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Kursk (by popular demand!)

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe February 1943 to End of War' started by CrazyD, Aug 8, 2002.

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  1. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    The Battle of Kursk has come up a couple times recently in discussion, so it seems logical to start a thread on said battle. (Erich- you OK now? :D :D )
    Of course, what to discuss?
    First off, it seems we could get a good discussion going on the possible poutcomes of teh battle- could the germans have won a significant victory? Or was the russian victory inevitable?
    Also, you gents know I'm interested in armor. Some new vehicles debuted at Kursk, the Panther and Elephant among others. Did this have any impact on the battle, as Hitler hoped?
    And how about the numbers (oh, goody-goody!)? There are a bunch of different sets of numbers surround strengths and losses at Kursk- how close are they?

    Any direction you gents feel like going here would be great- Kursk provides plenty of stuff to look into... let's see what comes up!

    (maybe if we get going on a number of different facets of the battle, it might be good in posting to let everyone know what aspect you are talking about...)
     
  2. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Well, I will first focus on the whole strategic situation, OK?

    As we have discussed. The annhilation battle "Kesselschlacht" tactic is a very good, but difficult one, because it has to be done very, very quickly with Blitkrieg tactics as it happened in Minsk, Kiev, etc. However, this kind of battles, always lethal to the enemy are very expensive. Specially, with a tough adversary as the Russians.

    Kursk was a bad try of a Kesselschlacht, because it was supposely to reduce the bulge, encircle the Soviet forces there and destroy them with two armoured pincers and an "infantry-sweeper". But to have a nice Kesselschlacht there most be mobility, surprise and disorganisation of the enemy forces. There was any of these factors in Kursk in 1943. Yo supossely have to encircle a disorganised enemy sorrounding him very quickly, not allowing him to escape. But in Kursk there was no disorganised and retreating enemy, but an enemy very well organised, very strong and confortable on his trenchers which is expecting you to attack. How could this succeed? It cannot. The armoured pincers would not attack disorganised flanks, but strong ones and the infantry-sweeper is not going to sweep anything, because the enemy has a lot of good deffensive positions. The only thing that "Zitadelle" had in common with the annhilation battles like Kiev is that is was indeed TOO expensive.

    However, it could have succeed in a certain point, because the Germans were very expereinced and well equipped. And the German armour losses were not as high as it is known. There was a chance to succeed, at least the Southern pincer... A tactical engagement could have been won, at a very expensive cost and not achieve a strategic battle, which was what was needed.
     
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  3. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    I'm game, since my postings aren't making any sense to anyone, so......well I will have to pull out the German books and tear through them. I leave this weekend for some R & R and hopefully my beautiful hilly valley will still be here in 2 weeks time when I return. It's getting ugly guys !

    be back in awhile.....where do you want to start Crazy ? with book references, or northern flank, south ?

    E
     
  4. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    By the way. That "popular demand" thing sounds a bit RED... :D
     
  5. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    Erich- start wherever you want! Kursk has enough aspects that this thread could go in many directions. Take your pick!
    The numbers for Kursk are something I'll look into. Some newer sources suggest that losses on both sides were not as high as previously thought. I'd certainly be interested in trying to verify, or at least come close to, some of the actual numbers.

    Good analysis, Friedrich. That was the main problem with Kursk. Earlier encirclements were based mainly on the mobility of panzers and the disorganization of the enemy. Kursk was a pitched battle- encirclement tactics did no apply, yet the germans tried to force that method. The delays impsed on the attack date also played a huge factor. Had Kursk been launched in April, as originally planned, the russians would have been in a tough spot. The germans would have had some (although not much) element of suprise. And more important, the two-month delay in launching Kursk gave the russians plenty of time to fortify the salient.
     
  6. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Maybe we can start by listing titles/authors with publication firms and ISBN#'s so we can purchase any of them for our libraries ? There are a multitude now about the battle, some good, some very bad.....who will start ?

    E
     
  7. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    I'll see what I can come up with tonight. Unfortunately, some of the newer sources might be tought to find outside of Amazon.com.
    One book I really want to get e hold of- "Kursk 1943: A Statistical Analysis", Zetterling and Frankson, (?) Frank Cass publishing, 0-7146-5052-8.
    Apparently the title is accurate- according to reviews, the book skips the leaders, individual achievements, and politics, and focuses entirely on the fighting at Kursk and the numbers about said fighting. This really sounds like a useful title. Has anyone checked this one out?
    Of course, one review does put it perfectly- when looking at numbers...
     
  8. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Sounds quite interesting ! Have heard of the title and that is it. please check this.....
    www.rzm.com look at the two new titles on Kursk. Waffen-SS volume 1 and 2. Looks, well hmmmmmmm the price is a bit spendy for sure, but ?
    I'll start checking the sites for others, because there are many......
    Scorched Earth by Paul Carrel before and after Kursk.....softbound through Ballantine pubs 1966/Verlag Ullstein. Still a classic.
    Tigers are Burning by Martin Caidun. This was suppose to be a hot book when it was published......Uk !
    Armor Battles of the W-SS by Will Fey. JJF pubs, Winnipeg Canada. ISBN # 0-921991-09-6 great first person accounts !
    Kursk, Ballantine ilustrated.....remember those oldies but goodies ? OOP....
    Das Reich volumes 1 and 2 by Mark Yerger. Great material in a small booklet. Self-published and worth every penny !
    7./Panzerkompanie by Ral Tiemann. Schiffer pubs, 1998, ISBN# 0-7643-0463-1 Great first person accounts of the 7th Kompanie.

    more to come.

    E
     
  9. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Kursk books.

    I don't have many, but a really nice one is : -

    'Operation Citadel - Kursk and Orel, the Greatest Tank Battle of the Second World War' by Janusz Piekalkiewicz ( Costello, nd ). This is a translation of a German book published by Lubbe Verlag in 1987. A large book with excellent bibliography and the best collection of Kursk photos I've ever seen.

    And then the heavyweights : -

    'Stalingrad to Berlin - The German Defeat in the East' by Earl F. Ziemke ( Center of Military History, 1968 ).
    'The Road to Berlin' by John Erickson ( Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1983 ).
    These are both 'standard' reference works with large chapters devoted to Citadel.

    And, of course, as mentioned above 'Scorched Earth' which only lacks knowledge of ULTRA intelligence.
     
  10. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Yes, finally!

    I think one of the key elements was that the russians knew the attack plan beforehand, and by now Hitler didn´t trust the generals, so he gave orders that included every minute of the attack. And the british got every part of it thanx to knowing the secret of Enigma-and sending the info to the russians.

    One other thing was the 6 lines of defence, full of mines, AT-cannons and T 34 ´s. Very deadly. Also the soviet air force was rather well equipped now and Luftwaffe couldn´t take care of the tanks and other goals like 1941. It seems to me that the russians attacked in small groups including 100-200 men and 5-6 T34´s, like punching holes to the german lines as they moved on.

    Panzerkeil was the new tactics, in which the tigers were in the first line, and smaller tanks in the middle.very effective as Tigers killed the T34´s very quickly.In one battle they saw 100 T 34´s and 5 tigers destroyed all of them in 3 minutes, as they were some 1..2-1.5 kms away. So I believe the sorty of P hausser counting the tanks in LAH sector with chalk ( some 98 ) as he couldn´t believe his eyes.

    The unfortunate thing seems to me now, that the german attack ended as Hitler demanded this. The Prokhorovka battle wasn´t such a big loss to germans but to the russians was. the 5th guard had 200 T34´s out of 500-600 to begin with after Prokhorova, so their losses were great. Also das Reich captured several villages south of prokhorovka after 12th july so they did keep goin on even though the momentum of attack was gone.LAH was sent to Italy, and troops were sent to take care of other battles. Manstein wanted to attack with the reserve tanks against 5th Guards, but wasn´t allowed, so the russian tank reserve was saved by Hitler, actually.

    So it seems that the battle of prokhorovka was russian propaganda, probably to explain the big losses. By destroying these tank reserves germany would have bought a lot of more time but the goal of destroying six russian armies would not have been possible as the northern pincer couldn´t move! germans lost enough precious tanks so that the balance totally shifted to the russians now. Well, after all over 15 000 T34´s were built so no wonder they had tanks!

    Ok, just starting to warm up here! I bet loads of discussions will come up so better end this here! This is just my idea of it by what I have read.
     
  11. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    A couple points- both Martin and Kai mention intelligence sharing between east and west in relation to Kursk- where are you guys reading this? In all my sources, I cannot find mention of this sharing in any significant amount. I've read that the intelligence Stalin recieved about Kursk came from his own spy network ("Werther", I believe?). Also common sense- in the time it took to decode a message, then relay it through diplomatic channels, the message would not longer be at all current. Even by the time of the Battle for Berlin, such intelligence messages were still being relayed through normal diplomatic channels, which took forever.
    I also wonder about the panzerkiel tactic's effectiveness. For the germans, this seemed really unimiginative- just lining up tanks and sending them in. What's more, the panzerkiel as used at Kursk had one huge flaw- with the Tigers in the front, they would have engaged the enemy at relatively close range- a waste of the tiger. Tigers, because of the 88, excelled at LONG range fighting. But at close range, not only could the russian guns penetrate their armor, but the tigers also exposed their sides and exposed themselves to infantry attack.
    Hmmm... numbers for Tiger lost during Kursk?

    Kai also brings up one of the interesting ideas here- could Manstein have succeeded, if allowed to continue as he wanted?
    In my opinion, he probably could not have because of the problems the northern pincer under Model was having. Had the russians been faced with a continuing attack from Manstein, they likely could have brought in enough reserves to halt the attck, and, even more, immediate relief could have come from shifting russian forces from north to south. BY July 9th, th northern pincer was essentially stopped. Forces could have been moved from the north to help hold Manstein. And Mansteins forces were beginning to run low on supplies, which was already slowing their progress.

    One final thing- Kai, by the wars end, the russians had produced well over 50,000 T-34s, not 15,000 I think... or were you just citing one year?
     
  12. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    And great stuff on the books- thanks guys, now I have some shopping to do this weekend! :D :D
     
  13. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Well, actually the tactic used by the Panzers were a bad one. Youu're right there. First, because if the Tigers get close into action, they become awkward beasts and lose their advantages, into close combats with the super fast T-34s they had a tremendous lack of power. Beside, with the heaviest and slowest tanks at the front you make all the Panzer attack slower. Marks III and IV as well as Panthers should have gone at the front to make a faster attack, protected by the long range of the Tiger's cannons.

    Could Von Manstein have suceeded? Partially. He would have been able to controll all the Southern sector. But Model was not advancing anymore, beside he was having tremendous losses in infantry, tanks and guns, because the Russians were a bit more prepared in the North and Model did not have so many tanks as Hoth.

    And we have discussed that of the codes... I think that the Western Allies did help, but very little in telling the Russians about the offensive in Kursk, but the 90% of the intelligence job was done by Soviet spies. That is why they could reinforce the bulge and bring more and more troops, dig trenchers and place 300 artillery pieces per mile!!!
     
  14. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Happy reading CrazyD88! ;)

    About that intelligence part. I don´t have it near but twice i have read that the British delivered the information after they decoded it. Yet not giving all the information, which could explain why the german attack´s main thrust in the south came as a surprise. If I find the bit, I´ll come back to it. The russian link to OKW has been discussed often, but so far I haven´t found any clues to whom or how it could have been done. Also the man somewhere in the Balkans, who sent the messages to Moscow, has stayed rather obscure-at least to me. Of course all I´m saying is mostly how I see it- making my own links, as direct evidence isn´t shown.

    The panzerkeil probably worked well in the russian plains as it was excellent tank battle ground. Nothing comes from the bushes and the view up to kilometers is clear.SO if you saw T34´s and you had a tiger tank, you had all the time in the world to kill those russian tanks.Their 75 mm would be useless up to 700 meters. And the smaller tanks inside would mop up the rest, as the tigers would take care of the bigger fish.

    The northern sector in Kursk was useless literally. They were stuck. So Manstein´s main idea was to crush the 5th guard´s tanks and whatever was left of the other reserves,which would have given them a breathing space, as russians had no other reserves there. As a whole the Zitadelle was lost, but a minor victory was at hand. The other fronts might have stopped the attacking in order to strenghten the Kursk region, but at least Russia would have had 200-300 T 34´s less after that.

    You´re probably right about those tanks.
     
  15. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Well, actually the tactic used by the Panzers were a bad one. Youu're right there. First, because if the Tigers get close into action, they become awkward beasts and lose their advantages, into close combats with the super fast T-34s they had a tremendous lack of power. Beside, with the heaviest and slowest tanks at the front you make all the Panzer attack slower. Marks III and IV as well as Panthers should have gone at the front to make a faster attack, protected by the long range of the Tiger's cannons.

    Could Von Manstein have suceeded? Partially. He would have been able to controll all the Southern sector. But Model was not advancing anymore, beside he was having tremendous losses in infantry, tanks and guns, because the Russians were a bit more prepared in the North and Model did not have so many tanks as Hoth.

    And we have discussed that of the codes... I think that the Western Allies did help, but very little in telling the Russians about the offensive in Kursk, but the 90% of the intelligence job was done by Soviet spies. That is why they could reinforce the bulge and bring more and more troops, dig trenchers and place 300 artillery pieces per mile!!!
     
  16. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    This I found from the "enigma" pages. As usual, no references.

    From reading “ultra” material one gets the impression that, during the battle for Normandy in 1944 and the closing stages of the battle for the Atlantic in 1943, British and American Commanders knew almost every German move and order. The British passed on to the Russians the German plans and dispositions for the Battle of Kursk, which was decisive for the outcome of the war on the Eastern Front.
     
  17. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Actually Stalin didn't trust much in the ULTRA...

    And Kursk was not the most decisive battle of the Ostfront.
     
  18. CrazyD

    CrazyD Ace

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    The info I can recall easily on the intelligence/spying comes from Carell. He talks about some of the russian spies, and how effective they were. According to his analysis, the russians had someone who was privy to most all of the german high command's decisions. Carell tells of nearly constant updates from the russian spys as to german plans and intentions. The most impressive part I have found is agreed on by most sources- the Russians had such good information, that they knew exactly the time the germans decided to attack. The russians actually opened the battle of Kursk with THEIR artillery barrage, which caught the german forces in their staging areas. Considering that Hitler finally decided the date of the attack only days before it occurred, it is incredible that the russians were able to get this info so quickly...

    I'll see if I can find those T-34 numbers...

    Stuck is perfect to describe the Northern thrust. Obviously, Model's forces were thoroughly outgunned and outnumbered. Not only did the 9th army make slow progress, but Model even used all his reserves by the second day of the battle. He was having so much trouble with the russian defenses, that he threw in additional forces right off the bat, and hence was left without any reserves. Especially when looking at Model's forces, the russian plan and advantages are clearly decisive. Perfect example of the russian plan for Kursk working effectively.

    I've also been doing some more reading on the Panther's debut at Kursk. I'm tryiing to determine exactly what that major mechanical problem was. A huge fraction, maybe almost one third, of the Panthers were disabled by the same engine problem. I believe it was the exhaust set-up, but I'm still looking into that one.
     
  19. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Crazy :

    I would have to look of course but there are numbers roughly for W-SS Tigers lost in the southern sector. Don't know about the north at all ! It appears though that Pz IV's and stug III's were delegated the un-enviable task to be on the W-SS Tiger's flanks thus casuing some nasty losses to broad side hits. Once the Tigers could get to open ground they fanned out and the Panzerkeil was really lost. given the range of the 8.8 this had to be done or they would have shot up their own vehicles. Another thing of course besides the terrain and not knowing what was really behind those Soviet occupied hills was all the smoke generated by both sides. No-one could see what was going on at times and it was guess work for the Soviet and German Panzer kommandeurs as to what was before them on a rush to the front.
    Yes, the Panther was teethed with troubles. I have heard the same, engine and severe transmission problems......

    E
     
  20. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Well, thoçse bloody Panthers were very bad tested and they burst in fire... But that is a thing I don't know much about, so I will leave it.

    But crazy is right about the spies and about Model.

    Beside, in the close combat struggle there, neither the Luftwaffe nor the Red Air Force could support their troops o ground because there were Tigers, Panthers, KV-Is and T-34s all mixed fighting down there... And we all know the difference that air support could have helped any side.
     

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