In This Article Battle of Kursk

  • Introduction
  • Formation of the Kursk Bulge
  • Intelligence and Deception Aspects
  • Air Aspects
  • Prokhorovka Engagement
  • Soviet Counteroffensives (Operations KUTUZOV and RUMIANTSEV)

Military History Battle of Kursk
by
Jonathan M. House
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0152

Introduction

The failed German offensive against the Kursk bulge in the summer of 1943 has two principal claims to fame. On the one hand, it is a candidate for the title of “turning point,” in World War II, because it represents both the first instance in which German mechanized forces failed to penetrate prepared enemy defenses operationally—and therefore were unable to launch a Blitzkrieg-style exploitation—as well as the last full-scale German offensive on the so-called “Eastern Front.” On the other, Kursk has entered into popular legend as the greatest tank battle of all time, involving thousands of armored vehicles maneuvering in an unmatched swirl of destruction. As this bibliography should make clear, however, this latter claim is the subject of much revisionist historiography. In particular, recent studies have demonstrated conclusively that the famous encounter at Prokhorovka on July 12, while certainly involving rather large mechanized forces, was neither as massive nor as decisive as earlier accounts portrayed it. Nor can one evaluate this confrontation solely in terms of the German offensive, which had clearly failed by mid-July. Instead, Operation Citadel must be considered in the context of Operations KUTUZOV and RUMIANTSEV, the twin Soviet counteroffensives against Orel and Khar’kov, which eliminated all German territorial gains while demonstrating the resiliency of the Red Army. To date, the most formidable obstacle to writing a balanced history of the battle of Kursk has been the unavailability of the German Ninth Army’s Kriegstagebuch, which the Red Army captured during the war and remains in Russian hands. The author of this article gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David M. Glantz throughout this bibliography, and especially in the section on Russian/Soviet Overviews.

General Overviews

Kursk attracts an endless stream of studies, both popular and scholarly, many of which repeat earlier accounts. Glantz and House 1999 attempts to counterbalance traditional German accounts with a more detailed look at the Soviet side, while Zetterling and Frankson 2000 (cited under British and Other Overviews) pioneers a more accurate study of daily strengths, both armor and personnel, that became the basis for most subsequent analyses. The most comprehensive of these works are Zamulin 2012 and Zamulin 2013 (both cited under Russian/Soviet Overviews). As the former curator of the Kursk museum, Zamulin has detailed the battle in the southern half of the Kursk bulge and at Prokhorovka and is now preparing, based on the German Ninth Army’s captured Kriegstagebuch, a new study on the fighting in the northern half of the bulge. Numerous overview entries, notably Citino 2012 (cited under American Overviews), Töppel 2002, and Töppel 2009 (both cited under German Overviews) offer the reader introductions to the evolving historiography of Kursk.

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