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 centered around the city of Kursk to which a large salient (or bulge) had developed from the previous year's fighting with the strategic city left right in the middle. The salient ran from Novosil in the northeast and westward to 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 and 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 and 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 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 medium/heavy tanks including the latest model forms then available in the war.
On July 5th, 1943, the Germans moved to attack. However, the Soviets were ready and unleashed a storm of artillery fire that delayed the German assault for over an hour and a half. The firestorm sent the first invasion elements into disarray and hampered the spearhead to a high degree. Once settled, the German Army moved their armor in to 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 attempted to push a gap, the Soviets sprung their counterattack. 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 Medium Tank as well as powerful self-propelled, tank-killing destroyers. By the end of it all, the battle-weary Germans were in retreat and the Soviet Army could lay claim to this decisive victory. The 4th Panzer Army was nearly altogether destroyed.
The full German retreat was put into action as Hitler ordered a cessation of Operation Citadel. The Soviet Air Force continued to harass 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 became the inevitable turning point in the East and the beginning of the end of the German scourge into Russia - Kursk marked as the largest modern land battle of the period. ©www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com
There are a total of (18) entries in the Timeline of the Battle of Kursk (July 5th - August 23rd, 1943). Entries are listed below by earliest date to latest date.