While the name is now known mostly through the ill-fated submarine, the ship was named after a Soviet Pyrrhic victory at a tiny, unimportant village which became the site of the largest tank battle ever fought.

In 1943, after the German defeat at Stalingrad, the army drew back and again managed to stabilize a front line. Hitler was preparing for a massive attack, trying to regain the initiative, while the Russians, on the recommendation of Commander Zhukov, chose to defend. In all, the two sides massed some 7000 tanks along the front line.

After initial artillery barrages on the morning of July 5, the Germans, with 5 panzer, 3 infantry, and various SS divisions, broke through the first Russian lines, pushing the conflict to the tiny village of Kursk. The Russians, throwing in their reserves, and under mechanical limitations (the German panzer far out-ranged the Russian T-34/76, giving obvious tactical advantage), began to advance. Both sides charged.

The final battle was a horrible mesh of steel and flaming wreckage, quickly devolving into individual skirmishes spread out over 35 km, and ending in a Russian victory. Statistics say final German losses in this lone battle exceeded those of the United States during the entire Vietnam War. This was the battle which finally broke any last hope Germany might have had of taking the offensive, allowing the allies to push towards Berlin and win the war.