Crimean Offensive

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Crimean Offensive
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
Sivash.jpg
Soviet soldiers crossing the Sivash Bay into Crimea
Date8 April – 12 May 1944
Location
Result Soviet victory
Belligerents
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Flag of German Reich (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria [1]
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Fyodor Tolbukhin
Naval Ensign of the Soviet Union.svg Filipp Oktyabrskiy
Flag of German Reich (1935-1945).svg Erwin Jaenecke
Naval ensign of Romania (1922-1947).svg Horia Macellariu
Strength
462,400 men [2] [3]
560 tanks and assault guns
6,000 guns
1,200 aircraft

230,000–255,970 men [4] [3]

War Ensign of Germany 1938-1945.svg 165,000
Flag of Romania.svg 65,000
1,815 guns
Casualties and losses
84,839
17,754 killed or missing
67,065 wounded or sick
171 tanks
521 guns
179 aircraft [2] [3]

Losses at sea:
1 submarine
1 motor torpedo boat
12+ aircraft
96,700 [5]
Flag of German Reich (1935-1945).svg
31,700 killed or missing
33,400 wounded
Flag of Romania.svg
25,800 killed or missing
5,800 wounded [6]

Losses at sea:
Flag of German Reich (1935-1945).svg
4 submarine hunters
5 cargo ships
1 tanker
3 tugs
3 lighters
3 motorboats
Flag of Romania.svg 3 cargo ships

The Crimean Offensive (8 April – 12 May 1944), known in German sources as the Battle of the Crimea, was a series of offensives by the Red Army directed at the German-held Crimea. The Red Army's 4th Ukrainian Front engaged the German 17th Army of Army Group A, which consisted of Wehrmacht and Romanian formations. The battles ended with the evacuation of the Crimea by the Germans. German and Romanian forces suffered considerable losses during the evacuation.

Red Army 1917–1946 ground and air warfare branch of the Soviet Unions military

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.

Crimea peninsula in the Black Sea

Crimea is a peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe that is almost completely surrounded by both the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov to the northeast. It is located south of the Ukrainian region of Kherson, to which it is connected by the Isthmus of Perekop, and west of the Russian region of Kuban, from which it is separated by the Strait of Kerch though linked by the Crimean Bridge. The Arabat Spit is located to the northeast, a narrow strip of land that separates a system of lagoons named Sivash from the Sea of Azov. Across the Black Sea to its west is Romania and to its south Turkey.

The German Seventeenth Army was a World War II field army.

Contents

Map of Crimea Karte der Krim.png
Map of Crimea

Prelude

During late 1943 and early 1944, the Wehrmacht was pressed back along its entire front line in the east. In October 1943, the 17th Army withdrew from the Kuban bridgehead across the Kerch Strait into the Crimea. During the following months, the Red Army pushed back the Wehrmacht in southern Ukraine, eventually cutting off the land-based connection of 17th Army through the Perekop Isthmus in November 1943.

Kuban bridgehead

The Kuban Bridgehead, also known as the "Goth's head position" , was a German position on the Taman Peninsula, Russia, between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. Existing from January to October 1943, the bridgehead formed after the Germans were pushed out of the Caucasus. The heavily fortified position was intended as a staging area for the Wehrmacht which was to be used to renew attacks towards the oil wells of the Caucasus. The bridgehead was abandoned when the Red Army breached the Panther–Wotan line, forcing an evacuation of the German forces across the Kerch Strait to Crimea.

Kerch Strait strait

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.

Ukraine sovereign state in Eastern Europe

Ukraine, sometimes called the Ukraine, is a country in Eastern Europe. Excluding Crimea, Ukraine has a population of about 42.5 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religions in the country are Eastern Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism. Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world.

The Wehrmacht was able to successfully hold on to the Crimea even after it had been cut off by land due to their ability to supply it via the Black Sea. Holding the Crimea was considered important as its loss would negatively affect the attitude of Turkey and put Romanian oilfields under risk of Soviet air attacks. Aside from Soviet landings across the Kerch Strait and in the north-eastern sector near Sivash at the end of 1943, the Soviet Army largely ignored the Crimea for the next five months.

Kerch–Eltigen Operation military operation

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.

Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist was removed from the command of Army Group A on March 30, 1944. He was succeeded by Ferdinand Schörner.

Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist German general during World War II

Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist was a German field marshal during World War II. Kleist successfully led the 1st Panzer Group during the Battle of France, the Battle of Belgium, the Balkans Campaign and the initial stages of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. He was the commander of Army Group A during the latter part of Case Blue, the 1942 summer offensive in southern Russia. Following the war, Kleist was extradited to the Soviet Union where he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for war crimes; he died in prison.

Ferdinand Schörner German Field Marshal

Ferdinand Schörner was a general and later Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II. He commanded several army groups and was the last Commander-in-chief of the German Army.

Progress of the battle

An assault across the Perekop Isthmus was launched on 8 April by elements of the 4th Ukrainian Front's 2nd Guards and 51st Armies. [7] The 17th Army defended but was unable to stop the advance. Kerch was reached by the Separate Coastal Army on 11 April; Simferopol, about 37 mi (60 km) northeast of Sevastopol, followed two days later. The 17th Army was retreating toward Sevastopol by 16 April, [7] with remaining Axis forces in the Crimea concentrating around the city by the end of the third week of April.

4th Ukrainian Front

The 4th Ukrainian Front was the name of two distinct Red Army strategic army groups that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II.

2nd Guards Army

The 2nd Guards Army was a field army of the Soviet Union's Red Army that fought in World War II, most notably at Stalingrad.

51st Army (Russia)

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 OKH intended to hold Sevastopol as a fortress, as the Red Army had done during the first Crimean campaign in 1941–42. However, the fortifications of the city had never been restored and Sevastopol was not the strong defensive position that it had been in 1941. Fighting broke out in the city outskirts towards the end of April and the city fell on 9 May, less than a month after the start of the offensive. The Axis sea evacuation to Constanța was attacked by Soviet land-based bombers. [7]

<i>Oberkommando des Heeres</i> Supreme High Command of the German Army during World War II

The Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) was the High Command of the German Army during the Era of Nazi Germany. It was founded in 1935 as a part of Adolf Hitler's re-militarisation of Germany. From 1938 OKH was, together with OKL and OKM, formally subordinated to the OKW, with the exception of the Waffen-SS. During the war, OKH had the responsibility of strategic planning of Armies and Army Groups, while the General Staff of the OKH managed operational matters. Each German Army also had an Armeeoberkommando, Army Command, or AOK. Until the German defeat at Moscow in December 1941, OKH and its staff was de facto the most important unit within the German war planning. OKW then took over this function for theatres other than the German-Soviet front. OKH commander held the title Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres. Following the Battle of Moscow, after OKH commander Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch was excused, Hitler appointed himself as Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

Crimean Campaign

The Crimea Campaign was an eight-month-long campaign by Axis forces to conquer the Crimea peninsula, and was the scene of some of the bloodiest battles on the Eastern Front during World War II. The German, Romanian, and defending Soviet troops suffered heavy casualties as the Axis forces tried to advance through the Isthmus of Perekop linking the Crimean peninsula to the mainland at Perekop, from summer of 1941 through to the first half of 1942.

Constanța Place in Romania

Constanța, historically known as Tomis, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Romania. It was founded around 600 BC. The city is located in the Northern Dobruja region of Romania, on the Black Sea coast. It is the capital of Constanța County and the largest city in the region of Dobruja.

Evacuation of the Crimea

Romanian destroyer Regele Ferdinand RegeleFerdinand1930-1944.jpg
Romanian destroyer Regele Ferdinand
Soviet G-5-class motor torpedo boat Lancha G-5.svg
Soviet G-5-class motor torpedo boat

The evacuation of the Crimea in April–May 1944 was the most complex and extensive operation of the Romanian Navy during the Second World War. From 15 April to 14 May, numerous German and Romanian warships escorted many convoys between Constanța and Sevastopol. The scale and importance of the operation can be attested by the usage in combat of all four Romanian destroyers, the largest Axis warships in the Black Sea. The last phase of the evacuation (10-14 May) saw the fiercest combat, as Axis ships transported, under constant attacks from Soviet aircraft and shore artillery, over 30,000 troops. Of these, 18,000 were transported by Romanian ships. On 11 May, the German tanker Friederike was torpedoed and heavily damaged by Soviet submarine L-4, preventing her participation. [8] In total, Romanian and German convoys evacuated over 113,000 Axis troops from the Crimea, most of them (over 63,000) during the first phase of the evacuation (15–25 April). No Romanian Navy warships were lost during the evacuation, however the destroyer Regele Ferdinand came close to being sunk. She was struck by a large aerial bomb, which fell in her fuel tanks, but failed to detonate. The bomb was extracted several days after the end of the operation. Two naval actions involving the Romanian Navy took place during the second phase of the evacuation (25 April–10 May), near Sevastopol. On 18 April, the Soviet Leninets-class submarine L-6 was twice attacked with depth charges and damaged by the Romanian gunboat Ghiculescu , numerous bubbles emerged from the depths after each attack, before being finished off by the German submarine hunter UJ-104. During the night of 27 April, a convoy escorted by the Romanian gunboat Ghiculescu, the German submarine hunter UJ-115, one R-boat, two KFK naval trawlers and 19 MFPs (including the Romanian PTA-404 and PTA-406) engaged the Soviet G-5-class motor torpedo boats TKA-332, TKA-343 and TKA-344, after the three attacked and damaged the German submarine hunter UJ-104. Ghiculescu opened fire with tracer rounds, enabling the entire escort group to locate the two Soviet MTBs and open fire. TKA-332 was hit and sunk. Over 12 Soviet aircraft were also shot down during the evacuation, including two by the minelaying destroyer escort Amiral Murgescu. The last Axis pockets in the Crimea were destroyed on 12 May. The last Axis warship to leave the peninsula was Amiral Murgescu, carrying on board 1,000 Axis troops, including the German General Walter Hartmann. [9] [10] [11]

Consequences

In a meeting with Adolf Hitler in Berchtesgaden, Jaenecke had insisted that Sevastopol should be evacuated and his cut off Army of 235,000 men withdrawn. After the loss of the Crimea, he was held responsible, arrested in Romania and court-martialed. Only the intervention of Heinz Guderian saved his life. He was dismissed from the army on 31 January 1945.

The German and Romanian formations suffered the loss of 57,000 men, many of whom drowned during the evacuation. The sinking of the Totila and Teja on 10 May alone caused up to 10,000 deaths. In total, the German losses at sea amounted to five cargo ships, one tanker, three tugs, three lighters, three motorboats and four submarine hunters, while the Romanians lost three cargo ships. [12] [13] The partially successful evacuation of Axis troops from the Crimea earned the commander of the Romanian Navy, Rear Admiral Horia Macellariu, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. [14] The table below is based on information from Glantz/House When Titans Clashed.[ citation needed ]:

Land formations and units involved

Red Army Offensives during 1943-1944 Eastern Front 1943-08 to 1944-12.png
Red Army Offensives during 1943–1944

Soviet

Axis

German

Romanian

  • Romanian Mountain Corps
    • 1st Mountain Division
    • 2nd Mountain Division

Citations

  1. Hayward 1998, pp. 50–51: Allowed German and Italian warships to use Bulgarian ports for operations in the Black Sea.
  2. 1 2 Glantz (1995), p. 298
  3. 1 2 3 Clodfelter 2017, p. 459.
  4. Frieser et al. 2007, p. 483.
  5. 1 2 3 Müller (2005), p. 290
  6. Buchner 1995, p. 137.
  7. 1 2 3 Jordan, David; Weist, Andrew (2004). Atlas of World War 2. London, England: Amber Books. pp. 124–125. ISBN   0-7607-5557-4.
  8. L-4 on uboat.net
  9. Jipa Rotaru, Ioan Damaschin, Glorie și dramă: Marina Regală Română, 1940-1945, Ion Cristoiu Publishing, 2000, pp. 132-157 (in Romanian)
  10. Nicolae Koslinski, Raymond Stănescu, Marina română in al doilea război mondial: 1942–1944, Făt Frumos Publishing, 1997 (in Romanian)
  11. Robert Forczyk, Where the Iron Crosses Grow: The Crimea 1941–44, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014, Chapter 9
  12. Nicolae Koslinski, Raymond Stănescu, Marina română in al doilea război mondial: 1942-1944 (in Romanian)
  13. Jipa Rotaru, Ioan Damaschin, Glorie și dramă: Marina Regală Română, 1940-1945 (in Romanian)
  14. Spencer C. Tucker, World War II at Sea: An Encyclopedia, p. 633

Bibliography

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