Kursk: The Southern Pincer Part 2

The Soviet flank attacks across the Pena River against Syrtzewo and Werchopenye attracted German attention. On 8 July the 6th Panzer Regiment was ordered to cross the Pena River and, using assault and anti-tank guns, turn south behind the Soviet 71st Guards Rifle Division. To prepare for this attack German pioneers repaired the bridge over the Pena River at Werchopenye on 9 July.

Meanwhile, the 48th Panzer Corps advanced up the Oboyan Road with Grossdeutschland west of the road and 11th Panzer Division east of the road. All available air power was ordered to provide close support. The attack met very strong Soviet resistance provided by the 6th Tank Corps with the support of the infantry of the 9th Guards Rifle Division. By noon the 48th Panzer Corps reached the high ground south of Oboyan, however, they were not able to take Novoselovka by the end of the day.

Thirteen kilometers to the east II SS Panzer Corps continued to attack north toward Kursk with Totenkopf in the van, Leibstandarte on the west flank and Das Reich holding the east flank assisted by the 167th Infantry Division. By this time General Rotmistrov’s 5th Guards Tank Army had positioned itself in front of the German attack holding the line between Oboyan and just northeast of Prokhorovka, harassing Das Reich on the Prokhorovka Road with the assistance of the 2nd Tank Corps.

By the end of 9th July Totenkopf had reached the Psel River and captured Krasnyi Octiabr. Leibstandarte had crossed the Solotinka River and linked up with the 11th Panzer Division. Army Detachment Kempf, assigned to protect II SS Panzer Corps right flank was now held up nearly 45 kilometers to the southeast by the Soviet 7th Guards Army holding well dug in positions in the Belgorod area.

Soviet General Vatutin shifted forces to his right flank to hold Grossdeutschland’s drive toward Oboyan, depending on the 5th Guards Tank Army and the 69th Army to hold the left flank.

At this point, late on the afternoon of July 9, German General Hoth decided to alter the heading of the II SS Panzer Corps from north toward Kursk to the northeast toward Prokhorovka. He felt that, with the SS Corps and concentrated air support, he could smash the armored threat to his east flank, unlock III Panzer Corps of Army Detachment Kempf and break through the Soviet defenses. With that breakthrough Model’s 9th Army of the northern pincer could resume its attack to complete the encirclement of the Kursk Salient.

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.

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