Battle of Prokhorovka: how many actually had tanks

History 15/03/20 Battle of Prokhorovka: how many actually had tanks

In the history of the great Patriotic war are still many white spots. Whether there is 28 Panfilov? Did Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya feat? Disagreement is not only about individual fragments, but even as much as fighting. And, as a rule, discussions come alive with a new force on the anniversary of important events.

it happened on the eve of the 76th anniversary of the battle of Prokhorovka. German newspaper Die Welt, three days before the memorable dates – July 9 – has released an article by Sven Felix Kellerhoff who tried to expose “the myth of the largest armored confrontation of the Second world war”.

received a wide public resonance. To discuss and condemn it began the Russian and foreign diplomats, writers and historians. The debate was joined even by the Minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky. And almost every one of the disputants defended their own version of events.

the battle of Prokhorovka due to the scarce number of reliable testimonies is really a lot of questions. How many units participated in the battle? How many of them were destroyed? Was the battle planned and whether the German and Soviet tanks clashed head-on? From the interpretation of each of these points decide the final view of what happened.

the Soviet view

the Majority of Russians known only to the official Soviet version. From history textbooks to every schoolchild learns that more than a thousand armored vehicles on the morning of 12 July faced in the near Prokhorovka station and this was the culmination of the whole Kursk battle.

it is believed that in that battle each of the parties tried to solve their own problems: the Germans wanted to build on the success of the offensive in the direction Belgorod-Kursk from the South and move North, the red army to break the enemy’s resistance and to provide an offensive to the South. This implies that ATAka, and counter-attack was prepared in advance: the starting position for capturing Prokhorovka troops of the Wehrmacht occupied by 11 July, by this time, Soviet troops located on the boundary of the station, and the choice of area of concentration of armies assumed the inevitable head-on collision.

According to excerpts of military orders, units of the red Army was ready to attack with 3 in the morning. Leadership was postponed several times, the time of the strike, finally it was set for 8:30 and start artillery barrage – 8 hours. In fact, at 8:15 the first attacking echelon, consisting of four armored corps, went on the offensive.

According to the Soviet version, the red army had the advantage in the amount of equipment that was inferior to the German in quality. The Wehrmacht was already on the latest models of tanks “Tiger” and “Panther”, which was invulnerable at long range, therefore, the Soviet command had a bet on the melee.

Almost immediately after the start of the battle the battle formations of the parties mixed up, the Soviet tanks got the ability to hit precisely the most vulnerable places of the German machines, under counter fire from anti-tank guns. The attempts of the Germans to turn the tide of battle by hitting the left and right flanks were repulsed, and already by 14 o’clock to the Soviet tank army began to besiege the enemy in the southern direction. By evening, they were able to move 10-12 miles, leaving the field of battle in the rear, and thereby win the battle.

Alternatives and extremes

the commander of the 5th guards tank army Lieutenant-General Rotmistrov recalled that the clash for both sides really was a surprise. The military says that initially his unit was to break through the front and move to Kharkov, bypassing the congestion of German tanks, according to the intelligence which is in 70 kilometers from Prokhorovka. However, at the sight of German tanks, he had to change the plan of attack.

Indirectly, his version is confirmed by the qualitative part of the 5th guards tank arMIA and the fact that groups were moving towards each other at an angle, not head on. Also, the argument in favor of “random battle” can be the confusion that reigned in the attacking army.

Some experts tend to write off the confusion that the Germans counterattack at Prokhorovka was not a surprise. According to military historian Alexei Isayev, the SS division was deliberately substituted by the attack of the army Rotmistrov, instead of hitting the flanks of the Soviet troops went in head-on collision.

however, according to the most popular opinion, information about the flank attack is nothing more than a myth. A General offensive of all armies, which passed Prokhorovka battle, planned in the forehead of the attacking German troops somewhere because of the lack of necessary for more sophisticated action boost, somewhere over wetlands or mined railway. The problem was that due to the topography of the area on 11 July, the Soviet tank units simply was not possible for maximum concentrated impact.

the Historian Valeriy Zamulin notes that on 12 July the main events at Prokhorovka were developed in two areas: the so-called tank field and South of the station. At the site of impact of the 5th guards tank army troops were trapped in the gorge – length: suitable for the passage of vehicles in the territory was only 900 meters, so it could barely turn around in the line a battalion of the 26 units. A little more space was the 29th corps of General Nikolay Kirichenko, who acted along the road Belgorod-Prokhorovka between farm “October” and a height of 252. But he couldn’t move more than 30-35 tanks in two echelons.

“That is a real Soviet offensive was as follows: our war machines marched in three or four groups of 30-35 cars in two echelons, one brigade after another with an interval from 30 minutes to an hour,” — said Zamulin in an interview with Word of Tanks. For the dynamics of fighting this Promegaloc was substantial, the Soviet troops suffered significant losses. And of course, that about any “steel avalanche” can not speak.

And how many tanks?

However, questions of tactics will probably always be secondary to discussions about how many tanks participated in the battle of Prokhorovka, it was the car and how many of them were damaged and destroyed.

Soviet propaganda talked about a thousand machines – 850 800 Soviet and German. However, researchers agree that this rating was artificially inflated in order to conceal the consequences of mistakes and miscalculations – only scale battle could justify the losses suffered by the Soviet troops.

Minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky, a historian, gives a figure of 1,200 armored vehicles – 400 from the German side and 800 with the Soviet. More restrained estimates the number of cars that participated in the battle, Valeriy Zamulin. Citing declassified documents, he writes that on the “tank field” 514 Soviet tanks and self-propelled guns opposed the 210 German tanks and assault guns. And South of Prokhorovka 158 Soviet tanks fought against 119 German cars. 1001 all armored vehicles.

the historian notes that, contrary to popular belief, the battle of Prokhorovka was not involved tanks “Panther” and assault guns “Ferdinand”, and “Tigers” have been very few – as of 11 July, the serviceable, there were only 15 units.

In Western sources estimate the number of tanks involved in the fighting, even more modest. For example, the author of the unfortunate article of Die Welt writes about 186 672 German and Soviet machines.

also vary widely, and views on losing sides in the battle. General Rotmistrov claims that per day down from both sides was removed about 700 tanks. The official Soviet “history of the great Patriotic war” gives information about 350 wounded German cars. However, German data show that only about 80-100 of lost tanks. And some sourceOh and did they say only about five or even three destroyed units.

Zamulin considers the most plausible assessment that for the entire day on 12 July, the SS lost 155-163 machines, of which 20-30 forever. Soviet troops, in his opinion, lost 340 tanks and 19 ACS, 193 and 14 of which could not be restored.

“a High percentage of deadweight loss due to the fact that the battlefield, as a rule, remained for the Nazis and to fully evacuate damaged equipment, we could not. And the Germans during the retreat all of our tanks blew up,” he adds.

the Germans really dominated the field at Prokhorovka until 17 July, which once again casts doubt on the “brave” version of the battle. But neither this nor the number of losses does not negate the fact that the Soviet troops fulfilled their task – they are not allowed to break the last frontier, significantly wear down the enemy.

Ivan Resepi

© Russian Seven

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