Elefant in Kursk

German weapons, vehicles and equipment 1919-1945.

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Elefant in Kursk

Post by Einsamer_Wolf » Wed Sep 15, 2004 5:33 pm

SALUT!

Many regard the Elefant/Ferdinand to have been a failure at Kursk, Evidentally, before it was outfitted with a machine gun, it was quite vulneralbe to infantry attached, when not properly supported. Notwithstanding this, does anyone have any figures as to the Ferdinand's perforamcne at Kursk, what the kill ratios were. Some regard the Ferdinand to have been devastating all the same.

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Post by Patrick » Wed Sep 15, 2004 6:50 pm

From http://www.achtungpanzer.com:
During the Kursk offensive until November of 1943, Ferdinands from sPzJagAbt 653 destroyed some 320 Soviet tanks and lost 13 Ferdinands, while entire 656 sPanzerjager Regiment destroyed some 502 Soviet tanks and 100 other vehicles. Ferdinands proved to be very effective when employed behind the lines.
I'll do some "beer math" :wink: . According to http://www.achtungpanzer.com, 50 surviving Ferdinands were returned for an upgrade in October 1943 out of the original contingent of 90. (Yes, there is a date discrepancy.) Therefore, I'll go with 40 lost, although this includes vehicles lost to mechanical breakdown as well as enemy action, so its quite conservative. Even so, with 822 Soviet tanks destroyed to a loss of 40, that works out to 20.6 to 1!

Almost too good to be true, I wonder how trustworthy the statistic for the 800 destroyed Soviet tanks is.
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Post by Einsamer_Wolf » Wed Sep 15, 2004 7:39 pm

Holy Sheep5hit batman! WOW! Someone tried to justify the H channel's claim the Tiger did not match up qualitatively to teh Tiger. He cited the Ferdinand. I guess the Ferdindnad has an undeservedly poor reputation. Now I really want a model of one of those!

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Post by Igorn » Wed Sep 15, 2004 10:01 pm

Some info and unique photos of the Panther and Ferdinand during Kursk Battle of 1943 (Damages of "Panther" tanks examined by the commission NIIBT Poligon from 20 to 28 July 1943 and Damages of the "Ferdinand" tank destroyers which were knocked out near the Ponyri railstation and the "Pervoye Maya" farm)

http://www.battlefield.ru/library/books ... sses6.html
http://www.battlefield.ru/library/books ... sses5.html
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Post by Darrin » Thu Sep 16, 2004 4:12 am

Patrick wrote:From http://www.achtungpanzer.com:
During the Kursk offensive until November of 1943, Ferdinands from sPzJagAbt 653 destroyed some 320 Soviet tanks and lost 13 Ferdinands, while entire 656 sPanzerjager Regiment destroyed some 502 Soviet tanks and 100 other vehicles. Ferdinands proved to be very effective when employed behind the lines.
I'll do some "beer math" :wink: . According to http://www.achtungpanzer.com, 50 surviving Ferdinands were returned for an upgrade in October 1943 out of the original contingent of 90. (Yes, there is a date discrepancy.) Therefore, I'll go with 40 lost, although this includes vehicles lost to mechanical breakdown as well as enemy action, so its quite conservative. Even so, with 822 Soviet tanks destroyed to a loss of 40, that works out to 20.6 to 1!

Almost too good to be true, I wonder how trustworthy the statistic for the 800 destroyed Soviet tanks is.


The ger during thier origanal off suffered 20 des ferdinands during a 1+ week period. By the end of aug a further 20 had been lost or 40 over 2 months. The loss rate during the inital 1 week period was very high. It was no higher than the panthers in the south another new tank that was seeing combat for the first time.

The quote above is the entire reg des 502 soviet tanks. Not a bat the entire reg. Now I have no idea equactly how accurte this report of des sov tanks was.

That means for every fredinad des the rus suffered 12.6 tanks des. But no army claims are 100% accurte. If you take the ger claims of des add them up and compare it to the number of reported rus tanks des. The ger over claimed by 45% for all causes against the entire front and for thre last 6 months of 43. That means if the 502 claim number is accurate and for this same period we are talking about 6.9 soviet tanks des for each ferdinand des.

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Post by Christian Ankerstjerne » Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:27 pm

In fact, 89 Ferdinands (out of 91) saw action during Unternehmen Zitadelle. Of these, 48 returned in December, giving a total of 41 casualties in 5-6 months.

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The Elephant's failed reputation comes almost entirely....

Post by Alkie » Tue Sep 21, 2004 6:49 pm

...from's Guderian's account of their performance as part of Model's assault force on the northern sector of the Kursk offensive. He was quoted as saying that without machine guns to neutralize it's opponent's infantry, it outran it's own infantry who could not advance, and was then overwhelmed by the enemy. I've seen it quoted dozens of times as rationale for saying the Elephant was completely useless.

I recently read a first-person account from a machine gunner in the Nikopol Bridgehead in late 43/early 1944. He discussed how 2-3 Elephants would arrive on the scene every time the Russians would mount a tank attack on the bridgehead. He stated that they were completely impervious to enemy long range fire (they weighed about 65 with immensely thick armor) and with their extremely powerful 88MM gun (a longer caliber weapon than the 88 used in Tiger I's I believe), they could knock out their opponents of up to 2,000 yards. These few machines held the enemy at bay for weeks according this report, destroying large numbers of Russian tanks.

The Elephant, like all assault guns, was more of a defensive weapon than an offensive one. It had no traverse on it's gun and was simply not used correctly at Kursk. When properly used as a defensive anti-tank weapon, it could have been devastating, as this example shows.

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Post by Darrin » Fri Sep 24, 2004 12:20 am

Darrin wrote:
Patrick wrote:From http://www.achtungpanzer.com:
During the Kursk offensive until November of 1943, Ferdinands from sPzJagAbt 653 destroyed some 320 Soviet tanks and lost 13 Ferdinands, while entire 656 sPanzerjager Regiment destroyed some 502 Soviet tanks and 100 other vehicles. Ferdinands proved to be very effective when employed behind the lines.
I'll do some "beer math" :wink: . According to http://www.achtungpanzer.com, 50 surviving Ferdinands were returned for an upgrade in October 1943 out of the original contingent of 90. (Yes, there is a date discrepancy.) Therefore, I'll go with 40 lost, although this includes vehicles lost to mechanical breakdown as well as enemy action, so its quite conservative. Even so, with 822 Soviet tanks destroyed to a loss of 40, that works out to 20.6 to 1!

Almost too good to be true, I wonder how trustworthy the statistic for the 800 destroyed Soviet tanks is.


The ger during thier origanal off suffered 20 des ferdinands during a 1+ week period. By the end of aug a further 20 had been lost or 40 over 2 months. The loss rate during the inital 1 week period was very high. It was no higher than the panthers in the south another new tank that was seeing combat for the first time.

The quote above is the entire reg des 502 soviet tanks. Not a bat the entire reg. Now I have no idea equactly how accurte this report of des sov tanks was.

That means for every fredinad des the rus suffered 12.6 tanks des. But no army claims are 100% accurte. If you take the ger claims of des add them up and compare it to the number of reported rus tanks des. The ger over claimed by 45% for all causes against the entire front and for thre last 6 months of 43. That means if the 502 claim number is accurate and for this same period we are talking about 6.9 soviet tanks des for each ferdinand des.


I mis-spoke the des fredninand were reported as 39 by the end of JULY not aug. It seems they did have intial problems which were at least as bad as the panthers if not worse. Further loses from this point untill rebuilding to elephants would then be almost zero.

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Post by Sebastian Pye » Sat Sep 25, 2004 8:55 am

Were all of them moved to italy or did some remain on the eastern front?

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Post by T-6000 » Sun Oct 03, 2004 1:24 pm

Keep in ind that the Elephant was a Mobile Artillery and not quite a tank. Even though they could propably hold their own in a lone confrontation against a tank one on one, their best use was really to stay behind the combat lines and provide support. I wouldn't quite say that the Elephant was a complete failure, but some improvments were needed. One of those would be to equip the Machinegun with the Elephant. At the battle of Kursk there were no machineguns attached to elephants, leaving them victims to Infantry attacks (such as those equiped with AT weapons).

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Post by 2nd SS Panzer Das Reich » Sat Oct 09, 2004 1:41 pm

Although it was not fited with a MG which was a major weakness. The Elephant proved a very effective tank killer at Kursk they knocked out over 200 enemy tanks.

The Elephant were converted from the Tiger (P), and only 100 Elephants were built. It was not meant to act as a battle tank but a tank killer firing from behind the frontlines.
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Post by Matt L » Sat Oct 09, 2004 5:24 pm

Karlheinz Münch's two volumes 'Combat History of schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 653' (JJ Fedorowicz Publishing, 1997) and ''Combat History of schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 654' (JJ Fedorowicz Publishing, 2002) are probably one of the most detailed books one is likely to find on units operating the Ferdinand/ Elefant.

There are a lot of telling accounts which help understand the Ferdinand's performance during Zitadelle- here are a few:

sPzJägAbt 653 and sPzJägAbt 654 were I./ and II./sPzJäg Rgt 656, respectively. Authorized strength 90 Ferdinande (4. July report states 83 were serviceable), each Abteilung having 14 in each of the 3 Kompanien, and 3 in the Stabskompanie.

On 5. July, most of the vehicles of 2./sPzJägAbt 654 were put out of action due to an unmapped minefield. The Soviet artillery barrage that started as they were stuck damaged more so that only 4 of the Kompanie's 14 Ferdinande were out of action. Those 4 moved ahead once a lane had been cleared in the minefield (by some courageous Pioniere), and as they approached the Soviet trenches, they were engaged by a few Soviet soldiers with flamethrowers remaining as the line withdrew (equally courageous) and anti-tank guns positioned at the nearby rail line. These proved ineffective and the line was pushed back.

Elements of 1./ and 3./sPzJägAbt 654 encountered similar problems. Ferdinand 531 of the 1. Kompanie took a direct hit by a heavy artillery round and burned-out. As they approached Ponyri, several more Ferdinande were put out of action by mines.

The attack resumed at about 1400 on 6. July. On 7. July the Abteilung was withdrawn to act as a mobile reserve, but 2./sPzJägAbt 654 were sent back into action early on 8. July to attack Ponyri with only 6 serviceable vehicles. The next entry is for 15. July which is after the 'official' end of Unternehmen Zitadelle.

A report dated 30.7.1943 by Hauptmann Henning, acting Bataillon commander of II./ sPzJägRgt. 656 states that the Bataillon's remaining 19 Ferdinande are 'in urgent need of general overhaul', but that 'The men have absolute confidence in their weapon.' His After-Action Report of 1.8.1943 states that all the armor of the Ferdinand was entirely sufficient save for the top which 'could be about 10mm thicker to withstand direct hits from artillery.' Other important issues he mentions are: 'There is still a requirement for a built-in machine gun, possibly also a flamethrower.' (most people REALLY focus on the former, although here it's only mentioned almost in passing); 'The engine of the Ferdinand is not powerful enough. ... The engine overheats easily ... To my knowledge four Ferdinande have burned out as a result of spontaneous combustion. ... The fire-extinguishing system is inadequate...'; 'The gratings absolutely must be protected. Installing the gratings behind the turret (presumably he means superstructure?) seems more advisable (the engine cooling fans were quite susceptible to damage from shell splinters)' 'In general, the terrain was favorable in the attack and the defense. Once the rainy weather set in, the engines clearly demonstrated insufficient power.'

Now here's the BIG ONE: 'The initial fear that the Ferdinand would prove extremely vulnerable to enemy infantry proved unfounded in practice. As a result of the loud report produced when the gun is fired, and the psychological effect on enemy infantry of the Ferdinand, no enemy infantry approached a Ferdinand during any of the days it was committed. The docrinal prohibition against committing the Ferdinand ahead of the infantry therefore appears to be unfounded'; another very important statement is 'almost one third of the attacking 44 tank destroyers were disabled in our own minefield because of inadequate marking of the cleared lanes.' and get this: 'On the first day of the attack, the absence of engineers resulted in the right wing being delayed about two to three hours in front of a taught wire, since it was assumed that there were mines beyond it.' (it turned-out to be a fake Soviet minefield). Also 'The use of all the Ferdinande in one place resulted in significant vehicle losses through track damage inflicted by concentrated enemy artillery fire.'

The suggestion that no Soviet tank hunter infantry destroyed any Ferdinande during Zitadelle doesn't fit with what I've read elsewhere- I'll have to look that up. I would, however, take German records above all others- they were formal loss reports afterall, and outweigh any claims of destruction.

So far, it seems that the majority of Ferdinande lost by sPzJägAbt 654 were lost due to mines, artillery, and mechanical problems- and I haven't even mentioned the successes yet :wink:

Matt
Last edited by Matt L on Sun Oct 10, 2004 12:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Matt L » Sat Oct 09, 2004 11:36 pm

For those who are interested, I'll continue with the information I've found in Münch's books-

Karl-Heinz Danish of 1./sPzJägAbt 654 reports that the first total loss of a Ferdinand in the Kompanie was suffered on 6. July- a direct hit in the superstructure side by a 152mm shell fired by an SU152 at 800m. He also states that on 8. July they lost 7 more vehicles due to extremely heavy artillery barrages and the appearance of SU122s and SU152s in large numbers. By 12. July, the Abteilung had only 26 serviceable Ferdinands and these were pulled out and sent to Orel. (p. 68 )

Herbert Harting of 2./sPzJägAbt 654 states that "very few Ferdinande were knocked-out by the enemy. Most losses were the result of mechanical defects." (p. 73)

Nikolaus Braasch of 1./sPzJägAbt 654 reports that Ferdinand 514 drove over two large wooden Soviet box mines causing severe track and wheel damage, cracks and fire in the hull and as the vehicle was behind the Hauptkampflinie at the time, the order was given to abandon and blow it up. (p. 74)

There are a large number of photographs in this book of Ferdinande lost during Zitadelle and around Orel in late July 1943. Interestingly, the majority of them show vehicles badly damaged by mines and abandoned by their crews.

pp. 141/2 show Ferdinand 501 (now at the Kubinka museum) with its left track blown off- abandoned.

p. 143 - Ferdinand 502- right track and drive sprocket badly damaged by mine- abandoned

p. 144- 2 Ferdinande of 1./sPzJägAbt 654, right track and wheels of one badly damaged by mine- both appear to have been abandoned

p. 145- unknown Ferdinand abandoned and gun stuck in rearward position suggesting gunner destroyed it before leaving; Ferdinand 524- right track and wheels badly damaged by mine- abandoned and set on fire by crew.

p. 147- Ferdinand 601- right track and wheels badly damaged by mine- abandoned

p. 148- Ferdinand 624- right track and wheels badly damaged by mine- abandoned

p. 152- Ferdinand 723- right track and wheels badly damaged by mine- barrel holed- abandoned

p. 153- Ferdinand 712- badly damaged by mine and shellfire- muzzle break gone, barrel holed twice, many hits- 8 clean penetrations of left hull and superstructure as well as HE shell splashes (probably post-battle target practice)

p. 154- Ferdinand 731- mine badly damaged wheels and tracks- evidence of engine fire; also interesting photograph of two abandoned Ferdinande surrounded by 10 knocked-out Soviet tanks

p. 155/6/7- Ferdinand II03 (Stab. II./sPzJägRgt 656) tracks and wheels badly damaged by mine- abandoned

p. 166/7/8- the most interesting set of pictures- first is Ferdinand 623 as it was abandoned after mine damage to its left side and gun stuck in rear positon suggesting 'spiking' by gunner- driver was apparently killed. Next few photographs are from Soviet archives and the first shows 623 cleaned-up- the dirt is cleared away from the wheels, the gun is back in its forward position, the mantlet splinter shield that was missing is back in place, next are two Soviet training/propaganda photographs showing the right side of 623- the first shows smoke billowing out of it (smoke grenades probably), and the second shows a Soviet infantryman about to throw a larg stick grenade at the Ferdinand. Photographs like these are probably the ones that supported the seemingly not-so-accurate idea that the Ferdinands were sitting ducks for Soviet infantry tank-hunter teams.

p. 192- at least 2 Ferdinande and several Sturmpanzer IVs were left behind during the withdrawl from Orel for lack of tow vehicles.

These photographs show that at least 17 of the sPzJägAbt 654 and sPzJägRgt 656 Ferdinand total losses were due to mines and/ or inability to recover damaged vehicles. Add the 1 lost to the SU152, the loss of Ferdinand 514 to mines and fire, and it can be definitely said that 19 were lost to causes other than direct Soviet fire.

Matt
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Post by Igorn » Sun Oct 10, 2004 12:01 am

Matt,

I suggest you to explore provided links. It will give you some information about the Ferdinand and Panther losses at Kursk from the Russian perspective.

http://www.battlefield.ru/library/books ... sses6.html
http://www.battlefield.ru/library/books ... sses5.html

Best Regards from Russia,
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Post by Matt L » Sun Oct 10, 2004 12:41 am

Why am I not surprised that you'd chime in with the opposite opinion Igor? :D I'll read the Soviet 'perspective' but if it differs from the actual German records, I've already said which one is correct.

I've actually gone through the hisotry of sPzJägAbt 653, but I'll be posting the information tomorrow- suffice it to say that it's more of the same: losses mainly to mechancial problems and mines. Only one Ferdinand is reported to have been captured by Soviet forces intact.

Matt
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