Friday, July 12, 2013
JULY 12 = Russia Beats Hitler at Kursk!
"With the failure of "Citadel" we suffered a decisive defeat. The armoured formations, reformed and re-equipped with so much effort, had lost heavily in both men and equipment and would now be unemployable for a long time to come. It was problematical whether they could be rehabilitated in time to defend the Eastern Front... Needless to say the Russians exploited their victory to the full. There were to be no more periods of quiet on the Eastern Front. From now on, the enemy was in undisputed possession of the initiative."
- German General Heinz Guderian.
The Russian Army launched a counter-offensive on today's date, July 12 in 1943, codenamed Operation Kutuzov (after the General who turned back Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia). And, as testified by General Guderian above, the German Army was at long last put on the defensive, and would remain so for the rest of the war. The tide of Nazi aggression which had begun being drawn back with the German defeat at Stalingrad was finally and decisively turned with this Russian onslaught.
The Wehrmacht Back On Its Haunches
Hitler's prestige had taken an enormous blow with the defeat and capture of an entire German army, or rather it's remains in the Battle of Stalingrad on January 31, 1943. He hoped to regain the initiative by closing off the Kursk salient, an enormous bulge of many miles in the lines centered around the city of Kursk, an important railroad junction north of the city of Kharkov. He hoped that the old tried and true
The Russian's Yak Fighter and the Mighty T 34!!
But the Russians countered with some weapons of their own. Russian industrial capacity had recovered from the damage suffered in the original German attacks of 1941, and had produced some very formidable weapons. The YAK series of fighters were simply built owing to the limitations of Russian industry, but they were highly maneuverable, and could withstand the rigors of the harsh Russian winter. And in the T-34 (pictured, above left), Russian industry produced what is judged by many military historians to have been the finest tank of the war. With it's broad tracks and low ground bearing pressure, the T-34 could keep going on soft terrain where the heavier German tanks would frequently become bogged down. And very importantly the T-34 had been designed with armour that was everywhere possible sloped at 60 degrees to the angle of attack, thus doubling the protection of the armour carried without increasing it's thickness or it's weight. At a mere 31 tons the T 34 was a featherweight to the massive 56 ton Tiger, but was more maneuverable and was in the end, a better tank.
The Germans Attack the Kursk Salient
The German attack commenced on July 5. The idea was for simultaneous German attacks at the north and south ends of the salient to surprise the Russians and force a closure of the salient, thus trapping a large number of Russian forces. But as noted the Russians were not at all surprised.
"Tonight at twenty-four o'clock, on August 5, the capital of our country, Moscow will salute the valiant troops that liberated Orel and Belograd with twelve artillery salvoes from 120 guns. I express my thanks to all the troops that took part in the offensive...Eternal glory to the heroes who fell in the struggle for the freedom of our country. Death to the German invaders!"
The long and grueling campaign to push the German attackers back from the very gates of Moscow all the way to the wreckage of Berlin had begun.
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"Panzer Leader" by General Heinz Guderian,E.P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1952.
"Russia at War, 1941 - 1945" - Alexander Werth Carroll & Graf Publ. Inc., New York,1964' pp 679-687
Tank: A History of the Armoured Fighting Vehicle - Kenneth Macksey & Jon H. Batchelor
Ballantine Books, New York, 1971 pp. 113,119.
"The American Heritage Picture History of World War II" - C.L. Sulzberger, 1960 pp. 420,445.