East Pomeranian Offensive

Last updated
East Pomeranian Offensive
East Pomeranian Strategic Offensive Operation
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
Danzigm17.jpg
Soviet Red Army troops manning two M17 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage (MGMC) self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicles (half-tracks) in Danzig in March of 1945.
Date24 February – 4 April 1945
Location
Result Soviet victory
Belligerents
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union
Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg Poland
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Walter Weiß
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Dietrich von Saucken
(2nd Army)
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Konstantin Rokossovsky
(2nd Belorussian Front)
Strength
Unknown 996,100 [1]
Casualties and losses
Unknown

234,360

  • 55,315 killed or missing
  • 179,045 wounded [1]

Materiel destroyed or captured

  • 1,027 tanks and self-propelled guns [2]
  • 1,005 guns and mortars [2]
  • 1,073 aircraft [2]

The East Pomeranian Strategic Offensive operation (Russian : Восточно-Померанская наступательная операция) was an offensive by the Soviet Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. It took place in Pomerania and West Prussia from 10 February – 4 April 1945.

Russian language East Slavic language

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, nowadays, nearly three decades after 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, the rise of state-specific varieties of this language tends to be strongly denied in Russia, in line with the Russian World ideology.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 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 centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

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.

Contents

The operation happened in four phases:

Konitz-Köslin Offensive Operation 24 February – 6 March 1945
Danzig Offensive Operation 7–31 March 1945
Arnswalde-Kolberg Offensive Operation 1–18 March 1945
Altdamm Offensive Operation 18 March – 4 April 1945 (near Stettin)

It was the East Pomeranian Offensive that prevented Zhukov from reaching Berlin in February (the object of the massive Vistula–Oder Offensive), since it became a priority to clear German forces from Pomerania first.

Georgy Zhukov Marshal of the Soviet Union

Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov was a Soviet Red Army General who became Chief of General Staff, Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Minister of Defence and a member of the Politburo. During World War II he participated in multiple battles, ultimately commanding the 1st Belorussian Front in the Battle of Berlin, which resulted in the defeat of Nazi Germany, and the end of the War in Europe.

Vistula–Oder Offensive conflict

The Vistula–Oder Offensive was a successful Red Army operation on the Eastern Front in the European Theatre of World War II in January 1945. It saw the fall of Kraków, Warsaw and Poznań.

Planning

Pomeranian and Silesian offensives Pomerania and Silesia.jpg
Pomeranian and Silesian offensives

The 2nd Belorussian Front—under Konstantin Rokossovsky—had initially been tasked with advancing westward north of the Vistula River toward Pomerania and the major port city of Danzig, with the primary aim of protecting the right flank of Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front, which was pushing towards Berlin. During the East Prussian Offensive, however, Rokossovsky was ordered to wheel directly north toward Elbing. [3] This left substantial German forces intact in Pomerania, where they threatened the right flank of Zhukov's formations.

2nd Belorussian Front front

The 2nd Belorussian Front (2BF) was a military formation, of Army group size, of the Soviet Army during the Second World War. Soviet army groups were known as Fronts.

Konstantin Rokossovsky Soviet and Polish military commander

Konstantin Konstantinovich (Xaverevich) Rokossovsky was a Soviet and Polish officer who became Marshal of the Soviet Union, Marshal of Poland and served as Poland's Defence Minister from 1949 until his removal in 1956 during the Polish October. He was among the most prominent Red Army commanders of World War II, especially renowned for his planning and executing of Operation Bagration, one of the most decisive Red Army successes of the Second World War.

Gdańsk City in Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast. With a population of 464,254, Gdańsk is the capital and largest city of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the capital of Kashubia. It is Poland's principal seaport and the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.

As a result, once the initial phase of the East Prussian Offensive was over, the 2nd Belorussian Front was redeployed with the intention of attacking westwards into Pomerania, eliminating the possibility of a German counter-offensive (similarly, the parallel Silesian Offensives of Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front in the south were in part designed to protect the 1st Belorussian Front's left flank). The need to secure the flanks delayed the Soviets' final push towards Berlin, which was originally planned for February, until April.

Silesian Offensives military offensive

The Silesian Offensives were two separate offensives conducted in February and March 1945 by the Soviet Red Army against the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front in World War II to protect the flanks of the Red Army during its push to Berlin to prevent a German counterattack. It delayed the final push toward Berlin by 2 months.

1st Ukrainian Front front

The 1st Ukrainian Front was a front—a force the size of a Western Army group—of the Soviet Union's Red Army during the Second World War.

Battle of Berlin final major offensive of the European theatre of World War II

The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, and also known as the Fall of Berlin, was one of the last major offensives of the European theatre of World War II.

Joseph Stalin's decision to delay the push toward Berlin from February to April has been a subject of some controversy among both the Soviet generals and military historians, with one side arguing that the Soviets had a chance of securing Berlin much quicker and with much lower losses in February, and the other arguing that the danger of leaving large German formations on the flanks could have resulted in a successful German counter-attack and prolonged the war further: the Germans did in fact mount a surprise counter-attack in Pomerania in mid-February, Operation Solstice. The delay did, however, allow the Soviets to occupy significant parts of Austria in the Vienna Offensive.

Joseph Stalin Soviet leader

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Soviet revolutionary and politician of Georgian ethnicity. He led the Soviet Union from the mid–1920s until 1953 as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952) and Premier (1941–1953). While initially presiding over a collective leadership as first among equals, he ultimately consolidated enough power to become the country's de facto dictator by the 1930s. A communist ideologically committed to the Leninist interpretation of Marxism, Stalin helped to formalise these ideas as Marxism–Leninism, while his own policies became known as Stalinism.

Operation Solstice, also known as Unternehmen Husarenritt or the Stargard tank battle, was one of the last German armoured offensive operations on the Eastern Front in World War II.

Vienna Offensive conflict

The Vienna Offensive was launched by the Soviet 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts in order to capture Vienna, Austria, during World War II. The offensive lasted from 2 April to 13 April 1945.

German intelligence

As early as 13 February, German intelligence services had deduced that the Soviets would seek to clear Pomerania before advancing on Berlin. The 2nd Army—defending a large and exposed sector running through Pomerania eastward toward the edge of East Prussia at Elbing — sought permission to withdraw, but this was denied by Adolf Hitler. [4] Graudenz, on the Vistula, was surrounded on 18 February (the garrison, from the 83rd Infantry Division—finally surrendered the following month).

2nd Army (Wehrmacht) 1939-1945 army-level field formation of the German Army

The 2nd Army was a World War II field army.

East Prussia province of Prussia

East Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773 to 1829 and again from 1878 ; following World War I it formed part of the Weimar Republic's Free State of Prussia, until 1945. Its capital city was Königsberg. East Prussia was the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast.

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Deployments

Wehrmacht

The corps of the Second Army were seriously understrength by this time, being composed largely of fragmentary or ad hoc units. The 3rd Panzer Army had been rebuilt using the korps of the recently formed 11th SS Panzer Army, the original formation having been largely destroyed in Lithuania and East Prussia, where its remnants were now defending Königsberg.

Red Army

The offensive

Breakthrough

German infantrymen during street fighting in Wollin, March 1945 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H26409, Pommern, Wollin, Infanterie bei Strassenkampfen.jpg
German infantrymen during street fighting in Wollin, March 1945

Rokossovsky opened the offensive on 24 February using the fresh troops of Kozlov's 19th Army, but after an initial advance of some 20 km (12 mi) they were halted by intense German resistance. On 26 February, he inserted the 3rd Guards Tank Corps east of Neustettin, where they achieved a penetration of 40 km (25 mi), and relieved Kozlov of command. [5] The 3rd Guards Tank Corps broke through at Baldenburg, while Neustettin on the Front's left flank fell to the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps on 27 February.

Weiß had hurriedly assembled the VII Panzer Corps, including the remnants of the 7th Panzer Division, at Rummelsburg to threaten 19th Army's flank. However, after a Soviet breakthrough at Köslin on 2 March, the 2nd Army found itself completely cut off from the rest of its Army Group.

1st Belorussian Front joins the attack

Soviet IS-2 in Stargard, 19 March 1945 Radziecki czolg IS-2 na ul. Chrobrego, przy istniejacych do dzis zabudowaniach.jpg
Soviet IS-2 in Stargard, 19 March 1945

Zhukov's right wing—a grouping of the 3rd Shock Army and 1st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies—went over to the offensive on 1 March, striking northward with the main force concentrated at Reetz. The entire left wing of 3rd Panzer Army was cut off by their breakthrough, after Guderian refused Raus' request for withdrawal; the right flank withdrew towards Stettin. [6]

On 4 March, forward Soviet tank units reached the Baltic, and the German forces in Pomerania were trapped in a series of encirclements. The 2nd Army began to fall back on the Danzig fortified area, while the X SS Corps of the 3rd Panzer Army had been surrounded at Dramburg.

The second phase

Rokossovksy opened the second phase of his offensive on March 6. The 2nd Shock Army threatened to cut off the defending forces in the fortress of Marienburg, which was evacuated two days later, while in the east Elbing finally fell on 10 March. The defence of Marienburg was conducted by a Kampfgruppe under the nominal control of the staff of the 7th Infantry Division, including marine, SS and other units. Weiß, having warned that the Elbing pocket could not be held, was relieved of command on 9 March and replaced by Dietrich von Saucken. The troops of the German 2nd Army withdrew in disarray into Danzig and Gdingen, where the 2nd Belorussian Front besieged them. Zhukov's forces meanwhile, cleared the remainder of 3rd Panzer Army from the east bank of the lower Oder, driving the Germans from their last positions in a bridgehead at Altdamm.

Siege of Kolberg

Many civilian refugees from Pomerania had fled into the coastal town of Kolberg, which was surrounded by 4 March. Nevertheless, the town was successfully defended until 18 March, by which time evacuation was almost complete.

Siege of Danzig

The Danzig-Gotenhafen (Gdingen) Fortified Area—also the main port for refugees from East Prussia escaping to the west—was ordered to be defended for as long as possible by von Saucken in order to keep the evacuation routes open.

Rokossovsky opened his final offensive on 15 March 1945; the main thrust, toward the coast at Zoppot between Gdingen and Danzig, being undertaken by the 70th and 49th Army advancing in parallel. [7] The fighting was savage, but by 19 March 1945 the Soviet spearheads had reached the heights over Zoppot, while the 4th Panzer Division had been pushed back to the outskirts of Danzig itself. By 22 March 1945, the 70th Army reached the sea, splitting the German defence. Gdingen was taken on 26 March 1945, its defenders and many civilians retreating to the headland at Oxhöft, from where they were evacuated to the Hel Peninsula.

Danzig finally fell on 30 March 1945, after which the remnants of the 2nd Army withdrew to the Vistula delta southeast of the city. Evacuation of civilians and military personnel from there and from the Hel Peninsula continued until 10 May 1945. The Soviets declared the East Pomeranian Offensive complete a week after the fall of Danzig.

According to Soviet claims, in the Battle of Danzig the Germans lost 39,000 soldiers dead and 10,000 captured. [8]

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 Glantz (1995), p. 300
  2. 1 2 3 Liedtke 2008, p. 585.
  3. Duffy, p.170
  4. Duffy, pp.186–7
  5. Duffy, p.187
  6. Duffy, p.188
  7. Duffy, p.223
  8. http://9may.ru/30.03.1945/inform/m4219

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References