A new look at the Battle of Kursk.

A bit back Bill of Under Fire sent me this news article that he had found:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-48963295

I looked for the journal article that it mentioned, and at the time of writting, it is available for free here:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16161262.2019.1606545 (just click on the PDF tab) which is always nice to see as so much academic work is hidden behind rather expensive paywalls most of the time.

It is definately worth taking the time to download and read if you have the slightest interest in the Eastern Front of WW2. I will flag up a few quick points though…

Although the Germans are now believed to have lost signaficantly less tanks than previously, although I don’t think the attritional strategy suggested by the author would have worked in the slightest: the economic output of the Germans was dwarfed by that of the allies. Even for the duration of the summer I don’t think it could have forestalled the Soviet offensive, leaving aside the human cost the Soviet materiel losses were replaceable.*

The battle was still an operational defeat (the salient was not reduced) and a strategic defeat as the Nazi forces never regained the initiative on the eastern front for the rest of the war.

For those of us who like to play wargaming campaigns with our tanks it does seem that retaining possession of the battlefield at the end of an encounter, thus allowing you to recover/repair as many tanks as possible, mitigates the majority of losses as relatively few tanks that are knocked out in combat are reduced to flaming wrecks. That is definately something to factor into future games.

The strength of the SS divisions vis a vie the Whermacht ones, far stronger, nearly twice as big in some cases. Whilst the early SS formations suffered from a paucity of equipment by this stage it seems clear that that trend had been reversed.

I hope you have found that of interest and if you read the articles and have any comments I’d love to hear them.

Cheers,

Pete.

* Some rough numbers to argue my case. The Panze IV, Sherman and T34 are roughly comparable. Between 1939-45 the Nazis made 9000 Pz IVs, between 1940- 45 about 50,000 T34s were made, in slightly less time (1942-45) about 50,000 Shermans were made.

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9 comments on “A new look at the Battle of Kursk.

  1. Thanks for posting the link, Pete! Will have a read through that!

  2. Marvin says:

    Interesting. I’m certainly no expert on the battle and so could probably do with some of this research. Wherever the truth lies, and war is always more complex than any nationalist interpretation will allow, I suppose there’s no doubting it was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany on the eastern front.

  3. Interesting read. No doubt the Allies outproduced the Germans but the difference was far greater after 1943 than before 1943. One key issue at Kursk was the Panther being pushed into service before all the transmission issues were worked out. The T-34’s also rammed many German tanks because they could not stop Tiger I’s yet. The Russians certainly had much more materiel at this point, and troops were two years into being battle hardened, but the Germans’ qualitative edge nearly held the day.

    • Pete S/ SP says:

      Aye the Panthers had an unfortunate habit of catching fire too on top of other issues. The Russians certainly had the materiel but I’d be interested as to how many Red Army soldiers saw action through the whole GPW….

      Cheers,

      Pete.

      • I’m sure the casualty rates were amazingly high.

      • Pete S/ SP says:

        I’ve a book that covers an infantryman in the Red Army from 1943 to the fall of Berlin, from the starting men inthe battalion in 1943 there were only 4 ‘originals’ left by May ’45… roughly a 95-99% casualty rate I reckon… makes you think really.

        Cheers,

        Pete.

      • Well, Soviets, led by the evil Stalin, were never overly concerned about casualty rates – he had already murdered so many more.

        from https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/stalin-died-60-years-too-late

        We will never know with any certainty the size of Stalin’s murder roll. Official figures suggest around three million, but they are not be reliable let alone comprehensive: for example, not counted are Soviet prisoners who were killed during interrogation or who died shortly after release, deportees who died in transit, and those killed by the Red Army, including Soviet deserters, Polish prisoners, and German civilians. Russian Vadim Erlikman estimated 9.2 million deaths: five million in the Gulag, 1.7 million from deportation, 1.5 million from executions, and 1 million from maltreatment of foreign POWs/German civilians.

        Another ten million likely perished from famine and related causes, with Ukraine, once the Russian Empire’s breadbasket, the epicenter of death. Some historians argue that Stalin didn’t intend to kill so many people; rather, the deaths were the result of forced collectivization. But that is no excuse for enforcing a policy with such destructive consequences. Include famine deaths and Stalin’s toll is almost 20 million – in 2007 Robert Conquest figured at least 15 million – though some analysts believed that Stalin’s victim toll went as high as an improbable 60 million.

        One could legitimately share casualties of World War II. Hitler almost certainly would have had his war anyway, but it would have been a very different conflict. Stalin made it easy for Nazi Germany to conquer western Europe before ravaging eastern Europe. Ignoring impending signs of Hitler’s assault also cost countless Soviet soldiers and civilians their lives.

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