Seeing how my attempt to write an Arab-Israeli timeline crashed and burned, I'd like to post another project I've been working on for the past few weeks about a German victory in the Battle of Kursk. Enjoy . Triumph at Kursk Chapter I: Victory Snatched from the Jaws of Defeat, May-September 1943. It was 1943 and Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler had conquered Europe. The dictator controlled Germany by 1939 after having used demagoguery and propaganda to arouse popular sentiment against the Jews and the hated Treaty of Versailles which Hitler had relegated to the dustbin by rebuilding Germany’s armies. Austria and Czechoslovakia had been annexed without French or British responses, same for the remilitarization of the Rhineland. The invasion of Poland, however, had crossed a line. Poland had been crushed in weeks and as per the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop Pact the Soviet Union had occupied the eastern part of Poland. Denmark and Norway had then fallen in swift paratrooper and naval action. France had been subjected to the so-called Sickelschnitt plan in which a brilliant move through the Ardennes had cut Allied forces in half. The legendary panzers with massive air support had then crushed the French army, destroying its image as the strongest army in the world. Britain stood alone. This changed with the invasion of Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union on June 22nd 1941 which had met great initial successes until Case Blue to take the Caucasus. The Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942/’43, resulting from Soviet general Zhukov’s counteroffensive code-named Operation Uranus, had inflicted devastating losses and US entry in December 1941 promised little good in the longer term. After the failure to take Stalingrad, Hitler uncharacteristically left the initiative for decision making with the German Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) and made Guderian prominent again by making him Inspector of the Panzer Troops. General Von Manstein wanted to trap the Red Army’s southern wing in the Donets Basin by tricking them into pursuing the desperately reforming Sixth Army, but the OKH dismissed the idea, and instead focused on the enormous and obvious bulge in the frontlines between Orel and Kharkov 200 kilometres wide and 120 kilometres deep. Success would pinch off an enormous bulge with nearly a fifth of the Red Army’s manpower in it, straighten and shorten the line, and also take the strategically useful railroad of Kursk located on the main north-south line between Moscow and Rostov on the Black Sea coast. The plan reached its rough final form in March 1943: the Ninth Army under Walter Model would attack south from the Orel salient while Hermann Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army and Army Detachment Kempf would attack north from the Kharkov salient. And now it was that differences surfaced between German generals about the start date. Model argued for postponement so that the upcoming Panther and heavy Tiger tanks could be used while Von Kluge and Von Manstein argued against it so that the element of surprise wouldn’t be lost, and they pointed to the fact that both tanks still had children’s diseases and that the most recent version of the Panzer IV could take the T-34. Von Manstein and Kluge managed to convince Guderian, who was altogether opposed to the offensive but saw no way to convince the majority of the general staff, to side with them and convince Hitler to launch on the planned launch date of May 4th. Guderian, Von Kluge and Von Manstein together went to convince Hitler and succeeded even if the latter wasn’t enthusiastic about Operation Citadel at all. The operation went ahead on May 4th as planned with the Ninth Army redeployed from the Rzhev to the Orel salient, the Fourth Panzer Army and Army Detachment Kempf attacking all-out against the Soviet Central and Voronezh Fronts. The Ninth Army reached Olkhovatka, the first objective after an advance of eight kilometres, on the first day with little trouble expect for some sparse minefields which were suppose to have become a major defensive line in two months time. They thereby took the only highland natural barrier before the flat tank land all the way to Kursk and by late May these troops had taken Maloarkhangelsk just 60 kilometres north-north-east of Kursk. The southern pincer spearheaded by the Fourth Panzer Army followed by the II SS Panzer Corps and the Grossdeutschland Panzergrenadier divisions had advanced to Prokhorovka by May 20th despite moving over high terrain facing strong resistance. They managed to take Oboyan about two weeks later on June 5th, again facing high ground, and again an organized Soviet defence as Stalin did not authorize a retreat seeing how that had worked out well at Stalingrad. Around that same time the northern Ninth Army took the important train station at Ponyri by virtue of their control of Maloarkhangelsk and Olkhovatka to the east and west of the town. By June 28th the Ninth Army had taken Svoboda about 20 kilometres from Kursk, the end goal of the entire operation, and German forces threatened to encircle two Soviet Fronts. Similarly the southern pincer had marched to within miles of Ryshkovo, itself a mere few miles of Kursk, and morale was up high among German troops, higher than ever after the deep low following Stalingrad. Von Manstein, who was in overall command, told Hitler the good news himself and Hitler was elated after fits of rage, apathy, depression and pessimism over the past few months. A few days later after their meeting in the Wolf’s Lair in Rastenburg, East Prussia, the two German pincers closed the gap on July 4th and cut off two the Central and Voronezh Fronts to the delight of German commanders. German forces advanced to within Kursk itself and fought fierce street-to-street battles, and also moved to shrink the so-called “Kursk Pocket”. They used mostly superior aerial support against Soviet troops who suffered heavy losses in armour and vehicles and lost ground daily despite relief efforts from the Red Air Force. While Germany suffered serious losses too, they regained a little of their winning streak that they’d had before Stalingrad and shrunk the Kursk Pocket. The Soviet XIX Cavalry Corps, the XI and XXX Ural Volunteer Tank Corps, and VI Guard Mechanised Corps, amassing east of Kursk, tried to break the encirclement but could not and on August 12th the Central and Voronezh Fronts capitulated to German forces. One million Red Army soldiers were either dead or had been captured, two thousand tanks had been lost to the Germans, and 1.900 aircraft had been lost as well on the Soviet side. The Germans had lost about 190.000 men, 800 tanks, and 750 aircraft. All in all, the Germans had successfully shortened the line, even if at some losses, and they had just about crippled the Red Army’s ability to launch an offensive until the next year, in other words into at least early 1944. A small follow-up offensive launched by Von Manstein was also successful and Germany retook Rostov in early September. Another follow-up offensive against the resource and food starved Leningrad was also successful with reinforcements from both Army Group Centre and South made possible by the shortened front namely the 6th and 7th Panzer Divisions, and the 24th Panzer Division and 76th Infantry Division. It would be the last major German offensive on the eastern front for the rest of the war. This freed up troops for the defence of Italy which was necessary at this point since the Africa Corps under Hans-Jürgen von Arnim, Rommel’s replacement, had surrendered in May 1943 and therefore an invasion of Italy from North Africa seemed imminent. Hitler initially believed the invasion would come at Sardinia, but given the fact that the OKH had launched a successful offensive without his interference, he allowed the OKH and OKW a lot of leeway in organising the defence of Germany’s southern flank, including General Albert Kesselring who had recently been promoted to commander of the southern theatre. The latter believed that despite captured Allied plans (in reality part of a deception campaign) the landings would take place on Sicily and he would be proven right as Operation Husky was launched on July 10th. The 15th Panzergrenadier division and the 1st Paratroop Panzer Division Hermann Goering (in reality a Panzer Corps) were already based on Sicily, and Kesselring was promised reinforcements in the shape of the 29th Panzergrenadier division, the II SS Panzer Corps, the Panzergrenadier division Grossdeutschland and the 26th Panzer Division. Both the II SS and the Grossdeutschland would include three elite armoured regiments each, one equipped with Tiger I tanks, another equipped with the lighter Panther tank and the last one with the heavy "Elefant" tank destroyers. All of these units were battle hardened veteran units from the eastern front who would prove their worth against the Allied invaders, but it would take time for them to be transferred from the eastern front to Sicily. In the meantime the first landings took place with paratroopers of the US 505th Parachute Infantry Division, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, landing in the night of July 9th to July 10th. They were supposed to have landed five miles inland from Gela to block routes to the US 1st Infantry Division, but due to confused friendly fire from Allied ships they were scattered over a large area and nowhere near their drop zone which was worsened by strong winds blowing the gliders off course. The British 21st Independent Parachute Company fared little better as they seized the Ponte Grande bridge across the river Anape near Syracuse and tried to fight off counterattacks. They were eventually forced to surrender to the Italian 75th Infantry Regiment. By July 14th Allied paratroopers, mainly the US ones, had more or less regrouped and caused confusion among Axis troops by attacking their patrols. The paratroopers were followed by amphibious landings across the southern and eastern coastlines on 26 beaches between Licata and Cassibile with some element of surprise since local commanders believed no one would undertake a landing in such windy conditions. After the initial shock, Axis commanders formulated a response by attacking with the Infantry Division Livorno and the Hermann Goering Division and reached the outskirts of Gela, but gunfire from destroyers USS Boise and USS Shubrick destroyed several tanks and drove the counterattacking forces back inland. Italian SM. 79 torpedo bombers, and German Junkers Ju-88 bombers and Ju-87 dive bombers coordinated their attacks, damaging or sinking a number of warships, transport vessels and landing vessels. 8.000 tonnes of shipping was sunk and thirty enemy aircraft were reported as being downed, but this did not stop the Allied landing. By nightfall July 10th seven divisions had landed. They advanced from the beachheads and by around July 25th they had advanced to the arching Catania-Agira-Santo Stefano line relatively easy since Kesselring had abandoned western Sicily to shorten the line and hold out until the arrival of the reinforcements who were days away. They arrived on August 1st and Kesselring planned a large scale counteroffensive with these new forces. To begin with, a diversionary attack would be launched south to make the Allies think he was trying to recapture Lentini which was on the way to Syracuse and this would then be followed by the real offensive in south-western direction toward Caltanissetta to split British and American forces in two. In the process, he carefully planned the advance routes to ensure that German troops would stay at least 20-30 kilometres inland and away from the US Navy's 16 inch guns as much as possible since their destructive power outgunned whatever land forces the Germans could bring to bear, except for possibly Luftwaffe bombers. And so it was done. Allied intelligence of course knew of the logistics train coming from the eastern front, but anticipated that reinforcements would arrive too late to be able to change the strategic situation on Sicily. This was part of Kesselring’s own deception campaign which spread false information about troops going to Sardinia and transport troubles which would not enable reinforcements to be sent before August. The 26th Panzer Division and the 29th Panzergrenadier Division attacked the British Eighth Army at Catania on August 5th, and British General Harold Alexander assumed this to be a major counteroffensive and reallocated his forces accordingly. The counteroffensive then entered the second stage with the Hermann Goering division, the II SS Panzer Corps, the Grossdeutschland Division and the 15th Panzergrenadier Division attacking southwest toward Caltanissetta with spoiling attacks west and southeast to prevent flank attacks. The attack was spearheaded by the elite Tiger, Panther and Elefant regiments and this was the first time that the Allies encountered these tanks in large numbers (when compared to the Tunisian Campaign where only a handful of them had served). They destroyed significant numbers of Allied M4 Sherman tanks who were grossly outmatched by all three tanks in terms of armour and firepower. It on average took four Shermans to destroy just one Tiger tank and more than once Allied tank crews called in air support when all else failed. German troops forces retook Caltanissetta on August 8th and the 54th Infantry Division Napoli and the 4th Infantry Division Livorno joined in the offensive on their own accord to help protect the German left, taking Valguarnera in the process on August 10th and threatening the British Eighth Army’s left flank. By August 17th Axis forces had retaken the town of Licata, thereby successfully splitting Allied forces in two. British forces were now under threat with Axis forces attacking from Licata into their west flank and from Catania into their eastern flank with the British centre forming a bulge in the front that enemy forces threatened to cut off. In late August, General Alexander ordered an evacuation of British troops through the port of Syracuse and destroyed the port facilities and airfields in the region, rendering them useless to the Axis. US forces, seeing their entire right flank under threat, were forced to evacuate Sicily as well and so the Invasion of Sicily, the first attempt to break into Fortress Europe, had failed. It was a significant boost to Axis morale, especially Italian morale which had been low after a string of defeats. Hitler used this time to prepare a defence on the eastern for the expected winter or spring offensive of the Red Army expected to begin somewhere between February and May 1944, seeing how Stalin had refused to bow down after the defeat at Kursk and because Hitler himself once again believed that victory might still be possible thanks to his “saving genius” that had led to Kursk. He aimed to construct a defensive line from just west of Smolensk along the Dnieper river, except in the south where it diverged eastward in order to protect the Crimean Peninsula. This line would become known as the Panther-Wotan Line. The northern part of the line would be constructed from Vitebsk to Pskov from where it would then follow the west coast of Lake Peipus and its river delta to Narva on the Finnish Gulf. Like with the Hindenburg Line in World War I, Hitler hoped to shorten his front, release divisions for duties elsewhere and bleed the Red Army dry in a stalemate in the hopes of signing a separate peace with Stalin. The order for its construction was given on August 11th and soon hundreds of thousands of Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, Jews and political dissidents were put to work as slave labour under SS supervision. They dug trenches, laid minefields, laid barbed wire and constructed numerous anti-tank obstacles, casemates and pillboxes while thousands of artillery and mortar positions were being prepared and tanks were dug in as casemates to create a system of defences 60 kilometres deep, twice the depth of the Maginot Line. Germany prepared for the final clash of titans that would determine the course of the war.