Key point: World War II didn't necessarily have to end in either a complete German or Soviet victory.
At daybreak on Monday, July 12, 1943, SS Sturmbannführer Christian Bachmann, the panzer group commander of the 3rd SS Panzergrenadier Division, ordered his unit to cross the Psel River and attack. The Germans drove north toward the east-west road connecting the towns of Karteschewka and Prokhorokva.
After fighting through several Soviet defensive positions and advancing nearly five miles, the panzer group reached the road around midnight. The plan for the next day was to attack the rear of the Soviet forces defending the town of Prokhorokva, just three miles to the east. The Soviets would either be encircled or forced to retreat, and the Germans would break through one of the last major defensive belts protecting the Russian town of Kursk, the objective of Operation Citadel, the effort to encircle a large number of Red Army troops that occupied a salient, or bulge, deep in the German front line.
Success would mean the death or surrender of thousands of Soviet soldiers, and Operation Citadel had reached a critical stage. Would one last successful German attack toward Prokhorokva unhinge the extensive Soviet defenses?
Recommended: The Colt Python: The Best Revolver Ever Made?