To continue our series of Turning Points of WW2 we are next going to look at the largest tank battle in history: Kursk
State of play beforehand
The Axis offensive against the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, was stalling. They had been met with a resilient defence trying to capture Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad. However, just one breakthrough could end all of the Soviet resistance in one fell swoop.
Germany’s allies had been used to quick and decisive victories. They were growing weary of suddenly losing battles and were becoming increasingly wary of overall defeat in the war.
Hitler had decided to have one massive push against the Soviets in a bid to get them out of the War and concentrate on the renewed vigour coming from the Western Front, especially with reports of an imminent invasion.
Why didn’t it work for the Axis
Through the espionage done by the Lucy Spy Ring and verified by their spy based in Bletchley Park, the Soviets knew where the attack would happen so were able to make heavy defensive plans and they even managed plans for a counter offensive strike.
The Germans didn’t try any deception here. Their plan was the obvious option for attack which further helped Soviet planning.
Hitler and Stalin both had different ideas as to how to run the battle compared to their respective Generals. However, whilst Stalin listened to their advice, Hitler ignored his own advisors.
The reserve troops the Germans had planned to send to Kursk to push through to victory had to be diverted to Italy after the Allies invasion of Sicily. This meant the resources needed to win were not available.
Why considered a turning point
Winning the battle of Kursk gave Stalin the leverage he needed at the Tehran Conference to force the UK and the US to invade France sooner than they wanted to.
A decisive defeat for the Nazis on the Eastern Front, the last attack they would be able to make there. The Germans also lost a lot of ground following the Soviet counter offensive.
The battle was also a huge loss of material for the Germans, who were beginning to struggle for resources.
At the end of the series, we’ll have a vote to see which of the featured events you think is the most significant. Will Kursk be your choice?