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#1 Markus Becker

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 1259 PM

This German article says it was actually an epic defeat of the Red Army. Their thanks got stuck at a chocke point and they lost 235 for five(5) German ones.

https://www.welt.de/...e=pocket-newtab

https://www.welt.de/...erstoerten.html
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#2 Adam_S

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 1854 PM

There have been a number of books written about this in recent years, driven at least in part by authors gaining access to Soviet archives for the first time.

 

Essentially the basic point is correct. There was no mass meeting engagement of tanks at Prokhorovka and II SS Panzer Corps was still very much operational after the battle. 5th Guards Tank Army was thrown into the attack with little preparation or infantry support and was used in a way it was not designed to operate. Tank armies in Soviet doctrine were meant to be used in an exploitation role but they were used instead in an attritional/breakthrough role for which the formation was badly suited. They ran into antitank guns and dug in panzers around Prokhorovka and took heavy losses for little gain.

 

The Soviets were able though to rebuild 5th Guards Tank Army with impressive speed and they were able to play a decisive role in the final recapture of Kharkov and the Red Army's subsequent advance into the Ukraine.
 

This is also one of the classic what-ifs of WW2. Von Manstein was of the opinion that while the chance of a complete victory at Kursk was probably gone, had he been allowed to commit his last reserves in 5th SS Panzer and 23rd Panzer divisions, he would have been able to complete the destruction of 5th Guards Tank Army and the bulk of the Soviet strategic reserve and that this would have meant that the Red Army would not have been in a position to mount a major offensive in Army Group South's sector for some time.

 

IMO something that is also underrated/forgotten in the general narrative is the role that the Allied landings in Sicily and Italy played in drawing off German units at a critical point in the fighting and in convincing the German high command to switch over to the strategic defensive once and for all.


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#3 Ken Estes

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0104 AM

The German Army seemingly had lost its edge at Kursk and was very slow to employ its scarce reserves or even main effort forces, viz:

 

   The ensuing battles at Kursk took many unexpected turns for both sides. In the Ninth Army, the 505th Heavy Tank Battalion, supporting the 6th Infantry Division, used combined arms tactics to clear the first two lines of Russian defenses, crossed the Oka river, and stood off the waves of light tanks and T-34s that struck in counterattack. This would have been the moment to unleash the 2nd and 9th Panzer Divisions of the XLVI Panzer Corps to exploit the breakthrough. However, these units were scheduled to enter the battle the next day and were not in any position to come forward. Obviously, the Germans were less flexible than in previous campaigns and the opportunity was lost. Almost the same took place with the Ferdinand battalions supporting the 86th and 292nd Divisions in XLI Panzer Corps. Acting as assault guns, the Ferdinands gave a good account of themselves with their powerful and accurate guns destroying bunkers, anti-tank guns, and dug-in tanks of the two defensive lines, reaching the third; however, in doing so, they outran their supporting infantry, upon which they fell back at the end of the first day. Unfortunately, the losses to minefields and artillery concentrations left too few vehicles to make more significant contributions to the Ninth Army fighting, which shifted into a defensive struggle around the village of Ponyri. Committing his Panzer divisions to the front on the second day (July 6) brought no success against a tide of counterattacking Russian armor; by July 8, the Ninth Army stood on the defensive.10

....

The outcome of the battle for the Kursk Salient now rested on Generals Hoth and Kempf and the southern pincer. Initial successes swelled the German notions of imminent victory as the left-hand XLVIII Panzer Corps rapidly adjusted to local setbacks and continued to push forward. The II SS Panzer Corps also muscled forward and penetrated the first fortified line by 9 a.m., despite what reports termed “resistance of an unprecedented nature and scale.” So, it turned out as the second line proved too hard a nut to crunch and the Psel river line was not crossed in face of an anti-tank “front” sufficient to stop even the SS divisional Tiger companies.13

   On Hoth's right flank, the Kempf Detachment fell behind schedule in face of Russian artillery barrages and stubborn resistance on the objective Donets river crossings. Its tank strength made little difference while the various engineer units sorted out the crossings. In any case, Kempf had split his 503th Heavy Tank Battalion into company attachments to his three Panzer divisions, a true violation of the desired doctrine of concentration of such units. The 2nd Company was rendered completely immobile on a minefield the first day of the attack. Still, the III Panzer Corps managed to advance 20 km by the day's end. However, Kempf's forces were unable to catch up with the II Panzer Corps before its final major tank battle of July 12.

....

The End of German Operational Dominance

 

As Dennis Showalter asserted in his masterly assessment of the Kursk Campaign, the Red Army demonstrated three points at the outset:

 

The Soviet ability at all levels to conceal their strength and their dispositions even as the battle developed; maskirovka did not stop at zero hour … The Soviet ability to disrupt German timetables … Finally, Kempf's experiences in particular suggested that the Germans’ ability to work inside what today would be called the Red Army's “observe, orient, decide and act” loop was a diminishing, when not a wasting, asset.

 

The Soviet Army had learned too well from its masters of 1941. It was now able to anticipate German moves and make assessments to counter them. It was only a matter of time before they proved capable of executing a sustained offensive campaign.14

   It was still a close-run thing from the Russian viewpoints. The German forces had advanced too far in each sector on the first day. Reserves had been thrown into counterattacks earlier than anticipated, demanding their replacement from higher headquarters. In similar fashion to the Russian actions against the German Ninth Army pincer, Marshal Nicolai Vatutin sent his armor reserves forward: two corps of the First Tank Army and two Guards tank corps to confront the advancing XLVIII and II SS Panzer Corps.

   Against such steady and studied resistance, the German offensive collapsed. The quality of the Tiger tank in combat was unquestioned and only thirteen of them had been destroyed by July 16, but only an average of 38 percent of them were available on any given day. By that date, at the suspension of the offensive, only fifty-two Tigers were ready for action with eighty-seven temporarily out of action. The corollary to Hitler's dream of technical superiority was the ability to keep the vehicles operational; there, the dream had foundered. Heavy Tank Battalion 503 had six Tiger tanks available on July 14, from its high point of forty-two tanks ready on the first day of battle. To the north, the 505th had an average of 45.7 percent of its Tigers operational during July 4–20 July. At the end of the second day of fighting, there were only six running from the twenty-six with which it had started the attack. With the arrival of its 3rd Company on July 8, it achieved its highest number of ready Tigers: twenty-nine.15

   Efforts to continue the Kursk offensive foundered across the German Front on July 13, but the real reason for the termination of the German offensive came in the form of the Operation Kutuzov, the assault on the obverse German salient around Orel covered by the remaining elements of Army Group Center not fit for the Kursk operation. Long feared by Model, the attack by four Russian field armies toward Orel could not be stopped by shifting air power to that sector, and serious German armor reinforcements would have to go to the new front from the Ninth Army. By the night of July 13–14, four of Model's Panzer Divisions were moving into the newly threatened sectors.

   Hitler, already leery of the Allied invasion of Sicily on July 10, now called off his “gamble,” and began to order reinforcements for the developing Italian Front. After trying several deployment options, Field Marshal Manstein called upon Hoth and Kempf to establish main lines of resistance on July 16. The Kursk offensive had halted for all time.

 


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#4 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0205 AM

The basic gist from the Glantz book (which I found excellent) is that the German didnt so much lose equipment, as lose the strategic initiative. And that was at least as much due to events in italy as on the eastern front, because Hitler called a halt to pull off 2 divisions (including the 1st SS IIRC) to go to Italy.

 

So yes, Prokorovka was a failure for the Soviets. But it hardly matters, it was just one more indication to the Germans they were getting nowhere.


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#5 Stefan Kotsch

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0338 AM

Despite some old wet dreams. :closedeyes:

 

Prokhorovka was just a action as part of the battle. But, the Battle on the Kursk Arch has clearly lost the Wehrmacht.


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#6 Adam_S

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0339 AM

I don't think it can be underestimated how much the Soviet approach of constant attacks all over the front limited the Germans' ability to concentrate significant forces to achieve an operationally significant breakthrough. Model and Von Manstein were both looking over their shoulders, as it were, during Kursk and anticipating significant Soviet offensives on their unengaged flanks. Von Manstein was willing to gamble that if the threw everything into Kursk, then the Soviets would be forced to do the same and he could fight them to a standstill on ground of his own choosing. Model was less keen and wanted to both keep significant uncommitted reserves behind the front and to limit his own losses in anticipation of a major Soviet offensive on his left flank.

 

What allowed the Soviets to do this, more than anything, was their ruthlessly efficient process for recruiting men into the Red Army and to rebuild or create new fighting units. The Germans were outnumbered nearly 2 to 1 on the Eastern front in mid 1943, after starting Barbarossa with a slight numerical advantage. They had in fact been fairly successful in replacing their own losses, at least in terms of raw numbers, but the Soviets roughly doubled the size of their own armed forces from Barbarossa to Kursk.

 

https://qph.fs.quora...7307899211b038c

 

This increase in forces also allowed the Soviets to hold the front at Kursk in far greater depth than anything the Germans had ever encountered before. They were able to achieve a penetration of the first line with a couple of days and in the past, that had been enough to achieve an operationally significant breakthrough. Soviet numbers, as much as improved weapons or training, made this impossible for them to do.


Edited by Adam_S, 11 July 2019 - 0342 AM.

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#7 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0348 AM

Despite some old wet dreams. :closedeyes:

 

Prokhorovka was just a action as part of the battle. But, the Battle on the Kursk Arch has clearly lost the Wehrmacht.

Yes, no argument. As other have pointed out, their real loss was getting a lot of infantry chewed up.


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#8 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0351 AM

I don't think it can be underestimated how much the Soviet approach of constant attacks all over the front limited the Germans' ability to concentrate significant forces to achieve an operationally significant breakthrough. Model and Von Manstein were both looking over their shoulders, as it were, during Kursk and anticipating significant Soviet offensives on their unengaged flanks. Von Manstein was willing to gamble that if the threw everything into Kursk, then the Soviets would be forced to do the same and he could fight them to a standstill on ground of his own choosing. Model was less keen and wanted to both keep significant uncommitted reserves behind the front and to limit his own losses in anticipation of a major Soviet offensive on his left flank.

 

What allowed the Soviets to do this, more than anything, was their ruthlessly efficient process for recruiting men into the Red Army and to rebuild or create new fighting units. The Germans were outnumbered nearly 2 to 1 on the Eastern front in mid 1943, after starting Barbarossa with a slight numerical advantage. They had in fact been fairly successful in replacing their own losses, at least in terms of raw numbers, but the Soviets roughly doubled the size of their own armed forces from Barbarossa to Kursk.

 

https://qph.fs.quora...7307899211b038c

 

This increase in forces also allowed the Soviets to hold the front at Kursk in far greater depth than anything the Germans had ever encountered before. They were able to achieve a penetration of the first line with a couple of days and in the past, that had been enough to achieve an operationally significant breakthrough. Soviet numbers, as much as improved weapons or training, made this impossible for them to do.

 

I think Glantz, or maybe it was Ericson, identified a Division that fought at Stalingrad that had been destroyed twice on the approach to Stalingrad, and rebuild entirely. Even if they were renaming divisions, that's still pretty astonishing.


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#9 R011

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0446 AM

If the war had gone on longer, the Red Army might have run out of men. Fortunately, the Germans ran out sooner.
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#10 Nobu

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0455 AM

There is scholarship that finds the artillery weight of firepower advantage in the Kursk battle as a whole in favor of Germany, based on approximately 51,000 tons of artillery ammunition expended versus 22,000 despite the significant Russian guntube advantage.

 

The 1943 Wehrmacht was still a force to be reckoned with in various ways.


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#11 Adam_S

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0500 AM

If the war had gone on longer, the Red Army might have run out of men. Fortunately, the Germans ran out sooner.

 

That's an interesting one too. A lot of Soviet units were well below strength by the time they got to Berlin which has lead many to conclude that the Soviets were indeed running out of men. On the other hand, skilled workers were being taken away from the front to help in the massive reconstruction effort that was needed.

 

IIRC from Stalin's Keys to Victory, the Soviet birth rate was something like 6 times that of Germany and the Wehrmacht had to inflict something like 2.4 million casualties on the Red Army just to stand still.


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#12 Adam_S

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0508 AM

There is scholarship that finds the artillery weight of firepower advantage in the Kursk battle as a whole in favor of Germany, based on approximately 51,000 tons of artillery ammunition expended versus 22,000 despite the significant Russian guntube advantage.

 

The 1943 Wehrmacht was still a force to be reckoned with in various ways.

 

You can see how it declined if you look at orders of battle for, say, Kursk or Rzhev and compare them to something like Army Group North around the time it went into the Courland pocket. Going into 1944 there is a proliferation of high numbered Waffen SS, Volksgrenadier and Luftwaffe field divisions and random battlegroups thrown together with whatever was available. Intangibles like fuel shortages and losses to experienced small unit leaders took a huge toll too IMO.


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#13 Ken Estes

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0534 AM

Not true that the Germans were making up for their losses. They were short 42% of infantry at the beginning of the Summer 42 offensive, which they could execute only by stripping the center and northern army groups, adding Italian Hungarian and Romanian forces....leaving No Reserve.


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#14 Ken Estes

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0539 AM

There is scholarship that finds the artillery weight of firepower advantage in the Kursk battle as a whole in favor of Germany, based on approximately 51,000 tons of artillery ammunition expended versus 22,000 despite the significant Russian guntube advantage.

 

The 1943 Wehrmacht was still a force to be reckoned with in various ways.

 

 

"There is scholarship..."  Never saw that used as a marker before. For arty ammunition, consider the significant disparity in distance from Soviet and German factories to the respective fronts.

 

Despite several delays in launching the Kursk offensive, German units were still reporting to their assigned armies as the battles began.


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#15 Nobu

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0558 AM

The Dupuy Institute blog scholarship the numbers are derived from theorizes a link between the German artillery weight of fire superiority represented by the ammunition tonnage expenditure, and the difference in casualty effectiveness/performance between both sides.

 

My existing understanding had been that the Soviets had the artillery advantage at Kursk by far.


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#16 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0651 AM

They also had an advantage in airpower. I seem to recall one account that said the Luftwaffe present at Kursk was in a real state of distress.


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#17 Adam_S

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0656 AM

Not true that the Germans were making up for their losses. They were short 42% of infantry at the beginning of the Summer 42 offensive, which they could execute only by stripping the center and northern army groups, adding Italian Hungarian and Romanian forces....leaving No Reserve.

 

That's an interesting number though. Was it that they were 42% from where they were at the start of Barbarossa in terms of total numbers of infantry or that on average each infantry division was 42% below full strength in its combat units? They had a tendency to use fresh manpower to create new units rather than to bring existing units back up to full strength, which can be quite deceptive.

 

Army Group South may have gotten Army Group North's panzer gruppe, but Army Group Center sucked in a lot of manpower for the Rzhev Meatgrinder. Rather than stripping Army Group Center, units were taken from Army Group South's drive on Stalingrad and the Caucasus to help support Army Group Center around Rzhev, with Grossdeutschland being a notable example. I do agree that they had no strategic reserve of any note though and were basically robbing Peter to pay Paul.


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#18 Stefan Kotsch

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 0752 AM

My existing understanding had been that the Soviets had the artillery advantage at Kursk by far.

Low number of artillery can gain superiority if you concentrate them reasonably, in focus. Did we consider that?


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#19 Rich

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 1007 AM

 

There is scholarship that finds the artillery weight of firepower advantage in the Kursk battle as a whole in favor of Germany, based on approximately 51,000 tons of artillery ammunition expended versus 22,000 despite the significant Russian guntube advantage.

 

The 1943 Wehrmacht was still a force to be reckoned with in various ways.

 

 

"There is scholarship..."  Never saw that used as a marker before. For arty ammunition, consider the significant disparity in distance from Soviet and German factories to the respective fronts.

 

Despite several delays in launching the Kursk offensive, German units were still reporting to their assigned armies as the battles began.

 

 

Although it seems counter intuitive that is in fact correct...on the southern face of the Kursk bulge the Germans managed to make much better use of their artillery than the Soviets. This period was actually at a tipping point for the Soviets before most of the mass of artillery brigades, divisions, and corps that featured so prominently in the last two years of the war were common. IIRC, the only artillery division present was on the northern side of the bulge. The other factor was the poor decisions made by the Soviets in the dispositions of 6th Guards and 69th (IIRC?) Army. 6th was assigned to great a frontage and was actually very thin on the ground. Worse, in order to reinforce the antitank screen many of the Soviet artillery batteries, including even some of the 152mm gun batteries, were placed in direct fire positions. When the 6th Guards front collapsed under the weight of the concentrated German attack, the artillery was forced to displace or was overrun and it took days for them to get back into firing positions...and they also lost much of their pre-positioned ammunition and contact with their rear area supply. Some units, such as some of the rocket units, played almost no part in the battle as a result (despite legends to the contrary...the weight of the rocket reloads and slow reloading time also reduced their effectiveness). All those factors combined to reduce the effect of the Soviet artillery and much of what was employed remained the standard light 76mm guns, along with 82mm and 120mm mortars.


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#20 Nobu

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Posted 11 July 2019 - 1251 PM

Fascinating, as my previous understanding of the artillery aspect of the battle followed a narrative of Soviet superiority in it that appears to have been colored by Russian mastery of it in the later set-piece campaigns in the East in general, and legend-based at Kursk in particular.

 

At the risk of extrapolating too much from the German artillery success at Kursk, the reasons contributing to it would have unpleasant implications for a 1943 cross-channel invasion.


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