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04 April 2016


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Glantz on Kursk.


Trey N

"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.


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.

Chris Chuba

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.


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

Bill Herschel

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.

Bill Herschel

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.

Bill Herschel

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.


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.


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

Trey N

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.


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.

Mark Pyruz

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

Trey N

"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).


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.

Bill H

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

William R. Cumming

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


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.


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.

Allen Thomson

> fate accompli

For a malapropism, that's highly appropriate!


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.


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

Peter Reichard

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.


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.

F5 F5 F5

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?)

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