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Liveblogging World War II: July 16, 1943

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Erich von Manstein, Lost Victories:

The commander of Central Army Group, Field-Marshal von Kluge, reported that Ninth Army was making no further headway and that he was having to deprive it of all its mobile forces to check the enemy’s deep incursions into the Orel salient. There could be no question of continuing with ‘Citadel’ or of resuming the operation at a later date.

Speaking for my own Army Group, I pointed out that the battle was now at its culminating point, and that to break it off at this moment would be tantamount to throwing a victory away. On no account should we let go of the enemy until the mobile reserves he had committed were completely beaten.

Nonetheless, Hitler ruled that ‘Citadel’ was to be called off on account of the situation in the Mediterranean and the state of affairs in Central Army Group. The only concession he would make was that Southern Army Group should continue the attack until it had achieved its aim of smashing the enemy’s armoured reserves.

As a matter of fact not even this could be accomplished, for only a few days later the Army Group was ordered to hand over several armoured divisions to Central Army Group. The assault groups of both formations had to be withdrawn to their original start-lines.

And so the last German offensive in the east ended in a fiasco, even though the enemy opposite the two attacking armies of Southern Army Group had suffered four times their losses in prisoners, dead and wounded.