On the fifth of July, 1943, the Wehrmacht commenced its last major offensive along the eastern front, and also kicked off the largest battle in human history. Nearly a million Germans, supported by thousands of tanks and aircraft, launched a furious attack against the Red Army, which had amassed 2.5 million men around Kursk, and constructed extensive and elaborate defenses. During the battle, the Soviets employed a variety of new tactics, such as “Ironing” (as depicted above) and extensive use of defense in depth, and brought the full power of their industrial might to bear, massing nearly 7,500 tanks for the battle.
The cultural artifact i selected is a prime example of Russian anti tank tactics that were being pioneered in the summer of 1943, this particular example is known as “ironing”. in 1941 and 1942, Russian troops again and again demonstrated a fear of German armor that was, at times, crippling to their capacity to defend against it. Ironing was used to condition troops to not fear tanks, they would be put in trenches, and tanks would drive over them repeatedly until there was no more fear of tanks in the troops in the trenches. this tactic was used to help counter the chronic shortage of effective anti tank guns the Soviets faced at Kursk, troops would hide in their trenches until the armor passed over them, then spring up to separate them from following infantry, allowing Russian infantrymen to close with the now isolated tanks and use demolition charges, AT grenades and AT rifles to disable or destroy them. A first hand account of this tactic as seen from the German side comes from German infantryman Raimund Rüffer, “A movement to my right. I twisted to see
a camouflaged cover being thrown off a trench. I
instinctively yelled a warning, dropped to one knee
and squeezed the trigger of my rifle. The butt kicked
and a round was sent hurtling toward a faceless Soviet
soldier. In that same instant I was knocked off my feet
as though hit by a heavyweight boxer. A Soviet round
had struck me in the shoulder, shattering the bone and
leaving me gasping for air.”
Another tactic the Soviets utilized at Kursk that was pioneered in World War Two was the use of defense in depth, whereby defenses were constructed in layers, due to the inability of any single line to hold back the entire offensive, the Germans would instead be slowed and worn down by the first lines, and then stopped by those behind them. Once they were stopped, vicious armored counter attacks slammed in to their flanks, and caused massive casualties, in this way, the soviets were able to stop the enormous German counter attack, and then go on the offensive themselves.
The second deciding factor at the battle of Kursk was the massive industrial superiority of the Soviet Union, the massive industrialization drives payed off with a huge material superiority over the Germans. Though the German tanks were typically superior, especially so in the case of the Tiger and Panther tanks, the Soviet T-34s outnumbered them two to one at all times during the battle, in some areas outnumbering them by much higher margins. The Soviet air force also was able to achieve air superiority through the vast amount of materials they were supplied with, being able to replace any destroyed aircraft within days, while the Germans suffered issues with production facilities at home, as well as partisan attacks on supply trains, this led to fewer sorties, and the close air support that was so critical to German Blitzkrieg tactics was not available for the attack, leaving the ground forces in a grinding battle of attrition for which the Soviets were much better prepared. As their forces became bogged down, the German forces could no longer use the high speed manuver warfare upon which their forces depended for victory, resulting in massive casualties and the most disastrous defeat of the Nazi war machine since the battle of Stalingrad.