|The Greatest Tank Battle|
The Red Army (Soviet Union) started 1943 with victory at Stalingrad and Caucasus. On January 18, they managed to re-enter Nazi-surrounded Leningrad, bringing some relief to the city after months of blockage. However, the Germans still had troops along the 1,800 mile Soviet Border. Hitler reconquered Kharkov and Belgorod in March. Then, on July 5, he attacked the huge territory the Soviets had occupied in the
Axis-held Kursk region.
The Kursk attack was the greatest tank battle in history. Involved in the offensive were 900,000 Nazi soldiers and 3,000 armoured vehicles, including the new Tigers, the biggest tanks ever built. This was matched by equally strong Soviet firepower. The smoke on both sides was so thick that military aircraft could not be used. However the Red Army tanks were more maneuverable and reliable, while the German giant tanks, were slow moving in minefields and mud, and could be exploded with flamethrowers trained on their ventilation shafts. The Germans began withdrawing after a week, with the Red Army in pursuit.
Although both sides soon lost half their tanks, the Soviets, with vast factory production capacity, could cope with the losses better than the increasingly financially-troubled Germans.
Hitler ordered a cease-fire (order to stop fighting) on July 17, but the Soviets pressed onwards. By the end of August, Kharkov and Belgorod were back in their hands. Soon afterward, the Germans lost Smolensk and the Caucasus. In November, Soviet General freed Kiev from its two-year occupation.
Hitler's dream of enslaving the Soviets and filling their lands with Aryan (non-Jewish German/ Caucasian) was shattered, even as the battle for Soviet land continued.