The battle at Kursk had a major goal to close down and join major German bulges in the areas around Orel and Kharkov. Kursk was their joining point.
This Zitadelle plan was known to russians, even von Manstein traveled to Bukurest on 3rd of July in one of attempts to "hide" the major offensive and the germans were "concentrating" tank models south of Donbas . Offensive was set to start at 3AM, but russian forces suprised germans with huge artillery counter attack 40 minutes earlier - at 2:20AM. This artillery attack broke down german artillery and communication systems. This offensive made the germans postpone their offensive for two hours later.
Within the range of german offensive, Hoth's strike group didnt manage to take Bojansk, and Model's group made progress only 8-12km. By 11th July this group was out of order with losses of 20 000 men.
It was very difficult to penetreate in those areas because russians have made the defence area around 150-190 km with almost 10 000 km of trenches, and russians managed to set the german advance course on a specific area: through mine fields (they didnt take Bojansk, so they had to cross over Prohorovka). This made the collapse in german forces.
T-34 had a significant advantage over Tiger tanks in such kind of close battles (Maultier support was minor).
While the battles lasted von Manstein and von Kluge flew to Hitlers command residence and Hitler himself ordered to stop Zitadelle offensive!! Even 2nd SS corps was transfered to Yugoslavia.
But, the major turn over was in "long term" plans even before the offensive. Russians made a furious counter offensive that was impossible to stop:
they gathered 2 300 000 men, 34 500 artillery and mortars, 5000 tanks and 3700 aircrafts. German forces were significantly lower: 900 000 men, 1600 tanks, 9500 artillery and 1700 aircrafts.
We can't (in any way) state that this was a tactical victory or the Germans came much closer to actually winning than is appreciated. It was a big defeat for the germans. Major conclusion about german loss is that soviet intelligence and command knew about this german offensive months before. Soviets didn't only plan the defence, they even concentrated forces for a major breakthrough to Gomel, Chernigov and Kiev. On 3rd of August soviet offensive made "the gate" to Ukrain and Donbas.
< Message edited by Cyclop -- 4/18/2011 1:12:28 PM >