Kursk Essay

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The Battle of Kursk marked an unsuccessful German offensive against Soviet forces in 1943. With the Soviet line at Kursk protruding into enemy territory, the Germans attempted to attack from different directions. Given time to reposition their defenses, the Soviets held off the offensive before launching a counterattack, and reclaimed the cities of Orel and Kharkov. Facing the Anglo-American invasion of Sicily and the threat of an Italian collapse, Hitler decided to call off operations at Kursk, its failure shifting the balance of power on the Eastern Front to the Soviets. In March 1943, a major German counterattack broke the back of the Soviet offensives that had isolated and crushed Sixth Army at Stalingrad and for a time threatened to destroy Army Group South. As the spring thaw halted operations, both sides pondered what to do next. Field Marshal Erich von Manstein urged an offensive against the Kursk salient as soon as the ground had dried out. The objective would be to wreck as much of the Soviet army as possible. Adolf Hitler accepted Manstein’s suggestion but postponed the attack until July so that a maximum number of newly produced tanks could reach the Eastern Front. But by delaying, Hitler allowed the Soviets to prepare their defenses, move in numerous reinforcements, and prepare the flanks of the Kursk salient with massive minefields and defensive works. On July 5, the Germans struck on both sides of the salient to begin the biggest battle of World War II. From the first they ran into trouble. Their Ninth Army, after initial success, became entirely bogged down in its attack from the north. In the south the Germans enjoyed greater success. But even here German armor failed to gain operational freedom; instead, Soviet defenses tied the Germans into a massive battle of attrition not only on the ground but also in the air. Then, on July 12, the

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