Heavy Metal - Tiger Attack!   View more episodes

Aired at 06:00 AM on Saturday, Nov 20, 2010 (11/20/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:00:00THDAY, APRIL 20th.
00:00:02[ Marching band playing ] ferdinand porsche was a personal friend of the fuhrer,,, so it was annoying for both of them to discover the henschel design was clearly better.
00:00:20Of the three basic characteristics of any tank -- firepower, armor, and mobility -- the german designers favored firepower, so, in response to hitler's directive, henschel decided UPON A TURRET AND 88 mm GUN Designed by krupp, the german steel manufacturers.
00:00:40Two months later, the new,, supertank was finally ready for combat trials.
00:00:45To match its performance, it was " at 56 tons, the tiger was nearly 20 tons heavier than its nearest rival.
00:00:58Yet, despite its size, it had to cross difficult terrain and negotiate obstacles better than any allied tank.
00:01:12>> Adolph hitler was in love,, with the tiger tank.
00:01:17It was big and it was powerful and it fit the ideal of the nazi superman.
00:01:24So this vehicle epitomized the german army and germany in that it was big and it was powerful.
00:01:31>> Narrator: In late 1942, frontline units received their new wonder weapon equipped with the most lethal tank gun in EXISTENCE -- THE 88 mm.
00:01:45It would not take long to discover if the tiger proved to be the battle-winning tank that ,, we're offering two mediumswith up to three toppings for just six bucks each!
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00:04:44M m,,,, >> Narrator: The incredible triumphs of the german army during the first three years of war had shown the panzer divisions to be hitler's best shock troops.
00:06:06[ Men singing in german ],, the panzers' spirit of determination, cunning, and coldbloodedness had ensured rapid victory on the battlefield.
00:06:28Panzer generals such as erwin rommel and heinz guderian had cocome legendary figures.
00:06:37Along with the fighter pilot, the panzer trooper in his dashing black uniform and death's-head badges was germany's new superhero.
00:06:47Alfred rubbel was eager to join the panzers when war broke out ,, >> [ speaking german ] >> Interpreter: Panzers were seen as elite troops in the army which was expressed simply through our black uniform.
00:07:03We were certainly proud.
00:07:04We were young men, after all.
00:07:10>> Narrator: When the tiger tank was first introduced in 1942, only the best crews were selected.
00:07:17They were the elite of the elite.
00:07:20>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: Crews for the tiger were recruited exclusively from experienced soldiers who had already served in other tank units during the war.
00:07:33Our training commenced with theory in the lecture hall followed soon afterwards with practical on the actual machine.
00:07:40>> [ Speaking german ] >> Narrator: Instructors explained the tiger's advanced technology using pamphlets about the care and maintenance each trooper was expected to carry , the 5-man crew trained together, familiarizing themselves with the tank until they understood every aspect of their new weapon.
00:08:11They particularly welcomed the superior protection the tiger offered its crew.
00:08:16With nearly four inches of frontal and over three inches of side and rear armor, it was the world's most heavily armored tank.
00:08:26>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: My first impression -- I was disappointed.
00:08:31It was a dinosaur, not an,, elegant vehicle as I had imagined.
00:08:34I expected it to be like the t-34.
00:08:38However, when we got to know and learn how to apply its power, it became the superior tank on any battlefield till the end of the war.
00:08:48>> [ Speaking german ] >> Narrator: German tank designers were always searching for a bigger and better gun capable of dealing with enemy tanks.
00:09:03>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: The 88 mm gun,, was superior to any other gun at that time, so was the technology for targeting the gun with the turret-turning mechanism.
00:09:15The gunner stood with his foot on two rockers.
00:09:19If he pressed his foot forwards, the turret would turn to the right.
00:09:25If he pressed it backward, it turned to the left.
00:09:31>> Narrator: In training, gunners and loaders were timed with a stopwatch and only passed if they completed their tasks within a set number of seconds.
00:09:40Some of the top crews were even trained byluftwaffe instructors, experts on the 88 mm GUN.
00:09:49The radio operator sat next to the driver and manned the forward machine gun located in a ball mounting on the outside of the front armor plate.
00:10:00>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: The machine guns were used primarily to fight off enemy infantry and antitank guns that were very close keepi ,, >> Narrator: Tiger tank drivers were selected with great care.
00:10:20>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: You need a certain degree of ambition to drive the thing, a certain level of technical understanding, and some intelligence.
00:10:34Some people were afraid and claustrophobic in the tank, but you couldn't have that.
00:10:40The driver had to be calm, which had a positive effect on the ,, >> Narrator: The tiger had eight forward and four reverse gears, but its huge weight made steering difficult, so henschel developed power steering, and for the first time, a steering wheel instead of levers was used to maneuver a tank.
00:10:58>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: Because of the power steering, you could basically steer the tiger with one finger, and the half automatic gear shift was also much better than any other tank that we had.
00:11:11>> Narrator: The initial role for the heavy tiger tank was to be the iron fist of the panzer divisions punching a hole in ,, a panzer division, the cornerstone of german strategy, usually consisted of a panzer regiment -- about 200 tanks divided into three battalions.
00:11:33Each division had two panzer grenadier regiments -- highly trained infantry to support the tanks.
00:11:40In addition, there were artillery, engineers, antiaircraft guns, and numerous support troops.
00:11:48The total number of men varied from 10,000 to 15,000 depending,, on the campaign.
00:11:54Tiger tanks were usually grouped into heavy companies and attached to divisions.
00:12:01>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: Each fighting company had 14 tigers.
00:12:07And then, in each company, we had vehicles for maintenance troops, company vehicles for logistics, fuel provisions, ammunition supply, food, and so on.
00:12:21>> Narrator: Fuel is the lifeblood of tanks, and with a tiger consuming 2 1/2 gallons per mile, the all-important fuel trucks were never far away.
00:12:33>> The tiger is an engineering marvel.
00:12:35Ity, though, is not the tank.
00:12:37It's everything that goes with it.
00:12:40It's the ammunition truck, it's the fuel bowser that goes along with this.
00:12:46You attack that, the tank is useless.
00:12:51>> Narrator: Tiger units often included light and medium tanks SUCH AS THE MARK IIIs AND IVs.
00:12:56These tanks were needed to perform numerous duties for,, which the tiger was not suited, like scouting and escort duties.
00:13:03This left the tiger to do what it did best -- destroying the enemy at long range.
00:13:10The tiger tank, with its highly trained crews, was ready for combat.
00:13:15Its sheer size and appearance together with its large, deadly gun, was about to make the tiger A LEGEND. M Mhine (2 HR) - Heavy Meta,,,, [ Male Announcer ] IT'S TIME FOR A PHONE...
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00:17:24,, qqqq qY q >> Narrator: The first tiger tanks, with their highly trained crews, made their debut in action on the russian front in late 1942.
00:17:47The well-trained panzer divisions found russia to be ideal tank country, but the logistics of maneuvering large formations across the great distances of the russian plains, or steppe, meant crews were often confined to their tanks,, ..
00:18:03Sometimes even days.
00:18:07>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: Our tank wasn't only a combat weapon, accoodation, and means of transport.
00:18:13It was our home, and accordingly, the tank was maintained and cared for.
00:18:18>> Narrator: Tiger crews especially benefited from the tank's large interior.
00:18:23>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: In the tiger, the driver and radio operator in particular had a lot of space for themselves.
00:18:32There were comfortable seats,,, and I was able to stretch out if I wanted to sleep.
00:18:38The driver could do the same.
00:18:40Other tanks just couldn't compare.
00:18:46>> Narrator: When in action, tigers had the advantage of being able to engage and destroy enemy tanks, like the t-34, at long range.
00:18:58>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: We could now hit targets from a distance we had only dreamt of before.
00:19:05The tank commander would announce the target, and the,, gunner would choose for himself when to open fire.
00:19:11Only bad commanders interfered with the gunner until he actually opened fire.
00:19:19>> Narrator: An encounter with a tiger on the battlef daunting prospect for the russian t-34 crews.
00:19:26>> [ Speaking russian ] >> Interpreter: You did get a little shiver when you met a tiger tank, not only because it was so powerful, but because we were young, and this tank was frightening.
00:19:38It was more powerful than the ,, >> [ speaking russian ] >> Interpreter: Our 76 mm guns could only fire at a distance of 500 meters, but a tiger could shoot from a distance of one kilometer without missing.
00:20:05>> Narrator: Even if the t-34s got close enghgh, the tiger's armor proved almost invincible.
00:20:12>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: In my first,, battle in a tiger, we were exposed on the russian steppe and took so many hits, but to no effect.
00:20:24I developed such a sense of security at the time and thought, "with this vehicle, nothing can happen to me at " >> [ speaking german ] >> Interpreter: We felt quite safe in our tank, although it wasn't a life insurance.
00:20:40I was wounded five times despite the tiger.
00:20:43But we could withstand an attack much better now.
00:20:46We had tanks that were hit 30,, times by russian guns and still in working order.
00:20:55>> Narrator: In one 6-hour engagement, a tiger was hit 227 times.
00:21:00Despite having its wheels, tracks, and transmission damaged, it managed to crawl a further 40 miles across country.
00:21:13Tigers worked in conjunction with infantry and artillery, each element supporting the ,, panzer grenadier machine gun teams were deployed on the flanks up to 50 yards from the tank in case of enemy infantry attacks.
00:21:38Tiger commanders had excellent radio communications with their crews.
00:21:43>> [ Speaking german ] >> [ speaking german ] >> Interpreter: I know from my own experience that you never looked out with the headphones on both ears, but always kept one ear free.
00:21:56If you don't hear what's happening outside, then you are exposed to enemy attack without being able to react appropriately.
00:22:06It is most important for the commander to have an overview of the battlefield.
00:22:15>> Narrator: With a well-trained crew, the tiger commander concentrated on searching for targets, always preferring to keep his hatch open.
00:22:25>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: I had to have my,, head outside of the turret so that I could oversee everything.
00:22:31If there was an antitank gun firing, you could then sense what was going on.
00:22:35If the hatch was closed, then you would only have a limited view.
00:22:40>> Narrator: Tiger ace otto carius, seen here wearing the knights cross for bravery, is credited with destroying over 100 allied tanks.
00:22:52A dangerous yet essential tactic for a commander was to make a reconnaissance on foot.
00:22:59From ground level, he would gain,, a more realistic picture of where tactically to place the heavy tiger.
00:23:06On one occasion, carius, observing enemy tanks from a panzer grenadier trench, was caught in a surprise infantry assault.
00:23:15>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: The russian machine gun fire was very heavy, but I was shot through the thigh, and I was unable to run back through the trench.
00:23:26>> Narrator: Carius sent his orderly back for help as the russian infantry reached his trench.
00:23:32>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: I got a bullet in my arm and another through my back.
00:23:38I could hear my own tanks coming, but the russian officer was nervous.
00:23:43He could see I was a highly decorated commander and saw my maps and wanted to take me alive.
00:23:48But he realized it was too late for that and shot me again, which went through my neck.
00:23:55And then my tanks arrived.
00:23:58>> Narrator: Although otto carius sustained five serious wounds, he recovered and returned to the battlefront ,, panzer divisions were also equipped with tiger tanks.
00:24:16Although not strictly part of were elite troops politically indoctrinated into the nazi cause.
00:24:24Their reputation for bravery as well as brutality made the s.s.
00:24:28Panzer regiments among the most feared of all german troops.
00:24:40In june 1944, two,, panzer divisions armed with tiger tanks were ordered from the russian front to france where the long-awaited second front had begun.
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00:29:08memeachine (2 HR >> Narrator: In june 1944, two panzer divisions armed with a mighty tiger tank were dispatched to normandy to fight off the allied second front.
00:29:18For months, the germans had been expecting an invasion of france,,, but they did not know exactly when and where it would come.
00:29:26Field marshal erwin rommel, commander of the anti-invasion forces, had strengthened the coastal defenses, but the use of the panzer divisions -- armed with the superior tiger tank -- had been a point of contention between the top commanders.
00:29:41Field marshal von rundstedt, the supreme commander in the west, had clearly laid down the role of the panzer divisions in the defense of france.
00:29:54The main force would be kept,, well back from the coast and used to plug any gaps once the exact location of the invasion was known.
00:30:03But rommel's ideas were different.
00:30:06He argued the panzers must be kept as near to the beaches as possible so an allied landing could be repulsed immediately.
00:30:14Hitler intervened in the argument and reserved the right to deploy the panzers himself.
00:30:20Unfortunately for rommel, the panzers were not used to repulse the allied landings.
00:30:25Incredibly, hitler was ,, by the time they eventually did arrive, they were too late -- the allied beachhead was already established.
00:30:38 panzer divisions transferred from the russian front, however, went into action immediately deploying their tiger tanks against the allies.
00:30:51>> It was a terrifying experience for those that met them because they could knock our tanks out at 1,000 whereas we couldn't even knock them out at 200 yards if we met them head-on.
00:31:08>> Narrator: The destructive capability of the tiger tank on the battlefield became legendary, and allied soldiers soon coined the term " general montgomery actually banned british combat reports that recorded the prowess of the tiger tanks on the grounds they undermined morale.
00:31:30Ironically, despite the perception by allied troops that panzers fielded,, hundreds of tigers, only 90 actually fought at normandy, but the damage they inflicted on the allies confirmed the reputation of the tiger.
00:31:49The most impressive exploit achieved by a tiger unit in normandy ton june 13, 1944, 7 days after d-day.
00:32:02That morning, several british tanks were advancing out of the french town of villers bocage.
00:32:07The long, narrow road forced,, them to travel in single file with their headquarter vehicles in the center.
00:32:15Unknown to the british, a group of five tiger tanks under the lieutenant michael whitman was hiding nearby.
00:32:24Whitman was a battle-hardened tiger ace who destroyed 117 enemy tanks on the russian front to win his knights cross.
00:32:37Dispersing his other tanks to different strategic points, whitman's tiger entered the town.
00:32:44Catching the british by surprise, he destroyed three tare maneuvering his tiger into a position to attack the british column from the rear.
00:32:54>> And then, through the smoke, suddenly emerged this huge tank.
00:32:58It moved its gun very slightly and fired.
00:33:04There was a crash, and the shell went through the front of the tank, between my legs -- I could feel a tingling inside, so i know it must have gone between my legs -- and landed up in the,, engine.
00:33:19A sheet of flame came over the tank.
00:33:22So I shouted, "bailout" to the crew because it wouldn't be very long before the ammunition exploded.
00:33:28>> Narrator: Within two minutes, whitman's tank had left 13 british vehicles burning in the road.
00:33:36Menacingly, the tiger now headed toward the tank commanded by captain pat dyas.
00:33:42>> I fired at the tiger yards, and the shot just bounced,, ..which is a bit disheartening.
00:33:54>> Narrator: Dyas managed to reverse his tank into a garden out of sight as whitman passed by.
00:34:00He then decided to ambush whitman from behind, but before he could fire, the tiger had turned.
00:34:07>> We met head-on, which was not good news.
00:34:11I fired at him twice, and, as before, they bounced off.
00:34:16He then fired at me once.
00:34:19This did not bounce it killed two of my crew, and i was literally blown out of the top.
00:34:32>> Narrator: Eight more s.s.
00:34:34Tigers reinforced whitman, and finally, his tiger was knocked out, but he escaped, leaving villers bocage a scene of death and destruction.
00:34:45Despite losing four tigers, whitman had destroyed 47 allied vehicles and inflicted 257 ,, pat dyas' heroic attempt to stop whitman's tiger had left him wounded and nearly blind.
00:35:05Luckily, the doctor who treated him at the first-aid station was an eye specialist.
00:35:11>> He put a great big magnet over my eyes and brrrr, brrrr -- out jumped all the little bits of steel.
00:35:20And he said, "if those had stayed in for 24 hours, you " >> Narrator: The encounter at,, villers bocage had demonstrated, despite overwhelming odds, how lethal a welanded tiger could be in close-quarter combat.
00:35:39>> Whitman himself, I could not but admire him.
00:35:44He was tough, he was bold, and ruthless -- a fine example of a german tank >> Narrator: Eight weeks after villers bocage, michael whitman was killed when his tiger was ,, although the initial d-day had stopped the allied advance.
00:36:15The tiger was proving itself deadly effective in defense, its long-range gun and thick armor unforgiving.
00:36:23>> The tiger was best avoided, really.
00:36:25You couldn r really do anythingthem.
00:36:29You felt quite powerless.
00:36:30It's like a nightmare.
00:36:31You know, things get a little bit nasty, then a little bit nastier, then a little bit,, nastier, then, my god, it is a tiger.
00:36:38Then a call on the radio.
00:36:39They'd say, "there's a tiger," and give a map reference.
00:36:42 would come very quickly in the typhoons and rocket it.
00:36:52>> Narrator: On july 18, 1944, operation goodwood was launched as the first phase in the allied breakout in normandy.
00:37:00The plan was to blast a path with heavy bombers to allow three allied armored divisions ,, 1,500 bombers of the royal air force staged the biggest air raid of the war against german tank positions.
00:37:20Lieutenant richard von rosen and his tiger crew were waiting in well-entrenched positions when pathfinder planes overhead.
00:37:30>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: They flew over us and continued dropping these flares.
00:37:35Then I knew it was going to get ugly.
00:37:38Although what was going to ,, I saw the tank next to me -- meters away -- was burning severely.
00:38:13It had been sliced open like a,, sardine can, hit right through.
00:38:26Our courage was somewhat diminished.
00:38:29We'd never seen anything like it.
00:38:31You have to imagine what we experienced in our tank during these 2 1/2 hours of carpet-bombing.
00:38:44>> Narrator: By late august, all german resistance in normandy , the german seventh army lost a quarter of a million men and thousands of tons of material.
00:38:58Despite its success, the landscape of normandy had not allowed the tiger tanks to be used to their full potential.
00:39:05>> The tiger probably made a difference on the eastern front where the germans faced a target-rich environment.
00:39:12It's good tank country.
00:39:14When you get it into an area where it's closed, like a city or a lot of places in western europe where the terrain is closed in and you can't see 2,000 meters, it loses a lot of effectiveness in that it doesn't have the fields of fire that it would have in russia.
00:39:36>> Narrator: Despite his empire collapsing around him, adolph hitler still pursued his dream of a bigger and better tank.
00:39:44Incredibly, at this late stage in the war, the third reich found the resources to produce the tiger's successor, the even more powerful king tiger.
00:39:54Hitler would use this supertank in a daring last-minute gamble to turn the tide of the war.
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00:42:32,,, qq q Y q >> Narrator: By late 1944, the german army was in retreat on all fronts, but hitler believed that the new, larger king tiger tank would give his panzer divisions the winning edge on the battlefield.
00:44:23Five years of war had seen his panzers sustain enormous losses in material which even the efficient german armaments industry found difficult to replace.
00:44:37Once the united states and the soviet union had entered the war, german tank production could not compete.
00:44:44The americans alone produced four times as many tanks as germany, and the soviet union PRODUCED MORE THAN 40,000 T-34s During the course of the war.
00:45:00But hitler was obsessed with superheavy tanks.
00:45:04He believed that superior weapons were the key to victory.
00:45:09They were, however, expensive.
00:45:11A tiger tank took 300,000 man-hours to build at a cost of 800,000 reichsmarks, the same as three fighter planes.
00:45:23To solve their manpower,, problems, the nazis staffed their factories with forced labor.
00:45:29This actually hampered german mass production as it took far longer to build the sophisticated tiger tank with many needless man-hours being wasted, whereas the american sherman and the russian t-34 tanks were far more suited to mass production by relatively unskilled workers.
00:45:50The new king tiger was introduced onto the battlefield in late 1944.
00:45:57Largest tank in service during world war ii.
00:46:01Its long-barreled gun could deal with any tank with apparent ease.
00:46:06Panzer commander richard von rosen is seen here inspecting his battle group of king tigers.
00:46:14>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: The king tiger had a similar shape to the t-34.
00:46:21It had sloping armor, not the square shape of the tiger i.
00:46:28In the west, the enemy tanks didn't give us a headache,,, neither the sherman nor the bigger version, the firefly, with its bigger gun.
00:46:39None of this was a problem for us.
00:46:45>> Narrator: The ardennes counteroffensive known as the battle of the bulge began on the 16th of december, 1944.
00:46:52It is the one battle of the war most closely linked with the king tiger tank.
00:46:59Hitler ordered 10 panzer and 14 infantry divisions to break through the ardennes forest in belgium, seize the port of antwerp, and sever the allied supply line to their northern armies.
00:47:12One king tiger battalion was battle group spearheading the advance.
00:47:18Using the poor weather to their advantage, the german troops completely surprised the americans, throwing them back in disarray within the first few days.
00:47:31A german breakthrough looked imminent.
00:47:36Although the germans only,, deployed about 150 king tigers, their reputation completely outweighed the impact of their numbers.
00:47:46>> Initially during the battle of the bulge when the king tiger was used against american troops, it panicked them.
00:47:52They'd never seen anything that big.
00:47:54So they were caught completely by surprise.
00:47:57Here they are, supposed to be in a quiet front.
00:48:00The next thing you know, they have this monstrous, huge king tiger rolling down on top of them, and it shocked them.
00:48:07It was hard to recover from this ,, >> Narrator: But despite its lethal killing power, the germans soon discovered they had made a tactical blunder in using king tigers to spearhead the offensive.
00:48:23Because of its size, the king tiger was not suited to rapid maneuvering through the narrow roads of the hilly and heavily wooded terrain of the ardennes.
00:48:32>> They're operating in mud and slush, snow.
00:48:37And because it was so huge, the german engineers would have to build special bridges for it and,, raft these things across.
00:48:48The attack bogged down.
00:48:51>> Narrator: tank crews ran out of fuel and ammunition, they were forced to fight their way out on foot after first destroying their own king tigers rather than see them captured.
00:49:04The desperate nature of the fighting experienced in the ardennes counteroffensive became evident in one incident, when 77 unarmed american prisoners were ,, after the war, 80 former s.s.
00:49:27Soldiers were prosecuted for murder.
00:49:36The germans sought to maintain the initiative by redeploying the remaining king tigers to the town of bastogne which had been surrounded earlier in the offensive.
00:49:46But here, determined american resistance prevented bastogne from falling.
00:49:50A hard battle was fought for,, this strategic position, but even the king tigers could not turn the tide.
00:50:04As the weather improved, allied air superiority decimated the german armor, including the precious king tigers.
00:50:12With the defeat of hitler's ardennes gamble, the last great tiger action in the west had been fought and lost.
00:50:24Germany's defeat was now just weeks away.
00:50:27The few tigers remaining in hitler's diminishing arsenal were used mainly on the eastern front.
00:50:35>> [ Speaking german ] >> Interpreter: The war was lost.
00:50:37Everybody knew that.
00:50:38We only wanted to keep the russians as far away as possible from the german border.
00:50:42That was our motivation.
00:50:45>> Narrator: During the final two years of the war, the panzer troops had fought with distinction through the great battles on both east and west fronts.
00:50:53Their skill and discipline in defense, often against overwhelming odds, had pushed the allies to the limit.
00:51:00>> P ppltetend to underestimate how good the germans were, and they also, thereby, underestimate how good we were.
00:51:08>> Narrator: Throughout its operational life, the tiger tanks were rushed to every crisis, and their crews fought on every front.
00:51:16Its performance in battle became legendary.
00:51:18>> [ Speaking german ] >> [ speaking german ] >> Interpreter: I wouldn't have wanted to go into battle in any other tank but the tiger because it was superior in every aspect ,, >> [ speaking german ] >> Interpreter: The tiger was, for me, the best tank that existed.
00:51:38It had its flaws, which you got to know, but you could live with that.
00:51:43Life in a tiger crew, commanding a tiger company, was, for me, the highlight of my time as a soldier.
00:51:53>> Narrator: The germans were unable to produce such an advanced weapon in the numbers needed to save the third reich, yet, even with the defeat of nazi germany, the reputation of,, the tiger endures.
00:52:06>> During world war ii, the tiger tank is absolutely superior to the american sherman or the russian t-34, but, in the end, they only made 1,300 of them, and, overall, that's a drop in the bucket.
00:52:18But, having said that, the tank's gonna go down in military history as one of the great tanks of all time.
00:52:34>> male narrator: Our days are numbered.
00:52:37Prepare for doomsday.,, Journey to the sacred site of a lost civilization to uncover the truth about the Maya prophecy.
00:52:47Did the Maya predict past and future events with pinpoint precision?
00:52:52Is, hidden within their ancient texts, the exact date of our demise?
00:52:57Time is running out.
00:52:59The countdown begins now.,,hihi (2 HR) - Mayan Doom Every year, tourists from all over the world flock to Chichen Itza, the ancient Maya city in the jungles of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, to witness a strange phenomenon.
00:53:49At 3:00 p.m. on the spring and fall equinoxes, the play of light and shadow form a serpent's body down the north staircase of the Pyramid of Kukulcan.
00:54:01>> When you see the serpent undulating down the stairway, what you're seeing is the serpent symbolically coming out of the sky, going to the plane of existence on the Earth, and then at the end of the day entering into the Earth or into the underworld.
00:54:13>> narrator: As it slithers down the stairs into the underworld, the shadow of the serpent's body,, connects to its sculpted head at the base of the 1,000-year-old pyramid.
00:54:24But is this phenomenon more than a religious sign?
00:54:28Some believe the serpent is a warning--one of several the Maya have passed to us--of a catastrophic event that is about to occur.
00:54:37>> We're not sure what the meaning of the serpent's shadow is, only that it's an effect that has a lot of science behind it in order to position the pyramid to create this special effect.
00:54:47It was made over 1,000 years ago, and it certainly wasn't made as a tourist attraction.,, Many believe that it was Kukulcan's warning about the end of the world.
00:54:55>> narrator: To the Maya, the