The not so Duel at Dessau

This article is to debunk the myth of the Duel at Dessau, an engagement where the Super Pershing knocked out the Tiger II.

So the story, told by gunner Cpl. J. Erwin, goes that the single T26E4 “Super Pershing” to see combat in the 3rd Armored Division was advancing into the city of Dessau on April 21, 1945. The T26E4 was the American “response” to the German Heavies, especially the Tiger II. By fate, the Super Pershing finds itself in a one-on-one shootout with a Tiger II in the streets of Dessau. The Tiger II fires first and misses then the T26E4 fires an HE shell and that just bounced off. “Something” hits the T26E4(making the reader assume that it was the Tiger II). The T26E4 then fires an AP shell that goes through the Tiger II’s underside and ammo racks it, making the turret fly off in the process.

Now the closest recorded Tiger II units(SS 502) were ~70 miles from Dessau fighting the Soviets around Berlin. The Germans had fairly good documentation on the locations of their units throughout the war, so it would be extremely strange for them to lose track of a working Tiger II for no good reason and having it be 70+ miles from where it is suppose to be. Also it just seems more unlikely knowing that this engagement pits the rarest American tank to see combat with the rarest German panzer in a one vs one battle.

American reports after Dessau also never mention any German tanks in Dessau and defiantly don’t mention anything about a Tiger II being knocked out by the “Super Pershing”. No other source mentions this engagement either. Irwin’s own account, in the book Another River, Another Town, also never states that the vehicle was specifically a Tiger II, rather just “Tiger”. A Tiger is a more plausible candidate, however it is also plausible that the vehicle could have been a Panther or even a humble Pz IV(which were commonly misidentified as Tigers).

So in conclusion this story is a fictionalization and glorification of the T26E4′s action in Dessau. The vehicle destroyed on the 21st of April was more than likely a Pz IV misidentified as a Tiger. Later this snowballed into a Tiger II somehow in a retelling of the story by Irwin(outside of his book) and then picked up by the 3AD website because it is a neat little fairytale. I guess Super Pershing vs. King Tiger is more interesting than T26E4 vs Pz IV.

90 thoughts on “The not so Duel at Dessau

  1. Is it possible that the tank in question was a Panther got somehow got misidentified as a Tiger II?

  2. Ok so here’s what we do… Dig through the archives (ya know? Research) and figure out what units were in and or near the town and what tanks could be located there… ta da…

    But then we lose the fun and unlikely fairytale. But I am for the History first and Fairytale second.


  3. Ohoho, we haven’t forgot about that certain “article” about how it didn’t take 5 Sherman to knock out Panther but in truth it took 4 Panthers to knock out Sherman.

    Sources? Pro/contra arguments? None as usual. Stop wasting our time.

    • Where Tiger II units were can be found in Wolfgang Scheider’s Tigers in Combat volumes. No American reports of a Tiger II(or other panzers) can be found in Spearhead in the West book about the 3AD. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there was no Tiger II in Dessau.

      I never made anything up in my last article either. In my last article I used information from Steven Zaloga’s book Panther vs Sherman. The controversial data can be found on pages 67,68, & 69. Please go read that before you falsely accuse me of making stuff up when I don’t.

      • I’ve actually read it. Even author confirms that numbers are murky (how much? in what way?) and cannot represent true balance of power. Even your title was wrong. How about “Did it really take X Shermans to knock out a Panther: A closer look” But no. One source, no study of arguments, no discussion – just take what I tell as truth. It’s called biased writing.

        • It’s biased writing to you because you don’t like what’s written.
          Had you see a single panther could take out 6 M4s before being overwhelmed, you would not have bat an eyelid.

          • Ah, yes it’s the Frenchy again. It’s called biased because it doesn’t take other side into account nor does it take other factors like training, lack of fuel, lack of logistics, overwhelming odds etc. Just one battle. Most tank on tank engagements were 4-9 tanks in total. Did anybody even try to discover how Shermans/Panhters fared in such engagements? A real tank vs. tank situation? No? But a battle in which Shermans enjoyed huge advantage due to rest of army outnumbering Germans in everything – objective reasoning.

            • …and what the fuck were the Shermans supposed to do, politely fight a series of duels with tanks half again their weight once the other party had properly rested, taken a shower and eaten breakfast?
              Code Duello has no place in a real war you know.

        • I said the same thing: “The data above is not complete but surely shatters the 5:1 nonsense.”

          People can’t read after they get angry for no good reason. I also guess that The_Chieftain and R. Forzcyk don’t count as sources either.

  4. While you make a valid point, you don’t actually offer any evidence to the contrary.

    just more rumor and speculation on top of thec existing account of events. I’m not really sure what purpose this article serves.

      • I don’t know about you but I liked my last article. I loved the rage that happened because people are offended because the Panthers aren’t made by Norse Gods and weren’t too effective in combat. If you don’t accept evidence that is accepted by historians(Zaloga, Forczyk, & Moran), then that is your problem.

        • Yes the armchair generals using American archives. Using German ones (the other side in discussion) for sake of arguments – out of question.

          • I don’t have any German documents for the combat effectiveness of the Panther versus the M4. I would absolutely love to have them though. It would go good with my collection of Panzer Tracts, Spielberger, Panzer Leader, etc.

            • Please stop writing then. You are not qulified to do historical articles then, as you see the comments, you make up a lot of BS.

              Edit by Priory_of_Sion: I will not. Please understand that my information used in the last article was from the US Army Ballistic Research Lab. If that info is just so biased then is every single piece of information coming out of the US complete BS too? There are no German studies about the statistical analysis of the Panther, only American. I am sorry that you cannot accept American data for some reason. Also please tell me some BS that I wrote down. I don’t think you can come up with any evidence against the claims(which aren’t even my claims) in my articles. Please if you are going to call stuff BS please back it up with evidence that no one has posted before about how the Panthers had a 10:1 kill ratio or something of the like.

              Personally you are not qualified to post on FTR and I could just remove your shitposting, however I am not because I am a nice guy.

    • There was no Tiger IIs in Dessau(which can be proven to beyond a reasonable doubt via German & American sources-Wolfgang Schneider’s books & Spearhead in the West). That was the main purpose.

        • If I can track every Tiger II unit on the 21st of April 1945:
          Battalion 501= unit already disbanded near Paderborn.
          Battalion 502= unit disbanded 19th April in Harz mountains.
          Battalion 503= in combat in the Austrian Hungarian border area near Stronsdorf.
          Battalion 504= In action near Ferrara, Italy.
          Battalion 505= unit disbanded in East Prussia. Last Tiger k.od 15th April.
          Battalion 506= Unit disbanded 14th April at Iserlohn (the Ruhr).
          Battalion 507= Last Tigers in action on 11th April near Osterode (Harz)
          King Tiger unit placements on April 21st 1945 (continued).
          Battalion 508= In Italy. No King Tigers in the battalion.
          Battalion 509= in action in lower Austria between St Polten and Amstetten.
          Battalion 510= Unit disbanded 18th April in the Bode valley.
          Grossdeutschland= No King Tigers.
          SS 501 = In action at Eschenau, Austria.
          SS 502= In action around Furtstenwalde (south of Berlin).
          SS 503= In action in Berlin.

          None are in Dessau.

          No American docs of any Tiger IIs in the area either.

            • So in your tracking of every unit can you track every tank? Are you telling us in the fog of war that a Tiger wasn’t cut off from it’s unit and didn’t join another unit till it could rejoin it’s original unit. There are countless stories of such things happening through out history of warfare. You claim to prove this a myth without any real proof. It is possible that this tank in question could have been thought to be destroyed, MIA. Without any markings or being there you can never state with honesty you are 100% accurate in this article. To do so makes it fiction.

  5. Interesting…just, was the training of german tankers late war THAT bad that they managed to miss in a duel on a street?Somehow I dont think the road was 1-2 km long that they managed to miss…

    • Possibly, but fighting one on one is a stressful situation for any tank crew. They aren’t machines, they are just people, they could have panicked and simply ran away, or they were too stressed to actually DO anything. It happened, to allies too.

    • The training of new German tank crews late in the war consisted of very little training. There was an article on it somewhere… Telling just how few hours of practice they were given at driving before being tossed in the tank.

      • Kind of like the Soviets in ’41, then. (Most of their crews at the start of Barbarossa were the same year’s conscripts fresh off Basic, and commanders counted themselves lucky if the lot had actually driven their rides for a few hours before.)

          • …you don’t actually know how conscript armies work do you? Not to mention that the Far East was a wholly separate military region and the Winter War primarily gave the impetus to get started on fixing the worst organisational and doctrinal problems; the tank stock available during *it* was horribly obsolete early Thirties crap which wouldn’t have been of too much practical utility during Barbarossa even if it had been better crewed and employed.

  6. Holy shit, the Wehraboos are out in force! Heaven forbid anybody use actual sources and facts to disabuse them of their Panzerphilia.

  7. Ignore the people above.
    I really enjoyed your articles.
    As the saying goes: “Never trust any statistics you didnt manipulate yourself”

  8. Erm, why don’t you guys go with historical memoires? I was very interested in the Rommel-Mongomery myth. What read about Rommel in the fary tale book: “Rommel’s first engagement was wit 5 french soldiers, first he fired his gun, and killed 2 soliders with one bullet. He ran out of ammo, but he managed to defeat them in hand-to-hand combat.”
    What really happened: “Rommel was on the march and founded some ammo. He picked it up, and put at his pocket. Then he saw 5 french soliders, he immidietly fired his gun and took down 2 people. Then he realized, that his gun is empty. One of the french is shot Rommel in the leg, and he was desperatly took refuge in the nearest bush.”
    What I am trouble with this article is not really objective, and the source material is very weak. For me the real source material is a book older than 20 years and/or min. 400 pages long. Sorry, if you want to look like a trustworthy you have to go to a library to do a proper research. These articles are very thin.
    And SS, I was enabled my AD Block until I see some real good articles. :D:D

    • Nevermind the fact that Otto Carius himself said that the Germans inflated his number of kills for propaganda purposes? Or are we going by Belton Cooper’s memoir here?

    • Tiger II units on April 21 ’45:
      Battalion 501= unit already disbanded near Paderborn.
      Battalion 502= unit disbanded 19th April in Harz mountains.
      Battalion 503= in combat in the Austrian Hungarian border area near Stronsdorf.
      Battalion 504= In action near Ferrara, Italy.
      Battalion 505= unit disbanded in East Prussia. Last Tiger k.od 15th April.
      Battalion 506= Unit disbanded 14th April at Iserlohn (the Ruhr).
      Battalion 507= Last Tigers in action on 11th April near Osterode (Harz)
      King Tiger unit placements on April 21st 1945 (continued).
      Battalion 508= In Italy. No King Tigers in the battalion.
      Battalion 509= in action in lower Austria between St Polten and Amstetten.
      Battalion 510= Unit disbanded 18th April in the Bode valley.
      Grossdeutschland= No King Tigers.
      SS 501 = In action at Eschenau, Austria.
      SS 502= In action around Fortstenwalde (south of Berlin).
      SS 503= In action in Berlin.

      None in Dessau. Case closed? What about the official American reports? Oh. Nothing about a Tiger II in Dessau besides a lone Cpl. who early just said it was a Tiger then it suddenly becomes a Tiger II as time passes.

      Seems like you are just don’t like me for some unknown reason.

      • Oh there’s an obvious reason why he doesn’t like this or the previous article. It provides solid sources that disprove something he strongly holds as true. Not good.

        • I must say I’m a bit mystified by the hostility towards an article that basically argues the SuPer in fact *didn’t* take out the baddest boy in the German arsenal one on one… you’d think Certain People would pretty much give it a standing applause instead. :/

          • Why would one give this an applause for a article that argues this, yet proves nothing. As for a no reports of Tiger tanks being in the area, it is entirely possible that 1 tank would not have been seen. Could have possibly been mistaken for something else. Not everything has made it’s way onto the web.

            • The idea of a lonely Tiger II is highly unlikely. Taken into account the fact that those tanks were the rarest in the army, required heavy maintenance, and their range was something about 170km by road, 120km cross country, to find one fighting +100km away the nearest possible unit is unrealistic. At least with any document left. Cause the chain of command should have known of the tank to give it supplies.

              What this article is about, it’s that going by facts and common sense, anyone have to admit that the odds are against this fairytale. God, even the author of the tale never stated that it was a Tiger II to begin with. Blindly thinking otherwise making up unlikely situations isn’t the best way to approach and discuss historical events.

              I think that it was a Pz IV or a Panther, and things just escalated.

  9. US Govt is an amazing propaganda machine. Mostly lies come out of our govt, and always have.

    They clearly made up this story to ‘boost’ morale in the face of nearly useless M4′s running up against tanks they simply couldn’t penetrate, in some cases – on the side! We needed something to shatter the Tiger’s invincible reputation, and they fabricated – literally – a tank to shatter that.

    Just another govt. lie.

    • The T26E4 was practically a propaganda machine to equal the Tiger II, yes. However no official US document ever claims that the T26E4 knocked out a Tiger II. The only shred of evidence is the memories of a tank gunner which are a little contradictory.


    • Irrational ‘Murrican cratiphobia* is always amusing to watch, if a mite tragic.

      *fear of governement

  10. Priory, I know Spielberger and PanzerTracts are more reliable resources than some of the yapping ‘fanboys’ posting above. Hopefully you do not get disencouraged, and keep on posting the interesting reads m8. I know it’s not allowed, but putting a copy of the books by Carius, Guderian or Knispel would turn around their mindset :)

  11. Great article again. I’m surprised the Germans kept such consistent records of their tank divisions even towards the end of the war.

    Is it even possible to ammo rack the King Tiger through the lower hull?

    • To be fair,as the war dragged on the Allies made it increasingly easy for the Germans to keep track of their armour.
      “Herr Sturmbahnführer, give me ze location of ze panzer support. What do you mean, ‘none’?”

  12. Stay tuned for the next article:
    The holocaust wasn’t so bad, stalin killed only 2 people and the atomic bombs were in fact just some 50kg regular bombs..

    • Ha…haha….

      I really almost laughed…. At how much of an idiot you are.

      Write an article yourself, I’d like to see how good would it be. And don’t forget to do research and back it all up with evidence.

    • Holocaust definitely no so bad like jews like to describe it, germans killed much more soviet civilians than jews. Stalin indeed did not killed millions like cold war propaganda likes to portray it. And here indeed no difference between total annihilation of cities by the means of atomic weapons or more common types of bombs, and if US and Soviets directly assaulted Japan islands, Japan would suffered much more than after atomic bombings.

  13. The amount of rage and idiocy on this comment section is worse than that deepest hell called ASIA server.

    Oh wait, EU is full with cake. I don’t really believe my friend (whom takes refuge from EU) but SS convince me. No wonder bad pubbies, lemming train and half-asleep player of ASIA is better than EU.

  14. Defiantly => Definitely

    Just pointing out. Thanks for these articles, btw, they are enlightening in what a propaganda and blowing things out of proportions can do (and how many people believe it “because ‘Murica the strongestest!”)

  15. But we all know that if there *had* been a KT at Dessau, the SuperPershing would have wiped the floor with it, with the KT’s gunner crying on the forums that the SP’s armor is too thick and it needs a nerf.

    • What the fuck does the US military’s well-documented learning curve in North Africa – there was a reason they ditched the proposition to go straight at Europe – have to do with ANYTHING?

  16. I recall awhile back it being determined that the most likely vehicle was a Panzer IV, not only because there were no King Tiger’s in the area but also because it was the only German vehicle with an ammo rack behind it’s lower plate where the Super Pershing penetrated it.

  17. It was most likely a Panzer IV. Panzer IV had ammo storage under the turret that could be taken out by a “belly shot”. Tiger and Panther did not. Neither Tiger nor Panther could be ammo racked by a “belly shot”, Panzer IV most definitely could be.

    So if anything, it was probably a Panzer IV.

  18. Nice article again, thanks!

    What confuses me the most is that most of the “wehraboos” are of eastern europe origin.
    Same confusion I have reading that there is a (sadly successful) “Nazi” party in Hungary and “Neo Nazis” marching through Moscow… didn´t they get the point or something?

    Anyhow… don´t let em discourage you!

  19. Just a note on the sources: The US 3rd Armored Division had a pretty good divisional history, which had a chapter covering Dessau specifically. The chapter only mentions the Division encountering infantry, engineers, and artillery – no mention of tanks at all – which is in stark contrast to other chapters wherein they always take pains to mention when German armor was involved.

    I am much more in the camp that there was no German Panzer of any kind encountered at Dessau.

    Also, for tidbit: The only verified instance of the 3rd Armored encountering Tigers of any kind was at Padeborn in 1945. It is a fairly well-documented case because the Divisional commander (Maurice Rose) was killed during this battle.

  20. Turned adblock back on for this site, it will stay on until the trashwriters from the US server are gone from this site.

    • I’d be very happy to have a idiot block – so there wouldn’t be a chance to stumble upon the shit you vomit and then call commentary. Unfortunately, no such thing is available at the moment, so I’ll have to be satisfied with calling you a moron for the time being.

      nyan cat sends kisses

  21. After reading through ~80 commentaries, I still haven’t figured out what that dude wanted.

    “American sources are trash, go and research some more ! ” … research where, if American sources are all that we have because no German documents were made or have survived until now ?

    Don’t we have any Soviet archive documents ? Any trials made with the M4, any tests like they did with captured German tanks ?
    I loved the article about Americans and British tests of T-34s and KV-1s.

  22. The point of the article is to show that dangerous myths can emerge if people simply take all “historical” documents at face value. Real historian look at multiple sources and fact-check.

    Internet historian wannabes just read one book, think it’s a fact, and then complain when somebody points out their “fact” was actually debunked a long, long time ago.

    Really, the “Duel at Dessau” was an invention of the 3AD website. BOTH of its source materials do not actually corraborate the story that the Super Pershing fought a King Tiger; and the more credible of the two source materials says that there were ZERO German tanks at Dessau making a battle with any Tiger impossible.

    • If there were 2 sources that claim there were ZERO tanks there then there was no tank destroyed there period, I doubt that is the case. Just because the US didn’t report any German tanks present doesn’t mean there were none there. This is a given as military intel leaves a lot to be desired. In fact I would go as far as to say that is not even close to a valid source. As for German documents stating where the units were located does not account for all the individual tanks. Hell in today’s military with the coms and GPS it is hard at best to account for each individual member, vehicle of a unit. All that can be done is speculate, as it is possible that this story originally was fabricated entirely, or exaggerated and it was not a Tiger destroyed there. Bottom line is that there is no proof either way. It is impossible to account for every kill, every member of every unit or their actions unless there is evidence as in the markings on the tank. I am sure a Tiger or a Tiger II since they had a sense of security would have exposed their underside to a shot as a PZ IV crew would have never done so. Not a trained crew anyways, but at that point in the war they were not the best trained.

  23. First of all, after commanding Marines in this computer day and age: I can state for fact that people, vehicles and yes tanks get misplaced, assumed dead and simply lost. Sometimes in larger scale. As a result we end up with friendly fire incidents and other horrors of war. Now on such a large scale as the European front it is entirely possible that a Tiger, or even a Tiger II was not where it was supposed to be. Especially near the end of the war as communications and such were constantly disrupted. There was also wide spread fuel shortages. While you say it is impossible, it really is not and is possible they did in fact run into a Tiger or Tiger II. This could have been a tank that was lost, out of communication with anyone and simply lost. It happens today even. Not on the scale of WW II but it has created a few friendly fire incidents during both gulf wars. Units were not where they were supposed to be and believe me when I say the United States military takes every precaution to ensure this doesn’t happen. You cannot eliminate errors in reporting and misunderstandings that take place in the fog of war.

    So with that being said I am going to say the bottom line is that this was possible and this could have been a tank that was MIA or at least thought to be so. It could also be a tank that ran low on fuel, lost coms or a number of reasons for it to be out of position. Then again this article could be correct that it was something other than a tiger or tiger II. Unless you can put a id on the tank based on markings no one will ever really know, except the crews of the 2 tanks in question. It is also possible that the whole encounter was a fabrication.

    While I am not saying you are wrong, I am not saying you are correct either.

    • I replied to a comment of yours before, but now I see a more elaborated reply, good comment.

      Let me add that unlike today, Tigers and Tiger II needed heavy maintenance to be operative, this is widely documented. Their operational range was somewhat 110-190km. These two facts together mean that if a lone tank were split up from their unit, odds are that its crew will abandon it eventually, or they would join another unit and then they would inform their chain of command about their situation to receive supplies and support. If the second option were to happen there would be some recordings about it. In the first one, the chances of appearing so far to fight a Super Pershing are really low.

      To sum ti up, taking this into account together with all the stated facts said till now, I would say that probabilities for the tale to be true are really low.

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