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  • #47337
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

     

    A recent TMP thread reminded me of something I was wondering about from Zetterling’s book Normandy.  When discussing German AFV combat losses, he makes a strong case for up to 50% of German losses being caused by German crews abandoning their vehicles.  This does not seem to be a fuel issue (at least, there seems to be no evidence that this was a huge cause of tactical level losses).  It strikes me as very unlikely that anyone would bail out of a tank in the middle of significant indirect fire. It is also hard to imagine a crew bailing out of a tank whilst actually under air attack and after it, it would seem pointless. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what was going on?  And obviously just as importantly, how to incorporate this into tactical-level WW2 gaming….

     

    Thread  here.

    • This topic was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by Whirlwind Whirlwind.
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    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #47342
    Not Connard Sage
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Panic? That’s a training/experience issue.

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #47343
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Panic? That’s a training/experience issue.

    Well it could be panic, for sure (in fact it must be, if it is not down to outright refusal to get involved in combat).  But that would appear to have some quite big consequences for how WW2 games should work.  In fact given the experience levels involved on the German side – very high, in a WW2 context – one might reach the conclusion that the more experienced the crew, the more likely that they are to bail out when merely coming under potentially destructive fire.  Or in the case of aircraft, bailing out when the aircraft is spotted by the crew.

     

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #47346
    Not Connard Sage
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    While generalisations are often inaccurate, there must have been something happening in Normandy that did not happen on other fronts. The near total supremacy (a generalisation!) of Allied airpower may have been a factor, and while there may have been many experienced crews, after five years of war how many were there overall. The Waffen SS units notwithstanding.

    And an individual may be (or consider himself) less of a target running for cover than sitting in a tank 😉

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #47350
    MartinR
    MartinR
    Participant

    From the OR studies conducted at the time, it does indeed seem that crews often abandoned perfectly decent tanks under fire, especially from air attack. It was considered safer to be hiding in an inconspicuous ditch than being in a huge and obvious metal box packed with explosives and fuel.

    Other times they just broke down or bogged with minor mechanical problems, the crews bailed and for whatever reason the vehicles weren’t recovered.

     

     

     

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #47353
    Not Connard Sage
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    There’s not a lot of armour on the upper surfaces of a tank. An aerial rocket might just ruin your day…

    I’m just musing here, but in the German’s case it’s possible that every aircraft in Normandy was a Typhoon or P47, in the same way that to Allied tankers every panzer was a Tiger 😉

     

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #47354
    PatG
    PatG
    Participant

    This thread over on Axis History covers conscription during the war. A quick look suggests that the Germans started the war calling up 20 and 21 year olds but by ’44 end was recruiting 18 and 19 year olds into the HJ division and I suspect other units in late ’44-’45. the training cycle was also reduced as the war went on meaning that the average replacement was getting younger and getting less training (and thus more likely to bail).

    A lot more work would have to be done before coming up with an authoritative effect on the war games table but my first pass would be to run contrary to the usual “all Germans were veterans or elites” thinking and put the hardened troops in command positions while the bulk of the force is average or even green. So good leaders commanding fair to poor troops. Again this is conjecture and would need a lot more research to adequately support it.

    Specifically for tanks, one possibility might be simply that the Allies were advancing. Jumping out of your Tiger and hiding in a ditch when Typhoons are overhead might be a very sensible and non-cowardly thing to do when your intent is to jump back in and fight on as soon as the skies are clear. However, if the tide of battle moves over you while you are in that ditch or pushes you back out of the ditch, then you can’t remount and your perfectly good tank becomes “abandoned”.

    In game terms and this would be more of a campaign effect – German tank losses don’t get replaced or are replaced at a much lower rate than the allies.

    #47365
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    From the OR studies conducted at the time, it does indeed seem that crews often abandoned perfectly decent tanks under fire, especially from air attack. It was considered safer to be hiding in an inconspicuous ditch than being in a huge and obvious metal box packed with explosives and fuel.

    I am sure thatyou are correct- but I wonder at what point the crews did this: on sighting the hostile aircraft, during the actual bombing/strafing run (seems unlikely at that point!) or after an initial attack?

    I’m just musing here, but in the German’s case it’s possible that every aircraft in Normandy was a Typhoon or P47, in the same way that to Allied tankers every panzer was a Tiger 😉

    Definitely!

    A lot more work would have to be done before coming up with an authoritative effect on the war games table but my first pass would be to run contrary to the usual “all Germans were veterans or elites” thinking and put the hardened troops in command positions while the bulk of the force is average or even green. So good leaders commanding fair to poor troops. Again this is conjecture and would need a lot more research to adequately support it.

    Maybe, although the comment about the US troops in the TMP thread indicated the reverse: the more veteran the troops, the more likely to take evasive measures to avoid threats.

    Specifically for tanks, one possibility might be simply that the Allies were advancing. Jumping out of your Tiger and hiding in a ditch when Typhoons are overhead might be a very sensible and non-cowardly thing to do when your intent is to jump back in and fight on as soon as the skies are clear. However, if the tide of battle moves over you while you are in that ditch or pushes you back out of the ditch, then you can’t remount and your perfectly good tank becomes “abandoned”.

    True enough, although I think that the only way that the OR could make the determination that the AFVs were abandoned because of air threat would be to find tanks abandoned in areas where there were no ground troops operating at that time.  If there were ground troops in the area, then the OR wouldn’t be able to identify if the panzer crews bailed because of air threat or ground threat.  The Allied tankers abandoning their tanks were doing so because of ground threat rather than air threat, after all.

    <q> In game terms and this would be more of a campaign effect – German tank losses don’t get replaced or are replaced at a much lower rate than the allies.  </q>

    Maybe, although to my mind it would indicate a specific tactical effect on morale: the presence of a couple of Thunderbolts may cause non-hidden Panzer crews to bail out.  Increasing the chances of it happening if the Germans were veteran might cause a few twitches in German  players who like to field veteran SS heavy tank units…

     

     

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #47370
    Not Connard Sage
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Something to ponder is that the only person in a tank who’s going to notice enemy aircraft overhead is the commander, if he has his head out of the hatch. Of course, if he does have his head out out of the hatch while in contact then he probably has more to do than scan the skies. The first any other crew member would know about an air attack would probably be the gentle patter of cannon shells impacting on the turret top/hull deck. Or a dead commander falling back into the turret…

     

    It might be best not to over-think all this, and just accept that it did happen, whatever the physical/psychological motivators. 🙂

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #47374
    MartinR
    MartinR
    Participant

    Yes, far to easy to overthink this stuff. I just take a design for effect approach and make air attacks devastating (even if the actual chance of hitting something with a Typhoon rocket salvo was less than 2%).

    Similarly, you may want to make any sort of perceived super weapon (Tigers, 88s, T34s in 1941 ,Matildas in 1940) have an exaggerated effect due the psychological factors of weapons push and weapons pull.  See Leo Murrays ‘Brains and Bullets’.

    War is much more about frightening people than killing them.

     

     

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #47375
    willz
    willz
    Participant

    Or maybe the tank crews just did not want to die.  No matter how much training or battle experience and or lack of you have, I suspect that most days are not good days to die.

    #47382

    Les Hammond
    Participant

    So in a rules context, usually suppressing tanks has no discernible effect apart from “cannot use externally mounted weapons” so maybe something similar for AFVs that already have morale issues, except the crew has deemed to have chambered underneath or something.

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    #47384
    Not Connard Sage
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    So in a rules context, usually suppressing tanks has no discernible effect apart from “cannot use externally mounted weapons” so maybe something similar for AFVs that already have morale issues, except the crew has deemed to have chambered underneath or something.

     

    If the crew have decamped then the effect is ‘cannot move, cannot fire any weapons’ surely.

    This is getting perilously close to the FoW ‘Bail Out’ silliness

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #47387

    Fredd Bloggs
    Participant

    The other oddness is that if Germans bailed out in other theatres, the doctrine was to blow the tank so the enemy couldn’t capture and use it.

    My suspicion would be the forced bail was supposed to be temporary, but the very close proximity of the enemy in Normandy due to the terrain etc. meant that attempting to return was dangerous. Tank crews are/were trained that the vehicle is expendable, the crew is not.

    #47401
    MartinR
    MartinR
    Participant

    It wasn’t just the Germans who abandoned tanks with minor/no damage, the Allies did too. Part of battlefield recovery was finding them and driving them back.

    In some instances the crews bailed the minute they came under fire (or, as in Bill Bellamys case) simply drove into cover and hid for the duration of the battle as they couldn’t see any viable alternative which wouldn’t get them knocked out like all their pals.

    Tank crews are only flesh and blood.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #47433

    Etranger
    Participant

    From the OR studies conducted at the time, it does indeed seem that crews often abandoned perfectly decent tanks under fire, especially from air attack. It was considered safer to be hiding in an inconspicuous ditch than being in a huge and obvious metal box packed with explosives and fuel.

    Other times they just broke down or bogged with minor mechanical problems, the crews bailed and for whatever reason the vehicles weren’t recovered.

    Reading the memoir ‘Panzer Gunner’ which covered the the 7th PzD on the Eastern front in 1944, it was striking as to how often the crews abandoned and blew up their (new) jagdpanzer IVs, due to what seemed to be fairly minor damage, eg a damaged gun mounting in an otherwise fully serviceable vehicle.

    The Germans had problems recovering their heavier tanks, officially it took 2-3 Sdkfz 9 heavy half tracks to tow a single Tiger. (1-2 for a StuG IIRC).

    Tiger crews were officially forbidden to tow other Tigers as it usually just led to the loss of both tanks due to transmission failure in the towing vehicle.

    German tanks came prerigged with demolition charges to use if abandoned. And they did just run out of fuel, eg during the Battle of the Bulge, where many tanks were abandoned and blown up for just that reason.

    That wasn’t the case earlier in the war, when the Germans were renowned for their efficient recovery techniques http://www.lonesentry.com/articles/ttt08/german-tank-maintenance-recovery.html http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=213726 https://www.quora.com/How-did-the-Germans-recover-their-tanks-in-WW2 http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/ubb/Forum5/HTML/000024.html

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by  Etranger.
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    #47439

    Fredd Bloggs
    Participant

    Certainly in the desert there recovery prowess caused a reassement of methods by the British.

    #47452
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    It wasn’t just the Germans who abandoned tanks with minor/no damage, the Allies did too. Part of battlefield recovery was finding them and driving them back. In some instances the crews bailed the minute they came under fire (or, as in Bill Bellamys case) simply drove into cover and hid for the duration of the battle as they couldn’t see any viable alternative which wouldn’t get them knocked out like all their pals. Tank crews are only flesh and blood.

    Agreed 100%.  I’m not sure WW2 rules are right there yet.

    Yes, far to easy to overthink this stuff. I just take a design for effect approach and make air attacks devastating (even if the actual chance of hitting something with a Typhoon rocket salvo was less than 2%). Similarly, you may want to make any sort of perceived super weapon (Tigers, 88s, T34s in 1941 ,Matildas in 1940) have an exaggerated effect due the psychological factors of weapons push and weapons pull. See Leo Murrays ‘Brains and Bullets’. War is much more about frightening people than killing them.

    Yes, as long as the end result approximates the total effect (i.e. destroyed + abandoned) then it should work okay.  What is hard to work out is the overall effect, because presumably there were instances where the German tank was abandoned but was subsequently recovered.

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #47454
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    That wasn’t the case earlier in the war, when the Germans were renowned for their efficient recovery techniques

    The German recovery crews seem to have done a good job in Normandy too – a high proportion of damaged (or abandoned) German tanks seem to have been recovered and then recycled into action.  Incidentally, I wonder if that was  a significant difference between the Allies and the Germans: because the Germans were far less likely to get replacements, perhaps they were inclined to make more effort to recover and fix at first- or second-line?  I re-read Decision in Normandy recently and IIRC it noted Sepp Dietrich going out of his way to reward the forward workshops with Iron Crosses as a reward for sterling work.

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #47455
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Something to ponder is that the only person in a tank who’s going to notice enemy aircraft overhead is the commander, if he has his head out of the hatch. Of course, if he does have his head out out of the hatch while in contact then he probably has more to do than scan the skies. The first any other crew member would know about an air attack would probably be the gentle patter of cannon shells impacting on the turret top/hull deck. Or a dead commander falling back into the turret… It might be best not to over-think all this, and just accept that it did happen, whatever the physical/psychological motivators. 🙂

    You say something so acute in the first bit that makes me overthink it in the first bit then tell me not to overthink it in the second…

    I know there is no way of incorporating it into a game (probably) but there really is something in that: presumably the AFV commander wouldn’t be buttoned-up on the approach march and thus would see aircraft and get nervous: closer to contact he’d be buttoned up and wouldn’t notice a thing!

    Again, impossible to know but I do wonder whether most crews bailed out on seeing hostile aircraft nearby, or after the attack had begun.  My instinct strongly suggests the first but I’d be very interested if a veteran (on either side, in conditions of air inferiority) ever wrote about the experience.

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #47461

    Fredd Bloggs
    Participant

    Another reason for a higher recovery rate was that german tanks and AT were trained to put multiple shots into an enemy tank until it brewed up, both to make sure it was out of action and to deny its recovery to the enemy. This is also in part, responsible for the ronson myth on shermans, they were generally burnt out, but it was not always the first shot that did it.

    #47462

    Etranger
    Participant

    That wasn’t the case earlier in the war, when the Germans were renowned for their efficient recovery techniques

    The German recovery crews seem to have done a good job in Normandy too – a high proportion of damaged (or abandoned) German tanks seem to have been recovered and then recycled into action. Incidentally, I wonder if that was a significant difference between the Allies and the Germans: because the Germans were far less likely to get replacements, perhaps they were inclined to make more effort to recover and fix at first- or second-line? I re-read Decision in Normandy recently and IIRC it noted Sepp Dietrich going out of his way to reward the forward workshops with Iron Crosses as a reward for sterling work.

    It was also because the front was fairly static for the first six weeks of the campaign. Once the Germans started to retreat, their losses went up enormously as they could no longer recover their tank casualties. Similar problems were seen (on both sides) in the desert.

    One thing that I hadn’t realised until recently as that the Germans and the allies (in the West at least, not sure about the Russians,) counted tank losses differently. The Germans generally didn’t count as losses those vehicles that could be repaired at unit level (eg fuel pump, loss of road wheel etc) but the allies did. A lot of those ‘losses’ were in fact only temporary and not necessarily combat related, but still got added to the crude tally – the British (at least) made the distinction in their ‘tank strength’ returns, but that’s not always what gets quoted.

    The Russians were also capable of recycling their armour, rebuilding T-34s, sometimes on multiple occasions. That adds to the number of tanks available & also explains the German doctrine of shooting until the tank brewed up. A burnt out tank can’t be rebuilt/repaired.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by  Etranger.
    #47465

    Etranger
    Participant

    Something to ponder is that the only person in a tank who’s going to notice enemy aircraft overhead is the commander, if he has his head out of the hatch. Of course, if he does have his head out out of the hatch while in contact then he probably has more to do than scan the skies. The first any other crew member would know about an air attack would probably be the gentle patter of cannon shells impacting on the turret top/hull deck. Or a dead commander falling back into the turret… It might be best not to over-think all this, and just accept that it did happen, whatever the physical/psychological motivators. 🙂

    You say something so acute in the first bit that makes me overthink it in the first bit then tell me not to overthink it in the second…

    I know there is no way of incorporating it into a game (probably) but there really is something in that: presumably the AFV commander wouldn’t be buttoned-up on the approach march and thus would see aircraft and get nervous: closer to contact he’d be buttoned up and wouldn’t notice a thing!

    Again, impossible to know but I do wonder whether most crews bailed out on seeing hostile aircraft nearby, or after the attack had begun. My instinct strongly suggests the first but I’d be very interested if a veteran (on either side, in conditions of air inferiority) ever wrote about the experience.

    The Germans in Normandy were acutely aware of the dangers of air attack. They often carried a crew member on the rear deck of the tank as a sentry to warn against jabos. Their commanders were also trained to operate ‘heads out’ as much as possible. All that integral light FlaK in their panzer battalions wasn’t simply there for show.

    The British also had organic AA in their armoured units, (the various Crusader AA tanks) but often left them behind & ultimately disbanded them due to the lack of need.

    Most air attacks on ground targets weren’t on the front line though, but on the approach routes, which aren’t usually on the wargames table.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by  Etranger.
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    #47483

    Les Hammond
    Participant

    This is getting perilously close to the FoW ‘Bail Out’ silliness

    We can’t have that!
    Just wondering if suppression could have any real meaning in relation to AFVs

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by  Les Hammond.
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    6mm France 1940

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    #47531
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Most air attacks on ground targets weren’t on the front line though, but on the approach routes, which aren’t usually on the wargames table.

    I get this, but don’t understand how so many could have been left unrecovered if they were the ones not involved directly in the fighting.  You’d expect the unrecovered vehicles to be the ones in or near the direct fire zone.

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #47555

    Etranger
    Participant

    Most air attacks on ground targets weren’t on the front line though, but on the approach routes, which aren’t usually on the wargames table.

    I get this, but don’t understand how so many could have been left unrecovered if they were the ones not involved directly in the fighting. You’d expect the unrecovered vehicles to be the ones in or near the direct fire zone.

    But what are you going to recover them with? Remember it’s the softskins that are mostly the vehicles being destroyed. The AFVs are the ones running out of fuel and breaking down. There just weren’t that many heavy recovery vehicles available to the Germans, only a small detachment per battalion (7-8 skdfz 9 only, at 3 per Tiger & Bergepanzers were rare as hens teeth in most units. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_heavy_tank_battalion http://axisafvs.blogspot.com.au/

    #47576
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    But what are you going to recover them with? Remember it’s the softskins that are mostly the vehicles being destroyed. The AFVs are the ones running out of fuel and breaking down. There just weren’t that many heavy recovery vehicles available to the Germans, only a small detachment per battalion (7-8 skdfz 9 only, at 3 per Tiger & Bergepanzers were rare as hens teeth in most units.

    But at least for Normandy, Zetterling’s argument seems to hinge on the German Army being particularly good at recovering damaged or abandoned AFVs (or at least, shows lots of vehicles in various stages of repair but not outright destroyed).  I can see that fuel and spares issues may have been much more problematic from the Battle of the Bulge onwards.

     

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    #47582

    Etranger
    Participant

    It was whilst the lines were static. However once the Germans started to retreat in earnest that things fell apart. Almost none of the German armour in Normandy got back across the Seine. Others (see below) have spent some time dissecting Zetterling’s results, suggesting that it may have been a little more complicated than he made out.

     

    Losses whilst in Normandy weren’t minor either http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=81359

    From that link for the first month of the campaign (but read it in full for a lot of detail regarding both sides losses in Normandy). Losses by type

    Stug 7.2%
    PzIV 56.5%

    Panther 32.1%

    Tiger 4.3%

    These are only the total write-offs, additional to these would be tanks going into repair (e.g. for the Tigers of sSSpzAbt 101 the number requiring repair was 8 (17.8% of available tanks) on 1st June, and 7 (or 25% of available tanks) on 8 July (when an additional 2, not included in the table were written off). But on 5 and 7 July, all 30 Tigers were in repair, operational unit strength was 0. For mechanically more reliable tanks than the Tiger this number would be higher, of course …

    Total losses of major tank types were as below. Note the massive increase in German losses once the front became fluid in mid-late August (remember these are dates of returns, not necessarily date of loss).

    June – 1 Pz-IV(k), 124 Pz-IV(l), 80 Pz-V, 19 Pz-VI (L56) = 224

    July – 149 Pz-IV(l), 125 Pz-V, 14 Pz-VI (L56) = 288

    August – 49 Pz-IV(l), 41 Pz-V, 15 Pz-VI (L56) = 105

    September – 12 Pz-IV(k), 581 Pz-IV, 540 Pz-V, 72 Pz-VI (L56), 23 Pz-VI (L70) = 1,228

    Total = 1,845

     

    As to  tank demolitions, with reference to Tigers, (from http://www.feldgrau.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11051&start=45)

    Report No 17 Analysis of German Tank Casualties in France 6 June to 31 August 1944. Data collected by 2 ORS and 20 WTSFF. However, it only includes those tanks which ‘fell into our hands’. Totals are 110 until 7 Aug, and 223 8-31 Aug. The total includes 36 Mk VI of which 20 were destroyed by crew, 6 abandoned, 1 unk cause and 8 by AP shot. The destroyed by crew and abandoned catogies totalled 74 for Mk V and 68 Mk IV

    That makes 26/36 Tiger losses due to demolition/abandonment ….

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    #47600
    Patrice
    Patrice
    Participant

    Some tanks could be abandoned not because of crews bailing out during a fight, but because the crew was already outside the tank and doing something else (sleeping, eating, waiting?) when something happened (air attack, artillery fire, etc?)

    They did not spend all their time inside the tank, and in Normandy sudden attacks were probably more common than elsewhere. And (as others have mentioned above) in the “bocage” of Normandy a ditch can be a safer place than a tank – a big difference with the bare plains of Kursk where you wouldn’t want to run outside your tank.

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