Paying the Piper
Mud and Strategy
While Soviet offensives were grinding into the north and south flanks of the Eastern Front during January and February 1944 the OKW, which was responsible for all the other theaters, was committed to a strategy of defending with forces in being the entire periphery of Fortress Europe. The Operations Staff, OKW, had advocated that line with increasing insistence since late 1942 after the Dieppe raid, the battle of El 'Alamein, and the North African invasion showed that the Allies actually meant to create a second front. Fuehrer Directive 51 of 3 November 1943 raised the OKW concept to the level of strategic policy. Subsequent events, starting at the end of the month with the Tehran Conference at which Roosevelt and Churchill promised Stalin a second front in the spring of 1944, convinced the OKW it had set the correct course.
In December the Operations Staff worked out a plan for stripping the other OKW theaters to the minimum should the Allies tie themselves down in one big invasion. The Germans would thus not have to keep all of the threatened points in a high state of readiness; but the plan was shelved after the Anzio landing in January 1943 seemed to indicate that the Allies were planning a number of simultaneous or successive landings along the European coasts anywhere from Greece to northern Norway.
The Operations Staff, buttressing a report Keitel gave to Hitler on 13 February 1944, concluded that Germany was conducting a strategic defensive on internal lines without being able to benefit fully therefrom because strong enemy forces in the Mediterranean, the Near and Middle East, Africa, North America, England, and Iceland were free to attack the European coasts at any time and so tied down a large part of the German reserves. The staff affirmed that the German mission was to defend stubbornly every foot of ground in Russia until the initiative could be regained by beating off the expected big Anglo-American landing plus any subsidiary landings. The forces thus freed could then be used to bring about a decision against the Soviet Union.
Even as the paper was being written, the Operations Staff doubted whether the future deployment of German forces could be governed solely by the need to hold in the USSR and to meet and defeat Allied invasions in the other theaters. The Soviet thrust toward the Balkans presaged stepped-up partisan activity and political repercussions in Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria which, if military intervention were required, would impose an added
strain on the German resources, those of the OKW in particular.
On the other hand, through February 1944 and as laid down in Fuehrer Directive 51, the policy of restricting the Eastern Front to its own resources had been, from the OKW point of view, remarkably successful. Despite the heavy fighting on both the north and south flanks, the OKW theaters had had to relinquish only one division, the 214th Infantry Division from Norway, and three regiments of recruits. After the second week in February it appeared to the OKW that the army groups in Russia had seen another winter through. Model had Army Group North firmly in hand and, anyway, was going back to a well fortified line. Army Groups A and South were less well provided for, but after the breakout from the Cherkassy pocket the Russians were not on the march anywhere. Although the whole south flank was hanging loose between the Dnepr and the next natural line to the west, the Bug River, the spring thaw was approaching and anyone who wanted to overlook the fact that the Russians had kept on the move through an abnormally warm winter could assume that in a matter of days, a few weeks at most, the mud would immobilize the front for a month or so. By the end of February the OKW was convinced the Russians would not try anything big before the thaw. On the 27th Hitler ordered the Adolf Hitler Division to pull out of the front northeast of Uman and get ready for a transfer either to Belgium or the Netherlands.1
A Soviet Spring Offensive
At the beginning of March 1944 the Eastern Front south of the Pripyat Marshes formed a very narrow, elongated S, which could be bisected vertically by a straight line drawn from Kovel' to the Dnepr slightly southwest of Krivoi Rog. (Map 24) Army Groups A and South still held about half the ground between the Bug and the Dnepr. They had lost the easternmost lateral railroad behind the Dnepr and all of the major Dnepr crossings except Kherson, but they still held the L'vov-Odessa railroad. For the first time in more than two months, the front--with one notable exception--did not show any sizable gaps. On the debit side, it followed no natural defense line except for two short stretches on the lower Dnepr and the Ingulets. The appearance of continuity on the situation maps was achieved by resorting to half a dozen different kinds of broken lines indicating various stages of weakness, in some sectors ranging down to uncertainty whether the positions delineated existed at all.
On the Army Group South left flank Fourth Panzer Army, under persistent Russian pressure, failed to close forty miles of its front west of Shepetovka and lost Yampol' on 2 March. Manstein believed the Russians would try at least to push south and cut the L'vov-Odessa railroad between Ternopol and Proskurov before the spring mud stopped them. He was convinced more than ever that the point of greatest danger was on this flank, where a 35-mile
The Soviet Spring Offensive
4 March-15 April 1944
advance would take the Russians to the railroad, another 65 miles would take them across the Dnestr, and 30 or so miles more would carry them across the Prut and into the Carpathians.2 In all, a 130-mile advance would unhinge three potential German defense lines, on the Bug, the Dnestr, and the Prut. In the south Sixth Army was still 100 miles east of the Bug, 200 miles east of the Dnestr, and nearly 300 miles east of the Prut.
After the breakout from the Cherkassy pocket was completed Manstein began redistributing the units bunched around the First Panzer-Eighth Army boundary. He
moved the Headquarters, III Panzer Corps, four panzer divisions, and the artillery division north behind Proskurov. To Fourth Panzer Army he assigned two panzer divisions and three newly formed infantry divisions being sent from Germany. In the first days of March he shifted his three armies north by giving the threatened right flank corps of Eighth Army to Sixth Army, First Panzer Army's right flank corps to Eighth Army, and the right flank corps of Fourth Panzer Army to First Panzer Army. This gave First Panzer Army responsibility for Shepetovka and Proskurov and gave Fourth Panzer Army the gap west of Ternopol-Shepetovka and the front north to Kovel'. In executing his backfield shift Manstein had to take two serious risks: in the first place, the weather, the mud, and the condition of the troops and equipment made it impossible to get all of the divisions relocated before the end of the second week in March, and secondly, transferring the panzer divisions took all the stiffening out of the right half of the Eighth Army front, which was doubly weakened because that was where the two corps smashed in the Cherkassy pocket should have been.
Even though the Russians had, by 1 March, slowed down or stopped everywhere except west of Shepetovka and the pattern of the previous years could be expected to repeat itself after the full onset of the thaw, the signs were plentiful that they could resume the offensive at will. During the fighting in January and February the four Ukrainian fronts had at no time brought all of their strength to bear, and their reserves, instead of dwindling, had grown enormously. By mid-February the Stavka had five of its six tank armies in the area opposite Army Group South. Three of them stayed in reserve. At the end of the month the sixth also had moved in. Several tank and mechanized corps stood opposite each of the German armies. During the winter the Russians had proved their ability to attack and maneuver in mud. American-built trucks had kept the mobile units going long after the comparable German equipment was completely mired. The Soviet infantry had fallen back on the old-fashioned panje wagon, the light, one-horse, high-riding rig that could negotiate all but the deepest mud. By March every Soviet mortar and machine gun crew and nearly every infantry squad had a panje wagon to carry weapons, ammunition, and rations. The wagons spared the men the exertion of plodding through mud under heavy loads and freed the units from day-to-day concern for their supply lines.
Manstein was right in contending that the Russians would concentrate on his north flank. First Ukrainian Front, the most powerful of the Ukrainian fronts, after it turned over the zone fringing the Pripyat Marshes to the newly created Second Belorussian Front, occupied the sector opposite the First and Fourth Panzer Armies. When Vatutin was seriously wounded on 29 February on an inspection tour Zhukov took command. Konev's Second Ukrainian Front, strong in armor, stood opposite the badly weakened Eighth Army. Malinovskiy's Third Ukrainian Front, facing Sixth Army in the Dnepr Bend, had less armor than the other two but had drawn divisions from Fourth Ukrainian Front, which in its zone south of the Dnepr was concerned primarily with the Crimea. The plan was for First Ukrainian Front to crash through between First Panzer Army and Fourth Panzer Army, and strike across the successive river lines to the Carpathians. In
keeping with Soviet doctrine of the time, the main effort was to be supported by only slightly less powerful thrusts to the west by Second Ukrainian Front left of the Eighth Army's center and by Third Ukrainian Front through the center of Sixth Army.3
First Ukrainian Front Attacks
On 4 March First Ukrainian Front attacked. In the gap between the flanks of First and Fourth Panzer Armies, Third Guards Tank Army headed south. East of Shepetovka and due north of Proskurov First Guards Army pushed through First Panzer Army. The next day Thirteenth Army attacked west between Lutsk and Dubno.
Caught between the two Soviet armies, LIX Corps on the First Panzer Army left flank fell back to the south away from Shepetovka. North of the railroad between Ternopol and Proskurov all Fourth Panzer Army could muster for the moment were some corps troops belonging to XXXXVIII Panzer Corps. Manstein ordered the First and Fourth Panzer Armies to stop the Russians north of the railroad and to attack into their flanks from Ternopol and Proskurov. First Panzer Army was to assemble III Panzer Corps with four panzer divisions around Proskurov--the divisions were still at Eighth Army, loading on trains or waiting to load. Fourth Panzer Army had two infantry divisions coming toward Ternopol by rail, but they were brand new divisions composed mostly of eighteen-year-olds.
By 6 March the front between the First and Fourth Panzer Armies was torn open along a 90-mile stretch. On the east LIX Corps was isolated at Staro Constantinov. Midway between Ternopol and Proskurov XXXXVIII Panzer Corps had thrown up a short line using elements of the Adolf Hitler Division and the 7th Panzer Division. The latter did not have a single tank and expected, at most, ten back from repairs in several days. The trains bringing the first of the infantry divisions for Fourth Panzer Army had started unloading west of Ternopol; to unload in the city was already too dangerous.
During the next four days the German defense stiffened. The two panzer armies' efforts to strengthen their flanks began to take effect--rather rapidly at that. Fourth Panzer Army used one of its new infantry divisions to establish a line north of Ternopol and sluiced the other into the city by rail. A third infantry division was on its way through Poland, and Manstein had promised a fourth to be transferred from Denmark. First Panzer Army pulled LIX Corps away from Staro Constantinov toward Proskurov and at the same time committed parts of three panzer divisions to close the gap between the corps and the army main force. Around Proskurov, III Panzer Corps drew its divisions together in a compact block that grew in strength daily as elements arrived from the Eighth Army zone and the units of LIX Corps drew closer.
Simultaneously, Zhukov made his initial bid for full operational freedom. Several times Soviet onslaughts carried nearly to the center of Ternopol, but all were beaten back. Along the railroad east to Proskurov, Zhukov's tanks and infantry spread out on a broad front, but badly shaken though they were, XXXXVIII Panzer Corps' two divisions held their front.4
Fuehrer Order 11
On 8 March 1944, in Fuehrer Order 11, Hitler introduced a new major tactical concept to the Eastern Front. Although its full impact was not felt until later, the order did affect the battle then beginning on the southern flank. It was motivated both by Hitler's annoyance at losing Nevel and Rovno and by his growing willingness to adopt any measures, no matter how desperate, which might slow Soviet offensives. He had toyed with the idea of "fortresses" before: Stalingrad was an example. Fuehrer Order 11 created the "fortified place," a town or city astride communications lines and suitably manned and fortified, which in Hitler's words, "Was to perform the same functions as forts did in times past."
Each "fortified place" was to have at its head a general or senior field grade officer who was directly responsible to the army group commander and could only be relieved of his mission by him and then only with Hitler's consent. The "fortified places" had one mission: to hold to the last man. They were literally Himmelfahrtskommandos (missions to Heaven). The commandants received the authority of a corps commander, which meant that they could impose the death penalty. Hitler designated twenty-six cities and larger towns on still-occupied Soviet territory as "fortified places," among them Ternopol, Proskurov, Kovel', Brody, Vinnitsa, and Pervomaysk in the Army Group South zone.5
Second and Third Ukrainian Fronts Attack
Konev and Malinovskiy began their offensives against Eighth Army and Sixth Army on 4 March. Fourth Guards Army backed by Fifth Guards Tank Army and Sixth Tank Army hit the Eighth Army front northeast of Uman. The two German divisions there could not stand up to the massed Soviet infantry and tanks. On the fourth day Fifth Guards Tank Army pushed to within twenty-five miles of Uman, and Konev opened a secondary attack west of Kirovograd on the Eighth Army-Sixth Army boundary.
Two days later, on 9 March, Uman fell; the report reached Eighth Army only minutes ahead of an order from Hitler demanding that the city be held. During the next two days the whole left half of Eighth Army disintegrated; the flank lost contact with First Panzer Army; and the remnants of four divisions were shoved away south and west toward the Bug. The Chief of Staff, Eighth Army, on a reconnaissance flight along the Bug on 11 March, saw German troops drifting back toward the river singly and in small groups. They had no heavy weapons, and vehicles were jammed up and mired along all the approaches to bridges.6
Against the Sixth Army center Malinovskiy threw a guards mechanized corps and Eighth Guards Army's three guards rifle corps. Hollidt had to stop the attack in the front if he was to stop it at all. He had moved his two reserve divisions in close, but at one point the Russians hit an artillery battalion employed as infantry and
secured a foothold. In two more days they shouldered their way in to a depth of five miles. On 7 March IV Guards Mechanized Corps and IV Guards Cavalry Corps broke loose and, straight as a shot, thrust through twenty-five miles to Novy Bug. That night the Sixth Army staff barely had time to load its communications equipment aboard the command train. The train was under mortar and machine gun fire as it left the city. At the end of the day the army found itself in a by then familiar and thoroughly uncomfortable situation--split in two with strong enemy forces maneuvering at will twenty-five miles behind its front.
On the 8th the army began taking its bulging north flank back "through cold channels," that is, without putting any orders in writing. The night before, Hitler had forbidden a withdrawal on the grounds that the mud made it impossible and the Russians in the breakthrough were not as strong as reported. During the day Hitler changed his mind to the extent of offering the army permission to go back to the line from the mouth of the Ingulets to Novy Bug. By then the Soviet cavalry and tanks were turning south behind the Ingulets and reaching out to the Ingul, the next river to the west. Kleist told Zeitzler Sixth Army could not fight forward of the Bug. If it did, it would be destroyed. It was time, he complained, for higher headquarters to stop rejecting everything the army group proposed.
During the night on 11 March Hitler ordered Sixth Army and Eighth Army to end their retreat "at the latest" on the Bug.7 On the north, Eighth Army was already losing a deadly race to get divisions off its right flank and behind the Bug before the Russians could cross the river.8
The Hammer and the Anvil
First Ukrainian Front's offensive was, by the second week in March, falling short of its intended effect. Manstein's determined effort to hold the north flank kept the attack hemmed in from both sides between Ternopol and Proskurov. On 12 March the third new infantry division unloaded behind Ternopol and began deploying on a line south of the city. In the next three days First and Fourth Panzer Armies rejoined their flanks, and on the 16th Fourth Panzer Army estimated that it would be able to clear the railroad in three more days. Manstein cautioned the army not to expend too much effort getting back on the railroad because it was already cut farther south, between the First Panzer-Eighth Army flanks.9
Meanwhile, Zhukov had slacked off somewhat in the center and set his right flank armies in motion. On the north Thirteenth Army increased its pressure against Lutsk and Dubno and pushed the Germans out of both on 16 March. Farther north, the SS general commanding the "fortified place" Kovel' on the same day reported that he was surrounded and wanted to get out while he still could. From his chief, Himmler, he received a telegram, "You were sent to Kovel' to hold it. Do that." In a more realistic vein, Manstein
ordered the Headquarters, XXXII Corps, the 131st Infantry Division, and the SS Wiking Division out of their rest areas in Poland and dispatched them east to relieve Kovel'. Both divisions had been in the Cherkassy pocket; neither had any heavy weapons; and the Wiking Division did not have enough rifles to arm all its men. In a singular piece of bad luck, a direct hit on an ammunition car blew up the armored train detailed to give them artillery support.10
In the southeast, Konev's offensive against Eighth Army had by 11 March torn away First Panzer Army's anchor on its right, and the infantry divisions of Thirty-eighth Army had plunged through, splitting off First Panzer Army's right flank corps. Assisted by the massive pressure of Second Ukrainian Front's tank armies going west between the Bug and the Dnepr, Thirty-eighth Army rolled up the First Panzer Army flank toward Vinnitsa. The Russian infantry were about 40 percent so-called "booty Ukrainians," recruits the armies scooped up as they advanced across the occupied territory; even so, the weight of their numbers was too much for the overstrained German divisions.
Off the flank XXXXVI Panzer Corps slipped away laterally to the south trying to cover the Dnestr crossings at Yampol' and Mogilev-Podol'skiy. It angled into the path of Soviet Sixth Tank Army, was pushed away to the west north of the river, and could not bring itself to a stop. On 17 March elements of the 75th Infantry Division which had crossed the Dnestr opposite Yampol' blew the bridges there after Soviet tanks carrying infantry broke into the town. Two days later the bridges at Mogilev Podol'skiy were blown. The 75th Infantry Division reported that the Russians were crossing the river at several places, but it could not conduct a reconnaissance because its horses were worn out and the only vehicle it had was a Volkswagen.11 On 20 March, when Thirty-eighth Army took Vinnitsa, its point was already jabbing southwest past Zhmerinka toward Kamenets-Podol'skiy into the gap between the First Panzer Army flank and XXXXVI Panzer Corps.
By 21 March Zhukov had massed enough strength--three tank armies, the First, Third Guards, and Fourth, plus First Guards Army--to smash the front between Ternopol and Proskurov with one blow. On that day 200 tanks of First and Fourth Tank Armies rammed through the front along the railroad and headed due south, carrying along with them like drifting islands the last remnants of the German line--the 68th Infantry, Adolf Hitler, and 7th Panzer Divisions.
On the 23d a First Tank Army force wheeled west against the infantry divisions on both sides of Ternopol and threw them back ten miles. The garrison in the city stayed, in accordance with Fuehrer Order 11 and because no one had time to get the "fortified place" designation lifted. On the east Third Guards Tank Army and First Guards Army reached Proskurov. During the day the lead elements of Fourth Tank Army, two tank and one mechanized corps, passed Chortkov, twenty miles north of the Dnestr. They were obviously heading across the river to meet Second Ukrainian
Front's armor, which had crossed downstream, below Mogilev-Podol'skiy, and was going west.12
When the Soviet tanks passed Chortkov, they cut First Panzer Army's lifeline, one single-track railroad. With the river at its back, the army was as good as encircled. On 23 March, Manstein gave First Panzer Army command of the 7th Panzer, Adolf Hitler, and 68th Infantry Divisions, which were drifting into the army's sector anyway. He ordered the army to take back its front on the north, anchor its right flank on the Dnestr, and attack west to reopen the railroad. Hitler, however, still insisted on holding Proskurov and reserved the decision concerning it to himself.13 Neither Manstein nor Hube, the army commander, believed that Proskurov could be held. Later the same day Hube directed all the troop commands to begin destroying nonessential vehicles and equipment and to requisition every panje wagon they could lay hands on to make themselves mobile.14
First Panzer Army Breaks Out
On 25 March, Manstein flew to Berchtesgaden where, in a stormy afternoon interview with Hitler, he insisted that First Panzer Army had to break out, the order had to be given that day, and the army group had to be given at least one fresh corps to open a path from the west. Angrily, Hitler refused, claiming Manstein had "dribbled away" all the divisions he had given him and always wanted to go back but never held anywhere. At a second conference, after midnight, Hitler changed his mind, authorized the breakout, and gave Manstein the II SS Panzer Corps with the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions (Hohenstaufen and Frundsberg), and the 100th Jaeger and the 367th Infantry Divisions.15
On the 26th, while Manstein was flying back to his headquarters at L'vov, Fourth Tank Army turned a force east and took Kamenets-Podol'skiy behind First Panzer Army. By then Zhukov's and Konev's armor was fanning out behind the Dnestr to throw another ring around the panzer army.
The decision to give Manstein more divisions was painful for Hitler and the OKW. It jeopardized the strategy laid down in Fuehrer Directive 51--and carefully nurtured through the winter--just when the Anglo-American invasion seemed most likely to come. The four infantry divisions sent east earlier in the month and the two Hitler gave on 26 March came out of OKW reserves and the Southeastern Theater, which was bad enough. Losing II SS Panzer Corps and its two spanking new panzer divisions cut directly into the anti-invasion forces, and divisions that went to the Eastern Front, experience taught, were a long time coming back.
For the breakout First Panzer Army had two choices, neither very promising: it could go west and northwest toward Fourth Panzer Army or south across the Dnestr. Hube wanted to go south. On the west he faced two tank armies and would have to cross two sizable rivers, several smaller streams, and numerous gullies. South of the Dnestr he held a small bridgehead
around Khotin, and the enemy forces appeared to be more scattered. Manstein was concerned above all with keeping First Panzer Army on the north flank and preventing its being pushed into the Carpathians or slipping south behind Eighth Army; he also doubted that the army could get across the Dnestr, which at Khotin was about a mile wide and approaching flood stage. On 26 March Manstein ordered Hube to go west toward Fourth Panzer Army across the rear lines of the Fourth and First Tank Armies.16
The tactical problem confronting Hube was an unusual one, namely, to hold the army together, pull back his front on the north and east, and attack to the rear. The effect would be to create an ambulatory pocket which would move west along the Dnestr like a giant amoeba. Hube divided the army into a north and a south group, each of which would both hold and withdraw with its infantry and attack with its armor. He concluded that getting across the Zbruch River would be crucial. Everything depended on whether the army could get over in the first place and, secondly, once it had done so, whether it would have enough strength left to go any farther. He gave the north group the mission of securing the first bridgehead on the Zbruch. That would cut the rearward lines of the Fourth Tank Army elements around Mogilev-Podol'skiy and enable the south group to break through and close up to the Zbruch. To take advantage of the "booty Ukrainians'" nervousness, the groups were to attack at night and in half-light of dusk or dawn. During night marches the troops were to close up in columns on either side of their panje wagons and use peasants as guides from village to village.17
On the opposing side, mud had prevented the Russians' from bringing up artillery to stiffen their grip on the pocket. On 29 March the First Panzer Army north group secured two bridgeheads across the Zbruch. During the next two days, while the north group struck out toward the Seret, the next large river to the west, the south group closed to the Zbruch, and the north and east fronts dropped back. That the whole army would get across the Zbruch was then assured, but Zhukov was moving armor from the north to throw up another line west of the Seret.
Hube estimated that he would need six days to take the army across the Seret at infantry speed, and that with the supplies it had and was receiving by air the army could not fight its way out of another envelopment. On the 31st he considered letting the tanks hammer through to Fourth Panzer Army alone. The infantry would then have to split up into groups of a hundred men or so and, following the example of the Soviet partisans, try to pick their way through the Soviet lines.18
At the turn of the month a 3-day blizzard slowed both sides but, on the whole, benefited First Panzer Army. The Air Force transports kept flying through the worst of the storm, and II SS Panzer Corps completed the last leg of its train trip through Poland.
On 2 April Zhukov called on the army to surrender before the end of the day. If it did not, he threatened, it would be destroyed and all captured officers would be shot before their troops as punishment for having senselessly spilled the blood of soldiers entrusted to them. That day the north group attacked across the Seret near Chortkov.
When the weather began to clear, on the 3d, Zhukov rushed in tanks and vehicles from the north and south to waylay the army on the Seret. But the next day the north group threw back two tank corps, pushed through Chortkhov, and carried its advance west. Hube concluded that the greatest danger had passed and the breakout would succeed.
During the night of 4 April, 60 Ju-52's loaded with ammunition and gasoline landed in the pocket, and next morning II SS Panzer Corps attacked from the Fourth Panzer Army flank. On the 6th the points of II SS Panzer Corps and the First Panzer Army north group met at Buchach on the Strypa River. By the 10th the army had its front behind the Seret, II SS Panzer Corps had brought in 600 tons of supplies, and the breakout was assured.19
Sixth Army Retreats to the Bug
In the second week of March Malinovskiy had enough strength around Novy Bug to strike due south to the Bug Liman at Nikolaev and encircle the southern half of Sixth Army or to carry the offensive west and get across the Bug behind the army. That he did neither, or rather that he attempted both, was Sixth Army's salvation.
On 11 and 12 March, using several divisions taken out of the front on the east, Hollidt tried to pinch off the Soviet spearhead by closing in on Novy Bug. The counterattack could not gain any ground on the north; in the south it made fair progress until XXXIII Tank Corps hooked south and stopped it completely. After that Hollidt had no choice but to get the army behind the Bug fast.
In the meantime, Malinovskiy had repeated the mistake he had made a month earlier at Apostolovo. He had turned the Eighth Guards Army's armor and cavalry south toward Nikolaev and had sent Forty-sixth Army, all infantry, west toward the Bug above Novo Odessa. Although Sixth Army could stop neither thrust, the splitting of the Soviet forces gave the army its chance to escape. The army's south group, in particular, did not have to confront both Soviet armies at the same time but could meet the greater threat, Eighth Guards Army, first and then fight its way through Forty-sixth Army two days later.
The battle took another unexpectedly favorable turn after 12 March, when Eighth Guards Army began having supply troubles. The tank units suddenly started operating cautiously, and the army command shied away from making the final leap down to Nikolaev and the Bug Liman. Consequently, only three Sixth Army divisions had to break out of complete encirclements.
Nevertheless, the retreat from the Ingulets to the Bug was a punishing experience. The entire country between the two rivers is cut by 30- to 100-foot-deep balkas (gullies), many of which that year were partly filled with water. Sometimes whole divisions were forced to detour for miles before they found crossings and then, often,
BALKAS--TYPICAL TERRAIN ALONG THE DNEPR IN THE UKRAINE
guns and vehicles became hopelessly stuck in the bottom. When it rained, the ground everywhere dissolved into soupy mud which as it dried clung in heavy, viscous globs to shoes, tires, and tracks.
By 15 March Sixth Army's south group had punched through Eighth Guards Army to the Ingul River. Six days later Hollidt had established a solid front on the Bug.20 He was himself, in a sense, to become the last casualty of the retreat. His health was broken, and at Fuehrer headquarters the speed with which Sixth Army had caved in the Dnepr Bend and on the Ingulets had left a lingering suspicion, which the army group commander, Kleist, insisted was unfounded, that the army could have been "more tightly" led. On 21 March, Hitler announced that a new commanding general would take over in a few days.21
Eighth Army Covers the Flank
When Hitler, on 11 March, agreed to let the Eighth and Sixth Armies go back to the Bug, Konev's armored spearheads were already reaching out to the river. The next day VII Corps, which was trying to defend Gayvoron and the crossings north and south of there, in the words of the
army's journal entry for that day, "hit bottom." The remnants of its divisions practically evaporated, and the Russians swept across the river.
Both Manstein and the Eighth Army commander, Woehler, thought Second Ukrainian Front would most likely turn south between the Bug and the Dnestr to collaborate with the Third Ukrainian Front's armies going toward Voznesensk and encircle the Eighth and Sixth Armies. Eighth Army had the SS Totenkopf Division coming out of the front west of Kirovograd; it loaded parts of the division aboard Giganten, boxcar-size aircraft that were a cross between a glider and a transport, and flew them to Balta to start building a front between the two rivers. Next, Woehler took XXXXVII Panzer Corps off his right flank and shifted it across the river. At first he and Manstein intended to have the corps attack into the Soviet flank, and close up to First Panzer Army, but the mud and the speed with which the First Panzer Army flank was shoved away to the north prevented that.
Eighth Army and Army Group A were both experiencing new kinds of trouble. Their rear echelons were being compressed into a narrow space east of Bessarabia. Because of promises he had made to Antonescu, Hitler was extremely chary of granting permission for German troops to move onto Rumanian soil. Kleist at last declared that Army Group A would move into Bessarabia "in spite of the Fuehrer and in spite of Antonescu."22 More serious in the long run, the army and the army group were reduced to depending on the Rumanian railroads which, as the front drew closer, were falling into complete chaos. In Transnistria, the Rumanian occupation zone east of the Dnestr, the Rumanian railroad men shunted German troop trains onto sidings to make way for their own evacuation trains. When Eighth Army moved its headquarters from Pervomaysk to Kotovsk by rail, a distance of sixty-five miles, the trip took twenty-seven hours.
In the third week of March Second Ukrainian Front turned two armies and two tank armies west toward Yampol' and Mogilev-Podol'skiy into the First Panzer Army flank and rear. That took pressure off Eighth Army and for the time being reduced the danger of a thrust south between the Bug and Dnestr; but on 18 March Woehler reported that even though Konev had diverted four armies, he still had four armies and a tank army he could use against the south flank. Woehler believed Konev would push across the Dnestr and turn south to cut off the Eighth and Sixth Armies. Eighth Army--all told, four infantry divisions, four kampfgruppen, and four and a half panzer divisions--could not stretch its line any farther. Woehler thought it was high time to go behind the Dnestr; even if the army did, it would lose many of its heavy weapons to the mud and the Russians and would have to be re-equipped behind the Dnestr. The army group did not agree. Manstein's chief of staff told Woehler the next day that Konev was making a mistake in crossing the Dnestr; he would not have enough strength to envelop the Eighth and Sixth Armies behind the river.23 Probably both estimates were partly right. Konev at that stage was clearly more interested in exploiting his complete operational freedom to the west
than in taking on the more difficult task of engaging the two German armies on his left. On the other hand, Eighth Army in fact did not have the strength to continue extending its flank west.
On 20 March Manstein informed Woehler that Sixth Army would take over part of his line on the east to enable him to stretch his front west. The plan was to get XXXXVII Panzer Corps and all the army's tanks across the Dnestr for a jab into Konev's flank. Two days later Woehler reported that Second Ukrainian Front had three armies and three tank armies drawing up to the Dnestr on a 60-mile front between Kamenka and Mogilev-Podol'skiy. Armored reconnaissance units had crossed the river and were in Balti halfway to the Prut River. The Russians were building eight bridges on the Dnestr and soon would be across in strength. They could then turn south or continue on across the Prut to the Carpathians and squeeze Eighth Army and Army Group A between the mountains and the Black Sea. Eighth Army, Woehler insisted, could not hold 100 miles of front east of the Dnestr and build another 60-mile front west of the river; its mission would have to be changed; the order to go behind the Dnestr would have to be given.
Privately, the Eighth Army and Army Group A chiefs of staff had discussed getting Eighth Army transferred to Army Group A. They believed all Eighth Army could do was to hold a front on the north long enough for Sixth Army to make good its escape from the Bug; and they apparently suspected that Manstein, thinking in terms of keeping his north flank strong and talking of an Eighth Army attack into Konev's flank, was only secondarily concerned for the welfare of the two southern armies. On 24 March Woehler and Hollidt met at Woehler's headquarters and agreed that the time had come to take both armies away from the Bug. They decided that if the army group commands did nothing and the decision became imperative, they would act in concert without orders.24
The day before, Kleist had asked Manstein whether he thought Eighth Army could protect the Army Group A flank on the west. Manstein had said no; at most, the army could cover it between the Dnestr and the Bug but there, too, the Russians could get through if they really tried. On the 25th the Russians thrust their way into Balta, situated five miles north of the lateral railroad behind Eighth Army and astride a ridge line running deep behind Army Group A east of the Dnestr.
That night Woehler and Kleist met at Kleist's headquarters in Tiraspol. The next morning Kleist called Zeitzler and told him he had taken command of Eighth Army. He had ready the orders for a withdrawal to the Dnestr and proposed to issue them that afternoon. (He had given Woehler a copy the night before.) "Someone," he said, "must lay his head on the block." When Zeitzler advised him to see Hitler first, Kleist agreed he would the next day, after he had made certain the withdrawal was all set for an immediate start. On the 27th Hitler consented to let the two armies go back, provided they held a bridgehead from Tiraspol to Odessa. He refused to consider giving up Odessa, the main supply base for the Crimea.25
Model and Schoerner Take Command
On 30 March Hitler sent his personal Condor to pick up Kleist at his headquarters in Tiraspol and Manstein at L'vov. That night, at the midnight situation conference, he awarded both field marshals the swords to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and relieved them of their commands. He told them he approved of everything they had done in the past months, but had concluded that on the Eastern Front the day of the master tacticians was past and that what he needed were generals who would drive their troops to the utmost and extract from them last ounce of capacity for resistance. When Manstein and Kleist departed, Model, promoted to generalfeldmarschall, and Schoerner, newly promoted to generaloberst, were waiting in the anteroom.26
Hitler had for long put off getting rid of Manstein. According to Goering, he had already "drawn the necessary conclusions" in early 1943.27 Manstein, meanwhile, had persisted in showing flashes of military genius that made him indispensable in individual crises. In the aggregate, however, his displays of talented generalship had only made it harder for Hitler to avoid the realization that Germany was not merely passing through a period of adversity but entering one of hopelessness. Since December 1943 Manstein's successor, Model, had been standing by. The actual low point in Manstein's relations with Hitler had been reached on 27 January 1944, when Manstein, while the Fuehrer was addressing the army and army group commanders, had interrupted (an unheard of occurrence when the Fuehrer was speaking) and objected to a remark that generals "ought to be the last to desert the flag." If Model had not been needed at Army Group North four days later, Manstein would probably not have lasted the two more months in his command.28
Kleist had not engaged in any such dramatic encounter with Hitler, but he had consistently opposed him on the question of holding the Crimea and at the end had threatened to take matters into his own hands to get Sixth Army away from the Bug. In November 1943 he had proposed that Hitler devote himself mainly to internal and foreign policy and, in the style of World War I, create a First Quartermaster General of the Wehrmacht who would run the war on the Eastern Front and have strong advisory powers in the other theaters.29
It must have cost Hitler a tremendous effort to part amicably with Manstein and Kleist. That he did so evinced their stature in the Army.
Even though it could probably be assumed that the end of the Soviet offensive was in sight, the state of Army Groups South and A, which Hitler on 5 April in a classic empty gesture renamed Army Group North Ukraine and Army Group South Ukraine, was still precarious at the time Model and Schoerner were appointed. In the Fourth Panzer Army's sector Ternopol was encircled, and Brody was nearly encircled. First Panzer Army was at the critical point in its breakout. Sixth Army was beginning its retreat from the Bug.
The Crimea was isolated. In the gap between the army groups' flanks Soviet spearheads had reached the Carpathians west of Chernovtsy and Kolomyya.
Behind the front the last act of an impromptu drama that could have added to the army groups' troubles was working out slightly to their benefit. Toward the end of February Hitler had decided a showdown with Hungary was due. He had instructed the Operations Staff, OKW, to refurbish its plan for Operation MARGARETHE, which the Commanding General, Southeast, would execute, probably sometime in the first half of March. Tactically, the operation was to be a variant of the Trojan Horse concept: German troops allegedly in transit through Hungary would suddenly stop, intern the Hungarian Army, and occupy the major centers. Rumania, he decided, did not need to be included; it would not defect because as long as Antonescu stayed in power it had nowhere else to go. On 15 March, after the Soviet offensive had forced diversion of several MARGARETHE divisions to the East, Hitler decided to try an easier way and meet with the Hungarian Regent, Admiral Horthy, first.
On the 18th at Schloss Klessheim, Horthy at first refused and then, finally, accepted Hitler's demands for a government oriented toward Germany and the right to station German troops on Hungarian territory; but he boarded his train and departed for Budapest without signing the protocol. The next morning German troops crossed the border; and when Horthy's train reached Budapest shortly before noon, a German honor guard was at the station to greet him. When Horthy's attitude stiffened after he reached the capital, Hitler concluded it would be necessary to strengthen the occupation forces and disarm the Hungarian Army. Horthy apparently saw what was coming, and on 23 March, just a step ahead of a 6-hour ultimatum the German Foreign Ministry had ready, he appointed Field Marshal Doeme Sztojay, the Hungarian Minister in Berlin, Minister President of Hungary. Sztojay was acceptable to Germany, although Hitler would have preferred Bela Imredy, who, himself allegedly of Jewish descent, had headed an anti-Semitic government in the late 1930's. On the same day, Antonescu entered the picture with a demand that Hungary return the Rumanian territory Germany and Italy had given it in the Vienna Award of August 1940. To evade that complication, the Germans declared all of Hungary east of the Tisza River part of the Eastern Front zone of operations, which by that time, it, in fact, nearly was.
On 24 March, when Zhukov's spearhead approaching the Prut above Chernovtsy came within sixty miles of the Hungarian border, the Operations Staff, OKW, and the Southeastern Theater Command changed their minds about demobilizing the Hungarian Army. They wanted to get Hungarian units into the Carpathians to close the passes, and on the 25th prevailed upon the Hungarian Army General Staff, which had, under the circumstances, proved surprisingly co-operative, to begin calling up men to fill out the home forces. Of the Hungarian occupation forces in Russia, VII Corps was already forming a front on the upper Prut. VIII Corps was still stationed behind Army Group Center.
On the 27th Hungarian troops moving into the mountains reported meeting German
stragglers from Army Group South. The OKW, which so far had avoided stationing its German units where they could be drawn into the Eastern Front, faced a dilemma: the border had to be defended and it could not put Hungarian troops in the Rumanian territory south of Chernovtsy. On the 29th it assembled two reinforced German regiments under a provisional corps headquarters. The next day they moved into the mountains as the Blocking Force (Sperrverband) Bucovina. That still left the most threatened point, the Tatar Pass south of Stanislav, inadequately covered. On the night of 30 March Zeitzler told Army Group South to take command of the First Mountain Division, one of the OKW divisions in Hungary, and move it into the pass. Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff, OKW, protested to Hitler that the OKW was losing the last division in its central reserve; Zeitzler countered by calling into question the whole OKW strategy and the division of forces it had tried to enforce through the winter. Hitler agreed with Jodl but, unwilling to have another internal upheaval on his hands just when he was getting rid of Manstein and Kleist, ordered the division to move close behind the pass and stay there as the OKW reserve pending a final decision.30
First Panzer Army Saved--A Fortress Sacrificed
By the time Model took over at L'vov on 3 April the worst was over for Army Group South. Brody had held, and II SS Panzer Corps was giving XIII Corps a short boost which would enable it to straighten its line. First Panzer Army's breakout was succeeding.
All that was left was one last, small, and, under the circumstances, rather minor tragedy. In the "fortified place" Ternopol over 4,000 men, most of them eighteen-year-olds, had been encircled since 21 March. On the 25th a tank force had nearly fought its way through with a supply column, but permission to evacuate the city had not been given, and the armor was not strong enough both to guard the trucks and to carry the attack over the last five or so miles. The next attempt was delayed until 11 April, when the 9th SS Panzer Division could be spared from the relief of First Panzer Army. The SS-men set out in rain and deep mud. On the second day, Model asked permission to have the garrison break out. Hitler first refused, declaring the army group was "honor bound" to relieve Ternopol, but later changed his mind and agreed to let the order be given when the relief force had drawn somewhat closer to the city. The 9th SS Panzer Division, as almost always the case with new SS divisions, was a splendidly outfitted aggregation of raw troops and inexperienced officers. On the morning of the 14th Model took the tanks away from the SS division's staff and put them under an Army officer. The attack then carried several miles before being stopped again at the end of the day. By that time the Ternopol garrison was pushed
into a small area on the western edge of the city and under incessant air and ground attack. On the 15th the commanding general was killed. That night the senior officer in the pocket gave the order to break out. Fifty-three men reached the Fourth Panzer Army line.31
First Panzer Army came out of its encirclement in better shape than anyone had expected. No large number of its troops suffered the complete collapse of morale that had been observed in the survivors from the Cherkassy pocket. The army stayed at the front, and on 16 April III Panzer Corps attacked south across the Dnestr. In Germany the army's feat was celebrated as a victory, clouded somewhat when Hube lost his life in a plane crash in the Austrian Alps the day he went to Berchtesgaden to receive the diamonds to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.
Off the army's right flank, in the second half of the month, Hungarian First Army (VII Corps and VI Corps, the latter formed out of divisions from the home forces) established a front arcing around Chernovtsy and following the line of the Carpathians south to the Rumanian border. Late in the month the Hungarians successfully withstood several rather heavy local Soviet attacks, rearousing the Germans' old suspicion that in Hungarian Second Army, which performed so poorly after Stalingrad, the Hungarians had foisted on the Wehrmacht their worst troops.32
To the Dnestr
The Sixth and Eighth Armies pulled away from the Bug on 28 March. At Nikolaev, where the only way across the Bug was a ponton bridge built by Austrian Army engineers in World War I, five Sixth Army divisions that had been holding a bridgehead rejoined the main force just in time. Around Novo Odessa the Eighth Guards and Forty-sixth Armies, having reassembled, followed close behind the Germans and began maneuvering for another chance to slice through Sixth Army's center.
By 2 April the Sixth Army left flank was on the bridgehead line it had been ordered to hold around Odessa, but the Russians had drawn in tight and clearly planned to cut the bridgehead in two midway between Odessa and Tiraspol. On that day a sleet storm blew down from the Carpathians. The temperature dropped far below freezing; ice tore down telephone and power lines and clogged artillery pieces and machine guns.
The next night, at the height of the storm, Soviet tanks and cavalry broke through to Razdelnaya and turned south, splitting the bridgehead in half. In three more days the Russian force lunged deep behind Odessa to the Dnestr, capturing the city's water intake station near the village of Belyaekva. Sixth Army then began a hasty retreat behind the river amid scenes of wildest confusion. At the railroad bridge and road bridge west of Tiraspol traffic had been jammed up for weeks. The army had built five smaller bridges at various points, and on the muddy approaches to each miles-long columns of trucks, people, and cattle stood four and five abreast waiting to cross. Hundreds of trains jammed
BRIDGE ON THE DNESTR AFTER THE RETREAT
into Odessa, but only a few could be routed through to the west.
The last Germans crossed the Dnestr on 14 April.33 The army group reported that the scene behind the river was reminiscent of Stalingrad. The Rumanian railroads had failed completely. The troops had no clothing and no supplies. The wounded were lying in the open at the sidings. The daily ration was 200 grams of bread.34
Probably as much because Malinovskiy had gone as far as he wanted to as for any other reason, Sixth Army did manage to get a front on the Dnestr from Dubossary south to the Dnestr Liman, but not before the Russians, as was their custom, had gained a number of bridgeheads, the largest of them south of Tiraspol at the center of the front.
West of the Dnestr, Army Group South Ukraine was forced to make all the use it could of the Rumanian Third and Fourth Armies. To keep the Rumanians in hand, the army group command devised an involved chain of command, which, while preserving appearances, actually subordinated Rumanian Fourth Army to Eighth Army and Rumanian Third Army to Sixth Army. Marshal Antonescu, the existence of his regime at stake, gave the alliance his desperate loyalty, but his soldiers at all levels were interested only in personal survival.
Many officers had stopped wearing their German decorations. After talking with the Commanding General, Rumanian Fourth Army, on 27 March, Woehler came away with the impression that the Rumanians "had no discernible desire to fight."35
During the first week in April, Eighth Army again raced to keep pace with the westward moving Russians. The Rumanians, after refusing to make a stand on the Prut, had promised to hold the so-called Strunga line between Iasi and Targu Neamt, but they were talking of falling back to the narrows between the Danube and the Carpathians. In the second week of the month German panzer divisions counterattacking across the Prut stopped the Russian spearheads west of Iasi. After that Eighth Army, Rumanian Fourth Army, and Blocking Force Bucovina built a continuous east-west line from Dubosarry-Iasi-Targu Neamt north along the mountains to the Army Group North Ukraine flank.
Seventeenth Army sat out the winter in the Crimea. (Map 25) After the last hope that Manstein might come to its relief had faded in November 1943 and the Russians in the same month had taken beachheads on the south shore of the Sivash and on the Kerch' Peninsula, Zeitzler, Kleist, and Jaenecke had agreed the army should get off the Crimea. They reasoned that the peninsula could not be held in the long run, that the troops were needed on the main front, and that any further diversion of troops there would be an outright waste. But Hitler had insisted the army stay put, and, during the winter, at the expense of Army Groups South and A, had increased its strength in German troops from one infantry division to five, plus two self-propelled assault gun brigades. Marshal Antonescu, who would much rather have taken them out, had left the seven Rumanian divisions with Seventeenth Army.
The army, keeping its main defense line on the Perekop Isthmus, had managed during the winter to reduce the Soviet beachheads to two very small areas, one at the southeastern end of the isthmus and one on the easternmost tip of the Kerch' Peninsula. If the Perekop Isthmus was lost, the only other place the army could make a stand was at Sevastopol. It had built the GNEISENAU line in a rough arc around Simferopol but had troops enough only to fight a rear-guard action there until the main force moved into Sevastopol.
On 7 April 1944 Schoerner inspected the Crimea defenses, pronounced them in excellent shape, and in reporting that the peninsula could be held "for a long time" made one of the least accurate predictions of the war. The next morning Fourth Ukrainian Front attacked. The isthmus line held, but the Rumanian 10th Division holding half of the Sivash bridgehead line was badly shaken the first day and collapsed the next.
That night Jaenecke took the line back to the base of the isthmus. Schoerner told Zeitzler the retreat to Sevastopol might have to begin any minute and therefore Jaenecke should be authorized to make the decision. He was confident, he said, that neither Jaenecke nor his chief of staff would jump to any hasty conclusions. Hitler of course refused. Instead, he dispatched Zeitzler to the army group headquarters where the
8 April-13 May 1944
latter arrived on 10 April just in time to be told the Russians had pushed into the interior and the first stage of the retreat had started. Since the first stage, as planned, chiefly involved removing the troops from the Kerch' Peninsula, Hitler approved, but then, when he learned the next day that the order for all units to withdraw to the GNEISENAU line had also been given, fell into a rage and accused Jaenecke of having lost his nerve.36 As the German and
Russian units retreated west of Kerch', the Independent Coastal Army (the former North Caucasus Front) began applying pressure from the east.37
When Schoerner and the Army Group South Ukraine chief of staff, who was on the Crimea at the time, agreed that Jaenecke's decision had been necessary, Hitler authorized a withdrawal to the GNEISENAU line and, if necessary, to Sevastopol, but directed that Sevastopol was to be held indefinitely. Everyone, including Hitler, had previously believed that when the retreat began it would have to proceed continuously to the last stage, the evacuation. Schoerner reported that the GNEISENAU line and Sevastopol could not be held more than three or four weeks. He had already instructed the Navy to send a convoy from Constanta, Rumania, to take off the service troops.
On the 12th, Soviet tanks broke into the GNEISENAU line in several places; the next day Simferopol was lost. On 16 April, the Russians close behind them, the Seventeenth Army rear guard went into the main Sevastopol line. A day later Hitler told Army Group South Ukraine to take out all troops and equipment not needed for the defense but again insisted that Sevastopol be held.
Casualties in the first ten days numbered 13,131 Germans and 17,652 Rumanians. The ration strength of Seventeenth Army stood at 75,546 Germans and 45,887 Rumanians. The army estimated its combat strength at one-third of the German troops. The Rumanians, it reported, were not fit for combat and ought to be evacuated. It had, therefore, all together, five kampfgruppen of approximately regimental strength facing three Soviet armies with a combined total of 27 divisions and 200 tanks.
In a midnight interview with Hitler at Fuehrer headquarters on 21 April, Schoerner argued that Sevastopol could not be held because Seventeenth Army lacked the strength, and the Navy could not keep it supplied because the convoys were already having to fight their way in. In an atmosphere reminiscent of Stalingrad, Hitler marshaled his counterarguments: a statement from General der Infanterie Karl Allmendinger, one of the Seventeenth Army corps commanders, that the army could hold Sevastopol if it were given some reinforcements, and a report from the OKM that the Navy could keep Sevastopol supplied as long as might be needed. He did not want to hold Sevastopol very long, Hitler insisted, only the six or eight weeks needed to keep Turkey quiet until he had beaten off the coming Anglo-American invasion.
Four days later, when the Commanding Admiral, Black Sea, at Schoerner's urging, went to Fuehrer headquarters, Hitler asked whether he had enough shipping tonnage. When he answered that he had, Hitler abruptly dismissed him without letting him explain that having the tonnage and getting the ships through to the Crimea were different things. The OKM, seconded by the Air Force, had, according to Zeitzler, given Hitler "a rosy picture" of conditions at Sevastopol.
On the 28th Hitler called Jaenecke to Berchtesgaden and promised him "generous" reinforcements. On learning that the reinforcements amounted to four battalions of half-trained recruits, Jaenecke, in an attempt to place the responsibility for what
was about to happen at Sevastopol where it belonged, submitted a letter requesting that Seventeenth Army be made directly subordinate to the OKH (Hitler).38 Hitler thereupon declared that Jaenecke had demonstrated he was no longer able to conduct the defense of Sevastopol as directed, gave Allmendinger command of Seventeenth Army, and ordered that Jaenecke not be allowed to return to the Crimea. In the meantime, Antonescu had submitted a letter in which he bluntly labeled as nonsense the attempt to hold a distant beachhead when the homeland was in danger. Zeitzler did not give the letter to Hitler because, he said, "It would create an explosion."
On 5 May the Russians hit the front north of Sevastopol. The attack was a feint. The main assault came on the 7th in the south behind Balaklava. By the end of the day the Russians had smashed through to the Sapun Heights, which gave them a clear field of observation over the whole beachhead to the tip of Cape Khersonyes. The next day the army regained its original north front but failed to retake the heights in the south. By then the losses were so great that it had become impossible to hold anywhere. That night Hitler agreed to let the army be evacuated.
During the next four nights convoys with enough ships to take aboard all the troops stood off the cape, but some turned back
SOVIET TROOPS ON SAPUN HEIGHTS
to Constanta empty and others took aboard only a fraction of the men they could have carried. The Navy claimed that the whole cape was shrouded in smoke and the ships could not go inshore. The Chief of Staff, Seventeenth Army, insisted visibility was always adequate for ships to have found their way into the inlets, but several whole convoys failed even to try. The result was a tragic fiasco. Of 64,700 men still at Sevastopol in the first week of May, 26,700 were left on the beach to fall into Soviet hands. In the aftermath the Commanding Admiral, Black Sea, and the Naval Commander, Crimea, were awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross; and Hitler ordered that neither Jaenecke nor Allmendinger was to be given another command until a court-martial had resolved "the suspicion that all was not done that might have been done to hold the Crimea."39
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (XII) * Next Chapter (XIV)
1. OKW, WFSt, Die Kriegsschauplaetze im Rahmen der Gesamtkriegsfuehrung, 1.1.-31.44, pp. 511, 21, 29, 47, OCMH files.
2. Pz. AOK 4, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, Band 2, 1-3 Mar 44, Pz. AOK 4 49417/2 file.
3. Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 557. Zhilin, ed., Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 305.
4. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. IIIb, Lage Ost, Stand 7.3., 8.3., 9.3., 10.3. abds. Pz. AOK 4, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 2, 7-10 Mar 44, Pz. AOK 4 49417/2 file.
5. Der Fuehrer, OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. (I) Nr. 21434/44, Fuehrer-Befehl Nr. 11, 8.3.44, OCMH files.
6. AOK 8, Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 4-11 Mar 44, AOK 8 58298/3 file.
7. H. Gr. A, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 3, Teil 6, 3-11 Mar 44, H. Gr. A 75126/26 file; AOK 6, Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 11, I-XV, AOK 6 51151/1 file; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. IIIb, Lage Ost, Stand 5.3, 6.3., 7.3., 8.3., 9.3., 10.3., 11.3. abds.
8. AOK 8, Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 11 Mar 44, AOK 8 58298/3 file.
9. Pz. AOK 4, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 2, 11-16 Mar 44, Pz. AOK 4 49417/2 file.
10. Ibid., 16-19 Mar 44.
11. Pz. AOK 1, Ia, an III Pz. K., 17.3.44; Pz. AOK 1, an H. Gr. Sued, 17.3.44; Befh. d. D. Tr. I. Tr., Ia, an Pz. AOK 1, 18.3.44; XXXXVI Pz. K., Ia, an Pz. AOK 1, 19.3.44; 75 I.D., an Pz. AOK 1, 19.3.44. All in Pz. AOK 1 58683/10 file.
12. Pz. AOK 1, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 2, 21-23 Mar 44, Pz. AOK 4 49417/2 file.
13. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 1419/44 an Pz. AOK 1, 23.3.44, Pz. AOK 1 58683/10 file.
14. Pz. AOK 1, Ia, an III Pz. K., XXIV A. K., XXXXVI Pz. K., LIX A.K., 23.3.44, Pz. AOK 1 58683/10 file.
15. Manstein, Verlorene Siege, pp. 610-12.
16. Pz. AOK 1, Ia, an H. Gr. Sued, 25.3.44, and H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 1455/44, an Pz. AOK 1, 26.3.44, Pz. AOK 1 58683/11 file; Manstein, Verlorene Siege, p. 609.
17. Pz. AOK 1, Ia Nr. 756/44, an H. Gr. Sued, 27.3.44, and Pz. AOK 1, Ia Nr. 754/44, an Korpsgruppe Breith, Korpsgruppe Chevallerie, Gruppe Gollnick, 27.3.44, Pz. AOK 1 58683/11 file.
18. Pz. AOK 1, Ia, an H. Gr. Sued, 29.3.44; Pz. AOK 1, O.B. Ia Nr. 766/44, an H. Gr. Sued, 31.3-44. Both in Pz. AOK 1 58683/11 file.
19. Pz. AOK 1, Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 13, 2-10 Mar 44, Pz. AOK 1 58683/2 file.
20. AOK 6, Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 11, I-XXXVIII, AOK 6 51151/1 file.
21. H. Gr. A, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 3, Teil 6, 13, 21 Mar 44, H. Gr. A 75126/26 file.
22. Ibid., 12 Mar 44.
23. AOK 8, Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 18, 19 Mar 44, AOK 8 58298/3 file.
24. Ibid., 20-24 Mar 44.
25. H. Gr. A, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 3, Teil 6, 23-27 Mar 44, H. Gr. A 75126/26 file.
26. Ibid., 30 Mar 44; Manstein, Verlorene Siege, p. 614.
27. Goebbels Diaries, p. 265.
28. Taetigkeitsbericht des Chefs des Heerespersonalamts, 27 Jan 44, H 4/1-2 file.
29. Draft letter in H Gr. A. Ia, Unterschriften, H. Gr. A 75127/8 file.
30. OKW, WFSt, Kriegstagebuch, Die OKW Kriegschauplaetze im Rahmen der Gesamtkriegsfuehrung, pp. 53-56, OCMH files; OKW, WFSt, Kriegstagebuch, Der Fall "MARGARETHE," Teil II, pp. 9-70, OKW/206 file; OKW, WFSt, Kriegstagebuch, Die Ereignisse in Ungarn von Anfang April bis zu beginn der Schlacht um Budapest und zur endgueltigen Legalisierung des politischen Umschwungs, pp. 1-6, OKW/206 file.
31. Pz. AOK 4, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 2, 21-25 Mar 44, Pz. AOK 4 48417/2 file; Pz. AOK 4, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-15.4.44, 11-15 Apr 44, Pz. AOK 4 51492/1 file; Pz. AOK 4, Ia, Chef-Notizen, 1.1.-15.6.44, 15-17 Apr 44, Pz. AOK 4 51492/32 file.
32. Pz. AOK 1, Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 13, 12-30 Apr 44, Pz. AOK 1 58683/2 file.
33. AOK 6, Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 12, VIII-XXXIII, AOK 6 51151/2 file.
34. H. Gr. A, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 4, Teil 7, 12 Apr 44, H. Gr. A 75126/27 file.
35. AOK 8, Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 27 Mar 44, AOK 8 58298/3 file.
36. H. Gr. A, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 3, Teil 4, 7-11 Apr 44, H. Gr. A 75126/24 file.
37. Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 565.
38. H. Gr. A, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 3, Teil 4, 12-31 Mar 43, H. Gr. A 75126/24 file.
39. H. Gr. A, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Band 3, Teil 8, 1-13 May 44, H. Gr. A 75126/28 file; Der Oberbefehlshaber der 17. Armee, Ia Nr. 2338/44, an den Oberbefehlshaber der Heeresgruppe Suedukraine, 13.5.44; Gen. Maj. Ritter von Xylander, Chef des Generalstabes der Heeresgruppe A, Stellungnahme zur Taetigkeit der Marine bei der Krim Raeumung, 6.11.44, (last two in H. Gr. A 75127/7 file); Taetigkeitsbericht des Chefs des Heerespersonalamts, 14 Jun, 25 Jul 44, H 4/12 file.