Thursday, July 7, 2011
Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus
In this, the last installment of my "the Panzers" series I shall tell of the Super heavy projects of the late war era, specifically the Maus. This was a Porsche designed vehicle of gigantic proportions, carrying a 128mm gun as main and the Panther's 75mm gun as primary and secondary armaments, respectively. It was the heaviest tank ever built, weighing in at 188000 kg. It was the only super heavy vehicle to enter service (albeit as a prototype). It shared the Kingtiger's slowness due to to an under-powered engine or excessive weight. However, it was an even better moving pillbox than the Kingtiger, being much more heavily armored. Only two prototypes were finished by the time the Soviets reached their factory, although there were more in various stages of construction. Both vehicles were destroyed by their owners, although it is said that for a time they played an active role in defending the premises. One of the turrets was put on the other's hull and the completed tank was moved to Russia for evaluation purposes, and can be seen on display in the Kubinka tank museum outside Moscow. While it was the only one built, the Maus was not the only super heavy model to be designed. Germany had designs out for the Panzer VII Lowe, the E-100, the Panzers IX and X, and the P-1000 Ratte. the last tank was envisioned as a so-called Landcruiser, being armed with multiple Flak mounts, a 128mm gun, and a two gun turret similar to those on the battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Power would come via two U-boat diesels. These monster tanks were the last fantasies of the German high command, and reflected the ever-decreasing hopes for victory. The fact the the Maus was even built is a testimony to the utter lunacy of the desperate German army, and to that of Ferdinand Porsche. EPILOGUE. On May 9, 1945, the war in the west ended. Germany lay in ruins and was divvied up between the victorious Allies. Neither side accepted her great tank designs, preferring their own vehicles. So it was that the tale of Germany's WWII tanks ended, and although some, mainly Pz. IVs, soldiered on into the 1960s, most of the remaining vehicles were sold to museums. However, one of Germany's vehicles kept going and going. The Hetzer, descended from the Pz. 38t, was kept in production by the Czechs into the '50s, and was used by some countries for a time afterwards. However, the countries that operated them gradually phazed them out of service, and by the '70s they too were just another chapter in Tank history.