This week in the War, 12–18 July 1943: Hitler calls an end to the Battle of Kursk

Panzer VI (Tiger) tank of the Waffen-SS Division 'Das Reich' near Kursk [Bundesarchiv_Bild_Zschaeckel-207-12]

Panzer VI (Tiger) tank of the Waffen-SS Division ‘Das Reich’ near Kursk [Bundesarchiv_Bild_Zschaeckel-207-12]

This week in the war, on 12 July 1943, Hitler summoned two of his generals, Günther von Kluge and Erich von Manstein, to his headquarters in East Prussia (the Wolf’s Lair) and ordered them to end the massive tank battle raging near the Soviet town of Kursk, some 450 kilometers southwest of Moscow. The German plan had been to attack the bulge in the Soviet line, the ‘Kursk salient,’ simultaneously from the north and south, thereby cutting off and destroying the enemy infantry and armoured forces trapped within.

The Battle of Kursk had begun on 5 July and most Germans, particularly Hitler, had been expecting to win—in part because of the massive force of tanks they had assembled. These included the new Panthers and Tigers.

Within days, it became clear that the battle could end in failure. The German panzer force was suffering irreparable losses but still failing to advance deeply enough into Soviet territory. Despite the continued optimism of von Manstein, whose troops had been performing well, Hitler called an end to the offensive. He was already worried by the recent Allied invasion of Sicily and was intent on moving troops from the Eastern Front to Italy.

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