Virginia History Part II

Zach – Okay, we’re back for a follow-up of Virginian History. There are a few more tales to be told. With me today is Anna Komemne, Byzantine princess and historian. Then we Boudica, British barbarian rebel that fought against Rome. Next we have Gaspar Correia, conquistador and “historian.”
Gaspar – Why do you always put quotation marks around my title of historian?
Zach – I don’t know what you mean.
Gaspar – Yes you do. Every time I read these posts, you do that.
Zach – I “promise” I won’t do it again.
Anna – And lastly we have Mulan, woman soldier of ancient China.
Zach – Thanks for coming, Alright, let’s get to it because we don’t have a lot of time. To begin, I have a story to tell about the Thornton family of Virginia. They were my ancestors. The Thorntons were a prominent Virginian family with strong links to George Washington, James Madison and Zachary Taylor. A Francis Thorton III (1711–1749) decided to build a house along the Rappahannock River in the land that would become Fredricksburg, VA.

Fall Hill, the mansion and grounds belonging to the Thornton family from 1790 to 2003. Not a bad run. They shoulda just willed it to me.


Zach – The story I’m about to tell isn’t strictly historical, but it is family history and so has a worth to be remembered.
Mulan – Family history is just as meaningful as any other history, regardless if its true or not. The legends that are passed down are often glimpses into the lives of our ancestors.
Anna – I wrote family history. Of course, my family ruled the Byzantine Empire.
Zach – Well, the story goes like this: The Thorntons bought a young Indian girl that had been captured up near the great lakes. In the 1700′s there were still Lakota living around there and this girl was Lakota princess given the name of Katrina. (Or so the story goes.) She was a slender little girl that grew up as one of the household and became nanny to tall the Thornton children.
Boudica – Of course, imperialists enslaving the locals. I believe I’ve heard this story before.
Zach – By all accounts she was very loving and kind and would do anything for the children. When she finally died of old age they buried her under a large boulder by the river, which was one of her favorite spots. We haven’t discovered this site yet. Over the next two hundred years, many of the Thornton children, when sleeping in Fall Hill have reported seeing a slight, dark skinned woman who would silently tuck them in or float into their room to check on them in the middle of the night. No one’s ever reported feeling frightened by her and always say she looked very warm and kind. They say this is the spirit of Katrina who still checks up on the Thornton children.
Anna – Apparently she took her duty very seriously.
Gaspar – But don’t forget the vengeful spirit that lives in Fall Hill!
Zach – There is no vengeful spirit…
Gaspar – But indeed there is!! This ghost is said to reside in the attic where she was murdered by a jealous husband. When one goes into the attic you become a part of the curse and the woman ghost crawls out at night and strangles you with her hair!

Gaspar – I swear its true! She moans and stares at you with her deathly eyes!


Anna – Apparently Gaspar has been watching too many Japanese horror movies.
Zach – As I said, its a family story and has it’s own important part to play in history.
Mulan – Now It is my turn. I return us back to the town of Henricus. (See previous post.) It was a small town in Virginia during the early days of colonization. It was founded in 1611. It also had the first hospital in the New World.

Here is Mt. Malady, the first English hospital in America. Of course, it’s wasn’t as good as our Chinese medicine, but it was all they had.


One can visit Henricus and see actors in period costume that will teach you all about the time and place.

Here is Zach’s brother at Henricus aiming a matchlock musket. You can go and learn how these settlers lived and fought. (more on that later)


Here is Zach’s brother with a large matchlock. They made guns bigger in those days. Notice the armor in the bottom left corner.


The way of warfare in the colonies was different than back in Mainland Europe. In Europe only nobles had swords or full armor. However, in Virginia, every soldier had full armor, sword and musket. This led to all soldiers being armed equally and created a more egalitarian atmosphere among the men. Perhaps this is the origin of American individualism?
Boudica – The reason for this was the native people of course! They would attack quickly and retreat. since they’d attack from all sides, every solder had to be prepared. You couldn’t line up in cute little lines. This meant every soldier had to be protected and ready for anything, with every weapon available. The colonists also had what were called “Targeteers.” This soldiers would use out dated shields and heavier armor and stand in front of the musket men. Often they’d have outdated broadswords or pistols. The large matchlocks in the pictures were also becoming outdated as Europe moved to wheelocks and flintlocks. The reason for this was, the natives fought with primative weapons and in close combat so the colonial troops didn’t need the best. They needed heavy protection, lots of firepower and the most important part…easily repaired. Yes, the old matchlock was easier to repair in the colony where resupply could take months and even years.
Mulan – Boudica, there’s something about the matchlock that I think you’d appreciate. The matchlocks, when unable to reload, could be gripped by the barrel and used as a vicious club. When the natives got their hands on these guns, they loved the club design so much they copied the basic shape and created the “gunstock club.”

See the basic matchlock shape of the club? As awesome and well balanced as it was, the Natives thought “you know what would be cooler?”
“What’s that?”
“We stick a giant freaking spike on it!”
“Awesome!”
So they did.


Zach -Here’s a modern gunstock club made by Cold Steel. I own one of these and find the weight and balance to be exceptional. When I hold it I really want to hit something…oh…that didn’t come out right.


Mulan – As you can see, they waged war in a very different manner than the Europeans. Outdated muskets, shields and heavy armor.
Gaspar – Until they found the wooly mammoths that still roamed the New World. The colonists would mount and ride the mammoths into battle and armor the mammoths like primitive tanks. That was truly how wooly mammoths became extinct.
Anna – Gaspar. It was much too hot for mammoths in Virginia. That’s of course, assuming that they hadn’t been dead for thousands of years.
Gaspar – And that’s why they died. The heat was too much for them.
Zach – So, Japanese ghosts and wooly mammoths aside, I hope you enjoyed this little tid-bit of Virginian history!

Check out some fiction

Olga – Many of you comrades do not know this thing, but Zach-sky also writes how-you-say, fiction. Yes, he writes books. I think you should look at and reading his so-called on-line stories, dah?

First he has (shuffles around for note card) he has “post apocalyptic adventure” story called “Sins of Prometheus.” Is very good. Go read.
http://sinsofprometheus.blogspot.com/

Next, Zach-sky has scary story set in H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos. Is very creepy. Go read.  Is set in modern times at Miskatonik University.  Veteran tries to uncover truth of past while girl from Innsmouth tries to run from past.
http://godsofmiskatonic.blogspot.com/

 

Do as Olga says or I burn you house down.

Some Virginian history

Zach – Welcome to this week’s Minimum Wage Historian. We have a topic that’s close to my shriveled heart. Virginian History. I currently live in Utah but I consider myself a Virginian. (An adopted one. I was born in Texas.) And as a Virginian I take great pride in its history. As a child for vacation I wouldn’t be driven to King’s Dominion or Busch Gardens, no, I’d go to all the historic sites such as Jamestown, Williamsburg, Carter’s Grove and Monticello. Most kids would probably groan and consider it torture, but not me. Growing up my heroes were Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Olga – And Iron Man.

Zach – I couldn’t help it! He was like an awesome future knight in armor with laser guns!

Zach – And Iron Man, yes.
Anna – So you got started as a historian from an early age.
Zach – I totally was. (See my post: my history with history.) But before I jump ahead in my mad dash to speak about my beloved state, let’s introduce our panelists. As you’ve seen we have my co-host, Anna Komemne, Byzantine Princess and Historian. Then we have St. Olga of Kiev, vengeful Slavic saint. Then we have Scipio Africanus, Roman General and conqueror of Carthage. And then we have….Oh come on. Why? I told you not to put her with a Roman.
Boudica – I insisted on being here. I will not have history distorted by that Roman dog!
Zach – We have Boudica, British barbarian warrior leader.
Anna – Oh, my. Let us move along, shall we?
Zach – This isn’t going to be a time-line history of Virginia or any kind of chronological narrative. No, we’re going to share some interesting tid bits of history that many have forgotten and we don’t want to see this stuff lost to the river of time.
Olga – Where’s Gaspar?
Zach – He said he’s working on a secret project. Wait…I should be worried: shouldn’t I?
Anna – Almost definitely.
Zach – Each of us is going to share an interesting story or some cool information about Virginia. I hope you’ve all done your homework. General Africanus, why don’t you go first.
Boudica – What? The Roman abuser?
Zach – Um…Boudica, would you like to go first?
Boudica – It would be my pleasure! (clears throat) My topic is the Indian Massacre of 1622.
Africanus – Of course she’d choose savages butchering defenseless people.
Boudica – (Glares at Africanus) In 1622 the Colony of Virginia, named after the Virgin queen, Elizabeth I…a woman leader, was still new. It’s capital was Jamestown and had a few scattered settlements along the James River.

Despite obstacles and their own foolishness, Jamestown became successful.

At first the relationship between the Indians and the settlers was very friendly. The settlers got to trade for food and the Natives got cool swag like metal tools. But pretty quickly the settlers earned a bad rep as lousy neighbors. It’s hard to stay friends when they burn down your villages, kill your children and steal your food. So, naturally, the Natives grew tired of this crappy behavior. So they stopped trading with the English and without the food, the English were forced to skip a lot of meals and many died from starvation. It was called the “Starving Time.” The chief of the Powhatans soon realized that the English weren’t going to settle for a fort and a few settlements. They weren’t there to trade, they were there to take over. Here’s what the chief said.
“Your coming is not for trade, but to invade my people and possess my country.”
The English commander, Gates lured Indians into a fight and slaughtered them. Then they took Pocahontas prisoner and made demands. These were not good neighbors. When Chief Powhatan died, his brother, Opechancanough took over. This guy didn’t think there could be peace with the English. So he planned a series of attacks on every English settlement, including Jamestown. However, Jamestown was warned in advanced and prepared themselves. But word didn’t get to the outlying settlements and the Indians fell upon them unawares. The Indians entered the scattered towns as friends, coming to trade, but on a given signal, they all broke out with weapons and began massacering everyone they found. The settlements were Wolstenholme Towne, Henricus, Smiths Hundred and Martin’s Hundred.
Zach – I’ve been to Martin’s Hundred! They used to have a pretty cool little museum until people started to suck and not go there so they closed it down. There was a lot of archeological work done there and they found whole suits of armor.

From what I understand, someone bought the land, turned it into a horse race track and destroyed all the archeological sites there. Way to go. You get “Douche of the month” award. Oh, then he went bankrupt and had to sell it all.

The armor was found down a well. Apparently the Indians, unable to penetrate the steel armor, simply tossed the soldiers down a well.

The armor was like this but also had arm guards and fully enclosed helmets. As a kid I thought it was cool that there were “Knights” in America.

Boudica – Well, the attack was very successful and Henricus and Smith’s Hundred were completely abandoned. A full quarter of the colonists died that day in the attacks. The Chief thought that the colonists had learned their lesson and would either go away or behave. The English did neither. Instead they tightened their defenses and went on a continuous offensive until the tribe was broken and scattered.
Zach – Well done, Boudica. Henricus is an interesting place, often overlooked by tourists in favor of James Town and Williamsburg, but they have a living history museum there where reenactors will teach you what it was like to live back then. Here’s some info about Henricus if you’re interested…which you should be.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henricus

Anna – Who’s next? Africanus?
Africanus – Yes, I will go. My topic is Colonel Tarleton Banastre. He was an English cavalry officer during the American Revolution and was known as “Bloddy Ban” or “The Butcher.” (though not at the time he was living.)

The cavalry officer villain from Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot” was loosely modeled after Tarleton Banastre.

He grew up in a merchant family but wealthy enough for some political positions. His father was mayor of Liverpool. When his father died he inherited a large sum of money which he promptly wasted on wine, women and fun. Not a very noble beginning if I say so myself. But we Romans understand some light hearted debauchery. With what little money he had left, he bought a commission into the Royal cavalry and to everyone’s surprise, it turned out he was rather good at it! So when war broke out in the Americas, he got on the first ship with Lord Cornwallis and sailed over to drink some wine and kick butt and he was all out of wine. Though he was from somewhat low birth, he rose through the ranks from his force of will and force. He was not a man to be trifled with. He was also no idiot. He had studies law at Oxford and was an educated man with ambition. They went to Charleston to recapture it from the rebels but failed, so he went up to New York and tracked down Rebel General Charles Lee. He caught him by such surprise that Charles was still in his dressing gown. Banastre had threatened to burn the cabin down if he did not come out.
But then at the Battle of Waxhaw Creek, Tarleton fought with a unit of Rebels under the command of a guy named Buford. After seeing that he had lost, Buford raised the white flag and expected the civilized treatment under the rules of war. But as the flag was going up, (Supposedly) one of Buford’s men fired and hit Tarleton’s horse and he fell off. Angry at the insult, Tarleton’s men open fired and massacred Buford’s men. Tarlton did not order this and his men, thinking he was dead, went on a vindictive rampage. This became a focus for American propaganda and called it “Tarleton’s Quarter” meaning, no quarter would be given. After this, Tarleton was a pincushion for propaganda and was said he willfully abandoned all rules of warfare.
His arch nemesis was Francis Marion, a guerilla fighter in the swamps of South Carolina. Francis became a legend of as he ambushed supply trains and attacked with lightning hit and run tactics. Tarleton gained a reputation as a brutal man against the civilian population, but other accounts, including one by Thomas Jefferson himself, described him as an honorable man. He fought all over the colonies and when England lost he went home and became successful in politics and became a powerful man.
Olga – Ha! We will here more of this Tarleton person!
Zach – Olga, would you like to go next?
Olga – A Russian never backs down! I will go! I will tell tale of daring ride that makes your so-called Paul Revere look like baby with messy diaper! Yes, this Tarleton and his men were running through Virginia country on way to arrest Thomas Jefferson and other Virginian nobles. But they did not know of Jack Jouett! Jack Jouett was big man, 6,4. Noble family. Jack heard of this Tarleton man and his men and Jack-ovich rode ahead to go warn Jefferson. Jefferson and most of Virginia legis…legal..
Zach – Legislature.
Olga – Dah! Jefferson and Virginia legis….whatever…were hiding in Monticello, Jeff’s home. Jack rode hard all night to warn Jeff. He got many scars on face from branches. He find plantation named “Castle Hill.” He tell head of plantation that Tarleton man coming. So Castle Hill Man say “Okay, no worries. I delay him.” So when Tarleton arrived and ask for food, man tell kitchen staff to go very, very, very slow making of food. They waste so much time that Tarleton get angry! He delayed Tarleton long time. Meanwhile, Jack rides to Monticello and warns Jeffy Boy about British. Now this was early in war and if America lose so many big men so early, not good news for Revolution. Jack-ovitch might have saved entire Revolution! But Paul Revere get cool poem so he more famous.

“Mr. Jeffersonsky, bad English mans coming! Run or get put in gulag!”
“Thank you comrade of Revolution.”
(dialogue by Olga of Kiev.)

Zach – Thank you Olga, that was actually pretty cool and bloodless.
Olga – Dah! Shame, no one got killed.
Zach – Anna, I think it’s your turn.
Anna – Very well. My subject today is the great families of Virginia. I’ll start with King Carter. Robert “king” Carter was a very rich and powerful Virginian in the seventeenth century. He was called “King” because when he died he owned over 300,000 acres of land and was the wealthiest man in North America. He started a political and economic dynasty that would last centuries. Why, one cannot go about Virginia and throw a stick without hitting something with the name “Carver” on it. Remember Boudica’s town of Martin’s Hundred? Well, it became the plantation called “Carter’s Grove,” owned by the Carter clan. There were a few very powerful families in Virginia, the two most powerful being the Carter’s and the Lee’s. It was not a Dune-ish House Atreides and Harkkonen sort of relationship, it was fairly friendly and in fact, both houses intermarried and produced one of the greatest Virginians in history, General Robert E. Lee. The Lee’s had on their side, Richard Henry Lee who proposed Independence from Great Britain to Congress.
King Carter even served as acting Governor for a year. One can go through a list of great plantation houses in Virginia and will be staggered by how many were built by his family.

Robert “King” Carter. This guy was straight up Gangster when it came to power deals. He owned half of Virginia and basically shaped what Virginia became. This guy was the 1% by himself.

Another great family were the Talioferro’s. Legend says their family came from Gaul. One of their ancestors helped Caesar and for that he was rewarded with the grant that allowed him (a non Roman) to carry weapons. It’s legend, but at that time “Gaul” wasn’t just France, it was also norther Italy, including the area around Venice. It started with Bartholomew Talioferro who was a Venetian of some wealth. Due to the rather ridiculous marriage laws in Venice, he came to London to find a wife. He married a woman named Joan Lane and settled down. They had nine children. His grandson, Francis “the Immigrant” Talioferro immigrated to Virginia in 1647 and had at least 7 children.
Zach – Talioferros are my direct ancestors. In my family we always referred to Francis as “Francis “the Ranger” Talioferro, which I thinks sounds way more awesome.
Anna – Very well, I shall refer to him as such. The Talioferro’s grew prosperous and spread all over. Like the Carters and Lee’s you’ll find many old houses that had been built by the Talioferros. Their descendents include many actresses, musicians, football players, generals, actress Glen Close and John Talioferro Thompson, the inventor of the Thompson submachinegun.

Yes, the guy’s duel wielding tommy guns. They’re that cool.

Zach – Excellent work, Anna. Way to talk about famous rich people: your specialty.
Anna – Thank you.
Zach – Now its my turn. I’ll end with quotes by famous Virginians. We Virginians were pretty cool.
I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. – Thomas Jefferson.

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world. – Thomas Jefferson.

I have been up to see the Congress and they do not seem to be able to do anything except to eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving. – Robert E. Lee

I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself. – Robert E. Lee

And here’s a list of famous people from Virginia…just to brag.
Richard Arlen actor, Charlottesville
Arthur Ashe tennis player, Richmond
Pearl Bailey singer, Newport News
Russell Baker columnist, Loudoun Cty
Warren Beatty actor, Richmond
George Bingham painter, Augusta Cty
Richard E. Byrd polar explorer, Winchester
Willa Cather author, Winchester
Roy Clark country music artist, Meaherrin
William Clark explorer, Caroline Cty
Henry Clay statesman, Hanover Cty
Joseph Cotten actor, Petersburg
Ella Fitzgerald jazz singer, Newport News
William H. Harrison U.S. president, Charles City County
Patrick Henry statesman, Hanover Cty
Sam Houston political leader, Rockbridge Cty
Thomas Jefferson U.S. president, Shadwell
Robert E. Lee Confederate general, Stratford
Meriwether Lewis explorer, Ambemarle Cty
Shirley MacLaine actress, Richmond
James Madison U.S. president, Port Conway
John Marshall jurist, Germantown
Cyrus Hall McCormick inventor, Rockbridge Cty
James Monroe U.S. president, Westmoreland
Opechancanough Powhatan leader
John Payne actor, Roanoke
Walter Reed army surgeon, Gloucester Cty
Matthew Ridgway Army Chief of Staff, Fort Monroe
Bill Bojangles Robinson dancer, Richmond
George C. Scott actor, Wise
Sam Snead golfer, Hot Springs
James Jeb Stuart Confederate army officer, Patrick Cty
Thomas Sumter General, Hanover Cty
Zachary Taylor U.S. president, Orange Cty
Nat Turner leader of slave uprising, Southhampton Cty
John Tyler U.S. president, Charles City
Booker T. Washington educator, Franklin Cty
George Washington first U.S. president, Westmoreland
James E. West inventor, Prince Edward Cty
Woodrow Wilson U.S. president, Staunton
Tom Wolfe journalist, Richmond

 

AND WATCH THIS IF YOU REALLY WANT TO LEARN ABOUT THE LEE FAMILY OF VIRGINIA

Could the Germans have won the Battle of Kursk?

Zach – Today we’re tackling a popular topic of WWII history: could the Germans have won the battle of Kursk? With us we have my co-host, Anna Komemne: Byzantine princess and historian. Then we have Lord Cornwallis, commander of British forces during the American Revolution. Next we Mulan, woman warrior of ancient China. And last and least, we have Gaspar Correia, Conquistador and winner of “Most unreliable Historian” contest.
(Door opens and Olga of Kiev bursts in.)
Olga – Have you started? I not late, no?
Zach – Umm…no, you’re not late.
Olga – Very good! Olga no miss talk about Mother Russia!
(Olga sits down next to an uncomfortable looking Cornwallis and a smiling Gaspar. )
Gaspar – We ordered some Thai food.
Olga – What is this so called, Thai? I want borsht!
Mulan – Just see if you like it first.
Olga – I will taste this “Thai” food and then throw it on ground and demand real food.
Anna – Let’s remember our manners, please.
Zach – Anyways…today’s topic is the Battle of Kursk, the largest clash of armored vehicles featuring two of the largest armies every deployed in history. One of them wins title of the largest. I’ll give you a hint, Olga really likes them and they drink a lot of vodka. So we have a titanic battle of 780,000 men, 9,900 artillery guns and 2,928 tanks on the German side: versus, 1,920,000 Russians, 25,000 big guns and their 5,128 tanks. It was a gigantic battle as you can see and stretched over hundreds of miles.
Anna – Let’s give a little backstory, shall we?

Photo of WWII by Gaspar Correia.


Cornwallis – Let us begin with the previous winter of 1942. The Russians had lured the Germans into Stalingrad where they could surround and destroy an entire German army. The German command refused to surrender Stalingrad and let their forces be decimated. At that time the Russian army lacked leadership with any experience or knowledge of how to wage war due to Stalin having killed all his generals out of paranoia. I must say that killing all of one’s experienced generals before a battle is a poor tactic and I do not recommend it.
Olga – I’m sure they deserved to die. Besides, we won, dah?
Cornwallis – Yes, you won at Stalingrad only because the Germans could not be resupplied sufficiently.
Olga – That’s their dumb fault.
Mulan – Let me say something about the soldiers. The German soldiers were all veterans of the western and African campaigns. Their leaders were Prussians with centuries of military experience. The Russian troops were conscripted peasants that deserted in the thousands. Many Russians viewed the Germans as liberators due to the harsh and murderous regime of the Soviet Union. Only when the Germans proved worse than the Russians did the mass desertion end and the people began to fight back. At Stalingrad they charged in mass formations with only one of every other soldier having a rifle. Then the winter came and both armies stayed put to lick their wounds and get ready for the spring offensive. The Germans will find a very different Soviet army waiting for them.

Good old Russian propaganda.


Gaspar – Very true. The Russian army had spent their time wisely. They produced hundreds of T-34′s and other tanks and ramped up their industrial capabilities.
Zach – Oh, good. For a second I thought he’d make up something about…
Gaspar – And they also put into service their prototype Mechs, the Lenin Mk III and Mk IV. The legged war machines were capable of massive destruction.

See? I even have pictures to prove it!


Zach – Well, the Russians did make many improvements. They, for example, realized that tactics and strategy might work over simply running at the enemy. In fact, they became quite clever. They knew the Germans would renew their offensive in the spring and they began to prepare an ambush on a strategic scale. They knew the German plans would be to cut off the bulge in the Russian line at Kursk.

They would move two armies in behind and cut the Russian army off while two other armies moved in from the front.


Olga – Russians no fall for that! Russians say “hey! Let Fascists come to us and we build ditches for tanks and plant lots of land mines like flowers.”
Zach – Correct, Olga. They prepared massive defensive positions in a checkerboard pattern. Each one was a tank’s nightmare. The land around Kursk was open steppe and perfect for fast, armored warfare. The Russians knew that if the Germans were good at one thing, it was blitzkrieging with lots of tanks. So the Russians made their plans to cancel the Germans’ advantage. And they disguised their strong points with camouflage and made their weak points look strong. This was to trick the Germans into attacking the strongest Russian positions… which they did.
Anna – Russians can be quite sneaky when they’re not busting a bottle of vodka over your head.
Olga – Dah! Is why I had all you rooms bugged! (awkward silence.) Just kidding.
Mulan – Now, I know that this battle is famous for its tank battles, but let me remind you that it was the humble infantryman that won the day. The Russians had over a million soldiers. A few hundred tanks were not the deciding factor.
Cornwallis – Agreed, lady Mulan. But let me also add that the battle was won because of logistics, a topic we’ve discussed previously. The German tanks were arguably superior, but they were difficult to produce and harder to maintain. The Russian tanks were built much faster and simpler to repair. Also, when ….oh, dear me….the German high command, (Don’t want to use the “H” word, now do we?,) decided to invade Russia, the Russians were supplying almost 2/3 of their oil. Without that oil from the Russians the Germans were on a very tight schedule.
Zach – That’s right. The Germans had to attack and make a decisive victory. They had to blitzkried the Soviet army. The “German High Command” had prevented a blitzkrieg the previous year to disastrous effect. Now the Germans wanted to knock out the Russian army. In short, they had to attack or they’d run out of gas. So, they chose Kursk and threw everything they had at them. The Germans took troops that could be spared from every area of the war and delayed the attack so new weapons could be brought up. They were going big or going home.
Anna – There was a problem though. Blitzkrieg depends on tanks spearheading a weak and suspecting point in enemy defenses. The Russians were prepared and waiting to break that spear.
Olga – And Russians make Katyusha rockets! When Fascists throw away bad made artillery shells, Russians put then on rockets and launch them at enemy! We don’t waste like Germans.

Olga – This is Katyusha rocket. Very pretty, dah? Simple to make. Simple to use. Make big boom. I want one.


Mulan – The Germans were sending in their best Wehrmacht units and their elite Waffen SS units. This was the best of the German army going up against a newly reorganized Russian one. But with the delays in the offensive, the Russians had more than enough time to prepare for their unwanted guests. When the German surprise attack came, nobody was surprised except for maybe the Germans. They were surprised to find entire armies waiting for them with disciplined and trained troops and lots of heavy guns pointed at them. The only equality the two armies had were their air forces. At this point neither side had air superiority. The Germans called this entire offensive: Operation Citadel.
Zach – Fighting began on July 4th with aerial bombardments and artillery duels. Then the offensive began on July 5th. The Germans moved in under heavy rain, which I’m sure sucked. But more importantly, it slowed them down. The Russians then countered with the largest artillery barrage I’ve heard of. Over 3,000 cannons and mortars fired on the Germans and slowed and confused their offensive. This massive barrage expended half the entire Soviet supply of shells for the battle. The German armored divisions charged forward, right into a whole nest of mine fields and anti-tank ditches. The Russian artillery was already zeroed in on these sites and opened fire. The spear point wasn’t doing very well.
Mulan – I will point out another flaw in the German army. Many of their armored vehicles, especially their tank destroyers, were lacking secondary weapons: machine guns for anti infantry. It seems like a small problem. But it made a big difference when the Russian infantry swarmed a German tank and the tank had no way to fight them off.
Cornwallis – The Russians moved in with their tanks but suffered heavy casualties. Apparently the Germans were better at tank warfare. The Russians withdrew their tanks. A wise decision under the circumstances I believe.
Olga – Next few days was lots of combat. Back and forth, back and forth. Lots of tanks blowing each other up!
Zach – As losses began to mount, the Germans had a hard time replacing what they lost. They were great at recovering and repairing damaged tanks, but the Russians flooded their armies with new equipment. The Germans had fewer men and machines and couldn’t replace them as fast as the Russians. It was a simple math problem.
Anna – The German insistence on attacking only strong points didn’t help their side either.

A Tiger tank putting a hurt down on something. As you can see, there’s not a lot of cover around. The Russians had had months to prepare fighting positions to hide behind.


Cornwalis – The Panther tanks did not perform up to standard. Most spent more time in the repair shop than the battle field. That reminds me of this time I was fighting in New York and…
Gaspar – Food’s here!
(Gaspar charges out of room and comes back with armful of thai food in styrofoam boxes. He hands them out and passes out chopsticks. Olga takes bite.”
Olga – This is…how do you say? Interesting.
Gaspar – This stuff rocks. Love it. Where were we? Oh yes. The Germans, suffering heavy casualties, used forbidden dark arts to bring their soldiers back to life. The new zombie divisions took the center while the Waffen SS took the flanks.

Anna – Gaspar! That is simply not true!
Gapar – Prove it. I bought the food so I say its true.
Anna – That’s not how history works.
Gaspar – (shrugs and continues eating noddles.)


Zach – On July 12, yes, they’ve been fighting for many days now, the Germans gathered their armor for one massive push near the town of Prokhorovka. Here was a massive tank battle. There were more than just tanks, there were mobile cannons and tank killers as well.

Here’s a Tank Destroyer. Not a tank, but it has light armor and a big gun. Cheaper to make. This is a Jagdpanther, a German tank destroyer.


Zach – The Russian infantry and lighter tanks had to move in close to the German Tigers in order to hit them in the sides. Their front armor proved too hard to penetrate. So the fighting was close in and very nasty. But in the end, the Russians held and the Germans retreated.
Anna – Now here I must warn the reader, the losses on each side are highly debated and range from minimal to horrendous. But here’s what we as a collective panel believe: It seems that the German losses were much less than the Russians claimed but at the same time those losses were much harder to replace. The Russians took massive losses as the Germans showed that numerical superiority wasn’t enough to take them out. Stalin was furious so they quickly played the propaganda as a major German loss with hundreds and hundreds of German tanks destroyed.
Zach – Maybe the actual numbers don’t matter because what happened was that after this battle, the Germans retreated and retreated back towards Germany while the Red Army moved forward, exacting revenge the entire way. It was the turning point of the war.
Cornwallis – Indeed. The battle cost the Germans the war. But could they have won?
Mulan – Yes, if they had planned and orginized it in a completely different manner. If they attacked in the early spring they might have found an unprepared Red Army. As it was, they gave the Russians all the time they needed to prepare in terms of defense, logistics and training.
Olga – And they fought Russians on Russian soil. Not good idea. (grabs tray of Thai food from Anna and begins eating it. Anna opens her mouth but Olga pulls out a grenade. Anna backs down.)
Zach – As always, we encourage you to look it up and draw your own conclusions. Maybe we’re wrong. You’ll find a lot more stories from this massive battle. We simply couldn’t tell it all here. So, go find out for yourself.