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|WorldWar2.ro Forum > WW2 in General > KURSK - the greatest tank battle of World War 2|
|Posted by: New Governor Of Alaska January 17, 2008 12:00 am|
| 1943. KURSK - the greatest tank battle of World War 2.
Video - http://youtube.com/watch?v=gdopBrDrPcQ
In the winter and spring of 1943, after their terrible defeat in Stalingrad, clearly outnumbered and losing the initiative in the eastern front, Hitler and the German High Command were asking themselves what to do next, in the summer of 1943.
The situation was bad not only on the war front.
While Russian tank production increased to unbelievable levels, the German obsession for complex new super weapons, like the advanced but then immature Panther and Tiger tanks, largely reduced German tank production.
General Guderian, the best German armor expert and commander, said:
As interesting as these designs were, the practical result was just a reduced production of the Panzer 4, our only efficient tank then, to a very modest level...
The Battle of Kursk Bulge started on July 5th 1943. It took the Nazis the first few battles to feel the strength of the Soviet defenses. In the large-scale campaign in which four million soldiers took part and which lasted seven weeks the crucial time fell on July 12th, the day of the biggest in history tank battle, which occurred near Prokhorovka village in the Belgorod Region. Armoured Forces Marshal Pavel Rotmistrov, who commanded one of the tank armies, recalled.
“In the morning of July 12th I and a group of officers were at an observation point, from which the battlefield could be seen very clearly. In the first minutes of the battle two avalanches of tanks surged onto one another in clouds of dust and smoke. 1500 tanks on either side were in action simultaneously and the field near Prokhorovka proved too small for such a force. Locked into one huge tangle the tanks rolled into one enormous mass. Hundreds of tanks and self-propelled guns were on fire. The rumble from rattling armour and the howl of shells many of which ricocheted sideways as they hit the armour was deafening! Soldiers jumped out of burning tanks and rolled on the ground to put out flames.”
Hitler’s command pinned most of their hopes on the new “Tiger” and “Panther” tanks and the “Ferdinand” self-propelled gun. However, the Soviet tanks, which boasted a higher degree of maneuverability, knocked out the armoured Nazi monsters with utmost efficiency. The battle ended with a total defeat of the Nazi tank force, which was turned into a scrap of metal. After the Battle of Prokhorovka the Soviet troops went on the offensive and liberated Oryol and Belgorod.
The defeat of the Nazis near Kursk left Germany unable to recover from the losses. The German historian Goertliz wrote that the Battle of Kursk marked the beginning of a deadly crisis in the Nazi army.
On the occasion of the victory on the Kursk Bulge on August 5th 1943 Moscow for the first time saluted to Soviet troops. And that was quite justified, for winning the Battle of Kursk meant winning the war. The victory in the Battle of Kursk had far-reaching consequences – it brought forth the collapse of the Nazi bloc, which included a number of European countries, and led to the expansion of anti-fascist and national liberation movement in Europe.
The Battle of Kursk (Russian: Курская битва) or Kursk Campaign (July 4 – July 20, 1943), also called Operation Citadel (German: Unternehmen Zitadelle) by the German Army, was a major battle on the Eastern Front of World War II and the last German blitzkrieg offensive in the east as well as the last German offensive of such scale in the war.
The exact definition of the battle varies: the Germans saw it as comprising Operation Citadel only, while the Soviets considered (and Russians today consider) it to include Citadel and the subsequent Soviet counteroffensives, Operation Kutuzov and Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev. Overall, the campaign, which included the famous sub-battle at Prokhorovka, remains both the largest armored engagement and the most costly single day of aerial warfare to date.
Kursk is further notable for the deliberately defensive battle strategy on the Soviets' part. Having good intelligence on Hitler's intentions, the Soviets established and managed to conceal elaborate layered defense works, mine fields, and stage and disguise large reserve forces poised for a tactical and strategic counterattack typical of defensive battle plans. Though the Germans planned and initiated an offensive strike, the well-planned defense not only frustrated their ambitions, but also enabled the Soviets to follow up with counteroffensives and exhausted the German abilities in the theater, thereby seizing the initiative for the remainder of the war. In that sense it may be seen as the second phase of the turning point that began with the German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad, whose aftermath set the scene by establishing the Kursk Salient (also known as the "Kursk Bulge"), the reduction of which was the objective of the German armies entering in July. The subsequent counterattacks retook Orel and Belgorod on August 5, and Kharkov on August 23, pushing back the Germans across a broad front. This was the first successful major Soviet summer offensive of the war.
"History knows no greater display of courage than that shown by the people of Soviet Russia." - Henry L. Stimson US Secretary Of War
|Posted by: dead-cat January 17, 2008 09:27 am|
that is yet again a fairy tale invented by Rotmistrov. that myth has been repeatedly debunked in a most detailed way in Zetterling&Franksson's "Kursk 1943, A Statistical Analysis".
There were no 1500 tanks at Prokhorovka.
The actual number of tanks is determined by what is considered "the battle of Prokhorovka".
There were no Panthers at Prokhorovka. Not a single one. The only unit to receive Panthers until Citadel was the "Grossdeutschland" division, which was nowhere near. Prokhorovka was fought by the II-SS Panzerkorps.
There were no more than 15 Tigers present.
The ratio of losses was hugely against the soviet forces.
And the reason why Adolf aborted "Citadel" was "Husky" and the subsequent action on Italy which swallowed the replacements for the eastern front.
in absolute numbers, 1943 was the worst year for the soviet army.
to the "unbelivable" production levels:
in 1943 the SU produced
5,391 light tanks
17,192 medium tanks
1,458 heavy tanks
to a grand total of 24041. assault guns are included.
In the same year, they lost about 23500.
also in 1943, germany produced:
1811 light tanks
11106 medium tanks (counting the Panther chassis as medium too)
740 heavy tanks (Tiger&Ferdinand)
to a grand total of 13657. assault guns also included. they lost about 8000 (need to check the exact figure) in that year (on all fronts).
The Tiger model did already reach maturity during mid 1943, so it wasn't "unreliable" anymore.
|Posted by: guina January 17, 2008 01:23 pm|
|Dead-cat is absolutly corect.Furthermore,at the end of the day,at Prohorovka,the russians left the field of batle ,leaving the germans to blow up all the russian tanks left on the field ( 90 %) Only 16 german tanks werw a total loss,the rest were repaired.So it was a german tactical victory.|
|Posted by: dead-cat January 17, 2008 07:13 pm|
| on july 23rd, the II-SS Panzerkorps reported as total loss:
5 Pz. III
23 Pz. IV
these are for the period 5-23rd july. of which at least 19 were destoryed before Prokhorovka. so the "utomost efficiency" caused the (total) loss of about 17(!) tanks.
the 5th tank army reported the loss of 222 T34, 89 T-70, 12 Churchill and 11 assaut guns up to july 16th as total write-off.
all figures from "Kursk 1943, A Statistical Analysis" by Niklas Zetterling and Anders Frankson.
a "total defeat" looks a bit different.
i wonder how Mannsteins re-capture of Kharkow in march 1943 fits into this.
|Posted by: Imperialist January 17, 2008 08:24 pm|
|2 SS Panzer Corps lost around 300 tanks in the Prohorovka battle.|
|Posted by: dead-cat January 17, 2008 09:00 pm|
|Posted by: Imperialist January 17, 2008 09:17 pm|
The authors of these two books:
The ratio of 16 lost vs. 300 killed would be stunning. That would be close to 2000% efficiency. We would be talking about the great turkey shoot at Prohorovka if that were so.
|Posted by: dead-cat January 17, 2008 09:55 pm|
| unfortunately, as many otherswho based themselves on Carell/Rotmistrov (who took the estimations of his commanders for granted) they have been proven wrong.
according to BA-MA RH21-4/118 KTB 1a
"Tagesmeldungen und Nachmeldungen von II.SS-Panzerkorps zu Pz.A.O.K.4" (from Zetterling & Frankson)
the 2.nd SS Panzercorps reported operational, the following number of tanks:
july 11: 294
july 12: data from 1.SS div. is missing
july 13: 254
july 14: 266
july 15: 261
july 16: 292
daily fluctuations are caused by combat and other losses and tanks returning to "operational" from field workshops.
at no point did the 2.SS Panzercorps even field 300 operational tanks, much less loose 300.
the 5th tank army
5th guard mech corps
18th tank corps
29th tank corps
53rd tank reg.
1549th SU reg.
2nd tank corps
2nd guard tank corps
1529th SU reg.
not all of them were comitted against the 2.SS Panzercorps.
unfortunately the book, which quotes Krivosheev for soviet casualties and equipment losses, does not defalcate losses for each corps.
up until Prokhorovka not only units from the 2nd SS Panzercorps faced units from the 5th tank army (and took losses) so the ratio is, according to Zetterling 54 tanks and assault guns written off, vs. 334 on the soviet side (5th tank army), which is about 1:6.
german equipment losses were not particularuly heavy during the offensive phase of Citadel since they were able to recover damaged equipment, while the soviets usually were not. which is why i dwelled on "written off".
|Posted by: Imperialist January 17, 2008 11:04 pm|
The Corps consisted of 3 Panzergrenadier divisions.
Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler had 100 tanks and 30 assault guns (operational units)
Das Reich had 127 tanks and around 30 assault guns (operational units)
I could find no data for now on the third one - Totenkopf - but it would likely stick to the pattern. And the total would give around 300 tanks.
|Posted by: Alexei2102 January 17, 2008 11:53 pm|
|II SS Panzer Corps, commanded by SS Obergruppenfuehrer Paul Hausser. Hausser`s three SS panzer grenadier divisions --- the 1-st (Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler), 2-d (Das Reich), and 3-d (Totenkopf) --- had a line strength of 390 tanks and 104 assault guns between them, including 42 of the Army Group`s 102 Tigers.|
|Posted by: dead-cat January 18, 2008 07:41 am|
| at no point during the entire Prokhorobka battle all of them were operational.
the loss report shows 36 tanks lost until july 23rd. for the entire corps.
i'd like to see a primary source attesting the 300 tanks loss.
the Panthers at Prokhorovka, 1500 tanks clash, "largest tank battle in history", "decesive soviet win", "destruction of the Panzer arm" myth has been exhaustively perpetuated by soviet literature and found no backing in german reports, which are available to everyone in Freiburg.
|Posted by: guina January 18, 2008 07:48 am|
| Try this
|Posted by: guina January 18, 2008 07:50 am|
| And this
|Posted by: Imperialist January 18, 2008 09:34 am|
The numbers I posted represent the named divisions' operational units at the start of July. Operational as in able and active, not held back undergoing repairs.
|Posted by: dead-cat January 18, 2008 09:59 am|
| below the comparision of total tank strenght (operation+in workshops) for the 3 divisions , vs. reported operational (excluding tanks in workshops) on july 4th, the first day of "Citadel":
at the start of the campaign.
from then on, defects and combat damage brought the available tanks strength gradually down to below 300 until the start of Prokhorovka , july 12th, when the entire corps reported 294 operational just a day before.
the difference to 494 are by no means write-offs. until july 12th, the 2nd SS wrote off 19 tanks and assault guns as total losses.
actually, 300 is the approximative total tank loss for the entire german force involved in Citadel for the period of 5-23rd July.
|Posted by: Imperialist January 18, 2008 11:13 am|
| What is the source of your claims and can you back them with more than one source?
|Posted by: dead-cat January 18, 2008 11:32 am|
| the source is the file BA-MA RH21-4/118 KTB 1a
"Tagesmeldungen und Nachmeldungen von II.SS-Panzerkorps zu Pz.A.O.K.4"
quoted from "Kursk 1943, A Statistical Analysis" for everything related to the tank losses of the II.SS Panzerkorps.
the file mentioned is the offical report of the II. SS Panzerkorps to the Pz. A.O.K. 4.
this is as primary as you can get barring a teleportation back in time to count them yourself.
also, it is the only primary source, which, apparently few considered consulting, until recently.
|Posted by: Imperialist January 18, 2008 02:09 pm|
|I have seen authors saying one should be cautious about numbers for Kursk, that's why I used "around". But from what you're saying the authors you mention are pretty certain that they have the truth on the issue. So do you know of any other book that has adopted their "newly found" data or whether it has made any headway in the domain, being accepted as norm?|
|Posted by: dead-cat January 18, 2008 07:19 pm|
| it has.
there's been 2 years since i read that book and have yet to see a publication proving Zetterling and Frankson's source work wrong. the foreword is written by David Glantz.
I've heared the recommendation to caution about "the numbers" at Kursk myself, although long before the book appeared and usually referring to soviet literature (comming from people who read Mannstein who offers a rather similar view, albeit no in-depth statistical analysis).
other than the soviet post-war literature, this authors have no agenda to defend and no ideology to promote.
it's no problem to cross-check, as the archives in Freiburg are available to public access, unlike the soviet/russian ones.
so far nobody has proved the numbers to be wrong and they are backed by original reports issued by the very units fighting the engagements we're speaking about, especially since they are concludent with the other loss reports of higher level units (like within the army group).
so far i have yet to find a gross incompatibility, like the "Panthers at Prokhorovka" stuff from authors which some people seem to regard as "established".
|Posted by: Imperialist January 18, 2008 09:21 pm|
|Dunn and Citino were not promoting ideology yet they put forth the around 300 figure mentioned earlier. So is it safe to say that their books should get in the dust bin on this subject?|
|Posted by: dragos January 19, 2008 01:20 am|
|Even if the German were sustaining fewer losses than the Soviets, the offensive was doomed from the start. The delay in the launching and the Soviet preparation of several lines of defense in depth made any breakthrough costly. While the norhern pincher went almost according to the plan, the German south went bad from the start. Considering the northern and southern pinchers made contact somewhere east of Kursk-Orel, it is debatable of what gains would have been obtained if they would be able to hold it any length of time. It was not like any encirclement of 1941 or 1942 where the Soviet forces where picked up in dissaray and lacking any form of cohesion.|
|Posted by: dragos January 19, 2008 01:29 am|
Not about Prokhorovka, but I remember reading a book many years ago (sorry, I can't remember the title, but I will try to obtain it) with German soldiers testimonies. A German soldier witnessed an attack of Panthers tanks, which subject of technical breakdowns and sepparation from infantry made them easy prey for Soviet anti-tank guns. In the southern sector as far as I remeber,
|Posted by: dead-cat January 19, 2008 09:52 am|
Don't know, as i have not read it. check the biography, it should say where they got the number(s) from.
there are a large number of occurances of this kind during the first months of the Panther deployment. Hitler rushed the Panther into combat without adequate field testing. however, once the problems were ironed out, the Panther became the best medium tank of the war, survivability combined with production costs led to a better "bang for the buck" than the Pz. IV, which despite all upgrades remained a pre-war design, surclassed in potential by later, allied and german, developments.
|Posted by: Florin January 21, 2008 02:19 am|
This quote is from the post which started the topic.
First of all, "the German obsession for complex new super weapons" was not bad at all, as philosophy. What was bad was their waste of 3 valuable years (autumn 1939 ... autumn 1942) without concern to improve the existing weaponry. Then suddenly they started a frenzied rush in research in all technical fields - too late, as history proved.
Then, considering what Guderian mentioned: Was the latest 75mm cannon installed on the Panzer IV able to penetrate a frontal plate of a T-34, or T-34/85?
Was it able to penetrate the frontal armor of the newest heavy Soviet tanks?
If not, it is obvious that new types of tanks were needed.
But the Russians could produce their new heavy tanks without reducing the numbers of the T-34, while the Germans were incapable of that. The problem with Germans, in those days, was their design of some components with expensive and slow technologies. The result were small numbers at the output of the factories.
The manufacturing time for a system cannot be shorter than the manufacturing time of any of its components.
An American historian mentioned that the simple fact that the German armored divisions remained functional with so few replacement tanks, for so many years, is a performance.
|Posted by: Florin January 21, 2008 02:49 am|
As far as I know, the Germans really had fewer losses. It is said that even Stalin, who cared so little about his own people, got very angry when he was informed about the magnitude of the Soviet losses.
Regarding "what gains would have been obtained if they would be able to hold it any length of time":
Hitler decided to stop the offensive attempts when he learned that the Americans and the British landed in Sicily. Von Manstein insisted to keep the pressure just few more days, arguing that was required to win. Hitler prevailed: it was time to face the other guys in Italy.
Even though in those days the Anglo-Americans were just a little nuisance, they were exactly the drop to turn the glass from half full into half empty. (As it also happened in late 1942...)
|Posted by: Florin January 21, 2008 03:52 am|
I guess Marshal Pavel Rotmistrov recalled that in some history written during the Soviet era.
Interesting enough, Russian sources after 1990 consider "July 12th, the day of the biggest history tank battle" as a myth.
A myth created to cover the huge losses in Soviet tanks and other AFV's.
A myth that fitted so well in the Armageddon style of fight between good and evil, style liked by both Communist and Nazi ideologies.
According to this other historical approach, the huge losses in Soviet tanks and other AFV's was not due to a titanic tank battle on July 12, but due to combined enemy factors: tanks, infantry, aviation.
|Posted by: MMM January 20, 2009 12:27 pm|
Are you a PG2 player? Tactical victory?! It was a victory, but without relevance in the "bigger picture", as the Russians could (and would) replace their losses, whereas the Germans didn't. Anyway, victory or not (for the Germans, I mean), as a Blitzkrieg it was an utterly failure, because of the little advance made with extremely heavy losses.
|Posted by: Dénes January 20, 2009 07:16 pm|
In mid-1943 we cannot speak of a Blitzkrieg any more. The tactic/term was valid for 1941 (on the Eastern Front), but not any more two years later. So it wasn't a failure as such.
|Posted by: petru32 January 20, 2009 11:50 pm|
| I think the Russian suffered terrible loses against Army Group Sud during Kursk battle.
Dead Cat, concerning the loses suffered by the German Army there are I have two questions
1. In the forces available for the 2 SS PZCorp there are included also the number of tanks received as reinforcement at the end of each day
2. Does it also includes the number of panzer recovered at the end of each day and repaired.
Also Dead Cat you should take in to consideration the fact that 2 SS PZCorp was considered an elite unit so it received more vehicles than the units of the 48PZCorp so it is normal to see that the forces available for each day are a level near the of the first day of battle.
The initial objective of the German offensive was Oboyan and not Prohorovka the reason of the changing of the objective was the dense mine field and multiple lines with plenty of infantry tank hunters which made the advance to Oboyan almost impossible.
Tthe German Army being in offensive was able to recover all its damaged vehicles and send them to repair units while the Russians being in retreat were forced to abandon their. You will see that as soon as the Germans started to lose more tanks as the crew has the habit to leave an immobilize tank.
|Posted by: MMM January 21, 2009 08:09 am|
Ok, not Blitzkrieg, then! It was a failure from the point of view of "Panzer Attack", of the fact that neither surprise was achieved (because of repeated delays), nor the superiority of men/tanks/guns/planes etc. THAT's what I wanted to say! It applies to Prohorovka, as well.
|Posted by: dead-cat January 21, 2009 09:37 am|
it gives the number of tanks operational at the start of each day. if tanks with minor damages have been repaired through the day, or reinforcements have arrived, they will be reflected in the figures for the next day.
from the start of Citadel until the 19th, 45 PZ IV, 12 Panthers and 17 Tigers have been dispatched for the EF. the Pz.IVs had "Army Group Center" as destination and were distributed among units. the Panthers went to Pz. Reg 39 and only the Tigers are "guaranteed" for the 2nd Pz. Korps. None would arrive before late July. Therefore, there wern't many reinfocements, certainly not to level the claimed huge losses.
when the german army was on the offensive, they would have and easier time of recovering damaged vehicles and so they did, extensively. that however, was not disputed. disputed were the, often claimed, huge losses in german tanks. which, at a closer look, wern't so huge. last, Adolf did not call of citadel, as soviets used to claim, because of prochorovka, but because of Husky. which sort of reinforces Mannstein's claim, that things actually wern't going so bad after all during citadel.
tanks& assault guns on the EF on 30 June 1943: 3.432
tanks& assault guns on the EF on 31 Dec 1943: 3.356
the german army, despite having to man a new front in italy, and having fought heavy engagements for the last 6 months, had fewer than 80 tanks less on the EF than at the end of a 3 month buildup for citadel, which is the lowest casualty quarter for the entire war on the EF. more, the % of newer, more capable tanks, was higher than in june.
|Posted by: MMM January 21, 2009 10:38 am|
|Where do you get these figures (numbers, i. e.)? I mean, what source are you relying upon that you trust its exactity to the last unit?|
|Posted by: dead-cat January 21, 2009 01:30 pm|
| Panzer-Lage Ost file BA-MA RH 10/61 and StuG-Lage Ost file BA-MA RH 10/62 as published in "Kursk 1943, A statistical analysis" by Niklas Zetterling and Anders Frankson.
With other words, quoted from the original reporting records of the german army, available for everyone to check, in the Freiburg archive.
|Posted by: MMM January 21, 2009 03:06 pm|
|My respects, dead-cat! Using archive sources is the most reliable way to the truth. Especially German achives. I envy your access to those...|
|Posted by: dead-cat January 21, 2009 04:26 pm|
| *I* did not go to Freiburg. the authors of the book from which i quoted did.
the focus of my personal interest is 16th-19th century. my interest in WW2 is only marginal.
|Posted by: MMM January 21, 2009 06:57 pm|
|I see... How did you get the book? Don't tell me of Amazon, please|
|Posted by: dead-cat January 21, 2009 08:31 pm|
|well, actually it was from amazon. it's where i buy 95% of my books, lately spending ridiculous amounts on Cornwell's "Sharpe" and Pérez-Reverte's "Capitan Alatriste" series.|
|Posted by: MMM January 22, 2009 07:58 am|
I just finished looking at all 13 episodes of the "old" series w/ Sean Bean. I downloaded them illegaly from a torrent site.
As for the Amazon, you are NOT from Romania. To here, it is difficult to command anything...
|Posted by: dead-cat January 22, 2009 09:51 am|
|let's discuss this http://www.worldwar2.ro/forum/index.php?showtopic=890&st=345entry69162.|
|Posted by: MMM January 22, 2009 10:57 am|
It does NOT work. Maybe 24 pages are all we get.
|Posted by: Victor January 22, 2009 11:47 am|
It does not work, because it is in the General Discussion section where you don't have access yet (see http://www.worldwar2.ro/forum/index.php?showtopic=4573)
|Posted by: cainele_franctiror January 23, 2009 07:51 am|
| Did anyone check this book? All I know is that is a new one.
|Posted by: MMM January 23, 2009 11:07 am|
|I never heard of him til now, but from a closer look (on the Amazon), one can see he wrote some books about ww2, Germany and its tank forces. I'll have to check more on him... however, I don't see the relevance of the book in the context of our topic. Do you think there is anything in the book about Tigers at Kursk? After all, there were only 133 Tigers there...|
|Posted by: dead-cat January 23, 2009 11:44 am|
|Posted by: MMM January 24, 2009 02:58 pm|
| Great difference, this is! A heavy tanks company, no more!
I began talking like Yoda...
|Posted by: Victor January 24, 2009 04:53 pm|
This is not a chat room. Accuracy of historical data is important here and I suppose it should also be important in the PhD you are working on. And, btw, 11 Tigers if used properly could really make their presence felt in a tactical situation.
|Posted by: MMM January 24, 2009 05:54 pm|
|Of course. I got carried away a little. I know very well that even ONE Tiger could make a difference, provided it was manned properly. The idea is that sources may differ, but not considerably. I remember that in 2000, when writing my graduation, I found two diferent figures concerning the number of Panther tanks used in the last Ardennes offensive (16 dec. 1944). One author told about 500+ Panthers and another about 54 or something like that. Given the fact that the WHOLE production of Panthers throughout the last years of war was a little more than 2000 units, it was clear which of the two historians were right. So I know about my differences|
|Posted by: dead-cat January 26, 2009 02:09 pm|
| Panther production figures:
1945: 705 (Jan.-May)
for the last 16 months of the war the Panther production was 4,708 units or about 72% of the entire Pzkpfw. V production.
I don't think any of the 2 figures is correct. several authors give different numbers of german tanks, most often i see around 500 medium tanks deployed, of which the distribution between the Pz. IV and Pz.V is roughly 50-50, therefore, you'd get around 200-250 Panthers.
|Posted by: MMM January 26, 2009 05:57 pm|
Interesting. However, at that moment (spring 2000), I couldn't have found that sort of infos on the Net, even if I had access to it.
Anyway, I was quoting very roughly, from memory, as I don't have anymore my papers...