Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Cheating at Statistics 3: Standards

Previously, I have shown how you can deviously inflate your kills, while mitigating your losses. Let's take a look at another situation where what is written down is not what really happened.

In March of 1944, several German s.Pz.Abts. were busy fighting the Soviets, and losing badly. Memoirs of the 4th Tank Army commander Lelushenko tell of "72 tanks captured, including 49 Tigers". Now, one can claim cases of misidentification, but in this case, journalists did their job well. Photos taken on March 13th definitely show a number of Tigers.

Photo from the Uman captured and destroyed vehicle collection point.

So, as you can see, these Tigers clearly exist. Let's look through claims of losses from the German side. S.Pz.Abt 503, 507 and 509 were present in the area around March. Let's see how their accounting went:

The 503rd claims to have lost 2 vehicles on March 9th, and 8 more up March 29th. The 507th reports 4 lost vehicles in all of March. The 509th reports 5 vehicles lost in all of March.

Wait, what happened? That's less than 20 Tigers lost in all of March, when the Soviets have over twice that in the first two weeks, with photographic evidence! Where did they come from? The answer lies at the end of the month. On March 30th, 24 losses are recorded, 21 of which are marked as "destroyed by their own crew". The fact that these vehicles have long been photographed at Soviet collections points makes that claim doubtful. 

There you have it, some creative accounting in how and when a vehicle counts as destroyed, and you end up with an invincible fighting force! On paper, at least.

In contrast, let's take a look at how the Soviets did it.

Here we have some losses from various causes (artillery fire, mines and explosives, aircraft, unrecoverable losses, technical losses). Look at that technical losses field! The numbers are huge! 84 tanks lost to artillery fire in total, compared to 468 breakdowns? That sounds hard to believe. Thankfully, the description clears things up.

"The technical losses field also includes vehicles stuck in mud, even for a short time, and tanks requiring repairs, where one tank could undergo several repairs, and count several times. Tanks needing medium or heavy repairs are also counted. As a result, the amount of losses is larger than the total amount of tanks."

There you have it, the two sides treat losses radically differently. Soviets can count one tank as lost multiple times (the same tank can also be "built" multiple times, if a hull is shipped back to the factory for refurbishment), while the Germans don't count the tank as lost at all until they are sure that they cannot reclaim it. Who knows how many Tigers were recovered, repaired, and sent into battle again, never counting as a loss until meeting their final resting place on the battlefield. 

These, and many other examples, readily demonstrate that one must always be cautious when comparing numbers written down by different organizations, as similar terms often carry vastly different meanings. 


  1. Sounds kind of like why proper scholars are leery of crime-rate comparisions between countries, with the exception of outright killings which tend to get reported and recorded reasonably reliably in all but the most failed of Third World hellholes.

    1. The computerised statistics programs several western police forces use (including the US and Australia) has been pretty heavily criticised for exactly that - individual stations cheating at statistics by classifying things improperly or inventing violations out of the air. A friend linked me to a particularly interesting NPR piece about the NYPD doing it some time ago.

  2. Of curse, the retreating german army was able to fix lost tanks in an area lost to the soviets. Legit. How do pictures of 4 tanks prove the capture of more than 60?

    1. The whole point is that they weren't able to, but they don't give up on them until weeks later, making any kind of historical analysis complicated.

    2. Few things match this cheating.
      Jan 1943 the Russians supposedly had 7200 tanks/AFVs in service. Just before Kursk they supposedly had only 9850 available. In the 6 months before Kursk they only 'lost' 3253 tanks.

      But their production for the first 6 months of 1943 was 12,576 tanks/AFVs. They also received another 1824 from Lend Lease.
      A total gain of 14,400 in just the first 6 months of 1943.
      Let's see if their books balance.
      So 14,400 + 7,200 -9,850 -3,253=8,497. There are nearly 8500 tanks missing from the book!
      Where where they?

    3. Ask your book. Most likely, the tanks have not been assigned to a unit yet, and thus do not count in the tanks total, and yet still count as having been produced.

  3. If the above numbers are indeed correct I highly doubt that in 1943 the Soviets would have 8500 tanks sitting in depots waiting for assignment. I do like these articles but you are trying to make out that the untrained to barely trained soviet conscripts were super soldiers and that the Nazis were two year old children. These articles drip with venomous bias!

    1. Why is that so hard to believe? A problem for all sides in WWII was that replacing the men could become a greater problem than the hardware. (You saw this even with the defeat of the Luftwaffe, still more planes than trained pilots by the end). Reading accounts of American bomber groups one realizes that they had more bombers than crews to man them, with the "extra" bombers being used as spares.

  4. Hi,

    the russians lied. period.
    the Germans lied to... but as we know the exactly numbers of produced german tanks (esp. tigers) the Germans could not loose more tanks as they had there....

    in the Picture you see exactly 5 abandoned tanks. if you look into the description of the Germans this fit.

    the russians lost tons of tanks... in the beginning of the war they lost most by accident/failures, also they did not repair them.

    the Germans had only some total losses - even against t34. because they "won" the battles and repaired their tanks.

    if we look into the numbers of lost tanks (total losses) the Germans killed around 4-5 russian tanks for each total loss. if we know that the Germans lost around 50-60% of their later tanks because of technical failures AND that they had to retreat (lack of fuel), the real kill rate was way higher.

    that has nothing to do with "stupid russkis" but lack of experience, lack of Training, very crude technics and - esp. till the T34-85 came out the bad layout of the Crew.

    numbers Count - but explain why the russians even in 1945 forbid their tank Corps to battle german tank Units. Yes, Standing order was "do not fight em, let em bleed in our AT-fronts".

    the answer is - even in 1945, the Germans cleanded the ground in tank battles with their russian Counterparts. think about the iraq, Germans are the americans, russians are the iraqi. Not in any stages and not in the loss lists, but this is near the reality.

    i know that "true nationalistic russians" get angry with reality - but Facts are Facts. the myth that 8500 modern tanks are NOT used in a battle that cost so much blood - the russians had been defeatet at Charkow, at kursk they had the Advantage of numbers.... but in the time between february and july they lost again a lot tanks in battles.

    the difference in 43-45 to 41-43 is, the russians had a Basic understanding how tanks should fight. they had been the best allied Generals in this. the battles - if larger german Forces encountered russian ones, had allways been VERY singlesided till late in the war. only with the air superiority such Encounters could be won by the russians. because now they had the numbers on the ground, the artillery (often underestimated) and the planes to disrupt or destroy the Germans...

    1. It's like you didn't even read the article, just skipped to the bottom to complain.

    2. By 1945, Glantz has the Soviet tank park at 35,000 tanks yet only has like 8,500 in "field forces" (though an old James Dunnigan article from S&T put that at 15,700).

      So what's so surprising about there being a sizable difference between the tank park and the number of tanks allocated to units?

      For Luftwaffe enthusiasts at least, I wouldn't want to bring up the subject of "missing" hardware, else they'd have to start answering why there's such a huge discrepancy in their fighter production, their fighter strength, and their (very low) claims about their own fighter losses in the summer and fall of 1943 when fighting unescorted B-17 and B-24 formations. Maybe those American bomber gunners *did* destroy more fighters than it's been fashionable to give them credit for.

    3. 'numbers Count - but explain why the russians even in 1945 forbid their tank Corps to battle german tank Units. Yes, Standing order was "do not fight em, let em bleed in our AT-fronts".'

      Because tanks are meant for the breakthrough role. Tanks vs tanks, the combat potential is in a way equal opportunity. AT guns being easily concealed, often have better success. Remember, alot of tank crews consider AT gun kills as double. This shows how effective they are.

  5. Count the picture. No more than five TIGER-I are visible. This is not an example of photographic evidence for the claim that 49 TIGER-I had been captured. Had been 49 present, they surely would have been shown on picture. The number shown in the photograph is agreeing well with the number of heavy tanks reported as lost by german sources.

    1. A photographer is not an engineer. His job is to get a pretty picture to communicate that some tanks were captured and that's what they look like, not to enumerate every single one.

    2. ... I think Peter, the point is that you can't throw up a picture with 4/5 destroyed tanks to base your claim on this being proof that nearly 50 of them were captured. It is doubtful that that many even participated at this action (assuming the captured ones came from a larger force - or are you claiming the entire force of Tigers were captured?). Your research claims are at best dubious, and certainly not in line with practiced historical professionalism. It is clear here that you are attempting to bend your finds into the mold of your opinion, rather then look at the data from all perspectives in an objective fashion.

    3. That is not the point of the picture, or the article. If you try to take a photo with 49 tanks spread around in it, most would likely be very small and now people can claim maybe they are not Tigers.

      First, a "capture" claim is *much* more solid than an ordinary "kill" claim. A kill claim can be misidentified, he can actually only be disabled or even only hit. It is easy to overclaim even with perfect honesty, and the verifiability by higher authorities is low so you can lie.

      A capture claim means higher authorities and those in entirely different departments eventually want to see and count the captives and up close, so a lot more people have to join your lie. So already you are inclined to give it credence unless you have already convinced yourself one side is lying.

      Samsonov is basically painting this scenario. In March, the 4 battalions had 19 tanks crunched up so badly even they felt obliged to write them off as losses. At the same time, they had over 20 tanks so badly damaged at various points they were sent back, but those were not counted as losses though some of them were captured during March. Eventually on March 30, they finally decided to admit 24 damaged tanks weren't really repairable after all, rather they were lost, but just to make it look better they tried to claim 21 of them were "destroyed by themselves". By now the difference between the claimed losses and the admitted losses are not so large.

      Perhaps next month in the archive you'd find the few remaining tanks finally being given up, far away from where they can be associated with any particular engagement.

      The problem of German units delaying the admittance of losses is not "merely" a Soviet complaint. No less a personality than Zaloga had made a similar point when writing Armored Thunderbolt for the Allied armies v German. Eventually losses have to be admitted to in some way, but by spreading things around you can make yourself look better.

  6. There are at last 20 Tigers at this location not 5.

    at 1:12 & 4:45.
    The point being lost is that 20+ Tigers were so badly mangled they had to be sent to a rear area workshop. Knocked out tanks that never got repaired but were listed as 'abandoned' in order to preserve the lie that they could not be knocked out.
    In short false information used to cook the books and mana for the deluded fanbois.

  7. Wow, this is really sad and shows how arrogant and ignorant some people are. All of the negative comments boil down to one single premise "Russians lie, period", all with out a single substantiating fact.

    It's like saying "all women are stupid whores", or "all blacks are drug addicted criminals".

    How juvenile are these people...

    Every fact I came across showed that Germans had to cook up their books to fit propaganda or be dealt with by the SS.

    Soviet officers were not allowed to make up kill stories, their reports had to be strictly confirmed or they would not be counted, becasue when compared with intelligence of enemy forces, reporting fake kills would drastically understate actual enemy strength.

    That in turn results in incorrectly planned missions and needless deaths. That's the responsibility every Soviet officer knew he had when reporting on battle kills, every made up story will cost in lives.

    So there we have it, according to some socially backwards people, Russians are just a bunch of suicidal liars that enjoy running into their deaths by the millions.

    That, or maybe that's just more Goebbels type propaganda that's alive and well through Hollywood and Zionist-American MSM.

  8. The question is: If this report is the standard Soviet practice of reporting loses(so every officer must know this), why the author need to put the description of the meaning of "technical loses" in a footnote?
    What is the objective of putting tanks that only "stuck in mud for short time"?
    This report look more than a repair/recovery unit report than a monthly combat unit report.

    1. A repair report would not include tanks stuck in mud, since they do not need to be repaired. Adding technical losses to the report makes sense, since there is a quick way to determine how many tanks you have capable of attacking right this moment.

  9. Why did Soviet forces lost 14 241 000 soldiers deceased?

    “We established the number of irreplaceable losses of our Armed Forces at the time of the Great Patriotic War of about 13,850,000.[40] A more recent compilation made in March 2008 of the individuals listed in the card files puts total dead and missing at 14,241,000 (13,271,269 enlisted men and 970,000 officers)[41] This database is incomplete and does not include all men killed in the war; currently graves registration teams in Russia are identifying war dead that are not currently included in the database”
    Sergey Aleksandrovich Il’enkov – Graduated from the Kalinnin Suvorov Military Academy, the Higher Military Academy, the Moscow State Historical-Archival Institute. Assistant chief for scientific work of the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Co author of many scientific works on the history of the Great Patriotic War.
    Voennno-Istoricheskiy Arkhiv
    No. 7(22), 2001, pp. 73-80″

  10. Germany used only 30% of their war production for their army, 58% for air war and 12% for Kriegsmarine (navy). Production statistics are suggesting that army weapons got just about 5% of all production, armour some 6.5-7%, half-trucks about 1.5% and vehicles some 2.5%. In 1943 Germany invested 4.5 billion RM for concrete shelter production - as much as army got for all vehicles, tanks, guns and other weapons. With the money Germany invested to their V-2 project they would have produced some 30 000 StuG assault guns/Pzkw IV tanks. One more irony. German forces defended Courtland until very end for that Dönitz had place to test and train his new XXI U-boats. Heer was actually just a prostitute in German military hierarchy.

    1. To be fair, planes tend to be a LOT more expensive than Army hardware. (The German navy OTOH always found it difficult to actually justify its existence and expense...) That bit about money spent on V-2s and similar "superweapon" silliness is debatable though. While hard cash certainly wasn't unimportant German production was hard-capped by a legion of supply bottlenecks, starting at the very mines where the ores for metals and the coal to keep everything working was mined. (They delayed conscripting miners as long as they possibly could; reluctant, underfed and unskilled forced labourers made poor replacements.) Immediately after this there were gross and insoluble shortages in transportation capacity to actually get the raw materials to the factories, where there conversely were shortages of machine tools, skilled labour etc. - and occasionally actual factories themselves, if the heavy-bomber fleets had recently dropped by...

      Money is all well and good, but doesn't conjure the necessary raw materials plus transportation and manufacturing capacity out of thin air. (Not under a continental blockade at least.)