Battle of Brody (1941)
The Battle of Brody was a tank battle fought between the 1st Panzer Group's III Army Corps and XLVIII Army Corps and five mechanized corps of the Soviet 5th Army and 6th Army in the triangle formed by the towns of Dubno and Brody between 23 and 30 June 1941. It is known in Soviet historiography as a part of the "border defensive battles". Although the Red Army formations inflicted heavy losses on the German forces, they were outmanoeuvred and suffered enormous losses in tanks. Poor Soviet logistics, German air supremacy as well as a total breakdown in Red Army command and control ensured victory for the Wehrmacht despite overwhelming Red Army numerical and technological superiority; this was one of the most intense armored engagements in the opening phase of Operation Barbarossa and recent scholarship considers it the largest tank battle of World War II, surpassing the more famous Battle of Prokhorovka. 1st Panzer Group, led by Generaloberst Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist, was ordered to secure the Bug River crossings and advance to Rovno and Korosten with the strategic objective of Kiev.
It deployed two corps forward and advanced between Lviv and Rovno in an attempt to cut the Lviv–Kiev railway line, thus driving a wedge along junction point between the Soviet 5th and 6th Armies. The Southwestern Front, under the command of General Mikhail Kirponos, had received incomplete intelligence on the size and direction of the German attack, they were surprised when Stavka ordered a general counter-attack under the title of "Directive No. 3" on the authority of Chief of General Staff Georgy Zhukov. Most of the headquarters staff were convinced that the strategy would be to remain in a defensive posture until the situation clarified. Hovhannes Baghramyan, a staff officer of the front headquarters who wrote the initial report to Moscow, said that "our first combat report to Moscow was full of generalities and unclear instructions." The general orders of Directive No. 3 read: While maintaining strong defense of the state border with Hungary, the 5th and 6th armies are to carry out concentric strikes in the direction of Lublin, utilizing at least five mechanized corps and aviation of the Front, in order to encircle and destroy the enemy group of forces advancing along the Vladimir-Volynski-Krystonopol front, by the end of June 24th to capture the vicinity of Lublin.
By the end of 22 June, Zhukov was on his way to the Southwestern Front headquarters at Ternopil along with Nikita Khrushchev, the former head of the Organizational Department of the Ukrainian Communist Party's Central Committee, to ensure these orders were carried out. Six Soviet mechanized corps, with over 2,500 tanks, were massed to take part in a concentric counter-attack through the flanks of Panzer Group 1; the intention was to attempt a pincer movement from the north and south that met west of Dubno in order to trap units of the 6th and 17th German Armies on the northern flank of Army Group South. To achieve this, the 8th Mechanized Corps was transferred from the command of the 26th Army, positioned to the south of the 6th Army, placed under the command of N. I. Muzychenko's 6th Army; this brought all the mobile assets of the Southwestern Front to bear against the base of von Kleist's thrust toward Kiev. The primary German infantry formation operating on this sector of the front, IV Army Corps of the 17th Army were advancing south-east with the objective of cutting Lviv-Kiev railway line.
At the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, German armor was composed of a mix of Czech and German tanks, as well as small numbers of captured French and British tanks. Furthermore, nearly 50% of the tanks deployed by the Wehrmacht were the obsolete Panzer I and Panzer II light tanks. Of the 4000 armored vehicles available to the Wehrmacht, only 1400 were the new Panzer III and Panzer IV. In the first few hours of the invasion, German commanders were shocked to find that some Soviet tanks were immune to all anti-tank weapons in use by the Wehrmacht. During pre-war exercises, Heinz Guderian noted that on their own, tanks were vulnerable to infantry. Furthermore, he noted that tanks lacked the heavy caliber weapons needed to knock out reinforced concrete bunkers and fortified positions, a role that could only be performed by heavy artillery or air strikes. While dispersing tanks among infantry formations solved many of the tank's weaknesses, it negated some of their strengths. Therefore, German military theorists concluded that to reach their full potential, armored units needed to be concentrated in their own formations and integrated with mobile artillery, mobile infantry, close air support.
Lastly, Guderian concluded that in order for tanks to be at their peak effectiveness, all armored vehicles must be equipped with radios so that each tank commander could hear instructions from the unit commander allowing each tank to work with all others in an organized fashion. At the beginning of June, the Red Army included over 19,000 tanks in their inventory, most of them light tanks such as the T-26 or BT-7; the front armor of the T-26 was just 15mm thick, the BT-7, just 22mm, offering no protection against any anti-tank weapon at any range. Furthermore, the poor design of Soviet shells meant that most rounds shattered on contact, rather than penetrating. More modern tanks, such as the KV-1 and the T-34, were only beginning to roll off production lines and were not available in anywhere near the numbers that were needed to throw back the German advance. During the interwar years, far sighted military theorists such as Mikhail Tukhachevsky came to similar conclusions as Heinz Guderia
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.
Siege of Sevastopol (1941–42)
The Siege of Sevastopol known as the Defence of Sevastopol or the Battle of Sevastopol was a military battle that took place on the Eastern Front of the Second World War. The campaign was fought by the Axis powers of Germany and Italy against the Soviet Union for control of Sevastopol, a port in the Crimea on the Black Sea. On 22 June 1941 the Axis invaded the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa. Axis land forces overran most of the area; the only objective not in Axis hands was Sevastopol. Several attempts were made to secure the city in October and November 1941. A major attack was planned for late November, but heavy rains delayed it until 17 December 1941. Under the command of Erich von Manstein, Axis forces were unable to capture Sevastopol during this first operation. Soviet forces launched an amphibious landing on the Crimean peninsula at Kerch in December 1941 to relieve the siege and force the Axis to divert forces to defend their gains; the operation saved Sevastopol for the time being, but the bridgehead in the eastern Crimea was eliminated in May 1942.
After the failure of their first assault on Sevastopol, the Axis opted to conduct siege warfare until the middle of 1942, at which point they attacked the encircled Soviet forces by land and air. On 2 June 1942, the Axis began this operation, codenamed Störfang; the Soviet Red Army and Black Sea Fleet held out for weeks under intense Axis bombardment. The German Air Force played a vital part in the siege, its 8th Air Corps bombing the besieged Soviet forces with impunity, flying 23,751 sorties and dropping 20,528 tons of bombs in June alone; the intensity of the German airstrikes was far beyond previous German bombing offensives against cities such as Warsaw, Rotterdam or London. At the end of the siege, there were only 11 undamaged buildings left in Sevastopol; the Luftwaffe deterred most Soviet attempts to evacuate their troops by sea. The German 11th Army suppressed and destroyed the defenders by firing 46,750 tons of artillery ammunition on them during Störfang. On 4 July 1942, the remaining Soviet forces surrendered and the Germans seized the port.
The Soviet Separate Coastal Army was annihilated, with 118,000 men killed, wounded or captured in the final assault and 200,481 casualties in the siege as a whole for both it and the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. Axis losses in Störfang amounted to 35,866 men. With the Soviet forces neutralized, the Axis refocused their attention on the major summer campaign of that year, Case Blue and the advance to the Caucasus oilfields; the Soviet naval base at Sevastopol was one of the strongest fortifications in the world. Its site, on a eroded, bare limestone promontory at the southwestern tip of the Crimea made an approach by land forces exceedingly difficult; the high-level cliffs overlooking Severnaya Bay protected the anchorage, making an amphibious landing just as dangerous. The Soviet Navy had built upon these natural defenses by modernizing the port and installing heavy coastal batteries consisting of 188mm and 305mm re-purposed battleship guns which were capable of firing inland as well as out to sea.
The artillery emplacements were protected by reinforced concrete fortifications and 9.8 inch thick armored turrets. The port was a valuable target, its importance as a potential naval and air base would enable the Axis to conduct far-ranging sea and air operations against Soviet targets into and over the Caucasus ports and mountains. The Red Air Force had been using the Crimea as a base to attack targets in Romania since the Axis invasion in June 1941, proving its usefulness as an air base; the Wehrmacht had launched a bombing raid on the Sevastopol naval base at the start of the invasion. Since the beginning of Barbarossa, the offensive against the USSR had not addressed the Crimea as an objective. German planners assumed the area would be captured in mopping-up operations once the bulk of the Red Army was destroyed west of the Dnieper river, but in June, attacks by Soviet aircraft from the Crimea against Romania's oil refineries destroyed 12,000 tons of oil. Hitler described the area as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" and ordered the conquest of Ukraine and Crimea as vital targets in the Directive 33, dated 23 July 1941.
The Command of the Army issued orders that the Crimea was to be captured as soon as possible to prevent attacks on Romanian oil supplies, vital to the German military. Hitler, impatient with obstruction to his commands to advance in the south, repeated on 12 August his desire that the Crimea be taken immediately. Over a month during the capture of Kiev, Generaloberst Erich von Manstein was given command of the German 11th Army on 17 September. After only a week in command, he launched an assault upon the Crimea. After severe fighting, Manstein's forces defeated several Soviet counteroffensives and destroyed two Soviet armies. By 16 November, the Wehrmacht had cleared the region, capturing its capital Simferopol, on 1 November; the fall of Kerch on 16 November left only Sevastopol in Soviet hands. By the end of October 1941, Major-General Ivan Yefimovich Petrov's Independent Coastal Army, numbering 32,000 men, had arrived at Sevastopol by sea from Odessa further west, it having been evacuated after heavy fighting.
Petrov set about fortifying the inland approaches to Sevastopol. He aimed to halt the Axis drive on the port by creating three defence lines inland, the outermost arc being 16 km from the port itself. Soviet forces, including the Soviet 51st Army and elements of the Black Sea Fleet, were defeated in the Crimea in October and were evacuated in December, leavi
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
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe, Southeast Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties; the battles on the Eastern Front of the Second World War constituted the largest military confrontation in history. They were characterized by unprecedented ferocity, wholesale destruction, mass deportations, immense loss of life due to combat, exposure and massacres; the Eastern Front, as the site of nearly all extermination camps, death marches and the majority of pogroms, was central to the Holocaust. Of the estimated 70-85 million deaths attributed to World War II, over 30 million, the majority of them civilian, occurred on the Eastern Front.
The Eastern Front was decisive in determining the outcome in the European theatre of operations in World War II serving as the main reason for the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis nations. The two principal belligerent powers were Germany and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies. Though never engaged in military action in the Eastern Front, the United States and the United Kingdom both provided substantial material aid in the form of the Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union; the joint German–Finnish operations across the northernmost Finnish–Soviet border and in the Murmansk region are considered part of the Eastern Front. In addition, the Soviet–Finnish Continuation War may be considered the northern flank of the Eastern Front. Germany and the Soviet Union remained unsatisfied with the outcome of World War I. Soviet Russia had lost substantial territory in Eastern Europe as a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, where the Bolsheviks in Petrograd conceded to German demands and ceded control of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and other areas, to the Central Powers.
Subsequently, when Germany in its turn surrendered to the Allies and these territories were liberated under the terms of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 at Versailles, Soviet Russia was in the midst of a civil war and the Allies did not recognize the Bolshevik government, so no Soviet Russian representation attended. Adolf Hitler had declared his intention to invade the Soviet Union on 11 August 1939 to Carl Jacob Burckhardt, League of Nations Commissioner, by saying: Everything I undertake is directed against the Russians. If the West is too stupid and blind to grasp this I shall be compelled to come to an agreement with the Russians, beat the West and after their defeat turn against the Soviet Union with all my forces. I need the Ukraine as happened in the last war; the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed in August 1939 was a non-aggression agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union. It contained a secret protocol aiming to return Central Europe to the pre–World War I status quo by dividing it between Germany and the Soviet Union.
Finland, Estonia and Lithuania would return to the Soviet control, while Poland and Romania would be divided. The Eastern Front was made possible by the German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement in which the Soviet Union gave Germany the resources necessary to launch military operations in Eastern Europe. On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. On 17 September, the Soviet Union invaded Eastern Poland, and, as a result, Poland was partitioned among Germany, the Soviet Union and Lithuania. Soon after that, the Soviet Union demanded significant territorial concessions from Finland, after Finland rejected Soviet demands, the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939 in what became known as the Winter War – a bitter conflict that resulted in a peace treaty on 13 March 1940, with Finland maintaining its independence but losing its eastern parts in Karelia. In June 1940 the Soviet Union illegally annexed the three Baltic states; the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact ostensibly provided security to the Soviets in the occupation both of the Baltics and of the north and northeastern regions of Romania, although Hitler, in announcing the invasion of the Soviet Union, cited the Soviet annexations of Baltic and Romanian territory as having violated Germany's understanding of the Pact.
Moscow partitioned the annexed Romanian territory between the Ukrainian and Moldavian Soviet republics. Adolf Hitler had argued in his autobiography Mein Kampf for the necessity of Lebensraum: acquiring new territory for Germans in Eastern Europe, in particular in Russia, he envisaged settling Germans there, as according to Nazi ideology the Germanic people constituted the "master race", while exterminating or deporting most of the existing inhabitants to Siberia and using the remainder as slave labour. Hitler as early as 1917 had referred to the Russians as inferior, believing that the Bolshevik Revolution had put the Jews in power over the mass of Slavs, who were, in Hitler's opinion, incapable of ruling themselves but instead being ruled by Jewish masters; the Nazi leadership, saw the war against the Soviet Union as a struggle between the ideologies of Nazism and Jewish Bolshevism, ensuring territorial expansion for the Germanic Übermensch, who according to Nazi ideology were the Aryan Herrenvolk, at the expense of
Battle of Uman
The Battle of Uman was the German offensive operation against the 6th and 12th Soviet Armies — under the command of Lieutenant General I. N. Muzychenko and Major General P. G. Ponedelin, respectively; the battle occurred during the Kiev defensive operation between the elements of the Red Army's Southwestern Front, retreating from the Lwow salient, German Army Group South commanded by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, as part of Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front during World War II. The Soviet forces were under overall command of the Southwestern Direction, commanded by Marshal Semyon Budyonny, which included the Southwestern Front commanded by Colonel General Mikhail Kirponos and Southern Front commanded by General Ivan Tyulenev; the battle finished by the encirclement and annihilation of 6th and 12th armies to the southeast of the Uman city. In the initial weeks of Operation Barbarossa, Army Group South had advanced East, defeating several Soviet mechanized corps at the great tank Battle of Brody 23–30 June.
The armies of the Southwestern Front were ordered to retreat to the line of fortifications along the old Soviet-Polish border of 1939. III and XXXXVIII Motorized corps of the 1st Panzer Group wedged in between the 5th and 6th Soviet armies. On July 5, XXXXVIII Motorized Corps cracked a weak defense on the Stalin Line and began to move embracing the right flank of the 6th Army. A new Soviet counter-attack was attempted on July 9 in the direction of Berdychiv to prevent further advance of the 1st Panzer Group to the east; the fighting continued until July 16, the 11th Panzer Division lost 2,000 men, but Soviet troops failed and on July 16 the German offensive continued. Further to the north, the mobile units of the III Motorized Corps overcame the Stalin Line and reached the approaches to Kiev; the command of Army Group South intended to capture Kiev while Hitler and the High Command insisted on a strike in the southern direction, which guaranteed the encirclement of the Soviet troops in conjunction with the 11th Army.
The compromise solution proposed the capture of Belaya Tserkov and after that a strike in the south-west direction towards the 11th Army. Such a decision left the possibility, instead of a strike to the southwest, to continue the offensive from Kiev farther east, beyond the Dnieper, but Kiev was secured by a separate fortified area, the rear communications of the III Motorized Corps were under attack from the 5th Army. So, in the opening days of Battle of Uman the task of encircling the 6th and 12th armies from the north and the east was to be done by divisions of the XXXXVIII Motorized Corps only. To help them, the third unit of the 1st Panzer Group, the XIV Motorized Corps, was transferred from the south and committed to action between the III and XXXXVIII Motorized corps in the direction to the Belaya Tserkov. Infantry units of the German 6th Field Army on the north hastened to replace the advanced tank units, the 17th Field Army on the west continued to pursue retreating forces of the Soviet 6th and 12th armies.
The advance of the 11th Field Army from the Soviet-Romanian border was suspended by Soviet counterblows, its attack from the south towards Vinnytsia was postponed. Most of the Soviet forces were depleted, having withdrawn under heavy assaults from the Luftwaffe from the Polish border, the mechanised units were reduced to a single "Corps" after the Brody counter-offensive, its mechanised infantry now fighting as ordinary rifle troops; the Axis forces were divided into those of 1st Panzer Group that had suffered significant losses in matériel, but retained combat effectiveness, the large infantry formations of the German and Romanian armies that attempted to advance from the West to meet the armored troops north of Crimea, the initial strategic objective of Army Group South. Since July 15, the XXXXVIII Motorized Corps of Wehrmacht repulsed the counter-attacks of the Soviet "Berdichev Group" and resumed the offensive; the 16th Panzer Division seized the city of Kazatin. On the left, the 11th Panzer division was in the gap between Soviet armies, so by July 16 it made a deep breakthrough to the South-East.
By July 18, the division advanced another 50 km, crossed the Ros' River and captured the settlement of Stavishche. The 16th Panzer Division, forced to repel counterattacks of the Soviet 6th Army, advanced slower, but by July 17 its forward detachment seized the Ros' station, where was an important Soviet base of rear services support. July 18, units of the 6th army managed to recapture the station. Further to the North, the XIV Motorized Corps advanced to Belaya Tserkov, but met counterattacks by the 26th Army; this army had no time to prepare the offensive, its divisions didn't have time to concentrate. They couldn't beat out the 9th Panzer Division from Belaya Tserkov, they for a short time captured Fastov. The advance of the 26th Army soon stopped, but its attacks contained the mobile units of the 1st Panzer Group. A similar situation was with the Panzer divisions of the III Motorized Corps. Halder, the chief of OKH, irritably wrote on July 18 that "the operation of the Army Group «South» is losing its shape", that "enveloping flank of the 1st Panzer Group is still hang about in the area of Berdichev and Belaya Tserkov".
At the same time the 17th Field Army from the West was approaching too and Halder feared that the future "cauldron" will not trap significant enemy forces. Meanwhile, the 17th Field Army tried to implement a shortcut version of the original plan, according to which the Soviet troops were to be surrounded to the
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