5th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
The 5th Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Soviet Union's Red Army, formed twice. The division was formed in 1918 as the 2nd Penza Infantry Division. After becoming the 5th Rifle Division a month it fought in the Counteroffensive of Eastern Front in spring 1919 and operations in Siberia. In the spring of 1920, the division was relocated west and fought in the Polish–Soviet War, participating in the Battle of Warsaw; the division was awarded the Honorary Revolutionary Red Banner for its actions during the wars in 1929. In September 1939, it fought in the Soviet invasion of Poland and was sent to Lithuania under the Soviet–Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Treaty. After Operation Barbarossa, the division fought in the Baltic Operation and the Leningrad Strategic Defensive. During the winter of 1941-1942, it participated in the Battle of Moscow, fighting in the Kalinin area. During the summer of 1942, the division fought in the Rzhev-Vyazma Offensive and became the 44th Guards Rifle Division for its actions there on 5 October.
Just more than a week the 5th Rifle Division was reformed from a rifle brigade in the Moscow Military District. In February 1943, the division fought in offensives in the Tver areas. In July, it fought in Operation Kutuzov and was awarded the honorific "Orel" after it captured the city on 4 August. Between September and October, it fought in the Bryansk Offensive, it continued to advance and participated in the Gomel-Rechitsa Offensive and reached the Dnieper before it went on the defensive in early December. In February 1944, the division fought in the Rogachev-Zhlobin Offensive and was awarded the Order of the Red Banner for its actions. From June 1944, the division fought in Operation Bagration, It was awarded the Order of Suvorov 2nd class for breaking through German defenses on the Drut River, it the fought in the Minsk Belostock Offensive. For its capture of Vawkavysk on 14 July, the division received the Order of Kutuzov 2nd class; the division reached the Narew in August. From until November, it fought in the battle for the Narew bridgeheads.
In 1945, the division fought in the Berlin Offensive. It was awarded the Order of Lenin for its actions; the division was disbanded in June 1946. The division was formed in September 1918 as the 2nd Penza Infantry Division, it was renamed as the 5th Rifle Division, Vitebsk, and'in the name of the Czechoslovak Proletariat'. For successful operations during the Russian Civil War it was awarded the Honourable Revolutionary Red Banner in 1929. In August 1939 it was deployed to the Belorussian Special Military District. On September 17, 1939, the Division was assigned to the 4th Rifle Corps, Third Army of the Belorussian Front. On October 2, 1939, the Division was reassigned to the 10th Rifle Corps, Third Army of the Belorussian Front. In September–October 1939 it took part in the Soviet invasion of Poland. From October 1939 it was deployed in Lithuania according to the Soviet–Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Treaty. Since July 1940 it was stationed in the Baltic Military District. During the Second World War, the Division was part of the Eleventh Army, 27th Army, Soviet First Guards Army and 65th Army.
As of October 1, 1941, the Division was a part of the 31st Army of the Soviet Reserve Front. The Division participated in defensive fights on as part of the Soviet Western Front, in Moscow and at the Battle of Stalingrad, in fights for Donbass and clearing of Left-bank Ukraine, in the Gomel-Rechitsa, Mlawo-Elbing, East Pomerania and the Berlin offensive operations. For its service in battle the Division became the 44th Guards Rifle Division on October 5, 1942, it was awarded the honourable name "Baranovichskaya", the Order of Lenin and Order of Suvorov, 2nd degree. Twelve thousand of its soldiers were awarded awards and medals and 22 were named Heroes of the Soviet Union, it was stationed in Poland with the 105th Rifle Corps after the end of the war and disbanded in June 1946. Force Composition, October 1939 142nd Rifle Regiment 190th Rifle Regiment 336th Rifle Regiment 27th Light Artillery Regiment 174th Howitzer Regiment The 5th Rifle Division was reformed on 13 October 1942 from the 109th Rifle Brigade.
On 1 May 1945 it was part of 40th Rifle Corps, as part of 3rd Army. Both the corps and its three divisions, including the 5th Rifle, were withdrawn to Belorussia, 40th Rifle Corps headquarters and 5th Rifle Division were stationed at Vitebsk. There they were disbanded in June 1946. List of Soviet Union divisions 1917–1945 Feskov, V. I.. I.. A.. A.. Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской. Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306. 5th Rifles Reenacting group http://samsv.narod.ru/Div/Sd/sd005/default.html
Yartsevo, Smolensk Oblast
Yartsevo is a town and the administrative center of Yartsevsky District in Smolensk Oblast, located on the Vop River, 63 kilometers northeast of Smolensk, the administrative center of the oblast. Population: 47,848 , it was founded on the spot of a village of Yartsevo-Perevoz, known since 1859. It grew due to the construction of a cotton mill in 1873. On, a soap factory, a brickworks, a sawmill, a foundry were built in the area. Yartsevo was granted town status in 1926. Within the framework of administrative divisions, Yartsevo serves as the administrative center of Yartsevsky District; as an administrative division, it is, together with three rural localities, incorporated within Yartsevsky District as Yartsevskoye Urban Settlement. As a municipal division, this administrative unit has urban settlement status and is a part of Yartsevsky Municipal District. Aleksandr Gennadievich Kurosh — mathematician. Svetlana Shkolina — high jumper. How to pronounce Yartsevo https://www.pronouncenames.com/pronounce/Yartsevo Администрация Смоленской области.
Постановление №261 от 30 апреля 2008 г. «Об утверждении реестра административно-территориальных единиц и территориальных единиц Смоленской области», в ред. Постановления №464 от 27 июня 2014 г. «О внесении изменений в реестр административно-территориальных единиц и территориальных единиц Смоленской области». Опубликован: База данных "Консультант-плюс".. Смоленская областная Дума. Закон №139-з от 28 декабря 2004 г. «О наделении статусом муниципального района муниципального образования "Ярцевский район" Смоленской области, об установлении границ муниципальных образований, территории которых входят в его состав, и наделении их соответствующим статусом», в ред. Закона №51-з от 30 мая 2013 г. «О внесении изменений в отдельные областные Законы». Вступил в силу со дня официального опубликования. Опубликован: "Вестник Смоленской областной Думы и Администрации Смоленской области", №14, часть III, стр. 230, 30 декабря 2004 г
331st Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
The 331st Rifle Division was formed as an infantry division of the Red Army in the summer of 1941, based on a cadre of volunteer workers and reservists from the Bryansk Oblast, so was known from the beginning as the 331st Bryansk Proletarian Rifle Division. It fought to defend Moscow during the last stages of the German invasion, went over to the offensive in early December, it spent much of the next twelve months in the same general area, west of the capital, taking part in the futile battles against the German-held salient at Rzhev. On September 25, 1943, the division shared credit with several other units for the liberation of the city of Smolensk and was given its name as an honorific; the 331st had a distinguished career as a combat unit, ending its combat path in Czechoslovakia, advancing on Prague. The formation of the 331st Rifle Division began on August 27, 1941, in the Tambov Oblast of the Oryol Military District, under the command of Maj. Gen. Fyodor Petrovich Korol. Korol led the division until February 13, 1942.
It was based on the first wartime shtat for rifle divisions. Its order of battle was: 1104th Rifle Regiment 1106th Rifle Regiment 1108th Rifle Regiment 896th Artillery Regiment 253rd Antitank Battalion 298th Antiaircraft Battery 508th Mortar Battalion 394th Reconnaissance Company 509th Sapper Battalion 783rd Signal Battalion 417th Medical/Sanitation Battalion 410th Chemical Protection Company 397th Motor Transport Company 186th Field Bakery 756th Divisional Veterinary Hospital 1411th Field Postal Station 773rd Field Office of the State BankThe division was moved to the Moscow Military District in October where it was assigned to the newly-forming 26th Army, under the Reserve of the Supreme High Command; some elements of the division entered active service in a dramatic manner, by first marching through Red Square in the famous October Revolution anniversary parade on November 7 straight on to the front lines just 10–15 km away, being assigned to the 20th Army of the Western Front. The division played a vigorous role in the defense of Moscow.
Maj. Gen. Leonid Mikhailovich Sandalov, former chief of staff of the 20th Army, inspected the 1106th Rifle Regiment on its arrival in Moscow and noted, "The warmly clothed and adequately equipped sub-units of the regiment made a good impression." As November moved into December, the 331st, fighting in the area of the Moscow-Volga canal, stopped the enemy advance at Lobnia Station, 25 km from Moscow. On December 2, as one of the harbingers of the wider counter-offensive that started a few days the division took part in a strong counter-attack from the area of Khlebnikovo towards Krasnaia Poliana. Backed by tanks and artillery, the attack made limited gains, but on the 6th it merged with the general offensive, broke into the village with the help of 28th Rifle Brigade, secured it, took a German 210mm gun, used to shell Moscow, as a trophy. In the next two days the division and the brigade advanced 4.5 km further and penetrated the German defenses, but the lack of skis and armor support limited the planned advance of 30 km to only about 10 – 12 km.
By December 20 the division had liberated the town of Volokolamsk. Following this victory, 20th Army attempted to continue its advance, but had little success until, on December 23, the Army commander was ordered to concentrate on a narrow-front breakthrough near Volokolamsk station and to cease advancing on a broad front. By noon on January 2, 1942, the 331st had captured Khvorostinin, but failed to take Birkino with armor support; the latter was liberated on the 4th, by the next day the division was fighting on the outskirts of Posadinki with elements of German 35th Infantry Division. On January 7, 20th Army was ordered to regroup to carry on the offensive against increasing resistance; this group was ordered to "destroy the enemy in the area Zubovo - 137-km Station and by the end of the day reach the area Kuryanovo - Vysokovo." The attack was to be supported by a one-hour artillery preparation by a long-range artillery group. The regrouping was completed by January 9, although the 331st was still fighting for Posadinki over these two days.
The new offensive began at 1030 hours. On January 10; the forward edge of the German defense was crushed quickly, but only after persistent attacks. Beginning at 1400 the division, backed by 64th Rifle Brigade, waged an unsuccessful fight against two enemy battalions in a wooded stronghold east of Aksenovo. Over the next two days the Germans continued to hold out, while the 331st suffered significant losses until it took Aksenovo in the 13th; the next day German forces along the attack sector began falling back towards a defensive line near Gzhatsk. This withdrawal continued with tired Soviet forces in slow pursuit; the division, "which disposed of an insignificant number of troops", was held back along the line of the Ruza River. Gzhatsk would not be liberated until March, 1943; the 331st would remain in Western Front. In early 1942 it was transferred to the 5th Army, before returning to the 20th Army, where it remained until March, 1943. General Korol was succeeded by Col. Gavriil Antonovich Kutalev in February, by Col. Aleksandr Emelyanovich Kletz in March.
On April 10, Col. Pyotr Filippovich Berestov took command and he wo
220th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
The 220th Rifle Division was a Red Army motorized infantry division, re-organised shortly after the German invasion as a standard rifle division. The division distinguished itself in at least three battles, it was credited with the liberation of the cities of Orsha and Minsk in the first stages of the Destruction of Army Group Center. Shortly after it shared credit for the liberation of the city of Grodno; the division was first organized as the 220th Motorized Rifle Division beginning in April, 1941 in the area of Smolensk. It was commanded by Major General N. G. Khoruzhenko and consisted of: 653rd Motorized Rifle Regiment 673rd Motorized Rifle Regiment 137th Tank Regiment 660th Artillery Regiment 295th Reconnaissance Battalion 381st Sapper Battalion, it was part of the 23rd Mechanized Corps. When Operation Barbarossa began the 220th was in the early stages of forming up and was poorly equipped. Trucks and other motor vehicles were in short supply, the tank regiment had no tanks at all. For practical purposes the division was motorized in name only, within a month the decision was made to reform the 220th as a standard rifle division.
The division operated as part of the 23rd Mechanized Corps, itself part of 19th Army in June and July 1941, but by 1 August 1941, was shifted into 32nd Army, part of the Reserve Front. The division was in 32nd Army of Reserve Front, east of Smolensk, on July 21 when the reformation began, its order of battle became: 376th Rifle Regiment 653rd Rifle Regiment 673rd Rifle Regiment 660th Artillery Regiment 381st Sapper Battalion. In August the 220th was moved to 49th Army in Reserve Front. In early October the division, now in 31st Army, was surrounded north of Vyasma by German forces in Operation Typhoon. Remnants of the division were able to escape from encirclement to join 29th Army in Kalinin Front by Oct. 10. The 653rd Rifle Reg't. was least affected by these events, fought detached from the rest of the division in 22nd Army for most of the winter. In May, 1942, the 220th went into Kalinin Front reserves to be rebuilt; the division, now back in 31st Army, took part in the First Rzhev–Sychyovka Offensive Operation, fighting in the northeast outskirts of Rzhev itself in the late summer and autumn of 1942.
The 220th would remain in this Army for the duration, although it was attached to 68th Army in September, 1943. In a once-more weakened state the division held its positions on the left bank of the Volga through the winter. On Mar. 2 - 3, 1943 it joined in the liberation of Rzhev as the German Ninth Army withdrew from the salient. 31st Army pursued the German forces as best it could through the devastated territory and the spring rasputitsa, coming to a halt against a new German fortified line at the base of the former salient on Mar. 31. The new commander of the 220th, Col. V. A. Polevik, summarized, but the losses were significant." From April to early August the 220th rested and fortified its positions in anticipation of a German summer offensive. Following the German defeat at Kursk and Western Fronts prepared their own offensive through the Smolensk land bridge to liberate that city; the operation was a long, grinding affair against thick German defenses, the division contributed by helping to retake the towns of Spas-Demensk, Dukhovshchina and Dorogobuzh.
On Sept. 25, Smolensk was liberated. The slow advance continued by starts through the autumn and winter along the Dnepr River. At this time the division was part of 45th Rifle Corps. By March, 1944, the division was so worn down that each rifle regiment had only two rifle battalions, each battalion had only two rifle companies and a sub-machinegun platoon; this was just 40% of approved strength in infantry, but the 660th Artillery Reg't. was at full strength and was motorized with a mix of Lend-Lease and Soviet vehicles. During the final years of the war, the Red Army substituted firepower for manpower, many rifle divisions fought with these strengths; the 220th had its infantry component strengthened before the summer offensive. At the outset of this operation on June 22, 1944, the division was in 36th Rifle Corps of 31st Army in Gen. I. D. Chernyakovsky's 3rd Belorussian Front; the 220th soon distinguished itself by taking a leading role in the liberation of Orsha. By order of the Supreme High Command of 27 June 1944 and a commendation in Moscow, the troops who participated in the battles for the liberation of Orsha are given a salute of 20 artillery salvoes from 224 guns.""MINSK -...220th Rifle Division...
By order of the Supreme High Command of 3 July 1944 and a commendation in Moscow, the troops who participated in the battles for the liberation of Minsk are given a salute of 24 artillery salvoes from 324 guns." At the end of July the division participated in the liberation of Grodno, near the border with Poland, was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. For his leadership during the fighting near Grodno, political officer Captain Kirill Koshman of the 376th Rifle Regiment was named a Hero of the Soviet Union; the 220th continued advancing into northern Poland, East Prussia and Pomerania with its Front during late 1944 and early 1945, b
The Gumbinnen Operation known as the Goldap Operation, was a Soviet offensive on the Eastern Front late in 1944, in which forces of the 3rd Belorussian Front attempted to penetrate the borders of East Prussia. The offensive due to strong resistance by the Wehrmacht; as a result, it is known through German accounts of the defence and because of the atrocities that were committed by troops of the 11th Guards Army, the so-called Nemmersdorf massacre. The operation was planned as a result of the success of the Memel Offensive Operation to the north; the troops of the 1st Baltic and 3rd Belorussian Fronts had succeeded in pushing the Third Panzer Army back to the East Prussian border, surrounding the city of Memel and reaching the shore of the Curonian Lagoon. Stavka permitted Chernyakhovsky to further exploit this success by attacking along the Gumbinnen – Insterburg – Königsberg axis deep into East Prussia. Chernyakhovsky's plan involved using the 11th Guards and 5th Armies to break open the German defensive lines, before pushing through exploitation forces from the 2nd Guards Tank Corps and 28th Army.
The 31st and 39th Armies would advance on the flanks of the main force. The opposing German forces, from the Third Panzer and Fourth Armies, were aided by the presence of substantial fortifications, had been reinforced. Army Group Centre Southern flank of Third Panzer Army XXXX Panzer Corps IX Corps Northern flank of Fourth Army XXVII Corps XXXXI Panzer Corps Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring VI Corps 3rd Belorussian Front 11th Guards Army 5th Army 28th Army 39th Army 31st Army On 16 October, the 5th and 11th Guards Armies went onto the offensive and penetrated some 11 km into the German defensive belt; the flanking armies commenced operations the next day, by which time units of the 11th Guards Army had crossed the East Prussian border. The Soviet troops ran into strong resistance, however, it took them four days to penetrate the initial tactical defences, while the second defence line was so strong that Chernyakhovsky was compelled to commit the 2nd Guards Tank Corps to break it. Casualties were heavy.
On 20 October, the second line was ruptured by the 11th Guards Army and 2nd Guards Tank Corps east of Gumbinnen, defended by the guns of the 18th Anti-Aircraft Division and the Fallschirm-Panzerdivizion Hermann Göring, redeployed in the area to counter the Soviet advance. On 21 October, the Soviets' reserve, the 28th Army, was committed, but the offensive in the north was fought to a standstill in the region of Ebenrode thanks to some effective German counter-attacks. Gumbinnen was taken by 22 October, but retaken by German forces on the 24 October, after the Germans committed the 5th Panzer Division, Heavy Panzer Detachment 505. Units of 11th Guards Army found themselves cut off in the area of Großwaltersdorf, were involved in intense fighting. In the meantime, the Germans had pressed more reserves, including the 102nd Panzer and Führer Grenadier Brigades into counter-attacks at Goldap, on the southern sector of the Soviet penetration; the town was retaken on 25 October. The Soviet attacks continued until 27 October, as the flanking armies sought to close up to the 11th Guards Army.
There was more fighting in the operation's immediate aftermath: on 28 October, the 31st Army retook Gołdap in a surprise attack. East Prussian Offensive, in which the Front renewed its attack into East Prussia the following January, this time successfully. General Horst Großmann, commander of the German VI Corps, co-authored Der Kampf um Ostpreußen, which deals with the actions in some detail from the German perspective. Dieckert, K. and Großmann, H. Der Kampf um Ostpreußen, Gräfe und Unzer Verlag, München, 1960 Frieser, Karl-Heinz. Die Ostfront 1943/44 – Der Krieg im Osten und an den Nebenfronten. Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. VIII. München: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. ISBN 978-3-421-06235-2. Glantz, D; the Failures of Historiography: Forgotten Battles of the Soviet-German War, https://web.archive.org/web/20161216063344/http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/failures.htm
Ostashkov is a town and the administrative center of Ostashkovsky District in Tver Oblast, Russia, on a peninsula at the southern shore of Lake Seliger, 199 kilometers west of Tver, the administrative center of the oblast. Population: 18,088 ; the island of Klichen was first mentioned in a letter sent by Grand Duke Algirdas of Lithuania to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in 1371. After the island was pillaged by Novgorod pirates several years two of Klichen's surviving inhabitants and Timofey, moved to the mainland, where they founded the villages Ostashkovo and Timofeyevo, respectively; the former belonged to the Moscow Patriarchs, the latter—to the Joseph-Volokolamsk Monastery. In 1770, both villages were merged into the town of Ostashkov. Ostashkov is regarded as one of the finest Russian provincial towns, its main streets were laid out in Neoclassical style after the plans of Ivan Starov. Local landmarks include the Ascension Church, the Trinity Cathedral, the Monastery of the Sign, the mid-18th century Zhitny Cloister.
There is a fanciful column erected by people of Ostashkov in 1787 to mark a spot where a wooden fort used to stand. The town's pleasant architecture and attractive setting by the lake combine to make Ostashkov one of the most popular resorts in Western Russia; the well-known Nilov Monastery is on Stolobny Island, about 10 kilometers north from Ostashkov. It was the place where the Ostashkov Special Camp of the NKVD was and where 6,300 Polish policemen and prisoners of war were kept before they were executed in Tver. 4,300 of their comrades, held in Kozelsk, were around this time executed in Smolensk Oblast, in what is now known as the Katyn massacre. In 1772, Ostashkov was granted town status, Ostashkovsky Uyezd of Novgorod Governorate was established, with the seat in Ostashkov. In 1775, Tver Viceroyalty was formed from the lands which belonged to Moscow and Novgorod Governorates, the area was transferred to Tver Viceroyalty, which in 1796 was transformed to Tver Governorate. On 1 October 1929, governorates and uyezds were abolished, Ostashkovsky District with the administrative center in Ostashkov was established.
It belonged to Velikiye Luki Okrug of Western Oblast. On August 1, 1930 the okrugs were abolished, the districts were subordinated directly to the oblast. On January 29, 1935 Kalinin Oblast was established, Ostashkovsky District was transferred to Kalinin Oblast. In February 1963, during the abortive administrative reform by Nikita Khrushchev and Penovsky Districts were merged into Ostashkovsky District. During World War II, Ostashkov was not occupied by German troops but until 1943 stayed in the immediate vicinity of the front lines. Soviet flotilla on the lake Seliger was involved in evacuation of Leningrad and Kalinin industrial equipment, military supplies and refugees. In the period 1939 to 1941, during the first years of World War II, the monastery at Stolobny Island, about 10 km north of Ostashkov, was a prisoner-of-war camp of the Russian secret service NKVD, which held 7,000 Poles, taken captive by the Soviet Union as a result of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Between April 3 and April 19, 1940, 6,311 Polish officers from the POW camp were executed by shooting as part of the Katyn massacre, buried near Mednoye.
On 25 September 1941 the frontline approached the town, local authorities ordered to evacuate all the industrial equipment from Ostashkov to Bely Gorodok. Only flotilla which were still involved in evacuation of the town, were left; the barges and ships were under constant bombings by Luftwaffe. On 7 Oktober 1941 colonel Belov ordered to evacuate the flotilla and workshops towards Kalinin but after the front near Rzhev collapsed, the flotilla returned from Selizharovo to lake Seliger and moved to Krapivnya river. After the Germans entered the Selizharovo village, all the barges were dispersed along the river and covered by trees and bushes. Crews were ready to destroy their barges with explosives; however Germans failed to capture the front line stabilized. Due to German occupation of Kalinin the only way to supply the troops near Ostashkov was lake Seliger waterway. Soviet lake flotilla command faced German bombardments in harsh winter conditions when the barges were blocked by ice. During spring 1942 flotilla faced the threat to be washed away by the floods.
However all the barges became ready to the 1942 navigation. As the northern lake shore was occupied, all the northern waterways were under shelling by German artillery; the new waterways across the Khrestnoye and Glubokoye lakes, which were not considered navigable earlier, were used for evacuation of the wounded and shipping the military supplies. During the German air raids steamers and barges were hiding near the islands. Wooden shores served as a shelter for the ships. Ostashkov workshop which remained in the town, repaired the damaged ships; as the Ostashkov tannery was evacuated to Kazakhstan the only industries remained in the town were: workshop, power plant, mechanized bakery and mill. All of them were mined in case of capturing them by Germans; the power plant was operated by several workers and it was bombed by Luftwaffe. It was lacked of fuel and power plant workers had to disassemble the wooden buildings inside the power plant territory and use them as a fuel. There were 63 hospitals in the city.
All of them were powered from the local power plant. Some of them were bombed by German aviation. All the evacuated factory buildings were used as a military warehouses. Food and military supplies were
East Prussian Offensive
The East Prussian Offensive was a strategic offensive by the Soviet Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. It lasted from 13 January to 25 April 1945; the Battle of Königsberg was a major part of the offensive. The East Prussian Offensive is known to German historians as the Second East Prussian Offensive; the First East Prussian Offensive, took place from 16–27 October 1944, was carried out by the 3rd Belorussian Front under General I. D. Chernyakhovsky as part of the Memel Offensive of the 1st Baltic Front; the Soviet forces took heavy casualties while penetrating 30–60 km into east-northern part of Poland, the offensive was postponed until greater reserves could be gathered. The main thrust of the offensive was to be conducted by the 3rd Belorussian Front under Ivan Chernyakhovsky, his forces were tasked with driving westwards towards Königsberg, against the defensive positions of the 3rd Panzer Army and 4th Army, the northern armies of General Georg-Hans Reinhardt's Army Group Centre.
From the north, on Chernyakhovsky's right flank, General Hovhannes Bagramyan's 1st Baltic Front would attack the positions of the 3rd Panzer Army on the Neman, as well as crushing its small bridgehead at Memel. Chernyakhovsky's left flank would be supported by the 2nd Belorussian Front of Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky, ordered to push north-west to the Vistula, through the lines of the 2nd Army, thereby sealing off the whole of East Prussia; the Soviet offensive began on 13 January with a heavy preparatory bombardment. At first, the Red Army made disappointing progress. Over the next five days, the Soviets managed to advance only a further 20 km, at the cost of high casualties. After two weeks of severe fighting, the Red Army began making steady progress, although again, this came at the price of high losses. Over the next few days, the 3rd Panzer Army of General Erhard Raus was destroyed or withdrew into Königsberg, while General Friedrich Hossbach′s 4th Army began to find itself outflanked.
Against fierce resistance, Rokossovsky attacked across the Narew on 14 January. This sudden change of direction caught Hossbach by surprise. On 24 January, Rokossovsky's leading tank units had reached the shore of the Vistula Lagoon, severing land communications with the rest of German armed forces for the entire 4th Army along with several divisions of the 2nd Army which were now trapped in a pocket centered on East Prussia. On the same day, Hossbach began to pull his units back from the fortified town of Lötzen—a center of the East Prussian defence system—and through a series of forced marches attempted to break out westward. In the meantime, Chernyakhovsky had succeeded in rolling up the defences from the East, pushing the remnants of the 3rd Panzer Army into Königsberg and Samland. On 28 January, Bagramyan's forces captured Memel. With the remnants of Army Group Centre contained, Soviet forces could concentrate on reducing the German forces in Pomerania and eliminating any possible threat to the northern flank of their eventual advance on Berlin.
Reinhardt and Hossbach—who had attempted to break out of East Prussia and save their troops—were relieved of command, the Army Group was placed under the command of General Lothar Rendulic. Reinhardt gave up his command with the words "There is nothing more to say". Raus and the staff of the destroyed 3rd Panzer Army were assigned to a new formation; the defending forces, in the meantime, were besieged in three pockets by Chernyakhovsky's armies: Some 15 divisions of the 4th Army had become encircled on the shore of the Vistula Lagoon in what became known as the Heiligenbeil Pocket. After bitter fighting, these units were overcome on 29 March; the remnants of 3rd Panzer Army—placed under 4th Army's command—became isolated in the Siege of Königsberg. The city was taken by the Soviets—after massive casualties on both sides—on 9 April. After this point the remaining German forces around the Bight of Danzig were reorganised into Armee Ostpreußen under the overall command of Dietrich von Saucken; the third group of German forces—the XXVIII Army Corps or Armeeabteilung Samland under General Hans Gollnick—occupied the Samland Peninsula, where the port of Pillau was retained as the last effective evacuation point for the area.
The last elements were cleared from Pillau on 25 April in the Samland Offensive. After this time, German forces continued to resist on the Vistula Spit, the long sandbar enclosing the Vistula Lagoon, until the end of the war. Evacuation of East Prussia Battle of Königsberg Prussian Nights Vistula–Oder Offensive Operation Hannibal, the evacuation effort by the Kriegsmarine East Pomeranian Offensive, the parallel Soviet offensives in Pomerania Strategic operations of the Red Army in World War II Beevor, Berlin: The Downfall 1945, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-670-88695-5 Duffy, Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-22829-8 Glantz, David M..