Battle of Kursk: An Analysis of Strategic and Operational Principles   [open pdf - 3MB]

"This paper begins with an analysis of Field Marshal von Manstein's counterstroke at Kharkov - the prelude of Kursk - in February/March 1943. Kharkov serves as an outstanding example of a battle in which principles of war were masterly applied. This battle serves as a yardstick for analyzing the battle of Kursk, a battle where Hitler rather than Manstein dominated operations. In the east, Manstein's strategic objective was to reach a separate political settlement with the Soviets in 1943. Operations like his counterstroke were the way towards this end. His ideas, however, failed because of Hitler's resistance. Beside the potential strategic consequences of counterstroke-like operations, the example of Kharkov shows on the operational level how an Army can succeed, even when badly outnumbered. In contrast, planning, the conduct of operations and outcome of the battle of Kursk shows, that a viable strategic objective, like Manstein envisioned, could not be achieved, even if the battle had been successfully concluded. For that very reason Kursk was not a decisive battle. In addition, Kursk shows the neglect of basic principles of warfare by the German supreme command. Studying the battle of Kursk or comparing Kursk to Kharkov shows a student of military affairs how through inappropriate strategy and ignoring basic principles of war only poor results can be produced."

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