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Battle Of Kursk In Pictures: Part 1

The Battle of Kursk - Operation 'Zitadelle' to the Germans - was fought in July 1943, following the turning point of the War earlier in the year, at Stalingrad. If the latter battle marked the end of the high tide for the Axis, then Kursk marked the ebbing of the tide - that would not stop until Germany itself lay in ruins.




video


"The three immense battles of Kursk, Orel and Kharkov, all in the space of two months, heralded the downfall of the German army on the Eastern Front."
Winston Churchill


WAS HITLER RIGHT IN MOVING SOME TROOPS AWAY FROM KURSK?

The Battle Of Kursk was not a big victory as the Russians believed. In fact Hitler understood well that what ever his army had done in Kursk was the best it could do. Many historians say that at a crucial time Hitler overruled General Manstein and shifted some SS troops to Italy and that was a big mistake.
Historian Walter S. Dunn argues in his work Kursk: Hitler's Gamble 1943 that this was not so. Hitler saw no point in pushing in his depleted infantry into Kursk. He moved away some troops from Kursk was not entirely because of the Sicily landings by the Allies BUT because troops were needed in other areas of the Russian front.

The Russians had got wind of the Germans' plan of removing the "bulge" on the front and foresaw the Battle of Kursk and hence were well prepared

WHY DID THE BATTLE OF KURSK HAPPEN?

To Hitler it provided the perfect target to repeat the successes of 1941 and 1942, encircling vast Soviet armies and destroying them in the process. For Hitler, it was once again the thought that the Soviets could not possibly suffer another catastroph on that scale.

By the spring of 1943 most German generals had concluded that Russia could no longer be defeated. Their aim now was to continue the fight and hope that a political pact to end the war in Russia could be reached.

For the Russians, the aim was to damage the German army to such an extent that it could not recover. Both Stalin and Zhukov knew that it (defeating Nazi Germany) was going to be a long process and they were ready for it.


BATTLE OF KURSK IN BRIEF

The Battle of Kursk took place in July 1943. Kursk was to be the biggest tank battle of World War Two and the battle resulted in a severe crisis for Nazi Germany’s war machine in Russia.


Operation Barbarossa had shown the power of armoured warfare when Hitler unleashed Blitzkrieg on the Red Army. Together with aerial support, the Wehrmacht’s tanks had torn swathes through the masses of the Russia Army. The Russian (Red) Army had little in reserve and the Germans nearly made it to Moscow before the infamous Russian winter set in at the end of 1941. However, after the defeat at Stalingrad, the German army on the Eastern Front had been in retreat. If this retreat west continued, it would prove to Germany’s enemies that the nation’s military power had been fatally wounded at Stalingrad. A continued retreat would also encourage the work of the Russian partisans massed in the west of their country – waiting to strike on a retreating army. Therefore, for the morale of the German Army, the German High Command had to organise a massive offensive against Russia – if only to prove that the German Armed Forces based in Russia were still mighty and a force to be reckoned with.

A successful German offensive had obvious military consequences for the Germans. However, they also hoped to force through a political one. It was known that the Russians were becoming increasingly tired at the seeming unwillingness of Britain and America to open up a second front in the west. A defeat of Russia in the east might result in the collapse of any form of relationship between the Russians and the Allies in the west. This could only be to the advantage of the Germans.

By the summer of 1943, the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe were increasingly well armed. The German industrial sector headed by Albert Speer, was expanding at a massive rate despite the bombing of Germany by the Allies. In 1942, Germany produced 5,700 medium and heavy tanks. In 1943, this had increased to 11,900. The production of planes had doubled between the two years; ammunition production had increased three-fold by 1943.

By the summer of 1943, the Wehrmacht was also being equipped with new weaponry. The Tiger, King Tiger and Panther tanks were introduced as was the new Ferdinand self-propelled gun. The Luftwaffe received the Focke-Wolfe 190A fighter and the Henschel 129. The new equipment was matched by an increase in manpower. As there was no second front in the west – and the Germans predicted that there would not be in 1943 – men based in the west were moved to the Russian Front. By the summer of 1943, two-thirds of the German Army was based in Russia.

By the summer of 1943, the Russians had steadily advanced east. However, a bulge had occurred south of Orel and north of Kharkov. At the centre of this bulge was Kursk. It was here, and to eradicate this bulge in preparation for a push east, that the Germans centred their attack in what was called ‘Operation Citadel’. If this bulge was not taken out, then there was every chance that the Russians would use the troops they had stationed there to launch an attack on the Germans at Orel and Kharkov – but attacking behind them, thus trapping the Germans between two Russian forces.

Hitler gave his support for the attack on April 15th, 1943. His order stated that:

“This offensive is of decisive importance. It must end in swift and decisive success. Every commander, every private soldier, must be indoctrinated with awareness of the decisive importance of this offensive. Victory at Kursk will be a beacon for the whole world.”

For the attack on Kursk, Germany had grouped 900,000 soldiers in the region, 10,000 artillery guns, 2,700 tanks and 2,000 aircraft. About 1/3rd of all Germany’s military strength was concentrated in the area. Elite Luftwaffe units were ordered there.

Hitler ordered that “there must be no failure”. Reconnaissance planes photographed all the defensive systems that the Russians had built.

“No offensive was ever prepared as carefully as this one.” General Mellenthin.

However, Russia’s military leaders had not been sitting idly by. Their intelligence had alerted them to a massive German offensive; they knew where it would be, the numbers involved and near enough when it would start. They decided on a defensive strategy to allow the Germans to wear themselves out. The defence of Kursk was put into the hands of two generals – Rokossovsky and Vatutin. In preparation for a massive counter-offensive (and also to be used if the Germans were initially successful) a huge force of reserves was based in the rear led by Koniev. In charge of all these men was Marshall Zhukov.

The Russians had also placed vast numbers of men and equipment in the Kursk bulge. 1.3 million soldiers were based there, 20,000 artillery pieces, 3,600 tanks and 2,400 planes. The Russians had guessed where the Germans would try to use their tanks in depth – and placed a large number of their anti-tank artillery guns there. Trenches and other anti-tank traps were dug. The depth of defences included the laying of 400,000 mines, which equated to 2,400 anti-tank and 2,700 anti-personnel mines every mile – more than at the Battle of Moscow and the Battle of Stalingrad. By June 1943, 300,000 civilians were helping the Russians build defences around the Kursk salient. They repaired 1,800 miles of road and dug thousands of miles of trenches.

German prisoners captured by Russian shock troops before the battle actually started, told the Russians that the attack was to be on July 5th. To pre-empt the attack, the Russians launched a massive artillery bombardment at 02.00 on July 5th. This had an impact on the morale of the Germans as it was clear that their plan had been compromised. After the bombardment had finished, it took nearly two hours for the Germans to reorganise themselves.

Germany started her attack at 04.30 with an artillery barrage. A tank and infantry attack started at 05.30 once air cover had arrived. The main thrust contained 500 tanks; heavy tanks at the front, supported by medium ones behind with infantry behind these. The Germans tried to break through on four occasions. They gained 6 miles of land in the first 24 hours of fighting but at a cost. 25,000 men had been killed or wounded, 200 tanks and self-propelled guns had been lost and 200 aircraft. A similar pattern occurred over the next few days. Ferocious German attacks were met with ferocious Russian defence. By July 10th, the German IX Army had lost 2/3rds of its tanks. Even the mighty Tiger tanks were falling victim to the Russians anti-tank guns. Russian tank commanders also quickly learned that if they attacked a Tiger side-on, its armour was thinner and more vulnerable.

VIDEO: BATTLE OF KURSK

The greatest tank battle of World War Two place on July 12th. In total, 1,500 tanks were involved at Prokhorovka, some 50 miles to the south-east of Kursk. By nightfall, the Germans had not achieved the desired breakthrough. They had lost another 350 tanks and 10,000 men. The strength of the Germans in the south of the Kursk salient had been broken and the Russians launched a major counter-offensive. By July 23rd, the Germans had been pushed back to where they had stated their attack. The initiative now lay with the Russians who had a forward momentum to their advantage. The Germans were literally on the back foot.

On July 12th, the Russians launched another counter-offensive in the north of the salient in an effort to relieve Orel. They outnumbered the Germans two to one in all areas. Unable to call in reinforcements from their men fighting in the south, the Germans were unable to hold off the Russian offensive. By July 19th, the Russians had pushed forward 45 miles. The Russian Air Force ensured that the Luftwaffe was incapable of giving the army the support it needed. Faced with the collapse of its forces in Orel, General Model asked Hitler's permission to withdraw to the Hagen Line. Model warned Hitler that the Wehrmacht faced another Stalingrad if the withdrawal was not allowed. The German Army in and around Orel pulled back 60 miles in an effort to regroup. However, by the time the withdrawal had occurred, German troops were exhausted after constant harassment from the air by the Russian Air Force. By August 5th 1943, Orel was back in the hands of the Russians.

The German retreat was severely hindered by partisans who destroyed many miles of rail line which ensured that train engines piled up at rail heads, making them an easy target for the Russian Air Force.

A similar situation occurred in the southern sector of the salient. Here the German Army was facing a formidable enemy that had the advantage of being on the offensive. In this sector, the Germans had 300,000 men and about 600 tanks. The Russians had nearly 1 million men in the region, including reserves, and many more tanks. Their counter-offensive in this sector started on August 3rd and two days later Russian forces entered Belgorod. The partisans who operated in this area derailed more than 1,000 train loads of troops in August - a major factor to explain why the Germans could not move their men around with ease. Morale among the German troops who fought in this sector plummeted. On August 13th, the Russians had broken through the outer defences of the city of Kharkov and by August 23rd, the city was liberated. The retaking of the city of Kharkov is seen as the end of the Battle of Kursk.

The Battle of Kursk was to have major consequences for the Germans. It was the last major offensive they launched in Russia. Now, their forces only faced retreat and attempting to stop the onslaught of the Red Army. The material damage done to the German Army was massive - 500,000 men were killed, wounded or missing; vast amounts of armour had been lost.


German Junkers Ju-87 (Stukas) on Russian positions: the beginning of Operation "Citadel."

THE RUSSIANS PREPARE.....

The Soviets considered the situation, weighed up the probable German attack routes - and prepared accordingly. Even if the "Lucy" spy ring helped out with information - it was hardly needed. They had time: after the spring "rasputitsa" [thaw - whole place turned to mud] had brought a halt to the fighting, they had until July to build the defences - and to re-build their forces. Hitler's insistence on waiting for his "super-weapons" kept delaying the assault - from the planned date in May, until 5th July.

VIDEO: BATTLE OF KURSK (1/2)




Von Kluge, (left) and Model, commander of the 9th Army, discussing the rate of advancement of German troops after the assault began. However, a major breakthrough, which the Germans hoped for did not happen

THE MUCH AWAITED NEW GERMAN TANKS

This time it was for the long-awaited answer to the T-34 - the PanzerKapmfWagen V - the "Panther" - and the latest creation from his favourite designer - Dr Ferdinand Porsche. The Panther was destined to be a great tank, but in July 1943 it was still suffering teething troubles, the entire stock having been issued once and recalled for rebuilding, and now re-issued to Panther Abteilung 51 and 52, totalling 200 Panthers attached to the Wehrmacht's elite "GroƟDeutschland" Panzer Grenadier Division. Dr Porsche's offering was the "Elefant" - a beast of a tank destroyer, porting an 88mm gun in a fixed mounting.

Source

VIDEO: BATTLE OF KURSK (2/2)




July 5, 1943. A German squad goes into the attack. In the foreground - a machine gunner to cover his comrades.

THE RUSSIANS WERE READY....

In all this time, the Soviets had dug in - deeply on both shoulders of the salient. The immediate battle area contained up to 7 defensive lines, with dug-in anti-tank strongpoints, anti-tank ditches and millions of mines. The Soviets were also prepared in real depth for the first time: a new Front was set up - Steppe Front - based 100 Km back, including the full weight of Pavel Rotmistrov's 5 Guards Tank Army. All the units were brought back up to full - even above full - strength. The main problem this created was the numbers of new, relatively inexperienced troops in the line.

VIDEO: Battle of Kursk - Operation Citadel (Jul 1943) - Bjelgorod






Dawn, 5 July 1943. German 88-millimeter gun opened direct fire on Soviet positions.This 88-mm anti-aircraft weapons were also highly effective anti-tank guns.

BATTLE OF KURSK: A SYMPHONY FROM HELL

With the arrival of spring in 1943, Russian-German picture was much different in the Eastern Front. The Red Army had stunned Germany and most of the world with its encirclement of General Paulus' 6th Army. It was Russia's first significant victory, but it did not come easy or extinguish the German threat. Germany was still undefeated in summer conditions, and German counter offensives in March 1943 around Kharkov were an important reminder that the Reich was not out of the war. The result of fighting in February and March was that Russia held Kursk, but a large portion of its army was between German forces to the north and south. The Russian position created a large bulge, which Hitler wanted to address as soon as weather permitted. This would lead to the Battle of Kursk, which would become the largest tank battle in history. The significance or this battle in the Eastern Front cannot be denied. Hitler would take a huge gamble, committing a vital portion of his forces to the attack. This gamble, combined with military mistakes, would initiate a defeat that the Wehrmact could not recover from. The German failure also was linked to the Russian strategy and ability to hold off the enormous offensive. Zhukov's planned counter attack would seal Germany's fate, as it would begin in Kursk and lead a Soviet offensive towards Germany. Militarily the battle was critical for both sides success. Many argue that Stalingrad is what shifted the war; it was a significant victory, but it was truly Kursk that turned the tide for Russia and her allies.

After the Russian victory in Stalingrad, Hitler felt that the best means of a defence against Soviet forces was a limited offence after the winter thaw. He saw the elimination of the Red Armys offensive capability as a priority in the East. Hitler had not given up his aspirations in Russia, and he was still committed to achieving his goal of taking Moscow. The large Russian forces at Kursk had to be dealt with first, and Hitler figured once he cut off the Red Army in the bulge, he would have a clear path to the Russian capital. The German Army also needed to capture men to reduce Russias fighting force and take badly needed equipment. Finally, for morale purposes, a victory at Kursk was needed to restore the Wehrmact's reputation after the Stalingrad defeat. The codename of the offensive was Citadel. Hitler went against the advice of his technical staff and decided to commit all the heavy tanks he could spare. Hitler was well aware that the operation was a huge gamble, in which defeat would cripple the German Army, but he was hoping to acquire a quick and necessary victory before the Anglo-Americans landed in the West. This gamble would not pay off though, as Hitler would make costly errors that would fatally hinder the Kursk offensive, and inevitably put an end to his dream of Lebensraum.

Problems with Operation Citadel arose from the beginning, as it was frequently postponed. The cause of the delays was due to the unfavorable terrain tied in with the slow replenishment of German forces. Since so much hinged on the offensive, Hitler did not want to engage his forces until he was completely confident. He found a source of confidence with Germany's newly developed Tiger and Panther tanks. The Soviet general, Zhukov, noted this by stating, The enemy particularly pinned his hopes on the Tiger and Panther tanks apparently believing they would stun Soviet forces and make them buckle under. Unfortunately for the German Army, the attack upon Kursk was delayed because of the slow arrival of the new tanks. Waiting for the new tanks in the end would hurt Germany more, as the all-important element of surprise was lost. The most critical mistake that Hitler and the OKW made was in its assessment of the Red Army. German high command had almost no idea that Russia was ready to assume the offensive after defending Kursk. The strong defensive position that Russia had stunned Germany, and it was this, which would lead to the critical counter attack. The Germans lack of preparation was exposed. One German corporal stated, "Our medical staff were unable to cope with all the wounded. One medical orderly told me that the dressing station was like a slaughter house to look at." Unprepared, the German Army sustained losses that they could not recover from. In soldiers alone Germany lost 500,000 men at Kursk. Hitlers plans had failed, and the threat of a renewed assault on Moscow was removed. These mistakes were not the only reason for German failure and Russian success, as it was also Russias ability to finally wage an effective war that played a key role.

Even with the victory at Stalingrad, Stalin had his doubts about whether or not Russian troops could withstand a massive German attack. This was understandable, as one victory could not erase the series of terrible losses that the Soviets had endured since 1941. Apart from Stalingrad, the Red Army had not been very successful in dealing with Germany. The situation had significantly changed by the time of Kursk though, as the Red Army was finally beginning to look like a formidable fighting force. Soviet combat strategies had improved, and Russian casualties could finally be held at supportable levels. The rate of causalities at Kursk was half that of Moscow. The Red Army was also much more prepared for Kursk then it had been in previous defensives. This was partly due to the time that Germany allowed for the defenses to be formed, but it was also due to the quality of strategy and amount of supply that Russia had. There were two defensive fronts lead by Rokossovski and Vatutin, with a vitally important reserve front under Konev in the rear. The Russian defence system was immense. There were 3 000 miles of trenches, 400 000 mines laid, and so many artillery and anti-tank guns that a curtain of fire would meet the attacking German armour. When the defence was set, there were 1 336 000 men, 3 444 tanks, 2 900 aircraft and 19 000 guns within the Kursk salient. In order to supply such a enormous force, the Red Army's logistics were truly tested. Fortunately for Russia, the Soviet war machine by this time was finally meeting the production needs. In three months prior to the battle, 500 000 railway wagons were loaded with equipment had been brought to Kursk. For the first time, the Soviet air force was well supplied. Kursk would be the first battle where the Soviets could put up more planes in the skies than the Luftwaffe. Zhukov also acknowledged the supply advantage later in his memoirs and wrote, "Although Nazi Germany continued to draw material resources from the majority of the European countries, it could no longer, after such heavy fighting on the Eastern Front, compete with the Soviet Union whose economic and military might was on the increase." With the sheer numbers and elaborate defenses, the Germans chance of success was minimal.

The German offensive began on July 5th, and already by July 10th, Rokossovski in the north held up General Kluges advance. The southern Russian section was not faring as well though, and the reserve line had to be called in. This ended any German advance in the south, and by July 12th, Kursk was a clear Russian victory. The Red Army had gambled 40% of its manpower, and 75% of its armoured forces. Like the Germans, it was a huge risk for the Soviets to take, but it would prove to be a risk worth taking. With Germany losing its last chance for success in the East, the massive Russian counter offensive could begin.

Hitlers misperception of the Red Army and its ability to mobilize for a massive counter offensive would drastically hurt the German forces chance for recovery. This, combined with Russian preparation, turned a counter attack at Kursk into a general Soviet offensive. Once the Russians held off the German attack on Kursk, Zhukov knew that the counter offensive was just around the corner as his plans were falling into place. Before the battle took place, Russian high command saw the Kursk salient as their springboard for their massive counter offensive. By July 9th, the German forces had extended themselves as far as they possibly could go. The Russian counter offensive was timed for July 12th, and when it was launched, the German attack crumbled. On July 13th, Hitler officially cancelled Operation Citadel. Zhukov and Vasilevsky then activated their plan, which was titled Operation Kutuzov. The object was to destroy German concentrations around Orel and Briansk, which would unhinge the whole German central front. The Russians were also able to launch an effective counter offensive because of their ability to repair their T-34 tanks. The Red Army did sustain heavy damage from the German attack, but they were able to repair lightly damaged tanks by the end of July. On July 5th, they had 3 800 tanks at their disposal. With heavy fighting, by July 13th, they only had fewer than 500 active tanks. This was a considerable loss, but by August 3rd with repairs, they were able to bring the number of tanks back up to 2 750. The Soviets finally had the advantage in the war, and on August 25th, Zhukov was summoned to HQ to discuss further objectives with the Soviet offensive, which was gaining significant momentum.

Both sides had taken huge military risks at Kursk, each gambling huge portions of their fighting force. The failure of Operation Citadel marked the beginning of the lengthy period of continuous retreat for the Wehrmacht. The German Reich would not be able to expand anymore in the East, and it also had to worry about guarding its western territory from the other Allies. Germany had to send fourteen divisions and other reinforcements from other fronts to the East, leaving defenses more exposed in France and Italy. Kursk turned the tide of the war, as the German Army was spread too thin. German morale was beginning to suffer, "...as by the late summer of 1943 the morale of the whole Wehrmacht from top to bottom, had suffered permanent change... hope was tainted, and humanity where vestiges of it remained, was extinguished." In Russia morale soared, as it was becoming evident that the German invaders had been stopped and were retreating. Russia made considerable gains within the year, as after five months of continuous campaigning, almost two thirds of the area occupied by Axis forces had been cleared. Hitler would only see defeat after defeat until his death in 1945.


The battle of Kursk had ended Germanys expansion and would dictated its fate in the war. It is one of the most militarily significant battle in the whole Second World War. As the largest tank battle in history, it is not only important because of the numbers of manpower and resources involved, but it critically wounded Germany beyond recovery. Hitler knew he had to gamble his Eastern forces in order to stop the Red Armys mobilization, which was starting to finally come around, before the Western Allies made their landing. Unfortunately for Germany, they made costly mistakes before the battle, while Russia was doing the opposite. Soviet production had finally increased, which contributed to the vast defence prepared and the Red Army's strategy had vastly improved. Finally, the fact that Hitler ruled out a Russian summer counter offensive from happening, was his gravest mistake. Not prepared for such a massive Russian offensive on the heels of Kursk, the Wehrmacht would begin its long retreat back to Berlin. Kursk had not immediately won the war for the Soviets and its allies, but since it was able to destroy such a large portion of the German Army in a relatively quick time, while recovering quickly itself, it could launch an immediate counter offensive that would give the Red Army the military advantage all the way back to Berlin, brining an end to the Third Reich.

Source : stalingrad_1943.tripod.com

German tank regiment being gathering for an attack.This photo gives an idea about the number of vehicles involved in the operation "Citadel".

THE WAR BEGINS.....

When the storm finally broke on 5th July, the Soviets were waiting.

The German assault started, as always, in the small hours, with assault groups moving up on the Soviet outpost lines in the North and South in the moonless night, paving the way for the main assault. The Soviets had warning of even the exact hour of the attack from a German deserter - and unleashed a massive bombardment on all the German assembly areas they could find. The attack faltered for a moment, but the main assault went in around 07:00 local time. The Luftwaffe tried once more to catch the Soviet Air Force on the ground and to annihilate them - but failed.

Noon, July 5, 1943. German soldiers advancing across the plowed fields. A few lucky people manage to get the assault gun StuG III.


In the North, the German 9th Army stormed into the prepared Soviet positions. 5th July dawned with ferocious combat - tank-to-tank, gun-to-gun and most of all - hand-to-hand. The following days would dawn no differently. 9th Army slammed headlong into the Soviet positions for days, throwing more men and machines into the battle each day, until they exhausted themselves against the Soviet defences. The Soviets had prepared well - and not only did they hold the lines, but went over to the offensive themselves on the 12th, throwing the Germans back in disarray.

In the South, the Soviets faced the remaining cream of the German military machine - 48 Panzer Corps and 2 SS Panzer Corps. The latter contained the first three SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions - LiebStandarte Adolf Hitler, Totenkopf and Das Reich. The SS formed the spearhead in the South - and managed to grind forward day-by-day, while 48 Panzer Corps tried to keep pace on their left and 3 Panzer Corps was held up on their right. The much-vaunted Panthers, attached to GroƟDeutschland in 48 Panzer Corps were breaking down, catching fire, bogging in marshes - and succumbing to minefields.


Russian padded Kovetsky light tank T-60 in flames

HOW IT ENDED

By the 12th, the SS felt they could finally break through, turning north-east to punch through the Soviet lines at Prokhorovka - a small land-bridge between the Psel and the Don, leading to open country beyond. But, it seems, they had not reckoned with 5 Guards Tank Army, which had moved up during the 10th - and met the SS head-on. This day has gone down in history as the "largest tank battle ever fought". In reality, LiebStandarte Adolf Hitler met 18 and 29 Tank Corps (of 5 Guards Tank Army) head on outside Prokhorovka - possibly 150 SS tanks (including a handful of Tigers and about 15 captured T-34s) running into 400+ Soviet tanks - many of which were light tanks. The Soviet losses for the day are - even in these days of "Perestroika" - still unclear - but must be in excess of 200 tanks. The German losses were light. But - the key point - the SS were stopped by the sheer force of the blow. They were exhausted and could not get the offensive moving again in the following days.

In fact, it didn't matter - with the Soviets succesfully moving to the offensive in the North, and the invasion of Sicily a couple of days later - the German offensive was finished. The Soviets took heavy losses - but the German offensive had been stopped dead in its' tracks. This would be the last time they even tried on this scale in the East. For the Germans, the only hope after this was to try and stem the "Red Tide" - for the Soviets, it was their time to start to wreak their revenge on the invaders.

Source

Soviet airplanes attack a convoy of German vehicles. 1943

A German officer interrogates Soviet prisoners of war, hoping to learn more about the Soviet defensive positions at Kursk.

In the south, GA "Center" under the command of Field Marshal von Manstein launched an attack against Soviet troops. In the foreground a tank T-IV, firing into the Soviet positions near Dubrova.

A Panzer grenadier SS interrogates a wounded Soviet pilot. A Surgeon (right) provides first aid.

Engineering unit of the SS have built a bridge across the ditch,wile the German Tiger tanks wait to cross it

A SS man indicates the entry point of the projectile into the armor of the tank


The French squadron "Normandie" before takeoff on a combat mission. 1943

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Some Books On Kindle On Battle Of Kursk
The battle for the Soviet city of Kursk in July 1943 during World War II involved two million soldiers. Code-named Citadel, it was Hitler's frenzied--and final--attempt to defeat Russia on the eastern front and was the largest buildup of German armed power of the war. Robbins re-creates the battle in this rousing novel: its characters being Hitler; his generals and advisers; Russian, German, and Spanish foot soldiers and tank drivers; fighter pilots (both men and women); partisans; and even elderly men and women digging trenches. Robbins, author of War of the Rats (1999) and Scorched Earth (2002), has done extensive research into the weapons and planes used in the battle, bringing to life the horrors of war.

This compilation of German material on the Battle of Kursk (1943) is about as user-friendly as a Tiger tank, but just as indispensable in the right place. Newton has assembled a variety of primary source material from high-ranking German participants either not previously available in English or found only in translations of dubious value. The first part of the book goes to a new translation of a study of Operation Citadel (the great tank battle of Kursk) edited by General Theodor Busse, which offers the perspectives of key tank, infantry, and air commanders. The rest is devoted to essays, mostly by corps commanders facing the Soviet offensive that followed the German defeat at Kursk, but with one perceptive set of comments by a senior railroad officer who throws light on the role (and limitations) of the Soviet partisans in the general logistical nightmare that was the Eastern Front. Both the introduction and the conclusionary third section, which Newton pens, add insightful editorial comments with a tendency to debunk the German myths of "we almost won," and support the characterization of Kursk as a battle the Germans should not have fought because they could not have won it at an acceptable cost. Largely inaccessible to the beginning student of the decisive campaign of World War II, the book may be hailed as invaluable by the serious one.

The battle of Kursk was the last major German offensive on the Eastern Front. The battle began well for the Germans, but the Russians delayed them long enough for reserves to come forward. Soon the defenders outnumbered the attackers, and Hitler called off the attack. The Russian victory at Kursk resulted from a massive rebuilding of the Red Army in 1943, which included new unit organizations and weapons designed to counter the German Tiger and Panther tanks. The German defeat signalled the transfer of the initiative to the Russians and demonstrated to the Western Allies that the Soviet Union could defeat the Germans without a second front. Based on recently declassified Russian information and an analysis of captured German records, this book gives a detailed description of both the German and Soviet forces involved and evaluates the quality of the units on both sides.
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Throughout the Second World War, Ilyushin IL-2 was the basis of Soviet ground-attack aircraft. A reliable design made this fighting machine indispensable, and its armament was lethal to enemy tanks.
German graves in the Kursk area
Soviet tanks trundle into the area
Two German soldiers move through the battlefield towards the damaged T-34.

During the raging battle Soviet anti-tank riflemen move forward.

A German command post, located in a small wood to protect it against Soviet air attacks. A tube field telephone to communicate with the best lines,hangs from the tree
The crew of the Soviet aircraft preparing for combat missions. By the summer of 1943, the Soviet Air Force was stronger than the German. Soviet planes bombed German airfields and provided support to the ground forces.

July 6, 1943. A German officer confers with the field gendarmesnear the town of Podolyan. Field Gendarmes managed traffic, delivering reinforcements or ammunition to the front lines.


A German soldier enjoys a lull in fighting to relax, smoke, and his comrade seems to have no strength for anything else other than look blankly into nowhere.

Soviet light tanks rushing to the front. Both the German and Soviet commands moved armored reserves to the front.

These men are taking hot meals for the Soviet soldiers at the front

German soldiers rest after a hard fight. Behind them is a "Tiger" under the tree along with its crew
July 7, 1943. German soldiers move to ensure the best line about Soborovki. The 4th Panzer Army in the south was in a much better position than the 9th Army in the north, but was unable to perform its task on the first day of the offensive.

The commander of the Voronezh Front, which bore the brunt of Army Group South, General Vatutin.

Battle weary German soldiers rest during a interval between the fighting

A detachment of the SS, equipped with a radio station, rest during a pause in the battle. The Soviet have put up stubborn resistance.

Attack XXXXVII Panzer Corps and II SS Panzer Corps broke the first line of defense of the Soviet troops in the south. General Vatutin cemented the 7th Guards Army and the 40th Army to eliminate the threat

Germans usually did not follow the Soviet tank assault tactics. Two T-3 (PzKpfw-III), pass by infantry columns

Location: Outskirts of Gostischevo. SS men jump from their amphibious (Schwimmwagen), to set up the machine gun MG-42 in firing position.The second is carrying two boxes of ammunition, each containing 250 rounds.

German battalion assault guns supports its tanks. Broad plains, open terrain allowed tanks to destroy each other over long distances.

The flat terrain facilitated the movement of tanks to the front, but it also made tanks extremely vulnerable to enemy air attacks.

Flamethrower tank T-III (PzKpfw III) Division "Grossdeustchland"
Squatting SS man is armed with a Soviet automatic PCA-41, which was held in high esteem by the Germans because of its reliability and large capacity magazine.

Russian tanks fire at night
A Russian soldier keeps watch as a nurse tends to a wounded comrade


Soviet soldiers in the British troop conveyor equipped with the machinegun Bren to shoot at planes. One of the soldiers is armed with an anti-tank gun.

SS men go through the orders to set up their mortar

SS soldiers in the semi-tracked armored car SdKfz 251. The presence of these heavily armed and experienced fighters as part of Army Group South was to help the German command to achieve the objectives of the offensive.
The combat debut of the self-propelled Su-152 occurred at Kursk, where it destroyed 12 "tigers" and 7 "Ferdinand." Here German soldiers inspect the self-propelled gun, stuck in the mud and abandoned by its crew.



 The new German tanks: Elefant

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When Nazi Germany lost the last chance to win the war: Battle for Kursk ..
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MUST-READ BOOKS ON KURSK


Immense in scope, ferocious in nature, and epic in consequence, the Battle of Kursk witnessed (at Prokhorovka) one of the largest tank engagements in world history and led to staggering losses--including nearly 200,000 Soviet and 50,000 German casualties within the first ten days of fighting. Going well beyond all previous accounts, David Glantz and Jonathan House now offer the definitive work on arguably the greatest battle of World War II.
Drawing on both German and Soviet sources, Glantz and House separate myth from fact to show what really happened at Kursk and how it affected the outcome of the war. Their access to newly released Soviet archival material adds unprecedented detail to what is known about this legendary conflict, enabling them to reconstruct events from both perspectives and describe combat down to the tactical level.

The Battle of Kursk takes readers behind Soviet lines for the first time to reveal what the Red Army knew about the plans for Hitler's offensive (Operation Citadel), relive tank warfare and hand-to-hand combat, and tell how the tide of battle turned. Its vivid portrayals of fighting in all critical sectors places the famous tank battle in its proper context. Prokhorovka here is not a well-organized set piece but a confused series of engagements and hasty attacks, with each side committing its forces piecemeal.

Glantz and House's fresh interpretations demolish many of the myths that suggest Hitler might have triumphed if Operation Citadel had been conducted differently. Theirs is the first account to provide accurate figures of combat strengths and losses, and it includes 32 maps that clarify troop and tank movements.

Shrouded in obscurity and speculation for more than half a century, the Battle of Kursk finally gets its due in this dramatic retelling of the confrontation that marked the turning point of the war on the Eastern front and brought Hitler's blitzkrieg to a crashing halt.

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Angriff The German Attack on Stalingrad In Photos [Hardcover]

Angriff The German Attack on Stalingrad In Photos [Hardcover]
"This volume reads just like a history due to the extensive captions that were researched extensively"

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A nice introduction to the SS. The SS (Stosstrupp Adolf Hitler) was a number of things--Hitler's body guard, law enforcement duties, concentration camp controllers, and soldiers (the Waffen-SS). This volume examines the work of the SS from 1939-1945. Early on, there was competition between the SA and the SS (to be devoted to Hitler, whereas the SA had other ambitions). With the demise of the SA, the SS became that much more important.


The SS had two elements--the Waffen-SS, the military arm, and the Allgemeine-SS, a police and security force with tentacles throughout German society. The second chapter lays out the variety of responsibilities of the Allgemeine-SS nicely. In addition to describing the "tentacles," this discussion also considers recruitment and training, symbolism (the death's head--totenkopf), uniforms, flags, and so on.


Then, the Waffen-SS. Appearance, equipment, training, weapons, tactics, and famous commanders, such as Sepp Dietrich. Some of the more legendary divisions in the Waffen-SS: Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, Das Reich, and Totenkopf. Other formations emerged, too, such as Wiking, a division made up of volunteers from Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, etc. The racial exclusivity of the Waffen-SS began to be compromised as needs for soldiers became more pressing as the war continued.


The book discusses the fighting power of the Waffen-SS—and its slow disintegration as it was bled to death in the Soviet Union and in France after the Normandy invasion. There were a few last hurrahs, such as in the Battle of the Bulge, but this element was slowly ground down due to causalities and inferior replacements.


Overall, an accessible and readable portrayal of the SS. .

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Suggested Reading


Hitler's Armies: A history of the German War Machine 1939-45


Chris McNab's wonderfully-illustrated HITLER'S ARMIES, A HISTORY OF THE GERMAN WAR MACHINE 1939-45 traces the development and combat ops of the German Army including the Waffen-SS and Fallschirmjager. Strikingly illustrated with hundreds of color and b&w photographs, color maps and diagrams, combat artwork and color plates of weapons and uniforms, it's an appealing, comprehensive history of the men and units that made Blitzkrieg a household word.

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"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
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May 1945 - If hell on earth existed, than it existed in Prague after May the 5th. 1945. Old men, women and children were beaten to death and maimed. Rapes, barbaric cruelties, horror-scenarios of hellish proportions - here they had been let lose.

- Ludek Pachmann, Czech Chess-Grand Master and publicist, forty years after the fact.

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HISTORY, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.
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We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.
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--EDWARD GIBBON

"Patriotism ruins history."
-- GOETHE

Snippets from History

This short but important battle played a key role in the decision to use atomic bombs when attacking Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The battle showed just how far Japanese troops would go to defend their country.


Snippets From History

Paulus didn't give the order to 6th Army to surrender, but his troops no longer had much fight left in them. Resistance faded out over the next two days, with the last die-hards finally calling it quits. One Red Army colonel shouted at a group of prisoners, waving at the ruins all around them: "That's how Berlin is going to look!
"



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History is Philosophy teaching by examples.
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"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
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Points to Ponder: Why Is China Unstable?

The aim of individuals in any society is money and power. Societies that give equal chance to all its members to get them will be the most stable. That is why democracies are more stable than other systems of governance.

China after Deng's reform gave the chance to get rich but power is in the hands of an elite; the Communist Party of China. Membership to the party is at the whims of the local party bosses. This leaves out many people who crave political power dissatisfied and disgruntled. There in lies the roots of instability. The Party suppressed these demands once at Tiananmen in 1989. But force is hardly the way to deal with things like these.

READ MORE: Tiananmen Square Massacre