This operation became part of a large-scale offensive by Soviet troops on Right-Bank Ukraine (the so-called "second Stalinist strike"). As a result of this operation, Soviet soldiers inflicted a heavy defeat on two German tank armies (1st and 4th). 22 German divisions were defeated, having lost a large amount of manpower and equipment. The Red Army advanced 80-350 kilometers west and south, reaching the foothills of the Carpathians. The German front was divided into two parts.
Crossing of the Dniester River T-34-85 44-th Guards Tank Brigade 11-th Guards Tank Corps 1-th Guards Tank Army.
During the winter of 1944, during the offensive of the Red Army in Right-Bank Ukraine, the Soviet troops inflicted a serious defeat on the Germans near Zhytomyr and Berdichev, Kirovograd, defeated the Korsun-Shevchenko and Nikopol-Krivoi Rog groups (The second Stalinist blow. Liberation of Right-Bank Ukraine. Part 2. Part 3.).
Then, during the Rivne-Lutsk operation (January 27 - February 11 1944), the troops of the 1 of the Ukrainian Front liberated Rivne and Lutsk. As a result, Soviet troops swept the left wing of Army Group South from the north, and conditions were created for attacking the enemy's Proskurov-Chernivtsi group to strike the flank. There was an opportunity to complete the liberation of the Soviet south-western regions and access to the USSR state border. The Supreme High Command decided to strike several blows almost simultaneously, in order to split the German Army Group South into several separate groups. Prokurov-Chernivtsi offensive operation was one of such strikes (March 4 - April 17 of the year 1944).
Operation plan and strength of the parties
The operation was to be carried out by the troops of the 1 of the Ukrainian Front, who, after injuring General Nikolai Vatutin (the wound was fatal), was headed by Marshal Zhukov. The 1-th Ukrainian front was to launch an offensive from the Dubno-Shepetovka-Lyubar line. The front was assigned the task of crushing the German troops in the area of Kremenets, Ternopil, Starokonstantinov. Then the 1-th Ukrainian front was to develop the offensive in the direction of Chortkov and, in cooperation with the 40-th army of the 2-th Ukrainian front, surround and eliminate the main forces of the enemy's 1-th tank army.
The 1 of the Ukrainian Front included: the 13-I army under the command of Nikolai Pukhov, the 60-I army of Ivan Chernyakhovsky, the 1-I Guards army of Andrei Grechko, the 18-I army of Yevgeny Zhuravlev and the 38-I army of Cyril of the graphics team and the graphics team of the graphics team of the graphics designer Sykha Ilyka Ilyusha. Vasily Badanov tank army (from March 4 Dmitry Lelyushenko), Mikhail Katukov's 29 tank army, Pavel Rybalko's 1 Guards tank army. From the air, the front was supported by the 3-I air army under the command of Stepan Krasovsky. By early March, the front numbered about 2 thousand soldiers, 800 thousand guns and mortars, 11,9 thousand tanks and SPGs and about 1,4 aircraft.
According to the plan of the Soviet command, the 1-I Guards, 60-I armies, 3-I Guards tank and 4-I armies delivered the main attack. The strike force of the 1 UF was to launch an offensive at the junction of two German tank armies, break through the enemy’s defensive orders and move in the general direction of Chortkov. Other armies delivered auxiliary strikes. On the left flank of the front: the 18-I army attacked Khmelnik, the 38-I army - at Vinnytsia and Zhmerinka, part of the forces it was supposed to assist the 2-th Ukrainian front in liberating the Gysin region. On the right flank, the 13 Army ensured the offensive of the main strike force of the front from the north, conducting combat operations in the Brodsky direction.
Soviet troops were opposed by two German tank armies: the 4-I tank army under the command of Erhard Raus and the 1-I tank army under the command of Hans-Valentin Hube. Both armies were part of Army Group South (from April 5, Army Group North Ukraine). Army Group "South" commanded by Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, but on March 31 he was removed from office and enlisted in the reserve (the Fuhrer was angry at the defeat of Army Group "South"). The troops were led by Field Marshal Walter Model. From the air, tank armies were supported by Otto Dessloh's 4 Air Fleet. By the beginning of March, the German armies had 29 divisions (including seven tank and one motorized), a motorized brigade and a large number of other units. The German group consisted of about half a million soldiers, about 1,1 thousand tanks and assault guns, about 5,5 thousand guns and mortars, 480 aircraft.
Prior to the start of the operation, the Soviet command had to carry out a significant regrouping of forces and means, since the most powerful forces were located on the left flank of the front, and they had to be transferred to the central direction. 60-th, 1-th Guards Army, 3-th Guards Tank Army, a significant number of individual tank, artillery and engineering units were transferred to new lanes and areas of concentration. At the same time, many units of the 18 and 38 armies changed their position. 1-I tank army in general made a march to take their place in the shock order of the main group.
The regrouping of troops was carried out in difficult off-road conditions, spring mud. A big problem was the supply of troops with everything necessary, especially fuel. Fuel supplies were insufficient, the troops could conduct active hostilities for only two or three days. However, Zhukov decided not to reschedule the commencement of the offensive, as every day the mudslide only intensified, and the German defense intensified.
In the morning of March 4, Soviet artillery struck German positions. Then the units of the 60-th army of Chernyakhovsky and the 1-th Guards army of Grechko went on the offensive. Following them, the second echelon was injected into the battle - Badanov's 4 Tank Army and Rybalko's 3 Guards Tank Army. By evening, the Soviet troops advanced on 8-20 km. March 5 went on the offensive 18-I army Zhuravlev. For two days, the Soviet armies broke through the German defense, creating a gap up to 180 km wide and wedging a depth of 25-50 km. March 7-10 advanced units of the Soviet armies reached the line Ternopil, Volochysk, Proskurov. The Lvov-Odessa railway was intercepted, the main communication of the entire southern wing of the German troops.
The German command hastily began to transfer reserves to the place of the breakthrough. On March 9, units of the 60 Army and the 4 Guards Tank Corps assigned to it by Pavel Poluboyarov met with strong resistance from German troops on the outskirts of Ternopil. Here, the defense kept the 68-I and 359-I infantry divisions, which were transferred from Western Europe. Heavy fighting the army Chernyakhovsky had to lead in the area of Volochisk. Here the German command launched counter-attacks with the help of the 7 armored division and the SS division Adolf Hitler. Grechko's 1-I Guards Army, with the support of Sergey Ivanov's 7-Guards Tank Corps from the 3-Guards Tank Army, captured the Starokonstantinov area and went to Proskurov. Here the Germans launched four tank divisions against the advancing Soviet forces: the 1, the 6, the 16, and the 17 tank divisions.
The German command of Army Group South introduced a large force into battle: the 9 Tank and 6 infantry divisions. The Germans saw the main threat in the loss of control over the railway Lviv - Odessa. There was a threat of a rupture of the front and the division of Army Group South into two parts. The Germans fiercely counterattacked, trying to stop the Soviet troops and regain control of the lost section of the railway.
In the current situation, the Soviet command decided to temporarily stop the offensive of the troops. It was necessary to repel the German counterattacks, regroup forces, tighten the rear, artillery, reserves, determine the direction of new strikes. The Supreme Headquarters agreed with the proposal of the Military Council of the 1 of the Ukrainian Front. 11 March 60-I and 1-I Guards armies were ordered to go on the defensive.
At the same time, the Stavka clarified the tasks of the 1 of the Ukrainian Front. The main shock grouping of the front was to force the Dniester and Prut, to liberate Chernivtsi, and go to the Soviet state border. In the course of this strike, the main connections of the 1 of the German Tank Army needed to be isolated from the 4 of the Tank Army, cutting off its withdrawal path to the south, beyond the Dniester. The German tank army was planned to be surrounded and destroyed in the region north-east of Kamyanets-Podilsky. The right wing of the front (13-I army) was to attack Brody and Lviv, assisting the 2 of the Belarusian front, which was supposed to strike the Kovel direction. The offensive of the army was supported by the 25 tank and 1 and 6 guards cavalry corps. The left wing of the front (18-I and 38-I armies) attacked Kamenetz-Podolsky, assisting the 2-th Ukrainian Front. The 40 Army of the 2 Ukrainian Front was to take part in the encirclement of the enemy forces in the Kamenetz-Podolsk area.
13-I army Pukhov, breaking through the strong defense of the enemy, by the end of 17 March captured an important stronghold of the enemy - Dubno. Two days later another serious knot of the enemy’s defense was occupied - Kremenets. By March 20, the army of Pukhov, having broken the resistance of seven German divisions, reached the approaches to Brody. On this army successes ended. In the Brody area, the Germans created a strong defense and stubborn fighting continued here until the end of the operation. The 18 Army of Zhuravlev and the 38 Army of Moskalenko liberated Khmilnyk, Vinnitsa, Zhmerinka by 21 in March, pushing back the opposing parts of the 1 of the German Tank Army to Kamenets-Podolsky.
At this time, the formations of the 60 and 1 of the Guards armies, the 3 of the Guards and 4 of the tank armies fought off enemy counterstrikes in the Ternopil, Volochisk and Proskurov areas. The battle was fierce. The Germans concentrated large forces. The Soviet armies suffered heavy losses in manpower and equipment. So, 14 in March, Zhukov reported to the Headquarters that only 63 of the tank and SPG remained in Rybalko’s army, in the Poluboyarov corps (4 of the Guards Tank Corps) - 20 of tanks, other armies suffered heavy losses.
Gunners firing from the German 75-mm anti-tank gun PaK 40. District of the Soviet-Romanian border.
By the beginning of the new offensive, the attack force of the front was strengthened. Four rifle divisions transferred the 60 Army from the reserve of the front, the 1 Guards Army - two divisions. To the direction of the main attack, the 1 th tank army of Katukov was transferred. As a result, three tank armies concentrated in one fist. March 21 main strike force again went on the offensive. The 23 was broken through by the German defenses in March and units of the 60 and 1 tank armies defeated an important communications node from the enemy - Chortkov. March 24 Soviet warriors on the move forced the Dniester. 29 March forced Prut and Chernivtsi released.
Successfully acted and other armies. 4-I tank army, having made a roundabout maneuver, 26 March occupied Kamenetz-Podolsk. Parts of the 3 Guards Tank Army and the 1 Guards Army of 25 March recaptured Proskurov. Then the troops continued their attack on Kamenetz-Podolsk from the north. True, 28 in March 3-th Guards Tank Army was taken into reserve for replenishment. On March 31, units of the 4 Tank Army and the 30 Infantry Corps of the 1 Guards Army reached Khotin, where they established links with the 40 Army units of the 2 Ukrainian Front.
As a result, the 1-I German Tank Army (total 23 divisions, including 10 tank divisions, about 220 thousand people) were surrounded in the area north-east of Kamenetz-Podolsk. At the same time, the main forces of the 4 of the German Tank Army were driven west. Only in the Ternopil region was a small grouping of the enemy surrounded (12 thousand soldiers), which continued to resist. German troops were threatened with a major military disaster.
However, the lack of forces at the front, the army has already suffered great losses in previous battles, not allowed to create a dense internal front environment. In addition, the network was too "large beast" (23 division), such a "boiler" was necessary to eliminate the forces of two fronts. Therefore, surrounded by the Germans, using the gaps in the inner ring of the environment, already 31 March went on the breakthrough. The German group broke through in the direction of Chortkov, Buchach. The Germans attacked in the conditions of a snowstorm, acting at the junction of the 1-th Guards and 4-th tank armies.
Zhukov tried to prevent the breakthrough of German divisions with the help of the forces of the 4th Panzer Army, the 38th Army (74th Rifle Corps), the 18th Army (52nd Rifle Corps), and separate divisions of the 1st Guards, 18th and 38th Army. However, the rifle divisions had to engage in battle after a long march, in a sprayed state, on the move, without having prepared positions. Artillery and rear units lagged behind the advanced forces. Aviation failed to provide proper assistance. Spring thaw caused the use of unpaved airfields. The combat effectiveness of the Soviet Air Force has fallen dramatically. Therefore, the Soviet divisions could not stop the German tank wedges.
During the April 1-2, heavy battles were fought. The Germans fought their way, breaking the Soviet defense. Finally turned the tide in favor of the 1 of the German Tank Army, the deblocking blow of the 2 of the SS Tank Corps, which arrived from France. The German command transferred to the area of the fighting and other formations from Germany, France, Denmark, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia (in particular, the 1 of the Hungarian army). 4 April selected SS units struck out to meet their surrounded comrades. It also concentrated significant forces of German aviation. After three fights, the German surrounded group made their way to the Buchach area.
The German army was able to break through to her. But the 1-I tank army suffered huge losses: the divisions lost half the personnel, only the headquarters remained of many units, most of the heavy weapons and equipment were lost. Thus, the troops of the 1 of the Ukrainian Front seized 61 aircraft, 187 tanks and assault guns, thousands of vehicles, etc.
The fights did not end there, the operation continued until April 17. So, 1-I tank army Katukova led heavy fighting on the outskirts of Stanislav and in the area Nadvornaya. Tankers had to repel the enemy’s strong counter-attacks. Only with the support of the 38 army of Moskalenko, which the front command urgently transferred to the right bank of the Dniester, was it possible to stabilize the front. In addition, the front command redeployed the 18 Army to the right flank.
60-I army fought with the enemy surrounded by Ternopil grouping. The army surrounded the city still 31 March, going to the outskirts of Ternopil, but could not move further. Only having reflected the external counterattacks that the Germans inflicted in order to unblock the surrounded grouping and, having completed the preparations for the operation, the 60 army was able to launch a decisive assault. 14 April, Soviet troops launched an assault on Ternopil. After two days of fighting, the German group was defeated, on April X, its remnants were eliminated. According to German data, only a few dozen people were saved. On the same day, the troops of the 17 of the Ukrainian Front went over to the defensive. The operation was successfully completed.
Sappers make flooring for the passage of tanks. 1-th Ukrainian Front. Spring 1944
Results of the operation
The troops of 1 of the Ukrainian Front advanced 80-350 kilometers, reaching the line of Torchin, Brody, Buchach, Stanislav, Nadvornaya. The Red Army reached the borders of Czechoslovakia and Romania. Soviet troops liberated a significant part of Right-Bank Ukraine — Kamenetz-Podolsk region, most of the Vinnitsa, Ternopil and Chernivtsi regions, several districts of the Rovno and Ivano-Frankivsk regions (about 42 thousand sq. Km). 57 cities were freed from the Nazis, including three regional centers - Vinnytsia, Ternopil and Chernivtsi, several large railway junctions, a large number of villages, villages and villages.
1-I and 4-I German armies suffered heavy losses. 22 German divisions, several tank and motorized brigades, other individual units lost more than half of their personnel and most of the heavy weapons, technology, in fact, temporarily lost their combat capability. According to Soviet data, only for the period from 4 to 31 in March, 1944 was destroyed over 183 thousand German soldiers, about 25 thousand were captured. To close the gap, the German command had to redeploy up to ten divisions, in addition to the divisions that had advanced from the reserve in the course of the battle, including two tank and a number of separate formations. Reserves were transferred from Western Europe. In the foothills of the Carpathians 1 th Hungarian army advanced.
Soviet troops reached the Carpathians, the state border of the USSR and fulfilled the main objective of the operation - they split the strategic front of the enemy into two parts. The enemy’s main roadside communications were cut. However, the 1-th Ukrainian front could not accomplish the task of eliminating the 1-th tank army. For this not enough strength. The units that went to the outer and inner fronts of the encirclement lost a lot of people and equipment in the previous cruel battles. Because of the spring thaw, artillery and rear were lagging behind. Lacked tanks to fight German tank formations. And because of problems with the landing sites, unpaved airfields could not operate at full load, the aircraft was not able to fully support ground forces. Moreover, in view of the German reserves constantly being brought into battle, the German command constantly increased the number of fighting divisions.
A feature of the operation was the use by both sides of large tank groups. Thus, in the course of the second offensive of the 21 of the Ukrainian Front, which began on March 2, threw into battle three tank armies and two separate tank corps. The Germans from the very beginning of the battle had 1 tank and one motorized division. This gave the battle a special speed and maneuverability.
In general, the operation was successful and showed an increased skill of Soviet commanders and soldiers. The morale of the Soviet troops was very high, the soldiers were eager to liberate their homeland from the enemy. No wonder 70 distinguished themselves in combat units and units taught honorary names (Proskurovsky, Vinnitsa, Yampolsky, Chernivtsi, etc.).
Residents of Vinnitsa meet the Soviet soldiers-liberators. When the Soviet troops entered the fighting in Vinnitsa - the city was engulfed by fires, which were organized by the retreating Germans.