Operation Kutuzov was the first of the two counteroffensives launched by the Red Army as part of the Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation. It commenced on 12 July 1943, in the Central Russian Upland, against Army Group Center of the German Wehrmacht . The operation was named after General Mikhail Kutuzov, the Russian general credited with saving Russia from Napoleon during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. Operation Kutuzov was one of two large-scale Soviet operations launched as counteroffensives against Operation Citadel. The Operation began on 12 July and ended on 18 August 1943 with the capture of Orel and collapse of the Orel bulge.
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.
The Central Russian Upland is an upland area of the East European Plain and is an undulating plateau with an average elevation of 230–250 m (750–820 ft). It highest peak is measured at 293 m (961 ft). The southeastern portion of the upland known as the Kalach Upland. The Central Upland is built of Precambrian deposits of the crystalline Voronezh Massif.
The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.
As the end of the rasputitsa or rainy season approached, the Soviet command considered their next steps. Stalin strongly desired to seize the initiative and attack the German forces but was convinced by his senior commanders to take an initial defensive posture and allow the Germans to weaken themselves in attacking prepared positions. After this the Soviet forces would go over onto the offensive.Operation Kutuzov was the offensive plan for the Soviet forces before Moscow facing the German forces of Army Group Center. It was carried out by three Soviet Fronts or army groups: the Western Front, the Bryansk Front and the Central Front. The offensive was directed north of the Kursk area against the German 2nd Panzer Army, with the intention of cutting behind and trapping the German 9th Army then conducting offensive operations against the Kursk salient.
Rasputitsa is a Russian language term for two periods of the year when travel on unpaved roads or across country becomes difficult, owing to muddy conditions from rain or thawing snow. That is, it is applied to both spring and autumn. The word "rasputitsa" is also used to refer to the condition of roads during both periods.
The Bryansk Front was a major formation of the Red Army during the Second World War.
The 2nd Panzer Army was a German armoured formation during World War II, formed from the 2nd Panzer Group on October 5, 1941.
The Germans had spread their forces thin all across the front in an effort to provide as much men and material as possible for Operation Citadel. Holding the front before the Soviet offensive were the 2nd Panzer Army and elements of the 9th Army. The region had been held by German forces for nearly two years and despite Hitler's admonition not to build defensive works behind the front, some preparations had been made. A defensive line had been started that was 5–7 kilometres (3.1–4.3 mi) in depth, consisting of minefields, interconnected trench works, and strong points. Wherever possible, the Germans took advantage of terrain features such as streams, ravines and gullies but the positions were thinly held.
The Soviet high command planned two offensives as part of a large general offensive throughout the eastern front.Operation Kutuzov was the northern offensive, with its objective being to collapse the Orel salient, cut behind the 9th Army engaged in offensive operations at Kursk, encircle and annihilate it. In doing so they hoped to cause a general collapse of the German forces in the Soviet Union. The attack was to begin once the German panzer units engaged in Operation Citadel were locked into combat and weakened by their offensive at Kursk. The initial attack was to be made simultaneously on the northern and eastern faces of the Orel salient, with the Central Front along the southern face of the salient joining in as well, once the German offensive had been stopped.
German intelligence had revealed the Soviet forces massing opposite the 2nd Panzer Army and these had caused great concern to Kluge and Model. The Soviet armies earmarked for the operation had amassed a force of 1,286,000 men and 2,400 tanks. These were supported by 26,400 guns and 3,000 aircraft.
The Soviet offensive was aided by partisan attacks behind the German lines. Approximately 100,000 Soviet partisans (according to Soviet reports) were working to disrupt German efforts to supply and reinforce their forces. German movements of ammunition and reinforcements were hampered throughout the operation by attacks on German communications and supply routes, especially railway lines. The partisans operated under the guidance of the Red Army.
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity. The term can apply to the field element of resistance movements. Most common use in present parlance in several languages refers to anti-fascist fighters from World War II, and more specifically, the Communist or Socialist troops during WW II of Poland, Italy, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Greece. Led by communist parties, they opposed the occupation and led guerilla warfare against the Nazi and Nazi-allied powers during the Second World War.
The Soviet partisans were members of resistance movements that fought a guerrilla war against the Axis forces in the Soviet Union, the previously Soviet-occupied territories of interwar Poland in 1941–45 and eastern Finland. The activity emerged after the Nazi German Operation Barbarossa during World War II, and according to Great Soviet Encyclopedia it was coordinated and controlled by the Soviet government and modelled on that of the Red Army. The partisans made significant contributions to the war by frustrating German plans to exploit occupied Soviet territories economically, gave considerable help to the Soviet Army by conducting systematic strikes against Germany's rear communication network, disseminated political work among the local population by publishing newspapers and leaflets, and succeeded in creating and maintaining a feeling of insecurity among German forces.
On 12 July, a heavy artillery barrage marked the launching of the offensive. The armies of the Bryansk Front and the Western Front attacked along the north and north-east flanks of the 2nd Panzer Army. The Western Front assault was led by the 11th Guards Army under Lieutenant General Hovhannes Bagramyan, supported by the 1st and 5th Tank Corps. The Russians attacked with overwhelming numbers. Along one 16-kilometre (9.9 mi) attack sector near Ulianovo, six Soviet rifle divisions attacked two German infantry regiments. At 5–7 kilometres (3.1–4.3 mi) in depth, the German defensive lines were deeper than the Soviets expected. The Soviet spearheads sustained heavy casualties but pushed through and in some areas achieved significant penetration. The defenders were overwhelmed by the afternoon of the first day, with the 11th Guards Army advancing some 23 kilometres (14 mi). The German 5th Panzer Division attempted to fill the breach but they were met by the Russian supporting armour and were forced back.
The initial attacks on the eastern face by the Bryansk Front were less successful. The 61st, 3rd, and 63rd armies advanced 8, 14 and 15 kilometres (5.0, 8.7 and 9.3 mi) respectively. The following day the German LIII Army Corps counter-attacked and brought the Bryansk Front to a halt. The open terrain favored the longer ranged guns of the Germans. Kluge and Model had anticipated the Soviet attack and were quick to transfer units from the Kursk area to reinforce the defenders. Their timely arrival helped check the Soviet advance.
Farther north the 11th Guards Army was forcing its way through the German defences. The Germans lacked the reserves to block these penetrations. With the danger of a breakthrough and subsequent encirclement of their forces, the situation soon become serious for the 2nd Panzer Army.Army Group Centre transferred command of the 2nd Panzer Army to Model by the end of the second day. As Model was already commanding the German 9th Army making the north portion of the Kursk attack, the command transfer meant he was now in command of all German units in the Orel area.
Three days later the second phase of Operation Kutuzov was initiated, with attacks on the German 9th Army by several Soviet armies. The total Soviet troops now engaged in Operation Kutuzov numbered 1,286,049 men supported by 2,409 tanks and 26,379 guns.The Soviets broadened the offensive, adding supporting attacks by the 50th Army to the north of the 11th Guards Army. Between the 50th Army and the Bryansk Front was a thrust by the 20th Tank Corps aimed at Bolkhov, along with a push by the Central Front on the south face. To increase the momentum of the attack the Soviets now committed the 3rd Guards Tank Army and 4th Tank Army from the reserves. The 3rd Guards drove straight for Orel, attempting to develop the eastern attack, while the 4th Tank Army drove from the north along the wider breach made by 11th Guards Army. In doing so they threatened to trap the German forces defending the east face of the Orel salient. German defensive efforts were hampered by partisan attacks to their communications and rail supply lines.
As Soviet breakthroughs developed the situation for the Germans became serious. The entire 9th Army was threatened with being cut off. Model sent nearly all of his Panzer units to aid the 2nd Panzer Army, whose northern front was about to collapse, while to the north the 4th Army sent down the 253rd Infantry Division. The Germans achieved a temporary stabilization of the front while the 9th Army began to withdraw from their captured ground. The Soviet Central Front followed them hesitantly at first but increased the intensity of their attacks from the ground and the air.On 18 July the 9th Army was back at its starting points of 5 July.
A series of engagements developed in the Orel salient between arriving German reserves and Soviet tank formations. Though Hitler forbade retreat, the Soviets gradually gained ground. By July 26, the German troops were forced to desert the Orel base of operations and begin a withdrawal to the Hagen position to the east of Bryansk. With the 11th Guards reaching the outskirts of Karachev, midway between Orel and Bryansk, they threatened to cut the main rail line which was the main route of supply. On July 29, Bolkhov was liberated, and on August 4 the struggle for Orel commenced. After one day of hard fighting Orel was taken. With their position untenable, the Germans were forced to evacuate back to prepared positions at the Hagen line. By August 18 Soviet troops had reached the Hagen line east of Bryansk at the base of the Orel salient. With the German defeat the counter-offensive began to grow into a general Soviet offensive.
The Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily (Soviet Air Force) supported the attack on German ground positions in conjunction with the preliminary artillery bombardment. The 1st Air Army and 15th Air Army performed 360 sorties against German rear areas, dropping some 210 long tons (210 t) of bombs.
In the Southern sector of the bulge, the Germans logged over 1,000 missions on the first day, countered by the 737 missions of the 15th Air Army. The Luftwaffe destroyed some 35 tanks, 14 guns and 50 motor vehicles of the Bryansk Front, slowing their progress. By the end of the first day the Soviets had failed to breach the first line.While the 2nd Panzer Army was gradually being forced back, the Luftwaffe battled the VVS, destroying 94 Soviet aircraft on 13 July, including 50 Sturmoviks.
In the southern region of the battle the Luftwaffe's 1. Flieger-Division maintained air superiority in defense of the German 9th Army, dealing the Soviets some significant losses in aircraft between 13 and 16 July. After six days of heavy fighting the strength of the Luftwaffe began to wane. The 1. Flieger-Division flew 74 intercept missions against the 868 sorties conducted by the 16th Air Army. Though the Soviets continued to lose in tactical air engagements, their overall presence in the air was dominant. The VVS helped the 11th Guards Army achieve their breakthrough.
The VVS flew 60,995 sorties and dropped 15,000 tonnes of bombs in support of Kutuzov, while the German 1. Flieger-Division flew 37,421 sorties and dropped over 20,000 tonnes of bombs on Soviet targets.
The battle was the bloodiest of the three major operations during the Battle of Kursk. Overall German losses suffered during the battle were 86,454 men KIA, MIA or WIA.Casualties for the Red Army were 112,529 men killed, with a further 317,361 wounded. Tank and assault gun losses for the Red Army were particularly high, with 2,586 vehicles destroyed or damaged during Kutuzov. German tank losses are not available for this battle but Army Group Center is known to have lost 343 armoured fighting vehicles during both Citadel and Kutuzov.
Some of the Soviet commanders were displeased with the results, complaining that an even greater victory might have been won. Said Marshal Rokossovsky: "Instead of encircling the enemy, we only pushed them out of the bulge. The operation would have been different if we had used our force for two heavy punches which met at Bryansk". Zhukov held a similar opinion.Operation Kutuzov was successful in diverting German reserves earmarked for Operation Citadel and the Soviets reduced the Orel salient and inflicted substantial losses on the German army. The Soviet victory set the stage for the battle of Smolensk several weeks later. With Operation Kutuzov, the Soviets seized the strategic initiative, which they would hold through the remainder of the war.
The Battle of Kursk was a Second World War engagement between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near Kursk in the Soviet Union, during July and August 1943. The battle began with the launch of the German offensive, Operation Citadel, on 5 July, which had the objective of pinching off the Kursk salient with attacks on the base of the salient from north and south simultaneously. After the German offensive stalled on the northern side of the salient, on 12 July the Soviets commenced their Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Kutuzov against the rear of the German forces in the northern side. On the southern side, the Soviets also launched powerful counterattacks the same day, one of which led to a large armoured clash, the Battle of Prokhorovka. On 3 August, the Soviets began the second phase of the Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev against the German forces in the southern side of the Kursk salient.
The Third Battle of Kharkov was a series of battles on the Eastern Front of World War II, undertaken by the German Army Group South against the Red Army, around the city of Kharkov between 19 February and 15 March 1943. Known to the German side as the Donets Campaign, and in the Soviet Union as the Donbas and Kharkov operations, the German counterstrike led to the recapture of the cities of Kharkov and Belgorod.
Operation Citadel was a German offensive operation against Soviet forces in the Kursk salient during the Second World War on the Eastern Front that initiated the Battle of Kursk. The deliberate defensive operation that the Soviets implemented to repel the German offensive is referred to as the Kursk Strategic Defensive Operation. The German offensive was countered by two Soviet counter-offensives, Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev and Operation Kutuzov. For the Germans, the battle was the final strategic offensive that they were able to launch on the Eastern Front. As the Allied invasion of Sicily began, Adolf Hitler was forced to divert troops training in France to meet the Allied threats in the Mediterranean, rather than use them as a strategic reserve for the Eastern Front. Germany's extensive loss of men and tanks ensured that the victorious Soviet Red Army enjoyed the strategic initiative for the remainder of the war.
Operation Bagration was the codename for the Soviet 1944 Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation, a military campaign fought between 23 June and 19 August 1944 in Soviet Byelorussia in the Eastern Front of World War II. The Soviet Union inflicted the biggest defeat in German military history by destroying 28 out of 34 divisions of Army Group Centre and completely shattered the German front line. It was the fifth deadliest campaign on the European war scene, killing around 450,000 soldiers.
The Korsun-Shevchenkovsky Offensive led to the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkasy Pocket which took place from 24 January to 16 February 1944. The offensive was part of a greater Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive. In it, the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts, commanded, respectively, by Nikolai Vatutin and Ivan Konev, encircled German forces of Army Group South in a pocket near the Dnieper River. During weeks of fighting, the two Red Army Fronts tried to eradicate the pocket. The encircled German units attempted a breakout in coordination with a relief attempt by other German forces, resulting in heavy casualties, estimates of which vary.
Günther Adolf Ferdinand von Kluge, also known as Hans Günther von Kluge, was a German field marshal during World War II who held commands on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. He commanded the 4th Army of the Wehrmacht during the invasion of Poland in 1939 and the Battle of France in 1940, earning a promotion to Generalfeldmarschall. Kluge went on to command the 4th Army in Operation Barbarossa and the Battle for Moscow in 1941.
Operation Spring Awakening was the last major German offensive of World War II. It took place in Hungary on the Eastern Front. This offensive was also referred to in Germany as the Plattensee Offensive and in the Soviet Union as the Balaton Defensive Operation.
Case Blue was the German Armed Forces' name for its plan for the 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia between 28 June and 24 November 1942, during World War II.
The Yelnya Offensive was a military operation by the Soviet Army during the Battle of Smolensk during Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which began the German-Soviet War. The offensive was an attack against the semi-circular Yelnya salient which the German 4th Army had extended 50 kilometres (31 mi) south-east of Smolensk, forming a staging area for an offensive towards Vyazma and eventually Moscow. Under heavy pressure on its flanks, the German army (Heer) evacuated the salient by 8 September 1941, leaving behind a devastated and depopulated region. As the first reverse that the Heer suffered during Barbarossa and the first recapture of the Soviet territory by the Red Army, the battle was covered by Nazi and Soviet propaganda and served as a morale boost to the Soviet population.
The Battle of Prokhorovka was fought on 12 July 1943 near Prokhorovka, 87 kilometres (54 mi) southeast of Kursk in the Soviet Union, during the Second World War. Taking place on the Eastern Front, the engagement was part of the wider Battle of Kursk, and occurred when the 5th Guards Tank Army of the Soviet Red Army attacked the II SS-Panzer Corps of the German Wehrmacht in one of the largest tank battles in military history.
The Belgorod-Bogodukhov Offensive Operation was a combat operation executed as part of Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev by the Red Army against the Wehrmacht forces. It was one of the operations that was launched in response to the German offensive Operation Citadel.
The Gumbinnen Operation, also known as the Goldap Operation, was a Soviet offensive on the Eastern Front late in 1944, in which forces of the 3rd Belorussian Front attempted to penetrate the borders of East Prussia.
The Belgorod-Kharkov Strategic Offensive Operation, or simply Belgorod-Kharkov Offensive Operation, was a Soviet strategic summer offensive that aimed to recapture Belgorod and Kharkov a, and destroy the German forces of the 4th Panzer Army and Army Detachment Kempf. The operation was codenamed Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev, after the 18th-century Field Marshal Peter Rumyantsev and was conducted by the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts in the southern sector of the Kursk Bulge. The battle was referred to as the Fourth Battle of Kharkov by the Germans.
The 342nd Rifle Division began forming in September 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, in the Saratov oblast. It arrived at the front southwest of Moscow in December, in time to take part in the winter counteroffensive. During most of 1942 and into 1943 the division served in primarily defensive roles in 61st Army along the northern face of the German-held salient around Oryol. Following the Soviet victory at Kursk the 342nd took part in the operation that eliminated that salient, and then in the further offensives that liberated Bryansk and pushed on towards Smolensk and the Dniepr River. During these tactical-level actions the division distinguished itself sufficiently to be re-designated as the 121st Guards Rifle Division, one of the last Guards divisions to be formed before the postwar period. In November 1944, a new 342nd was formed in the Far East, and saw action against Japanese forces in northern Manchuria, assaulting across the Sungach river during the Soviet invasion of that region. Well after the war this formation was re-designated and became the 33rd Motor Rifle Division.
The 70th Guards Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army and Soviet Army. It was formed after the Battle of Stalingrad from the 138th Rifle Division in recognition of that division's actions during the battle. The 70th Guards continued a record of distinguished service through the rest of the Great Patriotic War, and continued to serve postwar, as a motor rifle division, until being finally disbanded in 1991.
Ponyri is an urban-type settlement in the Ponyrovsky District of the Kursk Oblast. It has been famous for its apples, known as Antonovskiye Yabloki In the Soviet era it largely consisted of two state farms (sovkhozi), Ponyri 1 and 2. In English-language publications it is sometimes referred to as Ponyri Station, due to its location on the railway between Oryol and Kursk.
The 16th Guards Tank Division was a tank division of the Soviet Army and later the Russian Ground Forces.
Operation Roland was a local German offensive inside the Soviet Union during the Second World War on the Eastern Front, and was conducted as a local operation within the overarching German summer offensive, Operation Citadel, on the southern side of the Kursk salient. The German forces of the III Panzer Corps and the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Division Das Reich of the II SS Panzer Corps attempted to envelop and destroy Soviet forces of the Voronezh Front. This operation was necessitated by the failure of the German II SS Panzer Corps to break through Soviet forces during the Battle of Prokhorovka on 12 July. Therefore, German commanders decided to first link up the III Panzer Corps, which had been lagging behind due to heavy Soviet resistance, with the II SS Panzer Corps, in order to consolidate the German positions into a continuous frontline without inward bulges and enable the two panzer corps to overrun Soviet forces defending Prokhorovka together. The linking up of the two German pincers was planned to effectuate the envelopment of the Soviet 69th Army and other supporting units.
The 3rd Guards Anti-Aircraft Artillery Division was an anti-aircraft artillery division of the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II and the Soviet Army during the early years of the Cold War.
The Donbass Strategic Offensive was a military campaign fought in the Donets Basin from 17 July 1943 and 2 August 1943 between the German and Soviet armed forces on the Eastern Front of World War II. The Germans contained the Soviet offensive in its northern portion after initial gains and pushed the southern portion back to its starting point.