Many believe that the turning point for WII in Europe can either be attributed to the Battle of Stalingrad or D-Day. However, the true turning point in the war was not either of them, but the Battle of Kursk. It wasn’t Stalingrad because even though the Germans lost a lot of men and material, they still maintained a significant fighting force and Kursk was their last chance to shift the momentum of the war in their favor. The Germans had lost a major battle, but they still maintained the capacity to launch an offensive military push against the Soviets. It wasn’t D-Day either because the Soviets were already pushing the Germans back across Eastern Europe were the Germans would suffer over 80% of their casualties.
Kursk was the result of a German retreat that produced a bulge in the German lines that could be good for both sides depending on the military outcome of the engagement. The Germans soon began massing troops in order to cut off the Soviet troops trapped in the bulge and annihilate them. The only problem, the Soviets already knew they were coming thanks to British code breaking efforts which allowed the allies to know what the Germans were thinking in real time. With the persuasion of General Zhukov, the Soviets decided to build up massive defensive fortifications along the Kursk bulge in order to repeal the impending German advance. The Soviets flooded their defenses with anti-tank guns which wouldn’t have a hard time finding targets with the shear number of Germans who would take part in the offensive.
The Battle was of epic proportions with over 2,000,000 troops, 6,000 tanks and 4,000 aircraft total. However, the massive numbers the Germans concentrated proved to be for nothing when the offensive was stopped after the Germans barely making it a third of the way through the Soviet defensive lines. It proved to be the decisive end to the Germans’ ability to go on the offensive on the Eastern Front and from now on they would be retreating back towards Germany until the end of the War. The Battle was likely a crushing psychological blow to the Germans as they threw the dice one last time and they lost. Hitler had started the war with the Soviets and nearly won, but due to a mess of different circumstances (besides not sending winter coats), the Germans would lose on their gamble. The next year the Allies would land in France, but that would only shorten the War, the defeat of Hitler and the Germans was already sealed on the plains of Ukraine.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.