The Unfinished Behemoth Maus Could Have Ruled The Battlefield
|A prototype Maus being tested.|
Panzer VIII "Maus"The Maus tank is almost legendary in its reputation and mystique, but it was very real and even may have seen combat. Another of the Germans' late-war attempts at shuffling the deck and getting back the advantages they had lost during the war, the Maus was an actual project that could have borne bitter fruit for the Allies. However, as with so many German weapons systems, it came too late and only served as a distraction from Germany's dwindling military fortunes.
|Soldiers admiring the Maus at Kummersdorf.|
|Maus V1 passing a KV-1 captured in 1941. The soviet tank is demolished by several shots from AT guns and hollow charges. This is at the test fields of Kummersdorf. Note the Maus has no main gun and is still early in development.|
|The Wehrmacht suffered from a trend toward gigantism. The Maus was not even the biggest self-propelled gun being developed at the end of the war, but it was pretty darn big.|
There wasn't a man alive who understood tanks and their capabilities better than Guderian. The Panther and Tiger worked and were battle-winning weapons, a tribute to having the right man making the proper recommendations at the right time. Most experts would agree that the Panther was more effective overall than the Tiger, but they both made a positive contribution to the war effort.
|A Maus on the move, note its tracks in the snow and winter camouflage. It looks like a pretty easy target unless it was pointing its gigantic main gun at you.|
|Tiger VIII Maus.|
On May 1 a wooden model of the "Maus", a tank project of Porsche and Krupp, was shown to Hitler. It was intended to mount a 150 mm gun. The total weight of the tank was supposed to reach 175 tons. It should be considered that after the design changes on Hitler's instructions the tank will weigh 200 tons. The model didn't have a single machine gun for close combat, and for this reason I had to reject it. It had the same design flaw that made the Elefant unsuitable for close combat. In the end, the tank will inevitably have to wage a close combat since it operates in cooperation with the infantry. An intense debate started, and except for me, all of the present found the "Maus" magnificent. It was promising to be exactly that, a "giant."For some reason, Porsche did not think machine guns for defense were necessary. This design tendency reflected a fantastical unrealistic dream that a big gun alone would simply scare everyone away or blow away all opposition.
|On display in Moscow. Note the two guns in the turret and absolutely no defensive armament.|
The Maus in its final form was extremely slow (only 20 km/h on the road, 13 km/h or less on terrain), heavy (188 tonnes), and large (10.2 meters long, 3.71 meters wide and 3.63 meters tall). It had incredibly thick armor (200 mm front plate, 240 mm turret front), and two guns in the turret: a main 128 mm KwK 44 gun L/55; and a secondary 75 mm KwK 44 gun L/36.5. Its design reflected all the worries of the last two years of the war for the Germans. Whereas earlier tanks had a nice combination of speed and power, this rolling fortress was designed with the assumption that it would be absolutely pounded by enemy fire and have to use immense firepower to defend itself.
The Maus design also focused solely on the military and incorporated absolutely no consideration to where all that steel or gasoline to move this mountain of metal was going to come from or anything else of a realistic nature. The Maus may even have been too big to slot into existing tank manufacturing plant assembly lines. It was the perfect dream machine for someone fighting for his life, hoping only for a static, impenetrable defense that could blow up anything it wanted with hardly any mobility (very few bridges could have supported it weight, so naturally it was to be fitted with a schnorkel like the Tiger tank) and scant chances of recovery should it break down. It hearkened back to the age of castles, of the desire for somewhere that you could just live in and defend without fear of molestation by outsiders. It reflected the demise of German imperialistic hopes and dreams, replaced by a rabid fear that the castle was under siege.
|The only functional or completed Tiger VIII Maus prototype.|
|Imagine trying to dig a 188-ton thing out of the mud with shovels. It looks like a boat.|
|Tiger VIII Maus.|
|Another view of the Maus loaded on its special car at Kummersdorf.|
|Maus - the second prototype captured by the Soviets.|
|The Germans (apparently) blew this Maus up rather than hand it over to the Russians. You can see that enough was left to provide sufficient information to rebuild it, as long as you had a few cranes handy and a whole lot of steel.|
Weight: 188 tons (jupp.Tons. About the same as 6 US Sherman tanks or three Tiger I panzers....)
Length: 10.2 metres
Width: 3.71 metres
Height: 3.63 meters
Main gun: 128mm
Secondary gun: 75mm
Speed: 13-19km/h (as usual, disagreement on this, but it definitely was slow).
These numbers are hard to put into perspective. Simply as a comparison, the largest US cars of the early 1970s were roughly 20 feet long and 10 feet wide. The Maus was larger in both dimensions, about 30 feet long.
|The Maus prototype cruising through the mud.|
Seized PartsThe Germans very much intended to put the Maus into full production. This is proven by the following series of photographs of Maus hulls captured by the Allies. The pictures show Polish troops, but the Soviets wound up with the goods.
It is unclear what happened to all these parts. They likely were melted down for scrap like most other war debris.
|It is tough to judge scale from a picture like this, but there hasn't been another tank where a man standing in the hatch would look that small.|