Battle of Kursk summary
The Battle of Kursk took place in July and August 1943 near the city of Kursk in the Eastern Front. It was both the largest armored clash and the costliest single day of aerial warfare in history.
- Advised months in advance that the attack would fall on the neck of the Kursk salient, the Soviets designed a plan to slow, redirect, exhaust, and progressively wear down the powerful German panzer spearheads by forcing them to attack through a vast interconnected web of minefields, pre-sighted artillery fire zones, and concealed anti-tank strong points.
- The 9th Army's attack sector in the north had been correctly anticipated by the Red Army's Central Front. Attacking on a 45-kilometer wide front, the Germans found themselves trapped in the huge defensive minefields and needed engineering units to come up and clear them under artillery fire. Red Army units covered the minefields with small arms and artillery fire, delaying German engineers clearing manually; German losses were high. German troops in the south were better equipped than those in the north. much more successful than their northern counterparts. The attack fared better because the tanks were used in concentrated spearheads Also in the south the Red Army had not been able to pinpoint the German attack sectors. This forced them to spread out their defences evenly.
- On the second day, the Central Front under Rokossovsky started a counterattack against the German 9th Army, but this operational counterattack was launched too early. Soviet tanks sustained heavy losses. In the South the new Panther tanks proved unreliable and failed to perform to expectations. However German progress continued.
- On 7 July German Infantry Divisions attacked Ponyri and captured the town after intense house-to-house fighting. Many counterattacks by both sides followed, and the town changed hands many times. In the South Soviet units launched counterattacks but failed to stop the Germans..
- On 10 July, the Germans renewed their attack with additional air support, but their gains were minor. Soviet formations, attacked the German 2nd Panzer Army, positioned in the rear of 9th Army. The outnumbered 2nd Panzer Army had trouble with the Soviet attack. Soviet formations made a deep penetration and threatened German supply routes. With their advance on Orel the encirclement of the 9th Army was possible.
- 11 July was a successful day for the southern German units; They penetrated deep into Soviet lines. At this moment the Germans thought the final breakthrough was achieved, and now free of the minefields they could operate freely and destroy the Soviet armoured reserves in the open. The Soviets, indeed, began moving their tank reserves toward the spearheads of Army Group South.
- On the morning of 12 July, the 4th Panzer Army and advanced on Prokhorovka. At the same time the 5th Guards Tank Army launched a series of attacks as part of a multi-front counteroffensive in an attempt to catch the Germans off balance. The SS and Guards units collided west of Prokhorovka. The Soviets outnumbered the Germans and used fresh units not committed to the battle until this moment.
- The Prokhorovka battle was a draw with heavy losses on both sides. However, after the battle was over, the Soviets held the area and were able to recover their disabled tanks and wounded crews.
- On the night of 9–10 July, the Western Allies mounted an amphibious invasion of Sicily. Three days later, Hitler summoned Günther von Kluge and Erich von Manstein to his Wolfsschanze headquarters in East Prussia and declared his intention to temporarily call off Operation Zitadelle.
- On 16 July, German forces withdrew to their start line. Severely depleted, the Germans then had to face Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev, an offensive launched to smash the German forces in the Belgorod–Kharkov area which was launched on 3 August. Belgorod fell on 5 August, and on 23 August, Kharkov fell, despite fierce resistance from German forces. With the capture of Kharkov, the Soviets considered the Battle of Kursk over. Although the Red Army had success during the winter, this was the first successful strategic Soviet summer offensive of the war. The Battle of Kursk was the first battle in which a Blitzkrieg offensive had been defeated before it could break through enemy defences and into its strategic depths.