Crisis In The Crimea
When winter broke over the Eastern Front in the first week of December 1941, Army Group South was relatively the best off of the three German army groups. It had completed the retreat from Rostov and occupied a defensible front on the Mius and Donets rivers from Taganrog to the boundary with Army Group Center forty miles east of Kursk. On the left flank, Sixth Army held Kharkov, Belgorod, and Oboyan. Seventeenth Army, in the center, and First Panzer Army, on the right along the Mius, covered the western half of the Donets Basin coal and industrial area. Eleventh Army occupied the Crimea except for the Sevastopol Fortress on the southwestern tip of the peninsula. Hitler's directive of 8 December that closed down the offensive for the winter everywhere else on the Eastern Front gave Army Group South two residual missions: to occupy the whole Donets Basin and retake Rostov, "in favorable weather," and to capture Sevastopol.1
In conjunction with the operations at Rostov, Tikhvin, and Moscow, the Stavka had decided to expand the counteroffensive to include the Transcaucasus Front and the Black Sea Fleet. On 7 December, it instructed the Transcaucasus Front to prepare and execute within two weeks an amphibious attack on the Kerch Peninsula. The objective was to encircle and to destroy the enemy on the peninsula by simultaneously landing troops of the Fifty-first and Forty-fourth Armies near Kerch and in the harbor at Feodosiya. The Stavka anticipated subsequently expanding the operation to relieve Sevastopol and to liberate the entire Crimea. The landings were put under the control of the Commanding Admiral, Black Sea Fleet, Vitse Admiral F. S. Oktyabrskiy, and the operations on land under General Leytenant D. T. Kozlov, the Commanding General, Transcaucasus Front.2
Army Group South's second residual mission, to capture Sevastopol, was the only one of the two it actually pursued after 8 December. Sevastopol, which had been a fortress even under the tsarist regime, was the Soviet Union's main naval base and naval shipyard on the Black Sea. It had some fortifications dating back to the Crimean War (1854-1856) and others built more recently, in particular twelve naval gun batteries (forty-two guns in calibers from 152- to 305-mm.) in armored
turrets and concrete emplacements and about two hundred antiaircraft weapons ranging from 85-mm. guns to multiple-mounted machine guns. In the last two weeks of October, ships of the Black Sea Fleet had brought in as much of the Independent Maritime Army as they could evacuate from Odessa, about thirty thousand troops. With these, plus some twenty-two thousand naval and other troops, and fire and supply support from naval vessels, the commander of the Maritime Army, General Leytenant I. E. Petrov, prevented General Manstein's Eleventh Army from overrunning the fortress during the pursuit in early November.3 Manstein had an organized assault almost ready to start at the end of November, but then heavy rain set in and forced a three-week delay.4
As time passed, however, taking the fortress had become more difficult. By late November, Oktyabrskiy, who had also assumed command of the Sevastopol Defense Region, had brought to completion three defense lines on the landward side: the "Outer Perimeter," twenty-seven miles long, running from three miles north of the Kacha River to three miles east of Balaklava; the "Main Line," twenty-three miles long, from the mouth of the Kacha to Balaklava; and the "Rear Line," eighteen miles long, just forward on an antitank ditch around the fortress proper. Behind all of the lines, artillery and machine guns had been dug-in--most densely behind the antitank ditch, which actually constituted the fourth and potentially strongest line. Oktyabrskiy had also created another eight armored batteries at the fortress by emplacing the guns and turrets off two disabled cruisers. Only the antiaircraft defense was weaker, reduced to about one hundred guns by withdrawals of batteries to protect ports on the eastern coast. Petrov had 5 rifle divisions, 1 cavalry division, 2 naval infantry brigades, and "several" independent regiments. Soviet accounts do not give a total numerical strength, but they indicate it must have been at least ten thousand above the early November number.5
While Oktyabrskiy was strengthening the Sevastopol defenses, Eleventh Army's position on the Crimea was becoming less secure. Although the peninsula generally did not get as cold as the mainland, it did experience sudden, drastic ups and down in temperature and frequent, violent rain or snowstorms. The likelihood of the latter, because of the effect they would have on the roads, restricted the lines of attack on Sevastopol to the north and northeast. There, besides the Soviet lines, the Germans faced three east-west river lines to be crossed--the Chernaya, the Kacha, and the Belbek. The Chernaya emptied into the Severnaya Bay, which shielded the heart of the fortress on the north. Bad weather of any kind, on the other hand, benefited the Black Sea Fleet by providing its ships, never more than half-a-day's running time from their base at Novorossiysk, with the cover from German air attack they needed to approach the coast safely anywhere between Sevastopol and Kerch. (Map 8.) Moreover,
Soviet Kerch Offensive
16 December 1941-18 January 1942
the strait between the Kerch and the Taman peninsulas, at places only two miles wide, froze over in winter and could be crossed on foot. Under these conditions, Eleventh Army's seven divisions, all at least 25 percent understrength, could not mount an attack on Sevastopol and guard the coast adequately at the same time.
When the weather improved in the second week of December, Manstein decided to go ahead with the attack. He had orders to do so; he had a reputation as a skillful and daring tactician to defend and enhance; and he was enjoying his first army command. Besides, the whole German position on the Crimea would be precarious as long as the Soviet Army and Navy held a foothold at Sevastopol. On the other hand, even if he could not reduce the fortress, he could weaken it decisively, possibly in a few days, by driving a wedge approximately six miles deep through the northeastern perimeter. With that, his artillery could sweep the Severnaya Bay and cut off the naval lifeline supporting the fortress. To stage the effort, however, he had to use two of his three corps headquarters and six of his seven divisions, leaving only three Rumanian brigades and Headquarters, XXXXII Corps with some corps troops and the 46th Infantry Division to cover 170 miles of coast and ports at Kerch, Feodosiya, Alushta, and Yalta.
Eleventh Army Intelligence observed steady Soviet ship traffic to and
from Sevastopol which seemed to have two purposes: to evacuate machinery and naval supplies that would be lost if the fortress suddenly collapsed and to bring in reinforcements for the landward defenses. By mid-December, the Soviet resurgence along the front on the mainland and the troops pouring into the Taman Peninsula by ship and truck countered any assumption that the Russians would not stubbornly defend Sevastopol but raised forebodings of possibly even less convenient developments to come.6
Eleventh Army's assault at Sevastopol began on the morning of 17 December along the entire 27-mile-long Outer Perimeter, the first of the three defense lines. Inside still lay the Main Line, the Rear Line, and thickets of forts, pillboxes, and antitank obstacles. The LIV Corps, on the north, carried the main effort because it was closest to Severnaya Bay, and heavy artillery in calibers up to 300-mm. could support its attack. On the south, XXX Corps could do no more than tie down the Soviet Outer Perimeter defense since it had to bring its supplies across the rugged and virtually roadless Krymskiye Gory.
Certain that the Russians, who had partisans and agents in nearby mountains and the cities, knew how short he was on strength as well as he did, Manstein gambled on surprise--and very nearly won. Oktyabrskiy was away at Novorossiysk planning the landings the Stavka had ordered at Kerch and Feodosiya when the attack began on the 17th. By the end of the day, the German 22d Infantry Division was through the Outer Perimeter, and during the next two days, it pushed along the valley of the Belbek River to the Main Line. But the Stavka reacted fast and on the 20th--as the 22d Infantry Division was beginning to crack the Main Line--put the fortress under the Transcaucasus Front. The next day, Kozlov, the front's commander, sent by ship a rifle division, a naval infantry brigade, and 3,000 replacements, and the Black Sea Fleet brought a battleship, a cruiser, and 2 destroyers into action as artillery support. The 22d Infantry Division, having broken the Main Line, was into the Rear Line and approaching Mekenzlyevy Gory almost within sight of Severnaya Bay on 22 December, but its thrust was weakening, and by nightfall the newly arrived 345th Rifle Division and 79th Naval Infantry Brigade, with supporting fire from the warships, had entangled it in a desperate battle that would run on long enough for events elsewhere to take effect.7
Kerch and Feodosiya
Oktyabrskiy and Kozlov initially had proposed to put 42,000 troops with artillery and tanks ashore simultaneously on the peninsula at a number of beachheads spread from northeast of Kerch to Feodosiya. The landings on the northeastern and eastern coasts were to be made by Fifty-first Army, under General Leytenant V. H. Lvov; those on the south coast, at Feodosiya and Cape Opuk, by Forty-fourth Army, under General Leytenant A. N. Pervushin. As it did for Manstein, the weather raised problems for Oktyabrskiy and Kozlov, slowing the assembly
SOVIET NAVAL CRAFT LAYS A SMOKE SCREEN OFF SEVASTOPOL
of troops and air units on the Taman Peninsula and restricting the employment of smaller naval vessels. The final objective of the landings was to destroy the Germans on the Kerch Peninsula by forcing them west against a line Forty-fourth Army would build across the Isthmus of Parpach north of Feodosiya.
Originally scheduled for 21 December, the landings had to be postponed after Manstein attacked Sevastopol on the 17th, and Kozlov had to send reinforcements there. To support the Sevastopol attack, men and ships had to be diverted from the landing forces, particularly from the Feodosiya force. During the delay of more than a week, the landings on the eastern end of the peninsula were set to be made separately several days before the one at Feodosiya.8
German agent and Russian deserter reports had alerted Eleventh Army and 46th Infantry Division to expect landings on the Kerch Peninsula, but this knowledge was not particularly helpful since there were far more potential landing sites than the division could cover. The Russians could easily bring forces out of the ports on the Taman Peninsula and put them ashore under the cover of a single night's darkness.9
In the early morning darkness on 26
December and in gale-force winds, the Azov Naval Flotilla began putting troops ashore on the beachheads at the eastern end of the Kerch Peninsula. Having no proper landing craft, the troops had to wade to the beaches from the boats and ships that had brought them in and had to do without vehicles or artillery. Because of the weather and rough sea, some landings were made in the wrong places and others, including a strong one which was to have been made at Cape Opuk, were not made at all. Instead of requiring one or two days, nearly five were needed to get 20,000 troops to the beaches, and many heavy weapons were lost.10
The weather and the Russians' complicated scheme of operations that involved merging the beachheads for drives first on Kerch and then westward toward the neck of the peninsula proved advantageous to the Germans. The beachheads were peppered over forty miles of coastline, none held strongly enough to constitute a crucial threat. The Germans could seal all of them off close to the coast, and in some instances they could also cut off parties that had advanced inland from the beaches. The forces in the beachheads and the ships offshore appeared much of the time not to know what to do next. The 46th Infantry Division, on the other hand, did not have strength enough to counterattack everywhere. By the 29th, it had all but wiped out two of the smaller beachheads and was preparing to go after the others systematically.11
To sustain the counterattacks on the beachheads, 46th Infantry Division had brought east an infantry battalion it had originally stationed at Feodosiya on the south coast at the western end of the Isthmus of Parpach. Shortly before dark on the 28th, an engineer battalion, also going east, arrived in Feodosiya and took up quarters there for the night. Although the battalion commander merely made a casual decision to stay rather than to continue east in the dark over an unfamiliar road, the engineers became the main element in the Feodosiya garrison that night. The rest consisted of two construction companies, a battery of artillery, and an antitank gun company. The engineers bedded down one street away from the waterfront without knowing what kind of an alert was in effect.
At 0400 on the 29th, the engineers were roused by the noise of machine gun and rifle fire coming from the direction of the port. As the Germans learned later, ten naval cutters had landed parties of sailors on the harbor breakwater. If a defense had been ready, the parties might easily have been driven back to sea because at first the only reinforcement they got was brought in by the small boats shuttling back and forth to naval vessels lying outside the harbor. After about an hour, however, three destroyers, Shaumyan, Nezamozhnik, and Zheleznyakov, tied up at the breakwater and began landing troops and heavy weapons. In the next hour the cruisers Krasniy Krim and Krasniy Kavkaz also drew up to the breakwater, bringing the total number of troops put ashore by the end of the second hour to just under 5,000. By then some of the
SOVIET TROOPS LANDING ON THE KERCH PENINSULA
German coast artillery was in action and had scored a hit on the Krasniy Kavkaz.12
Before the engineers, who until then did not know that they were practically the only German troops in the city, had sorted themselves out, the Russians were holding the waterfront and probing along the streets running inland. At an impromptu council of war in the town mayor's quarters, the Eleventh Army chief of engineers, a Colonel Boehringer--who also by accident had happened to spend that night in Feodosiya--took command. At daylight, Boehringer ordered the engineer battalion and the other smaller units to assemble half-a-mile inland at the junction of the roads to Simferopol and Kerch. One of the construction companies was already there as were some truck, artillery, and antitank gun crews. For an hour or so quadruple-mounted machine guns on one of the trucks kept the Russians off the roads, but they could still fire down on the Germans from the upper stories of buildings and from rooftops. Later in the day Boehringer took the line back to a hill flanked by an antitank ditch on the western outskirts of the town. From the hill the Germans could see the two cruisers and the destroyers in the harbor and a transport docked at the breakwater. Since the Germans had pulled away to the west along the Simferopol road, the Russians had the
Kerch road open to them, but they appeared in no hurry to push out of Feodosiya either to the east or to the west.
During the night the Rumanian 4th Cavalry Brigade arrived at the antitank ditch, and the Germans planned to counterattack the next morning. When they told the Rumanian commander, however, he insisted that he was due to be relieved and therefore could not give the order to attack because it could only be given by his replacement who had not yet arrived. At 0900 on the 30th the Germans attacked alone under the cover of a sudden heavy snowstorm driven by a strong west wind. But the attack ended almost as soon as it began when nine Soviet tanks suddenly appeared out of Feodosiya, and the Germans could not fire their antitank guns because of ice in their breech mechanisms. The Rumanians, seeing the Germans drop back, mounted and decamped into the Krymskiye Gory leaving their baggage behind on the Simferopol road. When the Russians, who had been maneuvering cautiously until then, observed the Rumanians' headlong departure, their tanks advanced and pushed the Germans back in the succeeding several hours to a hastily formed screening line around Staryy Krym, five miles west of Feodosiya.13 By then the number of Forty-fourth Army troops at Feodosiya was nearing 20,000.14
Generalleutnant Graf Hans von Sponeck, Commanding General XXXXII Corps, had his headquarters on the Kerch Peninsula about halfway between Feodosiya and Kerch. When word of the landing on the 28th at Feodosiya reached him, about an hour after the first Russians went ashore, he decided to seal off the beachhead as units under his command had done with the beachheads around Kerch. He ordered the Rumanian 4th Cavalry Brigade in from the west and dispatched the Rumanian 8th Cavalry Brigade, which he had stationed near Kerch, to seal off the beachhead from the east. At about daylight on the 29th he changed his mind after receiving a report (that later proved false) of another strong landing northeast of Feodosiya in position to cut the ten-mile-wide Isthmus of Parpach. Apparently believing the Russians were about to trap XXXXII Corps, he ordered 46th Infantry Division to do an immediate about-face and evacuate the peninsula.
Having given the order, Sponeck departed with some of his staff by car to set up a new command post at Vladislavovka seven miles north of Feodosiya. Although the trip was hardly more than twenty miles, motor trouble and air attacks kept him out of contact with his corps and with Eleventh Army until midafternoon. In the meantime, Manstein had learned of the order through routine radio channels and tried to countermand it, but XXXXII Corps radio had also closed down. By noon, 46th Division's regiments were turning and beginning to move west.15
On the northern face of the Sevastopol perimeter strong counterattacks, apparently timed to coincide with the Feodosiya landing, forced LIV Corps to shift to the defensive on the 29th. Consequently it would not be able to take the initiative again for at least a day or two, which under the existing circumstances made the future of the Sevastopol offensive totally uncertain. From Vladislavovka at 1500, Sponeck reported that 46th Infantry Division would be a third of the way off the Kerch Peninsula at the end of the day. Manstein decided to let LIV Corps try to get its attack going again and ordered Generalleutnant Franz Matenklott, who commanded XXX Corps, to take over XXXXII Corps from Sponeck. He shifted Sponeck "for the time being" to the quiet XXX Corps front.16 He then sent an order to the 46th Infantry Division to get into the Isthmus of Parpach as quickly as possible.17
By the end of the day, 46th Infantry Division had orders from XXXXII Corps and Eleventh Army to clear the Kerch Peninsula quickly. But by this stage of the campaign the infantry division was no longer mobile. In a condition report of a week earlier, the division had rated its motor vehicles as 20 percent serviceable. Those that were running were using captured Russian gasoline, which was low in octane and high in water content. Having been fed mostly hay and not overly much of that, the horses did not have the strength to pull heavy loads long distances. On the morning of the 29th, the division actually had only 250 of its 1,400 motor vehicles in working order, with most of the rest either disassembled in the shops or awaiting replacement parts.18 The distance the division had to go, on the other hand, was not excessive, only about sixty miles. Moreover, Sponeck's order authorized destruction of immobile equipment, and he knew as well as anyone the division's condition. The division commander, Generalmajor Kurt Himer, therefore, assumed that his mission was to get his men out regardless of the cost. And during the day and through the night of the 29th Himer did this brilliantly. What could be moved was and what could not be moved was rendered useless to the enemy. The troops disengaged from the bridgeheads and were miles to the west, apparently before the Russians knew they were gone. By keeping on the move through the night they would be able to pass the Isthmus of Parpach in another day and a half.
All day and all night on the 29th the division marched through rain mixed with occasional snow in temperatures just above freezing. Two hours after daylight the snowstorm that had provided momentary assistance to the engineers' counterattack west of Feodosiya hit the division head-on. In blinding, driving sleet and snow the temperature dropped below zero. Wet uniforms and shoes froze. The watery captured gasoline plugged carburetors with ice crystals. Towed guns and vehicles skidded into ditches and could not be pulled out. Although the division was not under attack either from the
east or the west, Himer still believed his mission was to save the troops; and the division moved on, leaving a trail of abandoned equipment.19
By midmorning Manstein knew the attempt to contain the beachhead at Feodosiya had failed. He then told Sponeck, who was still nominally in command at XXXXII Corps, to have the 46th Infantry Division add speed and attack through the Isthmus of Parpach toward Feodosiya.20 When the order reached Himer, his trucks and artillery, what was left of them, had already passed through the isthmus and were headed northwest away from Feodosiya over narrow, snow-covered roads on which they could barely advance, much less turn around. The infantry, which was just coming onto the isthmus, exhausted and freezing, Himer dutifully redirected on an oblique march to the southwest, toward Feodosiya.
Forty-fourth and Fifty-first Armies had more than forty thousand men ashore on the Kerch Peninsula by the 29th. Possession of Feodosiya and Kerch enabled them also to land several dozen tanks, over two hundred cannon and mortars, and better than three hundred motor vehicles.21 Rain and snow helped by hindering German interference from the air but also forced Fifty-first Army to abandon a landing on the north side of the Isthmus of Parpach which, had it resulted as planned in the capture of the Ak-Monay Heights, could have turned the 46th Infantry Division's march into more of a shambles than it already was. The weather and the Germans' misadventures, however, were not enough to compensate for the two Soviet army commands' inexperience. Forty-fourth Army bore northwest out of Feodosiya. A quick thrust to the northeast, however, could have put it astride the isthmus in hours. Instead of pursuing the 46th Infantry Division, Fifty-first Army sorted itself out at the eastern end of the peninsula. German air reconnaissance observed tanks moving into formation on the 30th, but the heads of two columns bearing west had only moved to within ten miles of Kerch by the afternoon of the 31st.22
After a short rest in the morning, the 46th Infantry Division began its attack northeast of Vladislavovka during the afternoon of the 31st. Without artillery support, the exhausted infantry barely made an effort. For reasons he later found very difficult to explain, Himer appeared at the front only briefly and then went off to set up a command post outside the isthmus. After dark, fearing they would yet be cut off, the division's regiment commanders continued the march through the isthmus and set up a line west of Vladislavovka facing east.23 The division's one success of the day had been to wipe out a hundred Soviet parachute troops who had jumped into the path of one of its columns in broad daylight.
The Trap Does Not Close
Troubles on Both Sides
Manstein, meanwhile, had stopped the attack on Sevastopol four hours before the 46th Infantry Division attack began, and he had begun taking the 132d Infantry Division out of the Sevastopol perimeter. The decision to move this division, which was initially a precaution, soon appeared to have been made barely in time, if not actually too late. When all of the 46th Infantry Division was off the Kerch Peninsula, it proved incapable of anything but a limited defensive mission. It had sacrificed four-fifths of its trucks, half of its communications equipment, and nearly all of its engineer equipment, not to mention two dozen artillery pieces and sundry machine guns and mortars. Enough of its troops had vanished into the interior of the Crimea for Manstein to issue an order threatening all those who did not rejoin their units by nightfall on 2 January with execution for cowardice.24
For a period of at least a week, if the Forty-fourth and Fifty-first Army commands had had enterprising leadership they could have created severe problems for Eleventh Army, and some daring on their part could have endangered the whole German position on the Crimea. The Russians could very easily trap Eleventh Army on the Crimea, Manstein pointed out to Army Group South. The enemy already held three of the five ports--Sevastopol, Kerch, and Feodosiya--and the Germans were not protecting the remaining two--Yalta, on the south coast, and Yevpatoriya, north of Sevastopol. What Manstein did not know was that the Russians were for the moment having troubles enough of their own: the cold weather had blocked the port at Kerch with ice, and the roadstead at Feodosiya was littered with wrecks--the work of German Stuka dive-bombers--which made it almost unusable.25
Whatever else the events on the Crimea might lead to, they were an instantaneous and monumental embarrassment to the Germans. Sponeck of XXXXII Corps had flagrantly disregarded the standfast order, and Hitler had him recalled to Germany to face a court-martial.26 The 46th Infantry Division had been reduced to a wreck without actually having had contact with the enemy. Manstein opened an inquiry into the division's losses of equipment and weapons and the behavior of the officers. Without waiting for the results, Field Marshal Reichenau, the commanding general of Army Group South, declared, " . . . the division has lost its honor. Until it has restored its honor [in combat] no decorations or promotions will be allowed in the division."27 Hitler demanded to
have the "situation on the Crimea solved offensively" by smashing the Soviet concentrations at Feodosiya and on the Kerch Peninsula, and he wanted Manstein to do it without weakening the grip on Sevastopol.28
Manstein's own first thought was to attack toward Feodosiya and Kerch as the alternative to a precarious defense on two fronts, one in the east and one in the west. Without more troops and ammunition, neither of which he was likely to get during the winter, he could not take Sevastopol, but on the defensive there he could spare two divisions and some artillery from the Sevastopol perimeter for an attempt against the less solidly dug-in Russians on the east. One division, the 132d Infantry Division, would have to go east under any circumstances to support the 46th Infantry Division and the Rumanians.
Before dark on 4 January, the lead regiment of the 132d Infantry Division reached Simferopol on the march toward Feodosiya. During the night Soviet troops landed in Yevpatoriya, thirty miles farther to the northeast, this time with the support of parachute troops and a partisan uprising in the town, and the next morning the Germans were forced to divert the regiment to Yevpatoriya. The fighting went on there for another three days accompanied by attempted Soviet landings along the fronts at Sevastopol and Feodosiya. These had been a failure from the first, however, since the German coast artillery had heard the Russian ships coming in, had sunk one of two escort destroyers, and had driven off two large troop transports.29
As soon as he knew he had Yevpatoriya under control, Manstein pushed ahead with readying the attack at Feodosiya, which he set for the 11th. Every delay there was working to the Russians' advantage because the Kerch Strait had frozen over and the Forty-fourth and Fifty-first Armies were bringing troops across on the ice. But the Crimean weather in winter is fickle. On the 8th and 9th, as suddenly as it had dropped below zero a week before, the temperature rose to well above freezing, which was not helpful to the Russians but was even less so for the Germans. In the thaw the Crimean clay turned to oozing mud and left Manstein no choice but to wait for another cold spell.30
Once more the weather did not oblige. It stayed warm with beautiful springlike days and only an occasional touch of frost, and the mud stayed. The Russians helped most. Although Forty-fourth Army had at least three and more likely four divisions and some tanks ashore it did not attempt to break out of the seven- to ten-mile-deep beachhead it had established around Feodosiya at the end of December, and the Fifty-first Army units opposite 46th Infantry Division busied themselves with digging in on the isthmus. How long the Russians would remain passive Manstein could not know. Since air reconnaissance reported a continuing flow of reinforcements from the mainland, he had to assume it would not be very long. Therefore, when he had
assembled the maximum force he could muster--three German divisions (46th, 132d, and 170th Infantry Divisions), the Rumanian 18th Division, and two Rumanian brigades--he let the attack begin on 15 January regardless of the mud.
Although Forty-fourth Army had held Feodosiya for nearly three weeks, it seemed only perfunctorily determined to defend it. The strongest resistance existed around Vladislavovka and that was apparently aimed at holding the retreat route open into the isthmus. In the first two days, mud slowed the Germans. During the next two, frost set in, and they moved faster. On the night of the 18th the Forty-fourth and Fifty-first Armies withdrew into the isthmus to a line of trenches left from fighting in the fall of 1941.
The time seemed right to Manstein to keep the pressure on and to drive through to Kerch. Army Group South contributed Panzer Detachment 60 which, with seventy-five tanks, had about one-third the strength in armor of a panzer division. In snow and sinking temperatures, the tanks worked their way into position while the infantry regrouped for the breakthrough across the isthmus. Both were ready at nightfall on the 23d, except the Panzer Detachment 60, newly arrived from Germany, was waiting to draw sidearms and other incidentals from Eleventh Army. The schedule was set: in one night's march on the 25th the tanks would come up to the front line arriving just after dawn; the infantry by then would be cutting a path for them through the Soviet trenches. But that final march was not going to be made. Army Group South needed the tanks more elsewhere and recalled them on the 24th. Thereafter Eleventh Army had to resign itself to a winter of defense on two fronts--if no worse. Meanwhile, the Kerch Strait had frozen over solidly and Forty-fourth and Fifty-first Armies were bringing trucks and tanks as well as infantry across the ice.31
1. 0KW, WFSt, Abt. L (I Op.) Nr. 442090/41, Weisung Nr. 39, 8.12.41, German High Level Directives, CMH files.
2. IVMV, vol. IV, p. 295.
3. G. I. Vaneyev, et al., Geroicheskaya oborona Sevastopolya, 1941-1942 (Moscow: Voyennoye Izdatelstvo, 1969), pp. 50-67.
4. Manstein, Lost Victories, p. 223.
5. Vaneyev, Geroicheskaya oborona, pp. 109, 138-40, 144; IVOVSS, vol. II, pp. 304-06.
6. AOK 11, Ic/AO, Kriegstagebuch, 22.6.41-31.3.42, 1-15 Dec 41, AOK 11 22409/1 fi1e.
7. IVOVSS, vol. II, pp. 305-08; IVMV, vol. IV, p. 300; Vaneyev, Geroicheskaya oborona, pp. 145-63.
8. IVMV, vol. IV, pp. 296-97.
9. AOK 11, Ic/AO, Kriegstagebuch, 22.6.41-31.3.42, 16 and 19 Dec 41, AOK 11 22409/1 file.
10. IVOVSS, vol. II, pp. 308-10; IVMV, vol. IV, p. 297.
11. 46. Division, Kommandeur, an XXXXII A.K., 10.1.42, AOK 11 28654/13 file.
12. AOK 11, Ia Nr. 354/42, 24.2.42, AOK 11 22279/19 file; IVOVSS, vol. II, p. 312.
13. Pionier-Bataillon 46, Einsatz des Pi. Bn. 46 in der Zeit vom 28.12.-30.12.42, AOK 11 22279/19 file.
14. IVOVSS, vol. II, p. 311.
15 Gen. Kdo. XXXXII A.K. Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 4, 29 Dec 41, XXXXII A.K. 19649/1 file; AOK 11, Ia, (Statement by Gen. Lt. Graf Sponeck) 30.12.41, AOK 11 28654/3 file.
16. AOK 11, Chef des Generalstabes, Fuer K.T.B., 29.12.42, A0K 11 22279/19 file.
17. AOK 11, Ia Nr. 4721/41, Armeebefehl, 29.12.41, AOK 11 22279/19 file.
18. Eberth, Gen. D. Art., an den Kommandierenden General der XXXXII A.K. 23.1.42, AOK 11 22279/11 file; Oberstlt. Assmann, Bericht ueber den Rueckzug der 46. Division auf der Halbinsel Kertsch, AOK 11 22279/19 file.
19. 46. Division, Kdr., au den Herrn Kommandierenden General des XXXXII A.K., 10.1.42, AOK 11 28654/13 file.
20. AOK 11, Chef des Generalstabes, Fuer K.T.B., 30.12.41, AOK 11 22279/19 file.
21. IVOVSS, vol. II, p. 312.
22. AOK 11, Ia Tagesmeldung, 31.12.41, AOK 11 22279/19 file.
23. Oberstlt. i. G. Assmann, Bericht ueber den Rueckzug der 46. Division auf der Halbinsel Kertsch, 6.1.42, AOK 11 28654/13 file; Gen. Kdo. XXXXII A.K., Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 4, 31 Dec 41, XXXXII A.K. 19649/1 file.
24. AOK 11, Chef des Generalstabes, Fuer K.T.B., 31.12.41, AOK 11 22279/19 file; H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 49/42, Vorlaeufige Meldung ueber Zustand 46. Div., 6.1.42, H. Gr. Sued 23208/29 file; AOK 11, Ia Nr. 6/42, an Kommandierenden General XXXXII A.K., 1.1.42, AOK 11 22279/19 file.
25. O.B. der 11. Armee, Lage der 11. Armee, 4.1.42, H. Gr. Sued 23208/29 file; Chef der Luftflotte 4, 5.1.42, H. Gr. Sued 23208/29 file.
26. A court sitting under Goering sentenced Sponeck to death. The sentence was not carried out, however, until 1944 when the SS executed him. Erich von Manstein, Verlorene Siege (Bonn: Athenaeum Verlag, 1955), p. 245.
27. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 47/42, an den O.B. der 11. Armee, 1.6.42, H. Gr. Sued 23208/29 file. The commanding general, 46th Infantry Division, Himer, died in combat belore the disciplinary proceedings against him were completed.
28. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 19/42, an AOK 11, 1.1.42, H. Gr. Sued 23208/29 file.
29. AOK 11, Ia Nr. 173/42, Untersuchung Jewpatorija, 11.1.42, AOK 11 22279/19 file.
30. Gen. Kdo. XXX A.K., Ia Tagesmeldung, 10.1.42, AOK 11 22279/19.
31. Gen. Kdo. XXXXII A.K., Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 4, 10-24 Jan 42, XXXXII A.K. 19649/1 file; AOK 11, Ie/AO Kriegstagebuch, 22.6.41-31.3.42, 10-24 Jan 42, AOK 11 22409/1 file.