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"In Pursuit of Prokhorovka" Topic


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380 hits since 11 Jan 2020
©1994-2020 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2020 9:30 p.m. PST

"In the autumn of 2017 I had the opportunity to teach an operational case study at the Joint Services and Command Staff College on an historical campaign of my choosing. As a historian with a long interest in armoured warfare and the war on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, it was an easy choice – the monumental battles around Kursk/Orel in the summer of 1943. Included was the battle of Prokhorovka (viewed as the culmination of the Germans drive on Kursk from the south), which was fought on 12 July 1943. This battle was just one of the major battles which occurred in the Kursk/Orel area during the summer of 1943, collectively these engagements formed part of the monumental Battle of Kursk. Yet the battle of Prokhorovka is perhaps also one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented battles of the Second World War.

The battle of Prokhorovka was not the largest tank battle on a single day in history. It did not mark the death ride of Germany's panzer forces, nor was it (as is also the case for Operation Citadel in general) a battle that potentially decided the fate of the entire war on the Eastern Front. Undoubtedly, though, it was a very significant engagement and, for the Soviet 5thGuards Tank Army, a disaster. The myths surrounding the battle largely stem from General Rotmistrov's need to justify to Stalin his 5thGuards Tank Army's heavy losses. Soviet armoured losses were indeed very severe while German armoured losses were negligible in the extreme. Thanks to excellent post-soviet era research by Niklas Zetterling & AndersFrankson, Karl-Heinz Frieser, Roman Töppeland ValeriyZamulin amongst others (which are based on official reports, losses and testimonies) this is now beyond dispute…"
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Amicalement
Armand

Blutarski13 Jan 2020 6:47 p.m. PST

Dupuy and some US Army people got deeply into the Soviet archives as well when they were opened. Based upon what they were able to assemble from these and preserved German records, they were able to paint an remarkably interesting portrait of the engagement – quite different in many respects from popular portrayals of the battle.

Their (lengthy) report can be found in the CARL digital library (or DTIC digital library). Worth tracking down.

B

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2020 11:42 a.m. PST

Thanks!.


Amicalement
Armand

Mark 115 Jan 2020 1:37 p.m. PST

Dupuy and some US Army people got deeply into the Soviet archives as well when they were opened. Based upon what they were able to assemble from these and preserved German records, they were able to paint an remarkably interesting portrait of the engagement – quite different in many respects from popular portrayals of the battle.

Following on to that work, Chris Lawrence (a research fellow at the Dupuy Institute and one of the moderators of TDI Forum back in the day, and as I understand it now, President of TDI) extended that work to what he suggests at 1700 pages may be the longest book ever published by commercial press, his tome: "Kursk: the Battle of Prokhorovka". It provides detail from archival and first-hand accounts on both sides of almost every unit involved in the battle.

link

There is also now an abridged version of that book, published by Stackpole in 2019, which at something less than 700 pages long might be considered the "Reader's Digest edition" compared to the original.

link 2

The full original 2015 version is really a one-of-a-kind historical document that is available to the public, although at a price that probably will keep it off of the NYT best-sellers list!

He has recounted stories of just what an adventure it was to complete that book. As Russian-American relations ebbed, and Putinism replaced Peristroika, it became progressively more difficult, to impossible, for American researchers to access the Russian military and national archives. Even soliciting interviews became risky (for both interviewer and interviewee), as his role at TDI, which also does a lot of contract research work for the US Military, put him at risk of being branded a spy by Russian counter-intelligence agencies.

He had to create several third-party research projects over a period of some dozen or more years, so he could employ reputable Russian historians and researchers, in order to continue drawing information out of the archives and conducting interviews with veterans in Russia. I think even Zetterling agrees that Lawrence's book is the "last word" on Prokhorovka, mainly because no western author is ever again likely to get access to the full range of source materials (in part because, well, there just aren't going to be many veterans left "next time" someone wants to do the research).

Creating this book was a remarkable undertaking … a true labor of love by a dedicated historian.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

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