The 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion
(Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 502) was a German World War II
independent armoured battalion
) equipped with heavy tanks. The battalion was the first unit to receive and field the Tiger I
or Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. E
. It fought all of World War II on the Eastern front
, and was one of the most successful German heavy tank battalions, destroying 1,400 tanks and 2,000 guns.
The 502nd was formed on 25 May 1942
from the 35th Panzer Training Battalion (Panzer-Ersatz-Abteilung 35). On 23 July Hitler
ordered that the first Tiger I tanks be sent to the Leningrad Front
. The 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion became the first unit to receive Tiger I tanks when on 19 and 20 August 1942
four Tiger I's 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 Heavy Tank Battalion arrived at the Leningrad Front
, but was not immediately deployed for combat.
Tiger I tank
On 16 September 1942 the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion took the Tiger I into combat for the first time south of Lake Ladoga near Leningrad. On 22 September after crossing a causeway a Tiger became bogged down in the mud, and due to enemy fire the tank could not be recovered despite a number of attempts; on 25 November 1942 the tank was destroyed to prevent its capture by the enemy. This marked the first total loss of a Tiger I tank . On 25 September several more Tiger tanks and Panzer III tanks arrived and were used to completely equip the 1st company of 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion. In February 1943 several more Tiger I’s were issued to the unit as replacements for losses. On 1 April 1943 a second and third company were formed for the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion, and 31 Tiger I tanks shipped to the unit in mid to late May 1943, bring 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 I tanks rather than a mix of Tiger Is and Panzer IIIs.
Tiger II tank
The 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion only received a few Tiger II
tanks. The last 13 Tiger IIs built were picked up directly at the factory by crews of the 3rd Company of 510th Heavy Tank Battalion and the 3rd Company of 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion on 31 March 1945
. The 502nd received eight of the Tiger IIs and took the tanks into combat on 1 April 1945
End of unit
On 5 January 1945
the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion was renamed to 511th Heavy Tank Battalion. The 511th (502nd) Heavy Tank Battalion fought on the Eastern Front until 27 April 1945
when the battalion was disbanded and surrendered to the Russians on 9 May 1945
. By then the battalion had been issued 105 Tiger I and eight Tiger II tanks and destroyed 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 Jähde (October 1943 to March 1944)
- Major Schwaner (April to August 1944)
- Hauptmann von Foerster (August 1944 to April 1945)
- 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.