Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal (1)

The Martyrs Memorial to the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) in Imam Khomeini Square, Hamadan, Iran. [KiwiOutThere]

[This post is based on “Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal,” by H. W. Beuttel, originally published in the December 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in this series:
Iranian Casualties in the Iran-Iraq War: A Reappraisal
Iranian Missing In Action From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
The “Missing” Iranian Prisoners of War From The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Killed And Died Of Wounds In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Wounded In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Chemical Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
Iranian Civil Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War
A Summary Estimate Of Iranian Casualties In The Iran-Iraq War

The Iran-Iraq War was the longest sustained conventional war of the 20th Century. Lasting from 22 September 1980 to 20 August 1988, the seven years, ten months, and twenty-nine days of this conflict are some of the least understood in modem military history. The War of Sacred Defense to the Iranians and War of Second Qadissiya to Iraqis is the true “forgotten war” of our times. Seemingly never ending combat on a scale not witnessed since World War I and World War II was the norm. Casualties were popularly held to be enormous and, coupled with the lack of battlefield resolution year after year, led to frequent comparisons with the Western Front of World War I. Despite the fact that Iran had been the victim of naked Iraqi aggression, it was the Iraqis who were viewed as the “good guys” and actively supported by most nations in the world as well as the world press.

Studying the Iran-Iraq War is beset with difficulties. Much of the reporting done on the war was conducted in a slipshod manner. Both Iraq and Iran tended to exaggerate each other’s losses. As oftentimes Iraqi claims were the only source, accounts of Iranian losses became exaggerated. The data is highly fragmentary, often contradictory, usually vague in particulars, and often suspect as a whole. It defies complete reconciliation or adjudication in a quantitative sense as will be evident below.

There are few stand-alone good sources for the Iran-Iraq War in English. One of the first, and best, is Edgar O’Ballance, The Gulf War (1988). O’Ballance was a dedicated and knowledgeable military reporter who had covered many conflicts throughout the world. Unfortunately his book ends with the Karbala-9 offensive of April 1987. Another good reference is Dilip Hiro, The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict (1990). Hiro too is a careful journalist who specializes in South Asian affairs. Finally, there is Anthony Cordesman and Abraham Wagner, The Lessons of Modern War Volume III: The Iran-Iraq War (1990). This is the most comprehensive treatment of the conflict from a military standpoint and tends to be the “standard” reference. Finally there are Iranian sources, most notably articles appearing since the war in the Tehran Times, Iran News, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and others.

This paper will approach the subject of losses in the conflict from the Iranian perspective. This is for two reasons. First, too often during the war Iraqi claims and figures were uncritically accepted out of prejudice against Iran. Secondly, since the War the Iranians have been more forthcoming about details of the conflict and though not providing direct figures, have released related quantified data that allows us to extrapolate better estimates. The first installment of this paper examines the evidence for total Iranian war casualties being far lower than popularly believed. It will also analyze this data to establish overall killed-to-wounded ratios, MIA and PoW issues, and the effectiveness of chemical warfare in the conflict. Later installments will analyze selected Iranian operations during the war to establish data such as average loss rate per day, mean length of engagements, advance rates, dispersion factors, casualty thresholds affecting breakpoint and other issues.

Casualties as Reported and Estimated

Too often incorrect formulae were applied to calculate casualties or the killed-to-wounded ratio. The standard belief was that Iran suffered two wounded for every killed—a ratio not seen since the ancient world. Colonel Trevor N. Dupuy established that the average distribution of killed-to-wounded in 20th Century warfare is on the order of 1:4 and in fact this relationship may be as old as the year 1700.[1] In Operation Peace for Galilee of 1982 the Israeli ratio of killed-to-wounded was on the order of 1:6.5 while the Syrian was 1:3.56.[2] At the same time in the Falklands, U.K. casualty ratio was 1:3. For Argentine ground forces it was 1:4.85.[3] Also it was assumed that Iran must have suffered 3-4 times the casualties of Iraqi forces in many given engagements on the basis of no good evidence this author can find.

Typical Western estimates of Iranian losses in the war are given below.[4]

The lowest estimate of Iranian KIA was from the Pentagon which estimated the killed (military and civilian) at 262,000.[5]

At the end of 1980 the Iraqis claimed 4,500 Iranian KIA and 11,500 WIA.[6] Iraqi claims as of 22 September 1981 were 41,779 Iranian KIA[7] By the end of August 1981 other estimates placed it as 14,000-18,000 KIA and some 26,000-30,000 WIA.[8] Alternate estimates placed this at 14,000 KIA and 28,000 WIA,[9] Still others claimed 38,000 KIA.[10] During the first half of 1982 estimate was 90,000 Iranians killed.[11] Iran’s casualties in its 1984 offensives resulted in 30,000-50,000 more KIA.[12] In mid-1984 Iran’s KIA were 180,000-500,000 and WIA 500,000-825,000.[13] By 23 March 1985, Iranian KIA may have been 650,000 with 490,000 “seriously” wounded.[14] In September 1986 the count of Iranian dead was 240,000.[15] By April 1987 Iran had 600,000-700,000 KIA and twice that number wounded.[16] Iraq claimed 800,000 total Iranian KIA at the time of the cease-fire.[17] Figure 1 graphically depicts this reporting.

Official Iranian statistics released on 19 September 1988 immediately after the cease fire listed the following casualty figures:

Mr Beuttel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, was employed as a military analyst by Boeing Research & Development at the time of original publication. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Boeing Company.


[1] Trevor N. Dupuy, Attrition: Forecasting Battle Casualties and Equipment Losses in Modern War, Fairfax, VA: HERO Books, 1990.

[2] Richard Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee: The Israeli PLO War in Lebanon, New York: Hill and Wang, 1984. pp. 235-236.

[3] Martin Middlebrook, Task Force: The Falklands War, 1982, Revised Edition; London: Penguin Books, 1987, pp. 382-385; Martin Middlebrook, The Fight for the Malvinas, London: Penguin Books, 1990, pp. 283-284. The low British ratio in the Falklands is a result of many ground forces being killed in mass while still aboard the Sir Galahad. This deflates the ratio vis a vis that actually experienced in ground combat. The shipborne dead should more properly be considered naval casualties.

[4] Anthony Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II: The Iran-Iraq War. Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1990, p. 3.

[5] Dilip Hiro, The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict, London: Paladin Books, 1990, p. 4.

[6] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II, p. 144, n. 2.

[7] Hiro, The Longest War, p. 275, n. 26.

[8] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II, p. 120.

[9] Edgar O’Ballance, The Gulf War, London: Brassey’s, 1988, p. 74.

[10] Hiro, The Longest War, p. 54.

[11] O’Ballance, The Gulf War, p. 88.

[12] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II, p. 198.

[13] Ibid, p. 434, Figure 12.3.

[14] Ibid, p. 215, n. 18.

[15] Hiro, The Longest War, p. 175.

[16] Cordesman, The Lessons of Modern War Volume II, p, 261.

[17] Hiro, The Longest War, p. 250.

The Tank Repair and Replacement Efforts of II Guards Tank Corps compared to Totenkopf SS Division

As I result of a discussion I am having about Kursk with Niklas Zetterling, I have decided to compare the actual repair and replacement efforts of the Soviet II Guards Tank Corps to the German Totenkopf (Death’s Head) SS Panzer Grenadier Division. The II Guard Tank Corps was selected as it has some of the more complete records and it maintained its position in the “Donets triangle” from the beginning of the battle on 5 July 1943 until the 15th of July 1943. Its headquarters at Kosukhin on 4 July (can’t locate), it was at Kalinin on 6 July (305455?), and it was at Sazhnoye (3734)  by 0700 7 July, moved to Kleimenovo (4037) by 0700 10 July, moved to Plota (4345) by 0700 11 July, moved to Zhilomostnoye (4048) by 0700 12 July, and moved to Bereznik (490555), 3 km east of Krasnoye by 0700 15 July. The unit was never overrun or forced back by an attack, so it was in a decent position to repair and replace tanks.

The Totenkopf was selected as it was the German armor unit nearest to it and engaged with it. The Totenkopf SS Division ended up holding down the SS Panzer Corps right flank until the 9th, when it then moved up to cross the Psel River and try to take Prokhorovka from the north-northwest.

So lets look at Totenkopf for a moment (this is data from the Kursk Data Base):

Date       Tank Strength*     Destroyed     Damaged   In Repair    Returned to Duty

7/04        165                         0                      0                11

7/05        150                         1                    14

7/06        139                         3                      8

7/07        133                         1                      7                               2

7/08        122                         2                      9                               0

7/09        105                         4                    15                               2

7/10        116                         0                      0                             11

7/11        134                         0                      3                             21

7/12        106                         3                    25                               0

7/13          77                         2                    27                               0

7/14          76                         2                     6                                7

7/15          80                         0                     1                                5

7/16          97                         0                     0                              17

7/17          98                         0                     2                                3

7/18          96                         0                     2                                0

Total                                    18                 119                              68

* On 4 July this tank strength consisted of 59 Pz III long, 8 Pz III Command, 7 Pz IV short, 40 Pz IV long, 11 Pz VI, 1 Pz VI Command, 28 SuG III and 11 Marder IIs. AFVs not included in this count are 5 Pz III Observation, 5 Hummel, 12 Wespe, 36 armored cars, 56 light halftracks (including 3 250/10 with 37mm AT) and 69 medium halftracks (including 2 251/9 with 75mm lt IG and 7 251/10 with 37mm AT).

Strength figures are nominally as of 1800 on that day.

It appears that around 13% of the tanks destroyed/damaged/broken-down were written-off as destroyed. The Totenkopf SS Division appears to have repaired 57% of the damaged tanks during this time (and they may have repaired more later).

Now, let us look at the II Guards Tank Corps (also data from the Kursk Data Base)

Date       Tank Strength     Destroyed     Damaged    In repair    Returned to Duty

7/04        187  *                   0                   0                30  **           0

7/05        187                      0                    0                30               0

7/06        159                    17                  11                41               0

7/07        171                      0                    7                29  **        19 T-34s **

7/08        155                      6                  10                39               0

7/09        133                      7                  23                54               5-8 Churchills ***

7/10        139                      0                    2                48               8

7/11        140                      3                    2                44               6 (4 Churchills)

7/12          82                    24                  35                78               0-1 Churchill

7/13          80                      1                    4                                   3

7/14          59                    13                    8                                   0

7/15          57                      2                  14                                 14 T-34s ****

7/16          63                      0                    0                                   6 ****

7/17          63                      0                    0                                   0

7/18          31                      9                  25                                   2

Total                                 82                141                                 63-67

    Less tanks that were probably not repaired:                         – 19

    Less the confusing Churchill reports:                                    –   9 – 13

Total returned to duty (RTD) was probably around:                    35

* On 4 July this tank strength consisted of 99 T-34s, 72 T-70s and 16 Churchills. The unit also had 28 BA-64 (armored cars) and 20 Bren Gun Carriers. Note that there is another report that records the corps on 4 July as having 121 T-34s, 75 T-70s, 21 Churchills (Fond: 2nds GTC, Opis: 1, Delo: 23, pages 4-9). We believe this is total tanks, not just tanks ready-for-action.

It appears that around 37% of the tanks destroyed/damaged/broken-down were written-off as destroyed. The II Guards Tank Corps appeared to repair 45% of the damaged tanks during this time (and they may have repaired more later), but as 28 of these repairs were probably not repaired tanks (see the ** and *** remarks below), then it appears that they repaired around 25% of the damaged tanks during this time.

So, compared to the Germans, the Soviet unit wrote off a higher percentage of tanks written off as destroyed (13% versus 37%) and a lower percentage of damaged tanks repaired (57% repaired versus 25% repaired). This is pretty typical for all the German panzer and panzer grenadier divisions compared to Soviet tank and mechanized corps at Kursk. Also, most of the Soviet repaired arrived on the 15th and 16th, after the battle was winding down.



P.S. The map is of the II Guards Tank Corps operation on 6 July 1943 from page 475 of my book. It is the II Guards Tank Corps map for 1800, 6 July 1943.

P.P.S.: The remaining notes are here:

** These tanks almost certainly are reserve T-34s, vice recently repaired ones. In operational report #181, dated 0700 8 July, they list a corps reserve of 20 T-34s and 10 T-70s. They state that “the 20 tanks in corps reserve are located in Bubnovo.” I have yet to locate Bubnovo on a map.The keeping of 20 or 30 spared tanks was a normal practice at Kursk at this time. The difference between the ready-for-action reports and other tank counts on 4 July do indicate that there was a spare 22 T-34s, 3 T-70s, and 5 Churchills with the unit (see the * remark). The 19 RTD tanks are certainly the 20 spare tanks activated. This is the only mention of the “corps reserve’ in the II Guards Tank Corps records we have.

*** These are all Churchills. From 7/09 through 7/12 we have 9-13 Churchills RTD. The actual report of Churchill strength and losses from 7/08 – 7/13 is confusing:

0700 7/08: 1. 5 Churchills at 2400 July 7

                  2. Combat ready tanks: 5 Churchills (from 2 reports)

0700 7/09: 1. 5 Churchills.

                  2. Losses on July 8: 2 Churchills burned, 3 Churchills knocked out.

0700 7/10: 1. “The regiment suffered losses, including 2 Churchills burned, out of 5 combat-ready.”

                   2. “47ths Gds Heavy Tank Rgt, with 3 Churchills is in the area of Khokhlovo….”

                   3. On July 9 the corps lost 1 Churchill burned and 1 Churchill knocked out.

                   4. Combat ready tanks: 3 Churchills (2 reports)

                   5. Corps lost 5 Mk-4s on 9 July (from a different report)

0700 7/11: Combat ready tanks: 3 Churchills (2 reports)

0700 7/12: 1. “47th Gds Heavy Tank Rgt, with 6 Churchills…”

                  2. At 2400 on July 11…..47th Gds Heavy tank Rgt, consisting of 2 Churchills, is in the corps commander reserve north of Leski.

                  3. Corps losses for July 11: 3 Churchills burned, 2 Churchills knocked out.

                  4. Combat Ready Tanks: 2 Churchills (2 reports)

0700 7/13: Report is missing

0700 7/14: Combat Ready Tanks: 2 Churchills

The unit, the 47th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, was operating independent of the corps, having gotten separated on the 7th and moved over to face the III Panzer Corps.  It appear unlikely over these three days that 16-19 Churchills were damaged or broken down, and that 13-16 of them were repaired, but this is the only way to get totals to work. It is either that assumption, or one has to dismiss some parts of the records as in error, and it is hard to know what to dismiss. This is most likely anomalous data in the II GTC records.

**** These 14 tanks we believe are repaired. they reported at 0700 15 July to have combat-ready 30 T-34s, 12 T-70s, and 2 Churchills, they report losses for 15 July of 6 T-34s knocked out, 1 T-34 burned, 2 T-70s knocked out, 1 burned (10 tanks total) and they reported on 0700 16 July combat-ready 45 T-34s, 18 T-70s. Another report for the 16th states that “following repairs, the corps had the following tanks in line: 38 T-34s and 15 T-70s.”

P.P.P.S. The Totenkopf SS Division lost around 57 tanks on 12th and 13th of July (and we don’t know how many were actually lost on what given day). Some authors, in their accounts of Prokhorovka seem to ignore its efforts and its losses, even though it was engaged with elements of Rotmistrov’s Fifth Guards Tank Army and its objective was Prokhorovka (which it did not achieve).

Is The End Of Stealth Neigh?

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor [Creative Commons]

Michael Peck made an interesting catch over at The National Interest. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting input on potentially disruptive technologies for future warfare. With regard to air warfare, the solicitation baldy states, “Platform stealth may be approaching physical limits.” This led Peck to ask “Did the Pentagon just admit that stealth technology may not work anymore?

A couple of years ago, a media report that the Chinese had claimed a technological breakthrough in stealth-busting quantum radar capabilities led me to muse about the possible repercussions on U.S. military capabilities. This was during the height of the technology-rooted Third Offset Strategy mania. It seemed to me at the time that concentrating on technological solutions to the U.S.’s strategic challenges might not be the wisest course of action.

The notion that stealth might be a wasting asset seemed somewhat far-fetched when I wrote that, but it appears to have become a much more serious concern. As the DARPA solicitation states, “Our acquisition system is finding it difficult to respond on relevant timescales to adversary progress, which has made the search for next generation capabilities at once more urgent and more futile.” (p. 5)

Er, yikes.

Armor Exchange Ratios at Kursk, 5 and 6 July 1943

Just a little more on armor exchange ratios at Kursk. This is taken from pages 640-641 of my book.

It has been determined that the German tank losses due to mines was somewhere around 131 for the 5th of July. On the 6th of July, it gets harder to determine the mine losses, and an estimation has placed the losses tentatively at 69 tanks. This is 37.95 percent of the armor loss for those two days and 13.11 percent of total armor losses for 4 to 18 July. After that, it appears that the percentage of tanks lost to mines declined to perhaps five percent or less for the subsequent days. Overall, mines probably caused around 15 to 20 percent of German tank losses during the course of the entire battle.

If one does a loss-exchange ratio analysis, less the German mine losses in the first two days, the following figures are generated:

                                                              Decline in Strength

First Tank Army (less XXXI TC & 2 Bdes)       289

XLVIII Panzer Corps                                        332

  less Panther breakdowns                             -115

  less mine losses, 5th                                      -54

  less mine losses, 6th                                      -32



This now shows an exchange ratio of 2.21 to one in favor of the German XLVIII Panzer Corps. A look as the SS Panzer Corps shows a very lopsided result:

                                                          Decline in Strength

Other Voronezh Front Armor                         385

SS Panzer Corps                                           187

  less mine losses, 5th                                    -33

  less mine losses, 6th                                    -14



This shows an exchange ratio of 2.75 to one in favor of the Germans. Still, if one could factor out the other weapons effects, it would appear that the Germans, in their tank operations, were achieving kill ratios of two to one or greater. Furthermore, it does appear that the kill ratios achieved by the SS armor was superior to the neighboring Wehrmacht units, although it also appears that the primary reason for this was the way Soviet armored operations were conducted east of the Vorskla (under Vatutin and Chistyakov’s direction) as opposed to those west of the Vorskla (under Katukov’s command).

I left out the footnotes.



P.S. Picture is labeled: “Panzer-Abteilung 51 Panthers knocked out in a minefield ambush while advancing in Cherkasy, Ukraine – July 1943. Source:

P.P.S. Suspect they mean Cherkasskoye, Russia.



Trevor N. Dupuy (1916-1995) and General William E. DePuy (1919-1992)

I first became acquainted with Trevor Dupuy and his work after seeing an advertisement for his book Numbers, Prediction & War in Simulation Publications, Inc.’s (SPI) Strategy & Tactics war gaming magazine way back in the late 1970s. Although Dupuy was already a prolific military historian, this book brought him to the attention of an audience outside of the insular world of the U.S. government military operations research and analysis community.

Ever since, however, Trevor Dupuy has been occasionally been confused with one of his contemporaries, U.S. Army General William E. DePuy. DePuy was notable in his own right, primarily as the first commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) from 1973 to 1977, and as one of the driving intellectual forces behind the effort to reorient the U.S. Army back to conventional warfare following the Vietnam War.

The two men had a great deal in common. They were born within three years of one another and both served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Both possessed an analytical bent and each made significant contributions to institutional and public debates about combat and warfare in the late 20th century. Given that they tilled the same topical fields at about the same time, it does not seem too odd that they were mistaken for each other.

Perhaps the most enduring link between the two men has been a shared name, though they spelled and pronounced it differently. The surname Dupuy is of medieval French origin and has been traced back to LePuy, France, in the province of Languedoc. It has several variant spellings, including DePuy and Dupuis. The traditional French pronunciation is “do-PWEE.” This is how Trevor Dupuy said his name.

However, following French immigration to North America beginning in the 17th century, the name evolved an anglicized spelling, DePuy (or sometimes Depew), and pronunciation, “deh-PEW.” This is the way General DePuy said it.

It is this pronunciation difference in conversation that has tipped me off personally to the occasional confusion in identities. Though rare these days, it still occurs. While this is a historical footnote, it still seems worth gently noting that Trevor Dupuy and William DePuy were two different people.

Armor Exchange Ratios at Kursk

A friend recently sent me part of an article from a foreign magazine that pulled data from my Kursk book, which in translation reads:

The German tank losses in the battle at Kursk has been debated. Until the 1990s, Soviet propaganda figures dominated, which claimed that the Germans lost 2,952 tanks and 195 assault guns. Subsequently, the pendulum swung back, as research in German archives showed that no more than 278 German tanks were lost during the battle at Kursk 5-23 July.

By far the most thorough study of the battle has been conducted by Chris Lawrence and is presented in his 1,600 page book about Kursk, which was released in 2015. Lawrence shows that previous figures, which suggest that ten Soviet tanks were lost for each German tank lost, is a comparison of apples and oranges….

….Lawrence finds that if German tanks included in the same way as Soviet losses, von Mansteins formations lost 1536…tanks and assault guns 5-18 July. The opposing Soviet forces lost 2471 tanks and assault guns, a much less lopsided ratio.

I took out the parts that of that quote that I didn’t want to debate or that gave the wrong impression.

I have also been bothered by other published comparisons of tank losses, where the author focused on total German tanks destroyed vice total Soviet tanks destroyed. This, of course, produces a very lop-sided exchange figure. This is not a valid measure of combat effectiveness. What would be a valid measure is total tanks destroyed and damaged compared to total tanks destroyed and damaged. I can talk for awhile about the differences in the German and Soviet repair systems and philosophies, but to try to shorten the discussion, lets just say that the Germans refused to write off any tanks if possible, whereas the Soviets often willingly wrote off tanks because they had spare tanks in their units, a steady flow of tanks from the factory, and I suspect a lack of repair parts (a fundamental flaw in the Soviet system, both military and civilian). And, of course, in many cases the Germans held the field of battle. In many respects you are comparing apples and oranges.

For my book I ended up comparing total destroyed, damaged and broken down over night compared to total destroyed, damaged and broken down over night. As my primary trusted source of tank losses was the ready-for-action reports for both sides from day-to-day, I ended up picking up those that broke down and were not returned to duty the same day along with those destroyed and damaged. It was pretty typical for the Germans to report 1 tank destroyed for around every 10 tanks not ready-for-action. When the Soviets reported total destroyed for a day (which they often did), it was not unusual that the number ready-for-action the next day indicated more were damaged or broke down. Now, broken down tanks may make up 10 to 20% of the total losses for a day, but total losses for the day (regardless of cause) is clearly a more valid measure of combat effectiveness than total destroyed.

So, I do end up with a very different comparison of the exchange ratio of armor compared to some authors. Also, I count tank-like vehicles (like Sturmgeshuetz and Marders) as tanks. I also count any German light tanks and command tanks as tanks. Most comparisons I gather count Soviet assault guns and light tanks in their figures, so they need to make sure that both sides forces are counted by the same rules. This results in my having higher figures for German tanks than some other sources do, among many other differences. Now I do take the time to break down the counts by exact vehicle type in my appendices, so anyone who wants to calculate otherwise can do so. Note my figures include tanks lost to mine damage, which very rarely destroys tanks. Using total destroyed (or more to the point, destroyed totally) simply ignors the effects of mines on the battle.

The exchange ratios for armor are discussed in my book on pages 640-641, 744-745, 809-811, 1021-1022, and 1209-1211. The figures of 2,471 Soviet tanks destroyed, damaged or broken down and 1,536 German tanks destroyed, damaged and broken down comes from page 1210, among other places (pages 1338, 1339, 1340, 1367 and 1368). This is a 1.61 armor exchange, although the majority of tanks were probably not taken out in combat between tanks.


P.S. Picture is labeled: “Crew of a Wehrmacht repair unit working on a Panzer III.” Source:

II Tank Corps on 8 July 1943

This post is a follow-on to the post about the claims that Franz Staudegger’s  (1923-1991) killed 22 T-34s on 8 July 1943.:

Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 3

There is an unsourced posting on the internet dated 1 November 2017 that claims that the Soviet 26th Tank Brigade (II Tank Corps) attacked and took Teterevino on 8 July. I only stumbled across it this last Friday. The post is here:

The poster stated in the second half of his post:

The 8th of July 1943. The village of Teterevino with the railway station was defended by panzergrenadiers of the 3rd Battalion of the 3rd SS “Deutschland” Regiment assigned to the 2nd SS Tank Division “Das Reich”. There was also a Tiger #1325 of SS-Unterscharführer Franz Staudegger undergoing minor repairs. This tank was assigned to the 13th Heavy Company of the 1st SS Tank Division “Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler”.

The village was attacked by the 26th Soviet Tank Brigade of the 2nd Tank Corps coming from north east. 34 T-34 medium tanks and 19 T-70 light tanks with an infantry support. You see, no 50 to 60 T-34s as the German propaganda claimed. The brigade was supposed also to be supported by 11 Mk IV Churchills of the 15th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment. However it came under an air attack and couldn’t participate. If it could, the battle outcome would be worse for the Germans.

So, the Soviet tanks attacked the German positions near the village. The panzergrenadiers knocked out two Soviet tanks before Staudegger engaged. According to his Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross submission, he knocked out 17 Soviet tanks in one attack (it took him 2 hours) and followed them to knock out 5 additional ones before running low on ammunition and fuel. The rest fled, so he also left the area. No doubt a nice story for the Wehrmachtbericht.

What really happened that the Soviet attack started at 14:00. The Soviet tanks of the 26th Tank Brigade pushed the Germans out of the village by 15:20. Werner Ostendorff, the Chief of Staff of the 2nd SS Panzer Corps, ordered a counter-attack at 15:25. The “Das Reich” HQ reported 40 Soviet tanks with an infantry support going westwards from Teterevino at 15:30. How come 40 tanks? The brigade had 53 tanks originally and Staudegger claimed to knock out nearly half of them. The next report from the “Das Reich” HQ said the Soviet advance was halted, but they prepare for another attack. The Soviets breached German defences on the left flank of the 3rd Battalion at 16:00. SS-Hauptsturmführer Helmuth Schreiber, the commander of the 10th Company, led a counter-attack which routed the Soviets and took back the village in a bloody hand-to-hand combat. The situation was unstable, so SS-Obersturmbannführer Hans Albin Freiherr von Reitzenstein, the commander of the 2nd Tank Regiment, was ordered to move from Kochetovka with his force of about 60 tanks to flank the Soviets near Teterevino at 17:00 (there were other Soviet troops advancing between Teterevino and Prokhorovka: the 169th and 99th Tank Brigades). The Soviets breached defences of the 2nd Battalion of the SS “Deutschland” Regiment at 17:50. 30 tanks of the 26th Soviet Tank Brigade attacked Teterevino again. The German counter-attack was followed by an air strike of four wings of Junkers Ju.87 bombers and two wings of Henschel Hs.129 ground-attack aircraft of the 8th Air Corps which scattered the Soviet tanks retreating to Prokhorovka (a major battle to be held there in 4 days – Battle of Prokhorovka). By the end of day, the 26th Tank Brigade lost completely (burnt) 12 T-34s and 9 T-70s. 5 T-34s were damaged. 5 T-34s were battle ready. Location of 12 T-34s and 10 T-70s was unknown after the air strike. 26 killed, 35 wounded, 150 missing.

So, staff reports don’t confirm the story of Staudegger destroying and routing the whole Soviet tank brigade as it kept fighting for the rest of day. Their reported losses also don’t match numbers the German propaganda claimed.

This post is unsourced and the poster is not known to me, but is listed at Paul V. Bolotoff.  Not sure of his sources for the 26th Tank Brigade, but the detail posted indicates that he probably had Soviet or Russian sources.

According to my records, the 26th Tank Brigade at 0700 on 10 July reported 11 T-34s (3 broken down, 6 knocked out) and 4 T-70s (3 broken down, 3 knocked out) (TSAMO, Fond: 3407, Opis: 1, Delo: 108, pages 195-216). It then makes that unusual statement that “In all, there are 20 T-34s and 20 T-70s.” Assuming the brigade started with a strength of around 32 (or 34) T-34s and around 20 T-70s, then this means that it could have lost 6 T-34s knocked out, 3 T-34s broken down, and at least 12 T-34s damaged or not reported on. For the T-70s, this is 3 T-70s knocked out, 3 T-70s broken down, and at least 10 T-70s damaged or not report on. This adds up to 18 T-34s and 13 T-70s that could have been lost on the 8th (or the 9th). This does not match well with the claim that Staudegger alone killed 22 T-34s. Also, there were other units in the area. There was the III Battalion of the 3rd SS (Deutschland) Panzer Grenadier Regiment that Staudegger was supporting. This unit killed two T-34s (Agte, page 103). Then there were other units of the Das Reich SS Division, which may have been holding positions in and around Teterevino, probably including the I Battalion (see Agte, page 103). So the 31 or more tanks that the 26th Tank Brigade that may have been lost this day had to be shared among these units. This makes the claims for Staudegger a little more tenuous.

TDI Friday Read: Lethality, Dispersion, And Mass On Future Battlefields

Armies have historically responded to the increasing lethality of weapons by dispersing mass in frontage and depth on the battlefield. Will combat see a new period of adjustment over the next 50 years like the previous half-century, where dispersion continues to shift in direct proportion to increased weapon range and precision, or will there be a significant change in the character of warfare?

One point of departure for such an inquiry could be the work of TDI President Chris Lawrence, who looked into the nature of historical rates of dispersion in combat from 1600 to 1991.

The Effects Of Dispersion On Combat

As he explained,

I am focusing on this because l really want to come up with some means of measuring the effects of a “revolution in warfare.” The last 400 years of human history have given us more revolutionary inventions impacting war than we can reasonably expect to see in the next 100 years. In particular, I would like to measure the impact of increased weapon accuracy, improved intelligence, and improved C2 on combat.

His tentative conclusions were:

  1. Dispersion has been relatively constant and driven by factors other than firepower from 1600-1815.
  2. Since the Napoleonic Wars, units have increasingly dispersed (found ways to reduce their chance to be hit) in response to increased lethality of weapons.
  3. As a result of this increased dispersion, casualties in a given space have declined.
  4. The ratio of this decline in casualties over area have been roughly proportional to the strength over an area from 1600 through WWI. Starting with WWII, it appears that people have dispersed faster than weapons lethality, and this trend has continued.
  5. In effect, people dispersed in direct relation to increased firepower from 1815 through 1920, and then after that time dispersed faster than the increase in lethality.
  6. It appears that since WWII, people have gone back to dispersing (reducing their chance to be hit) at the same rate that firepower is increasing.
  7. Effectively, there are four patterns of casualties in modem war:

Period 1 (1600 – 1815): Period of Stability

  • Short battles
  • Short frontages
  • High attrition per day
  • Constant dispersion
  • Dispersion decreasing slightly after late 1700s
  • Attrition decreasing slightly after mid-1700s.

Period 2 (1816 – 1905): Period of Adjustment

  • Longer battles
  • Longer frontages
  • Lower attrition per day
  • Increasing dispersion
  • Dispersion increasing slightly faster than lethality

Period 3 (1912 – 1920): Period of Transition

  • Long battles
  • Continuous frontages
  • Lower attrition per day
  • Increasing dispersion
  • Relative lethality per kilometer similar to past, but lower
  • Dispersion increasing slightly faster than lethality

Period 4 (1937 – present): Modern Warfare

  • Long battles
  • Continuous frontages
  • Low attrition per day
  • High dispersion (perhaps constant?)
  • Relatively lethality per kilometer much lower than the past
  • Dispersion increased much faster than lethality going into the period.
  • Dispersion increased at the same rate as lethality within the period.

Chris based his study on previous work done by Trevor Dupuy and his associates, which established a pattern in historical combat between lethality, dispersion, and battlefield casualty rates.

Trevor Dupuy and Historical Trends Related to Weapon Lethality

What Is The Relationship Between Rate of Fire and Military Effectiveness?

Human Factors In Warfare: Dispersion

There is no way to accurately predict the future relationship between weapon lethality and dispersion on the battlefield, but we should question whether or not current conception of combat reflect consideration of the historical trends.

Attrition In Future Land Combat

The Principle Of Mass On The Future Battlefield


U.S.S. Racine, serving as a target ship for a sinking exercise on 12 July 2018. [YouTube Screencap/The Drive]

The U.S. Navy has uploaded video of a recent sinking exercise (SINKEX) conducted during the 2018 Rim Of The Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, hosted bi-annually by the U.S. Pacific Fleet based in Honolulu, Hawaii. As detailed by Tyler Rogoway in The Drive, the target of the SINKEX on 12 July 2018 was the U.S.S. Racine, a Newport class Landing Ship-Tank amphibious ship decommissioned 25 years ago.

As dramatic as the images are, the interesting thing about this demonstration was that it included a variety of land-based weapons firing across domains to strike a naval target. The U.S. Army successfully fired a version of the Naval Strike Missile that it is interested in acquiring, as well as a half-dozen High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System [HIMARS] rounds.Japanese troops fired four Type 12 land-based anti-ship missiles at the Racine as well. For good measure, an Australian P-8 Poseidon also hit the target with an air-launched AGM-84 Harpoon.

The coup de gras was provided by a Mk-48 torpedo launched from the Los Angeles class nuclear fast attack submarine USS Olympia, which broke the Racine‘s back and finally sank it an hour later.

Panzer Aces Wittmann and Staudegger at Kursk – part 4

Finally, there are some additional claims made for panzer ace Michael Wittmann (1914-1944) for the 12th of July 1943 and for the entire Battle of Kursk in July 1943. They are:

  1. It is claimed that Wittmann destroyed 8 Soviet tanks, 3 AT guns and one gun battery on the 12th.
  2. During the battle Wittmann killed 30 T-34s, 28 AT guns, and two destroyed batteries.
    1. Source: Agte, page 127.

I am not going to attempt to check these claims. There were lots of Soviet tanks killed on the 12th, I have no way of knowing if the claim of 8 is close to correct or not. There were also lots of Soviet tanks killed in the entire battle. I have no way of knowing if the claim of 30 T-34s is close to correct or not. One does note though that the claim was that he killed 8 T-34s on the 5th (even though they probably were not T-34s), killed 3 T-34s on the 7th and 8th, and claimed 8 tanks on the 12th. This only adds up to 21. I do not know when and where the other 9 T-34s were claimed.

I could certainly choose to get preachy about the need for two-sided research from unit records, but I fear that I have made this point ad naseum already. I think these posts again make this point. I do need to stress that unless an author has actually checked the numbers to the opposing sides reports, any data like this should be stated only as a claim, probably footnoted as to source, the validity and reliability of the source considered, and probably should be noted as not confirmed. Anyhow, sorry for the previous long post, but I felt I needed to show the grunt work involved in trying to chase down just one of these claims. All too often, I have seen authors use medal award claims, newspaper accounts and propaganda claims as some form of hard reliable data. They are very rarely crossed checked with the opposing side’s data. This is fraught with problems (just to get a little bit preachy).


P.S. Picture is of Wittmann’s Tiger 007, destroyed 8 August 1944 by British forces at Saint-Aignan-de-Cramesnil, Normandy, France. Picture was taken in 1945. Source is Wikipedia.