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.
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.
• Sink the Bismarck!
• The Invasion of Crete
• Operation Barbarossa
• The Arctic Convoys
• The Siege of Leningrad
• The Battle of Sevastopol
• Soviet Offensive - Battle for Russia
• The Attack on Pearl Harbor
• Japanese Conquest of the Pacific
• Operation Blue
• The Battle of Coral Sea
• From Gazala to Tobruk
• The Battle of Midway
• Operation Jubilee
• The Battle of El Alamein
• The Solomon Islands
• Operation Torch
• Kokoda Trail
• The Landings at Anzio
• Monte Cassino
• "Big Week"
• D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy
• The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot
• Operation Bagration
• Beyond Normandy
• The Warsaw Uprising
• Operation Market Garden
• The Battle of the Bulge
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