"According to orders from the HQ of the 17th Corps, remaining 5 tanks and SPGs (3 KV-85 tanks and 2 SU-122 SPGs) set up for a defense of the Telman farm to deflect enemy attacks towards Rososhe, the Kommunar farm and Bolshevik farm at 7:00 on January 28th, 1944. 50 infantrymen and 2 AT guns filled the defensive perimeter. A concentration of enemy tanks was spotted south of Rososhe. At 11:30, 12 enemy T-6 tanks and 13 medium and small tanks attacked the Telman farm from the south, with infantry cover.
From effective positions, cover from buildings and haystacks, our tanks and SPGs let the enemy approach to straight shot range and opened fire, upsetting the enemy's formation and knocking out 6 tanks (3 of them Tigers), destroying up to a platoon of infantry. Senior Lieutenant Kuleshov's KV-85 was selected to destroy the German infantry that has broken though. With fire and tracks, he carried out his orders. At 13:00, German forces that did not wish to attack the Soviets head on flanked the Telman farm and encircled the Soviet group.
The battle of our tanks when surrounded by a numerically superior force shows exceptional skill and heroism of our tankers. The tank group (3 KV-85 and 2 SU-122), commanded by the company commander, Guards Senior Lieutenant Podust, defended the farm, while at the same time not letting the Germans move their forces elsewhere. Tanks frequently moved positions and fired on German tanks, SU-122s entered open terrain and shot up infantry on APCs heading for Ilyintsy, preventing the Germans from maneuvering freely and allowing elements of the 17th Infantry Corps to withdraw. Tanks continued fighting until 19:30, even though there was no longer any infantry at the farm.
Maneuvers and effective use of cover ensured heavy damage to enemy forces with very light casualties (2 wounded). On January 28th, 1944, 5 Tiger tanks were destroyed or knocked out, as well as 5 PzIVs, 3 PzIIIs, 7 APCs, 6 AT guns, 4 machinegun nests, 28 horsecarts, and up to 3 platoons of infantry.
At 20:00, the tank group attempted a breakthrough, and at 22:00, after battle, broke out to Soviet positions, having lost one SU-122."
Well, that was heroic and all, but I am a sceptic, and I must first at least establish that such a battle took place. Flipping through my good friend Tigers in Combat, we will find no mention of Telman farms or Rososhe, but there is only one mention of any SU-122s in January of 1944, in the journal of the Feldherrnhalle battalion, mentioning the name "Oratoff". Luckily for us, Oratoff still exists on the map, a city near Vinnitsa. A prior mention of "five enemy tank corps spotted 100 kilometers north of Winniza" tells us we're in the right place. Time to pull out a map!
Vinnitsa is that blob near the lower center of the map, and what do you know, two arrows clash right on top of Oratoff (sadly not pictured on the map), the top one being the 1st Tank Army, the unit that the 7th Guards were fighting with. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have our battle. We also see the German tendency to grossly overestimate Soviet forces: despite reporting five tank corps north of Vinnitsa, the Soviet map only shows the 3rd Guards Tank Army there, home to two tank corps. Even if you include the 1st Tank Army to the north-east, that is only one additional tank corps.
All right, we figured out where we are, time to take a look at the German account of the battle. The account is rather sparse:
"28 January 1944: Breakthrough to the Oratoff railway station."
Well that really doesn't give us interesting to look at. Thankfully, the next few lines offer something better:
"29 January 1944: Fighting at Oratoff. Abortive recovery attempt of disabled Tigers 112 and 132.
Total tanks: 66. Within five days, 267 tanks are knocked out with a loss of 3 Tigers and 4 Panthers."
Very good, we are getting somewhere! Time to determine how accurately the sides counted their kills.
The Soviet count is easy. Let' start with the Tigers. The Soviets claim five knocked out or damaged, the Germans give three outright losses and 2 that they were able to recover (as we have determined previously, the Germans do not count vehicles that can be recovered towards their losses). Everything adds up here. The Tiger battalion doesn't own up to losing any "lesser" tanks, so those probably came from the German 3rd tank division, also present on the Soviet map, whose records I unfortunately do not have. Similarly, Soviet records don't claim the 4 Panthers lost, so perhaps they fell to another part of the 1st Tank Army.
The German claim is much more bold: 267 tanks knocked out! That is a rather significant force. Like in Korner's case, let's count how many tanks the 1st Tank Army had at its disposal: the 6th Tank Corps (3 tank brigades, 65 tanks each for 191 total), 112th Tank Brigade (another 21 tanks), and four tank regiments (also 21 tanks apiece, 84 total) for a grand total of 300 tanks. But that's only a maximum number of available tanks, how many tanks did the Soviets actually have in this area? Luckily for us, the 1st Tank Army has a rather detailed memoir, The Combat Path of the First Tank Army and Its Heroes. Volume 3 describes the relevant time period, where Guards Colonel Koltunov writes on page 12: "...on all sections of the front, our units, having one fifth to one sixth of their numbers remaining at best, deflected furious attacks of large enemy groups of tanks and infantry, supported by aircraft."
A fifth or sixth of maximum capacity at best! That puts the Soviet forces at an optimistic estimate of 50-60 vehicles which makes sense, given the 7th Guards' poorly equipped state (3 KV-85s out of a tank regiment's 21, plus a couple of SU-122s, likely folded in from an SPG unit). Even assuming that the 1st Tank Army has suffered no casualties at all in its month-long offensive and all of its losses came from the attacking Tigers, there is still quite a bit of overclaim.