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Wild Card

The Rarity of Kursk Awards

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Gentlemen,

In the thread “Red Star Awarded for Battle of Kursk” an interesting point was raised with regard to the rarity of decorations and awards for The Battle of Kursk. Rather than send Soviet 1000’s thread off in another direction, I thought that we could use a separate thread dedicated to this question of rarity and for posting Kursk awards.

I would like to start by presenting Order of the Patriotic War, 1st class, #15515 which was issued on 6 August 1943 to Col. Vladimir Mikhaylovich Kramar, assistant operational department commander, Headquarters of the Central Front. The award citation notes that “During the July operations, comrade Kramar strenuously worked...”.

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Next is another Order of the Patriotic War, this time 2nd class, #148930. This order was issued on to Gds. Lt. Col. Vasily Pavlovich Girich, Chief of Personnel Section & Personnel Administration, HQ 23rd Gds. Rifle Corps. In this case, the Award is for (among other things) “On 10 July near the village of Klyuchi-Veseloe, Prokhorovsky region during an onslaught of a numerically superior enemy force, the defending units began to withdraw and the threat of an enemy penetration and breakout developed near Verhnyaya Olshanka Prokhorovka. In a group with other officers, Comrade Girich, accomplishing the order of the corps commander, organized a blocking position... organized a defense... ” .

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Using the two above awards shown above, I would like to propose a theory regarding the rarity of Kursk awards.

As I understand it, the Battle of Kursk theater of operations covered an area of around 30,000 square kilometers. The battle(s) consisted of two Axis force attacks, one from the north and the other from the south, which were approximately 150kilometers from each other. Neither really advanced more than 40 kilometers. This means that the Axis ground forces never got as close as forty, or so, kilometers of Kursk itself.

Therefore, the “Battle of Kursk” was a series of battles which were planned, by the Axis command, to culminate with the capture of Kursk, but fell far short of achieving that objective; and the term “The Battle of Kursk” became something of a reference point for all of these individual conflicts. When that term came into use I do not know. Was it used during the battle (I am inclined to think not), or did it come about at a later time being coined as an all inclusive event?

Notice the language in the two citations mentioned above. Neither of them mention Kursk and yet both are clearly awarded for the Battle of Kursk. In Colonel Kramar’s citation the linkage Headquarters Central Front, July operations) is easy to identify, but Lt. Col. Girich’s citation is a little more complicated although the methodology is the same.

Basically, all we have to do is establish where the 23rd Gds. Rifle Corps was on 10 July 1943. It is even more helpful if one can find Klyuchi-Veseloe, Prokhorovsky and/or Verhnyaya Olshanka Prokhorovka. In the end, based on this information, I think that it is safe to say that comrade Girich could proudly tell his grandchildren that he bravely defended The Motherland at The Battle of Kursk.

So the point that I would like to make is that there could well be more awards for the Battle of Kursk than we know, or recognize. We are not going to see a lot of awards named for the Battle of Kursk, but rather have to determine the recipient’s unit, where that unit was during the first weeks of July 1943 and whether the award was given for actions, or whatever, during that time frame.

In closing, I must confess that, especially compared to most members of this forum, I am not that knowledgeable on this subject. Consequently, I welcome any corrections and encourage the posting of additional thoughts and material.

Thank you.

Wild Card

Edited by Wild Card

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That is very well put together Wild Card, and who knows you may be correct. I like those two orders you show, its great researching these orders, as you just never know what your going to get! I think its going to take someone who is an expert in the history of the Soviet WW2 awarding regulations etc to shine a light on this subject. Or you will have to go with the unit, date, area to know for sure.

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Wild Card is on the right track. The rarity of proper “Battle of Kursk” awards is largely due to the length of time of the campaign, about two weeks. That was all the time it took for the German offensive to run its course. Operation Citidel began 4 July 1943, Hitler cancelled the operation on 17 July. After mid July the RKKA went over to the offensive; Citidel, the “Battle of Kursk,” was over and new operations commenced.

There is also the fact that it took place in mid 1943, and it’s easy to forget that the real flood of awards didn’t happen until 1944-45.

Both add up to a dearth of awards for “Kursk”.

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I do not have any Kursk awards either. It seems like if I were to pick a particular battle to call the most common for orders to be associated with, I would have to say that Stalingrad would be it. It is an earlier battle that seems to have a lot of award attribution in collections. What do you say?

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I do not have any Kursk awards either. It seems like if I were to pick a particular battle to call the most common for orders to be associated with, I would have to say that Stalingrad would be it. It is an earlier battle that seems to have a lot of award attribution in collections. What do you say?

I agree with your choice of Stalingrad for the greatest number of concentrated awards; but for one possible exception, which I will get to in a moment. There are a couple of reasons for this though.

Whereas the Battle of Kursk, as pointed out by Eric B pointed out in post #5, lasted two weeks, the Battle of Stalingrad took place from mid July 1942 until the beginning of February 1943 - over six months! With the exception of The Siege of Leningrad, I don’t think that there was a battle of longer duration, but awards for Leningrad are comparatively rare. I am inclined to think that awards for Stalingrad were a little more numerous because, after all, this was for “Stalin’s City”.

The possible exception mentioned in the first paragraph above would, of course, be the Battle for Berlin. By this time, the attitude towards awards had changed; and not only were they given out much more liberally but there were more of them to give out. Khmelnitsky did not even exist at the time of Stalingrad. Glory was founded in November ‘42, Suvorov, Kutuzov and Nevsky were founded in July ‘42. I suspect that these awards were so new at the time of Stalingrad that their qualification criteria was not well enough known for many awards to have been made that weren't.

Taking all of this into consideration, there is one thing that I think is worth pointing out. It often seems that, for instance, what earned a Red Star at Stalingrad would have gotten a Glory at Berlin, a Red Banner would gotten a Nevsky or, for instance, Kutuzov third class.

Just some additional thoughts,

Wild Card

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Thanks for putting things into perspective WC. I have a screwback ORB from Stalingrad that read to me like a much higher award and wondered why. He basically led a recon unit through German lines, opening up a hole big enough for a Soviet offensive to move their lines forward, resulting in a very large gain in the battle.

I have seen about a dozen Stalingrad citations over the years, but not many(if any) on Berlin, which surprises me. Maybe just my luck there.

I have a very nice Leningrad Bravery Medal grouping coming in with research, which I cannot wait to share with you. It is the only Leningrad grouping I have seen.

I have an unresearched five piece bar which has a OGIII and BM, with a Warsaw Liberation and Berlin Capture medal. I cannot wait to see the citations on that group! (pending). I have never seen an order citation of either of those battles, so this is exciting too.

As far as Kursk is concerned, I have NEVER seen one(other than the ones you shared). A creme de la creme would be an award to a Soviet tanker!!!

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"Award inflation," same feats getting a higher award later in the war, definitely took place. It's one of the things that makes early awards so desireable IMO.

While Stalingrad is desireable I've seen/read about many more awards associated with offensives in 1944, specifically Bagration and the Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive. (Both approx June-August 1944.) Massive, multi-month operations, in the last year of the war, when the RKKA was getting into the top of its game, it's no surprise really. Earlier than that there seem to be many awards for breaching the Dnieper in late 1943 (as I think someone said earlier).

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I think an important aspect to keep in mind is that citations don't always mention locations, or perhaps just some names of villages on local and tactical level. In the case of Kursk, no fighting took place close to the city, so awards that can be considered "for Kursk" don't always mention this city. The same goes for a considerable part of the awards that can be considered "for Leningrad". I think that is why we don't recognize many citation as detailing a fragment of a major, famous campaign. It takes some order of battle research to find out where the recipient's unit was at the specified time to be able to place those citations in context. In the case of Stalingrad, a lot of fighting took place in the city itself, making it easy to link a citation to the battle of Stalingrad.

Edited by Ferdinand

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But the battle can be narrowed down by dates and his unit, right?

Exactly. To the extent it can be of course. Unit tends to be more reliable, what with the excellent histories now out there. SO many citations mention only villages or "hill # x" that simply can't be identified/found unless one has a starting point of the general area the unit was at.

Even that can be frustrating though, everything from typos/mistranlations to conflicting references about where a unit was on which date.

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A case in point. I just translated this Red Star citation:

During the fighting with the German invaders he proved himself to be exceptionally bold and fearless. Neither a hellish bombardment, nor a heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire could frighten this true Soviet mortarman. During the battle for height 248.1 in the Fatezh Raion comrade X fought the enemy for two. His crew killed no less than 100 Hitlerites, 1 enemy cannon, and 1 mounted machine gun. He deserves the Order of the Red Star.

Commander of the 226th Artillery and Mortar Regiment

Guards Major [signed] /Goncharov/

No mention of Kursk, nor a date. However, when the nomination went up the chain of command, it was signed by the artillery commander of the 16th Tank Corps on July 13, 1943, and this date falls right into the Kursk period.

Second, if you consult an order of battle you will see that the 16th Tank Corps was part of the 2nd Tank Army, Central Front. Wikipedia will tell you that the 2nd Tank Army took part in the battle of Kursk, fighting just to the northwest of the city.

Third, the Fatezh Raion is one of the 28 raions of the Kursk Oblast, being located - surprise, surprise - just to the northwest of Kursk.

And the following map confirms everything. Kursk is the large city in the center, in between the two blue arrows. If we follow the railroad line in a northwestern direction, the first city we see on the map is Fatezh. And the army located just to the east of Fatezh is the 2nd Tank Army.

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Great stuff!! That sort of information would make for a great book in its own(units and their battles by date).

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I'd have to say Leningrad might be the most frequent for awards? Since it did last a pretty long time, but then again it depends on how many brave acts were done in a specific place and awards handed out :D

I would have to say that most of the time and with this vast amount of awards being handed out in total, its pretty hard to actually get something from other battles and usually what I see with some award write ups is the individual is attached to a certain division that fought at the pivitol battles or are assigned to such front, but the location of the action is hidden, maybe in case the citation fell into the wrong hands, or the action associated is more important than the place? :)

Its still cool to get any kind of combat write up in my opinion, although I'm very partial to Leningrad awards :D

In terms of rarity, I'd love to see an award for mobilization of arms, an aircraft design award or tank award etc those would be pretty interesting :)

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In my opinion awards citations mentioning the names of the locations such as stalingrad, Leningrad, Moscow, kursk etc are all as rare as each other. The sheer size of the areas covered in ww2 means much more action took place "between" or "on the way to" these places.

Its yet another hazy line in collecting.

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Auke,

I'd bet money it's a true Kursk award, specifically that part known as the Battle of Ponyri. The 16th Tank Corps fought there July 5-9th (to the west of Ponyri). It is where the German offensive was defeated in the north, as significant as Prokhorovka was in the south IMO.

16th Tank Corps was made up of 107th, 109th, and 164th Tank Brigades (as well as supporting units, including the 226th Mortar Regiment). Look for those numbers on the map and you'll get the jist of where they fought.

2TA_July_5_10_43.jpg

Give my congratulations to whomever has this Red Star! And if he's in mood to sell, look me up!

Edited by Eric B

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Nice find Auke!

Also, great advice on Kursk awards in general. That being, rarely do such awards mention Kursk itself. Always best to check the maps and location.

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Another example. I recently added a Red Banner to my collection that was awarded to a commissar in the 25th Guards Rifle Corps of the 7th Guards Army. The citation is not very specific, but somewhere in the middle of the citation there's this part:

[...] During the fighting on July 5, 1943, as German tanks rushed through the village of Krutoi Log, comrade X, acting on orders from Corps command, was sent to the 167th Tank Regiment. He led the regiment in the area west of the Batratskaya dacha in accordance with the orders the regiment had received and warded off the enemy. In the same area comrade X on July 7, 1943 organized artillery cover for the important road leading toward Neklyudovo. The charging enemy troops were halted. [...]

First of all, July 5 is the day the battle of Kursk started, and the 7th Guards Army was deployed in the southeastern part of the bulge. On the map I posted above the abbreviation "7 гв. А" can be seen east of the city of Belgorod.

Second, Google Maps shows Krutoi Log lying a few miles southeast of Belgorod (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Russia,+Belgorodskaya+oblast,+Krutoy+Log&hl=en&ll=50.55707,36.960754&spn=0.802671,2.113495&sll=50.590763,36.9092&sspn=0.050131,0.132093&oq=kruto&hnear=Krutoy+Log,+Belgorodskiy+rayon,+Belgorodskaya+oblast',+Russia&t=m&z=10) and Neklyudovo about ten miles east of Belgorod (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Russia,+Belgorodskaya+oblast,+Neklyudovo&hl=en&ll=50.546599,37.080231&spn=0.802849,2.113495&sll=50.544854,37.253265&sspn=0.802879,2.113495&oq=neklyudovo&hnear=Neklyudovo,+Shebekinskiy+rayon,+Belgorodskaya+oblast',+Russia&t=m&z=10)

Moreover, this map ('>) shows Belgorod on the far left, 25th Rifle Corps in the center and Krutoi Log just south of that. This map ('>) shows the corps' sector in the center, with the 167th Tank Regiment of the corps reserve on the right. And finally, this map ('>) depicts the 167th Tank Regiment's counterattack in the center of the map, just north of Krutoi Log.

No mention of Kursk in the entire citation, but just a little bit of digging can do wonders.

Edited by Ferdinand

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Hello everyone. I'd first like to say that I have really enjoyed reading this thread and have learned quite a bit. Here is my contribution. I had this one researched by Auke.

Pvt. Stepan K. Demidenko. Machine Gunner in the MG Company of the AA Battalion of the 183rd Tank Brigade.

"During the fighting with the German-fascist invaders in July 1943, at which time he served as a machine gunner as part of a gun crew, he shot down an enemy aircraft.

 

He deserves the Medal for Courage."

 

 

image.jpg

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Based on the number of HSUs awarded I would argue that the forcing of the Dniepr yielded the largest number of awards.  The battle of Kursk yielded quite a few awards to Soviet pilots.

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I added this Red Star to my collection a few years ago and recently got around to researching it.

petrovsky001.jpg

petrovsky002.jpg

The record card says it was awarded on August 14, 1943 by Order of the 19th Tank Corps, so the date suggests it could be Kursk award. A quick look at an order of battle shows that the 19th Tank Corps was part of the Central Front, which fought in the northern sector of the Kursk bulge. So, almost definitely a Kursk award! And the citation removes all remaining doubt:

The head of Field Repair Post nr. 90, Captain Petrovsky, has exhibited exceptional initiative, diligence, and skill in repairing and overhauling tanks that had been put out of action. During the period in which the Corps was involved in combat operations, comrade Petrovsky mobilized the men of his field repair post to fulfill their repair targets. Regardless of the time of day or night, and in any and all weather conditions, the repair crews of Field Repair Post nr. 90 sacrificed their personal time and sought to return decommissioned tanks to service in the shortest possible time. Between July 5 and 31, 1943, Field Repair Post nr. 90 carried out the following repairs:

  • Medium tank repairs: 22 T-34s, 4 Mk-2s, 8 T-60s
  • Routine tank overhauls: 23 T-34s, 7 Mk-2s, 2 T-70s

For exceeding his repair targets and for the high quality of his repairs, comrade Petrovsky deserves the Order of the Red Star.

July 5 is the day the battle of Kursk started, so this officer was right in the middle of it all.

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Captain (later Lt. Col.) Petrovskii was also awarded a second Red Star on 28 Dec 43 as a Major with the  90th Field Repair Post and the OPW 1 Class on 14 May 44 as a Major and Deputy Commander, Technical Forces, 101st Tank Brigade, 19 Tank Corps.

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