Military Review

Kursk Bulge: Failure of Operation Citadel

Kursk Bulge: Failure of Operation Citadel

In July 1943, Nazi Germany was planning a summer offensive campaign. Although the defeat at Stalingrad destroyed hopes for the defeat of the USSR, Hitler's plan was different: to conclude a truce with Moscow while preserving the occupied lands. This required a major victory, and the Fuhrer hoped to get it near Kursk.

Under the strictest secrecy, the German Citadel plan was born. Two tank the groups were to strike a large-scale blow in the Kursk Bulge area. The Wehrmacht command planned to cut the Voronezh and Central Front of the Red Army, unite in the east of Kursk and take the main forces of the two fronts into the ring. Their destruction would be a disaster for the Soviet Union, and Stalin would have had no choice but to conclude peace on any terms.

On the southern face of the Kursk Bulge, under the command of General Manstein, the 4th Panzer Army and the 2nd SS Panzer Corps were concentrated. At the disposal of the group were the most powerful armored forces in the world - elite formations with the "Tigers" and "Panthers". Their task was to defeat the Soviet troops in the direction of the city of Oboyan and exit to Kursk. On the northern face, General Otto Model led the offensive. And he also had every opportunity to break through the front.

The Soviet plan provided for the tactics of exhausting the enemy in defense and going over to a counteroffensive, but the commander of the 1st Tank Army, Mikhail Katukov, was embarrassed by the number of forces near Oboyan. In those days, defending the line of defense was critical. Otherwise, all previous efforts would have been ruined.

Operation Citadel began at dawn on 5 July. The first attack from Belgorod was taken over by the infantry and artillery of the 6th Guards. army. The Tigers fired with deadly precision and advanced ahead. On the flanks were medium tanks and assault guns. However, a few hours later, reports of fierce resistance, well-aimed artillery fire and difficulties in overcoming obstacles poured into the headquarters of Army Group South. At that moment, Operation Citadel ceased to seem impeccable to the Germans: the losses were greater than expected, and besides, the timing of the capture of key positions was postponed.

Near the village of Cherkasskoye, the tanks of the 48th Panzerwaffe corps were supposed to immediately break through the defenses, but at some point, mines began to explode under their tracks. Having lost several tanks, the Germans sent 2 infantry regiments into battle, which were opposed by an infantry division led by Vladimir Bazhenov. At the cost of their own lives, the guardsmen put up desperate resistance and repelled attack after attack. Bazhenov's regiment was killed, but the enemy's tank corps advanced only 6 kilometers in a day.

Meanwhile, having struck the first blows, the Germans revealed their plans. The commander of the Voronezh Front, General of the Army Nikolai Vatutin, made a risky decision - to throw all the front reserves into battle and, without waiting for the end of the defensive phase, launch an offensive with a single fist, including the tank army of Mikhail Katukov. However, the German troops managed to "crush" the left flank of the 6th Guards. army, create gaps in the defense and continue to move northeast, bypassing Katukov's army. Plan "Citadel" on the southern face of the Kursk Bulge was approaching its final stage.

To slow down the pace of the offensive, Mikhail Katukov, without waiting for the approach of the main forces and violating all the commandments of tank battle, gave the order to attack German vehicles in the village of Yakovlevo. About forty "thirty-fours" broke into the village without reconnaissance, artillery preparation and infantry cover. They could not destroy the enemy, but by maneuvering between the destroyed houses, they gained time. Other formations of Katukov's army and units of the 2nd Guards were pulled up to Yakovlevo. tank corps of Colonel Alexei Burdeyny. The battle lasted for several hours. All this time, dozens of tanks were turning into burning pieces of metal, and only in the evening did the situation in this sector of the front stabilize. Soviet tank formations were sent to other positions as firefighters to help hold the front line. At that moment, when only Vladimir Bochkovsky's company (8 T-34 tanks) remained at Yakovlevo, the Germans launched another attack. "Tigers", "fours" and self-propelled guns attacked without tactical tricks, trying to crush the Soviet barrier with a blow on the forehead. The crews of "thirty-fours" fought to the last and destroyed 16 tanks. The Germans wavered, but by the time the reinforcements arrived, of the 5 experienced Soviet tank commanders, only Vladimir Bochkovsky survived.

Despite the breakthroughs of the Soviet defense to a depth of 25 km, by July 8, the prospects for the success of Operation Citadel looked dubious. General Manstein decided not to go head-on to the 1st Tank Army, but to bypass it to the east, breaking through the interfluve of the Psel and Seversky Donets rivers, Prokhorovka station and further north to Kursk.
Meanwhile, Nikolai Vatutin persuaded the Headquarters to repeat the attempt of a general offensive by the troops of the Voronezh Front. July 12, south-west of the village of Prokhorovka, up to 500 tanks and self-propelled guns of the 5th Guards. Panzer army launched a frontal attack against the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler division. The Germans defended themselves on rough terrain, and the Soviet formations suffered significant losses. Katukov was informed about the critical situation. His 1st Panzer Army, which survived heavy fighting, had to urgently accelerate the offensive and deepen into German territory.

The thinned battalions of the Red Army were reduced to companies and platoons. In one formation there were different types of tanks and infantry. Together they moved in a familiar direction to Yakovlevo. The offensive of tired, long-standing troops surprised the Germans, who themselves had planned the attack. In the Soviet vanguard were well-armored Churchillies, which took the blow and revealed the location of enemy vehicles. In that battle, the commanders of the tank crews showed all their skill and composure. 2 kilometers deep into the positions of Germany were covered.
The next day, Hitler urgently summoned Generals Manstein and Model. The Fuehrer did not believe that the German plan could still end in success, and ordered the curtailment of Operation Citadel. He was sure that even if the Germans achieved success on the southern face of the Kursk Bulge, Stalin would no longer make concessions. In addition, the Allied landing in Sicily demonstrated the determination of the soldiers to fight on the continent. Geopolitically, the war was lost for Germany.

For more details, facts and details of the assault on the main strip of the Soviet defense, see the video from the creators of the famous game World of Tanks.

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  1. nnm
    nnm April 30 2021 08: 17
    Hitler's plan was different: to conclude an armistice with Moscow while preserving the occupied lands.

    Forgive me, of course, but taking as a historical fact the memoirs of Ribbentrop's son (SS officer), published in the 21st century, in which he refers to his father's diaries (well, how not to whitewash himself) is at least not serious. There is not a single significant historical document confirming that Hitler wanted to stop the war with the USSR.
    Its only goal is to return to German offensive actions at the strategic level, to return the initiative.
    1. Undecim
      Undecim April 30 2021 18: 21
      The fact that Ribbentrop sounded the ground with Hitler about possible negotiations with Stalin in 1943 and through his representative in Stockholm Kleist had contacts with Kollontai is said in his memoirs, written already in prison, published back in 1954.
      1. nnm
        nnm April 30 2021 21: 28
        Oh, in my memoirs, oh, how much is said ... for example, about how Zhukov and Brezhnev consulted about a front-line operation, etc.
        That is why memoirs are not considered historical documents.
        1. Undecim
          Undecim April 30 2021 21: 41
          I have given just one example. There is a lot of literature on this issue. By the way, what was the point of Ribbentrop coming up with something? He understood perfectly well what awaited him.
          1. nnm
            nnm April 30 2021 22: 21
            I’m just wondering, did you single out these diaries in a trustworthy source?
            I reread the memoirs of everyone who was close to Hitler - from Beloff to a photographer, etc. And nowhere have I read a word about his thoughts about the world after Kursk. And then, suddenly, in 2013, his son's memoirs appear with a link to his father's diary .... excuse me, colleague, I somehow doubt the veracity of such intentions of Hitler.
            But you are absolutely right - you can't get into his head anymore, there are many documents missing and there may be just a lot of versions.
            Best regards hi
  2. Boris55
    Boris55 April 30 2021 08: 22
    Kursk Bulge: Failure of Operation Citadel

    The Kursk Bulge is where we broke the back of Hitler's fascism!

    1. Ingvar 72
      Ingvar 72 April 30 2021 08: 36
      We broke their back in Stalingrad, Boris. On the Kuska arc, we dispelled all their hopes of victory.
      1. Boris55
        Boris55 April 30 2021 08: 40
        Quote: Ingvar 72
        We broke their back in Stalingrad

        I agree. I did not like the title of the article, as it was written by the person from the other side, launching the "overtone windows". Slowly, drop by drop, changing the truth for fiction ...
      2. chenia
        chenia April 30 2021 08: 56
        Not a ridge, not yet broken in Stalingrad. Stalingrad is more of an accident (I'm talking about the success of the Germans). If it were not for the Rzhevsky ledge (and this could have happened) when Moscow is 150 km away, then Zhukov would have hit the flank of group "A". and hell they would have reached Stalingrad.
        But in real life the Germans are pushing against Stalingrad, and ours are advancing on Rzhev (it was necessary to drive the Germans away from Moscow).
        1. Zug
          Zug April 30 2021 22: 32
          1942 Not only Stalingrad is known. If "yes" would. There is also the Kerch Peninsula, Sevastopol, Kharkov. Rzhev's protrusion, not cut off. Stalingrad? 90 thousand prisoners. One destroyed army cannot break the ridge of the Wehrmacht. This is nonsense.
      3. AntonR7
        AntonR7 April 30 2021 12: 27
        It was after the Kursk Bulge that the Germans began to roll back to Berlin, and after Stalingrad the Germans still had the initiative and there was an offensive impulse. So the ridge was broken after Kursk.
      4. Victor Tsenin
        Victor Tsenin April 30 2021 17: 47
        I do not agree, the back of the mad Nazi creature would have been broken, there would have been no colossal tension and huge, if to be objective, losses at the Kursk Bulge. So all the same Kursk.
        And the question is, are these businessmen from WG, shall we say, compensate you for your time? Why links to their crafts and not to documentaries / archival videos?
        I have nothing against WG in general and WoT, I will voice it right away, but I don’t play this)
  3. rocket757
    rocket757 April 30 2021 08: 25
    The war was terrible, the price of victory was very high.
    The Soviet Union, the Soviet people paid a high price for the victory.
    1. Boris55
      Boris55 April 30 2021 08: 31
      Quote: rocket757
      The war was terrible, the price of victory was very high.

      The price is really high, but the military losses are comparable. 20 million civilian Soviet citizens (women, children, old people) were killed in the occupied territories.
      1. rocket757
        rocket757 April 30 2021 08: 40
        I don't want to measure losses in such a matter ...
        I won't argue about the nonsense that our Germans won only at the expense of unjustified losses ... you need to stay away from any fools if you can't shut them up.
        All our people won, it was not in vain.
        The war crimes of the fascists are known and the court of history has pronounced the correct verdict on them.
        1. Boris55
          Boris55 April 30 2021 08: 48
          Quote: rocket757
          you need to stay away from all sorts of fools

          It is impossible to be silent. As soon as their "truth" becomes the truth of many, it will already become the truth for everyone.
          1. rocket757
            rocket757 April 30 2021 09: 17
            You can fight the enemy in different ways.
            I have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for the future, but to argue with all sorts of kolyamizurengoy and those who bring them up, it's completely different. Our opportunities are severely limited, this is still a state matter.
      2. Zug
        Zug April 30 2021 22: 33
        26 million were destroyed in the occupied territories. A million of the Red Army troops.
  4. Niko
    Niko April 30 2021 08: 26
    Free retelling based on what you read in childhood?
    1. Ingvar 72
      Ingvar 72 April 30 2021 08: 37
      In general, yes. But interesting.
      1. Andrey VOV
        Andrey VOV April 30 2021 08: 59
        Honestly, I expected about the oncoming tank near Prokhorovka, but no, there was no pattern of past years
        1. Niko
          Niko April 30 2021 09: 29
          Especially not stereotyped about how TWO REGIONS of evil Germans pounced on our DIVISION and how the division in DEFENSE miraculously fought back.
  5. ZAV69
    ZAV69 April 30 2021 08: 27
    So it turns out Lesta composed this nonsense .... However.
  6. carstorm 11
    carstorm 11 April 30 2021 08: 44
    The fact that Hitler wanted to make peace is an opinion and not a fact. Moreover, the opinion with which it is impossible to co-ordinate with all the desire. Does anyone really imagine that the USSR would have gone to such a peace after Stalingrad? There are completely different reasons. Hitler needed to seize the initiative. And such a victory kaa times gave it in theory. Well, plus a few other factors. But definitely not an attempt to make peace. He knew perfectly well that this would not happen. With all his cockroaches, to consider Hitler naive is such a thing ...
  7. qQQQ
    qQQQ April 30 2021 09: 08
    The commander of the Voronezh Front, General of the Army Nikolai Vatutin, made a risky decision - to throw all the front reserves into battle and, without waiting for the end of the defensive phase, launch an offensive with a single fist, including the tank army of Mikhail Katukov.

    A very dubious decision that led to huge losses in armored vehicles without any significant results. Katukov turned directly to Stalin to stop this beating. In general, in my opinion, Vatutin showed himself here not in the best way. The mere fact that he did not report to Headquarters about the breakthrough of the Germans and the exit to Prokhorovka is worth a lot. And so, the Battle of Kursk showed that it is much harder and more expensive to defend than to attack, of course they knew about this, but they were able to win the strategic initiative just at the Kursk Bulge.
    1. Andrey VOV
      Andrey VOV April 30 2021 09: 39
      After Katukov's direct appeal, Stalin canceled the decision to counterstrike, and this was the right decision.
  8. Siegfried
    Siegfried April 30 2021 09: 34
    is the purpose of the operation to achieve an armistice with the USSR? this could only have dreamed Goering after a good dose of opium. The goal of the operation, as well as the goal of Germany's entire strategy on the eastern front after Stalingrad, was the same - to knock out so much equipment and manpower from the USSR with minimal losses that at the end of the USSR there would be nothing to fight with. Hence Hitler's statements about the "last battalion" and all the hopes and statements that the Russians have no normal soldiers left, they are already taking everything that is horrible, etc. And in this regard, Operation Citadel was successful, even if accusations of an unpatriotic approach to history are now rained down. Yes, the goal to surround and destroy the mass of troops on the Kursk Bulge was not achieved, and this can be considered a defeat. But the goal of forcing the USSR to concentrate as many troops as possible in one place and then hit this mass with all forces in order to banal destruction of everything was partially achieved. The Germans especially wanted to force the USSR to use their shock tank forces, force them to concentrate in one place (Kursk Bulge) and destroy this mass with technically superior tank forces. This was better than reacting to Soviet attacks along the entire front, which made it difficult to use tank formations due to the lack of logistics capabilities. Heavy tanks tigers, panthers, etc., as a means of reaction, are very poorly suited, they consume a lot of fuel, appear at the front, where the dynamics are already such that the support forces did not succeed and could not even simply settle in positions to provide loyal tanks with repairs, fuel, ammunition. Tanks often had to be abandoned. Where the front is "running", in the dynamics of retreat, it is very difficult to use forces to parry attacks. Therefore, the citadel was a partial success for the Germans, a huge number of troops and tanks of the reserve armies that had been envisaged for the offensive were destroyed.
  9. nnm
    nnm April 30 2021 09: 42
    It is clear that the plot was filmed in WoT, and therefore it is very superficial and how to say it correctly - "local", consisting of some kind of tricky facts, and sometimes subjective judgments.
    I think that in modern historiography there is no specialist better versed in the Battle of Kursk than A. Isaev, who published both a monograph on this issue and a number of subjects:
  10. Viktor Sergeev
    Viktor Sergeev April 30 2021 16: 27
    Author Do you yourself believe that if two fronts were surrounded, a catastrophe would occur? It is easier to surround than to keep and even more to destroy, this is not forty-first for you, but Stalin had enough reserves.
  11. Viktor Sergeev
    Viktor Sergeev April 30 2021 16: 29
    The article is about nothing at all and it is not clear why.
  12. NF68
    NF68 April 30 2021 16: 49
    At Kursk, the Germans were forced to grab the bull by the horns. Time has long worked against them.
  13. Bashibuzuk1
    Bashibuzuk1 April 30 2021 19: 26
    rewrite history .... brazenly shamelessly, unprecedented ..... Front oviks who wrote memoirs and memoirs immediately after the war, when everyone knew and remembered everything, went nowhere. "Liberastors and crap-craters" on horseback. On the northern face of the Kursk Bulge, the Germans could not even break through the 1st line of defense. Vatutin's mistakes led to a breakthrough in the defense up to Prokhorovka. The oncoming tank battle brought no advantage to anyone. were large on both sides. But the Germans have already been stopped. Sicily ----.... a bad dancer always
    ... they interfere. This is how the deeds of grandfathers and fathers are reduced.
  14. stalkerwalker
    stalkerwalker April 30 2021 22: 08
    The article is kind of strange .... The headline is loud. I thought that new, or little-known facts of the battle would be given now. But alas ... The author corny used a catchy name in order to present not even his own vision of a grandiose battle on Oryol-Kursk arc, and so, do it at random - you look, and people will react on the forum.
    It would be better if Zamulin's research was published. Or excerpts from EE Shchekotikhin's "Battle of Oryol". Egor Yegorovich made the main emphasis in his work on the fact that in terms of the density of the formation of the opposing sides' troops during the Kutuzov operation, there were no precedents during the Great Patriotic War either before or after. But the research of the historian Ph.D. "regional scale" remained outside the brackets of military historians and researchers. Therefore, the "loud" title caused only the grins of critics, including VO.
  15. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh April 30 2021 22: 36
    Battle of Kursk, very briefly:
    1) The Germans planned to break through the defenses of the Red Army
    in the north and south of the Kursk salient, encircle and destroy
    the Soviet group.
    2) The defense in the north was not broken.
    3) The defense in the south was broken.
    4) An attempt at a tank strike by the Red Army in the south (Battle of Prokhorovka)
    was unsuccessful.
    5) Failure in the north of the ledge and heavy losses in the elite infantry
    (the grenadiers and the Waffen-SS) forced Hitler to cancel the continuation of the operation.
    1. stalkerwalker
      stalkerwalker April 30 2021 23: 00
      Somewhere like this ... Or not quite so ... Or not at all ...
      The Oryol offensive operation was launched on July 12, 1943 with strikes from the Western and Bryansk fronts. On July 15, the Central Front also launched a counteroffensive.
      While on the southern face, the front froze in uncertainty. And only on July 17, the withdrawal of German troops to their original positions began, since the critical situation created in the Model's defense zone required reinforcements. And the closest place from which it was possible to remove tank and aviation formations, to reinforce the defense in the Oryol direction, were units and subunits that had previously advanced on the southern face of the arc.
      On the 17th of July, the offensive operation of the Red Army began on the Mius Front.
      On August 3, 1943, the Belgorod-Kharkov offensive operation began (Operation Rumyantsev). The operation was carried out by the forces of the Voronezh and Steppe fronts, with the aim of defeating the Belgorod-Kharkov grouping of the German army, liberating the Kharkov industrial region, creating the prerequisites for the final liberation from the invaders of the Left-Bank Ukraine.
      Thus, despite the heavy losses incurred during the defensive phase of July 5-12, the Soviet command took the strategic initiative into its own hands, striking in the intended directions. And by September, the battles for the liberation of the Left-Bank Ukraine were in full swing.
      1. voyaka uh
        voyaka uh 1 May 2021 01: 27
        1) in the battle near Prokhorovka, General Rotmistrov with a confident hand destroyed all the tank forces of the Red Army, collected from everywhere near Kursk, sending them, as expected for the enemy, to the created anti-tank defense of the Germans.
        2) for this reason, without fear of tank attacks, Hitler transferred the Tigers and Ferdinands straight to Italy, where Mussolini surrendered in panic.
        3) only a year later, in Operation Bagration, the Red Army, having re-accumulated armored vehicles, was able to destroy Army Group Center.
        4) The Battle of Kursk was the great turning point of the Second World War. This was Hitler's last attempt at a strategic offensive. The Wehrmacht moved on to defensive or counterattacking land battles.
        The quality of training soldiers of the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS fell sharply after the losses in the Battle of Kursk.
        1. mat-vey
          mat-vey 1 May 2021 06: 01
          Quote: voyaka uh
          in the battle of Prokhorovka, General Rotmistrov, with a confident hand, destroyed all the tank forces of the Red Army,

          1. voyaka uh
            voyaka uh 1 May 2021 09: 28
            Rotmistrov was already going to court. He was saved by the fact that Hitler curtailed Operation Citadel. To celebrate, the stupid general was forgiven.
            But in 1944 he staged the same suicidal tank attack near Vilnius and the enraged Chernyakhovsky removed him from command and transferred him to a rear position.
            1. mat-vey
              mat-vey 1 May 2021 14: 02
              Quote: voyaka uh
              Rotmistrov was already going to court.

              Rotmistrov was the commander of the 5th Panzer Army ... just an army and therefore, in principle, could not
              Quote: voyaka uh
              with a confident hand, he destroyed all the tank forces of the Red Army
        2. stalkerwalker
          stalkerwalker 1 May 2021 09: 43
          Quote: voyaka uh
          for this reason, without fear of tank attacks, Hitler transferred the Tigers and Ferdinands straight to Italy, where Mussolini surrendered in panic.

          The decision to transfer was made long before Prokhorovka. And even yes, the battle began. Here Italy and Mussolini are on a separate line, and have nothing to do with the results of the battles on the Oryol-Kursk Bulge.
          Quote: voyaka uh
          Only a year later, in Operation Bagration, the Red Army, having re-accumulated armored vehicles, was able to destroy Army Group Center.

          I’m so .. Let me remind you that by the summer of 1943 the Red Army had a whole front in reserve, which was called the Reserve Front. It was from the Reserve Front that 5 TA was allocated under the command of Rotmistrov. Subsequently, the Reserve Front was renamed Stepnoy, and took part in the Rumyantsev operation.
          In October-November of the 43rd, Rybalko's 3rd TA played a major role in the liberation of Kiev. Subsequently, both 3 TA and 2 TA took an active part in the battles in Ukraine, inflicting significant losses of panzervafens in battles from Zhitomir and Fastov, ending with the Korsun-Shevchenko operation.
          It was the actions of these two tank armies that predetermined the appearance of the Belarusian balcony, on which Bagration started.
          Quote: voyaka uh
          in the battle of Prokhorovka, General Rotmistrov with a confident hand destroyed all the tank forces of the Red Army, collected from everywhere near Kursk,

          Lyosha ... Is this an excerpt from a history textbook that is used to teach children in Israel?
          1. Eug
            Eug 1 May 2021 13: 59
            And you can ask what was the reason for the "separation" of the tank army of Rotmistrov from the Reserve Front?
            1. stalkerwalker
              stalkerwalker 1 May 2021 21: 44
              Quote: Eug
              And you can ask

              Can. We can do anything ...
        3. chenia
          chenia 1 May 2021 20: 42
          Quote: voyaka uh
          destroyed all the tank forces of the Red Army, collected from everywhere near Kursk,

          And after 4 months, the Red Army on carts and scooters turned out to be 550 km west and the Dnieper did not stop.

          Quote: voyaka uh
          without fear of tank attacks, Hitler transferred the Tigers and Ferdinands straight to Italy,

          Remains of the SS AG division without equipment. which did not fight in Italy, but was engaged in police functions. And also secured the management of 2 SS corps (a couple of three generals). with units of combat and logistic support. They also successfully fought with Italians while drinking local wine.
          Quote: voyaka uh
          in operation Bagration Red Army

          In, here Kluge and Model quickly realized that they would be shoveling away. And having stopped the offensive, they saved their strength to repel the offensive of the three fronts. And it worked. Until the summer of 1944.
  16. vel1163
    vel1163 1 May 2021 00: 49
    As soon as I read the mention of the Allied invasion in Sicily (which served as a factor for curtailing the operation of the Citadel), that's all, you can not read the article. Huge efforts, funds, sacrifices, and then landing on an island in the Mediterranean and everyone ran to Berlin. Stop feeding stuff. They attacked with all their might while they could. The troops thrashed them there and then launched an offensive. And in their memoirs, they will come up with it. Like a beaten kid who comes home wipes red snot and tells everyone as if it weren't for something he would surely beat the offender.
    VOENOBOZ 1 May 2021 12: 53
    The soldiers are going to attack after the tank, and in the lower right corner of the photo there are killed, perhaps?
    1. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh 1 May 2021 21: 53
      The photo is clearly not from the Battle of Kursk.
      Tank KV-85. They were not near Kursk.
  18. Eug
    Eug 1 May 2021 13: 56
    And why not a word about the fact that 6 (!) Tank divisions were taken from Manstein because of the Soviet Army's offensives on the Western and Southern fronts? Stalin's strategic genius ruined all German plans ...