T-34s of 5th Guards Tank Army at the Battle of Prokhorovka

Soviet infantry of the 5th Guards Tank Army accompanies T-34/76 tanks under fire during the Battle of Prokhorovka. The largest tank battle in history, the Battle of Prokhorovka is often misunderstood in the West due to inaccurate and ribald accounts of massive tank-to-tank encounters, claiming the lighter T-34/76 ran rings around the heavy German Tiger tanks. Both sides were armed with their own advanced tanks, but large numbers of Panzerkampfwagen IIIs were operated by the Germans, and T-70 light tanks by the Red Army. The T-34/76 lacked the firepower to deal with the Tigers except with shots to the rear engine compartment, which was more lightly armored. The 2nd SS Panzer Corps, opposing the 5th Guards had no Panther tanks and only twenty-five Tigers. The Germans could only field three hundred armored vehicles. Expecting lightly armed anti-tank guns and the end of the Red Army reserves after the Battle of Kursk, instead the Germans encountered almost a thousand Soviet armored vehicles. While the 5th Guards Army suffered heavy casualties and lost many tanks, the psychological impact of Soviet armor continuing to offer stiff resistance was demoralizing to the Germans. The 2nd SS Panzer Corps was able to extricate their men from the Battle, resulting in a tactical draw, but the collapse of the Ukrainian Front left the Germans in disarray. They retreated from the Ukraine through December 1943, when the badly mauled SS Panzer Divisions were withdrawn to the West for rest and rebuilding. Date Estimated.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
Date Photographed: 
Tuesday, July 13, 1943
Belgorod Oblast
Soviet Union