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"Valor and Glory Field"

Президент России

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Home Historical events The Battle of Kursk


 Soviet intelligence made several reports on the timing of operation Citadel.  And each time General Staff informed the front commanders. However, Hitler, seeking to give his troops more new tanks and assault guns, kept changing the timing of the offensive.  A.M. Vasilevsky and  G.K. Zhukov, from the General Staff, were among the front-line troops on an inspection tour checking on the state of  preparedness  and perfecting interaction techniques between the fronts.

 

Finally, the General Staff received information that  the Germans had launched their offensive.

A General Staff warning read: "reportedly, the Germans may launch the offensive on this front between  July 3-6. This warning was substantiated by  captives, reporting that German troops began the offensive at 3 a.m., July 5. But the German command failed to achieve a surprise attack. Before dawn, at 2.20 a.m.,  a powerful preventive artillery barrage of two Soviet fronts struck at the enemy forces lined up for the offensive. According to K.K. Rokossovsky, "The unexpected blow caught the German troops  by surprise. "

 

 

The shelling damaged enemy artillery and  partially disrupted communication and battle management.

 

Monumental in scale and its intensity, the battle failed to go the way  Hitler's generals  had planned it, but nothing could stop it now.

 

 More than 4 million people, about 70 thousand guns and mortars, about 13 thousand tanks and self-propelled guns, up to 12 thousand combat aircraft were drawn into this most fearful battle.

 July 5, at 5.30a.m. and 6.00 a.m., German troops of  the Centre and South army groups went on the offensive, acting simultaneously from  the North and  South. Breaking through the defence lines of the Soviet troops was the first step towards  implementing  the plan of the German command. With the Orel beachhead threatening the right wing of the Central Front, the main thrust was aimed at Olkhovatka on the defence line of the 13th Army  and the right wing of the 70th army. Under the cover of bombers and heavy artillery fire, German tanks attacked the Soviet defence lines. Tiger and Panther tanks were followed by armoured personnel carriers and infantry. The attack was led by  3 tank and 5 enemy infantry divisions. Four fierce attacks were successfully repulsed by the troops  of the13th army, and only after receiving reinforcements, the Germans broke through the lines of the 81st and 15-th rifle divisions. A massive air attack by the 16-th air army was carried out against the leading  German units . This slowed the advance of the enemy. And with dispatching  the  17-th rifle Corps, two fighter-anti-tank and mortar units to the battle site, the enemy was stopped.  July 6 the troops of the Central Front counter-attacked. Fierce fighting broke out. The Germans fed fresh  forces into the battle, including 250 tanks. During two days the enemy managed to advance only 10 km, but failed to  break through the second  defence line of the 13th army in the  Olkhovatska direction, which played an important role in stopping the advance of the whole Orlov group. The Germans in the following days met with stiff resistance in their efforts to advance on to Olkhovatka. Having lost 42 thousand troops and 800 tanks, the enemy wedged 12 km deep into the defence of the Central Front and was forced to stop and set up a defence line 10 km wide.

 

 

Nor was the enemy advance from Belgorod towards Kursk successful.  Here the troops of the Voronezh Front had to face the 4th tank army  of General Gotha and the troops of General Kempf under the overall command of Field Marshal Manstein.

 

July 5,  five German corps (three of them armoured) attacked the positions of the 6-th and 7-th guards armies, covering the approaches to Oboyan and Korocha.  Nearly 700 enemy tanks were involved in the fighting. Their attacks were supported by heavy  artillery and mortar shelling and hundreds of planes.

 

Our army held off the attacks, but on the first day of fighting, the enemy advanced 8-10 km deep into the defence of both fronts. On the second day, the 1st tank army of General Katukov moved into position on the second line of defence of the  61st guards army with  the 2nd and 5th guards tank Corps from the reserve, which held off the enemy attacks. The tension was growing . Both sides were suffering heavy losses. More and more German armour was destroyed at point-blank range by field guns, anti-tank rifles, mines and air strikes.

 

"The magnitude of the battle was beyond human imagination, wrote Marshal  A. Babadzhanyan, a witness to the fighting. Hundreds of tanks, artillery guns and planes turned into scrap. The sun could barely be seen  through the clouds of smoke and dust from thousands of simultaneously bursting shells and bombs along with screeching sounds from hell as shells smashed into  armour and pillars of soot rose from the burning vehicles.

 

 July 7, the General Staff reinforced the Voronezh Front with the 10th tank corps from the Steppe Front and more air support. In the days that followed the attacks of the Germans were successfully repulsed.

 July 9, the enemy accumulated 500 tanks in a narrow spot and once again attempted to penetrate our defences and break through to Oboyan. But the attempt failed. Then Manstein decided to strike at Prokhorovka with the 4th tank army to break through to  Kursk. The enemy concentrated his main force in this direction. But the 4th tank army under the command of Gotha and Kemp’s operational group  on  July 10-11, did not achieve any tangible success in the southern part  of the Kursk Bulge and  only managed to reach the outskirts of Prokhorovka.

 

The Soviet command was able to unravel the plot. The Voronezh Front was reinforced by the 5-th guards tank and 5-th guards armies,  commanded by Generals P.A. Rotmistrov and A.S. Zhadov. The Soviet command was well aware that derailing the enemy offensive would put a final stop to the offensive towards  Kursk from the South.  The enemy forces at Oboyan and Prokhorovka  could be destroyed only by a series of massive strikes with reinforcements from the strategic reserves. Marshal A.M. Vasilevsky of the General Staff, and  Voronezh Front Commander,  General N.f. Vatutin, decided to launch  a counteroffensive.