Tank Shoots Down A Plane?

This is probably the most absurd thing we have heard, when a German tank shot down a Russian fighter, probably the most baffling event in the history of aviation and armor, leaving veterans baffled and mystified. Being shot down as a pilot  is considered scary and horrendous, but by a tank? He would become the laughing stock of the Russian air force.

“My gunner, Unteroffizier Kramer, can take credit for a deed that was probably unparalleled on the Eastern Front. That is, he succeeded in shooting down a Russian fighter with the Tiger Tank canon.”

Otto Carius, in the book  “Tigers in the Mud”.

A Tank Shoots Down A Plane? True story of Otto Carius, Tank Ace, credited with destroying more than 150 tanks.
Otto Carius, credited with destroying more than 150 tanks.

Otto Carius, Tank Ace with 150 kills.

Otto Carius was a German tank ace responsible for upwards of 150 tank kills. He was awarded with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves for extreme battlefield bravery . This was the highest award given by the Nazis and was the highest military decoration awarded for valour.

When he was enlisted, he served in the infantry, before volunteering for the Panzer branch.

In 1943, Carius transferred to the Heavy Panzer Battalion, on the Eastern Front.  Otto Carius saw his first combat during the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa. The Tiger Tank does represent the peak of German military technology with its thundering power, but it was prone to track failures, breakdowns, and limited in range by its high fuel consumption. It was built using expensive materials, so it was quite expensive to maintain. 1,347 were built from 1942 to 1944. Tigers were usually employed in separate heavy tank battalions which would be deployed to critical sectors, either for breakthrough operations or counter-attacks. One of the most notable “aces”, apart from Otto Carius, is Kurt Knispel with 168 confirmed kills.

Shooting down a Russian Plane.

In late 1943, Otto’s mission was to defend his position at all costs. The frontal armor of the Tiger Tanks was very thick, 100 mm, so it was hard for the Soviet tanks to penetrate it. Tigers were reported to have knocked out enemy tanks at ranges of more than 4.0 kilometers . So the Soviets launched their aircraft to strike Otto’s platoon. Although the bullets were delivering no damage to his Tiger tank, Kramer became frustrated at the constant hail of gunfire.

“Kramer , upset by the unrelenting nuisance of these guys, elevated his cannon along the approach route.  I talked him in.  He took a chance and pulled the trigger.  On the second attempt, he hit one of the ‘bees’ on its wing.  The Russian crashed behind us.”

Says Otto Carius in his book.

Photo Credits: Peter Trimming. Creative Commons License.                                                                Tiger I, similarly used by Otto Carius in which Kramer downed a Russian plane.

So, with two shots, Kramer succeeded in shooting down an attacking fighter. Although it is very hard to aim at a target moving that fast, the 88mm that the Tigers used was originally meant for anti aircraft, so one lucky shot was enough to destroy a plane. This was, as Otto would later describe, one of the single most impressive things he’d ever seen. Probably for the first time, a plane was shot down by a tank. It has been said that the plane which Kramer shot down was an IL-2, but there’s no confirmation of it being so.

So, basically, tank beats everything!

As for Otto Carius, he fought on the Eastern Front until 1945. He was then sent in the West to defend the River Rhine. He surrendered to the United States Army on 15 April 1945.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here