Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive

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Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
RIAN archive 764 A battle in the outskirts.jpg
Soviet machine-gunners near Detskoye Selo railway station in Pushkin, January 21
DateJanuary 14 – March 1, 1944
Location
Result Soviet victory
Siege of Leningrad lifted
Territorial
changes
Recapture of the region by Soviet forces
Belligerents
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Georg von Küchler
(Until February 1)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Walter Model
(From February 1)
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Kirill Meretskov
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Leonid Govorov
Units involved
Army Group North:
44 infantry divisions
[2]
Leningrad Front
Volkhov Front
2nd Baltic Front
Baltic Fleet:
57 divisions
Strength
500,000 men
2,389 artillery pieces
146 tanks
140 aircraft [2]
822,000 men
4,600 artillery pieces
550 tanks
653 aircraft [2]
Casualties and losses
24,739 dead and missing [3]
46,912 wounded [3]
Total: 71,651 casualties (per German military medical reports) [3]
76,686 dead and missing,
237,267 wounded [4]
Total: 313,953 casualties [4]
Soviet gains, mid-1943 to end of 1944 Eastern Front 1943-08 to 1944-12.png
Soviet gains, mid-1943 to end of 1944

The Leningrad–Novgorod strategic offensive was a strategic offensive during World War II. It was launched by the Red Army on January 14, 1944 with an attack on the German Army Group North by the Soviet Volkhov and Leningrad fronts, along with part of the 2nd Baltic Front, [5] with a goal of fully lifting the Siege of Leningrad. Approximately two weeks later, the Red Army regained control of the Moscow–Leningrad railway, and on January 26, 1944 Joseph Stalin declared that the Siege of Leningrad was lifted, and that German forces were expelled from the Leningrad Oblast. [6] The lifting of the 900-day-long blockade was celebrated in Leningrad on that day with a 324-gun salute. [5] The strategic offensive ended a month later on 1 March, when Stavka ordered the troops of the Leningrad Front to a follow-on operation across the Narva River, while the 2nd Baltic was to defend the territory it gained in pursuit of the German XVI Army Corps. [7]

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. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.

Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation, commanding a grouping of field armies during World War II. The German Army Group was subordinated to the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH), the German army high command, and coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics, including the Army Group North Rear Area.

The Volkhov Front was a major formation of the Red Army during the first period of the Second World War. It was formed as an expediency of an early attempt to halt the advance of the Wehrmacht Army Group North in its offensive thrust towards Leningrad. Initially the front operated to the south of Leningrad, with its flank on Lake Ladoga.

Contents

The Germans had suffered nearly 72,000 casualties, lost 85 artillery pieces ranging in caliber from 15 cm to 40 cm, and were pushed back between 60 and 100 kilometers from Leningrad to the Luga River. [8]

Luga River river in Russia

The Luga River is a river in Novgorodsky and Batetsky Districts of Novgorod Oblast and Luzhsky, Volosovsky, Slantsevsky, and Kingiseppsky Districts of Leningrad Oblast of Russia. The river flows into the Luga Bay of the Gulf of Finland. It freezes up in the early December and stays under the ice until early April. The length of the Luga is 353 kilometres (219 mi), and the area of its drainage basin is 13,200 square kilometres (5,100 sq mi). Its main tributary is the Oredezh River (right). The towns of Luga and Kingisepp, as well as the urban-type settlement of Tolmachyovo are located on the banks of the Luga. The mouth of the Luga is the site of the Ust-Luga container terminal.

Background

After Operation Barbarossa, German troops had encircled Leningrad, and the Siege of Leningrad began. Several operations had been designed by the Soviet commanders in the area to liberate the outskirts of Leningrad from the Germans. In the fall of 1943, preparations had begun to design another plan to retake the outskirts of Leningrad from the Germans, after the only partially successful Operation Iskra in January of that year which had followed the failed Sinyavino Offensive of late 1942. The first staff meeting was held on September 9, 1943, two years and a day after the beginning of the siege. [9] Two plans, Neva I and Neva II, were conceived. Neva I was to be implemented if the Germans, pressured on different fronts, withdrew their forces from Leningrad on their own accord to reinforce the pressured areas. Both Stavka and Leningrad believed this was possible. [9] Neva II, therefore, would be implemented if the Germans did not withdraw from Leningrad within the coming months. [9] The offensive would be three-pronged, driving from the foothold at Oranienbaum that had been captured earlier that year, the Pulkovo Heights and from the fortifications around Novgorod. [9] The offensive was planned to start in the winter, when sufficient numbers of troops and artillery could be moved across the ice without incident. [9]

Operation Barbarossa 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans (Lebensraum), to use Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort and to annihilate the rest according to Generalplan Ost, and to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.

Siege of Leningrad 8 September 1941 – 27 January 1944 blockade of Leningrad by the Axis

The Siege of Leningrad was a prolonged military blockade undertaken from the south by the Army Group North of Nazi Germany against the Soviet city of Leningrad on the Eastern Front in World War II. The Finnish army invaded from the north, co-operating with the Germans until they had recaptured territory lost in the recent Winter War, but refused to make further approaches to the city.

Operation Iskra Soviet military operation in World War II

Operation Iskra was a Soviet military operation during World War II, designed to break the Wehrmacht's Siege of Leningrad. Planning for the operation began shortly after the failure of the Sinyavino Offensive. The German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad in late 1942 had weakened the German front. By January 1943, Soviet forces were planning or conducting offensive operations across the entire German-Soviet front, especially in southern Russia, Iskra being the northern part of the wider Soviet 1942–1943 winter counter offensive.

Preparations

Soviet

The Baltic Fleet had been assigned the task of transporting the Second Shock Army under the command of Ivan Fedyuninsky over Lake Ladoga to Oranienbaum. From November 5, 1943 onwards, the Fleet transported 30,000 troops, 47 tanks, 400 artillery pieces, 1,400 trucks and 10,000 tons of ammunition and supplies from the wharves at the Leningrad factories, Kanat and the naval base at Lisy Nos to Oranienbaum. [10] After Lake Ladoga froze, another 22,000 men, 800 trucks, 140 tanks and 380 guns were sent overland to the jump-off point. [10] When the shipments were complete, the artillery was positioned along the entire length of the Leningrad, Second Baltic and Volkhov fronts at a concentration of 200 guns per kilometer, including 21,600 standard artillery pieces, 1,500 Katyusha rocket guns, and 600 anti-aircraft guns. [10] 1,500 planes were also obtained from the Baltic Fleet and from installations around Leningrad. [10] [11] The total number of Soviet personnel prepared for action was 1,241,000, against the 741,000 German troops. [12] A final meeting took place on January 11 in Smolny. [13] General Govorov, the top Soviet commander on the Leningrad Front, had listed his priorities. In order to open up southeastward and eastward main railroad lines from Leningrad, Soviet troops would have to occupy Gatchina, from which they could retake Mga, the minor city and rail station whose capture in 1941 had closed the last railroad route into Leningrad. Govorov positioned his troops accordingly. [13]

Ivan Fedyuninsky Army General (Soviet Union)

Ivan Ivanovich Fedyuninsky was a Soviet military leader and Hero of the Soviet Union (1939).

Lisy Nos

Lisy Nos is a municipal settlement in Primorsky District of the federal city of St. Petersburg, Russia, located on the cape of the same name in the northern part of the Kronstadt Bay. Population: 4,759 (2010 Census); 2,563 (2002 Census).

Smolny is a place name in central Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is a compound of historically interrelated buildings erected in 18th and 19th centuries. As the most widely known of the buildings, the Smolny Institute, has been used as the seat of the City Governor's Office, its name is associated with city authorities.

German

Panther on the Eastern Front, 1944. Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-244-2321-34, Ostfront-Sud, Panzer V (Panther).jpg
Panther on the Eastern Front, 1944.

The situation of the German Army Group North at the end of 1943 had deteriorated to a critical point. The Blue Division and three German divisions had been withdrawn by October, while the Army Group had acquired sixty miles of additional frontage from Army Group Center during the same period. As replacements, Field Marshal Georg von Küchler received the Spanish Blue Legion and three divisions of SS troops. In such a weakened state, the Army Group staff planned a new position to its rear that would shorten the front lines by twenty-five percent and remove the Soviet threats posed in many salients on the current lines. The plan Operation Blue called for a January withdrawal of over 150 miles to the natural defensive barrier formed by the Narva and Velikaya Rivers and Lakes Peipus and Pskov. This position, the so-called "Panther Line", was buttressed by fortifications that had been constructed since September. The retreat would be carried out in stages, using intermediate defensive positions, the most important of which was the Rollbahn Line formed on the October Railway running through Tosno, Lyuban and Chudovo. There the two most exposed Army Corps, the XXVI and XXVIII, would regroup and catch their breath before proceeding farther back to their positions in the Panther Line. [14]

Blue Division Spanish division

The Blue Division, officially designated as División Española de Voluntarios by the Spanish Army and 250. Infanterie-Division in the German Army was a unit of Spanish volunteers and conscripts who served in the German Army on the Eastern Front of the Second World War. It also included over 150 to several hundred men of the Portuguese Legion sent by the Portuguese Estado Novo under the Spanish Flag, many of whom had already fought in the Viriatos during the Spanish Civil War.

Georg von Küchler German military officer

Georg von Küchler was a German Field Marshal and war criminal during World War II. He commanded the 18th Army and Army Group North during the Soviet-German war of 1941–1945.

The Blue Legion was a volunteer legion created from 2,133 Falangist volunteers who remained behind at the Eastern Front after most of the Spanish Blue Division was repatriated in March 1944 because Francisco Franco had started negotiations with the western Allies. It officially consisted of two battalions. It was later estimated that the legion grew to over 3,000 Spaniards.

The fate of Army Group North turned for the worse in the new year, for Hitler rejected all proposals for an early withdrawal into the "Panther" position, insisting that the Soviet forces be kept as far as possible from Germany and that they be forced to pay dearly for each meter of ground. Finally, Hitler transferred three more first-rate infantry divisions out of Army Group North to reinforce Erich von Manstein's Army Group South as it reeled back from the Dnieper River under continuous Soviet assault. Field Marshal von Küchler now held an extremely precarious position, and could only await events on the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts with great pessimism. [14]

Erich von Manstein Field Marshal of Nazi Germany

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.

Army Group South name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II

Army Group South was the name of two German Army Groups during World War II. It was first used in the 1939 September Campaign, along with Army Group North to invade Poland. In the invasion of Poland Army Group South was led by Gerd von Rundstedt and his chief of staff Erich von Manstein. Two years later, Army Group South became one of three army groups into which Germany organised their forces for Operation Barbarossa. Army Group South's principal objective was to capture Soviet Ukraine and its capital Kiev.

Combat activity

Krasnoye Selo–Ropsha Offensive

In the late hours of January 13, 1944, long-range bombers from the Baltic Fleet attacked the main German command points on the defensive line. On January 14, troops from both the Oranienbaum foothold and Volkhov Front attacked, followed the next day by troops of the 42nd Army under the command of Ivan Maslennikov from the Pulkovo Heights. [13] An artillery barrage was launched all along the front, laying down 220,000 shells onto the German lines. [15] Fog inhibited major progress for the first few days, although the Second Shock Army and 42nd Army advanced two miles on a seven-mile front while in combat with the 9th and 10th Luftwaffe Field Divisions, [13] and the Volkhov Front pushed the Germans back about three miles. [15] It thawed on the 16th, and the Second Shock Army managed to move forward 23 kilometers. [8] [16] On the 19th, the Second Shock Army captured Ropsha and the 63rd Guards Rifle Division, part of the 42nd Army, drove the Germans out of Krasnoye Selo. By January 26, German troops had been pushed 100 kilometers away from the city, and the Moscow–Leningrad Railroad line had been opened. [17] The next day, Stalin declared the city to have been relieved, and Leningrad celebrated with a red, white and blue salute from 324 Katyusha rocket launchers and artillery pieces at 8 pm, [17] which was inconceivable during the siege due to blackout.

Novgorod–Luga Offensive

Staraya Russa – Novorzhev Offensive

Kingisepp–Gdov Offensive

Aftermath

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The Battle of Krasny Bor was part of the Soviet offensive Operation Polyarnaya Zvezda. It called for a pincer attack near Leningrad, to build on the success of Operation Iskra and completely lift the Siege of Leningrad, encircling a substantial part of the German 18th Army. The offensive near the town of Krasny Bor, formed the western arm of the pincer. The Soviet offensive began on Wednesday, 10 February 1943. It produced noticeable gains on the first day but rapidly turned into a stalemate. The strong defense of the Spanish Blue Division and the German SS Polizei Division gave the German forces time to reinforce their positions. By February 13, the Soviet forces had stopped their offensive in this sector.

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The Krasnoye Selo – Ropsha Offensive, also known as Operation January Thunder and Neva-2 was a campaign between the Soviet Leningrad Front and the German 18th Army fought for the western approaches of Leningrad in 14–30 January 1944.

Oranienbaum Bridgehead

The Oranienbaum Bridgehead was an isolated portion of the Leningrad Oblast in Russia, which was retained under Soviet control during the siege of Leningrad in World War II. It played a significant role in protecting the city.

Lyuban Offensive Operation military operation

Lyuban Offensive Operation was a Soviet offensive operation during the Battle of the Volkhov. It was conducted by the Volkhov and Leningrad Fronts of the Red Army with the goal of relieving the siege of Leningrad and encircling and destroying the German forces carrying out the siege.

Sinyavino Offensive (1942) military operation

The Sinyavino Offensive was an operation planned by the Soviet Union in the summer of 1942 with the aim of breaking the Siege of Leningrad, which had begun the previous summer, and establish a reliable supply line to Leningrad. At the same time, German forces were planning Operation Northern Light to capture the city and link up with Finnish forces. To achieve that heavy reinforcements were arriving from Sevastopol, which the German forces captured in July 1942. Both sides were unaware of the other's preparations, and this made the battle unfold in an unanticipated manner for both sides.

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54th Army (Soviet Union) field army of the Red Army 1941-1944

The Red Army's 54th Army was a Soviet field army during the Second World War. It was first formed in the Leningrad Military District in August, 1941, and continued in service in the northern sector of the Soviet-German front until the end of 1944. It spent much of the war attempting to break the German siege of Leningrad, in which it helped to achieve partial success in January, 1943, and complete success one year later. During these operations the soldiers of the 54th served under five different commanders, most notably Col. Gen. I.I. Fedyuninsky in the winter of 1941–42. After helping to drive Army Group North away from Leningrad and into the Baltic states in the first nine months of 1944, the army was deemed surplus to requirements on the narrowing front, and was officially disbanded on the last day of the year.

310th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

The 310th Rifle Division was a standard Red Army rifle division formed on July 15, 1941 in Kazakhstan before being sent to the vicinity of Leningrad, where it spent most of the war, sharing a similar combat path with its "sister", the 311th Rifle Division. The soldiers of the division fought until early 1944 to, first, hold open some sort of lifeline to the besieged city, then to break the siege and drive off the besieging German forces. They then participated in the offensive that drove Germany's Finnish allies out of the war. Finally, the division was redeployed to take the fight to the German heartland in the winter and spring of 1945. It ended the war north of Berlin with a very creditable combat record for any rifle division.

The 67th Army was a field army of the Soviet Union's Red Army. The 67th Army was formed in October 1942 on the Leningrad Front from the Neva Operational Group. It defended the right bank of the Neva River, holding the Nevsky Pyatachok and covering the Road of Life. In January 1943 the army fought in Operation Iskra. In late December, the army was combined with 55th Army. The 67th Army headquarters was disbanded and 55th Army headquarters was renamed 67th Army headquarters. Between January and March 1944 67th Army fought in the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive, in which it captured Mga and Luga. In April the army became part of the 3rd Baltic Front and fought in the Pskov-Ostrov Offensive in July and the Tartu Offensive in August and September. The army fought in the Riga Offensive in September and October. The army then fought to eliminate the Courland Pocket. After the end of the war the army was disbanded during the summer of 1945.

378th Rifle Division

The 378th Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army that began forming in August 1941 in the Siberian Military District, before being sent to the vicinity of Leningrad, where it spent most of the war. The soldiers of this division fought until early 1944 to break the siege and drive off the besieging German forces, distinguishing themselves in the liberation of Novgorod. Finally, the division was redeployed to advance into the Baltic states in 1944 and into East Prussia in the winter of 1945. As the war was ending the 378th was disbanded to provide replacements for other divisions. Nevertheless, it had compiled a very creditable combat record for any rifle division.

364th Rifle Division

The 364th Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army during World War II.

376th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

The 376th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served for the duration of the Great Patriotic War in that role. It began forming in August, 1941 in the Siberian Military District. It followed a very similar combat path to that of the 374th Rifle Division. It joined the fighting front in December with the new 59th Army along the Volkhov River and it continued to serve in the battles near Leningrad until early 1944. The division took horrendous casualties in the combat to create and hold open a passage to the 2nd Shock Army during the Lyuban Offensive and was itself partly or fully encircled at several times during this dismal fighting. The division finally left this region as it advanced during the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive in January 1944 and in July won a battle honor in the liberation of Pskov, while its 1250th Rifle Regiment was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. In October the 376th as a whole would also receive the Red Banner for its part in the liberation of Riga. The division ended the war in Latvia, helping to contain and reduce the German forces trapped in the Courland Pocket, and was reorganized as a rifle brigade shortly thereafter.

377th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

The 377th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served for the duration of the Great Patriotic War in that role. It began forming in August, 1941 in the Urals Military District. It followed a very similar combat path to that of the 374th and 376th Rifle Divisions. It joined the fighting front in December with the 4th Army, and then briefly came under command of 2nd Shock Army, but soon moved to the 59th Army along the Volkhov River, and continued to serve in this Army's battles near Leningrad until early 1944. The division took very heavy casualties during the Lyuban Offensive in several attempts to relieve the beleaguered 2nd Shock Army. After rebuilding the division held the Army's bridgehead over the Volkhov during 1943, and finally advanced during the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive in January, 1944, taking part in the assault that liberated Novgorod. During the spring the division saw heavy fighting in the battles for Narva before moving south for the summer offensive into the Baltic states. In September it won a battle honor in the liberation of Valga, and in October also received the Order of the Red Banner for its part in the liberation of Riga. The division ended the war in Latvia, helping to contain and reduce the German forces trapped in the Courland Pocket, and was disbanded later in 1945.

382nd Rifle Division (Soviet Union)

The 382nd Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served for the duration of the Great Patriotic War in that role. It began forming on August 10 in the Siberian Military District. It joined the fighting front in December with the new 59th Army along the Volkhov River. Apart from a few weeks in 1944 the division served in either the Volkhov Front or the Leningrad Front for the entire war. It suffered horrendous casualties after being encircled in the swamps and forests near Lyuban and was severely understrength for many months afterwards while serving on a relatively quiet front. It remained in the line in the dismal fighting near Leningrad until early 1944 with little opportunity to distinguish itself, and the division did not finally earn a battle honor until late January, 1944, during the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive. Following this the division was moved to the Karelian Isthmus and entered the summer offensive against Finland in the reserves of Leningrad Front before being assigned to the 23rd Army. Following the Finnish surrender it was redeployed westward, helping to mop up pockets of enemy forces in the Baltic states in early 1945. The 382nd ended the war in Latvia, helping to contain and reduce the German forces trapped in the Courland Pocket, and was officially disbanded in February, 1946.

References

  1. Most of modern Novgorod Oblast and parts of Pskov Oblast belonged to Leningrad Oblast at the time.
  2. 1 2 3 Glantz 2002, p. 329.
  3. 1 2 3 "Heeresarzt 10-Day Casualty Reports per Army/Army Group, 1944". Human Losses in World War II. German Statistics and Documents. Archived from the original on 2012-10-29.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
  4. 1 2 Glantz & House 1995, p. 298.
  5. 1 2 "Siege of Leningrad". Second World War History Online. Retrieved February 27, 2011.
  6. Krivosheev, Grigori et al., p. 315
  7. Krivosheev, Grigori et al., p. 317
  8. 1 2 A.A. Grechko. Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges (History of World War II. In German).
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Salisbury, p. 560
  10. 1 2 3 4 Salisbury, p. 561
  11. Гречанюк, Дмитриев & Корниенко 1990.
  12. Salisbury, p. 561–562
  13. 1 2 3 4 Salisbury, p. 562
  14. 1 2 Kenneth W. Estes A European Anabasis — Western European Volunteers in the German Army and SS, 1940-1945. Chapter 5. "Despair and Fanaticism, 1944-45" Columbia University Press
  15. 1 2 Salisbury, p. 564
  16. Salisbury, p. 565
  17. 1 2 Salisbury, p. 566

Bibliography