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Author Topic: PzLdr History Facts  (Read 68057 times)
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apples
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« Reply #45 on: June 27, 2016, 11:12:57 am »

(continued)

Terry directed Custer t sweep to the south and use his own judgment if he struck a trail. Intelligence put the potential Indian strength at 800 men, women and children. The intelligence was dead wrong. The Indian agents had over reported the reservation Indians' numbers, leaving out those Indians who went out on the Plains every summer to hunt buffalo with their non-reservation cousins. So the actual Indian strength was in the thousands, with a minimum of 800, and as many as 2,000+ warriors. It was the greatest aggregation of Indians ever gathered on the northern Plains.

Custer's prime directive [to use a STAR TREK term] was not to let the Indians escape. It was bedrock doctrine in the U.S Army in the west that when a village was attacked the Indians would flee. Custer was not to allow that to happen. Terry further told Custer they believed the Indians were in the vicinity of the Big Horn River, and that Terry's column from the northeast, Gibbon's column from the northwest, and Crook's column from the  south would converge and meet Custer on June 26th.

Custer declined a battery of Gatling guns [a good call], and troops from the 2d Cavalry [a bad one], and headed south. What he was unaware of was that Terry's plan had started to unravel - in a big way.

George Crook was a great Indian fighter. He had fought Indians in the Pacific northwest, and pacified Arizona and New Mexico from the Apache. But at Rosebud Creek, he suffered a serious defeat at the hands of the Oglala war chief, Crazy Horse, and at least several hundred of his friends. Caught by surprise while eating, Crook's men were only saved by the heroic actions of his Shoshone and Crow scouts. Crazy Horse's attack, while not U.S Army in its discipline hewed much more to a recognizable military force than the popular conception of an Indian attack. Crazy Horse eventually withdrew, so Crook could claim victory for holding the battlefield. But he withdrew to his suplly base almost immediately. More importantly, he informed Terry neither of his encounter, nor his retreat.

John Gibbon, former commander of the Civil War's Iron Brigade, unlike either Crook or Custer was fully aware of the size of the Indian village. He had paralleled it at least  twice, from the other side of  a river. Strangely, he never sought to engage the hostiles, Nor did he notify Terry of their numbers or location. Terry himself moved southwest at a more leisurely pace than one would have expected of a combat commander. the result was Custer was out alone, with no idea of the numbers he faced or where they were located.

That changed on the morning of June 25th. Custer and the 7th reached a Crow Indian lookout called, appropriately 'the Crow's nest', some fifteen miles from the valley of the Little Big Horn. Lt. Varnum, Custer's Chief of Scouts, and his Crow scouts saw a huge pony herd [Custer couldn't see it] toward the west side of the valley. Accepting his scouts' claims, custer planned to rest his horses for the rest of the 25th, and attack early on the 26th, when, according to the plan, Terry and Gibbob would be in the vicinity, able to support him.

But then came bad news. Troopers covering the regiment's back trail, and searching for cases of rations that fell off a mule, found the rations - and a small number of Indians that found them at the same time. The Indians escaped [Unbeknownst to Custer they were returning to their reservation, and gave no warning to the hostiles].

Custer was now forced to change his plans. Aware that he may have been seen, knowing the general direction of the village, and ever mindful of not letting the Indians escape, he advanced the regiment to the north. Just short of a tributary of the Little Big Horn River, he divided the regiment into three battalions.

From Custer's location, there was a series of ridges off to the left, meadows and some woods to the front, and higher bluffs to the right. The river ran to his right front paralleling the bluffs. Using seniority, he gave Benteen several troops, and ordered him to scout the ridges to the left, and to prevent any Indians from escaping that way. He also sent the pack train with the reserve ammunition with Benteen [including his nephew, Boston Custer]. He gave several more troops to Major Reno, with orders to cross the river and charge the village. Custer himself took five troops, and went up the bluffs to the right, heading generally northward, with a promise to support Reno.

The Indians had almost no warning that an attack was underway. But when they were warned, they moved into action. Benteen was charging the lowest 'circle' of the village, the lodges of the Hunkpapa. While warriors grabbed weapons, and headed for the soldiers to theier south, Sitting Bull, paramount leader of the free Indians, and their spiritual leader, funneled more warriors into the attack, and sent the aged, the women and children toward the northern end of the village. Still, for a moment, it seemed Custer's plan was working.

But then, at least a quarter to half mile from the village, and before any serious opposition appeared, Reno halted his charge, ordered his men to dismount in the grass, and set up a skirmish line, with his left in the air. Since dismounted combat required one in five or four troopers to act as horse holders, Reno effectively lost 20-25% of his effective combat strength before engaging the Indians. It didn't take long for mounted, and warriors on foot to begin attacking, and working around Reno's left flank. Without issuing any orders, Reno pulled into a patch of woods with the river protecting his right. The troops under his command straggled in, but once there, it was a highly defensible position.

While Reno was falling back to the trees, it appears that Custer may have observed the action from the bluff at Medicine Lodge Coulee. It appears he sent a feint down the coulee toward the village with the intent of drawing off some of the Indians. It also appears he saw the refugees fleeing through the village toward its northern end. After some desultory with the Indians opposite [Northern Cheyenne], which resulted in the serious wounding [according to the Cheyenne] of an officer in buckskin, the feint withdrew up the coulee, covered by two or more volleys [heard by the other battalions]. Custer then proceeded toward the north end of the village, to cut off those fleeing. He also sent a message to Benteen "Big Village. Bring ammo packs. Come quick. Bring Packs". The message was delivered by trumpeter Giovanni Martini to Benteen, who claimed Martini's English was so poor, he was unable to better grasp the situation. In any case, Benteen began to return to the initial dispersion point, where he watered his horses and mules. He then began to move north, again at a somewhat leisurely pace [Boston Custer left the pack train when the message arrived, and died with his Uncles].

In the woods, Reno was standing next to the Arikira scout Bloody Knife. A Lakota or Cheyenne bullet blew his brains all over Reno. Yelling "charge" or some such, Reno jumped on a horse, and ran for the river. Most of the men who could or see him followed, in ones, twos and small groups. Many were killed in the river by the Indians. The rest, minus small groups that successfully hid in the woods until escaping that night, arrived atop what is now known as Reno Hill, and dug rudimentary defenses while under attack. There they remained until Benteen showed up. It appeared Reno may have been drunk. In any case, Benteen elected to combine his command with Reno's, took over actual direction of the defense, and improved the defenses somewhat. And then most of the Indians rode off - to the north.

Custer was under increasing pressure from the Indians in tactically unfavorable terrain. What appeared to be gently rolling hills were laced with coulees and smaller gullies, which allowed Indians not only cover, but the advantage of high arc bows and arrows. Gall, war chief of the Hunkpapa, ran of a sizable number of horses, from one of what became a number of blocking positions, while Custer continued to maneuver in a northerly direction. The blocking units began to be destroyed piecemeal, their survivors joining the survivors with Custer. Troopers began to try and flee; a number began to commit suicide.

Then as Custer and his men rode up the hill that bears his name, a large, mixed band of Indians appeared at the crest to Custer's left front. Custer, his family members, the HQ staff, and what remained of his battalion dismounted, and cut off, prepared for the end.

One of the Indians said later that "It took as long as a hungry man takes to eat his breakfast". Except for a desultory reconnaissance, against orders from Reno and Benteen, by Cpt. Weir [to the point that bears his name], no effort was made to aid Custer, not to find him, or find out what had happened to him.

That mystery was solved two days later, when Terry and his column, a day later than expected, found the remains of Custer's command on the high ground to the north of Reno and Benteen. The corpses had been robbed and mutilated, although Custer's showed only two bullet wounds, and some minor cuts. Custer's Last Stand was over.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2016, 11:23:55 am by apples » Logged
apples
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« Reply #46 on: June 27, 2016, 11:17:52 am »

My apologies. I spent over two hours composing this post, but was informed it was over the 2,000 word/digit limit when I tried to post it. So I tried to edit it down [hack it up was more likely] and re-post. It appears most of what I thought I had left has disappeared, making this post unintelligible. Again, my apologies.

don't appolozige..I am sorry it took me this long to see this. I have had my mind elsewhere since the 23rd. My dog got attacked, mauled by 6 pig hunting dogs. He is on the mend.
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« Reply #47 on: June 27, 2016, 01:05:52 pm »

Sorry to hear about your dog, Apples, but happy to see you rode to PzLdr's rescue. Too bad someone didn't do the same for Custer.
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« Reply #48 on: June 27, 2016, 01:14:03 pm »

Quote
Undefeated, the Mongols withdrew when they received news of the death of the supreme Quan, Uggedai, in Mongolia.

And thank God for that.

You make a good case for him, PzLdr, though my first thought was Cyrus the Great, not only for his conquests and the extensive empire he created, but also for the relatively humane policies he followed after conquest. My second choice might be Alexander the Great who was no slouch when it came to military conquests of his own, but died too young to see what kind of ruler he might have been.
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« Reply #49 on: June 27, 2016, 02:03:01 pm »

I'm also very sorry about your dogs. I hunt wild boar [never with a dog], and I've seen every kind of there is used on pig hunts: Plott Hounds, pit bulls, Catahoulas. Glad he's on the mend. hope he's going to be OK.
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« Reply #50 on: June 27, 2016, 02:06:00 pm »

Sorry to hear about your dog, Apples, but happy to see you rode to PzLdr's rescue. Too bad someone didn't do the same for Custer.

Two of the things that gets lost in the story of the Big Horn are that Custer intended, until the Indians were found on his back trail, to rest up the whole of the 25th, and attack on the 26th, as originally planned; and that none of the other troops, who were to be in Custer's vicinity on the 26th, arrived until the 27th - a day later than planned.
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« Reply #51 on: June 27, 2016, 02:37:08 pm »

I don't know much about generals in history...yet will read here.
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« Reply #52 on: June 28, 2016, 11:44:35 am »

The Spring of 1863 was a mixed blessing for Robert E. Lee. He had just come off two major victories over the Army of the Potomac, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. But they had come at a price and a cost. Stonewall Jackson was dead. And rather than choose one replacement for him, Lee had opted to break up the current structure of the two infantry corps and one cavalry corps that comprised his army, and replace it with three infantry corps, giving Jackson's old corps to LTG Richard Ewell, and the newly created IIId  Corps to LTG Ambrose Powell Hill. This did not sit well with MG JEB Stuart, commander of Lee's cavalry. Stuart had taken command of Jackson's Corps after he had fallen at Chancellorsville, and done an excellent job. HE had hoped to succeed Jackson, although what he really wanted was promotion to LTG, which he thought as a corps commander himself, he deserved.

Additionally, Lee faced another problem, caused by his success. Jefferson Davis and his advisors were considering a plan to send Lee, and two-thirds of his army to the west, assuming that the beaten Army of the Potomac was weakened enough to remain quiescent for the coming months. Lee was opposed to leaving Virginia, and counter-proposed 'invading' the North for a second time, this time going into Pennsylvania. The ostensible objective was to live off the North's agriculture, give Virginia farmers relief, perhaps threaten some major Union cities, and possibly bring the Union Army to battle again. Lee carried the day, and by early June, his army was concentrated near the western Maryland border prepared to go north.

Then, "for want of a nail...". On June 9th, the Union cavalry attacked, in force, Stuart's corps at Fleetwood Hill [Brandy Station]. In a battle that lasted all day, Stuart, with infantry support, held the hill., with the bluejackets retreating in good order. But Stuart was savaged in the Southern press, which meant he was liable to try something spectacular to regain his image. And Lee's orders to him  [referred to by other Southern officers as 'suggestions'] gave him the opportunity to do just that.

Stuart's mission was to cover Lee's right, keep an eye on the Union army, and prevent Union cavalry from observing Lee's movement up the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But he also allowed Stuart latitude in how he did this. Result? Stuart left two brigades of cavalry with Lee, and attempted another 'ride around the Union Army'. It failed. Stuart went too far east, got entangled in running fights with Union cavalry, and got slowed down by a captured wagon train. He basically rode himself out of the campaign until the afternoon of July 2d, the second day of battle.

On the other side of the mountains, things went well. Ewell took Harper's Ferry, swept up the valley, and debauched into Pennsylvania. He proceeded northeast to Chambersburg, stopping, along the way, to pick clean Gettysburg. Next up the Valley was A.P. Hill, who stopped at Taneytown. Still moving up through Maryland was LTG James Longstreet, and the First Corps. Things seemed well in hand until Henry Heth's men went looking for shoes. What they found was John Buford's cavalry, and shortly, the Army of the Potomac.

Lee, Hill and Heth first thought the troops they faced were state guards. After all, they had no intelligence that the Army of the Potomac was on the move. But it was. And the arrival of the Iron Brigade proved it. With troops spread in an arc from Chambersburg to Maryland, Lee should have re-grouped. But "his blood was up", and what started as a meeting engagement turned into a full scale battle, with Ewell, hearing the guns, moving to Gettysburg from the northeast, while hill's troops attacked from the west. Between them, they drove the Federals out of Gettysburg onto Culp's Hill, with Union reinforcements occupying Cemetery Ridge.

It was then that Lee's orders as suggestions bit him again. He ordered Ewell to take Culp's Hill, "if practicable". Jackson would have. Ewell decided it wasn't, and didn't. So at the end of July 1st, The Union held a five mile line shaped like an elongated paper clip facing the Rebel positions on Seminary Ridge and Gettysburg. Lee's line looked like a fishhook, with the barb at Culp's Hill. His line was nine miles long. Lee was holding a line almost twice as long as Meade's [the new Union commander] with, eventually, about 75,000 men. Meade was defending, on interior lines, half as long, with, eventually, 90,000 men.

Lee's problems were formidable. Coordinating anything near simultaneous, or supporting attacks at either end of his line proved nearly impossible [Day Two]. Some of his commanders [particularly Longstreet] urged withdrawal to a favorable defensive position between Meade and Washington, forcing the Union Army to attack him. Lee refused. Instead he directed Longstreet to attack the middle of the Union line with Pickett's division [arrived on the night of July 2d], Pettigrew's division, and other troops from Hill's Corps. Longstreet argued against it, noting the terrain was like Fredericksburg, but this time it was the Union troops dug in at the top of a hill, behind over a 1/2 mile of open ground. Lee refused. And so on the afternoon of July 3, 1863, the Army of Northern Virginia sent over 12,000 men into the teeth of a barrage of almost all the Army of the Potomac's artillery, joined, when they got within range with the massed musket and rifle fire of the Union Infantry. One small breakthrough was contained, then driven back. To catcalls from the Federals of "Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg", the rebels cracked, then broke, fleeing the field. they left over half the attacking force behind, dead or captured. As Pickett succinctly put it after the war, "That old man [Lee] killed my division". The question is 'why'?

I suggest the answer is hubris. Lee believed his men could do anything if they willed it. He was very wrong. Against the advice of proven combat leaders he chose to fight an enemy of unknown origin when he could have held back. He refused to either discontinue combat, or regroup when he became aware of whom he was fighting. He again ignored the advice of his senior commander when he directed an attack over open ground, broken by fence lines, uphill against a dug in, numerically superior enemy.

Lee withdrew the next day, July 4th. Coupled with the surrender that day of Vicksburg, the South's back was broken. The war would continue for two more years. Butr Robert E. Lee would never take the strategic offensive again. From Gettysburg on, he danced to the Union's Army tune.
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« Reply #53 on: June 28, 2016, 02:39:41 pm »

Quote
From Gettysburg on, he danced to the Union's Army tune.
Sadly.

Another good piece, PzLdr. Thanks.
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« Reply #54 on: June 29, 2016, 08:08:08 am »

Ever consider how history might have turned out differently 'if only'? Five quick examples:

[1] What if Alexander had made peace with Darius, married his daughter, taken half his Empire AND TURNED WEST? He had already proclaimed Carthage an enemy. So what happens if Rome never rises?

[2] What if Publius Quintillius Varus had listened to Segestes, and not blundered into the annihilation of three legions [XVII, XVIII, and XIX] in the Teutoberg Forest. Would Rome have successfully colonized Germany? And what then?


[3] What if Uggedai Qa Quan DIDN'T die in 1241. Would Subodei have conquered the rest of Europe?

[4] What if Mongke Qa Quan didn't die on campaign in China. Would his brother Hulegu, with his whole Army, have destroyed Muslim power in the Middle East?

[5] What if British officer [and sharpshooter] Patrick Ferguson didn't do the gentlemanly thing early in the Revolution [refuse to shoot an enemy officer in the back] and instead killed that officer - George Washington.

Any comments and additions to the list are more than welcome!
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« Reply #55 on: July 01, 2016, 01:53:16 pm »

Yes another good piece.
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« Reply #56 on: July 02, 2016, 06:56:51 am »

The Plan was named for a snake. A very large, albeit non-poisonous snake. Created by the first U.S. General-in-Chief of the Union Army, Winfield Scott, the Anaconda Plan contemplated squeezing the South to death by blockading its Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico ports, and by isolating the three western Confederate states, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas from the rest of the Confederacy by seizing control of the Mississippi river. And by Spring, 1863, even though Scott was long gone, the plan was well underway.

The naval blockade, while still spotty [it would never be totally effective], succeeded in cutting off much needed trade and supplies to the Confederacy. Since the practice was recognized by international law, neither Britain, nor France declared war over it. And since the great majority of the U.S. Navy remained  [a] loyal, and in Union hands, the blockade was not that hard to put into effect.

The "Father of Waters", however, was another proposition all together. Initial operations at both ends [Island #10, New Orleans] were successful. But the stretch of the river between Port Royal and Vicksburg remained in Rebel hands. And Vicksburg was the key.

Perched on a bluff on the eastern side of the Mississippi, Vicksburg dominated the river. To add to its strategic position, and its fortifications, the west bank, and area to the south was largely swamp, making passage for union troops overland difficult, if not nearly impossible. And as long as Vicksburg flew the Stars and Bars, it meant the South had access to reinforcements and foodstuffs from the western confederate states, particularly Texas. And that brought U.S Grant, William T. Sherman and company to Vicksburg, to face a Confederate general from Pennsylvania named John C. Pemberton, and his Army of Mississippi.

The opening moves did not go well for Grant. Attempts to move troops through the swamps were met with failure. So were more northerly efforts. Finally, using the U.S Navy's river squadron [America's first real effort in 'riverine' warfare], Grant 'ran' the Mississippi under Vicksburg's guns, and finally crossed the river south of the city. He now had a supply line that ran down the west bank, and crossed to the east bank. but he had a supply line. And then he got down to business,

Grant was faced with two potential military forces. there was Pemberton to his front. But there was also Gen. Joseph E. Johnston off to the south east and east raising another Confederate Army. Grant tackled his immediate problem first. At the battle of Champion Hill, he engaged, and defeated Pemberton. Pemberton then withdrew to Vicksburg, apparently expecting Johnston to come to his aid. the aid was not forthcoming. And by retreating to the city, Pemberton cut himself, his 30,000 man Army and the citizens off from any help. the Union navy controlled the river. And Grant was coming from the southeast.

Hoping to end things quickly, and before Pemberton settled into the defenses, Grant launched two assaults, on May 19th and May 22d. Both failed. It was at that point that Grant opted for a siege. He had two problems facing him. First he lacked sufficient troops for a 'tight' siege. Second, Johnston was showing signs of life. Request  to MG Henry Halleck for reinforcements were answered with enough troops to allow Grant to not only set up effective siege lines, but to create a special detachment under Sherman to shield the Army's rear from Johnston. And then, while Grant conducted the siege, Sherman met, and defeated Johnston, driving any hope of Vicksburg's relief away. Johnston, who apparently failed to see the strategic value of Vicksburg had expected Pemberton to abandon the city. Now it was too late.

Vicksburg suffered shelling from both the land and river. People wound up living in dugouts in the bluffs called 'hidies'. Dog, cats and rats disappeared from the town as other food ran out. By July, they were starving.

Pemberton and his generals thought surrendering on Independence Day might incline Grant to be merciful. They were right, but for the wrong reason. Grant could not afford, in any sense to guard and feed 30,000 prisoners, as well as care for the population of Vicksburg. So he paroled Pemberton's Army. And the surrender took place on July 4th, 1863.

Vicksburg is the forgotten, but far more important twin of Gettysburg. In the latter, Lee's army was defeated, but retreated, more or less intact, to fight another day over the same old ground it had been fighting over for two years.  With Vicksburg, the South lost, and the Union gained an inestimable strategic asset - the Mississippi River [Port Royal finally fell to Union troops on July 9th]. Approximately 1/3 of the Confederate states were sundered from their government, becoming 'the Empire of Kirby Smith', the general commanding the Trans-Mississippi. Access to beef, horses and other supply was largely cut off. Union troops could now move rapidly north and south on the bulk of the Confederacy's left flank.

The Vicksburg campaign was probably, IMHO, the greatest strategic operation ever undertaken in North America. It was planned and carried out by the command team that would bring the South to its' knees, U.S. Grant, and William T. Sherman. It was a fitting celebration of the nation's birthday.
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« Reply #57 on: July 03, 2016, 01:24:15 pm »

By 1943, Germany's declining ability to wage war in the Soviet Union was starkly reflected in the size of offensives it was capable of launching. In 1941, the Germans had attacked on an 800 mile front that later expanded to over a 1,000 miles. In 1942, even with stripping other fronts and countries for troops, the summer offensive that culminated in the debacle of Stalingrad had opened on a front that ran from Kharkov and Voronezh down to Rostov, before [theoretically] funneling down into the Caucasus to the oilfields of Maikop, and Grozny.

And in 1943, the area of operations was smaller still. Germany had been reduced to planning a pincer movement against a bulge protruding west from Kursk. The plan was to pinch off the bulge, destroy the Soviet troop concentrations within, and both straighten and shorten the German lines by some 300 miles. And even an operation that small presented problems. First, the bulge ran through the boundaries of Army Group Center and Army Group South. So the attacking forces would be from forces under two different commands. Second, by 1943, the Germans had lost almost a half million infantrymen on the Eastern Front. In addition to being able to conscript and train replacements [which would be too late for the operation, ZITADELLE [CITADEL], Hitler's penchant for creating new units, instead of re-constituting old ones, severely limited the ability of the German infantry to giving meaningful support for the attack.

That meant the bulk of the offensive had to be carried by Panzer and Panzer Grenadier Divisions. And that meant the Germans needed tanks. Lots of tanks.

As the war in the East had progressed, two factors entered German thinking about armor. First, their initial conception of using tanks against infantry, and anti-tank guns against tanks had changed. On the Eastern Front, tank against tank battles became more common, and even the Sturmgeschutz assault guns began to be modified into tank destroyers. Second, the Germans began to realize that they could neither keep up with Soviet tank production, nor replicate the lethal T-34 themselves [the aluminum alloy in the engines]. So Hitler began thinking quality over quantity, and bigger is better. The first result, debuting on the Northern front in Russia in the fall of 1942, was the Mark VI TIGER tank. Based on a 1936 design, it lacked sloped armor. But it carried 4" of frontal armor, and an 88 mm. long barreled gun. In fact the tank was built around the gun. And the TIGER was invulnerable to anything on the battlefield. Next up was the Mark V PANTHER, which was heavily influenced by the T-34. the PANTHER DID have sloped armor. And a long barreled high velocity 75mm gun. Additionally, the Germans upgunned their warhorse, the Mark IV Panzer with a long barreled 75 mm gun of its own.

But by Spring, 1943, when CITADEL was envisaged to jump off, the Germans lacked enough tanks to complete the mission. Additionally, the PANTHERS, rushed into production, were having teething problems, being, since they were German, over-engineered. And so the date for CITADEL kept getting pushed back, and the Russians kept getting more time to improve their already formidable defenses.

The Russians knew fell well what the German plans for the summer of 1943 were. Their spies had told them almost all of it, except when, and that fact would be forthcoming before the battle started. Within the bulge, the Soviets built three separate defense lines, each with their own trenches, buried tanks [turrets only above ground], infantry units, anti-tank guns, artillery and air support. the Soviets were organized in three distinct fronts: the Western Front [at the tip of the bulge, the Central Front [Rokossovsky] facing north [and Model's 9th Army], and the Voronezh Front [Vatutin] , facing south[and Army Group South (von Manstein), Army Detachment Kempf, and its spearhead, 4th Panzer Army (Hoth).

By the time the Germans had brought what they though were sufficient armored formations to the front, it was July, and Hitler was increasingly worried about the operation. But it went forward.

Although Operation CITADEL is usually described as starting on 5 JULY, it actually began on the evening of the 4th, when the Germans undertook a preliminary operation to seize some high ground. If they thought their success was a good omen, they were quickly disabused. Zhukov, the overall Soviet commander, now with the German start times and objectives in hand, opened the dance with a preemptive artillery barrage that caught the Germans assembling for the attack. The disruption was significant. A surprise Russian air attack on the Luftwaffe was not only less successful, it cost the Soviets an large number of planes, giving the Germans air superiority in the south, and parity better in the north.

The main attacks went in on the 5th. In the north, Model led with his infantry, intending to send in his armor when the infantry punched through the Soviet lines. Progress was slow, and slowing. to compound his problems, Model was equipped with the monstrosity  known as the TIGER FERDINAND. Designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the inventor of the Volkswagen, the FERDINAND was his attempt to recoup his loss to Henschel in winning the contract for the TIGER I. He failed. While the FERDINAND would go on to great success in the defensive role in Italy as a tank destroyer, at Kursk, it was useless. It was armed with an 88 m gun. But it had no ball mounted hull machine gun. It had no turret mounted machine gun. In fact, it had no turret. the main gun was fixed in the hull. The entire track had to turn to shoot. and without machine guns, it couldn't defend itself. Soviet infantry ate them for breakfast.

As Model's offensive slowed, a Russian offensive erupted against Army Group center near Orel. Model lost his reserves, and then his attack was suspended. CITADEL was now reduced to a one armed pincer from the South.

The attack in the south went well, initially. Hoth had a formidable punch in XLVIII the Panzer Corps [220 PANTHERS], and the 2d SS Panzer Corps [comprised of the 1stt SS Pz. Gren. Division "LEIBSTANDARTE ADOLF HITLER", 2d SS P.z Gren. Division "DAS REICH", and 3d SS Pz. Gren. Division [and the strongest of the three] "TOTENKOPF". He also had dedicated ground support aircraft at his disposal, STUKAS with undermounted 37 mm cannons, Henschel ground attack aircraft, and Focke Wulf fighter bombers.

The result was the Germans in the south broke through the first Soviet defense zone the first day. That pace slowed on the western side of the sector, but the SS continued to make significant progress. Then, on July 12th, after a change of Schwerpunckt that sent the SS to the northeast, the final showdown occurred, in what most historians  concur is the largest tank battle in history, the battle of Prokhorova.

The SS was in the process of breaking into the open ground behind the last Soviet defense belt, but Hermann Hoth, one of Germany's greatest, if unsung tank commanders, smelled armor, Soviet Armor, so he sent the SS to meet it. The armor he smelled was Rostimov's 5th Guards tank army. And as the reserve, it was sent to counter-attack the Germans and plug the hole. they did thwe former, but not the latter. T-34s tried to close the range to the TIGERS and PANTHERS, and get in close for a chance at a kill. the Germans sought to stand off and kill the Russian armor at distance. Both sides had mixed success. And while the Russians withdrew, the German advance was stopped.

On July 13th, hitler called the battle off, sending the LEIBSTANDARTE to Italy [the Allies had invaded Sicily], and pulling the rst of the SSz. Corps into reserve. Follow up attacks by the Soviets were largely crushed. CITADEL was over.

So who won? Strategically, the Soviets. Germany's last offensive in the East was over. From now on the two armies would move in one direction -west. Tactically, the win went to the Germans. They destroyed at least three times as many tanks as they lost. But replacing their losses were almost impossible, while the Soviets would build over 50,000 T-34s [all models].( The Germans would build less than 1,400 TIGER Is for the whole war, and less than 500 TIGER IIs)

The die was cast. Hitler would lose his war in the East.
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jafo2010
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« Reply #58 on: July 03, 2016, 02:09:49 pm »

Hitler lost the war the moment he declared war on the USA, and his generals knew it!  In my mind, the greatest error of the 20th Century.  Had he not declared war on the USA, FDR would have been forced to concentrate his attention solely on the Pacific and stay out of Europe.
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PzLdr
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« Reply #59 on: July 04, 2016, 07:07:37 am »

Hitler lost the war the moment he declared war on the USA, and his generals knew it!  In my mind, the greatest error of the 20th Century.  Had he not declared war on the USA, FDR would have been forced to concentrate his attention solely on the Pacific and stay out of Europe.

Objectively, Yes. From Hitler's point of view, not so much. FDR had spent 1940 and a good part of 1941 trying to get Hitler into a war with the United States. He followed policies that under international law would make the U.S a co-belligerent of Great Britain. How? Providing escorts for British merchantmen half-way into the Atlantic. Having U.S warships radio U-boat positions to the Royal Navy. Providing as military garrison for Iceland to [a] free up British troops for other purposes, and deny the island to the Germans.Eventually having U.S ships attack U-boats.

Raeder, Doenitz and the U-boat captains wanted Hitler to declare war in 1940, and in 1941. Hitler demurred.

In 1941, there was an undeclared war in the Atlantic between our ships and the U-boats. Hence, "The Good Ship Reuben James". The co-pilot on the PBY Catalina that spotted BISMARCK was an American. So Adolf had NO doubts where FDR stood. So it wasn't really a question of 'if' but 'when'. And when Hitler thought Japan had run the table [and was not fully aware of the catastrophe developing in front of Moscow], he figured why not 'now'?

Abysmally ignorant as he was of America's economic potential [as were most of the Japanese leadership], Hitler knew that in 1939 America ranked 16th or 17th in the world in military power. Between Portugal and Romania [I forget the order]. So he calculated he'd have two years before the U.S. presence was really felt. And considering the way the Germans handled the Americans in North Africa, he was just about right. But he ran out of time.

Going to war with America foolish? You bet. But illogical from Hitler's point of view? Not necessarily.
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