Kursk: Hitler's Gamble, 1943

Kursk: Hitler's Gamble, 1943

Kursk: Hitler's Gamble, 1943

Kursk: Hitler's Gamble, 1943

Synopsis

The battle of Kursk was the last major German offensive on the Eastern Front. The battle began well for the Germans, but the Russians delayed them long enough for reserves to come forward. Soon the defenders outnumbered the attackers, and Hitler called off the attack. The Russian victory at Kursk resulted from a massive rebuilding of the Red Army in 1943, which included new unit organizations and weapons designed to counter the German Tiger and Panther tanks. The German defeat signalled the transfer of the initiative to the Russians and demonstrated to the Western Allies that the Soviet Union could defeat the Germans without a second front. Based on recently declassified Russian information and an analysis of captured German records, this book gives a detailed description of both the German and Soviet forces involved and evaluates the quality of the units on both sides.

Excerpt

The closing statement in Hitler's order concerning the German preparations for the Battle of Kursk was that winning the battle would be a fanal to the world that Germany was still a great military power able to defeat communist hordes. The German word fanal, usually translated as beacon, has a passive meaning in English representing a warning light, such as a lighthouse. The Russians translated the word as torch. The German fanal refers to a powerful light used in signaling, for example, the system used in Europe in the mid-nineteenth century before the telegraph. The blinking code of the lights was used to transmit messages from beacon to beacon for hundreds of miles. Similarly, the Battle of Kursk would send a message loud and clear to the world that Germany was not beaten. Hitler was correct in anticipating the monumental significance of the outcome of the Battle of Kursk, and that a victory would broadcast a message.

Ironically the defeat informed the leaders in the West that the Eastern Front was no longer a seesaw with Soviet victories in the winter and German victories in the summer. Instead the Soviets had established a dominant position in the East by the time of Kursk, and the German Army was no longer able to defeat the Red Army during the summer. Prior to Kursk, the assumption in the West was that the war on the Eastern Front would be indecisive with one side winning battles at first, and then the other. The resulting bloody stalemate was expected to weaken both nations in the same fashion that the young men of Britain, France, and Germany had been slaughtered on the Western Front in World War I. Just as the United States was able to end World War I with fresh divisions, so, it was assumed, the Western Allies would tip the balance in World War II after both Russia and Germany were exhausted. And, the slaughter would leave both Germany and Russia weak in the post-war world.

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