Monday, 13 October 2014

Cheating at Statistics 8: Seeing Things

Many engagements involving Tigers have been elevated to legendary status, and many more have been forgotten. It is a shame, as it can be difficult to reassemble bits and pieces of engagements that are rather interesting. For instance, documents of the 7th Guards Independent Heavy Tank Regiment record a somewhat unusual vehicle, the KV-85, engaging in battle with Tigers. Here is their account of the battle (from M. Baryatinskiy, Heavy KV Tank in Battle, Moscow, 2007):

"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. 

23 comments:

  1. 63 tanks per brigade? Are the Soviets sending decimated units into battle? Because after 11/1943 brigade strength was 65 tanks.

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  2. OK, yeah battalions were 21 tanks. Brigades were of 2 or 3 battalions plus 2 HQ tanks. Regiments were of 21 heavy tanks or SP guns or 35 medium tanks or SP guns.

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  3. And when did the Soviet not have grossly over estimated and produce (propaganda) statistic Petr?

    Try to be more objective, instead showing always your present opinion and personal preference against Germany. If you want to avoid alienating readers and receive respect and trust, just stop with the gibberish and be more impartial. Since both, the Soviet Union and Germany produced statistic for their own benefit. But according to you, only Germany did it. Gosh!

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    1. Peter*

      And if you wish to demonstrate how Soviet tank units overestimated their kills by an order of magnitude, you are welcome to start your own blog. Meanwhile, I'll continue with this "gibberish" that you appear to have no disagreement with.

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    2. You don't seem to understand, and going straight emotional. The quintessence of the above advice was meant to say, that you should stop alienating readers and take a more impartial and objective seat in your writing process.

      Again, both the Soviet Union and Germany produced statistic for their own benefit. But in all your "cheating statistic" publications the Germans are the only one who ever did it.

      Improve your writing skills and avoid any emotional and present opinion in your publications.

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    3. I have just one stupid question for you. Who did need to edit battle statistic more in this part of war for you? Was it soviets that had retaken everything they lost in first part of war and were coming to the border of germany or was it germans who needed human replacements after series of losts from the Stalingrad up to operations in this par of war?
      I am not historian I am just fan of this weapons systems. But I think everybody who think that german claims are right about 267 destroyed tanks in this battle or destroyed 53 t34s by 8 ferdinants in one day at Nikopol is just sick...
      If the soviets had so much tanks they could simply flank and destroy clumsy ferdinants in one fast attack. Or try to just describe how they should lost that ammount of tanks.

      And please dont judge my bad english I still learn it :D

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    4. Who is being emotional? Also, your assertion that I do not show Soviet overclaim is incorrect. See, for instance, this article: http://tankarchives.blogspot.ca/2014/08/lavrinenkos-gunslinging.html

      Is the overclaim not as drastic? No. I have not yet run into ridiculous overclaims from the Soviet side like I have seen on the German. If I find some, I will be sure to publish them.

      As for alienating my audience, statistically, it does not appear to be alienated, unless my number of subscribers is continuously increasing due to sheer outrage.

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    5. "Who is being emotional?"

      You are, you have a pretty obvious personal harassment against Germany, regards to your writings. Thats why I have encouraged you to be more impartial and objective.

      "Also, your assertion that I do not show Soviet overcome is incorrect."

      Not in case of the"cheating statistic" publications I specified, which being only one-sided reported.

      "I have not yet run into ridiculous over claims from the Soviet side like I have seen on the German. If I find some, I will be sure to publish them".

      Just because you haven't seen it yet, it doesn't mean, that german where the only Primus of psychological warfare.To the contrary, David Glantz recorded fairly well how the Soviets used propaganda instruments to intimidate the enemy and keep moralize of the own troops stable. I can show you several examples how they exaggerated the enemy loss, only to break through their lines. Or why you think hundreds thousand of Red Army soldiers and AFV have been sacrificed and slaughtered for a dead end? Of course, at the end, the head goes through the wall.

      "As for alienating my audience, statistically, it does not appear to be alienated, unless my number of subscribers are continuously increasing due to sheer outrage."

      I don't mean to challenge your numbers of subscribers. My intention was to avoid alienating future and following readers. However, I just wanted to make a constructive criticism but it seems you can't handle it without taking your pride beside.

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    6. Wow, "personal harassment!" I didn't know that Germany was a person and that I was harassing him. Sorry, Germany! I will stop. Let us be buddies and drink beer and eat wurst together.

      Like I said, if you can show "several" examples, you are welcome to do so. That is not what this blog is for, however. If you are going to put in the effort to drag these examples from the archives and put them in a coherent series of articles, go ahead. I'll even link to it in my sidebar among all the other tank related websites.

      Do keep in mind that these are not propaganda numbers. These are internal numbers recorded in combat diaries that the Tiger battalions reported to their superiors. The enemy would have never seen these numbers. Glantz's work on propaganda has zero relevance to this phenomenon.

      As for thousands of Red Army soldiers and AFVs being sacrificed, I don't see the relevance. People die in a war. Why do you act like taking an objective at the cost of men and assets is some horrible thing and why are you bringing it up in an article about false kill claims?

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    7. Listen, Anony.

      If you are arguing that the Soviets and the Germans both used psychological warfare to bolster their own morales and depreciating their enemies', then I will have to ask you to be "less impartial in your writing"

      Yes, they both used propaganda extensively (then again, who didn't?) But there are some information that people with sound mind wouldn't put propaganda in: Technical information (this includes various kind of information such as engineering, medical, physics, and yes, statistics)

      Why it's not advisable to put propaganda in technical information? Well, two reasons;

      1. It's hard to understand by common population. Let's take statistics as our case study, if one propagates statistics, he can't expect the normal folk to understand his propagated statistic and thus won't be effective, unless it's made in simple maths which was easy to understand (it's not like the farmer in the German's farmland would know anything better than simple farmers in the Soviet's Kolkhoz, is it?)

      2. It effects the decision making process of the higher-ups. I mean, those information would soon be on the desk at the OKW or the Stavka or whatever, or some of them might be read by the leader themselves. Putting Propaganda in this kind of information would have caused the higher-ups to make the wrong decision, and this will cost lives... or even the state's sovereignty. As we all have seen, that is one of the tons of causes that the Germans lose the war; because their higher-ups were poisoned by their own lies and grew more and more detached from reality in the late years of the war.

      I tell you what, the only bunch of people, so far, that I've seen to be stupid enough to propagate technical information... were the Germans.

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  4. "Was it soviets that had retaken everything they lost in first part of war and were coming to the border of germany or was it germans who needed human replacements after series of losts from the Stalingrad up to operations in this par of war?"

    And how many millions of genuine self-sacrificed Red Army Soldier have to be victimised to achieve the overall victory? It's common today, that russian with their sense of nationality don't like to confess the "Human Wave" tactics.

    "I am not historian I am just fan of this weapons systems"

    The History has shown, that Germany and the Soviets used progressively and intensively the psychological warfare to persuade of their own strength and demoralize the enemy. There is nothing to argue about it. Making conclusions on exaggerated cases to imply that just only Germans used produced statistic is plainly wrong. The Soviet did it in the same pedantic manner for their propaganda purpose.

    The given advice was meant to be a constructive input, to take an impartial and objective seat. To improve and develop Peter's objective writing, instead taking part on just one side of the view (personal preference). This is how an academic voice works.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. That's funny, you name Glantz to try to demonstrate these documents are not reliable. Just one of the writters who is taking these documents as a base to remake his books. Do you want to know another writer who is also taking this information as a base to write books? I'll give you a clue, his surname is Beevor.

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  5. Rosashe problably mean Rososha near Orativ(called Oratoff,Oratov by Germans), at south have a village/Town named Tel'mana(old Telman farm?).

    By 20th January have 3 tiger battalions fighting near the area, the 503 and Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler attacking from north and the 506 attacking from the south.
    Leibstandarte have 6 tank in total and 4 operational at 28 of january all four are covering the Lipowez Railroad station (probably Lypovet'z Railroad station east of Rosasha) so this is not the tigers faced in you report.
    The 503 is attacking at side and in the same direction of Leibstandarte and at 28 january report that "Breakthrough to the Oratoff railway station" and at 29 report that "Fighting at Oratoff. Abortive recovery attempt of disabled Tigers 112
    and 132."
    Total tanks at 27th January = 68.
    Total tanks at 29th January = 66.

    The 506 is the only Tiger battalion attacking from south and at 28th January: Movement to Kasimirowka, shortly later back to Oratoff after reports of enemy tanks. And this battalion don't report any Write off(this is one of the problems of the book they don't report damaged tanks only write off)

    "Within five days, 267 tanks are knocked out with a loss of 3 Tigers and 4 Panthers."
    The problem here is that this is not claim of the 503 Heavy battalion but from the entire panzer regiment baker even from infantry.

    "The Tiger battalion doesn't own up to losing any "lesser" tanks, ..."
    The tiger battalions(like all other military units) don't report loses from vehicles of other units(this is job from the vehicles unit owner) in the same manner you don't see other units reporting tiger loses.

    "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. "
    The order of battle of the 1st ukrainian Front include the 25th Tank Corps And 4th Guards Tank Corp ( later forming 6th Tank Army).

    You count of number of tanks ignore the SPGs and ignore any replacements received, but the number of tank/spg lost by the 1st ukrainian Front in January 1944 is the following:
    Tanks SPG Total
    1st-10th- 314 65 379
    11th-20th- 294 88 382
    21th-31th- 513 146 659
    1420
    Font:Tsamo RF, Fond 236, opis 2673, delo 311, list 12,39,64,85
    All losses are complete write-offs.






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    1. So they report the kills of the entire regiment, but not their losses? Convenient.

      The 25th Tank Corps and 4th Guards Tank Corps don't even show up on the map. Front-wide losses for ten days also seem of marginal relevance when I am talking about a very specific sector of the Front where the Tiger battalion fought during these few days.

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  6. The 1st tank army far more than 300 tanks as it contained both the 6th Tank corps and the 31st Tank corps. At Kursk it also contained the 3rd Mechanized corps with 250 tanks. So probably it was there in Jan 1944. The 112th Brigade was part of 6th corps and not a separate unit.

    On 1 January 1944 the 1st Tank army added:
    1244th Self-propelled Artillery Brigade (60 SU-76 and 5 T-70 Tanks)

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    1. Sure, fine, but recall that this is after a month-long offensive where the tank units have "having one fifth to one sixth of their numbers remaining at best". So that brigade brings maybe ten AFVs to the battlefield. Recall also that the unit continues its push to Vinnitsa, so it would have to maintain a number of vehicles to remain combat-capable. There is no way to scrounge up enough vehicles for the Germans to reach their 267:7 kill ratio they claim.

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    2. You are being very shady about the date Colonel Koltunov was writing about. He couldn't possibly be at all points of the front.To know only 1/5 or 1/6 survive everywhere. Furthermore tank numbers fluctuate during an operation. From Glantz's book in August operations the same 1st Tank army starts with 542 tanks/SPs but by the 11th is down to 295. By the 12th down to 134 (a loss of 161 in one day!) It averages around 200 for the month but 657 tanks were repaired in the operation. So tanks can be lost multiple times.

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    3. Colonels have reports coming to them from their subordinates. If they don't know exactly how many tanks are left in their units, they are bad at their jobs.

      If the few remaining tanks were knocked out by Tigers and then repaired over and over again in a span of five days to make 267 total kills and still be able to advance on Vinnitsa, what kind of damage are the 75 and 88 mm guns dealing to them? It isn't possible to 50-60 tanks (let's even round up to 100) to be knocked out 2-3 times each in the span of five days with 75 and 88 mm guns. This would mean that a shot dealt nearly no damage to the tank, knocked out no components, killed or wounded no crew members, and the damage was slight enough that the tank was repaired in the field and sent into battle again the next day. That's ludicrous.

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    4. "Colonels have reports coming to them from their subordinates. If they don't know exactly how many tanks are left in their units, they are bad at their jobs."
      So you are saying Soviets weren't bad at their jobs but the Germans were? Because that is what you mean when you say Germans are making up numbers but Soviets aren't.
      As you have said that's ludicrous

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    5. Steve Zaloga's review of Sledgehammers: "The author seems unaware that the Wehrmacht's own intelligence service on the Eastern Front, Fremde Heere Ost, regularly discounted German army tank kill claims by thirty to fifty percent. "

      Additionally, it is much easier to figure out how many tanks you have left than to figure out how many tanks the enemy has left. The Americans discuss this here: http://tankarchives.blogspot.ca/2014/04/the-problem-of-claims.html

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    6. The Germans had a goofy way of counting their own tank losses. Tanks Fit, in the workshop, awaiting parts, cannibalized hulks, tanks abandoned, tanks that ran out of fuel, tanks damaged by aircraft. It may only be tanks that were totaled in a fair fight that were counted as truly knocked out.
      Yes, there are multiple claims for tanks knocked out. Unless there is a special unit that went around and marked hulks to audit all claims that will always happen.

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