The Battle of Kursk, involving some 6,000 tanks, two million men, and 5,000 aircraft, ends with the German offensive repulsed by the Soviets at heavy cost.
In early July, Germany and the USSR concentrated their forces near the city of Kursk in western Russia, site of a 150-mile-wide Soviet pocket that jutted 100 miles into the German lines. The German attack began on July 5, and 38 divisions, nearly half of which were armored, began moving from the south and the north. However, the Soviets had better tanks and air support than in previous battles, and in bitter fighting Soviet antitank artillery destroyed as much as 40 percent of the German armor, which included their new Mark VI Tiger tanks. After six days of warfare concentrated near Prokhorovka, south of Kursk, the German Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge called off the offensive, and by July 23 the Soviets had forced the Germans back to their original positions.
In the beginning of August, the Soviets began a major offensive around the Kursk salient, and within a few weeks the Germans were in retreat all along the eastern front.
If Stalingrad was the point at which the fortunes of the Wehrmacht were first so fatefully reversed, then Kursk was the point of no return, where the unavoidable destiny of the eventual defeat and horrific destruction of the Nazi regime was all that lay ahead.
As the Russians pushed west, the largest tank battle of the war shaped up at Kursk in 1943. The ensuing battle was one of the most pivotal and epochal struggles in the Allied war against the Germans. About 6,300 tanks and more than 2,000,000 soldiers fought over an area about 50 miles long and 15 miles wide. It was one of the largest tank engagements in military history, and through its devastating destruction in terms of the number of functional and operating armored vehicles left for the Wehrmacht to continue their prosecution of the war, it was the turning point in the war, the catastrophic defeat the Nazis could no longer afford to absorb.
Considerable controversy has revolved around the extent to which Hitler himself was to blame, given his fabled micromanagement of the Eastern campaign in general, and the battle at Kursk in particular. In this book the authors meet this controversy head on, and while many readers may not agree with the interpretations and conclusions of the authors, they will certainly appreciate the verve, scope, and details contained in their overview of the events at Kursk, and their import for subsequent events all along the Eastern front as
Hitler had planned an attack that would cut off and trap hundreds of thousands of Russians, but as he prepared the details, Bletchley Park read the messages. Rado (the Lucy Ring) relayed the plans, including the postponement of the dates of the attack through the first two weeks of April 1943, and into June. Hitler stalled, awaiting delivery of new Panzer tanks, and before the attack, the Soviet army had all the details of the new tanks, down to thickness of armor, range of weapon, fuel supply, and vulnerable points.
As the Germans planned their attack at Kursk, they were able to crack some of the messages sent by Rado to Center. Not knowing the source of Rado’s information and assuming that “Werther” (Lucy codename for the Wehrmacht) was a traitor in their own high command, they set about trying to close down Rado’s Swiss network. One technique they employed was trying to enlist the Swiss authorities; another was to try to identify the individuals in the network in order to assassinate them. To track down the radio
transmitters, the Germans used goniometers.
Goniometers measure angles, and are used as radio direction finders. They were quite large in WWII, but could be mounted on trucks. The Germans were not allowed to bring their goniometry equipment into Switzerland, but they could operate from the French and German sides of the border. They were able to narrow down the locations of some of the short-wave broadcast points, and tipped off the Swiss authorities.
The Soviet army, equipped with information relayed from Ultra, defeated the Germans in the Battle of Kursk, July 5-13, 1943. The Germans lost another 20,000 soldiers. Between Stalingrad and Kursk, the war in the east seemed to be turning in favor of the Russians.
Too many Westeners familiar only with the Cold War aspects of Russian history tend to be ignorant of the critical contribution the Soviets made in winning a war so essential to the survival of democracy. It is an uneasy truth that without the Russian contribution in battling up to 200 divisions of German Wehrmacht troops for over four years, the Western Allies' entry onto the continent in France would not have been possible in 1944. Indeed, risking such a large sea borne assault would have been problematic against a force of the numbers of troops who would have been available had they not been otherwise preoccupied and engaged in an epic effort attempting to stem the terrible onslaught they were receiving at the hands of a resurgent Soviet Army. Once the Red Army had done its job on the Eastern front, there was no longer a pressing need to feed Ultra information to Moscow Center. Churchill ordered curtailment of all Ultra to the Russians.
|On This Day in History: July 13th, 1943 - The Battle of Kursk Ends!|
|Posted: 07/13/2012 07:21 by herodotus||Comments: 6|