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Author Topic: Barbarossa Day by Day  (Read 6501 times)
Mad Russian
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« on: 30 December 2008, 06:27:25 »
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Sunday 22 June - Day 1

Barbarossatag: The Axis invasion of the Soviet Union begins.

Norway: Units of Dietl's mountain korp crossed the Russo-Norwegian border and moved irtto the Pechenga area. Soviet resistance was slight. The 52nd Rifle Division took up defensive positions to cover the approaches to Murmansk.


Finland: Finland declared neutrality as Germany attacked but the Soviets responded by attacking Finnish shipping in the Gulf of Finland and firing from their base at Hanko.

Army Group North: Hoeppner's 4th Panzer Group attacked from the East Prussian frontier north of Memel and south of Tilsit. Supported by heavy artillery fire and air interdiction, Reinhardt's 41st and Manstein's 56th Panzer Korps struck Sobennikov's 8th Army, taking the Soviet command by surprise. Forward units were easily overrun.

The 56th Panzer Korp pierced the 8th Army's left flank and advanced rapidly through closely wooded territory I past Rasainiai to reach the Dubissa river and secure a crossing after a daring assault upon the Airogola viaduct. Rasainiai fell to supporting infantry after a brief battle. Reinhardt's 41st Panzer Korp launched its assault from Tilsit, striking a single rifle division in the center of the 8th Army with two panzer, one motorised and one infantry divisions. The lone defending division, fighting desperately at the frontier, was unable to hold off the German attacks and crumbled, opening the road to Taurage. Pushing deep into the frontier zone, Reinhardt's progress was slower than Manstein's as Soviet forces threw in repeated counter-attacks.

Kuznetsov attempted to rally his forces throughout the day, but German air superiority prevented any effective measures at the border. The headquarters of the Baltic Military District (now renamed North-West Front) at Subach, together with many Soviet command and communications facilities, came under ferocious Luftwaffe attack.

As the panzers pressed forward the infantry began their long march. The 18th Army, moving out of its cramped assembly areas behind 56th Panzer Korp, fanned out into Lithuania, pushing north along the coast towards Libau to prise the right flank of the 8th Army away from the coast. Farther inland, costly battles raged along forested tracks as small detachments of Soviet troops ambushed German units, holding up the advance before they were destroyed or retreated into the interior.

General Busch led his infantry forward on the right wing of Army Group North, pressing east from the East Prussian border towards the Niemen river. These units struck the right wing of 8th Army and the northern wing of Ilth Army. Badly shaken, Kuznetsov's armies began to separate. Early in the day, as Manstein motored along the road to Airogola, Kuznetsov ordered the 3rd and 12th Mechanised Corps to concentrate for a counter-attack aimed at halting the Germans thrusting towards Siauliai. Subordinating both corps to 8th Army command, Kuznetsov ordered an attack at midday on the 23rd. The 12th Mechanised ordered its forces to co-operate with the 3rd and attack the Germans at Taurage. However, due to the catastrophic collapse of communications, the front commander was largely unaware of the serious situation developing on the 11 th Army sector. Essentially Kuznetsov was tackling the lesser of two evils, his movements merely delaying Reinhardt's advance momentarily while Manstein pushed almost unhindered towards the Dvina.

Army Group Center: Bock's Army Group Centre began its offensive as the Luftwaffe arrived over Soviet air bases and military facilities behind the frontier. South-west of Vilnius, Hoth's 3rd Panzer Group ripped open the southern flank of Morozov's Ilth Army, pushing east for the Niemen river. With the 57th Panzer Korp on the left, 39th Panzer to its right and infantry following, Hoth severed the junction of the North-West and West Fronts. As a result, Kuznetsov was compelled to detach the 12th and 3rd Mechanised Corps from Sobennikov's 8th Army and bring them south to aid the crumbling Ilth. However, the movement of the two mechanised corps was harried by the Luftwaffe and would ultimately be halted by Reinhardt's armour in the first major tank battle of the campaign.

As the advance of the panzers got under way, Strauss's 9th Army hit forward elements of V I Kuznetsov's 3rd Army. The surprised Soviet forces, already out of touch with their high command and hard pressed by German ground and air attacks, suffered fearful casualties. Supplies ran low towards the end of the day due to incessant Luftwaffe attacks upon forward dumps. The cohesion of the hard pressed front line formations began to break after just the first few hours of combat.

Around Grodno German. infantry were involved in fierce struggles with the Soviets.
Kuznetsov vainly attempted to bring his armour into battle, but despite the fact that the
11th Mechanised Corp was deployed close to Grodno, it could not deploy, being impeded in its movements by Kesselring's 2nd Air Fleet. Soviet armoured losses on the approach
roads were crippling.

In the center of the army group, the 2nd Panzer Group launched a furious assault upon the garrison of Brest-Litovsk. Despite repeated attacks they were unable to capture the city , the NKVD border guards putting up ferocious resistance. After confused fighting in the outskirts, the Soviets withdrew into the citadel and prepared to withstand a prolonged German siege. North and south of the city, the remainder of Guderian's panzer group began their offensive. Lemelsen's 47th Panzer Korp moved across the Bug river north of the town and pushed towards Pruzhany, where it met resistance from elements of the 14th Mechanised Corp. Schweppenburg's 24th Panzer Korp succeeded in crossing the Bug south of Brest. As armour penetrated the Soviet defences, the marching infantry of Kluge's 4th Army got to grips with the Soviets left behind. As with the 3rd Panzer Group, infantry followed each armoured korp of Guderian's 2nd Panzer.

As in the north, in the center the Germans had taken the Soviets entirely by surprise, the 3rd, 4th and l0th Armies together with front commander Pavlov having been caught entirely unawares. Many Soviet units were under sustained ground and air attack and disintegrated in the first few hours of fighting. However, isolated detachments fought ferociously, inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking German divisions.

The Luftwaffe was extremely active throughout the day, bombing Soviet concentrations at Bialystok, Grodno, Lida, Volkovsky , Brest- Litovsk and Kobrin, the latter the headquarters of Korobkov's 4th Army. Communications throughout the now redesignated West Front collapsed, leaving Pavlov unaware of the disasters that were unfolding around him. In only two hours, unremitting Luftwaffe attacks succeeded in shattering the command structure of the 4th Army. Fuel and ammunition dumps came under particularly fierce attack, while numerous airfields were disabled. Golubev's lOth Army, deep inside the Bialystok salient, also came in for a considerable pounding, many of its supply facilities being lost.

Across the central sector the Soviet defences lay wide open. Golubev's forces, despite ferocious fighting, were already losing their battle against the German 9th and 4th Armies. With much of his rear services destroyed, it was only a matter of time before the
army bled to death. Golubev reported to Pavlov that his 6th Cavalry Corp had been virtually annihilated and the remnants of his frontier rifle divisions were falling back. In an effort to restore the situation, Pavlov ordered the 14th Mechanised Corp to move from
Pruzhany and launch an immediate counter-attack to throw the Germans back to the border. Despite severe difficulties deploying, the 14th managed to engage l8th Panzer Division (47th Panzer Korp) and embroiled it in a protracted armoured duel for most of
the day.

By dusk, the Germans had firmly invested elements of the 28th Rifle Corp in Brest-Litovsk and determined to capture the city as quickly as possible. Simultaneously, General Golubev decided to begin the withdrawal of his l0th Army behind the Narew
river to prevent its encirclement, the collapse of his northern and southern flanks having endangered the whole army. The 6th Mechanised Corp was ordered to move up to the Narew to protect the rear of the retiring rifle divisions. In an effort to find out what was happening at lOth Army, Pavlov sent his deputy, General Boldin, to Golubev's unit. Late in the evening Boldin managed to locate Golubev, whose headquarters had been moved to some woods south-west of Bialystok. Here Boldin was informed that the lOth had
suffered extremely severe casualties, and the 6th Mechanised Corp was severely short oftanks but was moving to the east bank of the Narew to cover the withdrawal of the frontier units. Reporting these developments to Pavlov, Boldin was ordered to put a shock group together to prevent any possible German penetration towards Volkovysk. During the night of 22-23 June Boldin tried to assemble his meagre force. He planned to attack towards Grodno from north-east of Bialystok where he presumed the 3rd
Mechanised Corp was already in action.

Army Group South: Field Marshal von Rundstedt's Southern Army Group launched the first phase of its offensive against Soviet forces in the north-west Ukraine. Again the Luftwaffe was very active, attacking Soviet defences and airfields across the entire battle sector. Within hours the Luftwaffe destroyed nearly three hundred Soviet aircraft. While the Luftwaffe pounded Soviet ground and air forces, German panzers and infantry crossed the frontier. Kleist's lst Panzer Group, with Reichenau's 6th Army in close support, crossed the border between Rava-Russki and Strumilov to exert pressure upon the junction of the Soviet 4th, 5th and 6th Armies. In the Rava-Russki region the 6th RifleCorp was heavily engaged and, despite bitter fighting, failed to prevent German forces crossing the Bug. Assault groups successfully overpowered NKVD guards on bridges over the Bug, opening the road to the interior. The 3rd, 14th and 48th Panzer Korps of Kleist's lst Panzer Group were able to begin their advance towards Kiev with only minor losses.

Stuplnagel's 17th Army also attacked, aiming to crush the Soviet 6th and 26th Armies deployed around Lvov. Fierce battles raged between Tomasov and Przemysl as German infantry struggled to break through the frontier units. Around Przemysl the 8th Rifle Corp of Kostenko's 26th

Army attempted to hold off these attacks but failed to prevent a crossing of the San river. Late in the day Przemysl fell to the Germans, but 8th Rifle Corp launched an immediate counter-attack, preventing the German exploitation of their gains.

As the day progressed, the Germans established secure bridgeheads over the Bug so that by noon, both the 6th and 17th Armies were across the rivers which barred their line of advance. Amid fierce fighting the Soviet border formations gave way to the attacks of the 3rd Panzer Korp, the 15th Rifle Corp on the right flank of Potapov's 5th Army crumbled, opening the junction of the 5th and 4th Armies. Shortly afterwards, the two armies lost contact. Further German pressure against the junction of the 5th and 6th Armies prompted Kirponos, the commander of the South-West Front, as the Kiev Military District had been redesignated, to commit 22nd and 4th Mechanised Corps. However, by dusk he was aware of the danger presented by the deep advance of Kleist's panzers into the northern flank and began the difficult task of concentrating his armour to parry the German thrust. The main obstruction to the implementation of this decision was the complete superiority the Germans had already gained in the air.


Campaign Notes:

Of all the coups against all the bridges along the 500 mile (800km) length of the Bug River every single one of them worked.

At sunrise the Luftwaffe force of 500 bombers, 270 divebombers and 480 fighters attacked 66 Soviet airfields. For the Soviet airforce (VVS) 22 June 1941 was a disaster of unprecedented scope and devastation. By 13:30 hours the Luftwaffe had recorded destroying 800 Soviet aircraft for the loss of 10 of their own. By the end of the day Luftwaffe claims of VVS aircraft destroyed had reached a staggering 1,811 - 1,489 on the ground and another 322 in the air.





PRIMARY SOURCES:

"Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of the World War" by David M. Glantz

"Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War, 1941-1943" by David M. Glantz

"Before Stalingrad: Barbarossa - Hitler's Invasion of Russia 1941" by David M. Glantz

"Russian Armour 1941-1943" by Eric Grove

"Operation Barbarossa 1941: Army Group North" by Robert Kirchubel

"Operation Barbarossa 1941: Army Group Center" by Robert Kirchubel

"Operation Barbarossa 1941: Army Group South" by Robert Kirchubel

"Road to Stalingrad: Stalin's War with Germany Volume 1" by John Erickson

"Army Group North: The Wehrmacht in Russia 1941-1945" by Wener Haupt

"Army Group Center: The Wehrmacht in Russia 1941-1945" by Wener Haupt

"Army Group South: The Wehrmacht in Russia 1941-1945" by Wener Haupt

"Barbarossa to Berlin: A Chronology of the Campaigns on the Eastern Front 1941-1945 Volume 1 The Long Drive East 22 June 1941 to 18 November 1942" by Brian Taylor

"Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of WWII" by Steven Zaloga

"Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East" by Earl F. Zemke

"The Russo-German War 1941-45" by Albert Seaton

"Hitler Moves East 1941-1943" by Paul Carell
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