It's no secret that science история - sometimes it turns into a kind of political instrument. And therefore, sometimes, through strange social manipulations, the significance of important historical episodes is significantly underestimated and even leveled out. And, on the contrary, of the insignificant events, experienced social engineers are able to inflate a grandiose bubble of significance, extolling a rather small historical fact to the skies for the sake of one or another political interest.
For example, many of Russians - Soviet and even post-Soviet education, are quite sincerely convinced that the largest tank the battle in history took place near Prokhorovka as an episode of the battle on the Kursk Bulge between armored units of the German and Soviet armies.
However, for the sake of objectivity, it should be recalled that the most ambitious tank mega-battle took place during the Great Patriotic War two years earlier and much to the west of the Kursk Bulge: on the Dubno-Lutsk-Brody section, where a total of almost 4,5 thousand armored vehicles fought in an armored deadly battle for a week ...
Tank counterattack on June 23, 1941
In fact, the start of the battle on the Dubno - Lutsk - Brody line, which historians also call the Battle of Dubno, was the second day of the Great Patriotic War - 23.06.1941/XNUMX/XNUMX.
It was on that day that the mechanized corps of the Red Army of the Kiev Military District carried out their famous grandiose counterattack against the advancing German troops, which not only broke the enemy's plans, but also significantly influenced the entire course of that war.
The idea of the counteroffensive belongs to the representative of the Headquarters of the Supreme High Command Georgy Zhukov. He insisted on this.
The first to attack the flanks of Army Group South were the first echelon mechanized corps - the 4th, 15th and 22nd. Then the second echelon from the 8th, 9th and 19th mechanized corps entered the battle.
The Soviet command strategically correctly planned to strike at the extremities of the German 1st Panzer Group, which was part of the Army Group South aimed at Kiev, as well as its encirclement and destruction.
A prerequisite for the belief in the success of this plan was the reports of the first day of the war that some Soviet divisions had stopped the enemy's larger detachments (for example, the 87th division of Major General Philip Fedorovich Alyabushev, which by the end of the day on June 22 threw back the fascist troops by 6 –10 km west of Vladimir-Volynsky).
Plus, the Red Army troops just in this sector of the front had an impressive advantage in armored vehicles.
Indeed, at that time, among the Soviet military districts, it was Kievsky that was the most powerful. Therefore, in the case of the treacherous attack of the enemy, in fact, in the first place, they counted on him as the organizer of the main and decisive retaliatory strike of the Red Army.
Therefore, as a matter of priority, equipment was sent there in significant volumes, and there the training and education of troops was organized at a high level.
According to reports, the troops of this district (at that time of the Southwestern Front) had a total of 3695 tanks. At that time, the enemy had about 800 self-propelled guns and tanks involved in the offensive, which is almost five (4,6) times less.
However, in practice, such a poorly prepared and hasty order for a counteroffensive turned into the largest tank battle, which the Red Army troops lost.
Tanks versus tanks?
So, the tank formations of the 8th, 9th and 19th mechanized corps on June 23, 1941 went to the front line and began a meeting battle right from the march. This is how the first grandiose tank battle in the Great Patriotic War began.
This battle was also unique and here's why.
Military historians emphasize that the concept of war in the mid-twentieth century itself did not provide for such battles. At that time, it was generally accepted that tanks are a tool for breaking through enemy defenses, and also contribute to creating a situation of chaos in enemy communications.
The postulate generally recognized by military experts, which was an axiom for the armies of that period, was formulated quite straightforwardly:
"Tanks don't fight tanks."
Then it was believed that anti-tank artillery, as well as thoroughly entrenched infantry, should fight against tanks. So, the battle of Dubno once and for all broke and smashed to smithereens all these theoretical calculations. Here the tank companies and battalions of the Red Army met with the German armored vehicles precisely head-on.
And they lost. According to military analysts, for two reasons at once.
The first was the significantly different level of communication, coordination and management. The Germans were much more advanced in this regard: they more effectively used the possibilities of both communication and coordination between the branches of the armed forces, experts say.
In the battle of Brody, the lag in this parameter led to the fact that the tanks of the Red Army fought, in fact, in the absence of support, haphazardly and ahead.
Infantry units simply did not have time to provide support to tanks against artillery, since it was elementary for the foot shooters not to catch up with the armored vehicles.
It is reported that tank formations (above the battalion) fought practically in the absence of any systemic coordination, that is, separately and in isolation from each other.
It even happened that in the same place a mechanized corps broke through into the depths of the German formations, that is, to the west, and the one located nearby (instead of supporting the attack of the first) unexpectedly moved to leave the occupied position and began to retreat to the east.
Battle of Dubno. The T-34 is on. Source: bild.bundesarchiv.de
The second reason for the defeat in the battle of Dubno is the above concept. Let us repeat, our troops were not ready for a battle with tanks due to the paradigm prevalent at that time that "tanks do not fight with tanks."
Most of the tanks that took part in that battle from the Soviet side were created either in the early or in the mid-thirties. These were mainly light tanks for direct support of the infantry.
To be more precise, experts indicate that by June 22, 1941, 5 armored vehicles were involved in 8 mechanized corps (9th, 15th, 19th, 22th, 2803nd). This is 171 (6,1%) medium tank (T-34). 217 (7,7%) - heavy tanks (KV-2 - 33, KV-1 - 136 and T-35 - 48). That is, the total of medium and heavy tanks at that time in these formations was 13,8%. The rest (or 86,2%), that is, the overwhelming majority, were light tanks. It was light tanks that were considered the most modern and in demand at that time. There were 2415 of them (these are T-26, T-27, T-37, T-38, BT-5, BT-7).
It is also reported that the 900th mechanized corps participating in the battle a little to the west of Brody then had almost 892 tanks (53 units), but at the same time there were slightly more than half of them modern (1%). There were 89 KV-10s. or 34%, but the T-327 - 37 pcs. (XNUMX%).
Our light tanks, in view of the tasks assigned to them, had anti-bullet and anti-fragmentation armor. Undoubtedly, such armored vehicles were perfectly adapted for a variety of actions behind enemy lines and on enemy communications. However, they were much worse suited for breaking through enemy defenses.
The German armored vehicles were weaker than ours in terms of armament and quality, but the Wehrmacht took into account both the weak and the strong sides of their tanks and preferred to use them in defense. This tactic brought to zero all the technical advantages and superiority of the Red Army tanks.
In addition, Hitler's field artillery played an important role in the battle of Dubno. It is known that for the most part it is not dangerous for KV and T-34, but for light tanks it was very sensitive.
What can we say about the then direct fire 88-mm anti-aircraft guns of the Nazis. Only our heavy vehicles, the T-35 and KV, could resist them. But light Soviet tanks - no. This not only stopped them. Reports indicate that they
"As a result of being hit by anti-aircraft shells, they were partially destroyed."
And if we consider that the Germans in this sector of the anti-tank defense used not only anti-aircraft guns against us ...
Losing as a prologue to victory
No matter how analysts think, the Red Army tankers fought on their own, albeit not ideal armored vehicles, in those first days desperately and even won battles.
Of course, since there was no protection from the sky, the enemy aircraft destroyed up to half of the convoy right on the march. Alas, their low-power armor could be pierced by a large-caliber machine gun. And in the absence of radio communications, our soldiers went into battle, as they say, at their own peril and risk. In such conditions, ours then fought and even achieved their goals.
When the counter-offensive began, the first two days the advantage kept shifting to one side, then to the other. And by the fourth day, the Red Army tankers, even taking into account all the difficulties they had, were able to achieve significant success. In a number of battles, they managed to drive off the Nazis by 25 or 35 kilometers.
Moreover, by the evening of June 26, 1941, our tankers even managed to knock the Germans out of the city of Dubno, and the Fritzes had to flee and retreat. Now - to the east.
Destroyed German tank PzKpfw II. Source: waralbum.ru
Nevertheless, the superiority of the Germans in infantry formations, and at that time, tankers could do without them practically only in raids on the rear, affected. On the fifth day of the battle, by the end of the day, the Soviet advance detachments of the mechanized corps were simply completely eliminated. Some of the formations were surrounded and went on the defensive in all directions. And the tank detachments began to experience a shortage of fuel, ammunition, spare parts and combat-ready armored vehicles. Sometimes, retreating, our tankers were forced to leave the enemy, as they say, whole tanks due to haste.
Now sometimes voices are heard that, they say, if at that time the front command had not ordered the transition to the defensive (although the order of Georgy Zhukov was about the offensive), then supposedly in this case, ours would have fought back and drove the Germans from Dubno to the west.
Alas, the opinion of competent experts would not have been driven.
That summer, the Hitlerite army had an advantage - German tank formations had extensive experience in real interaction with different military groups and fought more actively.
However, the most important significance of the battle at Dubno was the disruption of Hitler's plan "Barbarossa".
Indeed, in fact, it was our tank counterattack that forced the leadership of the German army to withdraw and use in battles the very reserves from Army Group Center, which the Nazis planned to use just when attacking Moscow.
And just this very direction - to Kiev from that very battle and turned into paramount for the Wehrmacht.
All of the above was not at all part of Hitler's ideas. All this ruined the slender and well-thought-out Barbarossa scheme. And all the dreams of the Fritzes about the blitzkrieg were thwarted so much that the pace of the German offensive itself slowed down to the extreme, so that it was just right to call them now catastrophic.
Despite the fact that the Red Army was facing a very difficult autumn and winter of 1941 at that time, the largest tank battle of the Great Patriotic War had already played its gigantic role.
Experts are sure that in the battles of both Kursk and Orel, it was this battle at Dubno that echoed with a powerful echo. Yes, and in the Salute on Victory Day, the echoes of this most significant tank battle of the very first days of the Great Patriotic War thundered with a resounding echo.