The Battle of Kursk (6/9)

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The Battle of Kursk is known for being the largest tank battle in history. In mid-1943, the Soviet forces had decisively defeated the Germans at the Battle of Stalingrad. However, contrary to what most people think, the Battle of Stalingrad was not the real turning point on the Eastern Front. This is because the German forces still held the initiative and were capable of launching major offensives across the front. Furthermore, the Soviet advance had been halted after Kursk, and the Germans counterattacked and retook the city of Kharkov, inflicting heavy Soviet casualties in the process.

By the summer of 1943, the front lines had stabilized and the Germans were preparing for a renewed offensive. The Soviet forces had created a salient in the front lines around the town of Kursk, and Hitler hoped to attack this salient from the north and the south and trap and destroy the Soviet armies inside. However, Soviet forces gained knowledge of the attack from British intelligence, and spent months constructing defensive fortifications and pouring forces into the area in anticipation of the assault.

The battle began in July and the Germans initially made strong headway, destroying much of the Soviet armor, but they fell short of their objectives. Soviet reserves were then thrown into the battle to blunt the German advance. Thousands of Soviet and German tanks fanned out across the plains and engaged in battle at Prokhorovka, the largest tank battle to date. When the Allied forces landed in Sicily, Hitler decided to call off the offensive to divert men and resources back to the Italian front.

All in all, the Soviets lost significantly more men and tanks than the Germans did, but they could replace their losses whereas the Germans could not. The Germans suffered over 110,000 men and 1,200 tanks and assault guns in the entire operation, while the Soviets sustained over 800,000 casualties and 6,000 tanks.

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Written by Nicholas