Random thoughts: The Battle of Kursk began 69 years ago today

It really wasn’t that long ago. Why is the battle of Kursk worth remembering today?

As that impeccable source of history, Cracked, points out, it was big enough to qualify as a war in itself, and yet it was only one battle in a larger war.

Per Wikipedia, the Third Reich brought 780,900 men, 2928 tanks, 9966 guns and mortars, and 2110 aircraft to bear on the Soviet defensive line, which was some 150 miles long and 95 miles deep. The Russians met them with 1,910,361 men, 5128 tanks, 25,013 guns and mortars and 2792 aircraft.

Fifty days later, over a million soldiers were dead, 6000 tanks and 5000 aircraft were destroyed. But the Russians had become the first military to ever stop a blitzkrieg. It was a watershed on the Eastern Front.

There are some videos on the battle up at YouTube, but I’m not sure if any of them are original. I did find an essay on the myths and realities of the Battle of Kursk.

Here is a Vimeo excerpt from a BBC Time Watch production of “Kursk: The Mother of All Battles,” shared because of an image near the end of the clip where the sun shines on a bed of sunflowers while the battle is going on behind them.

It was a terrible thing, and it wasn’t that long ago though it seems like an ancient story, given the nuclear age that dawned soon afterwards. It is far away from the present globalized, plugged-in lifestyle that allows us to keep most unpleasant things at more than arm’s length, yet there is something in those clashing tanks and the inexorable movement of infantry through battle smoke that triggers a little klaxon of chaos in the heart.

Yes, it does. That’s something to be found in every human heart. We are devils as well as angels.

I have been around for 59 of the intervening years between that battle and the world today, and remember a society that valued kindness and love and the desire for peace when I was a child. The adults of the world then fostered such things, for they were survivors of war and economic depression.

It seems to me things have decayed since then, even during the surprisingly long hiatus between major wars that the threat of nuclear holocaust has brought about. The politics of destruction is a thing now, for instance. We fear so much, sometimes with cause, sometimes unreasonably.

In sum, we have a kind of peace, but it often is not a very happy experience.

Perhaps it is good to remember this anniversary of the Battle of Kursk just to remind ourselves how much goodness we do have. The world can be so much worse than it is today.

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