On the night of July 5, the reconnaissance forces of the 15 th rifle division in the area Verkh. Tyagino discovered German sappers who made passages in minefields. The German sapper captured by the 6 Infantry Division B. Formel told that the German troops were on full alert and in 2 hours European time (3 hours Moscow time) would go on the offensive in the general direction of Kursk. At the same time, an offensive will start from the Belgorod area, also in the Kursk sector. Approximately the same testimony was given by a German prisoner who was caught in the 48 th army band.
This message was very valuable, because at that time the Soviet command was working on plans for a warning artillery strike. There was little time to make a decision. Until the time indicated by the captured Germans remained a little over an hour. It was necessary to begin artillery training, which allocated up to half of the ammunition. There was no time left for a request from the Bet. The question had to be resolved on the spot. According to Konstantin Rokossovsky, this decision was made by the representative of the Headquarters, Georgy Zhukov, who arrived at the location of the Central Front the night before, entrusted the commander. Rokossovsky immediately ordered the commander of the artillery of the front to open fire. 2 hours 20 minutes the thunder of guns broke the silence. Soviet artillery opened fire in the defense zone of the 13 Army and partly the 48 Army and 70 Army, where they were waiting for the main attack of the German troops. As it turned out later, Soviet artillery outstripped German artillery by 10 minutes. The German command planned to begin artillery preparation in 2 hours 30 minutes.
Artillery strikes during the counter-training were mainly directed against the artillery positions of the enemy. On the Central Front, 507 X-guns of caliber 76 and higher, 460 82 and 120-mm mortars, 100 BM-13 rocket launchers were used for counterpreparation. According to the plan, the artillery preparation was supposed to last about 30 minutes with a waste of up to a quarter of ammunition. On the Central Front, artillery preparation was conducted twice, the second was held in 4 hours 35 minutes. Counterpreparation conducted on the Voronezh front. In addition, air force forces conducted an airstrike on enemy airfields.
Many researchers believe that the idea of counterpreparation is questionable. In the course of the regrouping of forces, the positions of infantry, artillery and armored vehicles may change. And positions identified in advance may be left. In addition, due to insufficient artillery density, which is attracted to artillery preparation, weak reconnaissance of enemy positions, the effect of such a strike will be minimal. As a result, high waste of ammunition, which would be useful in such a battle, is ineffective. Other military historians, on the contrary, consider such an artillery preparation useful, it had a significant psychological impact on the enemy, forced him to postpone a strike for some time, to put in order a bond that suffered greatly, the units that had been prepared for the offensive.
July 5 1943 year. At 6 a.m. Moscow time, German troops inflicted on Soviet defensive lines aviation and artillery strikes. The artillery barrage was very strong. In addition to its own artillery of formations and divisions of the reserve, guns from the second echelon participated in it. tank divisions. Due to the lack of aviation, which did not allow strikes to be launched simultaneously in all directions, the 6th Air Fleet supported the 9th Army's formations in succession. First, the entire aviation of the 1st Aviation Division struck in the offensive zone of the 41st Tank and 23rd Army Corps, then in the zone of the 47th Tank Corps. Therefore, German units did not advance at the same time. The shock units of the Wehrmacht went on the offensive. On the Oryol-Kursk direction on the first day of the battle, more than 500 tanks and self-propelled guns were thrown into battle, on the Belgorod direction, about 700 tanks and assault guns.
In the defense zone of the Central Front, German troops attacked the 13 army and adjacent flanks of the 48 and 70 armies. The main grouping of the Model was inflicted by three infantry and four tank divisions on Olkhovatka, on the left flank of the 13 Army Pukhov. Four enemy infantry divisions were moved against the right flank of the 13 and the left flank of the Romanenko 48 army, they were advancing on Maloarkhangelsk. Three infantry divisions of the 9 Army attacked the right flank of General Galanin's 70 Army, making their way towards Gniec. The offensive of the ground forces was supported by the strikes of the German Air Force. The battle from the very beginning took on a fierce character. The command of the 9 of the German army, faced with a powerful Soviet defense, was forced to re-hour artillery preparation.
The 47 Tank Corps (TK) of Joachim Lemelsen went on the offensive when the air strikes shifted to the west. On the edge of his offensive was the 6-I Infantry Division of General Horst Grossman. She was supported by the only Tiger heavy tank unit in the Orel-Kursk sector - the 505 heavy tank battalion of Major Sovan. The 505 heavy tank battalion began to form in February 1943, in Falinbostel, consisting of two tank companies. At the beginning of July, the battalion was 25 Pz. Kpfw. Ill (T-3) and 31 Pz. Kpfw. VI (T-6 "Tiger"). In service with the second company were small wedges "Goliath". These self-propelled disposable mines without crew were used to undermine enemy tanks, to destroy dense infantry formations and destroy engineering structures.
Tiger No. 214 from the 2 Company of the 505 Heavy Tank Battalion.
The Tigers of the 505 Battalion (numbers 114, 214, 321) in the battles of Kursk.
In the offensive zone of the 47, the 15 th Infantry Division, under the command of Colonel Vladimir Janjgawa from the 29 Infantry Corps, held the defense. She was in charge of the 9 km front section. For her, the strike of the 6 Infantry Division, reinforced by the Tigers battalion, by the two battalions of the Sturmgeschütz III ACS and the 20 Panzer Division equipment, became a serious challenge. Wedge from the battalion "Tigers", almost hundreds of other tanks and self-propelled guns did their job. In the afternoon, the 15 Infantry Division was knocked down. The 676 th infantry regiment was surrounded north of Aleksandrovka, but in the evening was able to get through to its own. In the second echelon, the Germans met the 6-I Guards Rifle Division Dmitry Onuprienko. She was part of the 17 Guards Rifle Corps.
The collapse of the defense of the 15 Division led to a deterioration of the situation at the junction of the 13 Army with the 70 Army. Here the 132-rifle division of Timofey Shkrylev from the 70-th army kept the defense. The 46 Tank Corps of Hants Zorn (in the period of the Kursk battle there were only 4 infantry divisions in it) repeatedly launched attacks on this sector of the front, but the Germans could not break through the Soviet defense in the first half of the day. Also successfully repulsed all the attacks of the enemy units of the 280 th infantry division Dmitry Golosov (70-I army).
In the afternoon, the retreat of the 15 divisions exposed the right flank of the 70 army. The division commander Shkrylev, trying to protect the flank of the army from a detour from the east, dispatched the Xnumx Rifle Regiment east of Gnilets. But he was already exsanguinated by previous battles, and he could not alone change the situation. The regiment was attacked and slowly began to retreat in the direction of Gnilets. The 712 Division was again attacked from the front and then the flank, and was forced to withdraw.
The German offensive on the left flank of the Model 9 was developing less successfully. Here, the 41 Tank Corps of Joseph Harpe and the 23 Army Corps of Johannes Frierner advanced. The offensive of the 86 and 292 infantry divisions from the 41 and the 78 th attack division from the 23 ak supported the 653 and 654 battalions from the 656 9th tank destroyer regiment. The two battalions included the Ferninad 90 SAU with 88-mm guns. Each battalion of assault guns "Ferdinand" was attached to a company of radio-controlled transporters of explosives "Borgvard". In the second echelon, the third battalion of the 656 regiment (216 battalion of assault tanks) moved - it was armed with Sturmpanzer IV "Brummbär" assault guns (German bear grumbler) with 150-mm guns.
"Ferdinand" 653-th battalion of tank destroyers before the battles.
The Soviet positions defended by the 81 Rifle Division commanded by Alexander Barinov (29 Rifle Corps of the 13 Army) and 148 Rifle Division 15 Rifle Corps were well covered by a dense minefield. “Borgvardy” did not have time to make passages in minefields, so the German troops suffered heavy losses. Already at the very beginning of the battle, more than 10 SAUs were blown up by mines, receiving serious damage to rollers and tracks. Heavy losses suffered and the crews of cars. Soon, artillery fire was added to the losses from Soviet mines, which turned out to be quite effective. By July 17 5 in the 653 battalion left only 12 "Ferdinands" from 45.
The launch of the 654 th battalion of German assault guns proved even more unsuccessful. Assigned to the battalion sappers prepared for two passes through their minefields. However, when the SAU began moving the 6-I company of the Ferdinands and the Borgvard platoon assigned to it fell into their own minefield, which was not marked on the maps. As a result, all 4 wedges undermined. Several assault guns were damaged. Soviet artillery opened fire on the enemy who identified himself, withdrawing a few more cars from standing. Only 6 machines were able to reach the Soviet positions from the 4 Company. Another platoon of "Borgvardov" and 5-I and 7-I companies of German SAU also acted unsuccessfully. The engineers were able to make only one pass in the minefield, and came under shelling. Artillery shell hit the wedge, which was at the starting position. She flew into the air and damaged two wedgies, which also detonated. 5 and 7-I companies having lost most of the machines came to the Soviet positions. In this case, the battalion commander, Major Noack was mortally wounded by a shell fragment. True, the remaining machines operated quite effectively.
Destroyed at the Kursk Bulge German tank robot B-IV and German motorcycle.
The 81-Infantry Division as a whole completed the task, although the Germans in several places broke through its positions. The division by the evening fought in a semi-circle, some of its units were surrounded. On July 6, Soviet troops launched a counterstrike and unblocked parts of the division, which was fixed on the previous lines. On July 7, the Germans attacked her again and pushed back to the second line of defense, the bloodless division was taken to the second echelon. The 8 and 148 rifle divisions of the 13 army, which defended in the same direction, managed to hold their positions on the first day of the battle.
By the end of the day on July 5, German troops were able to break into the 13 Army’s defense zone on the 6-8 km, breaking through the main line of defense. In the area north of Olkhovatka, the Germans reached the second defense zone of the army in the 15 km area. The attacks on Gnilets and Maloarkhangelsk were less successful. Here the nazis advanced approximately 5 km. The model decided to remove the artillery attached to 23 to the army corps. In general, despite the inaccuracy of determining the attacked area, the safety margin of the defense of the FC allowed to correct the situation and avoid a critical situation.
After the approximate direction of the enemy strike was revealed, the commander decided in the morning of July 6 to launch a counterstrike on the wedge of the enemy grouping. Significant forces were allocated for the counteroffensive - the 17 th Guards Rifle Corps and the 16 Tank Corps of the 2 Tank Army were to strike from Olkhovatka in the north direction, and the 19 Tank Corps from the Self-stretch in the northeast direction. The counter-strike was to restore the position of the left flank of the 13 Army. There was no time for a more sophisticated solution, the collapse of the defense of the 15 th infantry division occurred too quickly, it was necessary to react.
The model, faced with strong resistance from the 13 Army, decided to bring fresh forces into the battle ahead of schedule. In the evening of July 5, the Model informed the commander of the 47 tank corps, Lemelsen, that he would enter the 2 and 9 tank divisions in his corps in the battle the next day. Initially, these divisions wanted to use for the development of success, and now they had to be thrown into battle to break through the Soviet defense. The model also finally allowed the commander of the 41 tank corps, Harpe, to use his second echelon, the 18 tank division, which had already been partially introduced into the battle. There was also a narrowing of the front of the offensive - the actions of the 46 tank corps and the 23 army corps were now purely demonstrative, auxiliary. The forces of the 2 and 9 armored divisions began to be moved in the afternoon of July, and they began to operate in the evening.
The model wanted to strengthen the blow, and was not limited to the introduction of the second echelon. Early in the morning of July 6, he called the commander of the Army Group “Center” von Kluge and promised to take the heights from Olkhovatka, Ponyrey, Kashara by the evening, hacking the defense of the Central Front to the full depth, and asked him to send him 10 tanknogrenadarsky and 12 th tank divisions. Of these two divisions and the 4 Armored Division, which remained in reserve in the Model, it was intended to organize a succession of success development - the “Ezebeck group” (its commander was von Ezebeck). After some hesitation, only the 5-Tank Division remained in the reserve of the Army Group Center, von Kluge agreed to transfer two divisions to the Model.
To be continued ...