One of the subjects of liveliest controversy during the Allied invasion
of France was the heavy tank—the 50-ton Pershing, the 62-ton Tiger,
the 75-ton Royal Tiger. Were these worth their weight? Did they
gain—in protection and fire power—as much as they sacrificed in
mobility? Adolph Hitler's mind was presumably made up on this point.
A pet project of his, which few were aware of, appears to have been
a superheavy tank that would have dwarfed even the Royal Tiger.
Dubbed the Mouse, this behemoth of doubtful military value was to
weigh 207 tons, combat loaded. Two were actually built, although
they were never equipped with their armament.
The Mouse is an amazing vehicle, with spectacular characteristics.
The glacis plate up front is approximately 8 inches (200 mm) thick.
Since it is sloped at 35 degrees to the vertical, the armor basis is
therefore 14 inches. Side armor is 7 inches (180 mm) thick, with the rear
protected by plates 6 1/4 inches (160 mm) thick. The front of the
turret is protected by 9 1/2 inches (240 mm) of cast armor, while the
8-inch (200 mm) thick turret sides and rear were sloped so as to give
the effect of 9 inches (230 mm) of armor.
For the main armament, a pea-shooter like an 88-mm gun was
ignored. Selected instead was the powerful 128-mm tank and
antitank gun, which was later to be replaced by a 150-mm piece 38 calibers
in length. (The standard German medium field howitzer 15 cm s.F.H. 18
is only 29.5 calibers in length.) Instead of mounting a 7.9-mm
machine gun coaxially, the Mouse was to have a 75-mm antitank gun
76 calibers in length next to the 128- or 150-mm gun. A machine
cannon for antiaircraft was to be mounted in the turret roof, along with a
smoke grenade projector.
In size, the Mouse was considerably larger than any German tank.
Its length of 33 feet made it nearly 50 percent longer than the Royal
Tiger. Because of rail transport considerations. its width was kept
to 12 feet (that of the Royal Tiger and Tiger). A 12-foot height made
it a considerable target.
|This German drawing shows a sectionalized elevation of the Mouse hull. The
following salient features may be diingtinguished: driver's
seat (20) and periscope (14 and 18); radio operator's seat (12) and radio (21);
radio antenna (28); air intakes for main engine (30);
main engine (3); generator (4); the right motor of the two electric motors
driving the sprockets (9); auxiliary fuel tank (29). The
coaxial 75-mm gun is on the right of the turret; its
position relative to the 128-mm gun is shown in dotted outline.|
|A sectionalized plan view of the Mouse hull gives another view
of many of the features shown in the first illustration. The driver's
and radio operator's seats (left) are flanked by the main fuel
tanks. Just to their rear is the main engine, flanked by air pumps and
radiators. Further to the rear is the generator, with ammunition stowage
in the sponsons on either side. In the sponson on the front
right of the generator is the auxiliary engine, with storage
batteries to its rear. To the rear of the hull, also in the
sponsons, are the motors furnishing the electric drive. The
actual transmission is in the deep part of hull between the motors, behind
In order to reduce the ground pressure so that the tank could have
some mobility, the tracks had to be made very wide—all of 43.3 inches. With
the tracks taking up over 7 of its 12 feet of width, the Mouse presents
a very strange appearance indeed from either a front or rear
view. With such a track width, and a ground contact of 19 feet
3 inches, the Mouse keeps its ground pressure down to about 20 pounds
per square inch—about twice that of the original Tiger.
Designing an engine sufficiently powerful to provide motive power
for the mammoth fighting vehicle was a serious problem. Though the
Germans tried two engines, both around 1,200 horsepower (as
compared to the Royal Tiger's 590), neither could be expected to provide a
speed of more than 10 to 12 miles an hour. The Mouse can, however,
cross a 14-foot trench and climb a 2-foot 4-inch step.
Whatever the military possibilities of the Mouse might be, it
certainly gave designers space in which to run hog wild on various
features which they had always been anxious to install in tanks. One of
these gadgets was an auxiliary power plant. This plant permitted
pressurizing of the crew compartment, which in turn meant better
submersion qualities when fording, and good antigas protection. Auxiliary
power also permitted heating and battery recharging.
One of the fancy installations was equipment designed for fording
in water 45 feet deep—a characteristic made necessary by weight
limits of bridges. Besides sealing of hatches and vents, aided by
pressurizing, submersion was to be made possible by the installation
of a giant cylindrical chimney or trunk, so large that it could serve
as a crew escape passage if need be. The tanks were intended to ford
in pairs, one powering the electric transmission of the other by cable.
|The Mouse was as vulnerable to close-in attack as any other tank, if not more
so. The large hull openings were a particular disadvantage. Note their
extent: the grills of the engine access hatch, the grilled air vents which flank it,
and the grills under the rear of the turret, which cool the electric motors.
The auxiliary fuel tank on the rear was a considerable fire hazard.|
|The size and weight of the Mouse made necessary extremely wide tracks in
relation to hull width. This view also shows half of the engine air-cooling
system (left), and rear of right fuel tank, with an oil tank just to its left.|
The electric transmission was in itself an engineering experiment of
some magnitude. This type of transmission had first been used on
the big Elephant assault gun-tank destroyer in 1943, and was
considered by some eminent German designers as the best type of
transmission—if perfected—for heavy tanks.
Another interesting feature of the Mouse from the engineerig
point of view was the return from torsion bar suspension—such as was
used in the Pz. Kpfw. III, the Panther, the Tiger, and the Royal
Tiger—to a spring suspension. An improved torsion bar design had
been considered for the Mouse, but was abandoned in favor of a
volute spring type suspension.
WHY THE MOUSE?
Just why the Germans wanted to try out such a monstrosity as the
Mouse is a question to be answered by political and propaganda
experts. Whereas such a heavy tank might conceivably have had some
limited military usefulness in breakthrough operations, it was no
project for Nazi Germany experimentation in 1943, 1944, and 1945.
For not only did German authorities waste time of engineers and
production facilities on the two test models, but they even went so far
as to construct a special flat car for rail transport.
The drawbacks inherent in such a heavy tank are patent. Weigh
not only denies practically every bridge in existence to the Mouse,
but it impedes rail movement unless railways are properly reinforced
at bridges, culverts, and other weak points. Fording to 45-foot depths
would have solved many of the stream-crossing problems in Europe,
but it seems that the Mouse could actually cross in water no deeper
than 26 feet. Though sitting in a rolling fortress, the six men of
the Mouse crew are practically as blind as in any tank. Because of
low speed and high silhouette their vehicle would be most vulnerable
to hits. Since it is reasonable to suppose that heavily fortified, static
positions suitable for attack by a Mouse would also be fitted with very
heavy, high-velocity guns capable of antitank fire, the even occasional
combat value of the Mouse comes into question. The German 128-mm
Pak 44 (also known in modified forms as the 12.8 cm Pak 80) is
reputed to be able to penetrate 7 inches of armor at 2,000 yards. Since
the Germans actually had their Pak 44 in service in 1945, when the
Mouse was not yet in the production stage, it would appear that the
Germans had the antidote before the giant tanks were ready. Moreover,
in the later days of the war, a rolling colossus like a Mouse
would have been almost impossible to conceal, and would have fallen
an easy prey to air power.
|The Mouse was designed to ford up to 45 feet of water. To do so, the tank
was made watertight. A trunk was fitted over the hull escape hatch, and
trunk extensions bolted over the engine vents. The trunk contalned an escape
ladder, and was divided into three sections, the number used varying with
water depth. A second Mouse supplied electricity to the fording Mouse motors
through a cable attached to the rear, as shown.|
The psychological factor thus appears to have played a large part
in the demand for construction of the Mouse. The German Army
would never have desired such a tank, especially in 1942 when its
design was apparently initiated. On the other hand, it would have
made lurid headlines and Sunday supplement copy in both Allied
and German press circles. But whatever the public reaction might
have been, it seems questionable that the Mouse could have exerted
any psychological effect on Russian, British, or American front-line
troops unless the Germans possessed almost overwhelming strength,
as they did when they crushed the Maginot Line in 1940. In 1944-45
it would have been too easy a mark for Allied gun and planes the first
instant it appeared.
|German engineers, concerned over the effect of turns upon track performance,
made this electric-powered, remote controlled, large-scale wooden replica.|
|A head-on view of the Mouse model affords an idea of the formidable
appearance of the original Mice. Note the exceptional width of the tracks.|
MICE OF THE FUTURE
The appearance of such a vehicle in the opening phases of a future
war is not to be entirely discounted. When Red Army armored units
counterattacked German forces advancing northward toward
Leningrad in 1941, the Soviets effected a substantial surprise and just
missed obtaining a considerable victory by throwing in for the first
time heavy 46-ton KV tanks backed by 57-ton modified KV's
mounting 152-mm tank guns in their turrets,
The first days of a war are a time of uncertainty. This is a period
when peacetime armies are proving themselves, when their personnel
are still anxious to determine the validity of their matériel and tactical
doctrines, when they are anxious to discover what the enemy is like.
Rumors grow fast, and untried men are likely to be impressed with
the mere report of the size and gun power of a superheavy tank.
Officers and noncoms should therefore be aware of the possibility of
encountering such colossal tanks. They should see that their men
know the deficiencies and real purpose of outlandish vehicles of the
class of the German Mouse, and that they do not attribute to these
vehicles capabilities out of all proportion to their actual battle value.