Forces of Valor FOV801029A German Sd. Kfz. 184 Elefant Heavy Tank Destroyer with Zimmerit - Unidentified Unit, Italy, 1944 (1:32 Scale)
"We must do everything we can to promote anti-tank defense, and work just as hard to guarantee successful counter-attacks through the instrument of powerful tank forces of our own."
- Major-General Heinz Guderian, "Achtung Panzer!"
The Elefant (Elephant) stemmed from the Porsche design for the PzKpfw VI Tiger. Henschel was awarded the contract for the new tank, but it was decided to use the Porsche design as a tank destroyer. Hitler demanded that the new vehicle be ready for the 1943 offensive on the Russian front, so development was rather hurried. As a result, many broke down to their first action at the Battle of Kursk, and the lack of proper armor and ponderous mobility made them easy targets for Soviet gunners in the battle. In addition, the lack of machine guns meant that there was no defense against Soviet troops disabling them with explosive charges in close-quarter combat. The survivors were withdrawn to Italy, where unreliability and lack of spares ensured their continued ineffectiveness.
This particular 1:32 scale replica of a German Elefant tank destroyer was attached to an unidentified unit then serving in Italy during 1944.
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Historical Account: "The Soft Underbelly of Europe" - The Allied invasion of mainland Italy occurred in September 1943, by General Harold Alexander's 15th Army Group (comprising Mark Clark's U.S. Fifth Army and Bernard Montgomery's British Eighth Army) during World War II. The operation followed the successful invasion of Sicily during the Italian Campaign. The main invasion force landed around Salerno on the western coast in Operation Avalanche, while two supporting operations took place in Calabria (Operation Baytown) and Taranto (Operation Slapstick).
Prior to Sicily, Allied plans envisioned crossing the Strait of Messina, a limited invasion in the "instep" area (Taranto), and advancing up the toe of Italy, anticipating a defense by both German and Italian forces.
The overthrow of Mussolini and the Fascisti made a more ambitious plan feasible, and the Allies decided to supplement the crossing of the Eight Army with a seizure of the port of Naples. They had a choice of two landing areas: one at the Volturno River basin and the other at Salerno, both at the range limits of Allied fighters based in Sicily. Salerno was chosen because it was closer to air bases, experienced better surf conditions for landing, allowed transport ships to anchor closer to the beaches, had narrower beaches for the rapid construction of exit roads, and had an excellent pre-existing road net behind the beaches.
Operation Baytown was the preliminary step in the plan in which the British Eighth Army under General Bernard Montgomery would depart from the port of Messina on Sicily, to cross the Straits of Messina and land near the tip of Calabria (the "toe" of Italy), on September 3rd, 1943. The short distance from Sicily meant landing craft could launch from there directly rather than be carried by ship. The British 5th Infantry Division would land on the north side of the "toe" while the 1st Canadian Infantry Division would land at Cape Spartivento on the south side. British General Bernard Montgomery was strongly opposed to Operation Baytown because he predicted it would be a waste of effort since it assumed the Germans would give battle in Calabria; if they failed to do so, the diversion would not work, and the only effect of the operation would be to place the Eighth Army 300 miles (550 km) south of the main landing at Salerno. He was proved correct; after Operation Baytown the Eighth Army marched 300 miles north to the Salerno area against no opposition other than engineer obstacles.