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Red Army’s victory over Nazi forces in Battle of Kursk 75 years on

Seventy five years ago today, on August 23, 1943, the Battle of Kursk, one of the key ones in the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 against Nazi Germany drew to an triumphant end


MOSCOW, August 23. /TASS/. Seventy five years ago today, on August 23, 1943, the Battle of Kursk, one of the key ones in the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 against Nazi Germany drew to an triumphant end.

Frontline configuration on battle’s eve


In the course of the Red Army’s winter offensive and the Nazi forces’ counter-strikes in eastern Ukraine there emerged a westward bulge 150 kilometers deep and 200 kilometers wide - commonly referred to as the Kursk Bulge. Nazi Germany’s military command selected it as the scene for the main strategic operation during the 1943 summer campaign. The operation that was planned and approved in April 1943 was codenamed Citadel.

The best combat-ready forces were selected for the strategic offensive. Nazi forces in the area numbered 900,000 men, about 10,000 guns and mortars, 2,245 tanks and self-propelled gun mounts, and 1,781 planes.

By the moment the Battle of Kursk began the Red Army’s forces in the area (Central, Voronezh and Stepnoi fronts) numbered 1.9 million men, more than 26,000 guns and mortars, more than 4,900 tanks and self-propelled gun mounts and about 2,900 planes. The Central Front’ forces under General Konstantin Rokossovsky held the northern flank of the Kursk Buldge and the Voronezh Front under General Vatutin, the southern flank.

Course of the battle

On July 5, 1943 the Nazis’ assault forces launched a pincer-like offensive towards Kursk from the areas of Oryol and Belgorod. On July 12, when the defensive phase of the Battle of Kursk was still in progress (the Kursk Strategic Defensive Operation of July 5-23) a vast field near the village of Prokhorovka saw what would go down in history as the largest-ever tank battle, with up to 1,200 tanks and self-propelled artillery pieces taking part simultaneously on both sides. In the fierce clash the Wehrmacht lost up to 400 tanks and self-propelled guns and went on the defensive. On July 16 it started to pull back. On July 12, the second phase of the Battle of Kursk began. The Red Army began strategic counter-offensives towards Oryol (July 12-August 18) and Belgorod-Kharkov (August 3-23).

Legendary T-34 tank leads parade to mark 75th anniversary of victory at Battle of Kursk

On August 5, as a result of operations codenamed Kutuzov and Rumyantsev the Soviet Union’s forces drove the Nazis out of Oryol and Belgorod, and on August 23, out of Kharkov. The Red Army moved 140 kilometers south and southwest to have gained an advantageous position for liberating left-bank Ukraine and approaching the Dnieper. The Nazi command lost strategic initiative and had to go on the defensive along the whole frontline.

Involved in one of the largest battles in the history of World War II on both sides were more than 4 million men, 70,000 guns and mortars, more than 13,000 tanks and self-propelled guns and 12,000 combat planes.

Results

In the Battle of Kursk the Red Army defeated 30 Nazi divisions (including seven armor divisions). The enemy’s losses totaled 500,000 men killed, injured and taken prisoner (according to the Great Russian Encyclopedia, 2010). The Soviet Union lost more than 860,000 men, including 255,000 killed and missing in action.

For the Battle of Kursk the Hero of the Soviet Union title was granted to 180 career officers and enlisted men. More than 100,000 men were awarded orders and medals.

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