It is common knowledge the Germans invaded Russia in 1941 and brought the USSR on the side of the Allies. And the world has glorified and immortalized the Battle of Stalingrad as the Soviet’s greatest victory and the turning point of the Eastern Front in World War II. However, not many seem to know of the largest tank battle in history which was also a German counterassault after Stalingrad that could have reversed the initiative of the war. I am talking about the Battle of Kursk (Курская битва).
This battle, started by the Germans as a counterassault, was meant to halt the German retreat and reinstate German initiative. It mobilized two tank regiments, 80 artillery divisions, and 50 total divisions; this contributed over 2,700 tanks, 2,000 planes, and 900,000 men facing against 1.3 million Soviet troops, 3,600 tanks, and 2,800 planes (Geldern). The battle occurred throughout the summer of 1943 following the defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943. Below is a 13 minute documentary that summarizes the battle, and includes great visuals.
The battle waged for over 45 days before the Soviets drained enough of the German forces to counterattack and continue the German retreat for the rest of the war. The Russians were able to gain the offensive after the first week of fighting and liberated multiple cities before the conclusion of the battle. Day and night artillery barrages continued, tanks mobilized and fired on bunkers and vehicles, the spring rains and snowmelt created lakes of mud, and close quarters combat froze the senses in this hellscape. On the German side over 30 of the 50 divisions were destroyed, with over 500,000 casualties (dead, missing, wounded) (Geldern).
Although not many people internationally know about Kursk, it
was an extremely costly and well-known victory in Russia. After the war several
monuments were raised in honor of the battle. Because the soviets lost tens-of-millions
of people throughout the war. Every victory holds a special place in the hearts
of Russians knowing that without these sacrifices and victories—Germany would
have crushed them and their losses would have meant nothing. Pictured above is one
of the many memorials to still honor those who fell in battle.
Geldern, James Von. “Battle of Kursk.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. August 30, 2015.
Gambar, Turgut and Ilkin. Battle of Kursk 1943 – World War II DOCUMENTARY. Online. Kings and Generals. 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKtD2kht1ZI.
Wikipedia Commons. Destroyed German tanks at Kursk. 1943. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Destroyed_German_tanks_at_Kursk.gif.
Wikipedia Commons. Monument to Battle of Kursk – Prokhorovka – Russia. 2009. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monument_to_Battle_of_Kursk_-_Prokhorovka_-_Russia.JPG.
Wikipedia Commons. Soviet troops and T-34 tanks counterattacking Kursk Voronezh Front July 1943. 1943. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Soviet_troops_and_T-34_tanks_counterattacking_Kursk_Voronezh_Front_July_1943.jpg.