Soviet Tank Repairs at Kursk (part 1 of 2)

Below is text taken directly from Valeriy Zamulin’s book Demolishing the Myth, pages 447-448.

To quote:

The units of the [German] II SS Panzer Corps also left behind only a scorched field and demolished equipment when they eventually withdrew. The headquarters of the 2nd Tank Corps report on 16 July 1943 “…The enemy, organizing a retreat during the night, withdrew all his forces, evacuated all the damaged equipment, and torched the remaining knocked-out tanks and vehicles on the battlefield.”

In the Red Army, the main burden for recovering tanks and self-propelled guns and for transporting them to collection points for disabled vehicles lay on the brigades’ equipment companies and the personnel of the tank battalions. Usually, the crew themselves actively participated in the recovery of their damaged tanks or self-propelled guns and then performed any routine or moderately difficult repair jobs. Kommunar tractors, and Komintern and Stalinets-2 artillery prime movers were used for this work. Mainly, however, a single T-34 or a pair of them made the recover, because the tracotrs had bulky profiles, insufficient power, and no armor protection.

In contrast, the recovery and repair work in the units of [German] Army Group South was well-organized. Each panzer regiment had a well-equipped separate tank maintenance company, while a separate Tiger battalion had its own tank maintenance platoon. These elements managed to do 95% of all the repair work on the armored vehicles, which was performed in frontline conditions.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to say the same thing about the repair work in the corps formations of the [Soviet] 5th Guards Tank Army. At 2400 12.07.43, the headquarters of the 29th Tank Corps reported the following information in a combat dispatch:

The brigade and battalion of the corps are engaged in recovering the wounded and equipment. In the course of the night 3 T-34 tanks and 1 Su-122 self-propelled gun will be repaired.

The recovery of damaged vehciles is being implemented by three turret-less T-34 tanks and one M-3 tank. Five teams are performing the repair work; two teams from the 32nd Tank Brigade and one from the 31st Tank Brigade, in addition to the corps repair teams. One of the corps teams is doing the repair work on self-propelled guns.

Thus, of the 55 knocked-out tanks and self-propelled guns, the 29th Tank Corps was only able to repair four over the night. Naturally, at such a pace it was not easy to restore the combat capability of the corps quickly.

P.A. Rotmistrov [Fifth Guards Tank Army commander] later wrote:

The presence in the army of only mechanical tools could not guarentee the quick restoration and repair of parts, necessary for tank repairs. The lack of welding equipment and repair workshops delayed the fabrication and rehabilitation of spare parts, and thus also the repair of tanks and self-propelled guns within set periods. Army and Front depots of inventory of armored vehicles were located far way (150-300 kilometers), and the insufficient amount of transportation in the army’s corps and brigades complicated the timely supply of components and spare parts.

There were no special break-down teams in the repair units, so it was necessary to pull qualified mechanics from repair work in order to break down the tanks, which reduced labor productivity.

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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.
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.
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).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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One comment

  1. Hi
    “These elements managed to do 95% of all the repair work on the armored vehicles, which was performed in frontline conditions.”
    Can you advise on the 95% background please. The design of German equipment made some repairs difficult particularly transmission, effectively requiring the disassemble the turret and front of the tank. See example of home maintenance
    So what level of maintenance are they doing, considering Kursk wasn’t the Panther and Ferdinand serviceability was poor ?

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