Status of Defense Act

A month ago, I flagged pages 253-254 of the report 116-48, supporting the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. This report is here:

This kicker was the statement that “The committee is concerned that…these models…has not been adequately validated….using real world data….[and] are simplistic by comparison…” The entire four paragraphs are quoted in this blog post:

U.S. Senate on Model Validation

The current text of the actual Defense Act, dated 6/27/19 is here:

Now, I don’t know how these two 609- and 1726-page documents connect, but I gather the requirements still exist to have a team “ assess the quality of these models and make recommendations…not later than December 31, 2020.”

Does anyone know anything further about this effort?

Comments on the Photo Recon Article

The actual article by Ben Wheatley of his analysis of the photo recon from 14-16 July 1943 is here:

Shorter article by him is here:

I believe all my previous posts on Prokhorovka discuss the issues of tank loss counts to exhaustion, so I will not take the time to address his article point by point. Let me just highlight a couple of items.

It is a useful effort in that he identifies the four Pz IVs close to Hill 252.2 that are destroyed. These were almost certainly from Ribbentrop’s 6th Panzer Company. In Ribbentrop’s account he also states that four of the seven tanks in his company were lost (and his was damaged). It is always useful to have confirming evidence to an interview. Post-war interviews are not always the most reliable source. I did interview a veteran of the Spanish-American War (1898) once. That was an interesting experience.

He then makes the statement that “To the author, it seems impossible that any worthwhile publication or exhibition relating to the battle of Prokhorovka could not include the remarkable Luftwaffe photographs contained within this article.”

Well, as I did include the 32 of aerial photographs in my book….I guess that would qualify my book as worthwhile. On the other hand, he list four works in the previous paragraph (including Zetterling and Zamulin) but does not list my book. Nor it is referenced in his footnotes. Curious.

The article discusses the fight between the LSSAH Division and the XVIII and XXIX Tank Corps. It is clear he has defined the fight on the tank fields of Prokhorovka as a fight between those three units. As he stated in second paragraph of his article: “The chief protagonists of the battle of Prokhorovka, the 5th Guards Tank Army and the German SS Panzergrenadier Division ‘Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’, fought over a battlefront of no more than 3km between the river Psel and the Storozhevoye Woods.”

He leaves out the involvement of Totenkopf and Das Reich in that fight, and the fact that Totenkopf engaged the XVIII Tank Corps to some degree and Das Reich clearly was engaged with significant parts of the XXIX Tank Corps, especially in and around the Storozhevoye Woods. This does distort the picture.

In addition he focuses on destroyed tanks. Clearly the Germans lost more tanks that five that day, but if you only count totally destroyed tanks, it does give a distorted figure.

So, in the end, he ends up with 5 tanks lost versus 200+. I ended up with an estimated 19 versus 155 for the same fight. This is not a big difference. We are quibbling over the details. But it would be nice to get these figures as close to real as possible. It is difficult as the locations and actions of many of the battalions this day are not exactly known. It was a large dramatic fight that people were too busy to document at the time.

There are lots of other things I could quibble about in his article, but I will pass on that for now. One thing he does that annoys me is refer to the “II SS Panzer Korps” on multiple occasions. Why the German spelling of Corps? He does not use the Russian spelling for their corps.

Summation of the Prokhorovka Blog Posts

Have just done a series of posts on Prokhorovka over this last week. As usual, I find it easier to write in bits and pieces then to put together one long (boring) article. Anyhow, the nine blog posts on Prokhorovka for this last week are (in order of posting):

Kursk Aerial Photos

Tank Losses on 12/13 July 1943

What About Totenkopf’s Losses?

And elements of the XXIX Tank Corps….

Damaged versus Destroyed Tanks

So What Tanks did LSSAH Lose on the 12th?

But it really wasn’t just a tank battle

The Importance of the Tank Ditch

One Final Note

There have also been a number of useful comments made to them. They are worth reading.

Tomorrow I will briefly discuss the Ben Wheatley article.

One Final Note

The German offensive at Kursk in the south went from the 4th through the 17th of July 1943. It involved 17 different German divisions. They then withdrew for the next seven days. This is more than 250 division-days of combat from the German perspective. The fight by the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Division was but one of those division days. Granted it was an important one, but it was not the bloodiest fight done by a German division. That “honor” is held by the 106th Infantry Division and 320th Infantry Division in their fights on the 5th of July. The 5th of July was the bloodiest day of fighting for the Germans. The LSSAH suffered an estimated 383 casualties on the 12th of July. The LSSAH suffered an estimated 645 casualties of the 5th of July. The 5th of July was the bloodiest day of battle for the LSSAH and the Das Reich SS (340 casualties). Totenkopf SS’s bloodiest day was the 11th of July (479 casualties). These casualty figures include DNBI (Disease and non-battle injuries, 9 to 20 a day depending on unit). On the 5th of July it is estimated that the 106th Infantry Division lost 1,183 men while the 320th Infantry Division went through a rather crippling 1,668 men! There are some books on Kursk that don’t even address their operations!

Also, while the exchange rate at Prokhorovka was lop-sided in favor of the Germans, the exchange ratio across the entire battlefield was no where near as one-sided. According to our count (based upon going through each division and corps unit records for each day), the Germans lost 1,536 tanks damaged and destroyed from 4 to 18 July, while the Soviets lost 2,471 tanks damaged and destroyed from 4 to 18 July. This is around a 1-to-1.61 exchange ratio in armor. This is more in line with the exchange rates of personnel, which were around 1-to-3.69 (see pages 1208-1210 or pages 560-562 in my smaller book).

This has been discussed before on this blog:

TDI Friday Read: Tank Combat at Kursk

Prokhorovka was an extreme case with an extreme result. Not every armor battle at Kursk was so badly handled, with the operations of the First Tank Army under Katukov being much better handled, and the operations of the II Guards Tank Corps under the unheralded Colonel Burdeinyii being particularly successful (and annoying).

In the end the armor operations under direct command of Generals Vatutin and Chistyakov (Sixth Guards Army) tended to sometimes be disastrous. This includes Vatutin’s counterattack on the 6th of July with the II Guards and V Guards Tank Corps. This attack, reinforced with the threat to shoot the V Guard Tank Corps commander if not obeyed, gutted that corps in one day, with 110 tanks lost. There was also a series of poorly conducted armor attacks on the 8th of July that were also a disaster. Finally, in the Voronezh Front’s third round of mass armor attacks, it included Prokhorovka. You don’t see the same type of attacks conducted by the units of the First Tank Army, even though they were facing a force similar in size to the SS Panzer Corps. There is a command failure, that is higher than Rotmistrov (V Guards Tanks Army commander) and that clearly includes Chistaykov (Sixth Army commander) and Vatutin (Voronezh Front commander). The Stavka representative in the south during the fighting was Marshal Aleksander Vasilevskii. The political commissar of the Voronezh Front was Nikita Khrushchev. He kind of became much more famous later.

The Importance of the Tank Ditch

Some of the accounts of the Battle of Prokhorovka get overly focused on the tank ditch that the Soviet XXIX Tank Corps hit. Part of this is because some accounts of this battle focus primarily on the attack of the Soviet XVIII Tank Corps and XXIX Tank Corps against the German LSSAH Division. As shown in the previous posts, the LSSAH did not fight alone and was supported on both flanks by the engaged Totenkopf SS and Das Reich SS Divisions. But even this expanded account is not the whole battle of the day, as the Soviet offensive also included attacks by the II Guards Tanks Corps and the II Tank Corps and a number of rifle divisions. The Totenkopf SS was engaged with the Fifth Guards Army, and elements of the 69th Army engaged the Das Reich SS and the German 167th Infantry Division.

But even this was not the Battle of Prokhorovka. By Soviet accounts, the battle includes all the fighting around Prokhorovka from the 12th and 13th, including Trufanov’s Detachments, the V Guards Mechanized Corps, all of the 69th Army and picking up the fighting against the III Panzer Corps (6th Panzer Division, 7th Panzer Division, 19th Panzer Division and 168th Infantry Division). This much larger definition, which also picks up elements of the 11th Panzer Division, is the standard definition used in Soviet sources (see Definition 2 on page 1324 of my Kursk book).

But, this is really not all that was happening on the 12th, as the Soviets were also engaged with the German XLVIII Panzer Corps with five tank and mechanized corps and actually achieved a significant penetration. Also the Soviet Seventh Guards Army unleashed attacks on the III Panzer Corps and Corps Raus.

So…..while the tank ditch was a major factor affecting the attack of one Soviet tank corps this day, it was one of ten engaged Soviet tank and mechanized corps this day along with at least 25 engaged Soviet guards rifle, airborne and rifle divisions. The significance of the tank ditch story shrinks when you zoom out and look at the entire battlefield.

But, as the tank ditch is such a good story, the story of Prokhorovka often focuses on the Soviet tank ditch from the 69th Army’s defensive system that was unknown to the attacking V Guards Tank Army. This story does seem to grow in the telling.

I do not know for certain how many tanks drove into or were destroyed in and around the tank ditch. The morning attack was conducted by two Soviet tank corps, the XVIII Tank Corps attacking on the right and the XXIX Tank Corps attacking on the left. The V Guards Mechanized Corps (which is larger and with more tanks than a tank corps) was in reserve in the rear.

The XVIII Tank Corps attack did not hit the tank ditch. Its attack was down the valley of the Pena River, along the border between the LSSAH Division and the Totenkopf SS Division. This attack was stopped by the combined fire from the two German divisions without the assistance of any surprises in the terrain.

The XXIX Tank Corps attacked with two brigades forward and one in second echelon. The right brigade, the 32nd Tank Brigade, was the one that rolled over the 6th panzer company (with 7 Pz IVs) commanded by Captain Rudolf von Ribbentrop (the eldest son of the infamous German foreign minister). This attack hit the tank ditch. As Ribbentrop describes (as he was on the Soviet side of the tank ditch): “Now obviously, the T-34s detected the tank ditch and tried to turn left and cross over the reconstructed bridge.” One notes that Ribbentrop, in his account, does not have any Soviet tanks driving into the tank ditch (see Kursk, page 938 or Prokhorovka, page 326). He does add “As the Russians were now crowded at the bridge and therefore were now flanked and could be killed much easier, the burning T-34s were driving upon one another and ramming one another.” I am not sure how accurate that last description was as later he says, “Now our tank was no longer combat ready and I decided to take it out of operations, i.e., to cross the bridge over the tank ditch and drive to the rear…”

The second source for the tank ditch story is from Sturmann Wilhelm Roes of the 7th panzer company. His interview indicates that he was on the other side (the German side) of the tank ditch. He described the antitank ditch as being 4.5 meters tall on the Russian side and only 1.2 meters on the German side. He describes several Russian tanks driving full speed into the tank ditch. The T-34s were able to continue moving after this, but certainly the shock of such a fall seriously rattled the crew inside. He then states that as they came out of the ditch on the other side, the tank undersides were partially exposed and easy targets (see Prokhorovka, page 328). The source of this story is from Zamulin, Demolishing the Myth, pages 327-328, but his footnote does not state the source, only that the story came from the “author’s personal archive.”

The 25th Tank Brigade attacked to the south of the railroad line that split the battlefield. Does not appear that this tank brigade ever encountered a tank ditch.

Furthermore, 15 T-34s from the 32nd Tank Brigade are reported to have crossed the railway embankment to bypass the Oktyabrskii Sovkhoz along with some infantry from the 53rd Motorized Brigade (see page 319 of my Prokhorovka book). These people did not encounter a tank ditch.

There are only two German accounts of Soviet tanks hitting the tank ditch that I am aware of (but I have not exhaustively looked for every German account). This was the report by Ribbentrop of the 6th panzer company and a report by Roes of the 7th panzer company. So, it does appear that the tank ditch halted the advance of one reduced strength tank brigade and that may have been all. The 32nd Tank Brigade had around 60 T-34s. But, 15 tanks of the first battalion were with the 53rd Motorized Rifle Brigade at Komsomolets Sovkhoz. Therefore, the number of their tanks involved in the attack that went to the tank ditch was 45 or less. Also attached to them was the 1529th Heavy Self-Propelled Regiment (1 KV-1 and 11 Su-152…but took not losses and probably did not see action that day) and three batteries of the 1446th Self-Propelled Regiment, with its other two batteries attached to the 25th Tank Brigade. The regiment had 8 Su-76s and 12 Su-122s ready for action. Probably only a handful of T-34s, at worst, fell into the tank ditch.

The 32nd Tank Brigade suffered the highest losses of any attacking tank brigade of the day, suffering 54 T-34s either burned, knocked out or in need of repair, leaving the brigade with only 6 T-34s. These losses included all 15 T-34s that went to Komsomolets Sovkhoz. The brigade’s reported losses at the end of the day were 100 men killed and 130 wounded.

The 25th Tank Brigade had around 31 T-34s and 36 T-70s. In the second echelon, behind the 32nd Tank Brigade, was the 31st Tank Brigade with around 29 T-34s and 38 T-70s. The 31st Tank Brigade attacked behind the 32nd Tank Brigade and by 1400 (Moscow time) had reached the area one kilometer northeast of Oktyabrskii Sovkhoz. Upon reach the northeastern outskirts of the Oktyabrskii Sovkhoz, the brigade was delayed by German artillery and mortar fire and by “ceaseless” German air attacks (see Prokhorovka, page 320 or Kursk, page 933). It appears to have never gotten to the tank ditch.

So, in the bigger picture, it appears that the tank ditch helped stop the attack of one reduced strength brigade of around 45 T-34s out of the ten tank and mechanized corps engaged that day. Still, it was a significant terrain issue on the tank fields of Prokhorovka.

But it really wasn’t just a tank battle

Just to state the obvious, Prokhorovka was not just a tank battle. While the Soviets attacked without proper air or artillery support, the Germans did have that. The Germans had a lot of antitank weapons they could bring to bear. Let us look at the inventory on the evening of the 11th for the LSSAH Division (this listing does not include small arms):

MMG: 136

28/20 AT: 0

50mm AT: 35

75mm AT: 16

81mm Mortar: 67

75mm lt IG: 15

150mm hy IG: 0

105mm Howitzer: 15

150mm Howitzer: 12

105mm Gun: 4

150mm Launcher: 6

210mm Launcher: 6

20mm AA (towed): 26

20mm AA (SP): 24

20mm AA x 4 (SP): 11

37mm AA (SP): 10

88mm AA: 10


Pz I: 2

Pz II: 4

Pz III short: 1

Pz III long: 4

Pz III Observation: 8

Pz III Command: 7 (most were armed)

Pz IV Long: 47

Pz VI: 4

StuG III: 10

Marder III: 10

Hummel: 5

Wespe: 12

Grille: 12

Marder II 76.2mm: 1

Pz IV Munitions: 1


AC 4w MG (221): 4

AC 4w 20mm (222): 7

AC 4w MG (223): 5

AC 8w 20mm (231): 1

AC 8w 20mm (232): 4

AC 4w (261): 10

AC 8w MG (263): 0

AC 4w (247): 1


LHT (2501/1): 25

LHT (250/3): 22

LHT 81mm Mortar (250/7): 4

LHT 37mm AT (250/10): 3

LHT 20mm (250): 8

MHT (251/1): 26

MHT 81mm Mortar (251/2): 4

MHT (251/5): 1

MHT (251/7): 9

MHT (251/6): 1

MHT (251/8): 4

MHT 75mm Lt IG (251/9): 4

MHT 37mm AT (251/10): 7

LHT (252): 4

LHT (250/5): 6

LHT (253): 4

MHT (251): 5

LHT (250/4): 3


Bridge Set J: 1

Bridge Set H: 1


Source: Kursk Data Base, TDI copy.

So, they had:

Antitank guns (including 37mm AT) and 88mm Flak: 71

Tanks 50mm and greater (including Marders): 84

Artillery pieces and rockets (105mmm or larger): 72

Miscellaneous stuff that goes boom (37mm AA, 75mm lt IG, 81mm Mortars): 104


Now that is over 200 serious tank killing weapons not counting the “miscellaneous stuff.” If one is in a defensive position facing an attack coming across open ground, there is a lot of damage that can be done.

Oh and they also had air support. Now we really don’t know how much air support they had. It was reported that at 0910 (Berlin time), the VIII Air Corps notified the SS that it had dispatched two Stuka groups. The Germans flew 398 ground-attack type sorties this day of which 150 were Stuka sorties. As they were supporting five German corps, not all of these missions went to the SS Panzer Corps. In my engagements sheets (pages 954-959 of Kursk and 345-352 of Prokhorovka), I have the T SS PzGrD with 94 supporting sorties, the LSSAH PzGrD with 131 supporting sorties + 24 Soviet fratricidal sorties, the DR SS PzGrD with 57 supporting sorties and the 167th Infantry Division with 92. Of course, these are very rough guesstimates.

They also had some support from “friendly fire” cases where at 1300 Soviet assault aircraft (Il-2s) attacked the 32nd Tank Brigade (XXIX Tank Corps) and 170th Tank Brigade (XVIII Tank Corps). The II Guards Tank Corps was also attacked by Soviet aircraft (see Prokhorovka, page 338).

The Totenkopf and Das Reich SS Divisions were similarly equipped. So, there were a lot of weapons there.

So What Tanks did LSSAH Lose on the 12th?

Marder III in Russia, 21 June 1943
(Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-022-2949-28)

In most cases, our calculation of unit losses is based upon the data we assembled for the Kursk Data Base, built from a careful examination of the unit records, and some estimation and guesswork to fill in the hole in the records. Here is what we have for LSSAH tank losses for this day:

Pz IV long: 16 (4 destroyed, 12 damaged)

Pz VI: 1 damaged

Marder III: 2 destroyed


Now, we also report 12 tanks returning to duty this day. This is 10 StuG IIIs and 2 Marder IIIs. In the case of the Marder IIIs, two were reported as killed on 12 July (T313, R389) even though there was no change in reported strength from the 11th though the 13th. So….

Damaged versus Destroyed Tanks

The battle on the “tank fields of Prokhorovka” occurred on the 12th of July 1943. Ben Wheatley’s count of German losses is based upon aerial photos taken on 14-16 July 1943. The Germans had control of most of the battle area during that time, The SS Panzer Corps was still attacking with the Totenkopf SS Division on the 13th and with the Das Reich SS Division on the 14th and 15th of July. Therefore, the Germans certainly had the time and opportunity to repair or evacuate any damaged or destroyed tanks. We assume that they moved some or most of them by after three to five days. They often tried to evacuate tanks the same day or the day after.

The German army was absolutely axxx very diligent about evacuating and repairing tanks. Their reporting on this is very detailed. If the records survived, every destroyed tank had a hand drawn map in the files showing where they are and by serial number. One such map from an earlier fight is shown above. They regularly provided ten-day status reports tracking the repair status of all tanks. It is clear that they often evacuated tanks and only later wrote them off as destroyed. Sometimes it would take a while before they made that determination. They did not leave a lot of destroyed tanks on the battlefield if they could avoid it. They could always scavenge them for parts.

This subject is significant enough that we have already done a number of blog posts on the subject. For example:

German Damaged versus Destroyed Tanks at Kursk

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

So, if Ben Wheatley is able to count five Panzer IVs on the battlefield, that does not mean the Germans only lost five Panzer IVs. It just means those were the five tanks that were so badly damaged that they were not repairable and there was not a whole lot to scavenge from them. LSSAH Division’s tank losses were clearly higher than 5. We will address that in the next post.

And elements of the XXIX Tank Corps….

In addition to elements of the XVIII Tank Corps being engaged with Totenkopf SS Division, also, elements of the XXIX Tank Corps were engaged with the Das Reich SS Division.

As I report on page 329 of my Prokhorovka book (or page 940 of my Kursk book — This account was slightly revised for my newer book with one sentence added and two sentences adjusted in the third paragraph):

On the other side of the railroad track, the 25th Tank Brigade, with two batteries of the 1446th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment made more progress. They attacked through Stalinskoye Otdeleniye Sovkhoz and by 1400 (Moscow time) they had taken Storozhevoye and overcome the German fire resistance from Ivanovskii Vyiselok and the groves 1.5 kilometers northeast of Yasnaya Polyana. They also are reported to have taken significant casualties from air and artillery fire (this is Rotmistrov’s claim) but no mention is made of the losses from tank fire. Their attack then stalled somewhere around Storozhevoye, tangled up with the Das Reich SS Division.

The Das Reich reported in the morning an attack against the small forest east of Ivanovskii Vyiselok with 18 to 20 tanks and against its defenses west of Storozhevoye with infantry and tanks. It reported at 1140 Soviet attacks with tanks and infantry against the II Battalion, Deutschland SS Regiment. After this attack was defeated, at 1255 the battalion attacked Storozhevoye. It reported nine Soviet tanks were destroyed. At 1340, the II Battalion then took the south part of Storozhevoye as well as the little woods south of there. At 1505, the battalion was in the north part of Storozhevoye attacking to the east.

The 53rd Motorized Rifle Brigade, with the 271st Mortar Regiment, meanwhile had advanced into the woods north of Storozhevoye and were able to reach the “glade.” Elements of the brigade along with at least 15 T-34s from the first tank battalion of the 32nd Tank Brigade had already penetrated to Komsomolets Sovkhoz in the original attack. Even though two attacking Soviet tank brigades were stalled in front of the German positions around height 252.2, elements of the tank corps had been able to bypass this point and take Komsomolets Sovkhoz. The railroad and the woods north of Storozhevoye probably served to cover the brigade’s right flank as it continued forward. After “fierce fighting,” by 1400 (Moscow time), they were able to take Komsomolets Sovkhoz. Still, as none of the other armor of the XXIX Tank Corps had been able to come forward with this brigade, they were left in an untenable position and the Das Reich SS Division was attacking Storozhevoye, behind them.

There is more, but you get the picture. It is clear that significant elements of the XXIX Tank Corps were primarily engaged with Das Reich SS Division.

Therefore, we have parts of the XVIII Tank Corps engaging the Totenkopf SS Division and parts of the XXIX Tank Corps engaging the Das Reich SS Division. This is a little more complicated picture than just the two corps attacking the LSSAH Division. It is not as simple as a 5-to-200+ or even a 19-to-240 exchange. Here are the figures we used in the engagement sheets created from the Kursk Data Base (from pages 954-956 in the Kursk book, and pages 345-347 in the Prokhorovka book):

Totenkopf SS:

…..134 tanks (0 light) versus 70 Soviet tanks (33 light)

…..28 German tanks lost versus 33 Soviet tanks lost


…..99 tanks (6 light) versus 260 Soviet tanks (83 light)

…..19 German tanks lost versus 155 Soviet tanks lost (!!!)


…..108 tanks (0 light) versus 251 Soviet tanks (103 light) *

…..1 German tanks lost versus 121 Soviet tanks lost


This is a little fuzzier picture. Because of the poor quality of record keeping on this day (which does happen when people get busy), there is some confusion as to what some people were doing during parts of the battle. Lining up exactly who was facing who for each division fight requires a little guess work.


* This engagement sheet also covers the attacks by the II Guards Tank Corps and the afternoon attack by the II Tank Corps.

What About Totenkopf’s Losses?

If one looks at the losses in the above graphics, one sees the Totenkopf SS Panzer Grenadier Division loosing 28 tanks on the 12th and 29 tanks on the 13th. This is merely a straight line estimate of the losses over two days, as we do not know what they lost on the 12th. We know what they report ready for action on the 11th and we know what they report ready for action on the 13th.

Totenkopf had as of the evening of 11July the following tanks (source: TDI’s Kursk Data Base):

Pz III Long: 54

Pz III Observation: 5

Pz III Command: 7

Pz IV short: 4

Pz IV long: 26

Pz VI: 10 *

Pz VI Command: 1

StuG III: 21

Marder II: 11

On the 13th we have them with:

Pz III long: 32

Pz III Observation: 5

Pz Command: 5

Pz IV short: 3

Pz IV long: 14

Pz VI: 0

Pz VI Command: 1

StuG III: 20

Marder II: 2

This is decline of 57 tanks.

There was a status report for Totenkopf on the 12th but it indicates no losses for the 12th of July (and includes one additional Tiger). Considering its operations that day (read pages 924-927 of my Kursk book or 307-312 of my Prokhorovka book), that is hard to believe. For in addition to being engaged with the gutted 52nd Guards Rifle Division and the fresh 95th Guards Rifle Division of the Fifth Guards Army, they were also engaged with the 11th Motorized Rifle Brigade (X Guards Tank Corps), the 99th Tank Brigade (II Tank Corps) and to some extent with the 181st Tank Brigade (XVIII Tank Corps). Furthermore, they conducted offensive operations: at 0715 (Berlin time) taking the barracks (at Kluchi?) with their panzer battalion, and then their armored group at 0930 (Berlin time) jumped off from hill 226.6 to the northeast. The Fifth Guards Army confirms that the Germans launched this attack claiming at 1215 (Moscow time) the Germans attacked with 100 tanks in the direction of height 226.6. This attack was successful and pushed on to the eastern outskirts of Veselyii and height 236.7.

The Soviets throughout the day launched multiple attacks against the division also. Totenkopf reports attacks on the barracks northwest of Klyuchi at 0330 and 0730. The second attack had tank support (we think from the 99th Tank Brigade, II Tank Corps). There were also many other Soviet attacks during the day.

And then, at 1115 (Berlin time) Totenkopf diverted its drive to the northeast to turn its armor south to cross the Psel at Mikhailovka and move in behind the Soviets south of the Psel. Part of Totenkopf’s armor did cross to the south of the Psel this day and got into a heavy exchange with the XVIII Tank Corps.

It is hard to say what was where at this time, but Totenkopf continued to also advance north of the Psel to the northeast. At 1500 (Berlin time) the Totenkopf armored group was two kilometers northwest of Polezhayev. At 1630 (Moscow time), the Soviets reported that the German offensive had been halted, but fighting clearly continued, for at 1835 (Berlin time), the SS Panzer Corps reported that the armored group from Totenkopf were engaged in heavy tank battles around one kilometer northwest of Polezhayev. Worth looking at a map for this, but Polozhayev is north of Prokhorovka.

There is also the claim in Soviet records that at 1600 (Moscow time) 36 German tanks from hill 226.6 descended into the depression north of that hill and moved through the ravine west of Polezhayev, and headed towards hill 236.7 (some four kilometers away). Reaching the hill, the tanks spent an hour driving back and forth on it, and then departed into the depression west of hill 236.7 (see Prokhorovka, page 309).

Hard to believe that the Totenkopf SS Division suffered no armor losses on the 12th, not even a tank or two broken down. Hard to move armor around without a few breakdowns. Yet, Totenkopf has a tank status report for the 12th that shows no losses. We do not believe that this report reflects the actual situation as of the end of the day on the 12th.

So, we were left with assuming that there were no armor losses on the 12th and 57 tanks lost on the 13th…..or we could split them evenly between the two days. We did the latter, as that appeared more rational. Considering the offensive operations conducted by the Totenkopf SS Division on the 13th and that they were then driven back (!), one could certainly make the argument that more losses should have been assigned on the 13th than the 12th (see pages 965-969 of my Kursk book or 359-363 of my Prokhorovka book). Still, hard to believe there were no losses on the 12th.

It also opens up the question of how many of the XVIII Tank Corps losses were due to the actions of the Totenkopf SS Division and how many tanks did Totenkopf loose engaging the XVIII Tank Corps. The record is not clear here.


* They had either 9 Pz VIs this day or 10, depending on which report you choose to accept (see page 926-927 or 311-312)