After the failure of German Operation Citadel at Kursk, the final drive to push the Germans out of the Soviet Union began. As part of the Belgorod-Kharkov Offensive Operation, the fourth Battle of Kharkov saw the Soviets make steady ground against the heavily outnumbered Germans to the south whilst nevertheless suffering huge tank and infantry losses. Eventually, despite Hitler’s orders, the trapped 8th Army retreated from Kharkov as the Soviet onslaught became too great, narrowly avoiding a repeat of the situation at Stalingrad. Operation Kutuzov was also in progress during the same time period, slightly to the north around Orël. Striking the weakened German forces which had recently been driven back after Operation Citadel, the advance on Orël was a quick success with Soviet forces managing to push the Germans all the way past their last, hastily prepared, line of defence. The northern half of the eastern front was still reasonably static.
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