The heroic defense of Sevastopol for 250 days, from October 30, 1941 to July 2, 1942, is well known and described in detail. At the same time, the three tragic last days of defense are bypassed, when the command cowardly fled from the besieged city and threw tens of thousands of their fighters at the mercy of the Germans.
One can only be proud of the courage of the defenders of Sevastopol, who have fulfilled their duty to the end, but what was done to them in the last days of the defense cannot have any justification. In the early 70s, I had to face a fact that shocked me. An excursion to Sevastopol was organized for us, we drove to Sapun-Gora, a group of people stood on the site, one of them with orders on his jacket, there were few of them, then the veterans wore only military orders, they did not just cry, but wept. We approached and asked what happened. They explained to us that he was the defender of Sevastopol, remembered how they were abandoned on the Chersonesos peninsula and the Germans, defenseless, simply finished off them. We were young, raised to believe in our army and could not imagine that this could happen. Years later, the real picture of those tragic days is revealed and these facts are confirmed.
Siege of Sevastopol and defense in 1941
Before the fall of Odessa, there were practically no land units in Sevastopol, the city was defended by the forces of the Black Sea Marine Corps fleet, coastal batteries and retreating units of scattered Soviet troops.
In connection with the complication of the situation on the Southern Front and the breakthrough of the Soviet defense at Perekop at the end of September, the Headquarters on September 31 decided to evacuate the Primorsky Army from Odessa to Sevastopol to strengthen the defense of the Crimea. Part of the troops of the Primorsky Army took part in the defense of Perekop along with the 51st Army, but after the breakthrough of the front by the 20th Army of Manstein on October 11, Manstein's 51th Army retreated to Sevastopol and became part of the Sevastopol defensive region, and the 16st Army was defeated and left Kerch on November 16. With the transfer of the Primorsky Army on October 50, the garrison of Sevastopol increased and numbered about 55-30 thousand people, it remained in the Crimea the only territory not occupied by the Germans, and Manstein concentrated all his efforts on taking this last line. German troops, pursuing the retreating Soviet troops, reached the distant approaches to Sevastopol and on October XNUMX they began the first assault on the city.
The city was turned into a fortress, from land the defense relied on a series of large artillery forts, such as "Stalin", BB-30, BB-35, in which large-caliber artillery mounts were installed, removed from active and sunken ships, concreted and connected by underground passages.
The Wehrmacht also stole here a lot of large-caliber artillery, including super-heavy 420 mm and 600 mm guns. Manstein ordered the secret delivery of a super-heavy 807-mm Dora gun from Germany, whose fire was directed against forts and underground ammunition depots with shells weighing seven tons, but the effectiveness of the gun was not as high as expected. Manstein later wrote:
"In general, in World War II, the Germans never achieved such a massive use of artillery."
During the first assault, the Wehrmacht tried to capture the city on the move, by November 10, Sevastopol was completely surrounded from land, the Germans managed to penetrate only slightly into the defense zone and by November 21 the assault was suspended.
The second assault began on December 17, but after the landing of the Soviet troops in Feodosia, the German command was forced to transfer part of the troops to the Kerch Peninsula, the assault was choked, and the offensive was stopped by December 30.
Third assault in June 1942
The third and final assault began on June 7, after Manstein defeated the Crimean Front and the remnants of the three Soviet armies in panic were evacuated from Kerch to the Taman Peninsula on May 20. This defeat allowed Manstein to gather all the forces of the 11th Army for the assault on Sevastopol.
Sevastopol had a well-fortified defense, but there was a serious flaw in it, ammunition could only be delivered by sea. Manstein decided to blockade the city from the sea, throwing an armada at it aviation - 1060 aircraft (the defenders had only 160 aircraft based mainly on the Caucasian airfields) and deployed patrol boats overland. The blockade was ensured, the Germans virtually cut all sea communications, depriving Sevastopol of the delivery of ammunition.
In May 1942, the situation in Crimea was catastrophic, the commander of the North Caucasian Front, Budyonny, on May 28, sent a directive to the leadership of the city's defense:
“I order to warn the entire commanding, commanding, Red Army and Red Navy personnel that Sevastopol must be held at any cost. There will be no crossing to the Caucasian coast ... "
The heroically fighting troops with a shortage of ammunition could not resist for a long time, since June 17, the Germans achieved a turning point, reached Sapun Mountain and captured a number of key forts, including Stalin and BB-30.
By June 23, the outer ring of defense was broken, the Germans reached the Northern Bay and blocked the supply of ammunition across the bay with artillery fire. The inner ring of defense with powerful engineering fortifications was still preserved, it was not so easy to overcome them. At 2 am on June 29, Manstein organized a daring landing of troops on the southern side of the Northern Bay, which took root there, and this fundamentally changed the course of the battle. On this day, the Germans took the village of Inkerman and Sapun-gora, installed artillery there and were able to shell the entire city, and on June 30, Malakhov Kurgan fell. The position of the defenders of Sevastopol became critical, almost all the ammunition was used up, and the blockade at sea did not allow them to be delivered.
Nevertheless, the troops fought bravely and fiercely, knowing from Budyonny's order that there would be no evacuation from Sevastopol. Many defenders later stated that it was quite possible to repel the third assault, everything depended on the support of the fleet and the delivery of ammunition.
Indeed, the Germans used their last reserves and suffered tangible losses. One of the defenders of the city later recalled, when they were driven as prisoners, that the Germans laughed: “You had to hold out for two more days. We have already been given the order: two days of assault, and then, if it does not work out, make the same siege as in Leningrad! " Manstein also wrote in his memoirs that "it was impossible not to admit that even if the enemy's reserves were mostly spent, then the striking force of the German regiments was running out ..."
The heavy defeats of the Soviet troops in the spring of 1942 near Kharkov, in the Crimea and the beginning of the German offensive in the Caucasus, Stalingrad and Voronezh demanded, in order to contain the German offensive, to defend Sevastopol to the last, besides, the Maritime Army at that time was one of the best battle-hardened units of the Red Army and it was necessary to preserve it by all means. But everything turned out differently.
Flight of command
On the evening of June 29, the commander of the defense, Admiral Oktyabrsky, moved the command post to the 35th coastal battery. By the morning of June 30, in the areas of Streletskaya, Kamyshovaya and Kazachya bays, the bulk of the troops and artillery were concentrated, already practically without ammunition. By the end of the day, at the cost of heavy losses, the enemy reached the eastern outskirts of Sevastopol and captured the main approaches to the city.
Instead of organizing the defense of the Chersonesus peninsula, where the retreating troops were flocking, Oktyabrsky at 9.00:30 on June XNUMX sent a telegram to Budyonny and the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy Kuznetsov:
"The enemy broke through from the North side ... I ask you to allow me on the night of June 30 to July 1 to take out by air 200-500 people of responsible workers, commanders to the Caucasus, and also, if possible, leave Sevastopol myself, leaving General Petrov here."
Kuznetsov at 16.00 on June 30 sent a telegram:
"Evacuation of responsible employees and your departure are permitted ..."
It is difficult to understand the logic of the admiral. A sailor from the age of 16, he knew perfectly well that the captain was the last to leave the ship and, nevertheless, took such a shameful step, hiding behind the evacuation of the army commanders. Later, he justified his actions with the desire to save the fleet and command, while he lost the army and gave tens of thousands of unarmed defenders of the city to the Germans to be torn apart.
Admiral Oktyabrsky, having received Kuznetsov's telegram, convened a meeting and said that General Petrov was also evacuated, and General Novikov would lead the defense. This decision further aggravated the situation, General Petrov knew the situation better than anyone else, the army believed him: knowing that "Petrov is with us", the soldiers felt more confident.
This was followed by even more monstrous orders, all senior officers of the army and navy, up to the major, had to leave their units and concentrate in the area of 35 BB for evacuation. The troops were left without control and without commanders, who for nine months successfully organized the defense of the city and held back the enemy.
The flight of such a mass of commanders had a strong demoralizing effect on everyone, led to a complete collapse of the city's defense, caused panic and chaos in management. Defense participant Piskunov then said to the admiral:
“We all had a common mood that we were surrendered. We could fight and fight. Many cried out of resentment and bitterness. "
The army lost its combat effectiveness and during July 1 rolled back to the 35 BB area, and the Germans followed it to the battery itself.
The troops could still hold on, gradually withdraw and evacuate in an orderly manner. The rescue of the army required the efforts of not only Oktyabrsky, but also of the Headquarters to transfer aviation for several days to support the fleet capable of evacuating. None of this was done.
The order to General Novikov read: "To fight to the last, and whoever remains alive must break through the mountains to the partisans." The remnants of the troops were to complete the last combat mission - to cover the command evacuation area. Those left without ammunition were expected to be defeated, killed or captured.
In the area of 35 BB and the airfield, thousands of unorganized soldiers, sailors and civilians accumulated, and the wounded were brought here. There was noise and shouts, everyone was waiting for the evacuation. Inside, 35 BB was overflowing with army and navy commanders.
At berth 35BB, on the shores of Kazachya, Kamyshovaya and Krugla bays, everyone was waiting with hope for the "squadron" (this was the most popular word among this mass of the doomed), waiting for ships to come up and evacuate them. They could not believe that there would be no more help, it did not fit in their minds that they had been left to their own devices. Among them were also soldiers of the Primorsky Army, who were evacuated in an organized manner from Odessa in October 1941.
The evacuation of the Primorsky Army from encircled Odessa was an example of a carefully prepared and carried out operation on October 15 from 19.00 to 05.00 with practically no losses. The retreat of the army was covered by rearguard battalions, reinforced with artillery. Before the withdrawal, a blow was struck at the enemy by army artillery, armored trains and ships of the fleet with an imitation of an offensive. The troops, according to the plan, left the positions and loaded with heavy weapons on the pre-scheduled ships. After loading, the ships left the port and went to sea. The rearguard battalions departed according to the schedule to the port and were delivered to ships on longboats.
For the evacuation, a whole squadron (more than 80 ships for various purposes) was involved, the Black Sea Fleet warships and 40 fighters covered the withdrawal. During the transition, only one transport was sunk, on which 16 people died. 4 divisions were evacuated with full equipment, 38 thousand people, 570 guns, 938 vehicles, 34 tank and 22 aircraft and 20 thousand tons of ammunition.
In Sevastopol, none of this was planned, the army was thrown at the mercy of the enemy. The evacuation of the command officially began on June 30 at 21.00. The evacuation plan by aircraft, submarines and patrol boats was designed for speed of execution and secrecy, but the spontaneity of the mass of soldiers who had accumulated on the bridgehead, indignant and indignant with the flight of the command, was not taken into account.
At about one in the morning, Oktyabrsky, together with the headquarters, through the underground passage, accompanied by a group of machine gunners, went to the airfield. Lieutenant Voronov, a witness to the evacuation of Oktyabrsky, later wrote that the admiral arrived at the plane, dressed in some kind of civilian rags, "in a shabby jacket and an unprepossessing cap." After the war, Oktyabrsky made excuses that the "special officers" seemed to have thrown a civil cloak over him, since the German agents were hunting him. Such a spectacle made a depressing impression on everyone, when the plane took off, after it bursts of machine gun fire were heard, so the soldiers saw off their commander. In total, 232 people were taken out by air that night.
At about 1.30, General Petrov, the headquarters of the Primorsky Army and the highest command personnel along the 35BB underground passage went to the harbor pier, guarded by machine gunners from the multitude of unorganized military and civilians who had accumulated near the pier. In a small tug, they were transferred to two submarines in the roadstead of the pier and went to sea.
The tragedy of the last days of defense
The remnants of the troops fought on their own to contain the enemy and left the city at night, poured together with the civilians into the general stream to the bays and the Chersonesus peninsula in the hope of evacuating. By the morning of July 1, a mass of people took refuge in various places of the Chersonesus peninsula under rocks, in shelters and dugouts, since the entire peninsula was constantly under fire from enemy machine guns and artillery and was subjected to air strikes.
General Novikov's attempts to organize the defense turned out to be of little use due to the lack of communication, uncontrollability of units and groups, complete confusion and the desire of everyone to evacuate, although he had about 7-8 thousand combat personnel at his disposal. By the end of the day, the Germans approached 35BB at a distance of about a kilometer, Novikov managed to keep weapon organize a counterattack. According to the recollections of a counterattack participant, "the crowd of attackers, gray, burnt out, almost completely whitening with bandages, something roaring mass produced such a terrible impression that the German companies, which were pretty exhausted during the day, fled." During the attack, Novikov was wounded in the arm, the fighters advanced one and a half kilometers, fizzled out and returned to the shore waiting for the "squadron".
On the same night, the remnants of the border guard regiment, surrounded by Cape Fiolent, tried to break through to 35 BB, but the attack was unsuccessful and the surviving groups took refuge under the coast and fought for about twenty days.
The evacuation of about two thousand senior commanders was planned only from the roadstead berth 35BB, where a cantilever-type berth covered with logs was built with a length of about 70 meters. The commanders were on the territory of 35BB, lists were drawn up and everything was painted for specific boats that were to come to Sevastopol. By the night of July 2, the number of people in the coastal area at berth 35BB was, according to eyewitnesses, more than 10 thousand people.
Instead of the promised four minesweepers, only two and ten patrol boats arrived. The wounded General Novikov, without a tunic and shirt, and the accompanying officers went to the pier, the whole road to it was packed with people, almost everyone was lying on the pier. The escorting security officer began to say: "Let the wounded general in!" and the whole group quietly passed the pier and crossed the walkways to a large stone.
Boats began to approach the pier, the crowd rushed to the pier, swept away the submachine gunners and quickly rushed around the pier. Under her pressure, the wounded and the first rows on the pier were thrown into the water, then the section of the pier collapsed along with people. Part of the crowd rushed along the suspension bridge to the cliff where General Novikov's group was. To contain the crowd, the guards opened warning fire, and then to defeat ...
At about 01.15 am, 35BB was blown up, the explosion was not warned, and some of the officers who were on the territory of the battery died or were badly burned.
At two o'clock in the morning, the boat with Novikov went to sea, the rest of the boats went at low speed at the roadstead pier and took people from the water. Only about 600 people were taken to Novorossiysk on boats, and most of the senior officers removed from the front on June 30 for evacuation were unwittingly abandoned and most of them died or were captured.
Separate groups of fighters that night tried to escape on found fishing boats, lifeboats, on rafts from cameras covered with sides of cars and on other improvised means. Some of them managed to get to the Caucasian shores.
Not all boats reached Novorossiysk, at dawn off the coast of Yalta the boat, where Novikov was, was attacked by four enemy boats and shot at point-blank range. The survivors, including Novikov, were taken prisoner and taken to Simferopol, later he died in 1944 in a German concentration camp. On another boat, the engine stalled and he had to go to the shore in the Alushta region, where they encountered a Tatar self-defense detachment. Many died in the battle, the Tatars began to shoot the wounded, and only the intervention of the Italian soldiers who arrived in time saved them from reprisals.
By the morning of July 2, tens of thousands of heroic defenders of Sevastopol, including about 30 thousand wounded, were left without ammunition, food and fresh water on the shores of the Khersones Peninsula, Kamyshovaya and Cossack bays and in other places. The entire coast was quickly occupied by the enemy, with the exception of a strip of 500-600 meters, and then a bloody meat grinder began: the Germans mercilessly destroyed the exhausted and emaciated fighters, and took prisoners who were able to move.
In the city itself, unorganized resistance continued, but the defenders were deliberately doomed to death or captivity. The last captured defenders, accompanied by a detachment of Tatar self-defense, were driven to Bakhchisarai. At Cape Fiolent, the Tatars began to break through their heads with clubs for the weakened prisoners, an Italian unit standing nearby intervened, promising to shoot the Tatars for such a reprisal. This is about the "injustice" of the expulsion of the Tatars from the Crimea in 1944.
Their tests did not stop there, in the camps on the territory of Crimea they continued to be brutally killed, several thousand prisoners of war were loaded onto barges and set on fire in the open sea, more than 15 thousand prisoners of war were killed in total.
During the evacuation from June 30 to July 2, 1726 people were evacuated from Sevastopol by all types of vehicles (aircraft, submarines, boats). These are mainly the commanding staff, the wounded and some responsible city officials.
According to archival data, as of June 1, the total number of troops in Sevastopol was 130125 people, on June 10, 32275 people were irrecoverable and 17 wounded, evacuated before June 894, that is, 28 soldiers were thrown in Sevastopol, of which only 79 people were rescued. The Germans lost 956 thousand people during the third assault.
Thus ended the heroic defense of Sevastopol. Despite the unparalleled courage of the defenders of the city, he was surrendered, and the command did not have the willpower to stand to the end with their fighters and to press the front command and Headquarters to take measures to evacuate the dying army.