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 Post subject: Kursk - The German View
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2013 13:02 pm 
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A compilation by Steven Newton of German material on the Battle of Kursk.
The editor has assembled a number of accounts written by high ranking German commanders.
Mostly written at the behest of US Army Intelligence, who where interested in gleaning information of Red Army tactics and strategic abilities.
Newton has re-translated much of the primary material as his contention is that the US translators made a number of mistakes in their translations
which de-valued and misunderstood the importance of the accounts.
It's worth discounting much of the comments on the qualities of the Russian soldier as it reflects both the political prejudices of the authors(whose comments are designed to curry favour with their interrogators) and also reflects Cold War attitudes towards the Soviet Union.
The first part of the book is a study of the battle itself, written by General Theodor Busse. This looks at the battle from the perspective of the key tank,infantry and air commanders.
The rest is devoted to accounts of the defensive battles fought by German forces after the defeat at Kursk itself as the Red Army went onto the offensive.
These battles are rarely recounted in detail and are extremely useful in providing a broad view of the aftermath itself.
In particular there is a perceptive set of comments by a senior railroad officer on the role played by the bands of partisans operating in the German rear on the logistical nightmare which was the Eastern Front. Especially on the limitations of the operations by these bands.
The final part is written by Newton himself which exposes the myth perpetuated by the German commanders(which has been accepted by many Western historians) that 'they almost won at Kursk'.
His conclusion is that the Germans could not have won the battle, they did not have the resources in men and material to overcome the Red Army, who had not only a superiority in men and material but whose commanders had acquired tactical and strategic skills which equaled and in the case of some higher ranking commanders surpassed their German equivalents.
This book is not an easy read but if you're serious about understanding the War in the East it's invaluable.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 12:45 pm 
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Thanks Brian, I'll look this one up but I thought this was worth commenting on....

BrianB wrote:
The final part is written by Newton himself which exposes the myth perpetuated by the German commanders(which has been accepted by many Western historians) that 'they almost won at Kursk'.
His conclusion is that the Germans could not have won the battle, they did not have the resources in men and material to overcome the Red Army, who had not only a superiority in men and material but whose commanders had acquired tactical and strategic skills which equaled and in the case of some higher ranking commanders surpassed their German equivalents.


From this end of history it's easy to see the result of the Kursk Defensive Operation (to give the Soviet term) as almost a foregone conclusion. But standing, metaphorically, on the other side of it the German Army had never been defeated in a Spring/Summer offensive since 1939.

It was, by their lights, reasonable of the German commanders to anticipate that after a week of fighting they were about to break through as that was the most anyone had ever been able to hold them before. As it happens I agree that they were wrong and their assessments are just part of their repeated underestimation of their opponents.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 13:00 pm 
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You are right of course, the 'normal' course of events was that the German armoured forces would break through the Red Army's lines, a factor which influenced the plannig of the higher German commanders.
The interest in this book is how decisions made by Hoth an experienced Panzer commander, which led to the incorrect disposition of armoured forces and a failure to follow the German's own operational techniques, meant that opportunities to exploit local successes were lost through the German's adherence to his rigid battleplan.
It's not argued that if the Germans had done this or that differently they would have won, the depth of the defences and the difference in the balance of forces meant that it was unlikely there would have been a different outcome.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 14:08 pm 
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Actually, I've just read an opinion in another book today which was that the failure at Kursk was partly due to the large number of green troops deployed... this was from a section of this book which was talking about the differences between experienced and inexperienced combat troops.

I am guessing Kursk would have been a big ask for the mighty Wehrmacht of 40/41 but by mid 43 pretty much most of those professional soldiers were in their graves.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 14:31 pm 
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Well, the 200 Panthers on which the Germans laid big hopes were crewed by inexperienced troops, most of whom had no experience of the evironmental conditions or combat in Russia. The commander of 10th Panzer Brigade was senior to the more able Großdeutschland Panzer commander Hyacinth Graf Strachwitz(but lacked his combat experience or reputation), one would have expected a man of Strachwitz's ability(he was one of the most gifted Panzer commanders the German's had) to be given the command, especially as his division was to spearhead the attack, but the normal hierarchy of rank was applied.
Most of the German divisions involved in the battle had been involved in the bitter fighting either in the failed attempt to rescue the 6th Army or the the subsequent battles which culminated in the recapture of Kharkov.
They were under strength and replacement combat troops came slowly and from a number of sources.
Apart from returning wounded and convalescent soldiers the majority were poorly trained.
The Liebstandarte division, for example had received replacements among whom were 4,000 former Luftwaffe Field Division personnel. For the first time it was accepting draftees not volunteers.
It should not be forgotten that the Red Army had also suffered major losses in men and equipment in the battles fought from Operation Uranus onwards. Like the Germans they faced the problems of integrating new inexperienced troops into existing formations and training them to combat readiness. It was facing a shortage of trained tank crew which meant that while it had over 18,000 tanks available to it on paper, the reality was there were not enough crews to man them all. A shortfall not resolved until early 1944.

_________________
Panzer Lehr 130 Aufklarungs Batt
" Regimenter sterben zehnmahl, aber es bleibt....das Regiment."
Unsere Ehre ist, wenn sie unsere Aufgabe erfüllt
Schweiß speichert Blut
"...the future is clearly known, only the past has to be rewritten"
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 16:07 pm 
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That the RKKA had taken massive losses and brought up more unbloodied troops is a given.

The thing is that its easier to be on the defensive with green troops than the offence - the book I was referring to talks about how green troops will go to ground when fired upon, only the old hands can overcome the mental barrier that safety is to reach the enemy and deal with him.

One common phrase used by Soviet tankers when meeting each other was "have you burnt yet?" meaning have you been in serious action and had your tank knocked out from under you...

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"I saw cities in Europe that were practically untouched by the war, countries that capitulated to the more powerful enemies even before war was declared, but we are not like that. Our grandfathers, our fathers, our older generation, our great leaders, fought here for each building, for each street." - First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on the 70th anniversary of victory at Stalingrad


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:25 am 
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BrianB wrote:
It was facing a shortage of trained tank crew which meant that while it had over 18,000 tanks available to it on paper, the reality was there were not enough crews to man them all. A shortfall not resolved until early 1944.


As an aside analysis of the offensive operations carried out by the six Guards Tank Armies during the war reveals that crew losses actually declined through the war while vehicle losses didn't.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Army-Tank-C ... Commanders

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