The Russia During the Second World War Part 6

The resumption of the Soviet offensive. – Operations were resumed after a stop of about 4 months in the southern sector and on the initiative of the Germans. Between 5 and 12 July there was the German attack on Orel-Kursk-Belgorod which, however, had no decisive consequences. In Belgorod, General von Kluge attempted to demolish Kursk’s salient enemy; in Orel, however, Marshal Timošenko did the same against the Orel salient (July 14). The first fails; the second attracts all the German reserves of the central front; but nevertheless the Soviets managed to gain the upper hand; on August 5, Orel and much of the German salient fell to their power. Meanwhile, violent attacks developed in the Doneč basin: Belgorod was conquered and even further north in the Ladoga region it was fiercely fought. The great Soviet summer offensive was in full swing and its main lines were: Bryansk, Vyazma and Charcov; the latter, the most important, due to the strategic consequences that could derive from it.

Gradually the great battle, which assumed all the characteristics of the struggle of attrition, was spreading: on the one hand, to Smolensk, on the other to Izjum; while the attack on the Kuban bridgehead was repeated (16 July-12 August). Charkov, which had been taken up by the Germans in March, returned on 23 August to the power of the adversary; later the offensive headed south-west and forced the Germans to evacuate Taganrog on 30 August and to retreat the entire Ukrainian front by an average of 50 km. From this moment on, the whole immense front is in motion and the battle rages on for hundreds of kilometers. The push of the Soviets becomes irresistible and we are witnessing a chain of collapses of the German front and a struggle that is becoming more and more fierce; fight that will last all autumn.

First, the Ržev-Bryansk-Vyazma castle was resumed; then occupy El′nja and Dorogobuž covering Smolensk; to the south, Stalino, Černigov, Poltava and Novorossijsk fall. The fight, in October, takes away the Dnieper with Dnepropetrovsk from the Germans (25 September) and on the 30th the Kuban bridgehead ′ this allows the immediate establishment of a similar bridgehead in the Kerč peninsula. The year 1943 ends with the conquest of Kiev (November 6) and of Gomel (26 of the same month).

The winter campaign of 1944. – According to, the 1944 winter campaign opens with the 1943 Christmas offensive, with the spring operations in Ukraine as an appendix. The center of gravity of the struggle from the central sector moves to the southern one where the climatic conditions are not prohibitive. Here the Soviet armies, under the orders of Žukov, in a first phase (January-February) with local actions improve and strengthen the Dnieper line, which must serve as a starting point for the general offensive that will occupy the entire subsequent phase, until to May inclusive.

The line of contact, at the beginning of the winter offensive in the central and southern sector, passed through Vitebsk-west of Gomel′-Žitomir-east of Vinica and Krivojrog-Nikopol ′. The battle affects the whole line: it is a daily succession of attacks and counterattacks in extremely harsh climate conditions, especially in the central-southern regions, whose epicenters are Gomel ′, Korosten ′, Žitomir and Nikopol ′ and especially in the areas of Korosten ′ and Žitomir, a locality that the Germans must evacuate on December 30th. After a relative pause of about three weeks, the battle resumed violently, especially in the south in the region of Kiev-Cherkassy and Nikopol ′ on either side, that is, of the great bend of the Dnieper. The pressure is increasing everywhere; the Germans are obliged to constant front shortenings.

Kirovo falls on January 8; on February 10 Nikopol ′ with its manganese mines, the last German bridgehead on the river; on 23 Krivojrog. With the fall of Kirovo, the path of retreat was closed for 10 German divisions surrounded in the bend of the Dnieper.

Throughout March the struggle maintains a character of accentuated violence in the southern sector, where the Soviets obtain significant advantages. As usual, the epicenters are constantly shifting to keep the enemy uncertain and constrain their sector reserves. And so, alternatively, the struggle intensifies: to the north, from Nevel to Narva; to the south, from Pripyat ′ to Vitebsk and lower Dnieper, in the sectors of Vinica and Cherson, to Kovel and Ostrov. The Soviets, on the whole, shift the center of gravity of the struggle from the middle to the lower Dnieper, to the Bug and to the lower Dnestr.

The Germans cleared Uman ′ on 11 March, Vinica on 16, Nikolaev on the Bug on 30, Smerinka on 22. Germans and Romanians make great efforts to arrest the Soviets west of Dniester and in the Balti area, but in vain; on the 26th Kolomyja and on the 30th Cernǎuţi are occupied.

The rapid maneuver of the armies of Žukov, Konev and Malinovskij ended with a deep leap forward to the Prut and at the foot of the Carpazî; Odessa was occupied on 11 April. At the same time the Soviets, with a lightning move, broke through the defenses of the Isthmus of Perekop and invaded Crimea; other troops landed on the Kerč peninsula contributed to the action of the previous ones: on 10 May Sevastopol raised the white flag and the Germans, by sea, cleared the extreme edge of the peninsula. The death toll of the victorious advance into Ukraine was 500,000 Germans killed or captured. The threat now weighed on Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.

The offensive in the central sector, which had suffered a slowdown, resumes with the spring. At the end of May, Mogilev is conquered and Bobrujsk is occupied; the Dvina is reached and, having overcome the defenses on the Berezina, the Soviets aim for Pińsk.

The Russia During the Second World War 6

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