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Attrition

by Daniel Russ on September 11, 2019

Nazi’s Retreat On Foot After Kursk

It’s easy to forget that Germans and Russians won or lost not so much because of how well their equipment worked, but because of how well it failed.

Andrew Roberts takes on the question in the Battle of Pokhorovka on July 12th of 1943. Operation Citadel began with the 4th panzer Army that had 916 tanks, all in good working order. Of that number 160 German tanks in the 4th Panzer Army simply broke down. Transmissions that were sloppily put together, or flames belching out the exhaust pipes, or suspensions that failed. The Seconds SS Panzer Corps went from 470 tanks to 150 in a matter of days. Often the German tank crews scuttled their own vehicles thinking they would be overrun. 

Battle Of Kursk

One of the biggest considerations at Kursk was repair and refuel. Panzer tanks most ran on gasoline and so had to pour by hand one canister after another into the gas tank. It took hours and of course they couldn’t refuel under fire at all. That in mind the Russian pretty much ran the T-34-76 or the T-34-85. That was basically one set of repair tools. The Germans operated the Panzer Mark III and Mark IV, the Tiger, the Panther, the King Tiger and the Ferdinand. That’s a quite a repair supply chain. Germans could barely effect repairs on a bloody, dusty noisy and unpredictable battlefield.

At the end of the first day of battle the Germans had lost 300 tanks including 70 Tigers. The Russians had lost 400 tanks. The close air support provided by the Russian air force out matched the German close air support. No matter the number, it was essentially all over for the Germans. The German 3rd, 17th and 19th Panzer Divisions had 100 tanks between them. Operation Citadel, the attempt to pinch off the Kursk salient had failed. Beating the Russians for this one day was like fighting for the window seat on the Hindenberg.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Louis Kolkman September 11, 2019 at 1:51 am

“the Battle of Pokhorovka on July 12th of 1944”.
I think you mean 1943 there. In 1944 the Soviets were already near Warsaw…

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