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Stories

The End of the Trail for Tiger 222

The End of the Trail for Tiger 222
 
In preparation for the German offensive in the Ardennes which jumped off 16 December 1944, the 501st SS Heavy Tank Battalion, equipped with Tiger IIs (aka King Tigers), was attached to the 1st SS Panzer Division (Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler) and further attached to the Kampfgruppe commanded by SS Lieutenant Colonel Jochen Peiper.  One of these Tigers was Number 222.   Thanks to the pictures taken by German camera men, reproduced in Battle of the Bulge: Then and Now, by Jean Paul Pallud, we can trace the tank's route in several points before and after its journey ended.
King Tiger 222 pass through Tondorf (US Army)
It is first seen in the village of Diedenberg, Belgium, some 11 kilometers southeast of Malmedy.In an obviously posed picture, nine or ten paratroopers are sitting on the turret.  (A paratrooper regiment was attached to Peiper for a time.)  Next, 222 appears at a road junction called Kaiserbaracke, a little closer to Malmedy, this time with four paratroopers perched on the turret.  A little farther on, outside of Ligneuville, a rear view shot shows eight paratroopers on the back deck, grinning happily as they pass around a pack of cigarettes, American, no doublt. 
Photo US Army
 
 A bit later, the same soldiers are sharing their cigarettes with Waffen SS motorcyclist who had pulled up to the rear of the tank.
 
Photo US Army
 
The scene now shifts to Stavelot, which was being cleared and defended by the 1st Battalion, 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, reinforced by the 1st Platoon, Company "C", 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion.  These units had fought their way into Stavelot on 18 December and secured that part of the town north of the Ambleve River, except for several blocks still held by the SS at the western edge.  With a Reconnaissance Platoon of the 823rd, I joined the 1st Platoon of Company "C" on 19 December 1944.  The M10 platoon leader was 1st Lieutenant Ellis W. McInnis, a courageous soldier and a good friend.
 
Sometime on the 19th of December, Mac and I were in an observation post on the second floor of a building.  From a window to our front we could see the Amblève River and the bridge leading into Stavelot from the east at about 150 yards from us.  To our left was a window through which we could look down on one of Mac's M10s, commanded by Sgt. Ray Dudley.  He was covering the bridge and the road leading to it from the southeast.  This road, which descended a long hill into the Amblève valley at an angle to our location, was lined with buildings except for the last 100 yards or so before the bridge.  I have forgotten whether we had warning that a tank was coming down that road.  At any rate, we saw the long tube of Tiger 222's 88mm gun emerge from behind the last building.
 
The M10 gunner must have been tracking the tank with his telescope sight, for as soon as the Tiger had cleared the building, the M-10 fired one round of armor piercing shot which penetrated the armor on the right side above the track, about 14 inches under the turret and some four to five feet to the rear of the front glacis plate.  The tank stopped dead in its tracks.  The round probably struck the gunner and the loader.  The hole made by the three inch round can be seen in the picture on page 161 of the book referred to earlier.  Surprisingly the tank did not burn.  Neither did we see any of the crewmembers bail out, but they must have exited through an escape hatch in the rear of the turret.  There were no paratroopers aboard.  Too bad; they missed a thrilling experience.
 
No sooner had the M-10 fired than a hail of small arms fire was directed at the M-10 from across the river.  This resulted in a fire breaking out in the caliber .50 machine gun's ammunition box on the turret.  Immediately an asbestos-gloved hand, probably Sgt. Dudley's, came out of the turret and beat the fire out.
 
King Tiger 222 at Stavelot (Photo E. Courtejoie)
 

To the best of my knowledge, that was the last enemy tank that attempted to cross the bridge at Stavelot.

 

Source: Bulge Bugle, February 1994

Lt Thompson L. RANEY

"C" Company

823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium