in July 1943, substantially reduced German divisions withdrew to their previous positions around the town of Belogrod. Schwere Panzer Abteilung 503, over the commander's protests, was ordered to attach its three companies to three SS Panzergrenadier Divisions. This had the effect of blunting the Tiger force available and left the tanks without mutual armored support. Outnumbered ten to one, the Tigers, Panzers and Sturmgeschütz assault guns used their superior training and tactics, and the heavy armor of the Tigers, to assist Totenkopf's drive on the Merla River to link up with elements of the 4. Panzerarmee. Despite forcing the Germans to withdraw from Belogrod on August 6, the heavy Soviet tank losses prevented the total destruction of the German forces. Between July 5 and August 7, 1943, schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503 claimed to have destroyed 385 tanks, 4 assault guns, and 265 antitank guns. On August 13 alone, Tiger 332 knocked out three T-34 medium tanks, two KV-1 medium tanks, one SU-122 assault gun and five antitank guns! The Battalion lost one tank and Leutnant Konrad Weinert was wounded.

Book "PzKpfw V Tiger vol.II" by Tadeusz Melleman

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