Saturday 15 March 2014

Cheating at Statistics 6: Broken Tigers, Broken Hearts

I usually wouldn't post a Hero of the Soviet Union award order (otherwise I would have no time to post anything else), but this one is special. Vladimir Zelmanovich Vaisser managed to score a Hero of the Soviet Union and an Order of the Patriotic War, First Class in one battle, so it deserves further investigation.

"T-34 tank commander Guards Junior Lieutenant Vaisser, while defending the Chepovichi station on December 19th, 1943, demonstrated bravery and heroism. In an ambush, he allowed enemy tanks to approach, then opened fire. With precise shots, he destroyed two enemy tanks. The enemy attempted to flank the ambush, but comrade Vaisser expertly predicted the enemy's movements and ordered to move to a previously readied position, from which he destroyed a Panther tank and up to a platoon of soldiers and officers. The enemy's attempt to capture the station failed.

Guards Junior Lieutenant Veisser destroyed 3 enemy tanks and up to 50 fascists. He is worthy of a government award: Order of the Patriotic War, First Class.

2nd Tank Battalion commander, Captain Korolev"

Next day, the Germans came back, and Vaisser was not as lucky.

"T-34 tank commander, Guards Junior Lieutenant Vaisser demonstrated the greatest courage, heroism, and bravery in defense of the Chepovichi station.

40 Tiger and Panther tanks from the SS division "Adolf Hitler", with infantry support, attempted to take the Chernovichi railroad station in order to continue an offensive at Kiev. Comrade Vaisser's company stood in the station's defense.

"Fight to the last breath, but do not give up the station - this was the brigade commander's order," said Vaisser to his crew, as they opened precise fire at the enemy. Two shells knocked out a Panther, but an enemy shell set the hero's tank on fire. Comrade Vaisser personally left his tank, put the fire out, and continued the uneven battle. Another tank and APC with infantry was destroyed. The enemy concentrated powerful fire on the Junior Lieutenant's tank, and it was hit and set on fire again. The driver and machinegunner/radio operator were heavily injured. Comrade Vaisser and his turret commander [loader] jumped out of the tank, put out the fire with snow and their coats, dragged the wounded out, tended to their wounds, and climbed into their tank once more. 

Comrade Vaisser's powerful tank was no longer able to move, but the gun was operational, and the heroic commander fought on. A Tiger and a Panther were knocked out, but the immobile tank was a target, and the enemy knew this. Powerful fire from enemy SPGs destroyed the tank and set it on fire, wounding the turret commander. Guards Junior Lieutenant Vaisser was killed and burned up with the tank. 

The heroic battle of the brave tanker comrade Vaisser inspired all tankers to bravely carry out their order. The enemy took heavy losses and was beaten back. The station was not given up. Two days later our units, having worn out the enemy, moved in for an attack, continuing their success in the Novograd-Volynskiy direction. Guard Junior Lieutenant Vaisser is worthy of the highest government award, the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

Commander of the 111st Tank Novograd-Volynskiy tank brigade, Colonel Granovskiy"

Schneider confirms how devastating this attack was for the Germans.

"19 December 1943. Seven operational tanks start an attack at 0900 hours on Meleni. Afterwards they advance across the railroad line Kiev-Korosten in the direction of Baljarka. One T-34 and several anti-tank guns are knocked out, and one Tiger is knocked out. Total tanks: 23

20 December 1943: The railroad station of Tschepowitschi is captured, several enemy tanks are knocked out. Three Tigers operational with twenty in for repairs. SS-Hauptsturmfurer Kling is recommended for the Knight's Cross, but the recommendation is not approved."

Ugh, that German transliteration. Nevertheless, the Germans admit to 20 Tiger losses (of course they were recovered, so it doesn't count!) but claim that they took the station. Let's see who's right.

Tigers from the 13th Company of the 1st SS "Adolf Hitler"

Oh look, it's the Tigers we were looking for! Surrounded by Red Armymen. Oops. Looks like someone is stretching the definition of repairs again. Let's see what happens to these Tigers later.

"21 December 1943: An enemy attack on the railroad station is beaten back; several enemy tanks are knocked out. Two Tigers are operational.
24 December 1943: ..."Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler" is pulled from the line and marches south. Seven disabled Tigers have to be blown up near Tschepowitschi."

Oh, there they are! Hmm, I thought you had recovered them. Perhaps the ones that had to blow them up were the Soviets. With their tank guns. Several days earlier. Incidentally, 7 Tigers is the total Soviet kill claim for December 20th. Lines up quite nicely, no?

Panther Ausf. A #316 from the 1st SS Tank Division, destroyed in early 1944 in the Ukraine

Panthers! Panthers not mentioned in the combat diary. I guess they couldn't be bothered. Good thing Vaisser's commanders were more thorough. Incidentally, not all German combat diaries are so dismissive of their lighter tanks. 2nd SS honestly admits that they had 4 Panthers and 6 PzIVs in the area supporting their 5 working Tigers, but similarly does not report their loss.

On to the claim that the Germans took the railroad station. Usually, the diaries are full of exact (if suspect) numbers of enemy tanks destroyed, but on December 20th and 21st, the Germans report the destruction of "several" enemy tanks. If they kept the battlefield, should they not have been able to count more precisely? Indeed, Schneider's diaries is the only place that I could find that mentions the Germans keeping the station. All other sources, including the Museum of Combat Glory of the 25th Tank Corps, claim differently.

No wonder Kling didn't get his medal, I am surprised he was recommended for doing such a shoddy job. Here are the stylish tanks of the 25th "Broken Hearts" Tank Corps that pounded his face in.

"Broken heart" insignia, summer 1943.

"Broken heart" insignia, winter 1943-1944.

As you can see, a regular T-34, not even a T-34-85, is a deadly enemy for Tigers and Panthers.


  1. the stylish tanks of the 25th "Broken Heats"


  2. Could you post the original documents of the "Schenider" report you are reffering to above?
    Thank you.

    1. Schneider isn't a report, Schneider is an author, who has two books (Tigers in Combat I and II) with s.Pz.Abt combat diaries. The quotes are taken from Tigers in Combat II, page 90.

  3. I would really like to know how those vanila T-34s managed to take out Tigers. Since Germans were attacking one would expect for them to be able to dictate the engagement range, and thus it's unlikey they showed theri sideds to the enemy. Unless Soviets only diasbled them and when Germans fled they left them.

    1. I would think the apcr ammo that t34 started using after spring 1943 was capable of destroying tigers especially in the side armor. I think tiger 1 side armor could be as low as 60 mm. With no angle inclination its easy picking (ofc in ideal shooting conditions). Moreover, german armor has been shown to be rather brittle on this particular blog many times, and you have to understand that the penetration wasnt needed anyway.

      I would like to see the blog post about t34/76 with apcr ammo against tiger and panther performance.

    2. "In an ambush, he allowed enemy tanks to approach, then opened fire."
      ...that doesn't quite sound like they were letting the Germans control the engagement distance you know.

  4. the article is nonsense
    If the date of the claim doesn´t match date of loss You get yet another fake claim.

    1. The German practices of declaring their losses are well explored by historians. You should probably read about them before making such claims.

  5. The author of these articles on 'Statistics' is a joke. I have never read such amateur garbage passed off as 'scholarship' ... Absolute crap, and the comments are just as ignorant. I know nothing about this topic, but as a professional historian this is just plain embarrassing.

    1. I am honoured to have had my writings so concisely criticized by A Real Professional Historian.