The Battle of Kursk: The Red Army’s Defensive Operations and Counter-Offensive, July-August 1943, offers a peculiarly Soviet view of one of the Second World War’s most critical events. While the Germans defeats at Moscow and Stalingrad showed that Hitler could not win the war in the East, the outcome of Kursk demonstrated beyond a doubt that he would lose it.
This study was compiled by the Red Army General Staff’s military-historical directorate, which was charged with collecting and analyzing the war’s experience, and issued as an internal document in 1946-47. The study languished for more than a half-century, before being published in Russia in 2006, although heavily supplemented by commentary and other information not contained in the original. The present work omits these additions, while supplying its own commentary in places deemed necessary.
The book is divided into two parts, dealing with the defensive and offensive phases of the battle, respectively. The first begins with a strategic overview of the situation along the Eastern Front by the spring and summer of 1943 and the Soviet decision to stand on the defensive. This is followed by a detailed examination of the Central Front’s efforts to counter the expected German attack out of the Orel salient, and the Voronezh Front’s attempts to do the same against the German concentrations in the Belgorod-Khar’kov area. The rest of this section is devoted to an exceedingly detailed day-by-day, tactical-operational account of the struggle, particularly along the southern face of the salient, where the Germans came closest to succeeding.
The second part will be more of a revelation to the Western reader, who is likely to be more familiar with the defensive phase of the battle. Here the authors once again, in great detail, lay out the Red Army’s preparations for and conduct of a massive counteroffensive to clear the Orel salient, which soon degenerated to a grinding struggle, which while ultimately successful, cost the Soviets dearly. Likewise, the authors detail the Voronezh Front’s preparations to reduce the Belgorod salient and seize the industrial center of Khar’kov. This offensive, in conjunction with a simultaneous offensive in the Donets industrial region, pushed the German lines to the breaking point and set the stage for the follow-on advance to the Dnepr River and the eventual liberation of Ukraine.
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About the Author
Richard W. Harrison earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Georgetown University, where he specialized in Russian area studies. He later earned his doctorate in War Studies from King’s College London. He also was an exchange student in the former Soviet Union and spent several years living and working in post-communist Russia. Harrison has worked for the US Department of Defense as an investigator in Russia, dealing with cases involving POWs and MIAs. He has also taught Russian history and military history at the college and university level, most recently at the US Military Academy at West Point.Harrison is the author of two books dealing with the Red Army’s theoretical development during the interwar period: The Russian Way of War: Operational Art, 1904- 1940 (2001), and Architect of Soviet Victory in World War II: The Life and Theories of G.S. Isserson (2010). He is also the translator and editor of The Battle of Moscow 1941-1942: The Red Army’s Defensive Operations and Counter-Offensive Along the Moscow Strategic Direction (2015). He is currently working on a history of the Red Army’s high commands during World War II and afterwards. Dr. Harrison lives with his family near Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Table of Contents
List of Maps viii
List of Tables ix
Preface to the English-language edition xi
Book 1 The Defensive Battle (July 1943) 13
Part 1 The Organization of the Defense 25
1 The Decision by the Stavka of the Supreme High Command and the Front Commanders 27
2 The Preparation of the Defense 47
3 The Enemy's Group of Forces by the Beginning of the Battle and the Correlation of Forces 97
Part 2 A Description of Combat Activities on the Central and Voronezh Fronts 105
1 A Brief Survey of the Defensive Battle 107
2 The Central Front's Defensive Battle 111
3 The Voronezh Front's Defensive Battle 129
Book 2 The Defeat of the Germans' Orel and Belgorod-Khar'kov Groups of Forces (July-August 1943) 203
Part 1 The Defeat of the Germans' Orel Group of Forces 205
1 The Planning and Preparation of the Offensive Operation 212
2 A Brief Sketch of the Operation Along the Bolkhov Axis 234
3 The Western Front's Left-Wing Forces' Battle Along the Karachev Axis (20-30 July 1943) 264
4 The Orel Operation 270
5 The Pursuit of the Remnants of the Germans' Orel Group of Forces. The Capture of the Towns of Khotynets and Karachev 295
Part 2 The Defeat of the Germans' Belgorod-Khar'kov Group of Forces 303
1 The Planning and Preparation of the Offensive Operation 311
2 The Course of the Battle 323