Originally Posted by Der Alte
Operation Citadel was one last attempt by the Germans to ease the threatening pressure in the East before the British and Americans mounted a Second Front. To be sufficiently prepared for this threat, Hitler knew the campaign had to avoid another battle of attrition with Russia. However, the German delays, caused by the conflicting interpretations Hitler received, gave Russia plenty of time to adequately prepare for the offensive. Moreover, after two years of continuous warfare with Germany, Russia had become very familiar with their opponent's tactics and this was evident in the way the battle played out. Germany had to fight for every inch of ground they covered and this proved incredibly costly to both. While the Russians could afford these incredible losses, Germany could not, and, as a result, they had been effectively exhausted to the point where they would never regain the momentum they previously had.
There was one obvious target for the German army, that of Kursk. The Russian advance had left a bulge to the south of Orel and to the north of Kharkov. Kursk lied at the center of the bulge, and so it became the primary target of Operation Citadel. If Kursk was taken, then the German army could potentially have advanced further eastwards, and the fall of Kursk would also have ensured the flanks of the German armies at Orel and Kharkov.
The strategy was simple: the Germans planned to use a gigantic pincer movement involving two army groups Army Group North and Army Group Center to cut into the neck of the Kursk salient. Army Group North (under Field Marshal von Kluge) which comprised of General Model's 9 Army consisting of armoured and mechanized infantry divisions was to attack from the north, while Army Group South (under Field Marshal von Manstein) comprising of General Hoth's 4 Panzer Army was to attack from the south of the salient. In the process, the German High Command hoped to level off the "bulge" and destroy the Soviet forces within the Kursk salient.
Unfortunately for the Germans, the Russians possessed superior military intelligence just prior to the battle and were able to anticipate the German strike. But what sealed the German army's fate was Zhukov's and Vasilevsky's decisive counter-attacks immediately after the initial German pincer attack by Model and Hoth. The Battle of Kursk was a gamble that had failed miserably; a gamble that ultimately changed the roles of power.
I don't disagree with any of this but it still leaves me with several questions:
A) Why did they proceed along the restrictive lines they did given that they must have seen the Luftwaffe's reconnaissance of the area, I am prepared to accept the Russians were good at camouflage but it did not hide the massive nature of the defenses being prepared.
B) Why when things were not going well for the northern pincer did Model change his line of attack further west into stronger defenses instead of east into lighter defense lines, he must have known at that point that Russian defense lines further east were going to be lighter especially when southern pincer had headed in a more eastward direction and made good progress.