The attacks of the South-Western and Southern fronts on the flanks of the Donbass grouping of Army Group South were launched at different times. The troops of the Southern Front were to go on the offensive two days after the offensive of the forces of the Southwestern Front. The armies of the Southern Front were to break through Mius-Front, defeat the forces of the 6 Army and reach the center of Donbass, where they planned to work together with the forces of the South-Western Front.
The main attack at the site in 25 km in the area of Dmitrievka, Kuibyshevo was inflicted by the forces of three armies: the 5 th shock under the command of Vyacheslav Tsvetaev, the 2 th Guards Georgiy Zakharov and the 28 th army of Vasily Gerasimenko. On the flanks of the breakthrough defended the 51-I army of Jacob Kreyzer and the 44-I army of Vasily Khomenko. They were entrusted with the task of constraining the forces of the enemy with their actions in front of their sectors of the front. In the echelon of the development of the success of the front were the 4-th Guards Mechanized, 4-th Guards Cavalry Corps and three rifle divisions.
- The 5th shock army under the command of Tsvetaev conducted an offensive on its left flank in the section of the Dmitriyevka-Kuibyshevskoye front (5 km north of Kuibyshev). The blow was inflicted on a plot of 10 km in the direction of Kuteynikovo. On the fifth day of the offensive, army troops were to break through to a depth of 55-60 km, on the line of Kuteynikovo. The army consisted of 9 rifle divisions, a separate tank brigade, anti-tank artillery brigade and engineering brigade. The army had about 100 tanks, about 1300 guns and mortars. In the first echelon, 4 divisions advanced, in the second, 2 divisions from the 31st Rifle and 3rd Guards Rifle Corps. The advancing divisions of the first echelon were assigned the 7th and 60th separate guard tank regiments of the breakthrough. In addition, in the offensive zone, the army planned to bring into battle the 4th Guards Mechanized Corps, with the task of marching to Kolpakovka and Donetsk-Amvrosievka.
- The 2-I Guards Army, under the command of Zakharov, was advancing in a strip of width 9 km, south of Kuibyshevo. By the end of the fifth day of the offensive, the guards had to reach the line of the Kalmius River, creating a threat to the flank of the center of the Donbas enemy group. The army included 6 rifle divisions, 2-th Guards Mechanized Corps, tank and engineering brigades. As part of the army was a 261 tank (of which - 32 in reserve), about 800 guns and mortars. On the right flank of the army, the 1-th Guards Rifle Corps advanced: the 24-th Guards Rifle Division - in the first echelon, in the second-33-I and 86-I guards rifle divisions. On the left flank was the 13-th Guards Rifle Corps. He had 13-th and 49-th guards rifle divisions in the first line, in the second - 87-th guards rifle division.
- 28- army commanded by Gerasimenko was located on the left flank of the strike group of the Southern Front. The army of Gerasimenko was to break through the front of the enemy in the 2,5 km sector, and advance in the direction of Anastasiyevka, Fedorovka. At the second stage of the operation, the army was to reach the coast of the Azov Sea, and in cooperation with parts of the 44 Army, destroy the enemy’s Taganrog grouping. The 28 Army was equipped with 5 rifle divisions, a tank brigade, anti-tank artillery and guards mortar regiments. As part of the army were more 400 guns and mortars. In cooperation with the 28 Army, they planned to use the 4 Guards Cavalry Corps, which was to develop an offensive in the south-west direction and take part in the elimination of the enemy's Taganrog group. The battle formation of the 28 Army consisted of three echelons: in the first, the 248 Rifle Division, reinforced by a company of tanks and a mortar regiment; in the second, the 118 and 347 rifle divisions (37 rifle corps); the third is the 127 and 271 divisions. The army reserve was 33-I Guards Tank Brigade.
- 51-I army occupied the defense on the right flank of the LF on the site in 65 km. As part of the army Kreiser was 3 infantry divisions, two fortified areas, one tank brigade and more 600 guns and mortars.
- 44-I army Khomenko defended the coastal flank of the front - the line Yasinovsky - Primorka. It was the weakest army of the front, because it was "gutted" in favor of the advancing armies. In its composition to the beginning of the operation there were two rifle divisions - the 130 and 416, as well as the 1 division of the Guards fortified area. As part of the army were about 500 guns and mortars.
Air support was provided by the 8th Air Army under the command of Timofei Khryukin. It included the 270th bomber aviation division, 1st assault, 6th fighter, 2nd night bomber guard divisions, 7th assault air corps (206th and 289th assault, 236th fighter air divisions). In addition, the 9th Guards Fighter Air Division, which arrived from the Kuban, was included in the army (it included many Soviet aces - Pokryshkin, Rechkalov, Glinka, etc.). In total, the air army included 248 fighters, 244 attack aircraft, 175 day and night bombers.
The southern front launched an offensive only on its own, without having received any units from the Stakes reserve. Success achieved the maximum concentration of available forces and assets. New units began to arrive already in the course of the offensive. The 4 th Guards Cavalry Corps received the 134 Tank Regiment and the SAU Regiment (armed with SU-76). The 4 battalion of flame-throwing tanks, the 2 regiment of the SAU were also transferred to the front.
Vyacheslav Dmitrievich Tsvetaev (1893 - 1950). From December 1942 to May 1944, the commander of the 5 shock army.
German intelligence found some activity in the defense zone of the Southern Front, but in general, data that indicated the imminent Soviet offensive was not revealed. This was due to the insignificance of the moved forces. The front command relied on the same troops as in July 1943, so there was no large-scale movement of forces and assets. As a result, the 294 infantry division weakened in previous battles in the offensive zone of the 5 shock army was not replaced by a more powerful force. In addition, on the day of the commencement of the LF, 16-I tank-grenadier and 23-I tank divisions from the 6-th army were transferred 1-th tank army. The headquarters of the 6 Army, Carl-Adolf Hollidt, was confident that in its sector one should expect only auxiliary strikes of minor proportions.
The 6 Army at the time the Southern Front launched the offensive consisted of three army corps (4, 17 and 29), which united 11 divisions. The southern flank of the Mius-Front was defended by the 29 Army Corps. In the area of Taganrog 111-I Infantry Division defended. Her left neighbor was the 15-I airfield division. Airfield divisions in the Wehrmacht called the Luftwaffe divisions, in principle, these were the usual infantry divisions, they were formed from Air Force personnel after a change in the war and the emergence of an acute shortage of people in the land forces. To the north of the 15 th airfield division, the 17 th infantry division held the defense, the last part of the 29 corps was the 336 th infantry division. Then followed the divisions of the 17 Army Corps.
18 August Southern Front launched an offensive. Artillery preparation continued for 80 minutes, and began and ended with short artillery strikes on the front lines of the enemy. After the start of the attack, the infantry and tanks carried the fire to a depth of 2 km. During the night 8-I air force attacked enemy strongholds in the main line, in the morning attack planes were struck at enemy positions. With the beginning of the offensive aviation received the task of suppressing enemy artillery and mortars in the nearest depth, and then support the advancing rifle and mechanized units.
In 7 hours 15 minutes, the front troops went on the offensive. In the band of troops of the 5 shock army Tsvetaeva attack developed successfully. Intelligence provided the artillerymen with complete information about the location of the enemy’s fire weapons, and the artillery preparation violated the German system of fire at the forefront. Attack aircraft successfully operated, suppressing fire weapons and striking manpower and equipment in the depths of the enemy’s defenses. In the first half of the day, the German aviation showed no particular activity. True, in the second half of the day the Luftwaffe activated, a fierce struggle for air supremacy ensued. The 8 Air Army spent the day 19 group fights, made 919 sorties and shot down 12 enemy vehicles.
The infantry and tanks of the 5 shock army, took the front line of the enemy relatively easily and moved on. By the end of the day, Tsvetaev's army advanced to a depth of 8 kilometers, breaking through a 16 km wide front. The defense of the Wehrmacht 294 Infantry Division was almost completely destroyed. The division has practically ceased to exist. Closer to the night, the 4 Guards Mechanized Corps under the command of Trofim Tanaschishin was introduced into the breakthrough. Mekhkorpus received the task of capturing the Kolpakovka area and preventing adversary from strengthening at the turn of the Krynka River. By the morning of August 19, the corps, without encountering any special resistance from the enemy and bypassing its strongholds, completed the task. Great help tankers have pilots 2-th Guards Bomber Aviation Division. Tankers entrenched at the turn of Artyomovka - Nadezhny - Kolpakovka. Interacting with the units of the mechanized corps of the 3 Guards Rifle Division, 19 passed the 24 km by the evening of August XNUMX and reached the Krynka River.
The troops of Tsvetaev’s army, having reached the Krynka River, divided the enemy troops into two tactically isolated units. South of Kolpakovka defended part of the 336-th infantry division under the command of Lieutenant-General V. Lyuhta, 17-division, Major-General R. Zimmler, 111-division, Lieutenant-General G. Recknagel, 15-th airfield division, V. Shpanga and individual units. To the north of the Packing, were the remnants of the 294 Infantry Division, the 304, 302, and 306 Divisions.
2-I Guards Army operated less successfully. The defense of the enemy in the preparatory period was not studied enough, so the artillery preparation did not produce such an effect as the offensive zone of the 5 shock army. The army of Zakharov, leading stubborn battles with enemy troops, advanced only 1-2 km in a day, without breaking through the defenses of the German troops. The enemy's 336 Infantry Division withstood the first blow of the Soviet troops. Gerasimenko’s 28 Army, the success of which depended on the success of the neighboring Guards Army 2, also failed to overcome the enemy’s defenses. She acted by the forces of only one division of the first echelon. But she was able to capture the important stronghold of Petropolis.
German counter strike
As soon as it became clear that the Red Army was leading a full-fledged offensive in this direction, the command of the 6 th field army began to take retaliatory measures. Hollidt did not have any mobile units; on August 18 they only promised to transfer the 13 Tank Division from the Crimea. In addition, the transfer of 9-th tank and 258-th infantry divisions from Army Group Center.
The German command, not having operational reserves, began to quickly collect the reserves of the divisions standing on the passive sectors of the front, coast guard battalions, various special and rear units. The Germans gathered on the flanks of the penetrating Soviet grouping of the 5 Shock Army shock groups in order to cut off the Soviet wedge near Artyomovka - Nadezhny - Kolpakovka with decisive counter blows from north to south and from south to north.
In the southern direction, the Recnagel group was formed. As it turned 70-Grenadier Regiment 111-th Infantry Division, 55-th Grenadier Regiment 17-th division, 5 separate battalions from the 17, 111-th infantry and 15-th aviapolevoy divisions, transferred almost all the artillery 111-th Division. In the north direction organized group Picker. It consisted of a regiment of the 3 th mountain-jäger division, reinforced by artillery of the 3 th mountain-jäger division, the 304 th and 335 th infantry divisions, a company of assault guns.
By the evening of August 19, the 5 Shock Army occupied a bridgehead on the Krynka River, the villages of Krinichka and Artyomovka were captured. However, the Soviet offensive developed on a very narrow sector of the front, only 8 km. This was due to the fact that parts of the 2 Guards Army and on the second day could not penetrate the German defense. The command of the Southern Front focused on expanding the zone of breakthrough. On the night of August 20, the 2 Guards Mechanized Corps was concentrated with the task of advancing towards Ouspenskaya in order to facilitate the advance of the 2 Guards Army. The tankmen were supported by the arrows of the 3 Guards Corps, and from the air the aircraft of the 7 th Assault Aviation Division. In the afternoon of August 20, the strike force advanced to 2-4 km, suffering heavy losses. Mekhkorpus largely lost its offensive potential.
In the second half of August 20, the Germans launched a counterstrike. The offensive had good artillery support. Almost immediately they captured Semenovsky, the base of the breakthrough was narrowed down to 3 km. But the German troops failed to completely cut off the Soviet wedge. At the same time, the situation was critical. The strike force of the 5 shock army could be surrounded. At the same time a fierce battle went on in the air. 20 August 8-I Air Army made 738 sorties, losing 28 vehicles. The Germans responded with 660 sorties.
The Soviet command responded to the enemy’s counterattacks with their own counterattacks on the flanks of the enemy’s advancing groups. Two rifle divisions and a tank brigade hit the Picker group from the Kalinovka area in the direction of Semenovsky. At the same time, the tank and mechanized brigades from the 4 Guards Mechanized Corps attacked Garany. In addition, from the west, units of the 3 shock army struck the open flank of the 5 th mountain-jaeger division. On the southern flank of the Recnagel group, units of the 2 Guards' Mechanized Corps struck. By the evening of August 21, the crisis on the flanks of the 5 shock army was overcome. The Germans left Semenovsky and moved away. The 2 Guards Mechanized Corps acted less successfully, but on the southern flank towards 22 in August, Recnagel's group retreated to the line of the Krynka River. The gap in the German defense expanded to 12 km.
Continuation of the Soviet offensive and new German counterattacks
The 5 shock army got the opportunity to continue the offensive. 22 August was occupied by another springboard on the river. Krynke south of Packing. Under the shelling of the Soviet artillery, a railroad came along which the supply of the 29 Army Corps went through. The command of the 6 Army, forming attack groups on the flanks of the Soviet wedge, seriously weakened the flank divisions. The 2-I Guards and 28-I armies began to advance in the direction of the Assumption, breaking the resistance of the 336-th Infantry Division.
At this time, the 6-I army received the first reinforcement - the 13-th tank division, which was late for the first counterattack. 22 August Panzer Division was concentrated in the area south-west of Saur-Mogilsky. On August 23, units of the 13 Panzer Division launched an offensive. German tanks, supported by heavy artillery fire, initially advanced 6-7 km southward. However, the German troops were stopped and thrown back, anti-tank artillery and attack aircraft played a big role in this. German troops again could not cut the tip of the Soviet wedge and connect the torn front between the 29-m and 17-m army corps. The last German attempt to keep the front of Mius failed.
On the same day - August 23, the 4 Guards' Mechanized Corps went into the Nikolaevka and Donetsk-Amvrosievka regions. A combination of 1-th Guards Rifle Corps 2-th Guards Army, advancing forward, created a direct threat to the German troops in the area of the Assumption. As a result, the Soviet troops cut the railway from Kuteynikovo - Taganrog in two places. The Wehrmacht Taganrog grouping was now supplied only by sea and coastal roads.
The command of 6 of the German army, having made sure that the attempts of the 13 tank division to break through from the north were unsuccessful, decided to transfer it to the south, to the Anastasiyevka - Marfinsk area. This strengthened the defense of the 29 Army Corps. 25 and 26 August, the Germans inflicted two counterattacks on the Soviet troops, but without much success.
Changing the plans of the Southern Front Command
On the sixth day of the operation, as a result of fierce fighting, the strike force of the Southern Front achieved significant success. German troops suffered significant losses, and there was no hope for serious help. The German command was forced to divert significant forces to the Kharkov direction. At the same time, the offensive of the troops of the South-Western Front ran into powerful enemy defenses, which could not be penetrated. Under these conditions, the continuation of the offensive in the western direction, under conditions when the front did not have significant reserves for parrying the enemy’s counterattacks, was a risky business. A blow to the west, without interaction with the forces of the South-Western Front, did not promise success. Therefore, the command of the Southern Front decided, continuing preparations for an offensive in the western direction, to conduct a local operation to destroy the enemy’s Taganrog grouping.
On August 25-26, front-line troops regrouped. At the same time, the front forces had to conduct local operations in order to occupy the most advantageous lines for a future offensive. 5-I attack army attacked Saur-Mogilsky, Petrovsky and Svistuna. This ensured the right flank of the strike force from the enemy’s counterattacks from the north. 2-I Guards Army of the forces turned to the south, the remaining troops were involved in the defense on the river Wet Elanchik front to the west. 28-I army forces of three divisions attacked the Pervomaisky area. She also had to destroy the enemy defenses in her lane in a southerly direction. After the 28-I army will occupy the Pervomaisky area, the 44-I army should have entered the battle. She should have been part of the force to develop an offensive on the south, and the rest of the forces to capture Sambek.
4-th Guards Cavalry Corps under the command of Nikolai Kirichenko received the task 26 of August to enter the breakthrough from the Novo-Amvrosiyivka area to the morning of 27 August to go to the Novo-Haprovo area, Yekaterinovka, and then break through to the Malo-Kirsanovka and Latonovo areas. The 4 Guards Mechanized Corps was to part of the forces to capture Kuteynikovo to the west. The main forces of the corps were advancing to the south, were supposed to advance into the Pokrovo-Kireevka area, ensuring the actions of the 4 Guards Corps from the west.
The best pilots of the 9 Guards Fighter Regiment based on the results of battles in the Donbass.
To be continued ...