Panther–Wotan line

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Map of the Eastern Front in 1943, showing the Panther-Wotan line in red Map of dnieper battle grand.jpg
Map of the Eastern Front in 1943, showing the Panther–Wotan line in red

The Panther–Wotan line (also known as the East Wall or Ostwall) [1] 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 Dnieper.

Defense line line of troops and armament, fortified and set up to protect a high-value location during an armed conflict

Defense line or fortification line is a geographically-recognizable line of troops and armament, fortified and set up to protect a high-value location during an armed conflict.

<i>Wehrmacht</i> unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945

The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.

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

Planning

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 ]

Dnieper longest river of Ukraine and Belarus

The Dnieperother names is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in the Valdai Hills near Smolensk, Russia, before flowing through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black Sea. It is the longest river of Ukraine and Belarus and the fourth-longest river in Europe. The total length is approximately 2,200 km (1,400 mi) with a drainage basin of 504,000 square kilometres (195,000 sq mi). Historically, the river was an important barrier, dividing Ukraine into right and left banks. Nowadays, the river is noted for its dams and hydroelectric stations. The Dnieper is an important navigable waterway for the economy of Ukraine and is connected via the Dnieper–Bug Canal to other waterways in Europe.

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.

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.

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 ]

Smolensk City in Smolensk Oblast, Russia

Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River, 360 kilometers (220 mi) west-southwest of Moscow. Population: 326,861 (2010 Census); 325,137 (2002 Census); 341,483 (1989 Census).

Black Sea Marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and Asia

The Black Sea is a body of water and marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean between the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Western Asia. It is supplied by a number of major rivers, such as the Danube, Dnieper, Southern Bug, Dniester, Don, and the Rioni. Many countries drain into the Black Sea, including Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Tributary stream or river that flows into a main stem river or lake

A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tributaries and the main stem river drain the surrounding drainage basin of its surface water and groundwater, leading the water out into an ocean.

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 ]

Defensive operations

Confidence in the effectiveness of the line was poor inside Army Group North, with its commander, General Küchler, refusing to refer to the line by the "East Wall" name, fearing it would instill false hope amongst his troops in its strength. [2] Construction had barely started when Manstein's Heeresgruppe Süd commenced to fall back on it as part of a general withdrawal ordered on 15 September 1943. [3]

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.

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.

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.

The Red Army immediately attempted to break the line to deny OKH time to plan a long term defence, launching 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). [4]

The Southern Front was a Front – a roughly Army group sized formation – of the Soviet Army during the Second World War. The Southern Front directed military operations during the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina in 1940, and then was formed twice after the June 1941 German invasion, Operation Barbarossa.

The German Seventeenth Army was a World War II field army.

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. This 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 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 ]

See also

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References

Notes

  1. The East Wall. The History of the Soviet Union.
  2. Kaufmann, J.E.; H.W. Kaufmann (2003). Fortress Third Reich. DA Capo Press. p. 282.
  3. p.31, Baxter
  4. see Krivosheev in sources which pages?

Bibliography