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Book Review – Tiger I & Tiger II (Images of War Special)

By Anthony Tucker Jones; illustrations by Brian Delf; Pen & Sword; 176 pages

Few armored vehicles have ever evoked the respect and fear that the Germans’ Tiger tanks did during World War II. Even more than 70 years removed, the iconic status of the Panzerkampfwagen VI tanks remains. Many books have been devoted to the Tiger, and as such it would seem that there is little if anything left to be written about them. In Tiger I & Tiger II (Images of War Special), however, veteran armor writer Anthony Tucker-Jones has delivered an immensely readable and interesting volume on these legendary tanks.

Tiger I & Tiger II

Tiger I & Tiger II, by Anthony Tucker Jones; illustrations by Brian Delf; Pen & Sword; 176 pages

Others have documented the design and materiel failings of the Tigers, but Tucker-Jones points out that the mythical status afforded the Tiger tanks was out of all proportion to their capabilities, and perhaps more importantly, their numbers. Ultimately, barely more than 2,000 Tiger tanks of all variants were produced, far too few to make any real difference to the outcome of the war, no matter the respect or outright terror they engendered among those called upon to fight them.

It is one thing to know that the Ferdinand tank destroyer lacked a machine gun to use against enemy troops; it’s quite another to read of a crew desperately firing an MG-34 down the barrel of their 88mm gun in an effort to repel attacking infantry.

Much of Tiger I & Tiger II concentrates on the combat record of Tiger I and Tiger II tanks on the Eastern and Western fronts, as well as on the Tiger I’s combat debut in Tunisia, supporting the author’s investigation of the actual tactical and strategic effect of the tanks. This is not by any means the complete and definitive history of the Tiger I, Tiger II, and the several Tiger variants, nor is it meant to be.

Tiger IIs in France

Early model Tiger IIs in France, June 1944. The “Porsche” turret’s shape created a shot trap beneath the gun, and it was superseded by a modified Henschel/Wegmann turret, as in the photo below. Bundesarchive photo

Instead, rather than a comprehensive (and dry) reference book, this is a concise, profusely illustrated discussion of the tanks’ use in battle, along with a lot of fascinating details, from paint schemes and anti-personnel protection to the development, qualities, and failings of rare variants like the Elefant, Jagdtiger, and Sturmtiger. The book is dominated, of course, by the images. The photos and color illustrations (by Brian Delf) will be of great value to modelers as well as armored vehicle enthusiasts. A chapter on fighting in the tanks, and one on fighting against the tanks, provide valuable insight from crewmembers describing the battlefield realities that exist beyond the cold statistics of gun caliber and armor thickness. It is one thing to know that the Ferdinand tank destroyer lacked a machine gun to use against enemy troops; it’s quite another to read of a crew desperately firing an MG-34 down the barrel of their 88mm gun in an effort to repel attacking infantry.

Tiger II, Budapest

A Tiger II, also known as the Konigstiger or King Tiger and Royal Tiger, in Budapest, where the massive tanks “became little more than glorified pillboxes,” the author writes. Bundesarchive photo

For the armor enthusiast, this book makes a fine introduction to the Tiger tanks or complement to other volumes. For the lay reader, Tiger I & Tiger II provides a succinct but potent blend of words and images that may be all that is needed to describe these legendary armored fighting vehicles and their battlefield history.