Operation Zitadelle and the March of the Red Army Thesis

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Transcript Operation Zitadelle and the March of the Red Army Thesis

Operation Zitadelle and the March of the
Red Army
Akash Yechuri; Cade Traino; Anish Rao; Jackson Zariski; Vladyslav Krasnovsky
Germany attacked the Soviet Union at Kursk in
order to undermine Soviet supremacy. The battle
would have had Germany encircle Kursk and
bombard the majority of the Red Army. However,
the Soviets were ready for the attack, and fought
back on equal footing with the Germans.
Germany’s tactical defeat led to the Red Army’s
march westward, and Germany’s ultimate demise
in the fall of Berlin.
Setting the Stage
● After the Battle of Stalingrad, the Wehrmacht was greatly weakened
(“World War II…”).
● Hitler wanted to prove that the German army was still formidable after
heavy losses at Stalingrad.
● Hitler took many months to plan his attack. When he was ready, the
operation was supposed to “...shine like a beacon around the world.”
(“World War II...”).
● Despite heavy allied bombing, German arms production was increasing at
an unprecedented rate (“The Battle…”).
Hitler’s Master Plan: Operation “Zitadelle”
The main goal of the Operation was to eliminate the Red Army located at the city of
Kursk. The town of Kursk was not a strategic target; it was chosen because it was
the point of a salient (bulge) in the Soviet forces located between Field Marshal
Erich von Manstein’s Army Group South, and Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge’s
Army Group Center (“World War II…”).
The Germans planned to encircle and cut off the salient from the main body of
Soviet forces (map to be shown later).
Hitler hoped that the attack would destroy a whopping five Soviet armies, thus
preventing them from mounting an offensive for at least the rest of the year. Victory
would also allow Hitler to focus more on the war in the Mediterranean (“World War
A brand new “Elefant” heavy tank destroyer which Hitler would use in the upcoming operation
Soviet Preparations (The Battle…)
• Hitler greatly underestimated the Soviet forces, which had improved a lot
since the beginning of the war.
• Soviet spies discovered the German plan and alerted the government in
• The Soviets decided to pursue a defensive strategy to allow the Germans to
wear themselves out before a massive Soviet counterattack.
• The Russians prepared an enormous amount of defenses to prepare for the
German onslaught. They also gathered a huge reserve army in case the
Germans had some initial success.
The Commanders
Field Marshal
Erich von Manstein
Field Marshal
Günther von Kluge
Marshal Georgy Zhukov
Strength of The Forces (“The Battle…”)
Troops: 912,460 (Germany) vs 1,910,361(USSR)
Artillery: 9,966(Germany) vs 25,013(USSR)
Tanks: 2,928(Germany) vs 5,128(USSR)
Aircraft: 2,110(Germany) vs 2,400(USSR)
The Battle Begins
British intelligence along with Russian spies tipped off Field Marshal
Zhukov of the Red Army. He ordered a massive artillery bombardment ten
minutes before Citadel was supposed to begin (“The History…”).
Right from the start, Hitler’s new tanks proved ineffective due to superior
Russian anti-tank defenses (“The History…”).
Germany was doomed from the start. Hitler’s delays gave the Russians too
much time to prepare for the incoming assault, thus their defences were
already primed and ready by the time the Germans reached Kursk.
Even worse for Hitler, during the battle he received news that the allies
were invading Sicily (“The History…”).
The Battle
On July 5th, the Soviets, who had found out about the attack, launched an artillery bombardment on the
German forces (History Learning Site).
Germany, knowing its plans had been compromised, started its own artillery barrage, then began its main
armor and infantry attack when air support arrived (History Learning Site).
After the first few days of the battle, Germany had gained ground but at the cost of ⅔ of their tanks in
addition to thousands of men (History Learning Site).
After the Germans failed to achieve a breakthrough, the Soviets launched a massive counterattack (History
Learning Site).
○ On July 12th at Prokhorovka, the largest tank battle in history occurred. 1,500 tanks were involved
(History Learning Site).
By July 23rd, the Germans were pushed back by the Soviets behind their original starting position. The
Germans were now on their back foot for the rest of the battle and the war (History Learning Site).
The lower half of the Kursk Salient
Red Army
Early German Difficulties
● Hitler chose to wait three months before implementing
Operation Citadel. He wanted to make sure that his his new
German Tiger tanks were ready (Mixon).
● Bad weather and allied attacks on both Manstein’s and Kluge’s
fronts delayed the operation even more (“World War II”).
● By the time the German army was actually ready to attack, the
Soviets had already been preparing, thus taking away
Germany’s “element of surprise” advantage entirely.
Even the mighty Tiger tank was no match for the better-prepared Soviet forces.
Aftermath of the Soviet Victory
● Although the Soviets managed to beat Germany at Kursk, Hitler enacted a
scorched-earth policy on his retreat in order to leave nothing of value for
the Red Army (“The History…”).
● Soviet casualties were also much higher than those of Germany, though
they had enough men to replace their losses (“The Battle…”).
Things were bad for the Soviets, but they were worse for Hitler. His dream
of Lebensraum in Eastern Europe was over, and instead of being on the
offensive, Hitler now had to worry about the incoming Soviet invasion.
Outcomes and Lasting Effects
The Germans lost the majority of their military strength on the Eastern front. They
would be unable to launch another major offensive on this front for the rest of
the war.
Germany was unable to recover from the losses of this battle, passing the initiative
to the Red Army and putting the Wehrmacht on the defensive (“World War II…”).
The Soviets seized this opportunity after their victory to keep advancing into the
heart of Nazi controlled Europe (“World War II…”). They never lost the initiative
and would not let up until they reached and destroyed Berlin itself.
This is the important stuff.
● July 5, 1943: Hitler started his attack on the Red army. Unfortunately for
him, the Soviets were already well-prepared for the assault.
● July 11, 1943: While Operation Citadel was in full force, the allies landed
in Sicily during Operation Husky. Hitler wanted to call off Citadel, which
made Manstein furious.
● July 12, 1943: The Luftwaffe began air raids on Soviet positions, but was
surprised to face heavy resistance.
● July 15, 1943: The Soviet counter offensive began and pushed the
Germans back to Hitler’s line of “retreat”.
● August 20, 1943: All German forces withdrew from the area. The Soviets
began their march to Berlin.
Works Cited
"The Battle of Kursk". HistoryLearningSite.co.uk. 2014. Web.
"The History Place - Defeat of Hitler: The Kursk Gamble." The History Place. Www.Historyplace.com, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.
Mixon, Jon. "Had Hitler Not Ordered..." Quora. Quora, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
"World War II: Operation Citadel." Operation Citadel. Jewish Virtual Library, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
Music: “Marche Slav” by Tchaikovsky
Works Cited Cont…
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