Retreat and Encirclement
The Balkan Peninsula
The Southeastern Theater
The German Southeastern Theater was a haphazard structure in the true Balkan tradition. (Map 32) It had inherited many of that area's ancient troubles and had acquired new ones arising out of the Axis invasion: tripartite (German, Italian, and Bulgarian) occupation, Hitler's ruthless dismemberment of Yugoslavia, the tangle of interests and rivalries--German, Italian, Bulgarian, legitimate nationalist, separatist nationalist, and communist--not to mention Western and Soviet efforts to build up the anti-German resistance with an eye at the same time on the postwar future. By the spring of 1943 an Allied seaborne invasion of the Southeastern Theater had been a possibility, and a year later the Russians were poised to break in from the east.
Until August 1943 Italy had held the most territory, the western third of Croatia, Montenegro, an enlarged Albania, and two-thirds of Greece. Germany had held northern Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia around Salonika, a strip of Greek territory on the Turkish border, the Piraeus, the islands in the Aegean, and Crete. Bulgaria had occupied western Thrace and Yugoslavian Macedonia. Hungary and Rumania had each taken a slice out of Yugoslavia north of the Danube. Croatia, including Bosnia and Hercegovina, was a semiautonomous state under Dr. Ante Pavelic and his Ustaši Movement. After Italy surrendered, Germany had taken over the Italian zone; the Bulgarian area had been enlarged somewhat; and puppet governments had been established in Albania and Montenegro to match those in Serbia and Greece.1
The Italian surrender had vastly increased the German military and administrative responsibilities. Troop requirements could only be partly met, and mainly with collaborator units at that. The theater command was dealt with more lavishly. Hitler had appointed Field Marshal Weichs as Commanding General, Southeast (Oberbefehlshaber Suedost), and, in a sense, at the same time made him his own subordinate by naming him Commanding General, Army Group F. In his first function Weichs was supreme commander in the theater; in the second he had operational command of the troops in Yugoslavia and Albania. To oversee the coastal defense on the Adriatic he was given the Headquarters, Second Panzer Army. Operational command in Greece and on the islands went to Generaloberst Alexander Loehr as Commanding General, Army Group E. Below the theater command but not directly
The Southeastern Theater
September 1944-January 1945
subordinate to it the OKW had installed a Military Commander Southeast with territorial responsibility for military government and relations with the governments of the puppet states.2
The Southeastern Theater Command had two military missions: to defend the coasts of the Balkan Peninsula; and to combat the guerrilla movements in the interior. Because of the mountainous terrain and because Germany could not afford to keep the equipment and vehicles required for mobile forces in an inactive theater, the coast defense was static, which forced Weichs to spread his strength thinly over a vast area. Some of his best units were on Crete and the islands in the Aegean, where by the spring of 1944 they were completely immobile and could be reached only by air or by small island-hopping boats. The troops that could be spared for the war against the guerrillas were always less than enough to conduct a thoroughgoing campaign. On the other hand, the Germans benefited from conflicts between the guerrilla movements.
The first Balkan guerrilla movement, Col. Draza Mihailović's Četniks, had been organized before the 1941 campaign against Yugoslavia had ended; but after Tito's (Josip Broz') Partisans became active, the Četniks had devoted the greater part of their effort to fighting them. Mihailović, until May 1944 Minister of War in the Yugoslav government-in-exile, was concerned above all with ensuring the postwar return of the monarchy and Serbian predominance in the restored Yugoslavia.
Tito's Partisans were the strongest and most effective of the Balkan guerrilla forces. They had received a great boost in strength when they succeeded in taking over large stocks of weapons, including some artillery and tanks, from the withdrawing Italians, and another after the Tehran Conference of November-December 1943, which had elevated the Partisans to the status of a national force and pledged them full Allied and Soviet support. Nevertheless the Germans, aided by the Četniks and other nationalist groups, had managed until the fall of 1944 to keep Tito bottled up in the mountains of western Yugoslavia, the former Italian occupation zone which had all along been his stronghold.
In Greece the guerrilla movements, communist and nationalist, had been slower getting started and were not nearly as strong as those in Yugoslavia. Despite British efforts to get them to work together, most of the time they preferred fighting each other to fighting the Germans. When the Communists began making headway against the nationalists, the latter negotiated a truce with the Germans which they kept until August 1944.
In the German strategy the Southeastern Theater had at first threatened the British sea lanes in the eastern Mediterranean and had acted as a counterweight to Allied pressure on neutral Turkey. By mid-1944 it had completely lost its effectiveness in both those respects. Militarily, as far as the war on the active fronts was concerned, the theater had become a liability; but a withdrawal anywhere would have given the Western Powers new bases or another foothold on the Continent, would possibly have led to Turkey's dropping its neutrality, and would, at the very least, have greatly increased the apprehensions of the Bulgarian, Rumanian, and Hungarian Governments.
TITO (RIGHT) WITH PARTISAN LEADERS
The forces in the Southeastern Theater were therefore tied down without being engaged, and they were looking seaward when the deadliest threat was at their backs. An about-face would, perhaps, have carried with it severe military and political consequences; but that it would in any event, one day have to be made seems not to have been given adequate consideration. The reason appears to have been that the theater's role, to the extent that it still had one, was regarded as strategic and therefore Hitler's and the OKW's concern. Weichs might be aware that he could suddenly find himself embroiled in the next tactical mess on the Eastern Front, but until that happened or was obviously about to happen the relationship between his theater and the Eastern Front was a matter of grand strategy that could be evaluated only at the highest command level. Moreover, as commander of an OKW theater, he was in a completely separate command channel from the Eastern Front and almost in a different war.
Weichs and Hitler Wait and See
The first overt change in the situation of the Southeastern Theater came in early August 1944. Turkey's break with Germany on the 2d raised a possibility of landings on the islands in the Aegean and gave the Bulgarian Government the nudge it needed to set a course out of the war. During the next two weeks Bulgaria re-established
consular relations with the Soviet Union and restricted German movements through its territory. A coup was out of the question because all the Germans had in that country was a small military mission, Weichs could not spare any troops, and the Bulgarian Army, considering the small part it had played in the war, was rather well outfitted with German tanks and planes.
On 17 August the Bulgarian Premier told the Parliament the government was "determined to remove all obstacles to peace."3 Weichs thereupon concluded that when Bulgaria defected he would have to take his troops in Greece back to the Yugoslav border because the flank on the east and the sea frontier in Thrace would become hopelessly exposed.4 He did not know that his colleague on the east, Friessner, was having strong doubts about Rumania, and Friessner, on his side, did not learn until later about what was going on in Bulgaria.5 Each general took for granted that the other was keeping his own house in order and both apparently assumed that Hitler had the political affairs in hand.
Weichs was at Fuehrer headquarters on 23 August when the report came in that Rumania was quitting the war. Because of Rumania and Bulgaria, Hitler then decided that the front in Greece, particularly on the Peloponnesus, was henceforth to be considered an outpost line to be evacuated if the Americans and British attacked. The weight of the defense would be moved north into Yugoslavia, and the "tendency" would be to draw Army Group E north and concentrate its strength around the Athens-Salonika-Belgrade railroad.6
On the 25th Hitler ordered all civilians and noncombatant military out of areas that might suddenly become combat zones.7 The panic and confusion in Rumania, where the German personnel were trying to get out at the last minute, had inspired the order. Coming when it did, it gave Weichs a chance to pare down excess baggage and reduce the administrative overhead, which was especially high in Greece, where women, academicians, and others who preferred to contribute their bit toward the "final victory" in sunshine and surrounded by the monuments of antiquity, had found assignments particularly congenial.
After Rumania surrendered, Hitler, the OKW, and Weichs were still inclined to wait and see, even though prudence, the condition of the theater forces, and the course of the battle in Rumania all would seem to have demanded an early decision.
The Southeastern Theater forces were neither very flexible nor very reliable tactical instruments. The theater had a ration strength of 900,000 men, including naval and air contingents and what the Germans called "Wehrmachtsgefolge," the technicians, bureaucrats, police, and mere hangers-on who followed the armed forces into occupied countries. The ground combat
strength was, roughly, 600,000 men in 38 divisions and brigades of which 7 were Bulgarian divisions and 9 foreign collaborator divisions which included in their ranks Russians, Italians, Arabs, and all of the Balkan nationalities. The 15 German divisions and 7 German fortress brigades were, in the main, not first-class units, and most of them were not fully combat-trained or equipped.8 The divisions were in part, and the fortress battalions almost entirely, made up of over-age and limited service men. Of the total strength, Army Group E in Greece had 300,000 men, some 90,000 of them on the islands. Its ratio of German to foreign troops was somewhat higher than in the theater as a whole; it had half of the German divisions and all but one of the fortress battalions.9 The mobility of the units in the theater ranged from low to non-existent. The lines of communication were sparse and primitive. Army Group E had one railroad, the Athens-Salonika-Belgrade line; it and the one or two reasonably good roads into Greece ran through Bulgarian-occupied Macedonia.
On 26 August, Weichs instructed a mountain division to move out of Greece and into southern Serbia just north of the Bulgarian occupation zone. On the 30th, certain by then that Bulgaria would be out of the war in a matter of days, he told the mountain division to stop at Nis and an SS division and an Air Force field division to move into the Bulgarian zone from Greece and hold the road and rail junction at Skoplje.10
The OKW, in no greater hurry than Weichs was, had issued an "Order for the Defense of the Southeast" the day before. It directed Weichs to deploy his reserves in the Belgrade-Nis-Salonika area and begin getting ready for a withdrawal in Greece to the line Corfu-Mount Olympus. To start getting the troops off the islands the furlough quotas were raised. But the object for the time being was "above all" to avoid giving the impression that an evacuation was under way.11
The Bulgarians, since they were not at war with the Soviet Union, hoped to get terms that would let them revert to complete neutrality and keep Soviet troops out of the country. To give their case what substance they could they offered to assist Turkey in repelling any--by then, to say the least, hypothetical--German invasion attempt; they demanded that Germany withdraw its military mission; and they disarmed and interned the Germans who fled across the border from Rumania. But their negotiations with Soviet representatives in Turkey failed to make headway.
On 2 September, the day Russian troops reached the border at Giurgiu on the Danube, a new Cabinet was formed; two days later Bulgaria unilaterally declared an end to the state of war with the Allies and a return to full neutrality. For the Russians that was not enough. Claiming a
neutral Bulgaria would become a refuge for the retreating Germans, the Soviet Union declared war on 5 September.
On the night of the 8th, after Third Ukrainian Front had crossed the border during the day, Bulgaria declared war on Germany. By then the realignment was in full progress.12 The German military mission had left Bulgaria. In Macedonia the Germans were disarming and interning the Bulgarian occupation corps without much trouble. At Skoplje three Bulgarian divisions abandoned their weapons and equipment and fled into the mountains. At Prilep several regiments put up a fight that lasted into the fourth week of the month.13
A Front on the East
The Rumanian surrender and Bulgaria's defection opened a 425-mile front on the east from the Hungarian border to the Aegean Sea--one that Southeastern Theater Command had somehow to defend. For the moment the danger was greatest in the south, where a front had to be created east of the line Salonika-Skoplje-Nis if Army Group E was to have a chance to escape out of Greece. On 9 September Weichs shifted the Army Group E boundary north to Klisura and added Albania to the army group zone. That made Loehr responsible for the most vulnerable stretch of his own retreat route. Some Army Group E troops were already in Macedonia; others were coming to Salonika from the islands. At midmonth the army group was succeeding in closing the crossings on the prewar Bulgarian border and had a line on the Strimon River. It was troubled most by lack of means to transport the troops to the front and by the necessity for completely re-equipping those who came from the islands.
In the Army Group F zone between Klisura and the Iron Gate, on 5 September, when the Sixth Guards Tank Army spearhead reached Turnu Severin, a motorized brigade going east to hold the Iron Gate was delayed in Belgrade where air attacks had destroyed the bridges. After the tank army turned north on the 6th, the Military Commander Southeast set up a thinly manned front that followed the Yugoslav border and straddled the Danube just west of the Iron Gate. At midmonth Weichs sent part of a division and two police battalions into the Army Group South Ukraine zone to try to take and hold Timisoara, the southern gateway to the Hungarian plain and the Banat. Second Panzer Army had to stay where it was for the time being to hold Croatia in case Hungary surrendered and Croatia tried to follow.14
That Army Group E could not stay in Greece and that getting it out would, in time, become more difficult, maybe impossible, were accepted facts at all German command levels, but Weichs was not letting himself be rushed, which apparently suited Hitler and the OKW. On 10 September Weichs indicated he was not ready to make a decision. He told Loehr the decision would depend on how things went in Macedonia; the theater command would give the order when the time came.15
Meanwhile, to the Germans' surprise, the troops were coming off the islands by air, some even by sea, with no interference. It appeared to Weichs that the Allies were "trying to build golden bridges" for him. He and the rest of the German Command, including Hitler especially, wondered why the British and Americans, while smashing the retreat routes out of Greece through Yugoslavia, were at the same time letting the Germans get off the islands.
The Allied Balkan Air Force had started RATWEEK on 1 September; it was intended to cut the exit routes from Greece and southern Yugoslavia and to help Tito's Partisans push east into Serbia to meet the Russians advancing through Rumania.16 Heavy strikes on the 3d cut all the transportation arteries running through Nis and badly damaged all the Danube and Sava bridges at Belgrade. These and other attacks on the roads and railroads did not give the Partisans as much of a leg-up as had, perhaps, been expected; but, until the damage was repaired, they snarled German troop movements in eastern Yugoslavia, sometimes critically, as in the case of the motorized brigade going toward the Iron Gate, and they stalled all traffic except by air to and from Greece.
The inexplicable tactics, from the German point of view, of the Allies led Hitler and the OKW to speculate that the British wanted to get the Germans off the islands but wanted to keep them in Greece as a kind of police force and as a counterweight to the Russians.17 On 15 September Hitler authorized full evacuation of the islands and at the same time directed Weichs to "play off against each other the crosscurrents" between the Soviet Union and the Allies in order to exploit the apparently passive attitude of the latter toward the German withdrawal.18
His scheme got no further. On that same day, in a surprise raid, British and American bombers hit the airfields around Athens, badly damaging them and destroying a large number of JU-52 transports. During the next few days British ships, including aircraft carriers with night fighters, moved into the Aegean, and German losses on the flights to and from the islands mounted.19
Nevertheless, Hitler continued to see in the absence of an attempt to invade the Greek mainland an impending falling out among his enemies and was, therefore, inclined to go on trying to keep his own hand in the game. That the British and Americans could be fully occupied in their other theaters, as in fact they were by then, and that neither the Western Powers nor the Soviet Union would have been willing at that stage of the war to risk a conflict over the Balkans, as was demonstrated by the Balkan arrangement Churchill and Stalin made in Moscow in October, seems not to have occurred to Hitler.20
In the third week of September Southeastern Theater Command detected the beginnings of a Soviet build-up on its eastern front. In Rumania, north of the Transylvanian Alps, Second Ukrainian Front moved Fifty-third Army into the Arad-Timisoara area. South of the mountains, lead elements of Forty-sixth Army, coming north across the Danube from Bulgaria, reached Turnu Severin. Another of Third Ukrainian Front's armies, the Fifty-seventh, was observed, south of the Danube, moving west toward the Yugoslav-Bulgarian border. Most ominous was a sudden increase in the numbers of Soviet planes on the airfields in western Bulgaria and Rumania. Aerial photographs taken on 19 September showed 372 aircraft on two fields near Sofiya.21
The Bulgarians were deploying their home forces along the border. On 22 September Bulgaria proclaimed general mobilization.22 Even though the actual Bulgarian capabilities were still in question, that they could contemplate going into action at all was an unpleasant surprise; the Germans had expected the Bulgarian Army to disintegrate in the aftermath of the surrender.
On 18 September Weichs secured permission from the OKW to evacuate Corfu and start taking the front back from the coast in western Greece. Two days later he submitted, "as background for the Fuehrer's decision," a situation report calling attention to the Soviet and Bulgarian movements and the possibility that as a consequence Hitler would "soon and suddenly" be faced with "fundamental decisions regarding Greece."23 His diary reveals that on 21 September he still had not made up his own mind. An offensive in the crucial Skoplje-Nis sector, he believed, could come soon and with it the danger of Army Group E's being cut off; therefore, the time was approaching when he would have to stop the flights from the islands and use the planes to fly Army Group E troops north to reinforce the Macedonian front. When should the decision be made? Loehr wanted it right away; but, Weichs reasoned, aside from the increased air strength, there were no "positive" signs that the Russians were about to do anything. If they wanted to, they could move fast, maybe so fast that any decision would then come too late to save Loehr's troops. Nevertheless, he still believed everything "humanly possible," including taking risks on the Macedonian border, ought to be done to get the men off the islands.24 He was apparently not yet thinking at all of forcing to an issue the bigger question, when to evacuate Greece altogether.
In resolving his quandary, Weichs was not getting any help from his opponents. The Russians were moving, but neither as fast nor as purposefully as they might have. The flights to the islands, in spite of losses, were more than double the forty-four per day averaged early in the month. Even though Loehr had pulled his troops on the Peloponnesus back to two bridgeheads in the north, one at Patrai and the other on the Isthmus of Corinth, the only sign that the Allies had so much as taken notice was a British landing on 21 September on Kithira
off the southern tip of the peninsula.
While the Russians appeared to be giving it time, Southeastern Theater Command desperately needed all it could get. The front in the east was pitifully thin. Communications to the front and laterally behind it were in a constant snarl from air and Partisan activity. The theater command was trying to go to war with, even by the then prevailing German standards, a motley assortment of units; and at its back stood Tito eyeing what were for him the ultimate prizes, Serbia and the capital, Belgrade. In Greece, Army Group E had several divisions either moving or ready to move north, but some of the units, those from the islands, were unarmed and completely immobile, and all overland traffic was slow.
Without waiting to complete an orderly build-up, a Third Ukrainian Front force, on 22 September, crossed the Danube into the bend west of Turnu Severin. At first, the Russians were just strong enough to make modest headway against the German outposts there, but by the 25th Weichs began to become concerned. He decided to put in the 1st Mountain Division to clean out the bend. Tolbukhin by then had one division across the river and four standing by on the other side.
Early on the morning of the 27th a report reached Weich's headquarters in Belgrade that Second Ukrainian Front's left flank was advancing west between Timisoara and the Danube. He had parts of two SS divisions at Timisoara and a motorized brigade north of the Iron Gate but nothing in between; the assumption had been that the Russians were more likely to go north west past Timisoara into Hungary. Weichs right away suspected what was coming--two thrusts from the east on either side of the Danube toward Belgrade, to be reinforced, perhaps later, by Tito's forces from the west--but he did nothing.25 Although the motorized brigade north of the Danube was in trouble and on the 28th was nearly encircled, the counterattack south of the river was going well.
On the 29th the opinion in Weich's staff was that "gradually" it was beginning to appear, at least "the thought could no longer be discounted," that the Soviet LXXVII Corps and Forty-sixth Army, both in the sector between Timisoara and the Danube, had Belgrade as their "general objective." During the day Weichs decided to bring up from Greece, in addition to a Jaeger division on the way, two regiments, one by rail and one by air.
Belgrade--Decision To Evacuate Greece
On the 30th Weichs and his staff for the first time became genuinely alarmed. North of the Danube the Russians had 3 corps in action against 7½ understrength German battalions; south of the river the 1st Mountain Division was engaging 4, possibly 5, Soviet divisions; in both places the Russians had at least again as much strength in reserve. Weichs once more mulled over in private the question what to do about Army Group E and concluded that a decision would have to be made soon.26
By 2 October the theater command was painfully aware that it was almost helpless. Bad weather kept the regiment scheduled to come by air grounded in Greece. No one could tell when the other regiment
would arrive; the first trains bringing the Jaeger division were just coming into Belgrade--they had been on the way fourteen days.27
On the 2d the Operations Staff, OKW, giving Weichs a nudge, asked him to set the time for evacuating Greece. He promised an answer in twenty-four hours. The next day he and Loehr agreed that everything could be ready to move on 10 October, and the theater command ordered Army Group E to evacuate Albania, southern Macedonia, and Greece. The flights to the islands were to continue as long as the gasoline stores in Greece lasted and the airfields stayed in German hands. Hitler approved.28
In Serbia, half the battle for Belgrade was lost before it had properly begun. On 4 October the Russians reached Pancevo on the north bank of the Danube ten miles downstream from Belgrade. In two more days they took Pancevo and pushed the Germans back into a small bridgehead across the river from Belgrade. To get his communications equipment out of danger, Weichs, on 5 October, moved his headquarters from Belgrade to Vukovar. On that day he also changed the designation of the Military Command Southeast to Armeeabteilung Serbia and proposed to the OKW that Second Panzer Army be taken away from the coast to a line in the mountains. In doing so, he relieved the former Military Command Southeast of its territorial functions and made a start toward converting Second Panzer Army from an amorphous collection of coast defense detachments into something like a tactical organization. In two respects the Germans' luck seemed to have improved. On 3 October the railroad bridges at Kraljevo and Mitrovica, out since early September, were repaired and the troop trains from Greece could run straight through to Belgrade; and Soviet Forty-Sixth Army, by the time its left flank closed up to Belgrade, had turned its main force northwest to join the offensive across the Tisza into Hungary.
But Weichs still had more troubles than he could handle, and time was working against him. To make the attempt to clean out the Danube bend west of Turnu Severin, the 1st Mountain Divison had been forced to strip its original front on the Bulgarian border. Just after the first of the month the Russians crossed the border past the division's south flank, and Partisans moved in behind it, cutting the division's supply lines. An SS division tried to restore contact from the south; but Fifty-seventh Army kept coming across the border and poured through wherever it found an opening on the front from Bela Palanka north to the Danube.
One mechanized corps slipped past Bor unnoticed and on 8 October appeared in the Morava River valley fifty miles behind the front. There, by nightfall, it had crossed the river and cut the railroad running into Belgrade from the south. In the meantime, the Partisans had pushed into Serbia southwest of Belgrade and west of Nis. On the 9th Bulgarian First Army began attacking past Bela Palanka toward Nis.
Weichs told the troops coming by rail from the south to unload at Kragujevac and attack north to clear the Morava Valley. He gave Headquarters, Second Panzer Army, command on the Tisza and on the
YUGOSLAV PARTISANS ON THE MOVE
Danube south to Belgrade. The army, its withdrawal from the coast nearly completed, could bring two divisions east, but that would take several weeks. For the moment all it could do was free Headquarters, Armeeabteilung Serbia, to concentrate on defending Belgrade. The Armeeabteilung decided to take all the troops it could get by paring down the Belgrade defenses--about the equivalent of one division--and strike east to the mouth of the Morava, link up there with the 1st Mountain Division, and then advance upstream along the Morava to meet the assault coming from the south.
The attack out of Belgrade reached the Morava and, on the 12th, carried upstream to Velika Plana where the Russians had first crossed the river, but it was too late. Fifty-seventh Army had a whole mechanized corps across. By noon on the 13th the Soviet armor was deploying six miles south of Belgrade for the advance into the city. Meanwhile, the 1st Mountain Division had withdrawn west to the Morava and joined the force in the river valley, but, with the Russians at Belgrade, both were cut off. Weichs put all the troops in the Morava Valley under the Commanding General, 1st Mountain Division, Generalleutnant Walter Stettner Ritter von Grabenhofen; ordered Armeeabteilung Serbia to hold Belgrade until Stettner could break out and get across the Sava; and instructed Second Panzer Army to station some troops south of the upper Sava in case Stettner had to
go farther west.
On the night of the 14th the Russians and Partisans entered Belgrade. By the next afternoon they had taken the center of the city; Armeeabteilung Serbia put all the strength it could spare, including a motorized artillery battalion from Second Panzer Army, into a bridgehead around the Sava bridge. During the day on the 15th Stettner started going west and his point reached Grocka fifteen miles southeast of Belgrade. The next day he gained another ten miles but failed in an attempt to reach the city on the 17th. After getting word that he intended to try again on the 18th, Armeeabteilung Serbia suddenly lost radio contact, and thereafter nothing more was heard from Stettner. An officer who came across the Sava two days later stated that Stettner had enjoined destruction of the heavy equipment and an escape to the west toward the Sava.
On the 19th Armeeabteilung Serbia evacuated the Belgrade bridgehead. On the 21st some thousands of Stettner's troops crossed the Sava at Sabac; 12,000 was the number recorded in the Army Group F journal, but a later entry states that the actual number "was substantially smaller."29
Army Group E's Withdrawal
After also losing Nis on 15 October, Weichs had no front at all in the 120 miles between Nis and Belgrade and no prospect of doing anything about it. He gave Second Panzer Army command from Belgrade north and told it to bring the Russians to a stop on the line of the Tisza, Danube, Sava, and Drina Rivers. He gave Army Group E command north to Kraljevo and the responsibility for keeping open its retreat route Skoplje-Kraljevo-Visegrad. Second Panzer Army was to hold the road open from Sarajevo to Visegrad. Army Group E had decided to stop on the line Scutari-Skoplje-Klisura; now it would have to go farther north and west to the Sarajevo-Mostar area.30
Even after Belgrade and Nis were lost, and with them the most direct route out of Greece, Weichs' lengthy irresolution regarding Army Group E was more and more looking like masterful deliberation. The more than a month's delay had given Loehr time to ship out the noncombatants and superfluous equipment, and to commandeer enough civilian trucks and automobiles to give himself some mobility. By the time the move began on 10 October every unit was poised and ready. The timetable was perfected, and the British, who were cautiously moving onto the Peloponnesus, did nothing to disrupt it. Just when Army Group E began to move, Balkan Air Force shifted the greater part of its effort from Yugoslavia to support of the British in Greece, thereby giving the army group some relief in the north and not adding any noticeable pressure from the south.
The German rear guard left Athens on the 13th, stopped briefly on the line Metsovon Pass-Larisa on the 21st, and then resumed the march north. On the 31st Salonika was evacuated, and on the night of 1 November the rear guard crossed the Greek border. On the islands 45,000 men, a third of them Italians, were left behind. Someone had invented the euphemism
Kernfestung (core fortress) to make it appear that they still had a mission.
In the last week of October the Russians and Bulgarians made strong bids to take Kraljevo and Skoplje. Having the troops to spare and the railroad, Loehr could meet the challenge, if in both places none too soon. On 2 November Army Group E stopped the Russians at Kraljevo and in the next several days halted the Bulgarians east of Skoplje. The success of the withdrawal through Macedonia was then assured.31 North of Skoplje the army group would have to veer west onto poorer roads, but it would be spared the almost certain disaster of a winter march through the coastal mountains.
A Front on the Drina
In the last two weeks of October Second Panzer Army had to retreat. Its best units were smashed, and the rest were in a complete tangle. It was so short of troops that it put the physically and psychologically battered survivors of Stettner's force back into the front without a rest, securing the equipment for them by disarming the SS Handschar Division, a beautifully outfitted but unreliable division of Balkan Moslems. Off the army's north flank the Russians were across the Tisza and going west to the Danube.
Weichs, as Commanding General, Army Group F, had tried to create a front on the east; but, as Commanding General, Southeast, he had failed to make the decision that would have enabled him to do so; he had therefore fought the battle for Belgrade piecemeal, always several steps behind the enemy. Nevertheless, after he had lost Belgrade and as the month wore on, it began to look, in the north as well as in the south, as if he had displayed a genuine feeling for timing and a talent for sure-footed retrograde maneuver. Tolbukhin left the pursuit west of Belgrade and the Tisza mostly to the Partisans. Toward the end of the month Fifty-seventh Army shifted its corps north of the Danube. This gave Second Panzer Army a chance to make a phased withdrawal between the Danube and the Sava, where it had no river line to fall back on. On 2 November the army stopped; its front followed the Danube from the Hungarian border to Vukovar, and from there it bridged the river gap to the mouth of the Drina and then followed the Drina south. The next day Army Group F confirmed that Fifty-seventh Army's main force had gone north into Hungary to join the offensive toward Budapest.32
The First Thrust
In the Army Group South sector, on 29 October Forty-sixth Army, reinforced by a guards mechanized corps, attacked west of Kecskemet, about halfway between the Danube and the Tisza. (Map 33) Malinovskiy was trying to push the offensive to Budapest without pausing for a build-up. Fourth Ukrainian Front's thrust from the north had bogged down, and his armies, the armored forces in particular, were in far from prime condition. The Cavalry-Mechanized Group Gorshkov had disappeared.
Army Group South
29 October-30 December 1944
Probably it was merged with the remnants of the Pliyev Group. Malinovskiy expected that as Forty-sixth Army advanced, it would ease the way for Seventh Guards Army to cross the Tisza. He had another two mechanized corps standing by to make the final push to Budapest.33
Forty-sixth Army began to roll on the second day and took Kecskemet on the 31st. Headquarters, Sixth Army, as Armeegruppe Fretter-Pico, then took command of all German and Hungarian units between the rivers. It was bringing German divisions down from the Tisza front, but on the 31st all it had was one panzer division. On 2 November the Soviet point
was seven miles south of Budapest. Hungarian Third Army had virtually evaporated. The next day the leading Soviet tank column broke into the Budapest bridgehead, a semicircular ring of defenses the Germans had laid out east of the Danube skirting the suburbs, but by then Armeegruppe Fretter-Pico had two SS divisions and a panzer division in the bridgehead. Off Forty-sixth Army's east flank five panzer divisions were moving in on the line of the Budapest-Cegled-Szolnok road. On 4 November Hitler ordered Army Group South to concentrate all the strength it could in the Cegled-Szolnok area for an attack west toward Kecskemet to cut the Russians off, but Seventh Guards Army had already crossed the Tisza, taken both Cegled and Szolnok, and was ready to attack north.34
While German and Soviet tanks battled in the Budapest suburbs on 4 and 5 November, the city, according to the Army Group South war diary, "completely lost its head." The panic was inspired as much by a minor incident inside the city as it was by the approaching Russians. German engineers, fusing demolition charges beneath the Danube bridges, accidently set one off and blew several spans out of the Margaret Bridge. The accident brought to the surface the population's most deep-seated fear: the Germans when they left would unloose a crippling wave of destruction. The city was anything but in a mood to sacrifice itself at the last minute. The populace wanted to believe reassurances by the Russians that they were not as bad as the Germans painted them.35
On the 5th Soviet radio traffic revealed that the units assailing Budapest were running short of ammunition.36 Malinovskiy, eager for the capture of Budapest to coincide with the 7 November anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, urged them on. To the commanders he wrote: "Comrades, exert yourselves so that we can lay the Hungarian capital at the great Stalin's feet. Fame and rewards await you; if you fail I fear for your health."37 But on the 6th Forty-sixth Army took its troops and tanks out of the bridgehead and back to a line several miles to the south. The ammunition shortage and a small assault Armeegruppe Fretter-Pico had staged against its right flank, a much watered-down version of the counterthrust Hitler had called for, made the army command cautious. It also, probably, was keeping the experiences at Debrecen and Nyiregyhaza in mind.
In Budapest, desperately ignoring the future, the residents eagerly, it seemed to the Germans frivolously, grasped the chance to return to their everyday routines. Combing the city, the Germans and the Hungarian Gendarmerie rounded up the soldiers of Hungarian Third Army--those they could find--and returned them to the front. The trip was not a long one; it could be made by streetcar. Many of the Hungarian officers took to spending their nights at home.
By the time Forty-sixth Army gave up
the attempt, Malinovskiy apparently had concluded that Budapest could not be taken head-on. The Stavka, agreeing, directed him to put the Seventh Guards, Fifty-third, Twenty-seventh, and Fortieth Armies into a broad-front attack west from the Tisza.38 In the succeeding weeks he committed these armies in a series of enveloping maneuvers that very likely could not have been more elaborate had they been specifically designed to make the job look hard.
At the same time, Friessner was trying to talk Hitler and Guderian out of trying to defend Budapest in a house-to-house battle. He resolved, if he could not hold the enemy on the edge of the city, to go behind the Danube and blow the bridges. The army group did not have the strength, he said, to fight the Russians and simultaneously suppress the "big-city mob." Hitler was unconvinced; still, he did not issue a definite order for a house-to-house defense until 26 November; as of that date the army group had not constructed any positions inside the city--for fear of inciting the people.39
Malinovskiy began the roundabout approach to Budapest on 11 November. His armies attacking away from the Tisza headed northwest, their extreme left flank skirting the northeastern corner of the Budapest bridgehead. On the fifth day they reached Hatvan and Miskolc. Hatvan, on the southern fringe of the Matra Mountains, controlled a low-lying corridor leading northwest to the Danube bend above Budapest. Miskolc, in the Sajo River valley twenty-five miles southeast of the Czechoslovakian border, was an iron, steel, and arms-producing center situated astride a fairly easy route into Slovakia. The advance stopped on, roughly, the line Budapest bridgehead-Hatvan-Miskolc. The German front wavered and buckled but did not break. At Miskolc Armeegruppe Woehler also had to deal with an uprising; the factory workers had barricaded themselves in the plants to prevent the Germans from destroying them.
On 22 November Forty-sixth Army sent several divisions across the Danube to Csepel Island, the elongated island south of Budapest. Friessner thought the stage was being set for the push into the city, but the Russians stopped after they had taken the southern half of the island. On the 25th they started taking units out of the Hatvan concentration and shifting them south to the Danube. Severe as the bloodletting at Hatvan and Miskolc had been, Army Group South considered itself fortunate. If Second Ukrainian Front had put all its weight behind a thrust straight through to Budapest, the consequences would have been much more serious.40
Tolbukhin Joins In
In the second half of November Third Ukrainian Front took its turn. After his main forces went north, Tolbukhin had moved his headquarters from Belgrade to Baja on the Danube in southern Hungary. On 7 November he had taken a small bridgehead on the Danube across from Apatin ten miles north of the Army Group F-Army Group South boundary.
On the 10th the OKW had extended the Army Group F zone north to Baja to give Weichs responsibility for defending his own
flank, since Army Group South was too heavily engaged northeast of Budapest to maintain more than a token defense by Hungarian Second Army on the Danube. That night the Russians had established a second bridgehead at Batina fifteen miles north of Apatin. It, too, was small, but the Russians soon began unloading bridging equipment there, a sign that they had something big in mind. Second Panzer Army was getting a division from Italy, and Weichs had directed Army Group E to send several divisions as soon as they could be brought through from the south; when they would arrive, however, was hard to tell. For the moment, Second Panzer Army, struggling to keep the Partisans off its supply lines, barely had enough troops to screen the bridgeheads.
On 22 November Fourth Guards and Fifty-seventh Armies broke out of the two bridgeheads. During the next several days they cleared the southern tip of the Drava-Danube triangle, and on the 26th took Mohacs. A major offensive west of the Danube was clearly in the making. Fifty-seventh Army struck west toward Pecs and Kaposvar. Fourth Guards Army turned northwest toward the northeastern tip of Lake Balaton.
Again Weichs' chief handicap was his own earlier indecision; he had potential reserves but no prospect of bringing them to bear in time. Army Group E's withdrawal had gone without a hitch through mid-November. Then, on the 18th, Bulgarian Second Army had opened a strong attack north of Skoplje. The next day Balkan Air Force bombers had destroyed the Drina bridge at Visegrad, backing up truck and troop columns eighty five miles east to Kraljevo. In Albania strong partisan units hemmed XXI Mountain Corps in on all sides as it tried to join the retreat. Army Group E had to put back into its own front some of the troops it had intended to release, and the rest were stalled in central Yugoslavia 200 miles and more from where they could do any good.
Aided by a miners' uprising, the Russians took Pecs on 29 November. They were nearly out of the short range of hills between the Drava and the Danube and thereafter could be expected to gain speed. The Germans had so far not determined where to put the weight of the defense. Friessner was certain Tolbukhin would make a two-pronged thrust northwest, his left going toward the southern tip of Lake Balaton to take the oil fields and refineries near Nagykanizsa and his right going past the lake to envelop Budapest from the south and west. Weichs tended to agree but, when it came to deciding where to commit Second Panzer Army, was inclined to assume the offensive would go due west toward Zagreb to cut his main communications lines out of the Balkans. Friessner wanted Second Panzer Army to put its main effort north of the Drava and keep it there; Weichs would have allowed the army to withdraw behind the river, leaving Army Group South to find the means to defend the area between the river and Lake Balaton.41
On 1 December Tolbukhin definitely showed his hand; Fifty-seventh Army made a quick thrust northwest from Pecs to Kaposvar, and Fourth Guards Army swept north along the Danube. That night Hitler gave Army Group South command of Second Panzer Army. The next day Friessner ordered the army to break contact with
Army Group F and concentrate on getting and holding a front between the southern tip of Lake Balaton and the Drava southwest of Nagykanizsa.
Tolbukhin's northward thrust forced Army Group South into a round of unit shuffling that was nearly as wearing on troops and equipment as combat and that could quickly have proved fatal had the Russians themselves not been far below top form. Hungarian Second Army had practically vanished. To close the ensuing gap between Lake Balaton and the Danube, Fretter-Pico was having to put in German divisions from the Budapest-Hatvan area. The transfer of a panzer division from the Miskolc front led to the loss of that city by 4 December.
On 5 December, when Fourth Guards Army approached the northern end of Lake Balaton, the Second and Third Ukrainian Fronts resumed the drive to envelop Budapest. Forty-sixth Army, back under Third Ukrainian Front, attacked from Csepel Island across the west channel of the Danube to Ercsi. The Seventh Guards and Sixth Guards Tank Armies ripped through beyond Hatvan. On the 8th Malinovskiy's advance reached Vac on the Danube bend north of Budapest, and Tolbukhin's closed to the line Lake Balaton-Velencze Lake southwest of the city.
The OKH decided to give Friessner two panzer divisions and three 60-tank Tiger battalions for a counterattack. The question was, Attack in the north or the south? Friessner saw the greater danger in the south, between the lakes; Guderian believed it was in the north. In the end, Hitler decided to deploy the reinforcements as Friessner proposed, partly for tactical reasons, partly because he was worried about losing the bauxite mines situated between the lakes near Szekesfehervar.
The decision made, Friessner waited for the panzer units to arrive and for a change in the weather. Rain and above-freezing temperatures had turned the plain southwest of Budapest into a morass; in places the roads and entrenchments were under water. The weather, the need to rest their troops, and, apparently, another fit of caution like those they had several times recently displayed also held back the Russians in the Balaton-Velencze Lake-Budapest sector. If they moved before the German armor arrived and before the ground froze, Friessner would clearly be in trouble; they had the strength to keep going, if need be, with infantry alone. Armeegruppe Fretter-Pico was manning the 19-mile front between Velencze Lake and the Budapest bridgehead with one volksgrenadier division (900 infantry), 800 police--mostly non-Germans--and some Hungarian hussars, altogether about 2,500 men.
North of Budapest, after taking Vac, Sixth Guards Tank Army and Seventh Guards Army did not try to cross the Danube; instead, they went northwest into the Boerzsenyi Mountains toward Sahy (Ipolysag), the northern gateway to the western Hungarian plain. To defend Sahy, Friessner had to take a panzer division from the Budapest bridgehead and bring in the Dirlewanger Brigade from Slovakia where, since the end of the Warsaw uprising, it had been fighting partisans. The Dirlewanger Brigade had six full-strength battalions--the concentration camps gave it a more than ample replacement pool--but committing it at the front was risky. Part of its troops were German Communists, and all
were considerably less than dedicated soldiers of the Reich. The officers were roughnecks and sadists, impromptu executioners rather than tacticians. On 14 December, after one of Dirlewanger's battalion commanders put up a thin outpost line where he should have committed his whole battalion, the Russians took Sahy.42 The commander may have had a reason for keeping his men back: the next day a company of Communists deserted; and in the succeeding days the brigade slid into a state that by normal standards would have been considered mutiny--some troops shot their officers, some deserted, some did both.
After it took Sahy Sixth Guards Tank Army did not make a major bid for a breakthrough into the plain deep behind Budapest, but Guderian thought it would. South of Budapest, meanwhile, the panzer divisions for the counterattack had arrived, but the rain continued. The weather, though colder, was not cold enough to freeze the ground solid, only enough to thicken the mud. Guderian, getting more nervous by the day, on 17 December urged Friessner to get going. The Army, he insisted, could not afford to have strong panzer forces standing around idle. Friessner answered that he had to wait for a heavy freeze; otherwise, if anything went wrong, he would lose all the tanks, and even if the attack succeeded, most of them would be disabled by the second day. After arguing it out with Friessner face to face on the 18th, Guderian agreed to wait, provided the staffs and the infantry of the two panzer divisions were sent north in the interim to help hold the front west of Sahy.
On 20 December Malinovskiy attacked out of the Boerzseny Mountains south of Sahy, and Tolbukhin struck on either side of Velencze Lake. During the day a tank column going northwest from Sahy reached the Hron River, but south of Sahy the Germans had enough new strength coming in--the infantry of Friessner's panzer divisions--to prevent a penetration along the Danube. The next day the German armor, two of the panzer divisions without their staffs and infantry, counterattacked west of Velencze Lake, but they had to try to cover the whole front. While the German tanks roared back and forth burning up their gasoline, Tolbukhin's infantry, avoiding the roads, pressed along through the woods and still unfrozen swamps, keeping out of reach. Many of the tank commanders did not even realize what was happening until, seeking to refuel, found they had to fight their way to the gasoline dumps and, as often as not, discovered the Russians had been there before them. Guderian insisted that with what he described as "a tank armada larger than any ever seen before on the Eastern Front" the army group ought to be able to stop the Russians. Friessner replied that without infantry the tanks were helpless.
By 22 December it was certain the Russians were trying for what the Germans called the "small solution," the close-in encirclement of Budapest. Except for a secondary strike to the northwest to take Szekesfehervar, Tolbukhin's thrust was due north from Velencze Lake toward Esztergom. When Friessner suggested taking the front on the Budapest bridgehead back to the inner ring to gain a division for the battle west of the city, the OKH replied that Hitler had "political scruples" about endangering the capital. Friessner answered that then Budapest would be encircled. On the night of the 22d the Operations
Branch, OKH, telephoned that Friessner and Fretter-Pico had been relieved; Woehler would take the army group and General der Panzertruppen Hermann Balck would replace Fretter-Pico.
Guderian then told the new commanding generals they should have only one battle cry, "Attack!"--by patrols, locally or on a big scale. Germany, he said, could not afford a setback in Hungary that would force it to divert forces from the successful offensive in the west; the fate of the Reich was at stake.
In the illusionary strategy being pursued in the German High Command Budapest had become linked with the Ardennes offensive. Hitler had said that losing Budapest would reduce the effect of the victory in the west by 50 percent. Moreover, and of greater significance for the future, to Hitler Budapest had become a symbol, as Stalingrad once had been: there could be no question of giving up the city even if it meant, as Guderian indicated, diverting strength from the offensive in the Ardennes.
Tactically, as he promptly demonstrated, Woehler agreed entirely with Friessner. In his first telephone conversation as army group commander with Guderian, Woehler asked leave to take a division out of the Budapest bridgehead. Guderian answered that the decision given Friessner, not to take out troops or reduce the bridgehead, was irrevocable. Army Group South, he continued, had more armor "than any other place," enough to retake the Lake Balaton-Velencze Lake-Budapest line; and he was going to send an officer from the OKH to investigate why that armor had not been properly used.
In Budapest substantial military readiness for a siege had been achieved. The bridgehead line of defenses had been extended around the city on the west, barricades and tank traps had been constructed, and buildings had been altered to house firing positions. Headquarters, IX SS Mountain Corps, under SS-Obergruppenfuehrer (Lt. Gen.) Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch, had taken command of the four German and two Hungarian divisions and assorted smaller units in the bridgehead that were to form the garrison. In contrast, next to nothing had been done about the civilian population. Szalasi, who had originally not wanted to defend Budapest, had lately, after talking to Hitler, changed his mind; however, clinging to his supernumerary role, he disclaimed any direct responsibility for the city. The people, unwilling to abandon their homes and possessions, had ignored his halfhearted evacuation orders, and the Germans had been reluctant to enforce an evacuation because the small corner of Hungary they still held was already crammed with refugees and any more would have had to be taken into Austria or Germany proper. Budapest wore a holiday appearance; Christmas shoppers filled the streets; but deaths from malnutrition were beginning to be reported. The army group chief of staff had told Guderian that the army group opposed putting troops into a siege in which they would also have to stand off over a million starving people. Guderian had replied that the question was "immaterial."
During the day on 23 December, Fourth Guards Army took Bicske and cut the road and railroad running west out of Budapest. That left only a mountain road into the city from the northwest, through Esztergom. On the afternoon of the 24th Woehler called Guderian again to argue that historically Budapest had always been defended only on the west bank of the
Danube. Guderian's mood had changed; he said he saw several possibilities, including giving up Budapest, but he would have to talk to Hitler first because the matter affected grand strategy. Three hours later he gave Woehler Hitler's decision: Budapest, including the bridgehead, was to be held; the army group could take up to two divisions out of the bridgehead; the OKH would send the Headquarters, IV SS Panzer Corps, and transfer the SS Divisions Totenkopf and Wiking from Army Group Center; in the three or four days before the reinforcements could arrive "everyone who can carry a rifle" was to be put into the front around Budapest.
By the 24th, it was too late to take divisions out of Budapest. The first divisions Woehler ordered to move had to be put into the line around the western suburbs. Army Group South no longer had any chance of stopping Tolbukhin's spearhead going north. On 26 December it reached Esztergom and completed the encirclement. The next day the Russians pushed the garrison back to the inner defense ring. On the same day, a surprise thrust west almost carried to Komarno, the best staging area for a relief operation. On the 28th, the Russians suddenly stopped. By then Hitler had several more divisions en route to Army Group South, and the plan for the relief was taking form.43
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (XVI) * Next Chapter (XVIII)
1. Werner Markert, Osteuropa-Handbuch, Jugoslawien (Koeln, 1954), pp. 102-10.
2. Walter Goerlitz, Der Zweite Weltkrieg, 1939-1945 (Stuttgart, 1952), p. 147.
3. New York Times, August 19, 1944.
4. Maximilian Freiherr von Weichs, Auszuege aus dem Tagebuch des Feldmarschalls Freiherr von Weichs aus den Jahren 1943 and 1944, aus den Original-Notizen in Gabelsberger Stenographie uebertragen durch Generalmajor a. D. Curt Ritter von Geitner (hereafter cited as Weichs Diary), 17 Aug 44, MS, OCMH files.
5. Friessner, Verratene Schlachten, p. 74.
6. Weichs Diary, 23 Aug 44; O.B. Suedost (O. Kdo. H. Gr. F), Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 25 Aug 44, H. Gr. F 66136/1 file.
7. OKW, WFSt, Qu. 2 Nr. 06938/44, Evacuation in the Allied, Friendly, and Occupied Countries, 10 Sep 44, in Office, Chief of Naval Operations, Fuehrer Directives and Other Top-Level Directives of the German Armed Forces, 1942-1945 (1948).
8. MS # P-114c, Supplement, Die Kriegsereignisse auf dem Balkan im Rahmen der deutschen Operationen an der Ostfront, 1944-45 (Generalmajor a. D. Curt Ritter von Geitner), Teil I, p. 46.
9. MS # P-114c, Supplement, Die Kriegsereignisse auf dem Balkan im Rahmen der deutschen Operationen an der Ostfront, 1944-45 (Generalmajor a. D. Erich Schmidt-Richberg), Teil II, p. 11; OKW, WFSt, K.T.B. Ausarbeitung, Der suedoestliche Kriegsschauplatz, 1.4-31.12.44, p. 336, IMT Doc 1794-PS.
10. Ibid., p. 336; Weichs Diary, 30 Aug 44.
11. O.B. Suedost (O. Kdo. H. Gr. F), Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 29 Aug 44, H. Gr. F 66135/1 file.
12. OKW, WFSt. K.T.B. Ausarbeitung, Der suedoestliche Kriegsschauplatz, 1.4.-31.12.44, pp. 337-38, IMT Doc 1794-PS.
13 O.B. Suedost (O. Kdo. H. Gr. F), Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 11, 18, 20, 24 Sep 44, H. Gr. F 66135/1 file.
14. MS # P-114c, Supplement (Schmidt-Richberg), Teil II, 64-71.
15. O.B. Suedost (O. Kdo. H. Gr. F), Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 10 Sep 44, H. Gr. F 66135/1 file.
16. Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., "The Army Air Forces in World War II," vol. III, Europe: ARGUMENT to V-E Day, January 1944 to May 1945 (Chicago, 1951), pp. 473-74; Fitzroy Maclean, Eastern Approaches (London, 1949), pp. 470-83.
17. Weichs Diary, 3 Sep 44; OKW, WFSt, K.T.B. Ausarbeitung, Der suedoestliche Kriegsschauplatz, 1.4.-31.12.44, p. 343, IMT Doc 1794-PS.
18. O.B. Suedost (Ob. Kdo. H. Gr. F), Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 15 Sep 44, H. Gr. F 66136/1 file.
19. OKW, WFSt, K.T.B. Ausarbeitung, Der suedoestliche Kriegsschauplatz, 1.4.-31.12.44, p. 34, IMT Doc 1794-PS.
20. John Ehrman, Grand Strategy, Volume VI, October 1944-August 1945 (London, 1956), vol. VI, pp. 41-43; Winston Churchill, "The Second World War," Triumph and Tragedy (Boston, 1953), pp. 226-38.
21. MS # P-114c, Supplement (Schmidt-Richberg), Teil II, p. 356.
22. OKW, WFSt, K.T.B. Ausarbeitung, Der suedoestliche Kriegsschauplatz, 1.4-31.12.44, p. 342, IMT Doc 1794-PS.
23. O.B. Suedost (Ob. Kdo. H. Gr. F), Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 18, 20 Sep 44, H. Gr. F 66135/1 file.
24. Weichs Diary, 21 Sep 44.
25. Weichs Diary, 27 Sep 44.
26. Ibid., 30 Sep 44.
27. O.B. Suedost (O. Kdo. H. Gr. F), Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 1, 2 Oct 44, H. Gr. F 66135/1 file.
28. Ibid., 2, 3 Oct 44; Weichs Diary, 3 Oct 44.
29. MS # P-114c, Supplement (Schmidt-Richberg), pp. 96-136; O.B. Suedost (O. Kdo. H. Gr. F), Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 21, 25 Oct 44, H. Gr. F 66135/1 file.
30. Weichs Diary, 14-18 Oct 44.
31. OKW, WFSt, K.T.B. Ausarbeitung, Der suedoestliche Kriegsschauplatz, 1.4-31.12.44, pp. 344-50, IMT Doc 1794-PS.
32. Ibid., 21 Oct-3 Nov 44; Weichs Diary, 21 Oct-3 Nov 44; MS # P-114c, Supplement (Schmidt-Richberg), pp. 144-49.
33. IVOV (R), IV, 390.
34. H. Gr. Sued, Kriegstagebuch Entwuerfe, Band 4, Teil 3, 29-31 Oct 44, H. Gr. A 74126/35 file; H. Gr. Sued, Kriegstagebuch Entwuerfe, Band 4, Teil 4, 1-4 Nov 44, H. Gr. A 75126/38 file.
35. Ibid., 4 Nov 44; Obkdo. Armgr. Woehler, Ia Nr. 2150/44, an den Chef des Gen. Stabes der H. Gr. Sued, 8.11.44, H. Gr. A 75126/39 file.
36. H. Gr. Sued, Kriegstagebuch Entwuerfe, Band 4, Teil 4, 5 Nov 44, H. Gr. A 75126/38 file.
37. Friessner, Veratene Schlachten, p. 168.
38. IVOV (R), IV, 391.
39. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Nov. 44, 2 Haelfte, 23, 26 Nov 44, H. Gr. A 75126/40 file.
40. Ibid., 15-25 Nov 44.
41. Ibid., 15-30 Nov 44; O.B. Suedost (O. Kdo. H. Gr. F), Ia Kriegstagebuch Nr. 3, 7-30 Nov 44, H. Gr. F. 66135/1 file; Weichs Diary, 15-30 Nov 44.
42. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Dez. 43, 1. Haelfte, 1-15 Dec 44, H. Gr. A 75126/43 file.
43. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Dez. 44, 2. Haelfte, 15-28 Dec 44, H. Gr. A 75126/45 file.