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The Monster AFV Tank Destroyer of WW2: Ferdinand-Elephant

Updated on March 6, 2013
A monster that is nullified by infantry
A monster that is nullified by infantry
The 88mm shell
The 88mm shell
Rear armor thickness
Rear armor thickness
The crew of one. Did they survive the war? Most were not older than 20 yrs.
The crew of one. Did they survive the war? Most were not older than 20 yrs.

Hitler wanted a truly impenetrable armor tank. His Tiger tank was one such AFV and when first encountered by the Americans in Tunisia, 1943, all their shells bounced off this German tank. It was far superior to anything AFV the allies had. This tank would remain one tank to avoid being able to hit enemy tanks from as far as 2000-2500 yds and penetrate allied armor with its 88mm shells.

The Ferdinand or Elephant debuted in the Battle of Kursk, 1943, where thousands of tanks fought one another. The new tank was part of the Heavy Panzerjager 654 battalion (with 83 operational). From the front, its nearly 8" thick armor plate was impenetrable. It was powered by two 300 hp engines and weighed 29 tons. Because of the weight, its top speed was only 12 mph. With a size being 27 ft. long, 11 ft. wide and 10 ft. high, it was feared and a target for the Russians opposing it. It consumed fuel at the rate of 1200 liters for every 100 km! The armor, even on the side and rear, could stop 76mm shells from penetrating.

The design was flawed because it had no defensive machine gun to pin and deter infantry from getting close with anti-tank weapons, the crew inside had little view ports to see what was going on outside of the pillbox, thus, there were many blind spots. The tracks were not protected and subject to breakdown or worse. In fact, in one attack, one third out of 44 tanks became crippled from land mines. Occupants reported that even when enemy aircraft bombed it or the AFV took a direct artillery hit only little damage occurred. However, combat reports also indicate that was not always case.

But as a defensive weapon when protected, it could destroy any tank from 2500 yards and the Russians found this out a few times in the Kursk battle as tank units were decimated. But, the new tank proved to be a fragile thing once the Russians closed in with infantry and attacked the tracks of the tank. Once crippled, they were pummeled with artillery and tanks at close range for the new German tank did not have a turret, like the Tiger, with the same gun. Once crippled, the tank became a target and coffin for the crew. With so many blind sides and a main gun that could face one direction, it was deemed a failure.

Its failure is still debated. How the new tank was used in its first battle seems to be wrong, although, when the new tanks were used, other tanks with turrets also went into battle to help provide defense for it (since it could not rotate its gun). When used correctly defensively, it was lethal. Most tanks at this time had to be within 700 yards to aim and be able to destroy another tank.

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