Operation Winter Storm
Operation Winter Storm was a German offensive in World War II in which the German 4th Panzer Army unsuccessfully attempted to break the Soviet encirclement of the German 6th Army during the Battle of Stalingrad. In late November 1942, the Red Army completed Operation Uranus, encircling some 300,000 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. Meanwhile, the Red Army continued 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. To remedy the situation, the Luftwaffe attempted to supply German forces in Stalingrad through an air bridge; when the Luftwaffe proved incapable of carrying out its mission and it became obvious that a successful breakout could occur only if launched as early as possible, Manstein decided on a relief effort.
Manstein was promised four panzer divisions. Due to German reluctance to weaken certain sectors by redeploying German units, the task of opening a corridor to the German 6th Army fell to the 4th Panzer Army; the German force was pitted against several Soviet armies tasked with the destruction of the encircled German forces and their offensive around the lower Chir River. The German offensive made large gains on the first day; the spearhead forces were able to defeat counterattacks by Soviet troops. By 13 December, Soviet resistance slowed the German advance considerably. Although German forces took the area surrounding Verkhne-Kumskiy, the Red Army launched Operation Little Saturn on 16 December. Operation Little Saturn crushed the Italian 8th Army on Army Group Don's left flank, threatening the survival of Manstein's entire group of forces; as resistance and casualties increased, Manstein appealed to Hitler and to the commander of the German 6th Army, General Friedrich Paulus, to allow the 6th Army to break out of Stalingrad.
The 4th Panzer Army continued its attempt to open a corridor to the 6th Army on 18–19 December, but was unable to do so without the aid of forces inside the Stalingrad pocket. Manstein called off the assault on 23 December and by Christmas Eve the 4th Panzer Army began to withdraw to its starting position. Due to the failure of the 6th Army to break out from the Soviet encirclement, the Red Army was able to continue the strangulation of German forces in Stalingrad. On 23 November 1942, the Red Army closed its encirclement of Axis forces in Stalingrad. Nearly 300,000 German and Romanian soldiers, as well as Russian volunteers for the Wehrmacht, were trapped in and around the city of Stalingrad by 1.1 million Soviet personnel. Amidst the impending disaster, German chancellor Adolf Hitler appointed Field Marshal Erich von Manstein as commander of the newly created Army Group Don. Composed of the German 4th Panzer and 6th Armies, as well as the Third and Fourth Romanian Armies, Manstein's new army group was situated between German Army Groups A and B.
Instead of attempting an immediate breakout, German high command decided that the trapped forces would remain in Stalingrad in a bid to hold out. The encircled German forces were to be resupplied by air, requiring 680 t of supplies per day. However, the assembled fleet of 500 transport aircraft were insufficient for the task. Many of the aircraft were hardly serviceable in the rough Soviet winter; the German 6th Army, for example, was getting less than 20% of its daily needs. Furthermore, the Germans were still threatened by Soviet forces which still held portions of the Volga River's west bank in Stalingrad. Given the unexpected size of German forces closed off in Stalingrad, on 23 November Stavka decided to strengthen the outer encirclement preparing to destroy Axis forces in and around the city. On 24 November, several Soviet formations began to entrench themselves to defend against possible German incursions originating from the West; the Soviets reinforced the encircling forces in order to prevent a successful breakout operation by the German 6th Army and other Axis units.
However, this tied down over ½ of the Red Army's strength in the area. Planning for Operation Saturn began on 25 November, aiming for the destruction of the Italian 8th Army and the severing of communications between German forces west of the Don River and those operating in the Caucasus. Meanwhile, planning began for Operation Koltso, which aimed at reducing German forces in the Stalingrad pocket; as Operation Uranus concluded, German forces inside the encirclement were too weak to attempt a breakout on their own. Half of their remaining armor, for example, had been lost during the defensive fighting, there was a severe lack of fuel and ammunition for the surviving vehicles, given that the Luftwaffe was not able to provide adequate aerial resupply. Manstein proposed a counterstrike to break the Soviet encirclement of Stalingrad, codenamed Operation Winter Storm. Manstein believed that—due to the inability of the Luftwaffe to supply the Stalingrad pocket—it was becoming more important to relieve them "at the earliest possible date".
On 28 November, Manstein sent Hitler a detailed report on Army Group Don's situation, including the strength of the German 6th Army and an assessment on the available ammunition for German artillery inside the city. The dire strategic situation made Manstein doubtful on whether or not the relief operation could afford to wait to receive all units earmarked for the offensive. Stavka
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
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
The Soviet Union the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were centralized; the country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Minsk, Alma-Ata, Novosibirsk, it spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, steppes and mountains; the Soviet Union had its roots in the 1917 October Revolution, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government which had replaced Tsar Nicholas II during World War I. In 1922, the Soviet Union was formed by a treaty which legalized the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian and Byelorussian republics that had occurred from 1918. Following Lenin's death in 1924 and a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin came to power in the mid-1920s.
Stalin committed the state's ideology to Marxism–Leninism and constructed a command economy which led to a period of rapid industrialization and collectivization. During his rule, political paranoia fermented and the Great Purge removed Stalin's opponents within and outside of the party via arbitrary arrests and persecutions of many people, resulting in at least 600,000 deaths. In 1933, a major famine struck the country. Before the start of World War II in 1939, the Soviets signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, agreeing to non-aggression with Nazi Germany, after which the USSR invaded Poland on 17 September 1939. In June 1941, Germany broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union, opening the largest and bloodiest theatre of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the highest proportion of the conflict in the effort of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad and Kursk; the territories overtaken by the Red Army became satellite states of the Soviet Union.
The post-war division of Europe into capitalist and communist halves would lead to increased tensions with the United States-led Western Bloc, known as the Cold War. Stalin died in 1953 and was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1956 denounced Stalin and began the de-Stalinization; the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred during Khrushchev's rule, among the many factors that led to his downfall in 1964. In the early 1970s, there was a brief détente of relations with the United States, but tensions resumed with the Soviet–Afghan War in 1979. In 1985, the last Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to reform and liberalize the economy through his policies of glasnost and perestroika, which caused political instability. In 1989, Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe overthrew their respective communist governments; as part of an attempt to prevent the country's dissolution due to rising nationalist and separatist movements, a referendum was held in March 1991, boycotted by some republics, that resulted in a majority of participating citizens voting in favor of preserving the union as a renewed federation.
Gorbachev's power was diminished after Russian President Boris Yeltsin's high-profile role in facing down a coup d'état attempted by Communist Party hardliners. In late 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met and formally dissolved the Soviet Union; the remaining 12 constituent republics emerged as independent post-Soviet states, with the Russian Federation—formerly the Russian SFSR—assuming the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and being recognized as the successor state. The Soviet Union was a powerhouse of many significant technological achievements and innovations of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite, the first humans in space and the first probe to land on another planet, Venus; the country had the largest standing military in the world. The Soviet Union was recognized as one of the five nuclear weapons states and possessed the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, it was a founding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Federation of Trade Unions and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact.
The word "Soviet" is derived from a Russian word сове́т meaning council, advice, harmony and all deriving from the proto-Slavic verbal stem of vět-iti, related to Slavic věst, English "wise", the root in "ad-vis-or", or the Dutch weten. The word sovietnik means "councillor". A number of organizations in Russian history were called "council". For example, in the Russian Empire the State Council, which functioned from 1810 to 1917, was referred to as a Council of Ministers after the revolt of 1905. During the Georgian Affair, Vladimir Lenin envisioned an expression of Great Russian ethnic chauvinism by Joseph Stalin and his supporters, calling for these nation-states to join Russia as semi-independent parts of a greater union, which he named as the Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia. Stalin resisted the proposal, but accepted it, although with Lenin's agreement changed the name of the newly proposed sta
Bombing of Stalingrad
Stalingrad, a Soviet city and industrial centre on the river Volga, was bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II. German land forces comprising the 6th Army had advanced to the suburbs of Stalingrad by August 1942; the city was firebombed with 1,000 tons of high explosives and incendiaries in 1,600 sorties on 23 August. The destruction was monumental and complete, turning Stalingrad into a sea of fire and killing thousands of civilians and soldiers. Further fire-attacks were mounted against the ruined city for the next two days, enveloping it in dense volcano-like black smoke clouds that stretched 3.5 kilometers into the sky. In accordance with Adolf Hitler's demand to exterminate all traces of Soviet resistance, Soviet forces hiding in the rubble were subjected to nonstop German airstrikes until the Soviet counteroffensive in late November 1942. Luftflotte 4 flew 1,000 sorties per day on average from 23 August to 22 November, the bulk of which were directed at Stalingrad.
Luftwaffe General Martin Fiebig's Fliegerkorps VIII was tasked in July 1942 with providing air support for the German 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army as they captured Stalingrad and secured the northern flank of the German advance to the Caucasus oilfields. Fiebig's superior's, Generaloberst Wolfram von Richthofen’s Luftflotte 4 held a 1,600 kilometer eastern frontage in July and concentrated its efforts on Stalingrad, with the air support missions in the Caucasus under Kurt Pflugbeil's Fliegerkorps IV and at the Voronezh battle being given a lower priority. Logistics for Fliegerkorps VIII received the highest preference, as Richthofen saw the capture of Stalingrad as the key to German success on the entire Eastern Front. Richthofen requested additional Junkers Ju 52 transport groups from Oberkommando der Luftwaffe and transferred Pflugbeil's groups, as well as his road transport companies, to the administrative authority of a new, specially created, "Stalingrad transport region", he ordered better procedures and greater efforts to maximize efficiency.
His activities bore fruit as the Luftwaffe lifted ammunition and fuel to the front. The army implemented its own initiatives to increase supply effectiveness, the insufficient perfection of which had undermined the speed of the German advance since the beginning of Case Blue in June. By the third week of August, the 6th Army and Fliegerkorps VIII were receiving sufficient supplies to undertake without undue difficulties their primary mission of capturing Stalingrad. During the Battle of Kalach, Fliegerkorps VIII provided the German XIV and XXIV Panzer Corps' with decisive air support as the Soviet 62nd Army was encircled and destroyed west of Kalach from 8–11 August through the application of superior German firepower from all sides and from above. 50,000 prisoners were taken by the Germans, 1,100 Soviet tanks were destroyed or captured and the road to Stalingrad was laid bare. LI Army Corps penetrated across the Don north of Kalach on 21 August, forcing the surprised and helpless Red Army formations to the south to fall back on Stalingrad.
XIV Panzer Corps crossed the Don the next morning across two enormous pontoon bridges created by German engineers. Fiebig's air corps shot down 139 Red aircraft in three days and inflicted massive damage on Soviet ground forces. On 21 August Richthofen flew across the Don in his Fieseler Fi 156 and was shocked at the carnage of dead Soviet bodies and destroyed tanks. Hours after Richthofen's sightseeing, Kampfgeschwader 76's Junkers Ju 88 medium bombers exterminated two surprised Soviet reserve divisions on open fields 150 kilometers east of Stalingrad. Richthofen was excited and delighted by the one-sided massacre and wrote in his diary: "Blood flowed!"Within two days of crossing the Don, Gustav Anton von Wietersheim's XIV Panzer Corps rolled forth to reach the Volga river at Spartanovka in the northern suburbs of Stalingrad at 1600 hours on 23 August. Stavka, the Soviet supreme command, was shocked by the speed of Wietersheim's advance, it was accomplished thanks to an overwhelming deluge of German airpower.
Fliegerkorps VIII flew 1,600 unbroken sorties, blasting a path for the Panzer spearheads by dropping 1,000 tons of bombs on 23 August. Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers, Focke-Wulf Fw 190 ground attack aircraft and Heinkel He 111 and Junkers Ju 88 medium bombers bombed and strafed the paralyzed Soviets, refueled, restocked their ordnance and flew more missions as the German aircraft never broke the cycle. Fliegerkorps VIII lost only three aircraft that day, while destroying 91 Soviet aircraft in a single day and inflicting immeasurable damage on the Soviet soldiers and civilians on the ground, it was only the first half of Fliegerkorps VIII's attacks that day as the second great air offensive of 23 August was carried out against the city of Stalingrad itself. From 3:18 pm on 23 August 1942 and through the night into 24 August units of Generaloberst von Richthofen’s Luftflotte 4 attacked the city. Medium Bomber strength employed included elements of KG 27, KG 51, KG 55, KG 76, I/KG 100.` During 23 August Luftflotte 4 flew 1,600 sorties and dropped 1,000 tons of bombs on the city destroying it, while three aircraft were lost.
Buildings crumbled under the blast effects of high explosives, while the extensive use of incendiaries torched factories and houses. Wooden houses were incinerated, leaving only their chimneys on the surface. In the first few hours of bombing, the headquarters of the city's air defenses were bombed. Stalingrad was enveloped in dense, volcano-like black clouds of smoke that stretched 3,500 meters into the sky; the destruction was monumental and complete as the entire city was put on fire and Soviet families either
Marko Mesić (soldier)
Marko Mesić was a decorated gunnery officer who served in the armies of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Independent State of Croatia, the SFR Yugoslavia. He is best known for being the final commander of Croatian legionnaires in World War II, serving in the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front and in the Battle of Stalingrad. Mesić was born in Bjelovar, Croatia, to Franjo and Katarina Mesić, he received eight years of schooling in Hungary. He served as an active commissioned officer in Royal Yugoslav Army artillery units until 1941. At the start of the April War, Mesić was artillery Lieutenant Colonel in command of the Royal Yugoslav Army artillery regiment serving in Niš, near the Bulgarian border. After Nazi Germany defeated the Royal Yugoslav Army during the brief April War in 1941, Mesić joined the army of the Independent State of Croatia, the Croatian Home Guard, in Varaždin, he was promptly assigned to the 369th Reinforced Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 100th Light Infantry Division, where he held the rank of lieutenant colonel of the artillery section.
The Croatian Legion was formally a German Army formation and was under full German command because the Independent State of Croatia never declared war on the Soviet Union. The regiment wore Croatian Home Guard uniforms. With Mesić as the artillery section commander, the 369th Regiment saw action against Russian forces in October 1941 after an exhausting 35-day, 750 kilometres march to the village of Budinskaja; the 369th Regiment was successful in difficult battles during the winter of 1941 and in the following spring and summer. Due to illness, regiment commander Colonel Ivan Markulj was transferred back to Croatia and Mesić temporarily replaced him on 7 July 1942. Mesić was replaced by a new commander, Colonel Viktor Pavičić. Division commander General Sanne commended Mesić's artillery section on 21 and 22 February 1942; the legion experienced its most difficult battles at Harkov when Mesić was the artillery commander, including a costly two-day battle at kolhoz Proljet Kultura. The regiment attacked Proljet Kultura on 27 July 1942, but an overwhelming Soviet counterattack the next day killed 53 and wounded 186 Legion soldiers.
The Legion's bravery and success was admired by General Paulus, leading him to select the Legion as the only non-German unit to enter Stalingrad. Along with the rest of the Croatian Legion, Mesić participated in the Battle of Stalingrad on the Eastern Front. Mesić returned to Stalingrad thereafter. By January 1943, the Croatian Legion had suffered heavy losses, its duties consisting of holding the famous Red October factory frontline, where the regiment suffered heavy casualties. Mesić and his artillery unit were stationed in and around the Stalingrad flight school runway known as Stalingradskaja. Mesić became the last commander of the Croatian Legion on 14 January 1943, after the resignation and disappearance of Colonel Pavičić, who recommended Mesić to General Sanne as his successor; the Legion surrendered to General Aleksandr Vasilevsky around 29 or 30 January 1943. After the surrender of the German Sixth Army by General Paulus on 2 February, Mesić became a prisoner of war, along with fifteen other officers 100 wounded combat soldiers, 600 other members of the Croatian Legion.
The regiment lost 175 soldiers during these last two weeks, or twenty percent of their regiment. Presuming he was dead, German officials posthumously promoted Mesić to full colonel and awarded him the Iron Cross 1st Class and the Military Order of the Iron Trefoil with the rank of "Knight of Croatia" of the Independent State of Croatia. In an official report dated 30 June 1943, Lieutenant Rudolf Baričević commended Mesić's bravery and leadership, calling him "an exemplary officer" and "true soldier." The report did not mention the Legion's official commander, Colonel Pavičić. Mesić and the remaining members of the legion were first assembled at Beketovka on the Volga River, where they were joined by some 80,000 POWs, consisting of Germans, as well as some Italians and Hungarians; the POWs were sent on a forced march to Moscow, where they were to be joined by their comrades from Light Transport Brigade assigned to Italian forces on the Eastern Front. Many died along the march due to typhoid, dysentery and scurvy.
In the summer 1943, Mesić, six officers, 100 legionnaires were transferred to Suzdal and to Krasnogorsk near Moscow, where they met with most of the other surviving men. At Krasnogorsk, Karasovo, the Soviets started to form them into a new unit in Royal Yugoslav uniforms. During his imprisonment, Mesić appeared in Soviet propaganda, wearing a Royal Yugoslav Army uniform with Tito's flag, he may have been forced to do so. Upon learning of his appearance, the Ministry of the Armed Forces removed him from the Croatian Armed Forces and rescinded his awards. During 1944, Mesić was given command by the Soviets of the newly formed First Yugoslav Volunteer Brigade, assembled from prisoners of war of Yugoslavian origin, as well as volunteers living in Russia at the time. Mesić was once again given the rank of colonel; the new Yugoslav partisan brigade, now wearing old Royal Yugoslav Army uniforms, was commanded by former Croatian Legion officers such as
World War II
World War II known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries; the major participants threw their entire economic and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China, it included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, the only use of nuclear weapons in war. Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific, was at war with China by 1937, though neither side had declared war on the other. World War II is said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. Following the onset of campaigns in North Africa and East Africa, the fall of France in mid 1940, the war continued between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. War in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history; this Eastern Front trapped most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States as well as European colonies in the Pacific. Following an immediate U. S. declaration of war against Japan, supported by one from Great Britain, the European Axis powers declared war on the U.
S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Rapid Japanese conquests over much of the Western Pacific ensued, perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance and resulting in the support of several armies from defeated territories; the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942. Key setbacks in 1943, which included a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, Allied victories in the Pacific, cost the Axis its initiative and forced it into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained its territorial losses and turned toward Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in Central China, South China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands; the war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.
Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and its invasion of Manchuria, Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945, cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies. Tribunals were set up by fiat by the Allies and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and the Japanese. World War II changed the political social structure of the globe; the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonisation of Africa and Asia.
Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic expansion. Political integration in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and create a common identity; the start of the war in Europe is held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred and the two wars merged in 1941; this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935; the British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the fo