Battle of Smolensk (1941)
The First Battle of Smolensk was a battle during the second phase of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, in World War II. It was fought around the city of Smolensk between 10 July and 10 September 1941, about 400 km west of Moscow; the Wehrmacht had advanced 500 km into the USSR in the 18 days after the invasion on 22 June 1941. The German army encountered unexpected resistance during the battle, leading to a two-month delay in their advance on Moscow. Three Soviet armies were encircled and destroyed just to the south of Smolensk, though significant numbers from the 19th and 20th armies managed to escape the pocket; some historians have asserted that the losses of men and materiel incurred by the Wehrmacht during this drawn-out battle and the delay in the drive towards Moscow led to the defeat of the Wehrmacht by the Red Army in the Battle of Moscow of December 1941. On 22 June 1941, the Axis nations invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. At first, the campaign met with spectacular success, as the surprised Soviet troops were not able to offer coordinated resistance.
After three weeks of fighting, the Germans had reached the Dvina and Dnieper rivers and planned for a resumption of the offensive. The main attack aimed at Moscow, was carried out by Army Group Centre, its next target on the way to the Soviet capital was the town of Smolensk. The German plan called for the 2nd Panzer Group to cross the Dnieper, closing on Smolensk from the south, while the 3rd Panzer Group was to encircle the town from the north. After their initial defeats, the Red Army began to recover and took measures to ensure a more determined resistance and new defensive line was established around Smolensk. Stalin placed Field Marshal Semyon Timoshenko in command and transferred five armies out of the strategic reserve to Timoshenko; these armies had to conduct counter-offensives to blunt the German drive. The German high command was not aware of the Soviet build-up until they encountered them on the battlefield. Facing the Germans along the Dnieper and Dvina rivers were stretches of the Stalin Line fortifications.
The defenders were the 13th Army of the Western Front and the 20th Army, 21st Army and the 22nd Army of the Soviet Supreme Command Reserve. The 19th Army, was forming up at Vitebsk. In Soviet histories, the battles around Smolensk are divided into phases and operations to halt the German offensive and the pincers Battle of Smolensk Smolensk Defensive Operation Smolensk Offensive Operation Rogechev-Zhlobin Offensive Operation Gomel-Trubchevsk Defensive Operation Dukhovschina Offensive Operation Yelnia Offensive Operation Roslavl-Novozybkov Offensive Operation Prior to the German attack, the Soviets launched a counter-offensive; the result was a disaster, as the offensive ran directly into the anti-tank defenses of the German 7th Panzer Division and the two Soviet mechanized corps were wiped out. On 10 July, Guderian's 2nd Panzer Group began a surprise attack over the Dnieper, his forces overran the weak 13th Army and by 13 July, Guderian had passed Mogilev, trapping several Soviet divisions.
His spearhead unit, the 29th Motorised Division, was within 18 km of Smolensk. The 3rd Panzer Group had attacked, with the 20th Panzer Division establishing a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Dvina river, threatening Vitebsk; as both German panzer groups drove east, the 16th, 19th and 20th armies faced the prospect of encirclement around Smolensk. From 11 July, the Soviets tried a series of concerted counter-attacks; the Soviet 19th Army and 20th Army struck at Vitebsk, while the 21st and the remnants of the 3rd Army attacked against the southern flank of 2nd Panzer Group near Bobruisk. Several other Soviet armies attempted to counter-attack in the sectors of the German Army Group North and Army Group South; this effort was part of an attempt to implement the Soviet prewar general defense plan. The Soviet attacks managed to slow the Germans but the results were so marginal that the Germans noticed them as a large coordinated defensive effort and the German offensive continued. Hoth's 3rd Panzer Group drove north and east, parallel to Guderian's forces, taking Polotsk and Vitebsk.
The 7th Panzer Division and 20th Panzer Division reached the area east of Smolensk at Yartsevo on July 15. At the same time, the 29th Motorized Division, supported by the 17th Panzer Division broke into Smolensk, captured the city except for the suburbs and began a week of house-to-house fighting against counter-attacks by the 16th Army. Guderian expected that the offensive would continue towards Moscow as its main focus and sent the 10th Panzer Division to the Desna River to establish a bridgehead on the east bank at Yelnya and cleared that as well by the 20th; this advanced bridgehead became the center of the Yelnya Offensive, one of the first big coordinated Soviet counter-offensives of the war. This objective was 50 km south of the Dnepr and well clear of the objective of liquidating the armies trapped at Smolensk. Under Fuhrer Directive 33 issued on July 14, the main effort of the Wehrmacht was re-orientated away from Moscow
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
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
Battle of the Kerch Peninsula
The Battle of the Kerch Peninsula, which commenced with the Soviet Kerch-Feodosia landing operation and ended with the German Operation Bustard Hunt, was a World War II battle between Erich von Manstein's German and Romanian 11th Army and the Soviet Crimean Front forces in the Kerch Peninsula, in the eastern part of the Crimea. It began on 26 December 1941 with an amphibious landing operation by two Soviet armies intended to break the Siege of Sevastopol. Axis forces first contained the Soviet beachhead throughout the winter and interdicted its naval supply lines through aerial bombing. From January through April, the Crimean Front launched repeated offensives against the 11th Army, all of which failed with heavy losses; the Red Army lost 352,000 men in the attacks. Superior German artillery firepower was responsible for the Soviet debacle. On 8 May 1942, the Axis struck with great force in a major counteroffensive codenamed Trappenjagd which concluded by around 19 May 1942 with the liquidation of the Soviet defending forces.
Manstein used a large concentration of airpower armed infantry divisions, concentrated artillery bombardments and amphibious assaults to break through the Soviet front in its southern portion in 210 minutes, swing north with the 22nd Panzer Division to encircle the Soviet 51st Army on 10 May and annihilate it on 11 May. The remnants of the 44th and 47th Armies were pursued to Kerch, where the last pockets of organized Soviet resistance were eradicated through German aerial and artillery firepower by 19 May; the decisive element in the German victory was the campaign of airstrikes against the Crimean Front by Wolfram von Richthofen's 800 aircraft-strong VIII. Fliegerkorps, which flew an average of 1,500 sorties per day in support of Trappenjagd and attacked Soviet field positions, armored units, troop columns, evacuation ships and supply lines. German bombers used up to 6,000 canisters of SD-2 anti-personnel cluster munitions to kill masses of fleeing Soviet infantrymen. Manstein's outnumbered 11th Army suffered 7,588 casualties, while the Crimean Front lost 176,566 men, 258 tanks, 1,133 artillery pieces and 315 aircraft in three armies comprising twenty-one divisions.
Total Soviet casualties during the five month-long battle amounted to 570,000 men, while Axis losses were 38,000. Trappenjagd was one of the battles preceding the German summer offensive, its successful conclusion allowed the Axis to concentrate their forces on Sevastopol, conquered within six weeks. The Kerch Peninsula was used a launching pad by German forces to cross the Kerch Strait on 2 September 1942 during Operation Blücher II, a part of the German drive to capture the Caucasus oilfields. On 8 December 1941, the Soviet supreme command, ordered General-Lieutenant Dmitry Timofeyevich Kozlov's Transcaucasian Front to begin planning for a major operation to cross the Kerch Strait and link up with the Soviet Separate Coastal Army holed up in Sevastopol, thereby liberating the Crimea from the Germans; the ambitious operation, the first major amphibious operation in Soviet history, was founded upon Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's belief in the German Wehrmacht's imminent collapse. The plan was drawn up by the Transcaucasian Front's chief of staff General-Major Fyodor Tolbukhin.
Tolbukhin's plan was too complicated for Soviet Navy's abilities. It was based on multiple small landings at separate locations at separate times instead of one large, simultaneous landing. Five transport groups from Rear-Admiral Sergey Gorshkov's Azov Flotilla would land 7,500 soldiers from the 224th Rifle Division and 302nd Mountain Rifle Division of the 51st Army on eight isolated beaches north and south of Kerch. After the Germans were distracted by this, the 44th Army would land at Feodosiya in the German rear. Naval gunfire support would be provided by the Black Sea Fleet; the Soviet Air Forces, would contribute air cover from the Taman Peninsula. The Soviets had the men and troop transports on hand but were compelled to use fishing trawlers for the actual landings due to the lack of landing craft, had little experience with large-scale joint operations and were impeded by the stormy winter weather. A German Messerschmitt Bf 110 reconnaissance aircraft noted the buildup of Soviet naval forces and reported it to Lieutenant General Hans Graf von Sponeck's XXXXII Army Corps headquarters.
Sponeck issued a general alert for enemy amphibious landings in the Kerch Peninsula. The mass of Sponeck's units had been transferred for the assault on Sevastopol and he had only the 46th Infantry Division under Lieutenant General Kurt Himer who had assumed his command on 17 December, two coastal artillery battalions equipped with obsolete World War I artillery pieces, a combat engineer regiment and a Luftwaffe anti-aircraft battalion; the 46th Infantry Division up to strength, was woefully overextended holding down the entire Kerch Peninsula against potential Soviet landings. Sponeck's only backup was the Romanian 8th Cavalry Brigade near Alushta. On the evening of 25 December 1941, the 224th Rifle Division and 83rd Naval Infantry Brigade were packed into small craft on the Taman Peninsula and began to pass the Kerch Strait. Group 2 disembarked at Cape Khroni to the northeast of Kerch, it consisted of the gunboat Don, the transports Krasny Flot and Pyenay, a tugboat, two motor barges that carried three T-26 light tanks and a few artillery pieces, 16 fishing trawlers.
Whaleboats were substituted for landing craft, resulting in tediously slow landings and the drowning of men and equipment. 697 men from the 2nd Battalion of the 160th Rifle Regiment landed at Cape
Case Blue was the German Armed Forces' name for its plan for the 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia between 28 June and 24 November 1942, during World War II. The operation was a continuation of the previous year's Operation Barbarossa, intended to knock the Soviet Union out of the war, it involved a two-pronged attack: one from the Axis right flank against the oil fields of Baku, known as Operation Edelweiss, one from the left flank in the direction of Stalingrad along the Volga River, known as Operation Fischreiher. Army Group South of the German Army was divided into Army Groups A and B. Army Group A was tasked with crossing the Caucasus mountains to reach the Baku oil fields, while Army Group B protected its flanks along the Volga. Supported by 2,035 Luftwaffe aircraft and 1,934 tanks and assault guns, the 1,370,287-man Army Group South attacked on 28 June, advancing 48 kilometers on the first day and brushing aside the 1,715,000 Red Army troops opposite, who falsely expected a German offensive on Moscow after Blau commenced.
The Soviet collapse in the south allowed the Germans to capture the western part of Voronezh on 6 July and reach and cross the Don river near Stalingrad on 26 July. Army Group B's approach toward Stalingrad slowed in late July and early August owing to constant counterattacks by newly deployed Red Army reserves and overstretched German supply lines; the Germans defeated the Soviets in the Battle of Kalach and the combat shifted to the city itself in late August. Nonstop Luftwaffe airstrikes, artillery fire and street-to-street combat destroyed the city and inflicted heavy casualties on the opposing forces. After three months of battle, the Germans controlled 90% of Stalingrad on 19 November. In the south, Army Group A captured Rostov on 23 July and swept south from the Don to the Caucasus, capturing the demolished oilfields at Maikop on 9 August and Elista on 13 August near the Caspian Sea coast. Heavy Soviet resistance and the long distances from Axis sources of supply reduced the Axis offensive to local advances only and prevented the Germans from completing their strategic objective of capturing the main Caucasus oilfield at Baku.
Luftwaffe bombers destroyed the oilfields at Grozny but attacks on Baku were prevented by the insufficient range of the German fighters. The possibility that the Germans would continue to the south and east, link up with Japanese forces in India, was of great concern to the Allies. However, the Red Army defeated the Germans at Stalingrad, following Operations Uranus and Little Saturn; this defeat forced the Axis to retreat from the Caucasus. Only the Kuban region remained tentatively occupied by Axis troops. On 22 June 1941 the Wehrmacht had launched Operation Barbarossa with the intention of defeating the Soviets in a Blitzkrieg lasting only months; the Axis offensive had met with initial success and the Red Army had suffered some major defeats before halting the Axis units just short of Moscow. Although the Germans had captured vast areas of land and important industrial centers, the Soviet Union remained in the war. In the winter of 1941–42 the Soviets struck back in a series of successful counteroffensives, pushing back the German threat to Moscow.
Despite these setbacks, Hitler wanted an offensive solution, for which he required the oil resources of the Caucasus. By February 1942 the German Army High Command had begun to develop plans for a follow-up campaign to the aborted Barbarossa offensive – with the Caucasus as its principal objective. On 5 April 1942, Hitler laid out the elements of the plan now known as "Case Blue" in Führer Directive No. 41. The directive stated the main goals of the 1942 summer campaign on Germany's Eastern Front: holding attacks for Army Group Centre, the capture of Leningrad and the link-up with Finland for AG North, the capture of the Caucasus region for Army Group South; the main focus was to be the capture of the Caucasus region. The Caucasus, a large, culturally diverse region traversed by its eponymous mountains, is bounded by the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east; the region north of the mountains was a production center for grain and heavy farm machinery, while its two main oilfields, at Maykop, near the Black Sea, Grozny, about halfway between the Black and the Caspian Seas, produced about 10 percent of all Soviet oil.
South of the mountains lay Transcaucasia, comprising Georgia and Armenia. This industrialized and densely populated area contained some of the largest oilfields in the world. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, was one of the richest, producing 80 percent of the Soviet Union's oil—about 24 million tons in 1942 alone; the Caucasus possessed plentiful coal and peat, as well as nonferrous and rare metals. Manganese deposits at Chiaturi, in Transcaucasia, formed the richest single source in the world, yielding 1.5 million tons of manganese ore annually, half of the Soviet Union's total production. The Kuban region of the Caucasus produced large amounts of wheat, sunflower seeds, sugar beets, all essential in the production of food; these resources were of immense importance to the German war effort. Of the three million tons of oil Germany consumed per year, 85 percent was imported from the United States and Iran; when war broke out in September 1939, the British naval blockade cut Germany off from the Americas and the Middle East, leaving the country reliant on oil-rich European countries such as Romania to supply the resource.
An indication of German reliance on Romania is evident from its oil consumption.
Operation Iskra was a Soviet military operation during World War II, designed to break the Wehrmacht's Siege of Leningrad. Planning for the operation began shortly after the failure of the Sinyavino Offensive; the German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad in late 1942 had weakened the German front. By January 1943, Soviet forces were planning or conducting offensive operations across the entire German-Soviet front in southern Russia, Iskra being the northern part of the wider Soviet 1942–1943 winter counter offensive; the operation was conducted by the Red Army's Leningrad Front, Volkhov Front, the Baltic Fleet from 12 to 30 January 1943 with the aim of creating a land connection to Leningrad. Soviet forces linked up on 18 January, by 22 January the front line was stabilised; the operation opened a land corridor 8–10 kilometres wide to the city. A railroad was swiftly built through the corridor which allowed more supplies to reach the city than the Road of Life across the frozen surface of Lake Ladoga reducing the possibility of the capture of the city and a German–Finnish linkup.
The success led to Operation Polyarnaya Zvezda less than two weeks which aimed to decisively defeat Army Group North, lifting the siege altogether. The operation was a failure. Soviet forces made several other attempts in 1943 to renew their offensive and lift the siege, but made only modest gains in each one; the corridor remained within range of German artillery, the siege was not lifted until a year on 27 January 1944. The Siege of Leningrad started in early autumn 1941. By 8 September 1941, German and Finnish forces had surrounded the city, cutting off all supply routes to Leningrad and its suburbs. However, the original drive on the city failed and the city was subjected to a siege. During 1942 several attempts were made to breach the blockade but all failed; the last such attempt was the Sinyavino Offensive. After the defeat of the Sinyavino Offensive, the front line returned to what it was before the offensive and again 16 kilometres separated Leonid Govorov's Leningrad Front in the city from Kirill Meretskov's Volkhov Front.
Despite the failures of earlier operations, lifting the siege of Leningrad was a high priority, so new offensive preparations began in November 1942. In December, the operation was approved by the Stavka and received the codename "Iskra"; the operation was due to begin in January 1943. By January 1943, conditions were improving for the Soviets; the German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad had weakened the German front. The Soviet forces were planning or conducting offensive operations across the entire front in southwestern Russia. Amidst these conditions, Operation Iskra was to become the first of several offensive operations aimed at inflicting a decisive defeat on Germany's Army Group North; the area south of Lake Ladoga is a forested area with many wetlands close to the lake. The forest shielded both sides from visual observation. Both factors hindered the mobility of artillery and vehicles in the area, providing a considerable advantage to the defending forces; the Sinyavino heights were a key location, with terrain 150 meters higher than the surrounding flat terrain.
Because the front line had changed little since the blockade was established, German forces had built an extensive network of interconnected trenches and obstacles, interlocking artillery and mortar fire. The Neva River was frozen, allowing infantry to cross; the Germans were well aware that breaking the blockade was important for the Soviet side. However, due to the reverse at Stalingrad and the Soviet offensive at Velikiye Luki to the south of Leningrad, Army Group North was ordered to go on the defensive and was stripped of many troops; the 11th Army, to lead the assault on Leningrad in September 1942, which had thwarted the last Soviet offensive, was transferred to Army Group Center in October. Nine other divisions were reassigned to other sectors. At the start of the Soviet offensive, the German 18th Army, led by Georg Lindemann consisted of 26 divisions spread across a 450 kilometres wide front; the army was stretched thin and as a result had no division-level reserves. Instead, each division had a tactical reserve of one or two battalions, the army reserves consisted of portions of the 96th Infantry Division and the 5th Mountain Division.
The 1st Air Fleet provided the air support for the army. Five divisions and part of another one were guarding the narrow corridor which separated the Soviet Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts; the corridor was only 16 kilometres wide and was called the "bottleneck". The German divisions were well fortified in this area, where the front line had been unchanged since September 1941, hoping to repel the Soviet offensive; the plan for Operation Iskra was approved in December. With the combined efforts of the Volkhov and Leningrad Fronts, defeat the enemy in the area of Lipka, Dubrovka and thus penetrate the Leningrad blockade. Finish the operation by the end of January 1943; this meant opening a 10 kilometres corridor to Leningrad. After that, the two fronts were to rest for 10 days and resume the offensive southward in further operations; the biggest difference from the earlier Sinyavino Offensive was the location of the main attack. In September 1942 the Soviet forces were attacking south of the town of Siniavino, which allowed them to encircle several German divisions, but left the army open to flanking attacks from the north, it was this which caused the offensive to fa
Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov was a Soviet military officer. He was the commander of the 62nd Army during the Battle of Stalingrad. Following World War II, Chuikov was Chief of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, commander of the Kiev Military District, Chief of the Soviet Armed Forces and Deputy Minister of Defense, head of the Soviet Civil Defense Forces. Chuikov was twice awarded the titles Hero of the Soviet Union and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the United States for his actions during the Battle of Stalingrad. In 1955, he was named a Marshal of the Soviet Union. Following his death in 1982, he was interred at the Stalingrad Memorial at the base of the Mamayev Hill, the site of heavy fighting. Born into a peasant family in the village of Serebryanye Prudy in the Tula region south of Moscow, Chuikov was the eighth of 12 children and the fifth of eight sons. At the age of 12, he left school and his family home to earn his living in a factory in Saint Petersburg, turning out spurs for cavalry officers.
Chuikov and all his brothers fought in the Russian Civil War. During the turmoil of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Chuikov became unemployed; the same year, an older brother arranged for Chuikov to be recruited into the Red Guards. The year after, in 1918, he joined the Red Army. In October 1918, Chuikov saw active service when he was sent to the Southern Front as a deputy company commander to fight against the White Army. In the spring of 1919, he became commander of the 40th Regiment, part of the 5th Army under Tukhachevsky facing the White Army under Kolchak in Siberia. Chuikov's record of service during the Civil War was distinguished. In the fighting from 1919 to 1920 he received two awards of the Order of the Red Banner for bravery and heroism, he was wounded four times—one, in Poland in 1920, left a fragment in his left arm that could not be operated on. It caused him to lose temporary use of his arm. Chuikov carried this war wound for the rest of his life, it led to septicaemia breaking out in 1981, causing a nine-month illness and his death.
He left his regiment in 1921 to continue his studies at the Frunze Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1925. On account of his excellent academic performance, Chuikov was invited to stay at the Frunze Military Academy for another year to study Chinese language and history in the Orient Studies Department. In the fall of 1926, Chuikov joined a Soviet diplomatic delegation that toured Harbin, Port Arthur, Dalian and Beijing, cities in northeastern and northern China. After completing his studies in the fall of 1927, Chuikov was dispatched to China as a military attaché. Chuikov traveled extensively in southern China and Sichuan, became fluent in Chinese, gained a deeper understanding of Chinese politics and culture. In 1929, during the China Eastern Railway Incident, Chuikov was forced to leave China after the Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on July 13. Chuikov was assigned to the newly-formed Special Red Banner Far Eastern Army in Khabarovsk and worked on military intelligence, reporting to Vasily Blyukher, the commander of the Far Eastern Army.
The Soviet Far Eastern Army defeated the Northeastern Army of Zhang Xueliang, Chuikov participated in negotiations that restored Soviet control of the China Eastern Railway. Chuikov commanded the 4th Army in the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, he commanded the 9th Army in the Russo-Finnish War of 1940. He was sent to China as an adviser to Chiang Kai-shek. In May 1942, the USSR recalled him. According to Chuikov's memoirs, his recall was due to Nationalist China claiming that the USSR was providing military aid as part of an attempt to draw the USSR into the Second Sino-Japanese War. On returning to Moscow, Chuikov was placed in command of the 64th Army, on the west bank of the Don River; the 64th Army took part in the fighting withdrawal to Stalingrad, shortly before the Battle of Stalingrad itself began, Chuikov was made commanding general of the more important weak 62nd Army, to hold Stalingrad itself, with the 64th on its southern flank. It was at Stalingrad that Chuikov developed the important tactic of "hugging the enemy", by which Soviet soldiers kept the German army so close to them as to minimize the airpower enjoyed by the Wehrmacht.
Chuikov had witnessed firsthand the blitzkrieg tactics the Wehrmacht had used to sweep across the Russian steppe, so he used the Germans' carpet-bombing of the city to draw panzer units into the rubble and chaos, where their progress was impeded. Here they could be destroyed with Molotov cocktails, Antitank Rifles, Soviet artillery operating at close range; this tactic rendered the German Luftwaffe ineffective, since Stuka dive-bombers could not attack Red Army positions without endangering their own forces. After the victory at Stalingrad, the 62nd Army was redesignated the Soviet 8th Guards Army. Chuikov commanded the 8th Guards as part of 1st Belorussian Front and led its advance through Poland heading the Soviet offensive which conquered Berlin while the Allied forces were wiping out what was left in Southern and Western Germany in April/May 1945. Chuikov's advance through Poland was characterized by massive advances across difficult terrain. On 1 May 1945, who commanded his army operating in central Berlin, was the first Allied officer to learn about Adolf Hitler's suicide, being informed by General Hans Krebs who had come to Chuikov's headquarters under a white flag.
He accepted the surrender of