Mine Effectiveness (Mines at Kursk III)

There is an interesting statement in Zamulin’s book on Kursk (Demolishing the Myth, page 43) that says:

If in front of the line of defenses it required 350-400 anti-tank mines on average to damage or destroy one tank, then in the depths of the defense that number fell to 150-200 anti-tank mines. Such a difference is explained by the fact that mine emplacement in the depths of the defense occurred along lines of advance already revealed by the enemy.

I think I am reading that correctly, in that it takes 400 mines to damage or destroy one tank. There is no footnote to this passage, so I do not know if such a figure is from studies done in World War II, after World War II, or is just some rule of thumb. But, I have that data to test it here:

Mines at Kursk I

and here:

Tank Losses to Mines (Mines at Kursk II)

So, for the first day of the offensive in the south I have 131 to 154 German tanks lost to mines. So in first echelon of Sixth Guards Army there were 68,987 anti-tank mines (see my Kursk book, page 200). In the first echelon of the Seventh Guards Army there were 32,194 anti-tank mines in front of the III Panzer Corps (the 81st GRD and the 78th GRD, see page 201). This is a total of 101,181 anti-tank mines in the first echelon, opposite the three attacking German panzer corps.

So….101,181/154 = 657 or 101,181/131 = 772. Therefore, based upon this data, it appears that it was more like 657-772 mines per tank damaged or destroyed.

Now maybe I should only count 1/2 of the 71st Guards Rifle Division (GRD) mines, because the 332nd Infantry Division was opposite to half of the division (Kursk, page 378) and maybe 1/2 of the 67th GRD because both the 11th PzD and the 167th ID were opposite to it (Kursk, page 388). This reduces the mines counted against the German armor by 17,756. Now this is probably not really correct, as the mines are going to be biased towards the most obvious areas of attack (which is where the German armor went), but still (101,181-17,756)/154 = 541 or 101,181-17,756)/131 = 637.

So, it appears were are looking at a figure ranging from 541 to 772 anti-tank mines per tank damaged or destroyed.

Now……I can break it down by division attacking sector:

                            Estimated Tanks

                            Lost to Mines

Division               Low       High        Mines                               Range

3rd PzD                —                7            19,530 or less                383 or more per tank

GD PzGrD            —              25            as above                        as above

Panther Rgt         15             19            as above                        as above

11th PzD               —               8           15,981 or less                 1,998 or more per tank

LSSAH PzGrD     15             20           16,476                            515 to 687 per tank

DR SS PzGrD        9             12           as above                        as above

T SS PzGrD           9             12           17,000/2                        708 to 944 per tank

6th PzD      .69 x  20     .79 x 20          17,000/2 + 20,266/2      1165 to 1331 per tank

19h PzD     .69 x  19     .79 x 19          20,266/2 + 11,928/2      1073 to 1238 per tank

7th PzD      .69 x  21     .79 x 21          11,928/2                         351 to 426 per tank

Now, we never attempted to estimate the number of tanks damaged or destroyed by mines after the first day (5 July 1943) because we did not have the data. But this does give us some idea of how many anti-tank mines need to be laid to damage or destroy a tank. I have not done a “literature search” to determine if anyone else has done any other in-depth analysis of this.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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6 Comments

  1. I suppose that type of terrain on the battlefield would factor into this. Kursk might have had a terrain that required more mines than suggested by Zamulin. As you stated, we don’t know the “when” of his data, We also need to know the “where” of his data.

    • Well, it was a mix of terrain.

      Where the 48th Panzer Corps (3rd PzD, GD PzGrD, 11th PzD) was attacking was a series of gullies, villages and woods over a couple of lines of gentle rolling hills and ridges. Probably what people would categorize as “rolling, mixed.”

      The terrain the SS Panzer Corps was attacking over was more open. Again rolling terrain with some villages, but more open.

      The terrain the III Panzer Corps was attacking over was far more difficult. In the north, the 6th PzD was attacking up a hill into prepared positions. The 19th PzD was mostly attacking into a mix of villages and creeks. Part of its front was covered by the Donets River. The 7th PzD did an opposed river crossing into open terrain.

      There are pictures and 1:50000 scale maps of this terrain in my book. The interesting aspect is that the 6th and 7th Guards Army pretty much put the same number of anti-tank mines across the front of all eight divisions in the first echelon. The linear density of mines in the first echelon was 1,033 anti-tank mines per kilometer for the 71st GRD, 828 for the 67th, 1,200 for 52nd GRD and 1,172 for 375 RD. The Seventh Guards Army did weigh the mine placement to both flanks, so 81st GRD was 1,987 anti-tank mines per kilometer, 78th GRD (which was mostly behind a river) was 925, the 72nd GRD (behind river and facing the infantry Corps Raus) was 486 and the 36th GRD was 1,314 (behind river and facing the inactive 42nd Infantry Corps).

  2. I think the only way to really assess this would be to study the correlation between mine (type) to AFV and the effectiveness of mine clearing/sapper units. It depends on the AFV and the overall design of the mine. Drive sprocket or track segments were frequently damaged but occassionally the stored ammunition was ignited.

    >I have not done a “literature search” to determine if anyone else has done any other in-depth analysis of this.<

    What about mine and countermine operations in the Battle of Kursk (BRTRC)?
    Also, CSI report no.11 features "Soviet defensive tactics at Kursk" by David M. Glantz, quoting from "Inzhenernye voiska v boyakh za sovetskuyu rodinu".

        • I have not looked at those reports in the long time….but “claimed” losses is a dangerous basis for any analysis. If you look in my Kursk book, I did an extensive comparison to Soviet claims by the First Tank Army compared to actual German losses. Did the same for air losses and ace claims. Claims are sometimes off by multiples.

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