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German Panzers Best Tanks?

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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 2, 2010 3:36:24 PM PDT
Iva Buch says:

I believe we have found some common ground !!!

Totally agree points 1 & 4

With regards to the Tigers as an aside, many of the problems associated with them were not always mechanical or size etc but the way they were used by some incompentent commanders particulary when it came to the Tiger II where so much was expected of it.

Found this piece and my apologies but I cannot remember where I downloaded it from, but explains how poor planning, preparation and expectations can go so seriously wrong.

Guess it adds suppourt to your point 2 !!!

On August 10th, 1944, after crossing the Vistula river, elements of the 1st Ukrainian Front broke the enemy defense lines South-east of the Polish town of Sandomierz, and significantly expanded their bridgehead.

In an attempt to retake the lost territory on the west side of the Vistula river, the Germans immediately transferred five divisions (including one panzer division), from the Army Group «South Ukraine,» five infantry divisions from Germany, three infantry divisions from Hungary, and six brigades of assault guns to the Sandomierz area.

Preparing for the German counterattack, the Soviet High Command decided to regroup its troops which included for defense the laying of large minefields.

On August 11th, units of the 6th Guards Tank Corps (GTC) of the 3rd Guards Tank Army (GTA), took defensive positions on the outskirts of the towns of Szyldów and Ogledów which were taken earlier that day.

The bridgehead at that time resembled an irregular semicircle abutted against the Vistula River,in the centre, while the 52nd Guards Tank Brigade (GTBr) closed the left flank. Sandy soil made it difficult to dig the tanks in to their full height because the sides of the trenches kept collapsing.

The same sandy soil caused problems for the Germans as well. Many times Soviet troops observed Panthers swerving in the sand, and while their drivers struggled to control their vehicles, they exposed their thinner side armor to the Soviet guns.

During the skirmishes near Szyldów and Ogledów, this led to severe losses of Panthers (on August 11th, 1944 alone, the 53rd GTBr destroyed eight German tanks).

On August 12th, the commander of the 53rd GTBr, Colonel V. S. Arkhipov, with his Chief of Staff, C. I. Kirilkin, came to the conclusion that the Germans would not continue their direct attack across the open sandy fields, and that they would try to outflank the brigade. They therefore reinforced their force's flanks.

The area facing Major A. G. Korobov's 2nd Tank Battalion (TBn) was open. On the right flank, where the T-34 tanks of Captain I. M. Mazurin's 3rd TBn formed the defense line, there was a deep and wide valley with a dirt road leading from Ogledów village to the town of Staszów, and to the Soviet rear. Behind the valley, there were wetlands defended by the 294th Rifle Regiment of the 97th Rifle Division.

The dirt road provided good access to the Soviet positions, and drew the Germans' attention. To prevent the enemy from using this passage, the Soviet brigade commander decided to set up an ambush from an unnamed hill with two T-34 tanks from the 3rd TBn under command of deputy battalion commander Guards Captain P. T. Ivushkin.

The battalion's remaining tanks were at the main defensive positions one-kilometre from Ogledów.
The initial speculations about the German plan were confirmed by reconnaissance reports.

Three reconnaissance units with tanks and motorcycles were sent to patrol the expected routes of enemy movement.

Reconnaissance Report #53, issued at 7:00 p.m. on August 13th, 1944, issued by the staff of the 6th GTC stated:

During the day (August 13th), Korobov's 2nd TBn fought German tanks west of Hill 247.9. At the end of the day, the 53rd Brigade took southward defensive positions 300 metres east of Ogledów, in readiness to move towards Szyldów.

At ten o'clock in the evening, two tanks from the 3rd TBn, supported by the company of the mechanised infantry, assaulted the village, and by eight o'clock in the morning, they succeeded in clearing it of the enemy. The 3rd TBn then took defensive positions on the edge of the village.

German tanks, which had been withdrawn after earlier attacks, were captured in this village. It was then that it was discovered that the burning tanks in the morning battle were not Panthers.

However, there was not enough time to identify the tanks, and the first reports stated that there were three Panthers captured. The 2nd TBn, the 2nd Tank Company of the 71st IGHTR, and the 289th Rifle Regiment, began moving toward Zaraz at 09:00 a.m.

King Tigers which were positioned west of Ogledów, blocked the attacking infantry with gunfire. A platoon of JS-2 tanks, led by Lieutenant Klimienkov, advanced and joined in the battle. Soon one of the German tanks was on fire, and another one was knocked out.

The infantry, without opposition, then moved in to Ogledów, where tanks of the 3rd TBn were already eliminating the remaining Germans.

Meanwhile, seven King Tigers attacked the Soviet positions from Hill 272.1. Waiting in an ambush near Mokre, Guards Lieutenant Udalov in his JS-2 tank (with number 98, and fitted with the D-25 Main Gun) let the German tanks to approach to a distance of 700-800 metres and started firing.

After a few hits, the first tank was set on fire, and the second tank was knocked out. The German tanks shifted into reverse. Udalov drove towards the enemy and fired again from the edge of the forest.

With one more tank burning, the Germans retreated. Soon, the King Tigers attacked again, this time towards Poniki, where Guards Lieutenant Beliakov's JS-2 was set up in an ambush position. He commenced fire at a distance of 1000 metres, and after the third round, had set fire to an enemy tank. The Germans realized the grave situation, and retreated again.

During the three days of continuous fighting on August 11th, 12th, and 13th, 1944, in the Staszów and Szyldów area the 6th GTC destroyed and captured 24 enemy tanks, thirteen of which were the newly introduced King Tigers.

The reasons behind the Sandomierz King Tiger fiasco include cleverly prepared Soviet defenses and, without a doubt, the high level of professionalism of Soviet tank crews. The Germans failed due to faulty planning and tactics, and particularly because of the direction of the attack for the 70-tonne King Tigers. The need to put the newly designed, but still incomplete tank into action, resulted in these errors.

Those 88mm & 128mm Flak guns would have been gratefully received on the frontlines.

Posted on Jul 4, 2010 7:18:49 PM PDT

Posted on Sep 26, 2010 8:05:03 PM PDT
Iva Buch says:
In answer to your question

"I am always interested in how a small German Mechinized force could withstand much larger forces and at time defeat them."

Maybe the answer lies in the forgotten "Heros" namely the Panzer mechanics and specialists who kept the small amount of Panzers running and through their efforts in recovering the damaged ones from battlefields.

Which brings me to the point - there is a new book coming out from Panzerwrecks titled appropriately "
Repairing the Panzers Vol. 1"

From the blurb on their site

"How did Germany keep its infamous Panzers running throughout six years of war? How did the German army prepare for motorized warfare? What mechanic was competent for what kind of damage? What special vehicles and recovery equipment were used by the maintenance units? How were they organized? How much supply reached the front during Operation 'Zitadelle' and how was it distributed among the battered divisions?

The answers to these and other questions are to be found here in this book. Based solely on original experience reports, diaries and manuals, you will learn how Panzers were recovered from various predicaments and what really put Panzers out of action. For the first time ever you will get an inside look at the battle that went on behind the front lines to keep every Panzer possible in fighting condition."

looks to be an interesting read


Not shown though on Amazon yet

Posted on Oct 31, 2010 11:07:03 PM PDT
Iva Buch says:
An interesting update from Panzerwrecks next volume which follows on from their first book - Repairing the Panzers (don't expect Volume 2 to be finished before fall of 2011) may shed some light on the stats and servicing of the "big Cats" namely the Tigers and Panthers

"The chapters of the second volume are:

*Tactical Deployment of the I-Dienste
*Maintaining the Tigers
*Maintaining the Panthers
(The reason why maintenance of the Tiger and Panther is treated in a separate chapter has nothing to do with the myth of them being less reliable. There simply exists a lot of original documentation covering that subject.)
*Factors Affecting Operational Readiness, dealing with spare parts (planning, production, supply and "in action"), vehicle type varieties and the recovery vehicle situation.
*Maintenance Performance Statistics
*Another infamous Appendix

This is a book I am certainly looking forward too, because if it is as well researched as the first, it will be interesting to see just how "unreliable" the Tigers and Panthers actually were, which has been a theme on this page for some time.

The maintenance performance stats will be of interest as well

Posted on Nov 2, 2010 2:05:40 PM PDT
Joe Hill says:
A vote for the Pzkw III chassis, used as a platform for so many different different guns, including the rebuilds by the Soviets. IMO, most versatile chassis of the war.

Posted on Aug 26, 2011 1:22:14 PM PDT
Iva Buch says:
Above book due for publication in November, and have it on pre order. Will let you know if any new facts re reliability and maintenance come to light.


Posted on Dec 10, 2011 1:15:15 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 10, 2011 11:40:27 PM PST
Iva Buch says:
Part way through the book from Panzerwrecks- Repairing the Panzers 2, has some interesting data taken from primary source documents written during the war (eg official orders, war diaries, minutes of meetings, etc) as well as personal memoirs from veteran accounts and prisoner interrogations

some intersting facts so far concerning the Tiger

The % of Operational Tigers compared to the Pz IV ,Panther from 31/05/44 - 15/03/45 was

Eastern Front
Tiger 70%
PzIV 68%
Panther 62%

Western front
Tiger 65%
PzIV 71%
Panther 65%

A good point was also made with regards to the reporting system where the German Panzers cannot be directly compared to US Tanks which were deemed more reliable

The point being that a US Armoured unit tank that could not be repaired within 24 hrs was written off the inventory and sent off to the rear, at that point the unit commander lost control of that particular tank.

On the opposite side a German Battalion or Regiment Commander could show up at the workshop that evening and "beg or demand" the workshop give their best effort to get the maxiumn number of Panzers operational for the next day.

Thus as an example a British unit could show 200 M4 tanks operational and four under repair and no total losses, if you compare this then to the German numbers without distinction you could get the false conclusion that the M4 had an operational readiness of 98% compared to the Panzers of only around 65 - 70%

I guess it is all in the way you record the numbers

A report from Grossdeutschland in March 1943 ( a unit that operated bothe the PzIV and the Tiger) concluded that the Tiger was more reliable than the Pz III and IV, IF THE NECCESSARY ROUTINE MAINENANCE COULD BE PERFORMED ie 1 day of technical service for 3 days of operation. It also goes on to state that if practiced this way the Tiger could acheive exceptional success

Another factor discussed is the wrongful employment of the Tigers that had an impact on maintenance in the sense that more Tigers got damaged or stuck and repair troops were scattered and thus less effective and the fact that there was no recovery vehicle on its own that could tow out a Tiger until the arrival of the Bergepanther

Factors that also led to the breakdowns and the perception the Tiger was less reliable was their employment by superior units who were sometimes non panzer units that lacked the understanding of Panzer tactics and their needs, and affected Operational readiness

Thats it for now I will read on
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Discussion in:  World War II forum
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Initial post:  Apr 29, 2009
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