Kursk: The Battle that changed the tide of WWII

Kurkryniksy: I Lost My Little Ring (Hitler at Kursk) (1943)

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 persuasionĀ 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 untilĀ 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.Map depicting the Battle of Kursk, 4 Jul-1 Aug 1943

Map depicting the Battle of Kursk, 4 Jul-1 Aug 1943

 

Sources:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Kursk

Battle of Kursk

http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=40

 

10 Replies to “Kursk: The Battle that changed the tide of WWII”

  1. I’m pretty sure Kursk is one of, if not, the largest tank battles ever. You did a wonderful job outlining the battlefield and the battle itself along with its causes. I also appreciate that you pointed out D-Day wasn’t the turning point in the war. Here in America most assume that due to our involvement in the battle but you’re right that the Eastern Front really brought down Hitler. Great post! Also – I love the poster you included at the top of your post.

  2. I found this post very interesting because my post was about the Battle of Stalingrad being the major turning point in the war. I was unaware that the Battle of Kursk was more of a turning point than Stalingrad, so I found this post to be very informative and useful!

  3. That’s great that Rachael found this post as well! I’ll just add that one of the reasons the defeat at Kursk was especially devastating psychologically was because the Germans had excelled at tank warfare. Losing the biggest tank battle in history was tough.

  4. It is awesome read into detail the exact battle that turned the tides of the war. Kursk was the largest tank battle in history and it really played a major part in morale for both sides. I would like to have seen losses on each side, it helps understand the massive costs of the war. Great job!

  5. I like how you emphasized the fact that D-Day was not the turn of WWII because like the post mentioned above, it is a battle that is seen as THE battle that shifted energy towards the allied powers. The map was also something that I appreciated in your post because it was easy to geographically imagine the battle and the companies that were involved within this specific battle. Your analysis was thorough and really informal, I really enjoyed it!

  6. This battle was definitely a major allied victory during the war. I like that you included how the English were able to help with code breaking (I don’t know much about them and the Soviets working together to that was a good factor to mention). You also brought up a really important point about the ramifications of this battle on the German morale. Not only was this a physical triumph, but it also weakened the enemy’s spirit, an equally valuable characteristic of a turning point.

  7. It was definitely interesting the read about the Battle of Kursk. D-Day is such a widely known battle but no one knows much about Kursk. It is incredible that there were so many troops involved in the battle. Good job!

  8. I’m glad you made this point about the importance of Kursk. It would be interesting to see why Stalingrad ended up being widely thought of as the turning point- maybe the casualty count or the brutality of the urban fighting made it loom larger in history? Or the name? Or maybe it was just the most well-documented in the West. Nice post?

  9. I would disagree that Kursk was the turning point of the Eastern Front. I understand the reasoning behind it, but I still think that the victory at Stalingrad, which was against all odds, was the true turning point. However, your evidence is solid and the argument is very sound.

  10. I think you make an excellent case for Kursk as the turning point of the war. The Battle of Stalingrad was a major psychological blow to the Germans and a decisive Soviet military victory, but your analysis of the situation elsewhere proves that the outcome of the war was very much up in the air at that point. Also, I’m glad you addressed that 80% of German casualties were suffered on the eastern front. I had not heard that number before and I find it extremely interesting.

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