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Second World War History > Battle of Kursk Timeline

Battle of Kursk Timeline

The Kursk salient ends up being the turning point in the East as the German Army takes on a prepared and determined Soviet defense in some of the largest tank battles of World War 2.

Authored By Staff Writer

Operation Citadel would go down as the last great German operation along the East Front, an attempt to reclaim some footing after their disastrous defeat at Stalingrad. The actions would center around the city of Kursk, to which a large salient (or bulge) had developed from the previous year's fighting with the strategic city of Kursk left right in the middle. The salient ran from Novosil in the northeast and westward from Kursk and finally to the south close to Belgorod. Their respective fronts became the Bryansk, Voronezh and South-West Fronts. To the salient's north lay the German 9th Army. To its south was the 4th Panzer Army. The German Army was waiting for the right time to strike and deliver a timely blow that would send the Russians reeling.


A plan was enacted to deliver such a blow. Attention to every detail was paid. Unknown to the Germans was the Soviet partisan movement watching and detailing every move the army made and relaying this information back to the Soviet Army. So while the Germans readied their side of the chessboard, the Soviets were already preparing the massive counter-attack to follow.


Soviet Army forces were being concentrated en mass. Hundreds and thousands of tanks, artillery (some 20,000 pieces alone) and men were moved into the region. However, to conceal the counter-attack, many of these key units were held in reserve. The Soviets prepared for a huge defensive fight and key frontline positions were armed with anti-tank weaponry, backed by artillery and tanks.


The German force was made primarily of two large army groups positioned north and south of the salient. Army Group Center was home to Generaloberst's Walter Model's 9th Army, consisting of three Panzer Corps. Generaloberst Hoth and his 4th Army was situated to the south. These forces were fielding a mix of Panther and Tiger tanks, including the latest model forms available.


On July 5th, 1943, the Germans moved to attack. However, the Soviets were ready and unleashed a store of artillery fire that delayed the German assault for over an hour and a half. The firestorm through the first invasion elements into disarray and hampered the spearhead to a high degree. Once settled, the German Army moved their armor into the attack, only to be greeted by a hail of anti-tank rounds, delaying the assault even further. After the first day's fighting, the Russian defenders had held firm and kept the mighty German tanks at bay.


As more and more German forces tried to push a gap, the Soviets sprung their counterattack into action. To the south of the salient, the Germans were manhandled by an advancing Russian army group and a massive 1,500-strong tank battle took place that included the Soviet T-34 as well as powerful self-propelled tank-killing assault guns. By the end of it all, the battle-weary Germans were in retreat and the Soviet Army could lay claim to a decisive victory. The 4th Panzer Army was nearly altogether destroyed.


A full German retreat was finally put into action as Hitler ordered a cessation of Operation Citadel. Not to leave well enough alone, the Soviet Air Force harassed the retreating Germans back across the Dniepr River. In the process, the Red Army went about setting up and securing key bridgeheads across the river.


By the end of August 1943, the Germans were well behind their original starting points and the Soviets claimed the ultimate victory. Operation Citadel was the inevitable turning point in the East and the beginning of the end of the German scourge into Russia. Kursk became the largest modern land battle of the time.

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Total Battle of Kursk Events: 18

1943
Monday
July 5th

The Germans enact Operation Citadel - the assault on the Kursk salient. The operation begins at 4:30am but major elements are delayed until 5:00am thanks to intense artillery attacks by the prepared Russians.

1943
Tuesday
July 6th

Soviet Marshal-General Rokossovsky and his Central Front army engage in a counter-attack against the German offensive. The counter-attack fails but is enough to slow the German 9th Army some. A measly 6 miles of territory is gained by the Germans.

1943
Wednesday
July 7th

German General Hoth and his 4th Panzer Army move into the salient, covering some 20 miles of territory. Their advantage brings them near Pokrovka.

1943
Saturday
July 10th

Soviet resistance to the German offensives is so intense that German General Hoth is forced to bring up his reserves and commit them to the fight. The advancing Germans are slowed evermore by the stinky Soviet defenders, also made up of deadly anti-tank teams.

1943
Sunday
July 11th

Soviet generals Zhukov and Vassilevky are given total control of the actions in and around Kursk by Stalin himself.

1943
Sunday
July 11th

The Soviet Bryansk Front northeast of Kursk moves in on German General Model's 9th Army.

1943
Monday
July 12th

The Soviets commit more tanks against Hoth and his 4th Panzer Army.

1943
Monday
July 12th

A huge battle involving more than 1,000 tanks of the German and Soviet armies duke it out near Pokrovka.

1943
Monday
July 12th

Soviet General Sokolosky moves against German Army Group Center and the 9th Army in a counter-offensive.

1943
Tuesday
July 13th

Adolph Hitler orders an end to Operation Citadel.

1943
Thursday
July 15th

Fighting in the Kursk salient officially ends.

1943
Friday
July 23rd

German Army forces are pushed back to their original starting positions by this date.

1943
Tuesday
August 3rd

Soviet forces of the Steppe, Voronezh and South-West Fronts initiate a new offensive against German Army Group South just outside of the Kursk salient.

1943
Thursday
August 5th

Soviet Army forces move towards Kharkov, liberating the city of Belgorod in the process.

1943
Monday
August 23rd

Kharkov is retaken by the Soviet Army.

1943
Monday
August 30th

German Army Group Center is in full retreat.

1943
Thursday
September 30th

The German Army falls as far back as the Dniepr River.

1943
Thursday
September 30th

By this date, the Soviet Army has established no less than five bridgeheads crossing the Dniepr River, keeping the Germans at bay for the time being.
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