Bombing of Gorky in World War II
The bombing of Gorky by the German Luftwaffe was the most destructive attack on Soviet war production on the Eastern Front in World War II. It lasted intermittently from October 1941 - June 1943, with 43 raids carried out; the main target was the Gorky Automobile Plant, manufacturing T-60 light infantry tanks. Defences proved inadequate, though a full-size dummy model of the main factory, a ‘false village’ of painted images on the ground, caused some confusion to enemy pilots; the whole plant was destroyed, an inquiry demanded by Stalin. The plant was reconstructed in four months. Gorky is now known as Nizhny Novgorod; the destruction of Gorky's industry was in operation Barbarossa from the beginning. It was one of the largest suppliers of weapons for the Red Army. Germany planned to capture and occupy the city during the second half of September 1941; the city was the main center of the entire Volga region and in it was concentrated the main industry and state power over the regions. Occupation of Gorky meant for Germany complete control over the Volga region.
First, the Germans were to destroy the defense industry of the city - Gorky Automobile Plant, Krasnoe Sormovo and the Dvigatel Revolyutsii. After the occupation of the city, the General District of Gorky or the General District of Nizhny Novgorod was to be created, included in the Reichcommissariat Moskowien. Gorky Machine-Building Plant was planned to be converted to the production of German military equipment. On October 31, 1941, Stalin ordered GAZ to increase the production of T-60 tanks; the leadership of the city knew. It was necessary to strengthen the city's air mask factories, but the necessary measures were not brought to an end. Nikolay Markov, commander of the Gorky Brigade Air Defense District, was appointed in October 1941. Arriving in Gorky, he noticed. In it there were only about 50 antiaircraft guns and few searchlights. At the same time, Gorky was densely built up with the most important strategic objects. Reconnaissance flights over Gorky began in the autumn of 1941. German planes flew at high altitude, braking over GAZ.
The first plane scout Ju 88 appeared in the sky above the city on Thursday, October 9. At first the Luftwaffe bombed the suburbs; the main blow fell on warehouses near Dzerzhinsk. Followed two large raids on Gorky, he 111 aircraft of the 100th bomber squadron Viking were involved. The first raid of Tuesday, November 4 to Wednesday 5, UK Guy Fawkes Night, began at 4:30 pm. According to air defense estimates, about 150 aircraft participated in it and 11 aircraft flew to the city; the planes approached individually and in groups of 3-16 at an interval of 15–20 minutes. The bombing lasted all night. In addition to bombs, leaflets were dropped. GAZ, Nitel and the Dvigatel Revolyutsii factory were struck, 55 people died, 141 were wounded. According to German data, 15 planes participated in this raid; the first aircraft dropped bombs. They began to shoot people from machine guns running along the streets. From the direct hit in the main building of the Nitel and part of leadership died. During the night bombing, the main impact occurred on secondary objects, residential urban areas and the field in the Stakhanovsky village.
The incendiary and high-explosive bombs weighing from 70 to 250 kg and heavy bomb-mines BM-1000 weighing 871 kg were dropped. The second raid on the night of November 5 to Thursday, 6. An air alert was announced. At 23:34 pm, the power lines from the Balakhna power plant to the city were damaged by a bomb strike; some of the industrial regions were temporarily de-energized. At 01:47 am the raid on Gorky began, the main impacts were GAZ, Krasnoe Sormovo and residential buildings; the antiaircraft batteries rendered counteraction, so bombing was less precise. According to air defense data, 14 aircraft flew into the city. In the GAZ area, 5 people died, 21 were wounded. According to the results of two raids, the main office of GAZ, a garage, a smithy, a stamping building, a professional technical factory, an archive, experimental workshops, a repair and mechanical workshop, a mechanical workshop No. 2, a power plant No. 2, a wheel workshop, a motor workshop No. 2, a foundry workshop of gray cast iron, press workshop, residential area of the district were damaged.
The building of the administration of the Dvigatel Revolyutsii was destroyed. In several places there was a panic; this contributed to the large number of refugees who filled the city, part of the population began to leave the urban areas. The plants stopped production; the absence of antiaircraft guns allowed German aircraft to conduct sighting bombing from a low altitude. A total of 127 people died, 176 were injured 195 were wounded. A large number of the deceased were refugees from Moscow, resettled in the Avtozavodsky City District. No German aircraft were shot down. On Saturday, November 8, 1941, the Gorky Brigade Air Defense District was reinforced by the 58th and 281st separate anti-aircraft artillery divisions, the 142nd Fighter Aviation Division and the 45th anti-aircraft search belt. On the same day, at 3:20 am, a reconnaissance aircraft Ju 88D flew over Gorky, and from Wednesday, November 12 to Tuesday, 18, 1941, the Germans launched a series of raids by single-seat aircraft with the main purpose of destroying the Kanavinsky Bridge, but missed.
On the night of February Tuesday, 3 to Wednesday, 4, a single a
Battle of the Sea of Azov
The Battle of the Sea of Azov known as the Chernigovka pocket was an Axis military campaign fought between 26 September 1941 and 11 October 1941 on the northern shores of the Sea of Azov on the Eastern Front of World War II during Operation Barbarossa. It resulted in a complete Axis victory over the Red Army. After destroying four Soviet armies at Kiev in late September 1941, the German Army Group South advanced east and south to capture the industrial Donbass region and the Crimea. Within days of the battle of Kiev's conclusion, the Soviet Southern Front launched an attack on 26 September with two armies on the northern shores of the Sea of Azov against elements of the German 11th Army, advancing into the Crimea. After pushing back the Romanian 3rd Army, which fought under German command, the Soviet advance ground to a halt when the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Brigade arrived to reinforce their Axis allies. On 1 October the 1st Panzer Army under Ewald von Kleist swept south to isolate the two Soviet armies.
The offensive caught the Red Army by surprise, forcing them to retreat on 3 October to avoid encirclement. The Germans now attacked from the west and east, cutting the Soviets off on 7 October after capturing Melitopol and Berdiansk; the Soviet 9th and 18th Armies were annihilated in four days. The Soviet defeat was total. All units of the German 11th Army and the 1st Panzer Army lost 12,421 men combined from 21 September to 10 October; the death of or capture of two-thirds of all Southern Front troops in four days unhinged the Front's left flank, allowing the Germans to capture Kharkiv on 24 October. Kleist's 1st Panzer Army took the Donbass region that same month, while Manstein's 11th Army was freed to conquer Crimea with its full strength from 18 October onward. After concluding the Battle of Kiev in September 1941, the German Army Group South advanced from the Dniepr to the Sea of Azov coast; the city of Rostov was assigned as the objective for the 11th Army now commanded by General von Schobert, however he died in a crash on the same day after landing his liaison Fieseler Storch aircraft in a minefield.
To replace him, General of Infantry von Manstein was ordered to travel from the Leningrad sector of the front to the extreme southern sector. He would receive support from the 4th Luftwaffe Air Fleet. At this time the LIV Army Corps of the 11th Army was still engaged in Crimea, because the Romanian forces were still engaged in the Siege of Odessa, the Army's resources for the Rostov objective were limited against retreating Red Army troops; therefore von Manstein replaced the LIV Corps with the smaller XXX Army Corps and XLIX Mountain Corps, ordered the LIV Corps into the first echelon in the advance to Rostov. Late in September the 3rd Romanian Army joined the 11th Army in its advance towards Rostov, but was depleted by the attacks of the Soviet 9th and 18th Armies on 26 September; this forced a halt to the Army's advance to safeguard its flank, forced Manstein to use his only mobile reserve unit, the Leibstandarte Brigade to shore up Romanian defenses. After the LSSAH had stabilized the Romanian sector, the Soviets increased the pressure on XXX Army Corps.
The Soviets did not respond to the buildup of the 1st Panzer Army on their northern flank. On 1 October the Germans started their counterattack from the west; the rapid advance of German armored and motorized forces from the north compelled the Soviets to retreat on 3 October. The 11th Army took up the pursuit, with the Leibstandarte's attack eliminating the Soviet 30th Rifle Division's HQ section and dispersing its subordinate formations. Melitopol was captured by III Panzer Corps on 5 October; the LSSAH reconnaissance battalion under Kurt Meyer captured Berdiansk on 6 October. The XIV motorized Army Corps under Gustav Anton von Wietersheim linked up with the Leibstandarte to encircle seven Red Army divisions in the Mariupol-Berdiansk area on 7 October. Four days the battle was over and the 150,000 9th and 18th Army troops caught in the pocket had been killed or captured; the Germans took more than 106,332 prisoners, both in the pocket and during the pursuit, along with 212 tanks and 772 guns of all types.
The 18th Army commander Smirnov was killed in action and buried with full military honours by the Germans. The assault on Rostov began on 17 November, on 21 November the Germans took Rostov. However, the German lines were over-extended, von Kleist's warnings that his left flank was vulnerable and that his tanks were ineffective in the freezing weather were ignored. On 27 November the Soviet 37th Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Anton Ivanovich Lopatin, as part of the Rostov Strategic Offensive Operation, counter-attacked the 1st Panzer Army's spearhead from the north, forcing them to pull out of the city. Adolf Hitler countermanded the retreat; when von Rundstedt refused to obey, Hitler sacked him, replaced him with von Reichenau. However, von Reichenau saw at once that von Rundstedt was right and succeeded in persuading Hitler, via Franz Halder, to authorise the withdrawal, the 1st Panzer Army was forced back to the Mius River at Taganrog, it was the first significant German withdrawal of the war.
The offensive along the Azov coast was resumed during Fall Blau. With air support from the Ju 87s of Sturzkampfgeschwader 77, Wilhelm List's Army Group A recaptured Rostov, the "gate to the Caucasus", on 23 July 1942 easily. Further South along the coast, the remaining small
Siege of Leningrad
The Siege of Leningrad was a prolonged military blockade undertaken from the south by the Army Group North of Nazi Germany against the Soviet city of Leningrad on the Eastern Front in World War II. The Finnish army invaded from the north, co-operating with the Germans until they had recaptured territory lost in the recent Winter War, but refused to make further approaches to the city; the siege started on 8 September 1941. Although the Soviet forces managed to open a narrow land corridor to the city on 18 January 1943, the siege was not lifted until 27 January 1944, 872 days after it began, it was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history, the costliest in casualties suffered. Some historians classify it as genocide. Leningrad's capture was one of three strategic goals in the German Operation Barbarossa and the main target of Army Group North; the strategy was motivated by Leningrad's political status as the former capital of Russia and the symbolic capital of the Russian Revolution, its military importance as a main base of the Soviet Baltic Fleet, its industrial strength, housing numerous arms factories.
By 1939, the city was responsible for 11% of all Soviet industrial output. It has been reported that Adolf Hitler was so confident of capturing Leningrad that he had invitations printed to the victory celebrations to be held in the city's Hotel Astoria. Although various theories have been put forward about Germany's plans for Leningrad, including renaming the city Adolfsburg and making it the capital of the new Ingermanland province of the Reich in Generalplan Ost, it is clear Hitler's intention was to utterly destroy the city and its population. According to a directive sent to Army Group North on 29 September, "After the defeat of Soviet Russia there can be no interest in the continued existence of this large urban centre. Following the city's encirclement, requests for surrender negotiations shall be denied, since the problem of relocating and feeding the population cannot and should not be solved by us. In this war for our existence, we can have no interest in maintaining a part of this large urban population."Hitler's ultimate plan was to raze Leningrad to the ground and give areas north of the River Neva to the Finns.
Army Group North under Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb advanced to Leningrad, its primary objective. Von Leeb's plan called for capturing the city on the move, but due to Hitler's recall of 4th Panzer Group, von Leeb had to lay the city under siege indefinitely after reaching the shores of Lake Ladoga, while trying to complete the encirclement and reaching the Finnish Army under Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim waiting at the Svir River, east of Leningrad. Finnish military forces were north of Leningrad, while German forces occupied territories to the south. Both German and Finnish forces had the goal of encircling Leningrad and maintaining the blockade perimeter, thus cutting off all communication with the city and preventing the defenders from receiving any supplies – although Finnish participation in the blockade consisted of recapture of lands lost in the Winter War. Thus, it is argued that much of the Finns participation was defensive; the Germans planned on lack of food being their chief weapon against the citizens.
On Friday, 27 June 1941, the Council of Deputies of the Leningrad administration organised "First response groups" of civilians. In the next days, Leningrad's civilian population was informed of the danger and over a million citizens were mobilised for the construction of fortifications. Several lines of defences were built along the city's perimeter to repulse hostile forces approaching from north and south by means of civilian resistance. In the south, the fortified line ran from the mouth of the Luga River to Chudovo, Uritsk and through the Neva River. Another line of defence passed through Peterhof to Gatchina, Pulkovo and Koltushy. In the north the defensive line against the Finns, the Karelian Fortified Region, had been maintained in Leningrad's northern suburbs since the 1930s, was now returned to service. A total of 306 km of timber barricades, 635 km of wire entanglements, 700 km of anti-tank ditches, 5,000 earth-and-timber emplacements and reinforced concrete weapon emplacements and 25,000 km of open trenches were constructed or excavated by civilians.
The guns from the cruiser Aurora were moved inland to the Pulkovo Heights to the south of Leningrad. The 4th Panzer Group from East Prussia took Pskov following a swift advance and managed to reach Novgorod by 16 August; the Soviet defenders fought to the death, despite the German discovery of the Soviet defence plans on an officer's corpse. After the capture of Novgorod, General Hoepner's 4th Panzer Group continued its progress towards Leningrad. However, the 18th Army – despite some 350,000 men lagging behind – forced its way to Ostrov and Pskov after the Soviet troops of the Northwestern Front retreated towards Leningrad. On 10 July, both Ostrov and Pskov were captured and the 18th Army reached Narva and Kingisepp, from where advance toward Leningrad continued from the Luga River line; this had the effect of creating siege positions from the Gulf of Finland to Lake Ladoga, with the eventual aim of isolating Leningrad from all directions. The Finnish Army was expected to advance along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga.
Army Group North 18th Army (v
The Yelnya Offensive was a military operation by the Soviet Army during the Battle of Smolensk during Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which began the German-Soviet War. The offensive was an attack against the semi-circular Yelnya salient which the German 4th Army had extended 50 kilometres south-east of Smolensk, forming a staging area for an offensive towards Vyazma and Moscow. Under heavy pressure on its flanks, the German army evacuated the salient by 8 September 1941, leaving behind a devastated and depopulated region; as the first reverse that the Heer suffered during Barbarossa and the first recapture of the Soviet territory by the Red Army, the battle was covered by Nazi and Soviet propaganda and served as a morale boost to the Soviet population. The town of Yelnya was located 82 km south-east of Smolensk situated near heights deemed strategic by General Heinz Guderian, commander of the 2nd Panzer Group, as the springboard for further offensive operations towards Moscow.
The 2nd Panzer Group took the heights on 19 July 1941, but ran out of fuel and ran out of ammunition. The extended flanks of the bridgehead were subject to frequent counter-attacks of the Red Army while the Army Group Center paused operations in late July to rest and refit. On 1 August, Stavka authorised formation of the Reserve Front, led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov, with several new armies under his command; these formations were poorly trained and had few tanks and artillery pieces. Two of the new armies—the 24th Army under the command of Major General Konstantin Rakutin and the 43rd Army under Lieutenant General Pavel Kurochkin—were to support the Western Front under the command of Semyon Timoshenko; the two formations were to destroy the German forces at Yelnya and advance across the Desna River to retake Roslavl, lost to the 2nd Panzer Group in early August. The German forces located in the salient were the 10th Panzer Division, Waffen-SS Division Das Reich, 268th Infantry Division, among others.
These divisions were replaced by the 137th, 78th and 292nd infantry divisions in addition to the 268th, about 70,000 troops in all with some 500 artillery pieces and 40 StuG IIIs of the 202nd Assault Gun Battalion, the last three a part of the German XX Army Corps. The northern base of the salient was held by the 15th Infantry Division, while the southern base was held by the 7th Infantry Division; the first phase of the operation began at the end of the first week in August. The Soviet offensive operations continued up till 20 August and resumed on August 30, in concert with operations by the Western Front and the Bryansk Front under General Andrey Yeryomenko; the intent of the 30 August offensive was to assault the bases of the salient, with the 102nd Tank Division and the 303rd Rifle Division forming the outer front of the encirclement, while the 107th and 100th Rifle Divisions of the northern pincer and 106th Motorized Division of the southern pincer formed the inner front of the encirclement.
Supporting the 106th in the south was the 303rd Rifle Division. Containing the salient in the central sector of the offensive were the 19th Rifle Division and 309th Rifle Division; the 103rd Motorized Division and 120th Rifle Division were deployed on the northern and southern sides of the salient in fortified field positions to cut routes of escape by the German divisions. The 24th Army was allocated only 20 aircraft for reconnaissance and correction of artillery fire for the operation, with no fighter or strike support. On September 3, under the threat of an encirclement, the German forces started retreating from the salient while maintaining resistance on the flanks. After a week of heavy combat, Hitler permitted Army Group Center's commander Fedor von Bock to evacuate the Yelnya bridgehead; the Soviet offensive continued through September 8, when it was halted at the new German defense line. Although Soviet sources claimed that the German forces were destroyed in the salient, most of them were able to retreat.
Nonetheless, the fighting in August and September had caused the XX Army Corp 23,000 casualties and the 4th Army was not able to recover from them for the rest of the year. British war correspondent Alexander Werth described his visit to the Yelnya area in the aftermath of its recapture in his 1964 book Russia at War 1941–1945; the town of the 15,000 inhabitants had been destroyed, nearly all able bodied men and women had been formed into forced labor battalions and driven to the German rear. Only a few hundred old people and children were allowed to stay in the town; the witnesses described to Werth how, on the night before the Wehrmacht pulled out of the town, they had been locked into the church and observed German soldiers looting houses and systematically setting each on fire. They were freed by the advancing Red Army. Werth described the countryside of the "Yelnya salient" as "completely devastated", with "every village and every town destroyed, the few surviving civilians living in cellars and dugouts".
The Wehrmacht losses included 23,000 casualties of the XX Army Corp for the period from 8 August to 8 September. The Red Army losses for the period from 30 August to 8 September are estimated at 31,853 overall casualties. Historian David Glantz states that although the offensive succeeded in attaining its strategic objective, the operation cost the 24th Army nearly 40 percent of its operational strength. This, combined with other failed Red Army offensives in the Smolensk area, temporarily blunted the German drive but weakened Red Army for
Battle of Rostov (1941)
The Battle of Rostov was a battle of the Eastern Front of World War II, fought around Rostov-on-Don between the Army Group South of Nazi Germany and the Southern Front of the Soviet Union. The battle comprised three phases: the German Sea of Azov Offensive Operation by Army Group South, the Soviet Rostov Defensive Operation by the Southern Front, the Rostov Offensive Operation executed by the same Soviet Front. After forcing their way across the Mius river on 17 November, the German forces captured 10,000 Soviet troops and took Rostov on 21 November. Six days the Southern Front, reinforced with the newly raised 37th Army, counterattacked from the north and threatened to surround the overstretched German III Motorized Army Corps. Rundstedt ordered a retreat to the Mius line from Rostov to prevent the encirclement, which prompted Hitler to fire him. Rundstedt's successor Walther von Reichenau confirmed the retreat order with the backing of the Army High Command Chief of Staff Franz Halder and Hitler relented.
The Red Army retook Rostov on 28 November. It was the first successful major Soviet counteroffensive of the war. After concluding the Battle of Kiev in September 1941, the German Army Group South advanced from the Dniepr River to the Sea of Azov coast. Walther von Reichenau's 6th Army captured Kharkov in the First Battle of Kharkov. Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel's 17th Army advanced through Poltava towards Voroshilovgrad. Erich von Manstein's 11th Army moved into the Crimean Peninsula and took control of all of the peninsula by autumn. Ewald von Kleist's 1st Panzer Army advanced from Kiev, encircled Soviet troops at Melitopol in October attacked east along the shore of the Sea of Azov toward Rostov at the mouth of the Don river, known as the gateway to the Caucasus. Rostov was assigned as the objective for the 11th Army now commanded by General Eugen Ritter von Schobert, however he died in a crash on the same day after landing his liaison aircraft in a minefield. To replace him, Manstein was ordered to travel from the Leningrad sector of the front to the extreme southern sector.
He would receive support from the 4th Luftwaffe Air Fleet. At this time the LIVth Army Corps of the 11th Army was still engaged in Crimea, because the Romanian forces were still engaged in the Siege of Odessa, the Army's resources for the Rostov objective were limited against retreating Red Army troops. Therefore, Manstein replaced the LIV Corps with the smaller XXXth Army Corps and XLIXth Mountain Corps and ordered the LIV Corps into the first echelon in the advance to Rostov. Late in September, the Romanian 3rd Army joined the 11th Army in its advance towards Rostov, but was depleted by the attacks of the Soviet 9th and 18th Armies on 26 September; this forced a halt to the Army's advance to safeguard its flank and forced Manstein to use his only mobile reserve unit, the Leibstandarte Brigade to shore up Romanian defenses. The Soviet counter-attack delivered as part of the general Donbass-Rostov Strategic Defensive Operation forced Rundstedt's Army Group South to order his 1st Panzer Army to manoeuvre in order to be better placed to counter any further Soviet thrusts in the Romanian sector of the front, to attempt an encirclement of the two Soviet Armies, successful in the area of Chernigovka where on 8 October the commander of the 18th Soviet Army, General-Lieutenant A.
K. Smirnov, was killed by artillery fire on his command post in the village of Popovka during the breakout attempt between 5 and 10 October 1941; this was interpreted by Hitler as such a success that he declared "The battle of the Sea of Azov is over" on 11 October before the troops had reached their objective. As a commemorative gesture, Hitler issued the order to redesignate the Leibstandarte Brigade as SS Division Leibstandarte; the German 11th Army was ordered back to Crimea to effect the breakthrough of the Isthmus of Perekop. Perceiving that the way to Rostov and the Caucasus was open, Hitler issued an order transferring the objective from the 11th Army to the 1st Panzer Army and attaching to it ill-prepared Romanian 3rd Army, the Italian Alpine Corps, the Slovakian Motorised Brigade. During the subsequent reorganisation of Axis forces the III Panzer Corps and XIV Panzer Corps took the lead, supported by the XLIX Mountain Corps arrived from Crimea. By 17 October 1941 the Mius River was crossed by the 14th Panzer Division and Taganrog was captured by German troops, with the mountain troops entering Stalino, forcing the newly formed 12th Army into a renewed withdrawal.
However, the autumn rains had begun, the Rasputitsa had set in slowing the 1st Panzer Army's advance to "meter by meter". This meant that the leading German units did not reach the outskirts of Rostov until mid-November, having lost contact with the Red Army in the meantime; the assault on Rostov began on 17 November, on 21 November the Germans took Rostov. However, the German lines were over-extended, Kleist's warnings that his left flank was vulnerable and that his tanks were ineffective in the freezing weather were ignored. On 27 November the 37th Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Anton Ivanovich Lopatin, as part of the Rostov Strategic Offensive Operation, counter-attacked the 1st Panzer Army's spearhead from the north, forcing them to pull out of the city. Adolf Hitler countermanded the retreat; when Rundstedt refused to obey, Hitler sacked him, replaced him with Reichenau. However, Reichenau saw at o
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
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