A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

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Der Alte Fritz
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A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 14 May 2019 20:52

Journal of Intelligence History A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka
Ben Wheatley
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10 ... 19.1606545

ABSTRACT
The battle of Prokhorovka was steeped in Soviet legend (and myth) for many decades. This remained the case until post-Soviet era research revealed the reality of a Soviet armoured disaster. Building on this knowledge this article explores Luftwaffe reconnaissance photographs taken in the days and weeks immediately following the battle of Prokhorovka. The photographs provide visual confirmation across the battlefield of the demise of the 5th Guards Tank Army’s 18th and 29th Tank Corps’. The battle’s most famous locations are visualized (many for the first time) in wartime photographs; these include the notorious anti-tank ditch, Hill 252.2, Oktiabrskiy state farm, Storozhevoye Woods and the site of Tiger tank duels on and close to Hill 241.6.

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H Dan
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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by H Dan » 10 Jul 2019 18:42

Dr. Wheatley's article was published in May, and now, close to the anniversary of the battle, the historical editor of the German newspaper Die Welt has drawn wide public attention to it:

Der „Sieg“ der Roten Armee, der in Wirklichkeit eine Niederlage war
Von Sven Felix Kellerhoff
Leitender Redakteur Geschichte
https://www.welt.de/geschichte/zweiter- ... anzer.html

Stalin’s claim of Prokhorovka tank victory destroyed by hoard of pictures
Oliver Moody, Berlin correspondent for The Times.
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/stal ... -jl8vbk0b7

A hysterical official Russian reaction has already followed:

Germany Should Prosecute Author Of Article About Battle Of Prokhorovka - Russian Lawmaker
https://www.urdupoint.com/en/world/germ ... 66246.html

Kind regards,

Dan
The distribution of German air force resources between different fronts
http://www.ww2.dk/Luftwaffe%20Research.html
Focke-Wulf 190 now at the Flying Heritage Museum - Air Power History
https://www.afhistory.org/wp-content/up ... ue_All.pdf

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by Art » 10 Jul 2019 22:52

As usual, some people believe that since few can read Russian they can fantasize about Soviet historiography as much as they want:
According to the decades-long version of the Battle of Prokhorovka, on July 12, 1943, on Monday, in the course of the German "Zitadelle" offensive, 850 Soviet and 800 German tanks ought to have raced towards each other like two knights. Allegedly, so the Soviet propaganda, thereby 400 chariots of the Wehrmacht had been destroyed
In reality the Soviet version was as follows (from "The Battle of Kursk" by Koltunov and Solovyev):
In the literature on the Battle of Kursk there are conflicting data on the number of tanks and self-propelled guns that participated in the battle of Prokhorovka. Some believe that up to 1200 armored vehicles were employed from both sides, others - that up to 1500. Both figures are correctin principle, but the following should be borne in mind. Immediately in the direction of Prokhorovka from the west on the front up to 15 km wide 3 enemy tank divisions were attacking, which numbered up to 500 tanks and assault guns, of which about 100 new types ("Tigers", "Panthers", "Ferdinands"). From the 5th Guards Tank Army (excluding without General Trufanov’s detachment) up to 700 tanks and self-propelled guns were in this zone.

A strike at Prokhorovka from the south was delivered by the formations of the 3rd tank corps of the enemy, in which the 6th and 19th tank divisions (up to 200 tanks) played the main role. These divisions were opposed by the group of General Trufanov, numbering about 100 tanks. Thus, to the west of Prokhorovka on both sides took part in the battle up to 1,200 tanks and self-propelled (assault) guns, and to the south of Prokhorovka - up to 300 armored vehicles. Taking into account both regions, up to 1,500 armored units took part in a tank battle to the west and south of Prokhorovka.
So 700 German and 800 Soviet AFVs deployed in a pretty large area, not just a small field near the station. 500 armored vehicles in the II SS Panzerkorps was naturally an overstatement, but not that dramatic as the author tries to makes it look. According to Zetterling and Frankson the corps had 270 tanks and assault guns operational, not counting Marders and self-propelled artillery.

The statement "there was no large tank battle" at Prokhorovka obviously contradicts the information given in the article itself.

Why the Wheatley's article is considered a game-changer by the author is beyond my understanding. There were far more detailed books by Zamulin, Lopukhovsky, Nipe etc.

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by Art » 11 Jul 2019 10:23

As for Wheatley's article: the author's point is that his data complement earlier works rather than make a sort of revolution by itself. Unfortunately one cannot see a thing on the photos reproduced in the pdf file which limits their practical value to almost nil. There is a constant discussion about some destroyed tanks seen on images, but it is impossible to see where and how many, and the author doesn't call exact numbers. It would help if he drew a scheme with location and numbers of destroyed tanks instead of giving raw images. Attempts to reconstruct battlefield events based solely on these images seem a little audacious. For example, there is much space about Soviet tanks knocked out by LAH "Tigers". Of course, you can't tell from images alone who really knocked out them, as there were other German weapons present in the area. An ability to tell Soviet from German vehicles on aerial images is also problematic. Naturally Germans were able to tow their disabled vehicles, so an ability to ascertain their losses from images made after the battle is limited which is admitted by the author himself.
Some other points: so-called "anti-tank ditch" was actually a natural gully visible on pre-war topographic maps and it survived to the present day. The gully was probably additionally reinforced by work made by Soviet engineers. A idea about tactical importance of the "ditch" seems to be based on few memoir sources. The author states that there many Soviet tanks immobilized in or near the ditch. Unfortunately, given the quality of images reproduced in the article that cannot be verified.
Army Group "South" lost 175 tanks and assault guns in "Citadel"- that is based on incomplete reporting. In fact as demonstrated by Tomzov by the end of July when additional vehicles were written off the losses tally went to 283. The bulk of them were lost during "Citadel".
There is a rather uncritical reproduction of the old myth "Hitler stopped Citadel because of Allied landing in Sicily"

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by Karte » 13 Jul 2019 13:12

As I worked with the GX photos at NARA for years and saw the photos Wheatley was using about 10 years ago (I scanned/copied one or two of them), they are 1) fair to poor quality paper printed copies of the originals films (further degrading the quality), 2) the geographic coverage of the exisiting air photos over the Citadel battlefield is largely incomplete as during much of of the original prints have been lost, and 3) the "read outs" or written reports of what the Luftwaffe photo interpreters gleaned from the original film are not at NARA/never captured by the Western Armies as these prints were/or maybe stuck in the State archives in Moscow. This said, I have worked with aerial photos and overhead sensors for over 20 years and as I didnt do look at these photos in detail, I wont judge his findings.

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by gracie4241 » 13 Jul 2019 16:03

Hitler did stop Citadel largely because of Sicily. He predicted that course himself on may 19, 1943 when he as of yet had not even decided on Citadel .Don't take my word for it" get a copy of "Hitler and his Generals", which are verbatim(surviving) records of Hitler military conferences running from December 1, 1942 until April 27, 1945.The complete may 19, 1943 conference is there, wherein Hitler is unambiguous that his primary strategic concern was the Balkan resource area as he called it, and the threat to it from the Mediterranean.An Italian political collapse in his opinion would pose 1 a direct threat to the area-he believed the Allies would use Italy as a launch point across the Adriatic into the Balkans-2 the need to replace in toto the Italian garrison troops there.His position was that should a collapse appear imminent he would cancel Citadel, or if launched,stop it in order to generate troops for the South.So Hitler only did on July 13,1943 what he said he would do in may.Read that for yourself.Even as it was, Hitler had deployed, or was deploying, quite large forces to the Mediterranean which would have been difference makers at Kursk.By my count he had TWELVE mobile divisions(perhaps 14) in or arriving in the med and Balkans,20-25 field grade infantry divisions, and Richtofen's Air Fleet of some 1300 aircraft.Thirdly, the TOTAL permanent german tank losses for the month of July 1943 everywhere, including the entire Eastern Front and Sicily(60 tanks lost) was 500,meaning Citadel itself could not have cost more than 300-350 TOPS(Jentz, Panzertruppen Vol 2).The german losses there have been GREATLY exaggerated, as in fact the germans were putting a serious hurt on the Russians to the tune of 4 to5-1 in tanks

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by Art » 14 Jul 2019 12:00

As Manstein describes the conference on 13 July 1943
Since field marshal von Kluge considered a resumption of the 9 Army's offensive impossible and even more believed that a retreat to starting positions was necessary, Hitler decided, also considering the need to withdraw a part of forces for transfer to the Mediterranian, to halt execution of the operation "Citadel".
So actually situation on the Eastern Front goes first as a reason. As understand that's the only source describing this conference. No minutes were left, and Kluge and Hitler didn't write memoirs for obvious reasons. As a sober military analysis shows an original "Citadel" became unfeasible regardless of the situation in the Mediterranean, since the north attack group (9 Army) was stopped and and was unable to continue the offensive. The planned advance of the AG South to Kursk was loosing any rationale then. Still Hitler authorized a continuation of the offensive by the AG South was a modified limited objective. AG South attacked for several more days after 13th and achieved some local progress but then was halted and returned to initial positions for a need to release forces for defensive employment elsewhere on the Eastern Front (Orel and Donbass in particular). As Warlimont describes it ("Inside Hitler's headquarters")
That day [18 July 1943] started with a a Hitler's decision to halt the operation "Citadel" as having no chances for success - decision in which situation in Mediterranean and needs of other theatres of war didn't play any role.
The OKW war diary entry from the next day says succinctly that
In view of a violent hostile offensive a further continuation of the "Citadel" operation doesn't seem possible anymore. To create reserves by shortening the frontline our own attack is called off.

By my count he had TWELVE mobile divisions(perhaps 14) in or arriving in the med and Balkans,20-25 field grade infantry divisions, and Richtofen's Air Fleet of some 1300 aircraft.
Only one division actually came from the Eastern Front - SS LAH division. It was diverted from its to the Mius front after the coup that deposed Mussolini and well after the end of "Citadel". With this exception "pacification" of Italy involved forces already present in Mediterranean or those that came from occupied Frnace or "Stalingrad" division reformed after being practically destroyed on the EF.
Thirdly, the TOTAL permanent german tank losses for the month of July 1943 everywhere, including the entire Eastern Front and Sicily(60 tanks lost) was 500,meaning Citadel itself could not have cost more than 300-350 TOPS(Jentz, Panzertruppen Vol 2)
Losses in July were about 930 AFVs (tanks, assault guns, assault tanks, tank destroyer etc).
As said above two armies of the AG South lost 280 not counting Marders, of them probably 250 until July 23. 9 Army lost 88 until 14 July according to Zetterling and Frankson, again not counting Marders. I don't see any contradictions here.

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by Richard Anderson » 14 Jul 2019 14:40

gracie4241 wrote:
13 Jul 2019 16:03
By my count he had TWELVE mobile divisions(perhaps 14) in or arriving in the med and Balkans,20-25 field grade infantry divisions, and Richtofen's Air Fleet of some 1300 aircraft.
So I guess this is the third time I've asked in two different threads...which are the "TWELVE" or "perhaps 14"? Since it is you count you must know. Which are the "20-25" infantry divisions? Which "Air Fleet" did Richthofen command and what are those numbers of aircraft derived from?
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by critical mass » 23 Jul 2019 15:38

Art wrote:
11 Jul 2019 10:23
Army Group "South" lost 175 tanks and assault guns in "Citadel"- that is based on incomplete reporting. In fact as demonstrated by Tomzov by the end of July when additional vehicles were written off the losses tally went to 283. The bulk of them were lost during "Citadel".
There is a rather uncritical reproduction of the old myth "Hitler stopped Citadel because of Allied landing in Sicily"
Do You mind to expand upon Tomzov? I am not familiar with his work but am Interested in his reasoning.

Merci!

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by Art » 23 Jul 2019 20:22

That's a Russian article published in 2007. The relevant part is this table giving armor losses 4 Pz.AOK and 8 AOK by 31 July 1943
1.png
The sources are given as:
Gep. Kfz.- Bestandsmeldung 6 Pz.D vom 18.7. bis 27.7.1943; Gep. Kfz.- Bestandsmeldungen 7, 11, 19 Pz.Div., StuG.Abt. 911 vom 21.7.43 bis 31.7.43., Gep. Kfz.- Bestandsmeldung Pz.Gren.Div. «Grossdeutchland» vom 1.8. bis 10.8.43, Pz.Rgt. «v. Lauchert» Gef.St. den 31.7.1943, NARA, T313 R390; Jentz T.L. Panzertruppen. Vol. 2.1943–1945. P.93 (Operational status of schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503 30 June 1943 to 1 January 1944; T313 R376; SS LAH, SS Das Reich, SS Totenkopf Totallausfalle im Raum Belgorod vom 5.7.-18.7.43, NARA T354 R607, F000629; Pz.-Lage Gep.Kfz.Lage Ost (Nach Gen.Qu.) 10.7-31.12.43 BA-MA RH 10/61 и StuG-Lage Ost (Nach Gen. Qu.) 1.4.-31.12.43 BA-MA RH 10/62.

Tomzov estimated with about 20 tanks were lost by 6, 7, 11, 19 PzD and 911 Stug.Abt. after 20 July, thus leaving about 260 tanks and assualt guns lost during the "Citadel" proper.
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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by critical mass » 24 Jul 2019 10:04

Thanks.

I suppose somewhat less than 260. PzBrig.10 reported 2+56 losses until july20th.
additionally, 16 were scheduled for homeland repair.

Marders and beute Vehicle losses are missing, so the total actually may be higher.

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by Art » 24 Jul 2019 18:52

Totalausfälle seit 21.7.1943: 1 Pz.Bef.Wg. Panther u. 10 Panther
which brings total losses during July to 69 (58+11). Or in another way: 200 Panthers were present initially, 12 additionally arrived from Germany, 128 were left as of 31 July. Which means a balance of 84. Of them 15 were shipped for repair to Germany, which leaves 69 as write-offs. Not sure how 80 lost Panthers fit into that.
Was there any battle activity involving Pz.Rgt.39 and Pz.Abt.52 between 20 and 31 July?

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by critical mass » 25 Jul 2019 08:04

They recorded 10 pzV and one PzBefwV as TWO in the period 21st of July to 31st of July....
69 + 10 + 1= 80.

Totalausfälle seit 21.7.1943: 1 Pz.Bef.Wg. Panther u. 10 Panther

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Re: A visual examination of the battle of Prokhorovka

Post by Art » 25 Jul 2019 21:03

A table in "Panzertruppen" Vol.2 gives 84 write-offs in the Pz.Rgt.39 as of 31 July. Which, I suppose, includes 15 Panthers sent for maintenance to home area, leaving the same number of "real" write-offs as calculated above (69).

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