Battle of Smolensk 10 July - September 10 1941 g. Map.
In early July, 1941, the military-political leadership of Germany, having achieved significant operational results, was optimistic about the future prospects of warfare on the Eastern Front and had no doubt that three tasks could be solved simultaneously in a very short time - mastering Leningrad, defeating Soviet troops on the Right Bank. Ukraine, the rapid exit to Moscow. The last task, without any doubt, was given priority, since the seizure of the capital of the USSR should have been a prerequisite for the final victory in the war. Therefore, the main attack, the general staff of the Wehrmacht planned, as before, in the western (Moscow) direction.
The general plan of his actions at the first stage of the offensive was to use the forces of Army Group Center to cut through the defenses of the Soviet troops, encircle and destroy their Nevelsk, Smolensk, and Mogilev groupings, thereby creating favorable conditions for unhindered advance towards Moscow. To defeat the Western Front, in which, according to the German command, there were no more than 11 combat-ready formations, 29 divisions were involved (12 infantry, 9 tank, 7 motorized, 1 cavalry), 1040 tanks, more than 6600 guns and mortars, over 1 aircraft.
Anti-aircraft defense calculation of the Red Army in the Smolensk region
The fighting in the Smolensk-Moscow sector began in extremely disadvantageous for the Western front (commander of the troops - Marshal of the Soviet Union SK Tymoshenko, from July 10 simultaneously served as commander-in-chief of the Western direction). By the end of the first decade of July, 22, 20, 13 and 21 armies were in its first echelon, which had not yet completed deployment. The defense was engaged hastily and therefore was not sufficiently trained in engineering. The troops lacked tanks, artillery, air defense equipment.
Therefore, concentrated on narrow sections of the enemy strike groups, not meeting strong resistance, carried out deep breakthroughs in the areas of Polotsk, Vitebsk, north and south of Mogilev. The most vulnerable spot in the defense of the Western Front turned out to be the adjacent flanks of the 22nd and 20th armies. In this direction, on July 9, Soviet units left Vitebsk, which created a threat to the main forces of the German 3rd Panzer Group leaving behind the front lines. To prevent this S.K. Tymoshenko decided “by joint actions of the 19th, 20th and 22nd armies in collaboration with aviation to destroy the enemy who had broken through and, having captured the city of Vitebsk, to gain a foothold on the front of Idritsa, Polotsk UR, Orsha and further along the Dnieper River. ”
However, a counterattack prepared in a hurry, conducted under conditions when the enemy owned the initiative and air supremacy, did not lead to success. 22 Army I Lieutenant General F.E. Ershakova could not go on the offensive at all. Occupying the defense forces of six divisions in the 280 km-wide band, it was swept from the flanks and began to withdraw under threat of encirclement, leading separate battles in the Polotsk fortified area. The connections of the 19 and 20 armies of Lieutenant General I.S. Konev and P.A. Kurochkina attacked the enemy separately, as a rule, without artillery support, which was due to the extremely limited amount of ammunition. As a result, the German 3-I tank group, developing the offensive north of Smolensk, by the end of 15 July almost unimpeded advanced units to Yartsevo, cut the Smolensk-Moscow highway and deeply embraced 16, 19 and 20 armies from the east.
At the same time, the enemy’s 2 tank group units captured a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Dnieper (south of Orsha) by the evening of July 11. Having deployed an offensive from him, on July 15 they broke into the southern part of Smolensk. An extremely difficult situation also developed in the areas of Mogilev, Chauss and Krichev, in which Soviet troops fought hard in three isolated groups. All this indicated that by the middle of July, the enemy had achieved great success on the right wing and in the center of the Western Front. Deeply aware of all the criticality of the situation, the Headquarters of the General Command sought to stop its further advancement and create conditions for the elimination of the most dangerous incantations. To this end, it not only strengthened the Western Front in every possible way, but also deployed in its rear the Front armies (Lieutenant-General IA Bogdanov) as part of the 24, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 32 armies. They received the task to prepare the defense at the turn of Staraya Russa, Bryansk.
The warriors of one of the units of the 20 Army are fighting on the banks of the Dnieper, west of Dorogobuzh. Western Front. 1 September 1941 g. Photo by L. Bat
The events on the left wing of the Western Front were completely different. Here, the 21 Army under the command of Colonel-General F.I. Kuznetsova launched an attack on Bobruisk in order to reach the rear of the German 2-th tank group. On July 13, the main forces of the army crossed the Dnieper and advanced on 8-10 km during the day of the battle. Developing the achieved success, the Soviet units rejected the enemy in Bobruisk direction for another 12 km. And the 232-Infantry Division operating to the south, using forests, overcame almost 80 km and captured the crossings on the Berezina and Ptich rivers.
Regarding the results achieved as an undoubted success, the Headquarters of the High Command, along with solving the problem of increasing the depth of defense, decided to move to large-scale offensive actions. July 20 in negotiations on a direct wire with the commander in chief of the Western direction, Marshal SK Timoshenko I.V. Stalin set him the task: to create at the expense of the Front of the reserve armies, strike groups, by whose forces he would take possession of the Smolensk region and reject the enemy for Orsha. In essence, the task was to go to the counteroffensive.
His overall intention was to deliver three simultaneous strikes from areas south of Bely, Yartsev and Roslavl to areas converging on Smolensk with the task of defeating German troops north and south of the city. For the offensive, task forces were created under the command of generals V.Ya. Kachalova, V.A. Khomenko, S.A. Kalinina, I.I. Maslennikov and K.K. Rokossovskogo. Each of them had to strike at an independent direction, leading an offensive in a strip of width 30-50 km. In general, the current situation did not favor the holding of a counter-offensive in the western direction. The main thing - the offensive capabilities of Army Group "Center" were not exhausted, and she was preparing to continue active operations. By concentrating the mobile units in the Yartsev areas and east of Smolensk, the enemy intended to complete the encirclement and destruction of the Soviet 20 and 16 armies covering the Vyazma line.
July 23 from the region of Roslavl was attacked by a group led by Lieutenant-General V.Ya., commander of the 28 Army. Kachalova. Although the offensive was carried out under the continuous strikes of German aircraft, the group’s units managed in two days to break the stubborn resistance of the enemy and drop it over the r. To bang. However, an attempt to develop success along the highway to Smolensk was stopped by the forces of two army and motorized corps, which went to the rear of the Soviet troops and surrounded them. When breaking out of the environment, Lieutenant-General V.Ya. Kachalov died.
The offensive of the army group of Major General V.A. Khomenko from the turn of the river. Vop began 25 July. On the first day, only one rifle division was able to advance on 3-4 km, the rest could not even break through the front edge of the enemy defense. Two cavalry divisions of the group, operating on the right flank with the task of making a raid in the area of the cities of Demidov and Kholm, came under a counter blow and were forced to withdraw. Having resumed the offensive in the following days, the group’s forces were still able to advance 20-25 km in depth, but they didn’t fully accomplish the task set by the Western Command.
The development of the operational group of Lieutenant-General S.A. Kalinin. She had the task of striking from the region north of Yartsev against Dukhovshchina. However, all divisions of the group were brought into battle at different times in divided directions. The response of the enemy led to the fact that some of their forces were surrounded. Major General KK group Rokossovsky at the set time was not able to proceed with the task at all, since she was forced to reflect at the turn of the river. Vop numerous attacks of German troops, rushing to Vyazma. However, by stopping them, the 28 group of July struck a counterblow and secured a way out of the entourage of the 16 and 20 armies.
During the hard struggle in the first days of August 1941, a certain balance was established in the central sector of the Soviet-German front. Neither sides achieved their goals. However, Western forces disrupted the enemy’s 3 tank group in the direction of the Valdai Upland, planned by its command in the interests of Army Group North, broke through the entourage around the 20 and 16 armies and helped their main forces withdraw beyond the Dnieper , by their active actions they achieved stabilization of the situation in the bands of the 22 Army and the Central Front.
In this situation, the Wehrmacht high command faced the question of how to use the available forces in the future. His decision was set out in 34 30 dated July 1941 directive, in which offensive tasks were left only to Army Groups North and South, and with respect to Army Group Center, it was stated that it "goes on the defensive, using the most convenient for this part of the area. " At the same time, the 3-I and 2-I tank groups were redirected first to the right and left wings of the Western Front, and then to the bands of the Soviet North-Western and South-Western Fronts. On August 12, in addition to Directive No. 34, it was noted that the attack on the Moscow direction would continue “only after the complete elimination of the threatening position on the flanks and the replenishment of tank groups”.
In turn, in the Stavka GK it was rightly believed that after the frontal attack of the enemy did not reach the goal, one should expect his active actions on the flanks. Proceeding from this, the main task was to hold the Velikoluksky and Gomel outcrops and maintain the hanging position over Army Group Center from the north and south, to defeat its most important groups — Dushchin and Elin. This was, in fact, the second attempt to seize the initiative in the western direction.
However, the enemy preempted the Soviet troops in the transition to the offensive. 8 August struck the 24 th motorized corps 2 th tank group. Having broken through the defense of the 13 Army of the Central Front and developing the achieved success, by the 21 of August it advanced by 120-140 km and reached the Novozybkov-Starodub line. At the same time, the German 2 Army, operating in the Gomel sector, deeply swept the 21 Army from the east, which, under the threat of encirclement, was forced to retreat to the south and leave between the Berezina and Dnieper rivers.
The Supreme Command heading (began to be called in a similar way from August 8) revealed the intentions of the German command to surround the 3 and 21 armies and then go to the rear of the South-Western front, that is, bypass the entire grouping of Soviet troops in the Kiev direction. In order to prevent this, to reflect the possible attacks of the enemy on Bryansk and to prevent its further attack on Moscow, the Bryansk Front under the command of Lieutenant-General A.I. was deployed between the Central and Reserve Fronts. Yeremenko.
The change in the situation did not affect the decision of the Commander-in-Chief of the Western direction to conduct a series of offensive operations in the Western Front. In accordance with the order of Marshal S.K. Tymoshenko from 4 August was to “firmly hold the left wing ... the border of the Dnieper River and repelling the attacks of the enemy on its right wing, with the center crushing and destroying his duchshchinskaya grouping." The solution of this problem was assigned to 30 and 19 army of generals V.A. Khomenko and I.S. Konev.
On August 8, the units of these armies attacked in the direction of Dukhovshchina. They successfully overcame the resistance of the German troops at the forefront of the defense, for several days sought to build on success, but could not reach the operational depth. The commander was forced to make adjustments to the plan of operation. Now he planned to strike with 30 (four rifle, tank and cavalry divisions) and 19 (five rifle and tank divisions) armies in converging and destroying the enemy to reach the line Old, Dukhovshchina, Yartsevo. Hence it was planned to develop an offensive east of Smolensk in order to surround the Yartsevo enemy grouping already in cooperation with the left-flank 20 Army of the front, restored after leaving the encirclement. To assist the 30 and 19 armies, an auxiliary strike was provided by two divisions of the 29 army and a raid on Velizh, Demidov of the cavalry group of Colonel L.M. Dovatora.
The attack of the front shock group began on August 17. However, in the 30 Army band, the front edge of the German defense was able to break through only during August 23-25. After that, her connections were able to advance just 1-3 km. On the first day, only one division penetrated into the depths of 19-400 in the 800 Army band. The Military Council of the Western Front decided to put reserves into battle. But their arrival did not advance the build-up of efforts by the enemy in the direction threatened for him. Because of this, the rate of advance was still low. In fact, it was limited to one or two attacks per day, as a result of which it was possible to seize a number of strong points. The total advance of the 19 Army by the end of August was 8-9 km. But it was not possible to create a gap in the defense of the enemy. The actions of the part of the forces of the Reserve Front on the Yelninskiy ledge were not crowned with success.
In the current situation, the plan of the Supreme High Command Headquarters was to take considerable damage to the Army Group Center and to eliminate the threat of an exit to the rear of the Southwestern Front of its 2 tank group. The task of defeating the latter was assigned to the Bryansk Front, which on August 25 included troops of the abolished Central Front. The Western and Reserve fronts were to continue the offensive operations to destroy the enemy’s Duschinskaya and Elninsk groups.
But the main command of the Wehrmacht did not abandon the offensive. It resumed 22 August on the left wing of the Army Group Center, where it was attacked against the 22 Army of the Western Front. By the end of the next day, parts of the two German tank divisions had advanced to the Great Bow area. An attempt to restore the situation by putting a counterstrike under the base of their penetration did not bring success, and the army began to withdraw. It entailed the abandonment of the occupied line by the neighboring 29 army, which was threatened with a detour from the flank. Further advancement of the enemy tank group was stopped only on the r. Western Dvina.
An offensive operation involving the 140, 1, 30, and 19 armies began in the rest of the Western Front, 16 km wide, 20 September (total divisions weakened in previous battles). They were to take possession of Velizh, Demidov, Smolensk by September 18. In this case, the front had to crush enemy divisions to 8, largely replenished with people and military equipment. However, the very first days of the offensive showed that it would not be possible to break through the prepared forces in advance of the German troops with available forces and without reliable fire damage. Unsuccessful attempts continued until September 15, when the Supreme Command headquarters ordered the transition to defense, noting that "a long-term offensive of the front troops on a well-dug enemy leads to great losses."
The offensive operation of the Bryansk Front with the aim of defeating the German 2 tank group did not lead to success either. In the 300 km-wide strip, five strikes were inflicted, each by three to four divisions. But such a dispersal of forces did not allow, after breaking through the enemy’s shallow tactical zone of defense in a number of areas, to develop success into operational depth. Moreover, as a result of the enemy’s counterattack between the Bryansk and South-Western fronts, a gap 50-60 km wide appeared, into which German tank divisions rushed to get back to the rear of the Kiev group of Soviet troops.
An important stage of the Smolensk battle was the Yelninskaya offensive operation carried out by the forces of the 24 Army (Major General KI Rakutin) of the Reserve Front. Her goal was to surround the enemy group in the Yelnya area and destroy it in parts. The attack groups of the army launched an offensive on 7 in the morning of August 30. But for the first day of the offensive in the northern sector, they managed to press the enemy only on 500 meters. In the southern sector, advance was 1,5 km. Following the instructions of the front commander, General Rakutin 31 of August created a consolidated detachment, which, by the end of 3 September, together with the advancing troops from the south, narrowed the mouth of the Yelninskiy bulge to 6-8 km. German troops, under the threat of encirclement, began to withdraw. Three days later, the army units freed Yelnya, and by the end of 8 September, New Yakovlevichi, Novo-Tishovo, Kukuyevo reached the line. Repeated attempts to break through his success were unsuccessful.
Presentation of the Guards Banner
The main result of the intense battles in the Reserve Front zone in late August-early September was the elimination of the Oelninskiy bulge. As a result, the position of the 24 Army improved significantly, the threat of dissecting the groups of the Western and Reserve fronts on their adjacent wings was removed. However, to fully implement the plan on the environment and the destruction of the enemy failed. Its main forces organized, under the guise of the rearguards, carried out a retreat to the advance prepared defense line.
Nevertheless, it was a success and its importance in the difficult circumstances of the outbreak of war can not be overestimated. In order to somehow stimulate the troops, the Supreme Commander IV Stalin found for this the only possible form of encouragement - the creation of the Soviet Guard. September 8 The 1941 100 and 127 rifle divisions of the 24 army were transformed into the 1 and 2 guards rifle divisions by order of the USSR people's commissar of defense. Soon, September 26, two more divisions of this army became the Guards: 107 and 120, renamed respectively 5 and 6, the guards rifle divisions.
In the course of the Smolensk battle, which lasted two months, the irrecoverable losses of the Red Army amounted to more than 486, and sanitary - more than 273 thousand people. 1348 tanks, 9290 guns and mortars, 903 combat aircraft were lost. In general, some successful actions of the Soviet troops did not lead to a change in the operational situation, they could not force the German command to abandon their plans. Moreover, in the course of continuous offensive actions, they significantly undermined their combat capability, which negatively affected the further course of the armed struggle, which later became one of the reasons for the defeat of 1941 in Vyazma and Bryansk in the fall.
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