The battle of Kursk, which took place in July 1943, was one of the most significant battles of the Eastern Front. German forces attempted to encircle the Soviet armies around Kursk and crush them, in much the same manner as Soviet troops had recently encircled and destroyed an entire German army at the battle of Stalingrad.
The German offensive was decisively beaten back, marking a turning point in the war between Germany and the USSR.
This article provides a number of useful facts about the battle of Kursk.
The Soviet Union had advance warning of the attack
The Soviet Union had the advantage of knowing the German’s plans before they attacked. Their Lucy spy ring, operating in Switzerland had provided detailed information, as had the British, who had uncovered further information using their Enigma codebreaking machine
This foreknowledge, combined with delays in the German planning of the Kursk offensive, gave Soviet General Zhukov plenty of time to prepare for the German advance. In the four months leading up to the offensive, he was able to heavily fortify the area around Kursk.
The largest tank battle
Around 1,500 tanks took part in the battle of Prkhorovkha on 12th July 1943. The Germans committed around 450 tanks to battle and the Soviets around 800 tanks. Although greatly outnumbered, German panzers were of higher quality than Soviet tanks.
The exact scale of the losses has never been determined, but some reports say that Germany lost up to 350 of its tanks as its offensive ground to a halt. It is likely that many of these were salvaged, however, so the true number may not be so high. Soviet losses were considerably higher – estimates of their losses are between 200 and 800 tanks.
As an aside, you might be interested to read our account of the largest tank battle fought before the Second World War – the battle of Khalkhin Gol in Mongolia, which was fought between the USSR and Japan in 1939.
The last German offensive in the East
Defeat marked the end of the final German offensive on the Eastern Front. It also marked the first occasion on which a German offensive had not failed to make an initial breakthrough. From that point onwards, the initiative was with the Soviet Union, and the German military was forced to gradually retreat over the next two years.
We hope you enjoyed this summary of Battle of Kursks facts. You can find out more information about the battle of Kursk in these books, available from Amazon.com