Battle of Białystok–Minsk
The Battle of Białystok–Minsk was a German strategic operation conducted by the Wehrmacht's Army Group Centre under Field Marshal Fedor von Bock during the penetration of the Soviet border region in the opening stage of Operation Barbarossa, lasting from 22 June to 9 July 1941. The Army Group's 2nd Panzer Group under Colonel General Heinz Guderian and the 3rd Panzer Group under Colonel General Hermann Hoth decimated the Soviet frontier defenses, defeated all Soviet counter-attacks and encircled four Soviet Armies of the Red Army's Western Front near Bialystok and Minsk by 30 June; the majority of the Western Front was enclosed within, the pockets were liquidated by 9 July. The Red Army lost 417,729 men against Wehrmacht casualties of somewhat over 12,157; the Germans destroyed the Soviet Western Front in 18 days and advanced 460 kilometers into the Soviet Union, causing many to believe that the Germans had won the war against Soviet Union. Commanded by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, Army Group Centre was tasked with attacking from Poland through the Białystok – Minsk – Smolensk axis towards Moscow.
The Army Group included the 4th Armies. Its armored forces were Guderian's 2nd Panzer Group; the two infantry Armies fielded 33 divisions and the Panzer Armies fielded nine armored divisions, six motorized divisions and a cavalry division. Army Group Center could call upon Luftflotte 2 for air support. Facing Army Group Center was the Red Army's Western Front commanded by General of the Army Dmitry Pavlov, it included the 3rd, 4th, 10th Armies along the frontier. The 13th Army was held as part of the Stavka High Command Reserve and existed as a headquarters unit only, with no assigned forces. All together, the Soviet Western Front had 25 rifle and cavalry divisions, 13 tank and 7 motorized divisions; the Red Army disposition in Belarus was based on the idea of avoiding a war of attrition by engaging in an aggressive counterattack to any invasion, carrying the war into German-occupied Poland. The plan suffered from weakness along the flanks, created by circumstances such as the line of demarcation placement following the division of Poland in 1939.
The forward placement of both German and Soviet forces in a double-bulge position enabled both sides to try the double envelopment. However, it was the OKH that undertook it thanks to preempting hostilities, destroying much of the Red Air Force in the airfields while severing most of the Soviet Western Front's land forces from lines of communication with other Soviet fronts, they fell to a double envelopment, centred on Novogrudok. While the engagement was known as "The Battle of Białystok–Minsk", this is a slight misnomer. Western Front – Commander Army General Dmitry Pavlov, Chief of Staff General Vladimir Klimovskikh, Operations Officer General Ivan Boldin 3rd Army – Vasily Kuznetsov 4th Rifle Corps 11th Mechanized Corps 4th Army – Lieutenant General Alexander Korobkov 28th Rifle Corps 14th Mechanized Corps 10th Army – Konstantin Golubev 1st Rifle Corps 5th Rifle Corps 6th Cavalry Corps 6th Mechanized Corps 13th Mechanized Corps Second echelon 13th Army – Lieutenant General Pyotr Filatov 17th Mechanized Corps 20th Mechanized Corps 4th Airborne Corps Army Group Centre - Commander Generalfeldmarschall Fedor von Bock 3rd Panzer Group – Generaloberst Hermann Hoth XXXIX Army Corps – Generaloberst Rudolf Schmidt LVII Army Corps – General der Panzertruppen Adolf Kuntzen VI Army Corps – General der Pioniere Otto-Wilhelm Förster 9th Army – Generaloberst Adolf Strauss V Army Corps – Generaloberst Richard Ruoff VIII Army Corps – Generaloberst Walter Heitz XX Army Corps- General der Infanterie Friedrich Materna 4th Army – Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge VII Army Corps – General der Artillerie Wilhelm Fahrmbacher IX Army Corps – General der Infanterie Hermann Geyer XII Army Corps – General der Infanterie Walther Schroth XIII Army Corps – General der Infanterie Hans Felber XLIII Corps – Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici 2nd Panzer Group – Generaloberst Heinz Guderian XXIV Panzer Corps – General der Panzertruppen Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg XLVI Panzer Corps – General Heinrich von Viettinghoff-Scheel XLVII Panzer Corps- General der Panzertruppen Joachim Lemelsen 10th Infantry Division – Generalleutnant Friedrich-Wilhelm von Loeper 1st Cavalry Division – Generalleutnant Kurt Feldt Reserve: 2nd Army – Generaloberst Maximilian von Weichs XXXV Corps – General der Infanterie Rudolf Kaempfe XLII Corps – General der Pioniere Walter Kuntze LIII Army Corps – General der Infanterie Karl Weisenberger 286th Security Division – Generalleutnant Kurt Müller On 22 June 1941, the balance of tanks over the entire area of the Soviet Western Front was as follows.
The Red Army moved into Białystok. Beyond Białystok, Minsk was a key strategic railway junction and a defensive position of the main road and rail communications with Moscow. Caught in the German operation was part of the 11th Army of the Northwestern Front. In the north, 3rd Panzer Group attacked, cutting off the 11th Army from Western Front, crossed the Neman River; the 2nd Panzer Group crossed the Bug River and by 23 June, it had penetrated 60 km into Soviet territory. The Panzer Groups' objectives were to meet east of Minsk and prevent any Red Army withdrawal from the encirclement. Operating with the Panzer Groups to encircle the Soviet forces, the 9th Army and 4th Army cut into the salient, beginning to encircle Soviet Armies around Białystok. On 23 June, the Soviet 10th Army attempted a counter-attack in accordance with pre-war planning, but failed to achieve its goals. On 24 June, General Pavlov ordered his operations officer, General Boldin, to take charge of the 6th and 1
The Soviet Union the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were centralized; the country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Minsk, Alma-Ata, Novosibirsk, it spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, steppes and mountains; the Soviet Union had its roots in the 1917 October Revolution, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government which had replaced Tsar Nicholas II during World War I. In 1922, the Soviet Union was formed by a treaty which legalized the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian and Byelorussian republics that had occurred from 1918. Following Lenin's death in 1924 and a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin came to power in the mid-1920s.
Stalin committed the state's ideology to Marxism–Leninism and constructed a command economy which led to a period of rapid industrialization and collectivization. During his rule, political paranoia fermented and the Great Purge removed Stalin's opponents within and outside of the party via arbitrary arrests and persecutions of many people, resulting in at least 600,000 deaths. In 1933, a major famine struck the country. Before the start of World War II in 1939, the Soviets signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, agreeing to non-aggression with Nazi Germany, after which the USSR invaded Poland on 17 September 1939. In June 1941, Germany broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union, opening the largest and bloodiest theatre of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the highest proportion of the conflict in the effort of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad and Kursk; the territories overtaken by the Red Army became satellite states of the Soviet Union.
The post-war division of Europe into capitalist and communist halves would lead to increased tensions with the United States-led Western Bloc, known as the Cold War. Stalin died in 1953 and was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1956 denounced Stalin and began the de-Stalinization; the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred during Khrushchev's rule, among the many factors that led to his downfall in 1964. In the early 1970s, there was a brief détente of relations with the United States, but tensions resumed with the Soviet–Afghan War in 1979. In 1985, the last Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to reform and liberalize the economy through his policies of glasnost and perestroika, which caused political instability. In 1989, Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe overthrew their respective communist governments; as part of an attempt to prevent the country's dissolution due to rising nationalist and separatist movements, a referendum was held in March 1991, boycotted by some republics, that resulted in a majority of participating citizens voting in favor of preserving the union as a renewed federation.
Gorbachev's power was diminished after Russian President Boris Yeltsin's high-profile role in facing down a coup d'état attempted by Communist Party hardliners. In late 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met and formally dissolved the Soviet Union; the remaining 12 constituent republics emerged as independent post-Soviet states, with the Russian Federation—formerly the Russian SFSR—assuming the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and being recognized as the successor state. The Soviet Union was a powerhouse of many significant technological achievements and innovations of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite, the first humans in space and the first probe to land on another planet, Venus; the country had the largest standing military in the world. The Soviet Union was recognized as one of the five nuclear weapons states and possessed the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, it was a founding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Federation of Trade Unions and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact.
The word "Soviet" is derived from a Russian word сове́т meaning council, advice, harmony and all deriving from the proto-Slavic verbal stem of vět-iti, related to Slavic věst, English "wise", the root in "ad-vis-or", or the Dutch weten. The word sovietnik means "councillor". A number of organizations in Russian history were called "council". For example, in the Russian Empire the State Council, which functioned from 1810 to 1917, was referred to as a Council of Ministers after the revolt of 1905. During the Georgian Affair, Vladimir Lenin envisioned an expression of Great Russian ethnic chauvinism by Joseph Stalin and his supporters, calling for these nation-states to join Russia as semi-independent parts of a greater union, which he named as the Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia. Stalin resisted the proposal, but accepted it, although with Lenin's agreement changed the name of the newly proposed sta
The Continuation War was a conflict fought by Finland and Nazi Germany, as co-belligerents, against the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1944, during World War II. In Russian historiography, the war is called the Soviet–Finnish Front of the Great Patriotic War. Germany regarded its operations in the region as part of its overall war efforts on the Eastern Front and provided Finland with critical material support and military assistance; the Continuation War began 15 months after the end of the Winter War fought between Finland and the USSR. There have been a number of reasons proposed for the Finnish decision to invade, with regaining territory lost during the Winter War being regarded as the most common. Other justifications for the conflict included President Ryti's vision of a Greater Finland and Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim's desire to liberate Karelia. Plans for the attack were developed jointly between the Wehrmacht and a small faction of Finnish political and military leaders with the rest of the government remaining ignorant.
Despite the co-operation in this conflict, Finland never formally signed the Tripartite Pact that had established the Axis powers and justified its alliance with Germany as self-defence. In June 1941, with the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Finnish Defence Forces launched their offensive following Soviet airstrikes. By September 1941, Finland occupied East Karelia and reversed its post–Winter War concessions to the Soviet Union along the Karelian Isthmus and in Ladoga Karelia; the Finnish Army halted its offensive past the old border, around 30–32 km from the centre of Leningrad and participated in besieging the city by cutting its northern supply routes and digging in until 1944. In Lapland, joint German–Finnish forces failed to capture Murmansk or cut the Kirov Railway, a transit route for lend-lease equipment to the USSR; the conflict stabilised with only minor skirmishes until the tide of the war turned against the Germans and the Soviet Union's strategic Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive in June 1944.
The attack drove the Finns from most of the territories they had gained during the war, but the Finnish Army halted the offensive in August 1944. Hostilities between Finland and the USSR ended with a ceasefire, called on 5 September 1944, formalised by the signing of the Moscow Armistice on 19 September 1944. One of the conditions of this agreement was the expulsion, or disarming, of any German troops in Finnish territory, which led to the Lapland War between the former co-belligerents. World War II was concluded formally for Finland and the minor Axis powers with the signing of the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947; the treaties resulted in the restoration of borders per the 1940 Moscow Peace Treaty, the ceding of the municipality of Petsamo and the leasing of Porkkala Peninsula to the USSR. Furthermore, Finland was required to pay $300 million in war reparations to the USSR. 63,200 Finns and 23,200 Germans died or went missing during the war in addition to 158,000 and 60,400 wounded, respectively.
Estimates of dead or missing Soviets range from 250,000 to 305,000 while 575,000 have been estimated to have been wounded or fallen sick. On 23 August 1939, the Soviet Union and Germany signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, in which the two parties agreed to divide the independent countries of Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania into spheres of interest, with Finland falling within the Soviet sphere. Shortly after, Germany invaded Poland leading to the United Kingdom and France declaring war on Germany; the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland on 17 September. Moscow turned its attention to the Baltic states, demanding that they allow Soviet military bases to be established and troops stationed on their soil; the Baltic governments signed agreements in September and October. In October 1939, the Soviet Union attempted to negotiate with Finland to cede Finnish territory on the Karelian Isthmus and the islands of the Gulf of Finland, to establish a Soviet military base near the Finnish capital of Helsinki.
The Finnish government refused, the Red Army invaded Finland on 30 November 1939. The USSR was expelled from the League of Nations and was condemned by the international community for the illegal attack. Foreign support for Finland was promised, but little actual help materialised, except from Sweden; the Moscow Peace Treaty concluded the 105-day Winter War on 13 March 1940 and started the Interim Peace. By the terms of the treaty, Finland ceded 11 per cent of its national territory and 13 percent of its economic capacity to the Soviet Union; some 420,000 evacuees were resettled from the ceded territories. Finland retained its sovereignty. Prior to the war, Finnish foreign policy had been based on multilateral guarantees of support from the League of Nations and Nordic countries, but this policy was considered a failure. After the war, Finnish public opinion favored the reconquest of Finnish Karelia; the government declared national defence to be its first priority, military expenditure rose to nearly half of public spending.
Finland purchased and received donations of war materiel during and after the Winter War. Finnish leadership wanted to preserve the spirit of unanimity, felt throughout the country during the Winter War; the divisive White Guard tradition of the Finnish Civil War's 16 May victory-day celebration was therefore discontinued. The Soviet Union had received the Hanko Naval Base, on Finland's southern coast near the capital Helsinki, where it deployed over 30,000 Soviet military personnel. Relations between Finland and the Soviet Union remained strained after the signing of the one-sided peace treaty
Johannes Friessner was a German general in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves of Nazi Germany. Friessner enlisted in the German Army in 1911 and, after seeing extensive duty during World War I, served in the Reichswehr following the war. After his promotion to Generalmajor on 1 August 1940, during World War II, Friessner was assigned to the Eastern Front where, on 1 May 1942 and placed in command of the 102nd Infantry Division. Shortly after his promotion to Generalleutnant on 1 October 1942, Friessner served as commander of the XXIII Corps from 19 January to 11 December 1943. On 1 April 1943, he was promoted General der Infanterie. In February 1944, Friessner was transferred to the Northern Front and assigned command to Sponheimer Group. Promoted to Generaloberst on 1 July, Friessner held command of Army Group North until 25 July before being sent to the southern front to command Army Group South Ukraine.
Unable to halt the four month Soviet offensive by Marshal Rodion Malinovsky's Second Ukrainian Front, Friessner was relieved of his command on 22 December. Holding no further command for the remainder of the war, Friessner lived in retirement in Bayerisch Gmain until his death on 26 June 1971. In 1951, he was the chairman of the Verband deutscher Soldaten. During the early 1950s he was active in advising on the redevelopment of the West German army, the Bundeswehr. In 1956, Friessner wrote Verratene Schlachten, a memoir of his tour of command of the South Ukraine Army Group. Iron Cross 2nd Class & 1st Class Clasp to the Iron Cross 2nd Class & 1st Class German Cross in Gold on 9 June 1943 as General der Infanterie and commanding general of the XXXXI. Panzerkorps Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves Knight's Cross on 23 July 1943 as General der Infanterie and commanding general of the XXIII. Armeekorps 445th Oak Leaves 9 April 1944 as General der Infanterie and leader of the Army Detachment Narwa
Defense of Brest Fortress
The defence of Brest Fortress was the first major battle of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union launched on 22 June 1941. The battle took place from 22 to 29 June 1941; the defenders had received no warning of the attack, the German Heer expected to take Brest on the first day using only infantry and artillery. The defence of the fortress by the Red Army lasted for several days; the area around the nineteenth-century Brest Fortress was the site of the 1939 Battle of Brześć Litewski, when German forces captured it from Poland during the Polish September Campaign. According to the terms of the 1939 German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact the territory around Brest as well as 52 percent of Poland was assigned to the Soviet Union. In the summer of 1941, the Germans had to capture the fortress from the Soviets; the Germans planned to seize Brest and the Brest Fortress, in the path of Army Group Centre, during the first day of Operation Barbarossa. The fortress and the city controlled the crossings over the Bug River, as well as the Warsaw–Moscow railway and highway.
The Brest garrison comprised 9,000 Soviet soldiers, including regular soldiers, border guards and NKVD operatives. The Red Army soldiers belonged to elements of the 6th and 42nd Rifle Divisions, under Colonel Mikhail Popsuy-Shapko and Major-general Ivan Lazarenko the 17th Frontier Guards Detachment of the NKVD Border Troops and various smaller units inside the fortress. There were 300 families of the servicemen inside the fortress as well; the Austrian 45th Infantry Division had the task to take the fortress during the first day. For the first five minutes of the shelling it was supported by parts of the artillery of the 31st and 34th Infantry Divisions; the 45th Division had neither aircraft nor tanks at its disposal but was supported on 22 June by a battery of assault guns from 34th Division and on June 29, by some Ju 88 bombers that dropped 23 bombs. The fortress had no warning when the Axis invasion began on 22 June 1941 and it became the site of the first fighting between Soviet forces and the Wehrmacht.
The attack started with a 29-minute bombardment by Nebelwerfer. Many of the Soviet survivors of the fighting wrote after the war that the fortress was bombed by German aircraft. Due to the simultaneous artillery fire, tank support against the fortress made this not possible. Only two air raids took place on June 29, 1941 but only the East Fort on the northern island of the fortress was bombed by the Luftwaffe; the initial artillery fire took the fortress by surprise, inflicting heavy material and personnel casualties. The first German assault groups crossed the Bug river four minutes after the bombardment had started; some Soviet troops managed to escape the fortress but most were trapped inside by the encircling German forces. Despite having the advantage of surprise, the attempt by the Germans to take the fortress with infantry stalled with high losses: about 281 Wehrmacht soldiers died the first day in the fighting for the fortress. Fighting continued two more days. In the evening of June 24, 1941, some 368 Germans has been killed and 4,000–5,000 Red Army soldiers in captivity.
On June 25 and June 26, 1941, local fighting continued in the citadel. In the evening of June 26, 1941, most of the northern Kobrin fortification, except the East Fort, was captured. Of the fighting around East Fort, the commander of the 45th Infantry Division, Generalmajor Fritz Schlieper, wrote to Oberkommando der Wehrmacht It was impossible to advance here with only infantry at our disposal because the highly-organised rifle and machine-gun fire from the deep gun emplacements and horse-shoe-shaped yard cut down anyone who approached. There was only one solution - to force the Soviets to capitulate through thirst. We were ready to use any means available to exhaust them... Our offers to give themselves up were unsuccessful... Although the Soviet soldiers in the opening hours of the battle were stunned by the surprise attack, short of supplies and cut off from the outside world, many of them held out much longer than the Germans expected; the Germans used artillery, rocket mortars 15 cm Nebelwerfer 41 and flame throwers.
The civilians inside the fortress tended the wounded, reloaded the machine-gun drums and belts and took up rifles to help defend the fortress. Children brought ammunition and food supplies from half-destroyed supply depots, scavenged weapons and watched enemy movements. Schlieper wrote in his detailed report that...the 81st Combat Engineer Battalion was given the task of blowing up a building on the Central Island... in order to put an end to the Russian flanking fire on the North Island. Explosives were lowered from the roof of the building towards the windows the fuses were lit; when they exploded, we could hear the Soviet soldiers screaming and groaning, but they continued to fight. Chaplain Rudolf Gschöpf wrote, We only managed to take one defensive position after another as a result of stubborn fighting; the garrison of the so-called "Officers' House" on the Central Island only ceased to exist with the building itself... The resistance continued until the walls of the building were destroyed and razed to the ground by more powerful explosions.
On 24 June, with Germans having t
Arctic naval operations of World War II
The Arctic Circle defining the "midnight sun" encompasses the Atlantic Ocean from the northern edge of Iceland to the Bering Strait. The area is considered part of the Battle of the Atlantic or the European Theatre of World War II. Pre-war navigation focused on the international ore trade from Narvik and Petsamo. Soviet settlements along the coast and rivers of the Barents Sea and Kara Sea relied upon summer coastal shipping for supplies from railheads at Arkhangelsk and Murmansk; the Soviet Union extended the Northern Sea Route past the Taymyr Peninsula to the Bering Strait in 1935. The Winter War opened the northern flank of the eastern front of World War II. Arctic naval presence was dominated by the Soviet Northern Fleet of a few destroyers with larger numbers of submarines and torpedo cutters supported by icebreakers; the success of the German invasion of Norway provided the Kriegsmarine with naval bases from which capital ships might challenge units of the Royal Navy Home Fleet. Luftwaffe anti-shipping aircraft of Kampfgeschwader 26 and Kampfgeschwader 30 operated intermittently from Norwegian airfields, while routine reconnaissance was undertaken by Küstenfliegergruppen aircraft including Heinkel He 115s and Blohm & Voss BV 138s.
To support the Soviet Union against the German invasion, the Allies initiated a series of PQ and JW convoys bringing military supplies to the Soviet Union in formations of freighters screened by destroyers and minesweepers. Escorting cruisers maneuvered outside the formation, while a larger covering force including battleships and aircraft carriers steamed nearby to engage Kriegsmarine capital ships or raid their Norwegian bases; the Soviet Union and Germany employed smaller coastal convoys to maintain the flow of supplies to the Soviet arctic coast, transport strategic metal ores to Germany, sustain troops on both sides of the northern flank of the eastern front. Soviet convoys hugged the coast to avoid ice while German convoys used fjords to evade Royal Navy patrols. Both sides devoted continuing efforts to minelaying and minesweeping of these shallow, confined routes vulnerable to mine warfare and submarine ambushes. German convoys were screened by minesweepers and submarine chasers while Soviet convoys were protected by minesweeping trawlers and torpedo cutters.
A branch of the Pacific Route began carrying Lend-Lease goods through the Bering Strait to the Soviet Arctic coast in June 1942. The number of westbound cargo ship voyages along this route was 23 in 1942, 32 in 1943, 34 in 1944 and 31 after Germany surrendered in 1945. Total westbound tonnage through the Bering Strait was 452,393 in comparison to 3,964,231 tons of North American wartime goods sent across the Atlantic to Soviet Arctic ports. A large portion of the Arctic route tonnage was fuel for Siberian airfields on the Alaska-Siberia air route. 6 September 1939: Bremen was the first of 18 German merchant ships to take refuge in Murmansk after avoiding British naval patrols in the Atlantic. 30 November 1939: The Winter War offensive against Petsamo was supported by Soviet Northern Fleet destroyers Kuibishev, Karl Liebknecht and Grozny. April 1940: Operation Weserübung included an invasion of Narvik by troops embarked aboard ten Kriegsmarine destroyers. Covering battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau engaged HMS Renown.
4 May 1940: The Polish destroyer Grom was sunk off Narvik by a KG 100 bomber. 21 May 1940: HMS Effingham was scuttled after grounding on a shallow pinnacle off Narvik. 4 June 1940: Operation Alphabet troopships Monarch of Bermuda, Sobieski, Lancastria, Oronsay, Arandora Star, Royal Ulsterman, Ulster Prince, Ulster Monarch and Duchess of York began evacuation of 24,600 Allied soldiers from Narvik. 8 June 1940: With some of the longest range naval gunnery hits documented and Gneisenau sank the British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious and her escorting destroyers HMS Acasta and Ardent during Operation Juno. 9 July 1940: Raider Komet sailed north from Bergen and waited near Novaya Zemlya until 13 August 1940 for ice conditions to allow passage through the Matochkin Strait into the Kara Sea. Komet proceeded east with the assistance of three Soviet icebreakers to enter the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait on 5 September 1940. Soviet submarine Shch-423 made a similar trip from Murmansk to Vladivostok from 5 August to 17 October.
25 July 1940: Admiral Hipper sailed for a two-week Arctic patrol. 15 August 1940: Army transport USAT American Legion departed Petsamo for New York City carrying American nationals from Finland, Latvia, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. American Legion carried Princess Märtha of Sweden with her children, a Bofors 40 mm gun manufactured in Sweden which became the prototype for American manufacture of the primary United States Navy anti-aircraft gun of World War II. 25 August 1940: HMS Norfolk and HMAS Australia sailed for a five-day patrol to Bear Island. 16 October 1940: HMS Furious launched an airstrike against the Tromsø seaplane base. 4 March 1941: HMS Edinburgh and Nigeria covered the Operation Claymore raid on Lofoten. 11 April 1941: HNoMS Mansfield destroyed the Øksfjord fish oil factory. 7 May 1941: Destroyers HMS Somali, Eskimo and HMAS Nestor captured code documents aboard the German weather ship München near Jan Mayen while covered by cruisers HMS Edinburgh and Birmingham. HMS Nigeria made a similar capture of the weather ship Lauenburg on 28 June.
25 June 1941: The Soviet troopship Mossovet brought reinforcements to Titovka.
First Battle of Kharkov
The 1st Battle of Kharkov, so named by Wilhelm Keitel, was the 1941 battle for the city of Kharkov during the final phase of Operation Barbarossa between the German 6th Army of Army Group South and the Soviet Southwestern Front. The Soviet 38th Army was ordered to defend the city while its factories were dismantled for relocation farther east; the German 6th Army needed to take the city in order to close the widening gap to the German 17th Army. By 20 October the Germans had reached the western edge of the city, it was taken by the 57th Infantry Division by 24 October. At that time, most of Kharkov's industrial equipment had been evacuated or rendered useless by the Soviet authorities. In the autumn of 1941, Kharkov was considered one of the Soviets' most important strategic bases for railroad and airline connections, it not only connected the east-west and north-south parts of Ukraine, but several central regions of the USSR including the Crimea, the Caucasus, the Dnieper region, Donbas. Kharkov was one of the largest industrial centers of the Soviet Union.
One of its greatest contributions was the Soviet T-34 tank, both designed and developed at the Kharkov Tractor Factory. It was considered to be the most powerful tank plant in the country. Other factories that were located in the city included the Kharkov Aircraft Plant, Kharkov Plant of the NKVD, the Kharkov Turbine Plant. Military products that were in Kharkov before the battle started included: tanks, Su-2, artillery tractors, 82 mm mortars, sub-machine guns and other military equipment; the main objective for the German troops was to capture the railroad and military factories, thus they tried to keep the industrial area of Kharkov intact. Adolf Hitler himself stressed the importance of those military plants stating: "… The second in importance is south of Russia the Donets Basin, ranging from the Kharkov region. There is the whole basis of Russian economy, it was rated at 901,000 people on 1 May 1941. In September 1941 the population skyrocketed to 1.5 million people, due to numerous evacuees from other cities.
After multiple attacks and many deaths, the population of Kharkov decreased to 180 – 190,000, the size after the liberation of the city in August 1943. After the Battle of Kiev, Army Group Center was ordered to redeploy its forces for the attack on Moscow, so the 2nd Panzer Group turned north towards Bryansk and Kursk. Army Group South, in particular Walther von Reichenau's 6th Army and Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel's 17th Army took the place of the Panzer Divisions; the main offensive formation of Army Group South, Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist's 1st Panzer Group, was in the meantime ordered south for a drive to Rostov-on-Don and the Caucasian oilfields, following Führer Directive No. 35. The burden of processing Kiev's 600,000 prisoners of war fell upon the 6th and 17th Armies, so while the 1st Panzer Group secured the German victory in the Battle of Melitopol, these two armies spent the next three weeks regrouping. Meanwhile,'Stavka', needed to stabilize its southern flank and poured reinforcements into the area between Kursk and Rostov, at the expense of its forces in front of Moscow.
The Southwestern Front, destroyed during the battle of Kiev, was re-established under the command of Marshal Semyon Timoshenko, one of the more capable Red Army commanders. The 6th, 21st, 38th and 40th Armies were reconstituted from scratch. With the Battle of Moscow under way, the Germans had to protect their flanks, on 6 October von Reichenau advanced through Sumy and Okhtyrka in the direction of Belgorod and Kharkov. On the same day, the 17th Army commenced its offensive from Poltava towards Lozova and Izyum to protect the lengthening flank of the 1st Panzer Army; the Southwestern Front's 6th Army and 38th Army failed to conduct a coordinated defense and were beaten back. In the lead up to the Battle of Moscow, the Red Army suffered a catastrophic defeat at Vyazma and Bryansk, suffering 700,000 casualties; the few reserves available were needed to defend the Soviet capital, thus were unavailable to Timoshenko's reconstituted Southwestern Front. With no reserves to plug the breach, the Stavka was forced fall back to Voronezh in order prevent a total collapse of the southern flank.
Although the main objectives of the German Army before winter fell were to capture Leningrad and the approaches to the Caucasian oilfields, Kharkov was an important secondary objective. Besides the need to protect the flanks of its motorized spearheads, the OKH, the German Army high command saw the importance of Kharkov as an industrial center and railroad hub. Capturing the city meant that the Southwestern and Southern Front had to fall back on Voronezh and Stalingrad as their major transport hubs. When, in the second week of October, the rainy season of the Rasputitsa and the poor logistics in the area between the Dnepr and the front, caused the offensive to stall. Hitler allocated resources from the 17th Army to the 6th Army to ensure the capture of Kharkov. This, weakened the 17th Army's effort to protect the flank of the 1st Panzer Army and contributed to the German defeat at the Battle of Rostov. After 17 October, night frost improved the roads, but snow storms and the cold started to hamper the Germans, who