http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... ilit=kursk
So, what if Hitler opts to stay on the defensive in the East and not go for Citadel (Kursk) come June/July? Let's say he just listens to the advice he was getting:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of ... reparation
What if then by early June Hitler calls off Kursk? The Soviets would have wasted a lot of resources building up defenses, given the Germans time to rebuild their forces, and given Model time to build up some defenses in the Orel bulge.On 27 April Model met with Hitler to review and express his concern for reconnaissance information which showed the Soviets constructing very strong positions at the shoulders of the salient and having withdrawn their mobile forces from the area west of Kursk. He argued that the longer the preparation phase continued, the less the operation could be justified. He recommended completely abandoning Citadel, allowing the army to await and defeat the coming Soviet offensive, or radically revising the plan for Citadel. Though in mid-April Manstein had considered the Citadel offensive profitable, by May he shared Model's misgivings. He asserted that the best course of action would be for the German forces to take the strategic defensive, ceding ground to allow the anticipated Soviet forces to extend themselves and allow the German panzer forces to counterattack in the type of fluid mobile battle they excelled at. Convinced that the Red Army would deliver its main effort against Army Group South, he proposed to keep the left wing of the army group strong while moving the right wing back in stages to the Dnieper River, followed by a counterattack against the flank of the Red Army advance. The counteroffensive would continue until the Sea of Azov was reached and the Soviet forces were cut off. Hitler rejected this idea; he did not want to give up so much terrain, even temporarily.
In early May, Hitler called his senior officers and advisors to Munich for a meeting. Hitler spoke for about 45 minutes on the current situation and the plans for the offensive. Model then spoke, and produced reconnaissance photos revealing some of the extensive preparations the Soviets had made in preparation for the attack. A number of options were put forth for comment: going on the offensive immediately with the forces at hand, delaying the offensive further to await the arrival of new and better tanks, radically revising the operation or cancelling it all together. Manstein spoke against the offensive, but not forcefully. Albert Speer, the minister of Armaments and War Production, spoke about the difficulties of rebuilding the armoured formations and the limitations of German industry to replace losses. General Heinz Guderian argued strongly against the operation, stating "the attack was pointless". The conference ended without Hitler coming to a decision, but Citadel was not aborted. Three days later, OKW, Hitler's conduit for controlling the military, postponed the launch date for Citadel to 12 June.
Following this meeting, Guderian continued to voice his concerns over an operation that would likely degrade the panzer forces that he had been attempting to rebuild. He considered the offensive, as planned, to be a misuse of the panzer forces, as it violated two of the three tenets he had laid out as the essential elements for a successful panzer attack.[l] In his opinion, the limited German resources in men and materiel should be conserved, as they would be needed for the pending defence of western Europe. In a meeting with Hitler on 10 May he asked,Is it really necessary to attack Kursk, and indeed in the east this year at all? Do you think anyone even knows where Kursk is? The entire world doesn't care if we capture Kursk or not. What is the reason that is forcing us to attack this year on Kursk, or even more, on the Eastern Front?
Hitler replied, "I know. The thought of it turns my stomach." Guderian concluded, "In that case your reaction to the problem is the correct one. Leave it alone."[m]
How long does it take the Soviets to go on the offensive and what do the fresh German armor reserves accomplish? Does this mean the Panther then is allowed to take the time it needs to become more reliable than it was in July 1943?
To start off the discussion, I'll lay out my thoughts, feel free to do whatever with them.
I think the Soviets would be on the offensive within two-three weeks of the cancellation order once they shift back into an offensive posture. I don't think they'd wait for Sicily to be invaded. So by late June the Soviets would launch their offensive against the Orel Bulge from multiple sides:
Besides the West and Bryansk Fronts attacking the Central Front would also attack. With time to build up reserves and having all of his forces intact Model would inflict heavier losses than historical during Operation Kutusov, but probably less than Citadel+Kutusov. His forces would be more intact after the Soviet offensive though and the follow up to the north with the Smolensk offensive would be harder on the Soviets. So the entire area north of Ukraine would probably be overall a tougher fight for the Soviets and probably in the end a better deal for the Germans than attacking Kursk and then fighting defensively against the Soviets.
Now to the South is where things get interesting. Without Kursk the Voronezh, Steppe, and Southwest Fronts are all intact and can attack, but now face an undiminished German force with full armor and no transfers to Italy, plus their defenses around Belgorod; historically Manstein's troops were so worn down from Kursk+transfers (Mius and Italy) that they couldn't pull off another backhand blow against Soviet spearheads that broke through against Belgorod, which in this situation despite the greater Soviet armor available without the blooding of Kursk would get lopped off.
Since the offensive would happen earlier there are more Germans around not in Italy, even if historical reinforcements to Mius are sent.
The Soviets then don't break through and start their run to the Dniepr like they did historically and from June-August there are bloody battles to breakthrough to the South. Eventually the Germans do have to give ground, but they bleed the Soviets much worse and can pull back in better order while the Soviets don't advance nearly as quickly, allowing for more 'scorched earth' and less overrun German forces. The historical transfers to Italy may not happen at the same time and given the Germans a chance to retreat properly to the Dniepr. Maybe they pull out of Crimea in good order later on. IMHO its likely that the situation in Ukraine doesn't collapse and the Dniepr could be held into 1944 before it gets breeched, but when it does there isn't the pocket battles like Korsun; so then leading into summer 1944 Ukraine is a better situation and that may impact the way the Germans view the situation before Bagration, meaning they don't strip down their armor there and don't suffer as badly as a result. I imagine the situation around Leningrad and in the North remains the same.
In the end the Eastern Front holds up better for the Germans and barring any significant command changes as the result of July 17th or 20th succeeding, the Wallies then have a more important role to play in the West with their offensives; they may well end up getting to Berlin first if the Eastern Front doesn't collapse as far as it did historically and the Soviets bleed worse to advance a shorter distance.
IMHO Kursk was a bad choice compared to letting the Soviets go on the offensive in Summer 1943 and the Germans using their armor to parry their blows. What do you all think?