The battle of Kursk was the last major German offensive on the Eastern Front, and was a total and dramatic failure, lasting for only eight days before it became that the German gamble had failed. The idea for an attack on the Kursk salient first appeared after Manstein's successful recapture of Kharkov but any change of a victory was lost as the Germans repeatedly delayed the start of the attack. The Soviets had plenty of notice of what was coming, and were able to build three strong defensive lines and mass powerful reserves behind their lines, with the intention of allowing the Germans to wear themselves out on the fixed defences before counterattacking their weakened forces.
Ordinarily splitting an account of a single battle on geographical lines causes too many problems to be worthwhile - events on one flank immediately affect the other, and the dividing lines are normally entirely artificial. At Kursk that isn't the case. The two German attacks were entirely independent of each other, launched by different armies from different sides of the Soviet salient at Kursk, and commanded and planned by different generals. The two prongs of the German attack never got close enough together to support each other, so at least from the German side one can indeed consider the two attacks separately. At the same time the author has included enough material on the plans for the northern attack to put Manstein's effort into context.
The main impression one gets here is that the southern part of the German attack at Kursk was rather poorly planned. The basic plan, for a brutal frontal assault on prepared defences lacked Manstein's normal skill. He then split his attack into two un-supporting columns. The individual attacks were also poorly planned, lacking proper engineering support, and as a result often being delayed for long hours by simple anti-tank ditches or other natural watercourses. The failures went further back up the command chain as well, with the entire battle being delayed to allow the first Panthers and other new weapons to take part, only for them to be introduced before they were really reliable, and as a result having little impact on the fighting. The Soviets also made mistakes, but they had the resources and the resilience to recover from the.
As always with Osprey the text is supported by an impressive selection of maps, photographs and other illustrations. The battlefield maps are especially useful, showing the patchy nature of the limited German successes and helping to make sense of the often confusing fighting.
Author: Robert Forczyk