Lewis Lapham: Nazis Bombed Soviet Tanks Burning Men Alive

The fierce World War II battle of Kursk, beginning July 5, 1943, marked the end of Nazi offensive capacity on the Eastern Front.

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But it didn’t start out well for the Red Army as the Luftwaffe pounded Russian tanks. Pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel described his first attack, “Four tanks exploded under the hammer of my cannons; by the evening the total rises to 12.”

Extra fuel was carried on the rear deck, so a hit turned the vehicle into a flaming torch. After the war, one veteran wrote: “God forbid a living being from ever having to witness a wounded, writhing person who is burning alive, or ever have to experience the same.”

As a result, one unofficial badge of courage became the number of times a soldier had been on fire inside a tank.

I spoke with Dennis Showalter, author of “Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk,” on the following topics:

1. Nazis: Art of War.

2. Soviets: Science of War.

3. Regaining Momentum.

4. Role of Tanks.

5. Test of Will.

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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend and Greg Evans on movies.

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