Operation Spring Awakening

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Operation Spring Awakening
Part of World War II, Eastern Front
Plattensee-op.png
German advances during the operation
DateGerman attack: 6–16 March 1945
Soviet counterattack: 16 March - 15 April 1945
Location
Coordinates: 46°59′N18°21′E / 46.983°N 18.350°E / 46.983; 18.350
Result Soviet victory
Belligerents
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg Hungary
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria
Yugoslav Partisans flag 1945.svg Yugoslav Partisans
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Otto Wöhler
(Army Group South)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Maximilian von Weichs
(Army Group F)
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Fyodor Tolbukhin
(3rd Ukrainian Front)
Strength

6 March: [1]

25 divisions
297,903 (ration strength)
595 tanks/assault guns
600 guns

6 March: [1]

55 divisions
465,000 (ration strength)
407 tanks/assault guns
2,600 guns and mortars
Casualties and losses

German attack (6–15 March 1945):
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany

Army Group South: 12,358 men [2]
31 tracked AFVs destroyed [2]
1 APC destroyed [3]
Army Group F: Unknown

Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg: Unknown

Soviet counter-offensive (16 March–15 April 1945):

30,000 killed
125,000 captured [4]
1,345 tanks/assault guns lost [5] [lower-alpha 1]
2,250 guns and mortars lost [5]
446 armour personnel carriers [7]
200+ aircraft

German attack (6–15 March 1945):

32,899
8,492 killed or missing
24,407 wounded & sick [8]
152 tracked AFVs destroyed [2]
415 anti-tank guns destroyed [2]


Soviet counter-offensive (16 March–15 April 1945):

167,940 men [9]
38,661 killed
129,279 wounded & sick

Bulgarian casualties:

9,805 men [10]
2,698 killed
7,017 wounded & sick

Operation Spring Awakening (Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen) (6 – 16 March 1945) was the last major German offensive of World War II. It took place in Hungary on the Eastern Front. This offensive was also referred to in Germany as the Plattensee Offensive and in the Soviet Union as the Balaton Defensive Operation (6 – 15 March 1945).

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Hungary Country in Central Europe

Hungary is a country in Central Europe. Spanning 93,030 square kilometres (35,920 sq mi) in the Carpathian Basin, it borders Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Austria to the northwest, Romania to the east, Serbia to the south, Croatia to the southwest, and Slovenia to the west. With about 10 million inhabitants, Hungary is a medium-sized member state of the European Union. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken Uralic language in the world, and among the few non-Indo-European languages to be widely spoken in Europe. Hungary's capital and largest city is Budapest; other major urban areas include Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs and Győr.

Eastern Front (World War II) theatre of World War II - war between Germany and USSR 1941-1945

The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), Poland and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans) from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties.

Contents

The offensive began in great secrecy on 6 March 1945 with an attack near Lake Balaton, the area included some of the last oil reserves still available to the Axis. The operation involved many German units withdrawn from the failed Ardennes Offensive on the Western Front, including the 6th Panzer Army and its subordinate Waffen-SS divisions. The operation was a failure for Germany.

Lake Balaton freshwater lake in Hungary

Lake Balaton, Slovak: Blatenské jazero) is a freshwater lake in the Transdanubian region of Hungary. It is the largest lake in Central Europe, and one of the region's foremost tourist destinations. The Zala River provides the largest inflow of water to the lake, and the canalised Sió is the only outflow.

Battle of the Bulge German offensive through the Ardennes forest on the Western Front towards the end of World War II

The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, took place from 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945, and was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg, towards the end of the war in Europe. The offensive was intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy four Allied armies and force the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers' favor.

The 6th Panzer Army was a formation of the German Army, formed in the autumn of 1944. The 6th Panzer Army was first used as an offensive force during the Battle of the Bulge, in which it operated as the northernmost element of the German offensive. The army was subsequently transferred to Hungary in early 1945 and used in both offensive and defensive actions there. The final battles of the 6th Panzer Army were fought in Austria until the collapse of Nazi Germany, at which point the army was completely demoralized. The remnants of the army eventually surrendered to the United States Army. Army commander throughout the army's existence, SS-Oberstgruppenführer Josef Dietrich said in early 1945:

"We call ourselves the "6th Panzer Army", because we've only got 6 Panzers left".

German plan

German units during the operation, March 1945 Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1989-105-13A, Ungarn, deutscher Ruckzug.jpg
German units during the operation, March 1945

After the Ardennes offensive failed, in Hitler's estimation, the Nagykanizsa oilfields southwest of Lake Balaton were the most strategically valuable reserves on the Eastern Front. [11] Hitler ordered Sepp Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army to take the lead and move to Hungary in order to protect the oilfields and refineries there. [12]

Sepp Dietrich German SS commander

Josef Dietrich was a German politician and SS commander during the Nazi era. He joined the Nazi Party in 1928 and was elected to the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic in 1930. Prior to 1929, Dietrich was Adolf Hitler's chauffeur and bodyguard. He received rapid promotions in the SS after his participation in the extrajudicial executions of political opponents during the 1934 purge known as the Night of the Long Knives.

The Germans planned to attack against Soviet General Fyodor Tolbukhin's 3rd Ukrainian Front. [13] The 6th Panzer Army was responsible for the primary thrust of the German attack. The army was to advance from an area north of Lake Balaton on a wide front. They were to push east through the Soviet 27th Army and to the Danube River. After reaching the river, one part of the army would turn north creating a northern spearhead. The northern spearhead would advance through the Soviet 6th Guards Tank Army and move along the Danube River to retake Budapest, which had been captured on 13 February 1945. Another part of 6th SS Panzer Army would then turn south and create a southern spearhead. The southern spearhead would move along the Sió to link up with units from German Army Group E, which was to thrust north through Mohács. If successful, the meeting of the southern spearhead and of Army Group E would encircle both the Soviet 26th Army and the Soviet 57th Army. [13]

Fyodor Tolbukhin Soviet military commander

Fedor Ivanovich Tolbukhin was a Soviet military commander.

3rd Ukrainian Front army unit

3rd Ukrainian Front was a Front of the Red Army during World War II.

The 27th Army was a field army of the Soviet Union's Red Army, which fought in World War II.

German 6th Army would keep the Soviet 27th Army engaged while it was surrounded. Likewise, the German 2nd Panzer Army would advance from an area south of Lake Balaton towards Kaposvár and keep the Soviet 57th Army engaged. The Hungarian Third Army was to hold the area north of the attack and to the west of Budapest. [13]

The 2nd Panzer Army was a German armoured formation during World War II, formed from the 2nd Panzer Group on October 5, 1941.

Kaposvár City with county rights in Southern Transdanubia, Hungary

Kaposvár is a city in the southwestern part of Hungary, south from the Lake Balaton. It is one of the leading cities of Transdanubia and it is the capital of Somogy County as well as the seat of Kaposvár District and of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kaposvár.

Soviet preparation

By the second half of February, Soviet intelligence identified large German tank formations in western Hungary, and soon realized that preparation for a major offensive was underway. [13] Using the experience gained in the Battle of Kursk, the Soviets built multi-layered anti-tank defenses, using 65% of available artillery to create 66 anti-tank ambush points over 83 km of front in Lake Balaton area. The depth of the defense zone reached up to 25–30 km. To ensure sufficient supply of war materials and fuel, additional temporary bridges and gas pipelines were built on the Danube River. [13]

Battle of Kursk World War II battle in the Soviet Union

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.

Between February 18 and March 3 the 233rd Rifle Division had dug 27 kilometers of trenches, 130 gun and mortar positions, 113 dugouts, 70 command posts and observation points, and laid 4,249 antitank and 5,058 antipersonnel mines, all this on a frontage of 5 kilometers. Although there were no tanks in this defensive zone, there was an average of 17 anti-tank guns per kilometer forming 23 tank killing grounds. [14]

Order of battle

Axis:
Army Group South

Army Group E

Soviet:
3rd Ukrainian Front

German offensive

On the 6 March 1945, the German 6th Army, joined by the 6th SS Panzer Army launched a pincer movement north and south of Lake Balaton. Ten panzer and five infantry divisions, including a large number of new heavy Tiger II tanks, struck 3rd Ukrainian Front, hoping to reach the Danube and link up with the German 2nd Panzer Army forces attacking south of Lake Balaton. [15] The attack was spearheaded by the 6th SS Panzer Army and included elite units such as the LSSAH division. Dietrich's army made "good progress" at first, but as they drew near the Danube, the combination of the muddy terrain and strong Soviet resistance had ground the German advance to a halt. [16]

By the 14 March, Operation Spring Awakening was at risk of failure. The 6th SS Panzer Army was well short of its goals. The 2nd Panzer Army did not advance as far on the southern side of Lake Balaton as the 6th SS Panzer Army had on the northern side. Army Group E met fierce resistance from the Bulgarian First Army and Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavian partisan army, and failed to reach its objective of Mohács.

German losses were heavy. Heeresgruppe Süd lost 15,117 casualties in the first eight days of the offensive. The 6th Panzer Army and the 6th Army had only 332 tanks operational of the original approximately 1,000 operational at the start of the offensive.

On the 15 March, strength returns on this day show the Hohenstaufen with 35 Panther tanks, 20 Panzer IVs, 32 Jagdpanzers, 25 Sturmgeschützes and 220 other self-propelled weapons and armoured cars. 42% of these vehicles were damaged, under short or long-term repair. The Das Reich Division had 27 Panthers, 22 Panzer IVs, 28 Jagdpanzers and 26 Sturmgeschützes on hand (the number of under repair are not available). [14]

Soviet counterattack

Soviet counterattack Plattenseeoffensive.jpg
Soviet counterattack

On 16 March, the Soviets forces counterattacked in strength. The Germans were driven back to the positions they had held before Operation Spring Awakening began. [17] The overwhelming numerical superiority of the Red Army made any defense impossible, but Hitler believed victory was attainable. [18]

On 22 March, the remnants of the 6th SS Panzer Army withdrew towards Vienna. By 30 March, the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front crossed from Hungary into Austria. By 4 April, the 6th SS Panzer Army was already in the Vienna area desperately setting up defensive lines against the anticipated Soviet Vienna Offensive. Approaching and encircling the Austrian capital were the Soviet 4th and 6th Guards Tank, 9th Guards, and 46th Armies. [17]

The Soviet's Vienna Offensive ended with the fall of the city on 13 April. By 15 April, the remnants of the 6th SS Panzer Army were north of Vienna, facing the Soviet 9th Guards and 46th Armies. By 15 April, the depleted German 6th Army was north of Graz, facing the Soviet 26th and 27th Armies. The remnants of the German 2nd Panzer Army were south of Graz in the Maribor area, facing the Soviet 57th Army and the Bulgarian First Army. Between 25 April and 4 May, the 2nd Panzer Army was attacked near Nagykanizsa during the Nagykanizsa–Körmend Offensive.

German casualties Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1986-064-10, Ungarn, Verwundetentransport.jpg
German casualties

Some Hungarian units survived the fall of Budapest and the destruction which followed when the Soviets counterattacked after Operation Spring Awakening. The Hungarian Szent László Infantry Division was still indicated to be attached to the German 2nd Panzer Army as late as 30 April. Between 16 and 25 March, the Hungarian Third Army had been destroyed about 40 kilometres (25 mi) west of Budapest by the Soviet 46th Army which was driving towards Bratislava and the Vienna area.

On March 19, Soviet recapture the last territory lost during the 13‑day Axis offensive. Sepp Dietrich, commander of the Sixth SS Panzer Army tasked with defending the last sources of petroleum controlled by the Germans, joked that “6th Panzer Army is well named—we have just six tanks left.” [19]

The failure of the operation resulted in the "armband order" that was issued to Sepp Dietrich by Adolf Hitler, who claimed that the troops, and more importantly, the Leibstandarte, "did not fight as the situation demanded." [20] As a mark of disgrace, the Waffen-SS units involved in the battle were ordered to remove their cuff titles. Dietrich did not relay the order to his troops. [16]

See also

Soviet memorial today in Szekesfehervar Szekesfehervari szovjet katonasirok es hosi emlekmu.jpg
Soviet memorial today in Székesfehérvár

Notes

  1. Many were abandoned due to a lack of fuel. [6]

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References

Citations

  1. 1 2 Frieser et al. 2007, p. 930.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Frieser et al. 2007, p. 941.
  3. Frieser et al. 2007, p. 942.
  4. Tucker-Jones, Anthony (2016). The Battle for Budapest. ISBN   978-1473877320.
  5. 1 2 Frieser et al. 2007, p. 953.
  6. Frieser et al. 2007, p. 952.
  7. O. Baronov, Balaton Defense Operation, Moscow, 2001, P.82-106
  8. G.F. Krivosheyev, 'Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the twentieth century', London, Greenhill Books, 1997, ISBN   1-85367-280-7, Page 110
  9. G.F. Krivosheyev, 'Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the twentieth century', London, Greenhill Books, 1997, p. 156-7
  10. G.F. Krivosheyev, 'Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the twentieth century', London, Greenhill Books, 1997, p.156-7
  11. Duffy 2002, p. 293.
  12. Seaton 1971, p. 537.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Higgins, David R. (2014). Jagdpanther vs SU-100. Eastern Front 1945. Osprey Publishing.
  14. 1 2 https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/hitlers-last-offensive-operation-spring-awakening/
  15. Glantz & House 1995, p. 253.
  16. 1 2 Stein 1984, p. 238.
  17. 1 2 Dollinger 1967, p. 182.
  18. Ziemke 1968, p. 450.
  19. https://ww2days.com/germans-trapped-in-hungarian-capital-2.html
  20. Dollinger 1967, p. 198.

Bibliography