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Old 01-29-09, 07:09 PM   #1
CINC Pacific Fleet
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Finland
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Default Memoirs of a Tiger commander

Found this thread from the WWIIOL forums today and though you might be interested to read the cool info it has.

To cut it short, a guy working in a model shop in the US had a customer one day who was looking for an Tiger model. That customer was no one else but Major Gerd Lindemann. So, with the permission from the original poster (Tzulscha), I'll start pumping out any bits I find from the OP's conversation with the Major.

Okie, here we go.


I run a hobby shop here in Michigan and an older gentleman wandered in today looking for a model of a Tiger I. He didn't want to build a kit but was very interested in the 1/16th Tiger I by Tamiya (until I showed him the price tag). After chatting with him a bit I asked what he knew about Tigers and he announced that he had been in command of the 2 companies of Tigers that had fought at Kasserine pass! His name is (Maj) Gerd Lindemann, which sounded very familiar. I asked and he said "Oh you've probably heard of my uncle, Kapitan zur Zee Lindemann, Captain of the Bismarck." Long story short, he told a couple of stories and answered some questions and commissioned me to build a model of his Tiger I ausf E for his mantel. He said he would bring in some photos for reference and told me that if I wanted to talk history I should drop by.
He is currently associated with a Military museum project we have going out at our Airport and lives locally. He seems very freindly and more than willing to talk about the war. (Possibly because he was captured with Schwere Panzerabteilung 501 on May 12 1943, so he missed Russia and all the associated horrors of the Ostfront.)

Interestingly, he said that their Tigers came from the factory not in panzer grey (which is what I expected), and not in Afrika Mustard , but rather in a slightly darker brown (I have the RAL number somewhere...) over which he had his crews spray a dark grey blotch pattern.

The man under the small arrow is Maj Lindemann. The Officer in the back with the Binocs is Dr. Franz, Rommels interpreter, and I'm sure you will all recognize the figure in the forground.

Cabbage: Maj Lindemann said that the steering in the tiger worked 2 ways: the steering wheel was normally used and if the tank was shifted into neutral withe the motor running it could be turned in a complete circle within it's own lenght by running one track forward and the other reversed. He said that while this worked just fine in sand, on hard ground it had a tendency to break tracks and orders were not to do it. Also the steering was not so sensitive that by just bumping it you wouldnt move the tank. The second method of steering the tank was by 2 levers controlling differential braking, but it was a pain in the *** and not normally used. Acceleration vs the Pz 3 and 4 was awful, the Tiger was really pushing the limits of its drive component and unless care was taken it was pretty easy to tear up the final drive. I understand Tiger crews got pretty good at pulling 'em apart for repair.

Imsneaky: I chatted with him again at work for about an hour and he said that Rommel seemed to be a nice enough fellow, he said he thought at the time that Rommel knew what he was doing and would take care of them.
THe biggest problem was supplies, Maj Lindemann mentioned spending a week with all his vehicles out in the middle of nowhere for a week simply because they had no fuel to move. They spent the time fixing the tanks.

I asked him what he thought of the Tiger and he said "It was my iinsurance policy." He talked about a battle he came through against the Americans, he said that the shermans and Grant/Lees had weak running gear, so if they could, they would shoot the suspension out and the crew would bail and run like hell. He said that after the fight that the crew was shaking when they climbed out. He counted 30 hits on his tank from 75mm on down. No major damage.......... Insurance policy indeed.....

I also asked about the Opel Blitz and the Bedford, because he had said that wherever they went they had to have trucks for fuel, supplies etc. etc. In the desert, you bring everything with you...
Anyway he said he liked the Beddy better because it was more reliable and didn't get stuck as much. I said yeah but the Opels were faster yes? and he laughed and said how fast do you need to drive to follow a tank?

Drat, I forgot to ask about the RPMs, sorry. Next time.
He did say that the Afrikan Tigers had fewer breakdowns than the Russian Tigers. I would guess it was due to the cold weather.
The Tiger transmission was designed for a vehicle that was 20 tons lighter, but with a good driver they didn't have too many problems. The biggest difficulty was if the driver was a bit rough with the clutch it could tear up teeth in the final drive. It could also loosen the track tensioner which could cause the thing to throw a track.
An outer roadwheel under ideal circumstance took about 15-20 minutes to remove. An inner road wheel required breaking the track and removing 2 outer wheels to get to it, so again under ideal conditions, it took about an hour or so to get off. Usually more like 2 to 3 hours or even longer in the field. Then you gotta put it all back together after you have fixed whatever was wrong.......

When I asked him about the tracks he told me another story. He said that since there were no bearings or bushings between the tracks and the track pins that they constantly squeeked and sand got in and worn them out in fairly short order. He said the squeeking drove them crazy. Somewhere or other they got (found or stole) 5 gallons of egyptian butter, too rancid to eat, so they actually used it to lubricate their tracks!
He said it picked up sand like crazy but it stopped the squeek for a while. I get a mental picture of a crewman pouring butter all over the tracks. Imagine the smell....

He originally wanted to be a fighter pilot and took his original flight training in gliders at the Wasserkuppe. As I understand it he got into fighter training shortly after. I believe he said Hans Joachim Marsielle was a classmate. (not sure about that exactly although he said he was friends with Marsielle and went to visit while they were both in Afrika.)
Anyway, near the end of his flight schooling, his company was called for a parade. While they were all standing at attention an SS officer walked in and told them he wanted volunteers for Armour training. Not one man stepped forward. Who wants to be a tanker when you can fly? This greatly annoyed the SS man who said; (I quote Herr Lindemann), "Alright you bastards, I'll get you for this!" Two weeks later his entire class was drafted into armour training. Lindemann said "We all hated those goosestepping SS azzholes, the best thing you could do was stay the hell out of their way."

SA(Situational Awareness) was always a problem. When I asked whether they went into combat open or buttoned up, he said they alway had the hatches closed if they thought there would be any shooting. The commander could use binoculars in the (early drum type) cupola while closed down. The vision blocks were replaceable and there were spares located in the turret. They spent a fair amount of time and effort to make sure these were as clean and clear as they could be.
To prepare for combat the next day Maj. Lindemann would go out with his sergeant as close to the front as they could get. The German artillery would spend some time firing in the direction of the enemy and they would take careful note of the locations and sizes of any return fire and mark them on their maps. Each unit had specific movement instructions and with the enemy positions marked on their maps they knew where to keep their eyes. Each tank would scan in a different direction so that they stayed aware of their surroundings.

To be continued...
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