How Many Did They Build? - Tiger I Production Quantities

Before proceeding I would like to begin with this personal observation. Writing is a task I find only slightly less painful that having a tooth pulled or hitting my hand with a hammer. In addition, it not a very pretty sight and takes more time than I care to admit to organize my thoughts well enough to form a coherent narrative. Beginning with a very messy process of writing down whatever comes to mind about a subject, what follows is a series of re-writes during which form slowly emerges. This essay is still undergoing that slow, painful process of trying to pull some kind of structure out of this chaotic process of discovery and creation.

Here we go, the first essay in which I try to answer a simple question about the Tiger I tank, How many did they build? There are two major sources that I rely on in my search for an answer to the question and these are two books both by Thomas Jentz. The first is "Germany's Tiger Tanks Vol. 1 - D.W. to Tiger I" and the second is "Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-45". Claims as to the actual number of Tiger I tanks produced during the war vary widely in the available English language literature. Several web searches produced similar results with a range of values given for the number of Tiger Is produced. An example of what I typically found is the Wikipedia entry for the Tiger I which notes that 1355 Tiger I tanks had been produced after production ended in August 1944, basing this figure on information found in an issue of "World War II" magazine. On the other hand, Jentz, using original sources, counts 1346 plus 3 trial chassis (versuchs-fahrgestell). Not knowing what the sources are for the figure given in World War II magazine, I feel much more comfortable using the figures given by Jentz since they are based on material he has uncovered in his research of documents in German archives. In addition to production related documents from the Henschel facility at Kassel, Jentz found information concerning the contracts awarded to Henschel and other firms involved in the production and assembly of the Tiger I which also include the number of Tiger I tanks to be produced under the terms of the contract. Production output and contract compliance was tracked by assigning serial numbers to components, making it an easy matter to determine the total number produced. Claims about production numbers based on Allied Intelligence estimates, records of Tiger I issues to units which as we will see later present their own problems or from whatever source World War II magazine based its number on do not inspire the same level confidence as those provided by Jentz based in large part on contracts issued to Henschel and other production documents of the period. From the material he has uncovered, contracts awarded to Henschel & Sohn authorized the production of 1349 tanks: V1 to V3 and serial numbers 250001 to 251346.

To answer the question of how many Tiger I tanks were built we will look at two sources: contracts and production records. Contracts tell us how many were supposed to be built while production records reveal how many of the contracted number actually rolled off the assembly line. The first to be examined will be the contracts but before we proceed it would help to understand how things worked. When the German government wanted to produce a tank it was standard to distinguish between the chassis and the turret. In the development phase one firm was given the task of designing the turret while another designed the chassis. This division also was common during the production phase where it was common to have one company responsible for the assembly of the turret and another company responsible for the assembly of the chassis. Both turret and chassis had to pass tests before acceptance and the finished turrets were sent to the location where the chassis were assembled where they were mounted on the completed chassis. In the case of the Tiger I, it was the Henschel facility at Kassel which was awarded the contract for the assembly of the chassis while turret assembly was assigned to Wegmann also located in Kassel. After passing automotive tests, the assembled Tiger I chassis were then returned to an assembly area where completed turrets from Wegmann were then mounted to complete the tank. The completed tanks were then transported to a military depot from which they were assigned and transported to combat units.

The table below contains all of the information about the contracts awarded to Henschel that I could find in D.W. to Tiger I.

Henschel Tiger I Production Contracts to Assemble Chassis in Automotive Running Order
DateContract NumberQtyChassis Numbers
1941.JUL SS 006-6307/41 3 V1-V3
n/a SS 4911-210-5904/41100250001-250100
1942.APR SS 4911-210-5910/41200250101-250300
1942.AUG SS 4911-210-5910/41124250301-250424
1942.NOV SS 4911-210-5910/41250250425-250674
1943.MAR SS 4911-210-5910/42490250675-251164
1943.APR.12SS 4911-210-5910/42118251165-251282
1944.FEB SS 4911-210-5910/42 10251183-251292 *
n/a SS 4911-210-5910/42 54251293-251346 **
* Increased from 118 to 128 by Feb. 1944.
** At first 45 then increased to 54.

The first contract in the sequence, SS 006-6307/41, was awarded to Henschel for the assembly of three trial series chassis. The first in the series, V1, was completed in time to take part in a demonstration that had been arranged for Hitler's birthday, April 20, in 1942 alongside the trial version of the competing Porsche Tiger. The demonstration highlighted problems with both tanks but the decision was made to go ahead with the production of 100 Henschel Tigers and 100 Porsche Tigers. This decision is reflected in contract SS 4911-210-5904/41 for 100 units and while Jentz provides no date it seems reasonable to assume that it was awarded sometime in April 1942 until another date can be found in German archival records. Contract SS 4911-210-5910/41 also awarded in April 1942 was for another 200 units but this group was to have a different turret and gun mounted on the chassis, a turret designed by Rheinmetall with the 7.5 cm Kw.K. L/70 gun instead of the Krupp designed turret with the 8.8 cm Kw.K. L/56 gun. The Rheinmetall turret gun used a tungsten shell and when it was determined that the supplies were inadequte the Rheinmetall turret was cancelled and the Tiger I continued to mount the Krupp turret. The production of the Tiger I was extended until its replacement, the Tiger II, could start production. It is also worth noting that the final contract for 54 tanks was to be filled using damaged hulls and turrets that had been sent back from the front for major repairs. It was done to keep the facility at Henschel busy until the production of the Tiger II could be brought on line. You could make a good case that only 1292 tanks and three prototypes rolled off the production lines since these last fifty-four were rebuilt and not new. This could very well be part of the reason for the wide range of values given for Tiger I production. If these rebuilt hulls and turrets can be counted as part of the production total then what about all of the other rebuilt tanks? There were others as we can see from a table that we will be looking at next, where at least 35 other rebuilt Tiger Is came out of the Henschel assembly plant in Kassel. How then to count them? That dilemma I will leave to others to sort out because having asked the question I will leave it unanswered and continue to use the figure of 1349 for the total number of Tiger I tanks produced.

Jentz has not published any information on the contracts issued to Wegmann for the assembly of turrets.

A Tiger began with the forming of steel plate to create the hull and turret armor bodies. In addition to the contracts for the assembly of the chassis and turret, there were also contracts for the production of these armor bodies. Krupp designed the turret and was also a source for steel armor plate. They produced hulls that were delivered to Henschel for assembly and turret bodies that Krupp assembled and sent to Henschel for the three tanks of the trial series. When the decision was made to proceed with the construction of the Tiger designed by Henschel, Krupp was already committed production capacity to produce components for the Porsche Tiger and had no spare capacity to produce components for the Henschel Tiger so the contract was instead given to DHHV (Dortmund Hörder Hutten Verein) to produce armor components for the first 424 tanks in the production series. DHHV was assigned serial numbers 250001 to 250621 to identify their production. Later when the decision was made on 1942.NOV.22 by Hitler to cancel the the Porsche Tiger, Krupp was given a contract to produce 230 armor components (hull and turret bodies) which was later increased to 320 when the decision was made to use 90 turrets that had originally built for use with the Porsche Tiger be modified for use with the Henschel Tiger.

Krupp-Essen Production Contracts
DateContract NumberQtySerial Numbers
1941.JUL.23SS 006-4467/41 3v1-v3 turrets *
1942.DEC.23?? 579250622-251200
1943.MAR.06?? 745250421-251165
1943.JUN.??SS 210-5813/42534251421-251954
* to produce the armor bodies and assemble complete turrets.
p.33 p.69?

DHHV Production Contracts
DateContract NumberQtySerial Numbers
?? ?? 424 250001-250621
?? ?? 334 ??

This list of contracts is incomplete but they should roughly match the contract dates and quantities issued to Henschel for the assembly of the automotive chassis.

Jentz reports that by June 1944 Krupp and DHHV together produced 1295 hull and turret armor bodies. DHHV produced 758 hull and turret bodies while Krupp produced 537 which included the three trial tanks V1 to V3 as well as 534 hull bodies, 444 turret bodies and 90 turret bodies that had originally been created for the cancelled VK 45.01 Porsche version. When the 54 tanks assembled from refurbished hulls and turrets is added to this total the final number is 1349 which again agrees with our initial number for Tiger I total production.

The hull bodies were sent to Henschel in Kassel while the turret bodies were sent to Wegmann also in Kassel which then sent completed turrets to Henschel to be fitted on completed chassis. The hull and turret bodies were assigned identical sequential numbers so I assume that when mating completed hulls to completed turrets the numbers would match so that turret 250001 was put on chassis 250001. There is some question about how this actually worked out and the confusion is reflected in the serial number sequences assigned in the contracts issued for the production of the hulls and turret bodies.

Now that we have looked at contracts to arrive at a total production number it is time to look at production schedules and output. Let's start with the table of production quantities in D.W. to Tiger I. One of the first things I noticed about this table was the listing of weekly production figures. What I first found rather odd was that each month had five weeks in it. However, after a second look at the chart I recognized it as being very similar to a 5-4-4 weekly calendar. This is a week, as opposed to a day, calendar. In a week calendar each year has 52 weeks, with the exception of a leap year which has 53 weeks, and is built up using four quarters of 13 weeks each - this is where the 5-4-4 comes from, one month has five weeks together with two months of four weeks each. One of the most recognizable characteristics of the calendar is the repeating 5-4-4 pattern of each quarter. The week calendar is also known as the ISO week and is part of ISO 8601 but there are also other variations of the week calendar in use.

Now to get back to Tiger I production at the Henschel plant in Kassel. Here is a reproduction of the table found in DW to Tiger I.
Production and Acceptance of Tiger I tanks
periodwk 1wk 2wk 3wk 4wk 5prodgoalaccptChassis No
1942.APR- - - - - 1 1 0V1
1942.MAY- - - - - 0 3 0
1942.JUN- - - - - 0 5 0250001
1942.JUL- - - - - 010 0
1942.AUG- - - - - 810 8250009
1942.SEP- - - - - 315 3250012
1942.OCT- - - - - 111610250021 + V2
1942.NOV- - - - - 251817250038
1942.DEC- - - - - 303038250076
1943.JAN5+110 87 5 353035250111 + V3
1943.FEB 0 9 9104 323032250143
1943.MAR4 5 81311414041250184
1943.APR 0 7151014464546250230
1943.MAY 0 812 426505050250280
1943.JUN4 12 91322606060250340
1943.JUL 0 7151726656565250405
1943.AUG 0 3161724607060250465
1943.SEP8 15132722857585250550
1943.OCT0 101814 8508050250600
1943.NOV4 0221618608456250656
1943.DEC0 0141534638867250723
1944.JAN0 11242434939393250816
1944.FEB8 21282612959595250911
1944.MAR5 24211323869586250997
1944.APR4 2311254110495104251101
1944.MAY0 425244710095100251201
1944.JUN0 7202523757575251276
1944.JUL0 11161720645864251340
1944.AUG0 1 3 2 0 6 9 6251346
column headings
prod - the number actually produced
goal - the production goal
accpt - the number accepted by WaffenAmt inspectors
chassis no - highest chassis number accepted by WaffenAmt inspectors

To make the weekly pattern stand out I shaded the boxes that had values in them but what emerged was not exactly what I had been hoping for. While there are sections where the chart comes close to a 5-4-4 calendar, the year 1944 starts with a four-week January that is followed by three consecutive five-week months, one of them being February, which is a very odd thing indeed even though 1944 was a leap year and February had 29 days. When I added them up I found that there were 88 weeks from the beginning of 1943 to the end of August 1944. How would this weekly calendar match up with actual daily calendars for this span of time?

The easiest way for me to generate calendars for 1943 and 1944 was to use the cal program on one of the FreeBSD hosts I have at home. With these calendars I then went and tried to map the one onto the other, the week calendar provided in Jentz with the actual day calendars for 1943 and 1944. The results are shown in figure 2. What we can see here is that the weekly calendar fits in rather well with the daily calendars which was a pleasant surprise. The year 1944 has several months where the weekly calendar ends in the second week of the daily calendar but this is the result of the three 5-week months at the beginning of the year. The end of August 1944 aligns acceptably on both calendars.

Monthly/Weekly Production
SuMoTuWeThFrSaMonth WeeklyProduction Month
2728293031 1 2 1943 JAN 5JAN
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
10111213141516 8
17181920212223 7
24252627282930 5
31 1 2 3 4 5 6 1943 FEB 9FEB
7 8 910111213 9
14151617181920 10
21222324252627 4
28 1 2 3 4 5 6 1943 MAR 4MAR
7 8 910111213 5
14151617181920 8
21222324252627 13
28293031 1 2 3 1943 APR 11
4 5 6 7 8 910 7APR
11121314151617 15
18192021222324 10
252627282930 1 1943 MAY 14
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 8MAY
9101112131415 12
16171819202122 4
23242526272829 26
3031 1 2 3 4 5 1943 JUN 4JUNE
6 7 8 9101112 12
13141516171819 9
20212223242526 13
27282930 1 2 3 1943 JUL 22
4 5 6 7 8 910 7JULY
11121314151617 15
18192021222324 17
25262728293031 26
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1943 AUG 3AUG
8 91011121314 16
15161718192021 17
22232425262728 24
293031 1 2 3 4 1943 SEP 8SEPT
5 6 7 8 91011 15
12131415161718 13
19202122232425 27
2627282930 1 2 1943 OCT 22
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10OCT
10111213141516 18
17181920212223 14
24252627282930 8
31 1 2 3 4 5 6 1943 NOV 4NOV
7 8 910111213 0
14151617181920 22
21222324252627 16
282930 1 2 3 4 1943 DEC 18
5 6 7 8 91011 0DEC
12131415161718 14
19202122232425 15
262728293031 1 1944 JAN 34
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 11JAN
9101112131415 24
16171819202122 24
23242526272829 34
3031 1 2 3 4 5 1944 FEB 8FEB
6 7 8 9101112 21
13141516171819 28
20212223242526 26
272829 1 2 3 4 1944 MAR 12
5 6 7 8 91011 5MAR
12131415161718 24
19202122232425 21
262728293031 1 1944 APR 13
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 23
9101112131415 4APR
16171819202122 23
23242526272829 11
30 1 2 3 4 5 6 1944 MAY 25
7 8 910111213 41
14151617181920 4MAY
21222324252627 25
28293031 1 2 3 1944 JUN 24
4 5 6 7 8 910 47
11121314151617 7JUNE
18192021222324 20
252627282930 1 1944 JUL 25
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 23
9101112131415 11JULY
16171819202122 16
23242526272829 17
3031 1 2 3 4 5 1944 AUG 20
6 7 8 9101112 1AUG
13141516171819 3
20212223242526 2
2728293031 1 2 1944 SEP 0
3 4 5 6 7 8 9

A way to assess the validity of the mapping of day to week calendar is to find some specific event that happened during the war and see how well they match up. There is one event that can be used to test this matching of the two calendars and that is the Allied bombing of Kassel in October of 1943. The first Allied attack was on October 3rd and was a night raid by the RAF. The British bombers dropped over 1,500 tons of bombs but most fell on the countryside because the pathfinder planes were unable to correctly locate the target. On the night of October 22/23 the RAF planes returned but this time the pathfinder planes successfully located their targets and the bombers dropped some 1,800 tons of bombs and incendiaries in a short period. The city of Kassel suffered major physical damage and 8,000 to 10,000 of the inhabitants of Kassel died in the destruction and firestorm created by the attack.

The Henschel production facilities suffered major damage as well as the losses suffered by its workforce and according to Jentz the assembly of Tigers was severely disrupted. There is a good match of the calendar with this event. The bombing raid came on the night of October 22/23 at the end of a week and the production loss is seen in the next week of 24 to 30 October. The production goal for the month of October 1943 was 80 but output only reached 50, in November the goal was 84 but only 60 were produced and in January of 1944 the goal was 88 and production was 63 but by February of 1944 production was once again meeting goals. This was a production loss of 79 tanks, almost enough Jentz notes to outfit two heavy tank battalions. To help cover the shortfall tanks that were scheduled to be assembled as command vehicles (panzerbefehlswagen) were instead assembled as standard tanks to offset the lost production.

What would also be another good event to gauge the accuracy of the mapping would be the date that the final Tiger I came off the line at the Kassel assembly plant. According to the calendars it should be located sometime between 20 to 26 August 1944. However, I can find no record of this event so if anyone out there has this information and could provide me with a reference, I would very much appreciate it.

So we now have an approximate mapping between calendar dates and the production calendar presented by Jentz but the calendar is not the 5-4-4 calendar I had originally assumed. Production has been organized into periods of a week but I cannot say why other than speculate that it might have had something to do with attempts to increase output by rationalizing production. I tried to find some references on how German factories and production lines were organized but could not find anything. This also came up during my reading when I ran across references to TAKT stations in the assembly line at Henschel-Kassel. Searches on Google and Yahoo produced millions of results that either pointed out that takt is a German word for baton or that takt and takt time are part of Japanese lean manufacturing techniques. It took some time before I was able to dig out of the workflow babble to discover that takt was brought over to Japan in the 1930s when German engineers were sharing production techniques with Japanese industry. Information may exist in German language publications but there is nothing that I could find in English.

The one thing we can take away from this calendar exercise is the caution that when we are given time periods, say for example when a design change took effect, we should ask which calendar is being used, the daily calendar we all recognize or the weekly production calendar.

With this mapping of the week calendar to actual dates in place it is time to look once again at the data in the table to see what is there. With a quick look at the first few entries there are several problems that quickly emerge for which some sort of explanation is required because the numbers just do not add up. Prototype V1 shows up in the production column for April 1942 but not in the column for acceptance by the WaffenAmt inspectors. Then we see that hull 250001 does not appear in either the production or inspection column but is found in the Chassis Number column. In the text of Jentz's book we learn that 250001 was produced in May 1942 and then sent to Kummersdorf for testing but the Chassis Number, which was given after passing inspection, entry is for June 1942. In October of 1942 when V2 appears in the chassis column the production column has 11 while the accpetance column is just 10. Then again another ambiguous entry appears in Week 1 for January of 1943 where the entry 5 + 1 suggests that V3 was produced in that period but the weekly total adds up to 36 while the production and acceptance numbers are both given as 35. The total for the production column is 1348 while the total for the acceptance column is 1346. The numbers just do not add up.

Jentz also created the table found in Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-45 but it preceeded the work that resulted in the table in D.W. to Tiger I. That table is reproduced as table 3.

Tiger I Production (April 1942-August 1944)
accpt by inspnormal bef rebuilt fgst nr attained
1942.APR 0 0 + V1 1 0 0 
1942.MAY 0 0 1 0 0 
1942.JUN 5 1 0 0 0250001
1942.JUL 15 0 0 0 0 
1942.AUG 10 8 9 0 0250009
1942.SEP 15 3 2 0 0250012
1942.OCT 16 10 + V2 8 0 0250022
1942.NOV 18 17 14 0 0250039
1942.DEC 30 37 + V3 35 0 0250076
1943.JAN 30 35 30 0 1250111
1943.FEB 30 32 30 3 0250143
1943.MAR 40 41 35 4 0250184
1943.APR 45 46 42 5 0250230
1943.MAY 50 50 43 4 0250280
1943.JUN 60 60 49 6 0250340
1943.JUL 65 65 53 4 0250405
1943.AUG 70 60 63 11 0250465
1943.SEP 75 85 48 7 0250550
1943.OCT 80 50 82 3 0250600
1943.NOV 84 56 34 2 0250656
1943.DEC 88 67 80 0 0250723
1944.JAN 93 93 78 9 0250816
1944.FEB 95 95 96 6 1250911
1944.MAR 95 86 84 4 1250997
1944.APR 95 104 88 6 3251101
1944.MAY 95 100 79 6 5251201
1944.JUN 75 75 100 4 5251276
1944.JUL 58 64 63 2 8251340
1944.AUG 9 6 13 3 11251346

Taken from "Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-45", Jentz and Doyle, page 13.

There is much more information in this table because not only does Jentz provide production figures but also found documentation to break that down into the different types that were delivered to military depots for issue to combat units: the standard tank, a command version (panzerbefehlswagen), as well as tanks rebuilt from hulls and turrets sent back to the factory for repair. It appears that some of the problems of the previous table have been corrected and the production column as well as the normal plus command version columns total up to 1349. However, there are still some strange entries to deal with during the months of May 1942 and August 1942. In May 1942 there is an entry for 1 tank allocated to military units with no matching production and again in August 1942 where 9 tanks are sent to units but only 8 were produced at the factory. The narrative provides some information about the first problem when it states that 250001 came out of the Kassel works in May 1942 and was then sent without a turret for automotive testing at Kummersdorf. There is still a question as to when it was accpeted by the WaffenAmt inspectors and given a chassis number. This could well have happened in June and is recorded in the table. For the second problem with the August and September quantities the entry for the highest chassis number suggests that 8 should be the correct number for Tiger Is issued to units since 250009 is only eight away from the previous entry of 250001 and the entry for the next month is 250012 which is three away from 250009. Could this be an instance of week versus day calendars? There is no account in the text to reconcile the apparent issue to a combat unit of a tank that has not yet been built. We will never know because Jentz does not provide any information about the source of the numbers presented in the chart. We do not know much at all where this information came from. Did he compile those numbers from other sources and combine them to create the table or is it reproduced from a document he found?

To recap what has been covered, contracts and other German documents give me solid grounds to state that 3 trial series Tiger I tanks and 1346 production series tanks were assembled by Henschel at Kassel for a total of 1349. These were produced from April 1942 through August 1944 over the course of 28 months. We know how many tanks came off the line each month at the Henschel assembly plant in Kassel, but when we looked at how many were produced each week we saw that the standard day calendar and the production calendar of weeks do not always align. When times are given for events during the production of the Tiger I special attention has to be paid to how the date is expressed because the first and last week of all months overlapped into the adjoining months. To keep the facilities busy until Tiger II production replaced the production of the Tiger I, by contract the last 54 tanks produced were assembled from damaged hulls and turrets that were remanufactured and were not new. In a sense these tanks were counted twice but since they were assigned new chassis numbers they are still considered as additional production.

Now I want to try and extend the information we have assembled on the number and dates that Tiger I tanks were produced by adding information about the design changes made during the production run. Jentz provides this information in both DW to Tiger and Tiger I Heavy Tank as well as providing either a time or a turret or chassis number to indicate when the change went into effect.

22.nov.1942 decision to cancel P