When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in early July of 1943, they concentrated their forces near the city of Kursk in Western Russia. This was the site of a 150 mile wide Soviet resistance pocket that jutted 100 miles into the German lines. When the attack began on July 5th, the Germans had 38 divisions, of which, nearly half were armored. The Germans began their attack coming in from the north and the south, in an effort to cut off and surround the Soviet troops. Unfortunately for them, they had sorely misjudged the Soviet forces. Even though the Soviets were not really prepared for this invasion, they did have better tanks and air support than they had in previous battles. The fighting was bitter, but soon the Soviets had destroyed as much as 40 percent of the German armor, which included their new Mark VI Tiger tanks. I’m sure this must have been a shock to the Germans, who thought this tank was going to be their best tank ever, but like the Bismarck back in 1941, they found out that these new tanks were no match for what the Russians brought out.
The Battle of Kursk was quite the battle. It involved 6,300 tanks, two million men, and 5,000 aircraft. It would be the largest tank battle in history, and it would end with the German offensive being driven back by the Soviets. The cost to the Germans was heavy, and the battle would be the beginning of the end for the Germans in Russia. The retreated as far as they were allowed, but Hitler was not really willing to let the retreat much. It was just another part of his insanity. He thought he could outlast the Russians. He had not learned from Bismarck or from Napoleon. It’s not surprising really. Hitler’s insanity honestly made him believe that he was invincible, a fatal mistake…at least in that he couldn’t accept the ultimate failure and so took his own life. The Battle of Kursk ended on July 13, 1943, and it did indeed mark the beginning of the end of the German invasion of Russia.
When I think of wars, for some reason I don’t think of tanks. Oh, I have seen the war movies and all, but tanks just seem clunky and awkward, and so not an efficient weapon of war in my mind. I suppose that if I know as much about tanks as my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg, who served in Desert Storm and was trained in the use of tanks knows, I might think they were more of a serious weapon. That is something I might have to discuss with him in the near future. The weapons used in wars are varied, and each one serves a purpose. Of course, each side tries to come up with a weapon that is far better than their opponent, and in the end, it is a matter of having the best weapon between the two enemies, and which side is able to use the weapons available to them. On this day, July 13, 1943 the Germans found out that the weapons the Russians had and their ability to use them would prove to be the undoing of their invasion. In the beginning of August, the Soviets began a major offensive around the Kursk area, and within weeks the Germans were in retreat all along the eastern front.