5:29 PM, 03 February 2008
Stalingrad and then Kursk are generally recognised as the turning points of Hitler's war in the East. However, I believe the failure to capture Moscow in the autumn of 1941 as a result of prioritising Kiev and the whole of the Ukraine as the main obective (instead of Moscow, along with the initial encounters of two first-class Soviet tanks unknown to the Germans at that time, the T34 and KV1) as well as the subsequent siphoning of men and material from Army Group Centre to Army Group South for that operation was when the war was lost. We all know what happened next when Russia's two best generals December and January went over to the offensive. The German blitzkreig tactics were never meant to capture large areas, they were intended to focus the major effort on a singular objective. By the time Kursk came about, Germany was basically fighting a mobile retreat in the South and needed a limited victory to look as if it was at least gaining some of the strategic initiative on the Eastern Front. Stalin knew exactly what the German plan was as well as its jumping off date from the Lucy spy ring in Switzerland and warnings from British intelligence. This time Stalin listened to his generals' advice and decided to defend the Kursk salient (instead of his usually tactics of going over to the offensive) and bleed the Germans dry in a fruitless effort against multiple well-prepared defensive lines. When Hitler canclled the Kursk operation a week later, partly as a reaction to an Allied land in Sicily, The German Army had suffered armour losses that could never be made up again and from that point proceeded to embark on a two-year retreat that took the Red Army right into the heart of the Beast's lair.