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Did HITLER win the battle of Kursk for the Soviets?

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  • Did HITLER win the battle of Kursk for the Soviets?

    Did HITLER win the battle of Kursk for the Soviets?

    If Manstein had been allowed to continue (the battle of Kursk), the Soviets would have suffered a catastrophic defeat. Thus they had to roll out their most powerful weapon, Hitler. The magnitude of the looming defeat was so large, that once again, it was necessary to play the Hitler card. Both versions of the fable were, and still are, simply to provide cover for Hitler's order that Army Group South withdraw moments after the battle had been won, before the Germans could reap the rewards of victory, before the Soviets suffered a catastrophic defeat. It was Dunkirk all over again, except worse. Of course, it was of extreme importance that Hilter not be exposed as the enemy. Thus the Prokhorovka fable was fabricated, and even when parts of the fable were found to be pure fiction, it was simply retold, with changes that left the important features unchanged. Hitler, by ordering the retreat of Army Group South, and by stripping it of its most important divisions when it became apparent that Manstein was not inclined to call off the attack, managed to change a victory into a defeat. The turning point of world war two.

    This is last paragraph of the article

    Prokhorovka: The world's greatest tank battle. It never happened!

    Let the discussion begin:

  • #2
    Prokhorovka; the Greatest Tank Battle there never was.

    The original myth: On July 12, 1943, near the town of Prokhorovka, 850 Soviet and 700-800 German tanks rolled towards each other like two steel avalanches. In the encounter, 400 German tanks are said to have been destroyed, and the units of the SS-Panzerkorps crushed. This was a great victory for the Soviets. The turning point of world war two.

    When the combat records of the SS-Panzerkorps were investigated it was found that, on July 12, 1943, SS-Panzerkorp Leibstandarte, and SS-Panzerkorp Reich had at most 117 battle tanks, 37 assault guns, and 32 tank destroyers which could be deployed against the 5th Guards Tank Army in the "greatest tank battle of all time". Clearly, the myth was in need of revision. [1]

    The revised myth: On July 12, 1943, near the town of Prokhorovka, 850 Soviet tanks and 186 German fighting vehicles collided in the killing fields west of the town. In the encounter, as many as 650 Soviet tanks are said to have been destroyed, and the units of the 5th Guards Tank Army crushed. This was a great tactical loss, but somehow, a great strategic victory, for the Soviets. The turning point of world war two.

    Neither version of the myth is anything like the truth.

    The truth is that the famed "greatest tank battle of all time" never happened at all.

    The most interesting aspect of these myths is why they have been told.

    In both versions of the myth, the 5th Guards Tank Army arrives at the Prokhorovka battlefield from its bases far to the east, where it had formed part of a strategic reserve called the Steppe Front, and whether or not this army wins the battle against the SS-Panzerkorps, its last minute appearance changes the course of the entire second world war.

    To get from their bases to the battlefield the 5th Guards Tank Army had to march (i.e., drive its 850 tanks, tow its artillery, and flak guns, truck its ammunition, and transport its 40,000 men, together with their supplies) somewhere between 300 and 400 kilometers over unimproved dirt roads, and they had to do this within three days. Each of the three armored columns involved in this march was about 24 kilometers (15 miles) long. [2]

    For many reasons, both myths are impossible to believe.

    The T-34s were notoriously unreliable. How did so many make the distance?

    The main Russian battle tank, the T-34, had proved so unreliable that in April 1943 a policy was introduced whereby every tank was given a 30 kilometer test at the factory, followed by a 50 kilometer test by military inspectors, before the tank would be accepted by the army. In addition, one tank from every hundred was subjected to a 300-kilometer test run. The results of the 300-kilometer test runs were appalling, with 90% of the tanks breaking down before reaching 300 kilometers. Remedial action was taken so that by December 1943 only 16% of the T-34s tested broke down before reaching 300-kilometers. [3]

    Soviet factory documents record the percentage of T-34 tanks that broke down during the 300 kilometer test (i.e., broke down before reaching 300 kilometers) for each month from April 1943. They are: April 90%, May 77%, June 92%, July 71%, August 57%, September 54%, October 22%, November 43%, and December 16%. [4]

    Obviously the T-34s that participated in the Kursk battles were built before July 1943. Therefore they were among those found to be extremely unreliable. From these factory statistics one would expect significantly less than a quarter of the tanks to make the distance.

    Most authors make no mention of the break-downs on route. Those that do, mention very different figures:

    "Rotmistrov (the commander of the 5th Guards Tank Army) now had a gross total of 931 tanks: 581 T34s, 314 T70s and a few SUs. There would be 707 tanks ready to launch in the morning. 558 tanks would be in first echelon,... There were also a little over 100 tanks that broke down in transit that would be made available in the next two weeks." [5]

    "Rotmistrov's 5th Guards Tank Army was just completing an impressive 400km road march on its own tracks and was assembling 15km north of Prokhorovka. Although 227 of Rotmistrov's 721 armoured vehicles broke down en route, Soviet repair units were able to restore half within the next 36 hours." [6]

    "By dint of a remarkable effort that had seen his Guards Tank Army traverse many hundreds of kilometres in just a few days, the bulk of Rotmistrov’s units arrived within its assembly areas lying just to the north of the Psel in the closing hours of 9 July. Very few of the robust T-34s had fallen out with mechanical failure on this forced route march, and the extremely efficient repair teams quickly fixed those that had." [7]

    The break-down figures given completely contradict the factory statistics (and contradict each other).

    It appears that some authors just made up break-down statistics to solve the problem of there being no records of break-downs on route. Others will now quote these made up statistics, and they will eventually become "history".

    How did the armored columns cross the Oskol river?

    To answer this question we will try to establish the route the 5th Guards Tank Army (supposedly) took. The 5th Guards Tank Army consisted of the 18th Tank Corps, the 29th Tank Corps and the 5th Guards Mechanized Corps. We are told that:

    "The 5th Guards Tank Army concentrated with the 29th Tank Corps in the forests west of Ostrogozhsk, the 5th Guards Zimovniki Mechanized Corps in the Kamenka region, and the 3d Guards Stalingrad Mechanized Corps in the Kuzmenkov (Pisarevka) region.... the 18th Tank Corps (was) located in the Rossosh region." [8]

    So, the 29th Tank Corps started its march near Ostrogozhsk, the 5th Guards Mechanized Corps started near Kamenka, and the 18th Tank Corps started near Rossosh. Note that this Kamenka is about 40 kms from Ostrogozhsk and not the Kamenka (Kamyanka) marked on Glantz and Orenstein's map (see below).

    Apart from the starting points, and destinations, we are told almost nothing about the route, only that the 5th Guards Tank Army passed through Staryi Oskol (Stary Oskol). [9] That the route transited Staryi Oskol seemed rather odd.

    We also have this: "By the beginning of combat operations, our forces had one dual-rail lateral rail line, Tula-Elets-Kastornoe-Staryi Oskol-Valuiki, with a capacity of 40 to 45 pairs of trains per day. Several rail lines branched out from the lateral line to the front, including the Kastornoe-Kursk-L'gov, with a capacity of no more than 12 to 18 pairs. A dual-rail line ran from Liski Station, across Ostrogozhsk and Alekseevka to Valuiki and Kupiansk, which, because of major destruction, had a limited capacity. The following dirt roads had great significance for the Voronezh and the Steppe Fronts: Staryi Oskol-Tim-Kursk; Staryi Oskol-Korocha-Volchansk; Novyi Oskol-Belgorod; and Novyi Oskol-Volchansk. The Efremov-Elets-Voronezh; Kursk-Fatezh; Kursk-L'gov; and Kursk-Ternovka surfaced roads (gravel roads) were also significant. The main cargo flow for the forces traveled along these roads." [10]

    This passage names the main railroads and roads used by the forces of the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts. What is interesting, is that not one of the roads mentioned goes anywhere near Ostrogozhsk, Kamenka or Rossosh (the bases of the units of the 5th Guards Tank Army). However, there is a dual rail line running from Liski to Valuiki which passes through Ostrogozhsk, and we find that both Kamenka and Rossosh are connected to Liski (and thus Ostrogozhsk) by rail.

    So, it appears that the fable originally posited transportation of the 5th Guards Tank Army by rail.

    Transportation by rail dovetails nicely with the fact that the route passes through Staryi Oskol, as there is a north-south rail line from Valuiki to Staryi Oskol, from which a branch line connects to the Kursk-Belgorod rail line which runs south to Prokhorovka (see the maps below). This branch line provides the only rail bridge over the Oskol river (north of Kupiansk in Ukraine). Even today, this bridge is the only Russian rail bridge over the Oskol river.

    By road, the distance from Prokhorovka to Ostrogozhsk is only 200 kms (to Kamenka 240 kms; to Rossosh 260 kms). So, why do most authors report a march of nearly double this length? One guesses that this is a holdover from when the fable involved transportation by rail, for the distance from Ostrogozhsk to Staryi Oskol (via Valuiki) by rail is 280 kms. Add to this a 120 km trip from Staryi Oskol to about 20 km north of Prokhorovka, and we have 400 kms, double the road length.

    The march is said to have occurred in two stages. The first march, from their bases to south and west of Staryi Oskol, occurred on July 7. The army rested on July 8. The second march, has the 5th Guards Tank Army deployed to a region about 20 kms north of Prokhorovka by the end of July 9, and then assemble east of Prokhorovka on July 11. Note that the march route approaches Prokhorovka from the north, just like the rail route. This route makes sense if one is using rail as there is only one rail route. However, it makes no sense by road. By road, the distance from (south and west of) Staryi Oskol to (east of) Prokhorovka via the northern road route is roughly 160 + 20 = 180 kms, while the eastern road route is about 100 - 20 = 80 kms. Why march an extra 100 kms?

    Reflecting on this, it appears that the creators of history took an existing plan for the movement of troops by rail, that had probably been executed some time earlier (at a time when the Oskol river rail bridge at Staryi Oskol was operational), and simply changed the names, and sizes of the units, and the dates. Of course, during the early part of the Kursk offensive the rail bridge at Staryi Oskol would have been mostly at the bottom of the river, so the creators of the fable also changed, transportation by rail, to transportation by road, that is, to a march. Without this change, the broken rail bridge at Staryi Oskol would immediately invite the question; How did they cross the river? In this way, the creators of history assembled a great force at Prokhorovka, an imaginary force that fought an imaginary battle that changed the course of world war two.

    Once the story had morphed into a march, the crossing of the Oskol river could be moved south from Staryi Oskol to near Krasnyy Ostrov, significantly reducing the length of the march. Some authors implicitly claim two crossings, one near Krasnyy Ostrov and the other near Novyi Oskol (Novy Oskol). These authors do not say how the river was crossed. Neither town had a rail bridge (and still don't) so the 5th Guards Tank Army had to be ferried across, or the river had to be bridged. This could not be done that quickly, even if the Luftwaffe decided to close its eyes and go to sleep.

    Once the Oskol river crossing is moved south to Krasnyy Ostrov (and/or Novyi Oskol), it is impossible to believe that the northern route to Prokhorovka was taken; thus it has to be replaced by an approach from the east. However, the founding documents of the fable unequivocally state that the 5th Guards Tank Army approached from the north. But then, the founding documents also say that the 5th Guards Tank Army was not being sent to Prokhorovka at all, but to defend the Belgorod-Oboyan-Kursk road (the Oboyan axis or corridor). So, clearly it is possible for the fable to drift a long way from the original, and even to contradict it. The Soviet General Staff Study states:

    "Considering the intensity of the situation on the Oboian (Oboyan) axis, on 8 July the Stavka of the Supreme High Command ordered the 5th Guards Tank Army to concentrate in the Bobryshevo, Sredniaia Ol'shanka, and Marino region by the end of 9 July, having advanced its forward detachments forward to the Psel River in the Oboian and Veselyi sector. By 2300 hours on 9 July the army had concentrated in the designated region, and its forward detachments reached the Psel River on the next morning. Naturally, the front commander directed his main attention toward the strengthening of the Oboian axis to a maximum." [11]

    So the 5th Guards Tank Army was to gather in the Bobryshevo, Sredniaia Ol'shanka, and Marino region, north of Prokhorovka, and then deploy west to the Oboyan-Veselyi line, i.e., deploy along the Psel River (which in this area flows north-west and is parallel to the Oboyan-Veselyi line) in order to strengthen the defense along the Belgorod-Oboyan-Kursk road, i.e., to strengthen the Oboyan axis. Of course, this contradicts other versions of the fable which has the 5th Guards Tank Army rushing to strengthen the Prokhorovka axis.

    Incidently, the deployment toward the Psel river north and west of Veselyi, on July 9, is completely at odds with SS-Panzerkorp Totenkopf capturing the south bank of the Psel river, some three or four kilometers south and east of Veselyi, on the same day.

    In what follows, note that the real 5th Guards Army is not the imaginary 5th Guards Tank Army.

    Summing up: Sometime before the Kursk offensive, the 5th Guards Army was deployed to the Bobryshevo, Sredniaia Ol'shanka, and Marino region some 20 kms north of Prokhorovka, where it formed part of a strategic reserve. This reserve was eventually fed piecemeal into the battle in aid of the badly battered First Tank Army and essentially destroyed. Since the Sixth Guards Army had been knocked out, the First Tank Army badly battered, and the hurriedly brought up reserves frittered away piecemeal, there was no force left to smash the Germans and explain their, otherwise inexplicable, withdrawal from the battle. [12] So, the creators of history provided the imaginary 5th Guards Tank Army. It would be loosely modelled on the 5th Guards Army. Some of the units of the 5th Guards Army were from the Ostrogozhsk-Kamenka-Rossosh region, so the 5th Guards Tank Army would be from the Ostrogozhsk-Kamenka-Rossosh region. They had been transported to the area by rail, however this was no longer possible, so the hapless 5th Guards Tank Army was scripted to march the rail route. This meant their route was much, much longer than necessary, and approached Prokhorovka from the north. To provide a shorter more believable route, some authors have since moved the route south, crossing the Oskol river around Krasnyy Ostrov, and approaching Prokhorovka from the east.

    The evolution of the fable from a northern approach to an eastern approach can be seen in the following quotes:

    "By day's end, Rotmistrov's huge armoured phalanx (the 5th Guards Tank Army) was 60 miles from its designated assembly area in the vicinity of the small agricultural town of Prokhorovka. The Tank Army rolled southward (i.e., from the north) across a front some twenty miles wide." [13]

    "The forward units of the 5th Guards Tank Army began arriving behind the Psel River-Prokhorovka line after dark. Trailing units were still in the Bobryshevo-Marino area (north of Prokhorovka), up to 50 miles behind." [14] (There is an error here. 50 miles is 80 kms, however, the Bobryshevo-Marino line is only about 25 kms north of Prokhorovka.)

    "By 10 July, as the main body of 5th Guards Tank Army approached Prochorovka from the east, some elements of the 2nd Tank Corps and 2nd Guards Tank Corps were already involved in fighting against Kempf's III. Panzerkorps." [15]

    Although the two versions are contradictory, some authors manage to give both; for example, the text of Glantz and Orenstein states that the 5th Guards Tank Army approached Prokhorovka from the north, but their map (see below) shows the 5th Guards Tank Army approaching Prokhorovka from the east. [18]

    Such contradictory features are to be expected when fiction is grafted over actual events.

    The confusion generated by all this can be seen in the following quotes, which have the 5th Guards Tank Army assembling in two different places by the end of July 9.

    "on 8 July the 5th Guards Tank Army was ordered to concentrate in the Bobryshevo, Sredniaia Ol'shanka, and Marino region (north of Prokhorovka) by the end of 9 July." [16]

    "Konev alerted me that by the end of 9 July, Lieutenant General of Tank Forces Rotmistrov's 5th Guards Tank Army would be assembling east of Prokhorovka." [17]

    The problem of crossing the Oskol river is almost universally ignored. It just happened, like magic. The only author to broach the subject (that I am aware of) is Mark Healy. The paragraph mentioning this is worth quoting in full:

    "By late afternoon, Rotmistrov's forces had crossed the pontoon bridge spanning the River Oskol and begun the final stage in their drive towards Prokhorovka. Advancing across a wide front, the vast dust clouds raised by this enormous formation had broadcast its presence to enemy aircraft many miles away. Though heavily screened by fighter detachments, these had not been enough to deter snooping German reconnaissance aircraft, not that the Soviets had ever believed it possible to disguise the advance of such a large force when travelling by night and day. Of greater significance to Rotmistrov was the surprising lack of any follow-up by the Luftwaffe to interdict the Tank Army en route to the battlefield, which meant that other than those machines that were bound to fall out owing to breakdowns, his formation would arrive near Prokhorovka at full strength. That the Luftwaffe failed even to attempt to attack 5th Guards Tank Army before it reached the vicinity of Prokhorovka shows how limited its assets were by this time. It was unable to release so much as one bomber or Stuka staffel from its immediate task of battlefield support of the ground forces in the salient, to stem this approaching avalanche of Soviet armour, a tactic that would have been automatic just two years before." [19]

    This shows how ridiculous the fable has become. Yet people still buy into it.

    In truth, if a bridge (of any type) had sprung up overnight, the Germans would have certainly destroyed it. Keeping hundreds of tanks and artillery guns on the other side of the Oskol river was a no-brainer. Don't forget that the Germans had air-superiority over the salient for the whole period of the Kursk offensive, and Stary Oskol, Novyi Oskol, and Krasnyy Ostrov, were only a few minutes by air from the salient. As Plocher says about the air battle at Kursk; "Yet, wherever German fighters appeared it was usually a relatively simple matter for the Luftwaffe to achieve local air superiority and even air supremacy over the Russians, even when the odds were very great."

    Healy's claim the Soviets never believed it possible to disguise the advance of such a large force, is untrue. Rotmistrov, or whoever wrote his part of the fable, implies that the operation was a complete surprise to the enemy. Rotmistrov's book was one of the foundation documents of the fable, and what it said would have been widely believed by the Soviets.

    Zamulin says: "The march would occur in two stages. At the end of the first stage, all three corps should close on the Oskol river, force a crossing of it, and assemble while waiting for their rear services and remaining equipment to move up to the designated areas." Then a second march to near Prokhorovka. [20]

    Zamulin also states: "At 0130 on July 7, the (5th Guards Tank) army moved out.... the 29th Tank Corps was supposed to reach its assembly area (somewhere west of the Oskol River) at 1400, but it was late.... At the start.... had delayed its movement by three hours.... At the same time there were no bridges across the Oskol River that could support 50 to 60 tons of weight. Therefore, the General I. F. Kirichenko's brigades (the 29th Tank Corps and 25th Tank Brigade) didn't reach their assembly areas until 2030 on July 7 (seven and a half hours late after starting three hours late)." [21]

    Get that!? There were no suitable bridges,... so the tanks arrived a few hours late.

    If there were no bridges across the Oskol River that could support 50 to 60 tons then the Staryi Oskol rail bridge must have been out of operation. Zamulin doesn't bother to say where the 5th Guards Tank Army crossed the river, or the type of bridge, or how the Soviets built a new bridge, and transferred 40,000 men, 850 tanks, untold artillery guns, untold flak guns, and untold numbers of support vehicles, in just a few hours, or why the Germans never bombed this bridge, nor the armored columns that crossed it, nor even attempted to do so. The current state of the myth is somewhere beyond unbelievable. There were no suitable bridges across the Oskol River,... so the tanks were a few hours late. Truly unbelievable.

    So, how did the armored columns cross the Oskol river? They didn't. They never existed.

    The change to a march may have been convenient, but it introduced many difficulties.

    The road infrastructure of the whole march area was extremely primitive. [22] There was no regular military traffic along these roads so they would have been in their original unimproved state. The military, like everybody else, used the railways. People and goods either crossed the rivers by rail or were ferried across. Since no road bridge could handle the weight of the tanks (about 30 tons for the T-34 and 40 tons for the KV-1), every stream had to be forded and every river, without a convenient rail bridge, had to be bridged. Even fording streams, or crossing swampy ground, would not always be a simple task, for hundreds of vehicles would churn up so much mud that trucks and tanks would get bogged. Building bridges, dealing with bogged vehicles, and break-downs, all takes time. Much, much more time than the three days the fable tells us the march took. Actually, according to the fable, the march itself took less than two days, as the 5th Guards Tank Army rested on July 8.

    A column of tanks on the move in open country is particularly vulnerable to attack by aircraft. This is mainly due to the fact that flak guns are either, not available at all, or take too long to set up for defense. And even when flak guns were many, and ready, they were still regularly attacked and silenced by aircraft, but in this case the attackers would expect to take casualties. Fighter aircraft could theoretically provide protection, but the German pilots had little respect for the Soviet pilots. As Hermann Plocher says:

    "As always, German flyers were far more impressed by the enemy's light antiaircraft and small arms fire than by Soviet fighters, which seldom showed themselves when German bombers had a good fighter escort."

    Here is what the Stuka pilot, Hans-Ulrich Rudel, had to say about action at Kursk. [23]

    "While the cannon-carrying aircraft (Ju 87G-1 Stukas) go in to attack, a part of the bomber formation (standard Ju 87 Stukas and others) deals with the ground defences; the rest (fighters) circle at a fairly low level like a broody hen round her chickens in order to protect the anti-tank aircraft from interception by enemy fighters."

    "We have always to try to hit a tank in one of its most vulnerable places. The front is always the strongest part of every tank; therefore every tank invariably tries as far as possible to offer its front to the enemy. Its sides are less strongly protected. But the best target for us is the stern. It is there that the engine is housed, and the necessity for cooling this power centre permits of only a thin armour plating. In order to further assist the cooling this plating is perforated with large holes. This is a good spot to aim at because where the engine is there is always petrol. When its engine is running a tank is easily recognizable from the air by the blue fumes of the exhaust. On its sides the tank carries petrol and ammunition. But there the armour is stronger than at the back."

    Will Fowler has this to say about the Ju 87G-1 Stuka: [24]

    "The Ju 87G-1 was one of the marks of the slow but battle-proven, 11.5m (37ft 8in) long, 6600kg (14,550lb), two-seater, single-engined Ju 87 Stuka. This antitank version saw action almost exclusively in the East until the end of hostilities.... The armament was formidable: two fixed forward-firing 37mm (1.5in) BK 3.7 (Flak 18) cannon underwing and one flexible MG 15 in the rear cockpit. The cannon could easily punch through the thin deck armour of Soviet tanks. Powered by one 1400hp Junkers Jumo 211J-1 engine, it had a maximum speed at 4100m (13,500ft) of 410km/h (255mph) and a maximum range of 1535km (954 miles).... Stuka pilots like Rudel used the powerful armament to attack Soviet tanks, aiming at the thin armour of rear deck. Hits normally destroyed the tank or immobilized it."

    This brings up another question:

    Why weren't the armored columns destroyed by German aircraft?

    Not only weren't the armored columns destroyed by aircraft, but there is no record of any attack at all. There is no record of a single tank or gun of the 5th Guards Tank Army being destroyed by enemy fire while on route.

    Let's look at some of the reasons given:

    The armored columns simply weren't spotted.

    "The successful use of the element of surprise also deserves attention. It was a considerable achievement of Rotmistrov and his staff to bring an armada of tanks and other vehicles to the front so quickly and almost unnoticed. It required a march of 330 to 380 kilometres in three days." [25]

    The three armored columns were each (supposedly) around 24 kilometers long. Frieser is saying that German reconnaissance was worse than incompetent. This is not believable.

    Zamulin says: "It was simply impossible for the German aerial reconnaissance flights not to notice the continuous columns of equipment, which extended for many kilometers and were moving in daylight hours toward Prokhorovka." [26]

    Fear of Soviet air power kept the Luftwaffe away.

    George Nipe says: "Since it (the 5th Guards Tank Army) moved on an axis that was twenty-five to thirty kilometers wide, it was impossible to hide the advance from the German reconnaissance planes. The Soviet command realized that the Germans would detect the army and provided additional air support to counter expected air attacks. Evidently, this measure was successful because Rotmistrov was able to cover the distance without significant losses (read zero) in vehicles." [27]

    The Germans had air superiority over the Kursk salient for the entire offensive. They established air superiority by shooting down hundreds of Soviet aircraft in the first few days. This clearly demonstrates that they were not afraid of the Soviet air force. The Germans constantly had their better fighter pilots in the air looking for Soviet fighters to engage with. If these pilots knew of a congregation of Russian aircraft, they would have gathered their friends and gone after it (even if it was a hundred kilometers from the salient). Once these aircraft were dealt with, they would have called up the Stukas and dealt with any armor the Soviet fighters were supposedly protecting. [28]

    Anyway, even if they were fearful of Soviet air power, they would have still attacked.

    The armored columns were spotted but the Germans were too busy.

    "Luftwaffe reconnaissance was reporting large and increasing Soviet armored forces moving west and south, toward the Psel. Official doctrine and common sense alike called for an all-out effort to interdict the movement. The Luftwaffe had been originally configured for just that type of mission. But the need for direct ground support had so intensified that no aircraft could be spared from the front lines." [29]

    Tanks in open country without flak support are basically waddling ducks waiting for aircraft to destroy them. If the Germans didn't attack the tanks when they had little, or no, flak support they would have to deal with them later when they joined the front and had good flak support. Not believable.

    It should be emphasized that while protecting these mighty tank columns the other 100% of Soviet aircraft were attacking German armor in the Kursk salient.

    Glantz and Orenstein give the following table of the daily number of Soviet & German air sorties. [30]

    Date 1943 Soviet German
    5 July 43 1,720 1,947
    6 July 43 1,278 873
    7 July 43 1,536 829
    8 July 43 1,185 692
    9 July 43 845 1,577
    10 July 43 526 1,105
    11 July 43 595 528
    12 July 43 893 530
    13 July 43 777 271
    14 July 43 1,033 1,195
    15 July 43 363 261
    16 July 43 926 403
    17 July 43 484 140
    18 July 43 436 55

    We consider the (contradictory) versions of the 5th Guards Tank Army's approach to Prokhorovka separately.

    When the 5th Guards Tank Army approaches Prokhorovka from the north, we are told it does so by the end of July 9. On July 9 the Soviets flew only 845 sorties (as opposed to 1,185 the day before), not exactly providing additional air support.

    When the 5th Guards Tank Army approaches Prokhorovka from from the east, it does so mainly on July 11. On July 11 the Germans flew only 528 sorties (as opposed to 1,105 the day before). Flying only 528 sorties on the 11th shows that the Germans had many aircraft sitting around that could have attacked the approaching columns.

    When the 5th Guards Tank Army approaches from the north to the Bobryshevo, Sredniaia Ol'shanka, and Marino region, and later concentrates east of Prokhorovka, the armored groups travel on both July 9 & July 11 and are thus open to attack, and in need of protection, on both days. So, once again the air activity does not match the fable.

    Note that on, July 12, the day of the "greatest tank battle ever", neither air force bothered to put in a big effort.

    Anyway, all this doesn't matter, because everyone knows the Germans would have attacked the approaching columns. The fact that we are told that they did not, simply tells us we are being told a lie.

    I have recently come across the book The German Air Force Versus Russia 1943, by Hermann Plocher and Harry Fletcher. During the Kursk offensive, Plocher was the commander of the 4th Air Division of Luftflotte 6 (Sixth Air Fleet), the air force assigned to work with Army Group Center. Here are a few quotes from his chapter on the Kursk offensive:

    Page 60: "Regardless of the decisions the German Supreme Command might take with respect to the conduct of operations in the East in 1943, it was clear at the end of April that the Sixth Air Fleet had to take decisive action against the assembling and concentrating of Soviet armies, mainly by striking enemy road and rail movements as well as airfields situated within the Red Army's concentration areas. On 12 May the Luftwaffe attacked by day and night a number of troop concentrations, enemy rail targets and air bases, and, five days later in both Combat Zones South and Center, destroyed a large number of Soviet transport aircraft and several important rail depots. On 21 May German air units bombed and strafed Soviet troop concentrations, transport trains, and supply dumps in all of the probable areas of enemy main effort. Wherever reconnaissance planes detected important Russian activity German air forces made concentrated surprise attacks and, as a rule, achieved very good results. If key railroad bridges or thoroughfare axes could be destroyed, the resulting jam-ups would force troop and supply trains to come to a stop in the open, where they would be quickly dispatched by German flyers. By day or night, whenever weather and visibility permitted, special aircraft were sent out to attack railway trains, even those at extreme ranges. These single plane attacks interfered seriously with the Russian concentration and supply operations."

    Page 66: "By exploiting various factors such as timing, prevailing weather conditions, and visibility in order to achieve surprise, by frequently changing objectives, and by combining high and low altitude attacks with fighter escort operations, the Sixth Air Fleet succeeded in seriously disturbing the detected Soviet concentration movements in the Kursk-Sukhinichi sector during April, May, and June. In the course of these operations the Luftwaffe inflicted very heavy personnel and materiel losses upon Russian units and even compelled them to move their railheads farther to the east, approximately to the Kastornoye-Livny-Shchigry area. This, in turn, forced the Red Army to make time-consuming overland marches, which proved to be extremely costly because these forces were then exposed to repeated German air attacks."

    Page 77: (During the Kursk offensive) "All air units were to be used exclusively in tactical support missions, against targets within the battle area, the strongly developed Soviet defense positions, and Soviet artillery emplacements. Rail and road targets were to be attacked only if large transport movements were observed."

    Page 85: "As always, German flyers were far more impressed by the enemy's light antiaircraft and small arms fire than by Soviet fighters, which seldom showed themselves when German bombers had a good fighter escort."

    Page 99: (During the Orel counter-offensive the Luftwaffe could not find the enemy so they attacked railheads and installations instead) "It was practically impossible, however, to detect and interdict Russian troop units moving through the woods. Repeatedly the Luftwaffe struck Soviet railheads around Sukhinichi and attacked rail installations and trains along the Kozelsk and Kaluga areas in order to interrupt the forward flow of supplies and reinforcements. Nevertheless, no noticeable results were achieved...."

    Last edited by lewinski; 25 Oct 19, 18:17.

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    • #3
      Enjoyed reading this. Not enough time to digest and analyse info though.
      How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
      Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

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      • #4

        CONTINUING FROM ABOVE

        Unlikely Hollywood-like episodes have been added to the fable.

        Entertaining Hollywood-like episodes have been slipped into the records of both sides in order to add "authenticity" to the fiction. The most famous being Rotmistrov's mini-myth about Aleksandr Nikolayev who jumped into a burning tank, and crashed it into a German Tiger just before it exploded, destroying both tanks. The German version has the Tiger backing up a few meters and the explosion doing little damage to the Tiger. Both narratives are fiction.

        The enormity of the Soviet defeat at Prokhorovka is not believable.

        The narrative of the revised myth is so unlikely that it has needed to be helped by a multitude of stories; How the Soviets so rushed their counteroffensive that they forgot about their own antitank ditch and their tanks piled into it like lemmings. How the Tiger tank was so deadly that Rotmistrov schooled his drivers to race in and shoot at point blank range, a suicidal tactic. How the Soviets imagined hundreds of Tiger tanks before them when there were only four. How the formerly formidable T-34 was now simply a death trap,... etc, etc.

        The Prokhorovka battle plan was conceptually flawed.

        Actually, the whole counteroffensive (of which the battle at Prokhorovka was a part) was devised without any consideration of military worth, so it is not surprising that it had no military worth. Prokhorovka was a fictional battle with a scripted Soviet win. The revised fable was the same fictional battle with a German win. Christopher Lawrence has this to say about the counteroffensive:

        "The concept of smashing headlong, in a broad general offensive across the entire front of an attacking opponent, must be questioned at its most basic level. Exactly what was the purpose and use of such an attack? First, why would one attack everywhere, when parts of the line are better defended than other parts? Why not attack where you think the enemy is weak, instead of everywhere? Second, why not concentrate your offensive forces at the critical areas you want to attack? Therefore, you will get the best outcome from the attacks and may have enough weight to continue the attack in case the enemy position is penetrated. Third, why attack in the areas where the enemy is attacking? As the self-educated U.S. Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest so eloquently stated, 'Hit them where they ain't.' Work on the enemy's flanks, not across their front, into the face of their attacking forces. Fourth, why attack at all? The Germans were still attacking across the front with their three armored corps. Why not wait until their attacks had truly run out of steam? Attrite them before counterattacking.... It was an attack that was unnecessary, mindless in execution and did nothing but waste lives." [31]

        Over the last few decades the original fable has been proved to be a work of fiction. The revised fable is just the original rewritten, with some unimportant details, such as who won the battle, changed. If the original was a work of fiction, why should the revised fable, which has been built upon it, be any different?

        The Germans involved knew nothing of this "greatest tank battle ever".

        The German operational records know nothing of the "greatest tank battle ever".

        I had imagined that the German operational records for July 12 would be either mutilated beyond belief, or unaccountably missing. However, I was wrong. The July 12 records apparently exist, they are simply not believed.

        "German loss claims (for the battle of Prokhorovka) have reached as low as 80 or into the hundreds, including 'dozens' of 'Tigers'. So, the German official loss record — 3 (!) tanks is very hard to believe!!!" [32]

        "The files in the German archives, in which historians were strangely uninterested until a few years ago, contain meticulous assessments of Army Group South's tank losses. Examination of those files results in the conclusion—as surprising as it is unequivocal—that, on 12 July, II SS Armoured Corps (same as SS Panzerkorps) did not record a single writeoff for battle tanks and assault guns. This is also confirmed by the corps' logistics files, for example, an entry in the war diary of the quartermaster's department on the evening of 12 July: 'Dept. V informs the Quartermaster that there are no tank write-offs today.' Admittedly, the evaluation of other sources leads to the conclusion that three tanks left immobilized on the battlefield could not subsequently be recovered because of enemy fire, so that the write-off figures had to be adjusted later. But even if those losses are backdated to 12 July, that still gives a maximum total of three write-offs." [33]

        The SS Panzer Corps suffered no tank losses on July 12 (the day of the "greatest tank battle of all time") simply because the SS Panzer Corps had run out of opposition. There was now no significant opposition in the Prokhorovka corridor all the way to Kursk. No opposition all the way to Kursk, but then there was Hitler.

        The commander of the 4th Air Division knew nothing of the "greatest tank battle ever".

        The myth states that aircraft played a large part in the battle. For example:

        "The pyres of many shot-down German and Soviet aircraft also began to litter the battlefield, adding to the wrack of shattered armour that lay across the scorched, blasted and blackened wheat fields to the west of Prokhorovka." [34]

        "At the same time over the battlefield furious aerial combats developed. Soviet as well as German airmen tried to help their ground forces to win the battle. The bombers, ground-support aircraft, and fighters seemed to be permanently suspended in the sky over Prokhorovka. One aerial combat followed another." [35]

        Yet, Plocher, the commander of the 4th Air Division, never mentions the "greatest tank battle ever", or air support for this battle, in his chapter on air operations over Kursk. And, he was there. Also, recall (from above) that the number of Soviet & German air sorties for July 12 directly contradicts any particularly large battle on that day.

        The SS Panzerkorps knew nothing of the "greatest tank battle ever".

        "A report signed by the operations chief of the II SS Panzer Corps on the evening of 11 July, makes no mention of any buildup of forces in the Prokhorovka area. If he knew of any buildup he would have certainly mentioned it." [36]

        Erich von Manstein called Kusrk "a victory thrown away".

        At Kursk, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein was the commander of Army Group South.

        "Victory on the southern front of the Kursk salient is within reach. The enemy has thrown in nearly his entire strategic reserves and is badly mauled. Breaking off action now would be throwing away victory!" [37]

        "Speaking for my own Army Group, I pointed out (to Hitler) that the battle was now at its culminating point, and that to break it off at this moment would be tantamount to throwing a victory away." [38]

        Theodor Busse, Chief of Staff, Army Group South, called Kursk "a victory".

        "Only Theodor Busse, three years after the fall of Berlin, could refer to the battle of Kursk as a 'victory'." [39]

        Friedrich Fangohr, Chief of Staff, Fourth Panzer Army, stated that victory had been immanent.

        "Yet final, decisive Russian defeat had been in the offing at the very moment that it became necessary to discontinue the offensive." [40] Of course, it was not necessary to discontinue the offensive.

        Overall German losses are inconsistent with the Kursk fable.

        "Up to and including 14 July (one day after Hitler halted action by the northern group), Model's Ninth Army lost 41 battle tanks, 17 assault guns, and 19 tank destroyers. The total losses of Army Group South, up to and including 16 July, when Hitler finally terminated the offensive, were 161 tanks and 14 assault guns. Interestingly, only 10 Tigers were lost during the whole of Operation Citadel." [41]

        Many authors believe that the Germans were on the edge of victory.

        "By day's end on 9 July, the breach created by Totenkopf in the last line before the Psel suggested that within hours the Germans would achieve the very thing that the deep Soviet defences in the southern part of the salient had been designed to prevent–the crossing of the river and the break-out into open country by the surviving panzers. The strength of 1st Tank Army and 6th Guards Army was diminishing rapidly. All of the senior Soviet commanders on the Voronezh Front considered that if the Germans succeeded in breaking through the defensive belts to the steppe land beyond, this would constitute a victory for von Manstein in the south, no matter what the fortunes of Ninth Army in the north of the salient were." [42]

        "A successful breakout over the Psel by 4 Panzerarmee and Armee-Abteilung Kempf toward Kursk thus would have been unopposed by a Soviet strategic armored reserve. Such a German advance would have cut off the Russian armies in the western section of the bulge, which included the remnants of 1st Tank Army and 6th Guards, 40th, 60th, 65th, and 38th Armies. More importantly, an advance to Kursk would have put the Germans in a position to strike the rear of the Bryansk and Central Fronts at Orel, which were at that time fully occupied with attacking Kluge's Heeresgruppe Mitte. Had the two Soviet fronts been threatened from the rear or flank while facing Kluge, it would have presented great difficulties for the Russians." [43]

        But, these authors believe that the day was saved by the imaginary 5th Guards Tank Army. However, it was not the imaginary 5th Guards Tank Army that saved the Soviets. Hitler saved them. Hitler simply ordered Army Group South to withdraw. The imaginary 5th Guards Tank Army was invented to save Hitler.

        "But then on 13 July Hitler summoned Manstein and Kluge to his headquarters where he told them that the Allies had invaded Sicily on 10 July and he was therefore calling off Zitadelle to send reinforcements to Italy and the Balkans. Manstein was furious; he believed Army Group South was winning the battle against the two Soviet tank armies and just needed time to finish the job. But his protestations were to no avail – Hitler ordered that the SS Panzerkorps be transferred to Italy. Manstein had no choice but to withdraw his forces to their start point in Belgorod." [44]

        If Manstein had been allowed to continue, the Soviets would have suffered a catastrophic defeat. Thus they had to roll out their most powerful weapon, Hitler. The magnitude of the looming defeat was so large, that once again, it was necessary to play the Hitler card. Both versions of the fable were, and still are, simply to provide cover for Hitler's order that Army Group South withdraw moments after the battle had been won, before the Germans could reap the rewards of victory, before the Soviets suffered a catastrophic defeat. It was Dunkirk all over again, except worse. Of course, it was of extreme importance that Hilter not be exposed as the enemy. Thus the Prokhorovka fable was fabricated, and even when parts of the fable were found to be pure fiction, it was simply retold, with changes that left the important features unchanged. Hitler, by ordering the retreat of Army Group South, and by stripping it of its most important divisions when it became apparent that Manstein was not inclined to call off the attack, managed to change a victory into a defeat. The turning point of world war two.

        So, there you have it. Proof that the world's greatest tank battle never happened.

        Notes:

        [1] Frieser, Karl-Heinz. Germany And The Second World War Volume VIII. The Eastern Front 1943-1944: The War In The East And On The Neighbouring Fronts (2017). p121. "However, since SS Armoured Infantry Division 'Totenkopf' was attacking northwards on that date (July 12) on the far side of the River Psel, there remained only SS Armoured Infantry Divisions 'Leibstandarte' and 'Reich', with a total of 117 battle tanks, 37 assault guns, and 32 tank destroyers, that is, 186 fighting vehicles in all, which could be deployed against 5th Guards Tank Army."

        [2] Rotmistrov, Pavel. Tankovoye srazhenie. p21. "It required a march of 330 to 380 kilometres in three days."

        Forczyk, Robert. Kursk 1943 The Southern Front (2017). p66. "Rotmistrov's 5th Guards Tank Army was just completing an impressive 400km road march on its own tracks and was assembling 15km north of Prokhorovka."

        Zamulin, Valeriy & Britton, Stuart. Demolishing the Myth: The Tank Battle at Prokhorovka, Kursk, July 1943: An operational narrative (2011). p166. "As a whole, the almost 380-400 kilometer movement of the (5th Guards) tank army over the course of 6 to 9 July proceeded in an organized fashion."

        Nipe, George M. Decision In The Ukraine (2012). c2. "Because of the critical nature of the situation on the Psel, Rotmistrov moved his army by day and night, at maximum speed from its assembly areas just west of the Don River, which was approximately 200 miles from Prochorovka. The army had to cover so much a distance in the short time allotted to Rotmistrov that he could not take the normal precaution of travelling only at night. Since it moved on an axis that was twenty-five to thirty kilometers wide, it was impossible to hide the advance from the German reconnaissance planes. The Soviet command realized that Germany would detect the army and provided additional air support to counter the expected air attacks. Evidently, this measure was successful because Rotmistrov was able to cover the distance without significant losses in vehicles. It is possible that due to the demands on the Luftwaffe in the combat areas on the north and south flanks of the salient, there were few planes to spare that could be used to attack the 5th Guards Tank Army route of travel."

        Nipe, George M. ibid. c2. "The 5th Guards Tank Army was made up of the 18th and 29th Tank Corps and 5th Guards Mechanized Corps. In addition, the 2nd Tank Corps and 2nd Guards Tank Corps were attached to Rotmistrov's army by 11 July. Most authorities agree that the 5th Guards Tank Army, including the two attached tank corps, probably had 850 tanks, of which 500 were T-34s. The rest were lighter T-70s and a few Lend-Lease Churchill tanks. The Soviet tanks had barely arrived in time to prevent the capture of the town by the Germans."

        Healy, Mark. Zitadelle: The German Offensive Against The Kursk Salient 4-17 July 1943 (2010). c41. "The paper strength of Rotmistrov's command did indeed appear formidable, with tank numbers considerably in excess of those of the SS Panzer Corps. Fallout from his command due to mechanical breakdowns on the march to the Kursk battlefield had been low. In consequence, he could field from among his five Corps 793 tanks, 501 T-34s, 261 T-70s, and a 'heavy' tank detachment of 31 British supplied Churchill MK IV tanks with the 18th Tank Corps, and 37 self-propelled guns. Another 21 KV-1s tanks were available with the 53rd Guards Independent Tank Regiment. Totals therefore amounted to some 850 tanks available to Rotmistrov as of dawn on 12 July."

        Schranck, David. Thunder At Prokhorovka: A Combat History Of Operation Citadel Kursk July 1943 (2013). c8. "At 0130 hrs, Rotmistrov's 5th GTA was driving west but was still 150 miles away from Prokhorovka. The 18th TC and 29th TC were driving down parallel roads in the lead while 5th GMC was trailing in second echelon. Each convoy was 15 miles long." Note that this seems to imply three columns of 15 miles, and two crossings of the Oskol River.

        Schranck, David. ibid. c16. The 5th Guards Tank Army also had 40,000 men to add to the offensive.

        [3] Zaloga, Steven. Armored Champion: The Top Tanks Of World War II (2015). p185.

        [4] ibid. p213.

        [5] Schranck, David. ibid. c12.

        [6] Forczyk, Robert. ibid. p66.

        [7] Healy, Mark. ibid. c36.

        [8] Glantz, D. & Orenstein, H. The Battle For Kursk 1943. The Soviet General Staff Study (1999). p220.

        [9] Schranck, David. ibid. c3. "The 5th Guards Tank Army which was stationed over 200 miles away was ordered closer to Kursk and by the next evening was pulling into Staryi Oskol to the southeast of Kursk."

        [10] Glantz, D. & Orenstein, H. ibid. p5.

        [11] ibid. p90.

        [12] Carell, Paul. Scorched Earth. The Russian-German War 1943-1944 (1970). p78. "General Katukov, the C-in-C of the reinforced Tank Army, was in a spot. Following the collapse of the Soviet Sixth Guards Army he was to have made a counter-attack with all available forces, but at the same time he was expected to bar the German advance towards Oboyan. And now, to top it all, he was being hard pressed himself. He had no choice but to employ his strategic reserves, which were being supplied to First Tank Army for its intended counter-offensive, one by one, as they arrived. The result was disastrous. On 11th July not only the Sixth Guards Army was knocked out, but First Tank Army was badly battered, and the hurriedly brought up Fifth Guards Army was frittered away piecemeal."

        [13] Healy, Mark. ibid. c36.

        [14] Schranck, David. ibid. c12.

        [15] Nipe, George M. ibid. c2.

        [16] Glantz, D. & Orenstein, H. ibid. p90.

        [17] Zamulin, Valeriy & Britton, Stuart. ibid. p168.

        [18] Glantz, D. & Orenstein, H. ibid. p90. & map 9 p83.

        [19] Healy, Mark. ibid. c34.

        [20] Zamulin, Valeriy & Britton, Stuart. ibid. p163.

        [21] ibid. p166.

        [22] Plocher, Hermann; Fletcher, Harry R. The German Air Force Versus Russia 1941 (1965). p14. "Soviet communication networks were extremely thin compared with networks in western Europe. Only three percent of Russian roads had any type of stone surfacing and most of the roads were absolutely unimproved. Her railroad network was somewhat better, but throughout the entire Soviet Union only 52,000 miles of railroad tracks had been laid by 1941. Yet this was sufficient to make it Russia's most reliable means of transportation. Because of this fact, interdiction of Soviet rail lines was one of the prime objectives of the German Luftwaffe."

        McCarthy, Peter & Syron, Mike. Panzerkrieg (2013). c4. "Even more alarming was the Russian terrain. What had been marked on German maps as major roads turned out in reality to be nothing more than dirt tracks. And the choking dust thrown up was clogging tank engines and prematurely shortening their lives. Another disturbing factor was that after even a brief shower, the tracks that passed for roads turned to a sticky morass that made all movement impossible until the sun re-emerged. In these conditions the tanks were just about getting by, but the wheeled supply transport couldn’t keep up."

        [23] Rudel, Hans-Ulrich. Stuka Pilot (1958). p86 & 89.

        [24] Fowler, Will. Kursk The Vital 24 Hours (2005). p160.

        [25] Frieser, Karl-Heinz. ibid. p156.

        [26] Zamulin, Valeriy & Britton, Stuart. The Battle of Kursk: controversial & neglected aspects (2017). p279.

        [27] Nipe, George M. ibid. c2.

        Schranck, David. ibid. c10. "To prevent the Luftwaffe from destroying the tank column, Stalin sent air cover the whole way to Prokhorovka from the Oskol River area."

        [28] Plocher, Hermann; Fletcher, Harry R. The German Air Force Versus Russia 1943 (1967). p87. "The general impression in German circles was that the Russians were always able to make up their heavy losses and maintain their numerical strength through the receipt of replacement aircraft and the assignment of new personnel. Yet, wherever German fighters appeared it was usually a relatively simple matter for the Luftwaffe to achieve local air superiority and even air supremacy over the Russians, even when the odds were very great." Plocher was the commander of the 4th Air Division at Kursk.

        Showalter, Dennis E. Armor And Blood: The Battle Of Kursk (2013). c5. "As early as July 7, almost half of VIII Air Corps's combat planes had been assigned to Model's sector. For July 10, all the medium bombers were also assigned to Model, and a large number of fighters were sent to conduct sweeps over the Soviet airfields supporting the Central Front. That meant that after five days, Manstein and Hoth could count on only a third of the air support originally available—and that was assuming Model's situation did not suddenly become desperate." Note that many of the airfields supporting the Central Front were outside the salient, and one assumes would have plenty of air cover. If the Germans were not shy to attack airfields outside the salient, they would not have been shy to attack the 5th Guards Tank Army on its march.

        [29] Showalter, Dennis E. ibid. c5.

        [30] Glantz, D. & Orenstein, H. ibid. p252.


        [31] Lawrence, Christopher. Battle Of Prokhorovka: The Tank Battle At Kursk; The Largest Clash Of Armor In History (2019). p293 & 294.

        [32] Domański, Jacek. Prochorowka 1943 (2007). p90.

        [33] Frieser, Karl-Heinz. ibid. p129.

        [34] Healy, Mark. ibid. c41.

        [35] Carell, Paul. ibid. p83. Quoting Rotmistrov.

        [36] Zamulin, Valeriy & Britton, Stuart. ibid. p280.

        [37] Carell, Paul. ibid. p91. Translating Manstein.

        [38] Manstein, Erich Von. Lost Victories (2004). c14. Translating Manstein.

        [39] Newton, Steven H. Kursk The German View (2003). p6.

        [40] ibid. p86.

        [41] Frieser, Karl-Heinz. ibid. p183.

        [42] Healy, Mark. ibid. c36.

        [43] Nipe, George M. ibid. c2.

        [44] McCarthy, Peter & Syron, Mike. ibid. c7.

        Glantz and Orenstein's map.

        Last edited by lewinski; 02 Nov 19, 04:24.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by lewinski View Post
          The original myth: On July 12, 1943, near the town of Prokhorovka, 850 Soviet and 700-800 German tanks rolled towards each other like two steel avalanches.
          "Battle of Prokhorovka" was a name given to a series of engagements over an area as large as tens of kilometers which encompassed forces of the German II SS Panzerkorps and III Panzerkorps. The idea that it was only a small field near the Prokhorovka station (the place where the memorial complex and museum stand in the present time) is a popular aberration.
          When the combat records of the SS-Panzerkorps were investigated it was found that, on July 12, 1943, SS-Panzerkorp Leibstandarte, and SS-Panzerkorp Reich had at most 117 battle tanks, 37 assault guns, and 32 tank destroyers
          Again, what was known as "Battle of Prokhorovka" encompassed six panzer divisions from 2 German corps and an independent Tiger battalion. You are beating a a strawman here.
          The revised myth: On July 12, 1943, near the town of Prokhorovka, 850 Soviet tanks and 186 German fighting vehicles collided in the killing fields west of the town.
          Strawman again
          In the encounter, as many as 650 Soviet tanks are said to have been destroyed
          BS
          The results of the 300-kilometer test runs were appalling, with 90% of the tanks breaking down before reaching 300 kilometers.
          The are no words "broke down" in the original source. It's about any defects or malfunctions revealed during the test run, including those which left a vehicles in a running condition. Most could be fixed by field maintenance. Then, the first thing experienced units did after receiving tanks fresh from the factory lines was performing a full-body scan to check and fix any technical problems. That largely prevented minor malfunctions and increased reliability.

          Comment


          • #6
            In Zaloga's "Armored Champion: The Top Tanks Of World War II" the table recording the data is headed:

            "Percentage of T-34 tanks reaching 300 kilometers during factory trials"

            Actually it says 330 kilometers, but everywhere else he says it was 300 kilometers:

            "The initial 300-kilometer tests conducted in April 1943 disclosed appalling results - only 10.1% of the tanks passed the test. The June 1943 tests were even worse, with only 7.7% completing the test."

            If the tanks did not reach/complete 300-kilometers, I would argue that they broke down.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by lewinski View Post
              "Percentage of T-34 tanks reaching 300 kilometers during factory trials"
              I've got the original source used by Zaloga. It doesn't says "reaching 300 km" it says "passing the 300 km test run". I've explained the difference above: the tank could fail the test but could be still a runner.
              The 300 km trial run was introduced by the GKO order of 29 March 1944. This order quotes some characteristic reliability problems in the introduction: in the 4 Guards Tank Corps of 46 tank produced by the Factory No.112 27 tanks broke down during the 300 km march and didn't reach the destination. Of 72 tanks produced by the Kirov Factory 17 didn't reach the destination for technical reasons. So in this example 74 of 118 tanks were able to make a march 300 km long, and 44 (37%) broke down. And that was considered an example of very bad reliability, worse then ordinary.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                "Battle of Prokhorovka" was a name given to a series of engagements over an area as large as tens of kilometers which encompassed forces of the German II SS Panzerkorps and III Panzerkorps. The idea that it was only a small field near the Prokhorovka station (the place where the memorial complex and museum stand in the present time) is a popular aberration.

                Again, what was known as "Battle of Prokhorovka" encompassed six panzer divisions from 2 German corps and an independent Tiger battalion. You are beating a a strawman here.

                Strawman again

                BS

                The are no words "broke down" in the original source. It's about any defects or malfunctions revealed during the test run, including those which left a vehicles in a running condition. Most could be fixed by field maintenance. Then, the first thing experienced units did after receiving tanks fresh from the factory lines was performing a full-body scan to check and fix any technical problems. That largely prevented minor malfunctions and increased reliability.
                Agree, and there has been some revising of Rotmistrov's actions with the 5th GTA.
                Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                Comment


                • #9
                  A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka by Ben Wheatley
                  Article : https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full...2.2019.1606545
                  PDF : https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/...edAccess=true&
                  How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
                  Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by lewinski View Post
                    Prokhorovka; the Greatest Tank Battle there never was.

                    The original myth: On July 12, 1943, near the town of Prokhorovka, 850 Soviet and 700-800 German tanks rolled towards each other like two steel avalanches. In the encounter, 400 German tanks are said to have been destroyed, and the units of the SS-Panzerkorps crushed. This was a great victory for the Soviets. The turning point of world war two.

                    When the combat records of the SS-Panzerkorps were investigated it was found that, on July 12, 1943, SS-Panzerkorp Leibstandarte, and SS-Panzerkorp Reich had at most 117 battle tanks, 37 assault guns, and 32 tank destroyers which could be deployed against the 5th Guards Tank Army in the "greatest tank battle of all time". Clearly, the myth was in need of revision. [1]

                    The revised myth: On July 12, 1943, near the town of Prokhorovka, 850 Soviet tanks and 186 German fighting vehicles collided in the killing fields west of the town. In the encounter, as many as 650 Soviet tanks are said to have been destroyed, and the units of the 5th Guards Tank Army crushed. This was a great tactical loss, but somehow, a great strategic victory, for the Soviets. The turning point of world war two.

                    Neither version of the myth is anything like the truth.

                    The truth is that the famed "greatest tank battle of all time" never happened at all.

                    The most interesting aspect of these myths is why they have been told.

                    In both versions of the myth, the 5th Guards Tank Army arrives at the Prokhorovka battlefield from its bases far to the east, where it had formed part of a strategic reserve called the Steppe Front, and whether or not this army wins the battle against the SS-Panzerkorps, its last minute appearance changes the course of the entire second world war.

                    To get from their bases to the battlefield the 5th Guards Tank Army had to march (i.e., drive its 850 tanks, tow its artillery, and flak guns, truck its ammunition, and transport its 40,000 men, together with their supplies) somewhere between 300 and 400 kilometers over unimproved dirt roads, and they had to do this within three days. Each of the three armored columns involved in this march was about 24 kilometers (15 miles) long. [2]

                    For many reasons, both myths are impossible to believe.

                    The T-34s were notoriously unreliable. How did so many make the distance?

                    The main Russian battle tank, the T-34, had proved so unreliable that in April 1943 a policy was introduced whereby every tank was given a 30 kilometer test at the factory, followed by a 50 kilometer test by military inspectors, before the tank would be accepted by the army. In addition, one tank from every hundred was subjected to a 300-kilometer test run. The results of the 300-kilometer test runs were appalling, with 90% of the tanks breaking down before reaching 300 kilometers. Remedial action was taken so that by December 1943 only 16% of the T-34s tested broke down before reaching 300-kilometers. [3]

                    Soviet factory documents record the percentage of T-34 tanks that broke down during the 300 kilometer test (i.e., broke down before reaching 300 kilometers) for each month from April 1943. They are: April 90%, May 77%, June 92%, July 71%, August 57%, September 54%, October 22%, November 43%, and December 16%. [4]

                    Obviously the T-34s that participated in the Kursk battles were built before July 1943. Therefore they were among those found to be extremely unreliable. From these factory statistics one would expect significantly less than a quarter of the tanks to make the distance.

                    Most authors make no mention of the break-downs on route. Those that do, mention very different figures:

                    "Rotmistrov (the commander of the 5th Guards Tank Army) now had a gross total of 931 tanks: 581 T34s, 314 T70s and a few SUs. There would be 707 tanks ready to launch in the morning. 558 tanks would be in first echelon,... There were also a little over 100 tanks that broke down in transit that would be made available in the next two weeks." [5]

                    "Rotmistrov's 5th Guards Tank Army was just completing an impressive 400km road march on its own tracks and was assembling 15km north of Prokhorovka. Although 227 of Rotmistrov's 721 armoured vehicles broke down en route, Soviet repair units were able to restore half within the next 36 hours." [6]

                    "By dint of a remarkable effort that had seen his Guards Tank Army traverse many hundreds of kilometres in just a few days, the bulk of Rotmistrov’s units arrived within its assembly areas lying just to the north of the Psel in the closing hours of 9 July. Very few of the robust T-34s had fallen out with mechanical failure on this forced route march, and the extremely efficient repair teams quickly fixed those that had." [7]

                    The break-down figures given completely contradict the factory statistics (and contradict each other).

                    It appears that some authors just made up break-down statistics to solve the problem of there being no records of break-downs on route. Others will now quote these made up statistics, and they will eventually become "history".

                    How did the armored columns cross the Oskol river?

                    To answer this question we will try to establish the route the 5th Guards Tank Army (supposedly) took. The 5th Guards Tank Army consisted of the 18th Tank Corps, the 29th Tank Corps and the 5th Guards Mechanized Corps. We are told that:

                    "The 5th Guards Tank Army concentrated with the 29th Tank Corps in the forests west of Ostrogozhsk, the 5th Guards Zimovniki Mechanized Corps in the Kamenka region, and the 3d Guards Stalingrad Mechanized Corps in the Kuzmenkov (Pisarevka) region.... the 18th Tank Corps (was) located in the Rossosh region." [8]

                    So, the 29th Tank Corps started its march near Ostrogozhsk, the 5th Guards Mechanized Corps started near Kamenka, and the 18th Tank Corps started near Rossosh. Note that this Kamenka is about 40 kms from Ostrogozhsk and not the Kamenka (Kamyanka) marked on Glantz and Orenstein's map (see below).

                    Apart from the starting points, and destinations, we are told almost nothing about the route, only that the 5th Guards Tank Army passed through Staryi Oskol (Stary Oskol). [9] That the route transited Staryi Oskol seemed rather odd.

                    We also have this: "By the beginning of combat operations, our forces had one dual-rail lateral rail line, Tula-Elets-Kastornoe-Staryi Oskol-Valuiki, with a capacity of 40 to 45 pairs of trains per day. Several rail lines branched out from the lateral line to the front, including the Kastornoe-Kursk-L'gov, with a capacity of no more than 12 to 18 pairs. A dual-rail line ran from Liski Station, across Ostrogozhsk and Alekseevka to Valuiki and Kupiansk, which, because of major destruction, had a limited capacity. The following dirt roads had great significance for the Voronezh and the Steppe Fronts: Staryi Oskol-Tim-Kursk; Staryi Oskol-Korocha-Volchansk; Novyi Oskol-Belgorod; and Novyi Oskol-Volchansk. The Efremov-Elets-Voronezh; Kursk-Fatezh; Kursk-L'gov; and Kursk-Ternovka surfaced roads (gravel roads) were also significant. The main cargo flow for the forces traveled along these roads." [10]

                    This passage names the main railroads and roads used by the forces of the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts. What is interesting, is that not one of the roads mentioned goes anywhere near Ostrogozhsk, Kamenka or Rossosh (the bases of the units of the 5th Guards Tank Army). However, there is a dual rail line running from Liski to Valuiki which passes through Ostrogozhsk, and we find that both Kamenka and Rossosh are connected to Liski (and thus Ostrogozhsk) by rail.

                    So, it appears that the fable originally posited transportation of the 5th Guards Tank Army by rail.

                    Transportation by rail dovetails nicely with the fact that the route passes through Staryi Oskol, as there is a north-south rail line from Valuiki to Staryi Oskol, from which a branch line connects to the Kursk-Belgorod rail line which runs south to Prokhorovka (see the maps below). This branch line provides the only rail bridge over the Oskol river (north of Kupiansk in Ukraine). Even today, this bridge is the only Russian rail bridge over the Oskol river.

                    By road, the distance from Prokhorovka to Ostrogozhsk is only 200 kms (to Kamenka 240 kms; to Rossosh 260 kms). So, why do most authors report a march of nearly double this length? One guesses that this is a holdover from when the fable involved transportation by rail, for the distance from Ostrogozhsk to Staryi Oskol (via Valuiki) by rail is 280 kms. Add to this a 120 km trip from Staryi Oskol to about 20 km north of Prokhorovka, and we have 400 kms, double the road length.

                    The march is said to have occurred in two stages. The first march, from their bases to south and west of Staryi Oskol, occurred on July 7. The army rested on July 8. The second march, has the 5th Guards Tank Army deployed to a region about 20 kms north of Prokhorovka by the end of July 9, and then assemble east of Prokhorovka on July 11. Note that the march route approaches Prokhorovka from the north, just like the rail route. This route makes sense if one is using rail as there is only one rail route. However, it makes no sense by road. By road, the distance from (south and west of) Staryi Oskol to (east of) Prokhorovka via the northern road route is roughly 160 + 20 = 180 kms, while the eastern road route is about 100 - 20 = 80 kms. Why march an extra 100 kms?

                    Reflecting on this, it appears that the creators of history took an existing plan for the movement of troops by rail, that had probably been executed some time earlier (at a time when the Oskol river rail bridge at Staryi Oskol was operational), and simply changed the names, and sizes of the units, and the dates. Of course, during the early part of the Kursk offensive the rail bridge at Staryi Oskol would have been mostly at the bottom of the river, so the creators of the fable also changed, transportation by rail, to transportation by road, that is, to a march. Without this change, the broken rail bridge at Staryi Oskol would immediately invite the question; How did they cross the river? In this way, the creators of history assembled a great force at Prokhorovka, an imaginary force that fought an imaginary battle that changed the course of world war two.

                    Once the story had morphed into a march, the crossing of the Oskol river could be moved south from Staryi Oskol to near Krasnyy Ostrov, significantly reducing the length of the march. Some authors implicitly claim two crossings, one near Krasnyy Ostrov and the other near Novyi Oskol (Novy Oskol). These authors do not say how the river was crossed. Neither town had a rail bridge (and still don't) so the 5th Guards Tank Army had to be ferried across, or the river had to be bridged. This could not be done that quickly, even if the Luftwaffe decided to close its eyes and go to sleep.

                    Once the Oskol river crossing is moved south to Krasnyy Ostrov (and/or Novyi Oskol), it is impossible to believe that the northern route to Prokhorovka was taken; thus it has to be replaced by an approach from the east. However, the founding documents of the fable unequivocally state that the 5th Guards Tank Army approached from the north. But then, the founding documents also say that the 5th Guards Tank Army was not being sent to Prokhorovka at all, but to defend the Belgorod-Oboyan-Kursk road (the Oboyan axis or corridor). So, clearly it is possible for the fable to drift a long way from the original, and even to contradict it. The Soviet General Staff Study states:

                    "Considering the intensity of the situation on the Oboian (Oboyan) axis, on 8 July the Stavka of the Supreme High Command ordered the 5th Guards Tank Army to concentrate in the Bobryshevo, Sredniaia Ol'shanka, and Marino region by the end of 9 July, having advanced its forward detachments forward to the Psel River in the Oboian and Veselyi sector. By 2300 hours on 9 July the army had concentrated in the designated region, and its forward detachments reached the Psel River on the next morning. Naturally, the front commander directed his main attention toward the strengthening of the Oboian axis to a maximum." [11]

                    So the 5th Guards Tank Army was to gather in the Bobryshevo, Sredniaia Ol'shanka, and Marino region, north of Prokhorovka, and then deploy west to the Oboyan-Veselyi line, i.e., deploy along the Psel River (which in this area flows north-west and is parallel to the Oboyan-Veselyi line) in order to strengthen the defense along the Belgorod-Oboyan-Kursk road, i.e., to strengthen the Oboyan axis. Of course, this contradicts other versions of the fable which has the 5th Guards Tank Army rushing to strengthen the Prokhorovka axis.

                    Incidently, the deployment toward the Psel river north and west of Veselyi, on July 9, is completely at odds with SS-Panzerkorp Totenkopf capturing the south bank of the Psel river, some three or four kilometers south and east of Veselyi, on the same day.

                    In what follows, note that the real 5th Guards Army is not the imaginary 5th Guards Tank Army.

                    Summing up: Sometime before the Kursk offensive, the 5th Guards Army was deployed to the Bobryshevo, Sredniaia Ol'shanka, and Marino region some 20 kms north of Prokhorovka, where it formed part of a strategic reserve. This reserve was eventually fed piecemeal into the battle in aid of the badly battered First Tank Army and essentially destroyed. Since the Sixth Guards Army had been knocked out, the First Tank Army badly battered, and the hurriedly brought up reserves frittered away piecemeal, there was no force left to smash the Germans and explain their, otherwise inexplicable, withdrawal from the battle. [12] So, the creators of history provided the imaginary 5th Guards Tank Army. It would be loosely modelled on the 5th Guards Army. Some of the units of the 5th Guards Army were from the Ostrogozhsk-Kamenka-Rossosh region, so the 5th Guards Tank Army would be from the Ostrogozhsk-Kamenka-Rossosh region. They had been transported to the area by rail, however this was no longer possible, so the hapless 5th Guards Tank Army was scripted to march the rail route. This meant their route was much, much longer than necessary, and approached Prokhorovka from the north. To provide a shorter more believable route, some authors have since moved the route south, crossing the Oskol river around Krasnyy Ostrov, and approaching Prokhorovka from the east.

                    The evolution of the fable from a northern approach to an eastern approach can be seen in the following quotes:

                    "By day's end, Rotmistrov's huge armoured phalanx (the 5th Guards Tank Army) was 60 miles from its designated assembly area in the vicinity of the small agricultural town of Prokhorovka. The Tank Army rolled southward (i.e., from the north) across a front some twenty miles wide." [13]

                    "The forward units of the 5th Guards Tank Army began arriving behind the Psel River-Prokhorovka line after dark. Trailing units were still in the Bobryshevo-Marino area (north of Prokhorovka), up to 50 miles behind." [14] (There is an error here. 50 miles is 80 kms, however, the Bobryshevo-Marino line is only about 25 kms north of Prokhorovka.)

                    "By 10 July, as the main body of 5th Guards Tank Army approached Prochorovka from the east, some elements of the 2nd Tank Corps and 2nd Guards Tank Corps were already involved in fighting against Kempf's III. Panzerkorps." [15]

                    Although the two versions are contradictory, some authors manage to give both; for example, the text of Glantz and Orenstein states that the 5th Guards Tank Army approached Prokhorovka from the north, but their map (see below) shows the 5th Guards Tank Army approaching Prokhorovka from the east. [18]

                    Such contradictory features are to be expected when fiction is grafted over actual events.

                    The confusion generated by all this can be seen in the following quotes, which have the 5th Guards Tank Army assembling in two different places by the end of July 9.

                    "on 8 July the 5th Guards Tank Army was ordered to concentrate in the Bobryshevo, Sredniaia Ol'shanka, and Marino region (north of Prokhorovka) by the end of 9 July." [16]

                    "Konev alerted me that by the end of 9 July, Lieutenant General of Tank Forces Rotmistrov's 5th Guards Tank Army would be assembling east of Prokhorovka." [17]

                    The problem of crossing the Oskol river is almost universally ignored. It just happened, like magic. The only author to broach the subject (that I am aware of) is Mark Healy. The paragraph mentioning this is worth quoting in full:

                    "By late afternoon, Rotmistrov's forces had crossed the pontoon bridge spanning the River Oskol and begun the final stage in their drive towards Prokhorovka. Advancing across a wide front, the vast dust clouds raised by this enormous formation had broadcast its presence to enemy aircraft many miles away. Though heavily screened by fighter detachments, these had not been enough to deter snooping German reconnaissance aircraft, not that the Soviets had ever believed it possible to disguise the advance of such a large force when travelling by night and day. Of greater significance to Rotmistrov was the surprising lack of any follow-up by the Luftwaffe to interdict the Tank Army en route to the battlefield, which meant that other than those machines that were bound to fall out owing to breakdowns, his formation would arrive near Prokhorovka at full strength. That the Luftwaffe failed even to attempt to attack 5th Guards Tank Army before it reached the vicinity of Prokhorovka shows how limited its assets were by this time. It was unable to release so much as one bomber or Stuka staffel from its immediate task of battlefield support of the ground forces in the salient, to stem this approaching avalanche of Soviet armour, a tactic that would have been automatic just two years before." [19]

                    This shows how ridiculous the fable has become. Yet people still buy into it.

                    In truth, if a bridge (of any type) had sprung up overnight, the Germans would have certainly destroyed it. Keeping hundreds of tanks and artillery guns on the other side of the Oskol river was a no-brainer. Don't forget that the Germans had air-superiority over the salient for the whole period of the Kursk offensive, and Stary Oskol, Novyi Oskol, and Krasnyy Ostrov, were only a few minutes by air from the salient. As Plocher says about the air battle at Kursk; "Yet, wherever German fighters appeared it was usually a relatively simple matter for the Luftwaffe to achieve local air superiority and even air supremacy over the Russians, even when the odds were very great."

                    Healy's claim the Soviets never believed it possible to disguise the advance of such a large force, is untrue. Rotmistrov, or whoever wrote his part of the fable, implies that the operation was a complete surprise to the enemy. Rotmistrov's book was one of the foundation documents of the fable, and what it said would have been widely believed by the Soviets.

                    Zamulin says: "The march would occur in two stages. At the end of the first stage, all three corps should close on the Oskol river, force a crossing of it, and assemble while waiting for their rear services and remaining equipment to move up to the designated areas." Then a second march to near Prokhorovka. [20]

                    Zamulin also states: "At 0130 on July 7, the (5th Guards Tank) army moved out.... the 29th Tank Corps was supposed to reach its assembly area (somewhere west of the Oskol River) at 1400, but it was late.... At the start.... had delayed its movement by three hours.... At the same time there were no bridges across the Oskol River that could support 50 to 60 tons of weight. Therefore, the General I. F. Kirichenko's brigades (the 29th Tank Corps and 25th Tank Brigade) didn't reach their assembly areas until 2030 on July 7 (seven and a half hours late after starting three hours late)." [21]

                    Get that!? There were no suitable bridges,... so the tanks arrived a few hours late.

                    If there were no bridges across the Oskol River that could support 50 to 60 tons then the Staryi Oskol rail bridge must have been out of operation. Zamulin doesn't bother to say where the 5th Guards Tank Army crossed the river, or the type of bridge, or how the Soviets built a new bridge, and transferred 40,000 men, 850 tanks, untold artillery guns, untold flak guns, and untold numbers of support vehicles, in just a few hours, or why the Germans never bombed this bridge, nor the armored columns that crossed it, nor even attempted to do so. The current state of the myth is somewhere beyond unbelievable. There were no suitable bridges across the Oskol River,... so the tanks were a few hours late. Truly unbelievable.

                    So, how did the armored columns cross the Oskol river? They didn't. They never existed.

                    The change to a march may have been convenient, but it introduced many difficulties.

                    The road infrastructure of the whole march area was extremely primitive. [22] There was no regular military traffic along these roads so they would have been in their original unimproved state. The military, like everybody else, used the railways. People and goods either crossed the rivers by rail or were ferried across. Since no road bridge could handle the weight of the tanks (about 30 tons for the T-34 and 40 tons for the KV-1), every stream had to be forded and every river, without a convenient rail bridge, had to be bridged. Even fording streams, or crossing swampy ground, would not always be a simple task, for hundreds of vehicles would churn up so much mud that trucks and tanks would get bogged. Building bridges, dealing with bogged vehicles, and break-downs, all takes time. Much, much more time than the three days the fable tells us the march took. Actually, according to the fable, the march itself took less than two days, as the 5th Guards Tank Army rested on July 8.

                    A column of tanks on the move in open country is particularly vulnerable to attack by aircraft. This is mainly due to the fact that flak guns are either, not available at all, or take too long to set up for defense. And even when flak guns were many, and ready, they were still regularly attacked and silenced by aircraft, but in this case the attackers would expect to take casualties. Fighter aircraft could theoretically provide protection, but the German pilots had little respect for the Soviet pilots. As Hermann Plocher says:

                    "As always, German flyers were far more impressed by the enemy's light antiaircraft and small arms fire than by Soviet fighters, which seldom showed themselves when German bombers had a good fighter escort."

                    Here is what the Stuka pilot, Hans-Ulrich Rudel, had to say about action at Kursk. [23]

                    "While the cannon-carrying aircraft (Ju 87G-1 Stukas) go in to attack, a part of the bomber formation (standard Ju 87 Stukas and others) deals with the ground defences; the rest (fighters) circle at a fairly low level like a broody hen round her chickens in order to protect the anti-tank aircraft from interception by enemy fighters."

                    "We have always to try to hit a tank in one of its most vulnerable places. The front is always the strongest part of every tank; therefore every tank invariably tries as far as possible to offer its front to the enemy. Its sides are less strongly protected. But the best target for us is the stern. It is there that the engine is housed, and the necessity for cooling this power centre permits of only a thin armour plating. In order to further assist the cooling this plating is perforated with large holes. This is a good spot to aim at because where the engine is there is always petrol. When its engine is running a tank is easily recognizable from the air by the blue fumes of the exhaust. On its sides the tank carries petrol and ammunition. But there the armour is stronger than at the back."

                    Will Fowler has this to say about the Ju 87G-1 Stuka: [24]

                    "The Ju 87G-1 was one of the marks of the slow but battle-proven, 11.5m (37ft 8in) long, 6600kg (14,550lb), two-seater, single-engined Ju 87 Stuka. This antitank version saw action almost exclusively in the East until the end of hostilities.... The armament was formidable: two fixed forward-firing 37mm (1.5in) BK 3.7 (Flak 18) cannon underwing and one flexible MG 15 in the rear cockpit. The cannon could easily punch through the thin deck armour of Soviet tanks. Powered by one 1400hp Junkers Jumo 211J-1 engine, it had a maximum speed at 4100m (13,500ft) of 410km/h (255mph) and a maximum range of 1535km (954 miles).... Stuka pilots like Rudel used the powerful armament to attack Soviet tanks, aiming at the thin armour of rear deck. Hits normally destroyed the tank or immobilized it."

                    This brings up another question:

                    Why weren't the armored columns destroyed by German aircraft?

                    Not only weren't the armored columns destroyed by aircraft, but there is no record of any attack at all. There is no record of a single tank or gun of the 5th Guards Tank Army being destroyed by enemy fire while on route.

                    Let's look at some of the reasons given:

                    The armored columns simply weren't spotted.

                    "The successful use of the element of surprise also deserves attention. It was a considerable achievement of Rotmistrov and his staff to bring an armada of tanks and other vehicles to the front so quickly and almost unnoticed. It required a march of 330 to 380 kilometres in three days." [25]

                    The three armored columns were each (supposedly) around 24 kilometers long. Frieser is saying that German reconnaissance was worse than incompetent. This is not believable.

                    Zamulin says: "It was simply impossible for the German aerial reconnaissance flights not to notice the continuous columns of equipment, which extended for many kilometers and were moving in daylight hours toward Prokhorovka." [26]

                    Fear of Soviet air power kept the Luftwaffe away.

                    George Nipe says: "Since it (the 5th Guards Tank Army) moved on an axis that was twenty-five to thirty kilometers wide, it was impossible to hide the advance from the German reconnaissance planes. The Soviet command realized that the Germans would detect the army and provided additional air support to counter expected air attacks. Evidently, this measure was successful because Rotmistrov was able to cover the distance without significant losses (read zero) in vehicles." [27]

                    The Germans had air superiority over the Kursk salient for the entire offensive. They established air superiority by shooting down hundreds of Soviet aircraft in the first few days. This clearly demonstrates that they were not afraid of the Soviet air force. The Germans constantly had their better fighter pilots in the air looking for Soviet fighters to engage with. If these pilots knew of a congregation of Russian aircraft, they would have gathered their friends and gone after it (even if it was a hundred kilometers from the salient). Once these aircraft were dealt with, they would have called up the Stukas and dealt with any armor the Soviet fighters were supposedly protecting. [28]

                    Anyway, even if they were fearful of Soviet air power, they would have still attacked.

                    The armored columns were spotted but the Germans were too busy.

                    "Luftwaffe reconnaissance was reporting large and increasing Soviet armored forces moving west and south, toward the Psel. Official doctrine and common sense alike called for an all-out effort to interdict the movement. The Luftwaffe had been originally configured for just that type of mission. But the need for direct ground support had so intensified that no aircraft could be spared from the front lines." [29]

                    Tanks in open country without flak support are basically waddling ducks waiting for aircraft to destroy them. If the Germans didn't attack the tanks when they had little, or no, flak support they would have to deal with them later when they joined the front and had good flak support. Not believable.

                    It should be emphasized that while protecting these mighty tank columns the other 100% of Soviet aircraft were attacking German armor in the Kursk salient.

                    Glantz and Orenstein give the following table of the daily number of Soviet & German air sorties. [30]

                    Date 1943 Soviet German
                    5 July 43 1,720 1,947
                    6 July 43 1,278 873
                    7 July 43 1,536 829
                    8 July 43 1,185 692
                    9 July 43 845 1,577
                    10 July 43 526 1,105
                    11 July 43 595 528
                    12 July 43 893 530
                    13 July 43 777 271
                    14 July 43 1,033 1,195
                    15 July 43 363 261
                    16 July 43 926 403
                    17 July 43 484 140
                    18 July 43 436 55

                    We consider the (contradictory) versions of the 5th Guards Tank Army's approach to Prokhorovka separately.

                    When the 5th Guards Tank Army approaches Prokhorovka from the north, we are told it does so by the end of July 9. On July 9 the Soviets flew only 845 sorties (as opposed to 1,185 the day before), not exactly providing additional air support.

                    When the 5th Guards Tank Army approaches Prokhorovka from from the east, it does so mainly on July 11. On July 11 the Germans flew only 528 sorties (as opposed to 1,105 the day before). Flying only 528 sorties on the 11th shows that the Germans had many aircraft sitting around that could have attacked the approaching columns.

                    When the 5th Guards Tank Army approaches from the north to the Bobryshevo, Sredniaia Ol'shanka, and Marino region, and later concentrates east of Prokhorovka, the armored groups travel on both July 9 & July 11 and are thus open to attack, and in need of protection, on both days. So, once again the air activity does not match the fable.

                    Note that on, July 12, the day of the "greatest tank battle ever", neither air force bothered to put in a big effort.

                    Anyway, all this doesn't matter, because everyone knows the Germans would have attacked the approaching columns. The fact that we are told that they did not, simply tells us we are being told a lie.

                    I have recently come across the book The German Air Force Versus Russia 1943, by Hermann Plocher and Harry Fletcher. During the Kursk offensive, Plocher was the commander of the 4th Air Division of Luftflotte 6 (Sixth Air Fleet), the air force assigned to work with Army Group Center. Here are a few quotes from his chapter on the Kursk offensive:

                    Page 60: "Regardless of the decisions the German Supreme Command might take with respect to the conduct of operations in the East in 1943, it was clear at the end of April that the Sixth Air Fleet had to take decisive action against the assembling and concentrating of Soviet armies, mainly by striking enemy road and rail movements as well as airfields situated within the Red Army's concentration areas. On 12 May the Luftwaffe attacked by day and night a number of troop concentrations, enemy rail targets and air bases, and, five days later in both Combat Zones South and Center, destroyed a large number of Soviet transport aircraft and several important rail depots. On 21 May German air units bombed and strafed Soviet troop concentrations, transport trains, and supply dumps in all of the probable areas of enemy main effort. Wherever reconnaissance planes detected important Russian activity German air forces made concentrated surprise attacks and, as a rule, achieved very good results. If key railroad bridges or thoroughfare axes could be destroyed, the resulting jam-ups would force troop and supply trains to come to a stop in the open, where they would be quickly dispatched by German flyers. By day or night, whenever weather and visibility permitted, special aircraft were sent out to attack railway trains, even those at extreme ranges. These single plane attacks interfered seriously with the Russian concentration and supply operations."

                    Page 66: "By exploiting various factors such as timing, prevailing weather conditions, and visibility in order to achieve surprise, by frequently changing objectives, and by combining high and low altitude attacks with fighter escort operations, the Sixth Air Fleet succeeded in seriously disturbing the detected Soviet concentration movements in the Kursk-Sukhinichi sector during April, May, and June. In the course of these operations the Luftwaffe inflicted very heavy personnel and materiel losses upon Russian units and even compelled them to move their railheads farther to the east, approximately to the Kastornoye-Livny-Shchigry area. This, in turn, forced the Red Army to make time-consuming overland marches, which proved to be extremely costly because these forces were then exposed to repeated German air attacks."

                    Page 77: (During the Kursk offensive) "All air units were to be used exclusively in tactical support missions, against targets within the battle area, the strongly developed Soviet defense positions, and Soviet artillery emplacements. Rail and road targets were to be attacked only if large transport movements were observed."

                    Page 85: "As always, German flyers were far more impressed by the enemy's light antiaircraft and small arms fire than by Soviet fighters, which seldom showed themselves when German bombers had a good fighter escort."

                    Page 99: (During the Orel counter-offensive the Luftwaffe could not find the enemy so they attacked railheads and installations instead) "It was practically impossible, however, to detect and interdict Russian troop units moving through the woods. Repeatedly the Luftwaffe struck Soviet railheads around Sukhinichi and attacked rail installations and trains along the Kozelsk and Kaluga areas in order to interrupt the forward flow of supplies and reinforcements. Nevertheless, no noticeable results were achieved...."
                    Regarding this particular post, while many, (including myself), don't agree with your assessment, you might be right, and more importantly, this is exactly the input we need more of.

                    Thank you for posting this.
                    How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
                    Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      That's it, discussion over?
                      We hunt the hunters

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Well the OP was banned so the conversation will be limited.

                        If you look at the Niehorster OB site you can see that the Voronzeh front had 6 pontoon bridging battalions and the Steppe front had three on July 4, 1943. The argument that the 5th tank army could not have reached Prokhorovka because their were no bridges over the Oskol river seems specious at best. See http://niehorster.org/012_ussr/43-06..._43-07-04.html

                        The OP cites Zamulin's Demolishing the Myth and yet ignores the vast amount of evidence in that book that shows the battle actually happened. He went to a lot of work to argue a point that is so easily refuted.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by AdrianE View Post
                          The argument that the 5th (guards) tank army could not have reached Prokhorovka because there were no bridges over the Oskol river seems specious at best.
                          That argument is never made,... so your comment is specious at best.

                          For a better understanding,... try reading the article.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by lewinski View Post

                            That argument is never made,... so your comment is specious at best.

                            For a better understanding,... try reading the article.
                            Well, in any case....
                            Welcome back from the ACG equivalent of:
                            an exile in Siberia
                            The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              [QUOTE=R.N. Armstrong;n5150648]


                              Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post

                              "Battle of Prokhorovka" was a name given to a series of engagements over an area as large as tens of kilometers which encompassed forces of the German II SS Panzerkorps and III Panzerkorps. The idea that it was only a small field near the Prokhorovka station (the place where the memorial complex and museum stand in the present time) is a popular aberration.

                              \good point.
                              On U -tube, the battle sounds and looks like the Saskatchewan combine demolition derbies of my youth....



                              The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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