What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

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Yoozername
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What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by Yoozername » 27 Aug 2016 02:02

Title says it all. From reading 'Armor and Blood'...Showalter, it does seem that those Panzer Division, either assigned a Tiger coy. or possessing Tigers, did most of the useful hacking in the South part of the salient.

But, what if the Germans had concentrated ALL Tiger units, including the Ferdinands, into the south, and the North became more of a diversion? Model, in my mind, clearly had no real taste for attacking even with the heavy units assigned to his units. He seemed aware of dangers in this sector and probably would have liked more mobile units anyway.

Showalter does an OK job on this book, but it has some real technical groaners. Saying things like "topped up fuel tanks are a risk but tankers took them"...is patently wrong. It is actually safer to have a full tank. The book describes the grueling ordeal best at a orginizational level.

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by Graniterail » 27 Aug 2016 06:19

Do you think German attempts at diversion would even work at this stage of the war? With the West slipping Enigma intelligence to the Soviets, the war in the Air going over to the VVS allowing them to conduct more photo reconnaissance..

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by Yoozername » 27 Aug 2016 08:59

Yes. Enigma was not reading Hitler's diary. It really needed to break a password to tap in. I would think Stalin's spies were more adept.

But arranging tank battalions with tarps ain't 007 stuff.

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by Graniterail » 27 Aug 2016 11:55

Yoozername wrote:Yes. Enigma was not reading Hitler's diary. It really needed to break a password to tap in. I would think Stalin's spies were more adept.

But arranging tank battalions with tarps ain't 007 stuff.
It doesn't sound like the Germans knew what the Soviets were up to.

"According to a Soviet General Staff report, 29 of the 35 major Luftwaffe raids on Soviet airfields in the Kursk sector in June 1943 were against dummy airfields.[135] According to historian Antony Beevor, in contrast, Soviet aviation apparently succeeded in destroying more than 500 Luftwaffe aircraft on the ground.[138] The Soviet deception efforts were so successful that German estimates issued in mid-June placed the total Soviet armoured strength at 1,500 tanks.[139][140] The result was not only a vast underestimation of Soviet strength, but a misperception of Soviet strategic intentions.[136]"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of ... reparation

..

"German intelligence failed to pick up 10 Armies"

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=jS ... ce&f=false

As to what the Soviets knew?

"‘Spies, Ciphers and 'Zitadelle': Intelligence and the Battle of Kursk, 1943’ says : ‘a captured intelligence report of the Soviet 1st Tank Army dated 5 July 1943 revealed that radio intelligence had identified the positions of the headquarters and units of II SS Panzer Corps, 6th Panzer and 11th Panzer Divisions before the offensive began. Other captured documents disclosed that 7th Panzer Division, XIII Corps and Second Army headquarters had all been similarly ’fixed’ by Soviet radio intelligence.’"
http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.com. ... -wwii.html

The Available page in the preview seems to discount the Spy rings though.
http://www.jstor.org/stable/260932?seq= ... b_contents

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by pintere » 27 Aug 2016 13:54

It's actually an idea I've considered as well. However even with this huge punch, I still can't see this force cutting off the entire salient, let alone holding it. It would have been an interesting experiment though, for the Germans to try a one-pronged Citadel with all the heavy armor concentrated and with one or two Panzerkorps in reserve. Ultimately though the whole concept of Citadel was somewhat meaningless. It would have been better for the Germans to have prepared for a defensive battle right from the start.

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by Yoozername » 27 Aug 2016 21:32

Actually, Showalter makes a case that it not only took Tiger Tanks, which were constantly being damaged and repaired, but also air support to get any real progress. Most of the Tiger tanks were doled out in Companies to divisions. If one Tiger Battalion could have been used as a unit, it may have created a breakthrough earlier. The Germans really needed to see something decisive during the first couple of days. They could not use their long range weapons to their best effect till they broke through. In a sense, they were being played by the Soviets.

The Germans felt they were losing a war of attrition and could not keep up with the monthly losses of men. In a sense, they were going 'All In' with Kursk because something had to be done. And, in doing so, they actually incurred losses exceeding the current level for no real gains. The panzer grenadiers, who were not all up to strength, suffered great losses at Kursk. One can easily see now that they were no where close to the Soviets in combat power.

Showalter claims the Soviets trained 400,000 tankers during the war. He claims 300,000 perished. Has anyone ever read a stat like that before? Post-Kursk, the Soviets pushed relentlessly and incurred losses in tanks greater than the manufacturing numbers. They actually went 'All-In' till the Spring of 44.

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 27 Aug 2016 23:33

I personally don't think it'd make that much of a difference. The Soviet defenses were so deep and thick that alone wasn't going to bring a victory at Kursk. There simply weren't enough Tigers. Even if you take S. Pzjr Reg 656 with its Ferdinand's and Brummbär (a strong panzer division's worth of AFV) it won't make the difference. Pulling them from the North only means that part of the offensive goes virtually nowhere right off.
With the Northern pincer stalled at the starting line, the Southern one would get more attention.

The W. Allies would still land in Sicily, throwing a major monkey wrench into the offensive too. That wouldn't change here either.

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by Yoozername » 28 Aug 2016 00:47

I disagree since the North went nowhere regardless. I would use a feint in the North and a concentration of combat power, including aviation, in the South.

The real strength of the Tigers, and 7,5 cm L48 weapons, was in ground that allowed them to utilize the gunnery superiority. If you read the book, the author describes the trapped nature of the Southern attack. The Soviets counter-attacked each gain the Germans had, and basically kept them in a battlefield that favored them. Like a boxer keeping an opponent on the ropes.

Sicily was a convenient excuse when Hitler lost his nerve. He basically didn't want to go all in at that point, even though he lost a lot of chips.

The Germans never really addressed the technical solution to minefields either. The 'springer' vehicles relied on the Soviets to continue planting concentrated minefields. They learned a good lesson and the Germans suffered for it.

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by sitalkes » 01 Sep 2016 04:17

Concentrating the Ferdinands would just make it easier to conceal the embarrassment they caused - one description I heard was of the way that, one by one, if they had to go up even a slight incline, their engines would burst into flames. They and the Tigers were much better used as defensive weapons when they could find the right place to use their long range gunnery and sit and wait for the enemy to come to them. And Citadel should have been launched in May or June or abandoned entirely, even if Paul Carel says the Germans thought they were winning and could have won if Hitler hadn't prematurely withdrawn units. A better what-if would be, what if Hitler had accepted the advice given to him (which he did for a while) and cancelled the operation?

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by Yoozername » 01 Sep 2016 15:41

sitalkes wrote:Concentrating the Ferdinands would just make it easier to conceal the embarrassment they caused - one description I heard was of the way that, one by one, if they had to go up even a slight incline, their engines would burst into flames.
I would like to read that "description"...Can you cite a source? Would one or both engines "burst into flames"? They had two gasoline engines driving two generators that drove two electric engines, one per track. Would the electric engines burst into flames?

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 01 Sep 2016 19:35

sitalkes wrote:Concentrating the Ferdinands would just make it easier to conceal the embarrassment they caused - one description I heard was of the way that, one by one, if they had to go up even a slight incline, their engines would burst into flames. They and the Tigers were much better used as defensive weapons when they could find the right place to use their long range gunnery and sit and wait for the enemy to come to them. And Citadel should have been launched in May or June or abandoned entirely, even if Paul Carel says the Germans thought they were winning and could have won if Hitler hadn't prematurely withdrawn units. A better what-if would be, what if Hitler had accepted the advice given to him (which he did for a while) and cancelled the operation?
I'd like to know the source of that. Nothing like that is mentioned anywhere in The Combat History of German Heavy Anti-tank Unit 653 by Karlheinz Münch. He includes the detailed maintenance report on issues with the Ferdnand at Kursk and early operations dated 7/26/43 by Heniz Gröschl, a Porsche Company representative attached to the battalion. No mention of engine fires whatsoever.

Hopefully, you didn't get that from that awful book The Tigers are Burning by Martin Cadin.

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by Yoozername » 02 Sep 2016 00:50

I have read extensively about these AFV, and have never read anything like that. Engines don't "burst into flames". They throw a rod or they pop a piston or they backfire.

Given that, I think the Ferdinand should not have had any front line role besides a defensive field trial after a breakthrough. The list of recommended fixes after the battle is crazy. The same with the Panthers. Especially given the training time they had.

The turreted Tiger I certainly showed itself to have a positive effect on attacks. Basically it was operating in a window where it had enough armor that when handled sanely, it could at least face many weapons the Panzer IV and Panzer IIIs couldn't.

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 02 Sep 2016 02:52

Now, on thing that might have helped was not making the Ferdinand at all. Instead, (assumes the turrets are available) the Porsche Tigers are completed as turreted tanks. I don't think they'd do any worse than the Ferdinand did and possibly might have done better.

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by Yoozername » 05 Sep 2016 02:37

The 'back-story' on the Porsche Tiger is a strange convoluted 'tail'. Porsche did not seem to know what he wanted...either gas/elec-gen/elec-motor drives or a gas-engine/hydraulic drive. Maybe if he concentrated on one, and made it work, he might have a shot at the actual Tiger tank awarded. As it was, he ordered chassis for both and made some ripples within the industry with his engineering changes.

There is evidence that one Porsche Tiger with some sort of drive, a turreted Tiger, WAS used as a command tank for the Elephants. Perhaps the rarest panzer ever...

But, the idea that Porsche 'Tigers' could have been awarded concurrently with Henschel Tigers does not seem possible. His final design was an air cooled gas engine that was bad, and the generator and electric motor setup in the rear with rear drive. And it had problems. He would have had to have had worked them out on his own dime. The fact that so many chassis had been built, and the need to mobilize the deadly long 88 sort of saved his bacon.

But the 'Ferdinand' was a real frame up rebuild and rethink. The engines were moved forward and replaced by two StuG type motors of proven design. The fighting compartment was moved to the rear and over the electric motors. Basically isolating the driver element and control/weapon systems.

The Henschel turrets do not lend themselves to mass production. Especially the curved shapes. I do suspect that since either design would use that turret, they were not a 'limiting reactant' in the eventual Tiger 'stream' that trickled out. But, who knows? I think Porsche screwed the pooch and maybe he had the indignity of being replaced by a pachyderm name?

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Re: What IF the Germans concentrated Tiger tanks during Kursk?

Post by Tim Smith » 05 Sep 2016 12:36

The best way for the Germans to fight the Battle of Kursk would be not to fight it at all...

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