Summation of the Prokhorovka Blog Posts

Have just done a series of posts on Prokhorovka over this last week. As usual, I find it easier to write in bits and pieces then to put together one long (boring) article. Anyhow, the nine blog posts on Prokhorovka for this last week are (in order of posting):

Kursk Aerial Photos

Tank Losses on 12/13 July 1943

What About Totenkopf’s Losses?

And elements of the XXIX Tank Corps….

Damaged versus Destroyed Tanks

So What Tanks did LSSAH Lose on the 12th?

But it really wasn’t just a tank battle

The Importance of the Tank Ditch

One Final Note

There have also been a number of useful comments made to them. They are worth reading.

Tomorrow I will briefly discuss the Ben Wheatley article.

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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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9 Comments

  1. Great set of posts Christopher. Enjoying quite a lot your renewed interest in ww2. Although at cost of your time probably. These more thorough posts are more enjoyable.

  2. Chris,

    I have a question.
    In a previous post in this series (and elsewhere before that), you have argued that the Germans dragged away destroyed tanks from the battlefield and that tanks previously classified as damaged but repairable were subsequently reclassified as destroyed (for example by scavenging them for spare parts).
    What is the basis for this?
    Now, I don’t say that it never happened. After all, I have myself encountered such examples and even written about them. My objection is rather that in those records I have seen that allows individual tracking of tanks, it is very uncommon. I have not done any statistical analysis of this, but my general impression is that it would, at most, alter figures by a few percent.

  3. Well, I have seen in the 10-day status reports tanks that were previously reported as damaged now reported as destroyed. I would have to flip through them all to find the examples. It was a handful of cases.

    But, in some cases you just don’t know. For example, it is reported for the LSSAH that two Marders were destroyed on the 12th. Yet, the daily status reports show no decline in strength from the 12th to the 13th. For our database we record two Marders destroyed on the 12th and 2 other Marders repaired. It could just as well have been two damaged Marders were written off as destroyed and nothing changed on the front line. This would mean LSSAH losses on the 12th were 17 tanks damaged/destroyed vice 19.

    It also does appear that some German tanks as reported as destroyed later than the day they were actually destroyed. The record keeping sometimes lags, or sometimes they are loath to write it off.

    • Well, that is what I would expect, a handful of cases in an operation of the magnitude of ZItadelle. This is hardly a significant problem.
      That there sometimes is a lag in the reporting is true in many cases, but that is another kind of problem. Also, there will obviously be “borderline” cases when a tank is not immediately classified as either written off or repairable. I see nothing peculiar with that and it need not be caused by an exaggerated reluctance to write off badly damaged tanks.
      I would say that the opposite is vastly more common, i.e. the Germans write off perfectly repairable tanks, although perhaps not during Zitadelle, as it was probably more common in defensive operations.
      I think some of the issues surface because you were contracted to create a day by day database. It is inherently more tricky to get accurate data for such short periods of time. If you look at the entire operation and evaluate the entire operation, many of these problems vanish or are at least reduced significantly. Also, if we assess the operation and its impact on subsequent events, lumping together damaged and destroyed tanks can be downright misleading.

      • Well, the Kursk data base was designed to be used for combat model validation. It was never used for that. It was used by a number of people to test Lanchester equations (they failed) and the data from the database was used to create engagements for our DLEDB (Division-Level Engagement Data Base). These engagements were then used to the create the engagement sheets in the Kursk and Prokhorovka books. The DLEDB was also used for analysis in a number of studies (urban warfare, situational awareness, etc.). It is also used extensively in my book War by Numbers. Therefore, our focus has been on comparative daily division-level combat. The number of tanks lost in a day (or number of personnel casualties) is what is important, not the number of tanks written off as destroyed…….
        ……But…….
        Invariably someone will use the tank losses to look at comparative combat performance between the two armies. Total tanks lost vice total tanks destroyed I think is a better measurement for such comparisons. The exchange ratios provide a different picture if totally destroyed are compared then if losses (from all causes) are compared.

        • Yes, I am well aware of the reasons why your focus has been on daily combat. However, from these, it does not follow that lumping together actually lost tanks with those that are temporarily out of action is a better approach. Obviously, aggregated data is in itself not good or bad in isolation. It depends on what research question is to be answered. If you want to track the immediate combat power of a formation on a day by day basis, inclusion of damaged tanks may appear more reasonable. If you want to evaluate combat performance, on the basis of impact on the enemy, destroyed tanks is a more relevant metric.
          And yes, exchange ratios may differ if written-off tanks are compared, but it is a more relevant ratio when assessing the outcome of an operation.

  4. Gentleman, given the Wehrmacht had the habit of “Beg Borrow & Steal” equipment for reuse. Would they have recovered any Soviet tank from the field of any use, potentially still serviceable subject to repair for use by their own divisions. I understood they captured numbers of T34’s I have read, one of the SS divisions lead their advance with a T34 during Kursk, not sure if a fact or myth.

    • If I remember correctly then “das Reich” received 25 T-34 (r) Beutepanzer in May 1943 (in poor condition). After bringing them up to German specifications, they were employed in rear services or as tank hunters. During Zitadelle they had about 18 operational (4th of July).
      All belligerents used looted equipment, but there are a few difficulties that arise with it, the crews/mechanics need to be qualified, additionally you need special tools to keep them operational and spare parts can be a problem.

    • We have the Das Reich SS Division with 18 T-34s on the 4th of July, 8 on the 12th of July and 17 on the 18th of July.

      The 6th PzD shows up with 2 T-34s on the 10th of July. They were not operational by the 15th of July.

      The night march to Rzhavets on 11/12 July was indeed led by a T-34. It broke down in route. This story is discussed in some depth in my book supported by interviews (page 986+ in the original). It has been overdramatized in some sources. To quote Alfred Rubbel: “The night was dark, visibility was very limited, but there was no fog…the whole effort was more akin to a move at night than to an attack. I don’t recall finding ourselves wedged in between Russian columns as reported in many of those gripping accounts….”

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