Kursk and Prokhorovka

Discussion in 'The Eastern Front' started by vista52, Feb 10, 2009.

  1. vista52

    vista52 Member

    Stalingrad was a terrible defeat for the Germans, no doubt about it. Some see it as the turning point in the War on the Eastern Front. But just a few months later, the Germans were able to mount the Attack at Kursk. Some historians see Kursk and in particular the Battle of Prokorovka (Pro-Ko-rov-ka) as that turning point.

    Anyone like to share their opinion. :)
     
  2. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The Kursk salient was that which Manstein was not able to recapture in his successful counter stroke of the winter of 42/43.
    German resources for continuing the attack probably would not have allowed him to do so but at the time opportunity existed.
    "Operational Citadel" pooled everything the German Army had , all its reserves , what Guderian had built up and it was held back until mid summer to allow the new Panthers to be placed in the line.

    This was a grand attack - war on the scale which Hitler knew he was destined to wage it was war as he wanted it to be , the biggest battle with him as supreme commander.
    Manstein initially pro the attack had mixed feelings others like Kluge saw it as the move to make, delay was fatal to the Germans - the Red Army prepared and owned the battle ground - they made it a battle which Germany could not win and one on which she would exhaust herself.
    The Russians played the hand of cards which Manstein and Guderian wanted Germany to play , let the other guy attack.

    Hitler said that when he thought of the battle his stomach turned over - yet he still made it , being warned that an Allied landing in 1943 was quite possible.
    North Africa had just been lost - Italy was certainbly planning to leave the Axis - the Americans and British would land in Italy - this seemed to be certain - yet he still made the attack.
    Everything on the turn of one card "going for broke" - what he had always done - Poland , France , Russia , he held nothing back , there was nothing to hold back - it was "Blue" all over again, Manstein saved him once but he could not do it again.

    The Russians out numbered the attackers and held a reserve to go over to the attack at a time of which suited them.

    Prokorovoka might have beckoned in terms of a potential breakthrough but in achieveing this the Germans had utterly spent themselves - in the North things had simply failed to move and in the South even when a breakthrough presented itself the Russians still held reserves to deal with it.
    Long term Kursk was everything which Blizkrieg was not it was attrition , something which Germany could not afford either in terms of machines and equally important in terms of experienced officers and NCO's , two years in Russia had beld the Wehrmacht to death .
    "Final Victory" was nowhere in sight and Hitler had ruled out any political settlement , perhaps when the option presented a wiser man might have taken it.
    Had the Germans won at Prokovoka they would still have lost the battle , they copuld not have held their position and they certainly could not have exploited it.
    When Hitler broke off the attack in the face of the landings in Italy the wheel had come full circle .
    A fraction of the resources used at Kursk might have halted the Allies or stalled them.

    As important as Kursk - the Germans needed and were denied a proper military decision making process in the east - it was needed before Kursk and it was pressed for afterwards - Manstein was a prime mover for this - he was sacked in March 44.
     
  3. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Kursk was a disaster as far as the Heer were concerned. The Panzer forces, so carefully built up over the previous few months were going to be gambled in, as James so rightfully says, one turn of the card. Hitler had learned nothing in two years of campaigning in Russia. The very idea of the attack was unpalatable to him but he allowed Zeitzler to persuade him even though other Generals with much more formidable reputations (such as Guderian) forcefully opposed it.

    What was clear about this battle was that Kursk, no matter how favourable the outcome for the Germans could not have forced the issue in the East. At best the Wehrmacht would have bought time as the Russians offensive capability would have been wiped out. But there was no way that Germany would have had the resources to finish off the Red Army, even if it had emerged victorious. The best result could have been to pinch out the Salient, destroy the Soviet's preparations for their offensive, switch forces to the West to repulse the Italian landings and if that succeeded, hope that Stalin would negotiate a peace. Looking at that chain of events theres an awful lot of "ifs and buts".
     
    James S likes this.
  4. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Forcing a military victory had long been beyond Germany , damaging the Russian ability to attack - it would only be for a while - Russian industrial output was already far ahead of anything Germany could hope for.
     
    Gerard likes this.
  5. Mullet94

    Mullet94 Senior Member

    Also don't forget that the Western Allies invaded Italy during the battle of Kursk which resulted in Hitler redeploying the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler to Italy whilst the Battle of Prokhorovka could have still swung the Germans way.
     
  6. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The Allied invasion certainly made him break off Citadel but even had the SS won that battle the Germans as a whole lacked the resources to exploit the situation - at best it would have been a hollow victory more damaging to the victor.
    In the North the Germans had made next to no progress and the guards Tank Army deployed top block them were more than the equal of the Germans .
    Manstein was in favourt of continuing the attack not in hope of victory but to upset and damage the Soviet counter attack which was bound to follow.
    This attack fell around Orel in the North fresh forces which had not been committed.
    The SS forces sent to Italy never faced the Allies ( as far as I am aware) and were implicated in the killing of civilians whilst there.

    Axis History Factbook: 1. SS-Panzer-Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
     
  7. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Ultra intelligence from Bletchley park also gave the Russians all the information that they needed regarding the German forces and disposition.

    With the Russian Generals aware of the German battle plans, plus the Russian build up in arms and manpower, there was only going to be one winner eventually, no matter how much the Germans fought.

    Last week I spoke to a retired Bundeshehr Officer. He mentioned that his father was a Tank commander and Major with the Knights cross.

    He was apparently offered the chance to change over to the Waffen SS and to have a Tiger I.

    He declined as he was not inclined to joinn the SS and therefore kept his Mk IV.
    He was taken prisoner during the winter of 42 outside Stalingrad when encircled and the unit decimated.

    He was extremely lucky to survive the Gulag until released in 1949.
    His son told me that he was told that his father travelled for three days east to Siberia and saw nothing but trainloads of T34's being shipped west and knew then that Germany could not win, just through shear volume of numbers.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  8. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    I might be wrong Tom but apart from information shared with Stalin , his spies at Bletchley had already reported back and his own spy netwrok was feeding him.
    ( I am almost sure he had moles there feeding him the likes of Blunt and his irk.).
    The Russians always wanted ( perhapsfor their own political ends) to understate Ultra information given to them - "we knew that anyway" seems to have been the attitude of some.
    The radio traffic would have betrayed a build up and the movement of men and equipment on the scale assembled would have been hard to hide.
     
  9. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    The Kursk campain was a dashing defeat for the German Armed Forces, and it was played exactly according to the Soviet music.

    Prokhorovka was one of the multiple encounters within that campaign, and derives its fame mainly from that awful book 'The Tigers Are Burning' by Martin Caindin. As a matter of fact Prokhorovka happened mainly because SS IInd PzKorps had already found the route to Kursk itself unassailably blocked, and had already veered off course to the right.

    Zitadelle idea was based on a pincer manouvre, but to have a pincer you need two jaws. In this case the Northern Jaw (Model's 9th Armee) had already failed in it's mission, and the Southern jaw was grinding with not really much to show.

    All this set the stage magnificently well for the series of three offensives the Red Army had prepared BEFOREHAND, that is :

    1 - the Mius diverting offensive down south
    2 - Operation Kutuzov by three Fronts against the failed 9th Armee
    3 - Operation Rumyantsev by 2 Fronts against 4th Pz Armee and ArmAbt Kempf

    Outcomes:
    1 - This one diverted a weakened SS IInd PzKorps from 4th Pz Armee, after Prokhorovka, and after haing SS Leibstandarte removed to Italy.
    2 - smashed 9th Armee, recovering Orel and approaching Vyazma.
    3 - reeled back these German forces conquering back Belgorod and Kharkov for the last time, and setting the stage for the recovery of Kiev soon afterwards

    After the Zitadelle fiasco the Germans were no longer able to mount any other coherent offensive at operational level, they lost the initiative entirely.

    Whatever bigger surprises they managed to mount later (Bulge, Lake Balaton) had no momentum behind them, they had shot their bolt already at Zitadelle and lost.

    The Germans were betting on a victory, the Soviets were waging war on a professional manner, ammassing the proper means and learning from experience to change their methods into a winning strategy. The Soviets were getting better and better at it as time went on, while the Germans were learning the wrong lessons and forgetting the right ones.

    Whatever pretty colours you want to paint the Germans with, the end result was this:
    [​IMG]
     
    cbiwv and James S like this.
  10. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    The Influence of ULTRA in the Second World War

    . How closely did Bletchley work with the Russians on decryption?

    It couldn't be as close as the collaboration I have described with the Americans for a variety of reasons. One is of course that there just hadn't been the close relationship between the two countries that existed historically between the British and the Americans. The other was that when we actually broke the ciphers - Enigma in the first instance, but Fish later - that were relevant to the Eastern Front, they were coming in to us at a time when it was uncertain whether Russia would survive. And then later on when Russia had survived and we were reading more ciphers both Fish and Enigma from the Eastern Front, there was the problem that we knew from the Enigma that the Germans were reading Russian ciphers, so that if they had too much Enigma intelligence in their ciphers you see the security risk was extremely high. Then fourthly the Russians were not collaborative. They wanted any intelligence we supplied but they wouldn't give any in return. Not that they had much Sigint, but they had a lot of other Intelligence.
    The answer to your question is with all those difficulties we couldn't have so close a collaboration with the Russians as we had with Washington, but we started sending them a summary of signal intelligence a week after they were attacked by the Germans in '41. We sent it via the British Military Mission in Moscow where there were people to hand it over to the Russian General Staff.
    We had to have a cover for it, had to explain to them that this is the horse's mouth but it is coming to us (this is the kind of cover we used) it is coming to us from very high ranking German officers who are slipping the news to us through Berne or somewhere like that, and we are getting it quickly because we have got pretty direct connections with Switzerland.
    A steady stream of information about German intentions and dispositions - Airforce and Army on the Eastern Front - were sent to them. They were interrupted from time to time when the Russians were being particularly beastly. For example at the top of Russia, Murmansk at the Kola Inlet where all the convoys taking arms to Russia and supplies were going, we had to keep seamen, sailors, both to man the Allied facilities, unloading facilities - of course the Russians were there too but we had to keep some British sailors there. And then we persuaded the Russians to let us have an Intercept station there because half of the traffic around the top of the North Cape was difficult to intercept even in Northern Scotland. And of course we covered the risk that they would suspect that we were reading Enigma or that they would do more than suspect that, by saying that the value of the traffic to us was that it enabled us, by traffic analysis, to judge the German reactions to the movements of the convoys. So we had this little intercept station and then the Russians locked them all up because they thought we were spying on them, so you had all sorts of little rows with them like that. From time to time when it wasn't vital we did say if you don't behave better than this we wont send you your daily summary. And we stopped it for a short time, then we started again. But it had to be of that character - the collaboration.


    Need to ask this one for myself - I am pretty sure that I have read that the Russians were feed information from Bletchley by some well placed individuals who worked there - I can't recall the exact details - am I correct in thinking this ?
    I am pretty sure this was the case - but for the life of me can't recall the info.


    Found him.
    John Cairncross
    John Cairncross - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  11. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    James,
    Thanks for that very interesting account and I had no knowledge of the John Cairncross.

    I once read an account on Kursk and I remember reading that the German Plans were supplied to the Russians.
    No mention was made of spies and so I find it good to now know what happened.

    regards
    Tom
     
  12. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Tom , "Goggle was my friend" - I had read or heard something of it before but could not recall the name of the traitor involved.
    We seemed to have at that time a class of intellecitaul clever buggers who wqere determined to betray their country "ASTOP".
    Blunt, Burges etc - even that nice old lady who surfaced several years ago worse thing is these peole cost us lives and Stalin being a clever smug so and so often looked over the table knowing exactly what the other leaders knowing what they had on their desks.

    The photos - from "Operational Citadel Vol. 1 - The South." by J. Restayn & M. Moller ( Fedorwicz).
     

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  13. Korps Steiner

    Korps Steiner Senior Member

    Nice photo of Otto baum and Hermann Priess from Totenkopf !!
     
  14. Korps Steiner

    Korps Steiner Senior Member

    Forgot to ask who was the Bundesheer Officer father ?
     
  15. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    K.S.
    Nice photo of Otto baum and Hermann Priess from Totenkopf !!
    The very men. :)
     
  16. vista52

    vista52 Member

    Some great arguments. Here's my take.

    The Battle of Stalingrad is recognized as the greatest battle of Mankind. It would lead in every category I think. After the German Army Group branched off and made for Stalingad, it was a simple thing for the Russians to see what was coming and they prepared accordingly. What developed was a gigantic, violent Slug-fest which the Russians always regarded as a "win at any cost" battle.

    As the weather turned cold, supplies became a problem for the Germans. It must of been pretty easy for the Russians to know what to do next and the result was a German catastrophe.

    The Kursk Salient was a result of the retreat from Stalingrad. When the Russian Commanders looked at the possible developments for the Summer of 1943, the Kursk Salient was an obvious choice which Intelligence confirmed.

    For the first time the Russians "Out General-ed" the Germans. They prepared a defense in depth and as each line fell, it channeled the Germans into an even more formidable defense.

    After 2 weeks, the Germans had to retreat from the small bit of ground they had gained. After Kursk, the Russians were able to roll west. I think Stalingrad was a catastophe but Kursk was the "nail in the coffin" for the Germans on the Eastern Front.
     
  17. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Some great arguments. Here's my take.

    1) The Battle of Stalingrad is recognized as the greatest battle of Mankind. It would lead in every category I think. After the German Army Group branched off and made for Stalingad, it was a simple thing for the Russians to see what was coming and they prepared accordingly. What developed was a gigantic, violent Slug-fest which the Russians always regarded as a "win at any cost" battle.

    2) As the weather turned cold, supplies became a problem for the Germans. It must of been pretty easy for the Russians to know what to do next and the result was a German catastrophe.

    3) The Kursk Salient was a result of the retreat from Stalingrad. When the Russian Commanders looked at the possible developments for the Summer of 1943, the Kursk Salient was an obvious choice which Intelligence confirmed.

    4) For the first time the Russians "Out General-ed" the Germans. They prepared a defense in depth and as each line fell, it channeled the Germans into an even more formidable defense.

    5) After 2 weeks, the Germans had to retreat from the small bit of ground they had gained. After Kursk, the Russians were able to roll west. I think Stalingrad was a catastophe but Kursk was the "nail in the coffin" for the Germans on the Eastern Front.

    1) This is the first time I have seen the Battle of Stalingrad being "recognized as the greatest battle of Mankind". The catch at the capture of Tunis was as big if not bigger, and you don't hear very much about it. This certainly was not the greatest, and was not the final turining point in the war: the winter offensives conducted by the Red Army after that were not all entirely successful, many errors were made and lessons were learnt from them, but the hard way.

    2) supplies were already a problem in warm weather with only a one track railway to Stalingrad. It may have pretty easy for the Russians to know what to do, but the fact is that Operation Uranus (the counter-attack at Stalingrad) was but one of other options along an extended front.

    3) Again it's far fetched saying the Kursk salient being a direct consequence of Stalingrad. The Kursk salient came up as a result of a few months of Soviet offensives in the Southern and central parts of the front, and it took the bulgy shape after the failed Soviet offensive at Kharkov-Belgorod.

    4) in general terms yes, though I'd dispute the "channeled the Germans into an even more formidable defense." part.

    5) Yes. After Kursk the Germans had lost all means to make any offensive at above tactical level, and the command style became generally paralysed.

    Reading for you: The Battle of Kursk by David Glantz.
     
    James S likes this.
  18. vista52

    vista52 Member

    Hi Za Rodinu,

    It would probably be best if we can get some agreement on point 1.

    Axis troops captured at Stalingrad......90,000

    Tunis...230,000

    see what you mean
     
  19. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Without taking the trouble of looking for better sources as I don't have the time, even Wikipedia the Humble states:

    Various scholars have estimated the Axis suffered 850,000 casualties of all types (wounded, killed, captured...etc) among all branches of the German armed forces and its allies, many of which were POWs who died in Soviet captivity between 1943 and 1955. 400,000 Germans, 120,000 Romanians, 120,000 Hungarians, 120,000 Italians were killed, wounded or captured.[65] Of the 91,000 German POW's taken at Stalingrad 27,000 died within weeks[66] and only 5,000 returned to Germany in 1955. The remainder of the POWs died in Soviet captivity.[67][68][69] In the whole Stalingrad area the Axis lost 1.5 million killed, wounded or captured[70]. 50,000 ex-Soviets Hiwis (local volunteers incorporated into the German forces in supporting capacities) were killed or captured by the Red Army. According to archival figures, the Red Army suffered a total of 1,129,619 total casualties;[70] 478,741 men killed and captured and 650,878 wounded. These numbers are for the whole Stalingrad Area; in the city itself 750,000 were killed, captured, or wounded. Also, more than 40,000 Soviet civilians died in Stalingrad and its suburbs during a single week of aerial bombing as the German Fourth Panzer and Sixth armies approached the city; the total number of civilians killed in the regions outside the city is unknown. In all, the battle resulted in an estimated total of 1.7 million to 2 million Axis and Soviet casualties.


    which makes your figure off for a thousand or two. You are only quoting the number of German LIVE prisioners.
     
  20. vista52

    vista52 Member

    Thank you for making my point for me. With the exception of live prisoners taken, Stalingrad would rank 1st in every other catorory, or am I missing something here.
     

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