Battle of Kursk

Battle of Kursk

The Battle of Kursk, Operation Citadel ("fortress" by the Nazis) is the largest tank battle in the history of the Red Army against the German army.

The battle took place in July 1943. After the defeat on the eastern front of Stalingrad, Hitler aspired to achieve a decision and therefore launched an operation to conquer the Kursk bulge. The bulge penetrated a depth of 160 km to the west and 240 km wide, with the city of Kursk at its center. Hitler decided to attack the bulge from the north and the south and thereby encircle the many Russian forces there. The aim was to open the route from Orel to Moscow.

At the end of January 1943, the German Sixth Army, commanded by Field Marshal Paul, surrendered in Stalingrad. Three weeks earlier, on January 12, 1943, a major Soviet offensive had begun, from the Dan River to the Donitz, during which the important city of Kharkov was occupied. Further north, the Russians returned to themselves the big city and the important railway junction Kursk. To its west was a large enclave, south of Oriol and north of Belgorod, which remained in German hands. However, the Soviet advance stopped.

Between mid-February and late March 1943, Field Marshal Erik von Manstein managed a successful counterattack south of Kursk and took back Kharkov, even though his forces were in a 1: 5 ratio. This finally left the Kursk enclave as the next, obvious destination for the Germans. The Kursk enclave, extending from north to south about 200 kilometers and deep (east to west), is about 150 kilometers south of the enclave. The Soviets held the Danitz River Line, east of Belgrade and Kharkov. The thawing of snow in early spring halted military activity on both sides.

Preparing for battle

The decision-making process for the German offensive

In early 1943, Germany carried out the last stage of total mobilization, bringing the number of soldiers to 9.5 million, compared to 7.2 million in 1941 and 8.6 million in 1942. The efforts of the armaments industry reached its peak in 1943. The quantities of weapons produced were increased, as did newer and heavier armored vehicles:

The peak of the rate of production of tanks was in May 1943, when the production lines left 5.7 times more of the armored vehicles than during the equivalent period in 1941. The new armored vehicles, which began arriving at the beginning of 1943 to the armored units were weighing 60 tons, armed with an 88 mm cannon and two machine guns.

The front tank was 150 mm thick and 88 mm in length. The medium-sized Panther tank weighed 45 tons, armed with a 75 mm cannon and 1 machine gun, the 85 mm front and 40 mm sides. ("The elephant"), which weighed 70 tons and was armed with a 88 mm cannon with a high rate of fire (without a machine gun), its 200mm front shell, M, based on the "Tiger" chassis.

The appearance of these improved radar vehicles planted a feeling of technological superiority over the Soviet Army under German command.

In connection with the needs of the German military industry, the Germans decided, under Hitler's orders, to protect the Donitz basin in order to preserve the mines of the musician in the Nicopol region.

The German General Staff considered two main alternatives for the summer activities of 1943: Field Marshal Arik Penn Manstein, commander of the Southern Army groups, offered to wait for the expected Soviet summer offensive in the south in an attempt to recapture the Donetsk Basin, Kharkov and the Dnieper River. After this attack was exhausted, Menstein suggested, the group of armies under his command would attack south and southeast and destroy the Soviet army in the south. This plan is similar to Clausewitz's "strategic counterattack" approach. Menstein himself called his method "a blow to the back of the hand," as opposed to a "handball," which is a conventional frontal assault.

Hitler, on the other hand, rejected this plan out of hand. On the other hand, General Zeitsler, the chief of the German army (who commanded the eastern front), prepared a code-named "citadel" to kill the Soviet forces in the enclave and conquer the city and the Kursk railway junction. The plan included the use of forceps from the north and the south by armored and mechanized forces, secondary effort to secure the eastern wing, south to the northeast, and the western section of the enclave by infantry forces. Spring failed because of the amount of logistical preparations needed.

On May 4, 1943, Hitler summoned a meeting to coordinate and coordinate the execution of the operation, in the presence of General Zeitsler, Chief of Staff Field Marshal Menstein, under whose command the South Armies Group was to attack from south to north, Field Marshal von Kluga, From north to south and Colonel General Heinz Guderain, who was returned to active duty and served as general inspector of the armored forces. Field Marshal Moll, who was supposed to command the northern effort, was not present and sent a letter in which he suggested another postponement at the time of the attack and hinted that he feared the operation would fail because of the strength of the Soviet defense.

Godrin opposed the planned operation decisively, fearing that the new armored forces would play during the battle. So did the commander of the German army, General Alfred Jodl. Hitler hesitated at first, but eventually decided to postpone the operation until vehicles that are more heavy-duty were added. In another meeting with Hitler, on July 1, 1943, it was decided to carry out Operation Cytada on July 4 and 5, 1943.

The decision-making process on the Soviet side

The idea of ​​the German attack on the Kursk enclave was born in March 1943 and the first operation order, signed by Hitler, was issued on April 15, 1943.

The German intentions were known to the Soviets almost immediately, and during the course of time, their intelligence obtained full details of the German plan. The only doubt was the date of the attack. However, this changed from time to time, depending on the progress of the German logistic preparations and Hitler's considerations.

The total number of tanks and tank destroyers in the Soviet army reached about 28,000 at the beginning of 1943. The losses during this year reached about 23,500 tanks and infantry.

The Soviet intelligence sources relied on surveys that the British provided (albeit belatedly), which originated in the cracking of the German codes, on the Swiss-based "Lucy" intelligence network covering all Europe and intelligence-field activity.

The news of a German attack was expected in the spring-summer of 1943 against the Kursk enclave, did not surprise the Soviet command and to a certain extent played into his hands. The Soviets planned a summer offensive from the north (the Oriol area) and from the south (Belgorod-Kharkov region) to the Kursk enclave. Therefore, those preparations for the containment, against the expected German attack, did not require the transfer of considerable forces. The Soviet plan, as it had crystallized, was to block the German offensive on the Kursk enclave, break the attacking forces, and then proceed to counter-attacks, according to the original plan. Stalin was persuaded by Marshal Zhukov to give up his intention to carry out an advance attack on the German forces and the plan that was adopted preferred the erosion of the German forces against a tough defense.

The Uryol-Kursk area was the key to attack / defense against Moscow and both sides recognized and acted accordingly, while the Kharkiv region in the south was the heart of the USSR's industrial zone and mines, and was of paramount importance to the war effort. These actions had to be carried out immediately and then the defeat of the German attack on the Kursk enclave.

The Soviet preparations for stopping the German offensive

In order to curb the expected German onslaught and cause the maximum erosion of the attacking forces, the Soviets built one of the most powerful and profound fortifications in the Kursk enclave ever built. The protection of the Kursk enclave was entrusted to General Rokosowski, commander of the Central Front, and to General Votin, commander of the Voronezh Front, when Rokosovsky controlled the northern area of ​​Watotin on the southern perimeter of the enclave. The defense plan was based on five parallel defense systems, with the two front echelons being the responsibility of the army and the three rear, under the responsibility of the front. An additional strip of defense was prepared in the rear of the enclave by the reserve forces. Each defense system was at a depth of 5-6 km and included infantry excavations, anti-tank positions, anti-aircraft positions, positions for dug-in tanks and artillery positions.

The front defense array was the most powerful of all and consisted of battalion complexes, anti-tank defense areas and an obstacle system, with 2,600 km of excavation and communication channels, 5,000 positions and bunkers for command and observation, 600 anti-tank and anti- 700 km of barbed wire. Approximately 450,000 mines were laid in this area. In each kilometer of the front, 1,500 anti-tank mines and about 1,700 landmines were placed.

Assuming that the main thrust of the German attack would be based on armor masses, the overlapping anti-tank positions, the obstacles and the drones constituted the backbone of the Soviet defense.

Forces and missions

Forces and tasks of the German army

The general method: the attack on the northern and southern enclaves at the base of the enclave, securing the eastern wing by attacking from south to northeast by armored and mechanized forces, braked to the west by infantry forces.

Northern Force: Under the responsibility of the Armies Central Group, commanded by Field Marshal Klooga. The offensive effort by General Ninth Army, consisting of mechanized divisions - 2 armored divisions - 6 infantry divisions - 8, a total of 16 divisions (6 additional infantry divisions are not included in the attacking squadron). With 1,000 tanks, most of them old-fashioned Panzer II, III, and IV, and only one battalion of new Tiger tanks, as reserve, and most of the new Ferdinand storms were assigned to this effort.

Southern Force: Under the responsibility of the Southern Army Group, under the command of Field Marshal Manstein. The main effort from the south by the Armored Army 4, under the command of General Hot and the Task Force Kampf, comprised of mechanized divisions - 2 armored divisions - 9 infantry divisions - 8 (4 additional infantry divisions not included in the attack) Divisions. This force had about 1,600 tanks. The tank force included 200 Panter tanks and 94 new Tiger tanks.

The Kempf group consisted of three armored divisions and three infantry divisions.

Containment Force: The Second Army with 7 infantry divisions.

Assistance forces: The northern force had about 6,000 artillery and mortars, and the southern force possessed 4,000 artillery pieces. Air support was provided to the Northern Force by 730 aircraft and the southern force by 1,100 aircraft.

The main effort: Although this was not explicitly defined in the German operation order, according to size, composition and quality of forces, it seems that the main effort is from the south.

Total forces involved in operation "Cytadla", on the German side:

Automated divisions

Armored divisions

Infantry divisions

Tanks - 2,500 (200 of which are "Panther" and 94 "Tiger")

Saar - 150

Cane Artillery and Mortars - 10,000

Assault aircraft - 1,830

It should be noted that the tanks in the armored and mechanized divisions are concentrated in separate regiments or task forces.

The standard of German infantry divisions was about 12,500 soldiers, 190 cannon, and mortar cannons, and in fact, some of them had only 8,000 to 9,000 soldiers and 160 nests.

The standard of a German armored division was about 16,000 soldiers and 209 tanks and assault rifles. In fact, only the SS armored divisions were approaching such a situation. Others had much reduced gravestones.

In most divisions, mainly those of the second line, each division had only two battalions (instead of three).

Forces and missions of the Soviet defense

Marshal Zhukov held the supreme command of the front and his political officer was Khrushchev, later president of the Soviet Union.

The general method: a tough defense of the Kursk enclave by infantry, anti-tank and artillery forces backed by local and sectoral reserves.

The defense zone

 into two sections: the northern sector, under the responsibility of the Central Front and the southern sector, under the responsibility of the Voronezh Front. The strategic reserve force to thicken the array and bring down counter-attacks under the responsibility of the Arava Front.

Northern Command forces - under the responsibility of the Central Front under the command of General Rokosovski in front of the northern offensive axis:

- Armia 13, in the center of the sector, and two corps of platoons (15 and 29) at the front level, and two more armored corps troops and three armored divisions at the second level.

Armia 48, right of Armia.

- Armia 70, left of Armia 13.

All the formations are sliced ​​in the shape of two in front.

- Armies 60 and 65 on the left wing.

The reserve force of the northern sector included: - The Second Armored Army with 2 armored corps (3 and 13) - 2 armored corps (9 and 19) - Armored Guard Battalion 11

So many artillery units, anti-tank forces and mortars.

Total units in the northern sector

Infantry divisions and machine guns

Armored divisions - 8

7 armored units and an armored guard battalion

The number of tanks in the northern sector (estimated, based on a situation of about 80% of the standard)

In armored divisions - about 1,000

In armor, about 400-500

Organic infantry tanks - about 100-150

Total tanks - about 1,600

The forces of the southern sector - under the responsibility of the Voronezh Front under the command of General Tutin, against the axis of the southern German offensive: Armies of the 6th and 7th Guards and on the right of the Army 40 on the front line. In addition, two more divisions of the Mishmar and Dov Kala'im brigades, 2 armored corps units (one of which is Mishmar) and another 2 tanks on the second line.

Reserve forces in the southern sector: - The First Armored Army - with an armored personnel carrier and mechanized corps.

2 armored corps (2 and 5) of the Guard

Armies 69 and 38

Total units in the southern sector -

Infantry Division

Armored divisions - 8-10

Computerized divisions - 1-3

Armored Armor - 2

Armored Gad - 3

The quantity of tanks in the southern sector (estimated, according to 80% of the standard):

In armored divisions - 1,500-1,300

In the mechanized divisions - 40-200

Armored Beethoven - 140-180

The Armored Corps - 75-90

Organic tanks in infantry - 30-70

A total of about 1,800 tanks

The strategic reserve force, under the responsibility of the Arava Front commanded by General Konyab (established during the truce in the battles). This force established additional defense systems in the rear of the Kursk enclave, the eastern of which is based on the Don River.

This force included: - 2 Armored Armies (No. 4 and 5) - 4 armored Armored Armies (No. 5, 27, 47, and 53) - 2 Armored Corps (10 and 4 Guard)

Number of tanks by force Strategic reserve:

Total tanks in the strategic reserve - about 2,000

According to the sources, only two Armored Armies participated in the battle for the Kursk enclave. There were between 1,600 and 1,800 tanks in these armies, of which only about 1,000 tanks took part.

SI Total number of tanks on the Soviet side:

In the northern sector: 1,600

In the southern sector: 1,800

In its strategic future: 1,000

Total Soviet tanks: 4,400

The relations of forces at the beginning of the campaign against the Kursk enclave

It is important to note that the sources show different numbers for the number of tanks that participated in Kursk. The inaccuracies are especially large with regard to the SS numbers on the Soviet side, so there was no choice but to estimate the quantities of tanks by type and number of formations that participated in the battle and the reserve forces. As a basis for calculation, the elite, such as the SS units on the German side, The opening of the Soviet archives and joint studies with German historians in the 1990s did not provide unequivocal answers to the numbers and types of tanks that participated in the Kursk system and among the armored corps around Prokhorovka .

Power relations with soldiers

On the German side about 700,000

On the Soviet side there are about 1,300,000

A total of some 2,000,000 soldiers.

The course of the battles

The Kursk battle was conducted by the Germans as if they were two separate systems, north and south. The allocation of forces, including air support, was made in advance and apparently did not change during the fighting. The commanders of the Klooga fronts in the north and Menstein in the south, as well as the commanders of the attacking forces, the generals and the generals were senior and experienced and did not allow the supreme command, which commanded the Russian front, to intervene during the battle.

The Soviets learned from intelligence sources and the interrogation of prisoners that the date of the German attack was July 5, 1943, but apparently did not know the precise time of the attack. Therefore, they were surprised when Menstein and Huth preceded the opening of the campaign in the south in 12 hours to 3:00 pm on 4 July 1943. In both sectors, the Russians preceded the Germans by heavy artillery bombardments, just hours before the German offensive.

Heavy rainfall, which fell at night between 4 and 5 July, turned the ground into a canoe and made it difficult for German armored movements.

The offensive in the north

The Soviets, aware of the timing of the German offensive, were preceded by a heavy artillery bombardment at 01.10 on 5 July 43. The Germans were surprised and lost. They expected a pre-Soviet attack - which did not come. At 3:30, the German artillery bombardment began, but the nature of Soviet fortifications and shelters reduced their losses below expectations.

At first light, the German offensive began after an artillery bombardment and the use of attack planes. General Model sent Dov 6 infantry and engineering forces, to break minefields and anti-tank barriers.

This division was almost completely eroded and armored forces covered with assault rifles and small Goliath tanks, stationed from afar, were used to break through the crossings. This enabled slow German progress with a width of about 30 kilometers, and by the evening of that day, the Germans had managed to advance to a depth of 8 km against stubborn resistance. The plan of the German offensive was to reach as soon as possible the mountain range south of the Soviet line of defense, which controlled Kursk from the north and penetrate through the eastern wing (left) through the town of Malarchangelsk to the south, to separate the Soviet forces defending the enclave from the east.

The armored forces, the German armored infantry and armored infantry, who had been brought into battle in advance, advanced only with great difficulty, against the array of fortifications and anti-tank defenses of the Soviets. On the third day of the attack, on July 8.

On July 8-11, the German forces reached the ridge of the hills, NG 272, 274 and 253.5.

They exchanged hands several times, but were finally left by the Soviets. For this purpose, all the forces of the sector reserve were deployed.

The German offensive in the eastern wing failed when the 23rd Corps failed to capture the entire city of Malharkangsk and prevent the intervention of the Soviet reserve forces from the east. On July 11, Soviet strategic reserve forces began their counterattack with the 13th Army in the center, recruited the 18th Guard from the north, and recruited the third Armored Corps from the south. At first, the Germans managed to repel the counter-attack from the southeast, but the German advance was halted, with the general penetration depth no more than 15 km, and the battle continued until it ended on 13-14 July, to either party.

On July 15, 1943, the Soviet forces began the counter-attack in the German 9th Division and three days later, on July 18, 1943, the Soviets returned all the enclave territory and began their great summer offensive, which pushed the Germans west along the entire front and caused them a severe defeat.

Regarding the extent of casualties in the IDF and the IAF, it is very difficult to reach, from the sources, agreed numbers on all sides. What turns out from all sources is that the losses of the Soviets were several times heavier than those of the Germans, and the ratio ranged from 1: 4 to 1: 7. There is also a blurring of the estimated losses between the battle for the Kursk enclave itself and the operational counter-attack and the large summer offensive by the Soviets.

In the field of tank losses in Kursk, the Germans had the advantage that the area occupied during the battle remained under their control for ten to thirteen days, which enabled the towing and repair of the tanks that were damaged or damaged (like most of the Panther tanks) on the battlefield.

The attack from the south

As mentioned above, Menstein and the death surprised the Soviets when they were ahead of the opening of the campaign in the southern sector in 12 hours to 1500 on 4 July 43. The purpose of the introduction, apart from achieving the advantage of surprise, was to secure exit positions and convenient observation, the main offensive, the next morning.

And indeed, the three armored divisions of the 48th Armored Division (the 3rd, 11th and the Great Germany) took advantage of the element of surprise and managed to penetrate about 5 kilometers into the Soviet defense system, as well as the armored corps of the SS on the right and the Armored Division The 23rd from the left, succeeded in improving positions.

On the other hand, the Soviets surprised the Germans by a preliminary artillery fire on the night between July 4 and 5.

The reserves of the Soviet Armored Corps were deployed mainly north of the estimated area of ​​the Germans' breakthrough in the direction of Obwin-Kursk. This assessment was revealed to the General of the Patrol by air patrols and therefore decided, without approval from the Supreme Command, to deviate from the original plan and attack in a general northeastern direction, the Psyol River and its swamps in the Oveon area. This intention was not known to Soviet intelligence.

Unlike a model in the north, Manstein and Huth launched their attack, with armored formations leading. The infantry division was the main battleground of the Panterian tanks, suffering many technical difficulties (as General Godrein predicted), and the failure of the first wave failed, but by early afternoon the German forces had begun to achieve Most of their first goals.

In the German wing on the right, the armored corps of the SS operated an elite unit, well equipped, including Tiger tanks. This model was well known to the Soviets from the conquest of Kharkov in the spring battles that year. Their mission was to lead the German effort toward Prokhorovka, west of the railroad tracks.

Apart from the ground effort, the opening of the campaign in the south was accompanied by a large air effort on both sides.

The Soviets, knowing ahead of time about the German intentions, tried to carry out an advance air attack on the Luftwaffe airports while the planes were still parked on the ground. However, the use of the Fraya radar prevented the achievement of the desired surprise, which enabled the German air force to carry out 2,400 sorties against the Soviet concentration, and also used two new means of air strikes: a new type of bomb Controlled by the dive bombers and the use of a 20 mm cannon by S-129 assault aircraft (both of which caused extensive destruction to Soviet armor concentrations)

In the early hours of the morning, the Task Force Kempf attacked an armored personnel carrier and mobilized infantry in a northeastern direction, and at the opening of the battle, the force managed to establish a bridgehead north of the Duneits River.

On the first day of the fighting, the German forces achieved significant achievements, but less than their original plans. The Soviet forces in front of them were not broken and retreated in an orderly way to new positions.

On the second day of the battle and on July 6, the Russians advanced most of the reserves of the Armored Corps from the first Armored Armistice. In order to improve the survivability of the tanks, in the face of the preferred German anti-tank guns, the Soviet command decided to put a large number of tanks into permanent dug positions, which prevented them from moving to tactical counter-attacks wherever necessary. On July 7-8, the Germans continued to advance. In the face of stubborn Soviet resistance in each of the three sub-decrees: the 48th Armored Division headed toward Obvin, where it reached 25 kilometers, At the center, the armored corps advanced. In the direction of Prokhorovka, while the Kempf force broke north to try to secure the right wing of the SS recruit.

On July 9, German advance reached the greatest depth, in most sectors, even then the distance between the forces of Haute and that of a model in the north was more than 150 kilometers.

The Great Battle of the Tanks in the Prokhorovka District

On the same day, the Soviet General Staff approved the operation of the strategic reserve from the "Arava Front" forces and those destined for the southern sector began an accelerated approach.

This section was assigned to the Armored Corps' Fifth Armies and the Fifth Guards. The first moved to the left of Prokhorovka and the other to the right. On July 10-11, mostly local battles took place, without the Germans making further progress. In the Prokhorovka region, most of the battles around the hill were abandoned. Adolf Hitler's divisions attacked the hill on July 11 and inflicted heavy losses on the Soviets, including 99 tanks and many artillery barrels, and took hundreds of prisoners. The commander of the SS tanks. Decided that it was open to him the possibility of attacking northward through the Prokhorovka corridor with all the forces available to him.

On July 11, the Fifth Armored Army arrived in the fighting zone and was preparing for an attack on the SS recruiter. The next morning, on July 12, 1943. That morning, at 04:00, the commanders of the Soviet forces met with the commander of the front, and Toutin and the political commissar Khrushchev, who approved the plan and ordered the destruction of the enemy's armor.

The battle in the Prokhorovka corridor, during July 12, 1943, was considered the largest and most brutal in the Armored Corps of World War II, and in an area of ​​about 7 kilometers and at a depth of about 8 km, an armored battle took place in the armored corps Infantry and infantry units to take part) When on the German side the armored corps of the SS participated. With three armored divisions while on the Soviet side, the Fifth Armored Army with three armored corps. According to updated sources, some 350-320 tanks (including the TAFAT-Saar), including the 20-30 new Tiger tanks, were deployed on the German side, and the Soviet side operated about 750-700 tanks, including two units of anti-tank guns The T-70 tanks, and a number of light tanks. According to German accounts, Western tanks (General Lee and Churchill), which were provided to the Soviets as part of the aid and the loan, also participated in this battle. The German forces were after seven consecutive days of battles while the Fifth Russian Army was fresh, after a period of rest and trust and good mechanical condition.

Because of their inferiority in artillery, the Soviets shortened the artillery preparation to 15 minutes, and at the end of the war, their armored forces seized the initiative and attacked south and west. The force density was unprecedented and was calculated on 50 tanks per kilometer on the front line, starting at 8:30 am A mobile battle developed, with the Soviet tanks trying to approach and shorten the range and create a chance of penetration of the German armor, both from the wings and back, The Tiger, with the 76mm cannons of the 34T, was unable to penetrate from the front.

The short ranges of battle and confusion created between the forces on the battlefield led to the breakup of the organic structures on both sides, creating "wolves' testimony" of several tanks that roamed the battlefield in continuous combat. This combination of forces prevented effective artillery and aerial assistance to either side and caused, in many cases, damage to their forces.

As stated, the battle in Prokhorovka began mainly as a pure tank battle and only in the afternoon were infantry and armored infantry units operated on both sides to secure wings and fighting in built-up areas (mainly near the Psiol River) and wooded.

Starting at 11:00, the German divisions began to demand an emergency supply of ammunition, but due to the difficult conditions of the battle, supplies were unable to reach the units.

On the border between the railroad and the Psiol, two tank divisions were fought. Adolf Hitler (Totenkopf), in front of the armored corps 29 and 18, a parallel battle took place between the SS divisions. Das Reich and recruited the second armored guard, south and east of the railway.

The battle in Prokhorovka was most difficult and cruel, and both sides told of the endless acts of heroism by the tank crews, the armored infantry and the rescue forces, who did not spare any crews who abandoned their damaged tanks, shot them and tried to run them over. The German tankers focused their fire on the opening of the contacts with Soviet tanks that had antennas and tried to hit them first and thereby disrupt the command and control capabilities of the other side.

On the eve of the day of the armored battle, in the Prokhorovka district, on July 12, 1943, neither party had the right to decide. Despite the heavy losses on both sides, each saw himself as a winner.

The fighting that day also did not significantly change the ground assessments, nor did any side occupy significant areas. Both sides were ready to continue the battle, the next day. It is now known that the Germans' chances of success on July 13 were greater, because the Campfach force, with the help of a ruse (using Soviet tank tanks as the lead of the attack), succeeded in advancing in the eastern wing.

However, the development was different. On July 10, 1943, the Allies invaded Sicily and opened a second front in Europe, in the soft, southern belly of the Axis forces. Therefore, the battle for the Kursk enclave, at Hitler's command, was stopped on the night of July 13. This provision applies mainly to forces in the northern sector, under the command of a model.

Manstein obtained confirmation from Hitler, trying to exploit what he thought was a success. But the armored corps of the SS. Was the first to receive an order to cut off contact and prepare to move to Italy, after Feldmarschall Manstein thanked them for their resourcefulness and courage. According to German documents, which were discovered after the war, the General Staff had already recommended the termination of Operation Cytzelet on July 11, 1943, because of the erosion of German forces and the identification of preparations for the Soviet counterattack in the north and south. A final and binding decision, however, was recorded in the war diary only on 19 July 1943.

In the opinion of many, the uniqueness of the Prokhorovka battle is that in contrast to the other battles in which tanks participated in an attack or ground defense, together with other forces and with the goal of conquering or defending land, it was an armored battle in pure armor, The armored force of the other side, when the ground aspect was secondary. The tactic, which was therefore used by both sides, was guided, first and foremost, to take advantage of the technical advantages of its RAF and the weaknesses of the enemy RCO. Thus, the Germans, the owners of the cannons with better range and penetration capability and with thicker armor, tried to hit Soviet tanks from afar.

If the Soviet armored forces, with high-mobility tanks such as the 34-T, tried to develop a war of maneuver, in short ranges, that would allow them to hit German tanks (especially heavier and assault rifles) from the wings and rear. In this sense, the battle of Prokhorovka made history, in the history of the armored and mechanized war. On the other hand, in the war diaries of the SS and armored corps divisions, there was no difference in the reference to the battle day of July 12, 1943. The battles are described, as before and after July 12, as being conducted around defined ground targets. The battle record and enemy assessments from that day attest to the battle of some 500 Soviet tanks against 300 German tanks in the northern sector.

The casualties of both sides in the RAKAM and the people were undoubtedly heavy, as the nature of the fighting dictates, although the rate of casualties is still in dispute between the researchers and the historians dealing with the issue.

In some sources it was reported that the SS recruiter He began the battle with about 700 tanks and assault rifles and he lost 400-350 tanks that day. On the other hand, according to German documents, only about 20 Tiger tanks and another 300 tanks were found on July 12. According to German reports, only a few dozen tanks were lost that day not a single tiger.

The Soviet Armored Army began the battle with about 750-700 tanks, some of which were lost according to the latest data:

Churchill: 12 - TS - Saar: 11

Total number of casualties of rocket-propelled grenades: 334 (This number corresponds, in the original, to the enemy casualties report of the armored corps.

The total casualties of the RAKAM parties in the Kursk enclave (July 5-12, 1943) were:

The Soviets

On the defensive - 1,614

In the attack - 334

A total of 1,948 rocket vehicles

The Germans

(According to their sources), only 87 tanks / Saar-Saar, according to reports by the SS. Only four units (not including Tigers) were lost between July 4 and 14, 1943, that the total losses in German tanks must be much higher.

Despite the technological and perhaps tactical advantage of the Germans, this numerical ratio does not appear to be reliable, although it reflects the latest findings on the subject.

Jewish fighters in Kursk

In the Battle of Kursk-Oriol, as in battles and other fronts in the front, thousands of Jewish soldiers and commanders took part.

The third mechanized corps under the command of General Lt. Shimon Kriboszyn, part of Armored Army No. 1, was set up for protection in the southern sector of the Kursk enclave, which was attacked by the German Armored Army No. 4. On July 6, the Germans succeeded in breaking through the first Soviet line of defense, where the Army of the Sixth Guards was stationed. Those who blocked their progress were Krivoszyn's mechanized corps. On July 6-10, this corpus, along with other units of Armor Armored I, conducted a difficult defensive battle against large German armored forces, including the SS armored divisions, which were among the best of the German army: The Division of the Death Brigades and the Reich Division. "In a difficult battle, with heavy losses on both sides, the Germans managed to advance for a few kilometers, but failed to break through the front and were stopped. Kriboszyn's corps, which excelled in these battles, received the title "Gvardia" - two weeks after this battle Krivoshein was promoted to the rank of general lieutenant and was awarded the "Suvorov Medal".

On July 12, the commander of the 55th Corps of the Fifth Mechanized Corps fell in the battle of the large tanks near Pohorovka Pod-Polkovnik. In this battle also fought Volkovnik D. Klinfeld - commander of tank battalion No. 51 of the 10th Armored Brigade. J. Kashparsky - commanded the Folk Nakhti Air No. 26, which defended an essential hill near Pohorovka.

Lieutenant-Colonel Katselman commanded artillery batteries when, on the third day of the German offensive, the infantry retreated, and the battery crew remained alone in front of the enemy tanks. The battery hit 14 tanks, but most of its members were killed, among them Katselman and others injured.

In the Battle of Kursk, an infantryman under the command of Hero of the Soviet Union, Major Leonid Buber, spoke about the battle in the Kursk enclave in his address to the members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in Moscow on April 4, 1944:

"Many enemy planes circled over our positions and 20 enemy tanks stormed us, and when they reached a distance of ten meters from our positions, our fighters came out with anti-tank grenades ... Some tanks were hit, the others retreated ... I took off with fighters, I was wounded in the chest, but I did not leave my soldiers until the battle was over. "

A battalion of T-34 tanks under the command of Strachey-Lieutenant Matoy Pinsky - was in defensive positions in the vicinity of the villages of Rakovo-Shepelevka. On the first day of the attack he was attacked by enemy tanks, led by heavy Tiger tanks whose only side walls were penetrated by tank guns T-34. Pinsky, whose tanks were well camouflaged, allowed the German Tigers to enter until their sides were exposed enough, and then gave the order of fire. Pinsky's twenty tanks opened fire, the Tigers and the enemy soldiers moving with them were hurt and the enemy withdrew. Lapinsky was awarded the highest degree of excellence "Alexander Nevsky". In the battle on July 12, Podolkovnik A. Rabin, the commander of the Artillery Folk 233, was killed by himself firing cannon and destroying a Panther tank from the enemy tanks that penetrated the rear echelons of the Georgian Army 5, near the river Psel.

In the summer of 1943, following the reorganization, the 16th Lithuanian Division was stationed in defensive positions in the northern sector of the Kursk-Oriol enclave, within the framework of Armia No. 48. In this sector the Germans were to launch an offensive.

Grigory Ushpol, a 76 mm platoon commander in the front positions of the infantry to direct the attacking enemy directly, wrote: "The Germans set up speakers in their foreground where the voices of Lithuanian deserters who called on their own people to defect to the Germans were heard. They promised to return every deserter to his homeland Lithuania. In pamphlets tossed into our front posts, they called for no fighting against them and promised that the Lithuanians would not be imprisoned in POW camps but would return them to their homes in Lithuania.

These cries did not help. They did not take into account that nearly one-third of the division's fighters were Jews who were willing to fight heroically without retreating from their positions. In addition, most of the Lithuanians in the division were Soviet patriots, and about 20 percent of the soldiers in the division were Russians, Ukrainians, and other peoples ... The German attack began after intensive artillery softening of our front positions. It went on for over an hour, when we were all the same time, in positions covered with a layer of earth a meter. Our cannon was also in a well-guarded position ... This time we were well prepared to repel the enemy's attack ... When the enemy's infantry approached our positions, we fired at them directly by firing a shell that exploded with a large quantity of shrapnel ...

... The counterattack of our forces forced the enemy to return to its starting position, suffering heavy losses. Also we had a lot of losses, our battery commander killed ...

Our cannon was close to the Germans' positions. Until the German assault, we were separated from the Germans by barbed wire fences and a minefield, but these were destroyed by artillery fire on the first day of fighting, which required us to be overly alert to any German movement, and they did shoot at us all the time with guns and mortars ... In anticipation of our attack on the village of Panskaia, We were assigned to our cannon crew, whose commander was Kalman Shor, to liquidate three enemy machine guns with direct fire - we did so, and indeed during the conquest of the village, our soldiers did not encounter fire from these positions ... At the end of July we were told that we were being attacked ... In the battle for the liberation of Nikolskoe, From our fighters, I was also seriously wounded ...

In battles in the Kursk-Oriol enclave, Soviet artillery had a very important role and was dubbed "the god of war" (Bog Voiny). The artillery commanders of Armia 65 and Armia Armies 2 were Jewish generals Israel Baskin and Grigori Plaskov. The commander of the Artillery Division No. 12 was General Moshe Korkowski.

She also participated in the battles - the 16th Lithuanian Theater Division, where a large percentage of Jews served.

Among the hundreds of Jews who received medals of distinction for their part in the battles of Kursk-Oriol, thirteen received the "Lenin Letter".

The source - in the shade of the red flag, Yitzhak (Tolka) Arad, published by the Ministry of Defense. Yad Vashem and Yad LaShiryon, 2008.


According to what is clear today, Prokhorovka participated no more than 1,150-1,050 tanks, on both sides.

From a Soviet point of view, the Battle of Prokhorovka was a stage in the strategic defense and constituted a major theater counter-attack. It was directed by the Fifth Armored Army in a frontal fashion, against the spearhead of the German offensive. This is mainly because the fighting was limited by ground obstacles on both sides, which prevented the use of an indirect and aggressive approach from the wings.

The German advantage, at the tactical level, derived mainly from three factors: tactical experience and modern operating doctrine (Guderian's school), wireless communication in every tank, and German style of leadership, based on understanding the mission and developing initiative at the lower echelons.

In addition, the new German tanks and armored personnel carriers were impenetrable on the front, the T-34 cannons of the T-34. Only the introduction of the T-34/85 in 1944 altered this picture from the ground up.

The German air force and several military historians claim that in different stages of the battle of Kursk, the German dive and bombing planes destroyed more Soviet tanks than the German Armored Corps and the ground anti-tank weapons.It may be worthwhile to assess and compare the performance of the commanders in the battle for an enclave Kursk According to our sources, there were significant differences in planning and execution between the Klooga and Nord models, and Menstein and Hot in the south.

While Kemenstein set up and operated a separate armored combat force (KEMF force) to isolate the battlefield and repel major Soviet attacks, he relied on a model on infantry for the same purpose that failed in his mission. Prokhorovka, if the fighting lasted another day or two.

It was also evident that the model of Hut was used to overcome the obstacle and the minefields, based on infantry forces, and Hut did so by the armored divisions and succeeded in penetrating more deeply into his sector at the same time.

The commanders on the Soviet side, Rokosovski and Watotin, apparently did a good job in preparing the ground and planning the battle for the Haganah. The distribution of armored reserves between the sectors as tactical and operational reserves and the construction of a strategic reserve force proved themselves correct. These reserves are also operated at the right time and places. Maintaining the bulk of the strategic reserve for exploiting the success and carrying out the big summer offensive, which had eroded German assessments in Russia, eventually led to the final victory over Nazi Germany. The great Soviet counterattack began on July 15, 1943 As early as 4.8.43 the key cities of Url, the north, and Belgorod were conquered in the south. The battle of Kursk was not a decisive battle. The decision against Germany had already fallen in Stalingrad. It was a desperate attempt by Hitler to change the course of the war in the East, similarly, in the Ardennes Forest, in the west, at the end of 1944.