1944 Was A Very Bad Year For Germany In Russia.

by Daniel Russ on October 31, 2018

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By the summer of 1943, German forces in Eastern Russia were headed West in full retreat. Quite a feat when you consider that a retreat of an army sized unit had to be approved by Hitler, something he almost never allowed. In the West, US and UK forces were pushing into the heart of Europe destroying Mussolini’s war machine on the way. On the other side of the expanding Reich, Russians were steamrolling over Germans from Kursk to the Polish border. Hitler’s gamble to invade Russia before the British were defeated, and before the US entered the war did not play well. It was a romp almost 5000 miles long, 2 years in the making, and with a manpower advantage of 6 million troops in the USSR versus 3 million troops in the Wehrmacht, a harsh outcome was assured. A continental sized skirmish line from the Baltic to Rostov saw Russian forces pushed Nazis out of Orel and Belgorod and this left a footprint shaped salient around the town of Kursk where heavy Russian tanks and artillery were dug in. Von Manstein intended to lead heavy German armor into the sides of the salient and trap the Russians there.

Kursk. 54,000 Germans lost their lives and the Germans lost about 320 tanks. The Russians lost 178,000 men and 2000 tanks. Still, the win went to Russia. Marshal Georgy Zhukov utilized every spare hand from the town to dig anti-tank trenches and placed anti-tank guns in optimum locations. His counter attack showed the Panzer commanders that for every Russian they killed, more were behind them. For every tank they knocked out, more were behind them as well. The whole Battle of Kursk is really too dense to make it through here, but needless to say, it was a disaster for the Germans. “Quantity is a quality all itself,” said Stalin.

Russians executed a predictable if not unrelenting series of moves against the Nazis. German forces could not keep up with the robust column behind the Red Army. Armed with US made Packard trucks, Russians could resupply and counter attack with blinding speed. The supply line keeping the Wehrmacht armed was still primarily horses. Horses, as it turns out, are not a bad way to move supplies through difficult terrain and bad weather. That said horses are harder to replace than a truck.

The German lines were attenuated by an imbalance of forces. The absence of German airpower to defend against the Sturmovik strike aircraft the inability to out produce Russian weapons makers, and with a fraction of the manpower. In fact, the USSR arms manufacturers were putting out 2000 T-34s a month and as much heavy ordinance as the Russians could lob, drop or fire.  The Russian commanders used their size to quickly encircle grimly determined Germans, and they followed this by an artillery barrage lasting hours. Then almost brand-new T-34s smashed holes into the German lines, following by heavy infantry. Predictable as well, the Germans, teetering on the edge of defeat beg Hitler for permission to retreat, only to be denied. This put a lot of German forces into Russian prison camps.

Not long after Kursk, the Germans had a terrible opening to 1944. Fist thing, the Soviet juggernaut encircled German forces in the Korsun pocket, south and West of Kursk. It was called Little Stalingrad. Oddly the same month the German forces laying siege to Leningrad were foiled. This was followed by the famous Operation Bagration, the Soviet destruction of German Army Group Center, and Operation Lvov-Sandomir, the Destruction of Army Group South. By the end of the Summer of 1944, the German Army was trapped in Courland in Latvia.

The Battle of Berlin was still 8 months away, and there would be a lot more running before the end.


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