A long accepted internet myth is the significant overclaiming of the German soldier, on land, at the sea and in the air. From Körner the "conjurer" to Marseilles all of them liars, spending most of their times making stuff up. Mentioning any kind of German claims of enemy vehicles destroyed will immediately result in replies explaining the rampant overclaiming of German forces. If you mention two kill claims in a single post you will even summon a kenny ( just a joke Alter Freund ).
I have stated my opinion about this quite often and will do it again: The Wehrmacht was highly accurate with kill claims compared to other major armies. Inherent problems with kill claims existed like in any army but the overall accuracy was often better.
A major part of the myth is the semantic misinterpretation of the term "overclaiming". The word overclaiming is now used the describe the discrepancy between claims and actually destroyed enemy equipment, this is a dishonest bastardization of a rather simple word.
Overclaiming meant claiming more “kills” than you actually made. It was never intended to account for repairs for example. The term “Abschuss” was meant to describe an enemy aircraft downed by a German pilot, nobody cared if the plane might get repaired, this was irrelevant for claiming an “Abschuss”. The term overclaiming was always meant to describe a soldier or unit claiming more vehicles either by accident, like double-counting or simply lying like some JG 27 airmen in Tunisia for example. The terminology in German documents attributed to this problem sometimes those such claims were documented as “destroyed” but sometimes including “bewegungsunfähig”. From the soldiers perspective, the distinction between destroyed and knocked out was impossible to tell. In most cases soldiers were not able to assess the future of the inoperable enemy equipment, this distinction was irrelevant for him.
When historians now claim the Germans were rampantly overclaiming they make serious allegations. Some “researchers” like u/tankarchives are at least honest with what they intend to say and call those soldiers “liars”. Professionals are more tame with their allegations and go with the psychological reason for overclaiming but still have a strong focus on the Wehrmacht. Use any kind of word search method and search for "overclaiming" through Zaloga books and you will nearly always find the word next to the Wehrmacht. The US forces had very strong discrepancies between in claimed and destroyed vehicles, little mention of that by him or anybody else for that matter. Either way, it is wildly accepted that Germans overclaimed, it now has become common sense. A new argument entered the forums some years ago and spread like a wildfire the German FHO claim reduction, the goal of this agency was estimating the combat power of Germany's enemies and thus they were not interested in propaganda but in actual loss numbers of the Red Army. Fair enough, this makes their numbers rather useful. This agency discounted claims by up to 50%, this was now misconstructed as “The Germans themselves knew they overclaimed so much”, this is not true, the discount was trying to account for several factors, the biggest being the repaired vehicles which is conveniently forgotten when this argument gets raised. The 50% reduction was too high anyways but this is also forgotten. Once a talking point is born he will grow and never go away. This was talking point was a real winner it had everything a talking point needed, being catchy, being simple and it makes sense on the first glance.
The semantic issue is obvious and people can choose freely how they interpret the word. So if somebody thinks later repaired tanks were overclaimed then so be it, I am not here to change your mind. But for everybody else an example to illustrate the difference between overclaiming and write-off discrepancy:
A German tanker engages 3 enemy tanks, shots at one which explodes shots at another one which is penetrated and the crew bails out, he switches to the third which also explodes, he starts moving with his own Grenadiers and engages enemy strong points. The second enemy tank gets found several days later and repaired. The German tank crew claimed 3 enemy tanks. Did they overclaim by 33%? I am of the opinion their claim of 3 is valid, they knocked-out 3... . They did not destroy three but they knocke out three and did not "overclaim". Well, as you will see that is pretty much what happened, take a look at the data:
***German claims on the Eastern Front***
Here the numbers for 1944 by Zaloga in *Armored Champion*:
Soviet ***write-offs*** are per Krivosheev for the year 1044: ***23700***
Discounting the aerial claims by 90% ( My personal estimate, have posted about this before ) we get about ~6600 too many claims or better said of the German claims at least 28% are not verified. On the other hand, 72% could be considered verified maybe 65%ish if we consider non-combat write-offs. Interestingly this isn't that bad already. Where is the strong overclaiming?
But now comes the kicker. The Red Army repaired vehicles which were claimed as knock-outs as well, right? Sadly we don't know the actual repair rates of the Red Army since most Russian researchers use most of their times in the archives to prove that Hans Schmidt wrongly claimed a Soviet bicycle which was actually two unicycle per Soviet original document. How dare you Hans.
I tried some googling for this and came around tankarchvies who has a blog post about Soviet repairs. Without much beating around the bush, u/tankarchives is the prime example of an agenda driven apologetic and all the data presented by him can be considered dubious by default but let's roll with it. Here he offers repair rates with an undisclosed methodology. For some unknown reason, he wrongly assumes the ratio of non-combat and combat casualties in a random unit can help to infer reliability which is obviously utter nonsense but more about this later.
[Here](https://imgur.com/a/DD8VWr6) a screen of the “repairability” of tanks in some random unit. Given this is the only hard data I have found with my poor googling skills we will dissect it.
Here a transcribed version:
Losses|KV|T-34|Matilda|Valentine|M3 Stuart|M3 Lee|T-60|Total|
Repaired at repair base|82|102|22|52|21|125|1|405|
Sent for major repairs|4|16|11|15|8|25|3|82|
I will give you a second to think about it. If your first instinct was “this can't be” then you are right, the repair numbers are too high. Obviously, repair numbers for non-combat are irrelevant for us here, so we have to get the combat damage repair number. There as well we have some problems, during combat, casualties can happen without enemy contact as well. For some reason both tables have different vehicles which forces us to exclude the Lee and T-70. If we assume all “road kills” to be fully repaired, the numbers of tankarchives suggest a combat repair rate of ~73%. Well, this would still include some non-combats. We see this number is ***far too high*** but who knows what happened with this set of numbers after tankarchives got his hands on them. Zaloga claims in a table that “technical” losses amounted to 9,3 % if those are write-off ratios is sadly unknown. If losses simply refer to casualties then the number of non-combat write-offs would be neglectable.
On my quest to find repair rates for the Red Army the best I could find was a forum post of Niklas Zetterling who I respect as researcher very much, he claims 25% repair rate as the minimum but with mobility kills. Alaric Searle in Armoured Warfare: A Military, Political and Global History offers one third as repair rate.
I personally would have gone with ~33% as well. But let us just use all those numbers and figure out combat ko's.
Repair rate|10 |25 |33 |50 |73 tankarchives data|
KO'ed |26333|31600|35373|47400|87778 ***lmao***|
Those are the actual numbers of ko'ed tanks that were suffered based on those repair rates. Krivosheevs number of 23700 is only what could not be repaired
Shocked, aren't you? If we just assume 25% battle casualties repair the casualties align near perfectly with German claims. If we assume one third repair rate we already have more casualties than German claims, if we assume tankarchives data to have relevance then the German vastly underclaimed. But don't do that, don't ever take his numbers. Even a very low repair rate of 10% would result in a very modest German overclaiming. This data defeats the tales of German overclaiming quite convincingly in my opinion. The cherry picking of single incidents with shady data gets trumped by this massive sample size. If Germans overclaimed so much it would show in the actual data, but it doesn't. No empiric evidence for the claim of massive German overclaiming.
Ignoring mobility kills during combat a meager 22% repair rate would align every German kill with a Soviet casualty. Assuming some tank losses that happened due to German forces but might not have been claimed would increase the overclaim slightly. After all this is just guess work here. OHHH no he does it again, reasonable guesses...
Zaloga gives the following numbers for other years:
Without doing the math you see the other years had comparable ratios. The same argument applies to those numbers with 1942 likely having less repair rate due to retreats of the Red Army in southern Russia during Operation Blau.
Tankarchives runs into a common problem for people who make up arguments on the fly, incorrect arguments will contradict other arguments that you “create” at another time, the only way to not contradict yourself is to be correct. Tankarchives would like us to believe the Soviet repaired a lot of tanks but this would defeat his “cheating at statistics” claim. He also often makes the argument that T-34s were well designed and superior in reliability to German tanks but here this would also decrease the German overclaim ratio because most casualties would be due to combat. Well, maybe tankarchives will join us and present more data for Soviet tank repair so we can create some knowledge here. Zaloga has the same problem. He will write one book about Arracourt and print all the kill claims from unit diaries without verification but then in another book he will print numbers that show the US claimed more than triple the number to German write-offs in this sector. Tough luck.
***Tankarchives selective data presentation, can be ignored if you are only here for the overclaiming debate***
I will use this post as drive by debunk to further support my claim that tankarchives is an Apologetic who will try to manipulate data as much as he can to support his agenda of changing the public perception of the Red Army.
While trying to find repair rates for the Red Army I noticed that he tried to mislead his readers about German reliability. As claimed by me before tankarchives will use data only if it helps him ( this is common around the forums sadly ) and if not either manipulate the data or not publish it at all. This was not planed as hit piece on him but I saw this accidentally which also supports my claim that he will do this constantly.
After he asserts the nonsensical claim that the ratio of combat and non combat casualties = reliability he tries to again show how the bad the German equipment was. His initial claim makes no sense, a random army at a random point in time can't be used for this. An army without combat will have higher non-combat losses than an army during combat, this has nothing to do with the reliability of the vehicles. We have seen this when the British armies in pursuit of the Wehrmacht after Normandy lost 300+ tanks just to mechanical causes ( Sherman reliability am i right ). This method is silly and will likely result in wrong conclusions. Either way, he found some data for German vehicles that supports his point somewhere.
[Here](https://imgur.com/a/p9CIXtN) is the data he presents and, what a surprise, the German stuff is shitty as we all expected. 40% reliability kills. What he found is a random document of the 3rd US army that described German casualty types, there is literally no information of the methodology and if abandoned vehicles were counted or not, it is useless in this form but that is not the important part.
Indeed tankarchives indeed, very bleak numbers.These are some bleak numbers.
Knowing the background color of this screen I knew the origin of the document and checked it myself. He also posted the origin so my superpower wasn't needed:-( . What I found is the very same page has also data about the Tiger and Panther. Keep in mind tankarchives readily consider this data a good indicator to establish reliability.
[Here](https://imgur.com/a/kh5vGbs) is the full page:
The document suggests the Panther and Tiger had only 17% non-combat losses which would be superior to the T-34 for example. Obviously, the data is useless in my opinion and I would never draw any conclusions from this but tankarchives did when he used it to bash the German tanks. Why did he not copy those numbers as well? They are literally on the same page right beneath the part he screenshot and cropped. Well, because tankarchvies is not in the business of offering knowledge he is in the business of disinforming his readers. The fact that he leads this paragraph about German equipment with: *“For completeness' sake”* before cutting out the numbers that defeat his point is the cherry on the cake. Normally this would destroy your credibility but not at the kiddie table “science” that is historiography where everybody with youtube channel gets an ear just for saying what people want to hear.
***German claims Western Front***
Zaloga who is known as the forerunner of Sherman Apologetics quite often explains the German “exaggerated” kill claims, googling some combination of those terms will result in nearly exclusive critique of German claims. In his book Armored Champion he also lists German claims against Western Forces and the actual losses, the attempt to show the overclaiming is obvious, especially if people with background knowledge notice he does print direct ***counts*** for the US units to avoid showcasing the US overclaiming.
The entire page offers nice info so [here](https://imgur.com/a/Q4IQatF) is a screen for you.
We notice far higher claims than actual write-offs. But we will again see how easy those are explained with just repairs. But first of all, Zaloga makes some mistakes. He writes 1142 British losses in one table then 1042 in the next but more importantly he misread German documents referring to German kill claims. German OKW documents miss the first days of the invasion for kill claims and start at the 16th June. The 478 kill claims for 26th July to 5 August are actually the kill claims of the 6th to 15th August when the German units lead by Tigers rampaged the British/Canadian forces . [Here](https://imgur.com/a/8WMdFQX) is the document showing the claims for this period. And [here](https://imgur.com/a/CgsBTI7) one for 26 July to 5 August where Zaloga printed the 478. All his claim tallies for this time period are wrong. The actual kill claims forwarded were 1457 but this is missing the first 10 days which is likely the reason for Zalogas mistakes. The claims for this period have to be estimated. I put them somewhere between 200-300. Mostly due to the heavy fighting between the HJ and the Canadians and PzLehr with British units + Villers. Interesting is that a professional would see those numbers as incorrect on first glance, they don't align with the big battles.
Here are German claims for the relevant period, let us take a look at actual losses:
Zaloga went with the 5th August cut of point because the documentation time frames of both sides align well. Let us follow his leat. Germans in the British sector claimed 1657-1757 and the British admitted about 1142 ***completely destroyed tanks*** according to Zaloga. Well well this already doesn't look that bad let be more thorough.
Let us look consider the repairability of Allied vehicles. [Here](https://imgur.com/a/BdB6S7X) a screen of the well known Oro--117. We see the British have a rather small sample size but a pretty high repair rate a total of 76%. But this includes minor damage like mines. The US numbers are lower with a better sample. I personally often run with the 50% repair rate for gunfire which is likely close to the truth. We don't know when the British sample was collected. Let's do the math again.
Where is the overclaiming? German forces claimed less than 2000. Why do people believe German tankers overclaimed? If the Germans claimed 1800 AFCs during this time than this aligns near perfectly with British casualties.
Here a British document about KOs and repaird vehicles up to the 20th July as printed in *Armored Campaign*:
The German claimed 1178 ( plus 6th-16th June) tanks until 5 days later than the report. Not much discrepancy. Here has to be said what is relevant for the entire period, the British suffered considerable losses on D-Day and it questionable how many of those could have been actually claimed.
Let's do more. In the US sector German forces claimed 554 tanks ( missing the first ten days and Zalogas mistakes corrected ) the US forces according to Zaloga lost 647 completely destroyed vehicles. Where is the German overclaiming?
Lets go deeper. Napier in his rather good book about tank combat in Normandy has estimated the Allied tank losses. I don't agree with his methodology but apparently, nobody cares what I say sooo... He counted write-offs and knock-outs together for a total of ~2700 tanks until the 26th August. Here my compilation of claims with a total to the 25th:
Not much overclaming to be found. The first 10 days are missing so the actual claims are higher, on the other hand, I believe Allied losses are undercounted and have already presented a strong case for this in rebuttaltime. In his 2700 casualties, we find “only” 999 US losses but those appear to be only write-offs and with a repair rate of 50% would suggest up to 2000 casualties. Zaloga gives total write offs till 20th August for the US as +1100. Also Napier claims the British army funneled about 1600 replacement tanks into the delivery squadrons together with US write-offs and shortages this alone would explain German claims near perfectly. Either way, there is no significant overclaiming found in those numbers. Nearly all discrepancy is explained by the Allies repairing vehicles same as in the East.
German forces did not overclaim significantly. The fact that Allied armies the same as German armies repaired vehicles and therefore created a discrepancy between kill claims and write-offs was misconstrued as German soldiers making kill claims up. Actual data of massive samples shows that even a moderate repair rate alone can account for the entire discrepancy. Particularly interesting is the focus on German kill claims which can only be explained with the ongoing revisionism of World War II that is fueled by emotions and intended to dispute the uneasy truth that the mass murdering armed forces of the Nazis were the most efficient fighting force. An army that leads the genocidal charge for one of the most evil regimes in history can still be good at war. This is a sad truth but still a truth, those who can't stomach this might want research other areas of history.
How else would you explain that despite the availability of all those numbers none of the big hitters in tank research have done honest research on German kill claims? Took me about an hour to gather the data and then some more to write this up. Admittedly my writing is shit and this is badly formatted but why do so many historians talk about overclaiming instead of just delivering evidence?
This post here does not claim nobody overclaimed, it does also not claim the Wehrmacht has a whole didn't claim more tanks knocked out than they actually did. The findings show that the overclaiming was not as significant as generally claimed and more importantly less than in other armies. The strong focus on German overclaiming by recent "historians" is fake news.
But understand how people will always choose small samples, or even worse anecdotes to support their point. The big samples are available but yet people focus on cherry picked battles. The sad state of historiography at the moment.
I will be honest here with some potential issues with my argument.
* I don't know for certain if the claim numbers present raw claims of units like you would find them in Schneiders book or if some sort of review process was used before the armies compiled the claims. If the forwarded army claims differ significantly from unit claims then my argument might be void. I have seen original data of claims in army documentation and don't think the numbers were significantly altered from their origin within the unit but I don't know for certain.
* Another problem are total losses resulting due to non combat reasons. Those vehicles would here be used to confirm German claims despite being not connected. I assume this number to be so low compared to combat losses that it doesn't change the conclusion tho. Zaloga in armored champion claims up to 50% non-combat but he does not disclose if this would be write-offs which is very unlikely.
* There are combat kills that would also not register in German claims. Kills by artillery and mines for example are hard to accurately claim those would still end up in the admitted combat casualties and therefore increase the overclaim ratio. The same with combat kills not filed due to for example the death of the “killer” before he could file his claims. This means a good chunk of kills were never claimed therefore helped to validate wrong claims.
Some little fun fact, according to Zaloga the Red Army claimed 70.000 German tanks destroyed until the end of 1944.
Another fun fact, the US forces in Lorraine just in September claimed 1214 German tanks. "lul"
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