The Battle Of Kursk: Operation Citadel

It is said that history belongs to the victors. In the example of World War II, obviously the victors were the Allied forces of Great Britain, America, the Soviet Union, Canada and other countries that contributed fighting forces.

Of all the many battles fought during those terrible years from 1939 until the Germans surrendered in 1945, perhaps no battle is debated more by historians that the Battle of Kursk, or Operation Citadel, as Hitler named it.

Waffen SS soldiers having a discussion with a Panzer Mk VI Tiger commander. – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Waffen SS soldiers having a discussion with a Panzer Mk VI Tiger commander. – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

This was his plan to invade, capture and conquer the Soviet Union. The fighting here began in July, 1943, and was all over less than two weeks later. By then the German forces were in tatters, retreating after sustaining heavy losses, and Hitler’s dream of seizing Russia had gone up in smoke.

Hitler put everything his armed forces had into this operation. Two million fighting men; 6,000 tanks, and 4,000 planes. It’s almost difficult to fathom how he lost considering the sheer numbers he put to the fight. This in spite of his defeat at Stalingrad in 1942 and 1943.

But lose he did. German forces were no match for the Soviet armies and huge geography of the country.

Most significantly, historians say, is that the Germans could not take Prochorovka, one of the first locations troops attempted to seize. From there, it was one defeat after another for Hitler’s operation, and on July 13th, the Nazi leader abandoned his attempts to win his Russian adversaries.

It had been a short time since Operation Citadel was launched, but the German retreat was stunning, and absolute, on the eastern front in 1943.

 

Two Panzer Mk VI Tiger tanks, a destroyed vehicle and a German on a horse – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Two Panzer Mk VI Tiger tanks, a destroyed vehicle and a German on a horse – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Vehicles advancing during operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Vehicles advancing during operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Waffen SS soldiers in their vehicle – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Waffen SS soldiers in their vehicle – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Waffen SS soldiers on a Stug, followed by two Panzer MK VI Tiger tanks drive to the startline of operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Waffen SS soldiers on a Stug, followed by two Panzer MK VI Tiger tanks drive to the startline of operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

A soldier of the SS Division “Das Reich” in the turret of a Panzer Mk VI “Tiger” – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
A soldier of the SS Division “Das Reich” in the turret of a Panzer Mk VI “Tiger” – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

A Tiger tank of the SS division “Das Reich” in action – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
A Tiger tank of the SS division “Das Reich” in action – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Belgorod – Self-propelled guns (Stugs), Panzer Mk III and Mk IV tanks are assembling and getting ready for operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Belgorod – Self-propelled guns (Stugs), Panzer Mk III and Mk IV tanks are assembling and getting ready for operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Crew manning an artillery gun in support of operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Crew manning an artillery gun in support of operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

FLAK Vierling gun firing during operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
FLAK Vierling gun firing during operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Generalmajor v. Hünersdorff at operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Generalmajor v. Hünersdorff at operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

German Soldiers on a Panzer Mk VI Tiger with turret number 123 – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
German Soldiers on a Panzer Mk VI Tiger with turret number 123 – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Kursk, Panzer Mk VI Tiger and soldiers of the Waffen-SS – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Kursk, Panzer Mk VI Tiger and soldiers of the Waffen-SS – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Loading of new shells in a Panzer Mk VI Tiger tank – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Loading of new shells in a Panzer Mk VI Tiger tank – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Looking down the barrel of a Panzer MK VI Tiger tank during operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Looking down the barrel of a Panzer MK VI Tiger tank during operation Citadel – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Near Pokrovka, a group of light field howitzers mounted on Panzer Mk II chassis, know as the Wespe or Sd.Kfz. 124 in a field near the frontline. – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Near Pokrovka, a group of light field howitzers mounted on Panzer Mk II chassis, know as the Wespe or Sd.Kfz. 124 in a field near the frontline. – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Near Pokrovka, German Motorcycle troops take cover near their vehicles – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Near Pokrovka, German Motorcycle troops take cover near their vehicles – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Near Pokrovka, German motorized troops on the left and a light (20mm) FLAK gun mounted on half track on the right. – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Near Pokrovka, German motorized troops on the left and a light (20mm) FLAK gun mounted on half track on the right. – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

New shells are being loaded on a Panzer Mk VI Tiger – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
New shells are being loaded on a Panzer Mk VI Tiger – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Operation Citadel a Marder III 7,62cm Pak on the chassis of a Czech 38(t). – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Operation Citadel a Marder III 7,62cm Pak on the chassis of a Czech 38(t). – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Operation Citadel, a Panzer Mk VI Tiger is being towed by an 18-ton FAMO – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Operation Citadel, a Panzer Mk VI Tiger is being towed by an 18-ton FAMO – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Operation Citadel, Panzer MK III with turret number 943 and in the foreground a Panzer MK II with turret number 914 – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Operation Citadel, Panzer MK III with turret number 943 and in the foreground a Panzer MK II with turret number 914 – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Operation Citadel, soldiers of Waffen-SS division “Das Reich” in front of a Tiger tank. – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Operation Citadel, soldiers of Waffen-SS division “Das Reich” in front of a Tiger tank. – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Panzer IV with Waffen SS Troops – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Panzer IV with Waffen SS Troops – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Panzerjäger Marder III Ausf. H (Sd. Kfz. 138) – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Panzerjäger Marder III Ausf. H (Sd. Kfz. 138) – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

South of Orel, Panzer Mk VI Tiger tanks attack, in the background a building burns – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
South of Orel, Panzer Mk VI Tiger tanks attack, in the background a building burns – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Soviet Union – “Operation Citadel” – fighting in the area Belgorod-Orel – Waffen SS Division “Das Reich”, crew during a stop in front of their Panzer III – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Soviet Union – “Operation Citadel” – fighting in the area Belgorod-Orel – Waffen SS Division “Das Reich”, crew during a stop in front of their Panzer III – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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Tiger 123, 1st Company sPzabt.503 – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0
Tiger 123, 1st Company sPzabt.503 – By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0