For the Record: The not so Duel at Dessau
This article is to debunk the myth of the Duel at Dessau, an engagement where the Super Pershing knocked out the Tiger II. So the story, told by gunner Cpl. J. Erwin, goes that the single T26E4 “Super Pershing” to see combat in the 3rd Armored Division was advancing into the city of Dessau on April 21, 1945. The T26E4 was the American “response” to the German Heavies, especially the Tiger II. By fate, the Super Pershing finds itself in a one-on-one shootout with a Tiger II in the streets of Dessau. The Tiger II fires first and misses then the T26E4 fires an HE shell and that just bounced off. “Something” hits the T26E4(making the reader assume that it was the Tiger II). The T26E4 then fires an AP shell that goes through the Tiger II’s underside and ammo racks it, making the turret fly off in the process. Now the closest recorded Tiger II units(SS 502) were ~70 miles from Dessau fighting the Soviets around Berlin. The Germans had fairly good documentation on the locations of their units throughout the war, so it would be extremely strange for them to lose track of a working Tiger II for no good reason and having it be 70+ miles from where it is suppose to be. Also it just seems more unlikely knowing that this engagement pits the rarest American tank to see combat with the rarest German panzer in a one vs one battle. American reports after Dessau also never mention any German tanks in Dessau and defiantly don’t mention anything about a Tiger II being knocked out by the “Super Pershing”. No other source mentions this engagement either. Irwin’s own account, in the book Another River, Another Town,*also never states that the vehicle was specifically a Tiger II, rather just “Tiger”. A Tiger is a more plausible candidate, however it is also plausible that the vehicle could have been a Panther or even a humble Pz IV(which were commonly misidentified as Tigers). So in conclusion this story is a fictionalization and glorification of the T26E4′s action in Dessau. The vehicle destroyed on the 21st of April was more than likely a Pz IV misidentified as a Tiger. Later this snowballed into a Tiger II somehow in a retelling of the story by Irwin(outside of his book) and then picked up by the 3AD website because it is a neat little fairytale. I guess Super Pershing vs. King Tiger is more interesting than T26E4 vs Pz IV.