Battle of Kursk


Chris Chuba wrote the following comment.  I am making it into a post. 

"I want to start a thread on the Battle of Kursk for few reasons.
1. While it's a difficult choice, I'd choose this as the greatest battle of WW2.
2. I have recently read three books that have altered my view on it.
3. I'd like to see if anyone on this board would like to contribute to this topic, including other book recommendations.

The three books are …
1. David Glantz, "When Titans Clashed" (more of an overview of Kursk, plus I read a paper by him)
2. Niklas Zetterling, "Kursk 1943: A statistical Analysis"
3. Valeriy Zamulin, "Demolishing the Myth …"

For those who are unfamiliar with Kursk, it was the Battle of the Bulge on the Eastern Front. It was the last, large scale offensive by the German army and the greatest concentration of German armor in a single offensive. After this battle the Red Army went over to the offensive and kept the initiative for the rest of the war.

Here is a 45 minute webisode (in English) produced by the Russians in 2102 which is a joy to watch

and a map depicting the original lines and high water mark of the battle

In the original narrative that I read many years ago, the Germans suffered massive armor losses by foolishly attacking well prepared Soviet defenses. Their defeat was a fate accompli before the attack even started.

In the revised version, the Germans had normal, but not crippling, operational losses. Their total loss of armor during the offensive phase was about 300 tanks and SPG's but they remained in capable fighting condition before abandoning the offensive on 7/17/43.

This is not to disparage the Red Army it was a solid tactical victory. The significance Kursk was that for the first time, the Red Army was able to stop a German offensive at the beginning instead of getting crushed and then having to recover like they did the previous two summers. Using a combination of numerical superiority and improved tactics, the Russians were able to force the Germans to retreat and then launch their own counter-attack. They shut down the German offensive in the north (aka the central front) after a short advance. In the south (aka the Voronezh front) they parried a more successful German advance long enough to hasten a German withdrawal on 7/17. A counter-offensive in the north by the Russians at Orel and a pending counter-offensive further south at the Mius River caused the Germans to abandon their operation.

This is by necessity a very terse overview, the Battle of Kursk has many controversies and details that I glossed over. I believe these controversies exist because the Red army had just crossed the threshold where they surpassed the German army if you factor in BOTH their superior numbers AND improved tactical skill. Man for man, the German army was still better, but the Red Army was in its ascendency, a year later they would be a much more effective army and achieve very decisive offensive victories. Whenever you have an inflection point, it creates opportunities to ponder the what if's. The what if's are interesting but to me the tide was rolling in and the outcome, while not exactly the one the Soviets has planned, was no accident.

Some observations about the battle:
1. While the Germans 'only' lost about 300 out of about 2,200 tanks/SPG's. The Red Army did manage to damage up to 1,000 more but the Germans were able to repair most of them in the field within a day or two. Unlike the battle of the Bulge, the Germans had all of their fancy logistic toys, like specialized field cranes and were well supplied with both fuel and ammunition. This surprised the Russians and may have contributed to their decision to try a head on attack at Prokhorovka as they wrongly thought the Germans were depleted.

2. By this time of the war, the T34 had gone from being a state of the art tank down to a good enough tank. The German tanks and SPG's outgunned T34 and could destroy it at any practical combat range. Meanwhile, the T34, in the worst case match up, could only destroy a Tiger tank by shooting at its side armor from a range of 500m and was totally ineffective against its frontal armor (as were just about all of the Red Army's field guns). To make matters worse, the Russians had a surprisingly large number of light T70 tanks, comprising about 30% of their tank force. In 1944 the Russians would significantly close this quality gap with their next generation armor but none of this was available in 1943 at Kursk.

3. David Glantz emphasizes the increased competency of the Red Army while Zamulin, a former Director of a museum at Prokhorovka, shows a view of an army in transition; giving examples of brilliant competence along with tragic mistakes. Fighting defensive battles against a competent enemy is tough and the Germans were at the top of their game. Zamulin mentions that the approach of the 5th guards tank army at Prokhorovka was the first example of a forced march by a Russian mechanized group, over a long distance, about 400 miles, that experienced very few losses from either mechanical failure or air attacks which were common in previous attempts. He believes this to be an overlooked accomplishment as they arrived just as the last defensive belt was being tested by the 2nd SS Panzer Corp.

4. Zetterling's main theme is that this was not a blood fest as compared to previous battles on the eastern front. This makes sense to me. The Russians were more professional. The Germans would encounter a well placed Russian strong point and stop, they don't do stupid attacks. The Germans would wait for combined arms, artillery, air force, etc. However, this gives the Russians an opportunity to either retreat in good order or reorganize their defense; this is less costly but slows down the pace of their advance.

5. That Prokhorovka itself was not the largest single tank battle in history, is not that interesting to me. It was a large tank engagement, as many as 400 Russian vs about 200 or less German tanks. Zamulin makes an additional point that much of it was against well prepared German anti-tank guns. Overall, Kursk was the largest concentration of German armor during the war.

6. The Germans had 146 Tiger tanks at Kursk, sure, you can disable its tracks and then drop artillery shells on top of them but not having field guns that can take it out directly from its front armor was a disadvantage that troubled the Russians. The impact of the Tigers was larger than their numbers wouldo indicate. A total of 10 were lost by 7/17, more would have been disabled but that number is hard to pin down. Zetterling dedicated his book on German losses, armor strength, etc, while it's a statistical analysis it is actually good reading. He has a knack for presenting the material in a very readable manner. I especially liked how he compares the matchup between the German vs. Russian armor in the field.

7. It's fair to say that both the Germans and the Russians surprised each other at Kursk. The German advance was much slower than in previous summers. In 1941, Army Group Center was able travel 140 miles in 11 days, they encircled Minsk and the Red Army lost 350k soldiers. At Kursk, they only penetrated 20 miles in 12 days in the southern sector, and cut off one rifle corp which inflicted 15k losses. However, things did not go as planned for the Red Army. They intended to pin the Germans in between the first and second defensive belts, wear them down, and then launch their counter-attack. Instead, the 2nd SS Pz corp was able to break through both defensive belts, test the last defensive belt, and the Russians were forced to call up their strategic reserve to prevent a break out but they were able to do it.

8. If anyone wants to discuss the Manstein controversy, feel free, I have an opinion but my post is already too long."  pl

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108 Responses to Battle of Kursk

  1. Trey N says:

    “A counter-offensive in the north by the Russians at Orel and a pending counter-offensive further south at the Mius River caused the Germans to abandon their operation.”
    The northern prong of the German offensive was stopped in its tracks by the Soviet defenses, but von Manstein was making still making progress in the south when Hitler called off the offensive. It wasn’t only the Mius area that worried Hitler; the Allied operations in the Mediterranean theater were also a cause for concern. The killing power of von Manstein’s wing was the SS panzer divisons, and Hitler transferred the II SS Panzer Korps HQ and the 1st SS Panzer Division from von Manstein to form part of Rommel’s Army Group B in north Italy.
    David Porter has a couple of very informative books about the opposing armor formations on the southern wing of the Kursk salient, one on the 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” and the other on the 5th Guards Tank Army:
    What is astounding is the kill ratio of German to Soviet AFVs, especially by the Tiger tanks. Given the utter debacle on the northern German pincer, it’s highly debatable (to put it mildly!) whether a “breakthrough” by von Manstein’s wing would have really mattered. His hindsight claims that he could have won the battle if Hitler had only allowed him a couple of more days appear to be highly dubious.
    In any case, Kursk definitely was the turning point of the war on the Eastern Front for Germany. Unlike after Stalingrad, the Germans never were able to regain the initiative after Kursk, and the remainder of the war in the East was one long series of unmitigated disasters from that point on.

  2. D says:

    I am ignorant about this topic and so have nothing to contribute, but would like to say that “random” posts like this are interesting and one of the reasons I enjoy reading SST.

  3. Chris Chuba says:

    1. Thanks for the book references, I was looking for good recommendations. Kursk is one of those things were the more I read about it the more I realize how little I know.
    2. Yeah, you are touching on what I meant by ‘the Manstein controversy. On 7/12, as you mentioned, Hitler basically called off the attack but gave Manstein another five days to chew up the Russians as much as possible. Hitler even let him keep the panzer division that he was transferring to Italy for that time.
    I could understand why Hitler would get cold feet and call off the attack on 7/12. His offensive is kind of going nowhere and time is not on the German’s side. While he did transfer one of the three divisions of the 2nd corp to Sicily, he allowed Manstein to keep them for another 5 days to try to chew up the Russians as much as possible. However, the thing that infuriated Manstein more was that Hitler transferred his reserve corp, the 24th with its 3 divisions south to the Mius river. This is why I am putting more weight on Russian activity there as opposed to the Sicily landing (3 vs 1 division).
    The 24th corp was the weakest of the Pz corps with 200 tanks and while the 6th guards tank army was battered after Prokhorovka they did have enough strength to take a defensive posture. Also, the 2nd corp was mostly busy trying to snare the 69th Rifle Corp. So it is hard for me to see how this reserve corp would have made much of a difference. Also, the Russians still has a huge amount of artillery and infantry around Prokhorovka and north of the Psel river on heights. They even had enough strength to attack Totenkopf’s bridgehead.
    However, I hate to underestimate either the Germans or the Russians, so this is without a doubt one of the most mentioned what-if’s.

  4. WILL says:

    Ahh, Operation Zitadel. I read von Manstein’s book, Lost Victories, about 25 years or so ago. I got the impression that Hitler tarried, and tarried. It was obvious to the Soviets that the Germans were going to try to pinch off the salient, and the extra time gave them the opportunity to reinforce in depth. Then, they employed a wider pincer movement on the German pincer movement. That is the trap of a double envelopment, that in itself can be enveloped. As a side note, the Americans were able to defeat the superior German tanks with the inferior Shermans by employing swarm tactics. I guess like a pack of dogs can bring down a tiger.
    Anyway, thanks for the post. Good Reading

  5. Bill Herschel says:

    Glantz is the anti-matter to Edward Bernays. If they had ever shaken hands, the known universe would have been disappeared.
    I read in detail his account of the Manchurian campaign by the Soviet army in August 1945. I then came across this article on Fox news of all places:
    which claims persuasively that it was the Soviet victory in Manchuria and not the atomic bomb that caused Japan to surrender. Which is why I mention Bernays.

  6. Bill Herschel says:

    And I reiterate that if you want to watch a magnificent movie, a work of art, about the Russian tank army advance on Germany at the end of WW II, rent “White Tiger” (the “Tiger” is a supernatural Tiger tank). It does not spoil the movie to say that the last scene one slowly comes to realize is Hitler being interviewed by the Devil in Hell. Russian with English subtitles. Directed by Karen Shakhnazarov, a master of Russian film-making. Released in 2012.

  7. Bill Herschel says:

    You don’t have to rent White Tiger. It’s on YouTube, like several other Shakhnazarov’s films. In HD.
    Watch the beginning if nothing else.

  8. Cortes says:

    Most war movies are a form of violence porn, in my opinion.
    “Come and See ” about violence in Belarus 1942-3 featuring cameos of Baltic police battalions as well as the usual gamut of Nazi bestialities is worth viewing.
    Again in my opinion.
    Private Ryan? Puhlease.

  9. Oren says:

    Have to recommend “Tigers in the Mud” as well by Otto Carius. Anyone on SST would appreciate and enjoy that book.

  10. Trey N says:

    Once the Soviets repudiated the 1941 nonaggression with Japan and invaded Manchuria, the Japanese became even more desperate to surrender (they had already been trying to for months, ironically enough by sending out peace feelers through the Soviets as intermediaries).
    The paramount consideration for the Japanese was the postwar status of the Emperor, and they believed that the Soviets would insist on deposing Hirohito and abolishing the office of Emperor if they took part in an invasion of the Japanese islands. The A bombs offered the Japanese military a ready excuse to their own people for the decision to surrender rather than commit national seppuku (the military didn’t give a damn about the ordinary people — 67 cities had been firebombed and largely destroyed over the previous 6 months, and the 8 Mar 1945 firestorm in Tokyo killed 80,000-100,00 people, more than died in the atomic bomb blast at Nagasaki).
    It was not concern for the utter destruction of their homeland that caused the Japanese elite to finally surrender, but the threat that the Soviets posed to the Imperial throne that was the deciding factor.

  11. SmoothieX12 says:

    Funny, I only now noticed that the picture of map is taken from The West Point’s Military History Series, Volume The Second World War, Military campaign Atlas.

  12. Mark Pyruz says:

    I can point to a brief discussion by by Dr. Richard Harrison titled “Architect of Soviet Victory in World War II” at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) YouTube channel:
    Harrison discusses Red Army’s leading operational theorist in the 1930s, Georgii Samoilovich Isserson contributions to Red Army “Deep Operation” theory and touches on its implications for Soviet WWII offensives, and also touches on Soviet operations on defense.
    I personally believe Glantz’s views on Operations Zitadelle, Kutuzov and Polkovodets Rumyantsev are persuasive.
    Also, what is generally overlooked is during Kursk campaign, air superiority transitioning to Soviet Air Force away from Luftwaffe.
    With respect as always, Colonel, I would not qualify the Kursk campaign as a Soviet tactical victory, as the result offered USSR with a strategic success that permanently passed the strategic initiative over to the Red Army. As Glantz states, after Kursk the ultimate war outcome for a Soviet total victory was determined.
    Something else, I agree with Glantz that in certain ways, Zhukov’s handling of Red Army forces reminds one of Gen. Grant during the Civil War.
    Here are two more references for very brief materials offered by Col. Glantz:
    The Soviet-German War 1941-1945: Myths and Realities: A Survey Essay (PDF)
    The Soviet-German War 1941-1945: Myths and Realities: Discussion at US Army War College

  13. Trey N says:

    “Hitler tarried, and tarried”
    He was waiting for the new Panther tanks to be available in numbers for the offensive. They were supposed to be delivered to the front in the spring, but design/development/production problems kept delaying their deployment. At least when they finally did make it into the war, the Panthers proved to be a very good AFV (unlike the complete fiasco of the Ferdinands on the northern flank of the salient).

  14. Alexey says:

    I don’t know. I usually stay away from any modern movies about WWII. After all there is plenty of old ones made by people who actually fought there.
    Like this one (can’t find subtitled on youtube):
    Or on a lighter (somewhat) note this one:
    Or this classic, victim of recent remake for no one knows what reason:
    Sorry for so many links but after your comment got me thinking about all the war movies made my childhood.

  15. Bill H says:

    Yes, very much so. There is a wealth of experience and wisdom here.

  16. Kursk always worthy of more analysis IMO. Why? Still the largest event for armored warfare ever?

  17. Ulenspiegel says:

    While the T-34 has lost most of its edge against some German tanks, it should be clear that many tanks were still Panzer III and most of the German Panzer IV still had the short gun, i.e. were technically inferior to the T-34.
    Of the 200 Panther only 40 were in action at the same time due to mechanical issues.
    The high Soviet tank losses were inflicted by a relatively small number of German tanks, here the most important contribution came very likely from the few Tigers (around 140).
    A very deteailled discussion is found in Fieser et al. “Germany and the Second World War” Volume 8, or if you have the chance to visit the Panzermuseum in Munster in a very balanced exhibition on Kursk there.
    BTW: The Prokhorovka battle was a Soviet propaganda invention, the attacking tanks of the 5th Guard army were stopped by a SOVIET anti tank trench and the German tanks were in stationary positions and killed with very small own losses many of the attacking tanks. Soviet sources admit around 200 destroyed tanks, the SS Leibstandarte reported 3 losses.

  18. LondonBob says:

    Thanks to ULTRA Zhukov knew exactly when, where and how the Germans were to attack the salient allowing Zhukov plenty of time to organise his defences and to place his reserves appropriately.
    Arguably Rommel’s performance in North Africa was greatly dependent on the intercepts from Brevet Colonel Bonner Frank Fellers in Alexandria and his detailed reports on Allied forces that he sent to the States.

  19. Allen Thomson says:

    > fate accompli
    For a malapropism, that’s highly appropriate!

  20. SmoothieX12 says:

    Glantz and House delivered to English-speakers in their magnificent “The Battle Of Kursk” what was known in USSR for a long time. Battle Of Kursk delivered the end of Blitzkrieg as operational concept, doctrine, what have you. Considering what influence and effect Blitzkrieg had on Europe prior to Kursk (and the influence was immense, especially in military circles) the outcome of Zitadelle was more than just military victory. Wehrmacht went into Zitadelle still in the status of super team which accidentally lost couple of matches in the tourney. As Mollie Panter Downes of New Yorker wrote in her London War Notes, people of England felt uneasy remaining on the sidelines while observing how their friend (USSR) was fighting a colossal battle around Kursk. (Sadly some SOB borrowed this book from me and never returned it and I don’t remember now exactly who this SOB is). People knew then what was the significance of this battle.

  21. rjj says:

    it an inspired typo. the unknown knowns emerging into the known.

  22. Peter Reichard says:

    My understanding is that the Lucy spy ring gave the entire German plan to the Russians right down to D-day, H-hour and M-minute. Can anyone confirm that this is true? If so it would have had an enormous if not decisive influence on the battle.

  23. LeaNder says:

    By accident I stumbled across “Saving Private Ryan” on TV not too long ago. Missing a bit at the start. It no doubt is 100% Hollywood. Leave the least to chance. It no doubt works perfect in character and plot development. Imagine they had gone through all the troubles but the Ryan they had to pick up and bring back home was the absolute opposite type of recruit? But yes, I have no doubt that in reality the superiors in the WWII secnario didn’t quite have the “fill in your correct military term” men available to look for the third/only surviving son.
    “Come and See”, I’ll keep that in mind.
    I’ll try to keep that in mind.

  24. F5 F5 F5 says:

    Colonel, this is very much off-topic but have you ever considered starting a podcast?
    I would absolutely love to hear you and other contributors discuss current issues, as well as totally non-current “green books” topics.
    It doesn’t need to be all bells and whistles. Even a simple recorded Livestream would do me. Just you and a regular contributor discussing current events, or you and people like Robert Doughty, or David Stahel discussing Barbarossa or Fall Gelb.
    If this house were a democracy I would stand up and say yea to this, but it’s really all up to you. (please? pretty please?)

  25. I think this discussion should have particular interest for Americans because of a clear analogy to the Battle of Gettysburg. The strategic problems faced by Germany and the Confederacy were a multi front war, the opposing forces increasing in strength, resources dwindling, and time running out. For the Confederacy, the course of action was to raise the Army of Northern Virginia to its peak strength and move north for a decisive engagement. The Germans made a terrific effort to muster resources in equipment and personnel for a decisive battle at Kursk. The results were similar.
    From reading the various comments, I suppose that the “death ride of the 4th Panzer Army” was not as dramatic as described in Alan Clark’s book.
    By the way, I have been accused of seeing analogies and metaphors where none may exist.

  26. John Hisler says:

    I read that the Russians had 3 months to prepare their defensive positions since Hitler was waiting for more Tigers .The allies were passing on the intelligence and the Russians knew what the Germans were up to since the British had broken the German codes previously .The Russians had built 5 defensive circles in front of their position .The SS led the advance and in the north they broke through all 5 lines while making less progress in the south .I understood that Hitler lost his nerve and ordered a withdrawal after the allies had landed in Sicily but Mantsein wanted to continue since he believed they could still win the battle . .

  27. Alexey says:

    Actually many argue that largest tank battle happened in the very beginning days of war in West Ukraine.

  28. SmoothieX12 says:

    Red Capella also played a very large role, albeit it is speculated that LUCY was used by British to pass info through them. Having said that, knowing OKW’s MO it was not such a big stretch to assume that Hitler would try to use pincers at Kursk bulge. In fact, it was almost inviting for Wehrmacht to try do so in generally good tank terrain. As I also stated before not for once–one can not discount the influence of huge egos in Nazi military machine and their frustration with the outcome of Stalingrad which many considered still to be a victory which was attained without “proper”, almost set-piece, setup. Many loved to point out that Winter was a decisive factor at Stalingrad, while Zitadelle was originally planned for May. Well, in the end Kursk was fought in Wehrmacht’s favorite season and terrain. One thing, however, many forget here–Battle of Kursk also saw one of the largest air battles in history.

  29. Ulenspiegel says:

    The first 15 minutes of “Save Private Ryan” were extremly impressive and quite accurate, this according to people who fought in France 1944.

  30. rjj says:

    very few of the Russian films before 200? (!!) were boychik flics or codpiece rippers.

  31. Ulenspiegel says:

    Here one could come to the opposite conclusion: 🙂
    While the Panther was 1944 very likely the best tank, at Kurk the 200 Panther made too much problems and destroyed only around 250 Soviet tanks.
    While the Ferdinand design was clearly inferior in comparison with the Panther, the two heavy tank destroyer bats with 45 Ferdinands each counted for more than 400 kills. 🙂

  32. Ulenspiegel says:

    Again, the German side of Kursk is discussed in depth in the Volume 8 of “Germany and the Second World War” (Bundeswehr Military Historical Department), the hard cover versions come usually with a seperate map folder and are IMHO worth each Euro. However, I do not know if there is already an English version of volume 8 available.
    Chris Lawrence from Dupuy Institute has written a book on Kursk, it was publishes October 2015. Title is “Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka” around 1600 pages, the author is good IMHO.

  33. SmoothieX12 says:

    “of Baltic police battalions”
    Actually, Ukrainian.

  34. Trey N says:

    Rommel received a double blow to his intelligence section around the start of El Alamein. Strategically, his source Fellers that you mention was recalled at the end of June 1942. Tactically, his signals unit was captured near the coast when an Allied raid broke through the Italian lines and bagged them. The British had been very careless with their wireless communications on the battlefield, and the German sigint unit was able to intercept their orders and relay the information to Rommel in a timely manner. When Rommel thus went “blind”, his remarkable string of victories in North Africa came to an end (yes, the tactical situation and material inferiority were decidedly against him, but he had repeatedly overcome long odds before in his desert campaign).
    Here’s a good summary of the Fellers fiasco:
    I’ve believed for years that the British fed the Soviets ULTRA intelligence through “Lucy”, an agent based in Switzerland who told the Soviets that his source was a disaffected officer of the OKW in Berlin. I find it more than curious that Lucy went silent soon after Kursk. I think it’s because the British realized at that point that Germany’s defeat was inevitable and 1. the Soviets no longer needed assistance to stay in the war (memories of 1917 still haunted the British) 2. Churchill was in a race to beat Stalin to the Balkans and Central Europe (a race the Americans weren’t the least interested in running).

  35. Trey N says:

    Interesting comparison.
    So, to further the idea, would you equate Prokhorovka with Pickett’s Charge??

  36. Trey N says:

    Hitler was waiting for the Panther tank to be produced and delivered to the front, not the Tiger (rather odd that the Mark VI Tiger was in action in 1942, months before the Mark V Panther).
    And it was just the opposite: the northern pincer, commanded by General Walter Model, was virtually stopped in its tracks by the Soviet defenses and the attack called off after only a week when the Soviets launched their own counteroffensive. Von Manstein’s southern attack was much more successful, though it still fell short of a breakthrough.

  37. Trey N says:

    I completely agree. I was just curious as to how far WF was willing to take his idea of comparing the two.
    I don’t which was more tragic, Franklin or Malvern Hill. Two attacks that should never have been ordered, each resulting in 5,000-6,000 Confederate casualties for no good purpose whatsoever. Two sad, sad days for many Southern families.

  38. LeaNder says:

    “Anyone on SST would appreciate and enjoy that book.”
    I won’t even bother to amend his Wikipedia entry in English:

  39. turcopolier says:

    Trey N
    Franklin – When a division commander (Cleburne) is found dead inside enemy lines with a rifle and bayonet in his hands and half a dozen dead blue grunts around him you know this was one hell of a fight. his men attacked six times. One of them said later that when the order did not come to stop they knew he was dead. pl

  40. Trey N says:

    My bad — “when the Panthers finally got into the war” was a little too vague….
    I was trying to refer to the longer-term success of these two AFVs. The Panther had myriad design flaws that badly affected initial performance at Kursk, as you noted, but most of these (by no means all!) were eventually worked out, and it became one of the best tanks of WW II.
    The Ferdinand’s debut at Kursk was so problematic that all surviving vehicles were recalled to Germany and modified so extensively that they were given a new name, the Elefant. Only 91 of the Ferdinands were built; 48 of the 50 Kursk survivors were converted to Elefants. And that was it. Less than 100 of *anything* built during the entire war doesn’t exactly scream “rousing success!”
    Kursk was definitely the high point of the war for this machine. The Elefants were sent to Italy after their refit, and never came close to achieving anything like the results they claimed at Kursk.
    (And yes, only 91 Ferdinands were built because these were the chassis that Porsche was stuck with after losing out on the Tiger design bidding, and he had to use them for something. Still, if the Ferdinand had proven to be worth a damn, it would have been put into large-scale production. It was merely an attempt to salvage something from a flop, that itself turned into another flop…).

  41. Trey N says:

    I consider Cleburne to be the best Confederate commander at any level west of the Appalachians (Forrest excepted), and one of the best division commanders in the war.
    He was one of five Confederate generals killed in the assault at Franklin. For years a story circulated that all five had been laid out together on the porch of a house by the battlefield, but that has been disproven:
    Still, a charge as grand as that of Lee’s men that 3rd day at Gettysburg — and with the same bitter result….

  42. Kunuri says:

    Thank you all, what a great subject, I have been fascinated with this particular part of the WWII since I was a little boy, and still am in all of its aspects, Battle of the Kursk being on top of the list only followed by the Battle of the Bulge. My enthusiasm for the subject as an adolescent landed me a scholarship that changed my life. No, not in history, or scholarship per se, but the sheer enthusiasm I put into it impressed the committee and moved me above my peers. I was 14.
    Information and little clues here on this site helped me expand my base of knowledge from sources and opinions I trust here.
    I never came close to an actual military career, art and design actually, but reading and immersing one’s self in this stuff from afar actually gives an insight to human condition maybe more than Shakespeare or Fromm.
    And specifically Mr. Chris Chuba, thank you for taking time to compose and post your article here.

  43. Kunuri says:

    Shocking movie, from Production Design point of view, more accurate than SPR. To me, it is like Tarkovsky meets John Carpenter meets Eisenstein. Very disturbing to watch, like morbid curiosity rolled into porn.

  44. Kunuri says:

    I and my war nerd friends watched the first show on opening day together, as we did all Star Wars episodes. We were aghast, stupefied and shaken. We all had fathers or grandfathers who were in war, we were disquieted afterwards and our romantic notions of war went down a notch.

  45. Chris Chuba says:

    Ulenspiegel, at Kursk, I do believe that the Pz IV was already up gunned by then, Zetterling makes that claim. Its front armor thickness was comparable to a Tiger’s side armor, so a T34 would have to get within 500m to crack it. It’s side armor was relatively thin, so a T34 could light it up like a Christmas Tree. Also, the Germans had good SPG’s, like the Stug with a gun that could handle the T34. The T34 was better than an SPG in general, all I said was that the German armor had guns that could handle the T34. In 1944, the T34-85 was a very good upgrade but at Kursk the Germans had about as good a matchup as they were ever going to get during the war.
    Regarding the anti-tank ditch, Valeriy Zamulin dissects the Russian attack at Prokhorovka and it was a symptom of a larger problem. The attack was rushed by the Strategic Command and it violated every standing Red Army tank doctrine developed up to that point. The 6th Guards TA wasn’t told about the anti-tank ditch. Also, the Germans knew about the presence of the reserve force and were prepared to meet the Russian attack with a well prepared system of anti-tank guns. And yes, Rotmistrov’s account is largely fictional. According to Zamulin by 7/16 the whole of the 6th Guards TA had lost about 300 out of 400 tanks/SPG’s but had another 240 en route.

  46. Chris Chuba says:

    Thanks to everyone for adding references and your comments. I’m here to learn.
    Regarding the comparison to Brody 41, Kursk was clearly the largest concentration of GERMAN armor in any one engagement of the war and it was certainly more artfully conducted by both sides. It is interesting to note that at Brody the Red Army did suffer a large attrition moving their armored forces due to logistic, mechanical problems as well as air attacks; at Kursk they got this right.
    Zhukov commented in his auto-biography about Russian preparations at Kursk and to paraphrase he basically says, ‘we’re not idiots, Manstein just attacked us in that same location in March, there is an obvious salient that would shorten their lines and threaten Moscow again and German losses of manpower would imply a smaller scale operation than the previous two summers.’ I read in other places that British intelligence had told the Russians about the preparations but I’m inclined to believe Zhukov’s reasoning on this one. Yeah, the attack was delayed but April and early May is Rasputitsa (raining season) which would have made an attack then difficult. Certainly, the Germans could have attacked in June or late May. This is another one of the what-if’s.
    Many argue the delay helped the Red Army because they were able to accumulate artillery and anti-tank guns from other sectors and prepare their defenses. This is all true. But the delay also allowed the Germans to get a few more Tigers and to rest, train and refit their infantry.
    I’m going to promote this Russian episode one more time …
    It raises many of these issues and at Kursk you can cut the tension with a knife. It’s only 45 minutes and the production quality is superb. It’s actually fun to watch, especially by history channel standards.

  47. Chris Chuba says:

    Mark Pyruz, good point about the air force. There is just so much information.
    The Germans started out with air superiority and it was crucial in the breaching of the first two defensive belts. However, their sortie rate steadily declined. It was here that the Red Army’s top scoring ace, Ivan Kozhedub, got his first two victories flying an La-5 which was comparable in performance to the German aircraft. This was symbolic. Now the Red Army had time to train their pilots on modern aircraft and would gradually gain air superiority. However, Luftwaffe did get their pound of flesh.
    This was also the first battle where the Sturmovik (IL-2) was armed with mini-PTAB’s which dropped hundreds of bomblets designed to penetrate the thin top armor of German tanks as opposed to dropping one or two large bombs that were hard to target. The IL-2 did continue to use rockets as well as the PTAB’s.

  48. Thirdeye says:

    Rudolf Roessler (Lucy) was eventually silenced by the Swiss in order to fulfill their obligations under neutrality. The Germans conveyed to the Swiss that they were homing in on Zurich as a node of intelligence leaks to the Soviets. Swiss authorities had no choice but to comply if they didn’t want to risk war.

  49. Ulenspiegel says:

    No dispute that the Elefant was a conceptional failure. However, in the Kursk context these tanks performed better than the Panthers, which showed there quality the next year, when the mechanical issues were ironed out and the crews had a good idea how to use their tanks.
    Gedankenexperiment: If the front units had one or two of the Panzer IV with long 75 mm gun for each Panther/Elefant, the impact would have been higher IMHO, the German production philosophy was strange.

  50. Ulenspiegel says:

    “Ulenspiegel, at Kursk, I do believe that the Pz IV was already up gunned by then, Zetterling makes that claim.”
    Some were up-gunned, however, 2/3 of the German tanks were either Panzer III (long 50 mm gun) or Panzer IV with the short 75 mm, this according to Panzermuseum Munster and IIRC Frieser.
    Before Kursk only 730 Panzer IV long/H were produced, some were still in training units, others had already been lost. It is more likely that less than 30% of the German 2500 Tanks were better than the T34.

  51. Trey N.,
    Perhaps an analogy too far. Clark’s account, in “Barbarossa” is sketchy and he didn’t address Prokhorovka by name. However, he described the attack by 600 tanks of 4th Panzer Army on July 12th as a “death ride”, which sounds a something like Pickett’s Charge. From information posted here, that is an exaggeration.

  52. LeaNder says:

    short note Ulenspiegel.
    Spielberg is a master, and “Saving Private Ryan” is no doubt a pretty good movie. When I zapped myself into the film, I hadn’t even intended to watch anything. But it is very, very well done. Thus in itself, it suggests it should be watched from the start.
    But “according to people who fought in France”, wasn’t that said of “The Longest Day Too”. Among us Germans, Bernhard Wicki’s Die Brücke?

  53. turcopolier says:

    “Saving Private Ryan” is a much better film than “The Longest Day” which is basically rather cartoonlike. The TV series “Band of Brothers” is well worth watching throughout. I saw “Die Brucke” long ago and thought it excellent. pl

  54. Trey N says:

    “the German production philosophy was strange.”
    It certainly was! From planes to tanks to whatever, they were greatly over-engineered. A comparison of the US/Soviet methods of production vs the German method best illustrates what I mean: while the Allies concentrated on mass production of a relatively few models with relatively few upgrades over time, the German produced myriad variations with myriad upgrades of their planes and AFVs. Not only did this slow production, it resulted in a nightmare for front line repair units trying to obtain spare parts.
    “the crews had a good idea how to use their tanks.” Yep. Too bad that advantage was often negated by Hitler’s penchant for raising new units rather than providing replacements of men and machines for veteran units. One of the best examples of this I’ve come across was a quote from a veteran (of the 15th PzGr Div?)on the Western front in 1944. Hitler had ordered the formation of several panzer brigades from the latest production run of new tanks, which unfortunately were also manned by newly trained crews. The vet watched in horrified disbelief as one new brigade went into action with them and was promptly shot all to hell. He was still moaning in disgust in his memoirs about what he and his fellows could have accomplished with those AFVs instead of seeing them wasted in the hands of the inexperienced novices.

  55. Trey N says:

    Thanks for the heads up! It’s been more than a few years since I was reading up on all the various intelligence aspects of the war (Magic, Ultra, the Pearl Harbor intercepts, Operations XX and Mincemeat, etc etc ad infinitum). The small book about Lucy that I read did not know of (or at least did not mention) his source/s. I figured they were from British Ultra for the reasons I gave above, but checking with wiki just now it says the sources really were German officers in the OKW. What a coincidence that Lucy was able to provide intel to the Soviets for over two years, and just when they needed it the most, and then was shut down just after the turning point of the war in the East…..

  56. Tidewater says:

    Tidewater to Peter Reichard and All,
    Like others here I have long had the opinion about the Lucy network that is put forward in Anthony Read’s and David Fisher’s “Colonel Z.” This book came out in 1986. I think it is reliably sourced from those who knew and worked for Lt. Col. Claude Dansey. In a capsule: in 1936 Dansey went looking for a volunteer to infiltrate the British Battallion of the International Brigade and found him in the person of Alexander Allan Foote, an enlisted man, in the RAF. It does not seem to be known exactly what information Foote gave Dansey about the UK volunteers. He apparently came out of Spain a member of the Soviet GRU. When WWII broke out, Foote became “Jim” in the Lucy network. He was their best radio operator. “Jim” was sending coded messages to “Vera” and her “Director” in Moscow. His boss was “Rado.”
    There are four theories, it seems, about how the Lucy network evolved and played out. The thing was surprisingly improvised, and has been likened unto a carousel, and noone knows exactly when, where, or how many of the players got on or off. Round it went: the theories are all problematic. I continue to focus on “Jim.” My theory is that “Jim” knew too much, or had guessed too much, as far as the British were concerned, even if he was their own double agent. Because the Lucy net was distributing the great Ultra secrets, how could “Jim”, assuming he survived, be allowed to talk about what he had done or be allowed any recognition? Even if what he sent might have been coded. When “Jim” was either exfiltrated or got himself out of East Berlin in 1947, or thereabouts, he was given very special treatment by SIS. As, for example, an RAF pay book. He was also flown back into RAF Northolt, very special treatment, I am guessing, in order to keep him from the inevitable interrogation he would have gotten at any British channel port, which would have put him in jail for a year or more until he was sorted out. (And how do you sort out the question of Ultra that is now glued to him?) It seems to me that what SIS was doing is allowing this “defector” a great deal of freedom to move about normally in British society, a freedom that would not ordinarily be given, and SIS is doing this in blatant deception of other British security forces. It might be remembered that even Arthur Koestler did some time at Pentonville before he was released.
    So the cover story for “Jim” would have to be that he had been a hard-core Communist with the Lucy net who had gotten his start in what was in reality a Communist organization, the International Brigade, behind its idealistic face, but who had absolutely no connection with SIS or with Dansey in the years before his defection and until his defection post-war. And SIS did make some efforts over time to help Foote after this. Including helping get his book published to get him some money. And “Jim” definitely seems to have understood his position and played the game to the hilt. His book is said to be full of little necessary glitches and vague in certain important areas.
    What I find interesting is that British National Archives at Kew, near Richmond, have a good deal of information about Foote, which can be viewed, for a fee, and my theory here is that this information, while interesting about Spain, probably corroborates the post-war cover story, and no more, as does his closely vetted book. SIS knew “Jim” had been treated shabbily. Dansey, I suspect, might have proffered a little help through others. He had retired immediately after the war. Dansey was a very strange and very interesting man who had come out of WWI with some of the highest of decorations.
    Now Wiki covers what the Gestapo etc. called the “Black Orchestra” a counterpoint to the “Red Orchestra”. These were high-ranking German officers in the Resistence against Hitler. They are one part of the Lucy network. They functioned through “Lucy”, but he is not likely to have known who they were, himself, with the exception of some old friends who help set it up, including apparently with German enigma machines. SIS seems to have wanted them to remain unknown. Who they were remains problematic, though surely some of them were executed after the 20th July conspiracy.
    The CIA approved for release in 2014 a memoir by someone who had met Rado, “Jim’s” boss, in 1952. It is titled: “Sandor Rado: the Jovial and Worldly Spy.” In this article the writer presents his doubts about the Read and Fisher theory of the case in “Colonel Z.” I find something intriguing in this 1986 article. There seems to be a bit of a discontinuity in this johnny-come-lately’s general doubt and skepticism that Ultra could have been fed by SIS through “Jim” to Moscow. He writes: “Once the Second World War broke out, Rado had to acquire radio communications. [And neutral Switzerland was alert to the question of transmitters.] His search for communications and sources soon led him to Alexander Allan Foote who had been living in Switzerland as an expatriate Briton of independent means. Foote, who became Rado’s assistant, had been involved with British intelligence, mainly under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Claude Dansey. [The writer adds a footnote that Dansey was “totally incompetent” and that there is a review in the same issue of Studies in Intelligence (Volume 30, Spring, 1986) about a book written about Dansey (perhaps Colonel Z?) which tears Dansey to pices.
    The writer goes on: “Rado acquired, though Foote’s efforts, a radio transmitter and operators. Regular and considerable intelligence then began to flow to Moscow. There was some antagonism between Rado and Foote for control of Soviet intelligence activity in Switzerland.”
    I find this fascinating! The fox is in the chicken coop! Can’t he see that? I cannot help wondering what were the Studies writer’s sources that Foote, who was a very poor man, was living as a Briton of independent means and was the one who provided the radios. It is clear that “Jim” was the one who “found” Rado, when Vera sent Rado out as a late replacement to head the network. Dansey had “Jim” there and waiting. Outside of the sources of the players at the time, including Lt. Col. J.M. Langley, who would write “Fight Another Day”, this Studies writer provides one of the few acknowledgments (that I know of, and I don’t know much) from an intelligence organization other than the British that “Jim” and Dansey were connected. And if you are to admit that “Jim” and Dansey are connected, do you not have a problem saying that Dansey was incompetent? It would seem to me that Dansey is a Control of the Lucy network, equal or superior to Moscow, and Moscow Centre doesn’t know this, even to the very end, in 1943, when German pressure forced the Swiss reluctantly to shut it down. (That “Jim” was eventually determined to be a double agent by Moscow can apparently be found in the Mitrokhin documents.)
    The Studies writer states that through early 1943 Rado was under continuous pressure from Moscow to equal past successes. “Finally, in April 1943, Dora was able to provide the Moscow Center with vital intelligence concerning the German salient at Kursk.”
    And the American spook goes on to continue to say, “The argument that the British employed the Dora network (through Foote) with intelligence derived from ULTRA intercepts in order to ensure that the material reached the Soviets without compromising the real source is difficult to sustain.” [!!!!] “Some of the intelligence could have originated from ULTRA and certainly much of the Kursk-related data transmitted by Rado [my caps] ARE DIFFICULT TO RELATE TO ANOTHER SOURCE. This argument is supported by the strange career of Foote, his lengthy relationship with Colonel Dansey, and the support and government employment afforded Foote when he returned to Britain. The British established a [second one, first having failed because of Stalin’s suspicions?] UK-Soviet liason mission in Moscow after the Kursk battle and if Dora had been utilized as a conduit earlier, certainly with the liason mission functioning, it was no longer necessary to use Rado/Foote as a channel. [Couldn’t, they were busted!!!] There is really no hard evidence to support the ULTRA theory, plausible though it may be.”
    Again: What were this American’s sources on “the lengthy relationship” with Colonel Dansey; on Foote’s income and way of life in Switzerland in the beginning of the Lucy net; on Foote’s supplying the radio transmitters; on Foote’s exit from Berlin and reappearance, after at least five years, in Britain? Foote himself, in his book? Surely he needs to give some sources, particularly about why he thinks Foote/Dansey were connected. But he does grudgingly acknowledge that they were connected! (For some people, including the Soviets, that would be quite enough. That Foote went back to Moscow and passed an interrogation is remarkable.)
    That there is no hard evidence is what Dansey intended. Always. I would like to see the Mitrokhin file’s evaluation. “Vera”,a brilliant, young Jewish woman, whose father, brother, and husband had been executed, herself would be ‘disappeared’ in 1947,or so. As would the “Director.” [What she thinking at the end? She had served loyally and well, and her messages are said to be distinguishable by their ardent Marxism.]
    I remember–perhaps I remember this incorrectly– that there was a night attack by a large, elite unit of SS at Kursk in the opening phases of the battle. Something went completely wrong. The unit was almost completely destroyed. I have always assumed that the Russians knew the date of the attack, the time of the attack, who was coming, and the geographical coordinates where the attack was intended.
    I have not changed my mind about this.

  57. Neil R says:

    Chris Chuba and Ulenspiegel:
    It’s interesting to compare caliber, armor width/slope, and penetration physics etc, but armored combat isn’t static gunnery or a personal duel with pistols. I keep reading about counterfactual possibilities on if the Germans had perhaps just another 200 Panthers or perhaps six more schwere Panzer-abteilungen of Tigers, perhaps it could’ve made a difference. IMO none of that would’ve mattered much. The Germans were “outgunned” and in many cases “outarmored” IF you compare the bulk of their tank inventory in winter of 1941 AND in 1942. Yet they often prosecuted offensive actions at tactical level with great success.
    You’re overlooking 1) crew quality, 2) the importance of situational awareness either due to crew size and/or tank design, 3) superior coordination and mutual support within and across units due to radio communication, and most importantly IMO 4) Auftragstaktik. We can add differences in combat recovery of vehicles, close air support coordination, artillery response time and fire adjustment, etc as well.
    I hesitated to join the discussion, because I still don’t have a firm grasp of what the “truth” might have been (or however one might get close enough to it on this battle). Simply there wasn’t much in the way of what we might call after action review down to detail to get a sense of what really did happen at lower tactical level. And then there are certain “facts” that lead me to doubt the veracity of some accounts such as a 400 miles road march with minimal breakdown of vehicles. The US Army tested the V-2 engine at Aberdeen in 1942 *with Soviet mechanics* and the endurance to overhaul was about 100 hours. And IIRC Stalin himself had taken notice of T-34’s automotive unreliability over long distance. And there were German units that used captured T-34s for a short period of time. They all confirmed what the Army found out at Aberdeen namely the transmission was terrible. Maybe the Russians replaced engine packs and transmission of all their T-34s every 300 kms or so. Or maybe someone who didn’t want want a trip to a penal battalion fudged the numbers. But obviously there are certain things about this particular battle that I will never know with real degree of certainty.
    The German advantage up until this point in the war had been that they could usually win a battle of movement (e.g., the Donets campaign only months earlier or Operation Mars). Many times they would prevail in meeting engagements, because they adjusted faster than their adversary. As many have often stated time is the most precious commodity in battle. What made the difference for the Soviets at the Kursk salient was they effectively used the time and leveraged terrain to force the Germans into a positional battle of attrition.
    SmoothieX12 pointed out the real significance of this battle above. Defense-in-depth is one major way to counter “Blitzkrieg” or whatever one might call the Heer’s operational art up until that point. And given the time needed to prepare physical defense, and far more important IMO the training of Russian infantry that lacked effective personal anti-tank weapons, the Red Army won the battle before July 5th IMO. That extra time allowed Red Army units to prepare minefields, set up fire sacks, preregister artillery, corset infantry with AT guns, etc. And while the Panzerwaffe was certainly highly capable at the time, in trying to break through successive layers of well-coordinated defense, most units would run out of engineers and infantry even if they were allotted inordinately high level of indirect support. Prepared defenses allowed the Red Army to buy time during the battle to direct reserves at decisive points even as each layer attrited German formations.
    However Hitler probably should’ve listened Guderian and saved the Panzerwaffe for mobile defense in the east if he wanted to lengthen the war by a year or two. Or an interesting counterfactual could be what would’ve happened had Stalin not heeded his generals and decided to order an offensive to “spoil” the expected German offensive to clear the salient. As Patton once said it takes 18 years to grow an infantryman or a tanker. It didn’t take that much time or resources to produce a tank.
    BTW, Chris Chuba a Sturmgeschutz or whatever Soviet “Cat Killers” you were thinking of had limited utility in offense unless they were used for infantry support in situations where enemy tanks weren’t around. Even in defense they had limits. Gun caliber/velocity really doesn’t matter if you can’t put steel on target due to insufficient optics, poor tank commander/gunner teams and the lack of turret traverse. Or in the case of one of Hitler’s favorite toys, the Elefant lacked secondary armaments and had insufficient situational awareness to survive once they were separated from infantry support. And despite Panther’s reputation as perhaps the best tank of WWII, the early model turret had a shot trap below the mantle. And some brave Red Army infantrymen with anti-tank rifles figured it out at some point during the battle except we don’t really have a translation of that in English.

  58. Chris Chuba says:

    “It is more likely that less than 30% of the German 2500 Tanks were better than the T34.”
    Ulenspiegel, you make a good point and I perhaps I over stated things but my main point was this.
    In 1941, the T34 was without a doubt king of the hill but by 1943 the Germans had made numerous upgrades to their armor while the Russians had not deployed anything new other than a tiny number of SU-152’s. In 1944 the Soviets finally started producing their next generation armor and closed the gap again. So all things considered, from an equipment point of view this was probably as good as time as any to get into a tank slugfest with the Red Army.
    In 1941, none of the German tanks or standard anti-tank guns were effective against the T34, only the 88mm AA/artillery piece. By 1943 now we have hundreds of German tanks that can destroy the T34. Even the lowly Pz III was up gunned to where it could destroy the T34 on the side at 1000m or the front at very close range. I totally agree that the T34 was better than the Pz III but at least the up gunned Pz III was now more of a threat.
    Now 1944 had some really interesting developments. The T34/85 could now destroy a Tiger from the front at 800m and at the side at any practical range. It could also destroy the Panther at the side but not the front. The Germans improved the Panther’s front armor making it virtually indestructible. However, the Russians also started making the IS-2 heavy tank with the 122m gun as well as the ISU-152, the tank destroyer with the IS chassis and 152 Howitzer. The ISU-152 could destroy just about anything on tracks or certainly kill everyone inside of it from the force of the concussion.
    I agree that the Panther was the best tank of the war but it looks like Germany was able to make about 6k of them vs the Russians making 22k T34-85’s. One last thing about the T34-85, with the larger, radio equipped turret, the tank commander could now concentrate on situational awareness instead of worrying about operating the main gun or waving signaling flags. Little things like that can make a big difference.

  59. Chris Chuba says:

    Has anybody else seen the Sam Peckinpah movie ‘Cross of Iron’?
    I thought it had some flashes of brilliance, it also featured a scene where T34’s attack a German fortification. It had a gritty look to it.

  60. Chris Chuba says:

    “According to Zamulin by 7/16 the whole of the 6th Guards TA had lost about 300 out of 400 tanks/SPG’s but had another 240 en route.”
    I knew I messed up this number.
    1. The 6th Guards TA here includes all of the local front units that were put under its command, pg 537 Zamulin.
    2. By 7/16 it had a total STRENGTH of 405 tanks.
    3. The 300 lost were in addition to the 405 available tanks because the original roster was over 900.
    4. 240 en route is really, en route or UNDER REPAIR. Most were under repair.
    Also, there is no 69th rifle corps but there is a 48th rifle corps which was part of the 69th army and this was the unit that was pinched between the 2nd and 3rd Pz corps in the last phase of the operation. Numbers are boring but if I toss out numbers I want them to be accurate.

  61. Thirdeye says:

    Lucerne, not Zurich. Hence the name “Lucy.”

  62. Ulenspiegel says:

    I do not like SPR, the overall script is too much Hollywood for my taste. However, the first 15 minutes were superb, I know people who left the cinema because it was too much.
    “The longest day” did not show the ugly side of war as in the first 15 minutes of SPR or some episodes of “Band of Brothers”, it was for my taste too clean. It was like Edgar Wallace films from the 1950/60ies in comparison to a modern crime series.
    “Die Brücke” catches the issue very well on a much smaller level.

  63. Ulenspiegel says:

    “Too bad that advantage was often negated by Hitler’s penchant for raising new units rather than providing replacements of men and machines for veteran units.”
    But this was not only caused by Hitler. The SS owned a lot of prodcution facilites and manyged the forced labour, they could make sweet deals. SS units were well supplied with hardware and lacked often at the same time the good officers the bled white Heeres units had.

  64. Ulenspiegel says:

    During the planning phase of Kursk the operational context was defined by Manstein: A German operation only makes sense if there is a chance to completely destroy large numbers of Soviet formations, it is important that the Red Army is not able to rescue the cadres.
    Each of the delays, which were not only caused by Hitler but by the fact that some Generals (e.g. Kluge) really expected a real impact of new tanks and were supported by Hitler, made this operational goal less likely.
    However, the basic weakness of the whole operation, which was Manstein’s idea, was that the German forces were too weak, even when attacking earlier. Therefore, the explanation that the failure of Kurskwas Hitler’s fault is too simplistic.

  65. I don’t hold “what if’s” in high regard but what were Hitler’s and German intentions if they had won at Kursk?
    Did the Western Allies know much about Kursk battle, before, during, and after?

  66. Ulenspiegel says:

    “I don’t hold “what if’s” in high regard but what were Hitler’s and German intentions if they had won at Kursk?”
    No idea what Hitler’s plans were. Winning the war or winning against the SU was impossible after 1942. The best Germany could hope/work for was a war of attrition in which the Red Army runs faster out of soldiers than the Wehrmacht out of soldiers or ground and produce a willingsness on the Soviet side to negotiate.
    To achieve this the Wehrmacht had to completly destroy larger Soviet formations and prevent the preservation of NCOs/officers by the Red Army. In this context the Kursk plan makes sense (at least for me).

  67. Ulenspiegel says:

    “It’s interesting to compare caliber, armor width/slope, and penetration physics etc, but armored combat isn’t static gunnery or a personal duel with pistols. I keep reading about counterfactual possibilities on if the Germans had perhaps just another 200 Panthers or perhaps six more schwere Panzer-abteilungen of Tigers, perhaps it could’ve made a difference. IMO none of that would’ve mattered much. The Germans were “outgunned” and in many cases “outarmored” IF you compare the bulk of their tank inventory in winter of 1941 AND in 1942. Yet they often prosecuted offensive actions at tactical level with great success.”
    Sorry, my remarks were not clear enough. Actually, Ido not believe that a few more fancy tanks would have made a difference at Kurks. My remarks were simply about the composition of the forces and some misconception in respect to performnace of various tanks.
    1943, the main difference in comparison to 1942 was that the Red Army had better ideas on the operational level and by using their higher numbers in an effective (not efficient) way could stop the Wehrmacht. The losses at Kursk were very high and not sustainable for the Red Army.
    However, the better Soviet tank production allowed the Red Army to maintain their tank units in 1944, while the Wehrmacht faced a decreasing number of tanks, the ratio was around 1:3 around Kursk, 1:10 in summer 1944, these Soviet tanks were supported by a sufficient number of trucks (mainly US built). This made the destruction of Heeresgruppe Mitte, which was completely outnumbered in the mobile unit department, possible in summer 1944.
    On the Ostfront with a high percentage of not motorized units it was essential to gain the initiative in summer, the losing side faced huge losses of their foot soldiers. 1941 and 1942 the initiative was gained by the Germans, 1943 the Red Army fought a draw a Kursk. 1944 the Red Army ruled.

  68. Ulenspiegel says:

    “What made the difference for the Soviets at the Kursk salient was they effectively used the time and leveraged terrain to force the Germans into a positional battle of attrition.”
    Yes, no dispute here. The only interesting question is whether an earlier German attack would have made a difference or whether the whole operation was not possible with the available German forces and which alternatives would have been possible.

  69. Ulenspiegel says:

    “However Hitler probably should’ve listened Guderian and saved the Panzerwaffe for mobile defense in the east if he wanted to lengthen the war by a year or two. Or an interesting counterfactual could be what would’ve happened had Stalin not heeded his generals and decided to order an offensive to “spoil” the expected German offensive to clear the salient. As Patton once said it takes 18 years to grow an infantryman or a tanker. It didn’t take that much time or resources to produce a tank.”
    Here I disagree. The tank loss ratio at Kurk was highly unfavourable for the Red Army, 3 months with this ratio would have eaten up all reserves. Kursk did not accelarate the shift of tank number ratios between 1943 to 1944 from 1:3 to 1:10.
    Doing nothing on the operational level could not preserve the Panzerwaffe, you only have to check the losses before and after Kursk.
    The academic question is in principle which alternatives to Kursk would have been available, like giving up ground on larger scale and lure the Red Army into mobile warfare without strong defenses, approaches that offers a better possibility for operational success.

  70. Trey N says:

    My brother and I saw it in a movie theater when it came out in 1977. The film is set in the fall 1943 fighting around the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.
    It’s one of the very best WW II movies I’ve ever seen. For years it was hard to find for home viewing, but I finally managed to get a DVD some years ago.
    As usual with one of Peckinpah’s productions, it is very “gritty” (as you put it) — you can almost smell the stench of the battlefield and the landsers. I remember the first time watching the Soviet attack of the T-34s and swarming infantry…I was almost ready to duck on the floor behind the movie seat in front of me! Very well done, great attention to authentic detail on the uniforms and equipment (and the actors were superb, esp Coburn).

  71. Ulenspiegel says:

    But interestingly, Kursk was the last battle in which the German Luftwaffe fought with clear air superority. 🙂

  72. Trey N says:

    I have seen snippets here and there over the years about tentative peace feelers between Hitler and Stalin in 1942/43. Obviously the negotiations never achieved any substantial results, but it would be very interesting to see what terms were seriously being considered by each side.
    As for Hitler’s plans, one of the most intriguing and plausible counter-factuals to me is: what if the Germans had actually constructed the Ostwall in early 1943? Properly built and manned, with adequate mobile reserves, it could have been a very formidable barrier. I’m not saying that Germans would still be killing Russians along the Dnieper today if the line had been built, but I think the outcome in the East would have been a lot more favorable for the Germans than actually occurred.

  73. Trey N says:

    Thank you very much for this very enlightening comment!
    The Foote-Dansey information you provided is more than just a bit curious. I have always suspected that the British laundered their ULTRA sigints to the Soviets thru Lucy, and you provide a quite plausible link as to how this was done. To me, it’s more than a mere coincidence that the ring was able to safely operate for over two years, but gets shut down shortly after the Soviet post-Kursk counter-offensive rolls over the Dnieper and clearly has the German Army on the run.

  74. Chris Chuba says:

    Regarding the point about the 400 mile trek of the 6th Gds tank army with low mechanical failure, we know that got there 🙂
    Actually, I want to make a comment about the structure of Valeriy Zamulin’s book who provided this detail. He’s the former Russian curator of the Prokhorovka museum and his method was to compare the official account and then search the archives down to the lowest level officer’s daily report, whenever possible. Needless to say he found some interesting discrepancies and he pointed them out. For example, Marshal Vasilevsky fudged the report regarding Prokhorovka, pretty much to keep Rotmistrov from either being executed or at the very least severely disciplined by Stalin.
    However, the movement of the 6th TA was pretty consistent with the daily reports regarding their strength. Actually, they were worried about it and debated whether or not to use rail but there was a reason whey that was not feasible. I don’t remember why. It was between 90 to 95% of the force arrived on time which was good enough. Perhaps the U.S. army could have done better, we had excellent logistics, that was kind of our thing. I’m a bit gun shy about giving specific dates so I’ll take a swag and only correct myself if I am way off. The Red Army wasn’t concerned until the Germans penetrated the 2nd defensive belt which occurred within a couple of days. Fairly soon after that the 6th Guards was ordered up so I am going to say that they had at least 3 days to make the trek. If you do the math this would be feasible but quite uncomfortable to do in a tank.
    Of the books I recommended, Zumulin’s took the most investment to read. I’ll have to read it again. I might actually post a couple of his insights because I don’t normally see them discussed about Kursk. I’ll try to keep it short if I do.

  75. Trey N says:

    The Luftwaffe was still able to achieve local air superiority over select areas of the Eastern Front into 1944, but it lost overall superiority there after Kursk because many of the fighter squadrons had to be transferred to Western Europe to defend against the growing USAAF bombing campaign.
    The reinforcements resulted in the Luftwaffe inflicting crippling losses on the B-17s from August thru October 1943. The LW attained air superiority over Germany by mid-October, and maintained it until the Americans introduced the P-51 as a long-range fighter escort in Feb 1944.
    It was the American air force that destroyed the Luftwaffe — in the skies over Germany in early 1944 — not the Russians in the East. The FW-190 was a far better machine than anything in the Soviet arsenal, and if the LW had been able to concentrate its fighters in the East then the results in the air war over the USSR in 1943/44 would have been a lot different.

  76. Tidewater says:

    Tidewater to Trey N, William R. Cumming, and All,
    I keep seeing the grin without the cat. I am reading ‘Handbook for Spies’ by Alexander Foote. Right away you see that while his RAF military records are at Kew he makes no mention in his book that he was ever in the RAF. None. I was wrong, by the way, that SIS gave him an RAF paybook. It was actually a British army paybook. Nevertheless he would have been able to hold his own for a while in an interrogation, having been in the military. I would bet that he never finished his RAF enlistment, instead was given some sort of discharge, maybe medical, and then his International Brigade military records would begin, following on a few months later, after he had gone through vetting by the British Communist Party and had joined a levy of recruits sent out to Albacete.
    I take your point, Trey N, that the British might have wanted to slow up the Russians after they knew Russia seemed destined to win. But Foote tells us what the Abwehr were doing with HUMINT against him, or should I simply say, with assassins, and under Moscow Centre rules he had to obey, which meant he had to associate with some dangerous people whom he suspected, and correctly. He was one step from being kidnapped by German agents, he thought, and his controllers later agreed. It’s actually a bit chilling.
    It’s also true that when he got to Moscow he was thoroughly examined on exactly your point. To me, he was a double-agent who didn’t believe he was really a double agent, because he was doing his best to help Russia, and was honorably serving his own country as well. But I don’t think he even sounds like an ex-communist.
    As to William R. Cumming’s question about how much the allies knew going into Kursk, and thereafter, I get the impression that historians seem to agree that the high point of the work of the Lucy network was its contribution to victory in the battle of Kursk. They had a good previous track record, though, as in Case Blue. But it ought to be remembered that the Fifth Man of the Cambridge Spies, John Cairncross, had been ordered by Moscow Centre to get inside Government Code and Cypher School –that’s Bletchley! And he succeeded in doing this! He took more than five thousand of the raw material intercepts of the “Tunny” traffic out of his workplace, Hut 4 (?), which was where these documents were supposed to be destroyed. He would get on the train to London and turn them over to his Soviet control.
    The reason these raw decrypts were better and had to be disposed of quickly is that they needed some dressing up which would then indicate that they came from other SIGINT sources than the broken Lorenz cipher. That would protect the great Ultra secret. By 1942 Ultra was attacking a later German cipher system than Enigma, dubbed “Tunny. One thing that some Russians have said was sent along, which seems relevant to the discussion here about German v. Russian armour, is that Cairncross turned over to the Soviets complete specifications of the new design/development in Germany of tanks and other armoured vehicles. For example, Russian designers would have learned in great detail the new armor thicknesses.
    I have discovered a very neat website that discusses Bletchley, “Tunny”, Alan Turing, and the first electronic, digital computer called Colossus. Now Foote tells us he took a large number of Lucy messages back to Moscow with him; and ,of course, Cairncross gave those raw decrypts to the Soviets. So I suppose the Russian archives are where one needs to look and cannot. But what is so very interesting is one of the few raw decrypts that are available can be read in the Rutherford
    The Rutherford is formally the “New Zealand Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.” (I have to laugh, the internet is so often surprising.) This is a very nice website and even has lots of hard to find pix.
    I was of a mind to copy out the sample decrypt. But I am out of time. The decrypt is fascinating. It begins:
    “To OKH/OP. ABT. and to OKH/Foreign Armies East, from Army Group South IA/01, No. 411/43, signed von Weichs, General Feldmarschall, dated 25/4:-
    Comprehensive appreciation of the enemy for “Zitadelle””
    This is serious stuff!
    The author of the “Tunny” article, Jack Copeland, comments about the decrypt: “von Weichs’ message gives a detailed appreciation of Russian strengths and weaknesses in the Kursk area. His appreciation reveals a considerable amount about the intentions of the German Army. British analysts deduced from the decrypt that Zitadelle would consist of pincer attack on the north and south flanks (“corner pillars”) of a bulge in the Russian defensive line at Kursk…The attacking German forces would then encircle the Russian troops situated within the bulge.”
    This message was considered so important that an intelligence report based on it (disguised) was sent to Stalin on 30 April. Stalin already had John Cairncross’s raw decrypt to compare it with.

  77. Neil R says:

    “1943, the main difference in comparison to 1942 was that the Red Army had better ideas on the operational level and by using their higher numbers in an effective (not efficient) way could stop the Wehrmacht. The losses at Kursk were very high and not sustainable for the Red Army.”
    I think you underestimate the operational art of the Red Army. In fact that term was pretty much invented by Tukhachevskii and his disciples. As someone else mentioned the Red Army fought in the same conditions as the Ostheer in the winter of 1941 and obviously at Stalingrad. Operation Uranus wasn’t a disaster for the German just because Hitler and Paulus bumbled and stumbled. The bottom line is the Red Army achieved operational surprise despite moving huge formations and materiel by November 1942.
    Did the Ostheer really understand how deep the Soviet defenses had been in the salient in 1943? My guess is they didn’t based on reflections of those who had fought in the battle. Some people attribute the success of the Red Army at Kursk to intelligence success (Let’s face it. It’s sexier). However, anyone who could read a map would’ve weighted the odds and rated the salient high among possible areas of attack. And the arduous task of building and developing local intelligence fell to local commanders who utilized partisans and infantry patrols to develop the German OB quite accurately. And remember that before Fall Blau, the Soviets recovered the maps of the 23rd Panzer Division Ia after his plane crashed near Kharkov. However Stalin dismissed it as a ruse and expected the Germans to renew their main effort toward Moscow in the summer of 1942.
    The success of Fall Blau depended on the German ability to absorb the blows of the Southwestern Front and then countering with Kesselschlacht. Again there were many reasons for the Soviet operational failure, but hastily planned general offensive did not suit their army especially against the Ostheer in 1942.
    “However, the better Soviet tank production allowed the Red Army to maintain their tank units in 1944, while the Wehrmacht faced a decreasing number of tanks, the ratio was around 1:3 around Kursk, 1:10 in summer 1944, these Soviet tanks were supported by a sufficient number of trucks (mainly US built). This made the destruction of Heeresgruppe Mitte, which was completely outnumbered in the mobile unit department, possible in summer 1944.”
    Why did the ratio deteriorate? The simple reason is that by June 25, 1944 the OB West had 1st SS, 2nd SS, 9th SS, 10th SS, 12th SS, 2nd Panzer, 9th Panzer, 116th Panzer as well as Panzer Lehr in Normandy. And starting with the Big Week in February 1944, the 8th Air Force destroyed the Jagdwaffe who decided to come up and fight.
    “On the Ostfront with a high percentage of not motorized units it was essential to gain the initiative in summer, the losing side faced huge losses of their foot soldiers. 1941 and 1942 the initiative was gained by the Germans, 1943 the Red Army fought a draw a Kursk. 1944 the Red Army ruled.”
    You make it sound as if the steppes of the Soviet Union were North African desert. Actually the Ostheer handled mobile defense quite well as I stated before (see the Donets campaign and Operation Mars as well as the battle of Kharkov in 1942).

  78. Neil R says:

    “The tank loss ratio at Kurk was highly unfavourable for the Red Army, 3 months with this ratio would have eaten up all reserves. Kursk did not accelarate the shift of tank number ratios between 1943 to 1944 from 1:3 to 1:10.
    Doing nothing on the operational level could not preserve the Panzerwaffe, you only have to check the losses before and after Kursk.”
    First, “doing something” did not have to be attacking into the teeth of heavily layered anti-tank defensive lines with evidently poor intelligence preparation and subsequent reconnaissance. Didn’t you attend the Panzertruppenschule in Munster in the 80s? You must’ve studied sequencing of operations. What happened in the east *after* the Zitadelle? AG Mitte and Sud were slammed very hard in August. I don’t think that 3:1 favorable exchange ratio mattered much then. You keep mentioning that the Soviet losses at Kursk were unsustainable for the Red Army. Subsequent operations would tend to dispute your claim.
    “The academic question is in principle which alternatives to Kursk would have been available, like giving up ground on larger scale and lure the Red Army into mobile warfare without strong defenses, approaches that offers a better possibility for operational success.”
    I’ve already mentioned the examples of Fall Blau (more specifically the second battle of Kharkov), Operation Mars and the Donets campaign. The Red Army would’ve struck at some point just as Stalin wanted to do months earlier. And the Ostheer would’ve had sufficient strength in mobile reserves to engage in what they do best namely fight in rapid movement after drawing out the initial blow and counterattacking just as the Soviets reached the limits of their logistic support.

  79. Ulenspiegel says:

    As German I did not like the casting with Coburn as German Feldwebel, he did not feel right, a younger guy with a more typical German face would have been my pick.
    While the film is good, the book by Willi Heinrich “Geduldiges Fleisch” is better, this starts with the title. 🙂

  80. Peter Reichard says:

    My recollection from long ago is that just minutes prior to the scheduled German opening artillery salvo the Russians beat them to the punch with a massive counter battery action and that a German unit having overrun a Soviet headquarters directly opposite them discovered an exact copy of their own attack orders. It is claimed that Lucy’s information often came too quickly to have been provided by the British meaning he had a direct link into the German High Command. Again, can anyone confirm this?

  81. Chris Chuba says:

    Neil R was skeptical regarding my assertion about the 400 mile forced march of the 5th Gds TA. I double checked my source and there is a correction to be made here. The reference did say ‘several hundred kilometers’ (which is what I quoted) but later when I re-read the entir passage it referred to specific distances ranging from 250k to 400k (no point of origin is given). So this reduces the range of the march that was at least 150 miles but much less than 400.
    So I’ll call this a 150 mile march.
    Also, there were mechanical break downs but they had support personnel to deal with them, so by 7/11 85% of the tanks were operational and the rest were still undergoing repair.
    They chose not to use rail believing it to be too vulnerable too air attack and it required infantry troops to travel separately from the armor leaving them more vulnerable. At least this was the assertion but they were worried about the trek.

  82. Aristonicus says:

    RE: SS units being better supplied
    See this article:
    Although it is not possible to point to repeated favoritism of the German army over the Waffen-SS in the allocation of armored vehicles, it should be evident from the data above that the opposite was in no way true. While it would no doubt be possible to find specific instances where the Waffen-SS did have more or better equipment than the army, there is no evidence to support that this was a general trend. In fact, the numbers point towards a trend of issuing new equipment to the army first, while the Waffen-SS sometimes had to wait several months to receive such equipment.”

  83. Aristonicus says:

    From my reading I would argue that the Luftwaffe over Germany suffered from so many problems (fuel shortage, poorly trained pilots etc) that its defeat was pre-ordained. (for a good summary see John Ellis “Brute Force” Chapter 4 The Bomber Offensive). The success of the Luftwaffe in 1943 was solely due to the lack of a long range escort fighter for the USAAF Bomber fleet.
    The money quote: “Of the lower figure (% of losses which were non-combat declined from 44.6% in Jul-Dec 1943 to 37.2% in Jan-Jun 1944) for the first six months of 1944, one historian has noted sardonically: “The decrease … seems to have been the result of the fact that Allied fighters were shooting down German aircraft faster than their pilots could crash them.”
    As for Kursk: During Citadel and the follow on operations the Red Army Air Force, the Air Defence Force and Long Range Aviation lost c.2,800 aircraft and the Luftwaffe 1,463 (+ 1000 damaged +400 under repair). Hardly small losses.

  84. Ulenspiegel says:

    How do you or your source explain the fact, that the SS units were usually fully equipped at the begin of an operation and the SS Panzergrenadierdivisionen had more tanks than the Panzerdivisionen of the Heer? Sorry, there is something fishy.

  85. Ulenspiegel says:

    ” What happened in the east *after* the Zitadelle? AG Mitte and Sud were slammed very hard in August. I don’t think that 3:1 favorable exchange ratio mattered much then.”
    My point was, that the argument, that Kursk contributed to the problems of the Heer, esp. Panzerwaffe in 1943 is wrong. The losses before and after were the issue. In another thread, I used the 12 month avarage loss as reference to make the same argument as you. 🙂
    I did my military service as enlisted man in Munster, I am from Lower Saxony, my wife’s family is from a town near Celle. I visit the Tank museum in my summerholidays. 🙂
    “I’ve already mentioned the examples of Fall Blau (more specifically the second battle of Kharkov), Operation Mars and the Donets campaign. The Red Army would’ve struck at some point just as Stalin wanted to do months earlier.”
    Yes, no dispute in alternative history. However, this required to let the Red Army attack and to have the own forces in the correct front sections, could be tricky. To start an own operation has some advantages. As Hitler opposed giving up ground, Kursk may have been at the beginning of 1943 the lesser of the evils. 🙂

  86. Ulenspiegel says:

    Addendum: The issue for me is that the Kursk operation was Manstein’s child, and he was usually very good. To assume that he did not see the limitations, which also applied for a earlier attck, is not very likely IMHO. Maybe it was the only plan that had a chance to be sold to Hitler. Have to read more.

  87. Trey N says:

    Wow, Tidewater, my head is spinning! Just so I’m absolutely clear on this, you’re saying that the Soviets not only knew about ULTRA, but were themselves regularly receiving many of the actual British intercepts?? I have never seen anything about this, or that the Soviets had a mole inside Bletchley Park!
    Do you have your own blog, where you expand on this fascinating story? If not, do you know of such a blog (or any site devoted to the ULTRA-Soviet intrigue)?
    When I first got interested in military history decades ago I had the common perception that it was all about generals planning clever strategic campaigns, and that their genius was about the only factor involved (chess on a grand scale, so to speak). Now it appears to me that after taking into consideration the diplomatic, intelligence, logistic, climate, terrain, size/equipment/training of the opposing forces, and myriad other factors, in many cases the courses of action open to the generals are reduced to very few practical options.
    I have a much greater appreciation of the effects of these “myriad other factors” nowadays, especially the role intelligence plays. Your comments here about ULTRA have been very informative. Thank you for taking the time to make such long posts; I hope to see more from you on this topic!

  88. Trey N says:

    With all the actual history books on my still-to-be-read list, I don’t have time to read many historical novels. The last such work set in WW II that I read was Guy Sajer’s “The Forgotten Soldier” — and at the time I thought it was a real memoir.
    Since you recommend it, I’ll keep an eye out for The Willing Flesh/Cross of Iron in the local bookstores and hope I run across it.

  89. Trey N says:

    Forgot to mention this earlier. Three years before the movie Cross of Iron came out, a friend down the street had just bought Al Stewart’s latest album. We spent a whole lotta hours at his place playing Drang Nach Osten! while listening to Roads to Moscow. All that is what piqued my interest in the East Front, and in the years since the only subject I’ve studied more about is the War for Southern Independence.

  90. Tidewater says:

    Tidewater to Peter Reichard,
    Yes, I think historians have confirmed that top secret, timely, and very important information was being sent from the OKW/OKH Benderlerstrasse headquarters to the Lucy network. Please see the WIKI entry on “Die Schwartze Kappelle” and the entry on “Hans Oster.”
    However, it needs to be pointed out here that that doesn’t mean that’s the source of say, von Weich’s “appreciation” found on the Rutherford Journal website, or of the Bletchley “Tunny” decrypts. The German army was at “the field end” of its communication system. Two signal trucks were used to send the von Weichs message by radio. If the message had been sent by landline the British couldn’t have intercepted it. The Germans assumed that their radio message traffic was protected by the encryption machine dubbed by the British “Tunny.” It was not.
    When you suggest that the SPEED at which top secret information is calculated to have gotten into Allied hands ought to be used as an indicator, clue, or as evidence of that same information’s point of origin, I would simply state my slight understanding of short wave radio signals is that a trained Allied radio operator standing a watch, month in and month out, searching for certain known German links, could get hold of the von Weichs message in about the same time that said message took to be received by Berlin. Surely that is a correct assumption. It’s out there. It’s up for grabs. From the point of obtaining it to the point it is handed to an intelligence analyst is just a question of how fast one’s decrypters etc. do their job.
    So I think the timeliness question is a bit of a red herring. During the Cold War Ultra was kept secret up until the 70’s. Give as much credit to the Lucy network as possible, seems to have been the game. Again, the Russians knew better.
    The von Weichs message was not provided by the Lucy network. My belief is that however good Lucy was, it was Ultra that was the powerhouse that made the difference all through the Second World War, including at Kursk.

  91. Trey N says:

    The comparitive production appendixes in Brute Force illustrate perfectly the gross mismatch between Axis and Allied armament capabilities. Throw in the POL and population size factors, and the result of the war was a foregone conclusion.
    As you point out, the training of German (as well as Japanese) pilots declined precipitously in the second half of the war, mostly due to POL shortages. These factors of aircraft production, aircrew training, and POL shortages combined to take the LW into a death spiral; the American fighter pilots delivered the coup de grace in early 1944. By D-Day the LW was a nonfactor in the West.
    (If you’re interested in air combat, btw, Michael Spick has written an interesting book called The Ace Factor. Great analysis of the special instincts that the most successful fighter pilots of all nations possess, which he calls “situational awareness.” It seems to correlate with their ground combat counterparts, who I’ve seen referred to as “Predators”).

  92. Tidewater says:

    Tidewater to Trey N,
    So Fellers is the donnee’ for ‘The Key to Rebecca’? Hmmm. Follet? Fellers? Interesting. 🙂
    Thanks for your comments. Gave me a real lift. I have been very impressed with the scholarship on this thread. I just printed it all out! To make full disclosure, I confess that I have gained a great deal of my erudition on British intelligence matters from many years of reading the Daily Mail. To digress here, slightly, I still am amazed how the Mayor of a great city like London could employ at least four women, some of them simultaneously; live with more than one of them at the same time; make baby or babies with, I believe, each one; pay each one a salary from the city’s Exchequer that amounts to more than $200,000 a year; be elected for term after term for decades; and noone ever said squat about it. I always heard that London was a man’s town. Red Ken proves it! The one he finally married looked, as the French say, ‘sage.’ Wise.
    To get to the topic at hand, John Cairncross, the Fifth Man of the Cambridge Spies, maybe he has slipped a little from view simply because he doesn’t quite have it as a dramatic figure worth remembering. (I think, in the pantheon, Burgess’s star is rising. He was very handsome at one point, and is really outrageous, a true Sonnenkinder for our troubled times. Burgess is the one who on important family holidays, when he had to face his own hungover solitary life, would make a gigantic pot of cowboy stew, open up some very good French wine, get in bed, and reread George Eliot’s Middlemarch. He definitely knew that book! He is also the one who drew a very good sketch of William Harvey’s Midwestern wife’s face, and then did a little further work on it, adding on to it a pornographically posed nude. This over the table at a very drunken, transatlantic goodwill, spook dinner party in DC. This blasted the party, and so enraged the brilliant, equally alcoholic Harvey that he got hold of everything they had on Philby,studied it, then went to England and got what he really needed from some colleagues of Philby who could discreetly vent with an anonymous American. So end result–the person who did in Philby was Burgess! I realize at this moment that I am a Philbyist. He was the one. A stammering Satan. I think his father, Harry St. John, may have done more harm to Britain.
    Cairncross was never brought to trial. The press finally nailed him, maybe Chapman Pincher? He grassed Anthony Blunt –or do you grass someone OUT, I am not sure– and that kept him out of prison. He may bave been the worst of them all. I have taken to reading the Amazon book reviews as I look for books that hopefully cost one cent plus postage. Since my subjects are often off the beaten path I have a large library yet growing. The damn thing is dangerous! Huge stacks. My cats have had narrow escapes. The Cossack bitches me out all the time about this.
    It seems that Cairncross was a poverty stricken embittered isolated Glaswegian who hated the English on general principle, hated the Apostles, who were all rich or richer than he, and gay. He himself consorted with whores, (being a Scot unburdened with Irish hangups) and entertained a notion that Britain should rightly be ruled by the Scottish kings. So there was some good in him. He also got married at age 82.
    Amazon told me when I checked on Nigel West’s and Oleg Tsarev’s ‘The Crown Jewels’, that I already owned the book. This surprised me. Also, I did not realize that Yale has brought out a series on intelligence matters including this one. These two writers actually got into Russian archives during the brief time when there was a window of opportunity now closed. I immediately checked on the Lucy net, Alexander Foote, and others relating to the Lucy net in the book’s index. I didn’t see anything on that, but West/Tsarev were perhaps looking for specific stuff on John Cairncross. There is a fair amount. I am going to have a look into ‘The Crown Jewels’.
    Get this: “Several entire networks escaped the attention of the British Security Service, MI5, and in the case of the spy ring run by the Foreign Editor of the now defunct Daily Herald, to prosecute his sources, who were moles in the Metropolitan Police Special Branch, was considered too embarrassing.”
    Actually I am not necessarily recommending anything about Ultra to you, since I am in over my head. I am a fan of Anthony Cave Brown simply because he’s fun to read, and he also has written about Saudi Arabia.
    I don’t have a blog and I hope you haven’t given me an idea. If you have a blog please tell me, and the Committee. I would read it.
    Peter Reichard is correct about the German officer finding his own orders in an HQ they had overrun. The town was Lomza, in Poland. It was looked into, but nothing done. This is mentioned in the WIKI entry on Rudolph Roessler, who was ‘Lucy.’ Interesting about WIKI. They don’t tell you that Roessler was tried twice for espionage, the second time quite properly, if not that serious a matter. Now if this case, which might have been tried in a military court in Switzerland and therefore might be hard to get a transcript of, or information about proceedings, was tried in an American court, you could get info on Roessler when he appealed, even years later, in certain federal court records. (And Justia.) You could also get info about Roessler from Swiss newspapers, maybe, if you are willing to struggle in German.
    As I said, I am winging it on Ultra, am basically only interested in Alexander Foote, “Jim”, and by the way, ‘Handbook For Spies’ is a good book. Interesting that William “Jim” Skardon was the one who interviewed him, I assume, for Special Branch. Skardon was deeply involved with interrogating some of the Cambridge Spies.

  93. Aristonicus says:

    I’ll have a look at “The Ace Factor”, sounds interesting. I have to say that the USAAF fighter squadrons did sterling work over Germany in 1944, no doubt. In 1945 they unflinchingly took on the ME-262s in dogfights and won with their P-51s: that shows their quality.
    p.s. I recommend “The Last Flight of the Luftwaffe” by Adrian Weir – a true story with all the bells and whistles that would make a good movie.

  94. Aristonicus says:

    I will admit that further, more detailed research is required. Certainly, just about everyone with a more than casual interest in WW2 Eastern front is under the impression that the SS were more lavishly equipped but that may be more apparent than real. A topic for a full post or at least a research paper.

  95. Tidewater says:

    Tidewater to Tidewater,
    First, the correct spelling of OKW HQ is ‘Bendlerstrasse.’
    Second, my comments on Cairncross are completely inadequate and fail to convey how brilliant a cuttlefish he was and how skillfully he fought a delaying action over the rest of his life after initial exposure. He had superb survival skills. He seems to be more than the equal of Philby. He didn’t get immunity from prosecution because of his denunciation of Blunt, either in 1951, or in the following interviews over the years that led to at least one more confession when he was in Italy, in 1964. He got immunity because British authorities didn’t have enough to convict him in 1951/1952, and realized how dangerous press coverage of the Cambridge Spies was becoming to the establishment. (A not guilty result could have led to libel actions as well?) Though by 1964 both Blunt and Cairncross seem to have denounced each other.
    Cairncross had been interviewed in 1951 after the Burgess/McLean defections on May 25. A search of Burgess’s apartment had found classified documents in Cairncross’s handwriting. He offered his resignation from the Treasury. It was accepted. He lost his pension. He was warned that there could be prosecution in future. He and his wife went to Geneva. Here he started a new career as a linguist and as a scholar of French literature. Soon he had a number of published books on French writers, and was able to begin what seemed to a promising scholarly career at Northwestern in the U.S. This seems to have been cut short when rumours of espionage came back to haunt him.
    He went back into financial work, a European banking job, helped by his remarkable linguistic skills. He seems to have been fluent in French, German, Italian, and other languages. Unlike Blunt, the Scot didn’t mind expatriating himself. In 1964 Michael Whitney Straight, who had been involved in the Cambridge ring, confessed. He didn’t have much on Cairncross, who had kept his distance–Straight was dauntingly rich, a Whitney!– but Straight and the London press, and Arthur Martin, took down Blunt. (After a generous offer of immunity.) Straight brought out “After Long Silence” in 1983. He had had quite an embarrassing run in the London press in 1964.
    From Nigel West and Oleg Tsarev’s ‘The Crown Jewels’ (page 220) on Cairncross: “While 1,454 documents were received from him in 1942 and relayed to Moscow, in 1943 they dwindled to just 94. The greatest of Cairncross’s achievements was the passing to Soviet intelligence of the Luftwaffe’s decrypted signals, which played an important role in the Battle of Kursk in 1943. Other items provided at the Centre’s request included details of radio channels used by the German High Command and the Abwehr and, in October 1943, Cairncross disclosed valuable information about Operation ULM, a secret landing by German ski troops planned for the Eastern Front.”
    In 1944 Cairncross provided 794 documents before he was transferred to SIS’s political branch, Section 1, in August.
    After the Second World War he kept right on going. In 1950–the Korean war had begun June 25th–the London rezidentura sent a letter to Moscow Centre remarking that it should be noted that what Cairncross was sending was of ‘the highest quality.’
    There came a point when Stalin’s attention was called to Cairncross’s work: “In June and July 1951, 1,339 pages of documents were received, many of them suggesting that the British rearmament programme had been completed…” (Page 225.)
    There is the lingering question about British and American nuclear weapons programs and what information might have been passed on about them.
    I am wondering which recent writer has pulled this tar baby all together. I, for one, have been reading, off and on, kind of aimlessly, about the Cambridge Sonnenkinder since the late 1960’s. If you walk back into the whole thing, it’s strange how it all seems to have dribbled out over, not years, but decades –bits and pieces have kept emerging for a long, long time. Maybe that’s because it’s like Palm Beach–a reporter can always pick up a little bread writing about Palm Beach. Maybe that’s how some things always are. Time changing things. Or maybe it’s a story with some sort of eternal fascination, a subtext, something just under the surface of the consciousness. Brideshead and all that.
    Maybe it’s not over. `

  96. Did sir John Keegan discuss KURSK in any of his writings? Any analysis of his conculsions if any?
    Thoughts on his discussion of Intel in his books?

  97. This Kursk post and thread reminds me of the death of Sir John Keegan. He seemed to me a useful military historian if not overwhelming brilliant by consensus. His conclusions in FACE of BATTLE seem sound to me.
    Now wondering if there is a consensus on the top five U.S. living military historians, or British, or German or Russian and as to the latter wonder about translations?
    If I was the DNI I would have some organization track key books being translated by those power rangers [elites] that might hold the view that NOT ALL INVENTED HERE OR THERE!
    Also perhaps military doctrinal documents.

  98. SmoothieX12 says:

    I remember Mr. Keegan’s almost repulsive comments (having the same expression on his face) when describing those barbaric Russian Cossack units conducting harassing raids against retreating La Grande Armee’ in 1812. How could those dirty barbaric Russians do such a thing. I had his tedious volume on the history of warfare, I donated it later to the local library.

  99. Chris Chuba says:

    The movie always ruins the book, never read the book 🙂
    In the movie, Coburn’s character should have been an officer but was a corporal / sergeant because of his insubordinate attitude, so his age didn’t bother me. I’m certain that he didn’t accurately portray a German officer but he did have plausibly commanding presence in the film, what we call ‘gravitas’. You’d want to serve under him but not have him report to you. He was quite spry for a 50yr old and he convinced me that he was the kind of guy who could survive almost any situation.
    I have to mention one of Peckinpah’s genius moments, the movie scene ‘Demarcation’. I am not defending it as an accurate portrayal of the German army but rather as a masterpiece of editing and production quality, as well as emotional manipulation. His use of slow motion video combined with sound in real time speed turned a 5 minute scene into an eternity of suffering. I was screaming at the TV set; please stop!
    I wanted to buy the movie on Blu-ray but I only found that stupid region 2 which I cannot use. I am surprised that this method of slow motion video with real time audio wasn’t copied by other Directors and that so many others stuck with the slowed down audio that gives that that distorted .. ‘nooooooo’ sound. I think the movie ‘Cross of Iron’ is worth watching just for that scene alone, if it does not impact you emotionally then you are not human.

  100. Chris Chuba says:

    To All, I think that the ‘Lucy’ connection is being over emphasized. Yes, I am certain that British intelligence was given to the Russians prior to the German attack and that this was factored into the Red Army’s defense. However, the Russian’s were always suspicious of planted stories and would only act on leads if it was corroborated by other intelligence.
    Zhukov himself mentions that the Red Army’s preemptive artillery barrage was about an 1hr too early to achieve maximum effectiveness. Many German’s were still bunkered and it was based on captured sappers. Also, German plans in early Spring are not going to be detailed down to the actual hour on D-Day. Finally, there is plenty of evidence that the Russian’s did NOT know the exact disposition of the German army. They over budgeted the defense of the Central front as compared to the Voronezh Front.

  101. Chris Chuba says:

    Ulenspiegel I just wanted to say that I appreciated a lot of your comments but I didn’t respond to them because they were buried in very detailed, nested threads.
    I too think that 1942 was Germany’s best shot at defeating the Soviet Union. I am thinking that Caucus campaign to take the Baku oil field. If they did that then Russia loses 90% of their oil production, game, set, match. The funny thing is that when I read Zhukov’s biography, I get a real sense of urgency here but on the German side it seems that only Hitler was enthusiastic for this campaign. To some extent, perhaps this was telling in and of itself.
    I agree with your assessment that the tank killing ratio at Kursk was unsustainable for the Red Army so that it was as good a strategy as any. In fact, that was the spirit of my original post. Kursk was not an attritional loss for the German army, it was a strategic victory for an every increasing competent Red Army.
    Regarding the delay of the start of the Battle of Kursk, I forgot to mention that the Luftwaffe did get new Cannon equipped Stukas which proved to be very effective tank killers so this is one way in which a delay favored them, the German army also got a few more Tiger tanks. Finally, one point I didn’t mention, the PzIV had a similar silhouette to a Tiger so being confused with a Tiger helped because sometimes the Russians would withhold fire thinking that they had to get in closer range than necessary.

  102. SmoothieX12 says:

    Sir John Keegan was a proverbial Russophobe. I also don’t know what “consensus” are we talking here about re: Keegan? Consensus among who?

  103. Was the book entitled ON WAR?

  104. Which side had the best tank and armor recovery units for battle damage?

  105. rjj says:

    Is this the text?
    If so, I can’t find an offending passage. He writes about Cossacks from Clausewitz’s perspective. From his own perspective they are an eastern variant of Border Rievers.

    Why then did he find the horrors of the Cossack pursuit of the French so particularly horrible? The answer is, of course, that we are hardened to what we know, and we rationalise and even justify cruelties practised by us and our like while retaining the capacity to be outraged, even disgusted by practices equally cruel which, under the hands of strangers, take a different form.

    another case of cultural blinkers: German Stalingrad survivors in BBC interviews said absolutely without irony that the Chuikov street fighting methods were thuggish, uncivilized, and pretty much what you can expect of “zeeeese peeeeeople.”

  106. Chris Chuba says:

    The Germans definitely had better field recovery logistics than the Red Army at the Battle of Kursk. I don’t know if things changed later in the war. The Germans also had the advantage that they controlled most of the battlefield since they were on the offensive. They had easy access to their damaged tanks and were able to demolish any Red Army tanks before leaving.
    The Russians were able to repair 100 of 400 damaged tanks within a few days after 7/12. They had some turretless T34’s that they used to tow damaged tanks from the battlefield.
    I’m adding this here to reduce moderation overhead …
    One of the things that stuck with me from the Zamulin book regarding the first day of the attack, ‘Each regiment of the 52nd Guards division faced one Panzergrenadier division … [later referring to 3 of its rifle company’s] Unfortunately, it is difficult to reconstruct the events of this unequal battle because none of the defenders survived it’

  107. Nik says:

    For french readers I recommend “Koursk : Les quarante jours qui ont ruiné la Wehrmacht” by Jean Lopez at edition Economica that brings new light on the operations of the Summer 1943.

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