Friday, 19 April 2013

Battle of Kursk: Interesting perspective

How close did the Battle of  Kursk come to a German Victory ?

 One for all you FoWers out there: Interesting perspective on my WW2 blog
click on the link


  1. The way I understand it, the Germans didn't have a snowballs chance in hell. They killed lots of Russian troops and destroyed lots of stuff, but they got whomped big time. The resulting Soviet counteroffensives following Kursk destroyed the Germans in the east in such a way that they never recovered.

    The Germans were considering shifting their Schwerepunkt from the northern and southern shoulders to a direct attack on the western facing (before the attack began) as the Soviets knew the attack was coming and were preparing for it. A frontal attack is not ideal, but the defences were a lot thinner there and they had no chance of breaching the Soviet lines at the shoulders, nor of defeating the resulting counterattacks. Once they lost the element of surprise at the shoulders, they might have unhinged the strongest Soviet defences with that western attack. They didn't, and the result was a defeat that lead to a string of bigger ones.

    1. Hi Tane. Thanks for the comment. I agree with you. If Kampfgruppe Nord had attacked the salient head-on (Vatutin's Vorenzeh Front) and Von Manstein into their flank, the outcome may have been slightly different.
      There was an opportunity to encircle and destroy the well-equipped 5th Red Army, the backbone of the Front.
      Hitler had totally squandered the element of surprise, waiting for numbers of (unproven Panthers) and Tigers to arrive. The Soviets had a full two months to prepare their defences. They knew where the attack was going to come.

      Model's advance (The northern schwaerepunkt) never went anywhere, just got bogged down in minefields and well prepared, dug in defences. The recently declassified information the article I based my post on, considers only the Southern advance, and mostly discounts the failure of the Northern push to make any headway. It is based mostly on the statistics as von Manstein recorded them. (SS documents, hence classified for 50+ years)

      I can pick several holes in the argument:
      1. "Panzer" numbers include the Elefant and other older tank hunters and Stugs, mobile artillery and infantry support vehicles, which probably should not be counted as "tanks" in the true sense of the word.
      2. Manstein's forces were mostly elite SS troops, equipped with the latest and best arms and armour available. The Northern group were not as fortunate, and also did not face defenses quite as well prepared as those in the north
      3. Hitler's continual interference with his generals'authority and autonomy; and their blind devotion to duty and his orders caused continual problems, to the point later in the war where van Manstein ignored Hitler's order to hold Kharkov at all costs, and withdrew his troops. His ongoing disagreements with Hitler over the conduct of the war led to his dismissal in March 1944. He never obtained another command and was taken prisoner by the British in August 1945, several months after Germany's defeat. His memoir, "Verlorene Siege" (1955), translated into English as "Lost Victories", was highly critical of Hitler's leadership. He died in Munich in 1973.

  2. War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.