|Battle of the Kerch Peninsula|
|Part of the Eastern Front of World War II|
German bombs fall on the Kerch Peninsula, May 1942
|Commanders and leaders|
Erich von Manstein
Wolfram von Richthofen
8th Air Corps
|Separate Coastal Army |
Air Force of the Crimean Front
Black Sea Fleet
| 8 May 1942:|
232,549 men (2 May)
57 assault guns
95,000 men (2 May)
| 8 May 1942:|
404 aircraft (Air Force of the Crimean Front)
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of the Kerch Peninsula, which commenced with the Soviet Kerch-Feodosia Landing Operation (Russian : Керченско-Феодосийская десантная операция, Kerchensko-Feodosiyskaya desantnaya operatsiya) and ended with the German Operation Bustard Hunt (German : Unternehmen Trappenjagd), 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 Crimean Peninsula. 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, while the Axis suffered 24,120 casualties. Superior German artillery firepower was largely responsible for the Soviet debacle.
Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
Fritz Erich Georg Eduard von Manstein was a German commander of the Wehrmacht, Nazi Germany's armed forces during the Second World War. He attained the rank of field marshal.
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, heavily 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 constantly attacked Soviet field positions, armored units, troop columns, Medical evacuation ships, airfields, 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.
Infantry is a military specialization that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers or infanteers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.
Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry's small arms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility providing the large share of an army's total firepower.
A breakthrough occurs when an offensive force has broken or penetrated an opponent's defensive line, and rapidly exploits the gap.
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 immediately preceding the German summer offensive (Case Blue). Its successful conclusion allowed the Axis to concentrate their forces on Sevastopol, which was conquered within six weeks. The Kerch Peninsula was used as 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.
A division is a large military unit or formation, usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. Infantry divisions during the World Wars ranged between 8,000 and 30,000 in nominal strength.
Case Blue was the German Armed Forces' name for its plan for the 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia between 28 June and 24 November 1942, during World War II.
The Kerch Strait is a strait connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, separating the Kerch Peninsula of Crimea in the west from the Taman Peninsula of Russia's Krasnodar Krai in the east. The strait is 3.1 kilometres (1.9 mi) to 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) wide and up to 18 metres (59 ft) deep.
On 8 December 1941, Stavka , 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.
The Stavka was the high command of the armed forces in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. In Imperial Russia Stavka refers to the administrative staff, and to the General Headquarters in the late 19th Century Imperial Russian armed forces and subsequently in the Soviet Union. In Western literature it is sometimes written in uppercase (STAVKA), which is incorrect since it is not an acronym. Stavka may refer to its members, as well as to the headquarter location.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a Marxist-Leninist sovereign state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly 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 centers were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometers (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.
A commander-in-chief, also called supreme commander, is the person that exercises supreme command and control over an armed forces or a military branch. As a technical term, it refers to military competencies that reside in a country's executive leadership – a head of state or a head of government.
Tolbukhin's plan was too complicated for the Red Army's and 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.
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.
The Soviet Navy was the naval arm of the Soviet Armed Forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet, the Soviet Navy was a large part of the Soviet Union's strategic plan in the event of a conflict with opposing super power, the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or another conflict related to the Warsaw Pact of Eastern Europe. The influence of the Soviet Navy played a large role in the Cold War (1945-1991), as the majority of conflicts centered on naval forces.
A landing operation is a military action during which a landing force, usually utilizing landing craft, is transferred to land with the purpose of power projection ashore. With the proliferation of aircraft, a landing may refer to amphibious forces, airborne forces, or a combination of both.
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, mostly 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.
The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often known unofficially as the Me 110, is a twin-engine Zerstörer and fighter-bomber developed in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and used by the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110. It was armed with two MG FF 20 mm cannon, four 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns, and one 7.92 mm MG 15 machine gun for defence. Development work on an improved type to replace the Bf 110, the Messerschmitt Me 210 began before the war started but its teething troubles resulted in the Bf 110 soldiering on until the end of the war in various roles, with its replacements, the Me 210 and the significantly improved Me 410 Hornisse.
In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration outside an area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about natural features and other activities in the area.
Generalleutnant, short GenLt, is the second highest general officer rank in the German Army (Heer) and the German Air Force (Luftwaffe).
On the evening of 25 December 1941, the Soviet 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, and 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 Khroni by 0630 hours on 26 December and many drowned in the waves or were incapacitated by hypothermia. Another rifle battalion landed at Khroni later that day with a platoon of T-26 tanks and light artillery pieces. At Cape Zyuk, 290 troops got ashore in six hours but a few vessels foundered on the rocky beach. At Cape Tarhan only 18 soldiers got to the beach out of Group 3's landing force of 1,000 men due to a lack of whaleboats. West of Cape Khroni at Bulganak Bay the Azov flotilla landed 1,452 men, three T-26 tanks, two 76mm howitzers and two 45mm anti-tank guns. Two more landings at Kazantip Point and Yenikale were aborted due to stormy weather. By noon, the Red Army had 3,000 lightly armed men ashore north of Kerch in five separate beachheads. German resistance was minimal at first, but by 1050 hours He 111 medium bombers and Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers began attacking the Soviet landing forces. The cargo ship Voroshilov at Cape Tarhan was bombed and sunk with 450 troops aboard. One vessel with 100 men from Group 2 was bombed and sank off Cape Zyuk. Lacking radios, the lightly-armed and half-frozen Soviet formations north of Kerch moved only one kilometer inland before stopping and digging in for German counterattacks. The Soviet regimental commanders, with little to no communications link to headquarters, decided to wait for planned reinforcements that were delayed for three days due to the unfavorable winter weather and never arrived to help them.
The 302nd Mountain Rifle Division landed at Kamysh Burun south of Kerch and ran into extremely effective German resistance. Two German battalions from Colonel Ernst Maisel's 42nd Infantry Regiment held perfect defensive positions on high ground that dominated the sand beaches. The landing at 0500 hours was stopped by an onslaught of German MG 34 machine gun, mortar and light-artillery fire that prevented the whaleboats and fishing trawlers from advancing to the shore.The 2nd Battalion of the 42nd Infantry Regiment devastated a Soviet landing at Eltigen. A Soviet naval infantry company landed at Stary Karantin but was annihilated by a counterattack from Major Karl Kraft's 1st Battalion/42nd Infantry. The second wave landed at 0700 hours and was also thrown back. Soviet troops seized the docks at Kamysh Burun, allowing the third wave to land there and create a foothold by afternoon. The Luftwaffe sank several ships offshore and only 2,175 troops out of the 5,200-strong Kamysh Burun landing force got ashore.
Lieutenant General Kurt Himer was aware of the Soviet landings by 0610 hours but was uncertain where the Soviet point of main effort was due to the disunited nature of the Soviet forces. He ordered Colonel Friedrich Schmidt's 72nd Infantry Regiment to wipe out the Soviet force at Cape Khroni but lacked the troops to deal with the Bulganak Bay and Cape Zyuk formations. Himer improvised by ordering a headquarters company, 3rd Battalion/97th Infantry Regiment and an artillery battery of 10.5 cm howitzers to tackle the Cape Zyuk landing. By midnight, infantry regiment (IR) 97 had its 1st and 3rd Battalions and two artillery batteries in position for a counterattack the next day.At 1350 hours on 26 December, IR 72 reported that a captured Soviet officer from Cape Khroni had revealed the extent of the Soviet plan – to land 25,000 troops at Kerch. Himer acted decisively and decided to bring up 2nd Battalion/IR 97 from Feodosia as well to crush the Cape Zyuk force with IR 97's full strength. IR 42 would contain the Kamysh Burun landings until the northern Soviet forces were destroyed. A mixed alarm unit consisting of infantry, artillery and combat engineers would deal with the Bulganak Bay landing. Army Corps commander Lieutenant General Sponeck requested permission to use the Romanian 8th Cavalry Brigade to reinforce Himer.
The counterattack against Zyuk was launched only at 1300 hours on 27 December due to the muddy roads. The beachhead was flat and devoid of flora, offering no cover for either side. The Soviet 2nd Battalion/83rd Naval Infantry Brigade spotted the German deployment and launched an immediate attack with three T-26 tanks and several infantry companies. A 3.7 cm Pak 36 anti-tank gun fired 42 rounds and knocked out all three Soviet tanks. Several German bombers showed up to support the German infantry and helped drive the Soviet naval infantry back to its beachhead but the Germans delayed their main attack until the next day. cm howitzers. A combat engineer company blocked the Soviet escape route to the east. The Soviet defensive position was hopelessly exposed. Six He 111 bombers and a few Stukas bombed the Soviet troops. The Soviet defenses were smashed and by 1200 hours the Germans reached the beach. A number of Soviet troops fought on while waist-deep in the water. Their resistance fell apart by evening. 458 were captured and c. 300 killed. Infantry Regiment 97 lost only 40 men killed or wounded in two days of destroying the Soviet beachhead at Cape Zyuk. The Soviet beachhead at Cape Khroni was also wiped out by IR 72 on 28 December, with only 12 men swimming to safety. Himer's division took 1,700 prisoners and only the 1,000-strong Soviet force at Bulganak Bay remained, along with the Kamysh Burun beachhead as well as isolated pockets of Soviet resistance inland.At dawn, the two deployed infantry battalions of IR 97 attacked the Soviet position, supported by two 10.5
Feodosia, a mid-sized town with a pre-war population of 28,000, was lightly defended by two coastal artillery battalions and 800 combat engineers under the command of Oberstleutnant Hans von Ahlfen, which were refitting from the assault on Sevastopol. cm and four 10 cm howitzers. The engineers had only small arms. A boom at the harbor entrance was supposed to deny the enemy access but had been left open due to negligence. The Romanian 3rd Rosiori motorized cavalry regiment was in reserve near Feodosia. Two more Romanian mountain infantry and cavalry brigades were halfway toward Kerch to crush the Soviet landings there.The artillery units had 17 obsolete World War I-era German and Czech 15
The 44th Army began loading up men and equipment at 1300 hours on 28 December into an invasion fleet at Novorossiysk, which consisted of two light cruisers, eight destroyers, 14 transports and dozens of small craft. At 1730, the advance guard consisting of the Soviet cruiser Krasnyi Kavkaz, the Fidonisy-class destroyers Shaumyan , Zhelezniakov , and Nezamozhnik and patrol boats and minesweepers steamed towards Feodosia in relatively favorable weather permitting speeds of 16 knots. The destroyer Sposobnyi struck a naval mine and sank with 200 casualties. The Soviet troops were exposed to freezing weather and suffered from hypothermia and seasickness. Two Soviet submarines waited above the surface at Feodosiya harbor to mark the port entrance with lights. cm Pak anti-tank guns and launched green flares to signal the all-clear for the follow-up forces. The German II./AR 54 gunners engaged the Soviet patrol boats without hitting them. Beginning at 0426 hours, the destroyer Shaumyan inserted a company of naval infantrymen in 20 minutes into the harbor. The destroyers Zhelezniakov and Nyezamozhnik landed more reinforcements soon after. Shaumyan was damaged by German artillery fire.At 0350 hours on 29 December, the Soviet destroyers Shaumyan and Zhelezniakov showed up at Feodosia, fired star shells for illumination and followed up with a 13-minute barrage on the German defenses. Four MO-class small guard ships carrying 60 naval infantrymen secured the lighthouse at the harbor mole. The naval infantrymen, led by Lieutenant Arkady F. Aydinov, captured two 3.7
At 0500 hours, the cruiser Krasnyi Kavkaz began unloading 1,853 soldiers from the 633rd Rifle Regiment of the 157th Rifle Division at the mole. The Germans concentrated all of their fire on the cruiser, hitting it 17 times and setting its No. 2 gun turret on fire. Krasnyi Kavkaz responded with its 180 mm batteries, landed its troops in three hours and then departed the harbor. The Luftwaffe arrived above the battlefield and sank a minesweeper and a patrol boat in the morning, but missed its chance to stop the main force from landing. By 0730, the Soviets were in full control of the port and began landing artillery and vehicles. The Soviets fought their way through the town and by 1000 hours the Germans fled after a brief fight. In a quickly executed operation, the Soviets landed 4,500 troops in the morning and parts of three divisions were ashore by the end of the day. Sponeck immediately ordered the Romanian 8th Cavalry Brigade and 4th Mountain Brigade to turn around and form defensive positions around the Soviet bridgehead at Feodosia. He requested permission from 11th Army commander General der Infanterie Erich von Manstein to withdraw the 46th Infantry Division from Kerch to avoid its encirclement but Manstein refused, ordering Sponeck to throw the enemy back into the sea with the help of reinforcements in the form of Gruppe Hitzfeld from the 73rd Infantry Division and the entire 170th Infantry Division, which would crush the Soviet landing force at Feodosia. Sponeck then disobeyed orders, cut off contact with 11th Army headquarters and at 0830 hours on 29 December, ordered the 46th Infantry Division to retreat west from Kerch to avoid encirclement. Sponeck's order was highly controversial. There were insufficient German forces at Feodosia to stop further Soviet advances, but there were 20,000 Romanian troops in the vicinity and strong German reinforcements on the way. Two Romanian brigades launched a counterattack on 30 December, but were defeated in large part due to their insufficient air and artillery support.
The 46th Infantry Division retreated 120 kilometers through a snowstorm in two days from 30–31 December. A number of vehicles were abandoned due to a lack of fuel. Moving from Feodosia, the Soviet 63rd Mountain Infantry Division established a roadblock by the morning of 31 December and after a brief fight, the 46th took a detour cross country through a narrow 10-kilometer gap between the lead Soviet elements and the Sea of Azov. The 46th avoided encirclement, but suffered moderate equipment losses and light personnel casualties. It established a new defensive line to the east of Islam Terek. On 31 December, 250 Soviet paratroopers jumped from 16 TB-3 bombers to close the gap between the Red Army and the Sea of Azov. The bombers were unsuitable for airborne operations and the Soviet paratroopers were too dispersed for decisive action. They caused a degree of worry at XXXXII Corps headquarters due to the darkness which concealed the limited nature of the operation. Sponeck was relieved of his command on 29 December for insubordination and court-martialed in Germany three weeks later.He was replaced by 72nd Infantry Division commander General der Infanterie Franz Mattenklott. Army Group South commander-in-chief Generaloberst Walther von Reichenau ordered that, "because of its slack reaction to the Russian landing on the Kerch Peninsula, as well as its precipitate withdrawal from the Peninsula, I hereby declare 46. Infanterie-Division forfeit of soldierly honor. Decorations and promotions are in abeyance until countermanded." 302nd Mountain Division attacked from its Kamysh Burun bridgehead to capture Kerch on 31 December after 46th Infantry Division's retreat. The 51st Army had four rifle divisions ashore and liberated the eastern Kerch Peninsula on 1 January.
By 1 January XXXXII Army Corps had a defensive line 20 kilometers west of Feodosia. Gruppe Hitzfeld, led by Otto Hitzfeld, arrived with IR 213 from the 73rd Infantry Division, an artillery battalion, an anti-tank gun battalion ( Panzerjäger-Abteilung 173), four StuG III assault guns and an anti-aircraft detachment. The Soviet 236th Rifle Division attacked the Romanian 4th Mountain Brigade and gained ground. The Soviets advanced only 10 kilometers in three days after landing at Feodosia on 29 December. Their failure to cut off the 46th Infantry Division and destroy the Romanian brigades was criticized by Manstein as a missed Soviet opportunity to destroy the entire 11th Army.On 1 January the 44th Army had 23,000 troops ashore in three rifle divisions but this was insufficient for sustained offensive operations against Manstein. A Soviet infantry-armored attack on the XXXXII headquarters at Islam-Terek failed after 16 T-26 tanks were knocked out by the fresh Panzerjäger-Abteilung 173. By 2 January, the follow-up effects of the Soviet success at Feodosia fizzled out and the 44th Army's combat operations degenerated into a static defense.
The Soviet landings prevented the fall of Sevastopol and seized the initiative.They did not succeed in their main objective of relieving Sevastopol. Casualties were high. The Soviet forces involved in the Kerch-Feodosia landing operation from 26 December 1941 through 2 January 1942 lost 41,935 men, including 32,453 killed or captured and 9,482 wounded or sick.
The 51st Army moved with extreme slowness from Kerch, reaching the Parpach Narrows on 5 January but deploying only two rifle divisions in its forward elements on 12 January. It conducted no offensive action against the 46th Infantry Division aside from minor static warfare raiding. 5 StuG III assault guns and the Romanian 18th Infantry Division. Its task was to hold the line against the 51st Army. Manstein also diverted the XXX Corps under Generalmajor Maximilian Fretter-Pico from the siege of Sevastopol to lead a counteroffensive composed of four Axis divisions that were in place by 13 January. The objective was to recapture Feodosia and throw the 44th Army off balance. Luftwaffe reinforcements poured in to meet Manstein's demand for air support and a new Special Staff Crimea was created under the command Robert Ritter von Greim to lead operations in the peninsula. Kozlov and the Transcaucasus Front leadership did not believe the Axis were strong enough to mount an attack and did not order his two armies to dig in. Prior to his planned main offensive, he landed 226 soldiers on board the destroyer Sposobnyi 40 kilometers southwest of Feodosia as a diversion but succeeded in drawing off only one company of Panzerjäger to contain it – which Kozlov translated as weakness.The Axis response was far quicker. Mattenklott's XXXXII Corps received the 170th and 132nd Infantry Divisions as reinforcements along with two battalions from the 72nd Infantry Division, c.
On 16 January, Kozlov landed the 226th Rifle Regiment behind German lines at Sudak. Supported by the battleship Parizhskaya Kommuna, the cruiser Krasnyi Krym and four destroyers, the Soviets quickly dispersed the small Romanian garrison in the town with naval gunfire. After wading ashore, the Soviet regiment sat tight and entrenched itself. Manstein correctly saw the operation as a distraction and sent only a token watch force to keep the Soviets occupied.The Soviet landing force at Sudak initially resisted the counterattacks of two Romanian infantry battalions. The Germans used their airpower and artillery to reduce the Soviet force through attrition warfare. The 226th Rifle Regiment had no supporting artillery, anti-tank armament or mortars and could not fight back. Kozlov sent more troops to Sudak from 24 through 26 January to bring the total number of troops landed to 4,264. XXX Corps deployed more reinforcements to crush the Soviet units and by 28 January the battle was over. 2,000 Soviet troops were killed at Sudak, another 876 prisoners were taken and executed, 350–500 joined partisan groups, while the rest laid low in the wilderness. Fretter-Pico tasked a Romanian mountain infantry battalion with mopping up operations, which continued for five months until June.
The Soviet 236th Rifle Division's forward security zone was 20 kilometers west of Feodosia and the main line of resistance ran atop a major ridge 15 kilometers from the town. At daybreak on 15 January, He 111 medium bombers and Stuka dive bombers began attacking the Soviet positions on the ridge and were preceded by a quick artillery preparation. German bombers located the 44th Army headquarters, destroyed it and severely wounded its commander, throwing the Soviet leadership into chaos. Otto Hitzfeld's IR 213 attacked, supported by two battalions from the 46th Infantry Division (ID) and three StuG IIIs. The Germans achieved complete surprise and swiftly overran the Soviet positions. The StuGs knocked out two T-26 tanks but lost one of their own to a Soviet 76.2 mm anti-tank gun. The ridge-line west of Feodosia was in German hands by afternoon, along with a dominant position over the 44th Army. In the north, 46 ID and the Romanian 8th Cavalry Brigade launched distraction attacks against 51st Army and succeeded in drawing the majority of the Soviet reserves into an irrelevant sector. Fretter-Pico's XXX Corps lost 500 men killed, wounded and missing in its 15 January attack against the 236th Rifle Division. In exchange, five German infantry battalions backed up by powerful air support and several assault guns crushed a Soviet division and established an ascendancy over the 44th Army.
The German counteroffensive continued on 16 January. Fretter-Pico reinforced Hitzfeld with more battalions as the Soviet 63rd Mountain and 236th Rifle Divisions lost ground and were pushed into narrow, isolated sectors close to the sea. In the afternoon, the 132nd Infantry Division began deploying for an attack into Feodosia. The Luftwaffe bombed the Red Army at Feodosia with impunity. The Soviets mistakenly located the German main point of effort at Vladislavovka to the north of Feodosia and launched a battalion-sized armored-infantry counterattack there. They were stopped in their tracks by Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 190 StuG IIIs, which knocked out 16 T-26 tanks.32 ID assaulted Feodosia at dawn on 17 January. The Red Army troops in the town fought on through heavy street combat but were badly hampered by constant Stuka attacks as well as German artillery and machine gun fire. Impenetrable black smoke clouds formed above the burning buildings. Owing to ceaseless German airstrikes, a Black Sea Fleet evacuation of the trapped 236th Rifle Division failed. The formation was destroyed and 5,300 prisoners were taken by Fretter-Pico's men on 17 January. Its commanding officer escaped but was convicted and executed by a Soviet military tribunal three weeks later.
XXX Corps' attack intensified on 19 January as the remaining two divisions of the 44th Army were pursued along the Black Sea coast, unraveling the Soviet forward positions to the north. On 20 January, the XXXXII and XXX Corps reached the Parpach Narrows, greatly shortening the front-line. Kozlov was thrown into a panic and predicted the Soviet landing force's complete destruction. The Soviets paid the price for their slow westward deployment from Kerch, as they lacked the reserves to throw back this new and potent German threat. Soviet generals complained about the impassable roads, although this did not stop the German 46th Infantry Division from executing a fast march over the same terrain in late December. Both sides began to construct defensive positions reinforced by dugouts, trenches and barbed wire. XXX Corps defeated the 44th Army in five days, threw two Soviet armies on the defensive, killed an estimated 6,700 Soviet troops, destroyed 85 tanks and took 10,000 prisoners and 177 guns for the cost of 995 casualties, of which 243 were killed or missing.The Transcaucasus Front, having lost 115,630 men in January, was too shaken and weakened by Manstein's rapid counter-stroke and the Luftwaffe's anti-shipping campaign to mount large-scale offensive operations for more than a month. The Germans lacked armor and sufficient air units to exploit their victory to the hilt.
Stavka reinforced the Transcaucasian Front with nine rifle divisions. Soviet engineers built an ice road across the frozen Kerch Strait, enabling 96,618 men, 23,903 horses and 6,519 motor vehicles to reinforce the Kerch peninsula forces. The 47th Army was deployed to the area, initially with only two rifle divisions.The Stavka created the Crimean Front under Lieutenant General Dmitry Timofeyevich Kozlov on 28 January, with the 44th, 47th and 51st Armies belonging to it organically and the Separate Coastal Army and Black Sea Fleet falling under its operational command. Kozlov had little command experience beyond the regimental level and his staff was as inept. Stavka representative Lev Mekhlis arrived at the Crimean Front HQ in late January and introduced his own ideas into the planning stage. Stalin and Mekhlis wanted to liberate the Crimea with an offensive on 13 February, but the Soviet forces were unequal to the task. Soviet troops lacked food and three 76mm artillery regiments had no ammunition at all. The backward nature of the Kerch peninsula's road network, the muddy roads and the Luftwaffe's bombing campaign against ports and Soviet cargo shipping prevented a sufficient logistical buildup and made Stalin's demand unrealistic. On 27 February Kozlov finally had available for his operation the required 93,804 troops, 1,195 guns and mortars, 125 anti-tank guns, 194 tanks and 200 aircraft. These forces were assembled in nine rifle divisions at the front along with numerous tank brigades containing T-26, T-34 and 36 KV-1 tanks. The Soviets were far from ready. Their tanks and aircraft lacked fuel supplies, many weapons did not work, the Soviet artillery had not organized a fire system, communications between Kozlov's HQ and the Crimean Front armies were repeatedly cut off and engineers had not constructed field works of any kind. Under pressure from Stalin, Kozlov started his attack anyway.
The 51st Army planned to attack in the north on 27 February across a flat, 80-square kilometer plain dotted only by a handful of small villages. The Germans fortified the villages of Tulumchak, Korpech’, and Koi-Asan. The German 46th and 132nd Infantry Divisions held the XXXXII Corps front along with the Romanian 18th Infantry Division. Gruppe Hitzfeld waited in reserve. The Axis defensive preparations were extensive and in accordance with German tactical doctrine. Reinforced German strongpoints had all-around defenses, neutralizing the effects of simultaneous Soviet frontal and flank attacks, and the Germans created a system of engineering works permeated with augmented artillery fires.Mattenklott made the mistake of putting the Romanian 18th Infantry Regiment into a difficult and exposed position in a salient on the northern part of the line. The Soviet planners, led by Tolbukhin, failed to account for the warm weather that turned the terrain into a sea of mud.
51st Army's offensive kicked off at 0630 hours on 27 February with a 230-gun artillery preparation of which most were light 76 mm guns and only 30 were heavy 122 mm guns. The fortified German strongpoints were largely unharmed by the light high-explosive rounds. German artillery responded with its own fire and the Soviets lacked the counter-battery capabilities to suppress them. The open terrain provided no cover for the Red Army soldiers, who were systematically killed and wounded in great numbers by incessant German artillery strikes. The heavy Soviet KV-1s sank into the mud and could not get forward. Vehicles were also stuck and Soviet artillery shells had to be carried by hand. Confused Soviet soldiers trampled their comrades to death in the mud.
The German strongpoint at Tulumchak was overrun by T-26 tanks and infantry, although seven tanks were lost to German Teller mines; and the Romanian 18th Infantry Regiment was routed. cm leFH howitzers and 14 3.7 cm PaK guns. Kozlov's push was supported by 100 Air Force of the Crimean Front sorties that day, while the Luftwaffe flew only three sorties in the area. After a five-kilometer Soviet penetration, Gruppe Hitzfeld sealed off the attack with artillery, anti-tank and machine-gun fire. Strongpoint Korpech’ remained in German hands and subjected the attacking Soviets to withering machine gun and mortar fire. Kozlov added the 77th Mountain Rifle Division into the right-wing attack at the plain, while Mattenklott redeployed Hitzfeld's IR 213 and I./IR 105 to help out the Romanians. Hitzfeld attacked on 28 February and took back a part of the lost ground. The Romanians proved brittle and 100 were captured as the 77th Mountain Rifle Division made a small penetration and captured Kiet hamlet, threatening to outflank all of 11th Army. Hitzfeld counterattacked and retook Kiet, stabilizing the line. The Soviet attack against the Romanians continued on 1 March until it was stopped by the arrival of the German 170th Infantry Division. The rest of the Soviet effort slackened. The 44th Army's weak attacks failed to tie down all German troops opposite it and could not prevent reinforcements from moving to the threatened north. The Soviets lost 40 tanks in three days from 27 February – 1 March. Soviet naval bombardments of Feodosia and Yalta achieved little, as did a small and quickly withdrawn landing at Alushta on 1 March.A German artillery battalion in support of the Romanians lost all 18 of its 10.5
The German strongpoint at Koi-Asan, held by IR 42 and 72 in the junction between XXXXII and XXX Corps was the pivot of Manstein's defense and its control allowed the Germans to feed reserves into the north with little difficulty.Kozlov directed two rifle divisions, three tank brigades and a tank battalion to take the village on 2 March. German obstacles slowed down the Soviet tanks, turning them into easy targets for German anti-tank units and artillery. The Luftwaffe made its presence felt with 40 Stuka sorties on the overcrowded Soviet tank masses. The Soviets admitted to losing 93 tanks in one day. Their gains were comparatively minor: four Czech-made German howitzers were destroyed and the Soviet Air Forces bombed and destroyed a 23-ton ammunition dump at Vladislavovka. The Soviets called off their attack on 3 March. Kozlov's big push failed and from 27 February he suffered extremely heavy losses of infantry and tanks, including 28 KV-1s. He had gained an exposed salient, which he could hold only with light forces due to its lack of cover.
Kozlov blamed the weather for his failure, while Mekhlis decided the fault lay with Tolbukhin's inept planning and had him fired.Stalin ordered the second offensive to proceed in ten days. The Soviet planning staffs saw Koi-Asan as the priority target and decided to mass 51st Army's striking power against it. The 44th Army would launch a significant feint attack on the 132nd Infantry Division along the coast. Kozlov had 224 tanks, but on Mekhlis' recommendation he decided to share them between the rifle divisions instead of massing them in a strike force. Stalin reinforced the Air Force of the Crimean Front to 581 aircraft by early March, though they were largely obsolete models. The Germans laid down 2,000 Teller mines near the Koi-Asan position and Manstein concentrated assault guns for its defense.
The Soviets attacked at 0900 hours on 13 March with three rifle divisions that were quickly cut to pieces in the boggy terrain. The supporting Red Army tanks were easily destroyed by StuG IIIs and anti-tank guns. Lieutenant Johann Spielmann's StuG III destroyed 14 T-34s in one day while Fritz Schrödel's StuG III destroyed eight Soviet tanks, of which two were KV-1s. Soviet tank losses were large, with 157 tanks destroyed in three days. The 56th Tank Brigade lost 88 tanks.The Soviet attempt to capture Koi-Asan failed yet again but the fighting had been bitter. The German 46th Infantry Division repulsed at least 10 Soviet attacks during the three day offensive. On 24 March, strongpoint Korpech’ fell to the 51st Army after the Soviet infantry suffered heavy losses. The Crimean Front had fired off most of its artillery ammunition and could not proceed further despite its limited success. II./JG 77, a German fighter wing, arrived in the Crimea after refitting and began to weaken Soviet air superiority. The 60-ton ammunition dump at Vladislavovka was again blown up by Soviet bombers.
The 22nd Panzer Division was a fresh German armored division and was tasked by Manstein with the recapture of Korpech’. The division was not yet fully equipped with its supporting elements and its tanks were mostly obsolete Czech-built Panzer 38(t)s. Its attack at 0600 hours on 20 March in dense fog ran headlong into an offensive buildup of Soviet armor and went badly wrong. One of the division's battalions had to stop after meeting a minefield, while another lost cohesion in the fog. The Soviet 55th Tank Brigade blocked the road to Korpech’ with a battalion of T-26s and four KV-1s. A battalion of Regiment 204 lost 40% of its tanks destroyed or damaged after running into a concentration of Soviet 45 mm anti-tank guns. After three hours the German attack was called off. 22nd Panzer lost 32 of 142 tanks destroyed or damaged, including 17 Panzer 38(t), nine Panzer II and six Panzer IV. Manstein conceded he had prematurely committed an inexperienced, half-deployed division into an all-out assault but pointed out that an immediate counterattack was necessary as his army was in danger of losing its critical defensive positions. Also, the division did succeed in disrupting the Soviet attack preparations.
Kozlov's third drive on Koi-Asan began after a week of replacements, restocking and reinforcements; it was a smaller operation conducted by the 390th Rifle Division and 143rd Rifle Brigade of the 51st Army, supported by two T-26 companies, six KVs, and three T-34s from the 39th and 40th Tank Brigades and the 229th Separate Tank Battalion. It failed on the first day after immense losses and quickly died down.As a result of these operations, the 51st Army suffered losses of 9,852 killed, 4,959 missing, and 23,799 wounded for a total of more than 39,000 casualties between 10 and 31 March.
Mounting Luftwaffe air superiority began to tell as Kerch port came under heavy and sustained German air attack, constraining the buildup of Soviet armor and artillery. Mekhlis demanded that massed tank attacks be made against the unbroken German lines.Manstein received more reinforcements in the form of the 28th Light Infantry Division, which was equipped with the new, easily concealed, low-silhouette 2.8 cm sPzB 41 light anti-tank gun. One of its soldiers, Obergefreiter Emanuel Czernik, destroyed seven T-26s and one BT tank in one day with the weapon. Manstein estimated the Soviet attack strength as six to eight rifle divisions and 160 tanks. After three days of heavy losses, Kozlov called off his fourth and as it turned out, final offensive. He withdrew back to his February starting positions by 15 April. The Crimean Front was now heavily weighted toward its right flank – 51st Army – leaving the 44th Army on the left depleted and the 47th Army in reserve a ghost command.
Kozlov's four major offensives from 27 February through 11 April were all defeated by Manstein's 11th Army with heavy Soviet losses. From 1 January to 30 April, Kozlov's Crimean Front, including the forces at Sevastopol, lost 352,000 men of which 236,370 were lost from February through April in the Parpach Narrows fighting.The Front's losses were the second-heaviest of any Soviet Front during the period. The offensives cost the Crimean Front 40% of its manpower, 52% of its tanks and 25% of its artillery. Axis 11th Army casualties from January to April 1942 were far fewer at 24,120 men. The result was an unbalanced loss ratio of 14–1. Insufficient artillery and air support and ignorance of the German defenses were singled out by Soviet critics as the causes of the failure. The Crimean Front had been all but destroyed as a combat-effective formation and would be completely routed from the peninsula in May. For four months, Manstein had conducted a successful defense on two fronts at once. The spring thaw arrived in early May, and both sides prepared for the battle that would decide the campaign.
To slow the Soviet build-up, Alexander Löhr's Luftflotte 4 was sent to the region to interdict shipping. The 7,500-ton transport Emba was severely damaged on 29 January, but the Luftwaffe failed to prevent the transport of 100,000 men and hundreds of artillery pieces to Kerch between 20 January and 11 February. At Sevastopol, 764 tons of fuel and 1700 tons of supplies arrived at the port. On 13 February, the cruiser Komintern and destroyer Shaumyan brought in 1,034 soldiers and 200 tons of supplies. The cruiser Krasnyi Krym and destroyer Dzerzhinskiy brought in a further 1,075 men on 14 February. The next day, the minesweeper T410 brought in 650 and evacuated 152. On 17 February, the transport Byelostok brought in 871 men. The Black Sea Fleet regularly shelled German positions on the coast. The Luftwaffe increased its pressure, dispatching KG 27, KG 55, and KG 100 to bomb the ports at Anapa, Tuapse, and Novorossiysk on the Caucasian Black Sea coast. On 20 February, the 1,900-ton transport Kommunist was sunk by KG 100.
Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe had flown in the specialist torpedo bomber unit KG 26. On 1/2 March 1942, it damaged the 2,434-ton steamer Fabritsius so severely that it was written off. The 4,629-ton oil tanker Kuybyshev was damaged on 3 March south of Kerch, which deprived the Soviets of much fuel. It was withdrawn to the port of Novorossiysk where it was crippled by Ju 88s of KG 51 on 13 March. On 18 March, KG 51 Ju 88s sank the 3,689-ton transport Georgiy Dimitrov. Further damage was done on 23 March when nine Ju 88s of KG 51 sank the minelayers Ostrovskiy and GS-13 and a motor torpedo boat in Tuapse harbour. They also damaged two submarines (S-33 and D-5). That evening, He 111s of KG 27 claimed one 5,000-ton and two 2,000-ton ships sunk. Soviet records recorded the sinking of the 2,960-ton steamer V. Chapayev, with the loss of 16 crew and 86 soldiers. KG 51 returned to Tuapse on 24 March and sank the transports Yalta and Neva. On 2 April, the Kuybyshev was intercepted and sunk. So great was the loss of shipping that Soviet land forces were ordered to cease all offensive operations to conserve supplies. In the eight-week air offensive, from early February to the end of March, the Black Sea Transport Fleet had been reduced from 43,200 tons of shipping to 27,400 tons. Six transports had been lost and six were under repair. On 17 April, the 4,125-ton steamer Svanetiya was sunk by KG 26 during an attempt to supply Sevastopol. Approximately 535 men were lost. On 19 April, the tanker I. Stalin was damaged along with three other transports. On 21 April, KG 55 damaged the minesweeper Komintern and sank a transport ship. By this time the Black Sea Fleet's ability to supply the Soviet forces in Sevastopol was severely curtailed.
The Germans launched Operation Trappenjagd on 8 May 1942. ("Trappenjagd" is a German compound noun meaning "bustard hunt".) Prior to the offensive, the Luftwaffe succeeded in applying severe pressure to the Soviet supply lines. By late April food and other resources were virtually exhausted. Everything, including firewood had to be brought in by sea. The Stavka asked Stalin to consider the evacuation of the Kerch region. Stalin refused, and on 21 April ordered preparations for an offensive to retake the Crimea. On 6 May, he changed his mind and issued Order No. 170357, which ordered all forces to assume a defensive posture. He also refused to send more reinforcements. Mixed in with this order, was a limited offensive operation against German lines to improve the defenders' tactical positions. Instead of preparing for a defense against the impending German offensive, the Soviets were preparing for an attack.
For the defence of the peninsula, the Soviets had three armies; the 51st, protecting the north, had three rifle, two tank brigades and eight rifle divisions, while the 44th Army in the south had five rifle divisions and two tank brigades. The 47th Army, with four rifle and one cavalry division, was kept in reserve. The Air Force of the Crimean Front deployed 404 aircraft.Kozlov did not expect a major attack as he outnumbered the Germans two to one. Moreover, on the southern front, he had swampy terrain which made it an unfavorable place for offensive operations. Although the Soviets constructed an anti-tank ditch that ran the entire length of the Parpach Narrows and had three lines of defense, the infantry units were deployed in one line at the front, with the tanks and cavalry in reserve. Kozlov failed to deploy his troops into a well-prepared defense-in-depth.
The German offensive had no option but to break through the Soviet lines in the south head-on and then swing north with armored and motorized units to encircle the 51st Army. To do this, it needed exceptionally strong air support. Fliegerkorps VIII under the command of Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen was sent to support the assault. The unit was the best equipped close air support corps in the Luftwaffe. To bolster its strength, it was given the experienced KG 55 medium bomber wing.Richthofen had 20 Gruppen comprising 740 aircraft and a number of seaplanes. Two Kampfgruppen were also made available by the 4th Air Corps of General Kurt Pflugbeil. The corps operated from newly-built airfields as Richthofen had the airfield system expanded to reduce bomber sortie times. He was also fascinated and delighted by the 2 kilogram SD-2 anti-personnel cluster bombs and had more than 6,000 canisters of them delivered by the end of April. By 8 May, he had 800 aircraft under his command in the Crimea and Soviet air superiority in the area had collapsed. The limited Soviet air reconnaissance failed to spot this buildup.
To maximize surprise, Manstein selected the swampy terrain held by the 44th Army as his main attack sector. Fretter-Pico's XXX Corps would breach the Soviet lines, allowing the 22nd Panzer Division to run riot through the gaps. Improved tactics for breaking through heavily defended enemy lines were utilised, built on the integration of infantry assault groups, assault guns, combat engineers, Panzerjäger and flak units. Fretter-Pico received 57 StuG IIIs, 12 of which had the new 7.5 cm KwK 40 gun, two batteries of 8.8 cm Flak and ample combat engineer support. Only one German infantry division and the Romanians were in the north, while the rest were under Fretter-Pico's command.
Trappenjagd began at 04:15 on 8 May.Fliegerkorps VIII operating under Luftflotte 4, began operations against lines of communication and against Soviet airfields. Within hours, Ju 87s of StG 77 had knocked out the Soviet 44th Army's critical communications and mortally wounded the 51st Army's commander. The airfields were destroyed and 57 of the 401 Soviet aircraft in the area were shot down in 2,100 German sorties. With the army's Headquarters knocked out, the Soviets could not organise a counter offensive and the 44th Army collapsed into a retreat when Manstein launched the ground attack. Manstein had five infantry divisions, the 22nd Panzer Division, and two and a half Romanian divisions against 19 Soviet divisions and four armoured brigades at Kerch. The 902nd Assault Boat Command of the 436th Regiment, 132nd German Infantry Division, landed behind the Soviet lines and helped unbuckle the Soviet second lines. The Soviet Black Sea Fleet failed to stop the German seaborne attack. The German artillery bombardment, which included four Nebelwerfer rocket batteries, lasted only 10 minutes, and within 210 minutes of the assault being launched, the second defensive line of the 44th Army was broken. Stukas, Henschel Hs 129s, Ju 88s and He 111s raked the Soviet positions, paving a smooth road for the German ground forces. Soviet field fortifications were neutralized by Fliegerkorps VIII's close air support and air interdiction capabilities. The 44th Army's 157th and 404th Rifle Divisions were mauled and paralyzed in their movements by the Stukas and Hs 129s. In one incident, 24 counterattacking Soviet tanks were destroyed on sight by StuG IIIs for the loss of only one German assault gun. The 56th Tank Brigade and 126th Separate Tank Battalion launched a counterattack with 98 tanks, including seven KV-1 against the 28th Light Infantry Division. Stukas and Hs 129 Bs showed up and destroyed the attacking Soviet tanks. An estimated 48 Soviet tanks were knocked out, including all seven KV-1. On the first day, XXX Corps, attacking with the 28th, 50th and 132nd Divisions broke through in the south. At a cost of 104 killed and 284 wounded, they captured 4,514 Soviet soldiers. The German engineers partially bridged the anti-tank obstacles on 8 May to prepare the way for the 22nd Panzer Division. Kozlov did not appreciate the significance of the German breakthrough and failed to release reserves for a counter-attack.
On 9 May, the German engineers finished breaching the anti-tank ditch and Manstein committed the 22nd Panzer Division, which swung north and trapped the 51st Army against the Sea of Azov on mid-day 10 May.Confused Soviet counterattacks near Arma-Eli were blasted apart by German close air support and infantry-armor teams. The remaining combat-capable Soviet armor was eliminated by German airpower on 9 May and 25 Soviet aircraft were shot down by German Bf 109 fighters. Richthofen's air units flew 1,700 sorties on 9 May and claimed 52 Soviet aircraft shot down for the loss of 2 of their own. A rainstorm gave the Soviets a brief respite on the evening of 9 May, but when it cleared the next morning, Fliegerkorps VIII destroyed the remaining isolated Soviet tanks, including 11 KV-1. Soviet morale and organisation collapsed, and a stampede to the rear areas began. Once this happened, the eight divisions of the 51st Army surrendered on 11 May, releasing XXX Corps to pursue the fragments of retreating Soviet forces to Marfovka, barely eight miles from Kerch. The motorized ad-hoc Groddeck brigade reached the Marfovka airfield in the afternoon and destroyed 35 fighters on the ground. Fliegerkorps VIII's air supremacy peaked on 12 May, when it conducted 1,500 sorties without significant Soviet opposition and was free to bomb the fleeing Soviet columns, resistance nests and Kerch harbour. Richthofen burned Kerch to the ground by dropping 1,780 bombs on it on 12 May. That day, Richthofen was ordered to send the bulk of his combat units to support the German 6th Army at the Second Battle of Kharkov. The number of flown missions was reduced accordingly; from 1,500 to 2,000 sorties per day prior to the redeployment to between 300 and 800 to the end of the Kerch operation. Richthofen described his bombing operations during Trappenjagd as 'concentrated air support, the likes of which has never existed'.
The speed of the advance was rapid. The 132nd Infantry Division overran several airfields, capturing 30 Soviet aircraft on the ground. On 10 May, Fliegerkorps VIII launched KG 55's He 111s against the Soviet forces. The large and slow He 111s made easy targets for ground fire, and eight were lost but the anti-personnel bombs (SD-2) were devastating to Soviet infantry. German bombers also attacked shipping evacuating personnel from Kerch. Three transports with 900 wounded aboard were sunk, along with a gunboat, six patrol boats and other small craft.The 1,048-ton Chernomorets was sunk the same day. By this time, the air battle was won by the Luftwaffe. Despite the withdrawal of a number of Geschwader to support the 6th Army at the Second Battle of Kharkov, the Luftwaffe had destroyed Soviet aerial opposition and enabled the German Army to make deep penetrations, capturing 29,000 Soviet men, 220 guns and around 170 tanks. Kerch fell on 15 May. The Luftwaffe assisted the final defeat of Soviet ground forces on 20 May, when the last pocket of Soviet resistance south of Kerch was destroyed.
Manstein destroyed three Soviet armies, wiping out nine Soviet divisions and reduced nine more to ineffective remnants.Although forced to return several Luftwaffe units and the 22nd Panzer Division for Case Blue, he could now concentrate his forces for an attack on Sevastopol.
Manstein executed a successful combined-arms offensive, concentrating armored mobility as well as artillery and aerial firepower to annihilate a Soviet grouping twice his strength. The Soviets failed to conduct a defense-in-depth, allowing the Germans to puncture their lines on the first day of the offensive and defeat their counterattacks. Three Soviet armies either surrendered within four days, or were heavily mauled by Richthofen's VIII. Fliegerkorps while retreating.
In the 11 days of Operation Bustard Hunt, Fliegerkorps VIII lost 37 aircraft.At the same time, the Air Force of the Crimean Front lost 417 aircraft. Between 37,000–116,045 Soviet soldiers were evacuated by sea, of which 20% were wounded. An estimated 162,282 were left behind, killed or captured. 28,000 Soviet troops were killed and 147,000–170,000 taken prisoner, but according to Swedish historian Christer Bergström the prisoners included a large number of civilians. German casualties amounted to only 7,588 men in XXX and XLII Corps, including 1,703 killed or missing. They expended 6230 tons of ammunition, losing nine artillery pieces, three assault guns and 8–12 tanks.
Several groups of Soviet survivors refused to surrender and fought on for many months, hiding in the catacombs of the quarries. Many of these soldiers were occupying the caves along with many civilians, who had fled the city of Kerch.The Germans also deployed poison gas against the survivors, thus furthering the casualties.
The Battle of Kursk was a Second World War engagement between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near Kursk in the Soviet Union, during July and August 1943. The battle began with the launch of the German offensive, Operation Citadel, on 5 July, which had the objective of pinching off the Kursk salient with attacks on the base of the salient from north and south simultaneously. After the German offensive stalled on the northern side of the salient, on 12 July the Soviets commenced their Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Kutuzov against the rear of the German forces in the northern side. On the southern side, the Soviets also launched powerful counterattacks the same day, one of which led to a large armoured clash, the Battle of Prokhorovka. On 3 August, the Soviets began the second phase of the Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev against the German forces in the southern side of the Kursk salient.
Operation Citadel was a German offensive operation against Soviet forces in the Kursk salient during the Second World War on the Eastern Front that initiated the Battle of Kursk. The deliberate defensive operation that the Soviets implemented to repel the German offensive is referred to as the Kursk Strategic Defensive Operation. The German offensive was countered by two Soviet counter-offensives, Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev and Operation Kutuzov. For the Germans, the battle was the final strategic offensive that they were able to launch on the Eastern Front. As the Allied invasion of Sicily began, Adolf Hitler was forced to divert troops training in France to meet the Allied threats in the Mediterranean, rather than use them as a strategic reserve for the Eastern Front. Germany's extensive loss of men and tanks ensured that the victorious Soviet Red Army enjoyed the strategic initiative for the remainder of the war.
Operation Winter Storm, a German offensive in December 1942 during World War II, involved the German 4th Panzer Army unsuccessfully attempting to break the Soviet encirclement of the German 6th Army during the Battle of Stalingrad.
The Second Battle of Kharkov or Operation Fredericus was an Axis counter-offensive in the region around Kharkov against the Red Army Izium bridgehead offensive conducted 12–28 May 1942, on the Eastern Front during World War II. Its objective was to eliminate the Izium bridgehead over Seversky Donets or the "Barvenkovo bulge" which was one of the Soviet offensive's staging areas. After a winter counter-offensive that drove German troops away from Moscow but depleted the Red Army's reserves, the Kharkov offensive was a new Soviet attempt to expand upon their strategic initiative, although it failed to secure a significant element of surprise.
The Siege of Sevastopol also 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, Romania, 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 reached the Crimea in the autumn of 1941 and 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.
The Battle of Raseiniai was a large tank battle that took place in the early stages of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The battle was fought between the elements of the German 4th Panzer Group and the Soviet 3rd Mechanized Corps with the 12th Mechanised Corps, in Lithuania, 75 km (47 mi) north-west of Kaunas. The Red Army tried to contain and destroy the German troops that had crossed the Neman River but was unable to prevent them from advancing.
The Kerch–Eltigen Operation was a World War II amphibious offensive made in November 1943 by the Red Army as a precursor to the Crimean Offensive, with the object of defeating and forcing the withdrawal of the German forces from the Crimea. Landing at two locations on the Crimea's eastern coast, the Red Army successfully reinforced the northern beachhead of Yenikale but was unable to prevent an Axis counterattack that collapsed the southern beachhead at Eltigen. Subsequently, the Red Army used the beachhead at Yenikale to launch further offensive operations into the Crimea in May 1944.
The 51st Army was a field army of the Red Army that saw action against the Germans in World War II on both the southern and northern sectors of the front. The army participated in the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula between December 1941 and January 1942; it was destroyed in May 1942 with other Soviet forces when the Wehrmacht launched an operation to dislodge them from the peninsula. The army fought in the Battle of Stalingrad during the winter of 1942–43, helping to defeat German relief attempts. From late 1944 to the end of the war, the army fought in the final cutting-off of German forces in the Courland area next to the Baltic. Inactivated in 1945, the army was activated again in 1977 to secure Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the army continued in existence as a component of the Russian Ground Forces. The army was active during two periods from 1941 until 1997.
The Battle of Rzhev in the Summer of 1942 was part of a series of battles that lasted 15 months in the center of the Eastern Front. It is known in Soviet history of World War II as the First Rzhev–Sychyovka Offensive Operation, which was defined as spanning from 30 July to 23 August 1942. However, it is widely documented that the fighting continued undiminished into September and did not finally cease until the beginning of October 1942. The Red Army suffered massive casualties for little gain during the fighting, giving the battle a notoriety reflected in its sobriquet: "The Rzhev Meat Grinder".
The 302nd Rifle Division began service as a specialized Red Army mountain rifle division, which saw service in the disastrous operations in the Crimea in early 1942. It was later converted to serve for the balance of the war as a standard rifle division. The division played a leading role in the 51st Army's breakthrough south of Stalingrad in the opening stages of Operation Uranus, and then in the exploitation following this success; however, it was badly battered and routed in the initial stage of the German Operation Winter Storm. After recovering from this, the division continued to turn in a creditable record of service in the southern sectors of the Soviet-German front for the duration, and was especially recognized for its role in the liberation of the city of Ternopol, for which it received that city's name as an honorific.
The 157th Motor Rifle Division was a motorized infantry division of the Soviet Army. It existed from 1969 to 1987 and was based in Feodosia. In 1987 it became the 710th Territorial Training Center. In 1989, the training center became a storage base.
The 16th Guards Tank Division was a tank division of the Soviet Army and later the Russian Ground Forces.
The 390th Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II. It was formed twice, first in August 1941, and after its destruction in 1942, re-formed in 1944.
The Kozelsk Offensive was an offensive conducted by parts of the Red Army's Western Front against the German 2nd Panzer Army in southwestern Kaluga Oblast on the Eastern Front of World War II between 22 August and 9 September 1942.
The 345th Rifle Division began forming in September, 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, at Makhachkala on the Caspian Sea. Its first formation served exclusively in the southernmost parts of the Soviet-German front, specifically in the Caucasus and Crimea. It arrived at Sevastopol in December, and fought stubbornly in defense of the fortress-port until mid-July, 1942, when the city capitulated and the division was destroyed. In March, 1945, a new 345th was formed in the Far East, and a few months later took part in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August, but as it was in a reserve formation it saw little, if any, actual combat.
The 388th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served twice during the Great Patriotic War in that role. The division followed a very similar combat path to that of the 386th Rifle Division in both of its formations. It was first formed on August 19 in the Transcaucasus Military District. From December 7 - 13 it was shipped from the Black Sea ports to Sevastopol, which was under siege by the German 11th Army. The division arrived about a week before the second Axis assault on the fortress began and played an important role in the defense but suffered heavy casualties in the process. The battered unit remained in the fortress through the winter and spring until the final offensive, Operation Störfang, began on June 2, 1942. It continued the struggle, in much diminished strength, through to the final Axis victory and was finally stricken from the Red Army order of battle on August 5. In the buildup to the Soviet invasion of Manchuria a new 388th was formed in the Far Eastern Front in late 1944. The new division earned several distinctions as it fought its way into central Manchuria, including a battle honor, and continued to serve into the postwar era.
The 396th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served twice during the Great Patriotic War in that role. The division followed a very similar combat path to that of the 398th Rifle Division in its 1st formation. It was first formed in August in the Transcaucasus Military District. In January, 1942 it was moved to the Crimea where it joined first the 47th and then the 44th Armies in Crimean Front. On May 8 it came under attack by the German 11th Army as part of Operation Trappenjagd and by the end of the month it was destroyed in the Kerch peninsula, being officially disbanded on June 14. In the buildup to the Soviet invasion of Manchuria a new 396th was formed in the Far Eastern Front in early 1945. The new division was one of only three formed in 1945 and served with the 2nd Red Banner Army, crossing the Amur River on August 11 and helping to reduce a Japanese fortified zone while also marching towards central Manchuria. Its rifle regiments were all decorated for their achievements and the division was disbanded before the end of the year.
The 398th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served briefly during the Great Patriotic War in that role. The division followed a very similar combat path to that of the 396th Rifle Division in that unit's 1st formation. It was first formed in August in the Transcaucasus Military District. In January, 1942 it was moved to the Crimea where it joined the 44th Army in Crimean Front. On May 8, now in the 51st Army, it came under attack by the German 11th Army as part of Operation Trappenjagd and within days it was destroyed in the Kerch peninsula, being officially disbanded on May 19 after one of the briefest careers of any Soviet division. The 398th was never reformed.
The 400th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served briefly during the Great Patriotic War in that role. The division followed a very similar combat path to that of the 398th Rifle Division through its existence. It was first formed in August in the Transcaucasus Military District. In January, 1942 it was moved to the Crimea where it joined the 47th Army in Crimean Front. On May 8, now in the 51st Army, it came under attack by the German 11th Army as part of Operation Trappenjagd and within weeks it was destroyed in the Kerch peninsula, being officially disbanded on June 14 after one of the briefest careers of any Soviet division. The 400th was never reformed.
The 414th Rifle Division was twice formed as an infantry division of the Red Army; very briefly in the winter of 1941/42, then from the spring of 1942 until after the end of the Great Patriotic War. It was officially considered a Georgian National division, having nearly all its personnel of that nationality in its second formation. After its second formation it remained in service in the Caucasus near the borders of Turkey and Iran in the 44th Army until the summer of 1942, when it was redeployed to help counter the German drive toward Grozny. As German Army Group A retreated from the Caucasus in January, 1943 the division was reassigned to the 37th Army in North Caucasus Front, and during the fighting in the Taman Peninsula during the summer it served in both the 58th and 18th Armies, earning a battle honor in the process. It entered the Crimea during the Kerch–Eltigen Operation in November, and was awarded the Order of the Red Banner following the offensive that liberated that region in April and May, 1944, fighting in the 11th Guards Rifle Corps of the Separate Coastal Army. After the Crimea was cleared the Coastal Army remained as a garrison and the 414th stayed there for the duration of the war. Postwar, it was relocated to Tbilisi, being renumbered as the 74th Rifle Division in 1955 and disbanded the following year.