Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Discussions on High Command, strategy and the Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) in general.
User avatar
pintere
Member
Posts: 364
Joined: 03 Jan 2015 22:04
Location: Moose Jaw

Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by pintere » 03 Sep 2015 19:17

The battle of Kursk has been a subject of intense fascination for me recently, in part because of the extremely deliberate nature of the battle. More so than many other battles in WWII, at Kursk neither side was rushed into action, and both the Russian and German high commands were faced with a set of military dilemmas with how to best use their forces around the Kursk salient. Ultimately it was the Germans who decided to attack, and the Russians to wait.

The battle continues to provoke debate to this day. The decision to attack Kursk remains controversial, as there were plenty of alternative options available to the Germans which have been explored at length by post-war scholars and laymen alike. Some suggest the Germans shouldn’t have attacked at all, but waited. Others say Kursk could have succeeded if the attack took place sooner, as Manstein originally wanted. Still others think that the Germans should have simply withdrawn to a line further back in Russia, as they did at Rzhev. But I’ve been thinking of a different option that I think is worth consideration.

Part of the problem with the German offensives on both sides of the salient was their lack of operational reserves, due to the German manpower problems at the time. This proved to be a fatal blow for Citadel, hampering offensives on both fronts. In this scenario, in order to avoid this problem, the Germans decide to launch Kursk on just one axis of advance. The logic behind this is to attempt to cut off the Kursk bulge with a single, powerful thrust from the south where the terrain was more suited to panzer warfare. The Germans would rely on the principle of limited combat frontage, that is, the Russians could only concentrate so many guns, mines, etc. on a narrow portion of front, and that with sufficient buildup they would inevitably break through the Russian defenses. And with additional armoured reserves to add force to the advance and exploit opportunities, breaking through the Russian defenses and advancing the distance to Kursk would offer a much greater chance of success.

So here is the situation. The Germans decide to launch citadel at the same time as they did historically, and have the same forces as they did historically. But in this scenario a portion of the troops that historically fought in the northern salient; including all the Tiger, Elefant and other breakthrough battalions, several additional divisions (I’m thinking especially of the XLVII Pz.Korps) and extra Luftwaffe support are added to the southern order of battle. The breakthrough battalions are added to the main attacking forces, with the extra divisions being used to form an operational reserve for Manstein’s forces. The other forces that would have been used in the northern sector are kept back as a strategic reserve either to counter soviet offensives at Orel, or possibly attack the northern sector if an encirclement is imminent. The XXIV. Panzerkorps is used to counter potential Russian attacks south of Belgorod.

The main question is whether this alternative battle plan would have offered a better chance at capturing the Kursk bulge. I’d prefer to leave the wider strategic situation out of this particular discussion, the issue at hand being whether this battle plan would have succeeded in its operational aims.

User avatar
Cult Icon
Member
Posts: 2211
Joined: 08 Apr 2014 19:00

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by Cult Icon » 03 Sep 2015 22:24

In the event that the salient is cut off, how will this: defeat soviet assault reserves? Will there be enough manpower to create/defend the inner/outer encirclement ring?

How will the giant, well equipped pocket be reduced? Do the other german forces holding the salient have the capacity to absorb at least 100,000 infantry casualties and reduce the pocket? The Kiev pocket took a six figure toll on AGC/AGS IIRC. This would probably take more.

Basically I believe that the armor is entirely not sufficient.

ML59
Member
Posts: 409
Joined: 26 Dec 2007 11:09
Location: GENOVA

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by ML59 » 05 Sep 2015 09:00

My opinion is that the entire concept of assaulting a huge salient like Kursk with vastly inferior forces could not bring any meaningful result because, even if that attacker could breakthrough at some point ( and that didn't happen, historically) there were not enough reserves to exploit the success and to seal the front line, also considering that powerful soviet reserves were available and that a multi-staggered offensive was already planned by the soviets and under way even before the end of operation at the Kursk salient. With hindsight, we know today that the faction inside the German leadership against the offensive was fundamentally right, Zitadelle was a strategic mistake and only accelerated the collapse of the eastern front that could have, maybe, resisted for longer (but not for ever) the renewed soviet onslaught of late 1943-early 1944.

User avatar
Cult Icon
Member
Posts: 2211
Joined: 08 Apr 2014 19:00

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by Cult Icon » 06 Sep 2015 03:25

^ 41/42 had shown that in order for a large encirclement to work, those that are encircling should be around the same size or larger than those that are being encircled. At Kursk, this was not the case by a huge margin. Then there was the Steppe Front to worry about.

steverodgers801
Member
Posts: 1147
Joined: 13 Aug 2011 18:02

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by steverodgers801 » 06 Sep 2015 04:10

The German forces in the south only got as far as halfway to Kursk, even if by some chance they got to Kursk that is still only half way to surrounding the bulge and that leaves the Soviets free to concentrate on their northern offense and or send more troops south

User avatar
ViKinG
Member
Posts: 529
Joined: 08 Mar 2004 08:14
Location: Edmonton Alberta Canada

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by ViKinG » 11 Sep 2015 12:23

The forces required to guard the very long and extremely vulnerable right flank of the one pincer hook would be staggering and would also sap all offensive power of the pincer itself I'd say. Not to mention that once the Soviets were onto the Germans tactic of using one hook, all their forces holding the northern front of the bulge could be brought down to bear on the spearhead and essentially destroy most of Germany's available striking power in the east in one blow.

User avatar
pintere
Member
Posts: 364
Joined: 03 Jan 2015 22:04
Location: Moose Jaw

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by pintere » 11 Sep 2015 15:10

ViKinG wrote:The forces required to guard the very long and extremely vulnerable right flank of the one pincer hook would be staggering and would also sap all offensive power of the pincer itself I'd say. Not to mention that once the Soviets were onto the Germans tactic of using one hook, all their forces holding the northern front of the bulge could be brought down to bear on the spearhead and essentially destroy most of Germany's available striking power in the east in one blow.
That did occur to me when I was thinking about the plan. But I can't help but think of the Russian counterattacks that did happen on the 8 and 12 of July. In both situations the Russians launched heavy armoured attacks against the German right flank, in both situations they took heavy losses while inflicting relatively few casualties on the Germans.

User avatar
ViKinG
Member
Posts: 529
Joined: 08 Mar 2004 08:14
Location: Edmonton Alberta Canada

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by ViKinG » 11 Sep 2015 23:07

That is true! But we forget that those attacks were done by reserves in the southern area of the salient while all their northern forces were holding back the German 9th army. If the 9th army was not present in the fighting, all the reserves for that area would have fallen on the right flank as well. That's what my main concern is, it would be allowing the Russians to concentrate everything on that one vulnerable German grouping. Not to mention this would make a serious weakening of Army group centre's southern flank for the following Soviet summer offensive that followed after Kursk. I think it would have been disastrous. But we never know I guess.

User avatar
pintere
Member
Posts: 364
Joined: 03 Jan 2015 22:04
Location: Moose Jaw

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by pintere » 12 Sep 2015 15:27

ViKinG wrote:That is true! But we forget that those attacks were done by reserves in the southern area of the salient while all their northern forces were holding back the German 9th army. If the 9th army was not present in the fighting, all the reserves for that area would have fallen on the right flank as well. That's what my main concern is, it would be allowing the Russians to concentrate everything on that one vulnerable German grouping. Not to mention this would make a serious weakening of Army group centre's southern flank for the following Soviet summer offensive that followed after Kursk. I think it would have been disastrous. But we never know I guess.
Bearing in mind though that the Germans would also have had additional forces in the south. What I find most remarkable about the failure of the Russian counterattacks is that they fell mostly on 1-2 divisions that had already been in heavy fighting breaking through the Russian defenses. In my current thinking about how the plan might play out, I envisage two parallel advances by 48 & 3 panzerkorps, each supported by a Tiger tank and Ferdinand battalion. Both of these are well-known for their tank-killing power. What really is the game changer here is that not only are the tactical forces stronger, but there are two additional panzerkorps that can either defeat Russian counterattacks or exploit breakthroughs.

General Assembly
Member
Posts: 2
Joined: 08 Jan 2016 03:32
Location: Vancouver;

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by General Assembly » 09 Jan 2016 01:25

There are a number of things that aren't mentioned in this thread that would affect the battle and it's outcome and the future course of the war. Some of these things could have had a profound impact on the course of the war.
The Russians weren't as well off as is supposed. They were starting to impress young boys and old men. They wee running out of men, like the Germans were in late 44, early 45. Most of the Russian population was still in occupied territory. If the Germans held, the line of pre Citadel, they could bleed the Russians dry.
Some have commented on that if Model's Ninth Army didn't attack, then the Russians in the North would move south to attack Manstein.
Russians wouldn't necessarily know that Model wasn't going to attack. It could be a delayed attack, waiting for the Russians to move south, which in turn holds the Russians in place, at least for some time.
Manstein was doing quite well, on his own. Under the real situation, he had already drawn in the Russian strategic tank reserves, chewed them up and spat them out. He still had a pz corp in reserve. If he'd been given a second one, he'd be even better off.
If Manstein draws the Russians in piece meal, and holds the battle field after the battle, he dictates what happens to all the damaged tanks, both Russian and German. There could have been depending on estimates 1200 - 1600 repairable Russian tanks, for the German's to haul off. If he keeps going, he continues to wreck havoc on Russian tank forces. Does he reach Kursk, or the north side of the salient? Maybe, maybe not. But he does destroy the Russian tank forces, which in turn shuts the Russians down for three to six months. They may try to attack westward but without those tank forces, they wouldn't succeed.
So, Germany doesn't cut off the salient, but they do destroy Russia's ability to move forward. And not moving forward means the Russians bleed out.
Before Kursk, there were unofficial talks in Sweden about ending the war. Russian wanted the pre 1941 borders, Germany the Dnieper River. After this Kursk battle, the Russians may accept the Dnieper River.
If that happens, then heaven help the Allies in Sicily, and forget about Normandy. An extra year of German tank and aircraft production without Russian losses, puts more German tanks in France that the Allies could ever hope to handle.

Michael Kenny
Member
Posts: 6905
Joined: 07 May 2002 19:40
Location: Teesside

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by Michael Kenny » 09 Jan 2016 04:09

General Assembly wrote:
If that happens, then heaven help the Allies in Sicily, and forget about Normandy. An extra year of German tank and aircraft production without Russian losses, puts more German tanks in France that the Allies could ever hope to handle.
So we substitute Berlin for Hiroshima. Germany can not win.

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 9522
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by Sid Guttridge » 09 Jan 2016 17:53

Why Kursk anyway?

Didn't Manstein originally want to break through just south of the Kursk salient and role up the Soviet forces down to Rostov?

Sid

User avatar
doogal
Member
Posts: 657
Joined: 06 Aug 2007 11:37
Location: scotland

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by doogal » 12 Jan 2016 12:02

"Why Kursk?"
did this not evolve from Mansteins continued requests for reinforcements for Further operations following his counter offensive in the spring of 43 .. and that...

"Either I conduct offensive blows in close conjunction with the right flank of Army group centre and thereby retain the initiative or I must remain defensive" ....BA-MA RH 19 VI43 p37 ..entry for8.3.43 10.45 hrs....Melvin p,349/578

Manstein did through Dec 42 - feb 43 did convince Hitler that offensive action was needed...but he did this in the context of initiating a battle of manoeuvre rather than what evolved.

As for the why the geographical location.. huge bulge in the middle of the main front.......

randwick
Member
Posts: 291
Joined: 23 May 2006 22:08
Location: randwick

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by randwick » 22 Jan 2016 23:20

.
@ general assembly "there were unofficial talks in Sweden about ending the war "

yes , the Soviet ambassador Kolontai was leading them ,
nothing much significant there , it probably was only a device to put pressure on the Western allies to get real and do some serious fighting

the Soviet Stavka had a bunch of offensive ready post Kursk ,

- operation Kutuzov ,started on the 12th of July
the soviet Western front had broken the front on 30 kms in Model's back and threatened to encircle his 9th army ,
he had to disengage his panzer units to fight a rearguard action , eventually loosing Orel within one month

-operation Rumiatsev , started on 3rd of august by the Voronezh front , that was the Southern equivalent and while the Wehrmacht did some serious damage, by the 5th of August Belgorod had fallen

-the strategic Dombass offensive , started on the 13th August
the Southern front broke through the Mius line , while it was costly , it drew the waffen SS division not transferred to the West , and reputedly cost them more tanks than Kursk itself , ultimately pushing the front line to the line Stalino / Mariupol

Beside some local pressure elsewhere , those were the first of a long planned serie of operations taking advantage of the German out of balance posture ,
at the end of August , the main offensive exploded , the Cheringov-Poltava was huge and Koniev Steppe front threw the German across the Dnieper

those strategic operation were planned months in advance and milked every advantage from Kurtsk ,
even if it had fallen that would not have changed anything ,

for Stalin Kursk was a red cape hypnotizing the German bull

steverodgers801
Member
Posts: 1147
Joined: 13 Aug 2011 18:02

Re: Kursk - An Alternative Plan

Post by steverodgers801 » 24 Jan 2016 06:46

If Manstein had stayed put then he would have been surrounded and destroyed in place. He completely ignores the fact that AGC's left flank was being collapsed and he could not defend against Steppes front, which was moving against him, and Voronezh front which was as mentioned, caving in 9th army which guarded Mansteins left. Destroying a couple of tank corps more would not change the balance of power especially if it cost another pocket.

Return to “German Strategy & General German Military Discussion”