12 July 1943 of the year on the southern face of the Kursk Bulge in the Voronezh Front, in the vicinity of the Prokhorovka Station and the Oktyabrsky State Farm, was one of the largest battles of armored forces in the world stories. In a fierce battle, the elite tank Unions of the German Empire and Soviet Guards. Once again, the Russians and Germans showed their highest fighting qualities.
The 5 Guards and 5 Guards Tank armies that arrived from the reserve of the Stavka could be used in several ways. To divide the army into parts and to plug up the breakthroughs in the front line; in full force to include in the third army defensive line or to use for a strong counterattack. The counter-strike was preferable, since it allowed defeating a part of the enemy's strike force (with success and all), already weakened by previous stubborn battles with parts of the 6 Guards and 1 Tank armies. The idea of a counterblow was supported by the representative of the Headquarters A. M. Vasilevsky.
Planning a counterattack began around July 9 1943. According to the original plan, the army of Rotmistrov was to go on the offensive from the line of Vasilyevka, the Komsomolets state farm, Belenikhino. On this site, it was possible to deploy large armored forces and reach the Oboyan highway located in 15-17 km. An auxiliary strike against the 5-th Guards Tank Army should have been organized by the 1-I tank and 6-I Guards armies. With good luck, there was a chance, if not to surround and defeat the shock forces of the German group, then to inflict a serious defeat on it.
However, during the preparation of the strike - 10-11 July 1943, events occurred that seriously changed the situation on the front. The increasing complexity of the situation in the Korochansky direction forced the 5-th Guards Mechanized Corps to separate from the 5 Guards Tank Army and push it into the Korochi area. This weakened the shock power of the army Rotmistrov. Another unpleasant event was the breakthrough of the 2 SS Panzer Corps into the Prokhorovka area and the Germans seized the positions from which they were supposed to strike. However, they did not abandon the counterattack.
It should be noted that the German command had no information about the preparation by the Soviet troops of a serious counterattack. German aviation discovered the concentration of mobile units in the Prokhorovka area, but there was no information about what forces were gathered by the Soviet command. In the context of the offensive, a dense front and fierce fighting, intelligence gathering information in the deep Soviet rear was impossible. The formations of Rotmistrov’s army complied with the radio silence regime and took all possible measures to camouflage and ensure the surprise of the strike. The German troops had already repelled more than one attack from the Soviet tank corps, so it was assumed that the Soviet command pulled up another mobile unit from the reserve. Even in the evening of July 11, the command of the 2nd Panzer Corps did not realize the power of the Soviet troops in front of them. Hausser’s headquarters did not make any assumptions about the upcoming Soviet counterattack. The German plan provided for access to Prokhorovka and a possible transition to defense in anticipation of the Soviet counterattack. However, on July 12, such an attack was not expected, or was not expected, given the counterattacks of the Soviet tank corps in the previous days.
The 2 SS Panzer Corps did not receive serious offensive missions on 12 July. Local problems were solved. So 1-division "Leibshtandart" 11 July took the defile (a narrow passage between natural obstacles) and did not undertake attacks in the direction of Prokhorovka, pulling up anti-tank weapons and preparing defensive lines. The division held a front approximately 7 km from the river Psel to the railway. By the evening of July 11, as part of the Leibstandard tank regiment, there were 67 vehicles, including the 4 Tiger, and the 10 SAU were in the assault gun battalion. Leibstandart's flanks 2-I Reich and 3-I Tank Panzer Divisions “Dead Head” were offensive, trying to improve their position. In particular, units of the “Dead Head” division expanded the bridgehead on the northern bank of the Psel River, transferring a tank regiment to it on the night of July 12, thereby providing flanking fire on Soviet tanks in the event of an attack through a defile. The division "Reich in the evening of July 11 consisted of 95 tanks and SAUs, the division" Dead Head "- 122 tanks and SAU (including 10" Tigers "). From the southern direction, the 3 tank corps acted on Prokhorovka direction, which had 12 July around 120 vehicles, including the 23 Tiger in the 503 separate heavy tank battalion.
The seizure by German troops of the initial positions for the planned counterstrike seriously complicated its conduct. Therefore, in the morning of July 12, the units of the 9 Guards Airborne Division and the 95 Guards Rifle Division made an attempt to repel the Oktyabrsky State Farm. The attack began in the early morning, and the battle went on for about three hours. Artillery training was not carried out, they took care of the ammunition for the counterattack itself. But it was not possible to repel the state farm with the help of fire-fighting rifle units. The SS met Guardsmen with concentrated fire and repelled the attack.
The artillery training of the army, which was assigned to 8.00, was carried out at the Vassilyevka line - the Komsomolets state farm - Ivanovo settlement - Belenihino, then the artillery carried fire into the depths of the German order. Similar objectives had the Soviet assault and bomber aircraft. As a result, the Leibstandard’s front line of defense, where the artillery was concentrated, was not affected by the Soviet artillery and air strikes. In addition, in the morning, aviation operations were hampered by bad weather conditions.
In 8.30, after a volley of Guards mortars, tankers attacked. The 29 tank corps of Ivan Kirichenko went on the offensive in two echelons along the railway. The corps included more than 200 tanks and SPGs. In the first echelon, the 32 Tank Brigade of Colonel A. A. Linev (64 tank), the 25 Tank Brigade of Colonel N. K. Volodin (58 tanks) and the 1446 self-propelled artillery regiment (20 Su-76 SU-122). In the second echelon: 31-I tank brigade of Colonel S.F. Moiseyev (70 tanks) and 53-I motorized rifle brigade Lieutenant-Colonel N. P. Lipicheva. On the right flank of the 29 Corps, between Psel and Oktyabrsky State Farm, Boris Bakharov’s 18 Tank Corps attacked. The case was composed of about 150 machines. The 18 tank corps was built in three echelons. The first went: 181-I tank squad Lt. Col. V.A Puzyrev (44 tank), 170-I tank squad Lt. Col. V. D. Tarasov VD (39 tanks) and 36-th Guards separate heavy tank regiment of the breakthrough ( his weapons were 20 tanks Mk IV "Churchill"). In the second echelon - the 32-I motorized rifle brigade of Colonel I. A. Stukov; in the third, the 110 tank tank brigade of lieutenant colonel M. G. Khlyupin (45 tanks). Thus, in the first echelon, they launched 4 tank brigades, one regiment of heavy tanks and an ACS regiment, about 250 machines in total.
The area of the farm "October" was supposed to fall into the "ticks". They were formed by the machines of the 181-th tank brigade and the 36-th separate regiment - on the one hand, on the other - the 32-th brigade, the 1446-th SAU and 170-th tank brigade. The rifle formations of the 33 Guards Rifle Corps of the 5 Guards Army followed them. It was believed that the 181-I tank brigade, advancing along the river, would not meet with serious resistance. Along the railway, the 29-I tank brigade had to pave the way for the main forces of the 32 corps. To support their success were units of the 9-th Guards Airborne Division and the 42-th Guards Rifle Division.
The complete surprise of the attack of the tank corps of the army of Rotmistrov could not be achieved. German aviation spotted in the morning the movement of large masses of tanks, and reported parts of the SS. The command of the 2 corps could no longer radically change its position, but still they had time to come to a certain degree of readiness to repel the impact of the formation.
Padded T-70 and BA-64. Prokhorov for example. 12 – 13 July 1943
The deep beam in front of the Oktyabrsky forced the 170 tank tank brigade of the 18 tank corps to be deployed for the 32 brigade of the 29 tank corps. As a result, the first echelon of the 18 corps was reduced to one brigade. Tanks of only two brigades - 32 and 181 (about 115 machines) entered the Prokhorov field (from the river Psel to the railway). The German anti-tank defense met Soviet tanks with heavy fire, the tanks were out of action one by one. Only one battalion of the 32 Brigade could, under the cover of a forest belt, walk along the railway to the Komsomolets state farm. The further way was blocking the anti-tank ditch. Entering the second echelon into battle was delayed - he entered the battle only in 9.30 - 10.00, when a significant part of the first echelon armored vehicles was knocked out. Another brigade of the 29 tank corps, the 25 brigade of Volodin, which was advancing through Sentry, south of the railroad, faced a battalion of Leibstandard assault guns. 10.30 25 Brigade lost more than half of the machines - only 21 T-34 and T-70 remained. Kompolka Volodin was wounded and sent to hospital. The results of the first two - two and a half hours of the battle were sad - three tank brigades and a regiment of SAU lost more than half of the combat units.
Soviet self-propelled howitzer SU-122 in the Prohorov bridgehead area. 14 July 1943
Similarly, events developed in the offensive line of the Bakharov corps: the 181 brigade entered into battle after the 170 brigade lost more than half of the tanks to the 12.00. But at the cost of great losses, the 181 I tank crew made its way to the Oktyabrsky state farm. Following the tank crews were the arrows of the 42 th Guards Rifle Division, so despite the fierce battle, when the state farm passed from hand to hand several times, this success was consolidated. In 14.00, the 18 Corps resumed its offensive by launching the third echelon, the 110 Tank Brigade. Bakharov's corpus somewhat scored the direction of the main attack, now advancing close to the floodplain of Psёl. The Soviet tankers overcame here the defense of one of the regiments of the division "Dead Head", heavy tanks "Leibstandard." The 181-I and 170-I brigade advanced here 6 km. “Leibshtandart” managed to stabilize the situation only with the help of counterattacks of its tank regiment. The command of the 18 Corps, under the threat of encirclement, due to the successful attack of the “Dead Head” division on the bridgehead on p. Psel pulled brigade back. By the evening of the corps 5-th Guards Tank Army went on the defensive.
T-34 tanks, shot down during the Soviet counteroffensive under Prokhorovka.
The 2 Guards Tank Corps of Burdeyno also participated in the counterstrike. He launched an offensive on 11.15 by two tank brigades (95 vehicles). Corps attacks were repelled by the Reich division. The 2 Panzer Division for some time was constrained by these attacks, but in the second half of the day it launched a counter-offensive in the direction of the Watchdog. The role of Popov's 2 tank corps in the battle was small. After the previous intense battles, only about fifty machines remained in it, and its attack, which began after 19.00 hours, was not successful.
This counter strike 5-th Guards Tank Army led to serious losses in the Soviet corps. The 29 Corps Kirichenko lost up to 77% of the combat units participating in the attack (170 tanks and ACS), the 18 Corps of Bakharov - 56% machines (84 tanks). The mobile units operating in the neighboring areas also suffered heavy losses: the 2 Guards Tank Corps of Burdeynoy - 39% of the counter strike (54 vehicles); The Popova 2 tank corps is a 22 tank (almost half of the vehicles).
German T-34 division "Das Reich", lined with the calculation of the gun sergeant Kurnosova. Prokhorov for example. 14 – 15 July 1943
July 12 battle was not only in the direction of Prokhorov. The Soviet command set the task of Xnumx of Zhadov's Guards Army to destroy the bridgehead seized by German troops on the northern shore of Psel. The forces of the “Dead Head” division were supposed to be shackled by combat, and after the successful offensive of the army of Rotmistrov, to be liquidated. However, the forces of the 5 Guards Army in the morning of July 5 were only in the process of concentration. In the morning, on the perimeter of the bridgehead occupied by the SS, there were only units of the 12 Guards Rifle Division, which was subordinated to Zhadov's army. The division participated in the Battle of Kursk from the first day of the battle and was drained of blood, having by the end of July 52 only 11 thousand people. In the morning of July 3,3, the 12-I Guards Rifle Division was to turn in this direction, and the 95-I Guards Airborne Division was approaching the battlefield.
The German command preempted the Soviet strike. The tanks of the “Dead Head” 3 Tank Division were able to concentrate on the bridgehead. At 6 one o'clock in the morning the Germans launched an offensive. By the offensive and connected the connection 11-th tank division. The positions of the weakened 52 Guards Rifle Division were easily cracked, and the SS men attacked the units of the 95 Guards Rifle Division. In the middle of the day, the paratroopers joined the battle with a “dead head”. To block the offensive of the German division attracted artillery 5-th Guards Army.
The counter-strike of the Soviet troops in the Prokhorovka area did not yield the expected results. The 2 SS Panzer Corps was not crushed and retained combat capability. However, this battle was one of the last in the course of the Kursk defensive operation. Already on July 12, the advance of the Western and Bryansk fronts began on the northern face of the Kursk salient. German 9-I army and 2-I tank army went on the defensive. The further advance of the 4 Tank Army of the Goth and the Kempf group on the Kursk direction became meaningless. Having advanced beyond 5-12 in July to 35 km, Army Group South was forced, remaining on the achieved lines for three more days, to begin withdrawing its forces to its former positions. In the course of the battle of Kursk came a strategic change.
Top armored 6 th hectares. armies that hit 7 enemy tanks.
Fighting on Belgorod direction
In this direction, the 7-I Guards Army of Mikhail Shumilov held the defense. It consisted of 24-th and 25-th Guards Rifle Corps: combining 15-th, 36-th, 72-th, 73-th, 78-th and 81-th guards rifle division. The river Seversky Donets and the railway embankment strengthened the defense of the army.
On July 5, German troops on the Belgorod-Grafov line, three infantry and three tank divisions of the Kempf group, with the support of aviation, began to force the Seversky Donets. In the afternoon, German tanks launched an attack on the Razumnoe, Krutoy Log section in the east and northeast directions. In the area of Krutoy Log, there was an anti-tank stronghold, which until the end of the day held back the enemy onslaught, having beaten off two major attacks. 26 of German tanks was destroyed, some of them exploded on minefields.
German motorized part in the offensive in the area of Belgorod.
On July 6, the German command continued the offensive in the northeast direction. The command of the front strengthened the army of Shumilov with several infantry divisions. The army also received the 31 th anti-tank brigade and the 114 th Guards anti-tank artillery regiment. The 7 and 6 junction of the Guards armies were reinforced with separate battalions of anti-tank rifles with the 131 and 132. The most persistent battles were in the Yastrebovo area, where the enemy attacked with a group of up to 70 tanks. The blow of the enemy took over the 1849-th IPTAP. By the end of the day, the artillery regiment beat off four major enemy attacks, knocking out 32 tanks and assault guns. In order to strengthen its defense, 1853-th IPTAP was advanced, it was put on the second echelon.
By July 7, the German command pulled up artillery, and in the morning strong artillery preparation began, at the same time German aircraft delivered strikes. After a powerful air raid and artillery preparation, tank units began to attack. The Germans attacked in two directions: an armored group of 100 machines attacked along the Reasonable River; another strike group of numbers up to 100 tanks struck a frontal strike from the height of 207,9 in the direction of Myasoedovo. The infantry could not bear the strike and retreated from Yastrebovo, leaving the artillery regiments uncovered. The leaked German infantry began to bombard the flanks and rear of the artillery positions. The gunners had to hard, repelling at the same time attacks of enemy tanks and infantry. However, a breakthrough on the left flank was stopped by the gunners of the 1853-I IPTAP standing in the second echelon. In addition, the units of the 94 Guards Rifle Division had approached. But in the evening the positions of the infantry were again processed by German artillery and aircraft. Arrows left Yastrebovo and Sevryukovo. The artillery regiments, which had already suffered heavy losses in the daytime battle, could not hold back the onslaught of German tanks and infantry, and withdrew with the battle, taking all the weapons, including the damaged ones.
German tanks in the battle for der. Maksimovka. Belgorod direction.
8-10 July, the German forces did not carry out active operations, the case was limited to local fights. However, on the night of July 11, the enemy struck a strong blow from the area of Melekhovo to the north and north-west, trying to break through to the Prokhorovka area. The units of the 9 th Guards and 305 th rifle divisions that held the defense in this direction did not withstand a powerful strike, and retreated. From the reserve Rates for strengthening the defense in this direction have transferred the 10-th anti-tank artillery brigade. Also pulled 1510 th IPTAP and a separate battalion of anti-tank guns. The 35 units of the Guards Rifle Corps and artillery units kept the enemy offensive.
Repairmen restore the wrecked tank. Field repair team of Lieutenant Schukin. July 1943
14 – 15 July, the German troops conducted the last major offensive on the south face of the Kursk bulge. 4-I tank army and the group "Kempf" delivered converging strikes on Shakhovo from the areas of Ozerovsky and Shchelokovo, in order to surround and destroy the Soviet troops defending in the triangle Teterevino, Druzhny, Shchelokovo. Here the defense was held by units of the 48 Infantry Corps of the 69 Army and the 2 Guards Tank Corps. German troops were able to surround some Soviet units. This was the last success of Army Group South in the Battle of Kursk. Great losses were avoided. Soviet troops retained most of the previously occupied positions, and even counterattacked (parts of the 2 Guards Corps of Burdein). The Germans could not destroy the surrounded Soviet units, they went to the location of their troops. The offensive of the German troops on the southern face of the Kursk Bulge was completed, under the cover of strong rear guards, the main forces of Army Group South began to retreat to their initial positions.
Brief summary of the defensive battle
- Operation "Citadel" ended in failure of both German army groups - "Center" and "South." On the north face, the Germans switched to defense on July 12, when the forces of the Western and Bryansk fronts launched the Oryol offensive operation (Operation Kutuzov). The failure of the 9 of the German army Model made senseless the continuation of the 4 tank army's attack on Kursk. The last offensive operation was carried out by the 4 Tank Army and the Kempf group 14 – 15 on July 1943. Then the command of Army Group "South" began to withdraw troops. The reserve 24 tank corps and the SS 2 tank corps withdrawn from the Kursk battle were sent to repel the attack of the Southern front on Mius and the South-West front strike (Izyum-Barvenkovskaya offensive).
- The troops of the Central, Voronezh and Steppe fronts, with the support of reserves. The stakes withstood the enemy strike. In the Battle of Kursk there was a turning point. The Red Army launched an offensive - on July 12 on the Oryol sector, on August 3 on the Belgorod-Kharkov one. The victory in the Battle of Kursk marked the final transition of the strategic initiative in the war to the USSR. The battle was the last attempt of the German military-political leadership to reverse the situation on the Eastern Front in their favor. As a result, the Battle of Kursk became a decisive turning point in the Great Patriotic War.
- The central front of 5-11 July lost 33,8 thousand people, 9-i Model Army - more than 20 thousand people. Voronezh and Steppe Fronts lost over the period from 5 to 23 July 1943 g. - 143,9 thousand people.
- The hope of the German command toweapon"Did not justify itself. The Soviet troops had enough money - anti-tank artillery, corps, army and artillery Stakes, minefields, tanks to stop and destroy the German "miracle tanks". The hope of exhaustion of the forces of the Red Army in the Battle of Kursk was not justified. In the direction of Oryol, Soviet troops launched an offensive on July 12 1943. But the Voronezh Front regained strength by the beginning of August and launched an offensive on the Belgorod-Kharkov direction.
- The experience of “deliberate defense” in the Battle of Kursk shows that any defense is flawed. The Soviet command, thanks to an operational pause of several months, was able to create a powerful defense, to form large reserves. But the German assault groups, skillfully interacting with aviation, artillery, tanks and infantry, broke through the defensive orders of the Soviet armies. Concentration of forces in a narrow area gave good results. This is also evidenced by losses, when Soviet troops, defending in strong positions, lost more people and equipment than the enemy.
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