I read this claim somewhere, but cannot possibly find the source of it - did Erich von Manstein prefer large numbers of medium tanks PzKpfw IV over small numbers of heavy tanks?


2 Answers 2


Yes, he did, but this is taken out of context. He had nothing against heavy tanks per se, but in a specific case he was extremely unhappy to have to wait several months, giving the enemy plenty of time to prepare its defenses, to receive a handful of Panzer Vs(instead of attacking directly), as Hitler insisted. And on that specific case, he was completely right - the Battle of Kursk was a disaster for the Germans, since the Soviets under Zhukov had multiple months to prepare one of the deepest defences in depth(up to 200km, if memory serves me right), and for the whole Steppe Front(again, if memory serves me right, a ~400,000 army, brought from the Far East, and Zhukov's last stategic reserve) to arrive. Both of these prevented Manstein from achieving victory(just as he was starting to overcome the biggest portion of the defenses the Steppe Front hit him, and hit him hard; and besides, the operation was supposed to be a two-prolonged assault to encircle the Kursk bulge, and only the Southern attack, Manstein's, succeeded, the Northern part was stopped much earlier) and he was furious - if only the hadn't waited months to strike...

Furthermore, the German heavy tanks were beasts of engineering and as a consequence they were a heavy burden to maintain and supply. (If I am not mistaken) even Guderian was against throwing huge ressources into small amounts of heavy tanks that were costly to use, he favoured the Soviet style, "quantity has a quality of its own". Except with German quality.

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    That's nice to know, but do you have a source for this? Feb 8, 2016 at 9:19
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    Well, one can start with the Wikipedia article on the battle of Kursk, specifically this part - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… . It details the German thought process, notably Hitler, Model, Manstein and Guderian. Besides that, i've read a book from Bevin Alexander(i can't remember which one, i think it was Sun Tzu at Gettysburg)which described in detail the planning,execution and failure of Operation Citadel; and i've watched Generals at War from National Geographic. Without quoting specific authors, that is my general impression from those sources Feb 8, 2016 at 9:45
  • @Guderian: wanted the heavy tanks.. but he was against sending them out piecemeal. he wanted to amass over a thousand of them to be flung at the enemy as a big surprise. May 15, 2019 at 20:13

I gave a look to Manstein memories, but I didn't find a reference about the topic. Actually, seldom times he talks about technical issues, most of his speech is about strategy. In the battle of Kursk chapter, he talk about tank models only once, just to describe the arrival of new models, without making a judgement about the tanks (except for the Ferdinand, when he says that it was a failure).

As a complement to Adrian answer. German heavy tanks had several mechanic problems in their first battles, even in Kursk battle several tanks were unfit to combat for this reason. In the other hand, Guderian was in charge of tank production, not Manstein. I don't have any source which describe a talk between Guderian and Manstein about the topic.

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