Kursk - July, 1943 - How the Press saw it

This part of the site shows some of the press reports from the period, with their dates. It makes some mildly amusing reading.
Tuesday, 6 July 1943 Wehrmacht High Command
"A successful local assault by German infantry in the Byelgorod sector led to strong Soviet counterattacks which yesterday developed into heavy fighting on the ground and in the air. The fighting has spread into the area north of Kursk and, as of this hour, is steadily increasing in violence1."
Tuesday, 6 July 1943 STAVKA special communiqué, Moscow
"Armoured Battle at Kursk:
Since the morning of July 5, Soviet troops in the areas of Kursk-Orel and Byelgorod have been waging heavy defensive battles against large enemy infantry and armoured forces which have gone on the offensive with the support of abundant aircraft. We have repelled the enemy assaults, inflicting heavy losses on the attackers. Only at isolated points have small-scale German formations succeeded in penetrating a short way into our positions. The incomplete data assembled so far indicates that on the first day of fighting we destroyed 586 German tanks and 203 German aircraft2. The fighting is continuing."
Thursday, 8 July 1943 German News Bureau
"The loss of 862 Soviet tanks, including large numbers of the heaviest model, the KV 'Klim Voroshilov', and of 847 Soviet planes shot down in three days are the first tangible tokens of success resulting from an unexpectedly violent German counterattack following an all-out Soviet attempt to capture certain important staging areas between Byelgorod and Orel for the heavily and superbly armed Soviet shock army which had assembled for attack there. The Soviets, believing their plans were threatened, threw all their available reserves of armour and aircraft into the developing large-scale battles, which in turn resulted in the deployment of all available German reserves. A major conflict ensued which, according to messages just received, has resulted in German penetration of the deeply extending Soviet system of fortifications into which they poured months of work, and that is virtually carpeted with heavily armed battle stands, mines, barricades, tank traps, mortars and minethrowers and gun batteries; and the heaviest losses in men and matériel have been inflicted on the Soviets."
Thursday, 8 July 1943 Soviet Information Bureau, Moscow
"German Territorial Gains Slight:
The third day of the German-Fascist large-scale offensive, whose dimensions are steadily increasing with the influx of fresh reserves, has once again resulted in only minor territorial gains by the German forces, which are out of all proportion to the heavy losses they sustained to make them.
While no notable changes occurred on the Orel Front, the Germans have succeeded in expanding somewhat on the breaches they made at Byelgorod. By evening, our troops had regained their original lines across almost the entire front, and the Soviet units temporarily cut off by German armoured breakthroughs were successfully relieved.
German tank losses in this sector of the front alone come to more than 220 of which 40 were 'Tigers'3. Savage aerial combat by large formations of aircraft continued over the front throughout the day, with neither adversary succeeding in gaining command of the air. Sturmovik ground-attack aircraft played a major role in smashing the Fascist armoured onslaught, as did our new destroyers that fire a novel type of armour-piercing shell4.
Monday, 12 July 1943 Wehrmacht High Command
"In the battle between Byelgorod and Orel, our troops have succeeded in encircling and destroying a large enemy force, capturing several thousand prisoners, knocking out 129 tanks and seizing large numbers of cannon and other weapons. Yesterday, we destroyed a total of 220 tanks and 70 aircraft and repulsed relief attacks which the Soviets mounted east and north of Orel. Since July 5, the enemy has lost 28,000 prisoners, 1,640 tanks and 1,400 cannon.
On Sicily, the British and American landing troops tried in vain to expand the strip of coast they occupied. German and Italian troops counterattacked as planned at various points yesterday and drove back the enemy in their first engagement.
Wednesday, 14 July 1943 Soviet Information Bureau, Moscow
"German Attacks Waning:
In the past twelve hours, German assault activity has slackened further with the Red Army increasingly seizing the initiative.
Since yesterday evening, German attacks around Byelgorod too have decreased in force. General Rokossovsky, on the other hand, has sent new reserves to the front and is attacking in almost all sectors. The panzer spearheads which the Germans drove into the Soviet positions in the first days of theor offensive are shrivelling, and the initiative is gradually passing over to the Red Army.
Thursday, 15 July 1943 Wehrmacht High Command
"The heavy fighting on the Eastern Front is continuing despite the deteriorating weather. We defeated another enemy force in a concentrated attack near Byelgorod, and counterattacks renewed by enemy forces weaker than on previous days have been repulsed with heavy losses to them. East and north of Orel, the enemy continued his attacks Wednesday, with the support of tanks and ground-attack aircraft. Attempts by the Soviets to break through German positions have failed under heavy casualties. We immediately mounted counterattacks which are progressing successfully.
Along the entire sector of this large-scale battle, we destroyed 336 more Soviet tanks on Wednesday, and our air force shot down 70 enemy planes.
Thursday, 15 July 1943 Soviet Information Bureau, Moscow
"Counterstroke at Orel:
The following special communiqué was published this evening:
Our troops have now gone on the offensive against the German troops to the north and east of Orel. Our offensive was launched in two directions: southward from the area north of Orel, and westwards from the area east of Orel. North of Orel, our troops have penetrated a 38-kilometre-wide stretch of strongly fortified German defensive positions and have advanced 43 kilometres in a period of 3 days. Large numbers of enemy fortifications have been destroyed.
Friday, 16 July 1943 German News Bureau, Berlin
"The Soviet T-34 Tank:
The Soviet T-34 tank has been modified after units armed with this model suffered heavy losses. It is now equipped with a cast-steel armoured turret. Its other armour has also been substantially reinforced. Notwithstanding, the reinforced Soviet tank is no match for the armour-piercing German guns5."
Monday, 19 July 1943 Wehrmacht High Command
"Yesterday Soviet assaults in the central and southern parts of the Eastern Front failed again. Yet another time they suffered heavy casualties and lost 337 tanks. At the Kuban bridgehead, the enemy halted his attacks during the afternoon in consequence of heavy losses. The Soviets continued their attempts to break through along the Mius and Middle Donets rivers, but these failed against our tough defense or as a result of determined counterattacks by our troops. We smashed Soviet infantry and tank units which attacked in several waves nroth of Byelgorod, before they reached our main line. In changeable battle, our troops throughout the Orel area repelled attacks mounted at various points, inflicting extremely heavy losses on the enemy.
German and Italian troops in Sicily are continuing to put up a bitter resistance to the enemy in particularly mobile warfare6.
Monday, 19 July 1943 Soviet Information Bureau, Moscow
"News Blockade:
The Soviet army is continuing to advance along th entire front at Orel. Non-official reports say that heavy Soviet attacks are continuing on the southern front. The Soviet High Command has prohibited any further reporting for the time being."
Thursday, 22 July 1943 Soviet Information Bureau, Moscow
"Soviet Victory at Orel:
The battle at Orel is nearing an end; the city is expected to fall in the enxt couple of days. Soviet forces advancing from north and south of Orel are now separated by a gap of only 38-52 kilometres.
Soviet gun batteries are moving up and systematically destroying the German artillery positions which, in addition, are still under heavy bombardment by Soviet Sturmovik ground-attack aircraft, and are opening the way for armoured and infantry units.
In the Byelgorod area, the Germans have been forced to yield their main defensive position and are retreating along the whole sector. South of Izyum and southwest of Voroshilovgrad, our troops have repelled a number of massive counter-attacks and, following up their pursuit of the defeated troops, have considerably expanded and deepened their bridgeheads on the right banks of the Donets and Mius.
The 'battle of the bridgeheads', which is now proceeding on the southern front, will retain its local character only until the Red Army has extended the bridgeheads sufficiently to allow a grand offensive, emanating from these points, to be launched when the right moment comes.
Friday, 23 July 1943 Beromünster Radio, Switzerland
"...in general, the revival of the fighting in Russia and the Mediterranean, and especially the rapid success of the Allies' first invasion operation in Europe, has caused heightened tension and unrest...
...the determining feature of the situation on the Eastern Front is no longer the German offensive against the Russian salient at Kursk, but the Russian counteroffensive against the German salient at Orel. The Soviet High Comand has deployed vast quantities of tanks, mobile artillery and aircraft in its counteroffensive and has made up the territory lost to the Germans in the first phase of the summer fighting.
And finally...
16 August 1943 Secret Report of the SS Secret Service on Internal Affairs
"Present reports from all parts of the Reich indicate that the people at present feel their powers of emotional resistance are being strained to the breaking-point...
The reports emphasize that the broad mass of the population are not convinced that we have in our hands all the requirements of victory. Instead they see the was situation approximately as follows:
We are on the defensive, trying to ward off overwhelming odds; we are unable to prevent local breaches in Festung Europa; Italy will defect as soon as the other side makes her some definite concessions...; the Balkans are under threat, and with them our supply of oil; the huge matériel deployment and seemingly inexhaustible manpower reserves of the Soviets may lead to a new catastrophe in the East this winter.7
Those wearing Party insignia have frequently been addressed by other Germans who say: 'What, are you still wearing that thing?'

There have also been numerous reports of the following joke:
Anyone who recuits five new members into the Party gets to leave it. Anyone who recruits ten new members gets a certificate testifying that he was never in the Party.


  1. An interesting way to portray the start of your own offensive !
  2. It always seems essential for the Press to exagerate, doesn't it ?
  3. But then it becomes a bit more realistic...
  4. I am not sure if this is a reference to the HEAT round being used in the SU-122
  5. Never understood the purpose of this one - nor the truth of it !
  6. Anyone bother to tell the Italians this ???
  7. Shame for the Germans that no-one was listening - prophetic stuff from the "unwashed masses"...
  8. The old ones are the best ones...

Source: Tank War 1939-1945, Janusz Piekalkiewicz

© Alan Wilson 1997, 1998, 1999 Last update: 22/11/99 11:02:08 PM GMT