Tiger I Tank

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.

Book Review: At Dawn We Slept

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.

Lake Toplitz’s Nazi Gold

High in the Austrian Alps, Lake Toplitz looks like a perfect setting for The Sound of Music. A high altitude deep water lake (338 ft) located sixty-one miles from Salzburg, Lake Toplitz is surrounded by cliffs and thick forests. At a depth of sixty feet, the lake water contains no oxygen. However, the lake bottom may hold Nazi treasure.

In May of 1945, 21-year-old Ida Weisenbacher helped S.S. soldiers dispose of the boxes. “It was five o’clock in the morning, we were still in bed when we heard the knock on the door,” says Weisenbacher. “Get up immediately. Hitch up the horse wagon, we need you.”

The truck carrying the boxes couldn’t reach the lake’s shore, so the S.S. used a wagon belonging to the Weisenbacher family. “A commander was there. He told us to bring these boxes as fast as possible to Lake Toplitz,” says Weisenbacher.

Three wagon loads of boxes were taken to the lake and dumped. Each was labeled and numbered. “When I brought the last load, I saw how they went on to the lake and dropped the boxes into the water. The S.S. kept shoving me away, but I saw the boxes were sunk into the lake.”





Since the end of World War II, several attempts have been made to locate those mysterious wooden boxes. In 1959, divers discovered boxes filled with counterfeit British currency. These banknotes, a mix of five, ten, and fifty pound notes, had a combined face value of seven hundred million pounds.

The counterfeit notes were part of Operation Bernhard, a German plan to flood world markets with forged British banknotes and destroy the British economy. The forged notes were produced at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp by Jewish prisoners.

Several searches have been conducted at Lake Toplitz, including an extensive mapping survey in 2000. This expedition used a deep water submersible. Several more boxes tied to Operation Bernhard were discovered and mapped on the lake bed. The expedition recovered some boxes, and preserved the contents.

Aside from the counterfeit British notes and normal wartime debris (bombs, artillery shells, guns), Lake Toplitz has yielded no gold. Maybe there is no Nazi gold for the lake to surrender. Maybe die hard Nazis or unknown treasure hunters secretly recovered the treasure. Or maybe the treasure still remains in Lake Toplitz, waiting to be found.

Who really knows?

T-26 Light Tank

The Soviet T-26 tank is the signature light tank of the interwar period. Originally a British design, the T-26 proved versatile, and in some countries, remained in service until 1961. The Red Army developed 53 variants, including flame-throwing tanks and self-propelled guns. From when it entered service in 1932 until when production ceased in 1941, around 11,000 T-26 tanks had been built.

The T-26 was exported to the Spanish Republican government, and saw extensive service during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). There, the T-26 proved superior to the German Panzer I and the Italian CV-33 tankette. Russia also exported T-26s to China and Turkey. Captured T-26s were repaired and used against the Russians. For example, Finland captured and re-purposed seventy T-26 tanks.




When Germany invaded the USSR in 1941, the T-26 made up 39 percent of the Soviet Union’s total tank strength. The T-26 was comparable to early German light tanks, such as the Panzer I and Panzer II, but was seriously outclassed by the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Despite disadvantages in armor, mobility, and gun caliber, T-26 units participated in nearly every major Soviet tank engagement throughout the war. The T-26 last saw action in Manchuria against Japanese forces in August 1945.

Type 94 Nambu Pistol

The Nambu pistol was a sidearm used by Imperial Japanese forces. Variations of the 8mm semi-automatic handgun saw service in every Japanese conflict from the Russo-Japanese War up until the conclusion of World War II. Westerners are most familiar with the Type 94 Nambu, which was used extensively by Japanese forces in the Pacific.

Designed in 1925, the Type 94 Nambu was adopted by the Japanese Army in 1927. A release button on the pistol’s left side allowed for quick magazine extraction. The magazine held eight 8mm rounds. The 8mm cartridge is one of the Nambu’s major drawbacks. When compared to cartridges such as the American .45 ACP or the British .455 Webley, the Nambu lacks stopping power.

Another problem with the Type 94 is an exposed sear. The sear which is basically a bar that rests in a notch of the hammer. This bar holds back the hammer, which keeps the weapon from firing. When the trigger is pulled, the sear slides out of a notch in the hammer. The released hammer strikes the round, allowing the weapon to fire. This creates a situation where pressing or striking the side of the weapon can cause an unintentional discharge.

Considered inferior during its production run, the Nambu Type 94 remains an interesting piece of Japanese military history.