The Allies can Tank the Battle of Kursk for Turning the Tide of the War

The Kursk Front.

In his essay Battle of Kursk, James von Geldern states that this engagement “involved the largest tank battle of the Second World War,” and “was fought on the steppe of Kursk oblast between July 5 and August 23, 1943.” Furthermore, from taking a class on World War Two last Autumn, I know that this was and still is the largest tank battle in history, giving us an interesting anecdote on the mechanization of the Soviet Union and Germany during World War Two.

Geldern goes on to note that the battle “was initiated by the Germans who, in retreat after their spectacular defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad, concentrated 50 divisions, two tank brigades, three tank battalions, and eight artillery assault divisions comprising 2,700 Tiger and Panther tanks, some two thousand aircraft, and 900,000 men in all.”On the other side, the “Soviet forces, consisting of General K.K. Rokossovskii’s Army of the Center, General N.F. Vatutin’s Voronezh Army, and the reserve army of the Steppe Front under General I.S. Konev, number 1.3 million troops, 3,600 tanks, and 2,800 aircraft.”

In his work Russia: A History, Gregory Freeze notes that “German intelligence services also undercounted the Soviet tank park (by at last 50 per cent and grossly underestimated the scale, and productivity of the Soviet war economy” (383). Continued, Freeze says that the “Soviet Union was clearly winning the industrial war against Nazi Germany even as early as 1942. Although in that year Russia’s supply of steel and coal was only one-third that of Germany, it nevertheless manufactured twice the number of weapons. Simply put, the Soviets outproduced the Germans” (386-387). When supplied with these armaments, the Soviet Union found the wherewithal to fight and thus became the formidable opponent that Hitler and his General Staff had not anticipated. Further, it is fascinating to note the Soviet Union’s industrial superiority over Germany beginning in 1942 because that is before American lend-lease capital entered their economy, meaning the Soviet Union might have been every bit as much the sleeping-giant that the United States was.

Upon achieving this resounding victory, “the Soviet Red Army went on to liberate most of Ukraine in the autumn of 1943, marching into Kiev on November 6. Although Western historiography traditionally marks the beginning of the German downfall to the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the crushing defeat of Kursk makes a more likely turning point for the war” (Geldern). This video provides a captivating account of the battle, not because of what is said, but rather because it shows the sheer scope and size of the conflict with all of the activated mechanized units advancing against one another and the destruction that can be wrought using man-made weapons of war. To conclude, it is interesting to note two points of American pride during World War Two, lend-lease and the D-Day invasion, and how an argument can be made that both were after-the-fact compliments to results the Soviet Union had already reached.

hammer-keyboard-2This post earned a spot in “Comrade’s Corner” from the editorial team.

11 thoughts on “The Allies can Tank the Battle of Kursk for Turning the Tide of the War

  1. I found your argument about the importance of D-Day and the lend-lease program thought provoking and interesting. The Russian war industry was truly amazing throughout the war. I had a poor understanding of their production power prior to last class.


  2. It is interesting that Germany failed in intelligence and physical military power, and how them mastering even one of them would have changed the outcome. The argument that Kursk was the mark of German downfall was definitely compelling, and the video was a nice addition. Rachael made some similar points in her post this week about the German/Soviet dynamic:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good perspective here.Your post really makes us think about the differences in perspective on “turning points.” Is Kursk really still the largest tank battle in history? Or was there a battle during Desert Storm that now takes first place? (If so, Kursk is still a pretty darn big battle!)


  4. Hi Max! I really enjoyed your post. I thought it was really interesting that you noted the Soviets were able to “win the industrial war.” It is rather impressive that the Soviets were able to produce more than the Germans even though the Germans had more material. You would think that Germany would’ve been more cautious about their intelligence before going into war because if they miscalculated by 50% that’s a huge error.


  5. I enjoyed your analysis of the contributing factors to Soviet/Allied victory in the war, which is usually pinned to the battle at Stalingrad or the Allied invasion at Normandy. I have heard a legend (or maybe a true fact) that when Soviet tanks were finished begin built, they could be driven directly to the battlefield for combat use. The striking efficiency and power of the tanks was great, but I was really happy to read about German intelligence playing a part as well. Thanks for a well-rounded and informative post!


  6. You’ve made a lot of great points in your post that have really made me think. The whole perspective dilemma definitely presents some intriguing debate when considering some wars/battles since WWII. It also makes me wonder if this battle were to occur today between the two states, who would win with the modernizations of tanks since this battle took place?


  7. First of all, I really like the pun in the title. It was an all or nothing gamble that the Nazis lost and it cost them. I liked how you pointed out some of America’s pride from WWII, but it really was the Soviets that did most of the fight and dying with the Americans coming in just at the end to claim victory.


  8. This was a really interesting post. I have taken a WW2 class and we didn’t even talk about this. What a shame. But it is really cool to know that one key battle can be all that it takes to find and keep the momentum to liberate a country.


  9. Just wanted to add a quick follow up about the video on 17 Moments (link in the last paragraph). It has subtitles!!!! Click on the lower right hand corner — works great in Chrome, maybe less well on Firefox.


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