As Model’s attack against Rokossovsky’s Central Front developed, the Second and Ninth Panzer Divisions became engaged in a massive tank battle west of Ponyri Station. The Russian 29th Rifle Corps’ 307th Rifle Division blocked the Panzer drive. This four-day battle cost Model heavily. He lost 20% of his armored striking force on the first day alone. Model continued to push against the second defense belt at Ponyri. Repeated thrusts were repelled; however by the evening of 6 July, 1943, the Germans succeeded in taking the western half of Ponyri.
Model’s attack toward Ol’kovatka to the west was expanded on 8 July by the addition of the Second Panzer Division. Repeated attacks against the 17th Guards Rifle Corps failed to take the city. The Soviets had adopted a ‘stand or perish’ philosophy that seemed to enhance their defenses.
At Ponyri the reinforcement of the attack by the addition of the Tenth Panzer Grenadier Division began to make encroachment against the frantic Soviet opposition. However, it was a Pyrrhic victory. Early on the morning of 11–12 July the Western and Bryansk fronts probed the Orel salient. With the success of the morning probe, General Bagramian, part of Sokolovsky’s Western Front, committed the First and Fifth Tank Corps. These thrusts south from Ul’ianovo threatened to take Model in the rear and cut his supply lines.
Recognizing the threat, Model withdrew four divisions from his attack to meet the new threat. After an advance of barely 18 kilometers, Model’s assault was foreclosed.
Sources: “Kursk: The Clash of Armour”, Colonel G. A. Koltunov, History of World War Two Magazine; The Battle of Kursk, David M. Glantz & Jonathan M. House, University Press of Kansas, 1999
Author: Jack Kruse writes military historical fiction set in World War II. He is currently completing a novel, tentatively titled Cauldron, about the aerial battle of the Kursk Salient, a key confrontation on the Russian front in which German and Soviet fighters and bombers engaged in an intensive series of engagements over the steppes of the Ukraine.