Battle of Kursk, 1943

When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 they were severely outnumbered but were better trained and equipped. Hitler and the German High Command predicted it would take four months to defeat the Red Army. The initial phase of the invasion was very successful. The Blitzkrieg worked as designed and drove deep into Soviet territory, encircling enemy troops and capturing many prisoners. By October 1941 the Germans made it to within sixty miles of Moscow. (Freeze, pg. 376)

In June 1941 the Red Army was far from prepared to take on a German invasion. Stalin purged many of his generals and junior officers. This made a Soviet response to the invasion poorly coordinated. At the same time the number of political commissars rose as did their authority in the ranks. What made the German invasion so successful and Soviet response so poor was, in part, the difference in morale and purpose. German soldiers believed in the fight against Bolshevism and the need to purge it while their Soviet counterparts’ loyalty was driven by fear. The German army was also much more technologically advanced. Freeze explains how of the Soviets’ 20,000 tanks, less than 2,000 were modern. (Freeze, pg. 376) Poor equipment, morale and leadership lead to the German army driving deep into Soviet territory in a short time.

Fast forward to February 1943 and everything has changed. The Germans were dealt a devastating blow at the Battle of Stalingrad and had began their long retreat west. By July 1943 the Germans were making their last major offensive in the on the Eastern front, Operation Citadel. (Freeze, pg. 381)  Kursk was the largest tank battle in history. The battle involved over 2 million troops and 6,000 tanks. In less than two months the Germans suffered 200,000 casualties and hundreds of tanks while the Soviets suffered over 850,000 casualties and thousands of tanks. (Britannica, Battle) The picture above shows Hitler weeping over the loss of men and equipment during the Battle of Kursk. After the battle Hitler told his generals “Whenever I think of this attack, my stomach turns over.” The Battle of Kursk was where superior German technology met Soviet production capabilities. Advanced German tanks were outnumbered and over powered by the T-34, which were much easier to produce. The Soviets also proved their manpower could be easily replaced where the Germans could not. The battle proved quality does not always win over quantity as it did in 1941-42. The Germans would never launch another major offensive in the east. Instead the Red Army would push the Germans all the way back to Berlin.

When WWII ended Soviet society still had many challenges ahead. Defeating the Germans was only one of these challenges. The Soviet Union needed to rebuild its cities, economy and relationship between the government and people. Now that the war was over the Soviet Union had to rebuild its supply lines of food throughout the country, which meant reviving farms destroyed by both the Germans and the Red Army between 1941 and 1944. The Soviet economy after the war was centered around the military. (Harrison, pg. 4) Post WWII Soviet Union became more militarized than it did before the war and Stalin became more powerful. His power and influence now extended into eastern Europe. The Soviet Union prepared for a possible war with the west. The end of WWII would mark the beginning of the Cold War, a largely ideological war with the west.

 

Citations

Harrison, M. “The Soviet Union after 1945: Economic Recovery and Political Repression.” Past & Present, vol. 210, no. Supplement 6, 2011, pp. 103–120., doi:10.1093/pastj/gtq042.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Battle of Kursk.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 28 June 2019, www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Kursk.

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Oxford University Press, 2009.

11 Replies to “Battle of Kursk, 1943”

  1. Chris, I found your post on the Battle of Kurks very informational. I had no idea this battle was the largest tank battle in history. I have a friend who loves tanks and I think they’d enjoy this post a lot. You also bring up a good point about quality not always being as effective as quantity. The saying, “there is more power in numbers,” I believe goes well with your post.

    1. Natalie,

      Yes as of now it is still considered the largest. I was impressed with the large numbers of troops and equipment both sides were able to assemble for a single battle. Its amazing how the Soviets were able to replace their losses!

    1. I did a quick double check and yes it is still considered the largest! While doing some reading for this post I was amazed at how many troops were assembled for this single battle. I wonder if the German soldiers knew they were unable to come back from taking all these losses.

  2. Chris, your post was amazing in showing the chronological growth of the Soviets in WWII. The Germans moved quickly on the Soviets, but the Soviets eventually struck back in good fashion. When I was reading your post I started thinking about that tank movie “Fury,” this made me want to learn more about tank battles fought in the war, specifically how the Soviets responded in tank warfare.

    1. Yeah that’s definitely an interesting topic. I thinks it’s interesting how much quality the Germans put into their tanks and other equipment. In the end it just wasn’t enough I guess.

  3. Hey Chris, I really enjoyed your post. How you started with the Germans feeling superior and then gradually getting to the battle of kursk where the soviets completley dominated the Germans was very well done.

    1. Thanks, I think the war on the eastern front is the most interesting part of WWII. The complexity of the Germans’ hatred and the Soviets being the underdog that came back and won is jut incredible.

  4. Well you read and commented on mine that means I had to do yours. Sarcasm and joking aside I enjoyed how detailed it was with how close the Germans came to Moscow but just in a couple of years they were running scared. Even though I prefer the Western Front due to living near a shipyard for most of my life which is where my love of aircraft carriers come form but the Eastern Front shows how far the sides were willing to go in order to win and shows how you can screw up tremendously.

  5. Hey Chris, I really enjoyed reading your post. Its crazy to think about a battle lasting months, but with numbers like that and a battlefield spanning for miles and miles, its no wonder it was so long and intense. Also, putting those numbers into perspective is hard. The Germans lost less than 1/4 of the amount the soviets did and still lost. Really goes to show just how big and committed the Russians really were.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.