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The Panther–Wotan line (also known as the East Wall or Ostwall)was a defensive line partially built by the German Wehrmacht in 1943 on the Eastern Front. The first part of the name refers to the short northern section between Lake Peipus and the Baltic Sea at Narva. It stretched all the way south towards the Black Sea along the Dnieper.
After reverses on the eastern front in 1942, there were calls in early 1943 for the construction of fortifications and defenses in depth along the Dnieper river. After the Battle of Kursk and the invasion of Italy, there was a need to both conserve forces in the east and shift to defensive operations. Adolf Hitler ordered the construction of the defensive lines in August 1943; with this, he accepted the abandonment of any further offensive strategy in the east.[ citation needed ]
A large portion of the line ran along the Dnieper River, from just west of Smolensk to the Black Sea. The line left the banks of the Dnieper only where another major tributary offered similar defensive capabilities. In the south, where the Dnieper curved (western Dnipropetrovsk Oblast) to the west, it was decided to construct the line east of the Dnieper in order to avoid the evacuation or isolation of the Crimea. The Dniper line offered no protection to the Crimea's Isthmus of Perekop link with the mainland. In the north, the line was to have been constructed roughly from Vitebsk to Pskov, where it then followed the west bank of Lake Peipus, and its river delta to the Baltic Sea at Narva.[ citation needed ]
When the order was signed for its construction on 11 August 1943, the Wehrmacht held positions sometimes hundreds of kilometers to the east of the proposed defensive line, generally along the Donets River in the south and along a line roughly from Smolensk to Leningrad in the north. An early retreat to the line would have resulted in the loss of considerable Soviet territory and been a very complex operation if the Soviet side decided to exploit the situation during the retreat.[ citation needed ]
The confidence in the effectiveness of the line was poor in Army Group North, with its commander, General Georg von Küchler, refusing to refer to the line by the "East Wall" name for fear that it would instill false hope by his troops in its strength.Construction had barely started when Manstein's Army Group South commenced to fall back on it as part of a general withdrawal ordered on 15 September 1943.
The Red Army immediately attempted to break the line to deny the OKH time to plan a long-term defence. It launched the Lower Dnieper strategic offensive operation along a 300 km front. The line was particularly weak in the area just north of the Black Sea where it departed from the Dnieper to cover the approaches to the Crimea. The Soviet Southern Front breached the barely constructed fortified line with relative ease, thereby cutting off the German 17th Army on the Crimean Peninsula from its land retreat route. The Red Army casualties were 173,201 unrecoverable and 581,191 sick and wounded (total 754,392).
The fighting afterward involved the gradual establishment of multiple Soviet bridgeheads across the Dnieper. While the crossing operations of the Dnieper were difficult, the Wehrmacht was unable to dislodge the Red Army from its positions once across the river. The bridgeheads and the Soviet forces deployed in them grew. By late December 1943, Kiev had been taken by the Red Army and broke the line along the Dnieper, forcing a Wehrmacht retreat toward the 1939 Polish border.[ citation needed ]
The only part of the line to remain in Wehrmacht possession after 1943 was the extreme northern section, the Panther line between Lake Peipus and the Baltic Sea at Narva. The small portion of the line was assaulted during the Battle of Narva, with the Baltic States and the Gulf of Finland remaining in German hands well into 1944.[ citation needed ]
The defensive positions along the Dnieper were able to slow but not to stop the Soviet advance. The river was a considerable barrier, but the length of the line made it difficult to defend. The inability of the Germans to roll back the Soviet bridgeheads after they were established meant that the line could not be held.[ citation needed ]
Operation Bagration was the codename for the Soviet 1944 Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation, a military campaign fought between 23 June and 19 August 1944 in Soviet Byelorussia in the Eastern Front of World War II. The Soviet Union inflicted the biggest defeat in German military history by destroying 28 out of 34 divisions of Army Group Centre and completely shattered the German front line. It was the fifth deadliest campaign on the European war scene, killing around 450,000 soldiers.
The First Battle of Kiev was the German name for the operation that resulted in a very large encirclement of Soviet troops in the vicinity of Kiev during World War II. This encirclement is considered the largest encirclement in the history of warfare. The operation ran from 7 August to 26 September 1941 as part of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. In Soviet military history, it is referred to as the Kiev Strategic Defensive Operation, with the somewhat different dates of 7 July – 26 September 1941.
Below is the timeline of the events of the Eastern Front of World War II, the conflict between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1945.
The First Battle of Smolensk was a battle during the second phase of Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, in World War II. It was fought around the city of Smolensk between 10 July and 10 September 1941, about 400 km (250 mi) west of Moscow. The Ostheer had advanced 500 km (310 mi) into the USSR in the 18 days after the invasion on 22 June 1941.
This is a sub-article to Battle of Narva.
The Battle of Narva was a military campaign between the German Army Detachment "Narwa" and the Soviet Leningrad Front fought for possession of the strategically important Narva Isthmus on 2 February – 10 August 1944 during World War II.
The Battle of the Caucasus is a name given to a series of Axis and Soviet operations in the Caucasus area on the Eastern Front of World War II. On 25 July 1942, German troops captured Rostov-on-Don, Russia, opening the Caucasus region of the southern Soviet Union, and the oil fields beyond at Maikop, Grozny, and ultimately Baku, to the Germans. Two days prior, Adolf Hitler issued a directive to launch such an operation into the Caucasus region, to be named Operation Edelweiß. German forces were compelled to withdraw from the area that winter as Operation Little Saturn threatened to cut them off.
The Battle of the Dnieper was a military campaign that took place in 1943 on the Eastern Front of World War II. It was one of the largest operations in World War II, involving almost 4,000,000 troops at a time stretched on a 1,400 kilometres (870 mi) long front. During its four-month duration, the eastern bank of the Dnieper was recovered from German forces by five of the Red Army's fronts, which conducted several assault river crossings to establish several lodgements on the western bank. Subsequently, Kiev was liberated in the Battle of Kiev.
The second Battle of Smolensk was a Soviet strategic offensive operation conducted by the Red Army as part of the Summer-Autumn Campaign of 1943. Staged almost simultaneously with the Lower Dnieper Offensive, the offensive lasted two months and was led by General Andrei Yeremenko, commanding the Kalinin Front, and Vasily Sokolovsky, commanding the Western Front. Its goal was to clear the German presence from the Smolensk and Bryansk regions. Smolensk had been under German occupation since the first Battle of Smolensk in 1941.
The Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive, also known in Soviet historical sources as the liberation of right-bank Ukraine, was a strategic offensive executed by the Soviet 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ukrainian Fronts, along with the 2nd Belorussian Front, against the German Army Group South and Army Group A, and fought from 24 December 1943 – 17 April 1944. The battles on the right-bank Ukraine and in the Crimea were the most important event of the 1944 winter-spring campaign on the Eastern Front.
The Baltic Operation, also known as the Defensive operation in Lithuania and Latvia encompassed the operations of the Red Army from 22 June to 9 July 1941 conducted over the territories of the occupied Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in response to an offensive launched by the German army.
The Tartu Offensive Operation, also known as the Battle of Tartu and the Battle of Emajõgi was a campaign fought over southeastern Estonia in 1944. It took place on the Eastern Front during World War II between the Soviet 3rd Baltic Front and parts of the German Army Group North.
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, 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. The lifting of the 900-day-long blockade was celebrated in Leningrad on that day with a 324-gun salute. 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.
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.
This is a sub-article to Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive and Battle of Narva.
This is a sub-article to Battle of Narva (1944).
The Orsha offensives were a series of battles fought in Belarus between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht during the autumn of 1943, and into the following winter. Orsha was a main road junction with the north-south route from Leningrad to Kiev and the east-west route from Minsk to Moscow. After the failure of Operation Typhoon in the winter of 1941, Army Group Centre had spent the most part on the defensive in the central sector of the front. The time afforded to them in 1942, a distinct period of inactivity in this area, allowed the Wehrmacht to build formidable defensive positions.
The 111th Infantry Division was a major unit of the German Wehrmacht. Formed in late 1940 in the further expansion of the German army it was committed to the campaign against Russian, and spent 3 years on the eastern front. The division was finally trapped in the Crimea and destroyed in the spring of 1944.
The 258th Infantry Division was an infantry unit of the German Army in World War II.
The LIV Army Corps was a Wehrmacht army corps during World War II. It was formed in June 1941. After February 1944, it was upgraded to an command equivalent in rank but not in name to an army, something that the Wehrmacht dubbed an army detachment. It operated under the following names: