Monday, 7 December 2015

Cheating at Statistics 12: Overclaim at Oboyan

In a previous article, we saw some SS Tigers make quite a kill claim.

"12 July 1943: Fierce Soviet tank attacks from the direction of Jamki, Prochorovka and Petrovka (on both sides of Kalinin) are pushed back. The II./SS-Panzer-Regiment "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler" and the Tiger company knock out 163 enemy tanks. One Tiger is knocked out; nine Tigers undergo repair.
Total tanks: 12."

Since the words "SS", "Tiger" and "kill claim" immediately set off a siren, let's take a look at how the 1st Tank Army, the unit defending Oboyan direction, handled such a crushing blow.

"According to orders from the Front Commander, the 1st Tank Army regrouped, starting on the afternoon of July 11th and ending on the night of July 12th.

The 5th Guards Stalingrad Tank Corps concentrated at 2nd Novoselovka with the goals of advancing towards Shepelevka and Luhanino.

The 10th Tank Corps, transferring its defenses to the 204th Infantry Division, took up positions along the western outskirts of Novenkoye with the goal of advancing towards Berezovka and Syrtsevo.

The 6th Tank Corps remained in place to allow for the 5th Guards Stalingrad and 10th Tank Corps to deploy, as well as to prevent penetration of the enemy in the north-west direction.

The 204th and 309th Infantry Divisions, 3rd Mechanized Corps, and 31st Tank Corps remained in place to prevent the enemy from penetrating to the north, and to begin advancing with the 5th and 10th Tank Corps in the event that the enemy retreats south.

At 9:00 on July 12th, the army began its offensive."
Tank Front

What we have here is a very common picture: the attack of the famed and fawned over Tiger fails, and the battlefield is in Soviet hands. Many kill claims (unverifiable, as the Germans cannot inspect the battlefield after) are made, and tanks lost in the attack are registered as "undergoing repairs", while still on Soviet territory. By July 15th, as the company is going though a "planned retreat" south, these tanks are already forgotten.

Let's look at the two attacking tank units that would have faced off with the SS tanks on July 12th, namely the 10th Tank Corps and 5th Guards Tank Corps.

10th Tank Corps:
"As a result of battles from July 12th to July 14th, our corps destroyed:
  • Tanks: 123
  • Soldiers and officers: up to 2500
  • Vehicles: 132
  • Guns: 19
  • Aircraft: 5
Our losses for this period:
  • Killed: 175
  • Wounded: 144
  • Tanks burned up or knocked out: 23"
I don't have the documents for the 5th Guards Tank Corps, but it's not particularly difficult to estimate the likelihood that the German kill claims are correct. The Corps was formed from three tank brigades and one motorized infantry brigade. Based on the time of the formation of the tank brigades, they would have followed cadre #010/270: 53 tanks (32 T-34s, 21 T-70s). The motorized infantry was armed only with armoured cars and unarmoured vehicles. Assuming that all 23 of the 10th TC's tanks were knocked out on July 12th, that still leaves 140 tanks unaccounted for compared to the 153 available tanks in the 5th Guards TC, assuming they started the battle at full capacity. Since the Battle of Kursk started a while ago, they almost certainly didn't. The neighbouring 2nd Tank Corps was down to 85 tanks

 Since the advance of the unit continued until July 15th after which it was reassigned to the 6th Guards Army and fought further, one can safely assume that they had a lot more than 13 tanks left over after the battle on July 12th, especially as documents of the Voronezh Front do not mention any particular difficulty faced by the 5th Guards at this time. As usual, impressive SS kill claims turn out to be nothing but fiction.


  1. "Jamki, Prochorovka July 12,1943"
    This is the battle of Prochorovka which involved other sites as well. I researched this battle and found the units and their strengths. Jamki to the east of the railway was the scene of a battle with 25th tank brigade and 1446 Separate SP tank regiment (about 50 AFVs) and only a few elements of the II./SS.

    Prochorovka/Oktiabrakii area was to the west of the same railway and the scene of the largest battle. This was where the main force of the II/SS was focused. Soviet armored forces included the entire 181st and 32nd Tank Brigades (you can look them up in Glantz) along with a handful of the 1446 Separate SP regiment (totaled over 90 vehicles).

    Oboyan was further west and was not as large a battle. As such I didn’t bother researching it.

    The accounting of the II/SS for the 12th would of included all these battle sites.

    1. Here is a look at the map:

      Info site:

    2. The Tiger company was fighting at Oboyan though, not Prokhorovka. Why would they possibly include kills from a completely separate battle in their report?

  2. You are focusing on the wrong units. 10th Tank Corps and 5th Guards tank Corps were facing 3rd Pz Div. and Gross Deutschland. SSLAH was further to the east facing mostly 18th Tank Corps and 29th TC. On 12 July there were 11 Tank Brigades along the sides of SSLAH incursion plus all sorts of other units. The remains of the SSLAH Tiger company at Oktiabrskii, had but 4 operation Tigers, one of which was commanded by a certain Michael Wittmann.

    1. 18th TC reports that they had problems with enemy AT guns on the 12th, mentions that they were bombed a lot. Enemy tanks aren't really a huge factor in their reports. I don't have general records for the 29th TC, but going through its composite units, I can't find a mention of Tigers.

    2. Zat so?
      Rotmistrov (commander of 5th Guards Tank Army) later wrote that the 29th Tank Corps lost 60 percent of its armour and the 18th Tank Corps lost 30 percent on 12 July.
      I guess it just proves TC reports aren't worth spit.

    3. Rotmistrov doesn't give losses for July 12th alone. Please learn to read carefully before dismissing primary sources as "aren't worth spit".

    4. Oh, and both Corps in question successfully continue their offensive until July 15th, like everyone else, while the superior SS men turn into their aforementioned "planned retreat".

  3. Peter, where did You get this interpretations from? II Corps was advancing until July 17th not july 15th when You look into the maps, and successfully linked up with IIIrd Corps trapping several rifle divisions of 69th Army in an encirclement.

    The battles at Oboyan have nothing to do with those at Prokhovka. However, tank elements of the heavy tank company were present there. Actually, everything is fine with their reports. LSAAH reported that the whole PzReg TOGETHER with the heavy tank battalion claimed 163 tanks knocked out on the day, IN ALL OF THERE AREA OF CONTACT and does not specify whether or attack or defense.
    Your interpretation mistake stems from the pre-selection of units You incorrectly are convinced were in contact on this day.

    The report of strong attacks of the enemy is included but does not mean that only claims from the defenive action were counted. It´s a typical dayly report. The area does not only include Oboyan and Jamki, but also Prokhrovka, and Petrovka, which covers the whole sector LSAH was in contact with and involves many more soviet units, when You referred to above (1st tank Army, 5th Guards Army, 5th mech. Guards Corps, 5th Guards tank Army, 2nd mech. Corps, 10th mech. Corps,...).
    Total soviet losses on 12th are reported by soviet sources with 204 tanks, so this might indeed indicate that LSAH conducted an overclaim, considering that not only LSAH was present but it would be hardly larger than 50-80% and probably less.

    What is serious, however, are that the claims You reported for 10th tank Corps are such huge overclaims on their own:

    123 tanks knocked out, compared to a drop in on-hand tanks in the 12th to 14th period of 7 tanks (relatively stable 500 tanks aviable for all units in the souther salient, the number of tanks damaged equalled the number of tanks repaired)

    19 guns knocked out while there is no drop at all in the number of guns at hand for all german units in the souther salient from 12th to 14th.

    2500 "destroyed troops" -while the overall casualties (not only KIA and MIA, but also WIA, and non-combat losses) for the 12th for ALL units in the southern sector was only 2300 troops. KIA is only a small fraction of this. Which means that it is an overclaim even if each and every german soldier wounded or killed on this day was done so by the 10th tank corps with nil effect by any other cause or other soviet unit present.
    In reality, this claim is an overclaim more akin 10:1, typically encountered in this periods soviet battle reports.

  4. addendum.

    In the southern salient the losses on 12th of the 5th Guards tank army alone were as following (acc. to soviet records, not to german claims):

    T34: 130 tanks burned out, a further 93 were damaged by hits.
    T70: 50 burned out, a further 89 were damaged.
    Churchill Mk IV: 9 tanks burned out, a further 8 damaged.
    SPG (Su-76 & Su-122): 11 tanks burnt, a futher 8 damaged.

    Total number of AVF casualties for the 5th GTA on 12th of July:
    398 AFV (200 total write offs, 198 damaged). This is a minimum number, the losses of 1446th SPGR were not reported (only personal KIA & WIA were).

    -according to soviet numbers-

    Taken into consideration the other units present, it appears probable that the kills claimed on 12th by II Corps were inflated, though tank losses on the soviet side were indeed very severe and the overclaim was not excessive and contained a substantial degree of foundation, unlike the claims put forward on this day by the soviet side.

    1. What Soviet records are you citing? Also are you seriously crediting the SS Tigers with a good half of all tanks knocked out?

  5. I am not crediting TIGERS with anything here. I am just making observations. Losses for 5th GTA are from CAMO-7 (copy of the original soviet tank loss reports in MGFA Potsdam), reproduced by Zamulin 2007 (working from russian archives) and (independently, working from german archives) Töppel 2009, 381-387.

    The german claim report (LSAH war diary = BA-MA RS 3-1/36) is explicit in that the claim was forwarded by the PzReg LSAH and it´s attached heavy tank company [4./ schw. SS. Pz.Reg. LSAH] , not by the heavy tank company alone. It refers to all areas of contact and for the whole day.

    LSAH with attached heavy company in its van (total number of tanks at hand: 67 tanks, 24 StuG and 20 Marder) engaged in the central sector at Prokhovka and covered a contact zone, ca. 6km wide. It faced determined attacks from two fresh soviet units thrown against it, beeing primarely opposed on 12th of july by attacks from the newly arrived 18th TC & 29th TC with 398 tanks on hand (acc. to Zamulin 348 tanks took part in the battle).
    Additionally, it was at times exposed to attacks from elements of the 2nd TC on it´s right flank. Reports from 18th TC and 29th TC for July 12th:

    18th TC: 30 T34, 8 T70, 9 Churchill burned out and 49 further tanks damaged, 271 KIA & MIA
    29th TC: 73 T34 and 30 T70 burned out and 50 further tanks damaged. 1,033 personal KIA&MIA, (reporting incomplete: 1446th SPGR failed to report. This unit had 3 Su76 and 8 Su122 SPG burned out but during the battles of Prokhovka but the exact date(s) of occurance(s) of loss(es) are unknown. These 11 losses have therefore not been included)
    2nd TC: 11 T34 burnt out, 11 further tanks damaged. 36 KIA & MIA

    LSSAH figues acc. to W. Schüle, confirmed by BA-MA RH 10-46, 22,23 & 67): 4 tanks lost (2 reported TWO 13th, 2 reported unrecoverable TWO on 14th), 53 KIA & MIA.

    Considering the intensitiy of fighting, the density of targets and chaotic situation with it´s prospects of doubling and tripling claims, I remain convinced that there is no justification for the claim forwarded here that PzReg LSAH reported 163 tanks knocked out are far off the mark 161 burned out tanks.

    1. Wait, you say "(acc. to Zamulin 348 tanks took part in the battle). ", but before you said "398 AFV (200 total write offs, 198 damaged)." so the Germans destroyed more tanks than actually existed?

    2. Plus if you look at this map, you can clearly see who was engaging the SS: only the 181st and 170 TBr, which took 29 and 27 losses respectively.

    3. Er, this map

  6. Peter,

    As I mentioned in my previous memo, the number of 348 tanks taking part in battle (out of 398 at hand) refers only to 18th TC and 29th TC, not to the whole of the 5th GTA. The higher number of tank casualties I gave earlier includes all tank losses of the 5th GTA, not only 29th TC and 18th TC, which suffered among the highest casualties of the day. For completeness, the total number of tanks at hand at 12.7.43 early morning is difficult to establish as this Army received some last minute reinforcements. Zamulin gives for the whole of 5th GTA 808 tanks on hand, of which 642 tanks were committed in the fighting on july 12th. You will probably get different data in different books. Acc. to Zamulin, 194 tanks of those send into the fight were burned out (total write off), a further 146 tanks were damaged to various degrees, most of them returned to service but a small number was later reclassified as beyond economical repair (same TWO reporting procedure as on the german side of the front). Again, consultation of different sources will result in slightly different numbers, depending on how everything was defined, included or excluded.
    Note that not all effort of 5th GTA was directed against the LSAH and that other Armies, suffering were present in this area, too.

    I think Your interprete the map not according to the description of the situation at hand. What You identify as the attack carried out along the "nose" is really just one element of attacks mentioned in LSAH war diary. You can see Jamki to the right. LSAH noted in it´s war diary that it encountered fierce attacks from directions of Petrovka, Prokhovka and Jamky, i.e. from north, northeast and east. This means that You have to widen the contact enevlope accordingly to include attacks from these specifically detailled arcs.
    Going by Your map LSAH was attacked by elements of 18th TC and 29th TC (clockwise starting from north, loss numbers as per initial losses given by Zamulin in this case):

    18th TC:
    181 TBr (27 knocked out tanks, 9 T34 and 5 T70 burned out)
    170 TBr (29 knocked out tanks, 5 T34 and 2 T70 burned out)
    110 TBr (11 knocked out tanks, 4 T34 and 1 T70 burned out)
    36th SGBTR (17 knocked out tanks, 9 Churchill MK IV burned out) was attached to this attack as well (not marked on the map!)

    29th TC:
    32 TBr (54 knocked out tanks, 36 T34 burned out)
    31 TBr (24 T34 and 20 T70 burned out)
    25 TBr (55 knocked out tanks, 18 T34 and 10 T70 burned out)
    1446th SPGR (17 knocked out tanks, 3 Su76 and 8 Su-122 burned out, attached to TC, not marked on map!)

    I maintain that the numbers claimed, albeit not accurate are very close to what happened on the battlefield and -in this case- do not justify the postulation of an overclaim. As it turned out, the high command indeed shared some of the initial claims between TOTENKOPF and LSAH as it was felt -correctly- that the 18th TC´s push was caught in the crossfire between both units leading to a number of multiple claimants filed in good faith.

  7. Did you even look at the map? The 110th TBr isn't anywhere close to the LSAAH lines. 31st, 32nd TBr and 25th TBr are attacking towards Das Reich. No doubt they claimed hundreds of tanks too. Summing up the claims of the 2nd SS Tank Corps, George M. Nipe Jr gets 600-650 destroyed tanks from the 5th Guards Tank Army, a far cry from the 340 tanks actually destroyed. So good faith leads to an almost doubling of the kill claims, eh?

  8. The 110th suffered 26% casualties of it´s tank strength in consequence of the fighting on July 12th. There was no other formation present except for the LSAH. In fact, after repelling the initial offensive of the 5th GTA, LSAH pushed further west in it´s own attack on the town and engaged Rotmistrovs reserve armor formations in it´s vicinity, of which 110th was one. Rotmistrov had to committ his last reserve formation, the 5th Guards mech. Corps, which finally managed to check LSAH advance into the western margins of Prokhorovka in the evening.

    Both, 31st, 32nd did not attack DAS REICH but only LSAH. The redlined delineation given in Your map does not represent the delineation of both SS divisions but the seperation in axis of advance between the soviet 18th TC, 28th TC and 2nd TC. The actual delineation between DAS REICH and LSAH at the evening of the day was halfway between Storodshevoe and Vinogradovna. The whole area immediately around the railway and north / west of it was in the exclusive sector of LSAH. The 25th attack was initially against LSAH, too but later reoccurred against positions of DAS REICH after LSAH deflected the attack. The attack of these formations is mentioned in LSAH war diary as the attacks from the direction Jamki and is also confirmed by the fact that among the 463 soviet defectors collected by LSAH on this day, members of these aforementioned units and the 25th TBr were present.

    DAS REICH was primarely engaged by IInd TC and remnants of IInd GTC, but parts of their effort early on the day were directed against LSAH, too.
    Whatever Nipe calculated doesn´t need to reflect total write offs but is dependent on his defintiion of tanks knocked out and his methodology in regard of inclusion of data. There wasn´t only the 5th GTA fighting on this day.
    For whats worth, Hausser claimed for LSAH on July 12th, 93 tank kills based upon his counting executed with chalk marks on burned out soviet tank wrecks accessible in the evening in LASH´s sector alone.
    Compared with 153-167 tanks lost due to them burning up in units engaging or engaged by LSAH, the number is understating the losses inflicted, isn´t it?

    1. You're welcome to post a better map if you have one. As far as I can see, the division is pretty concrete. Nipe's data is for the 5th Guards Tank Army only.

      Also as I mention in my article LSAAH with its Tigers is claiming 163 tanks, so if they only marked 93 tanks, then it's *gasp* still overclaim.


    This map shows reasonably accurate DAS REICH much further south to LSAH while also the responsibility border is better vsisible. An even better map is in Frieser, DZRW vol. 8, p.183. This division had only limited assets at it´s disposal on his day and did not participate LSAH´s attack to the west. In fact, because the attacks of 2nd TC (at 11:45 in the vicinity of Storodshevoe) were directed against LSAH, DAS REICH filed for the fighting on 12th of July initially only two hard tank kills (burned up) in fightings against the 2nd GTC, as opposed to 163 for LSAH, which stood in the centre of the fighting.

    Hausser was sceptical about the 163 claimed tank kills of LSAH alone and tried to verify the number on his own. 93 chalk marked tanks were accessable in the evening of 12th July in LSAH´s sector by him. He couldn´t go into the ravine in the north to count there but nothing could be done about tank wrecks which weren´t anymore safe to go there and mark them. LSAH´s counting was confirmed as correct by him and corrected upwards after aerial photographs were analysed and tank wrecks were counted in areas already abandoned by LSAH to the enemy. At 23:00 the total kill count communicated to 4th PzArmy was as follows in the sectors

    LSAH: 194
    DAS REICH: 27
    total: 221 soviet tanks burned out. 198 soviet tanks were indeed recorded as lost due to being burned out. So if You hold an overclaim present here, it´s a very low one: about 11%.

    TOTENKOPF shared some kills with LSAH but in principle, was engaged by other Armies to the north and met only few elements of the 5th GTA.

    Thus, rather than a supposed overclaim the claim reports for LSAH at Prokhorovka are exceptionally accurate, particularely when considering the intensity of fighting, and the general situation.

    If You want to investigate overclaims at Prokhorovka, why do You hesitate so much to examine soviet claims for this day where You will find major overclaims in unit reports and Rotmistrovs accounts. The 5th GTA claimed no less than 400 german tank kills at Prokhorovka -again, very closely matching it´s own losses of 398 tank casualties. The problem is that the number claimed is actually higher than the number of tanks present in the IInd SS PzCorps, let alone do they bear any relationship with the true losses incurred on the day: Seven tank total write offs and a total drop in on hand strength for the three divisions (caused by TWO + damaged) by 48 tanks recorded. It´s fair to say that the soviets exaggerated the number of tanks knocked out by in between 600% and 1000%. Why exactly, Peter, is that glossed over here? Can´t we expect to see this critisized?

    I don´t have Nipe here, nor can I comment on his methodology. However, in another book, he claimed that his 650 tank losses comes from the number of tanks operational in 5th GTA before the battle July 11th (~800) and the number of tanks operable after the battle on July 13th (~150 in some soviet accounts) and thus, represents his own calculation, rather than a claim forwarded by any of the three divisions.

  10. correction: 194 tanks burned out acc. to Zamulin. Though still, the degree of overclaim is negliable compared to other instances or, for example, the contemporary soviet overclaimings in the same battle.

  11. According to that map 110th TBr didn't even engage LSSAH and just sat at the Prokhorovka-Beregovoye line.

    Also the Soviet overclaim in this battle is very well explored by contemporary literature. If you think it's not covered well enough, write about it in your own blog.

  12. No. The 110th TBr´s original position is given in this map. It occupied in the course of the battle the ravine of the Psel used by the 18th TC attack and was involved in the fighting there. In Zamulin scheme 7, detailing the fighting at the Psel river the unit is marked in the valley southwest of the villages Prelestnoe during the fighting of July 12th.
    According to him, the 110th TBr had 28 personal casualties (11 KIA and MIA) and eleven armoured vehicles knocked out in the fighting (5 tanks burned out). It was caught in cross fire of both, LSAH and TOTENKOPF.

    As far as this "cheating at Oboyan" is concerned, it´s curious how You tried to manipulate things here to arrive to Your conclusions. You took LSAH´s claims and compared it with soviet losses of units which did not even engage LSAH on July 12th, and therefore have nothing to do with LSAH´s claims.

    The units which in fact did in fact engage LSAH, reported fairly well matching losses instead but this is not mentioned in the article with a single word. Depending on how You want to view this, it´s either poor research at best or intentional historical misconstruction and deception at worst.

    The impressive tank kill claims obtained by two divisions at Prohorovka been attacked by two fresh guards armies (5th GA and 5th GTA) are matching fairly well the historical facts in this case. The same cannot be said from soviet claims. The IInd SS Corps was outnumbered and was expected to be encircled and destroyed by vastly superior soviet forces gathered against it, yet they were not and inflicted massive losses to the attacking units for only moderate own casualties.