Siege of Odessa (1941)
The Siege of Odessa, known to the Soviets as the Defence of Odessa, lasted from 8 August until 16 October 1941, during the early phase of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II. Odessa was a port on the Black Sea in the Ukrainian SSR. On 22 June 1941, the Axis powers invaded the Soviet Union. In August, Odessa became elements of the German 11th Army. Due to the heavy resistance of the Soviet 9th Independent Army and the formed Separate Coastal Army, supported by the Black Sea Fleet, it took the Axis forces 73 days of siege and four assaults to take the city. Romanian forces suffered 93,000 casualties, against Red Army casualties estimated to be between 41,000 and 60,000. On 27 July 1941, Hitler sent a letter to General Ion Antonescu in which he recognised the Romanian administration of the territory between the Dniester and the Bug rivers; the Romanian Third Army had crossed the Dniester on 17 July. Lieutenant-general Nicolae Ciupercă's Fourth Army advanced over the river on 3 August, with the 5th Corps, comprising the 15th Infantry Division and 1st Cavalry Brigade, joined by the 1st Armored Division.
On 8 August, the Romanian General Staff issued the Operative Directive No. 31 instructing the 4th Army to occupy Odessa off the march. It was thought that the city garrison, outnumbered, would surrender quickly. Odessa was fortified by three defensive lines and, thanks to the presence of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, could not be surrounded; the first line was 80 km long and situated 25–30 km from the city. The second and main line of defense was about 30 km long; the third and last line of defense was organized inside the city itself. The forces that manned the fortifications were made up of the 25th and 95th Rifle Divisions, the 2nd Cavalry Division, the 421st Rifle Division, the 54th Rifle Regiment and an NKVD Regiment; the Red Army had 240 artillery pieces in the area. Air support was provided by the 69th Fighter Aviation Regiment, two seaplane squadrons and one bomber squadron. Other fighters joined the defenders, as did an Il-2 squadron; the defense of Odessa lasted 73 days from 5 August to 16 October 1941.
On 10 August, in the sector of the 3rd Corps, the bulk of the 7th Infantry Division reached Elssas, while the 1st Guard Division arrived on the alignment Strassburg – Petra Evdokievka. In the sector of the 5th Corps, the 1st Armored Division broke through Odessa's first line of defense; that evening, the Romanian division reached the second line of defense. The 1st Cavalry Brigade joined the 1st Armored Division. At the same time, the 10th Dorobanţi Regiment overran the Soviet forces at Lozovaya; the 4th Army closed the circle around Odessa, but the offensive was temporarily stopped by Antonescu on 13 August to strengthen the line west of the Hadjibey bank. The offensive resumed on 16 August, as Romanian troops attacked along the entire line, capturing Odessa's water reservoirs on 17 August; the Soviet forces put up a stubborn resistance, launching repeated counter-attacks and taking heavy casualties. The Royal Romanian Air Force supported the ground troops, disrupting Soviet naval traffic to and from Odessa, destroying an armored train on 20 August.
By 24 August, despite constant attacks, the Romanians were bogged down in front of the Soviets' main line of defense. The 4th Army had suffered 27,307 casualties, including 5,329 killed in action; the Soviets were weakened, thanks to the capture of Kubanka, Romanian heavy artillery now threatened the port of Odessa. Over the next three days, there was a lull in the fighting. On 28 August, the Romanians resumed their offensive, reinforced by a German assault battalion and ten heavy artillery battalions; the 4th, 11th and 1st Army Corps advanced towards Gnileakovo and Vakarzhany, only to be pushed back in some areas by a strong Soviet counterattack the following day. On 30 August the Romanians retook the initiative, but gained little ground. Hitler and the German High Command noted that'Antonescu using at Odessa the tactics of the First World War,' crudely depending upon infantry to make unsupported frontal attacks against Soviet trench line defenses; the Soviets temporarily were driven back by nightfall.
Soviet troops in Vakarzhany were encircled and continued to fight until 3 September, when combined German and Romanian infantry stormed the village. On 3 September, General Ciupercă submitted a memoir to by-now Marshal Antonescu, highlighting the poor condition of the front-line divisions, which were exhausted after nearly a month of continuous fighting, he proposed a reorganization of six divisions, which would be split into 2 corps and supported by 8 heavy artillery battalions. These units would attack in a single area to break through the Soviet line; the memoir however, was rejected by both Antonescu and Brigadier-General Alexandru Ioaniţiu, chief of the Romanian General Staff, who argued that an attack in a single direction would leave the rest of the Romanian line too exposed. Marshal Antonescu subsequently issued a new directive calling for attacks between Tatarka and Dalnik, Gniliavko and Dalnik, to be made by the 11th and 3rd Corps, respectively. Ioaniţiu forwarded a note to Major-General Arthur Hauffe, chief of the German military mission to Romania, informing him of the situation at Odessa and requesting assistance in the form of aircraft and several pioneer battalions.
Although the Royal Romanian Air Force enjoyed some success against the Soviets ground and air forces, it was ill-equipped for anti-shipping raids, the Sov
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
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 the Dnieper
The Battle of the Dnieper was a military campaign that took place in 1943 on the Eastern Front of World War II. It was one of the largest operations in World War II, involving 4,000,000 troops at a time stretched on a 1,400 kilometres long front. During its four-month duration, the eastern bank of the Dnieper was recovered from German forces by five of the Red Army's fronts, which conducted several assault river crossings to establish several lodgements on the western bank. Subsequently, Kiev was liberated in the Battle of Kiev. 2,438 Red Army soldiers were awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, more than had been awarded since the award's establishment and never again was there such a large number of laureates. Following the Battle of Kursk, the Wehrmacht's Heer and supporting Luftwaffe forces in the southern Soviet Union were on the defensive in the southern Ukraine. By mid-August, Adolf Hitler understood that the forthcoming Soviet offensive could not be contained on the open steppe and ordered construction of a series of fortifications along the line of the Dnieper river.
On the Soviet side, Joseph Stalin was determined to launch a major offensive in Ukraine. The main thrust of the offensive was in a southwesterly direction; the operation began on 26 August 1943. Divisions started to move on a 1,400-kilometer front that stretched between Smolensk and the Sea of Azov. Overall, the operation would be executed by four Tank and five Air Armies. 2,650,000 personnel were brought into the ranks for this massive operation. The operation would use 2,400 tanks and 2,850 planes; the Dnieper is the third largest river in Europe, behind the Danube. In its lower part, its width can reach three kilometres, being dammed in several places made it larger. Moreover, its western shore—the one still to be retaken—was much higher and steeper than the eastern, complicating the offensive further. In addition, the opposite shore was transformed into a vast complex of defenses and fortifications held by the Wehrmacht. Faced with such a situation, the Soviet commanders had two options; the first would be to give themselves time to regroup their forces, find a weak point or two to exploit, stage a breakthrough and encircle the German defenders far in the rear, rendering the defence line unsupplied and next to useless.
This option was supported by Marshal Zhukov and Deputy Chief of Staff A. I. Antonov, who considered the substantial losses after the fierce battle of Kursk; the second option would be to stage a massive assault without waiting, force the Dnieper on a broad front. This option left no additional time for the German defenders, but would lead to much larger casualties than would a successful deep operation breakthrough; this second option was backed by Stalin due to the concern that the German "scorched earth" policy might devastate this region if the Red Army did not advance fast enough. Stavka chose the second option. Instead of deep penetration and encirclement, the Soviet intended to make full use of partisan activities to intervene and disrupt Germany's supply route so that the Germans could not send reinforcements or take away Soviet industrial facilities in the region. Stavka paid high attention to the possible scorched earth activities of German forces with a view to preventing them by a rapid advance.
The assault was staged on a 300-kilometer front simultaneously. All available means of transport were to be used to transport the attackers to the opposite shore, including small fishing boats and improvised rafts of barrels and trees; the preparation of the crossing equipment was further complicated by the German scorched earth strategy with the total destruction of all boats and raft building material in the area. The crucial issue would be heavy equipment. Without it, the bridgeheads would not stand for long. Central Front, commanded by Konstantin Rokossovsky and accounted for 579,600 soldiers 2nd Tank Army, led by Aleksei Rodin / Semyon Bogdanov 9th Tank Corps, led by Hryhoriy Rudchenko, Boris Bakharov 60th Army, led by Ivan Chernyakhovsky 13th Army, led by Nikolay Pukhov 65th Army, led by Pavel Batov 61st Army, led by Pavel Belov 48th Army, led by Prokofy Romanenko 70th Army, led by Ivan Galanin / Vladimir Sharapov / Aleksei Grechkin 16th Air Army, led by Sergei Rudenko Voronezh Front, commanded by Nikolai Vatutin and accounted for 665,500 soldiers 3rd Guards Tank Army, led by Pavel Rybalko 1st Tank Army, led by Mikhail Katukov 4th Guards Tank Corps, led by Pavel Poluboyarov 1st Guard Cavalry Corps, led by Viktor Baranov 5th Guards Army, led by Aleksei Zhadov 4th Guards Army, led by Grigory Kulik / Aleksei Zygin / Ivan Galanin 6th Guards Army, led by Ivan Chistyakov 38th Army, led by Nikandr Chibisov / Kirill Moskalenko 47th Army, led by Pavel Korzun / Filipp Zhmachenko / Vitaliy Polenov 27th Army, led by Sergei Trofimenko 52nd Army, led by Konstantin Koroteev 2nd Air Army, led by Stepan Krasovsky Steppe Front, commanded by Ivan Konev Southwestern Front, commanded by Rodion Malinovsky Southern Front, commanded by Fyodor To
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was the largest confrontation of World War II, in which Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in Southern Russia. Marked by fierce close quarters combat and direct assaults on civilians in air raids, it was the largest and bloodiest battle in the history of warfare. After their defeat at Stalingrad, the German High Command had to withdraw vast military forces from the Western Front to replace their losses; the German offensive to capture Stalingrad began in August 1942, using the 6th Army and elements of the 4th Panzer Army. The attack was supported by intensive Luftwaffe bombing; the fighting degenerated into house-to-house fighting. By mid-November 1942, the Germans had pushed the Soviet defenders back at great cost into narrow zones along the west bank of the Volga River. On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, a two-pronged attack targeting the weaker Romanian and Hungarian armies protecting the German 6th Army's flanks.
The Axis forces on the flanks were overrun and the 6th Army was cut off and surrounded in the Stalingrad area. Adolf Hitler ordered that the army make no attempt to break out. Heavy fighting continued for another two months. By the beginning of February 1943, the Axis forces in Stalingrad had exhausted their ammunition and food; the remaining units of the 6th Army surrendered. The battle lasted one week and three days. By the spring of 1942, despite the failure of Operation Barbarossa to decisively defeat the Soviet Union in a single campaign, the Wehrmacht had captured vast expanses of territory, including Ukraine and the Baltic republics. Elsewhere, the war had been progressing well: the U-boat offensive in the Atlantic had been successful and Erwin Rommel had just captured Tobruk. In the east, they had stabilized their front in a line running from Leningrad in the north to Rostov in the south. There were a number of salients, but these were not threatening. Hitler was confident that he could master the Red Army after the winter of 1942, because though Army Group Centre had suffered heavy losses west of Moscow the previous winter, 65% of its infantry had not been engaged and had been rested and re-equipped.
Neither Army Group North nor Army Group South had been hard pressed over the winter. Stalin was expecting the main thrust of the German summer attacks to be directed against Moscow again. With the initial operations being successful, the Germans decided that their summer campaign in 1942 would be directed at the southern parts of the Soviet Union; the initial objectives in the region around Stalingrad were the destruction of the industrial capacity of the city and the deployment of forces to block the Volga River. The river was the Caspian Sea to central Russia, its capture would disrupt commercial river traffic. The Germans cut the pipeline from the oilfields; the capture of Stalingrad would make the delivery of Lend Lease supplies via the Persian Corridor much more difficult. On 23 July 1942, Hitler rewrote the operational objectives for the 1942 campaign expanding them to include the occupation of the city of Stalingrad. Both sides began to attach propaganda value to the city, based on it bearing the name of the leader of the Soviet Union.
Hitler proclaimed that after Stalingrad's capture, its male citizens were to be killed and all women and children were to be deported because its population was "thoroughly communistic" and "especially dangerous". It was assumed that the fall of the city would firmly secure the northern and western flanks of the German armies as they advanced on Baku, with the aim of securing these strategic petroleum resources for Germany; the expansion of objectives was a significant factor in Germany's failure at Stalingrad, caused by German overconfidence and an underestimation of Soviet reserves. The Soviets realized, they ordered that anyone strong enough to hold a rifle be sent to fight. If I do not get the oil of Maikop and Grozny I must finish this war. Army Group South was selected for a sprint forward through the southern Russian steppes into the Caucasus to capture the vital Soviet oil fields there; the planned summer offensive, code-named Fall Blau, was to include the German 6th, 17th, 4th Panzer and 1st Panzer Armies.
Army Group South had overrun the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1941. Poised in Eastern Ukraine, it was to spearhead the offensive. Hitler intervened, ordering the Army Group to split in two. Army Group South, under the command of Wilhelm List, was to continue advancing south towards the Caucasus as planned with the 17th Army and First Panzer Army. Army Group South, including Friedrich Paulus's 6th Army and Hermann Hoth's 4th Panzer Army, was to move east towards the Volga and Stalingrad. Army Group B was commanded by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock and by General Maximilian von Weichs; the start of Case Blue had been planned for late May 1942. However, a number of German and Romanian units that were to take part in Blau were besieging Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. Delays in ending the siege pushed back the start date for Blau several times, the city did not fall until early July. Operation Fridericus I by the Germans against the "Isium bulge", pinched off the Soviet
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
Operation Little Saturn
Operation Saturn, revised as Operation Little Saturn, was a Red Army operation on the Eastern Front of World War II that led to battles in the North Caucasus and Donets Basin regions of the Soviet Union from December 1942 to February 1943. The success of Operation Uranus, launched on 19 November 1942, had trapped 250,000–300,000 troops of General Friedrich Paulus' German 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army in Stalingrad. To exploit this victory, the Soviet general staff planned a winter campaign of continuous and ambitious offensive operations, codenamed "Saturn". Joseph Stalin reduced his ambitious plans to a small campaign codenamed "Operation Little Saturn"; the offensive succeeded in smashing Germany's Italian and Hungarian allies, applied pressure on the over stretched German forces in Eastern Ukraine and prevented further German advances to the relief of the entrapped forces at Stalingrad. Despite these victories, the Soviets themselves became over extended, setting up the stages for the German offensives of the Third Battle of Kharkov and the Battle of Kursk.
On 17 May 1942, German Army Groups A and B launched a counteroffensive against advancing Soviet armies around the city of Kharkov, resulting in the Second Battle of Kharkov. By 6 July, General Hermann Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army had taken the city of Voronezh, threatening to collapse the Red Army's resistance. By early August, General Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist's First Panzer Army had reached the oil center of Maykop, 500 kilometres south of the city of Rostov, taken by the Fourth Panzer Army on 23 July; the rapid German advance threatened to cut the Soviet Union off from its southern territories, while threatening to cut the lend-lease supply lines from Persia. However, the offensive began to peter out, as the offensive's supply train struggled to keep up with the advance and spearhead units began to run low on fuel and manpower. Operation Uranus was the codename of the Soviet strategic operation in World War II which led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army and Fourth Romanian armies, portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army.
The operation formed part of the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad, was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced as early as September 1942, was developed with plans to envelop and destroy German Army Group Center and German forces in the Caucasus; the Red Army took advantage of the fact that German forces in the southern Soviet Union were overstretched around Stalingrad, using weaker Romanian armies to guard their flanks. These Axis armies were deployed in open positions on the steppe and lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor. Operation Winter Storm, undertaken between 12–23 December 1942, was the German Fourth Panzer Army's attempt to relieve encircled Axis forces during the Battle of Stalingrad. In late November, the Red Army completed Operation Uranus, which resulted in the encirclement of Axis personnel in and around the city of Stalingrad. German forces within the Stalingrad Pocket and directly outside were reorganized under Army Group Don, under the command of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein.
As the Red Army continued to build strength, in an effort to allocate as many resources as possible to the eventual launch of the planned Operation Saturn, which aimed to isolate Army Group A from the rest of the German Army, the Luftwaffe had begun an attempt to supply German forces in Stalingrad through an air bridge. However, as the Luftwaffe proved incapable of carrying out its mission and it became more obvious that a successful breakout could only occur if it was launched as early as possible, Manstein decided to plan and launch a dedicated relief effort. After the defeat of the Romanian Army around Stalingrad and the successful encirclement of the German Sixth Army, Stalin started a counter-offensive nicknamed "Operation Little Saturn" in order to enlarge the area controlled by the Soviet Army in eastern Ukraine until Kharkov and Rostov. Zhukov states the South-Western Front was assigned a mission in which the 1st and 3rd Guard armies and the 5th Tank Army "were to strike out in the general direction of Morozovsk and destroy the enemy grouping in that sector."
They would be supported by the 6th Army of the Voronezh Front. The first stage — an attempt to cut off the German Army Group A in the Caucasus — had to be revised when General Erich von Manstein launched Operation Winter Storm on 12 December in an attempt to relieve the trapped armies at Stalingrad. While General Rodion Malinovsky's Soviet 2nd Guards Army blocked the German advance on Stalingrad, the modified plan Operation Little Saturn was launched on 16 December; this operation consisted of a pincer movement. General Fyodor Isidorovich Kuznetsov's 1st Guards Army and General Dmitri Danilovich Lelyushenko's 3rd Guards Army attacked from the north, encircling 130,000 soldiers of the Italian 8th Army on the Don and advancing to Millerovo; the Italians resisted the Soviet attack for nearly two weeks, although outnumbered 9 to 1 in some sectors, but with huge losses. Manstein sent the 6th Panzer Division to the Italians' aid: of the 130,000 encircled troops, only 45,000 survived after bloody fighting to join the Panzers at Chertkovo on 17 January.
To the south the advance of General Gerasimenko's 28th Army threatened to encircle the 1st Panzer Army and General Trufanov's 51st Army attacked the relief column directly. In a dar