Saturday 31 May 2014

3rd Army in East Prussia

A lot of people seem to hold the opinion that the Red Army fought exclusively with human waves, and their tank forces were no different. Hundreds of T-34s would fling themselves at Tigers and Panthers, until the mountain of T-34 hulls disabled them. Fantastical kill ratios as assigned to German armoured units: 5 to 1, 10 to 1, 15 to 1. These numbers are, of course, ludicrous. For instance, consider the reports of the 3rd Army from January 14th, 1945 to March 26th, 1945, conveniently listing the ratios between their tank forces and those of the enemy (CAMD RF 233-2356-776).

"Penetration from the Rozhan foothold, destruction of the Przasnysz garrison, and offensive battles in East Prussia, before the outskirts of the Koenigsberg fortification region, January 14th - February 6th, 1945"

This looks good, let's see the ratios of forces. At the start of the offensive, the ratio of Soviet to German tanks and self-propelled guns shows an advantage to the Soviet side, but not a great one: 1.5 to 1.

On the next day, the enemy calls in reserves. The Soviet 3rd Army still has 131 tanks, but now the enemy has 204 tanks instead of 84, a ratio of 0.6 to 1!

On January 16th, the Germans counterattack. Those buying into the myth of superior German armour would expect the Red Army to suffer a crushing defeat when their enemy has nearly twice as many tanks, but no such thing happened. On January 17th, the German tank division begins retreating. "After four days of fierce fighting, the defeated enemy started rolling back without pause to the nort

h. Our forces crossed the south border of East Prussia and reached Neidenburg on the 7th day of the operation, despite only being scheduled to do so by the 8th day." 78 enemy tanks were captured or destroyed.

The next ratio is calculated on January 27th, at Ortelsburg. A much smaller Soviet force encounters the majority of the retreating Grossdeutchsland division and some infantry divisions. The ratios are nearly even: the Red Army unit has 10% more infantry companies (German companies are estimated to be 50-60 men per company on average, Soviet companies are currently 40-50 men), 50% more machineguns, and 30% less tanks. Surely the Germans will win this time?

"By February 2nd, the army, having crushed enemy resistance and moved forward by 5 kilometers..." Oops, looks like the Germans can't win even they have lots more tanks.

Continuing on in the document, for an offensive on February 14th, the 3rd Army has only 31 tanks and SPGs in the offensive zone, whereas the enemy has 40. You can already guess where the Germans' advantage in armour got them: the Red Army advanced 6-11 kilometers in the first day of the offensive. By February 19th, the enemy is down to 36 tanks, while the Red Army is still at 31.

The next encounter that's relatively close is on March 25th, for Heiligenbeil. The Soviets have 40% more tanks. The outcome is predictable. There is no data for this battle, but the total German losses "for the last period of the operation" consist of 100 captured vehicles and 143 destroyed, 225 captured and 387 destroyed in total.

I'll also post the conclusions written up by the army commander.

"Armoured forces:
  1. Use of tanks and SPGs:
    1. The tanks and SPGs mostly met their given objectives, despite powerful anti-tank defenses and difficult terrain.
    2. Armoured and mechanized forces of the Army drew most of the tanks of the German Grossdeutschland division to them, and caused significant losses to the enemy forces. Their contribution ensured the destruction of the Przasnysz garrison.
    3. Practice shows that tanks and SPGs should be used in a centralized manner, with special care taken when choosing the direction of deployment.
    4. Tanks and SPGs should move in with the first wave of infantry, and not fall behind in any case. Only leave the barest minimum in reserve.
      When the enemy defenses are penetrated to a distance of 1-3 km, tanks and SPGs can pick up tank riders, and rush ahead of advancing infantry (examples: tanks and SPGs in the Podos-Stary battle, capture of the Chorzele town by 66th Tank Regiment and 1294th SPG Regiment, and others).
    5. In winter conditions (January-February), the use of tanks played a positive role.
  2. Poor use of tanks and SPGs:
    1. The 40th Infantry Corps split up an SPG regiment and used it in a decentralized fashion.
    2. Some tank and SPG unit commanders prefer to sit in basements rather than observe the battlefield (35th Infantry Corps, 1888th SPG Regiment).
    3. Some crews are poorly trained (poor orienteering, slow movement, slow rate of fire).
    4. Some tanks lag behind advancing infantry.
    5. Some units have poor cohesion."
Tanks are also mentioned in the conclusions of enemy actions.

"4. Massed use of tanks and SPGs began on the second day of the offensive, when the Grossdeutschland division was rushed into battle to restore the line (up to 120 tanks used).
5. The Germans used up their operational reserves too soon, and this resulted in them being destroyed south of river Ozhitz in the tactical defensive zone."

And, the obligatory...

"13. The enemy is much weaker during the winter than during the summer."


  1. It's not related to this topic, but I must ask you: why was the IS-3's (frontal) armour layout abandoned after the T-10?

    1. No idea, post-war isn't my thing. If I had to guess it would be that the difficulty of making a piked upper plate like that outstripped any extra protection it would offer.

  2. Your biased disclosures and unilaterally coverage is here ludicrous. Draw conclusions from a single report over the totality; That depicts how bad your investigative skills are.

    How about more neutral reporting and less self-aggrandizing patriotism?

    1. Well where is your translated/uploaded documents? Even if the information was biased,.most of us are here for information many can't get ourselves, as well as for personal interests; and aside of that, where exactly do you see errors you can prove? Frigging Wehraboos, Nazis got steamrolled, get used to it -.- as for the man uploading and translating all these, thanks again for the work, love these reads

    2. We are not at liberty to express critical?

      You even admit it is way to autocratical and biased. There's nothing to prove, considering how overweening it got displayed. Therefore, your rudimentary and immature speech is completely irrelevant. Take your "Wehraboos" and go back to school.

    3. What is your point, Anon? Criticizing Peter? Or saying that Soviet always used human waves attack? By the obvious way, it's okay for the former.

    4. It should be already apparent. But, It seems you're just not smart enough to recognize and apprehend it. Please, show more reading comprehension.

    5. Be as critical as you like, just show proof when you try to detract from others hard work, and I never said anything about it bring autocratic, and your using that rater improperly to begin with, nor is it truly biased, where applicable and possible he uses sources from both sides
      To finish: quit you're bitching

    6. You called Peter biased just because he cited only one report that is in all ways against your rather misguided belief (and not to mention that Peter just cited the report but didn't even draw any conclusion whatsoever that the Soviet without numerical superiority were superior than the German).

      Mmmm, I think I saw many guys like you who like to cite the overly courageous tales of Germans knocking out a bunch of allied vehicles or claiming kills at great range (which we all here know that it's a load of propagated horsecrap) and draw a poor, biased conclusion that the Germans are superior in all way.

      Now who is it that needs to be more critical and less biased?

    7. Exactly what Mikoyan says, thank you sir :)

    8. Пока не убедили?

      потерям Танков, ратио: CCCP vs Германия

      1941, 7:1 ;1942, 6:1 ;1943. 4:1 ;1944, 4:1 ;1945, 3:1

      "Fantastical kill ratios as assigned to German armoured units: 5 to 1, 10 to 1, 15 to 1. These numbers are, of course, ludicrous."

      тебя давно из лечебного учреждения отпустили? )

    9. Отпустили?

    10. А про то что немцы не считают танк потерей если обугленную тушку можно в тыл утащить забыли?

  3. I want a comparison of the western allied and soviet rape-ratio on german conquered ground.

    1. A comparison between atrocities committed by Allies and Axis as a whole are much more relevant.

    2. Not really, the main focus of his blog has been armor and the warfare attributed to it