The USS Marion and the Asiatic Station

The screw-sloop Marion, last wooden ship of the “Old Navy” on the Asiatic Station.

Rear Admiral David B. Harmony, who had last served in the Far East seventeen years earlier, remained at Yokohama only until the Alliance could be summoned to convey him to Hong Kong. To his embarrassment, his temporary flagship grounded on the submerged end of a breakwater while standing out in clear weather, a mishap later attributed to her navigator’s color blindness. Tugs working nearby came to her assistance, as did the commanding officer of HMS Mercury, who brought an anchor and a cable in his steam launch, and the Alliance was floated without damage at high water.

Harmony ordered the Marion, which had spent her entire six months on the station riding at anchor off Yokohama, to Nagasaki for docking and then to Chemulpo. The Alert was kept at Kobe and the Alliance at Nagasaki, both ready for sea at short notice although active cruising was limited by a Bureau of Equipment directive that coal consumption be kept to a minimum. The Monocacy remained on the Yangtze, where she was joined in April 1892 by the steel gunboat Petrel, another of the vessels of the “new” Navy. Called the “baby battleship” because of her heavy armament—four 6-inch guns, of which two could bear on any target—the Petrel was handicapped by her 11-knot speed and poor performance under sail. Nonetheless, she was to spend the next twenty years on the Asiatic Station, with time out for brief periods on Bering Sea patrol.

The Palos, the squadron’s lame duck, was still on the Pei Ho, and Lieutenant Commander John C. Rich reported that her boilers could no longer produce enough steam to turn her engine. Noting that a vessel so decrepit ought never to have been sent to the Pei Ho, the admiral ordered the Marion to tow her to Nagasaki for survey as soon as the danger of storms on the Yellow Sea had passed.

Almost immediately upon hoisting his flag, the new commander in chief began to receive reports pertaining to the situation along the Yangtze. He was not especially concerned, holding that American business interests in China were almost entirely in the hands of foreign and Chinese merchants, none of whom could claim the protection of the United States, and that American-flag shipping had almost disappeared from Chinese waters.

The protection of missionaries, however, was his responsibility, and the missionary community was hardly insignificant in terms of numbers. The treaties forced on China in 1858 and 1860 had introduced religious toleration to that nation, and the thirty years following had brought a steady increase in Christian missionary activity. By 1890, there were 513 American missionaries representing nineteen denominations in China; only the British supported a greater number. And, while foreigners generally resided at one or another of the relatively few treaty ports, missionaries were wont to range far into the hinterland “only controlled by their own interpretation of the wishes of the Almighty.”1 Thus, to afford them even a modicum of protection taxed the resources of naval officers, many of whom undoubtedly agreed with the Monocacy’s Commander Francis M. Barber that all entitled to and claiming the U.S. government’s protection should be brought more directly under that government’s control.

But 1892 was a quiet year throughout the Orient. Even Korea was so tranquil that the State Department agreed that a warship need not be kept at Chemulpo. The Marion, which towed the Palos to Nagasaki in mid-June, thereafter cruised in northern Japanese waters, and the Alliance sailed for Mare Island in August. A few weeks earlier, the Palos’s fate had been decided by a board of survey which found that thorough repair of her hull and machinery would require expenditures far beyond the old gunboat’s worth. Admiral Harmony recommended that she be decommissioned and sold. The Navy Department concurred, so the veteran Palos, literally worn-out after twenty-two years on the Asiatic Station, was stripped of usable fittings and sold for scrap on 25 January 1893.

The spring of 1893 found Admiral Harmony concerned about the Chinese reaction to exclusion legislation recently passed by the U.S. Congress. Considering the Yangtze Valley the area most likely to experience anti-foreign turbulence, he assigned the Marion, Monocacy, and Petrel to spend the summer shuttling between Shanghai and the river’s treaty ports, while the Alert in Japanese waters would respond to developments elsewhere on the station. The admiral himself was nearing the statutory retirement age, so the Lancaster steamed to Yokohama to await his relief, Rear Admiral John Irwin, who assumed command of the Asiatic Squadron on 7 June.

Irwin’s tenure of command was uneventful and unexpectedly brief. The Petrel was ordered to the Bering Sea for the summer, and the Alert departed for San Francisco in mid-August. The steel gunboat Concord, larger and faster than the Petrel, was en route to the station, and the protected cruiser Baltimore was under orders to relieve the aged Lancaster, so the commander in chief could look forward to a proper flagship. These vessels had yet to reach the station when, on 11 October, Admiral Irwin received a confidential telegram informing him that he was to be relieved of his command on 27 October, on which date he and his staff would take passage in the mail steamer to Honolulu, there to hoist his flag in the protected cruiser Philadelphia as commander in chief of the Pacific Squadron. A day earlier, somewhat similar orders had been sent to Acting Rear Admiral Joseph S. Skerrett, commander in chief of the Pacific Squadron, who was to take Irwin’s place.

Such a “swap” of commands was not usual for the U.S. Navy, and it obviously requires some explanation. For this, one must look to Honolulu where, a few months earlier, a bloodless revolution had occurred. The last Hawaiian monarch, Liliuokalani, had been dethroned by American Hawaiians who seem to have triumphed mainly because of the presence of the U.S. cruiser Boston, which landed an armed force ostensibly to protect American interests. A provisional government, quickly formed and as quickly recognized by the U.S. minister, sent commissioners to Washington to arrange American annexation of the islands. A treaty to this end was drawn up and signed without difficulty, but the Senate delayed action on it at the request of President-elect Grover Cleveland. After his inauguration, Cleveland withdrew the treaty and ordered an investigation, which revealed that native Hawaiians generally preferred the deposed queen. The provisional government, however, refused to give way, nor would American opinion permit the use of force to restore a monarch. Thus, Hawaii remained independent under a government which intended that it become a part of the United States as soon as possible, while President Cleveland, who would not countenance annexation, was determined that foreign influence must not supplant that of his nation at Honolulu.

Admiral Skerrett had assumed command of the Pacific Squadron on 9 January 1893, one week before the Hawaiian revolution. Arriving in Honolulu soon after the event, he reported that the provisional government was incapable of gaining the public support necessary to win an election. His subsequent communications, however, indicated that Skerrett was being won over by that government, leading Navy Secretary Hilary A. Herbert to warn that his course should be one of complete neutrality toward both governmental and royalist factions. Soon thereafter, Skerrett managed to bring about the dispatch of a British warship to Hawaiian waters—which the United States was anxious to avoid—by indiscreetly telling the British minister that the vessels of the Pacific Squadron were not authorized to protect foreigners in the islands. This indiscretion, which the admiral himself reported, convinced Herbert that Skerrett must leave Honolulu. A simple removal from his command was out of the question, for the naval officer would almost certainly demand a court-martial which might be embarrassing to the government, so the secretary ordered him to exchange commands with the somewhat senior and presumably more perceptive John Irwin.

Joseph Skerrett, of course, was no stranger to the Far East, having commanded the flagship Richmond for some three years and served as the squadron’s senior officer after Peirce Crosby’s sudden departure in 1883. Skerrett hoisted his flag in the Lancaster on 9 December 1893, hoping perhaps that the Asiatic Station would prove a less taxing command than that which he had relinquished. However, it was not to be.

For a time, all went well. The Concord and the Petrel had reported for duty before the admiral’s arrival, and the Baltimore steamed into Hong Kong later in December. The Lancaster and the Marion, the last of the U.S. Navy’s old wooden warships to serve on the Asiatic Station, both departed in mid-February. The Lancaster, sailing from Hong Kong to New York by the Suez route, made a routine passage, but not the Marion.

The Marion stood out of Yokohama bound for Mare Island with fine weather and a fair wind. One day out, Commander Charles V. Gridley ordered her boiler fires burned down and her screw uncoupled. She made good progress under sail the next day, but on 22 February the wind increased gradually until it reached hurricane strength. The Marion was hove to under storm canvas, and boiler fires were lighted; but she labored so violently in mountainous seas that several boilers began to work loose in their saddles and all leaked badly. Water was pouring into the vessel through deck and side seams, while waves breaking on board carried away a boat and several gunport covers. Gridley had the prisoners released so that they could take a turn at the deck pumps, assist in the stokehold, or, if necessary, abandon ship. But the Marion and her men were equal to this occasion. The boilers were chocked in place, and half were made tight enough to provide steam to pumps and engines. Oil streamed from the weather bow exerted its calming effect on the troubled waters, lessening the impact of the waves. The gale diminished markedly the next day, and on 24 February Commander Gridley set a course for Yokohama, whence he reported that his vessel owed her survival to her own seaworthiness, adding that the service still had topmen capable of hazardous work aloft. After being docked and repaired, the Marion took her final departure from the station on 10 April.

List of Naval Officers & Sailors on Ships

Siege of Meaux and Relief of Cosne, March–August 1422

While the English were preoccupied with the siege of Meaux and the defence of Lower Normandy, the Dauphinist garrisons of the Oise and the Somme had continued to expand their reach. In spite of the reverses which they had suffered at Mons-en-Vimeu and Saint-Riquier the previous year, Jacques d’Harcourt’s network of garrisoned fortresses now extended east beyond Amiens and south through Vimeu to the River Bresle that marked the limits of English-occupied Normandy. Henry V could not spare the troops to deal with the threat and the Duke of Burgundy had no garrisons in the region. As a result, the Dauphinists encountered no resistance except from the raw levies raised by the towns of Amiens and Abbeville from among their own citizens. At the beginning of March 1422, John of Luxembourg, to whom Philip was increasingly inclined to delegate the conduct of military operations, presided over an assembly of soldiers and officials of Picardy in the castle of Bapaume. They agreed on a concerted effort to push back Harcourt’s forces.

John of Luxembourg invaded the region at the end of March 1422. But his forces were modest. Initially no more than a few hundred strong, at its highest point his army numbered about 2,800 men, including a contingent of men-at-arms and archers from the English garrison of Eu under the command of their captain, Ralph Butler. The campaign opened with the kind of savage demonstration by which commanders now routinely tried to deter resistance. The castle of Quenoy stood over the Roman road from Roye to Amiens. Its Dauphinist garrison held out too long. By the time that they surrendered, their walls were too badly damaged by John of Luxembourg’s artillery to withstand an assault, and there was nothing for them to bargain with. The captain negotiated a safe-conduct for himself and abandoned his forty companions to their fate. They were all hanged, some at the castle gate, the rest from the public gibbet at Amiens. After this incident, the Burgundians rapidly cleared all the garrisons which Jacques d’Harcourt had planted on the banks of the Somme, except for his headquarters at Le Crotoy and the towns of Saint-Valéry and Noyelles on the other side of the bay. Thereafter, resistance stiffened, as John tried to advance into Vimeu.

Vimeu was the region lying south of the lower reaches of the Somme. It was dominated by two large Dauphinist garrisons at Airaines and Gamaches, and a string of satellite positions which their captains had planted along the valley of the Bresle. They put up a strong fight. The network of mutual support which linked the Dauphinist garrisons of the north proved highly resilient. Jacques d’Harcourt brought in reinforcements by sea to Le Crotoy, presumably from Brittany, and harassed the invaders from the west. The garrisons of Compiègne and Guise assembled some 800–1,000 mounted men and entered the region from the east. John of Luxembourg’s position shortly became untenable. He was forced to abandon the siege of Gamaches in order to meet the new threat. But when he confronted them in battle array, they melted away and passed around his back to plant a new garrison at Mortemer near Montdidier. Airaines eventually surrendered on terms on 11 May. But its garrison simply migrated to Gamaches and other Dauphinist strongholds nearby. Dealing with dispersed and nimble enemies like these was like rolling the stone of Sisyphus. In the middle of May, after less than two months in the field, John of Luxembourg’s war treasurers appear to have run out of money. He broke up his army and withdrew.

The surrender of Meaux transformed the situation. It had been the largest and most dangerous Dauphinist garrison in northern France for the past four years. Its conquest, following on the clearance of the valleys of the Seine and the Yonne, freed the approaches to Paris from the east and greatly eased the city’s long-running food crisis. The harsh terms of the capitulation removed hundreds of the Dauphin’s most experienced soldiers from the war. But the indirect effects proved to be even more significant, for the capture of the fortress rapidly unravelled the Dauphin’s once powerful positions north of Paris. With the English now holding all the major river crossings of the Seine and the Marne, the Dauphin’s garrisons in the north were cut off from the main centres of his power in the Loire basin. Help could reach them from outside only by sea through Le Crotoy and Saint-Valéry. The Dauphin’s advisers now discovered the disastrous consequences of their decision not to attempt the relief of Meaux. The other Dauphinist garrisons realised that they were on their own. They had no desire to share the fate of the defenders of the Marché. Without the active support of the prince for whose cause they were fighting, they were inclined to get out while they could.

Compiègne was the first to submit. Its captain, Guillaume de Gamaches, quickly concluded that his garrison was no longer viable. Once the largest garrison of the north, its numbers had declined. Its stores were low. Henry V brutally brought his dilemma to a head. He sent messengers into Compiègne to declare that Guillaume’s brother the Abbot of St Faron of Meaux, then a prisoner in Paris, would be drowned in the Seine unless the place was surrendered promptly. On 16 May 1422, less than a week after the fall of the Marché, Guillaume de Gamaches entered into a conditional surrender agreement without even undergoing a siege. A date, 18 June, was fixed for the submission of the town. The English were to appear with an army before the gates, and unless the Dauphin in person appeared to challenge them the garrison would deliver the town up with all of their prisoners. Three satellite garrisons in the Oise valley were to be surrendered at the same time, in addition to the newly conquered castle of Mortemer in Picardy.

This was the most spectacular example of Henry V’s use of his prisoners as instruments of blackmail. But it was not the only one. Peron de Luppé saved his life by arranging the surrender of his castle at Montaigu, north of Reims, one of the last remaining Dauphinist garrisons of any importance in Champagne, along with two satellite garrisons. His nephew, who had been left in command there, complied without question. Guy de Nesle lord of Offémont went further. Demoralised by his capture and his injuries, he abandoned the Dauphin’s cause altogether and submitted to Henry V. He was released without ransom, confirmed in possession of all his domains and pardoned for his years as the Dauphin’s principal representative in the north. In return, he swore the oath to uphold the treaty of Troyes. As the Duke of Orléans’ lieutenant in the county of Valois he arranged the surrender of all the Duke’s castles under his control. These included Louis of Orléans’ mighty fortress at Pierrefonds, the great thirteenth-century castle at Crépy-en-Valois, Guy de Nesle’s own castle of Offémont, and several other garrisoned places in the upper valley of the Oise. In all of these places, the garrisons were promised their lives and their liberty. But they were not left free to join other Dauphinist garrisons or occupy new places. They were taken under guard across Normandy to rejoin the Dauphin beyond the Seine. Shortly, the only major Dauphinist fortress left in the valley of the Oise was Poton de Saintrailles’ headquarters at Guise. Without the elaborate network of mutual support on which they had previously depended, the smaller garrisons of the Beauvaisis and Champagne withered on the vine. They abandoned their castles, leaving them in flames, and fled with their weapons and their booty to Guise or vanished into the ubiquitous underworld of displaced soldiery. Further west Jacques d’Harcourt, sustained by his lifeline to the sea, still held out at the mouth of the Somme. But he was no longer the force that he had been when he could call on the support of hundreds of mounted men from garrisons across northern France.

The English paused to regroup. The Duke of Bedford had landed with his troops at Harfleur at the beginning of May 1422, accompanied by the Queen. Henry V and his wife entered Paris together in state on 30 May and installed themselves in the Louvre. On 3 June, after the Whitsun celebrations were over, there was a joint session of Henry’s English, French and Norman councils in the Hôtel de Nesle, the Parisian mansion which had belonged to the Duke of Berry. The Dukes of Bedford and Exeter, the Earl of March and Arthur de Richemont were present, as well as a large caucus of officials including the Chancellor of France Jean Le Clerc, the First President of the Parlement Philippe de Morvilliers and Bishop Kemp, who had recently replaced Philip Morgan as Chancellor of Normandy. They resolved to complete the destruction of Jacques d’Harcourt’s garrisons in Picardy before the Dauphinists had time to recover their balance. John of Luxembourg, who would have been the natural leader of this offensive, had been laid low by illness in his Paris mansion, and his army had dispersed beyond recall. So, while Bedford marched up the Oise to accept the surrender of Compiègne, the Earl of Warwick invaded Picardy with the remnants of the army of Meaux and drafts from the garrisons of Upper Normandy, probably between 2,000 and 3,000 men in all.

Free of the threat from Compiègne in his rear, Warwick made rapid progress through Vimeu. Gamaches, which had successfully fought off the Burgundians in April, was abandoned without a fight. Louis de Chambronne, one of Harcourt’s chief allies in the region, negotiated a treaty under which the place was given up in return for a free passage beyond the Seine. A delegation was sent forward to Le Crotoy in the name of the two Kings of England and France to call on Jacques d’Harcourt to surrender his fortresses. It comprised an English herald, the Master of the Royal Archers Hughes de Lannoy, and two French bishops, one of whom was the fiercely anglophile Bishop of Beauvais Pierre Cauchon and the other Harcourt’s own brother Jean Bishop of Amiens. Warwick’s demand was eventually rejected, but it is clear that Jacques d’Harcourt was tempted.

At the end of June 1422, the Earl of Warwick laid siege to Saint-Valéry on the south side of the Somme estuary. A fleet of merchantmen requisitioned in the ports of Normandy arrived to seal off the town from the sea. After several days of heavy bombardment, Saint-Valéry’s garrison entered into a conditional surrender agreement. By 7 July, Warwick had crossed the ford at Blanchetaque and begun to besiege Le Crotoy. Apart from Guise in the upper valley of the Oise and the small river port of Noyelles at the head of the Somme estuary, this was all that now remained of the great chain of Dauphinist fortresses that had extended across France from the Channel to Champagne only six months before. At the Dauphin’s court, morale sank to its lowest point. Alain Chartier completed the Quadriloge Invectif in these weeks. ‘Now, in this year 1422,’ he wrote, ‘I have witnessed the King of England, that ancient enemy of this realm, glorying in our shame and humiliation, gorging himself on our spoils, holding all our courage and our great deeds up to ridicule, and drawing the stoutest men of our party to his cause.’

The clearest sign that Henry had effaced the stigma of Baugé was the attitude of the practised trimmers among the princes of France whose main concern was to be on the winning side. The Count of Foix had never confirmed his ambassadors’ agreement with Henry V at Rouen the previous year and had never mounted the promised offensive against the Dauphin’s government in Languedoc. But with the return of the English King to the Île de France in the autumn of 1421, he had reopened negotiations. His ambassadors appeared at Henry’s headquarters at Meaux in the final stages of the siege. On 3 March 1422 they finally swore the oath to uphold the treaty of Troyes on their master’s behalf, and Henry conferred the government of Languedoc on him in the name of Charles VI. In return for a subsidy, a large cash advance and the promise of generous territorial concessions at the expense of the French Crown, the Count’s ambassadors undertook that he would finally launch his offensive in Languedoc on 1 June. The ambassadors travelled personally to Southampton to collect the advance. Three weeks later, at Dijon, the Duke of Lorraine finally swore, in the presence of Philip of Burgundy, to recognise Henry V as the heir to the French crown, after two years of temporising.

The most agonising reappraisal, and the most significant, was that of John Duke of Brittany. In the short time since he had made his agreement with the Dauphin at Sablé, the Bretons had had a considerable impact on the course of the fighting. If the English garrisons on the march of Brittany and Maine were on the back foot, it was largely due to the Breton cohorts of Richard de Montfort. At the height of the Dauphin’s campaign in the Loire valley in the summer of 1421, the duchy had provided more than a third of his army, about the same as the Scots. But as the siege of Meaux wore on with no attempt at relief, John V decided that he had backed the wrong side. He was very candid about his reasons when the Dauphin’s representatives taxed him with it. In the first place, he was still obsessed with the threat from the house of Blois. Olivier de Penthièvre had fled from France with a price on his head after the collapse of his rebellion and was currently sheltering in his family’s domains in Hainaut, where John V’s agents were trying to track him down and capture him. The Duke was furious that the Dauphin had never honoured his promise at Sablé to dismiss the men around him who had supported Olivier’s coup. He drew the understandable conclusion that the Dauphin might yet turn against him. England, with his brother Arthur de Richemont sitting on Henry V’s French council, seemed a more dependable ally. Secondly, John V regarded England as the stronger power. He did not have the money, manpower or munitions to sustain a war against them on the scale of 1421. Indeed, with a large part of Henry V’s forces in Normandy stationed near his borders, he doubted whether he could even defend his duchy if they were ever to invade it.

John initially encountered some opposition on his council and in the Estates of the duchy. Most of his advisers thought that it was too dangerous to repudiate the solemn engagements which he had made only a year before at Sablé. But once the city of Meaux had fallen and the English had begun to close in on the Marché, John resolved to submit to the English King and recognise the treaty of Troyes. He convened the Estates again and obtained their support. There was a pause for reflection and doubt. But the collapse of the Dauphin’s garrisons in the north finally determined him. A large and dignified embassy, comprising no fewer than seventy-six principals and led by his chancellor, was nominated at the end of June and arrived a month later in Paris. They brought with them powers to swear the usual oaths, and promised that the Duke would appear before the King in person as soon as his other preoccupations allowed.

With the tide turning strongly in his favour, Henry V might have been expected to lose interest in a negotiated settlement with the Dauphin. In fact, the summer of 1422 was a time of intense diplomatic activity. Bishop Albergati arrived in France in the middle of May and joined forces with the peacemakers of the Duke of Savoy. In the course of June and July, he covered several hundred miles and met all three principals. Albergati was a discreet man and his reports to the Pope have not survived. We therefore know very little about these exchanges. The Duke of Savoy later complained that Henry been uncooperative. But in fact the King seems to have got on well with the legate. He liked the company of scholars and holy men and was a great patron of the Carthusians. According to the Florentine scholar Poggio Bracciolini, then living in London in the household of Bishop Beaufort, the two men struck up an immediate rapport. For his part the nuncio reported that Henry was genuinely anxious for peace. How realistic these hopes were is hard to say. It is unlikely that any terms acceptable to Henry V would ever have been agreed by the Dauphin, and there was the Duke of Burgundy to satisfy as well. Albergati seems to have been taken aback by the ferocity of the hatreds dividing the two French camps. His mission was probably doomed before it began, even had Henry V lived.

In fact, he was already ill when he met the nuncio and, although neither of them knew it, he had little time left. The summer of 1422 was extremely hot. The court had fled from Paris, which was in the grip of another epidemic of smallpox. At the end of June Henry experienced the symptoms of dysentery. On 7 July he was moved to Vincennes. The news of his condition quickly got out. Processions were organised for his recovery in the streets of Paris. A specialist was summoned from England.

Henry’s last illness coincided with a severe military crisis. At the end of May 1422, Tanneguy du Châtel had mustered a large army at Beaugency on the Loire and invaded Philip of Burgundy’s county of Nevers, which served as the western bastion of the duchy of Burgundy. The Dauphinist forces comprised about 2,000 French troops and what remained of the army of Scotland, probably between 3,000 and 4,000 men altogether. The Scots had not been paid for some time, and in order to mobilise them Tanneguy was obliged to settle their arrears, 5,415 gold écus in undepreciated coin, out of his own pocket. The Dauphinists’ campaign plans had been in the making for several weeks, and some inkling of them had reached Paris and Dijon. The Burgundian Marshal of France, Antoine de Vergy, had visited the region in the spring to organise its defence. Nevertheless, the offensive caught the government off guard when it came. Tanneguy swept through the Nivernais occupying all the principal castles on his route and encountering no serious opposition. In the third week of June, he laid siege to La Charité, a walled town on the right bank of the Loire which was the site of a famous Benedictine abbey and an important stone bridge over the river. There, he joined forces with the Vicomte of Narbonne, who had come up from Languedoc with another army. Fresh companies were reported to be on their way from Italy and Castile to reinforce them. In spite of its importance, there appears to have been no garrison at La Charité. Negotiations were in hand with the inhabitants to station troops in the town, but nothing had come of them by the time the Dauphinist armies arrived.

The Duke of Burgundy was at Troyes when the news of Tanneguy du Châtel’s offensive reached him. He had planned to march north to join Henry V in a joint campaign against the last remaining Dauphinist garrisons of the north, and he was occupied with the muster of his retainers in Burgundy and Champagne. The threat to La Charité forced an abrupt change of plan. The Duke returned at once with his army to Dijon. There, he ordered the recruitment of more troops throughout his domains and sent urgent appeals for help to Henry V and the Dukes of Savoy and Lorraine. Some 250 men-at-arms were detached from his army at once and sent to defend La Charité. They were too late. On 25 June, the day after the Duke reached Dijon, the town opened its gates to the Dauphinists and the vital bridge over the Loire fell into their hands. Leaving a garrison to hold it, Tanneguy and the Vicomte of Narbonne marched down the Loire and besieged the other major bridge-town of the region fifteen miles away at Cosne. There was a garrison at Cosne. But it was in no position to withstand a long siege. The captain of the town sent a runner to Philip of Burgundy to warn him that he could not hold out for long. Philip replied that help was on its way. But within a few days the garrison was forced to enter into a conditional surrender agreement. A date, 12 August, was fixed for its surrender unless a relief force had reached the town by then, under the command of the Duke of Burgundy in person.

Henry V, sick as he was, seized upon the chance of a pitched battle with the Dauphin’s forces outside Cosne. It offered him the trial by battle that he had been looking for ever since the Dauphin had emerged as his principal opponent in 1419. He agreed with Philip of Burgundy that the challenge should be accepted. The Duke’s heralds were sent to agree with the Dauphin’s on a site for an arranged battle on the right bank of the Loire near Cosne. Meanwhile, the English and Burgundians bent all their efforts to assembling a large enough army in the short time available. The Earl of Warwick abandoned the siege of Le Crotoy which he had only just begun. A screen of troops under Ralph Butler was left to cover Saint-Valéry until the day appointed for its surrender. John of Luxembourg rose from his sickbed in Paris to find troops in Picardy. Hughes de Lannoy raised companies among the nobility of Flanders. All of these contingents reached Paris in the second half of July. The remaining companies, from the Duke’s eastern domains, mustered at the same time in the plain south of Châtillonsur-Seine. The most reliable contemporary estimate puts the strength of the combined force at 12,000 men, of whom about 9,000 were provided by the allies and subjects of the Duke of Burgundy and about 3,000 were English. It was agreed that the entire army would assemble at Auxerre and march together to Cosne. At Vincennes Henry V, racked by fever and gastroenteritis and unable to keep down the medicines that his doctors prescribed for him, refused to submit to his illness. When the army left Paris in the third week of July 1422, he dragged himself from his bed and had himself carried at its head in a litter. It took his cortège several days to reach Corbeil, and by the time it got there, it was obvious that the King could go no further. He summoned his brother the Duke of Bedford and his uncle the Duke of Exeter and ordered them to take over the command. They marched on without him. In Paris, there were daily processions for his recovery, while across all France prayers and masses were said for the fortunes of each side in the battle to come.

The two allied armies met at Vézelay, south of Auxerre, on 4 August 1422, and reached Cosne six days later on the 10th. There, they found that the besiegers had vanished. The siege lines were empty. There was no sign of the Dauphin or his army. On 12 August, the day appointed for the battle, Philip of Burgundy, the Duke of Bedford and John of Luxembourg drew up their army in battle array at the agreed site. They stood in line all day before returning to their encampments in the evening light. No one appeared to fight them. Eight miles away, on the opposite side of the river, the Earl of Buchan was encamped outside the town of Sancerre with part of the Dauphin’s army. Buchan made no attempt to challenge the Anglo-Burgundian force. His sole object was to stop the Anglo-Burgundians crossing into Berry. Small forces had been stationed along the left bank to watch the movements of the English and Burgundians and block the passage of the bridges and fords. On 13 August, John of Luxembourg took part of the Anglo-Burgundian army and raided towards La Charité hoping to find an undefended crossing, but the Dauphinists followed him from the opposite bank until he gave up and returned to Cosne. That evening the Duke of Burgundy and the Duke of Bedford marched away with their men.

The Dauphin’s commanders had given up all thought of fighting a pitched battle at least two weeks before, when they became aware of the scale of the other side’s preparations. The exact strength of their own army is not known, but it was certainly much smaller than their enemy’s. The Anglo-Burgundians claimed the moral high ground, and perhaps they were entitled to it. But the strategic gains were all on the Dauphin’s side. His captains had not gained Cosne. The town received a Burgundian garrison and the hostages which it had given for its surrender were returned. But he had achieved his objectives. La Charité, a major bridgehead into Burgundian territory, remained in his hands, and the plans of Henry and Philip of Burgundy for a summer campaign in the north had been spiked. The Earl of Warwick had been forced to lift the siege of Le Crotoy, and a vital respite had been given to the Dauphin’s last surviving garrison on the Oise, at Guise.

Towards the end of July 1422, after Buchan and Tanneguy du Châtel had decided not to fight at Cosne, they sent the Vicomte of Narbonne with part of the army west to join the Count of Aumale on the march of Maine. They expected to find Lower Normandy denuded of troops to fill the ranks of the Anglo-Burgundian army. They were not disappointed. Not only were all the principal English captains and many of the garrison troops with Bedford in the Nivernais, but a large number of men had just been withdrawn from the garrisons of Lower Normandy and ordered north to be present at the surrender of Saint-Valéry, which was due to open its gates on 4 September. As a result, Aumale and Narbonne were able to do considerable damage with very little opposition. They marched deep into Normandy, penetrating within forty miles of Rouen. Bernay, an unwalled town with no garrison, was sacked. The English commander in the sector, Thomas Lord Scales, came up with a field force of a few hundred men, but they were outnumbered and driven off with heavy losses. As the Dauphinists turned for home, another local captain, Sir Philip Branch, collected a field force from the residues of nearby garrisons, and valiantly tried to block the invaders’ retreat at Mortagne in Perche. On 14 August his men, dismounted in carefully prepared positions and protected by a line of stakes, determined to take on a far stronger enemy. But the odds were too great. They were scattered by a single cavalry charge. Many of them were killed or captured in the pursuit.

The strategic impact of this raid was small, but magnified by report. The Dauphinists claimed an impossibly high tally of casualties. The Italian news network even reported that the Vicomte of Narbonne’s army had entered Paris. For the English it illustrated once more the abiding problems of military occupation. They were everywhere overstretched. Unable to come to grips with their enemy on their own terms, they were compelled to fight an expensive war of static defence in Normandy and debilitating sieges everywhere else. In order to take possession of Saint-Valéry and contribute some 3,000 men to the army of Cosne they had had to reduce their strength in Normandy below the minimum level consistent with effective defence. Even companies that were never involved in a fight were losing men all the time to sickness and desertion. In the four months since the Duke of Bedford had last landed in France, his company had lost nearly a quarter of its strength. For the moment, losses like these were being made good with fresh drafts from England. But for how much longer?

Warrior-Archbishop Pál Tomori

Like cast iron, the more the battle struck him, the more he steeped himself in it and drew strength from it. Like a viper or an elephant, he held his own against the claws of combat or the stones cast in battle. Covered with wounds, like a mad dog he recovered himself. When he rushed into the attack, impetuous as the Nile, he uttered screams like the trumpeting of elephants when tigers and lions flee before them.

Kemalpashazade, a Turkish historian

He was born into a common family in Abaúj County. He began his military career as the noble family of János Bornemisza. In Transylvania he was a Curian clerk, treasury official, ispán of the Salt Chamber, and from 1505 to 1514 he was a castle lord in Fogaras. In 1506 he contributed to the suppression of the Szekler uprising that broke out due to a tax called the ox roasting. In 1512 II. He was in the Turkish court as Ulászló’s ambassador. At the end of July 1514, after György Dózsa laid down his arms, János Szapolyai sent him against the peasant army besieging the city of Bihor. In the battle of Tomori, he defeated the insurgents and their leader, and also captured priest Lőrinc. The Hungarian peasant war of 1514 ended with this battle. From 1514 to 1518 he was a castle captain in Fogaras and Munkács, then in 1518 he was appointed captain of the castle in Buda. In May 1519, his action was due to the suppression of the commonplace rebellion in the palatine election parliament. In the middle of 1520, for unknown reasons – there is an assumption that due to the death of his bride – he distributed his wealth among his relatives, entered the observant Franciscans and marched to the convent of Esztergom.

Tomori was known as a good soldier, so in 1521, at the outbreak of the Turkish-Hungarian war, many saw in him a warlord who would be able to lead the Hungarian armies. According to a report from the Buda administration, the Hungarians did not have trained warlords, because the long peace(only some border military fought permanently, but most of the nobility lived far away from the Ottoman danger zone) “effeminated” them with reality, only Pál Tomori was skilled in the craft of warfare. However, despite the encouragement, Tomori did not want to return to a secular career. Finally, at the request of Hungary, on February 4, 1523, VI. Pope Adorjan forced him to accept the archdiocese of Kalocsa, and then in April the Assembly of the Estates hastily entrusted him – according to contemporary reporting – with “the country’s lieutenant and the captaincy of the entire Great Plain”. Tomori complied with the instructions of the pope and the Assembly and thus became the organizer and military leader of the defense against the Turks.

Uniquely among men of this rank, Ibrahim Pasha was considered worthy to have been granted the unprecedented honour of a standard of six horse tails, only one less than the sultan himself.

When the sultan arrived in Belgrade, Ibrahim Pasha was sent on ahead once again to capture the fortress of Pétervárad, which lies on the southern bank of the Danube about midway between the Sava and the Drava. Two mines opened up a breach in the walls, and the citadel fell to the Ottomans with a loss to the besiegers of only twenty-five men. All this time the Ottoman advance had been shadowed and monitored by Archbishop Pál Tomori, who had finally been forced to withdraw across the Danube at Pétervárad. An Ottoman force then compelled Tomori to move still further to the west.

The time it was taking the Ottoman army to advance, and the reliable intelligence regularly fed back to the Hungarian court by the energetic archbishop, should have allowed plenty of time for King Louis II to make sufficient defensive preparations. He was no longer a child, but a man of twenty years, yet the factional fighting and rivalry which had dogged his reign was now to spiral out of control in a disastrous and tragic manner. After much discussion, it was decided that on 2 July the whole force of the Hungarian realm should rendezvous at Tolna on the Danube, about fifty miles south of Buda. Urgent messages were sent to Prague asking the government there to send Bohemian and Moravian contingents with all haste. This was almost four weeks before the fall of Pétervárad, yet by the time Archbishop Tomori was to be found staring helplessly across the Danube at that captured castle, not one Hungarian soldier had arrived at the agreed muster point far to the north.

During its three years of operation in the South, it has earned serious merits in strengthening border protection. He arrived at his station in Pétervárad in July 1523, and by August he had to fight the Bosnian pasha Ferhád, who, under the leadership of his army of about twelve thousand men, besieged the castle of Red in Szerem.

On August 6 and 7, Hungarian troops won a decisive victory over Ferhád’s army in three battles in the Nagyolaszi-Rednek-Szávaszentdemeter triangle. This was the only significant Hungarian victory in the Hungarian-Turkish war of 1521–26. Over the next year and a half, Tomori sought to strengthen the southern border fortress system, especially the one in Szeréms. Relying on these castles, he repulsed the increasing frequency of Turkish invasions. By 1525, he had stabilized the situation so much that he was able to break into Turkish territory as well. He could not think of a larger campaign, because he received very little support from the Hungarian Treasury and the Hungarian lords. The diocese of Tomori spent all its income on defense and also received papal support, but this proved to be small in relation to the task. To make the court and the lords aware of the danger, he repeatedly threatened to resign, then on January 12, 1526, he actually submitted his resignation and began negotiations with the Turkish ambassador who detained in Buda. Later, Suleiman I had already decided to launch another campaign against Hungary, so Tomori withdrew his resignation and returned to his station again. His plan was to try to stop the Turkish army on the Drava line with an army of about six thousand. On August 24, he also defeated a Turkish protégé, but the military council ordered his army to join the Hungarian main army. Tomori opposed the decision, but carried out the order nonetheless. In the battle on August 29, he was the commander-in-chief of the Hungarian armies. In addition to many ecclesiastical and secular dignities, he also lost his life in the short battle.


Many legends and stories exist about him. These include that his wife was killed, causing him to become a monk, and that he only became archbishop due to the pressure of his king, but refused to wear anything but his armour and the monk’s cowl.

Kingdom of Hungary – Clerical Retinues

The erosion of the royal fisc during the course of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries made it Increasingly hard for the king to distribute honores to his principal lords. Accordingly, their retention of banderia had to be rewarded not through the gift of offices and lordships but, instead , through payments made from the royal treasury. The banderia belonging to the realms leading lords were thus sustained through disbursements similar to those which supported the foreign mercenaries serving in the royal host and the garrisons along the frontier. Money raised from taxation was either paid directly from the treasury to lords or else was retained at source by the lord’s own tax-collectors and diverted to support his personal retinue. Whereas, therefore , during the fourteenth century the banderia of the great lords had been sustained out of office-holding and honores, over the next century salaries and remittances from the treasury provided an increasingly important underpinning of the banderial system. At the same time, the right to command banderia became increasingly circumscribed. During Sigismund’s reign, lords with as few as 50 familiares and attendant peasants had attended the royal summons with their own banderia.  During the second half of the fifteenth century however, the size of banderia was fixed at a minimum of 400 troops and the right to deploy military units of this type was restricted. In 1498 Wladislas II laid down that banderia might be raised only by the leading bishops, abbots and chapter-houses, the voevode of Transylvania, the ispan of the Szekels, the ban of Croatia, the ispan of Temes county and a further 40 individually-named lords or barones, as they were now called. Nobles who were not the familiares of those listed in the decree were instructed to serve in the banderia established by the counties . Nevertheless , beside the 40 or so banderia of the arons , the county contingents retained only a minor significance . At most, the counties provided just one-third of the total number of troops in the kingdom, and the majority of these were ill-equipped Although of a higher quality, the military manpower of the prelates and ecclesiastical corporations amounted to only ten banderia and less than 3000 additional horsemen. The decree of 1498 thus effectively put the kingdom’s defence in the hands of the great lords. The monopolization of the right to field banderia contributed to the consolidation of the Hungarian baronage. Barones were first referred to in the early thirteenth century. At this time, however, the term lacked precision and could mean either a large landowner (being thus the equivalent of the original Hungarian meaning of nobilis) or else the holder of one of the principal royal offices and honores (quicumque et qualescunque comitatus, dignitates et honores regni tenentes 1270 ) ). The number of barons might also include the descendants of previously prominent royal officers. Like the prelates of the kingdom, the barons of the kingdom were commonly described as magnifici. Nevertheless until the last years of the fifteenth century, there was little real distinction between barons and nobles. Barons remained members of the nobility while common nobles might advance through the royal favour and offices, eventually acquiring baronial status for themselves.

Following the demise of the ‘Black Army’ the nobility forced the Diet to exert pressure on Vladislav so that their personal banderia [1] thenceforward received regular pay in much the same way as the mercenary army had. Indeed, the tax that had previously maintained the ‘Black Army’ was collected again in 1491 and then from 1493 on for this very purpose, the nobility usually collecting and retaining it for themselves. In 1498 the banderial armies were recorded as follows:

Royal banderium 1,000 cavalry

Despot of Serbia’s banderium 1,000 hussars

Banderia of prelates and the Church 6,750 cavalry

Banderia of bani and voivodes of vassal territories, paid by the king 1,600 cavalry

Banderia of 40 barons and 2 Croatian counts (?6,700-12,500) cavalry

By this time the militia portalis may have itself been comprised of mercenaries, emp[oyed on the basis of one per 20, 24 or 36 portae, and had anyway become hard to distinguish from banderial troops.

The primary importance of the civil and the Turkish wars in the history of religion in Hungary is that they were a catastrophe for the Hungarian hierarchy. Of the sixteen prelates of the kingdom, seven were killed at Mohacs: the two archbishops, Laszlo Szalkai of Esztergom and Pal Tomori of Kalocsa, and the bishops of Gyor (Raab), Pecs (Fiinfkirchen), Csanad, Nagyvarad (Grosswardein) and the titular bishop of Bosnia. The church in Hungary never recovered throughout the sixteenth century. There were long vacancies in many of the sees, partly because the popes were unwilling to alienate the rival kings by confirming the nominations of either of them. There was no archbishop of Esztergom at all from 1573 to 1596, and even before that the primate usually had to reside at Trnava (Nagyszombat) in western Slovakia, because Esztergom was for long periods in the hands of the Turks. The other archbishopric, that of Kalocsa, was almost perpetually in Turkish hands and there was no archbishop confirmed to it between 1528 and 1572. The sees of Csanad, Gyulafehervar (Karlsburg), and Szerem (Sirmium) were left pastorless for long periods while they suffered occupation by the Infidels. No Catholic bishops resided in the pashalik of Buda, where Protestant preachers, tolerated by the Turks as fellow iconoclasts, met with little Catholic opposition. If sees were not left vacant they often suffered from the almost equally debilitating evil of having two rival claimants appointed by the rival kings, each seeking to attract the revenues while they absented themselves at one or other of the rival courts. Some bishops apostatised to Lutheranism, like Ferenc Thurzo, bishop of Nitra, who in 1534 became a Lutheran and twice married, and Andras Sbardellati, bishop of Pecs, who in 1568 married a wife and was deprived of his see; Marton Kecseti, nephew of the primate and bishop of Veszprem, and Simon of Erdod, titular bishop of Zagreb, also became Protestants. Other bishoprics were sometimes made impotent by the conversion of their revenues to help pay for the expense of the holy war, or even completely secularised. In 1528 Ferdinand I pawned the revenues of the see of Gyor for 15,000 florins to his treasurer, Johann Hoffmann, from whom they passed into the hands of the lay lord, Pal Bakics, a great sequestrator of church lands though he was totally indifferent in matters of religion. In 1534 King John Zapolyai sought to retain the support of the rich (Lutheran) magnate, Peter Perenyi, by giving him the episcopal revenues of Eger (Erlau). This did not prevent him from going over to Ferdinand five years later.

[1] [Italian bandiera, ‘banner, flag’] Private armies of the rulers, lords, and prelates in medieval Hungary. The noble levy was increasingly replaced or augmented (from the late 13th century) with troops …

The Army of King Matthias 1458-1526 by Győző Somogyi (Author)

The Hungarian state, founded in 896 A.D. and becoming the Christian Kingdom of Hungary from 1000 A.D. covered the entire area of the Carpathian basin until 1920, including Croatia being united with it in personal union under the holy crown. The series “A millennium in the military” presents the military culture, weaponry and the peculiar warfare made famous by the hussars spanning various historical periods. The books include reconstructive colour illustrations with captions in Hungarian and English.

Warriors of the Hungarian Frontier 1526 – 1686 – Végvári vitézek 1526 – 1686

About The Author:
Historian and graphic artist Győző Somogyi (1942) has spent decades researching Hungarian military history and painting accurate illustrations. He is an experimental archaeologist and an active hussar re-enactor so he has personally tested many of the clothing and equipment presented in the series. More than a dozen of his full color albums have already been published in Hungarian and German.

English Summary:
In 1526 the Hungarian armies were defeated in the battle of Mohács by the Ottomans. King Louis II drowned fleeing the battlefield and the country got linked to the Holy Roman Empire through the Habsburg monarchs. In 1541, Emperor Suleiman I. seized Buda and annexed the central part of Hungary to the Ottoman Empire while in the eastern part of the country he established the Principality of Transylvania, which was dependent on him. Along the frontier between the constantly expanding Ottoman-held lands and the Kingdom of Hungary the next 150 years saw continuous warfare, consisting of sieges and devastating raids, interrupted with several Ottoman attempts to seize Vienna and with Hungarian retaliation. The fight on the frontier was over when in 1686 a pan-European Christian counteroffensive started resulting in the liberation of Hungary by the end of the 17th century.

Hitler’s HQ Werewolf, Vinnitsa 1942

The photo on the left depicted Graf von Stauffenberg with Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim at the OKH headquarters in Vinnytsia city.

Werewolf, Vinnitsa, 18 September 1942

Late than night Major Engel was writing in his diary of the day’s events at the Führer Headquarters:

F. seems determined to get rid of Keitel [Chief of OKW] and Jodl . . . asked what successor he was thinking of. He mentioned Kesselring or Paulus . . . the chief of staff [Halder] would have to go beforehand, there was simply nothing more there. At the moment he trusted nobody among his generals, and he would promote a major to general and appoint him Chief of the General Staff if only he knew a good one . . . Basically he hates everything in field grey, irrespective of where it comes from, for today I heard again the oft-repeated expression that he longed ‘for the day when he could cast off this jacket and ride roughshod’.

Hitler had made it clear that the General Staff officers were out of touch. “‘Same old song: too old, too little experience at the front.” Chief said he had a better impression from younger General Staff officers,’ such as Major von Stauffenberg, who often made statements before Hitler that affected operational decisions.

Werewolf, Vinnitsa, 20 September 1942

Hitler had not been happy with Colonel Gehlen’s report:

I have told you, Gehlen, that the Russian is kaput, finished. And now you give me a report that says they have a million and a quarter men in reserve. What do take me for, a fool? After their losses, such a thing is impossible!

Gehlen’s Foreign Armies East had, in fact, done a superlative piece of order-of-battle analysis. If anything, they underestimated Soviet numbers.

Hitler’s reasoning was confounded by the fact that, with almost the same number of men at the front as the Germans, Stalin had been able to amass 1,242,470 men in Stavka reserve while the Germans essentially had no strategic reserve. Gehlen’s office estimated that the Soviet class of 1925 was providing Stalin with 1,400,000 more men. The German class was little more than one-third that number.9

Halder received another disquieting report that went into his next briefing for Hitler. The information was as of the 14th and rated the fighting strength of all the infantry battalions in 6th Army. Seydlitz’s LI Corps, which had been in the hardest fighting, was bleeding away. Of its 21 infantry battalions, 12 were rated as weak, 6 as average, and 3 as medium-strong. The pioneer battalions were rated average.10 Halder knew that Hitler would not want to hear this; his mind always needed to assume every division was at full strength. He then kept assigning missions that dead men could not fulfill.

Gehlen’s statistics-laden briefing which Halder supplemented with LI Corps’ waning strength had been the last straw. Hitler acted quickly to decapitate the General Staff that he so despised. He summoned Halder and told him, ‘Herr Halder, we both need a rest. Our nerves are frayed to the point that we are of no use to each other.’ Halder took the hint and resigned.

Halder went to his room to pack and pen a note to his protégé Paulus. ‘A line to tell you that today I have resigned my appointment. Let me thank you, my dear Paulus, for your loyalty and friendship and wish you further success as the leader you have proved yourself to be.’ Even before Halder’s aide could drop the note off at the OKW dispatch office, Paulus was reading the message from Werewolf giving him his old boss’s job. He was to report immediately and turn his army over to Seydlitz. He felt an immense sense of relief even though his men had just raised the swastika flag over the huge and now shattered Univermag department store in the city centre. He would no longer be responsible for bleeding 6th Army to death. Over the last six weeks, his army had suffered 7,700 dead and 31,000 wounded; fully 10 per cent of 6th Army had been lost. Every day the fighting got harder, the Russians more determined, and his losses were not replaced. He thought that now perhaps his near uncontrollable tic might go away.11

Next it was Jodl’s turn to be humbled. Hitler assembled the OKW staff to announce the immediate promotion of Major von Stauffenberg to Generalmajor (brigadier general) and his appointment as deputy chief of OKW’s Operations Staff. He came over to shake the stunned Stauffenberg’s hand. The new general noted that the Führer’s hand was trembling. Stauffenberg’s appointment was seen for what it was, a rebuke to Jodl. Hitler clearly thought he needed a minder.

Most angry was Bormann. Hitler apparently had not known that Stauffenberg was a deeply religious Catholic. It was too late to get to Hitler to warn him off. The Führer would lose too much face. What Bormann did not know was that Stauffenberg had come to find Hitler and his Nazis repugnant and had been so alarmed at the treatment of the Jews and the assault on religion that he been drawn into the anti-Hitler plot by Tresckow.

Now that he had got their attention, Hitler had one more announcement. ‘I have decided to replace Weichs as well. A man with more ruthlessness is required at this decisive stage in the struggle against Bolshevism. Manstein will now command Army Group B.’

Werewolf, Vinnitsa, 24 September 1942

Manstein had been summoned back to the Werewolf by Hitler to report on his findings at Stalingrad. Stauffenberg joined the meeting. The field marshal was shocked by Hitler’s condition. He had not seen him since their meeting in July. ‘Well, well, Manstein. What have you found out? When will the city fall now?’

‘It’s not going to fall, mein Führer.’ Hitler jerked as it struck. His face started to redden as rage rippled through his body. ‘It’s not going to fall unless we act more boldly than we have.’ He laid it on thick. ‘We are beating our heads against a stone wall at Stalingrad. The Russians just keep feeding men into the city. It’s become another Verdun.’

Hitler stood up and began to pace. He screamed, ‘I will never give up Stalingrad! Do you hear me, Manstein. Niemals! Never! It is a battle of prestige between Stalin and myself.’

‘Mein Führer, there is another way to win this battle.’ He then laid out his plan. Hitler focused intently on it. Stauffenberg made a few positive and insightful comments. As Manstein finished he said, ‘Mein Führer, I will present you Stalingrad as an early Christmas present, a very early present.’

That night Stauffenberg invited the field marshal to dine with him alone to discuss details of the plan. It became clear that he had something else to discuss.

You have seen the Führer. I tell you frankly, he cannot continue to exercise the high command in his present physical condition. He is near a complete breakdown. Herr Feldmarschall, you are the one who is predestined, through talent and rank, to take the military command.

Since that was Manstein’s goal, he could only have been flattered that the man who had been described by everyone as the most brilliant officer on the General Staff had come to the same conclusion. His brief time with Stauffenberg convinced him that the man more than lived up to his reputation; he had breathed new life into OKW and was bringing very able men with front experience onto the staff. Hitler clearly favoured him. His unheard-of promotion had surprised but not alarmed Manstein. War requires fresh, young talent.

Manstein could take a hint. ‘I will be quite willing to discuss the matter of the high command with Hitler, but let me make this clear, Stauffenberg. I will not be a party directly or indirectly to any illegal undertaking.’

Stauffenberg replied,

While the operational solution you have discussed is brilliant, and no one but you could execute it, Germany is at the end of its resources. There are no reserves on the Eastern Front. Every army group is under pressure and is becoming weaker by the day. It is not every day that we will capture an Allied convoy to live off its booty. If no one takes the initiative, everything will continue on like before, which signifies that we will eventually slide into a major catastrophe.

‘You could not be more mistaken,’ Manstein replied with some heat. ‘It is the course that you suggest that will lead to the collapse of the fronts and even civil war. A war is not truly lost as long as it is not considered as being lost; he stated firmly. ’The Reich has not yet met that crisis you speak of, but if and when it comes I am positive the Führer will recognize it and turn over the high command to someone qualified.’

You clearly have not been around him these last months, Herr Feldmarschall. I do not think he is capable of such a decision because it would be a repudiation of his leadership. Consider what title we call him by? The Leader! Leadership is the essence of his power. To turn over the high command to someone else would be like committing suicide.

‘Stauffenberg, you will not discuss this matter with me again.’

The younger man said only one word. ‘Tauroggen.’

Manstein reddened in the face and struck the table with his fist. ‘Tauroggen has nothing to do with it.’ Tauroggen was where the Prussian General Yorck von Wartenburg had defied the orders of his king and taken his army over to the Russian emperor in the struggle against Napoleon. His was an honoured place in German military history where his disobedience was the supreme act of patriotism for he had disobeyed his king to serve the higher needs of the nation.

Stauffenberg would not give up. ‘Tauroggen also entails an extreme loyalty.’

The field marshal drank it in and suddenly became affable. ‘What good would a staff be if the staff officers could no longer speak with complete freedom?’ He then recited a famous quotation. ‘Criticism is the salt of obedience.’ They finished their meal in near silence.

Werewolf, Vinnitsa, 4 October 1942

Stauffenberg took his visitor for an after-dinner stroll through the towering pinewoods outside the Führer Headquarters. Their aides followed respectfully out of earshot:

I tell you, Tresckow, I am in the very good graces of the GroFaZ [Grosster Feldheer aller Zeit– the greatest warlord of all time]. I have replaced a number of our more stodgy staff with ‘young fire eaters from the front’, as he calls them. ‘Just what I wanted! Front Soldaten [front soldiers].’ You can’t swing a cat without hitting a Knight’s Cross, a German Cross in Gold, and a wounds badge. And they have breathed a new energy and inventive positive attitude. He has come out of his seclusion to dine with the new crew. Your recommendations have been very helpful in my selection of new men.

Standing there in the moonlight, his handsome features were eerily silhouetted – clean, honest, and determined. Tresckow commented, ‘Every one of them vetted on his honour to end this regime.’

Stauffenberg said, ‘Kluge is with us. But Manstein continues to deflect my appeals.’

Tresckow kicked some of the old pine needles aside with his boot. Their breath was already frosting in the air. You could feel the autumn coming and the Russian winter behind it, a thought that made every veteran of the war on the Ostfront shudder. ‘You know, Stauffenberg, there is an old saying that if you strike at a king, you must kill him. We cannot risk merely arresting Hitler as some of our more foolish generals and those civilians in Berlin advise. They want to put him on trial.’

‘No!’ hissed Stauffenberg. ‘One does not put the Devil through the criminal justice system. Then we would have civil war as the Nazis and the SS rallied to free him.’

‘What then of Goring and Himmler? Both of them are salivating to be his successor.’

The other man said, ‘We must decapitate the entire hydra or set them upon each other. It is the Army that must come out of this as the saviour of Germany.’

Tresckow took him by the hand, gripped it hard as he looked him full in the face. ‘Then we must be sure to place our trust in the true Saviour.’

Werewolf, Vinnitsa, 26 October 1942

Hitler had been beside himself with self-righteous delight at the fall of the Caucasus – a victory that his generals had done their best to persuade him not to attempt. Once again, he told the OKW staff, it was his understanding of the economic aspects of war that had guided the road to this splendid victory. Once again, his intuition and will had trumped all the arid professionalism of his generals. Now that Astrakhan was on the point of falling, he began to count all the economic resources and military booty.

Manstein encouraged him in this distraction because it gave him the cover to concentrate German theatre resources in the decisive battle. He shook his head when he thought how lucky Army Group A had been to subdue the Caucasus and Transcaucasus. He had certainly thought it would be a mountain pass too far. By all the rules of war, the campaign should have bogged down and thus dissipated German forces too much to concentrate decisively anywhere. The field marshal had to conclude that it was only some sort of miracle of the sort the devil seemed to favour Hitler with that had brought such a victory. But just when he had thought that he could count on Kleist’s 1st Panzer Army in the final showdown on the Volga, Hitler had insisted that it seize Astrakhan instead.

He would throw a sop to the Führer but still concentrate most of 1st Panzer Army for the counterstroke to the Soviet offensive he knew was coming. Gehlen kept insisting that the heavier blow was aimed at Army Group Centre. Be that as it may, Manstein was certain that Kluge was not nearly in so dangerous a situation as Army Group B.

He had sent a staff officer by aircraft with his oral order to Kleist to leave the Turkish corps of former Soviet POWs to invest Astrakhan. It was an act of supreme ruthlessness. He knew they stood little chance against the Soviet 28th Army, but all he needed them to do was divert the enemy and buy him time. The remaining panzer, infantry and Gebirgsjäger corps were to cross the Volga north of Astrakhan and strike northwest parallel to the river in the direction of Stalingrad.

Manstein knew that his callous treatment of the former Soviet POWs fighting for the Germans would appeal to Hitler and smooth the way for what he wanted to do in any case. He might not have been as forthcoming had he not needed Hitler’s approval of supporting 1st Panzer Army by air in its long dash from Astrakhan to Stalingrad. He needed Goring’s Ju 52 transports. To his relief, Hitler jumped at the idea of taking Stalingrad from the rear, and to his surprise Goring was eager to throw the resources of the Luftwaffe into the effort. He realized this was the opportunity for him to make a decisive contribution to the victory.

Sovietski, 3 November 1942

General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach HQ

Seydlitz felt as if a primeval force was blasting out of the radio at him. Hitler was in a rage, that state that had overawed and terrified countless men. He could picture Hitler frothing at the mouth that his orders had not been obeyed to the letter. ‘What is going on? How dare you not obey your orders?’ the voice demanded. He then looked at the radio operator, drew his finger across his throat. The sergeant’s eyes dilated to saucer size as he realized the general had ordered him to cut off the Führer. The general just winked at the sergeant. ‘Damned ionosphere.’

The ionosphere was acting up all over the place from the perspective of OKW. It was amazing how a conspiracy could affect the weather so conveniently. The patient efforts of Stauffenberg and Tresckow to place reliable men in critical positions were paying off. However, the need to win the battle had subsumed but not replaced the plot against Hitler. The plotters were patriots who did not see a catastrophic German defeat on the edge of Asia to be a necessary precursor to removing Hitler. The hecatomb of disaster was a price they were not willing to pay. They would win the battle and get rid of Hitler, but winning the battle required disregarding the Führer orders.

The Woodbridge Intruder

J. J. ‘Jack’ Lee

How often have those of us who operated over Europe during the war years seen an aircraft in distress, either coned by searchlights, mauled by fighters, or shot up by flak, wondered if the aircraft and its crew ever made it back home?

J. J. Lee, rear gunner, Lancaster PB797 VN-Z-‘Zebra’ on 50 Squadron. On 22 March 1945 227 Lancasters and eight Mosquitoes of 1 and 8 Groups raided Hildesheim railway yards. Some 263 acres – 70 per cent of the town – was destroyed and 1,645 people were killed. Four Lancasters were lost. Another 130 Halifaxes, Lancasters and Mosquitoes of 4 and 8 Groups bombed Dülmen in an area attack, which was without loss and 124 Halifaxes, Lancasters and Mosquitoes of 6 and 8 Groups bombed rail and canal targets at Dorsten, which also was the location of a Luftwaffe fuel dump, again without loss. One hundred Lancasters of 3 Group carried out a ‘G-H’ attack on Bocholt, probably with the intention of cutting communication. All returned safely. 138 Another 102 Lancasters of 5 Group in two forces attacked bridges at Bremen and Nienburg without loss. The bridge at Nienburg was destroyed though no results were observed at Bremen.

‘We were engaged on a daylight raid over Bremen on 22 March 1945. The aircraft was piloted by Pilot Officer Pat Reyre and crewed by Flight Sergeant Ken Shaw, navigator; Flying Officer Jack Andres RCAF, bomb aimer; Flight Sergeant Alan ‘Shorty’ Thorpe RAAF; Sergeant Gerry Jones, flight engineer; and Sergeant Alf Robinson, mid-upper-gunner. ‘Z-Zebra’ was at the rear end of the ‘gaggle’ formation and bombs had been released over the target. It was a perfect day for the operation; the sky was cloudless. Anti-aircraft fire can only be described as moderate and fighters were conspicuous in their absence. We were escorted by American air force ‘Mustangs’.

‘Like most crews ‘flak’ was not an undue hazard unless it got too close and it was only by a stroke of misfortune should an aircraft fall victim to the big guns. Having said that, as we left the immediate target area I saw bursts of flak creeping dangerously close to the Lancaster directly below and astern of me. ‘Poor Blighter’ I thought. No sooner had this thought passed through my mind when two almighty explosions shook our aircraft. A dark trail of smoke appeared from the starboard wing, at the same time the aircraft swung to starboard and began to descend rapidly. I watched as we descended and saw the gaggle drift further and further from our view.

‘Within seconds of our being hit those dreaded words came over the intercom; ‘Jump, Jump.’ I swung my turret to the beam, snatched the doors open and prepared to make a hasty exit. I can’t recall to this day why I hesitated but I replied to the skipper; ‘Did you say jump?’ Back came the reply; ‘No, hang on.’ In the course of further conversation it transpired that both starboard engines were damaged and the props feathered. Our descent continued and then, by some great fortune, one of the engines was restarted and our sided descent was corrected. It now became obvious that we had suffered serious damage. However, we were fortunate not to have any casualties. In a matter of minutes we were on our own at a height of about 5,000 feet on a perfectly clear day and a sitting duck for enemy fighters.

‘As I surveyed the sky for fighters my attention was drawn to what appeared to be long strips of brown paper drifting from the aircraft and spiralling earthwards. I was completely puzzled at the appearance of this phenomenon. I rotated the turret and peered into the fuselage where I saw the wireless operator ‘Shorty’ Thorpe and the mid-upper gunner Alf Robinson engaged in stripping lengths of ammunition from the ammunition tracks situated on the starboard side of the aircraft. Both tracks had been damaged by flak which rendered my two left hand guns U/S. On reflection this course of action would have virtually no effect on lessening our overall weight. However, it did seem a good idea at the time and was good for morale. By the time we had reached Holland some considerable height had been gained. Further assessment as to the amount of damage inflicted to the aircraft drifted over the intercom to the effect that the ‘George’ control system had been shot away, numerous fuel lines had been severed, our starboard aileron was useless and we had no brake pressure.

‘Our situation was bad, but not hopeless. However, it was decided to discharge a distress signal with a view to obtaining assistance from any of our fighter escort who may still be in the vicinity. I watched as the red flare ascended then fell gently away. It was within a matter of seconds after the flare had been discharged that three ‘Mustangs’ appeared on our port beam, two of the fighters peeled off whilst the third positioned himself some fifty yards to the port side of my turret. The pilot waved his hand as a gesture of encouragement and maintained his position. This ‘Mustang’ escorted us right across Holland and over the Dutch coast. The Frisian Islands came into view. Later as we flew over the islands our aircraft was once again subjected to heavy anti-aircraft fire. As the flak opened up the ‘Mustang’ pilot opened his throttle and headed out to sea. No further damage was sustained to ‘Z- Zebra’ and we made headway towards the English coast.

‘At the main briefing prior to our take off it had been stressed that Woodbridge, one of the two emergency runways catering for aircraft in distress, was out of use for reasons which I recall were never disclosed. Only Manston was available. It was due to the set of circumstances prevailing at that time that our pilot was forced to set course for Woodbridge. We still maintained height and the weather remained nigh perfect. At this stage an intercom discussion was held during the course of which our skipper gave us an ultimatum stating there was a fifty-fifty chance of putting our aircraft down in one piece. The two options open to us were either bale out or stay with our aircraft. The response was unanimous and an instant decision was made to stay together.

‘As Woodbridge came into view there were excited comments over the intercom. The emergency runway was lined virtually from end to end with ‘Halifax’ aircraft and various types of gliders. Here was the answer to the airfield being closed. Flying control was contacted and a request for landing made. Needless to say our request was refused and we were instructed to divert elsewhere. Owing to the state of our aircraft, plus the fact our fuel situation was becoming critical, this course of action had to be refuted. Despite an almost superhuman effort by our skipper the kite was becoming almost impossible to control and our crash landing procedure was put into operation.

‘There was to be only one approach to the runway due to the fact alterations to course could not be achieved owing to the failure of our controls system. Wheels were down and the undercarriage locked. The approach was made and we touched down halfway along the runway. We had no flaps and brake pressure was nil, the result being that we careered along the runway at a fast rate of knots. The end of the runway was reached and we carried onto the overshoot area which was in a similar state to a newly ploughed field. The vibration was such that I thought we were going to break up. I had rotated the rear turret facing starboard and as we trundled on I had a shaky view of a football match which was in progress some several hundred yards away. As their attention was drawn to us, players and spectators alike stopped as though riveted to the ground and gazed in amazement as we roared past them. The aircraft finally came to rest with our undercarriage intact. I virtually fell out of my turret, whilst the rest of the crew with the exception of our skipper followed suit via the main door. On making my way to the front of the aircraft I saw our skipper still sitting in his cockpit, no doubt finding it difficult to believe we had made it down in one piece.

‘As we took account of the damage sustained we noticed that the bomb doors had crept open several inches. Closer inspection revealed one of our 1,000lb bombs nestled on the bomb bay doors. It became obvious we had a hang up which had not registered on our instruments and the bomb had broken loose during our bumpy entry onto the overshoot area. Had we known the bomb was still in the aircraft I doubt very much if we would have brought ‘Zebra’ home. Needless to say there was much twittering at the thought of what might have happened had it exploded.

‘Bladders were relieved and the crew then congregated awaiting transport to the flights and our de-briefing. Ken Shaw the navigator produced a fair sized piece of shrapnel. This had become lodged in his ‘Mae West’. He then went on to explain having felt a blow in the lower part of his ribs as though he had been kicked. It transpired the shrapnel had torn through his life jacket and struck the large ‘rat trap’ type of buckle of his battle dress jacket. The buckle had been bent almost double by the impact but had no doubt saved him from serious injury. The emergency vehicles were on the scene very promptly and we were transported to the flights for de-briefing whilst our navigator attended the sick bay where he was given a check up. It was only at the debriefing stage we were informed that Woodbridge was on standby for the forthcoming Rhine crossing operation. This explained the presence of the large numbers of aircraft stationed on the main runway. We were further informed that strict security was being imposed on the station and all personnel confined to base. It was also made clear no mail would be allowed to leave the base until the glider force had left for its destination. After a meal we were billeted and then we commenced to have a look around the base. There were literally thousands of aircrew and army personnel scattered around the station and we met many old friends with whom we had trained prior to our operational posting.

‘The giant armada finally left; a sight we shall never forget as the aircraft set off into an almost cloudless sky. The crew went into Ipswich to celebrate our survival and on our return to the base the following day arrangements were made for our return to our Squadron at Skellingthorpe. We had been absent for several days and some of the other crews thought we had been written off.

‘This brief account of the experience of a Lancaster crew carrying out its duties does not highlight any acts of heroism or brave deeds, but it does bring home the occupational hazards faced by all crews engaged on operations. It also emphasises the determination of a crew and the outstanding efforts of an exceptional pilot to survive and return with their aircraft to continue the struggle.

‘We returned to Woodbridge three days after the defeat of Germany and flew ‘Z-Zebra’ back to Skellingthorpe. She flew for two more years before joining hundreds of other redundant Lancasters in the scrap yard’.

Alternative Kursk I

Using hindsight, it is obvious that Operation Citadel should never have been launched, but even in mid-1943 after several delays many of the generals were against the operation. Von Manstein, Guderian, von Mellenthin, Kempf, Jodl and Heinrici are just a few. The aerial photos showed the massive defensive measures that were taking place in the salient. Hitler, Zeitzler and his staff should have known the Soviets were alerted and preparing and would be ready for the assault, but the dictator would not listen to his generals, believing his new panzers would overcome every obstacle. In addition to political considerations, he was obsessed with his heavy armor, despite the fact that the Panther had never been in battle and was already showing major mechanical problems or that the Ferdinand did not have a machine gun to protect itself from infantry and would be tremendously handicapped as the front runner in the assault.

Knowing his armies would be up against superior forces, Col General Kurt Zeitzler scraped together every possible man, gun and panzer from the rest of the Eastern Line, but it still was not nearly enough. It was not enough to take Prokhorovka in the south or Olkhovatka in the north, let alone have the two armies link up at Kursk and destroy the pocketed Soviets trapped in the salient as ordered. An over-reliance on the new panzers and an extreme underestimation of the Soviet defensive preparations and subsequent response were the two major reasons for German failure in this campaign. It can also be argued that the German strategic plan was flawed as well. They were abandoning the virtues of Blitzkrieg and using their armor as battering rams and General Hoth made the situation worse by deploying the Panther Brigade in the worst terrain sector possible for armor, placing his new panzers at a larger disadvantage. This difficult situation was made even worse when 2nd SS PzC was directed toward Prokhorovka, further weakening their primary axis of advance when 48th PzC was allowed to continue its trek toward Oboyan. While there was good reason to move toward Prokhorovka, Hoth should have abandoned his attack toward Oboyan, contracting 48th PzC sector to the east and allowed this corps to support 2nd SS PzC in its drive across the Psel River and through the corridor. Clearly 4th PzA did not have the resources to continue an assault on both Oboyan and Prokhorovka. To make matters worse, the 3rd PzC on the other flank had to launch from a start line further south than the other two panzers corps, cross the Donets River, head further east toward Korocha, enlarging their attack sector needlessly to catch up to the SS and do it with a deficiency of infantry and air support.

It is difficult for me to view the German perspective without the benefit of hindsight but it is clear that Hitler, and especially Hoth, had already forgotten the defensive stance the Soviets were capable of, as at Stalingrad, or the costs incurred by a bad strategic move. An objective became too difficult, too costly, too time consuming yet efforts continued to capture it, allowing the Soviets to wear down the German forces and affording them time to concentrate forces for a counter-attack such as that which resulted in the loss of 6th Army or the subsequent drubbing AGS received as they were pushed back to the Donets River. Even without hindsight, knowing large concentrations of Soviet forces were assembling in the Orel and south of Kharkov areas, as well as the fact that for this operation to be successful the two German armies would each have had to travel close to 70 miles to link up while maintaining flank protection on both sides of their assault spearhead, it seems over ambitious and an unreasonable risk at that stage of the war. Field Marshals von Manstein and Kluge knew their opponents, had gone up against Rokossovsky and Vatutin before and knew them as smart and aggressive commanders that would put up a difficult and costly defense. Ironically, it seems the Stavka has a short memory as well. Operation Uranus was so successful, why did not the Soviets attempt an encirclement of 4th PzA in a similar manner? With both Voronezh and Steppe Fronts properly deployed and attacking at the proper time, it seems highly likely that 4th PzA would have been destroyed or at least fatally wounded and with no German reserves available the Soviets had little to fear of a counter-attack on the scale that had occurred at Kharkov the previous two springs.

If you extend your thinking beyond actual events, it is probably a good thing 4th PzA did not get beyond Prokhorovka or 9th Army past Olkhovatka, for that would have extended their lines of communications and flanks thus weakening their defenses on both eastern and western flanks of the corridor that they were developing. When Operation Kutuzov launched, Lt General Walter Model would not have had as many panzer divisions to deploy to Orel and when Operation Rumyantsev launched in early August, Hoth probably would have been unable to fight his way south to Kharkov, let alone send forces south to 6th Army to defend against the major assault by Southwestern Front.

I would argue Col General Heinz Guderian was right when he strongly defended his position that the German Army should have stayed defensive during the summer of 1943 and waited for Stalin to make the first move. The Wehrmacht would not have gone up against such formidable defenses at Kursk which levied such a heavy toll, the bugs of the Panther and Ferdinand could have been worked out and new supplies of panzers could have helped restore the panzer divisions as well as give the infantry a little more time to refit and train.

Let us replace the pessimism and say Hoth and Model had a chance to succeed and the operation should have launched as planned, but when it got off to an unsatisfactory start for the two flanks, I submit, von Manstein and Hoth did not do enough to resolve the existing battlefield conditions. Going against von Manstein’s wishes, Hoth, favoring 48th PzC, allowed 3rd PzC to languish in the east. The original plan for Kempf to fight his way to Korocha to provide flank protection also seems unreasonable after seeing how the campaign started for General Kempf. For Hoth to continue to ignore this corps as the days passed and as the corps continued to fall behind, leaving a critical gap in the German line and the subsequent problems it caused for the 2nd SS PzC, was truly an error of judgement.

On the western flank, Col General Hoth could see 48th PzC struggling to reach the Psel River in the Oboyan sector, which was predominately caused by an over-extended front line when the 2nd SS PzC shifted to the northeast away from 48th PzC. The situation worsened when Hoth wanted 48th PzC to drive further west to control the Berezovka-Kruglik road. It was potentially an important road and one that should be kept from the Soviets (but less so with the shift toward Prokhorovka) but when you do not have enough forces to get the job done without interfering with your primary objective then you should back away. With the combined stiff resistance in the north as well as on the western flank General Hoth should have pulled his forces back to east of the Pena River line, but did not and this was another error of judgement.

Starting on the afternoon of 7/8, GD had to shift assets to the west to assist 3rd PzD in protecting and expanding the flank. By the next day, most of the division had been diverted from the northern assault and for the rest of the campaign GD had little to do with the northern advance. At this point, the chance for the 48th PzC to cross the Psel in force was unattainable and there were no clear alternative solutions to 4th PzA’s problems, but it could clearly be seen that 48th PzC had failed their mission as planned and remedial action needed to be taken immediately. With the far eastern flank also failing their mission, it is reasonable to consider a restriction of the flanks, to between the Pena River line in the west and the Lipovyi Donets River or Northern Donets River line in the east, as a plausible alternative. If these restrictions had been in place earlier, or better still from the beginning of the campaign, it would appear SSTK could have fought alongside LAH through much of the campaign, while allowing 3rd PzC to safeguard the flank with the help of the natural barrier of the Lipovyi Donets River. Here again, there are no guarantees and despite the increase in traffic congestion, my supposition is that it would have fostered greater results than the original way. I believe this narrower attack axis should have been part of the original plan, not an after thought. Having the entire SS Corps driving north and having the Panther Brigade as their backup, while the two other corps covered the flanks of a smaller area, the chances would have been good that the SS could have reached the Psel River and the Prokhorovka corridor before 5th GA and 5th GTA arrived. To avoid road congestion within the smaller attack zone, the 3rd PzC could have been phased into the battle along the Lipovyi Donets as the SS advanced northward. If battlefield conditions warranted it, once the SS reached Teterevino South or more likely the Kalinin line, the 3rd PzC could have shifted eastward beyond the Lipovyi and expanded their attack zone to the Invanovka-Zhilomostnoe axis or even to the western bank of the Northern Donets in preparation for the attack on Pravorot, Iamki and Prokhorovka. This expansion would reduce congestion and place an extra tactical burden on the Soviets while reducing the pressure on the SS as the 3rd PzC headed north, but under this scenario the German line between the two corps would be unified and the entire 2nd SS Corps would be advancing in step toward Prokhorovka, its corridor and the Psel River. If conditions were not conducive to expansion the 3rd PzC could stay behind the Lipovyi River line and protect the SS’s flank, as its been doing since the start of the campaign. Extending this scenario, if the 3rd PzC had advanced with the SS, it would have been even harder for the 5th GTA to launch an attack from where they did, causing 5th GTA to be more disadvantaged than they actually were. With all three divisions of the 2nd SS PzC advancing northward and allowing the 3rd PzC to handle the eastern flank from west of the river, advancement should have achieved a more dramatic pace, which would have given General Vatutin a whole new set of problems to contend with. With his plate already full, it would have been interesting to see how Vatutin handled this scenario; this extra burden with 4th PzA already across the Psel and into the corridor past Prokhorovka, probably as far as Kartashevka, without the aid of his two reserve armies could be traumatizing even for a man like Vatutin. Plus, how would 5th GA and 5th GTA have attacked the Germans from their new positions and how would Stavka have reacted to this situation? The possibilities are intriguing.

As an alternative to the Pena River to Lipovyi River attack zone, the Vorskla River to Ramzumnaia River or the Vorskla to Koren River attack zone could have been used. They had the disadvantage of having two rivers between the 2nd SS PzC and 3rd PzC but would have given the German forces more room to work while avoiding the worse parts of the original western attack zone. They would also have allowed the Panther Brigade, or at least half of it, to fight on favourable terrain east of the Donets. With the Panthers divided between the three panzer divisions, it would have allowed the Tiger Battalion, the sPzAbt 503, to stay intact. A spearhead of 45 Tigers could have been successful in clearing a path to Rzhavets. Both the Ramzumnaia River and Koren River run parallel to the Donets River. The Ramzumnaia is about seven miles east while the Koren is about 14 miles east of the Donets.

While there are pros and cons to a narrower attack zone, several advantages of a reduced attack zone come to mind. The reduced land area would mean fewer strongpoints would have to be fought over and that includes fewer mines to avoid and clear as well as fewer tank traps and dug-in Pak fronts to overcome. The men and weapons in those strongpoints would have to leave the relative safety of their defenses and advance on the Germans, giving the Germans greater parity. Also, with too few planes to support the ground assault, a smaller attack area would allow the available planes a better chance to cover the battlefield and when those Soviet forces left their prepared defenses to attack the German line, those planes could exploit the situation to the fullest. On the western front, strongpoints at Cherkasskoe, Korovino, Rakovo, Berezovka, Kruglik and a number of fortified hills could have been avoided. On the far eastern flank, strongpoints including Staryi Gorod, Iastrebovo, Blizhniaia Igumenka, Miasoedovo, Melikhovo, Shliakhovo, Kazache, Aleksandrovka and Rzhavets, to name a few, could have been avoided. The above battle sites cost the German forces dearly in time and many casualties of men and armor. When the garrisons of these sites were forced to leave their defenses and attack the enemy, it would have naturally cost the Germans time and casualties to defend themselves but most likely not as much as actual results and correspondingly would be more expensive to the Soviet side. By June the Germans had photographed the entire battlefield and should have known the areas of difficult terrain, useable road networks and of course the many difficult strongpoints to overcome and yet they made no appreciable changes to their existing attack plan, forging ahead to have Oboyan their primary axis of attack. The only practical way for 48th PzC to reach Oboyan en masse, especially with all the rain and subsequent muddy conditions, was by way of the Belgorod-Oboyan Road and General Vatutin had amassed so many reserves on this route that it would have been impossible for 48th PzC in its present condition to breakthrough, cross the Psel and enter the town. I find it hard to accept that with all the aerial reconnaissance Hoth received in addition to the stiff resistance of the enemy that he did not take major remedial actions concerning the Oboyan axis and 48th PzC’s deployment. The photos the German Command received clearly showed the 48th PzC sector had the worse terrain for armor and even with the extra punch of the Panther Brigade to compensate this was not the best axis to take. Add the fact that the corps would also have flank duties and one can clearly see this section should not have been the main axis of attack. In conjunction with the corps placement, the German strategy was not well thought out. Although I do not believe it was the case, let’s assume the attack axes of the three corps were well chosen for the beginning of the offensive. However, it does not appear the battle plans once past Oboyan and Prokhorovka were ever seriously considered. By the time the Germans crossed the Psel River line the salient that had been carved out had expanded greatly in both width and certainly in length; it makes you wonder what the Germans were thinking of when they chose this operation. When one adds in the difficulties of crossing the Psel and having two corps separated by the two Donets rivers besides giving the enemy months to prepare, the odds of success drastically plummeted. With the expanded line to defend plus the already considerable attrition and with no reserves what was Hoth planning to do? How could Hoth allow the two divisions of the SS attempt to fight their way into the corridor, even as far as only the Kartashevka road, with his two flanks completely stymied and fending off flank attacks, preventing any appreciable flank protection for the SS while in the corridor? Again, a battle plan based on a narrower front from the start had its advantages and probably would have given the 4th PzA a deeper penetration toward Kursk.

FM von Manstein wanted to continue the campaign on 7/13 when Adolf Hitler canceled it. In this circumstance, I would argue that Hitler was correct and von Manstein wrong. The chance to encircle the bulk of 48th RC, which had already fallen back, was practically gone and to attempt to chase it down afterwards with the remains of General Konev’s Steppe Front close enough to intercede if necessary, was too dangerous considering the condition and disposition of 2nd SS PzC and 3rd PzC at the time. It could also be argued that Hitler waited too long to cancel the operation. With the attrition, both German Armies suffered by 7/10 and the fact that Soviet resistance was still strong, it could clearly be seen that the original plan to meet at Kursk and destroy the trapped enemy was never going to happen. And though 69th Army had fallen back from their original defense line, the new defense line south of Prokhorovka was still strong enough to prevent Das Reich from providing strong support to LAH in its attempt to take the rail village on 7/12. As it turned out, the tank battles of 7/12 favored the Germans, but 4th PzA was at an offensive end by the end of 7/12 and cancelation of the operation was the right action. The worse results of 9th Army only fortifies the position that Operation Citadel should have been canceled earlier.

Col General Vatutin made some mistakes as well; he made enough mistakes that Stalin felt compelled to send Marshal Zhukov to Kursk to oversee the battle zone. He had built an impressive defense system that included Pak fronts, dug-in tanks, an effective maze of mutually defending trenches, many anti-tank trenches and huge minefields and yet he made numerous redeployments and numerous counter-attacks, forcing his tank brigades to launch offensives prematurely, before they were ready or coordinated with each other. The results on several occasions were costly. Vatutin forced General Rotmistrov’s 5th GTA to attack practically as soon as it arrived in sector from an area that was not well suited for an offensive against the strongest part of the German line. Considering where the German line was at the end of day of 7/11, I submit that if 5th GA and 5th GTA had had a defensive posture for the next few days, say to 7/14, to wear down the SS Corps even further after the Germans resumed their advance on 7/12, then the Germans could have been eventually pushed back enough to allow 5th GTA to gain a better launch point. This would have probably resulted in losing fewer tanks and valuable tank crews when Rotmistrov’s offensive was finally launched. I know that a passive defense was looked down on by Vatutin, Zhukov and Stalin but in this case, waiting a day or two before counter-attacking would have been beneficial. Vatutin felt compelled to attack as soon as possible to avoid allowing 3rd PzC to reach Das Reich and solidify the eastern line, but that threat was not as large as he thought. The entire Kempf detachment had less than 100 working panzers on 7/12 and these panzer groups were spread out over much of the sector. Elements of 69th Army and all of 7th GA were constantly resisting and in fact, in a few areas of the line, were nearing penetration. Though the 7th PzD, with about 35 working panzers, was Kempf’s strongest division by this time, it still could not concentrate enough strength to be able to reach and then assist the 2nd SS PzC in time to take Prokhorovka.

It could also be said that Vatutin’s use of his tank corps was ill-advised. From July 7th onwards these tank corps made repeated attacks to slow or stop the Germans from driving through the second defensive belt or reaching the third belt. By July 7th it was too late to stop the enemy from breaking through the second belt and to attack the leading Tigers companies on the flats leading to the third belt was foolhardy. By the 12th, these Soviet corps were, for the most part, at half strength. With the third defensive belt’s many advantages – the high northern banks of the Psel, numerous hills critically located plus the prepared defenses – these tank corps at or near full strength could have had a more destructive impact from behind these defenses when the Germans attacked on the morning of the 12th than going head to head in open ground. This is especially true in preventing SSTK in crossing the Psel and establishing a bridgehead on the northern banks of the river.

David Schranck

Alternative Kursk II

Proposed alternate offensive, Southern Salient, July 12th 1943.

Several other alternative attack plans that Vatutin could have tried, that probably would have worked better, resulting in fewer casualties for him and greater destruction of 4th PzA, seem feasible. Here is one crazy idea that might have worked: While the terrain in parts of the Belenikhino sector was rugged and not conducive for major tank offensives on the scale of 5th GTA, the terrain east of the Donets in the 7th GA sector was better. What if the 18th TC and 29th TC, along with adequate air cover, had struck 3rd PzC or even 11th IC on its eastern flank? The 5th GTA could probably have rolled Kempf’s forces fairly easily for they were spread out, exhausted and not prepared for a major flank/rear armor attack. By the end of 7/12, Kempf had his less than 100 working panzers and assault guns already engaged and having a difficult time in securing their objectives. It does not seem possible that General Breith could have created a new shock group while maintaining his current defenses to either reach Das Reich or combat this new attack spearhead. After reducing 3rd PzC, the tankers could have continued west, penetrated the 167th ID line and got behind the 2nd SS PzC, cutting off communications and crushing Hausser’s corps between itself, 7th GA, 69th Army and 5th GA. It may be a novel idea, but it was certainly feasible. I do not suggest that this flank assault would be easy. Though there were clear avenues of attack, there were not any major paved highways and there were several rivers to cross, but with the proper bridge equipment the assault could still have been effective. The 5th GMC would have been detached from 5th GTA and sent to the Kartashevka-Prokhorovka road area to stop SSTK from accomplishing their objectives. In fact, with the support of elements of the 32nd GRC and 33rd GRC of 5th GA, the three recently arrived corps had a good chance to prevent the SSTK’s bridgehead from reaching Kartashevka road in any meaningful way. In this scenario, when it was discovered that the 5th GTA had attacked and penetrated the 3rd PzC eastern and or northern line, the entire 4th PzA would have to go on the defensive, eliminating the chance for further gains to the north.

Another alternative attack plan also deals with the SSTK bridgehead but as the primary assault, not secondary. Instead of attacking LAH as they did on 7/12, the 5th GTA (18th TC, 29th TC) should have attacked SSTK in their northern bridgehead. The defenses of SSTK were not nearly as elaborate or as well defended as LAH’s, plus the Soviet tanks, though still having to cope with a ravine or two, had greater freedom of movement within the bend of the Psel River. When SSTK advanced northward from Hill 226.6 toward Hill 236.7 which straddled the Kartashevka road, the division was spread out and became vulnerable to a massive counter-attack. If General Rotmistrov, supported by a coordinated air attack and the many guns deployed along the river, had waited until SSTK was approaching Hill 236.7 before attacking, he had an excellent chance to isolate and destroy much of Priess’s division north of the river, which by this time was vulnerable. Much of 5th GA was already deployed in the area and the combined strength of the two armies against SSTK in its own mini-salient should have been overwhelming. With SSTK losing many men and panzers as well as their bridgehead in this offensive, it seems reasonable that the entire northern German line from Novoselovka to Prokhorovka would soon become untenable, as 5th GTA / 5th GA crossed the swollen Psel River, forcing 4th PzA to fall back within days to save itself. As a precautionary measure, the 5th GMC would have deployed near Hill 252.4 to make sure LAH did not advance too much or in case 69th Army needed help against Das Reich or 3rd PzC. Generals Vatutin and Rotmistrov had wanted to destroy the entire 2nd SS PzC in this single attack, but that battle plan had been too ambitious, especially from the improvised launch point. Vatutin had anticipated what SSTK was going to do on 7/12; Priess had to drive north to screen LAH’s left flank as it drove on Prokhorovka. General Vatutin should have seen the vulnerability of SSTK in the salient that they would develop and taken advantage of it, but he was over confident and impatient, wanting to destroy the entire 2nd SS PzC in one morning. He should have allowed the panzers of SSTK become extended north of the Psel and separated from their grenadiers before launching a major assault.

Generals Vatutin and Rotmistrov defended their actions by saying that perhaps the main objective of destroying the 2nd SS PzC had failed but at least the Germans were stopped from advancing further north. While there is some truth behind their defense, it is also true to say that a golden opportunity to destroy a good deal of 4th PzA was wasted by poor planning. It is no wonder Stalin was considering sacking both of his generals.

I saved my favorite scenario until last. It is similar to one of the above-mentioned alternatives, but it is on a larger scale which was probably necessary, as while the German force had taken many casualties by 7/12, it was still a force to be respected. Here is the last alternative:

It can also be argued that Stavka made a strategic mistake by waiting too long to launch Operation Rumyantsev. Ideally, if this counter offensive had started between 7/12 and 7/15, while 4th PzA was still deployed along the Novoselovka-Prokhorovka line, then there was a very good chance of pocketing much of the 4th PzA. As it was, Stavka waited another several weeks and by that time the 4th PzA was backing away from their vulnerability.

Let me suggest that the ideal offensive would have been a two-prong pincer attack, on the order of Operation Uranus, that would drive behind the German front line from the east and west, but that assault would have taken months to plan and deploy. It was not done, but an operation of lesser dimensions and complexity could have been put together in less time that could have resulted with a major upheaval against the Germans.

Briefly this multi-army attack could have come from the east not north, attacking the vulnerable east flank of 3rd PzC where 198th and 106th IDs were defending. If Steppe Front’s 47th and 53rd Armies, which also had attached the 4th GTC and 1st MC (400 tanks), had deployed and been ready to attack not far from the Koren River by 7/12 and if Vatutin had used the 18th TC and 29th TC of 5th GTA along with these other two armies, there would have been an excellent chance of penetrating the eastern line defended by the German infantry (11th IC and 198th ID) and overwhelming the 3rd PzC which by 7/12 had been widely deployed for the most part along the Donets River from Krivtsovo to Ryndinka and along the Rzhavets-Aleksandrovka-Kazache line. With the resources of the three new armies, plus the remains of 69th and 7th GA along with a massive artillery preparation and competent aerial support, the Soviets could have finished off 3rd PzC and then driven west into the Shishino-Petropavlovka-Khokhlovo area to take on the 168th ID and then the 167th ID. The southern flank of the advancing 5th GTA could have driven west between Staryi Gorod and Shishino. With 3rd PzC gone and 167th ID threatened, 4th PzA would have had to immediately react and probably fall back. With the 1st TA, 6th GA, 5th GA and the new 27th Army, which should have deployed just north of Prokhorovka-Kartashevtka road and northwest of Veselyi as well, driving south at the same time the 48th PzC and 2nd SS PzC would have been pressured to breaking point and in their desperation to fall back many men and heavy equipment would have been lost against the onrushing hordes of new armies that had just arrived in sector. One can extend this scenario to include the trouble the German line would have faced if the 4th PzA/3rd PzC suffered devastating losses and a gap of 30 to 50 miles had opened in the line but I’ll stop here for now. Admittedly, for this scenario to work, Stavka would have had to plan, prepare and deploy weeks in advance. I submit that this counter-offensive could have been more beneficial and with fewer casualties for Vatutin than the actual offensive, due to the extended position 4th PzA had carved out by 7/12. This counter-offensive could also have been fitting retribution, under similar circumstances, for Timoshenko’s loss at Kharkov (May 1942), where his initial gains were cut off and his forces isolated and destroyed by a dual pincer counter-attack by Col General Paulus’s 6th Army and FM Kleist’s 1st PzA.

Criticism can be levied in the north as well. Even though Model opened his campaign using nearly 300 panzers and assault guns, he should have used more. Rokossovsky was only truly vulnerable on the first day. He held back heavy reserves in second echelon to see where the main attacks would take place. He intended to see how the German assault unfolded and then quickly send reserves to the assault areas. The two biggest formations being held in reserve for Rokossovsky were the 17th GRC and 2nd TA, which both eventually played pivotal roles in stopping 9th Army. If Model had used the 2nd PzD, 9th PzD and 18th PzD with the opening assault in the 41st PzC and 46th PzC sectors and attacked toward Ponyri and Samodurovka respectively, there was an opportunity to reach and penetrate the second defensive belt before the 17th GRC and 2nd TA were called up. There was no guarantee this alternative action would have gotten 9th Army to Kursk, but it seems plausible that if Model could have controlled the high ground around Olkhovatka by the end of the first day, his chances for reaching Kursk would have greatly improved. At the very least it would have cost Rokossovsky many more men, tanks, ammunition and time to push 9th Army off the high ground and if the casualties had been great enough, it could have made a difference during Operation Kutuzov.

During the campaign, General Model made a practice of leaving his HQ for the whole day, visiting the front line. There were many instances where he would be out of touch with his staff and several events occurred that desperately needed his attention and he missed them. The biggest incident occurred when 4th PzD was attached to General Lemelsen’s 47th PzC. Lemelsen, on his own responsibility, decided to separate the panzer regiment from the rest of the division in order to fight the division in two separate sectors. Without proper armored support that first day, 4th PzD went into battle disadvantaged: the two infantry regiments suffered heavy casualties, including its division commander. If Model had been at his headquarters, he could have prevented this costly error and others that occurred during the campaign.

General Rokossovsky probably made fewer mistakes than the other three commanders but he was also up against an enemy with slightly fewer combat soldiers, panzers and aircraft as compared to the southern salient as well as a commander, though a master at defense, who was partially restricted with his order of battle by von Kluge, besides being a little too cautious. To his credit, Model’s handling of the Orel defense was superb and saved AGC from practical destruction. Continuing with Rokossovsky for a moment, I believe that there are several distinct reasons why Central Front did so much better in stopping 9th Army than Voronezh Front did in stopping 4th PzA. The first reason is battlefield defenses were more evolved, providing better coverage for man and machine. Rokossovsky had more guns than Vatutin and he made sure his gun crews used them, consuming many more tons of ammunition than the southern batteries. German survivors of 9th Army all complained of the horrendous wall of fire that they faced.

Mistakes were made at German Group level as well, and fall directly on von Manstein’s shoulders. During the campaign he questioned certain of Hoth’s decisions, mostly pertaining to the flanks. Hoth neglected air support and refused to send elements of the 167th ID to General Kempf as well ordering the 48th PzC to expand its western border beyond the Rakovo-Kruglik road at a time when the northern advance had stalled and 11th PzD and especially 3rd PzD were in trouble. Manstein discussed the issues with his subordinate but did not take any action to correct these issues when Hoth failed to respond. This reluctance to take corrective action seems unfathomable from such a noted strategist and commander and had a clear impact on the final outcome.

More importantly, errors were being made prior to the launch that would have a profound impact on the campaign, and consequently revisiting the German High Command one last time seems appropriate. While Hoth and von Manstein did not have complete freedom of command, they did have a lot of control over their destiny. They also had plenty of time before attacking to study the battlefield in order to make major changes or receive permission to make those changes. It should be emphatically stated that the German attack plan was flawed and Hoth and von Manstein should have seen it, especially when one takes into account the fact that Soviets had months to prepare, that the new panzers and assault guns were unreliable or flawed and that von Manstein had only three panzer corps to advance along mostly rugged terrain that sported five major rivers, few highways and only a few narrow off-road avenues for his armor. To make the situation worse the distance needed to travel to reach Kursk was relatively large, and the further north the army traveled the front would expand.

And if that was not bad enough, Hoth was asking the 48th PzC to advance along the primary axis and also deploy along the western flank which means the advance would be twice as hard. To confirm this theory is true, the 48th with the inclusion of the Panther Brigade and the GD division could not keep up or go as far as the 2nd SS PzC. Just from this aspect alone, its seems more logical to have the primary axis from the very start of the campaign to have been in the center, allowing the two outer corps provide the necessary flank protection.

As 48th PzC veered slightly to the northwest, the 2nd SS PzC was heading to the northeast and the 3rd PzC, which was starting the campaign as much as 20 miles further south of the other two corps, had to immediately cross the Donets, head east before pivoting to the north with at least two major rivers between itself and the SS. Having the weakest corps traveling the greatest distance while being separated from 4th PzA and having it advance northward and defend itself along both expanding flanks with inadequate air support was a recipe for failure. To provide that timely protection 3rd PzC needed at least half of the available Panthers to assist the Tigers attached to the 3rd PzC in penetrating the difficult defense located near the Belgorod sector.

In the later planning stage, by the time the three German corps (assuming the 3rd could have caught up) reached the Psel River line, the front would have expanded approximately another ten miles or more from their start positions. Once past Prokhorovka the front might have been reduced a little but by the idea that by then the exhausted vanguard of five weakened corps would continue to carve out and maintain a corridor at least thirty miles wide all the way to Kursk seems a gross misjudgement, and this does not even take into account the need to reduce the pocketed Soviet 38th and 40th Armies in the south and the 60th and 65th Armies in the north that were deployed to the west of the corridor after Hoth reached Kursk. If AGS had three full strength panzer divisions, three infantry divisions in reserve plus greater air support (at a minimum) the plan might have worked initially but reserves were not realistically available and it was doomed to fail. Hitler demanded and Hoth complied with supplying daily casualty figures for armor and men. By the 10th or even earlier, it should have been patently obvious to Hoth and von Manstein, as it was to Model, that Citadel would fail to reach Kursk and that drastic remedial action was required.

If the 48th PzC had the good fortune to cross the Psel en masse while the 2nd SS PzC entered the Prokhorovka corridor while the 3rd PzC continued to struggle, lagging far behind the other two, then serious gaps would have formed which Vatutin would have exploited by bringing up reserves. With two corps north of the Psel River and the 3rd PzC east of the Lipovyi River, Kemp’s forces would have been dangerously isolated and in dire trouble. But realistically by the 10th, bearing in mind the troubles the 48th and 52nd Corps were actually having, it made no sense for Hoth to expand westward and continue to concentrate efforts on the Oboyan route. The open flanks on the 2nd SS PzC and 3rd PzC sectors were causing a greater long term disruption to success yet Hoth continued to obsess about the 48th PzC expanding its sector.

I have already suggested an ideal German disposition but the following scenario had a better chance for acceptance for it was closer to the original yet diverted the main focus away from 48th PzC. After studying the aerial photos plus situation reports from patrols, along with the experiences gained in 1941 and 1942 when the area was originally cleared and occupied, it could clearly be seen that the central and eastern sectors were best suited for armor and therefore should be used for the primary attack axis. The western sector, which had the shortest route to Kursk but the worse terrain, and was the most obvious sector to be protected by the Soviets, should have been reduced in scale and importance and used as flank protection for the 2nd SS PzC. The Panther brigade should have redeployed to the eastern sector to support 3rd PzC and Prokhorovka should have been the primary axis from the beginning. With all three divisions of 2nd PzC along with the 167th ID devoted to the northern front along with the reinforced 3rd PzC (includes the Panthers), it seems very plausible that the two corps could have cleared the ground between the Donets River and the Prokhorovka railroad forming a unified front within days of the launch.

It also seems plausible that these two corps would have captured Prokhorovka and the southern portion of the corridor before the arrival of 5th GA and 5th GTA and have done so suffering fewer casualties. The 3rd PzC along with the Panthers could have erected a defense that would have stopped the 5th GTA if it attacked from the east. If Rotmistrov had mannuvered his tanks to the north so that it defended the Seim River line, the full force of the SS Corps would have been in position to engage. That is not to say von Manstein would have successfully reached Kursk and liquidated the 38th and 40th Armies but I believe the 4th PzA could have had much better results that would have inflicted far more Soviet casualties and caused a definite disruption to the enemy’s plans.

It is hard to know for sure whether the Germans would have been better off staying on the defensive and preparing for the eventual Soviet offensive on the Orel salient – Operation Kutuzov. However, after studying the Belgorod-Kursk-Orel sector it seems plausible that the Germans would have been better off by never launching Operation Citadel. It seems obvious that when the Germans did not attack in July Stalin, who was anxious to attack in June, would have prepared to attack Orel in August or September to eliminate the last major bulge situated less than 350 miles south of Moscow. The Germans could have used this time to good use. In the interval, the Germans could have improved defenses, repaired the Panthers, trained their crews as well as installed machine guns on the Elefants. Having a month or two to work on the Panthers could have made an appreciable difference to their dependability. Deploying the new panzers in the Orel salient where the terrain was more suited to armor as compared to the muddy Pena River valley, the German defense could have been greatly enhanced, inflicting even greater casualties on the Soviets while suffering fewer casualties and delaying the inevitable. Routine maintenance on the other vehicles and rest for their exhausted men as well as restore logistics were also in order. With dilligent intelligence, the Germans should have been fairly prepared to take on the assaults when launched along the line.

After months of being on the defensive, the tactical victory at Kharkov earlier in the year was just a brief respite, not an indication or omen to Hitler that the German onward march had resumed. It would have taken a blunder by the Soviets of unimaginable scale for the Germans to scratch their way up to parity, but that would not happen in 1943. The Soviets had just about completed tranforming their war doctrine and organization and by July 1943 the massive aid delivered by the Western Allies would help to see that those improvements put in place would be efficiently carried out. Considering what the Stavka had planned for the last half of the year, especially in the south, the war of attrition would have continued unabated, keeping the Germans constantly off balance.

By carefully expanding one’s view to the entire front in the middle of 1943, after the huge losses at Stalingrad and North Africa and the loss of hundreds of miles of territory, a leader who less of a gambler than Hitler could see that Germany no longer had the capability to launch a major offensive that would have strategic significance. Without launching Operation Citadel, the German forces had just enough strength to defend the entire shortened line (after pulling back from Orel) and if their intelligence was dilligent they could slow their retreat. However, they did not have enough strength to gain ground in any meaningful way through an offensive and Operation Citadel’s poor results clearly proves that point. Despite having a winning ledger on destroying many more enemy tanks and inflicting many more casualties on the enemy, this campaign had knocked the Germans down another peg in this war of attrition that would force the Wehrmacht on the strategic defensive for the rest of the war.

David Schranck