Battle of Kursk: The Eastern Front Explodes


By: Nathan Chandler

4 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

The Nazis were wounded but driven to capture Soviet lands before the Allies inevitably launched an attack on the Western Front. How much do you know about the Battle of Kursk?

Which army went on the offensive at the Battle of Kursk?

The Germans flung huge numbers of armored vehicles at Soviet positions during this major Nazi offensive. The battle became a turning point in the war.


When did the battle begin?

The Germans began their offensive on July 5, 1943. Hitler was counting on a Nazi victory to help regain German momentum in the war and convince allies of the Third Reich to stay in the fight.


The Soviets had very little information regarding the German offensive.

Thanks to British intelligence, the Soviets understood when and where the Germans would attack. In the months leading up to the battle, the Soviets prepared and trained endlessly in hopes of stopping the German advance.


What was the code name for the German offensive?

The Nazis code-named their offensive Operation Citadel. It was one of the last major offensives that the Germans initiated on the Eastern Front.


How long did Operation Citadel last?

The German offensive didn’t last long -- the Nazis attacked for just over 10 days. Then they withdrew to the areas from which they had launched the attack and licked their wounds.


The Germans hoped that their offensive would surround and break how many Soviet armies?

The Nazis planned a double envelopment maneuver that they hoped would trap five Soviet armies. With those armies captured or destroyed, the Germans would have a much better grip on the Eastern Front.


How many men did Germany commit to Operation Citadel?

The Nazis committed just under 800,000 men to the offensive. In a key move, they also called on about 3,000 tanks in an effort to break through Soviet lines.


Who were the "partisans"?

The partisans were Soviet resistance fighters who waged a guerilla war against the Nazi invaders. They often worked behind enemy lines, sowing chaos, disrupting supply lines and making life generally more difficult for the Nazis.


How many men did the Soviets deploy at the beginning of the battle?

The Soviets vastly outnumbered their German attackers. They had about 2 million men ready to repulse the German offensive.


Which side had the advantage in numbers of artillery guns?

The Soviets had a huge advantage in artillery guns. They had more than 30,000 of these contraptions, four times as many as the Germans.


When the Germans started the offensive, what percentage of their Eastern Front air force was intact?

Years of fighting destroyed many Nazi warplanes. When the Germans launched their offensive, only about 40 percent of the Eastern Front air force was still intact and ready to fight. However, even in reduced numbers the Luftwaffe was a formidable opponent.


Who won the battle?

In mid-July 1943, the German war machine was steadily deteriorating. The Soviets hammered the Germans and won the battle, pushing the Nazis farther and farther eastward.


How many total warplanes took part in the Battle of Kursk?

Around 5,000 German and Soviet warplanes clashed in the skies during the battle. Nearly 8,000 tanks were involved, too.


Why did German Gen. Erich von Manstein want to begin the offensive as soon as possible?

Erich von Manstein wanted to launch the offensive as soon as it was feasible. It was obvious to leaders on both sides where the Germans would attack -- the only real question was when it would happen.


What was the weather like during the battle?

In mid-July, weather was very hot. Occasional thunderstorms dropped buckets of rain that turned parts of the battlefield into marshland that slowed both sides.


Before the battle began, the Soviets dug how many miles of trenches?

The Soviets dug more than 3,000 miles of trenches in anticipation of a German assault. They utilized both military personnel and civilians as part of their all-out effort to stop the Nazis.


Operation Kutuzov was meant to help the Soviets liberate which city?

As the Nazi advance faltered, the Soviets launched a counter-offensive meant to liberate Orel. The Soviets started the operation on July 12, and it ended six days later with a Soviet victory.


How many tanks did the Soviets lose during Operation Kutuzov?

The Soviets retook Orel, but at an extreme cost. They lost nearly every single tank that they threw into the fight -- more than 2,500 in total.


As the Soviets gained ground during Operation Kutuzov, how did Hitler respond?

Hitler was adamant that the Nazis could stop the Soviet advance. He told his generals that they were to stand and fight and that no retreats would be allowed.


How many mines did the Soviets plant in order to ward off the German assault?

The Soviets planted about 1 million mines as a welcome gift for the Nazi invaders. For every mile of the front, there were perhaps as many as 5,000 mines, making the front incredibly dangerous for everyone involved.


Where was the Lucy Spy Ring located?

The Lucy Spy Ring was active in Switzerland. The ring helped to pinpoint details regarding several major Nazi operations, helping the Allies to coordinate their defenses.


Before the battle, what was the German intelligence estimation of Soviet forces?

German intelligence was very weak, and as a result, they greatly underestimated the power of the Soviet defenses. German commanders were left guessing about many key aspects during preparation.


Who was the head of the Lucy Spy Ring?

A German refugee named Rudolf Roessler headed the Lucy Spy Ring in Switzerland. He passed details regarding Operation Citadel to the Soviets, allowing the Red Army to amass its forces in locations best for defense.


Operation Rumyantsev liberated which Soviet city?

Operation Rumyantsev was one of two counter-offensives by the Red Army. As part of this attack the Soviets managed to liberate Belgorod and Kharkov.


An attack on the Western Front contributed to Germany's decision to withdraw from the battle. Where did the Allies attack?

The Allies invaded Sicily in the middle of July, just as the Germans launched Operation Citadel. Hitler realized that German forces were failing on the Eastern Front and turned his attention to the Allied threat to Italy.


How many counter-offensives did the Soviets launch during the battle?

The Soviets halted German progress and pushed them back to their starting positions. Then, the Soviets gathered themselves for two major offensives, both of which succeeded in shoving the Nazis backward.


How many tanks did the Soviets lose during the battle?

The Soviets lost at least 1,600 precious tanks during the battle. Although these losses were substantial, the Soviets still had plenty of armored vehicles in reserve.


Who was responsible for making the decisions that led to the German defeat?

Hitler himself made all of the biggest decisions regarding the offensive. In typical fashion, though, he used his generals as scapegoats for the debacle.


After the battle, the Germans never again seemed capable of winning the Eastern Front.

The Soviets soundly defeated the Germans, who were reeling following the bloody defeat. Following Kursk, it was clear to everyone that the Nazis would never be able to win the Eastern Front.


How many Soviet soldiers were killed during Operation Kutuzov?

More than 110,000 Soviet troops were killed in Operation Kutuzov, which lasted just six days. The Soviets merely shrugged off the losses and pushed onwards, determined to push the Germans out of the Russian homeland.


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