Nazi Germany's World War II Maus Super Tank Was Too Little Too Late

Robert Beckhusen

Key point: By 1944, the war was already almost over.

By the time the super-heavy Maus tank rolled out for its first tests in January 1944, the Nazis had — six months after Kursk — effectively lost the war. It was just a matter of time before the Allied armies would slog their way into the heart of Germany and finish them off.

Yet the Nazi regime pressed ahead with developing and propagandizing all manners of so-called “miracle weapons.” Almost until Germany’s capitulation, a belief that secret wonder weapons would emerge and force Britain and America to reach an armistice were widespread among German troops — no matter the actual effectiveness of such weapons when they existed.

The Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus was one such weapon. It was impractical and also huge — so huge it holds the record for the heaviest fully-enclosed tank ever built. The Maus weighed 180 metric tons. That’s around three times heavier than the M-1 Abrams battle tank fielded by today’s U.S. Army and Marine Corps.

And it was all for nothing. The Maus (likely) never saw combat as the Soviets overran the Kummersdorf proving grounds on April 21, 1945, capturing Germany’s two prototypes. German surrendered less than three weeks later.

“It is a fact that destroyed tanks were found,” military historian Waldemar Trojca wrote in German Secret Panzer Projects. “However, what is not known is whether they were destroyed in combat or intentionally by the Germans.”

The Maus’ specifications are still somewhat hard to believe. The front glacis — the sloped section beneath the turret — was a remarkable 200 millimeters thick.

The front turret was 220 millimeters thick. Its side armor, typically a more vulnerable section on a tank, were 180 millimeters thick. Germany’s frightening Tiger I heavy tank only had 100-millimeter-thick frontal armor.

The Maus was heavy.

The Maus wasn’t even really a tank … it was a massive bunker with tracks.

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