Damaged versus Destroyed Tanks

The battle on the “tank fields of Prokhorovka” occurred on the 12th of July 1943. Ben Wheatley’s count of German losses is based upon aerial photos taken on 14-16 July 1943. The Germans had control of most of the battle area during that time, The SS Panzer Corps was still attacking with the Totenkopf SS Division on the 13th and with the Das Reich SS Division on the 14th and 15th of July. Therefore, the Germans certainly had the time and opportunity to repair or evacuate any damaged or destroyed tanks. We assume that they moved some or most of them by after three to five days. They often tried to evacuate tanks the same day or the day after.

The German army was absolutely axxx very diligent about evacuating and repairing tanks. Their reporting on this is very detailed. If the records survived, every destroyed tank had a hand drawn map in the files showing where they are and by serial number. One such map from an earlier fight is shown above. They regularly provided ten-day status reports tracking the repair status of all tanks. It is clear that they often evacuated tanks and only later wrote them off as destroyed. Sometimes it would take a while before they made that determination. They did not leave a lot of destroyed tanks on the battlefield if they could avoid it. They could always scavenge them for parts.

This subject is significant enough that we have already done a number of blog posts on the subject. For example:

German Damaged versus Destroyed Tanks at Kursk

The Tank Repair and Replacement Efforts of II Guards Tank Corps compared to Totenkopf SS Division

So, if Ben Wheatley is able to count five Panzer IVs on the battlefield, that does not mean the Germans only lost five Panzer IVs. It just means those were the five tanks that were so badly damaged that they were not repairable and there was not a whole lot to scavenge from them. LSSAH Division’s tank losses were clearly higher than 5. We will address that in the next post.

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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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      • I do not think that he is interested in damaged tanks, but rather the vehicles that were completely lost to the units. Temporary losses are temporary and it is not like we can expect to find another 100 hidden AFVs, which cannot be identified on the map. I am also not just worried about the inconsistencies in the German records.

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