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The Race to Berlin (January 1945 - May 1945)

The Race to Berlin (January 1945 - May 1945)

The Battle of Berlin was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II and was designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union.

Starting on January 16th, 1945, the Red Army breached the German front as a result of the Vistula-Oder Offensive and rapidly advanced westward as fast as 30-40 kilometres a day, through East Prussia, Lower Silesia, East Pomerania, and Upper Silesia, temporarily halting on a line 60 kilometres east of Berlin along the Oder River. During the offensive, two Soviet fronts (army groups) attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. The Battle in Berlin lasted from late April 20th, 1945 until the morning of May 2nd and was one of the bloodiest battles in history.

The first defensive preparations at the outskirts of Berlin were on March 20th, when the newly appointed commander of the Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici, correctly anticipated that the main Soviet thrust would be made over the Oder River. Before the main battle in Berlin commenced, the Soviets managed to encircle the city as a result of the smaller Battles of the Seelow Heights and Halbe. During April 20th, 1945, the 1st Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov started shelling Berlin's city centre, while Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed in the north through the last formations of Army Group Centre. The German defences were mainly led by Helmuth Weidling and consisted of several depleted, badly equipped, and disorganised Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, as well as many Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members. Within the next days, the Soviets were rapidly advancing through the city and were reaching the city centre, conquering the Reichstag on April 30thafter fierce fighting.

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German Sd. Kfz. 181 PzKpfw VI King Tiger Ausf. B Heavy Tank schwere SS Panzer Abteilung 503, Berlin, May 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 181 PzKpfw VI King Tiger Ausf. B Heavy Tank - schwere SS Panzer Abteilung 503, Berlin, May 1945 (1:72 Scale)

In January 1943, a new Tiger tank was ordered by the Waffenamt, this time with a turret large enough to mount the fearsome 8.8cm L/71 gun. Besides improving its tank killing capabilities, the new Tiger was also intended to be more survivable on the battlefield.

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German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer VI Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer with Zimmerit - Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer VI Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer with Zimmerit - Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Early in 1943, orders were given to design a heavy, self-propelled anti-tank gun, which would mate a 12.8cm gun with a Tiger II chassis. On October 20th, 1943 a wooden mock-up of the enormous vehicle was shown to the OKH planners who authorized that a prototype be finished by April 1944.

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German RW61 Sturmtiger Rocket Assault Mortar - Sturmmorser Kompanie 1001, Germany, 1945 German RW61 Sturmtiger Rocket Assault Mortar - Sturmmorser Kompanie 1001, Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

On August 5th, 1943, a self-propelled vehicle was proposed by senior Army officials based on the Tiger I chassis but mounting a 38cm mortar. Alkett was placed in charge of the design. The Company managed to complete a prototype by October 20th, which was run through a series of field tests for approval.

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German Sd. Kfz. 182 PzKpfw VI King Tiger Ausf. A Heavy Tank with Porsche Turret and Zimmerit - 3./schwere Panzer Abteilung 503, Hungary, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 182 PzKpfw VI King Tiger Ausf. A Heavy Tank with Porsche Turret and Zimmerit - 3./schwere Panzer Abteilung 503, Hungary, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

In January 1943, a new Tiger tank was ordered by the Waffenant, this time with a turret large enough to mount the fearsome 8.8cm L/71 gun. Besides improving its tank killing capabilities, the new Tiger was also intended to be more survivable on the battlefield.

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German Sd. Kfz. 182 PzKpfw VI King Tiger Ausf. A Heavy Tank with Henschel Turret and Zimmerit - 1./schwere Panzer Abteilung Feldherrnhalle, Hungary, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 182 PzKpfw VI King Tiger Ausf. A Heavy Tank with Henschel Turret and Zimmerit - 1./schwere Panzer Abteilung Feldherrnhalle, Hungary, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

In January 1943, a new Tiger tank was ordered by the Waffenant, this time with a turret large enough to mount the fearsome 8.8cm L/71 gun. Besides improving its tank killing capabilities, the new Tiger was also intended to be more survivable on the battlefield.

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German Sd. Kfz. 171 PzKpfw V Panther Ausf. G Medium Tank with Zimmerit - Fallschirm Panzer Division Hermann Goring, East Prussia, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 171 PzKpfw V Panther Ausf. G Medium Tank with Zimmerit - Fallschirm Panzer Division 'Hermann Goring', East Prussia, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

In many respects, the Panther tank was viewed as the finest armored fighting vehicle of the Second World War. Based in large part upon the Soviet's highly successful T-34 medium tank, the PzKpfw V Ausfuhrung G was built by several manufacturers including MAN, Daimler-Benz and MNH.

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German Sd. Kfz. 162/1 Jagdpanzer IV L/70 Tank Destroyer - Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 162/1 Jagdpanzer IV L/70 Tank Destroyer - Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Jagdpanzer IV L/70 (A) Zwischenlosung was the last tank to enter service with the Wehrmacht in September 1944. Essentially, German tank designers placed a Jagdpanzer IV turret on a Panzer IV chassis then fitted it with a powerful 75mm L/70(A) gun. The Zwischenlosung proved to be an excellent tank killer even though only 278 vehicles were built by war's end.

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German Sd. Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Tank Destroyer - Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Tank Destroyer - Unidentified Unit, Eastern Front, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Jagdpanzer IV L/70 (A) Zwischenlosung was the last tank to enter service with the Wehrmacht in September 1944. Essentially, German tank designers placed a Jagdpanzer IV turret on a Panzer IV chassis then fitted it with a powerful 75mm L/70(A) gun. The Zwischenlosung proved to be an excellent tank killer even though only 278 vehicles were built by war's end.

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German Sd. Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Tank Destroyer - Panzer Lehr Division, Eastern Front, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 162 Jagdpanzer IV L/48 Tank Destroyer - Panzer Lehr Division, Eastern Front, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Jagdpanzer IV L/70 (A) Zwischenlosung was the last tank to enter service with the Wehrmacht in September 1944. Essentially, German tank designers placed a Jagdpanzer IV turret on a Panzer IV chassis then fitted it with a powerful 75mm L/70(A) gun. The Zwischenlosung proved to be an excellent tank killer even though only 278 vehicles were built by war's end.

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German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer VI Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer with Porsche Turret - 3/schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 653, Germany 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer VI Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer with Porsche Turret - 3/schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 653, Germany 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Early in 1943, orders were given to design a heavy, self-propelled anti-tank gun, which would mate a 12.8cm gun with a Tiger II chassis. On October 20th, 1943 a wooden mock-up of the enormous vehicle was shown to the OKH planners who authorized that a prototype be finished by April 1944.

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German Sd. Kfz. 162/1 Jagdpanzer IV L/70 Tank Destroyer - Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 162/1 Jagdpanzer IV L/70 Tank Destroyer - Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Jagdpanzer IV L/70 (A) Zwischenlosung was the last tank to enter service with the Wehrmacht in September 1944. Essentially, German tank designers placed a Jagdpanzer IV turret on a Panzer IV chassis then fitted it with a powerful 75mm L/70(A) gun. The Zwischenlosung proved to be an excellent tank killer even though only 278 vehicles were built by war's end.

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German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer VI Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer with Zimmerit - schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 512, Germany, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer VI Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer with Zimmerit - schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 512, Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Early in 1943, orders were given to design a heavy, self-propelled anti-tank gun, which would mate a 12.8cm gun with a Tiger II chassis. On October 20th, 1943 a wooden mock-up of the enormous vehicle was shown to the OKH planners who authorized that a prototype be finished by April 1944.

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German Sd. Kfz. 173 Jagdpanther Tank Destroyer - Germany, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 173 Jagdpanther Tank Destroyer - Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Jagdpanther mounted a powerful 8.8cm Pak L/71 cannon within a fixed turret, which was situated atop a standard Panther V chassis. Although production of the tank was begun at MIAG in January 1944, it took another ten months before the larger NMH plant could expand the production run in time for the Wacht am Rhein ("Watch on the Rhine") winter counteroffensive.

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Soviet JS-2 Stalin Heavy Tank - 7th Independent Guards Heavy Tank Brigade, Berlin, 1945 Soviet JS-2 Stalin Heavy Tank - 7th Independent Guards Heavy Tank Brigade, Berlin, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Iosif Vissarionovich tank (or IS tank, also known as the Joseph Stalin tank), was a heavy tank developed by the Soviet Union during World War II and first used in the Kursk area in September 1943. The tanks in the series are also sometimes called JS or ИС tanks.

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German Sd. Kfz. 165 Hummel Self-Propelled Howitzer - Unidentified Unit, Poland, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 165 Hummel Self-Propelled Howitzer - Unidentified Unit, Poland, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Hummel ("Bumble-Bee") was to be a mere 'Zwischenlosung' (interim solution) until a chassis designed specifically as a self-propelled gun platform could be developed and mass produced. By May 12th 1943, 100 Hummel were to be built for use in the planned summer offensive against the Red Army, code-named "Operation Zitadelle".

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German Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind Anti-Aircraft Gun - schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 560, Hungary, 1945 German Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind Anti-Aircraft Gun - schwere Panzerjager Abteilung 560, Hungary, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind ("Whirlwind") was an anti-aircraft vehicle based on the Panzer IV. It was developed in 1944 as a successor to the earlier AA tank, the Mobelwagen.

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German Sd. Kfz. 142 Sturmhaubitze 42 Ausf. G Assault Gun - Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 142 Sturmhaubitze '42 Ausf. G Assault Gun - Unidentified Unit, Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The German Sturmgeschutz (StuG) was one of the most successful armored fighting vehicles of the Second World War. It arose from an original concept of the pre-war panzer divisions, whereby a special vehicle for infantry support work was planned.

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German RW61 Sturmtiger Rocket Assault Mortar - Sturmmorser Kompanie 1001, Germany, 1944 German RW61 Sturmtiger Rocket Assault Mortar - Sturmmorser Kompanie 1001, Germany, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

On August 5th, 1943, a self-propelled vehicle was proposed by senior Army officials based on the Tiger I chassis but mounting a 38cm mortar. Alkett was placed in charge of the design. The Company managed to complete a prototype by October 20th, which was run through a series of field tests for approval.

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German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer VI Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer VI Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer (1:72 Scale)

Early in 1943, orders were given to design a heavy, self-propelled anti-tank gun, which would mate a 12.8cm gun with a Tiger II chassis. On October 20th, 1943 a wooden mock-up of the enormous vehicle was shown to the OKH planners who authorized that a prototype be finished by April 1944.

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German Sd. Kfz. 138/2 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer Light Tank Destroyer - Unidentified Unit, Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 138/2 Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer Light Tank Destroyer - Unidentified Unit, Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

Manufactured in Czechoslovakia at the Skoda Munitions Works, the Hetzer was designed to be a low-cost light tank destroyer that could stand up to the rigors of battle on any front. Entering service in July 1944, the Hetzer used a wide range of existing components from the outclassed PzKpfw 38(t) tank.

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Soviet JS-2 Stalin Heavy Tank - 29th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, 4th Guards Tank Corps, 1st Ukrainian Front, Wislica, Poland, January 1945 Soviet JS-2 Stalin Heavy Tank - 29th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, 4th Guards Tank Corps, 1st Ukrainian Front, Wislica, Poland, January 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Iosif Vissarionovich tank (or IS tank, also known as the Joseph Stalin tank), was a heavy tank developed by the Soviet Union during World War II and first used in the Kursk area in September 1943. The tanks in the series are also sometimes called JS or ИС tanks.

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German Sd. Kfz. 250/3 Light Command Half-Track - Panzer Division Feldhernhalle, Vimperk, Czechoslovakia, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 250/9 Light Command Half-Track - Panzer Division Feldhernhalle, Vimperk, Czechoslovakia, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Sd. Kfz. 250 was a light armored halftrack, very similar in appearance to the larger Hanomag-designed Sdkfz 251, and built by the DEMAG firm, for use by Nazi Germany in World War II. The 250 had 4 roadwheels and a cargo capacity of one ton.

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German AB Autoblinda 43 203(i) Panzerspaehwagen - 13.(Verst) Pol.Pz.Kp., Laibach, Slovenia, 1944 German Autoblinda AB 43 203(i) Panzerspaehwagen - 13.(Verst) Pol.Pz.Kp., Laibach, Slovenia, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

The Autoblinda 41 (AB 41) was an Italian armored car in use during World War II. It was armed with a 20 mm Breda 35 autocannon and a coaxial 8 mm machine gun in a turret similar to the one fitted to the Fiat L6/40, and another hull mounted rear-facing 8mm machine gun.

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German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer VI Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer VI Jagdtiger Heavy Tank Destroyer (1:72 Scale)

Early in 1943, orders were given to design a heavy, self-propelled anti-tank gun, which would mate a 12.8cm gun with a Tiger II chassis. On October 20th, 1943 a wooden mock-up of the enormous vehicle was shown to the OKH planners who authorized that a prototype be finished by April 1944.

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German Sd. Kfz. 251/9 Stummel Half-Track with 7.5cm Anti-Tank Gun - 20.Panzer Division, East Prussia, 1944 German Sd. Kfz. 251/9 Stummel Half-Track with 7.5cm Anti-Tank Gun - 20.Panzer Division, East Prussia, 1944 (1:72 Scale)

On March 31st, 1942, Bussing-Nag was ordered to develop an armored superstructure capable of mounting the 7.5cm KwK gun. In June 1942, two prototypes were sent to Russia for field tests and as a result, an order was placed for 150 units that same month.

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German Sd. Kfz. 162/1 Jagdpanzer IV L/70 Tank Destroyer - Panzer Grenadier Division Feldherrnhalle, Budapest, Hungary, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 162/1 Jagdpanzer IV L/70 Tank Destroyer - Panzer Grenadier Division Feldherrnhalle, Budapest, Hungary, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Jagdpanzer IV L/70 (A) Zwischenlosung was the last tank to enter service with the Wehrmacht in September 1944. Essentially, German tank designers placed a Jagdpanzer IV turret on a Panzer IV chassis then fitted it with a powerful 75mm L/70(A) gun. The Zwischenlosung proved to be an excellent tank killer even though only 278 vehicles were built by war's end.

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German Sd. Kfz. 173 Jagdpanther Tank Destroyer - schwere Panzer Abteilung 655, Oldenburg, Germany, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 173 Jagdpanther Tank Destroyer - schwere Panzer Abteilung 655, Oldenburg, Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Jagdpanther mounted a powerful 8.8cm Pak L/71 cannon within a fixed turret, which was situated atop a standard Panther V chassis. Although production of the tank was begun at MIAG in January 1944, it took another ten months before the larger NMH plant could expand the production run in time for the Wacht am Rhein ("Watch on the Rhine") winter counteroffensive.

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German Early Production Sd. Kfz. 165 Hummel Self-Propelled Howitzer - Panzer Division Feldherrnhalle, Budapest, Hungary, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 165 Hummel Self-Propelled Howitzer - Panzer Division Feldherrnhalle, Budapest, Hungary, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Hummel ("Bumble-Bee") was to be a mere 'Zwischenlosung' (interim solution) until a chassis designed specifically as a self-propelled gun platform could be developed and mass produced. By May 12th 1943, 100 Hummel were to be built for use in the planned summer offensive against the Red Army, code-named "Operation Zitadelle".

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Soviet T-34/85 Tank - Yellow 40, Eastern Front 1945 Soviet T-34/85 Medium Tank - "Yellow 40", Eastern Front, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The first generation T-34 medium tank made its debut in combat during the summer of 1941, when the Wehrmacht launched its invasion of the Soviet Union. The T-34 easily outclassed the German PzKpfw III and IV models, thanks to its hard-hitting 76.2mm main gun, thick frontal armor, wide tracks, and overall superior mobility.

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German Sd. Kfz. 162/1 Jagdpanzer IV L/70 Tank Destroyer - L01, Unidentified Unit, Hungary, 1945 German Sd. Kfz. 162/1 Jagdpanzer IV L/70 Tank Destroyer - "L01", Unidentified Unit, Hungary, 1945 (1:72 Scale)

The Jagdpanzer IV L/70 (A) Zwischenlosung was the last tank to enter service with the Wehrmacht in September 1944. Essentially, German tank designers placed a Jagdpanzer IV turret on a Panzer IV chassis then fitted it with a powerful 75mm L/70(A) gun. The Zwischenlosung proved to be an excellent tank killer even though only 278 vehicles were built by war's end.

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