What did the Germans' loss at Kursk mean? Having lost the battle, the Germans lost strategic initiative on the Eastern Front. In the future, they were limited to limited offensives and counteroffensives, for instance von Manstein's counterattack in November of 1943 at Fastovo. Strategic operations such as Fall Blau were unthinkable.
"[Operation Citadel] was our last attempt at regaining initiative in the East. When it did not succeed, which equalled a failure, initiative was completely ceded to the Soviets. Operation Citadel was the decisive turning point on the Eastern Front." - E. Manstein, "Lost Victories"
During preparations for Citadel, many German commanders warned that it will result in a waste of reserves that were so painstakingly gathered in the first half of 1943 after the Stalingrad catastrophe. In their opinion, due to the "aerial offensive" of the Allies (raids on strategic objects in Germany by the American 8th Air Army), a possible landing in Italy, and evidence of upcoming offensives on various sections of the Eastern Front, the German army should retain a defensive strategy.
Germany turned out most sensitive to losses of vehicles. By June 23rd, after nearly three weeks of fighting, Soviet forces reached initial positions from which Germany began its offensive. Many damaged German vehicles remained on territory retaken by the Red Army.
"As a result of the failed Citadel offensive, we suffered a decisive defeat. Armoured forces, reinforced with such difficulty, were ineffective for a long time due to significant losses." - G. Guderian, Memories of a Soldier
The drain on German reserves led to Germany being unable to effectively resist further Red Army offensives. On July 12th, 1943, the Orel Offensive Operation began. On August 5th, Orel was liberated. On August 3rd, the Belgorod-Kharkov Strategic Offensive Operation began. Kharkov was taken on August 23rd. Further offensives in 1943 on the south and central sections of the front led to liberation of a significant part of the Ukraine.
The political significance of the Battle of Kursk was also one of the greatest in the war. The failure of Citadel made it clear that the fall of Germany is only a matter of time. A few months after Kursk, Soviet and Allied leaders discussed the composition of the post-war world at the Tehran Conference, most notably Roosevelt's proposal to split Germany into five states. Additionally, the issue of the declaration of war against Japan by the Soviet Union after the defeat of Germany was discussed.
Article author: Andrei Ulanov.
Andrei Ulanov is an historian and an author of books and articles on the Great Patriotic War. His most prominent works are "Order in Tank Forces" and "First T-34s" (co-authored with Dmitriy Shein). Currently, he is working on books on AT measures of Soviet infantry and combat use of T-34 tanks in 1942.
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- V.N. Zamulin, Kurskiy Izlom, Reshayushaya Bitva Otechestvennoy Voyny, Moscow, Eksmo, 2007
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- E. Manstein, Lost Victories, Moscow, Terra Fantastica, 1999
- G. Guderian, Memories of a Soldier, Smolensk, Rusich, 1999