Encyclopedia of War

World War II-1943
Europe

Battle of the Atlantic

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On 1 May 1943 the largest fleet of German submarines assembled for the war in the Atlantic some 134 U-boats. they had simple orders:'Angreifen! Ran! Versenken!'(Attack! Advance! Sink!)Their aim was to inflict a devastating blow against Allied shipping lanes. German U-boats sunk 72 ships in the first twenty days of March,60 of which were Royal Navy-protected convoys.

Britians Admiralty were alarmed,and the fact the Germans boasted that it was the greatest convoy battle of all time,due to the Germans only lost one U-boat,If the convoy system ,which proved itself during the first World War ,and now seemed to be failing to protect the shipping lanes what could the Royal navy do?

Indeed the convoy system was working and their loses could have been even worse if the ships scattered or sailed independently.
The Allies began to slowly improve its ability to detect U-boats and destroy them. May 1943 the Royal navy would be tested if they had indeed improved there system,they had made breakthroughs had been made in several areas mainly air support and by April 1943 the RAF coastal command added long-range B-24 liberator bombers along with as Sunderland and Catalina flying boats.

Liberators could cover all areas of the shipping lanes and they had a new secret weapon:the Mark 24 Mine. its was more of a torpedo than a mine,the Mark 24 had a homing system that could lock onto the nose that the subs propeller made. The U-boats were forced to dive and so torpedos could be drop to home-in on the diving vessel.

Technology turned the tide. Powerful new centimetric radars were fitted to long-range Allied aircraft and also equipped with searchlights and depth charges,which enabled them to hunt down U-boats at night."Huff Duff"High Frequency Direction Finding,helped convoy escorts to pinpoint and shadow U-boats when they transmitted messages back to base.

Hunter killer groups built around fast escorts carriers also took a heavy toll on U-boats,By the summer of 1943 Allied Fleets began to destroy more and more U-boats and for the first time the tonnage launched by the Allies overtook that lost to the U-boats,And the U-boat menace had been tamed.

Submarine attacks continued in the Atlantic,but no longer held the edge over the convoys and the importance of their attacks diminished.


Kursk

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Kursk was the largest tank battle ever fought. Thousands of tanks clashed,with Germany's massive Tiger tank proving to be a ferocious fighting machine. But the Russians T34s also showed their worth with almost kamikaze attacks. from this point onwards,Hitlers forces were in retreat.
The Kursk bulge exercised a horrible fascination on Hitler,he told General Guderian,Inspector of Armored Troops,that every time he thought of the impending attacks on the salient his stomach turned over.

A Soviet spy ring called Lucy gave Stalin full warning of Germanys intentions for an offensive at Kursk,code-named Zitadelle(Citadel).This gave the soviets good time to fortify the Kursk salient,and over the next three months over a half a million wagon-loads of supplies were brought in.

Operation Zitadelle was simple and direct,a two pronged attack from north to south of the salient,which would meet at Kursk.
the battle began on the 5 of July 1943 with a total of six thousand tanks four thousand aircraft engaged on both sides.
Tiger tanks under the command of the tank ace Michael Wittmann,his Kompanie of 1st SS Panzer Regiment operated in the south alongside II SS Panzer Korps.on the first day Michael Wittmann tiger tanks crossed the Russian trenches in a arrow formation,but they were advancing into a trap,and Russian anti-tank crews opened fire on them.

The tiger's dealt with the first attack,destroying several of the guns. But now they would face the Soviet T34s.
As the tigers advanced to meet the T34s,One German tiger came under fire from behind but the tiger pushed on to engage the T34s and ignored the gun. Their superior armaments proved to much for the T34s and the Russians loat eight T34s and seven Anti-tank guns. but this was just the beginning of the maze of fortified positions that lay ahead of the German forces.

The German advance came to a stand still when they came up against Soviet positions at hill 220.5,with mines consealed guns dithes and dug-in tanks with only their turrets visable.It took the tigers nearly five hours of ferice fighting with aircraft and panzer grenadiers in support to take the hill. It was a minor victory for the Germans and it came at a heavy cost and reduced their troop numbers and damaged their valuable tigers.

On the 12 of July the soviets launched a counter-attack,with some 850 tanks and self-propelled guns formed a massive frontal attack led by the 5th Guards Tank Army, German forces assembled some five hundred tanks and assault guns with tiger tanks leading the way. The terrain was a gentle slope perfect for large tank formations and so the scene was set for the largest tank battle in history.

Combat stared with the usual aerial attacks and artillery barrages. The 5th Guards Tank Army attack the German panzers while the they were still preparing for their assault. At first the Tigers could pick off Soviet tanks from from range but as the gap closed the T34s could outmaneuver the heavy Tigers also firing on the move rather than offering a standing target for their heavy guns.

by days end,German forces lost over 60 tanks,while the soviets lost 328 tanks. The ferocity of the encounter halted the German advance and their push for kursk.The tigers and panther tanks prove their worth but both sides had failed their objectives, with Allied advances elsewhere Hitler decided to call the assault on Kursk,in doing so they lost the initiative on the Eastern front and the soviet army with start to push them back to Berlin.

The Italian campaign

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The first stage of the Italian campaign was the invasion of Sicily. This began with an airbourne assault on the 9 of July 1943.which would be followed up by an amphibious landings. Unlike the German invasion of Crete the airbourne landings would not be the main event but act as support for the amphibious landings.invasion of sicily

German reinforcements were sent to hold Sicily,but Italian troops were being evacuated. At this stage the Italians were in discussions with the Allies on a armistice,on the 25 of July Mussolini was deposed as leader and his government was dissolved.
Mussolini was arrested and imprisoned,but later freed by German SS troops and installed as leader of the fascist government in northern Italy,while the legitimate Italian government began peace talks with allied forces, And on the 3 September the treaty was signed but no announcement was made until 8 september.As part of the deal Italy declared war on their former allies on the 13 October 1943.

Fighting on Sicily continued until late August, at which point German forces began to evacuate to main-land italy.On the 17 of August 1943 American forces under the command of George S Patton reached Messina The plan for the Allies was to launch amphibious invasion across the narrow straits of Messina. the first landings coincided with the Italian surrender on the 3 September.
with German attention focused on the Messina Straits,the Allies launched an amphibious landing of Salerno on the 9 September 1943,the day after the Italians surrendered. this move caught he Germans off guard but they had already began to move reinforcements to the areas held by Italian forces,as they suspected their allies were about to surrender.

With Allied landings elsewhere, along with a push out of the Salerno beachheads,Allied forces began to push the German troops back towards and into the Apennine Mountains. German forces brought the Allied advance to a crawl even with Italian partisans,
attacking German lines from the rear. With reinforcements pulled from Sardinia to aid the defence of Italy and would make the allies fight for every yard,German infantry units were able to destroy tanks at close range with Panzerfausts and satchel charges.
Panzerfausts were a one-shot anti-tank weapon and very effective at there job.

As Allied forces pushed their way slowly up the spine of Italy, the Germans built and manned successive defensive lines. With artillery and anti-tank guns,concrete bunkers and mobile forces of tanks and assault guns backed up by ditches minefields and barbed wire. Soldiers loyal to Mussolini's new fascist republic began to join German forces in the defence of the lines even though far larger number's of Italians would fight against them. however the the lines of defence were broken one by one and allied forces would break through to Rome.


 

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1944