Tuesday 17 July 2018

Tiger Defender

"Award Order
  1. Name: Agafonov Yakov Grigoryevich
  2. Rank: Senior Sergeant
  3. Position, unit: Gun commander, 1st battery, 1840th Tank Destroyer Artillery Regiment, 28th Independent Tank Destroyer Brigade
    Is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1921
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: none
  7. Participation in the civil war, subsequent combat in defense of the USSR and in the Patriotic War (where, when): [illegible] in 1941, Voronezh Front since 1942
  8. Wounds and contusions in the Patriotic War: wounded once
  9. In the Red Army since: 1941
  10. Recruited by: Kuybyshev regional recruiting office
  11. Previous awards: Order of the Red Banner, Medal for Combat Merit
Brief and specific description of the heroism or achievements: In the night leading up to November 13th, 1943, the enemy was firing on the Schevchenkivka village. Under the cover of exploding shells, 17 tanks came around the rear of our units from north-west of Schevchenkivka and opened fire at the battery, attempting to catch them unawares. Comrade Agafonov's crew was the first to take the blow. Comrade Agafonov displayed tenacity, courage, and heroism, firing at the German tanks and soldiers at point blank range. He destroyed three tanks (2 of them T-4 and one T-6) and up to 50 enemy soldiers. When his crew died the death of heroes and the gunner was wounded, comrade Agafonov continued to fight the enemy and remained with his gun until the end of the battle. 

Comrade Agafonov is worthy of the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
Regiment commander, Guards Lieutenant Colonel Mescheryakov"

Let's see if any Tigers were actually in the area at the time. North-west of Schevchenkivka lies Fastov, where the 509th Heavy Tank Battalion was kicking around at the time. A lot of action is recorded on the night from the 12th to the 13th, so it's possible that one of the Tigers happened to come across Agafonov's battery. Loss figures in Schneider's book are sparse as always, but the battalion spends several days idle after the fighting for Fastov, three of which are spent on "urgent maintenance work", so they definitely took a lot of damage around this time.


  1. What sort of gun would he have been using in this fight?

    1. IPTAPs were armed with either 45 or 76 mm guns. If he knocked out a Tiger then it at the very least would have been a ZIS-3 or M-42.

  2. "Year of birth: 1921
    Participation in the civil war"

    Didn't the civil war end in 22? Or is this refering to something else?

    1. That's came up before. Basically they just never bothered updating the award forms - weird bureaucratic inertia at its finest.

      Then again there was doubtless no shortage of actual Civil War vets still fit enough for military service in some capacity (the younger end of the lot would've been around forty by WW2) and having separate forms for them would just have been silly...

    2. Ah that explains.
      Thank you

  3. If it would be a German report, the title would be ‘Overclaiming at Schevchenkivka‘, followed by a long tirade about how unreliable German claims/ reports are. ;)

    1. I checked it against Schneider's diaries and it seems to match up.

    2. Oh those Germans, meticuously maintaining their ‘destroyed’ Tigers, never mind the two Panzerviers that are also claimed destroyed, and add ‘50 fascicst killed’ for good measure.

      Not that it is unlikely that they took hits, and the Soviet guy there obviously put up a good fight. Still, a far cry from ‘matching in German records’.

    3. The vagueness of the relevant German records doesn't give a lot to work with, but at the very least they don't outright conflict with the Soviet claims here (unlike vice versa in the Cheating at Statistics articles).

      And the circumstances of the engagement make them plausible enough (though one has to cock an eyebrow at the "up to 50 soldiers" part); night actions were pretty much invariably rather chaotic affairs and the obvious visibility issues tended to force short engagement ranges. Pz IVs were certainly vulnerable enough to the 76 mm and Tigers from the flank/close up.

      Given the amount of fire the hapless gun apparently took it can be speculated the Germans might have assumed it put out of action (the midwinter gloom would hardly have helped there) and gotten an unpleasant surprise when it suddenly came alive again at an opportunate moment... But this is idle conjecture as detailed descriptions of the action understandably enough aren't included here.

  4. Oh those Germans, meticuously maintaining their ‘destroyed’ Tigers

    Yes, 'merely damaged' tanks that may have been never actually repaired and returned to service, then somehow never made it into the German 'lost' totals.

    There seems to have been quite a lot of that going on, on both Eastern and Western fronts alike, particularly with Tiger and King Tiger battalions. Both the Allies and Soviets have documentary evidence of both, including photographs, yet somehow these lost tanks don't show up in the reported German aggregate losses.

    In addition, if you are to believe the aggregate totals of German AFV on-hand in January 1945, and also buy into German kill ratio claims, then you'd conclude that the Germans are in *great shape* and have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if you believe that the Germans both systematically covered up their true losses, that they have only maybe one third of what they claim to have on hand actually in working order, and that the true AFV exchange ratios are more like 3:2, then you'd look at the situation and say "Oh crap..."

    1. Stewart, you seem to have a very bad case of self delusion that may have already progressed to far to be reversable if you think that if Soviet claims do not math German loss records, then it must be ‘the Germans were systematically covering up their true losses’. LOL. I do not think even the Soviet Army would do that (at least not in their internal reports), despite that you had a fair chance of a getting 7,62mm headache after failure.

    2. Regurgitating stale Hollywood cliches isn't going to help your case you know.

      The Red Army was pretty pedantic about reporting, near as I'm aware; both because the troops were paid bounties for confirmed enemy assets destroyed and any funny business there was harshly looked upon ("are you trying to defraud the Motherland, comrade?"), and because they were despite everything actually operating as an institutionally competent modern military bureaucracy. (Also I doubt anyone DARED to try to fiddle with the numbers what with the Great Purge fresh in everyone's memory; being found out would mean a Gulag vacation if you were lucky...)

      The Germans, well, weren't. Even the regular military had certain deep-rooted institutional tendencies for self-delusion and self-aggrandizement as apparent already in the Great War and its aftermath; the wilfully irrationalist quasi-feudal Nazi regime did not help one bit what with its tendencies of blatant cronyism, cliques, kissing up to the mercurial and progressively unhinged Führer etc. However much they liked to pretend otherwise afterwards it's a fact that the regular military contacted, or gleefully embraced, the Nazi rot for all the usual reasons - personal advantage, genuine belief, the usual systemic corrosion of standards in societies where war is peace and black is white if the Party so decides... take your pick.
      And then you had the internal psychological pressures to maintain the lie that the war was still winnable, REALLY, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, simply to stave off abject despair... that was probably particularly heavy on the officers as they were in position to know more about the "big picture" and had the professional training to read the signs on the wall, combined with a need to keep up appearances for both their peers and underlings to sustain morale.
      Oh and not get summarily relieved by the fickle political leadership (that deeply distrusted the officer corps anyway) for failing to achieve miracles.

      The Waffen-SS, being the Party's creature and private army built on different values from the ground up, was that much worse in these matters. Their favoured position and political connections meant they also tended to get the proverbial lion's share of the fancy heavy stuff...

      Summa summarum, the Germans had ample motive and opportunity to engage in some rather dishonest bookkeeping mainly to make themselves look better, for psychological reasons, personal gain and/or just to avoid repercussions from failure (deserved or not). "Truth" was a concept and value hopelessly corrupted in the Reich already before the war, and there seems to have been quite a bit of "after us the Deluge" and "leave a good looking corpse" sort of thinking at work after things started going poorly (and shameless self-promotion well before that; see Rommel's gross overclaim of the scale of the Arras counterattack for one famous and possibly important example).

  5. Issy:

    if you think that if Soviet claims do not math German loss records, then it must be ‘the Germans were systematically covering up their true losses’.

    It's not just the discrepancy between Soviet claims and official German losses, it's the discrepancy between the official losses (cited by people like yourself to "prove" 3-1, 4-1, 5-1 or more exchange ratios in the Germans' favor) and the reported losses of individual German units. Like, the official report to Guderian in November 1944 only cited like 8 King Tigers lost on the Eastern front while just totaling the reported irrecoverable losses of three German s PzAbt engaged on the Eastern front well before November came up to 46--an underreporting ratio of 5:1!!! There's a similar undercounting on the Western front reporting, and in both cases you have the Allies and Russians both having photographic evidence of what they destroyed/captured that doesn't fit the official German narrative.

    Soviet reporting, by contrast, is completely internally consistent. Everything manufactured or received, minus everything "lost"--their "lost" count includes not only tanks destroyed in battle, but also tanks that were scrapped because they just wore out mechanically, or were deemed obsolete--are tallied, and it's all additive. Not so with German records, there's a huge gap between what they made versus what they claimed as officially as "lost" that does not add up. Yet people like yourself are eager to cite stated Russian losses versus published official German losses to 'prove' say a 4:1 kill ratio, whereas an apples-to-apples comparison that tries to add back in the missing German tanks would be more like 3:2.

    Wouldn't it be of some interest to know that the German s PzAbt 503rd reported only 7 Tigers lost at Kursk, yet only like 2 weeks after the battle, it still has only 6 Tigers operational because the 503rd still had 32 Tigers which were "only damaged" back at the repair depot?

    Wouldn't that make one suspect that at least some of those "only damaged" Tigers might not have fixable, or were ever really repaired and returned to service? You'd think that getting those Tigers fixed and returned to service would have been of highest priority.

    1. It's the Ship of Theseus problem, how much of a tank would you have to replace before it becomes a new tank? For the Soviets there is a concrete answer, for the Germans there is not.

    2. Peter Samsonov. To be fair the German system worked fine for them in 1939 through the middle of 42. During that time they left broken down equipment behind and only reported what was still running and needed logistics for. After 1942 each unit had to basically decide for itself what counted as a lose and what didn't. The same goes for counting Russian's killed. The German's had no way to verify their kills during retreats and who can blame them for exaggerating their kills. One lives longer if they lie about being overrun by overwhelming numbers.