The German command, as soon as the Soviet offensive began, began to transfer formations of the 1st Donbass tank and 6th armies. Selected SS divisions “Reich”, “Dead Head”, “Viking”, as well as the 3rd Panzer Division began to be transferred to the Kharkov region. The Soviet command could inflict significant losses on the German echelons, since the transfer of troops was carried out from south to north, often parallel to the front. One could be involved in the operation Aviation long-range and 17th Air Army of the Southwestern Front. However, the order to start the operation against the German columns was only given on August 5, and only one air corps participated in the operation. Only on August 7 did they attract more serious forces, but by this moment the German command had already transferred the main forces. The chance to delay and weaken the German mobile units was missed.
The first in the area of Kharkov arrived 3-I tank division. She received an order for the nomination of another August 2 to the Kharkiv region. 6 August The 3 Panzer Division encountered units of Rotmistrov’s 5 Guards Army in the Zolochiv area. On this day, the guardsmen successfully advanced along the Uda River, occupying the villages of Uda and Shchetinovka. German and Soviet advanced units approached Zolochev almost simultaneously. During the street fighting, the Germans won up. Commander Rotmistrov ordered to bypass the town. But the Germans had already received reinforcements, including the 503 th battalion of heavy tanks and units of the 167 Infantry Division. The fighting dragged on, the Soviet troops were able to take Zolochyov only 9 August.
The front command decided to abandon the offensive in this direction. It was decided to use the success of Katukov's 1 Tank Army, which had a wide gap in the German defense. 5-I Guards Tank Army suffered heavy losses over the period of 6-8 in August - 167 machines were lost (of which 74 were irretrievable losses). The Supreme Headquarters ordered the withdrawal of Rotmistrov’s army to the reserve and the submission of the Steppe Front.
At this time, the main forces of the Voronezh Front were advancing in the southern and south-western directions. In the Borisovka area there were stubborn battles with the semi-encircled enemy grouping. German troops in Borisovka were overrun by forces of 5-th Guards Army Alexei Zhadov and 27-th Army Sergey Trofimenko .. The Wehrmacht’s Borisov group consisted of 332-th, 255-th infantry, 19-th and 11-th divisions of the divisions. To destroy the Wehrmacht’s Borisov grouping, the commander of the Voronezh Front, Vatutin, used the forces of the 5 and 6 of the Guards armies, the 23 of the 27 army. In the rear of the German group that defended Borisovka, the 31 Tank Corps of Katukov’s army was deployed. In addition, the 13-I Guards Rifle Division entered the Golovchino area to block a possible enemy breakthrough along the highway line and the Borisovka-Grayvoron iron line.
On the night of August 7, the storming of Borisovka began from the east, southeast and south. It did not make sense for the Germans to remain in Borisovka and threatened complete destruction. In the second half of the night, attempts to break through from Borisovka began. Only 13-I Guards Rifle Division until 13.00 7 August repelled the enemy's 6 attacks, which were carried out by forces in the 1-2 battalion of 5-20 reinforced tanks. Part of the German troops broke into Grayvoron. By noon, Borisovka was freed from the Germans. In the Borisovka area, the Germans lost 5 thousand people killed, including the commander of the 19 Panzer Division, Lieutenant General Gustav Schmidt, 450 people were taken prisoner. In addition, a large number of vehicles were abandoned in Borisovka, including the Panther 35 tanks. In the village located tank repair shops. All in the area of Borisovka, Golovchina and Grayvoron, the Germans threw 75 "Panthers". In the evening of August 7, Soviet troops captured Grayvoron.
Grenadier after the fight. August 1943
The defeat of the German troops in the area Borisovka could turn into a disaster for the 4-th tank army. However, reserves began to arrive at this time. The Great Germany Division, deployed from the Oryol Arc, entered the Akhtyrka area. It became the core, around which the battered and battered divisions of other divisions began to group. August 7 units of the 27 Army clashed with "Great Germany". Soon on the same direction appeared 10-I motorized division, which was sent from the army group "Center". Not only armored formations arrived in the Kharkiv region, but infantry units taken from calm sectors of the front.
Katukov’s 1 tank armies, after Tomarovka, continued to advance, without encountering any particular resistance from the enemy troops. Her main problem these days was German aviation. In addition, the offensive outburst of tank units was constrained by the need to expect the supply of fuel and rear units. In the first half of the day 7 August the army put itself in order. In 18.00, tankers broke into Bohodukhiv. The resistance was insignificant, in the city there were only rear German units that did not expect an attack. Soviet tankers captured rich trophies. In the five days of the battle, Katukov’s army passed more than 100 km, breaking away from the infantry by 30-40 km.
On August 8, units of the 3-th mechanized corps moving to the Kharkiv-Poltava railway area faced strong enemy resistance. German troops had a strong counterattack. German prisoners reported that the SS Reich armored division was leading the battle. The 31 tank corps, which had been in reserve until that day, also encountered the Reich division. He launched an offensive on the left flank of the 3 th mechanized corps and was stopped by a strong counter-attack and anti-tank defense of the enemy. Soviet tankers were forced to go on the defensive. The 6 tank corps continued the offensive and almost reached the Kharkov-Poltava railway. On the same day, Vatutin ordered Katukov to surround and destroy the Reich division.
9-10 August, the SS Panzer Division "Dead Head" arrived in the area south of Bohodukhiv. On August 10, the SS Viking armored division began to unfold in the same area. The command of Army Group "South" completed the collection of reserves and was able to inflict a counterstrike.
The crew is trying to level the overturned tank PzKpfw III Ausf M. SS Panzer Division Das Reich.
On the morning of August 10 of the Komfort front, Vatutin received the Bids directive with the order to block Kharkov. For this 1-I tank army was to take the area Kovyagi and Valki. 5-I Guards Tank Army Rotmistrov, which was in reserve, was to go through the area of actions of the army Katukov even further - to New Vodolage and Merefe. The 57-I Army of the South-Western Front was to block the road south from Kharkov. It should be noted that by August 11 both Soviet tank armies were not in the best condition. Only 5 tanks remained in the 106 Guards Tank Army, and the army lost 254 vehicles from the start of the operation. 1-I Guards Tank Army was in the best condition - by the morning of August 12 it consisted of 268 tanks. Although it was not enough for the three corps of the army. In addition, the 5 Guards Stalingrad Tank Corps was under the operational control of Katukov’s army.
On the night of August 11, Katukov’s army was able to cut the Kharkiv-Poltava railway in two places. Soviet tankers seized the station Kovyagi. The strike of the 49 tank tank brigade was unexpected for the Germans. Capturing Kovyagu, the brigade moved on to Levandalovka station. Here the brigade was surrounded by German troops. At the same time, the 1-I Guards Tank Brigade went to Kovyagam. The 112-I tank brigade and the 6-I motorized rifle brigade cut the railroad in the Vyskopolya area.
In the afternoon of August 11, German troops launched a counter-offensive. The fighting group of the “Dead Head” division attacked Kovyagi, units of the Reich division attacked Sharovka. Another battle group of the division “Dead Head” attacked Vyskopole. As a result of a fierce battle with the 1 units of the Guards Tank Army, the Germans broke through to the line of the r. Merchik, coming out in the rear of the units that occupied Kovyagi and Vyskopole. There was a threat of a breakthrough of German troops in the rear areas of Katukov’s army, in the area of Bogodukhov. The 112 Tank Brigade suffered heavy losses and left Vyskopolie. Both Kovyagi, the 49-I tank brigade and the 1-I Guards tank brigade were withdrawn from the railroad. Motorized rifle brigade lost up to half of its composition and was surrounded in Vysokopole. On August 12, Soviet troops attempted to unlock the brigade, but to no avail.
The Soviet command was still hoping to realize its plans for surrounding Kharkov. The 5-I Guards Tank Army under the command of Rotmistrov was to join the battle. The first echelon was the 18 tank corps under the command of A. V. Egorov, and the 29 tank corps of I. F. Kirichenko, the second remained the 5 guards mechanized corps BM Skvortsova. However, 12 August 1943, the Soviet offensive bypassing Kharkov did not take place. 5-I Guards Tank Army was in the path of the German counter-attack. On the morning of August 12, the divisions “Dead Head” and “Reich” launched an offensive. They shot down the 5-th Guards Army rifle units and fought with the tank corps of Rotmistrov’s army. 5-I Guards Tank Army was in the area of Bohodukhiv very on time, although they wanted to use it for the development of the offensive. Tankers had to repel the German counteroffensive. If she were not there, the situation could turn into a very serious crisis.
13 August 5-I Guards Tank, 1-I Tank Army and 6-I Guards Army were defensive battles. The onslaught of the elite divisions of Germany was so powerful that the Soviet troops even had to retreat. Anti-tank artillery regiments took over the brunt of the attack. The German troops failed to break through to Bogodukhov on this day. On the same day, the Rotmistrov received an order to gather army forces into a fist and advance in the direction of Novaya Vodolaga. At this point, the troops of the Steppe Front reached the Kharkov defensive line on 8-11 kilometers. Mortalists decided to throw into battle 5-th Guards Mechanized Corps, the other two corps of the army remained on the defensive. On the morning of August 14, the mechanized corps forced the Merchik river, but soon received an order to go on the defensive. The deterioration of the situation forced the front command to give Rotmistrov an order to go on the defensive and not to let the enemy go to Bogodukhov. 5-th Guards Mechanized Corps became a reserve in case of a breakthrough of German troops. Rotmistrov's army suffered heavy losses in the battles of 11-20 in August, losing most of the existing armored vehicles - 85 tanks.
German gunners reflect the attack of the Soviet troops.
The Soviet command took vigorous measures to block the German counterblow. The 6-th Guards Army units, anti-tank artillery formations, and PTR were brought to the site of the fighting. 6-I Guards Army Chistyakov reached some success, coming to the railway, west of Vysokopolyya. The German command, having failed to break through to Bogodukhov from the southeast, changed the direction of the blow. Now German troops were advancing in the Vysokopolya area. The offensive of the German troops in this direction was unexpected for the Soviet command. On August 15, the Germans broke through the defenses of the 6 tank corps, and advanced to the rear of the 6 Guards Army. The troops of the 6 Guards Army were forced to withdraw to the north and go on the defensive. 16 August the Germans tried to build on success, but all their efforts ended in nothing. On the same day, a motorized rifle brigade, surrounded in Vysokopole, by order of the command, made its way to its own. The railway was again completely under the control of the enemy. By 17 August, active hostilities in the Bogodukhov direction had subsided, the front stabilized for a while. The Kempf Army Group was transformed into the 8 Army.
Anti-tank gun RAC 40 on a trailer at the RSO tractor, left after shelling under Bohodukhiv.
Fighting near Akhtyrka
Soon, fierce fighting began in the area of Akhtyrka. The counterattack of the SS divisions on the Bogodukhov direction allowed the German command to narrow the gap in the battle formations of the Amy South group. However, there was a gap between Akhtyrka and Kolomak, there was no continuous front. The junction of the 8 Army and the 4 Army Tank Army was not protected. Only in the region of Poltava were a few forces. While there were battles at Bogodukhov, the 27-I army continued the offensive. At the forefront of its offensive were the 4 and 5 of the Guards Tank Corps. By the end of August 17, there were 4 tanks in the 65 Guards Tank Corps, and a 5 machine in the 131 Guards Tank Corps.
By 18 August, the German command concentrated considerable forces in the Akhtyrka region: the Great Germany division, the 7 tank division and the 10 motorized division, the 11 division and the 19 tank division and two separate heavy tank battalions. In the German assault force there were about 16 thousand soldiers, about 400 tanks and SPG, about 260 guns. The strike fell on the 166 Rifle Division of the 27 Army, which occupied a wide 25-kilometer front. And the defensive orders of the 27 Army stretched for 150 km. The 241 Rifle Division had to be deployed at the boundary of the Merla River, from the threat of German forces breaking through during the battle of Bogodukhov. The army had no reserves to hold back the German counterstrike. It threatened disaster.
True, in the rear of the 27 army concentrated 4-I Guards Army under the command of Gregory Kulik. This army was transferred to the Voronezh Front from the Stavka reserve. The command of the Voronezh Front was aware of the danger of an enemy Akhtyr grouping strike. Vatutin planned to defeat the enemy’s tank grouping by entering into battle the 47 Army under the command of Pavel Korzun. The army of Korzun was to strike from the north in the flank and rear of the German group and, interacting with the forces of the 27 Army, surround and destroy the German troops.
In the morning of August 17, the 47 Army launched an offensive. The army of Korzun was advancing from the Boromley area in a southwesterly direction. The 47 Army Guards Mechanized Corps under the command of V. T. Obukhov and the 3 Tank Corps under the command of V. M. Alekseev acted as part of the 10 Army. The Red Army broke through the defensive orders of the 68 th and 57 th infantry divisions of the enemy on the 30 km sector and advanced on the 10-12 km in a day. The German command was forced to weaken the strike force grouping of the 24 tank corps and send units of the 19 tank division from the Akhtyrka area to the Boromli area.
However, despite the attack of the 47 Army, the German command did not abandon the counteroffensive. On the morning of August 18, the German 24 tank corps launched an offensive and broke through the defenses of the 166 rifle division. A major role in the success of the offensive was played by the German Air Force, they delivered powerful blows to the positions of the Soviet troops. Before the 10 watch, the division’s artillery repelled the attacks of the enemy, but by 11 hours the German command threw large amounts of armored vehicles into the battle - before the 200 machines, the division’s defense was broken. German troops broke through to a depth of 24 km, breaking through the front at the 7 km section. Towards the troops of the 24 tank corps struck the SS division "Dead Head". There was a threat surrounding the units of the 4 and 5 of the Guards Tank Corps, 71 and 241 of the rifle divisions.
Guards tank corps had to deploy to parry the German strike. Immediately the units of the fresh Kulik 4 th Guards Army were involved. 7-I and 8-I guards rifle divisions began to create a barrier in the way of the German troops to the rear of the Voronezh Front. The 27 tank and 1 units of the Guards tank armies were also sent to the aid of the 5 Army. Katukov’s tank army was sent to the Akhtyrka area almost in full force: the 6 tank corps, the 3 gear and the 242 tank brigade of the 31 tanks. The 1 Panzer Army for August 19 had around 140 vehicles. The 5-I Guards Tank Army sent units of the 29-Tank Corps to the Akhtyrka area.
The 47 Army continued to develop the offensive, advancing 12-20 km, and hanging over the Akhtyr group from the north. The situation on this site was critical for the Germans. However, the German command decided that it would have time to close the flanks of the 8 and 4 tank armies. You can then turn the 24 Corps to counter the offensive of the 47 Army. In addition, Army Group South continued to receive reinforcements and, until the end of August, it received 9 infantry and one tank divisions. This allowed the German command to withdraw from the first line of the SS division, replacing them with infantry divisions. As a result, in the Kotelva region, the Dead Head division was reinforced by the Deutschland regiment and the Tishchen tank group from the Reich division. The grouping was advancing towards parts of the 24 corps, which hit in the area of Akhtyrka. On August 20, the shock group of the SS divisions and the units of "Great Germany" united north of Kolontayev. The flanks of the 8 Army and the 4 Army Tank Army were connected.
The 4 Guards Tank Corps and part of the 5 Guards Tank Corps were surrounded. Their independent attempts to break through from the environment, the German troops repulsed. Katukov’s army, which approached the battlefield, struck the German divisions on the flank. This strike on the 24 tank corps allowed the encircled units to leave the encirclement. Especially brutal battles were in Kolontaevo. Part of the 4 Guards Tank Corps came to him late August 20. Here, the defense kept parts of the SS division "Dead Head". Furious battles flared up on the streets, which often turned into hand-to-hand combat. They walked by the light of fires. During these battles, the 4 and 5 units of the Guards Tank Corps suffered heavy losses in men and equipment. By the evening of August 22, only 5 combat-capable tanks remained in the 37 Guards Tank Corps, and by the evening of August 4 there were 23 combat-ready vehicles in the 19 Guards Corps.
The Supreme Commander 22 of August gave Vatutin a real scolding about this. Stalin accused the commander of the Voronezh Front of "an indiscriminate offensive", when the troops sought to occupy large territories, without securing success and ensuring the flanks of the strike forces. Because of the mistakes of the command of the Voronezh Front, Soviet troops suffered heavy, "unjustified losses." The Supreme Commander ordered Vatutin to defeat the enemy grouping in the Akhtyrka area, since without this the advance of the front could not be developed. Indeed, the calculation of the front command that the strike of the 47 Army parried the efforts of the 24 Army Corps was not justified. Despite the success of the 47 th strike, the German command continued the offensive and brought the matter to the end.
"Panther" lined on the outskirts of Kharkov.
To be continued ...