The defeat of the Heilsberg grouping and the reduction of the front line allowed the Soviet command to regroup in the shortest time possible into the Koenigsberg sector. In mid-March, Ozerov's 50 Army was transferred to the Koenigsberg area, by March 25, the Chanchibadze 2 Guards Army, and in the beginning of April, Krylov's 5 Army. Castling required all 3-5 night marches. As it turned out after the capture of Königsberg, the German command did not expect that the Red Army would quickly create a strike force to storm the fortress.
On March 20, Soviet troops were instructed "to break through the Königsberg fortified area and storm the city of Königsberg." The basis of the combat formations of the units during the breakthrough of enemy defenses, and especially for urban battles, were assault detachments and assault groups. Assault groups were created on the basis of rifle battalions, and assault groups - rifle companies with a corresponding gain.
The March 30 directive presented a concrete plan for the Koenigsberg operation and the tasks of each army. The beginning of the attack was scheduled for the morning of April 5 1945 of the year (then moved to April 6). The command of the 3 Belorussian Front decided to strike simultaneous strikes at the city from the north and south in converging directions, surround and destroy the enemy garrison. To deliver powerful blows on the narrow sectors of the front, the main forces were concentrated. On the Zemland direction, it was decided to launch an auxiliary strike in a western direction in order to divert part of the enemy group from Konigsberg.
The 43 Army of Beloborodov and the right flank of the 50 Army of Ozerov attacked the city from the north-west and north; 11-I Guards Army Galician advanced from the south. Lyudnikov's 39 Army delivered an auxiliary strike in the north to the south and had to reach Frishhes-Huff Bay, cutting off the communications of the Königsberg garrison with the rest of the Zemland task force. The 2-I Guards Army of Changchibadze and the 5-I Army of Krylov delivered auxiliary attacks on the Zemland direction, on Norgau and Dish.
Thus, Konigsberg should have taken three armies - the 43-I, 50-I and 11-I Guards armies. On the third day of the operation, the 43 Army of Beloborodov, together with the right flank of the 50 Army of Ozerov, was to capture the entire northern part of the city to the Pregel River. The 50 Army of Ozerov also had to solve the task of capturing the northeast part of the fortress. On the third day of the operation, the 11 Army of Galitsky was to seize the southern part of Königsberg, reach the Pregel River and be ready to force the river to help clean the north bank.
The artillery commander, Colonel General N. M. Khlebnikov, was instructed a few days before the decisive assault to begin processing heavy enemy artillery positions. Large-caliber Soviet artillery was supposed to destroy the enemy’s most important defenses (forts, bunkers, bunkers, shelters, etc.), as well as wage counter-battery combat, striking German artillery. In the preparatory period, the Soviet aviation It was supposed to cover the concentration and deployment of armies, prevent the approach of reserves to Koenigsberg, take part in the destruction of long-term enemy defenses and suppress German artillery, and during the assault support the attacking troops. The 3rd Air Army of Nikolai Papivin was given the task of supporting the advance of the 5th and 39th Armies, the 1st Air Army of Timofei Khryukin - the 43rd, 50th and 11th Guards Armies.
The commander of the 3 Belorussian Front, Marshal of the Soviet Union A. M. Vasilevsky (left) and his deputy, Army General I. Kh. Bagramyan clarify the Koenigsberg assault plan
2 on April, Vasilevsky’s commander’s front held a military meeting. In general, the plan of operation was approved. Five days were spent on the Koenigsberg operation. On the first day of the army of the 3 of the Byelorussian Front, they had to break through the external fortifications of the Germans, and in the following days to complete the rout of the Königsberg garrison. After the capture of Konigsberg, our troops were to develop an offensive to the north-west and finish off the Zemland group.
In order to strengthen the air power of the strike, front-line aviation was strengthened by two corps of the 4th and 15th air armies (2nd Belorussian and Leningrad fronts) and the Red Banner Baltic fleet. The 18th Air Army of heavy bombers (former long-range aviation) took part in the operation. The operation was attended by the French Normandy-Niemen fighter regiment. Naval aviation was given the task of delivering massive attacks on the port of Pillau and transport, both in the Königsberg Canal and on the approaches to Pillau, to prevent the evacuation of the German group by sea. In total, the front's aviation group was strengthened to 2500 aircraft (about 65% were bombers and attack aircraft). The general command of the air forces in the Königsberg operation was carried out by the commander of the Red Army Air Force, Chief Marshal of Aviation A. A. Novikov.
The Soviet group in the Königsberg area numbered about 137 thousand soldiers and officers, up to 5 thousand guns and mortars, 538 tanks and self-propelled guns. In manpower and artillery, the advantage over the enemy was insignificant - 1,1 and 1,3 times. Only in armored vehicles had significant superiority - 5 times.
German technology on the street Mitteltragheim in Konigsberg after the assault. Right and left StuG III assault guns, in the background the tank destroyer JgdPz IV
Abandoned German 105-mm howitzer le.FH18 / 40 in position in Konigsberg
The German equipment abandoned in Konigsberg. Foreground: 150-mm howitzer sFH 18
Königsberg, one of the inter-fortifications
Preparation of the assault
To storm the Konigsberg prepared during the whole of March. Assault detachments and assault groups were formed. At the headquarters of the Zemland Group, a mock-up of the city was made with terrain, defensive structures and buildings to work out the issues of interaction with the commanders of divisions, regiments and battalions. Before the start of the operation, all officers, including platoon commanders, were given a city plan with a single numbering of quarters and major structures. This greatly facilitated the control of troops during the assault.
Much work was done on the preparation of artillery to storm the Konigsberg. In detail and carefully worked out the procedure for using artillery for direct fire and the use of assault guns. The artillery divisions of large and special power with a caliber from 203 to 305 mm were to take part in the operation. Before the start of the operation, the front artillery smashed enemy defenses for four days, concentrating on the destruction of long-term structures (forts, pillboxes, dugouts, the most durable buildings, etc.).
Between 1 and 4 on April, the battle formations of the Soviet armies were sealed. In the north, in the direction of the main attack of the 43 and 50 armies of Beloborodov and Ozerov, 10 rifle divisions were concentrated on the 15-kilometer stretch of the breakthrough. The artillery density in the northern sector brought 220 guns and mortars to 1 km of the front, the density of armored vehicles to 23 tanks and SPGs to 1 km. In the south, on the 8,5-kilometer breakthrough sector, the 9 rifle divisions were ready to strike. Artillery density in the northern sector brought to 177 guns and mortars, the density of tanks and self-propelled guns - 23 machines. The 8 Army’s 39 auxiliary strike, which had an auxiliary strike, had 139 guns and mortars on the 1 km of front, 14 tanks and SAU on 1 km of the front.
To support the troops of 3 of the Byelorussian Front, the Soviet Headquarters ordered the use of the forces of the Baltic Fleet. To this end, a detachment of river armored boats moved to the Pregel river in the area of the city of Tapiau from Oranienbaum by rail. At the end of March, in the area of Gutenfeld Station (10 km southeast of Koenigsberg), the artillery of the 404 of the Baltic Fleet railway artillery division was deployed. The railway artillery division was supposed to prevent the movement of German ships along the Koenigsberg canal, as well as to strike ships, port facilities, moorings and a railway junction.
In order to concentrate the efforts of the fleet and organize closer cooperation with the ground forces, at the end of March a South-Western naval defense area was created under the command of Rear Admiral N. I. Vinogradov. It included Lubawsky, Pilaussky, and later Kolbergsky naval bases. The Baltic Fleet was supposed to disrupt enemy communications, including with the help of aviation. In addition, they began to prepare the navy for landing in the rear of the Zemland group.
The positions of the German air defense forces after the bombing. On the right is a sound absorbing system.
Königsberg, destroyed German artillery battery
The beginning of the operation. Breakthrough Enemy Defense
At dawn 6 on April, Vasilevsky ordered an offensive to begin at 12 hours. In 9 hours began artillery and aviation training. The commander of the 11 Guards Army, Kuzma Galitsky, recalled: “The earth trembled at the roar of the cannonade. Enemy positions along the entire front of the breakthrough were closed by a solid wall of shells' breaks. The city was shrouded in thick smoke, dust and fire. ... Through the brown veil it was possible to see how our heavy shells demolish earth coverings from the fortifications of forts, how pieces of logs and concrete, stones, distorted parts of military equipment fly up into the air. With a roar, Katyush shells rushed over our heads.
The roofs of the old forts for a long time covered with a significant layer of earth, and even overgrown with young forest. From a distance they looked like small, forested hills. However, by skillful actions, the Soviet gunners cut off this layer of earth and reached the brick or concrete vaults. The dumped ground and trees quite often blocked the Germans with a view and closed the embrasures. Artillery preparation continued until 12 hours. In the offensive 11-th Guards Army 9 hour. 20 min. The army long-range group struck at German batteries, and with 9 an hour. 50 min. before 11 hour. 20 min. struck blows at identified enemy firing positions. At the same time, the "Katyushas" crushed the acting German mortar batteries and strong points at the nearest depth. From 11 hour. before 11 hour. 20 min. guns, set in direct fire, shot targets at the front edge of the enemy. After that until 12 hour. all the artillery of the army delivered strikes to a depth of 2 km. Mortars focused on suppressing enemy manpower. Divisional and corps artillery was focused on the destruction of fire weapons and strongholds, the artillery of the army group led the counter-battery struggle. At the end of the artillery preparation all the means hit the front edge.
Due to unfavorable weather, Soviet aviation was not able to accomplish its mission — instead of the planned 4 thousand of sorties, only about 1 thousand of sorties were made. Therefore, the assault aircraft could not support the attack of infantry and tanks. Artillery had to take on part of the tasks of aviation. Up to 13 hour. Aviation operated in small groups, significantly increasing activity only in the second half of the day.
In 11 hour. 55 min. "Katyushas" dealt the final blow to the main strongholds of the enemy. Even in the course of artillery preparation, Soviet advanced units had come close to the front edge of the enemy. Under the cover of artillery fire, some units attacked the stunned Germans, began to seize advanced trenches. At 12 hours, Soviet troops launched an assault on enemy positions. The first were assault detachments with the support of tanks, they were created in all infantry divisions. Divisional and corps artillery, artillery of the army group moved the fire deep into the enemy defense and continued to fight the battery of counter-battery. The guns of the infantry, who were in combat formations, were taken to direct fire, and they smashed the enemy’s positions.
The awakened German troops put up stubborn resistance, fired tightly and counterattacked. The offensive of the 11 Guards Army serves as a good example of the bitterness of the fighting for Königsberg. In the offensive zone of the 11 Guards Army, the powerful 69 German Infantry Division defended, reinforced by three regiments of other divisions (in fact, it was another division) and a significant number of individual battalions, including the militia, workers, construction, serfs, special forces and police. In this area, the Germans had about 40 thousand people, more than 700 guns and mortars, 42 tank and SAU. 4 powerful forts strengthened the German defense in the southern sector (No. 12 Eilenburg, No. 11 Denhoff, No. 10 Konitz and No. 8 King Frederick I), 58 long-term firing points (bunk bunkers) and 5 XORNXX from sturdy buildings.
The 11 th Galician army guards led into the first line all three corps - the 36 th, 16 th and 8 th guards infantry corps. The Galitsky army delivered the main attack with the connections of the 16 Guards Rifle Corps in cooperation with the shock groups of the 8 and 36 Guards Rifle Corps. Each Guards Rifle Corps exhibited in the first echelon two rifle divisions and one in the second. The commander of the 8 Guards Rifle Corps, Lieutenant-General M. N. Zavadovsky, delivered the main blow with the left flank along the Aiden-Rosenau line. The corps commander singled out the 26 th and 83 th guards divisions in the first echelon, the 5 th guards rifle division was located in the second echelon. The right flank of the corps was covered by an army reserve regiment, army courses for junior lieutenants and a combined cavalry regiment of mounted reconnaissance. The commander of the 16 Guards Rifle Corps, Major General S. S. Guryev, aimed the troops at Ponart. He sent 1 and 31 divisions in the first echelon, 11 division in the second. The commander of the 36 Guards Rifle Corps, Lieutenant General PK Koshevoy, struck the right flank of the corps in the direction of Prappeln and Kalgen. In the first echelon there were 84-I and 16-I divisions, in the second echelon - 18-I division. The left flank of the corps at the Bay of Frisches-Huff covered the flamethrower battalion and the company of cadets.
The 26, 1 and 31 units of the Guards Rifle Divisions of the 11 Guards Army operating on the main line, captured the enemy’s second trench with the first strike (the first position of the fortress and the fort No. 9 Ponart took the Soviet troops back in January). Guardsmen of the 84 Division also broke into enemy positions. The 83-I and 16-I guards rifle divisions that were advancing on the flanks were less successful. They had to break through a strong defense in the area of the German forts number 8 and 10.
So in the 8-th Guards Rifle Corps 83-division I fought a hard battle for the fort number 10. Soviet guardsmen were able to get close to the fort on 150-200 m, but could not go further, prevented by strong fire from the fort and its supporting parts. The division commander, Major-General A. G. Maslov, left one regiment to block the fort, while the other two regiments, hiding behind a smoke screen, moved on and broke into Aviden. Maslov led the assault groups into battle, and they began to knock the Germans out of the buildings. As a result of an hour-long battle, our troops occupied the southern part of Avaiden and broke through to the northern outskirts. The 26 Division of the 8 Corps also successfully advanced, supported by tanks of the 23 tank tank brigade and three batteries of the 260 heavy self-propelled artillery regiment.
1-I Guards Rifle Division 16-th Guards Rifle Corps, reinforced tanks and self-propelled guns, to 14 hour. I went to Ponart. Our troops went to the assault on this suburb of Königsberg. The Germans fiercely resisted, using the weapons left after artillery preparation and tanks and assault weapons dug into the ground. Our troops lost several tanks. 31-I Guards Rifle Division, which also attacked Ponart, broke into the second line of the enemy's trenches. However, then the offensive of the Soviet troops halted. As it turned out after the seizure of the capital of East Prussia, the German command was expecting in this direction the main attack of the 11 Guards Army, and with particular attention was engaged in the defense of the Ponart direction. Camouflaged anti-tank guns and tanks dug into the ground caused serious damage to our troops. The trenches to the south of Ponart were occupied by a specially formed battalion of an officer’s school. The fights were extremely fierce and turned into hand-to-hand combat. Only by 16 hour. The 31 Division broke through the enemy defenses and joined the battle for Ponart.
It was also hard for the 36 Corps guards. The first attacks the Germans fought off. Then, using the success of the neighboring 31 division, the 84-th Guards Division with the 338-th heavy self-propelled artillery regiment, in 13 an hour. broke through the German defense and began to move to Prappelnu. However, the left-flank regiment was stopped by Fort No. 8. And the remaining forces of the division could not take Prappeln. The division stopped, delivered an artillery strike to the village, but it did not reach the goal, since the divisional guns could not reach the concrete and stone basements. More powerful tools were required. The front command ordered the regrouping of forces, the blocking of the 1-2 fort battalions, the main forces to move to Prappelnu. Army artillery received the task of crushing the fortifications of Prappelna with large-caliber guns.
K 15 hour. the regrouping of parts of the 84 Guards Division was completed. The artillery strike of army artillery led to a positive effect. The guards quickly took the southern part of the village. Then the offensive was somewhat halted, as the German command transferred two battalions of militia and several assault guns to this area. However, the Germans successfully cramped, seizing the house behind the house.
Street fight in Konigsberg
Broken enemy vehicles on the streets of Königsberg
Thus, to the 15-16 hour. Galician army broke through the first position of the enemy, moving in the direction of the main attack on 3 km. It was broken and the intermediate line of defense of the Germans. On the flanks, Soviet troops advanced 1,5 km. Now the army began to assault the enemy’s second position, which was held on the outskirts of the city and relied on buildings adapted to the circular defense.
The critical moment of the operation has come. The Germans brought into battle all the nearest tactical reserves and began to transfer reserves from the city, trying to stabilize the front. The guard corps were fighting hard in the area of Prappelna and Ponart. Almost all infantry regiments already used the second echelons, and some of the last reserves. It took an effort to finally turn the tide in their favor. Then the command of the army decided to throw into battle the divisions of the second echelon of the corps, although initially they were not planning to enter the battle on the first day of the operation. However, keeping them in reserve was impractical. In 14 hour. began to push the 18 and 5 guards divisions forward.
In the afternoon, cloudiness began to dissipate, and Soviet aircraft stepped up their actions. Attack aircraft of the 1 Guards aviation division under the command of General S. D. Prutkov, Hero of the Soviet Union, and 182 attack aircraft division of General V. I. Shevchenko under the cover of 240 fighter aircraft of the Hero of the Soviet Union, Major General GV Zimin, fighter on the positions of the enemy powerful blows. "Elah" acted at a minimum height. "Black Death", as the Germans called IL-2, destroyed manpower and equipment, crushed the firing positions of enemy troops. Attempts by individual German fighters to thwart the attack of Soviet assault aircraft were repelled by our fighters. Air strikes against enemy positions accelerated the movement of the Soviet Guard. So after our attack aircraft had crushed the enemy positions south of Rosenau, the troops of the 26 Guards Division took the southern part of Rosenau.
Parts of the 1 and 5 divisions fought hard in the area of the railway depot and the railway. German troops counterattacked and even pressed our troops in places, returning some of the previously lost positions. The 31 Division fought furiously for Ponart. The Germans turned the stone houses into citadels and, with the support of artillery and assault guns, actively resisted. The streets were blocked by barricades, the approaches to them were covered by minefields and wire barriers. Literally stormed every house. Part of the houses had to be demolished by artillery fire. The Germans fought off three division attacks. Only in the evening the guardsmen made some progress, but failed to build on their success, the division had exhausted its reserves. At 19 hours the division went into a new attack. Actively assault detachments acted, which consistently took house after house. Great help was provided by heavy self-propelled guns, shells which pierced through the house. K 22 hour. The 31 Division captured the southern edge of Ponart.
The 18-th Guards Rifle Division of the 36 Corps (second-tier division) launched the assault on Prappeln. The Germans resisted stubbornly, and only in the evening the division captured the south-western part of Prappeln. The 84 Division has advanced only slightly. The fort number 8 was completely surrounded. 16-I Guards Rifle Division by the end of the day took Kalgen.
Results of the first day of the offensive
By the end of the day, the 11-th Guards Army advanced 4 km, broke through the first enemy position in the 9-kilometer stretch, the intermediate defensive line in the 5-kilometer stretch and in the direction of the main attack reached the second position. Soviet troops occupied the border crossing northeast of the fort number 10 - railway depot - the southern part of Ponart - Prappeln - Kalgen - Varten. The threat of dismemberment of the enemy grouping, which defended south of the River Pregel, was created. From the Germans cleared 43 quarter of the suburbs and the city itself. The task of the first day of the offensive was generally accomplished. True, the flanks of the army lagged behind.
In other areas, Soviet troops also successfully moved. 39-I army Lyudnikova wedged into the defense of the enemy at 4 kilometer, intercepting the railway Konigsberg - Pillau. Part of the 43 Army Beloborodov broke through the first position of the enemy, took the fort number 5 and surrounded the fort number 5, knocked out the Nazis from Charlottenburg and the village south-west of it. 43-I army first broke into Konigsberg and cleared the Germans 20 quarter. Only 43 kilometers remained between troops 11 and 8 of the Guards army. The troops of 50 Army of Ozerov also broke through the first line of defense of the enemy, advanced on 2 km, took the fort number 4 and occupied the 40 quarters of the city. The 2-I Guards and 5-I armies remained in place.
The German command, in order to avoid encirclement of the Königsberg garrison and parry the blow of the 39 army, introduced the 5 tank division into battle. In addition, additional troops began to be moved from the Zemland Peninsula to the Konigsberg region. The commandant of Konigsberg, Otto von Lyash, apparently believed that the main threat to the city came from the 43 and 50 army, which rush to the center of the capital of East Prussia. From the south, the city center was covered by the Pregel River. In addition, the Germans feared the entourage of Konigsberg, trying to fend off the 39 army. In the south, the defense was reinforced by several reserve battalions, and also tried to hold the forts No. 8 and 10, which held back the flanks of the 11 Guards Army and hastily created new fortifications in the path of the Galician army.
After the battle in the area of Königsberg
Soviet gunners in a city battle in Konigsberg
Soviet ACS ISU-122С is fighting in Königsberg
To be continued ...