On July 5, 1943, the German Army launched Operation Citadel. It was an attempt to encircle and crush a bulge of Soviet troops concentrated in and around the city of Kursk. This bulge stretched for 150 miles from north to south, and jutted 100 miles west into German lines(https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Kursk). The Germans attempted to drive behind the bulge from both north and south, therein surrounding the Soviet forces at Kursk and eventually crushing them. In order to do this, the Germans had amassed some “50 divisions, two tank brigades, three tank battalions, and eight artillery assault divisions comprising 2,700 Tiger and Panther tanks, some two thousand aircraft, and 900,000 men in all”(http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/battle-of-kursk/). What could possibly go wrong?
Well for starters, the Soviets had anticipated such an attack. It seemed rather obvious that the giant bulge in their lines might try to be exploited! So to counter this, the Soviets withdrew the bulk of their forces from the bulge and set a nasty trap of minefields and anti-tank emplacements for their aggressors. When the Germans launched their assault, they made only 10 and 30 miles progress from the north and south respectively, losing many of their tanks in the process. With the Germans struggling to advance and vulnerable to counter-attack, the Soviets did just that! (https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Kursk).
On July 12, the Soviets began their counter-offensive, marking the beginning of the largest armored battle in the history of warfare. In all, around 6,000 tanks, two million men, and 4,000 aircraft would take part(https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Kursk). The combat took place mostly in and above the sprawling fields surrounding Kursk, making for an epic battle of man and machines. The Germans would go on to lose 30 of their 50 divisions, and some half of a million men(http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/battle-of-kursk/). The battle would draw to a close on August 23, marking the second in a string of Soviet major victories to come. The German army would not launch another comparable assault until the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944, which also failed miserably.
I found a personal account of the battle, at this location from a Soviet tank commander(https://iremember.ru/en/memoirs/tankers/fadin-alexander-mikhailovich/), and want to give a short excerpt from it:
“Three red signal flares soared up. After passing a few hundred meters we saw German tanks pushing forward. Both sides stared firing. Katyusha rockets swished over our heads and German defenses were wrapped in a cloud of dust. There we closed in. I couldn’t imagine that I would find myself in such a senseless, albeit well organized on both sides, slaughter. I feared I might get lost and run over one of the nearby friendly tanks! ” – Fadin Alexander Mikhailovich.
If this at all gets your blood pumping or you have the slightest interest in military history, please check out the link I left above. It contains some incredible stories and recollections from veterans of the Great Patriotic War! In creating this blog post, I spent at least an hour reading through some of these incredible accounts from Soviet men and women on this site(https://iremember.ru/en/).
To tie this whole post into the key concepts for this blog post, Kursk was the icing on the cake coming out of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad. Having been thwarted twice, and having lost some 800,000 men at Stalingrad alone, the Germans had no choice but to retreat(https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Stalingrad). The aforementioned Soviet victories showed the world, and more importantly the German army, that the Russians were not the disorganized band of peasants they were originally thought to be. Without those victories, I’m not sure that the Russian army would have been able to reach Berlin before the Western allies did.
This post has been my favorite so far, wherein I’ve been able to apply some of my useless knowledge about tanks and WWII! I apologize in advance for my ramblings in the image captions, and hope that you found them and my post somewhat informative and pertinent to our studies!
Featured image link: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.historynet.com%2Fthe-crucible-at-kursk.htm&psig=AOvVaw3pAymDfzW8mIUFEuB-iS79&ust=1586803485985000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCLDAyqjS4-gCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAf