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Operation Citadel (July 1943)

Discussion in 'World History' started by joespaniel, Jul 15, 2004.

  1. joespaniel

    joespaniel Unescorted Settler

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    Although weakened by the loss of General von Paulus' Army at Stalingrad, the Wehrmacht still had three million troops inside the USSR as the summer of 1943 began. After the retreat from the Caucasus, the German armies turned about and counter-attacked at the city of Kharkov, stopping the Red Army's advance. Both sides were exhausted and the spring rains turned the battlefield to mud once again.

    Hitler, eager to avange his defeat at the Volga, desired to pinch out a salient centered around the town of Kursk and send a message to the world that the Wehrmacht was still in business. A great offensive that he said "will shine like a beacon around the world". If successful, more forces could be diverted to the Med to meet the Americans and British.

    Kluge's Army Group Center and Manstein's Army Group South were tasked with the destruction of five Soviet Armies. The Supreme Commander East, General Guderian, argued against an offensive saying "Why do we want to attack in the East at all? How many Germans have ever even heard of Kursk?" but Hitler was, as usual, adamant. The great offensive was stalled until July when new Tiger and Panther tanks as well as Elephant assault guns could be brought to the front.

    The Soviets around Kursk, led by the energetic Rokossovsky, were fairly certain the Germans would attack the salient. Resisting the urge to strike first, they opted to dig in multiple lines of fortifications supported by massive amounts of artillery. A large tank force was assembled in reserve to deal with a German penetration of the line. Then they waited.

    On July 5th, the Wehrmacht unleashed it's attack against the Kursk salient. The effect was initially that of a tidal wave. For four days, the German armies advanced.
     
  2. joespaniel

    joespaniel Unescorted Settler

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    The Germans very quickly ran into trouble. The Soviets had alot of time to prepare the area that was obviously going to be the avenues of advance. Some 570,000 German soldiers faced nearly 1,000,000 Russians protected by more than 6,000 miles of trenches interspersed with an average of 2,400 antitank and 2,700 antipersonnel mines for each mile of front.

    Even against such staggering odds, the Germans managed a breakthrough near the town of Prokorovka. The Soviets then unleashed their counter attack. Soon, the battlefield was so clouded with smoke and dust that visability was reduced to a few hundred yards, negating the technical and gunnery skill advantages of the Germans. The Soviets displayed their trademark brand of courage, closing to almost point blank range with the Germans, taking but also inflicting horrendous losses.

    Suddenly, Hitler called off Citadel to divert troops to meet the Allied forces that had just landed in Sicily. The Germans lost their intial gains and the Soviets went over to a general offensive on August 2nd.

    The German defeat at Kursk was catastrophic. The fight is well known for being the largest tank battle in history, a total of 6,000 tanks, and the German loss of approximately 3,000 was devastating, they could not manufacture new ones quickly enough to replace them. The air battle was equally bloody. Out of 4,000 aircraft involved the Germans lost nearly 1,400.

    Thus the initative passed from Germany to the USSR. While the Wehrmacht managed to fight a great defensive campaign for the next two years, they never again launched a major offensive in the East.

    Map of the battle
     
  3. joespaniel

    joespaniel Unescorted Settler

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  4. joespaniel

    joespaniel Unescorted Settler

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  5. joespaniel

    joespaniel Unescorted Settler

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    German soldiers get ready for the battle



    The fearsome Tiger tank advancing at Kursk



    Captured Soviet T-34 at Kursk

     
  6. joespaniel

    joespaniel Unescorted Settler

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  7. dgfred

    dgfred Sports Freak

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    :love: this post joe :goodjob: . Great pics :cool: . It would have been
    very interesting if Hitler would have listened to Guderian :scan: . I would
    have stayed on the defensive and waited for a chance to counterattack ;) .
     
  8. rilnator

    rilnator Emperor

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    As soon as the Germans moved the Russians hit them with artillery. Aparently the Lucy spy ring in Berlin had given the Soviets the exact time of the offensive.

    Hitler would have been better off fighting a defensive war in the east after Stalingrad. He still had the tanks and generals to pull it off too. But he made a good point, a big German victory at Kursk would show the world the Wehrmacht was still number 1.

    Nice picture of the Stug III.
     
  9. CruddyLeper

    CruddyLeper Unworshipped Deity

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    Great job JoeSpaniel! :D. Lovely pix as well.

    Strange, I always thought the Lucy ring was based in Switzerland... sure you don't mean Rote Cappella (? - English is Red Orchestra).

    I could well be wrong on this though.
     
  10. rilnator

    rilnator Emperor

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    Dunno, they may have been based in Switzerland but I reckon they got their info from someone in the Williamstrasse in Berlin. I read a fiction book once claiming Bormann was the mole. A possibilty.
     
  11. joespaniel

    joespaniel Unescorted Settler

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    Bormann was a fanatic Nazi. I doubt he would play the fence like that.

    I believe Rilnator is correct about the Lucy spy ring, they confirmed that Kursk was to be the place of attack. It was fairly obvious anyway, a huge salient sticking into the German lines and an important road-rail junction. However, the decision to remain on the defensive was correct and very likely influenced by Lucy.
     
  12. nonconformist

    nonconformist Miserable

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    I heard about (though not read) about a book like that.

    Also, Anthony Beevor recently published a book that examins the possibility of Hitler's favourite actress (I can't remember her name, but it was a Russian sunding name) who could have been a Soviet spy.
     
  13. Ace

    Ace Emperor

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    What about the British passing enigma intercepts to the Russians?? I have not read anything about this, but all the books about spys in Hitler's headquarters were written before the code breaking info was released in the late 90's.
     
  14. joespaniel

    joespaniel Unescorted Settler

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    Some info I found:

     
  15. Zeekater

    Zeekater hasn't been using drugs

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    Does anybody know of some really good maps about Kursk? Not just the ones you get with a little googling ;)
     
  16. dgfred

    dgfred Sports Freak

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    The book 'Barbarossa' is an excellent read with much good info ;) :scan:
     
  17. Zeekater

    Zeekater hasn't been using drugs

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    I have plenty of books about WW2, but none provide some good maps on Zitadelle ;)
    I was thinking about buying 'The BATTLE of KURSK' by D.M. Glantz and J. House, anybody by any chance read it already and have some opinions? :)
     
  18. Serutan

    Serutan Eatibus Anythingibus

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    Yes, I have read it, and recommend it.

    Another Kursk book I liked was Walter Dunn's "Kursk : Hitler's Gamble 1943" (don't know if you could find it outside of a library...).

    For a shorter version, John Erickson's book "The Road To Berlin" has
    a good section on the battle.

    Glantz argues that what really defeated Citadel in the south was
    not the battle of Pokhorovka (which actually involved "only" about 1200
    tanks), but the attacks that Vatutin (commander of the Voronezh Front,
    responsible for the southern half of the bulge), made against the left
    (western) flank of the German penetration every day during the battle.

    Rokossovskii (Central Front) was only in command of the northern half
    of the bulge. He (relatively speaking) stopped Model's forces in their
    tracks.
     
  19. joespaniel

    joespaniel Unescorted Settler

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  20. rilnator

    rilnator Emperor

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