The final operation in the battle for the Caucasus was the strategic Novorossiysk-Taman offensive operation of the troops of the North Caucasus Front (September 9 - October 9 1943 of the year). During its course, Soviet troops broke through the powerful line of defense of the German troops, called the Blue Line (or Gotenkopf, literally, Goth Head) in the Krasnodar-Taman area, defeated the 17 German army and completely liberated the Taman Peninsula and Novorossiysk .
As a result of the onset of the spring-summer of 1943, the troops of the North Caucasus Front came very close to the strongly fortified Blue Line on the outskirts of the Taman Peninsula. On April 29 - May 15, 1943, troops of the North Caucasus Front conducted an offensive operation, trying to break through the Blue Line and take control of the Taman Peninsula. After several days of stubborn fighting, the troops advancing in the central direction of the 56th Army of General A.A. Grechko took possession of the Crimean village - one of the nodal points of German defense. On this success ended. In the area of the villages of Kiev and Moldavan, the Germans stopped the Soviet offensive. A major role in the success of the Germans played aviation. A powerful Luftwaffe grouping of up to 1400 aircraft operated from bases on the Kerch Peninsula. The Red Army was unable to break through a well-trained German defense, and the offensive was halted.
In addition, in April - June 1943, the so-called. air battle in the Kuban between the 4th Air Army under the command of General K.A. Vershinin and 4th Air fleet Field Marshal V. Richthofen. Vershinin widely used the constant duty of aircraft controllers at the forefront, massive deployment of forces into battle (up to 5 or more fighter regiments), the exchange of combat experience among pilots - the army conferences of fighter pilots were organized for the first time. During a fierce battle, Soviet aviation put an end to the air supremacy of the Luftwaffe.
In the summer the Red Army defeated the Wehrmacht near Orel, Belgorod and Kharkov. Soviet soldiers broke through the German defenses on the rivers Dnieper, Mius and Molochnaya. Soviet troops advanced west from 300 km in the central part of the front to 600 km in the south. Thus, favorable conditions appeared for the strike of the North Caucasus Front. The movement of Soviet troops to the lower reaches of the Dnieper put the Taman enemy group in a very difficult position.
The Taman bridgehead lost the significance of the original area for the new offensive of the German troops in the Caucasus. At the same time, the German command nevertheless continued to strengthen its defenses, hoping to keep him behind them as long as possible. By keeping the coast of the Taman Peninsula, the Germans defended their sea communications, limited the actions of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, and at the same time covered the approaches to the Crimea, which was the Wehrmacht naval and air base. In addition, the Taman group of the Wehrmacht shackled significant land, air and naval forces of the USSR, which could not take part in battles in other areas.
The main obstacle in the path of the Soviet troops in solving the task of freeing Taman was the powerful German defensive line - the Blue Line. The Germans used the favorable conditions of the area in order to keep the Taman peninsula. In the northeast of the theater of military operations off the coast of the Azov Sea and the valley of the Kuban River, the marshy lowland prevailed with a significant number of rivers, estuaries, rivers, rivers and streams. The southeastern section of the combat area is mountainous and wooded. In the depths of the peninsula, from the area Varenikovskaya, Anapa, the terrain was flat, steppe. From the line Temryuk, Blagoveshchensk, in the western part of the Taman Peninsula, the troops could attack only on a narrow defile between the estuaries. This allowed the Germans to create a solid defense system, turning settlements and some parts of the area into resistance nodes. The defense was reinforced by the fact that the Germans shortened the front, strongly compacting their defensive orders.
Already in January 1943, the German command, fearing that the rapid advance of the Soviet troops would lead to the complete defeat of the Kuban group, began to build defensive lines in the lower reaches of the r. Kuban, on the nearest approaches to the Taman Peninsula. The Germans forcibly mobilized the local population to build a defensive line. Thousands of people from Taman settlements and farms worked under the supervision of German machine gunners. They dug anti-tank ditches, trenches, salaries, built dugouts and dugouts. German engineers and special construction units and field troops worked on the creation of strong points and resistance centers.
For more than four months, German troops built several defensive lines with gaps between them from 5 to 25 km. The main defensive line, the Blue Line itself, was as deep as 6 kilometers. It consisted of three or four positions, protected by minefields and several rows of wire barriers. But behind it, to the depth of 30-40 km, there were auxiliary well-prepared defensive lines. So in 10-15 km from the main defensive line was the second lane. The left flank of the Blue Line was located at Spit Verbyanaya, went through the coastal estuaries, then along the r. The cock. Along the Kurki, the Germans built high earthen ramparts in 56 km. Then Gotenkopf passed east through a swampy area along the Adagum River to the village of Kiev. From the front, this section was protected by a wide strip of Kuban's more smoothly. Next, the front edge turned south. Considering the fact that the central section of the Blue Line, which is 32 km long, was most convenient for the Soviet offensive, the Germans paid special attention to its strengthening. There were two positions with a large number of nodes of resistance and strong points. The villages, farmsteads and mainstream heights prepared for long-term defense. The gaps between them tried to cover the reinforced concrete gun emplacements with armored caps. The main centers of resistance in the first line of defense were the village of Kiev and the height marked 195.5. Kievskoe closed the way to Taman through the village of Varenikovskaya, and the height of 195.5 - highway and railroad through the village of Nizhne-Bakanskaya and Verkhne-Bakanskaya, which went to Novorossiysk. The most powerful defense node of the second position was created in the Moldavanskaya village, which was located in the center of a hilly plateau. He had to close the way to the center of the Taman Peninsula in the event of a breakthrough by the Soviet troops at the forefront.
Defense nodes and strongholds were prepared for a circular defense, in case of encirclement, had two or three lines of continuous trenches. The defense of the first line of trenches was strengthened by wood-earth or reinforced concrete firing points extended 20-60 meters forward. They were located mainly on the slopes of the heights or on the outskirts of the settlements, at a distance of 50-80 meters from each other. They covered the flanks of the front line of defense and the immediate approaches to wire, minefields. The second line of firing structures was erected by a ledge at the rear and was supposed to cover with frontal fire the space between the firing positions of the first line. Trenches supplemented numerous rifle cells. Artillery and mortar positions were located in the depths of the positions. For the personnel there were dugouts and dugouts. The communication lines connected all the structures of the strong points with trenches. The front edge of the defensive line was covered by a dense network of wire fences, minefields, mined blockages with a total depth of half a kilometer. The density of mining reached in some areas up to 2,5 thousand mines per 1 km of the front. Particular attention at the forefront was given to the mining of tank hazardous areas. In addition, each structure had its own stock of anti-tank mines to combat Soviet tanks. In large numbers, mines-surprises of tensioned action were designed, designed to destroy enemy manpower.
The southern flank of the Blue Line passed through an inaccessible mountainous and wooded area 25 km long from the village of Neberdzhayevskaya to Novorossiysk. Here the German defense was based on forest debris, anti-personnel mine-explosive barriers and combined with a system of multi-tiered fire.
One of the most powerful points of resistance of the enemy was the part of Novorossiysk captured by the Germans, the approaches to the city, as well as the position in the Myskhako area, where the Soviet bridgehead was. During the year, day and night, the Germans created a system of fortifications in Novorossiysk. In the city itself, the main defense zone, 5-7 km wide, consisted of three positions. In 10 km from the front edge of the main line was the second line of defense. In the area between the port and the mountains, there was a narrow passage about 3 km long and up to 1 km wide. Through it, it was possible to break through to the eastern part of Novorossiysk, the settlement of Methodius. To deprive the Soviet troops of such an opportunity, the Germans built there a dense network of wire obstacles, minefields, and firing points. The eastern part of the city was additionally reinforced with three lines of trenches with numerous long-term firing points. Houses and entire neighborhoods were turned into strong points, ready for all-round defense. The streets were blocked with barricades, with embrasures for machine guns and communications. In many homes, walls and ceilings are reinforced with concrete or brickwork to withstand artillery hits. Basements adapted for bomb shelters. All the large buildings that were not occupied by the German garrisons were mined in order to undermine them during the Soviet offensive, inflicting damage on the enemy and creating additional debris. In the city and its environs, the Germans prepared defensive structures up to 500 protected by wire and mine barriers. The density of mining was great. Only in the first days after the liberation of the city, Soviet sappers removed and neutralized 29 thousand enemy mines.
To combat the possible Soviet landing was created a strong antiamphibious defense. All the coast up to Anapa and further prepared to repel the enemy landing. To cover the approaches to Novorossiysk from the sea, the entrance to the port was closed by boom-netting barriers with mines and land mines, in all the port buildings there were machine-gun artillery protected positions. All port buildings, piers and moles were mined. Mines were installed not only on the shore, but on the water and under water. At altitudes, there were protected observation posts that allowed German troops to apply concentrated artillery fire on any part of the bay. At the same altitude were German mortar and artillery batteries, which allowed shelling all neighborhoods of the city. The area itself in Novorossiysk contributed to the creation of a solid defense, and for the attackers created additional obstacles. A large ridge of mountains north of the city was covered with forests, where there were practically no roads and passages.
The main line of defense reinforced the rear lines. The first went from Varenikovskaya to Yuzhnaya Ozereyka, with the main center of resistance in Verkhnebakansky. The next frontier went from Temryuk to Su-Psekh. Separate defensive lines blocked the isthmuses between the estuaries.
Preparation of the operation. Forces of the parties
In August 1943, the Supreme Command, in connection with the favorable situation in the southwestern strategic direction, ordered the commander of the North Caucasus Front, Colonel-General Ivan Yefimovich Petrov, to destroy the Taman group of the Wehrmacht, preventing its withdrawal to the Crimean peninsula. Considering the fact that the German command did not expect an offensive on the Novorossiysk direction, and somewhat weakened its grouping on the right flank of the 17 Army, it was decided to launch the main attack in the Novorossiysk area. The breakthrough of the German defense in the Novorossiysk direction, the seizure of the passes of the Neberdzhai and the Wolf Gates, violated the entire defense system of the enemy, created the possibility of encirclement and the complete defeat of the Taman group.
A successful breakthrough of the enemy’s powerful defense line depended on a thorough and comprehensive preparation of the operation by the forces of the North Caucasus Front. Intelligence has done a great job in opening up the German defense system. Soviet reconnaissance aircraft carried out aerial photography of the Blue Line throughout its depth. The photos were duplicated and transferred for study to aviation units, to all headquarters of combined-arms armies and rifle corps. In May, 1943, the aviation units received 96 photochemes, combined-arms headquarters - 54 photochemes. The results of aerial reconnaissance and passed to higher headquarters. Special topographic maps were produced that were supposed to help break through the German defense. Since May, the combined-arms and engineering reconnaissance conducted continuous observation of the enemy’s activities. Special search groups were sent to the rear of the enemy to reveal elements of the German defense. Partisans of the Blue Line were able to pass on to partisans.
The command organized the creation of special towns equipped in mountainous areas on the model of the defense of the Wehrmacht. In them, Soviet troops were trained to break through the position of the enemy. Parts of the Black Sea Fleet conducted exercises on the landing of assault forces and organizing the interaction of groups of combat support ships with landing craft and landing forces. Particular attention was paid to the training of crews of torpedo boats, which were to destroy the enemy’s boom and minefields, to deliver a fire strike to the enemy’s defense at the landing site. Practical exercises were organized with a night transition of ships and boats with amphibious detachments.
All measures were taken to ensure the secrecy of the preparation of an offensive operation. All the governing documents were drawn up by a narrow circle of persons in the part concerned, and only in one copy. All troop movements, the concentration of strike groups tried to be carried out in the dark. Also at night, landing of paratroopers, going out to sea and building ships of the landing party were made. Trying to misinform the German command, the Soviet troops carried out demonstration rebuilds on secondary axes, and general arms reconnaissance was activated on them. As it turned out, these events were a success. The German command set about regrouping its forces and consolidating the defensive orders in sectors that were not the main units of the Red Army.
The Soviet command knew that the enemy distributed its forces unevenly, worrying most of all over the central sector of its front. On the left flank there were inaccessible Azov plavni, on the right - the most powerful Novorossiysk fortified area and the dominant heights. The left flank was poorly suited for the direction of the main attack, the troops could get stuck in very wetland areas. The front command decided to strike the enemy’s right flank. Here the enemy expected the main attack least of all, hoping for a mountain-wooded area that impeded the actions of large tank formations and artillery, and a powerful defense created in advance. The seizure of Novorossiysk deprived the enemy of its southern flanking support, allowing it to deal a crushing blow to the entire German defense system. In addition, in the Novorossiysk operation, ground forces could support the Black Sea Fleet.
The general plan of the front command was to inflict a number of combined strikes from land and sea on the Taman enemy grouping and destroy it. The troops of the 9 Army under the command of Major General Alexei Alexandrovich Grechkin in cooperation with the forces of the Azov Flotilla under the command of Rear Admiral Sergey Georgievich Gorshkov were to conduct an offensive along the river. Kuban on Kurchanskaya, Temryuk and on Varenikovsky. The 56 Army under the command of Lieutenant General Andrei Antonovich Grechko was advancing in the Moldavian region on Gladkovskaya and Gostagaevskaya. The 56 Army with its right wing was to strike at Varenikovsky. 18-I army under the command of Lieutenant-General Konstantin Nikolayevich Leselidze dealt the main blow. She was supposed to liberate Novorossiysk in cooperation with the forces of the Black Sea Fleet under the leadership of Lev Anatolyevich Vladimirsky, and develop the offensive in the direction of Verkhnebakanskaya and Anapa. By such actions, the Soviet command planned to cut the German defense, quickly go to the crossings of the Old Kuban River and cut off the enemy’s escape routes to the ports and the Kerch Strait. Preparations for the operation were planned to be completed by 7 September. The beginning of the offensive of the main forces of the 9 and 56 armies depended on the success of the troops of the 18 army in the Novorossiysk sector. And up to this point, they should, starting from 5 September, conduct local operations with small forces and divert the enemy’s attention to themselves.
The North Caucasus Front included the 58, 9, 56, 18 and 4 air armies (plus Black Sea Fleet aviation). However, three armies participated in the operation: 21 and mountain infantry divisions, several separate rifle and tank brigades, separate tank regiments, and reinforcement artillery. Parts of the 58 Army were involved in the defense of the coast of the Azov Sea. The 18 Army Leselidze was located on the left flank of the North Caucasus Front from the village of Neberdzhayevskaya to the Black Sea. Grechko's 56 Army was in the center from Neberdzhayevskaya to Kiev. Grechkin's 9 Army was located on the right flank of the front from Kiev to the Sea of Azov. The total number of troops was more than 315 thousand people, 4435 guns and mortars, more than 300 tanks and SPG. The North Caucasus Front was almost X X-NUMX times superior to enemy forces in infantry and artillery, and had an advantage in armored vehicles.
A significant advantage was in aviation. As a result of major losses in air battles in the air battle for the Kuban and during the Battle of Kursk, the number of combat aircraft of the German Air Force fell. In total, the Luftwaffe had 1275 aircraft in the southwestern direction, of which around 300 were based in the Crimea and on Taman. By the beginning of the Novorossiysk-Taman operation in the 4 Air Force under the command of Konstantin Andreevich Vershinin there were about 600 combat aircraft. In addition, the Black Sea Fleet Air Force had up to 450 aircraft. The presence of quantitative and qualitative air superiority has become a serious prerequisite for the success of an offensive operation.
The Soviet troops were opposed by the 17 Army under the command of Erwin Gustav Jeneke. She was part of Army Group "A". The 17 Army included the 5 X Army, 44 Army Corps, 49 Mountain Corps, Romanian Cavalry Corps. A total of 17 infantry, mountain-rifle and cavalry divisions, 4 separate regiment and several other individual compounds. German-Romanian troops numbered 200 thousand people (according to other sources, about 400 thousand), 2860 guns and mortars, 100 tanks and assault guns and about 300 combat aircraft. In addition, in the Crimea, there was a reserve of the 17 army - 36,6 thousand people, 11,6 thousand people in the training units, and up to 50 thousand Allied troops.
In the first echelon on the 100 km front, the defense of the 12 divisions was kept, in the second - 5. German forces were unevenly positioned. So, in front of the 9 army, there were three divisions on the front of 40 km, on the 56 portion of the Soviet army on the front of 30 km, 5 of enemy divisions held defenses, the rest of the German divisions held defense against 18 on the front of 29 km.
Commander of the North Caucasus Front I.Ye. Petrov (right) and commander of artillery A.К. Sivkov. Taman Peninsula, 1943
To be continued ...