Scheme. Operation Mars 25 November - 20 December 1942
By November 1942, in the western direction of the Soviet-German front, in a strip 1050 km wide, from Kholm to Bolkhov, there were 30% of the rifle, cavalry, tank and mechanized connections. From the side of the enemy, over 26% of the infantry and 42% of the tank divisions were deployed here. In accordance with the concept of the upcoming campaign, formulated by A. Hitler on October 14 in Operational Order No. 1, the German troops were required to "at all costs keep the achieved lines from any enemy attempt to break through them." At the same time, the main efforts in defense were planned to be concentrated in the zone of Army Group Center. According to the General Staff of the Wehrmacht Ground Forces, the main blow of the Red Army should have been expected against it. Therefore, on the Rzhev-Vyazma ledge, well-developed in engineering terms were prepared in advance, the separation depth of which reached 80-100 km.
As for the leadership of the USSR, it saw the common military-political goal of the upcoming campaign in order to intercept the strategic initiative in the armed struggle and thereby achieve a turning point in the war. At the first stage, it was planned to crush the enemy in the area of Stalingrad, after which, striking at Rostov, go to the rear of his North Caucasian group and prevent its withdrawal to the Donbass. At the same time, it was planned to launch an offensive in the area of the Upper Don with its subsequent development on Kurs, Bryansk and Kharkov. In the western direction, in turn, it was necessary to conduct an offensive operation, which received the code name "Mars".
The troops of the Kalininsky and the right wing of the Western fronts were attracted to it. In accordance with the final intent of the representative of the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command GK General Army. Zhukov was planning to deliver the main attack by groups of two fronts in converging directions. It was planned to break through the enemy defenses on the first day of the offensive, after which mobile units would be brought into battle. By the end of the third - fourth day, they were to unite in the area southwest of Sychevka and thereby complete the encirclement of the German 9 Army. For the simultaneous dissection of it into parts, a whole series of other blows were envisaged.
So, in the Kalininsky Front, whose troops were led by Lieutenant-General M.A. Purkaev, 3-I attack army was supposed to conduct an attack on Velikiye Luki and Novosokolniki (Velikie Luki operation). His 41-I army struck from the west of the Rzhev-Vyazma ledge, south of Bely, and the 22-I army - along the valley of the r. Luchesa. 39-I army was introduced into battle at the top of the ledge.
By decision of the commander of the troops of the Western Front, Colonel-General I.S. Konev 31-I and 20-I armies delivered the main attack south of the city of Zubtsov. On the right flank of the strike force, the 30 Army was on the offensive, and on the left flank, part of the forces (one rifle regiment) of the 29 Army. A week after the start of the operation, it was planned to launch the 5 and 33 armies into battle with the task of defeating the Gzhat group of the enemy and reach the closest approaches to Vyazma.
The German 9-I Army Colonel-General V. Model confronted the Soviet troops consisted of three army and two tank corps (18 infantry total, 1 airborne, 1 airborne divisions, two battalions of assault guns). The army reserve had two tank, two motorized, one cavalry divisions and a tank battalion. In addition, in the rear of the Rzhev-Vyazma ledge there were concentrated three tank divisions from the reserve of the Army Group Center (1, 12-I and 19-I).
Having timely identified the preparation of the Kalinin and Western fronts for the offensive, V. Model in order from 16 in November 1942 demanded, in addition to maintaining constant combat readiness, to create in each corps and infantry division mobile groups intended to be deployed to threatened areas. In addition, a maneuver was planned on them by the army mobile reserves. To solve this problem, as of November 20, there were 302 serviceable tanks of the most varied modifications.
The main strike in the Kalininsky front was struck by the 41 Army Major General GF. Tarasov. It consisted of five rifle divisions, the 1 th mechanized corps, Major General MD. Solomatina, 47-I and 48-I mechanized brigades and 6-th Stalin volunteer infantry corps of Major General S.I. Povetkin (one rifle division and four rifle brigades) - a total of 116 thousand people and 300 tanks. She was ordered to break through the enemy defenses south of Bely, extend the breakthrough in the western and northern directions and join up with the 20 Army of the Western Front. To act in a wooded area with a limited number of roads. It was necessary to force the rivers Cherry, Vienna and Nach.
In the offensive zone, the army was defended by part of the 246 Infantry Division and the 2 Fighting Division, whose combat potential and level of training were significantly inferior to other units. Considering this, the enemy command concentrated in the area of the city of Belyi, a strong reserve — the 1 Tank Division and the combat group consisting of two motorized infantry battalions of the Great Germany motorized division.
On the morning of November 25, rifle formations, after a three-hour artillery preparation, attacked the front edge of the enemy's defenses, immediately broke through and rushed into the valley of the r. Cherry But here they met strong resistance from strongholds located on its steep west bank, and also underwent divisional reserves counterattacks. In an environment where the threat of disrupting the launched offensive was created, Major General GF Tarasov ordered the introduction of the 1 th mechanized corps into battle (224 tank, of which KV - 10 and T-34 - 119).
During November 26, his brigade completed a breakthrough in enemy defenses and began to develop success. By the end of the third day of the offensive, the depth of penetration of the army mobile group was 33 km. In this case, the group acted in isolation from the rest of the troops, with significant gaps in the order of battle and open flanks.
By December 1, all reserves of the 41 Army were put into battle, but there was no decisive change in the course of the operation. The enemy, stubbornly defending himself in the strongholds blocked by Soviet troops, not only attracted and sprayed their forces in a wide swath, but also, having gained time, created the conditions for a counterattack. His strong groups, launching the December 6-7 offensive, soon surrounded the 6 rifle and 1 th mechanized corps. During the week, they repelled the strikes of parts of four German tank divisions and completed a breakthrough from the environment only by the dawn of December 16, losing a large number of people, guns, mortars and almost all the tanks.
The commander of the 22 Army (80 thousand people and 270 tanks) of the front, Major General V.A. Yushkevich decided to break through the defenses of the enemy with 238 and 185 rifle divisions without recruiting direct infantry support tanks, and then introducing the 3 mechanized corps, Major General ME, into battle. Katukov. By the end of the third day, he had, having crossed 20 km, cut the Olenino-Belyy highway, subsequently with part of the forces to conduct an offensive to the north, to meet the 39 army, and part to the south, to White, to join the 41 army. In reserve were one rifle brigade and a separate tank regiment. To act was to be in a narrow corridor, which was limited to the valley of the river. Luchesa. Thick forests surrounded it on both sides, which made it extremely difficult to maneuver by forces and means.
The strike force of the army launched an offensive on November 25 after an hour and a half artillery preparation. During the day of the battle, the infantry divisions, with the support of two brigades of the 3 of the mechanized corps, were able to penetrate into enemy defenses at 1 – 2 km in some sectors. Nevertheless, in the evening of the same day, his command began to push tactical reserves into the threatened areas. Their arrival predetermined the fact that during 26 in November the advance of the Soviet troops did not exceed 1 km.
The next day, all the brigades of the 3 mechanized corps were brought into battle, but they could not overcome the stubborn resistance of the enemy. Major General V.A. Yushkevich decided to change the direction of the main attack and during the night to regroup the main forces of the corps from the left flank to the right. However, by that time, part of the forces of the German division "Great Germany" had been advanced here. Not led to a decisive success and the use of military reserves, which, at the cost of heavy losses, only slightly advanced.
November 30 and December 1 fierce battles were fought throughout the army’s offensive zone. By December 3, its advanced units were only 2 – 5 km from the Olenino-Belyy highway. But by that time, more than 200 from 270 tanks had already been lost. Tank and mechanized brigades, acting on disconnected directions, in a wooded area could not make full use of their shock and maneuver capabilities, in a short time to break into the depth of enemy defenses and build on success. All this allowed the German command, as well as in the band of the 41 Army, to gain time and make timely maneuver reserves. All subsequent attempts by the 22 Army to reach the Olenino-Belyy highway, which continued until December 12, were unsuccessful.
The goal of the 39 Army (more than 92 thousand people, 227 tanks) of the front was to attract enemy reserves and prevent them from being transferred to other directions. It was accomplished by accomplishing two successive tasks: first mastering the Bolshaya Young Tud - Rzhev on the Urdom, Zaitsevo sector and then in cooperation with the 22 Army and the strike group of the Western Front - Olenino settlement.
Army Commander Major-General A.I. Zygin planned to strike the center of the line with the forces of 158, 135 and 373 infantry divisions with the support of the 28 and 81 tank brigades. In the second echelon, the 348-I Rifle Division stood out, and in reserve - the 101-I Rifle and 46-I mechanized brigades. Other strikes were inflicted: on the right flank - the 100-I Rifle Brigade and the regiment of the 186 Rifle Division, on the left - the 136-I Rifle Brigade, two regiments of the 178-th Rifle Division and three tank regiments.
The German 42 and part of the forces of the 206 and 251 infantry divisions occupied the zone of the impending offensive of an army 253 km wide. They focused their efforts on keeping individual strongholds, the gaps between which reached several kilometers. However, this deficiency was compensated for by the presence in the rear of strong mobile reserves — two motorized divisions (14 and Great Germany).
As in other unions of the Kalinin Front, the offensive in the 39 Army's band began on November 25 with an artillery preparation of the duration of 1 an hour. Since the density of guns and mortars was low (50 units per 1 km), it was not possible to crush the enemy at the leading edge, and especially in tactical depth. Forced from the course of the river. Young Tud rifle companies, supported by the 28 and 81 tanks, came under heavy fire from mortars and machine guns and retreated to their original positions.
But success was achieved in the directions of other strikes: on the right flank the advance of the Soviet troops was 5, and on the left - 4 km. Major General A.I. Zygin planned to develop the offensive, reinforcing the flank groups at the expense of the forces and means deployed in the center of the line. However, the commander of the front forces demanded that the original plan of the operation be followed and that the maximum forces of the enemy should be shackled here, in order to make it easier for the 41 and 22 armies to carry out the tasks assigned to them.
During November 26, the main forces of the 39 Army again forced the r. Young Tud and in the evening advanced with the battles on 2 km. The next day, the regiments of the second echelons of three rifle divisions were entered into the battle, but this did not change the course of the fighting. At the same time, the flank groups, without receiving additional reinforcement, could not develop the initially achieved success and were drawn into heavy battles with the enemy. Soon, they underwent a strong counterattack, some of their forces were surrounded, and the other was thrown back to its original position.
Ignoring the situation on the flanks, the army commander decided to continue the offensive in the center, in the direction of the Urdom settlement. The ensuing battles continued for two days without a break. In their course, infantry compounds lost up to 50% of people, and tank brigades lost more than half of their armored vehicles. In the end, Urd managed to free, but the main shock group of the army lost almost all the tanks remaining by that time. After that, she completely lost her offensive capabilities.
In such an environment G.K. Zhukov ordered to shift the breakthrough area to the left flank of the army, closer to Rzhev. The second stage of its offensive began on December 7. Initially, it developed successfully: the infantry units broke through the enemy defenses and created the conditions for entering into battle the new tanks 28 and 81 tank brigades received. But the latter, rushing ahead, were surrounded by the enemy’s approached reserves. Heavy fighting continued until December 17, and then began to subside as the combat effectiveness of the troops decreased. Soon the army received an order to go to the defense.
The most powerful grouping of forces and means in Operation Mars was created in the offensive zones of the 31 and 20 armies of the Western Front. Here, 14 rifle divisions focused on one breakthrough sector. At the same time, the density of forces and means was: guns and mortars - up to 100, and tanks - up to 20 units per 1 km. The main role in the offensive was assigned to the 20 Army, Major-General N.I. Kiryukhina, which included seven rifle divisions, the 1 Guards Moscow Motorized Rifle Division, the 8 Guards Rifle Corps (one rifle division and two rifle brigades), eight tank brigades, 53 artillery regiment - only 114 thousand people, 1310, only 151, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX artillery regiment - only XNUMX thousand people, XNUMX, XNUMX artillery regiment - only XNUMX thousand men, XNUMX, NNXX man, XNUMX, XNUMX artillery regiment - only XNUMX thousand people, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX, XNUMX, NNXX artillery regiment - only XNUMX thousand people, XNUMX, XNUMX artillery regiment - only XNUMX thousand people, XNUMX, NNXX, XNUMX, XNUMX artillery regiment - only XNUMX thousand. The XNUMX tank. The army had the task of breaking through the defenses of the German troops, cutting the Sychevka-Osuga railway, seizing Sychevka and connecting with the advance units of the Kalininsky front.
Four rifle divisions and five tank brigades were allocated to the first echelon, the 8 th Guards Rifle Corps in the second echelon, the 1-I Guards Motorized Rifle Division was in reserve. The mobile group consisted of three tank brigades. It was intended for the development of the offensive in the south-east, in the direction of Sychevka. In addition, in the army band it was planned to launch a front horse-mechanized group (KMG) under the command of Major General V.V. Kryukov. It includes 2-Guards Cavalry Corps, 1-Guards Motorized Brigade and 6-Panzer Corps (166 tanks, including HF - 18, T-34 - 85, T-70 - 30, T-60 - 33) . KMG was to move to the northeast in order to surround the Rzhev group of the enemy.
In the direction of the attack of the strike force of the Western Front, they occupied the defenses of part of the 102 th infantry and 5 th tank divisions of the enemy. Just a few days before the Soviet troops went on the offensive, the 78-I infantry division also arrived here, which was to replace the 5-tank division on the front line. The strongest fortifications were created on a narrow four-kilometer stretch between the Osuga and Vazuza rivers. German units were located in a number of strongholds in the vicinity of large villages. Between them were placed wooden-earth firing points (bunker) with a density of 10-15 per square meter. km At a distance of 4-5 km from the front edge was the second defensive line. It was based on battalion areas in the settlements of Maloye Petrakovo, Bolshoye and Maloe Kropotovo, Podosinovka and Zherebtsovo. Approaches to them were covered with obstacle stripes, anti-tank and anti-personnel minefields.
The offensive of the 31st and 20th armies began on November 25 at 7 hours and 50 minutes with artillery preparation. However, even before dawn, a strong wind blew and snow began, which completely eliminated the adjustment of the fire. He ceased to be aimed and was conducted through the squares. Aviation and was completely inactive due to non-flying weather. As noted in the front’s operational summary: “The snowstorm on the first day of the offensive reduced the artillery preparation to almost nothing, since visibility was from 100 to 200 meters. In view of this, the enemy’s fire system was not violated to the necessary extent ... ”
After an hour and a half in the 31-th army band (Major General VS Polenov), on the plain between the Osuga and Vazuza rivers, enemy positions attacked 88, 239, 336-I divisions, 32-I and 145-I tank brigades. They were met by strong fire from non-repressive strongholds and by noon they lost 50% of people and almost all tanks. Subsequent attempts to break through the front line of the 102 Infantry Division’s defense proved futile, and the army stopped playing an active role in the operation on the very first day.
The right-flank formations of the 20 army did not achieve any tangible results. And only the actions of one 247 th rifle division, which, with the support of the 240 th tank brigade, led the offensive in the center of the army belt, were effective. On the move, she forced Vazuzu across the ice and seized a small bridgehead on her west bank. In an effort to build on success, Major General N.I. On the night of November 26, Kiryukhin began to nominate a second echelon, a reserve and a mobile group - 8 of the Guards Rifle Corps, 1 of the Guards Motorized Rifle Division and three tank brigades, respectively.
But the failure on the right flank of the 20 Army threatened to disrupt the entire plan of the operation, as the loss of time allowed the German command to transfer reserves from the depths. Therefore, the commander of the front, Colonel-General I.S. Konev decided to use a bridgehead (3 km width and 1,5 km depth) taken by the 247 division to enter the breakthrough of a horse-mechanized group of bridgeheads. However, such a number of troops could not be quickly brought into battle. In addition, only two roads led to it, under the constant influence of artillery and enemy aircraft.
In the second half of November 26, the brigade of the 6 tank corps launched an offensive from a foothold in completely unfamiliar terrain, without reconnaissance and artillery support. By the end of the day, they had lost from the enemy’s anti-tank artillery fire to 60% of tanks, and for the Rzhev-Sychevka railroad only one tank battalion had managed to break through. For three days he seized a number of settlements, but soon he was left with almost no fuel. The attempt to introduce the 2 th Guards Cavalry Corps into the breakthrough in order to build up the force of the strike ended, in fact, with the defeat of its main forces. Operating at night in unfamiliar terrain, cavalry units got into fire bags prepared by the enemy and most of them were destroyed by artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire. Could not break through the railroad and the specially created tank group that accompanied the transport vehicles with fuel and ammunition.
Rifle units, separate cavalry and tank units continued the fruitless attacks of German strongholds up to December 5. Then the remnants of the 2 Guards Cavalry Corps were withdrawn from the battle, as well as all the individual tank brigades that provided direct support to the infantry. They have almost no combat tanks left. So, in the 25 Tank Brigade, after its withdrawal to the rear, there were one KB and three T-60.
8 December The Western Front received the directive of the Supreme Command Headquarters to continue the offensive. This time he was given the task “to break through enemy defenses in the Bolshaya Kropotovo, Yarygino and not later than December 10 to take Sychevka, December 11 in the Andreevskoye area at least two rifle divisions to organize the closure together with the 15 Army Kalinin front surrounded by the enemy.
In accordance with the decision of the commander of the Western Front, the 20 Army, as before, instead of Major-General N.I. Kiryukhina was entered by Lieutenant-General MS Khozin. It was strengthened by six rifle divisions, units and subunits of various types of troops. In addition, now the right-flank formations of the 29 Army were involved in the offensive.
The 6 and 5 tank and 2 guards cavalry corps entered the mobile front group. The 6 tank corps, which was led by Colonel I.I. Yuschuk, managed to get a 101 tank, of which KV - 7 and T-34 - 67. It was planned to enter into battle for a joint defense with the rifle divisions and subsequent penetration into its depth between the Big and Small Kropotovoes. Following him, the 2 Guards Cavalry Corps, weakened in previous battles, was to be advanced. The 5 tank corps of Major General K.A. Semenchenko (160 tanks, including KV - 21, T-34 - 46) was to develop an attack on the Sychevka.
Having drawn conclusions from the unsuccessful experience of breaking through enemy defenses in the first phase of the operation, the command of the Western Front reduced the range of advance of infantry divisions to 1-1,5 km and brought the density of guns and mortars to 130 units per 1 km of the breakthrough segment. Prior to the commencement of artillery preparation, reconnaissance was carried out in combat by the forces of assault groups and detachments in order to destroy the enemy firing points. However, she did not justify the hopes placed on her, as did the subsequent artillery raids. Their effectiveness against well-supported strongholds was low.
The second phase of the attack on Vazuz began on December 11. But the lack of surprise of a second strike in conditions when the combat capability of the troops was weakened due to the failure of the first offensive did not allow for success. Rifle and tank formations and units were involved in battles for fortified settlements, and acted in dispersed directions, solving individual tactical tasks. All this led to great losses in people and technology. Already on the third day of the offensive, the command of the Western Front was forced to combine the remaining tanks of the 5 and 6 of the tank corps into two consolidated brigades. But by December 20 and they were left without military vehicles.
Obelisk in honor of the liberation of Rzhev from the Nazi invaders. Mound of Glory, the city of Rzhev, Tver region. Architects A. Usachev and T. Shulgina, sculptors V. Mukhin, V. Fedchenko and I. Chumak. Opened 1 August 1963
Having liberated territory in 11 km in width and 6 km in depth, the 20 Army never completed the task. Moreover, her losses were 57 524 people, of which 13 929 killed and 1596 missing. The 2 Guards Cavalry Corps lost 6617 people (killed, wounded and missing), the 6 Tank Corps - two regular tank squadrons, the 5 Tank Corps - almost all combat equipment in just three days of fighting. And, in general, the losses of the Kalininsky and Western fronts in the "Mars" operation amounted to more than 215 thousand people, including 70 400 - irrevocably, as well as the 1363 tank. The positive results of the operation can only be attributed to the fact that the Soviet troops involved in it attracted considerable enemy forces, depriving the German command of the freedom of maneuver with reserves that were necessary for him to strengthen his grouping, which caused an unblocking attack on the Stalingrad direction in December.