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

Territorial
changes
Recapture of the region by Soviets
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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

Combat activity

Krasnoye Selo–Ropsha Offensive: 14–31 January 1944

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 : 14 January — 15 February 1944

On 14 January Soviet troops of the Volkhov Front launched an offensive from the Novgorod area towards Luga against a part of the 18th German Army. The aim was freeing the October Railway and encircling, together with the troops of the Leningrad Front, the main forces of the 18th Army in the Luga region.

The offensive did not develop as rapidly as planned before the operation. The German 18th Army suffered a heavy defeat, but still wasn't destroyed and retained a significant part of its combat potential, which prevented the Soviet troops in the spring of 1944 to break through the Panther–Wotan line and begin the liberation of the Baltics. One of the reasons for this development was the lack of coordination between the 2nd Baltic Front and the Volkhov Front, which allowed the German command to move significant forces from the 16th Army to the Luga area.

By February 15, the troops of the Volkhov Front, as well as the 42nd and 67th Army of the Leningrad Front, reached Lake Peipus, having pushed the enemy 50-120 kilometers to the West. In total 779 cities and settlements were liberated, including Novgorod, Luga, Batetsky, Oredezh, Mga, Tosno, Lyuban and Chudovo. The restoration of control over the strategically important railways, especially Kirov and October, was of great importance.

Staraya Russa – Novorzhev Offensive : 18 February - 1 March 1944

On 18 February, Soviet troops of the 2nd Baltic Front, carried out this operation in cooperation with part of the Leningrad Front against the German 16th Army of Army Group "North" with the aim of liberating the area southwest of Lake Ilmen and creating the conditions for further offensives. As a result of the operation, the Soviet troops, pursuing the retreating enemy, advanced up to 180 kilometers to the West, liberating many cities and towns, including Staraya Russa, Novorzhev, Dno and Putoshka.

Kingisepp–Gdov Offensive : 1 February - 1 March 1944

Overview

Leningradsko Novgorodskaya operatsya 1944 1 polozhenie storon.jpg
Leningradsko Novgorodskaya operatsya 1944 2 boi 14-31-01-44.jpg
Leningradsko Novgorodskaya operatsya 1944 3 boi 1-15-2-44.jpg
Position of the armies before the operation and plan of attackOperations between 14-31 January 1944.Operations between 1-15 February 1944

Aftermath

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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