Unternehmen Zitadelle (Operation Citadel) also called The Battle of Kursk July 5 – July (20) 1943
The Battle of Kursk in July 1943 remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka, and the costliest single day of aerial warfare. The Wehrmacht´s goal during Operation Zitadelle was to pinch off a huge salient that bulged more than 80 km. A rapid panzer advance, punching inwards from either shoulder of the salient, would trap hundreds of thousands Soviet troops and, in turn, shorten the German front. In the build-up to the battle both sides massed their best troops. By early July 1943 the Wehrmacht had concentrated 43 divisions. Barring their way were 100 Soviet divisions and five tank armies. Soviet had a massive supply of men and hardware at this stage of the war and Soviet Marshal Zhukov wanted to trade their lives for German panzers. The Soviet strength in the Kursk salient was growing much faster than the Wehrmacht could muster forces to attack it. From reports and tactical intelligence, Marshal Zhukov knew almost the hour when the German assault would begin. The Soviets designed a system to slow and exhaust the powerful German panzer spearheads by forcing them to attack through a vast interconnected web of minefields, pre-sighted artillery fire zones, and concealed anti-tank strong-points comprising eight progressively spaced defense lines 250 km deep, it was by far the most extensive defensive works ever constructed. Behind the Soviet front were more than 3,000 tanks, the majority T-34/76s. Credit: Tim Ripley. Image: Public domain.