Produced from 1942 to 1944, Germany’s Tiger I Heavy Tank saw service in both Europe and Africa. The Tiger’s initial design began in 1937, but little progress was made. However, the German Army’s need for heavily armed and thicker armored tank couldn’t be ignored after the June 1941 invasion of the USSR. Both the Soviet T-34 medium tank and the KV-1 heavy tank were far superior to the Wehrmacht’s Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks.
The Tiger I first saw action in Russia on September 23, 1942. One of the four engaged Tigers became stuck in the mud and was abandoned. The tank was later recovered and studied by the Soviets. Despite this initial setback, the Tiger I saw extensive action in Russia after the fall of Stalingrad in 1942, participating in several defensive engagements.
Despite a solid design and good reputation, the Tiger I suffered one serious design flaw. It was over engineered. A combination of low fuel efficiency, expensive materials, and labor intensive production demands, made the tank difficult to field in large numbers. The Tiger I was also difficult to operate in mud, ice, and snow. Those conditions defined fighting on the Eastern Front.
Originally designed to punch holes into enemy lines , the changing fortunes of the German Army forced the Tiger I into primarily defensive roles. The Tiger I was used for anti-tank and infantry support. When employed in numbers, the Tiger I was used to counter armored enemy advanced. These reactionary roles, which could be filled by cheaper and lower maintenance StuG IIIs and Panzer IVs.
Only 1,300 Tiger I tanks were produced during World War II. The Tigers that were destroyed during the war were scrapped afterwards. Only six Tiger I tanks exist in museums as static displays. Tiger 131, the only remaining operational Tiger I tank, is operated by the Bovington Tank Museum located in Dorset, England.
Gordon Prange’s At Dawn We Slept must be considered one of the definitive works regarding the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Despite being 36 years old, this book details all the major contributors and factors that led America into war with Japan.
While acting as Chief Historian in General Douglas MacArthur’s staff, Doctor Prange interviewed Japanese military officers, enlisted men, and civilians. These interviews allowed him to reconstruct the Pearl Harbor attack from the planning stages to execution.
Bu fusing the first hand Japanese accounts with American source material, Dr. Prange clearly illustrates how and why American military and civilian leaders ignored information collected by our own intelligence sources. What we see is that events don’t just happen – they are the results of either action or, in this case, inaction motivated by wishful thinking.
I first read At Dawn We Slept as an undergraduate student back in the late 1980s. Since then, I’ve reread it several times and have actually used excepts while teaching middle school history. When middle school students can access and enjoy a “college” book, you know it has merit.
An enjoyable read for both the academic and armchair historian.
Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City intertwines the events leading to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with the actions of Dr. H. H. Holmes, a con man and serial killer who exploited the fair to access victims.
Mr. Larson does an incredible job contrasting Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer posing as a successful doctor and businessman. Both men are ruthlessly driven products of their time. Their single minded pursuit of success leads them to use/sacrifice others to achieve their goals. And although their methods are the same, it is only how society views the end result that differ.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but feel most readers are caught up in the Holmes story. And to be sure, Mr. Holmes ruthlessly pursued murder and profit. However, Daniel Burnham’s singular focus to, at least for a brief moment, make Chicago the focal point of the world, is nothing short of amazing.
A great read for both the historian and armchair detective