Already in early August, the command of the Southern and South-Western Fronts began the preparation of a new offensive operation. The target of the offensive was designated in the BET directive No. 30160 of August 6 of 1943. The southern front was supposed to strike in the general direction of Kuybyshevo-Stalino, where it was supposed to connect with the strike force of the South-Western Front (the general plan of the July operation was retained).
August 5 began an offensive operation of the Voronezh and Steppe fronts to defeat the Belgorod-Kharkov group of German armed forces. According to the plan, the Supreme Command Headquarters forces of the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts were to cut the strategic front of the enemy, go into the flank and rear of Army Group South, and then with the participation of the South-Western and Southern Fronts, break the entire southern wing of the German Eastern Front.
It must be said that the July offensive, although it led to serious losses in manpower and equipment, did not undermine the offensive potential of the Southwestern and Southern Fronts. The front was stable, so after an unsuccessful offensive, Soviet troops, returning to their original positions, evacuated the crippled Tanks. Even the small encirclements of the Soviet units were not, so the rifle formations retained their artillery.
Representatives of the Headquarters A. M. Vasilevsky, front commanders R. Ya Malinovsky, F. I. Tolbukhin, and front staffs worked on the plan of the operation. Vasilevsky suggested that the commander of the South-Western Front, Malinovsky, prepare a plan to assist the forces of the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts in the liberation of the Kharkiv region. 6 August Malinovsky sent his bids to GHQ. The South-Western Front was preparing an operation to intercept enemy communications in the Taranovka, Meref area in order to prevent the Wehrmacht from casting from the young front to the Kharkov direction. By this he was supposed to assist the forces of the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts in the liberation of the Kharkiv region. The right flank of the Southwestern Front was to strike south of the city of Zmiev in the general direction of Taranovka, then at Merefa. The High Command did not support this idea. On the same day, August 6, the Headquarters issued a directive in which the 57 Army from the South-Western Front was transferred to the Steppe Front. 57-I army received the task of attacking Kharkov from the south. The main task was the defeat of the Donbass grouping of the enemy in cooperation with the Southern Front.
8 August Vasilevsky presented a plan of action for the troops of the South-Western and Southern Fronts in the upcoming Donbass operation. 10 August Moscow approved this plan. 12 August, in connection with the successful development of the offensive forces of the Voronezh and Steppe fronts, the Supreme High Command clarified the tasks of the South-Western Front. The front struck the main blow from the line Izyum, the Mother of God in the general direction of Barvenkovo, Pavlograd. The right wing of the wwp forced Seversky Donets south of Chuguev and advancing along the Zamost, Taranovka and further south directions in cooperation with the troops of the 57 Army. Southwestern troops were to cut off the withdrawal path to the west of the Donbass Wehrmacht grouping.
The troops of the Southern Front were to advance from the line of Dmitrievka, Russkoye, through Staro-Beshevo, bypassing Stalino. The main blow was struck north of Kuybyshevo in the 10-12 km band. The breakthrough of the German front was carried out by parts of the 5 th shock, 2 th Guards and 28 th armies. On the first day of the operation, after the breakthrough of the advanced German positions, the 2 and 4 guards mechanized corps were brought into battle. Then another mobile unit of the front was introduced into the battle - the 4 Guards Kuban Cossack Cavalry Corps. Given the weaker composition of the forces of the Southern Front, he had to go on the offensive on August 16 (USP launched the offensive on August 13).
German forces. The German command continued to emphasize the retention of the Donbass region. Personally, Adolf Hitler highly appreciated the industrial significance of Donbass and considered it vital for the German Empire to keep this region. German troops quickly built additional defensive lines, primarily along rivers (Kalmius and others). Taking into account the experience of the July battles, when only the transfer of significant forces from the Kharkov direction stabilized the situation, the German command decided to more deeply separate the battle formations in the defensive divisions. More significant tactical reserves were created in units and formations.
At the same time, the beginning of the Soviet offensive on the Belgorod-Kharkov direction forced the German command to begin the transfer of divisions from the Donbass to the Kharkov region. In the period from 3 to 6 in August, the 3 Tank Division, the SS Reich and Dead Head tank divisions were transferred to the Kharkov direction from the 6 Army, and the SS Viking tank division from the 1 tank division. army. Almost at the same time, from the Mius-front to the Izyum-Barvenkovsky direction, to the northern flank of the Donbass front, they transferred the 23-th tank and 16-th motorized division. As a result, by the beginning of the Soviet Donbass operation, the Wehrmacht grouping in this area consisted of 27 divisions.
Discussion in the headquarters of the Southern Front plan offensive operations. The front commander, F. I. Tolbukhin, is sitting in the center; next to him is S. S. Biryuzov, the chief of staff, and K. A. Gurov, a member of the front's Military Council. August 1943
The offensive of the South-Western Front
The Soviet command was well aware that it would be extremely difficult to defeat the opposing enemy. The Red Army was to advance in extremely difficult conditions, forcing numerous water barriers, breaking the enemy’s resistance in an area very beneficial for the defending side. It was necessary to break through the line of defense with a huge amount of fire weapons. Therefore, in addition to individual training of personnel, special attention was paid to artillery and aviation preparation. The commander of the Southwestern Front, Malinovsky decided to start artillery preparation with a 5-minute fire attack on the enemy’s front line, then conduct methodical fire for 60 minutes to destroy the main line of defense, and just before the start of the infantry attack with the support of tanks, make a 10-minute fire attack of all available funds again along the front line. When the infantry went on the attack, the artillery carried fire into the depths of German defense.
The air support of the troops of the South-Western Front was carried out by the 17-I Air Army, and by the Southern Front - by the 8-I. During the preparation of the operation, Soviet aviation conducted reconnaissance, photographing individual elements of the German defensive system, observed the movement of enemy troops, did not allow German reconnaissance flights, and conducted separate operations, striking enemy airfields. During the artillery preparation period, aviation in small groups was supposed to strike at enemy strongholds at the leading edge, and with the beginning of the attack of the ground forces, to suppress German strongholds behind the leading edge. During the period of the operation of our troops in the depths of the German defense, aviation was assigned the task of supporting mobile units, detecting and attacking enemy reserves, and strikes against the retreating forces of the enemy.
The South-Western Front in its first echelon put four armies, in the second - two armies, a tank and a mechanized corps. R.Ya. Malinovsky focused the main efforts of the South-West Front in the center, on the Izyum-Barvenkovsky direction. Here the 6-i and 12-i army under the command of I. T. Shlyomin and A. I. Danilov should have been hit. The army had to break through the German defense in the area of Raisin - the Mother of God 32 wide kilometers. Then the 6-I and 12-I armies were to move in the direction of Barvenkovo-Pavlograd-Orekhov, trying to cut off the withdrawal of the German troops to the west. On the right wing of the southwest front attacked the 1-I Guards Army of V. I. Kuznetsov. She received the task of forcing the Seversky Donets south of Chuguev and advancing southward, breaking into enemy defenses in cooperation with the 57 Army. On the left wing of the front attacked 3-I Guards Army. Her starting point was the district Lysychansk. It was supposed to, in cooperation with the forces of the right wing of the Southern Front, break open the enemy defenses and advance along the line of Artyomovsk - Konstantinovka - Slavyanka.
The second echelon of the front solved the following tasks: 1) The 8-I Guards Army was supposed to develop a breakthrough of the 6-X and 12-i armies in the general direction to Pavlograd from the Barvenkovo-Slavyansk line; 2) The 23 Tank Tank and 1 T Guards Mechanized Corps were also introduced in the offensive zone of the 6 T and 12 Armies; 3) 46 th army planned to use, depending on the development of the situation, also in the center or on the right flank of the South-West Front.
The offensive of the troops of the Southwestern Front did not begin simultaneously. The situation that developed in the area of the Steppe Front offensive made it necessary to accelerate the beginning of the offensive of the parts of the right wing of the Southwestern Front. On August 12, the 12 Guards Army, commanded by Vasily Kuznetsov, to launch an offensive on the morning of August 1, commanded by the 13 of the Guards Army. Units of the right-flank 34 of the rifle corps were to cross the Seversky Donets, break through the enemy's defenses and take the city of Serpents by the end of 14 in August. Then the forces of Kuznetsov’s army were to develop an offensive in the south and south-west.
After an artillery bombardment, the 152-I Rifle Division of the 34 Corps was the first to cross the river. The arrows, despite the strong resistance of the enemy, overcame the water barrier and captured the first line of German trenches. On the same day, units of the 6 Infantry Division were able to force the river. Fights were stubborn from the start. The German command was aware of the danger of the Soviet troops entering the area south of Kharkov and made every effort to restore the position on this sector of the front. The command of the South-Western Front strengthened Kuznetsov’s army with artillery and transferred to it a separate tank regiment of a breakthrough from the 3 Guards Army, transferring it by rail. Soviet troops, overcoming the fierce resistance of the enemy, captured several settlements and on August 18 liberated Serpents. Continuing to push the enemy, the troops of the 1 Guards Army wedged deep into 20 km by 20 August. The German command, fearing a strike on the Kharkov grouping from the south, continued to push back to the area of the offensive of the Kuznetsov army.
On August 23, the troops of the Steppe Front launched an assault on Kharkov. This led to the fact that the headquarters changed the tasks for the right wing of the South-Western Front. 1-I Guards Army now had to deliver the main attack in the general direction on Taranovka, Lozovaya, Chaplino, as well as some of the forces sent along the river to eliminate the German defense on the right bank of the Seversky Donets. This offensive was to lead to the disruption of the entire German defense system and create a threat to the Donbass enemy grouping.
On August 16, the troops of the center of the South-Western Front began an offensive. The troops of the 6 Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Ivan Shlemin, were advancing in the Kamenka area, in the northern part of the bridgehead, southeast of Izyum. There were six rifle divisions, a tank brigade, and two tank regiments in the army of Shlemin. 6-I army struck the brunt of his left wing in the direction of the Long. In the first echelon, the 26-th Guards Rifle Corps was composed of three rifle divisions. Auxiliary blow was struck by the 38-th Guards Rifle Division of the 4-th Guards Rifle Division. They attacked on the right flank of the army in the area of Izyum. In the southern part of the Izyum bridgehead, units of the 12 Army under the command of Alexei Danilov attacked. The army consisted of seven rifle divisions, a separate tank brigade and three tank regiments. The army of Danilov delivered the main blow in the south-west direction with units of the 66 Infantry Corps (3 division), which was advancing in the first echelon. In the second echelon was the 67 th infantry corps.
On August 15, both armies conducted reconnaissance in battle, singling out one reinforced battalion from each division of the first echelon. The reconnaissance battalions revealed the present location of the leading edge of the German defense, the system of disposition of the enemy’s fire weapons, and captured prisoners. On the morning of August 16, after a powerful artillery preparation and a series of airstrikes, the 6 and 12 armies launched an offensive. A fierce battle began. The Wehrmacht, relying on well-prepared defensive lines and a well-organized system of artillery and mortar fire, put up stubborn resistance. German engineers in this area, in the areas of settlements Kamenka, Bogorodichnoe, Khrestische, and others, created a very powerful defense system. The counterattacks of German infantry and tanks followed one after another. However, the Soviet troops, breaking the resistance of the enemy, slowly nibbled into his defensive orders. Both sides suffered heavy losses. Hot fighting broke out on the outskirts of the Dolgenskaya and at the base of the Peak. Violent fights took place in the sky. German aircraft bombed the advancing Soviet troops. 17-I air army under the command of Vladimir Sudets only on this day made 1338 sorties. Soviet pilots shot down 25 enemy aircraft.
By the end of the first day, the 6-i and 12-i armies advanced by 2,5 – 3,5 km. Heavy fighting continued on August 17. Some areas changed hands several times. The Germans counterattacked large forces - 1-2 infantry regiment, with the support of armored units. The Luftwaffe attacked the orders of the Soviet troops in large groups - up to 50-100 aircraft. Heavy fighting in the Izyum direction continued in the following days.
On August 22, the front command brought the 8 th Guards Army under Vasily Chuikov into battle, and the 23 Tank and 1 Guards Mechanized Corps were subordinate to it. Early in the morning, after the 20-minute artillery preparation, the first echelon of the Chuikov army — three rifle divisions, reinforced by a separate tank brigade, two tank regiments and one SAU regiment — went on the offensive. In the second echelon there were two rifle divisions, another was in the reserve of the army. The Germans continued to show fierce resistance, for the day 8-I Guards army repulsed six counterattacks and advanced on 6 km. At this time, the Kharkov group of the Wehrmacht retreated to the south-west in the region of Poltava. The German command, in order to avoid flank attacks on the retreating troops, took all measures to maintain positions in the Poltava and Barvenkovka areas. Regardless of the losses, at the cost of tremendous efforts, the German troops were able to hold out. On August 28, the Soviet command issued an order to the 6, 12 and 8 Guards armies to go on the defensive on the achieved lines.
On August 26, on the right wing of the UZF, the 46 Army under Vasily Glagolev was brought into battle. The army consisted of six rifle divisions, three separate tank regiments and one SAU regiment. The first echelon of the Glagolev army (three divisions) replaced the two right-flank divisions of the 1 Guards Army, and launched an offensive in the direction of Taranovka-Novaya Vodolaga. The army was advancing until 30 in August, advancing to 10 km. The Glagolev Army, like other units of the South-Western Front, was under tremendous pressure from the enemy forces. For 4 of the day, she repelled the opponent's 32 counterattack. At the same time, the Luftwaffe struck it hard. 30 August, by order of the command, the army went on the defensive.
The 3 units of the Guards Army under the command of Georgy Khetagurov attacked the left wing of the South-Western Front. The offensive began on 22 August. The left wing of the army, in cooperation with the troops of the 12 Army, was to smash the enemy forces in the Mayaki area, and then develop the offensive in the direction of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk. Army forces forced the Seversky Donets, overcame the engineering barriers and fought fierce battles for the acquisition of the Mayaki-Raygorodok frontier line. Heavy fighting continued in this direction until August 27. 3-I Guards Army could not penetrate the enemy defenses and went on the defensive.
The August offensive of the YuZF troops was, in fact, a continuation of the July operation. The troops of the South-Western Front tried to use the Izum bridgehead in order to enter the communications of the Donbass enemy grouping and, in cooperation with the forces of the Southern Front, defeat the German forces opposing them. The task of assisting the troops of the Steppe Front was also solved. However, the army of the South-Western Fleet encountered the strongest resistance of the enemy, who, relying on a well-prepared defense system, saturated with fire weapons, organized a series of counterattacks supported by tanks and aircraft. As a result, the Soviet armies were not able to develop the initial success, and were forced to go on the defensive. The South-Western Front was able to expand the Izyum bridgehead during these battles and capture a new bridgehead in the Zmiev region. In addition, the south-west troops were able to forge large Wehrmacht forces in the Barvenkovo area, which seriously facilitated the offensive of the Southern Front, which was able to achieve more impressive successes by freeing the Donetsk region. The offensive of the troops of the South-Western Front facilitated the actions of the Steppe Front. In the stubborn battles, the enemy suffered heavy losses, according to the testimony of prisoners in companies, where by the beginning of the battles there were 120-150 people, 40-50 soldiers remained. 17-I tank division was defeated, it was brought into a combat group.
To be continued ...