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Otto Carius, who died, in his 90's, as recently as January this year, was the last of Germany's tank aces. What he wasn't was an historian, or even an especially good writer. Nor is this a history, rather it is a memoir, which is not quite the same thing. In his introduction to the original German version, he states clearly that when he originally wrote down his experiences, it was for his former comrades. That then evolved into this book which was (I quote) "an attempt to vindicate the German frontline soldier."

Therefore, if you're expecting apologies, or even acknowledgements of what the Nazis got up to, you're going to be disappointed. Much of the criticism in the negative reviews & comments here, some of it vitriolic, seems to be centred on this lack. From Carius' point of view, he wasn't a Nazi, didn't care for the Nazis, and was fighting a war in defence of his country. Whatever the rights or wrongs of that, this book is the account of what one man saw & did, and no more than that; he offers no views on the politics or the whys & wherefores.

He makes few references to the Nazis, but it's obvious he didn't like them. He met Himmler; in recounting that meeting, he makes no judgements about him, but simply recounts, in the same matter-of-fact style as the rest of the book, what he saw of the man that he met & the conversation that took place (he even turned down a personal invitation to join the Waffen-SS!), without ever touching on his reputation. Similarly, he makes the very valid point that, at the front, no-one gave a damn about ideology. What mattered wasn't whether you were a Nazi or a non-Nazi, but whether you were a good soldier & a good comrade. They were, after all, fighting for their lives.

The notion of comradeship and its value is the one thread that runs throughout the book. The book itself is written very colloquially - you can easily imagine him saying exactly the same things that he wrote down in exactly the same way. It's not always exactly PC, either. He obviously respected the Russians as enemy soldiers, but speaks slightingly of the Americans. The English of the translation is idiosyncratic, to say the least. For example, towing vehicles, whether they're recovery vehicles or artillery tractors, are almost always referred to as "prime movers". I presume that is a literal translation of whatever word the Wehrmacht commonly used, and if the text is a literal translation of the German, it would explain a good deal about some of the clumsy English. That's never mind that the memoir itself is rather disjointed at times in the way it suddenly changes topic, or throws in random comments not connected to what you've just been reading about. As I've said, very colloquial!

Nevertheless, the plain style is readable, giving a frontline soldier's view of things. If he knew anything of atrocities & the like but chooses not to speak of them, that doesn't make the book less interesting or valuable as an eye-witness account. You just have to accept that, if you wanted to know what he thought or saw of that, you are told very little, even by inference. Not least, he has written one of the very few accounts of the use of Jagdtigers. His account is rounded off by half-a-dozen battle reports, the last of which he wrote himself, and the book is then rather padded out with 50 pages of certificates, news clippings, and letters of congratulation on medals & promotions (all translated, obviously).

If you think you're going to be upset by the fact that he more-or-less ignores the unacceptable side of WWII Germany, then this is not the book for you. If you're looking for an insight into the life of a panzer soldier in WWII, then this is well worth reading.
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on 25 February 2010
Otto Carius was a hugely successful Tiger commander, principally on the eastern front and this is his story.

As other reviewers have said, he can come across as matter of fact at times, rather than excited and emotional when in highly stressful encounters. However, this doesn't spoil things for me and I find that he comes across as authentically highly professional and coolly collected, for the level of experience and the huge success he had.

This is a really enjoyable read if you have any interest in tank combat in ww2 and the translation gives a really good account of the original. In a similar way to "The Forgotten Soldier", Carius leaves you with the same sense of panic from his few troops facing down the Russian hordes, although in his case it his hordes of tanks ! What is also good to see in the back of the book is lots of copies of his various decorations, awards, certificates etc and their english translations. This is a fantastic resource and the best personal account of the Panzer corps yet written.
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on 29 April 2007
"Tigers in the Mud" is a wonderful volume written by Otto Carius on his military career during WWII, mostly his action as commander of a company of Tigers(Tiger I). Most of the action takes place on the Eastern Front against the Russians although there is a brief excerpt against the Americans where he commanded Jadgtigers.

His accounts of the the individual actions is very interesting as well as the atmosphere of being surrounded by reliable comrades. Throughout he describes his interaction with men he had to rely upon and their deep comradeship. He doesn't fail to mention some people who really had no idea of what they were doing or those who did but simply couldn't get on with the men under their command. He also points out some of the aspects of military action as practised by the Germans and the Russians. Whereas there were never very many Tigers available at any time, and so their use was carefully orchestrated so that losses were kept to a minimum, the Russians tended to throw T-34's into action quickly and without concern as to losses. It demonstrates why he had so much success fighting the Russians in comparison to their success against his tanks. Nonetheless he never fails to say when things went awry due to basic mistakes in comand or just simple errors during combat.

It also becomes clear that even in late 1943 and early 1944 it was still possible for the Luftwaffe to maintain air superiority on the Eastern front. The kind of massed bombing carried out by the US and Britain in the west was never practised by the Russians to the same extent even though the size of their airforce was greatly superior to the Germans. Mind you the Russians never had access to the superb P-51 Mustang whereas the Germans had the Focke Wulf 190.

It was obvious that German tanks were generally superior to the Russian models, except the later JS-1's and IIs, and provided they were used properly i.e. taking into account their problems with transmission, road wheels/transport etc they would almost always defeat larger numbers of the enemy. Carius knew how to use his Tigers, as well, he knew how to cooperate with infantry and knew all of his company tank commanders well. It is through this kind of understanding he was able to have so many successes against larger numbers of Russian T-34s. I certainly have no problem believing that he could knock out 10 T-34s with a single Tiger.

It is important to understand that Carius took the initiative at the right moment or whenever he was able to given the limitations of supply and orders from above. He attempted as much as possible to make use of the element of surprise and it is this which helped him during his destruction of the 17 Russian tanks in the village of Malinava.

Throughout the text Carius never blew his own trumpet, the actions are described matter of factly and it is clear that he wished to make sure people such as Kerscher and "The Graf" got the accolades they deserved. His meeting with Himmler is also informative in terms of the man's character.

All and all an excellent book.
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VINE VOICEon 15 August 2004
Otto Carius was one of the most successful Panzerkommandanten ever to take a Tiger tank into battle, claiming some 150 tanks destroyed and being decorated with the Oakleaves to the Knights Cross. This is his memoir and Stackpole are to be heartily congratulated for this cheap paperback edition of a long-out-print Fedorowicz classic.. When World War II broke out Carius had volunteered for 104th Infantry Placement Battalion in May of 1940. Following training, he was assigned to the 21st Panzer Regiment and experienced his first battle as a loader on a Panzer 38(t) during the "Barbarossa" operation in June of 1941. After about a year of war experience on the Eastern Front, Carius was accepted in an Officer Candidate Course and following its completion, was assigned to the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion in April of 1943. Equipped with the new Tiger tanks, he was assigned as a tank commander to the 2nd Company of 502nd Tank Battalion. That summer, the 2nd Company was deployed to the Russian Leningrad Front and took part in several operations in that area. During that time, 502nd Tank Battalion was ordered to reinforce the front along with 11th SS Freiwillige Panzergrenadier Division "Nordland" at Narva Bridgehead. During one of his engagements, Carius destroyed four Soviet SU-85s and successfully withdrew without losses. In June of 1944, the company was transferred to Dunaburg (Daugavpils in Latvia) to defend the city from a concentrated Russian offensive. In the July of 1944, Russians outflanked the German defensive lines via the motorways west of Minsk and Borissov to Witebsk (same route was used by Germans in 1941). By using tanks in vast numbers, Soviets intended to divide the German occupied territory into small salients and then take port city of Riga. Since Riga is situated at the mouth of Dvina River, Dunaburg was an important strategic point for both Germans and Russians.

On 22 July 1944, 1st Lieutenant Otto Carius with his company of eight (early and mid production) Tigers advanced towards village of Malinava (northern suburb of Dunaburg) in order to halt the Russian advance. 1st Lieutenant Otto Carius and 1st Lieutenant Albert Kerscher (one of the most decorated commanders of sPzAbt 502) took a Kubelwagen in order to check if the village was already occupied by Russians. They discovered that village of Malinava was already occupied by the enemy. Carius recognized that the Russian tanks in the village were only advance troops waiting for the main force to arrive. He decided to recapture the village with a daring 'coup de main' before reinforcements arrived. He decided to attack the village using only two tanks because there was only one road leading to the village - six Tigers remained in reserve while Carius and Kerscher's Tigers moved towards the village of Malinava. Speed was the essence of Carius' strategy.

Entering the village, two T-34/85 tanks were observed rotating their turrets. At that moment, Kerscher's Tiger No.213, trailing Carius, opened fire and knocked them out. Also for the first time, Otto Carius encountered Russian's latest JS-1 (or possibly JS-2) heavy tank. Carius recalled that the entire battle lasted no more than 20 minutes - Carius and Kerscher's Tigers knocked out 17 Russian tanks during this brief but violent action. His quick and accurate recognition of the situation and the excellent tactics used were the main factors in the outcome; the Tiger's achievement at Malinava is perhaps as equally outstanding as Michael Wittmann's exploit at Villers-Bocage.

In November 1943, Otto Carius destroyed 10 Soviet T-34/76 tanks at distances as close as 50 metres. In August 1944, Otto Carius was transferred to Paderborn to the newly created schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 512 and was given command of the 2nd company. sPzJagAbt 512 was equipped with the massive Jagdtiger, armed with the 128mm Pak 44 L/55 gun. On 8 March 1945, 2nd company - its training incomplete - was directed to the frontline near Siegburg and participated in the defence of the River Rhine and eventually surrendered to the US Army on 15 April 1945.

All told, this is a fine - and rare - account of what it was to fight, live & die in the Tiger tank. The book is complete with reprinted period newspaper articles, both in the orginal German and in translated facsimile form and as such comes highly recommended.
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on 22 December 2004
Writing as an afficiando of WW2 books and accounts this is one of the best German tank books I have. The author is actually a funny and likable guy too, some of his exploits are laugh out loud type. Not too serious but immensely informative from the man on the line point of view. A gripping WW2 account.
Its likely that his perspective on National Socialism and the Third Reich may be disorientating at first. However there is really only thoughtful commentry. Its well worth digesting these views for an open minded exploration of the 'other side's' mentality. Good Book.
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on 18 September 2010
This excellent book details in great depth the combat experience of Otto Carius (Knights Cross and Oak Leaves winner), perhaps one of the less well known Tiger Tank commanders, but clearly someone in the same league as Michael Wittmann, only an army officer in this case, rather than a Waffen SS one and, perhaps, most importantly, one who actually survived the war and kept his diaries and photograph albums intact, with which this book was produced. Heartily recommended for any serious student of German armour (in the sense of tank forces) in WW2.
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on 9 March 2008
Carius served in several tanks throughout the war, from the small Panzer 38(t) to the Tiger I and briefly, the huge Jagdtiger. He fought against the Russians and the Americans, although the majority of the book is mainly concerned with his 'Tiger' actions against the Russians. It is an interesting book for anyone who likes personal accounts of armoured warfare during the Second World War.
Personally, whilst I enjoyed the book, I thought it was a bit too sanitized for my tastes, as regards his re-telling of the various actions. He does not go into great detail about them, perhaps in an effort not to seem to be gloryifying his many successes, but I felt that in reading it, I was never really 'there' with him, if you know what I mean.
Many other memoirs recount the sights, sounds, smells etc., of battle, painting a mental picture which helps to give an understanding of what the author went through and that was what I felt this book was lacking.
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on 20 September 2012
Tigers in the Mud is by now a relatively famous books about the military career of Otto Carius written by the man himself some 15 years after the war. Unlike many biographies this is a book in his own words and based on lots of documents, correspondence and photographs collected (and saved) by the author throughout his war years. Some parts of the book are fascinating insights and there are lots of little facts that jump out at the reader, but the translation of the original German text is a little clumsy and makes this a hard book to read.

The action in the book is almost exclusively set on the Eastern Front facing the Russians (referred to as 'Ivan' throughout), although in the latter chapters he is posted to the west facing the Americans. Much of the action is described in a very matter of fact way which is both refreshingly clear but also on occasion frustratingly lacking in detail. Some scenes for instance are described almost like an After Action Report so while this is a very informative book the reader doesn't get the full experience of the sights, sounds, smells like one does in other biographies. Having said that one of the best chapters 'Portrait of the Tiger' does reveal the physical discomforts and difficulties of fighting in the Panzer VI.

One of the big faults with the book in my opinion is the translation which I often found a little hard to read. Some paragraphs read like a bunch of unrelated sentences dragged together and there was little narrative flow to most of the chapter's. Some of the translations also used English phrases and colloquialisms which just didn't sound right coming from a German officer and made reading some sections disconcertingly unbalanced. Having said that the very fact that this relatively obscure memoir has been translated at all has meant it has reached a much wider audience that it otherwise would have.

Throughout the book Carius makes it clear that he feels the ordinary German soldier has been treated badly in the post war period. To some extent he is right, in that it has long been popular to portray every German soldier as a warmongering Jew hating Nazi. The truth is that many regular German soldiers were not fighting for Hitler or for National Socialism but because their country asked then to fight and they saw it as their duty to respond to that call. In that respect they were no different from the soldiers of other nations who fight for their country not the politics that have resulted in the war. Several times Carius states that at the front an individual soldiers politics or religion were irrelevant and all that really mattered was comradeship and fellowship which is probably a sentiment that most veterans can understand.

Having said that Carius never acknowledges the wrongs perpetrated by his Nazi leaders, even in retrospect, and I found that hard to ignore. At the front, insulated from reality and fighting against an implacable enemy, he could be excused for being blind to the evil of Germany's leaders. However, looking back and writing 15 years later he showed remarkably little comprehension of the chaos that was unleashed by his country or that Germany as whole had to accept some responsibility for allowing such a regime to gain power in the first place. I didn't expect Carius to apologise for his country but most other German biographies (such as that by Von Luck) I have read have at least acknowledged with hindsight that they were fighting for an unjust cause.

I'm not sure that Carius was sympathetic to the regime as he candidly acknowledges Graf von Stauffenberg who attempted to assassinate Hitler as a hero because he was willing to die for his belief that Germany needed to be saved from destruction by its own leaders. However he is also scathing of the other plotters because they did not act sooner to eliminate Hitler. Carius also describes potential saboteurs and informants as traitors without seeming to realise that these people also risked their lives (and those of their families) by their actions. Overall the reader gets a very mixed message on the political alignment of the author. Maybe this is deliberate as he was initially writing for an audience of his military peers and politics was deemed irrelevant to the front-line soldier whose main priorities usually focused on survival.

Politics aside there is a lot about this book that I did enjoy. There are plenty of tactical insights into how the Tigers of the 502nd Tank Battalion were employed and the difficulties they faced in Russia. The state of the roads and unsuitability of cross country travel in the Tiger is mentioned time and again. There are also numerous references to march routes needing to be scouted out - usually by the commander - to assess the condition of roads and in particular bridges. Although it is clear the Tiger was not the unmaneuverable beast it is sometimes portrayed as, its capabilities were severely restricted in the boggy and marshy terrain in which they were deployed - hence the name of the book.

Carius takes great pains to acknowledge the work of maintenance crews in keeping his Tigers running and combat ready. Problems with running gear, broken tracks and final drives are mentioned regularly. Although the Armour of the Tiger made it a formidable opponent its was far from invulnerable. On one occasion the commanders cupola of Carius' tank was shot clean off by a lucky shot from a Russian Assault Gun - only the fact that he was ducked down getting his cigarette lit by another crew member saved his life! The tiger was also vulnerable to HE and Mortar rounds which could send shrapnel through the engine deck into key components such as the radiators. Handling of the tank was also key to the vehicles endurance. On several occasions Carius describes hasty or green drivers throwing tracks by reversing or turning too quickly.

After the biography there are several original documents that have been reproduced along with English translations of them. One of the most interesting of these is a report by the field engineers responsible for maintaining the Tigers at the front. Their report is a long list of common faults, analysis of why these have occurred and recommendations for eliminating the problem in future. I got the impression that many of the faults listed should have been identified during proper trails of the tank before production was begun and before the Tiger was issued to front line troops.

So is this a good book? Yes and no. The translation could have been better and Carius' matter of fact narrative style was hard to read at times. But it is still an incredible story of the epic struggle between the Germans and Russians. Carius himself was undoubtedly a brave soldier earning the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class, the Knights Cross and Oak-leaves to the Knights Cross. He was also wounded several times eventually being awarded the Wound Badge in Gold and the Panzer Battle Badge in Silver for 100 Assaults. His loyalty to his comrades comes through clearly in his words and while I have some misgivings about his stance on the war one has to remember this book was originally written for fellow veterans of the 502nd Panzer Battalion not for a wider audience.
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on 1 April 2016
The preface to the book acknowledges that much of the detail is soyrced from his Battalion's after action reports and this is reflected in the relatively light detail concerrning early parts of the book. Training and his earlier deployments are skipped over almost. However the remainder is detailed enough that I was even able to retrace the steps of his final engagements around Unna near Dortmund near to where I live.
Well-written and engaging, this is a worthy addition to any collection of War memoirs from the period despite the relative lack of technical detail.
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on 26 October 2015
A really excellent account of a truly great Tiger tanker. I have not fact checked the book however, others' reviews indicate that most of the detail is accurate. In a general sense, you get a real feel for what it must have been like to be in a Tiger tank on the Eastern front. The end of the book in Europe has quite a different feel to it, almost an afterthought but that can be explained by the author's personal circumstances at that time. The account appears a little self serving but you can't really fault that - ultimately it is a personal account, not an objective history. Overall an excellent read, full of colour and detail that gives you a small inkling of what it was like to command and fight this most famous of WWII tanks, written in an engaging style and hard to put down. Highly recommended!
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