Soviet Tank Repairs at Kursk (part 2 of 2)

This first blog post on this subject strongly made the point that the Russian armor repair effort was not at the same level as the German efforts, which is what I observed when assembling the Kursk Data Base (KDB). But, Zamulin, Demolishing the Myth, continued on pages 448-449, touting what a great job the repair people did. I figured for completeness, I needed to post this.

To continue P. A. Rotmistrov’s (Fifth Guards Tank Army commander) quote from the previous posting:

The mechanics’ profile was diverse. The 83rd Army-level Repair-Recovery Battalion and the corps’ mobile repair depots were staffed with qualified workers from the tank industry (the Stalingrad and Khar’kov factories), but who lacked work experience in field conditions. The tank brigade equipment companies, on the other hand, were staffed primarily with specialists on the repair of armored vehicles under combat conditions. Such a combination of cadres on the whole produced satisfactory results.

Major overhauls, like engine, gun, and turret replacements, were performed at the mobile repair depots of the tank corps. Each tank corps had two of these repair depots, each staffed with 70 to 80 men. For urgent repairs just 8-10 kilometers from the front lines, two army-level, three corps-level and nine brigade collection points for disabled vehicles were set up, which shared all the repair-recovery resources.

On the night of 12 July, as the 5th Guard Tank Army commander later remembered:

The repair workers faced the task of restoring and repairing parts and components, stripped from irreparably damaged tanks from those tanks that needed major overhauls. We had to get hold of 45 engines, 20 gear boxes and several engine and steering clutches. All of the recover and repair units and teams of the separate regiments, brigades, and corps and the army were mobilized to accomplish this task.

To what Rotmistrov said I will add that in order to hasten the repair of the 5th Guard Tank Army’s damaged armored vehicles, the Front’s Armored and Mechanized Forces commander transferred 167 field repair depots from the 38th Army to the 5th Guards Tank Army on 14 July. The truly heroic effort produced results. Of the 420 damaged tanks in its brigades and regiments after the fighting of 12 July, 112 requiring minor or moderate repairs were restored to operation in the very first days after the battle. In addition, the Front command took other steps to assist the army. Already by 15 July, just three days after the engagement, the 5th Guards Tank Army began to receive new tanks. The 29th Tank Corps was the first to begin to received the new vehicles. The 31st Tank Brigade’s war diary notes, “15 July….An order arrived to pick up 16 T-34 tanks at Solntesevo Station. A procurement team had been sent.”

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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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  1. Good posts on the Soviet repair services and their efforts. This is a part of WWII that has not received the attention it deserves.
    But as it can be regarded as part of logistics, it is not surprising that it has not been well covered.

  2. I noted the statement in part 1 that the German Repair units completed 95% of repairs. Given to repair, a typical Panzer transmission from Mark III to Mark VI you are pulling of the turret and splitting the hull. Can you advise on the scope of the 95% given the level of home maintenance. Panzerworld has a interesting summary I was surprised at the level of homeland maintenance, considering the operational and logistical challenges involved. When advancing, and vehicles can be recovered makes sense, but as referred to on retreat, you are abandoning vehicles because on time. For example the Ferdinand two battalions of 45 vehicles took part in Zitadelle of which 48 were returned to Nibelungenwerks for upgrade to Elefant.

    • This is a bit of a quibbling response but it seems that CA’s page at Panzerworld doesn’t say anything about the “splitting the hull” that you describe but simply “if too badly damaged to be repaired in the field” an AFV was sent back to Germany to be repaired.

      • Richard, hi sorry I missed the reply. The world of tanks historian Nicholas Moran explains the process of changing out a transmission on Panzer III it is the same for all tanks and SP. The latest video at the Panzer Museum they discussed the changing out of a Jagdpanther transmission, where the gun is removed to get it out. I think it is 10 hours minimum for a Panther and around 2 hours for the Sherman. It’s the Panthers with the issues, though at Normandy reliability was not the issue. His video of the T34 is worth a review where he discusses the Russian approach of design life of the tank in combat against the need to repair.

        • Except that Soviet “lifetime” both from a technical and combat survivability perspective was very short.

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