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Ratio of AT guns to attacking Panzers and the fate of Uber tanks.

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There has been much interesting discussion of the force ratio when the Soviets attacked. The basic story being that if they out numbered the Germans by 2:1 over a 100km of front, they would face off at 1:1 over 80km and concentrate their surplus to achieve 3:1 routinely, and quite often more than 5:1 in small sectors. However, what about when the Germans were on the attack? Specifically, what number of defending Soviet AT guns would be realistic for a given number of attacking Panzers? Clearly, it was such a vast war, that all sorts of situations did arise, now and then. But, as a general rule, what was the ratio of defending Soviet AT guns to attacking Panzers likely to have been? In answering this question I will deal with the mid and late war. In the early part of the war it is all far more unpredictable.

Although it varies, throughout most of the war in the east the Germans had around twenty five mechanized or armoured divisions facing the Soviets. Each armoured division having two panzer battalions and one armoured AT gun battalion, typically, in the east MarderIIIs. There were also varying numbers of StugIII battalions and brigades; StugIII brigades were really just battalions, in terms of their numbers in each unit.

If we turn to the Soviets, and for the time being deal just with specialised AT gun units, the Soviets had the units shown below. The units below are those outside of the divisional organisation. i.e. in addition to guns within infantry divisions and armoured/mechanised corps.

Soviet independent AT gun units.


January 43----0----------176-----------2---------

July 43-------27---------199-----------44--------

January 44----50---------172-----------48--------

From January 44 onwards the numbers varied as the Soviet brought AT regiments together in brigades, but the overall number of guns in independent AT units stayed at around 8,500. A brigade was normally made up of three regiments; a regiment was made up of two battalions of twelve guns each. Thus, a brigade at full strength would be around seventy two guns depending on organisation type. At this point, as we are playing the numbers game, it may be helpful just to take a look at the Soviet production figures for the guns that interest us most.

Production of main AT guns.





For completeness in terms of illustrating the numbers of Soviet guns available, here are the estimates of the number of guns that Soviet had at the front on 26th March 44. The figures were produced by the German Eastern Front intelligence organisation, Fremde Heer Ost, a famously efficient punch at recording the organisation and numbers of Soviet units.

Numbers of Soviet guns at the front, 26th March 44.

57mm Antitank Gun----------------2,360---------

76.2mm Field Guns----------------9,484----------

76.2mm Antitank Guns-------------6,424----------

85mm Antiaircraft Guns-----------1,228----------

Note that the two types of 76mm guns listed above are the same weapon, the 76.2mmM1942 gun. To the above one would also have to add all the 45mm antitank guns at the front, probably around 20,000. Before trying to work out what the ratio of AT guns to attacking Panzers is likely to have been in typical engagement, if there ever was such a thing, we need to consider which types of unit used which types of AT gun.

The AT units in infantry divisions where largely equipped the 45mm AT guns. It was only during 44 that the 45mm AT guns started to be replaced by the 76.2mm M1942 guns, within infantry division AT units. An infantry division in 43 and 44 had around 48 45mm AT guns. However, it also had around 24 76.2mm M1942 guns that would most often be used as Field Guns, i.e. as AT guns in but name.

In July 43 most independent AT units had two thirds 76.2mmM1942 guns and one third 45mm AT guns. Some had 57mm AT guns in place of some of the 45mm AT guns. The number of 45mm AT guns was gradually reduced with more independent AT units becoming pure 76.2mmM1942 units, or having all 45mm AT guns replaced by 57mm AT guns. By 44 there were few 45mm AT guns in independent AT units.

Now let’s return to considering the fate of the German Panzer and mechanised divisions and what the implications of the above were. The major problem the Germans had is that the shortage of infantry divisions was so acute, they held far longer fronts than was healthy anyway, that the Panzer divisions had to take their place in the line. They had to hold a section of front rather than strike through a line held by infantry, do their work, and then be withdrawn back behind an infantry screen. Panzer divisions tended to operate within Panzer Corps of two Panzer divisions and two infantry divisions. But along side the infantry divisions, rather than striking through from behind the infantry screen. The great danger in this was that the Soviets tracked the location of the Panzer divisions and would assign independent AT units to the areas in which they operated. You only have to consider the number of German Panzer divisions, roughly 25, and the number of independent Soviet AT units, to realise that the result of this was grim for German armour. German Panzer divisions would be forced to hold the same sections of the front for weeks, and would attract Soviet AT brigades and regiments on to themselves. The Soviets had two independent AT brigades plus around six independent AT regiments for every German Panzer division.

The result of the above was that a German Panzer division with, say, 60 operational Panzers, about the norm, split into two battalions, would have to contend with one or more AT brigades and two or three AT regiments at a time. This would still leave a large number of independent Soviet AT units held back for unexpected eventualities, deployed in the wrong areas, or being rebuilt. A typical German Panzer division of 60 operational tanks plus 20 armoured AT destroyers, attacking over a 10km front, would typically face a force of 100 to 140 AT guns in independent AT units alone over the same frontage. If the sector was defended by two Soviet infantry divisions of around 4,000 men each with, say, 30 45mm AT guns and 20 76.2mmM1942 guns each it is all getting very challenging for the Panzers.

The reason the above densities appear to be greater than those often quoted for Kursk is that the much used Kursk figures are for an entire Army frontage at a time, just before the attack. Importantly, not for the 5km -10km area around a given German Panzer division a day or two after they struck. Once a German Panzer division was committed, in place on the frontline, the independent Soviet AT units would rush to choke it off. Most Panzer divisions spent most of there time holding the line, as explained earlier. (As it happens, at Kursk the Soviets rushed mostly tank units to choke off the Panzers, but this was not the norm.)

All will reach their own conclusions as to the implications for CMBB battles. However, in my view, if you take a typical CMBB scenario in which the Germans are attacking, nine times out of ten in CM battles this means a Panzer attack, what follows are the sort of forces I would expect to see on the CMBB battlefield, others will take a different view.

Assume the attacking German force is made up of a company of 12 Panthers with two companies of motorised Panzergrenadiers in support. The defending Soviet force is a reduced infantry battalion of 250 men. (Remember, during the second half of the war most Soviet infantry divisions were kept at the strength of a heavy infantry brigade, artillery rich infantry brigade.) From their own divisional resources they could expect 2 45mm AT guns and 2 76.2mmM1942 Field Guns. For the reasons outlined above they could also expect a slightly reduced battalion of AT guns from an attached independent AT unit. Typically 2 57mm AT guns and 8 76.2mmM1942 guns. In total the attacking 12 Panthers would be up against 2 45mm AT guns, 2 57mm AT guns and 10 76.2mmM1942 guns.

The ratio of AT guns to attacking Panzers was often around 1:1, and on a bad day there may have been very many more AT guns than attacking Panzers. Now let’s take a historical example of an attack by an elite Panther battalion, at full strength of 61 vehicles, in January 44. It is Friday the 28th of January 1944 near the town of Korsun in the central Ukraine. Grossdeutschland’s 1/Pz.Rgt.26 is at full strength just having returned from re-equipping in Germany, specifically given as 61 Panthers strong.

“There, near Pissarevka, a large tank battle had been under way since mid morning, pitting the Grossdeutschland’s 1/Pz.Rgt.26 against a sizeable Soviet tank force situated amongst rolling hills northeast of the town. The Panthers attacking in conjunction with the 905.StuG.Abt, ran directly into the path of another Soviet tank attack from the direction of Ossitnyashka. Adding to the Germans' problems was that a large number of

Soviet antitank guns had been sited in both Pissarevka and Tishkovka, forcing them to attack through a deadly crossfire. The situation was an ideal one for the Soviet defenders, since the Germans were forced to attack uphill most of the way and were unable to take advantage of their superior long-range tank cannon. By 1100 hours, the Panther battalion had destroyed 12 T-34s, though 15 of its own tanks were knocked out. Maj. Glaesgen, the battalion commander, was fatally wounded near Yusefovka while standing in his turret. Though an experienced commander himself, his unit's baptism of fire had come at a high price.”

On the 29th things did not improve,

“Von Vormann's corps was fighting a losing battle that day, and his men knew it. The Grossdeutschland’s Panther battalion again made a determined effort to link up with XI.A.K., but was brought to a halt by late morning after it had suffered heavy losses. Out of the 61 tanks it had started with, it now only had 17 operational. Of those lost, 20 were totally destroyed. In two days of combat, this unit alone had lost nearly three-fourths of its tanks. Any chance to use this unit as a battering ram were now gone, as well as the hopes to stem the tide. The weight of the second attacking echelons of the Red Army was now being felt.”

In fact the Soviets could not have had more than an equal number of T34s available, if you had read the book from which this is extracted, Hell’s Gate by Douglas Nash, this would be clear. What was accounting for the Panthers was flanking fire. When I gave my view of the number and type of AT guns the Panther company in the CMBB game may be up against, some of you will have concluded that Panthers could handle such a challenge quite easily. The reason is that the 76.2mm M1942 gun is less power full than a US 57mm/6pounder and therefore against the frontal armour of a Panther what can it do? The answer is that in reality the world does not end 300m to the left or right of your Panthers. In the east, the real killer was flanking fire. Even though not all the terrain in western Russian and the Ukraine is as open as round Kursk, what you will not find a lot of the “micro-landscapes” of much of Western Europe, when often the only threat was over the forward arc due to the terrain through which you attacked. The world did not end 300m north of your attacking Panthers. 600m, 700m indeed a 1,000m north of your attacking Panthers, on a gently rolling hillside, in brush at the mouth of a gully, may be a battery of four 76.2mm M1942 guns. If they open up you can lose a platoon in 30 seconds, half a company in a minute. Turn to face them, and you expose your other flank to deadly and even closer range fire. Life was tough on the Eastern Front. Hence all those knocked out Uber tanks. I constructed just such a landscape and battle in CMBO, using 57mm AT guns to represent Soviet AT guns. The result was the same as above, mass slaughter of Panthers. In defence the Panther is unequalled, in attack, in the east, it is just another tank.

All the best,


PS. One of the lessons for me is, if you want realistic games, build wide maps in CMBB. We are really talking 2km in width. It has always been the case that players use the map edges for protection, in CMBB you need to be careful to avoid this possibility in your map design.

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Just an aside in case anyone is confused - Panzer Regiment Grossdeutschland had a first battalion, but it spent the period post-Kursk to post D-Day (6 June 1944) in France refitting. During this period, the 1st battalion of Panzer Regiment 26 was assigned to the Panzer Regiment GD on the Eastern Front in its place, and is correctly identified in Kip's post.

Very useful information and of great personal interest to me, thanks for taking the time.

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Yes indeeed.

Regretably tho the CM series is about playable games that resemble history - this involves things like buying units to a points total, etc.

With a wide map the "defender" in such scenarios as you give has a lot more troops than they would in a CM game - even tho most of those troops are static and play little part in the battle - the AT guns may shoot to their flank, but the infantry associated with them or in adjacent front line units probably stays still.

There's one game that handled this fairly well - Sid Meier's "Gettysburg" - in some scnearios there were "unactivated" units - these would shoot at anything that presented a reasonable target (usually that meant only the artillery shooting), but you had to pay VP's to actually get to use them yuorself - otherwise they stayed put.

Now if something like that could be in CM it'd be great - the attacker could concentrate on his/her part of the 2km map against a defence that he/she/it could possibly win, while the defender could make some realistic use of adjacent units.

Alas that ain't in there yet, and if you try to play equal point value games on wide maps all you get is low troop density and no fun at all - been here, done that :(

[ August 27, 2002, 10:26 PM: Message edited by: Mike ]

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Thanks! I enjoyed it.


It sounds like you're talking CMBO QBs here. I believe in CMBB you will be able to import custom maps into QBs. I could be wrong here.

The maps just have to be real wide with the VLs more or less central. The German setup zone should probably be centralized, while the Russian player would have a setup zone the width of the map. Maybe even horseshoe shaped. Combine this with the right amount of time pressure and the Germans would have to put up with some flanking AT fire. Given too much time the Germans could of course run to the map edge and deal with any flanking AT guns before pushing toward the centralized VLs.

I think what Kip envisions for realistic German attacks could be easily done with CMBB, probably even with a QB.

Treeburst155 out.

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Mike, hi,

You wrote,

“Regrettably the CM series is about playable games that resemble history - this involves things like buying units to a points total, etc.

With a wide map the "defender" in such scenarios as you give has a lot more troops than they would in a CM game - even the most of those troops are static and play little part in the battle - the AT guns may shoot to their flank, but the infantry associated with them or in adjacent front line units probably stays still.”

I understand what you mean, but only in part. ;) I often play games on 2km by 2km maps and have no problems. As someone else posted your comments may have something to do with QBs, but as I never play them; that is a subject that I know little about. What I do know about, on a good day anyway, is what a “typical” battle on the Eastern Front will have been, to the limited extent that any type of battle was “typical”.

Although densities where sometimes very great, more typically, they were along the lines I mentioned above. If you take the Germans, a German infantry division of the second half of the war of six-seven battalions, all at about two thirds strength, would normally be expected to hold about 10km-15km of frontline. Often more like 20km. A force of around 250 men, with assorted heavy assets in support, in the German case not many of them, holding a 2km section of line would be quite routine. Let me quickly give the outlines of a scenario that would indeed by historically credible.

A 2km by 2km map. Typical, Eastern Front undulating terrain with 10% forest, 10% brush and a village 500m from the Eastern edge of the map, but in the centre on the north south axis. The village and vegetation cover is mainly in the valleys and gullies. The village is the objective of a German attack. The Germans attack with a force of 12 Panthers and two somewhat reduced companies of motorised Panzergrenadiers, plus some artillery support. The Soviets are tasked with holding the village, but do not have to setup in the village if they do not wish to. The Soviets have an infantry force of 250 men. Plus a total of 14 AT guns with some additional mortar fire support. Quite a few mines around.

What I described above is all very typical of the Eastern Front, very realistic. 2km north of the village in question, would be another Soviet force of similar size holding a similar frontage. I cannot see the problem. Tweaked versions of the above will have happens hundreds of times.

Anyway.. one of the things about the CM series is that we all use it slightly differently. And that is as it should be. In my case I only play games that I consider historically credible. The above is, in my view.

All the best,


PS. yup, looks as though Treeburst and I agree on how to use the maps.

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Sorry, I don't buy it kip. The problem is that most serious German attacks - and there were very few of them after Kursk, incidentally - were made with much higher densities and against initially much thinner defenders than you suppose. The Russians were in depth, but that means seperated back to front. And their guns were sprinkled all along the line. It was not the number of ATGs that stopped the German tanks.

At Kursk, the density of the Germans on the attack sectors was 50 tanks per kilometer. Plus one infantry battalion per kilometer, and often a second behind it in second echelon. Single Russian rifle regiments sometimes faced the attack elements of 4 German divisions, and one full panzer division against a single rifle regiment was perfectly normal. The principle behind German combined arms attacks was massive concentration of the available armor on very narrow frontages. Other portions of the front - where the Russians had just as many ATG nests facing air, as precaution because they did not know the point of attack - the Germans had practically nothing in the way of armor.

A defending Rifle battalion or regiment sported 4-12 ATGs. That is all. Against 200 oncoming AFVs, sometimes more. The guns were mostly 45mm, and sited in nest typically of battery size - 4 ATGs and a few MGs and ATRs thrown in to help.

As for the field guns, they most certainly were not "ATGs in all but name". They were well behind the front and fired indirect at least as often as direct. 2/3rds of the div arty of a Russian 1943 Rifle division were only 76mm. At best, these provided a couple of "backstop" field gun positions in battalion strength - 12 guns - on a divisional frontage. Subject to counterbattery by the German artillery - very strong at the points of main effort - as well as direct fire by AFVs that vastly outnumbered them.

If you go through the actual reports of Kursk fighting, you find the Germans losing a platoon here and a company there, yes. But not out of attack forces of 12 tanks, out of attack forces of 200 tanks. Some to mines, some to occasional stronger gun lines, typically a field artillery group on a reverse slope or some such.

Meanwhile, if you look at the German heavies actually lost, you find Panthers hit by 76mm and 45mm from the flanks, sure. But an awful lot of them are 76mm from tanks, often at close range. Back at the operational scale, you see the Germans slicing through everything until massed armor intervenes against them. Independent armor formations from 15 to 50 AFVs, cobbled together into 100 AFV fleets - 20 KVs, 15 SUs, 50 T34s - that kind of thing. Sometimes 50-100 SUs.

The obvious reason is that the armor counter-concentrates much better than towed ATGs do. Towed ATGs tend to be spread all along the front. Some do arrive as reserve infantry formations are shifted in front of a point of main effort, certainly. But it is the masses of tanks and SUs that seal the penetrations. Then you get large scale armor melees, hundreds on a side, that result in high mutual losses, positions becoming fixed, and exhaustion of any effort to attack at the same point. You see this over and over again.

And it isn't any different later on in the few German offensive attempts like Korsun. Again it is mostly the Russian armor that stops each German drive. The Germans do not have problems with initial break ins, as though the Russian front line positions are too thickly studded with guns for concentrated tanks to take them out. The reason is obvious - the tanks can be concentrated arbitrarily tightly, while the guns don't know where they will show up until after the attack is launched, and so have to be spread over much wider areas. But the defending armor can speedily rush to the point of attack, even out of the local odds, and yield stalemate.

In your flanking example, of course the Panthers suffered from trying to attack into a salient and thus facing two directions. But if they had faced only guns, they would have easily concentrated on just one position, suppressed it with supporting artillery, and romped. They could not do that because they were facing AFVs that could shift positions as easily as themselves, and could not be countered by combined arms through supporting artillery fire.

Armor reserves are what stopped breakthroughs, not ATGs. ATGs were a modest help, certainly, and allowed defending infantry formations some ability to delay and hold attacking armor. They forced tight concentration of the attackers, which made for fewer breakthrough attempts and narrower ones. Those made tactics like using arty to strip the tanks easier, because arty fire can be counter-massed on narrow areas - though that was a specialty of the western Allies rather than of the Russians. And the need to go narrow to overpower ATG defenses helped the defending armor ID the right place to intervene, and doubtless made flanking fire or counterattack opportunities easier than broader advances would have.

But there was nothing like the picture you present, of every German attempt to get local odds of tanks greater than the defender numbers of ATGs always failing because there were so many ATGs. The impression otherwise is probably created mostly by numerical fixation adding up all guns in a large region and dividing by the number of front line kilometers, which actually say nothing about the tactical deployment of the available guns. If you look at the actual deployments, you find rifle divisions with 10 km of frontage and only 4 battalions up front, with only 60 ATGs and field guns combined, in 3 lines. Which is a nest of 4 ATG capable guns every 2 km. Their effective range sight pictures barely touch, and at most a km of attack frontage gets hit by 2-3 single batteries. Meanwhile, entire armor battalions launch over that much ground, with the support of several artillery battalions. There are more attacking 105s and upward firing to suppress the ATGs than there are ATGs - often by a factor of 3-5.

If you go to the tankers themselves and look at what they say about ATGs, they do indeed worry about them. But not about being outshot by them due to their enourmous numbers, or failure to get odds against them, or inability to shoot them down once IDed. No, they worry about ATGs - quite a bit - for only one reason. They can't see the buggers. Which is not a picture of bristling gun front flickering stabs of flame endlessly from 50 points along the horizon. Instead, the problem is "I can't see him", or "he can get 3-4 shot off before I can spot him", unlike a tank.

And the reason that is a serious problem is obvious when you understand that attackers bring attacker odds or they don't try to attack. If you have 50 tanks and the defender has 10, if you see them you can overwhelm them. And with tanks, you can see them. In 2 minutes you can send 50 rounds or more at every one of them. But only once they are seen.

Meanwhile, even though there are only 4-12 ATGs out there, you don't know where they are. You can't just use the local odds you brought along to solve the problem of KOing them before they KO you, because you don't know where to shoot. Once they open up, they only attrite you a little, because you do see them and can KO them. But they are a "hairy" sort of threat, a dangerous unknown that you can't do anything about and that numbers provide no real protection against, until they reveal themselves. And that is just what the tankers themselves say.

Depleted PDs with only 80 AFVs left did not often launch major counterattacks, left alone try to do so over whole of the long frontages they were assigned defensively. When they did try them, they concentrated on narrow sectors, in a couple of prongs at most. Which would then usually fail, if the scale of the whole operation was less than panzer corps size. There is a scale of armor concentration necessary to achieve an attacker's edge "multiplier". And the real story of the second half of the war for the German armor, was that they rarely had the fresh formations to spare for such large scale operations. They then had a choice between defensive use of armor - which helped hold long fronts, but wore the armor out without any great impact - or piecemeal and premature attempts to "seize the initiative", which almost uniformly failed in an expensive manner.

What you won't find anywhere in the war from one end to the other is an attack by an entire panzer corps that fails to break through the initial front line. There was no problem doing so. Concentration and picking the point of attack always managed that, against any enemy, if the scale of the operation were large enough. It just didn't decide everything, because reserves then rushed in and the real fight took place after the initial break-in, against those reserves.

One man's opinion...

[ August 28, 2002, 01:46 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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Always more fun to have someone that disagrees, but it is a bit difficult to know where to start, could go on and on and send all, including myself, to sleep. Will do my best to keep it short and to the point.

Firstly, the scenario that I suggested above was set in CM terms, scale. I may not have made that clear enough, do not know. Most CM battles are at a scale of around a company of attacking tanks, so I attempted to fit in with this scale. Battles on the scale of my scenario certainly will have happened, however, if you wish to double all the numbers, fine. If you wish a battalion of 24 Panthers against twice the Soviet forces I listed, making 28 AT guns, then go for it. Map size remains the same. (BTW, many Panther battalions did only have 24 operational tanks on a given day.)

There is also something that puzzles me; you go on a lot about Kursk. I thought I specifically kicked that one into touch, knowing some would mention it, by saying that at Kursk the Soviets choked off German armour with the use of tanks, not AT guns, so not quite sure why you are attempting to argue with me on that one.

You also make some factual mistakes; the really big ones I will deal with at the end, but for now will just give a flavour. In your post you wrote,

“And it isn’t any different later on in the few German offensive attempts like Korsun. Again it is mostly the Russian armour that stops each German drive. The German do not have any problems with initial break ins, as though the Russian front line positions are too thickly studded with guns for concentrated tanks to take them out.”

I can only assume you were just scanning my post and not concentrating, I do it all the time. If you go back and re-read the quote covering the attack by the 61 strong Panther battalion, the single most powerful German unit to take part in Korsun, you will see it was stopped in the initial break in, break ins do not get more “initial”, and in good part by the cross fire of AT guns. No matter.

On a related point, you seem to go on a lot about “initial break ins”. You also suggest that during the second half of the war, which is what we are taking about; German Panzer Divisions were free to concentrate their Panzers for “initial break in” after “initial break in” as though this were the norm. You will have Soviet Marshals of the Great Patriotic War turning in their graves! One of the main achievements of the Soviet Operational Art was that the Germans had the initiative ripped from them. German Panzer Divisions spent the great majority of their time being forced to respond to Soviet moves, even at the level of the divisional fight/ armoured corps fight. In today’s jargon, one would say that the Soviets were inside the German’s decision loop. German Panzer Divisions spent the great majority of their time manning sections of front line and responding to short term crisis after short term crisis. Often on the scale of my scenario. Also, very often, the Soviets knew where the Germans would counter attack because to both sides there was no rational alternative open to the Germans. This is what the Operational Art is, ripping away the initiative and forcing your enemy to respond as you anticipated. With both sides, the Germans too, knowing what was going on, but having no choice but to act as expected.

However, I promised not to go on for too long, so let’s get to the heart of things. You state the following,

“Armor reserves are what stopped breakthroughs, not ATGs, ATGs were modest help.”

I could quote endless facts, from many sources in response. However, the following quote will do the job just fine and says it all, so why bore people too much.

“Imported American trucks improved the flexibility of the tank destroyer regiments. Regiments using American trucks were completely mobile with the guns towed at high speed on paved roads and then directly into positions cross country, using the six-wheel drive of the American trucks. The mobility provided by the American trucks was essential. During the war two-thirds of the German tank losses resulted from the direct fire of antitank guns and artillery. This achievement resulted from several improvements in policy: massing antitank forces in the decisive sectors, increasing the depth of antitank

defence, increasing the activity of each antitank gun, and integrating all of the arms into a single battle formation.

The tank destroyers were effective. At Kursk the artillery accounted for

1,900 tanks of the 3,000 destroyed, according to Soviet sources. The importance the Red Army placed on towed tank destroyers was indicated by the division of the available 76mm guns and 100mm guns. By the end of the war,73% of the artillery regiments were primarily antitank, compared to 27% whose primary function was divisional artillery. For each divisional artillery regiment, there were about three antitank regiments.”

All the best,


PS. The above quote comes from Hitler’s Nemesis, The Red Army, 1930-1945 by Walter Dunn. Best single source on what the Red Army was. Even better than the full version of TM 30-430, the real Handbook on USSR Military Forces from November 45. Dunn has re-examined the material from General Gehlen, and recent Soviet archive material in stunning detail. All based on original source material. I recommend the book to any one.

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Originally posted by kipanderson:

The tank destroyers were effective. At Kursk the artillery accounted for

1,900 tanks of the 3,000 destroyed, according to Soviet sources. The importance the Red Army placed on towed tank destroyers was indicated by the division of the available 76mm guns and 100mm guns. By the end of the war,73% of the artillery regiments were primarily antitank, compared to 27% whose primary function was divisional artillery. For each divisional artillery regiment, there were about three antitank regiments.”

All the best,


PS. The above quote comes from Hitler’s Nemesis, The Red Army, 1930-1945 by Walter Dunn. Best single source on what the Red Army was. Even better than the full version of TM 30-430, the real Handbook on USSR Military Forces from November 45. Dunn has re-examined the material from General Gehlen, and recent Soviet archive material in stunning detail. All based on original source material. I recommend the book to any one.

German reported total losses and Russian claims are as usual completely at odds.

The figures for Panzer/StuG losses for the 1 July and 31 August ’43 on the entire eastern front are 1,331. (2000 Zetterling pg120). The period 5 July to 17 July, the Army Group South’s offensive period, shows a loss of 190 Panzers/StuG. For the 9th army 88 Panzers/StuG were lost during the offensive period of 1 July to 14 July. (2000 Zetterling Pg120-122). Of interest is that the heaviest losses for German Panzer/StuG formations occurred during the Russian Orel Counter offensive, when Panzers were not charging Russian PaK nests

The Russian Figures are based on unit claims and are vastly overstated when compared to German reported losses.

The losses of Panzers can be compared with the a report filed by the Voronezh front (the one facing army Group south) on the 24 July, losses from 4 to 16 July: 1,605 guns of all calibres, 1,734 Mortars, 4,381 LMGs, 1,634 HMGs and 3,247 anti-tank rifles. ( 2000 Zetterling pg 128).

[ August 28, 2002, 08:03 PM: Message edited by: Bastables ]

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Are you guys comparing battlefield KO's with unrepairable tanks?

It occurs to me that a 45mm AT gunner is perfectly entitled to claim a tank KO'ed if he pumps 10 rounds into it and the crew bails because the tracks are broken and they'er **** scared of the constant hammering!!

But then the enemy recovers teh vehicle, it spends a week in a workshop being repaired and comes back to fight another day and they don't count that as KO'ed.

Both points of view/experiences/conclusions are quite valid!!

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Originally posted by Mike:

Are you guys comparing battlefield KO's with unrepairable tanks?

It occurs to me that a 45mm AT gunner is perfectly entitled to claim a tank KO'ed if he pumps 10 rounds into it and the crew bails because the tracks are broken and they'er **** scared of the constant hammering!!

But then the enemy recovers teh vehicle, it spends a week in a workshop being repaired and comes back to fight another day and they don't count that as KO'ed.

Both points of view/experiences/conclusions are quite valid!!

No we're comparing Russian claims of total losses vs. German actual losses. The Russians like the Germans did separate Repairable losses verus total losses.

The lowest number I've seen of German total losses reported by Russian during the Kursk-Orel-Kharkov area is 1500 fo 5 July to 23 Aug, again far too high when losses during the entire eastern front from 1 July to 31 Aug was 1,331.

[ August 28, 2002, 08:36 PM: Message edited by: Bastables ]

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Originally posted by Bastables:

</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by Mike:

Are you guys comparing battlefield KO's with unrepairable tanks?

No we're comparing Russian claims of total losses vs. German actual losses. The Russians like the Germans did separate Repairable losses verus total losses.</font>
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Originally posted by Mike:

Surprisingly enough there is: If a Tank burns it makes the armour brittle for the entire tank, at this point the tank is a total loss not much good for any thing but scrap. Both the Russians and the Germans counted such total losses as such and did not consider recovery of burnt out tanks at all useful. Not that the Russians practiced combat recovery to the same extent as the Germans.

Then there are the Veh abandoned with no damage or minimal damage behind enemy lines these are also considered total losses by both sides.

This is why Panzer crews preferred to continue firing on opposing AFV until they burned even if the crew is seen to bail. It's part of there SOP based on the knowledge that armour will denture at heat levels created in a burning tank.

How nations counted aircraft losses is somewhat of tangent in dealing how the German army and Russian army counted total losses of AFVs. Pherhaps you disagree and can actully tie them in to the actul disscussion.

[ August 28, 2002, 09:18 PM: Message edited by: Bastables ]

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Originally posted by kipanderson:

The tank destroyers were effective. At Kursk the artillery accounted for

1,900 tanks of the 3,000 destroyed, according to Soviet sources. The importance the Red Army placed on towed tank destroyers was indicated by the division of the available 76mm guns and 100mm guns. By the end of the war,73% of the artillery regiments were primarily antitank, compared to 27% whose primary function was divisional artillery. For each divisional artillery regiment, there were about three antitank regiments.”

All the best,


PS. The above quote comes from Hitler’s Nemesis, The Red Army, 1930-1945 by Walter Dunn. Best single source on what the Red Army was. Even better than the full version of TM 30-430, the real Handbook on USSR Military Forces from November 45. Dunn has re-examined the material from General Gehlen, and recent Soviet archive material in stunning detail. All based on original source material. I recommend the book to any one.

This is sort of inconsistent (wildly, actually) with Glantz, who puts the total number of German tanks participating in Kursk at ~2500. I don't think that Soviet data is that useful for figuring out what happened to German units. (And vice versa, of course).
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Bastables my point about aircraft is simply to show how different nations could have different criteria for measuring the same thing.

I accept what you say about KO'ed tanks, but I don't think it goes far enough. Ie was it ONLY burning or captured tanks that counted as KO'ed?

For example not all burnign necessrily means the same thing either - a burning external fuel tank might not utterly destroy the tank although it might well look the part. burnign road wheel rubber along one side might have the same effect too.

I hasten to say that I'm jsut fishing here - I don't really know the subject and I'm wondering how such vast discrepancies in figures came about if both sides weer usign teh same definitions.

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Originally posted by Mike:

I hasten to say that I'm jsut fishing here - I don't really know the subject and I'm wondering how such vast discrepancies in figures came about if both sides weer usign teh same definitions.

Really? I never would have guessed.

The problem is with unit claims is that they are almost always over stated, which is why one should really only compare total losses reported by Germans for German equipment and Russian reported total losses for their equipment. Much like Andrew aludes to.

Therfore the Russian report that they loss 1,605 guns of all calibres from 4 to 16 July and Army group South reports the loss of 190 Panzers 5 July to 17 July from all causes tends to indicate that anti-tank guns had problems dealing with the thinner armoured PIV and PIII.

The above tend to indicate that the Russian conclusions on the effacacy of anti-tank nests during Krusk are some what over stated.

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1. "Tank destroyers" includes all SUs. It is not a term that is specific to ATGs. Nobody said SUs didn't kill anything.

2. The agreed standard for all losses is own side reporting, measured not by categories but by reduction in effective strength (runners). You don't listen to mere claims about the other side, and you also don't ignore "mere" "repairs" that actually never return to the servicable column.

3. Possession of strategic or operational initiative has nothing whatever to do with inability of armor to launch counterattacks, or to break through the front lines when it does. E.g. The Allies had the initiative in Normandy, but Lehr counterattacked in early July. Got through the front line fine. Still failed utterly with a loss of half the tanks engaged - but against armor reserves, not the front line. Mortain - same story. 2SS corps getting 1SS corps out of its pocket in the east in early 44 - same story. Last panzer offensive in Hungary - same story. Break in is never the problem, winning the battle against the reaction reserves always is.

4. Kip's supposed counterexample was against AFVs, not mere ATGs, so it isn't a counterexample in the first place.

5. There is nothing wrong with a CM scale example battle involving one company of Panthers. But it is ridiculous to posit 30 ATGs on such narrow frontage, and ~15 is hardly more realistic. Occasionally you might see 12, much more often you'd see 4.

6. The ATGs being numerous on the entire army frontage does not mean they are more numerous than the attacking tanks in attack sectors. They flat aren't. Kip has not provided a single clear AAR that explicitly claims the attacking tanks were as much as matched, let alone outnumbered, by the defending ATGs on 1-2 km of attack frontage. Because it didn't happen.

7. It being useful for ATGs to be mobile rather than immobile is tolerably obvious. But truck towed ATGs do not concentrate opposite an attack sector as readily or as speedily as AFVs do. For the obvious reasons - running mere trucks off road through barrages let alone under direct fire is not healthy. Therefore, ATGs reposition in depth behind active fronts. Then wait for attackers to come to them. Because stealth is their primary asset. But "behind active fronts" is a larger area than "breakthrough sectors", and "in depth" is more scattered than "massed", as AFVs can be.

8. The division between AT and arty is not recognizable, unless all 76mm are being "scored" as ATGs when in fact most were used as field arty. Even then, it gives a wholly misleading impression. A standard breakdown of Russian heavy armaments production is as follows -

AFVs - 102,000

field arty - 98,000

ATGs - 58,000

AA - 33,000

120 mortars - 46,000

82 mortars - 152,000

rocket systems - 11,000

9. Of 500k major weapons systems, only about 1/9 were dedicated ATGs. 3/5 were mortars or arty meant for indirect fire.

10. If you count all the duel use 76mm along with the ATGs, you might get 100k, about equal to AFVs. There simply weren't scads more dismounted ATGs than AFVs, and for all the obvious reasons the ATGs were not nearly as concentrated as AFVs in the spots German armor appeared.

I therefore reiterate - counter concentration by their own armor was the primary means the Russians used of stopping German armor. The idea that it was all PAK front writ large is simply wrong.

In fact, concentrated PAK fronts were an early to mid war tactical expedient that worked well only against insufficient combined arms, when tanks were employed offensively without adequate artillery and infantry support ("cavalry doctrine errors"). The most successful users of the technique were the Germans. Not because they had scads more ATGs - they didn't - or better ones - ditto. But because the Allies took longer to correct cavalry doctrine errors and provide sufficient combined arms support for their tanks. Leaving e.g. the Brits of 1942 vunerable to PAK front defenses in North Africa.

If you want a realistic typical German counterattack attempt with a company of armor, give the defenders a battery of 4 ATGs or of duel purpose 76mm guns. On the largest maps against larger German forces, 2-3 nests, with a 76mm duel purpose nest of 4 toward the rear and lighter dedicated ATGs farther forward and seperated. Then bring on a company of defending T-34s or SUs as reinforcements, half way through the engagement. You will see the first half of the engagement dominated by hiding and suicide-ambush tactics by ATGs, and the second half dominated by AFV blocking actions. Which is what really happened.

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Just a quick point to try and clear up the Kursk losses discussion. I agree 100% that the figures in the Dunn quote are too high, all such figurers on all sides were exaggerated, not intentionally, but for all the very human reasons I am sure we all understand. The Glantz and House book on Kursk is the best, in my view. Point was, that even at Kursk, were the main choke off method used by the Soviets was armour; a majority of German losses were accounted for by direct fire artillery.

Will try to clear up my side of the general discussion later today, when I have time, hopefully, without sending too many people to sleep.

All the best,


PS. The Dunn book really is very fine piece of research. Even in the short passage I quoted, there are three or four numbers to notes giving the roll of micro-film the data came from and such.

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An interesting aside from all this. While I believe that defense, just like offense, is a combined arms affair, and a good defense has depth and sufficient reserves with armor, one shouldn't write off the AT gun. The problem with the AT guns during Kursk was the same one the Soviet tanks had: insufficient armament. From July-August of 1941 this wasn't the case for Soviet AT units, which were to a great extent armed with 76mm division guns and 85mm AA guns against Pz IIIs and IVs. During this time period the Germans lost 1,500+ tanks in the East, the greatest tank losses suffered by Germany between 1939-1943. Soviet armor was virtually nonexistent at that time, so there was little else around but AT guns to explain the substantial German losses in armor.

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At this stage in many threads what seems to happen is that people just shout past each other and there is an endless circular argument, with all just repeating the same point. I will now fall into the same trap, in part anyway, but to everyone’s relief will try to close off my side of things one last hit. I will start by making a few general points, may be some responses to things JasonC has written, but will round things off with a reasonably detailed account of what life was really like for a Panzer Division on the Eastern Front from mid 43 onwards and why the scenario I gave above as “typical”, is just that.

First some useful sources. From those that really want to know about the Soviet way of war in WWII there is no replacement for http://www.frankcass.com. For English speakers there is really no substitute, just other sources in addition. Also, as all say, go for the David Glantz books, including the popular ones.

Now for some of JasonC’s comments.

JasonC wrote,

“Possession of strategic or operational initiative has nothing whatever to do with inability of armor to launch counterattacks, or to break through the frontline when it does.”

What the above shows is a lack of understanding of what operations, and more specifically, The Soviet Operational Art is/was. The reader will not be surprised to learn that operational initiative has a great deal to do with the ability of armour units to launch counter attacks and break through lines. It is this lack of understanding of such matters, namely operations, that is one reason why the second half of the war in east was so unevenly matched, but, of course, not the only reason. The Germans had very similar view of operations to JasonC. Hence they were constantly out fought by their Soviet counter parts. I will just briefly explain what operations and the Soviet Operational Art are.

In the study of operations people normally start with a definition of what operations means. The most commonly used definition, and a perfectly workable one it is too, is “operations are having the right battalions, in the right place, at the right time”. Hence you use your infantry, armour and, yes, AT assets in the right place at the right time given their capabilities. All very obvious. The stricter Soviet definition is “two engagements, separated by time and place, where the outcome of one engagement affects the outcome of the other”. An example would be to send a battalion combat team to capture a road junction in the rear of a German defensive position, cutting the supplies. Clearly the battle for the frontline positions would be effected even thought it was happening in a different place and at a different time. The Soviet Operational Art goes one step further. The example that is normally used, because it is “the” classic example, is the way the Soviets organised their artillery assets and, yes, you guessed it, their AT assets. The Soviets called them tank destroyers. One of the facts that set the Soviets apart is that they realised that the most efficient use of the large mounts of artillery they had, both indirect fire and direct fire, i.e. AT assets, was to concentrate them where they were most needed. If the Soviets had been like all the other major players, they would have increased the AT assets of each frontline unit, spread them along the front as JasonC mistakenly believes they did. The British, who also had very large numbers of AT guns, did just that. This was how all the major players went about things, expect the Soviets. Contrary to JasonC’s belief, the entire reason for being of separate AT units was to concentrate them opposite German Panzer units, or where attacks by Panzers were anticipated. There is a lot more to the Operational Art then separate artillery and AT units, but if you go back to the first definition of operations, “having the right battalions in the right place at the right time” you can see that by going for this unique organisation they had already taken operations to a level above the rest. They had seen things others did not think of. I will explain more about the Operational Art later. There is a lot of overlap between what is today called “Doctrine” or “unified doctrine”, operations and the Soviets Operational Art, although they are not exactly the same thing. Reading the US Army FM 105 would give a good feel for operations. Now some more on the numbers game.

JasonC’s figures for the production of AT guns and Field guns I would agree with. They are not exactly the same as I would go for, but these things never are as people use different cut off dates and such, anyway they are very close. The AT guns are made up of 45mm AT guns, 57mm AT guns and a very small number of 100mm AT guns. Of the 57,000 odd AT guns produced just under 50,000 were 45mm guns, and 85% of the remainder 57mm guns. Of the Field Guns, the great majority were one model, the much mentioned 76.2mm Model 42. In fact around 60,000 were that model. Having established the numbers, it is time again to consider their use. First, the specifically named AT guns. The 45mm guns were mainly used in the frontline divisions, but not exclusively. During 1944 the 76.2mm Model 42 guns started to replace the 45mm guns in divisional AT units. About one in four 76.2mm Model 42 guns were used in the artillery units of frontline divisions. However, remember quite a number of them were also used as direct fire artillery and AT guns, but their primary use was as artillery. For three quarters of the 76.2mm Model 42 guns their primary role was as AT guns. If you look at the table below, let’s go for January 44, you will see were many ended up. Lets go for January 1944, 75% of the guns in the separate AT units were the 76.2mmModel 42. (Extreme apologies for the quality, but if you look carefully you will see the numbers.)


It’s worth just making a few comments on the way the Soviets used direct fire artillery. Both the guns specifically called AT guns, and the 76.2mm Model 42 guns, were used in the same way. Both were, what may best be called, general purpose direct fire artillery. Their primary role was AT guns, but this really means it was their “top priority use”. If they were needed as AT guns, that is what they would do first. Lets take an example of the use of the 45mm AT gun , a Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, use of the gun, nothing unusual. If there was going to be an infantry attack on a section of German held line one or two 45mm AT guns would be moved into an overmatch position the night before, to provide dedicated over watch for the coming assault. A squad of engineers, two squads of SMG and a pair of AT guns, would then carryout the assault, after smoke and artillery fire, all the usual stuff, under the watchfully eyes of the two 45mm AT guns. The above just being a small local assault. But the above method, was very much SOP for the Soviets. Hope this gives a feel for how they were used. In German jargon, they were used as infantry guns most often, the Germans had very few armoured units, but AT guns when needed.

So, I hope without being too long winded, what is the context in which my typical scenario, as given in the original post, might be set, i.e. why do I believe my “typical scenario” is “typical”. Remember this is all set in the second half of the war, when separate AT units were up and running in quantity. Let’s take a Soviet Front, by German standards a small army group; and assuming that within that Fronts sector the Soviets know of four German Panzer divisions, in two Panzer Corps. One Panzer division is believed to be some 30km to the rear and being re-equipped. Before being withdrawn from the lines a week ago it was a mauled wreck down to around 15 operational Panzers and hardly enough Panzergrenadiers to man one full battalion. Soviet experience has taught them that such mauled Panzer divisions normally take a month to reappear, and then it may still be in reduced form. Of the other three Panzer divisions all are in contact with Soviet forces. Two are engaged in defensive operations, one is attempting to attack the flank of an advancing Soviet Tank Army. All understand fully that the two Panzer Divisions holding the line in defensive operations should not be do so, in the perfect world. However, there are no other units to take their place. The reality is, as it so often was in the east, and often in the west for that matter, the Germans had no alternative but to use Panzer divisions to hold the line. They did not have enough infantry divisions. From the Soviet side the Army and Front commanders have four AT separate AT brigades and fourteen separate AT regiments under their command. In sound Soviet SOP one separate AT brigade and two separate AT regiments are dispatched to ensure there is not too much trouble from each of the three Panzer divisions. One of the purposes of the separate AT units was to free up the mobile armoured units, so that the armoured units could be free for offensive actions and not have to responds to German armoured attacks. i.e. so that the Soviets were more likely to keep the initiative. This is another example of the Operational Art; the Germans have to spend their time responding to Soviet moves, not the other way round. Of course, the Soviets were great believers in the use of combined arms. But you see how, what today would be called “doctrine”, the Soviets called it the Operational Art, all comes together, and does impact directly on what happens at the battalion level. How you came use your battalions.

The follow chart is something like this. The Soviets know it costs ten times more to produce a T34/76 than a 76.2mm Model 42. (This the real figure by the way. And , yes, they did price things in roubles so as to measure the resources used.) However, experience has taught them that a T34/76 is nothing like ten times more affective then a 76.2mm Model 42 gun in defence. So for defence, produce huge number of 76.2mm Model 42 guns. Next, the Soviets see that given the limit on the number of AT guns you have, you want them opposite the small number of enemy Panzer divisions. Hence they concentrate them in separate AT units. This in turn frees up your armoured units to take the initiative, it is also very cost effective in resources. It is all a seamless whole. This rational way of doing things was a click above all others at the time.

If we now focus in on one of the defending Panzer divisions. All its battalions are at around two thirds strength, and it is attempting to hold a 12km section of the line. It is attempting to do this by sharp counter attacks. However, the overall operation and tactical situation is not so simple. In one sector a large village is crucial given the terrain and road system. In that village there is an ongoing struggle between a combined arms team of one Panzergenadier battalion supported by the MarkIV battalion, all at two thirds strength, and two regiments of a reduced Soviet infantry division of 4,000 men. The Soviets in the village are supported by a regiment of 20 SU 76s. The Germans know they should not use the MarkIVs in this way, but withdraw them, and the village is lost for certain.

A crisis now develops in another region of the 12km front. The much reduced Panzergrenadiers company holding the 2km sector under new attack, has to rapidly give way, or be over run. The Soviets take a position that is a perfect jump off point for further attacks. All this happened at night. The Germans plan a counter attack for the following afternoon with their thirty strong Panther battalion plus one reduced company of Panzergrenadiers. The other Panzergenadier units must, some who, try to hold the rest of the line. At this stage, remember the Soviets have an AT brigade and two AT regiments in support of the Soviet line formations, totalling 100 guns. The Soviet line formations, two infantry divisions at 4,000 men each, have some eighty 45mm AT and 76.2mm Model 42 guns between them. All, including the Soviets, are well aware the Germans will feel the need to try and retake the newly overrun position, or withdraw the entire line. When the thirty strong Panther battalion attacks, it is faced by a regiment of guns from one of the five AT regiments in the area, plus some from the division the Soviet infantry regiment in question comes from. A total of 30 AT guns. If the Panther battalion had taken another avenue of attack, they would have meat the same resistance. The reason is that the avenues of attack are as obvious to the Soviets as to the Germans, and the Soviets have a lot more than one regiment to assign to this mission. The Germans soon discover that they are up against too strong resistance, but unlike the average CM player, after the loss of four Panthers, call it a day.

In the above, note the importance of initiative, the Germans are forced to play to the Soviet tune, and the Operational Art in general. Having the right battalion, in the right place at the right time, requires a doctrine from production line, through organisational decisions to the battlefield.

I do agree with JasonC that the AT guns would not just be lined up at the front, far from it. My favourite CMBB map would be 2km wide by 3km in depth, and then play a CM operation.

Now I will move to close things off and leave you all alone. I will post a longish extract detailing the actual SOP of Soviet separate AT regiments, in narrative form. The detailed account of the Soviet SOP for AT regiments comes from TM 30-430, November 1945, Handbook on USSR Military Forces. The information in the manual comes from the records of General Reinhard Gehlen, head of Foreign Arms East in Germany during the war. General Gehlen and all his staff, plus truck loads of records, surrender in one group to the US forces. General Gehlen was no master of predicting what the Soviets would do, but when it comes to what the Red Army “was”, its organisation, and how it did things, its SOP, he has no equal. The way it was done is that all captured Soviet documents were meant to end up back with his department. In a war of this scale, the manuals and documentation of all frontline units, and up to a very highly level, are captured on a regular basis, as you would expect. Documents such as SOPs, or the Soviet version there of, for AT units, routinely so. The validity of the Gehlen documentation has recently been confirmed by the authors of what some believe is, and will be when completed, the finest single work of military history. Germany and the Second World War. One click up from the very fine Green Books. Who knows, we all have our favourites. The point is that the German authors have spent much of the last ten years in the Soviet archives. One of their conclusions, given in either volume IV or VI, I forget, is that the Gehlen documentation is spot on, a 98% correlation, if I remember correctly. TM 30-430 is simply and translation of Gehlen’s Soviet documents. (Interestingly, the narratives in the famous pamphlets produced by the US in the fifties and written by ex-senior German officers on the subject of the war in the east, turn out not to be accurate.)

When it comes to density of guns we may as well get it out of the way, but none will be surprised. If you look at figure 33 the AT guns are the ones with the strange line coming out of the circle at their rear. On around an 1100m front you will find fifteen guns., making close to 30 to a 2km front. If you look at the Firesack diagram, the E shapes are four gun batteries. I can also tell you that it would fit every nicely into a CM map with a 2km by 3km CM map. In TM30-430 all the maps and diagrams are “typical” for what they illustrate, that is the purpose of the manual. Of course, the density of guns would vary with threat assessment, some times less dense, but sometimes more.

When it comes to the threat assessment there is a strange feature of Soviet WW2 SOP that must be remembered. It was Soviet SOP to assume all German units were at full strength. No doubt this was a result of the problems they had in early years, better safe than sorry. I am sure they did not always keep to it. But an artillery officer doing a recce of the coming location will more often than not have assumed in his assessment that the opposing Panzer Divisions was at full strength. Clearly, this means that many reduced Panzer divisions, and most were at around two thirds to half strength, will have got some very unfortunate surprises. A force of 12 Panthers attacking over a CM map of 2km will have run into 30 odd AT guns, as often as 4 AT guns. The number of possible scenarios is huge and varied. But a typical ratio of 1:1 is about in the centre of a very wide and flat bell curve. The ratio of 1:1 is not at the extreme end.

From TM30 -430

“Artillery Anti-tank Tactics.

The destruction of tanks and self-propelled guns is the primary or secondary mission of all artillery and Red Army crews on all types of artillery are trained in direct fire. The antitank defensive barrages of medium and heavy artillery have been described above under the discussion of types of targets. The primary tank-destroying weapons are,however, towed antitank guns: 45-mm, 57-mm, 76.2-mm, 85-mm, and 100-mm guns are found in organic and GHQ antitank artillery units. Self-propelled artillery often supports towed antitank guns, particularly in mobile corps; self-propelled artillery tactics

are described under section III, Armored and

Mechanized Forces.Antitank artillery regiments are often attached to rifle corps and division commanders for the protection of primary sectors. Part of the antitank artillery must always be kept by the Commander of

Combined Arms as a reserve. For example, one-

fourth of the antitank guns of a rifle division,

including regimental and battalion weapons, are held in the mobile divisional antitank gun reserve.

Coordination between antitank artillery and other

arms, especially field artillery, mortars, engineers, and infantry, is of prime importance. Antitank artillery regiments are also used as tank support in the area of the main effort.

Antitank artillery is usually employed in echelons,with weapons of varied caliber in each to insure equal distribution of fire power. Light and medium antitank artillery is supported as a rule by heavy antitank artillery, such as the newly developed 100mm gun, for fire against heavy enemy tanks. Lighter guns are emplaced as far forward as practicable, although normally not before the second line of infantry trenches. Well dug-in and camouflaged positions, protected by infantry and antitank rifles,are mandatory. Each battery must have at least one

alternate position. When this is occupied, the original position is maintained as a dummy position. Change of position usually takes place at night. Antitank guns in each position are placed in rhombus pattern to obtain all-around fields of fire. The fire plan of Soviet antitank artillery is carefully worked out, with particular attention given to the natural tank approach routes. The fire of the antitank guns is usually coordinated with a system of ground obstacles erected under engineer control;

constant liaison and coordination between antitank artillery and combat engineers is therefore mandatory. Also, minefields normally are laid to protect the gun position itself (fig. 33).


The Soviets compute the minimum required den-

sity of antitank weapons in defensive sectors on the basis of the suspected number of enemy tanks, the number and characteristics of tank approaches, and the average number of rounds necessary for a tank kill. On the basis of experience against enemy armor, the Red Army figures on six rounds of fire from 76.2-mm antitank guns, or 12 rounds from 45-mm antitank guns, for the destruction of one medium tank.

Antitank fire is directed not only against tanks,but also against accompanying infantry. Such antipersonnel fire is usually supported by mortar units and automatic weapons in coordination with the antitank artillery.

Antitank guns continue firing until overrun, since the Red Army considers that the destruction of a large number of enemy tanks represents the successful execution of the mission even when all of its own pieces are lost. The Soviets consider that each antitank gun is capable of destroying an average of 2 to 3 enemy tanks before it is put out of action.

As a rule, antitank guns fire at ranges of 550 to 660 yards in order to avoid revealing prematurely the location of positions. However, when a so called "firesack" is prepared, a limited number of guns (usually flank pieces) open fire at the first enemy tank wave at 1,650- to 2,200 yard ranges, attempting to channelize the enemy tanks into the area of the prepared concentration. Reinforcing self-propelled artillery fires at the tanks from concealed positions; supporting artillery, such as 152mm howitzers, fires from positions to the rear and

flanks of the antitank guns (fig. 34).


The mobile antitank artillery reserve usually consists of one battery from each regiment. It is located to the rear, in the center, and on the flanks of the defense sector under the centralized control of the Commander. Artillery reserves are committed by platoons against enemy tank attacks at the flanks.One platoon will open fire immediately while another moves to a more favorable position, pulled over short distances by the gun crew.A secondary mission of antitank artillery is its employment in support of infantry and tank attacks,with the bulk of the antitank artillery committed in the first assault echelon.”

All good fun,

All the best


[ August 30, 2002, 12:41 PM: Message edited by: kipanderson ]

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Seems to me, Kip, that this would apply only when the Red Army knew the time and place of a tank attack. And even though they placed a high priority on recon/surveillance/razvezda, and in some (not all, maybe not most) situations the terrain dictates a limited number of good routes of attack, still surprises and chaos are part of the nature of war, and nothing ever goes entirely according to doctrine.

Your comments and JasonC's actually tie together in one respect: you point out that AT guns freed up armor for other tasks. This could include the armor reserves JasonC identifies as of primary importance.

[ August 30, 2002, 10:01 PM: Message edited by: Frunze ]

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You wrote,

“Seems to me, Kip, that this would apply only when the Red Army knew the time and place of a tank attack. And even though they placed a high priority on recon/surveillance/razvezda, and in some (not all, maybe not most) situations the terrain dictates a limited number of good routes of attack, still surprises and chaos are part of the nature of war, and nothing ever goes entirely according to doctrine.”

That surprise and chaos are a part of war I certainly agree with, and if I suggest otherwise I did not mean to. However, there are two reasons why it is still the case that the sort of densities of guns I describe will have been the norm, but again, with a very wide and flat bell curve.

Firstly, the location of German Panzer divisions. During the war in the east the Germans had around 25 armoured divisions at any one time. Importantly, and for the reasons I gave above, at any one time the great majority were in the frontline. Added to this, the Soviets, just like the Germans and the Western Allies, will have very carefully tracked German Panzer divisions and there numbers. By the second half of the war, in fact well before, they will have known how many Panzer divisions were likely to be around at any one time, with eh odd one turning up from Germany, now and then. So if on a given date there were nineteen Panzer formations in the line, and they knew where another two were refitting some 40km behind, they would know that around 90% were likely to be accounted for.

The second point is the numbers game regarding Soviet guns. Against the above figure of say twenty odd German armoured divisions in the line, the Soviets had 50 odd AT brigades of three regiments each, plus another 150 odd independent AT regiments. Even though some will have been being rebuilt, and some held back for “surprises”, this is more than enough to achieve a concentration opposite each Panzer division that would mean “most” approaches and location were choked off according to doctrine. If you count the Soviet AT brigades in terms of their number of regiments, the Soviets had a total of around 300 independent AT regiments, of mostly 24 guns, to counter 20 odd German armoured divisions in the line, with may be another five or so Panzer divisions somewhere behind the line.

It is an unequal numbers game.

All the best,


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Your problem kip is that your own data don't support your own arguments. As for the extensive doctrinal quotes, they are how planners hoped things would happen not how they were done, as I will show a bit later on. But first to your numbers.

They do not show anything like 3/4 of 76mm guns in an independent AT role. You said "look at Jan 44", which is the peak usage of them. Fine, there are 5140 76mm guns in independent AT units at that date, by TOE of the unit type incidentally, rather than actual field strength. In Jan 1943, only half that many - 2472. In Jan 45, slightly less than 44 - 4332. In the Jan 44 returns, smaller ATGs number only 1474, thus total ATGs 6600. These compare to 60,000 76mm all told, and to AFV fleet strengths between 20,000 and 30,000 vehicles. The whole independent unit Russian ATG force was numerically smaller than the German AFV fleet (let alone the Russian one, which was 3 times larger).

Meanwhile, the Russian army ran on the order of 300 divisions. Varying numbers, but about that. At TOE, that means 7200 76mm guns in the artillery role, and 10800 45mm ATGs in the organic AT role. As orders of magnitude those will not be seriously misleading. Meaning, for the time snapshot you asked for, around 2/3rds of dedicated ATGs were 45mm rather than 76mm (57mm rare compared to either), 5/8 were in organic divisional units not independent ones, and at least 58% of 76mm guns were in div arty for artillery roles, not AT units.

Or roughly -

24600 76mm and 45mm guns

half 76mm, half 45mm

7200 divisional 76mm as arty

5140 independent 76mm as ATG

1474 independent 45mm/57mm as ATG

10800 organic 45mm as ATG

Only 1/4 are in non-divisional AT units, not 3/4. They are the "back" or reserve portion, meant to go where the action is of course. Which will mean that along 1/3rd of the frontage about, they allow the Russians to double the ATG capable gun density above the "background" level. Where does that 1/3rd of the frontage doubling up go? Where there is any hint of enemy armor, and at points of one's own main effort, and wherever the enemy tries to counterattack. But that is not one village per army group, it is more like 1/3rd of the length of the line. (The Germans had 40 odd mobile divisions in Russia, each with longer frontage than their 150-odd divisions of leg infantry).

The number of such guns, counting every divisional 76mm, is roughly the same as the number of AFVs. Without those (firing as arty), more like 2 ATGs to 3 AFVs. Or, for every company of 10 AFVs, a section of 2 76mm ATGs independent, and a battery of 4 45mm organic.

Then there is your citation of German reciting of Russian doctrine. If you think it is meant to reflect actual practice, as opposed to theory, I can easily show that to be inaccurate. One passage speaks, for instance, of heavier ATGs "like the new 100mm gun" being used "as a rule" to back up the light and medium ones. But look at the Russian AT unit figures. There aren't any such guns in Jan 44, and in Jan 45 there are all of 192 100mm ATGs at TOE, in less than 10 large scale units. There are also 168 SU-85s - AFVs. There are not 85mm AA guns in AT designated units after the Jan 42 report - because they are in their own uniform AA units by then, rather than in ad hoc mixed groupings with AT guns. The "as a rule" simply means that Russian doctrine piously *wished* they had 100mm ATGs to deal with Tigers and Panthers, when the *reality* was they used medium (76mm) and light (45mm) ATGs, the former mostly in independent AT units or in div arty, the latter mostly organic to the divisions.

Then there is the comment that ATGs, which aren't to reposition to fight another day but are simply to keep firing until overrun (doesn't seem like them holding out in impenetrable fronts is the idea, does it?) will each account for 2-3 German AFVs. Sure. They built 58,000 dedicated ATGs and 60,000 more 76mm duel purpose guns. Each can be expected to account for 2-3 AFVs? Only 236,000 to 354,000 dead German tanks.

Hmm, didn't make that many. Be lucky to have gotten an order of magnitude less. What they really meant is they piously wished that an overrun regiment with 12 45mm ATGs and 8 76mm ATGs in the sector would at least reduce an attacking German panzer division by 40-60 tanks. In reality, entire German panzer corps sometimes lost that much overrunning whole divisions.

Another revealing note is the statement that an AT reserve generally consists of "one battery per regiment". Per regiment of what? Per rifle regiment, of course. It means that the rifle division's AT reserve is 3 batteries of ATGs - 12 45mm. These are - where? In "the rear, center, and flanks". Oh. That is a location? More like 3 locations. The divisional AT reserve is a command designation, not a deployment. It means ATGs the divisional commander has reserved the right to order about himself, instead of turning that decision over to his regimental commanders. They are still deployed as individual batteries (one left, one center, one right e.g.).

Then, the reserve ATGs are supposed to be committed "by platoons". That means 2 gun sections, for those in Rio Linda. Half batteries. One pair is supposed to shoot, while the other drives to a new location. Of the 12 in reserve, that is, up to 6 might move. The 24 in forward positions are static.

Also, notice that your diagrams do not have any scale on them along the length of the frontage. Distances are only labeled from front to back. That is because they are skematics showing the layers of deployment depth. The pointed lines on them represent individual guns - that is why they are in pairs (platoon deployments) and fours (batteries). To conclude from those drawings that there were 30 guns per kilometer is to misunderstand them totally. What they actually say is the first AT positions are placed in the second trenchline 200m behind the forward edge of the position, then the secondary belt (the battalion reserve position) is 800m from the forward edge and contains additional AT sections, and last that the regiment reserve line is 1400m back with additional AT sections.

Then notice that the doctrinal discussion says the ATGs are usually not to open up until the range falls to 500-600 meters. Which means the first line of ATGs reaches out to 300-400m beyond the whole position, or MG range to infantry. The second line (battalion) only opens up on tanks that penetrate the first trench line. The third line (regiment) only opens up on tanks that penetrate the first two lines.

So the belts are fighting independently by ambush fires, not by massing. 4 guns in one battery cover 1 km of frontage, half a km to either side. Three belts means you'd need 12 guns per km just to have 4 in range, so a division would have to be on just 5 km of frontage just to cover the front, let alone to mass anything. Higher level AT units doubling the right sectors let rifle divisions cover 10km with 4 guns within range of any given spot - in those sectors. Maybe more like 8 km with reserves in addition.

As for the idea that it was all brilliant Russian operational art that nobody else had ever heard of, it is laughable. First, I don't need the lecture on what it meant. Second, no, the Germans did not use their ATGs without concentration; they invented the PAK front after all.

Third, you seem to have comically missed the point of my remarks about counterattack, break-in, and operational initiative. It is not that the operational initiative is worthless, proven by the ability to counterattack anyway and break through. My point was that counterattacking isn't worth anything when it fails, and breaking through isn't worth diddly, since it wasn't the magic trick required.

The magic trick is defeating the enemy reaction reserves sent to the area. If you can't do that, the other guy is going to keep his operational initiative and your counterattacking and breaking through won't do squat. That is, that operational initiative is more, not less important, and breakthrough less, not more important. The big stuff swings not on getting through the always thin fronts, but on the clash between mobile elements that is the automatic sequel.

Because, in case it still isn't obvious, there are also the AFVs. The Russians have ~18000 light and medium caliber pieces organic to their divisions spread quite evenly all along the line. They have another 6-7000 mostly medium caliber pieces in ATG units bolstering portions of that line, doubling the AT density, filling out the 2nd and 3rd line ATG belts, occasionally trying to create a kill sack. Tactically, these guns are deployed in 2s and 4s, occasionally a rare 12 for a rear area 76mm artillery battalion that gets run into by a penetration, sometimes chains of a few 4s strung around a kill sack.

But they also have 25000 AFVs, the real shifters, as numerous as all the light and medium guns combined, almost all shifting to main points of attack (certainly not parcelled out like 3/4th of the light and medium towed guns). 3 of them for every indie unit ATG, which are less mobile and have to be sent to anticipated sectors farther in advance, etc. These are roaming around in groups from 30 to 300. On the other side of the line, the Germans have ~7500 AFVs of their own, typically in clumps of 50 to 200.

Now, there are a lot more of the 2s and 4s of ATGs than there are big clumps of 30-300 Russian AFVs. But there are no more overall ATGs than Russian AFVs. The ATGs are vastly more spread - 3/4 of them organic to every infantry division, the others in tiny groups, and less mobile. They are not going to intervene in larger groupings than the AFVs do. They aren't more effective individually, either.

At 500-600m, ATGs in 2s and 4s are to open up on tanks either in MG range of the forward Russian positions or just having reached the previous line of defense. They are to keep firing until destroyed. This is supposed to provide a web of AT defense - *any* AT defense - across the whole frontage. Second and third belts are to back up the front one, because it is too easy to just knock out one battery.

Those rear belts are going to need higher level ATG unit reinforcment of the sector if the unit is to hold anything like ordinary frontages with 3 full belts at 1 km between batteries. But knock out a couple of batteries side to side, a couple front to back, and you will tear a hole kms wide and clean through the doctrinal set up, without having been in "open fire" range of more than 4 ATGs at a time at any given point.

You can say it is not possible to ride through such a defense without being shot at by light or medium caliber AT weapons. That is the real function. The defenders have to be shot at and wiped out in at least a portion of the defensive scheme, before the attackers can keep going. That is quite all the defense can be expected to do. And if a panzer division attacks one regiment so deployed, it is going to fight right through them. It just has to fight, rather than merely *drive* through them.

To beat the panzer division doing that is not the job of the ATGs, independent units or organic. It is the job of the reserves that react while that fighting is going on. The 30-300 Russian AFVs that collect at the rear of the front line unit's position within 48 hours.

Which you can find in the AARs over and over. Find me the AARs where "reaction towed ATGs" stopped attacking German panzer divisions, without any Russian armor present or helping out. Not a doctrine report, not a likely tale made up from first principles, and not a time where they helped out somewhat in an AFV vs. AFV fight, or repulsed a lone tank company by themselves. You won't find them. They aren't there.

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