This Day In History: The Soviets Stop The Germans At The Battle of Kursk.

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This day in history, the Soviet Army stopped a German advance at the battle of Kursk. The Battle of Kursk was one of the most important battles of the Second World War. It was an attempt by Hitler to deal a decisive blow to the Soviets and force them to sue for a separate peace with Germany and to desert their allies, Britain, and America.

Schlacht um Kursk, Panzer VI (Tiger I)
German soldiers at Kursk

The Battle of Kursk was until the 1960s the biggest tank battle in history. During this battle in the modern Ukraine thousands of Soviet and German tanks battled with each other. The Germans decided to launch their summer offensive at Kursk because there was a bulge in the lines at this point. The Germans had to remove this salient or ‘bulge’ or they risked the Soviet’s outflanking them. Hitler also hoped that he could cut off the Soviet forces in the bulge and inflict a devastating loss on the Soviets.

The Soviets were prepared for the attack. This was because they had captured some German officers who had told them under interrogation that the date and the time of the attack. The Soviets conscripted thousands of civilians to lay mines and dig trenches.

Kursk_Soviet_machineguns
Soviet machine gunners at Kursk

The Germans attacked the Kursk area from the north and the south. They made some initial gains. The Soviets were well dug in and they had actually superior numbers. The Germans had placed great fate on the superiority of their weapons such as the Tiger and the Panther tanks. The Soviets soon discovered that these tanks could be knocked out if they were hit from the sides.

The Germans failed to take Kursk and they were fought to a standstill. Then the Soviets under the Soviet General Zhukov launched a counter-attack. The Soviet army tried to encircle the German army. Hitler learned his lesson after Stalingrad and he allowed the Germans to retreat. This saved the German army from disaster.

As they retreated the Germans were attacked by Soviet partisans or guerillas. They destroyed roads and miles of railway tracks and slowed down the German retreat.

The Soviet air force was able for the first time to counter the threat of the Luftwaffe at the battle. Even though the Germans suffered fewer losses the battle was a terrible defeat. They had lost tens of thousands of men and thousands of tanks and heavy guns, that they could ill-afford to lose. The Soviets were able to take the initiative and soon they had liberated the important city of Kharkov. The recapture of this city is seen as the end of the Battle of Kursk.

After their defeat at the Battle, the German army was on the defensive and was not able to launch a similar offensive. Their defeat at the Battle of Kursk meant that the German army were on the verge of defeat and Hitler’s great gamble in invading Russia would ensure his downfall.

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