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Kursk, Battle of

KURSK, BATTLE OF

The Battle of Kursk (July 5August 23, 1943) resulted in the Soviet defeat of the German Army's last major offensive in the East and initiated an unbroken series of Red Army victories culminating in the destruction of Hitler's Third Reich. The battle consisted of Operation Zitadelle, (Citadel), the German Army's summer offensive to destroy Red Army forces defending the Kursk salient, and the Red Army's Operations Kutuzov and Rumyantsev against German forces defending along the flanks of the Kursk salient. More than seven thousand Soviet and three thousand German tanks and selfpropelled guns took part in this titanic battle, making it the largest armored engagement in the war.

The defensive phase of the battle began on July 5, 1943, when the 9th Army of Field Marshal Guenther von Kluge's Army Group Center and the 4th Panzer Army and Army Detachment Kempf of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein's Army Group South launched concentric assaults against the northern and southern flanks of the Kursk salient. In seven days of heavy fighting, the 13th and 70th Armies and 2nd Tank Army of General K. K. Rokossovsky's Central Front fought three German panzer corps to a virtual standstill in the Ponyri and Samodurovka regions, seven miles deep into the Soviet defenses. To the south, during the same period, three panzer corps penetrated ten to twenty miles through the defenses of the Voronezh Front's 6th and 7th Guards and 69th Armies, as well as the dug in 1st Tank Army, before engaging the Steppe Front's counterattacking 5th Guards Army and 5th Guard Tank Armies in the Prokhorovka region. Worn down by constant Soviet assaults against their flanks, the German assault faltered on the plains west of Prokhorovka. Concerned about the deteriorating situation in Italy and a new Red Army offensive to the north, Hitler ended the offensive on July 13.

The day before, the Red Army commenced its summer offensive by launching Operation Kutuzov, massive assaults by five Western and Bryansk Front armies against German Second Panzer Army defending the Orel salient. Red Army forces, soon joined by the 3rd Guards and 4th Tank Armies and most of the Central Front, penetrated German defenses around Orel within days and began a steady advance, which compelled German forces to abandon the Orel salient by August 23. On August 5, three weeks after halting German forces at Prokhorovka, the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts commenced Operation Rumyantsev, a massive offensive by ten armies toward Belgorod and Kharkov. Spearheaded by the 1st and 5th Guards Tank Armies and soon reinforced by three additional armies, for the first time in the war the advancing forces defeated counterattacks by German operational reserves, and captured Kharkov on August 23.

The defeat of Hitler's last summer offensive at Kursk marked the beginning of the Red Army summer -fall campaign, which by late September collapsed the entire German front from Velikie Luki to the Black Sea and propelled Red Army forces forward to the Dnieper River. After Kursk the only unresolved questions regarded the duration and final cost of Red Army victory.

See also: world war ii

bibliography

Erickson, John. (1983). The Road to Berlin. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Glantz, David M., and House, Jonathan M. (1999). The Battle of Kursk. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.

Glantz, David M., and Orenstein, Harold S, eds. (1999). The Battle for Kursk 1943: The Soviet General Staff Study. London: Frank Cass.

Manstein, Erich von. (1958). Lost Victories. Chicago: Henry Regnery.

Zetterling Niklas, and Frankson, Anders. (2000). Kursk 1943: A Statistical Analysis. London: Frank Cass.

David M. Glantz

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