502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion
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|502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion|
|Equipment||Tiger I, Tiger II, Hetzer|
|Engagements||Eastern front, 1942–1945|
The 502nd Heavy Panzer Battalion (German: Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 502) was a German World War II independent armoured battalion (German: Abteilung) equipped with heavy tanks. The battalion was the first unit to receive and field the Tiger I. It fought on the Eastern front. It was one of the most successful German heavy tank battalions, claiming the destruction of 1,400 tanks and 2,000 guns.
The 502nd was formed on 25 May 1942 at Bamberg from the 35th Panzer Training Battalion (German: Panzer-Ersatz-Abteilung 35). On 23 July Hitler ordered that the first Tiger I tanks be sent to the Leningrad Front. The 502nd became the first unit to receive Tiger Is when on 19 and 20 August 1942 four Tiger Is were sent to the unit, which only partially equipped one company (German regulations called for a heavy tank battalion of three companies, with 45 tanks in total). On 29 August 1942 the 502nd arrived at the Leningrad Front.
The 502nd took the Tiger I into combat for the first time on 16 September 1942 south of Lake Ladoga near Leningrad. On 22 September, after crossing a causeway, a Tiger became bogged down in the mud, due to enemy fire the tank could not be recovered despite a number of attempts; the tank was destroyed on 25 November to prevent its capture by the enemy. This marked the first total loss of a Tiger I. Several more Tigers and Panzer IIIs arrived on 25 September and were used to completely equip the 1st company. Several more Tiger Is were issued to the unit in February 1943 as replacements for losses.
On January, 14th, 1943 Soviet troops disabled and captured one of battalion's Tigers during the Operation Spark near Leningrad. Another vehicle was captured several days later. Both Tigers were quickly brought to Kubinka experimental armor facility where they were thoroughly analyzed to develop and organize strategies to counter the tank only 4 months after its first appearance on the battlefield.
On 1 April 1943 a second and third company were formed. 31 Tigers were shipped to the unit in mid to late May 1943, they brought the battalion up to full strength. In June 1943, due to a change in the organization of heavy tank battalions, the 1st company was completely outfitted with Tiger Is, rather than a mix of Tigers and Panzer IIIs.
The 502nd participated in engagements on the Eastern Front during 1943 and 1944. The unit operated around Lake Ladoga from July to September 1943 and Newel, near Belarus during November and December 1943 covering the retreat of German forces from the Leningrad area. The 502nd held Narva, Estonia from February to April 1944. The 502nd fought in Pleskau in April and May 1944, then around Dunaburg, Latvia in July.
The 502nd only received a few Tiger IIs. The last 13 Tiger IIs built were picked up directly at the factory by crews of the 3rd Company of the 510th and the 3rd company of the 502nd on 31 March 1945. The 502nd received eight Tiger IIs and took the tanks into combat on 1 April 1945.
Re-designated to 511
The 502nd was re-designated the 511th on 5 January 1945. Due to the lack of Tiger IIs the battalion was issued with a mix of Tiger Is, Tiger IIs, and Hetzer tank destroyers. It fought on the Eastern Front until 27 April when the battalion was disbanded. It surrendered to the Red Army on 9 May. By then the battalion had been issued 105 Tiger Is and eight Tiger IIs. It claimed the destruction of 1,400 enemy tanks, and 2,000 guns.
- Major Märker (August to November 1942)
- Hauptmann Wollschläger (November 1942 to February 1943)
- Major Richter (February to July 1943)
- Hauptmann Schmidt (July to August 1943)
- Hauptmann Lange (August to October 1943)
- Major Willy Jähde (October 1943 to March 1944)
- Major Schwaner (April to August 1944)
- Hauptmann von Foerster (August 1944 to April 1945)
- Doyle and Jentz. Tiger I Heavy Tank, p. 21
- Schneider pp. 3–4
- Klages, p. 4
- Schneider pp. 76–77
- Schneider pp. 79–81
- Schneider pp. 81–82
- Schneider pp. 82–83
- Doyle and Jentz. Kingtiger Heavy Tank, p. 39
- Schneider, p. 112
- Klages, p. 9
- Schneider, p. 92
- Doyle, H. and Jentz, T. Kingtiger Heavy Tank, 1942–1945. Osprey Publishing, 2002.
- Doyle, H. and Jentz, T. Tiger I Heavy Tank, 1942–1945. Osprey Publishing, 2003.
- Klages, R. Trail of the Tigers. Lyonsbrook Publishing, 2002.
- Schneider, W. Tigers in Combat I. Stackpole Books, 2004.