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Heavy Tanks vs Heavy Guns

Valeriy Lisyutin posted an interesting set of photos recently, one of which was a knocked out Tiger. These aren't particularly interesting on their own, but it had two things that are usually hard to find: a date and a place. I decided to investigate.

The caption reads "Tiger tank knocked out by the 1st Guards Gun Artillery Brigade, April 17th, 1944, near Hod. Velki". That mapped to Chodaczków Wielki, or Velykyi Khodachkiv in modern day Ukraine. 

Thanks to Schneider's "Tigers in Combat", it was not too difficult to find out where this Tiger came from.

"16 April 1944: Relief attack continued with 12 operational Tigers in support. Several antitank positions were wiped out and Hill 363 was captured. Initial contact with the defenders of Tarnopol was established. The 1./schwere Panzer-Abteilung 507 in Brody reported 5 tanks operational.

17 April 1944: The 2./schwere Panzer-Abteilung 507 attacked north of Seredynki; it had eight operational tanks. The 1./schwere Panzer-Abteilung 507 in Brody reported eight operational tanks.

18 April 1944: The relief attack bogged down and a withdrawal was executed during the night. One company remained in support of the XXXXVIII. Panzer-Korps. Eight tanks reported operational; seven of them with the 1./schwere Panzer-Abteilung 507.

19 April 1944: Withdrawal to the area of Taurow"

Serednyky is right next to Velykyi Khodachkiv, so these are likely our tanks. The actual losses are not given in the diary, and the total numbers are muddled by the 1st company repairing their vehicles in Brody, but the 2nd company dwindles from 12 tanks on April 16th, 8 tanks on April 17th, and just one tank on April 18th. Let's see how this looked from the Soviet side.

On April 16th the 1st Guards Gun Artillery Brigade does report a tank attack.

"Until 16:00 no enemy tanks were seen on the battlefield. After 16:00 our offensive began following an artillery barrage. Having detected our offensive, the enemy moved out 17 Tiger tanks towards Buntsuv. Infantry was brought in with APCs and took up positions. Massed barrages of our artillery did not have an effect. Enemy tanks stood in place and did not permit our units to move up.

Brigade commander Guards Colonel I.M. Semak changed tactics of fighting and suppressing tanks. Guns would engage tanks individually. This kind of method increased the effectiveness of fire noticeably. After the target (an individual tank) was caught in a 100 m fork it would either leave or burn from a direct hit."

17 is a bit more than the Germans claim to have sent, but Schneider mentions aid from 9th SS division Hohenstaufen. In any case, more photos from the battle show that there were tanks other than Tigers assisting.

PzIII tank knocked out on April 16th, 1944 by the 1st Guards Gun Artillery Brigade near Hod. Velki"

The real slaughter of Tigers took place on the following day.

"April 17th, 1944. The enemy began an attack with tanks towards Kovalyuvka along the Pochapintse highway at 10:00, but had no success. Tanks were stopped by our artillery and partially burned. The enemy retreated with losses.

Our units turned to the attack and with support from tanks and artillery pushed the enemy back, moving to: south-west of Kovalyuvka, 1 km north-west of height 359.0, 1 km north-east of Seredynky. Changing their battle order, the brigade took up the following positions:
  • Command post 1: East of height 347.0
  • Command post 2: In the north-western clearing in the forest west of Petrykuv
  • Command post 3: In the western clearing in the forest south of Yanuvka
  • Observation post 1: On the nameless height 0.5 km east of Pochapintse
  • Observation post 2: On the nameless height 800 m of point 360
  • Observation post 3: height 360.0
The brigade fired to deflect tank attacks and at concentration of tanks near Kovaluvka, nameless height north of Seredynky, and at the observation post at the Hodachkuv Velki railway station. 559 rounds were expended.
Effectiveness of fire:
  • 1st battalion burned up one Tiger tank, knocked out 3 Tiger tanks, destroyed 20 soldiers and officers.
  • 2nd battalion knocked out two Tiger tanks, dispersed 15 tanks, destroyed 15 soldiers and officers.
  • 3rd battalion burned two Tiger tanks, knocked out two tanks, deflected 4 tank attacks, and destroyed 60 soldiers and officers.
Losses: 3 privates killed, one contused.
Brigade HQ: homestead 1.5 km north-west of Yanuvka"

Claim of 8 Tigers and two other unnamed tanks (looks like more from Hohenstaufen) with the Germans reporting a loss of 7 that day, pretty close. It's no wonder the Germans took heavy losses: the 1st Guards Gun Artillery Brigade was armed with a whopping 31 ML-20 gun-howitzers, which would be lethal to a Tiger in direct or indirect fire.

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