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#4529799 - 07/13/20 05:36 PM WW2 Kursk  
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I have read several articles recently that have me rethinking the battle of Kursk. I am understanding that what we read and thought in the past about the battle are most likely wrong. This article is one that has changed my thinking.

I am always leery about revisionist writing, but the more I dig into it, the more I find that past accounts are substantially wrong.


https://nationalinterest.org/blog/b...tle-kursk-did-not-end-nazi-germany-78806


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#4529800 - 07/13/20 05:42 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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I'll read the article later today but I will say that Kursk was the last major offensive that Germany was able to mount on the Eastern Front. After the failure of Kursk, the Soviets had all of the momentum on the Eastern Front and never lost it until the end of the war.

While the Germans lost the overall momentum on the Eastern Front after Kursk, they were somewhat able to maintain the integrity of the front line until the overwhelming disaster known as Operation Bagration in June-August 1944 when Army Group Center was annihilated. After that defeat, the flood gates to Berlin were wide open.

Last edited by PanzerMeyer; 07/13/20 05:47 PM.

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#4529801 - 07/13/20 06:05 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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I don't see much new in there. The author argues that the turning point was Stalingrad 6 months earlier, and hard to argue with that.

Citadel was doomed to fail, and wasted many strong divisions. I recommend reading anything from David Glanz to get a detailed perspective on the Eastern Front. Too many titles to name, but he has a Kursk book.

And he is splitting some fine hairs with his comparison of the greatest tank battle vs the biggest tank battle. Any Soviet armored action in June of 1941 was going to fail, regardless of numbers. And singling out Prokhorovka from the Citadel action as a whole seems like cherry picking. It's like saying Leyte wasn't the greatest naval battle because of only what happened in Surigao strait.


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#4529806 - 07/13/20 07:04 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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The last German major offensive on the Eastern front was Operation Spring Awakening in March 1945.

#4529819 - 07/13/20 08:03 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: NoFlyBoy]  
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Originally Posted by NoFlyBoy
The last German major offensive on the Eastern front was Operation Spring Awakening in March 1945.


It was not a major offensive in the Soviet Union and it was carried out when the outcome of the war was a forgone conclusion.

Last edited by PanzerMeyer; 07/13/20 08:52 PM.

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#4529834 - 07/13/20 09:27 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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DBond, good comments. But what I am talking about is that it wasn’t the great killing ground of German armor presented in the past.


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#4529842 - 07/13/20 10:27 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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i need to dig out a reliable source, but the figure i have in my mind is around 700 in the Kursk operation if we combine tanks and assault guns. Many German tanks were knocked out due to mines, but the army who commands the day's battlefield at nightfall can of course recover many of these, which return to service. I think it was in Guderian's book that I recall he cited very low numbers of operational armor at the battle's end. Like a couple dozen fit for service. One devil in these details is how destroyed tanks are counted, and the natural fog that exists in a see-saw battle in regards to making the tally.

In June of 1941 a German panzer division averaged around 200 tanks. I'd have to do some research to see what the strength returns were for each on the eve of Zitadelle. If they were more or less the same, then 700 losses would mean about 3.5 complete divisions were destroyed. but i am straying in to my hazy and increasingly unreliable memory for these figures. Much speculation. What were the numbers of tank losses on each side through the entire operation, including, but not limited to, Prokhorovka ?


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#4529847 - 07/13/20 10:50 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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The issue of materiel losses is ultimately unimportant because while the Soviets had significantly higher losses in tanks, AT guns and other armored vehicles, they could absorb those losses just fine and recover quickly. The Germans did not have that luxury.


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#4529850 - 07/13/20 11:02 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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Originally Posted by oldgrognard
it wasn’t the great killing ground of German armor presented in the past.


Glantz backs this up. The first book i grabbed after coming home from work is his When Titans Clashed, which, due to it's war-long scope, doesn't have the details i wanted to find. but he does say, and i quote

"306 German and 672 soviet tanks and SP guns, belying it's older reputation as a titanic clash involving 1,200 to 1,500 tanks", when speaking of Prokhorovka. So in that light, yes, if one were under the impression that the battle fielded so many, it was not so. But again i point out that Prokhorovka was just a couple of days of a week-long battle, and much more armor than that was involved overall. Prokhorovka, it seems has taken on the traits of the entire affair in some ways. The Prokhorovka battlefield was also quite restricted, and perhaps the high concentration that resulted lends itself to the reputation the battle has taken on.


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#4529854 - 07/13/20 11:45 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: PanzerMeyer]  
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Originally Posted by PanzerMeyer
The issue of materiel losses is ultimately unimportant because while the Soviets had significantly higher losses in tanks, AT guns and other armored vehicles, they could absorb those losses just fine and recover quickly. The Germans did not have that luxury.


3rd Reich wartime production was pathetic considering that they had one of the largest and most advanced economies and could utilize large amounts of forced labor.

https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Military_production_during_World_War_II

#4529862 - 07/14/20 12:31 AM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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The Germans were building a limited edition line of fine cukoo clocks, the Ruskis built pot metal wristwatches the size of T-34's.

But they built LOTS of them. They also got a WHOLE LOT of stuff from the US and the UK also.

Have gamed Kursk more times than I can count and have read numerous accounts of the planning, execution and aftermath of the battle...my conclusion:

More Meth for Adolph please. The russians and the world should be thankful Manstein didn't have a free rein from 41-43. I really think he would have beat them. Absolutely brilliant tactitcian and a serious grasp of strategy also.


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#4529866 - 07/14/20 01:10 AM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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WW2 German production, https://ww2-weapons.com/german-arms-production/

Of interest is the production loss due to bombing from October to December 1943.


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#4529877 - 07/14/20 02:02 AM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: Nixer]  
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Originally Posted by Nixer


Absolutely brilliant tactitcian and a serious grasp of strategy also.


I absolutely agree. His efforts after the defeats at Stalingrad and Rostov were critical, and i doubt any other German field commander could have done the same. And not only did he stabilize the front, he planned and executed the amazing turn-around in the Kharkov counteroffensive, which should be the stuff of legend. Of course this action created the salient which Citadel was designed to eliminate. He wanted to immediately move on to the Kursk operation, which of course did not happen. It could be argued that it would not have mattered, with the raputitsa still a thing at that time. But in hindsight it had a better chance than what did eventually become Citadel.

While we are on this subject I want mention a little-known part of Manstein's operations after the encirclement at Stalingrad, and that's the incredible performance of 11th Panzer and their commander Herman Balck in actions along the Chir river. In short 11th Panzer destroyed nearly the whole of 5th Tank Army by itself. For whatever reason this gets little attention, overshadowed by the immense catastrophe of 6th Army I'm sure, but for me it's perhaps the best performance in a single operation of any armored division in World War 2.

Not sure of the best account on the web, but this came up as first search result and seems to cover these actions in good detail. This was long before Kursk so not really relevant to the discussion, but tangents are allowed right? smile

https://www.historynet.com/study-command-general-balcks-chir-river-battles-1942.htm


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#4529879 - 07/14/20 02:18 AM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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Originally Posted by oldgrognard
I have read several articles recently that have me rethinking the battle of Kursk. I am understanding that what we read and thought in the past about the battle are most likely wrong. This article is one that has changed my thinking.

I am always leery about revisionist writing, but the more I dig into it, the more I find that past accounts are substantially wrong.


https://nationalinterest.org/blog/b...tle-kursk-did-not-end-nazi-germany-78806



Radios. In 1943, the Soviets started putting radios in significant numbers of their tanks and planes, and their armored formations and air force started becoming a threat to the Germans. While the casualty ratios remained in Germany's favor, at least while the Germans were on the offensive (as the article points out), it was not nearly as one sided as before.

On the other hand, I think the article missed the point on German tank losses. While it is true German tanks, even at Kursk, were often damaged (and later recovered and repaired rather than destroyed) vs Soviet tanks that were destroyed outright, the effect on operational strength was the similar for both sides. The German tanks while under repair were not available for duty just as if they had been destroyed. Similarly, Soviet tanks (especially T-34s) were built with the intention that they would be discarded/destroyed after a few weeks or months of service, so have a tank knocked out was not a significant to the Red Army (from an operational/strategic perspective), as long as tank casualties remained below production numbers.

Last edited by Nimits; 07/14/20 02:19 AM.
#4529890 - 07/14/20 03:23 AM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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First of all, I would take anything Glantz has written about Kursk with a grain of salt. His stuff was published a long time before the soviet archives about the operation were opened at the turn of the century, and are mostly based on a handful of propaganda pieces. Since the turn of the century, a lot of new stuff has come up and plenty of new research has been done.

Originally Posted by DBond
i need to dig out a reliable source, but the figure i have in my mind is around 700 in the Kursk operation if we combine tanks and assault guns.

Depending on what we call “combat-ready” and which date we take as the start of the operation. On may 3rd , in preparation for a meeting with the Führer, Army Group South reported a strength of 696 tanks, including Hornisse vehicles. These figures leave out StuG’s and Marders, which were the bulk of german armor at the time in the units discussed. Army Group Center reported 306 tanks.

On May 9th, a further 46 and 29 tanks would be present for South and Center respectively, with 45 and 166 arriving by June 1st and another 88 and 380 tanks arriving by June 10th.

So, based on the figures of the Führervortrag for the May 4th meeting, we can indeed conclude 696 tanks, 97 tigers, 45 Hornisse and 40 “Sturmpanzer” for AG South, and 499 tanks, 51 Tigers, 200 Panthers, 45 Hornisse and 86 Ferdinands for Center; But with plenty of asterisk placed since these are theoretical administrative numbers based on future prognosis, and do not account for panzerjäger/jagdpanzers, units in repair, units written off, units out-of-service, logistical problems, etc…

From these figures, you can also easily see why delaying the operation with a few weeks was so attractive. The northern attack would triple its armor, being pretty much on par with the southern attack, as opposed being less than half strength. The narrative of “crazy Hitler being crazy by delaying the attack” is not supported by facts.

Quote
In June of 1941 a German panzer division averaged around 200 tanks. I'd have to do some research to see what the strength returns were for each on the eve of Zitadelle.

The allocated average was about 200, in reality it was far lower. Let’s look at a couple of July 4th number reports (allocated in brackets):

3. Pz: 79 (188)
6. Pz: 105 (186)
7. Pz: 109 (156)
11. Pz: 95 (152)
19. Pz: 86 (143)
GD: 130 (154)
LSSAH: 126 (189)
Das Reich: 132 (159)
Totenkopf: 131 (151)
Pz. Rgt. Stab. 39: 196 (204)
s.Pz.Abt. 503: 38 (45)


You can see that even the units that were reformed just before Zitadelle were not full strength by quite a margin, but I guess that is the story of german forces in WWII I suppose. Also, we cannot use these figures as a blanket for the entire operation. For example, the german units at Prokhorovka were OVERstrength for various reasons and a bit of coincidence.
I don’t have a complete set of sources on the Soviet side myself, but if you want I can scan/photograph the table that Zamulin copied from the Soviet archives about the total front strength of tanks on July 1st. The number of KV and T-34 tanks are 691 and 6652 respectively, but obviously don’t show the full picture.

Quote
What were the numbers of tank losses on each side through the entire operation, including, but not limited to, Prokhorovka ?

Losses are quite difficult to ascertain since the operation wasn’t completely finished until august and I don’t know of any numbers of recovered/salvageable tanks. However, the german divisions reported the following combat strength on the evening of July 18th (the end of the german offensive):

3. Pz: 53
6. Pz: 18
7. Pz: 40
11. Pz: 57
19. Pz: 38
GD: 69
LSSAH: 93
Das Reich: 102
Totenkopf: 78
Pz. Rgt. Stab. 39: 45
s.Pz.Abt. 503: 14

For Prokhorovka itself, no records exist since neither side produced accurate reports during the battle. Christopher Lawrence did some outstanding work on this part, finding and comparing reports, and concludes 309 Soviet tank losses against:
- Leibstandarte: 6 tanks lost
- Das Reich: 1 tank lost
- Totenkopf: 20 to 30 tanks lost


Not going to bother amending the junk stuff “nationalinterest” and “Wikia” is posting, but I hope this was informative

#4529893 - 07/14/20 03:31 AM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: oldgrognard]  
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Citino has a couple of good talks up about Kursk and the whole Russian front as well as the Werhmact, logistics, production, losses etc.

One funny thing he mentions is how the stories change over time. Prokhorovka goes from a tank battle, to the biggest tank engagement ever, to, in some cases, tanks ramming each other like some Hollywood movie.


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#4529894 - 07/14/20 03:36 AM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: Vaderini]  
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Originally Posted by Vaderini

but I hope this was informative


Well indeed it was! Nice post.

Quote
The allocated average was about 200, in reality it was far lower.


Yeah, I was thinking Panzergruppe but typed division. I've played the opening turn in Grigsby's War in the East so many times I'm surprised I wrote it that way:)

Quote
First of all, I would take anything Glantz has written about Kursk with a grain of salt. His stuff was published a long time before the soviet archives about the operation were opened at the turn of the century, and are mostly based on a handful of propaganda pieces. Since the turn of the century, a lot of new stuff has come up and plenty of new research has been done.


My understanding is, at least among western historians, his work is held up as some of that most reflective of the information which came out of the Russian archives. That was 1997 I think and much of his work has been revised to reflect what he learned there, even taking some criticism for a pro-Soviet bias. But as he said himself, while the archives are valuable, they also reflect a state that was efficient in managing information. Regardless, I find his works invaluable and a nice alternative to traditional western writing about the Eastern Front. My copy of When Titans Clashed for example is a 2015 edition, with nods to these archive-fueled revisions mentioned on the jacket and throughout the introduction.


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#4529917 - 07/14/20 11:31 AM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: Crane Hunter]  
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Originally Posted by Crane Hunter


3rd Reich wartime production was pathetic considering that they had one of the largest and most advanced economies and could utilize large amounts of forced labor.




Most of that was self-inflicted since the regime did not want to impose too many harsh measures on the German population by transitioning to a full-blown wartime economy right away. It wasn't until Goebbels' infamous "Total War" speech at the Berlin Sportpalast in early 1943 that the German economy made the full transition. Of course by then it was much too late.


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#4529983 - 07/14/20 08:33 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: DBond]  
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Originally Posted by DBond
But as he said himself, while the archives are valuable, they also reflect a state that was efficient in managing information.

Yeah, that what I really appreciate in the late Prof. John Erickson. He was the first westerner, and one of only a handful people in the world, to get access to the army archives, instead of getting the official truth. The fact that the soviet high command held him in such high regard that he was allowed to help shape the official truth really makes me sad I never got to meet him.

And it's also why I don't like the "pro-soviet" label Glantz get from some people. He used the best information available to him, and I've never read a work of him that was written in a subjective manner. There is not a whole lot more he could do.

#4530101 - 07/15/20 04:04 PM Re: WW2 Kursk [Re: Vaderini]  
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Originally Posted by Vaderini

And it's also why I don't like the "pro-soviet" label Glantz get from some people. He used the best information available to him, and I've never read a work of him that was written in a subjective manner. There is not a whole lot more he could do.


I agree, but perhaps it's because he challenged some long-standing precepts and that doesn't always go over well with the establishment. I'm aware of this, and other works from different authors are not immune either. As students of that time, we must take in as much as we can and draw our own conclusions.

Getting back to the OP, the author in the linked article states

"The biggest tank battle in history may be Dubna, in June 1941, where 750 German tanks defeated 3,500 Soviet vehicles."

It's not a good sign when the author gets the name wrong, as it is Dubno, but I'll give him a pass here. The entire thing was a fiasco for the Russians, as they fed their uncoordinated brigades in peicemeal to be destroyed in turn. The inept leadership failed miserably, and while I don't know if this was the 'biggest tank battle' it was surely one of the most one-sided. And while the 3,500 number is accurate, it's the numbers from strength returns, which did not reflect operational vehicles. It was 5-6 mechanized corps worth of armor facing off against Kleist's 1st Panzergruppe.

Folks tend to assume Russian armored formations were T-34s and KV-1s, but in the first week of the war it was mostly BT-7s, T-26s and a few other models. The bulk of the T-34s and KV-1s the Russians did have were deployed in the south, as that is where Stalin expected the main blow to fall, across the 'breadbasket' of Russia. But their dispositions, lack of training, fuel and parts, along with a nearly complete lack of C2 once the battle was joined doomed their counterattacks to fail.





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