Army General K.K. Rokossovsky examines the German heavy tank Pz.Kpfw. VI "Tiger", shot down by the gunners of the 307 Division under the Ponyri in July 1943.
The headquarters set the task for the right wing of the TF - 48, 13 and 70 armies, with the support of the 2 tank and 16 air armies, to eliminate the enemy troops that had entered their defenses, and then advance in the general direction on Kromy , further to the north-west, to cover the German Orlov group from the south and south-west. The most important tool of the offensive forces of the Central Fleet was a powerful artillery grouping, which numbered about 7 thousand guns. In the offensive zone of the 13 Army, under the command of Nikolai Pukhov, a breakthrough artillery corps was located, and the 2 Panzer Army (3 and 16 tank corps, on 14 July 1943 of the year - 348 tanks) would be the echelon of the army's success.
On the morning of July 15, artillery preparation began. The morning was rainy, there was heavy rain, so the actions of the Soviet aviation were limited. But, despite the powerful artillery preparation, it was not possible to immediately break through the German defense. The model has already begun to transfer the mobile units of the 9th Army to other sectors of the front, but the remaining German troops were enough to maintain the stability of the defense. The 505th battalion of heavy tanks remained in this direction (as of July 14 - 20 Tigers). Until July 18, there were no significant successes, the Soviet troops suffered heavy losses, trying to break through the German defensive order. However, the offensive of the Central Front forces forced Model to decide on the withdrawal of the 9th Army's forces to the starting positions from which the Wehrmacht began Operation Citadel, where the old defensive fortifications could be used. The withdrawal of troops shortened the front line, facilitating its defense, and freed four divisions for reserve. The departure was systematic, from one intermediate line to another.
German tanks PzKpfw V "Panther" in the area of Orel.
The lack of rapid advancement in the offensive zone of the 13 Army forced the command of the Central Front on July 17 to regroup the 2 tank army and transfer it to the offensive zone of the 70 Army. Army Homeland received an order to attack Kromy, the most important transportation hub in the rear of the German 9. Since July 19, the 70 Army was advancing on Kromy. The 2 Tank Army was about to be forced into the breach of the German defense, which the infantry of the 70 Army would breach with the support of the 19 Tank Corps. July 20 launched the 19 tank corps, which at that moment had 74 machines. During the first day of the battle, the corps lost almost half of its composition - the 34 tank.
The 2-th tank army was concentrated in the 70-th army band on July 19 and expected the success of the 70-th army. The entry of the tank army into battle was postponed until July 22. This delay had a negative effect. German intelligence discovered a cluster of tanks and motorized infantry. On July 21 and on the night of July 22, the German command pulled reserves into the defense zone of the 46 tank corps. The defensive orders of the German infantry divisions on the outskirts of Kroma were reinforced by the 4 Panzer Division. By July 20 The 4 Tank Division had an 73 tank. Also, the 505 battalion of heavy tanks was transferred to this area. As a result, when the Soviet 4-I tank army launched an attack, it was met by strong anti-tank defenses, including minefields and strong counterattacks by German tanks. During the day, the Homeland army advanced only 2-4 km, losing 109 machines. The losses were so significant that in the evening the front command issued an order to withdraw the troops to their initial positions. The offensive of the 13 th, 70 th armies and the 2 th tank army was halted.
July 25 The 70 Army resumed its offensive. She did not have much success. But its attacks exhausted German defenses. In order to strengthen the offensive potential of the Central Front, the 3 Guards Tank Army Rybalko, which had previously been part of the Bryansk Front, was given to him. The tank army has already suffered heavy losses in battles on the approaches to Orel, but still retained its strike potential. In its composition of July 28 was about 350 tanks and 27 SAU. Rokossovsky, after the 13-i and 70-i army failed, having met a strong German defense on their front areas, decided to use Rybalko’s army in the 48-th army band. In 14.00 28 July 3-I Guards Tank Army launched an offensive. But she could not achieve decisive success. For three days, the unsuccessful attacks of the 48 Army and the 3 Guards Tank Army continued. In the evening of July 30, the command of the Central Front halted the offensive on its right flank.
The headquarters of the 3 Guards Tank Army named the main reason for the failure of the offensive - the small number of motorized infantry and the lack of artillery to support rifle units. As a result, tank units suffered heavy losses from enemy artillery. And having seized a certain line, they could not keep him because of the small number of their infantry. The front command decided to send Rybalko’s army to the area south of Krom.
Rokossovsky again decided to throw into the battle 2 th tank army, by 1 in August 1943, it consisted of 222 tanks. Army Homeland and subordinated 9-i tank corps (about 100 tanks). The defense of the German 46 tank corps was already very weak by this point: he had 35 tanks (4-I tank division), 19 SAU, and only 4 Tiger. They suffered heavy losses and infantry divisions.
1 August Soviet troops again launched an offensive. Despite the heavy losses in armored vehicles, the new strike of the Central Front was successful. Soviet troops penetrated into the defensive orders of the 46 tank corps, the Germans suffered significant losses. August 2 1943 killed the commander of the 46 tank corps Hans Zorn as a result of an air strike. The defense system of the Oryol arc was in a crisis situation. 9-I German army did not have the reserves to stabilize the situation, so the German command threw aircraft at the reflection of the Soviet offensive. The Krom district has become a priority for the Luftwaffe. The German Air Force struck a successful blow to the command post of the 9 tank corps, destroying its long-range radio communications. Soviet tank formations suffered heavy losses from the effects of German aviation and anti-tank defense. By 4 August, 2 vehicles remained in the 87 tank army, and 9 tanks remained in the 60 tank corps. However, the Soviet tankmen 4 August went on the highway Kromy - Dmitrovsk - Orlovsky, and units of the 9-second tank corps seized a bridgehead on the river Krom.
"Ferdinand", captured in good condition with the crew of the soldiers of the 129 th Infantry Division.
While 2-I tank army and 9-I tank corps rushed to Kromy, in the rear of the command of the Central Front was preparing another tank ram. Army Rybalko received a replenishment of the 100 new T-34 tanks. 4 August 3-I Guards Tank Army consisted of 278 tanks and 42 ACS. True, the army had two tank and one mechanized corps, and its staffing was only about 40% of the state. However, around 300 combat vehicles was a serious force that could be thrown into battle. Rybalko's army was sent to the same area where tankmen of the 2 tank army fought. 2-3 August, the Guards Army was preparing for battle.
4 August Guardsmen entered the battle. In the evening, the army reached the line of the Krom River. The river became an important defensive line of the 9 of the German army. The Crom River was small, but with a wide flood plain. In addition, there were heavy rains, sharply worsening the possibilities of transporting armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Under Kromy, the German command redeployed the 383 Infantry Division. The tankers of the Rybalko army spent the evening and night in demining the fords and trying to force the river. However, success was achieved only in the area of the bridgehead near the village of Glinka, which captured the 9 tank corps. Here 6-th Guards Tank Corps was shipped. 7-th Guards Tank Corps and 7-th Guards Mechanized Corps did not have success in forcing the river, so they also began to forward to the bridgehead.
26 July 1943. The 12 tank Corps was renamed the 6 Guards Tank Corps for its distinction in combat operations during the Oryol operation. Accordingly, the 15 th tank corps of the 26 army of July converted the 7 th Guards Tank Corps and the 2 th mechanized corps into the 7 Th guards mechanized corps.
Exempt Art. Eagle-commodity. August 1943
The German command, trying to get rid of the Soviet bridgehead, August 5 organized a counter attack 383 infantry division, with the support of the remaining "Tigers". A new reinforcement, the 6 Infantry Division, was also transferred to Kromy. The 3 air force flew its attack on the orders of the 6 th Guards Tank Army. But the Germans failed to knock out the Soviet tankers from the bridgehead. The bridgehead was constantly growing, although it cost the Soviet troops heavy losses. The army for three days of fighting lost more than a hundred tanks and self-propelled guns. At this time, Kromy themselves were assaulted by the arrows of the 13 Army, the city was completely liberated on August 6.
The command of the Central Front, in the last attempt to go to the rear of the German forces retreating from Orel, gave the order of Rybalko’s army to advance on Shablykino. This settlement was an important junction of roads, and its capture seriously complicated the withdrawal of German troops to the Hagen line. The German command took this threat seriously, and the Model sent an 12 Tank Division to the area east of Shablykina.
On August 9-10, the battle of reserves collected by the Model and the 3-th Guards Tank Army took place near the village of Soskovo. Here, the Germans created one of the intermediate defensive lines for organized retreat to the Hagen line. The terrain was carved by ravines and small rivers, the Germans blocked the most convenient way for tanks with an anti-tank moat and minefields. At this point in the Guards Army remained about 130 combat tanks. In addition, the artillery of the 13 Army experienced difficulties with the supply of ammunition and could not provide substantial support to the tank crews.
9 August the Germans fought off the first attacks on Soskovo. Rybalko gathered the remaining cars into a shock fist and decided to go around the village from the north, going to the rear of the German troops. At night, the sappers removed mines in the direction planned for the offensive. 10 August Soviet tanks launched an offensive. They broke through 2-3 km into the depths of the German defense. But the Germans cut off the infantry from the tank group and threw 12 tank division and 505 battalion of heavy tanks against the Soviet tanks that had broken through. The whole day was a fight. Rybalko's army suffered heavy losses (more than 60 machines), without having achieved a decisive result. 3-th Guards Tank Army, which has lost its shock potential, was taken to the rear, and then transferred to the Reserve Stakes.
On the offensive of the Central Front, the 65 Army, commanded by Pavel Batov, also took over. 65-I army occupied the defense since the spring of 1943, and almost did not participate in the defensive operation of the Battle of Kursk. The Batov Army was in a secondary sector, so its strike potential was weak - it had only one separate tank regiment (19 KV) at its disposal. In addition, German intelligence discovered the preparations of the 65 Army for the offensive. On August 7, the army broke through the German defense and soon released Dmitrovsk-Orlovsky, but that was the end of its successes.
Tank PzKpfw IV Ausf N, undermined by German troops during the retreat. Suburbs Eagle.
At the final stage of the struggle for Orlovsky bulge fierce fighting turned around for the city of Karachev, which covered the approaches to the city of Bryansk. The battle for Karachev began on August 12. An important role in the attack on Karachev here was played by engineering units, which restored and cleared the roads destroyed by German troops during the retreat. And also repaired roads in a swampy-wooded area. By the end of August 14, Soviet troops broke through the German defenses east and northeast of Karachev and on August 15 liberated the city from the enemy. With the release of Karachev from the German troops, the Oryol offensive operation was almost completed.
Column of German prisoners of war captured in battles on Oryol direction, 1943
After 9-10 in August, the command of the Central Front brought to the reserve all mobile units that suffered significant losses in the battles. Attempts to surround and destroy parts of the 9 Army and the 2 Army Tank failed. By August 18, the German command evacuated almost the entire vast Oryol arc, retreating troops to the Hagen line.
The central front during the July 12 battles - August 18 lost 165 thousand people, including 48 thousand people died and went missing. Consequently, Konstantin Rokossovsky recognized the Kutuzov plan as erroneous. In his opinion, the troops of the Western and Central Front should have been given time to prepare converging strikes on Bryansk. In reality, the Soviet troops had to “push” the enemy out of the Oryol protrusion, to carry out heavy positional battles. True, it must be kept in mind that German intelligence revealed the regrouping of tank formations into the 70 Army’s offensive line and preparations for the Central Front’s 65 Army. Therefore, if the General Headquarters decided to deliver converging strikes from the south and north of the Oryol arc in the general direction to Bryansk, most likely the German command could take retaliatory measures and transfer reserves and troops from the dismantled attack groups that solved the tasks of the Citadel to dangerous directions.
The total losses of the Western, Bryansk and Central fronts amounted to more than 429 thousand people, including more than 112 thousand people died and went missing. More than 2,5, thousand tanks and SPGs, about 900 guns and mortars, over 1 thousand planes were lost. The 2-I tank and 9-I armies in the period from July 10 to August 20 1943 lost more than 88 thousand people (according to German data).
However, in general, the operation "Kutuzov" must be recognized as successful. July 29 Bolkhov was liberated from the German troops, and by the morning of August 5 - the Eagle. 18 August Soviet troops reached the German defensive line "Hagen" east of Bryansk. With the large defeat of the army of the Army Group Center near Orel, the plans of the German command to use Oryol ledge to carry out an offensive operation in the eastern direction collapsed. Operation Kutuzov, and then the Rumyantsevs in the Belgorod-Kharkov sector, gradually developed into a general offensive of the Red Army to the west, liberating vast Soviet territories from the German occupation.
The 1943 summer campaign of the year was a turning point in the war on the Eastern Front. Due to the failure of the operation "Citadel", large losses in manpower and equipment, the Wehrmacht lost the strategic initiative forever and could no longer gather such significant forces for an offensive. Now the German army had to defend, yielding one by one to the territory, suffering defeats and earning only private successes that could not change the outcome of the war.
Soviet soldier with a banner in the liberated city of Orel (Eagle is free!).