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D-Day: Waffen-SS

SS Tiger Units

The bulk of the SS Tigers were issued to the Schwere SS-Panzerabteilungs, but substantial numbers were also issued to the SS-Panzer-Regiments.

Schwere SS-Panzerabteilungs

101. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung

Ordered to be formed on 24 December 1942 from the two Tiger companies of SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” and SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Das Reich”. However, the commander of SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” decided to retain his own Tiger company and didn’t supply crew for the new unit.

The crew instead came from SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Das Reich”, SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Totenkopf” and 1. SS-Panzer-Ersatz-Abteilung. The third company was finally formed from 13./1. SS-Panzer-Regiment in July 1943.

Formation and training continued until October 1943 when the first two companies were attached to SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” for further training with 1. SS-Panzer-Regiment. At the end of October 1. and 2. Kompanies were reassigned to the 1. SS-Panzerdivision “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” as the 13./1. SS-Panzer-Regiment.

101. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung Tiger 131
101. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung Tigers in France

In November 1943 the battalion HQ and 3. Kompanie were sent for training in Augustdorf. Meanwhile the 13./1. SS-Panzer-Regiment were sent to the Russian Front to come under the command of the 4. Panzer-Armee. In March 1944 the crew from the 13./1. SS-Panzer-Regiment returned to the 101. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung and formed back into the 1. and 2. Kompanies.

The battalion moved to France in April 1944 to ready for the expected Allied invasion in the area of the Pas de Calais. 

On 6 June the expected landings arrive, but not as expected on the Pas de Calais, but rather on the beaches of Normandy. On 7 June the 101. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung began moving towards Paris. They were continually strafed by Allied fight-bombers. 1. Kompanie then headed towards Normandy to the area south of Caen, 2. Kompanie headed to Falaise via Argentan and 3. Kompanie also headed west the following day. Most of the movement was conducted at night to avoid attacks by Allied aircraft.

Once in Normandy 101. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung became heavily involved the fighting to hold off the Allies. On 13 June 2. Kompanie and its commander Michael Wittmann were involved in the battle for Villers-Bocage.

The battalion deflects several thrusts during British Operation Epsom in late June. After further fighting 1. Kompanie returns to Germany for re-equipping with Tiger II tanks in July.

On 13 July Wittmann takes over command of the battalion while SS-Sturmbannführer von Westernhagen goes on leave, after returning from leave himself where he had received his Swords to his Knight’s Cross.

Next they were involved in the fighting against Operation Goodwood, but in reduced numbers (only 27 of their initial 42 Tiger I tanks).

101. Schwere crew in France
101. Schwere Tiger in France In August they were supporting 12. SS-Panzerdivision “Hitlerjugend” against Operation Totalize and were involved in fighting around Grimsboq. Near Gaumesnil, while counter-attacking on 8 August, Wittmann’s Tiger (007) was hit in the flank and he and his crew were killed. The most likely culprit is a Firefly of the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry. Meanwhile three Tigers of 2. Kompanie hold up the advance of the Polish 1st Armoured Division.

During August 101. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung retreated with German forces towards Falaise and often acted as a rearguard. They also conducted limited counter-attacks. By 30 August all the Tiger I tanks of the battalion were either destroyed or abandoned.

On 20 August 1944 1. Kompanie arrived in Paris with their new Tiger II tanks (14 tanks). They were immediately sent into action to support 18. Luftwaffefelddivision near Guitrancourt. Like the Tiger I tanks earlier they suffered from Allied air attacks. The attack was directed towards the Seine Bridgehead and the US 79th Infantry Division.1. Kompanie continued to fight until 5 September when it withdrew from the front with its last remaining Tiger II.

In September the battalion was attached to 6. Panzer-Armee and redesignated 501. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung. The remnants of the battalion were moved to Bielefeld to reform.

They were completely refitted with Tiger II tanks. Their next engagement was to be the Ardennes offensive of December 1944. Elements under Kampfgruppe Möbius are then involved in the fighting for Bastogne in late December and January.

A Tiger II passes US prisoners

In February 1945 2. and 3. Kompanies were moved to Hungary and were involved in the offensive to eliminate the Gran Bridgehead. They fought in Hungary until pushed back into Austria. By April 1945 the last few Tiger II tanks were handed over to 509. Schwere Panzerabteilung. Their last operation vehicles were two Jagdtiger brought up to the front in May 1945. They finally surrendered to US troops in Steyr on 9 May 1945.

Meanwhile 1. Kompanie was involved in delivery duties, but finally saw action in April using their sole training Tiger II to defend Germany against US units. They finish the war in Seesen in the Harz Mountains.

1. SS-Panzerkorps symbol 102. Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung

The battalion was established in July 1943 and was quickly sent to the rear area of the combat zone near Kharkov to continue their training. During August they saw combat with SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Das Reich”, with some of the men serving as infantry.

In October 1943 they returned to Germany for refitting and in November they received the official designation of 102. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung.

January to June 1944 was spent in various training and occupation duties in France, the Netherlands and Germany. On 11 June they were sent to France, but after initially being sent to the area around Calais, were redirected towards Normandy. By July they were finally in the combat area and took up positions around Hill 112, which they counter-attacked on 9 July. Like 101. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung,102. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung suffered heavily from Allied air superiority. For the remainder of the month they supported 10. SS-Panzerdivision “Frundsberg” in the area of Maltot, Eterville, Fontaine and St. Martin during the battles for Hill 112, and along the Orne River.

In August they were moved to Vire area and fought alongside 9. SS-Panzerdivision “Hohenstaufen” until withdrawn from the division on 5 August. From 6 August elements of the battalion support 10. SS-Panzerdivision “Frundsberg” around Le Bas Perrier and Chenedolle.

102. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung Tiger
102. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung column in Normandy

On 9 August the Allies breakthrough north of Falaise and 2. Kompanie was sent to Falaise where they took up positions supporting 271. Infanteriedivision. 

The rest of the battalion was sent to Vire to support 12. SS-Panzerdivision “Hitlerjugend” in the defence of the Bretteville-sur-Laize-St. Sylvain line. Together with 12. SS-Panzer-Regiment they halt the Canadian III Corps’ attack at Hill 140, destroying 47 of the 55 Canadian tanks in the process. 

2. Kompanie fought off various Allied thrusts in the area of Bois Halbout on 10-12 August before being ordered to move to Chateaux la Motte on 12 August.

By 14 August they were fighting on the outskirts of Falaise itself, holding off various attacks around the town in the following days. By 16 August the whole battalion was operating around Falaise.

As August drags on 102. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung retreats towards the Seine River. They gradually lose all their Tiger through mechanical failure or lack of fuel and by the time they had retreated pass Brussels they were down to one tank. The Tiger was abandoned at Genval in Belgium on 1 September 1944 where it was disabled with an explosive charge.

102. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung Tiger 211
During September the battalion was gathered for refitting and was redesignated 502. Schwere SS-Panzerabteilung. It is not until December that the first replacement tanks begin to arrive with the battalion. The first 6 Tiger II tanks arrived on 27 December 1944.

It was not until March 1945 that the battalion was once more sent into action. Armed with the Tiger II the battalion launches a night attack on Sachsendorf (Saxony, Eastern Germany) on 22 March. After two days of fighting little progress was made, mainly due to the inexperience of the infantry accompanying them.

During the rest of March and into April they continued to fight against the Soviet onslaught on eastern Germany. By late April they were holding off Soviet troops crossing the Spree River around Prieros and Märkisch-Buchholz.

Their final battle was a Breakout along the Berlin-Cottbus autobahn near Halbe on 27-30 April. The last tank was abandoned due to lack of fuel on 1 May 1945. Many of the battalion’s members crossed the Elbe River to surrender to US forces.

103. Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung

This unit was initially established as II. Battalion of 11. SS-Panzer-Regiment in July 1943. It was first deployed in anti-partisan duties in Croatia in July and took part in the disarmament of an Italian tank regiment in August. During September it then spent September training with the captured tanks and assault guns, before they were once again employed as infantry against the partisans.

It wasn’t until February 1944 that they received their first Tiger Ie tanks for training after being moved back to Germany. They received specialist training at Paderborn during February and March. The Tigers were re-assigned to another unit and the battalion was moved to the Netherlands to continue their training with some old Panzer I tanks.

In May 1944 the trained crews were transferred to the 101. and 102. Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilungs. The battalion received six more Tiger tanks on 26 May 1944 to continue their training. Another four tanks were received on 22 August, but were quickly handed over to 301. Schwere Panzer-Abteilung Funklenk (Radio-control). The battalion immediately started retraining for the Tiger II.

They receive the first four Tiger II tanks in October 1944. They continued to train and received more Tiger II tanks up until the end of January 1945.

Fallschirmjager hitich a ride on a Tiger II
Tiger turret

During this time they are redesignated 503. Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung. 

On 28 January they detrained in Pomerania and were soon thrust into combat against the Soviets. They fought in the area around Arnswald until forced to withdraw on Zachan in mid February.

Some of the battalion was sent to Danzig on 17-18 February. The trains were heavily attacked by the Soviets and the battalion were forced to detrain on a number of occasions.

Other elements of the battalion ended up supporting the 5.Jagerdivision during a Soviet attack around Reetz. By 12 March they are operating with I. battalion of the 7 Grenadier-Regiment around Groß Mishau.

The rest of the battalion arrived in the Danzig Pocket on 22 February 1945. Their first engagement was around Stargard. On 7 March the Soviets launched a massive attack against the pocket. Two Tiger II, one Panzer IV, a StuG and an 8.8cm Flak 36 gun manage to destroy 57 of the 80 tanks attacking, but the Soviets were undaunted and continued the attack.

Soviet attacks carried on throughout March and the Tiger II tanks face off against their Soviet counter part the JS-II heavy tank during many encounters. Later in the month the 503. Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung elements in Danzig support the 11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadierdivision “Nordland”. In early may most of the crews in Danzig were transported back by sea to Swinemünde to rejoin the rest of the battalion around Berlin.

During April the rest of the battalion fought a number of defensive battles to hold off Soviet thrusts towards Berlin. In one engagement near Bollersdorf, on 19 April 1945, Tiger II tanks under SS-Oberscharführer Körner destroyed an assembling armoured brigade of JS-II and T-34/85 tanks (a company of JS-II tanks and approximately 100 T-34 tanks).

By 22 April the battalion has retreated back to Berlin and were engaged in heavy street fighting.

On 3 May the remaining troops, after failing to breakout of the Soviet encirclement, are taken prisoner near Ketzin. Those few crews still in the Danzig pocket surrendered on 9 May 1945.
Tigers directly attached to SS-Panzer-Regiments

13. Kompanie/1. SS-Panzer-Regiment “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler”

In late 1942, despite the planned formation of heavy tank battalions at SS-Panzerkorps level, the SS-Panzerdivisions were allowed to form a Tiger company for each of the Panzer regiments.

In December 1942 tank commanders and crew were detached from the SS-Panzer-Regiment “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” to train with the Tiger Ie in Germany. After training and receiving Tigers and Panzer IIIs the new company is returned to the eastern front in February 1943 to take part in the battles for Kharkov.
LSAH shield symbol
LSAH Tigers in the Ukraine They take part in operations against the Soviet winter offensives and the retaking of Kharkov. In July they fought in Operation Citadel, which include the battle at Prokhorovka.

In August 1943 the company was moved to Italy, leaving their Tigers with the “Das Reich” and “Totenkopf”. They received new Tigers once in Italy. They move back towards the eastern front in October 1943. They rejoin the regiment and were back in combat shortly afterwards. The company was continually in combat with the division and neighbouring units for the remainder of 1943.
In January 1944 the fighting continues and the company was forced to withdraw with other units towards Staro Konstantinovka. Wittmann was recommended for his Knight’s Cross on 10 January (66 kills). During February the company continues fighting in various actions on the eastern front, often supporting units other than its division. What few operational tanks they have are used to support the breakout of the Cherkassey pocket.

On 1 March the 13. Kompanie was official deactivated. Most crew were moved to Belgium, except a few who stayed with the operational vehicles at the front.
LSAH Tigers during the fighting for Kharkov
Those at the front continued to fight and the last tanks were only handed over to the LIX. Armee-Korps on 14 April 1944.
Das Reich shield symbol 8. Kompanie/2. SS-Panzer-Regiment “Das Reich”

In December 1942 the 2. SS-Panzer-Regiment “Das Reich” also formed a heavy tank company. After a period of training between January and February 1943 the company was sent back to the eastern front near Kharkov. They immediately handed their Panzer III tanks to the regiment and retained only the Tiger Ie tanks. They were immediately in action in and around the Kharkov area. They were pushed back from Kharkov in February. They continued to fight around Merefa into March and push back to Kharkov with the rest of the SS-Panzer-Korps.

During July the company joins the rest of the regiment in the Operation Citadel (Kursk) offensive. During August they are once more fighting for Kharkov and by 22 August the SS are pushed out of the city and the Tigers fall back once again to Merefa.

During September they covered the withdrawal to the K Line. During October they fought in the defence of the Dnepr River. Fighting continues in to November and December.

In mid-December the 2. SS-Panzerdivision “Das Reich” prepares to move to France for refit and rest. However a Kampfgruppe was kept on the eastern front including five Tigers.

Das Reich Tiger during the fighting for Kharkov
Das Reich Tiger stops for a moment in a Ukrainian village

During the retreat from the Soviet winter offensive in December 1943 most of the Tigers were lost due to mechanical failures or fuel shortages.

It was not until 10 February 1944 that the Kampfgruppe Tiger crews receive five new Tiger Ie tanks. The few Tigers fight through March with the Kampfgruppe alongside Panzer IVs, Panthers and StuGs until the Kampfgruppe (SS-Regimentsgruppe “Das Reich”) was finally ordered to withdraw from the east on 27 March. By this time all the Tigers were lost and the Kampfgruppe joins the rest of the division in France.  

Das Reich Tiger during Operation Citadel Das Reich Tiger used as a review platform
9. Kompanie/3. SS-Panzer-Regiment “Totenkopf”

Unlike the other two SS-Panzer-Regiments’ Tiger companies the 9./3. SS-Panzer-Regiment “Totenkopf” wasn’t finally integrated into the Schwere SS-Panzerabteilungs, but remained part of their regiment until the end of the war.

In January 1943 the 3. SS-Panzer-Regiment “Totenkopf” received their first Tiger Ie tanks. In February 1943 these first Tigers were sent to the eastern front with the newly trained crews. The unit assembles in Poltava with nine Tiger Ie tanks. In late February it was immediately in action against the Soviets around Pavlograd. It supported 2. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Das Reich” during early March. On 9 March they joined the counter-offensive against Kharkov. On 17 March the company returned to 3. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision “Totenkopf”.
Totenkopf Shield symbol
Totenkopf Tigers operationg with SS-Panzergrenadiers They withdraw from fighting at the end of March. They then received more tank crews, replacement tanks and undergo a period of training until June 1943. During July they take part in Operation Citadel to eliminate reduce the Kursk salient.  On 29 July they received eight Tigers from 13. Kompanie/1. SS-Panzer-Regiment “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler” who has moved to Italy for rest and training.

In August they were fighting around Kharkov, and by September they had been pushed back and take part in fighting around Krassno-Konstantinowsk in late November.

During a slight respite in the fighting the company was able to hold a Christmas party at Dolinskaja Railway Station on 24 December, and a New Years party a few days later.

In early January 1944 they were back in the line once again. Some limited counter-attacks were conducted in January and February, but these were limited by the onset of the spring muddy season and late heavy snowfall.

On 3 March the Soviets launch a major offensive, and the Tigers join the fight around Novo Alexandrovka. The Tigers fought in a Kampfgruppe with a reduced company of Panzer III and IV tanks supporting infantry until finally forced to withdraw on 6 March. Fighting continued throughout March with the few Tigers running working with other elements of the 3. SS-Panzer-Regiment “Totenkopf”.

Totenkopf Tiger crew
Das Reich Tiger advamce through a Eastern forest

In April 1944 the Tigers (now part of Kampfgruppe Pettischellis) cross into Romanian. The remains of the company are transported to Tiraspol for reconstruction.

New Tiger tanks begin to arrive with the company in May. They receive additional Tiger tanks from “Großdeutschland” later in the month, bringing their total to 7 tanks.

In early June they were once more in combat fighting in the defence of Romania. In July the effects of Operation Bagration required the 3. SS-Panzerdivision “Totenkopf” to be ordered north. 

They travel by train to Warsaw and on to Grodno and attack on 17 July. The division was moved once again to cover the 4. Panzer-Armee in case the Soviets make a breakthrough on the Vistula River. In early August a number of Tigers were also used to suppress the Warsaw uprising.

From August to October the Tiger company continued to fight on the Vistula River while attached to 3. SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung.

Das Reich Tiger S01
A Tiger loaded with Fallschirmjager

During November they were in reserve, and then were moved to Hungary in December. They assembled at Komorn in Hungary at the end of December and lead an attack by the division towards Budapest (the objective was Dunaalmas) on 1 January. The offensive (to relieve Budapest) was halted on 12 January 1945, but restarts again on 18 January from further northeast through Sandorka. The offensive continued throughout January until Soviet counter-attacks halt it at the end of the month.

During February the company was not engage in any fighting, but in March the Germans launch Operation “Spring Awakening”. Fighting continued through March against the Soviet counter-offensive with the Tigers operating around Huszar Paz, Fannes Psz., Simontornya, Mor, Kete, the Bakonybel hills, before retreating to Marcczaltö.

The last few tanks of the company and division fight in Austria in early April until the crews in Pitscheldorf destroyed the last of their operational Tigers on 4 April.

The company retreated to Judenau and remained there with the maintenance company where two Tiger I tanks and a Tiger II (from a Heer unit) were repaired. These were crewed by the company, but don’t see combat again before the company surrenders to US forces in Pregarten. The US commander handed the bulk of the prisoners over to the Soviets. 

Last Updated On Thursday, July 9, 2020 by Wayne at Battlefront