Almost on the same days, when the Korsun-Shevchenkovskaya operation was in progress (The second Stalinist blow. Liberation of Right-Bank Ukraine), the troops of 3 and 4 of the Ukrainian fronts under the command of Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky and Fyodor Ivanovich Tolbukhin fought hard against the Nikopol-Krivoi Rog grouping of the enemy. The coordination of their actions was carried out by Alexander Mikhailovich Vasilevsky. After the Melitopol operation 1943 of the year, during which the German troops were defeated, the 6-I German army entrenched on the ledge in the large bend of the Dnieper and on the Nikopol bridgehead. Adolf Hitler ordered to hold iron and manganese deposits in the area of Nikopol at any cost. Hitler repeatedly emphasized the strategic importance of the Nikopol manganese for the German Empire. The Germans were not only not going to leave a bridgehead on the left bank of the Dnieper, but did everything to turn it into a powerful fortified area, creating an almost solid, well-prepared engineering system of strong points.
In addition, the German command hoped to use this bridgehead to restore contact with the Crimean group. During the first half of January 1944, the Red Army made more than one attempt to knock out the 6th German army from this bridgehead. So, on January 10, the 3rd Ukrainian Front struck in the direction of Apostolovo, on January 11, the 4th Ukrainian Front attacked the enemy on the Nikopol bridgehead. Stubborn battles continued for several days. However, the Soviet troops failed to achieve a tangible result. This was explained not only by the strong German defense, but also by the significant shortage of Soviet military formations in manpower and equipment, especially in tanks... There was also a lack of ammunition. Therefore, it was decided to stop the offensive in order to prepare more thoroughly for the next strike.
The basis of the Nikopol-Kryvyi Rih grouping was the 6th Army under the command of Karl-Adolf Hollidt, which was part of the Army Group South. The army consisted of: 29th, 4th, 17th army corps, corps group "Schwerin", 40th and 57th tank corps. In total, the army had 17 infantry, 4 tank, 1 motorized divisions and other formations. The grouping consisted of about 540 thousand soldiers, more than 2,4 thousand guns and mortars, 327 tanks and assault guns, about 700 aircraft. From the air, the Nikopol-Kryvyi Rih grouping was supported by the 1st aviation 4th air corps fleet. Directly Nikopol bridgehead was defended by the operational group of F. Scherner (8 infantry divisions and 3 battalions of assault guns).
The Germans had a strong defense in this direction. The front line had three rows of trenches and trenches protected by barbed wire and minefields. On the basis of the Dnieper and Kamenka rivers, auxiliary defensive lines were created. Settlements and important heights were turned into strong points and nodes of resistance.
Soviet forces. Operation plan
The 3-th Ukrainian front had in its composition: the 37-th army under the command of Mikhail Sharokhin, the 46-th army of Vasily Glagolev, the 8-th guards army of Vasily Chuykov, the 6-th army of Ivan Shlemin. From the air 3-th Ukrainian front covered 17-I air army under the command of Vladimir Sudets.
Front Malinowski was significantly strengthened. From the 2 of the Ukrainian Front, he was given the 37 Army of Sharokhin, from the 4 of the Ukrainian Front - 4 Guards Mechanized Corps Trofim Tanaschishin, and from the Supreme Command Headquarters (SGC) reserve - 31 Guards Rifle Corps. In addition, the 10 of February was transferred to the 3 of the Ukrainian Front from the 4 of the Ukrainian Front - the 3 of the Guards Army of Dmitry Lelyushenko and the 5 of the Shock Army of Vyacheslav Tsvetaev. Malinovsky's front held positions from Merry Turns to Belenky.
A part of the forces of the 4 of the Ukrainian Front also took part in the operation: 3-I Guards Army and 5-I Shock Army (until February 10), 28-I Army Alexei Grechkin, 2-I Guards Mechanized Corps Karp Sviridov. From the air, the front was supported by the 8-I Air Army of Timofey Khryukin. The Tolbukhina Front originally occupied the line of Blagoveshchensk, Verkhny Rogachik and Gornostaevka.
In total, there were more than 700 thousand people in two fronts, about 7,8 thousand guns and mortars, 238 tanks and SAU, over 1,3 thousand aircraft. Soviet troops had an advantage in infantry, artillery and aircraft, but by the number of tanks inferior to the Germans.
17 January 1944 The military council of the 3 Ukrainian Front and the representative of the Stavka Alexander Vasilevsky sent a plan of operation to the Supreme Command Headquarters. The plan was approved. The troops of the two fronts were to deliver converging blows in order to surround and destroy enemy forces on the Nikopol-Krivoi Rog bridgehead. Army Malinovsky had to play a decisive role in the operation. The main blow was struck by the 8-I Guards Army Chuikov and the 46-I Army Glagolev. They were advancing from the Novaya Nikolaevka-Vladimirovka area on a plot of 21 km in the general direction of Apostolovo. The 37 army of Sharokhin inflicted an auxiliary strike on the Krivoy Rog direction, and the 6 army of Shlemin on the Nikopol side.
The 4-th Ukrainian front had to launch an offensive with the development of success by the forces of the 3-th Ukrainian front in order to constrain the forces of the enemy. 3-I Guards Army Lelyushenko was supposed to hit Nikopol, 5-I Shock Army Tsvetaeva attack on Malaya Lepetiha, 28-I Grechkin army - on Greater Lepetiha.
The onset of the 3 of the Ukrainian Front. On the morning of January 30, the 6 and 37 armies launched an offensive, distracting the Germans from the main thrust. Frontal aviation actively processed these areas. The army of Shlyomina advanced 3-4 km per day. Parts of the Sharokhina army, the Merry Turns, were advancing more successfully. The 82 th rifle corps broke through the enemy defenses in the 8-kilometer stretch and advanced on 20 kilometers. The German command, having decided that the Russians decided to deliver the main attack on the Krivoy Rog direction, transferred reserve 37 and 9 tank divisions (23 tanks) against the 180 army. Started fights.
This greatly facilitated the breakthrough of the German defense in the main direction. It is also necessary to take into account the fact that the command of the army group "South" took a number of mobile units to the rescue of the Stemmerman korsun-Shevchenko group.
46-I and 8-I Guards Army 30 January, the forces of the reinforced battalions carried out reconnaissance. On the morning of January 31, a powerful 50-minute artillery preparation was carried out. Aviation attacked German positions, fortified objects, railway junctions and airfields. By the end of the day, the German defense was breached to a depth of 20 km. Developing success, the front command introduced the 4 Guards Mechanized Corps to the breakthrough. The Tanaschishin Corps reached the Kamenka and Sholokhov by the end of February 1. Fighting for their release began.
It should be noted that the offensive of the Soviet troops was developing in conditions of mudslides. As Vasilevsky recalled: “I have seen a lot of thrills in my lifetime. But such mud and such off-road, as in the winter and spring 1944, did not meet either earlier or later. " Even tractors and tractors were stuck. Gunners had to literally drag the guns on themselves. The local population helped the fighters to carry shells and crates of ammunition from position to position tens of kilometers in their hands.
Realizing that they were deceived, the German commanders tried to close the breakthrough with tank divisions, which stopped the 37 th army. In addition, from the reserves of Army Group South, they began to transfer the 24 Tank Division, which had previously been abandoned to rescue the Korsun-Shevchenko grouping. However, the moment was already missed. Tank divisions could not close the breakthrough.
The situation developed for the Germans in a catastrophic scenario. By the end of February 2, the Red Army liberated Sholokhovo, Kamenka and a number of other settlements. The 16-I division and four infantry divisions were defeated. Signs of panic began to be noted in some German units. There was a threat surrounding the 6 Army.
By the evening of February 4, Soviet troops reached the important railway junction Apostolovo. He was defended by the remnants of the 9 th Panzer and 123 Infantry Divisions. The German group numbered up to 3 thousand soldiers, a significant number of guns, tanks and assault guns. It was a toughie. However, with the help of local residents, the scouts discovered a gap in the German defense. Soviet troops made a maneuver to the rear of the enemy and in the early morning of February 5 delivered a sudden blow. By 8 hours of the morning, the troops of the 46 Army completely captured the Apostolovo. Around 700 the Germans were captured, a large number were captured weapons and equipment (Apostolovo was an important supply base for the 6 Army).
Thus, as a result of six days of fighting, Soviet troops broke through the German defenses on a broad front, advanced 45-60 km, and defeated several enemy divisions. 6-I German army was split into two parts, there was a threat of German divisions defending in the area of Manganese, Nikopol. The German command hastily began to withdraw troops to the south-west along the right bank of the Dnieper.
The 46 Army of Glagolev continued its offensive in the western direction, towards the Ingulets River. 8-I Guards Army Chuikov with 4-m Guards Mehkorpus Tanaschishinom moved to the Dnieper, in conjunction with the forces of the 4-th Ukrainian front to surround the Nikopol grouping of the enemy.
The onset of the 4 of the Ukrainian Front. Front Tolbukhina went on the offensive on January 31. The German command still sought to keep the Nikopol bridgehead, so the fighting from the very beginning took on a fierce character. However, in the second half of the day, in the offensive zone of the 5 shock army, Tsvetaeva brought the Sviridov 2 Guards Mechanized Corps into battle. He advanced to 11-14 km by the end of the day.
Given the difficult situation on the site of the 3-th Ukrainian Front, the German command began to withdraw some of the forces to help the troops that defended to the north and withdraw parts to the crossings at Nikopol and the Big Lepetikh. Soviet troops began pursuing the enemy. On the ferry across the Dnieper came hell. The roads were filled with soldiers, equipment and military property. Aircraft 8 th and 17 th air armies made raids continuously, bombed and shot the enemy. There were huge traffic jams from blazing cars, carts, various property. The soldiers panicked, throwing heavy weapons, vehicles. The number of sorties says about the activity of Soviet aviation: January 31 - February 8 Soviet pilots made 2618 sorties against 316 enemy sorties. The aircraft was joined by Soviet artillerymen who fired concentrated fire on the crossings.
However, the German command still managed to organize strong bridgeheads from the units that retained their combat capability. German troops, suffering heavy losses and throwing equipment, property, moved behind the Dnieper. On the morning of February 8, the Red Army liberated the Bolshaya Lepetiha district center of Zaporizhzhya. Thus, the enemy's Nikopol bridgehead was eliminated. The Germans lost killed about 14 thousand people, prisoners of more than 1 thousand people. 24 tank, 550 guns and mortars, a lot of other equipment and weapons were captured.
War Memorial "Cannon". Installed in honor of the memory of the Nikopol-Krivoy Rog operation. Nikopol
On February 8, troops of the 6 Army of the 3 UV and 3 Guards Army of the 4 Ukrainian Front liberated Nikopol. Having lost Nikopol, the Germans were facing the threat of another disaster. The offensive of the 8 Guards Army could cut off the withdrawal of German troops. There were fierce battles. Part of the forces of the German group defended against the troops of the 6 Army of Schlemin, the main forces (the remnants of the 6 infantry and 2 tank divisions) sought to prevent the release of the 8 Guards Army of Chuikov to the Dnieper River.
At the same time, the German command launched a counter-attack in the Apostolovo area. February 11 The 2 Tank and 4 Infantry Divisions attacked the advancing 46 and 8 Guards armies. By the end of the day, they were able to advance on 8-10 km. The command of the 3-th Ukrainian Front sent from its reserve to the German counter-offensive 48-th Guards Rifle Division and two anti-tank artillery fighter regiments. German counterstrike reflected. However, the German command gained time. German troops, under the continuous strikes of Soviet aviation and artillery, suffering heavy losses in manpower and equipment, managed to avoid the "boiler" and retreated to Dudchino. The German General Tippelskirch noted that the defeat in the Nikopol area was comparable in scale to the 8 Army disaster in the Korsun-Shevchenko district.
February 10 The 3-I Guards Army and the 5-I Shock Army were transferred to the 3-th Ukrainian Front. 37-I army continued fighting in the area of Merry Turns, 46-I army and 8-I Guards army - in Apostolovo. 6-I army went to the area of New Vorontsovka. 5-I shock army occupied and held a bridgehead on the right bank of the Dnieper. The front command was preparing an operation to liberate Krivoy Rog. It took several days to prepare the operation. Pull up artillery, brought ammunition, fuel.
The German command focused on five infantry and two tank divisions on the Krivoy Rog direction. Constantly counterattacking the Soviet troops, the Germans hastily strengthened the defenses around the city. February 17 The 37-I and 46-I armies launched an offensive. We had to move through mud and wet snow, so the troops moved slowly. On the night of February 19, the German command began withdrawing troops. 22 February Krivoy Rog freed from the Germans.
The Soviet command during this attack paid special attention to the rapid release of the Krivoy Rog power station and the dam on the Saksagan River near the power plant. It was impossible to give the enemy to destroy this important object. To save the power plant, a special detachment was formed under the supervision of the deputy chief of the operational department of the 37 Army headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel A.N. Screw. On the night of February 22, Soviet soldiers forced the Saksagan River into the 400 south of the dam. The Germans discovered and surrounded them. For two days the Soviet detachment beat off the attacks of the enemy. The task has been completed. The dam explosion prevented.
By February 25-29, the armies of the 3 of the Ukrainian Front reached the Ingulets River and captured a number of bridgeheads on the right bank. Thus, units of the 37 Army occupied bridgeheads west of Krivoy Rog, 46 Army north of Shirokoe, 8 Guards Army west of Shirokoe. The 5 shock army reached Bolshaya Aleksandrovka and Dudchino. As a result, the Germans were unable to gain a foothold on the Ingulets River. The Red Army created favorable conditions for a strike on the Nikolaev-Odessa direction. The operation was completed.
The soldiers of the 3 of the Ukrainian Front are considering a shell of the captured German self-propelled gun StuG III Ausf. G on the road to Nikopol
As a result of the Nikopol-Krivoy Rog operation, 12 of the German divisions (including 3 tank and 1 motorized) were defeated. Soviet troops destroyed the enemy's Nikopol bridgehead. Economically important Nikopol and Krivoy Rog industrial areas were returned to the Soviet Union. Conditions were created for the liberation of the Crimean Peninsula and the attack on the Nikolaev-Odessa direction.
The German 6 Army lost about 60 thousand people killed, about 4,6 thousand people were captured. German divisions have lost almost all heavy weapons and vehicles. 6-I army largely lost its combat capability. The German command finally said goodbye with the hope of restoring a land connection with the 17 army blocked in Crimea.
Soviet casualties are unknown. But they were less German. Thus, the losses of 4 of the Ukrainian Front from the beginning of the offensive up to 8 in February amounted to about 8,2 thousand people killed, missing and wounded. The Germans lost only more than 14 thousand people killed during the battles for the Nikopol bridgehead.
From the point of view of military art, the operation is interesting in that the Soviet command managed to mislead the enemy and hide the direction of the main attack. It should also be noted that the operation was carried out in the most severe weather conditions, with the superiority of the enemy in tank units.
For courage and heroism shown by the troops of the 3 and 4 of the Ukrainian fronts in the Nikopol-Krivoy Rog offensive operation, the 28 formations and units of the Red Army received the honorary titles of Krivoy Rog and Nikopol, 14 soldiers were given the title Hero of the Soviet Union. Moscow saluted the Soviet liberators 20 with artillery volleys from 224 guns.
Alley of military units liberating the city of Krivoy Rog