Tigers in the Mud by Otto Carius is the story of Otto Carius’s tanking career in command of a Tiger tank in WWII. Carius is one of about 14 German panzer aces who is credited with destroying more than 100 tanks. This elite group will probably remain unique in history in having destroyed so many enemy tanks. Carius is perhaps the only one to have written memoirs on his time as a tanker.
Carius was a small guy who was rejected twice for military service for being underweight before finally being accepted into the infantry. He managed to get a transfer and became a tanker. He initially served in T38 but got onto the course for transfer to the German Tiger heavy tank. The Tiger combined the 88mm gun and a heavily armoured body to great effect.
Most of the book concerns Carius and his crew using the Tiger for defensive purposes against the Soviet advance. He describes the Soviets as ferociously tough adversaries who would sacrifice their tanks for goals and who were excellent at rapidly fortifying positions. He also points out problems with their tactics, in particular that they would advance cross country with the commander inside the tank where he had poor visibility. Carius points out a number of times where he and his crew knocked out Soviet tanks because they saw them first because Carius would stick his head out to observe the terrain.
He also emphasizes communication between the tanks and with supporting infantry. In this respect the book emphasizes what has become doctrine since WWII with the latest incarnation of good communications being network centric warfare.
The book describes in detail fighting around Narwa and on a hill in Lithuania where Carius and his battalion achieved the incredible results of knocking out 17 JS-1 tanks, the Soviet heavy tank that was in a number ways superior to the Tiger in and village and then 38 tanks the following day in an ambush from the territory around the captured village. It’s an amazing achievement that would have few equals in tank warfare, and given that the age of tank warfare has probably passed by, may well never be approached.
Carius describes how he found his fellow tankers, which is pretty positive and his encounters with German generals and Heinrich Himmler. The Generals get a mixed treatment, some are described as fools and others as excellent officers. His meeting with Himmler is described in detail. He describes the meeting plainly and points out that he was able to talk to Himmler fairly easily and spoke to him for several hours with his pistol.
The book ends with his service in hunting tigers used against the Americans. He didn’t like the Hunting Tiger with it’s inability to rotate the gun other than by rotating the vehicle. He was also unimpressed with the quality of the American troops. Carius was also unimpressed with the speed at which German towns surrendered and their attitude toward the Americans.
The book also contains originals and translation of combat reports and various awards that Carius obtained.
The book is an interesting original memoir of service in WWII. The observations on how to use weapons and how to command in combat are of interest, coming as they do from one of the most successful tank commanders in history. For anyone interested in tank use and the history of combat in WWII the book is definitely worth reading.