Monday 22 July 2019

Cheating at Statistics: Machinations at Malinovo

The engagement of Otto Carius vs the "1st Tank Brigade Joseph Stalin" is pretty well known. It's already been established that there was no such brigade, no Hero of the USSR major, and the tanks destroyed at the village have been identified by serial number (there were only 5 IS-2s, not 17 like Carius claims). However, the battle that happened next was even more grandiose: the destruction of 28 tanks and a supply convoy! Tigers in Combat describes it rather laconically:

22 July 1944: ... . Subsequently, the Kampfgruppe moves to a position 10 kilometers east of Krivani in order to defeat the rest of the enemy brigade. When the enemy brigade's main body approaches without any reconnaissance, it is ambushed; 28 tanks destroyed.

Carius gives a much more colourful description.

"After we had finished off all the vehicles, there wasn't a Russian to be seen. They had slunk away into the fields, if they hadn't been surprised on their tanks. The entire column of vehicles was burning. Some of the trucks were overturned.
One truck drove into another. And not a single one could escape. By the time the Russians knew where the shooting was coming from, everything had already been knocked out - a really horribly beautiful sight!
Twenty-eight tanks were in front of us, burning and smoldering. With each passing moment, a fuel tank exploded; the ammunition rattled and ripped the turrets apart. We had done a great job. I was firmly convinced that we had given Ivan something to think about. It would certainly suffice to guarantee us a few peaceful nights."

Quite a spectacle, but since the "1st Tank Brigade Joseph Stalin" whose main body Carius had allegedly destroyed didn't exist, we'll have to see who this actually was that he fought. Thankfully, Carius gives a few more details than are usually found in these cases: 10 km east of Krivani and 10 km north of Malinova. According to Carius, he crossed a small creek running through a village (likely Dubna). That gives a pretty good idea of where the fighting took place.

The Soviet formation fighting in the area was the 2nd Baltic Front. However, when taking a look at what they were doing that day, there is an issue.

The Front as of July 23rd is shown on the map. The attack towards Malinova is indicated... but the Front's forces are nowhere near Krivani, or the area 10 km east of it. Nor is there an assault towards Malinova from the north for Carius to defeat. 

However, it's possible that Carius was wrong about the location. He writes "The village I selected on the map was about ten kilometers east on the Rollbahn from the "tank graveyard" that we had just established." If we take that to be east of Malinova, where the tank battle was, then that would indeed put Carius in a position to fight some Soviet forces. Small streams criss-cross this area, and there are two villages just to the east with streams: Janciski (Yansiskash on the Russian map) and Barsuki. As luck would have it, there was indeed a unit with tanks travelling through that area: the 5th Motorized Rifle Brigade.

"Acting on oral orders of the commander of the 5th TK, the brigade and attached units received an order to follow tanks of the 41st and 24th Tank Brigades following the route: Berezovka, Suveyzdishki ... Barsuki, Yansiskash, and out on the highway.
Chief of Staff of the 5th MSBr, Major Toropgin"

There is evidence of a German ambush in this location from the 200th Rifle Division:

"The enemy is pursued by our units and offers resistance by small groups of submachinegunners. Fierce resistance was offered near the creek west of Kurpunishki, Yansiskash, Makarenata. From 12:00 on July 22nd, 1944, three "Ferdinand" SPGs and two "T-4" tanks fired from a grove 1 km east of Yansiskash."

However, the losses for the entire day are rather slight: 

"Killed: 1 officer, 3 enlisted
Wounded: 4 officers, 27 enlisted
1 76 mm gun knocked out, 4 cars knocked out, 10 PPSh and 3 carbines lost."

The 200th Rifle Division lost no men or guns at all.

This looks the more likely candidate, or at least matches Carius' directions of "east of the tank graveyard". There was indeed an ambush by German tanks, and they did hit a few trucks, but nowhere close to the 28 blazing tanks Carius claimed.


  1. German commanders always reported great victories right up to the occupation of Berlin. It was a smart career move.

  2. 24 TBr lost 1 tank near Lielie -Truli at the same day.(also according to report - enemy was ferdinands,T-4 and AA guns) Is the same skirmish , or not ?
    Also as we know 5 MSB were accompanied with tanks of 24 TBr and 41 Tbr, what about 41 Tbr, i tried to find any docs in PN, but failed. Also about docs about 5 TK .
    OBD has 14 KIA for 5MSB, the same number for 41 TBr(practically all buried near Malinovo) and only Nikitin injured in 24 Tbr

    1. forgot to log in (
      sadly 5 TK operational maps has poor quality.