The study is divided into three parts. The first contains a brief strategic overview of the situation, as it existed by the spring of 1945, with special emphasis on German preparations to meet the inevitable Soviet attack. This section also includes an examination of the decisions by the Stavka of the Supreme High Command on the conduct of the operation. As usual, the fronts’ materiel-technical and other preparations for the offensive are covered in great detail. These include plans for artillery, artillery and engineer support, as well as the work of the rear services and political organs and the strengths, capabilities and tasks of the individual armies.
Part two deals with the Red Army’s breakthrough of the Germans’ Oder defensive position up to the encirclement of the Berlin garrison. This covers the First Belorussian Front’s difficulty in overcoming the defensive along the Seelow Heights along the direct path to Berlin, as well as the First Ukrainian Front’s easier passage over the Oder and its secondary attack along the Dresden axis. The Second Belorussian Front’s breakthrough and its sweep through the Baltic littoral is also covered.
Part three covers the intense fighting to reduce the city’s defenders from late April until the garrison’s surrender on 2 May, as well as operations in the area up to the formal German capitulation. This section contains a number of detailed descriptions of urban fighting at the battalion and regimental level. It closes with conclusions about the role of the various combat arms in the operation.
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The Berlin Operation occupies a special place among the Soviet Army's other victorious offensive operations carried out during the course of the Great Patriotic War. The Berlin Operation was essentially the concluding operation in the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet people against the German-Fascist aggressors. In this operation the Soviet forces completed the defeat of fascist Germany's armed forces and captured its capital — Berlin. Having lost any prospect of continuing armed resistance, Germany on 8 May 1945 was forced to capitulate unconditionally. The group of German forces attempting to put up resistance on Czechoslovak territory was shortly thereafter routed.
... the historic day of the final defeat of Germany, the day of great victory by our people over German imperialism, has arrived.
The Soviet people and its armed forces, under the leadership of the great Stalin, achieved a brilliant victory over fascist Germany and its allies. The banner of victory, raised by Soviet forces over the Reichstag, was a symbol of the victorious conclusion of a difficult and bloody struggle, which the Soviet people and its armed forces waged in the name of the freedom, honor and independence of its socialist Motherland, in the name of liberating the peoples of Europe from under the fascist yoke. At the same time this victory created favorable conditions for the German people, so that with the help of the Soviet Union — the bulwark of all freedom-loving peoples — it could free itself from the fascist drug and embark on a course of democratic development. In celebrating its victory, the Soviet Union was not preparing to either dismember or destroy Germany.
The Soviet forces' brilliant victory in the Berlin Operation was prepared by the course of all the Soviet army's preceding offensive operations.
Under the leadership of comrade Stalin, the Soviet army successfully carried out during the war's course the grandiose strategic counteroffensives at Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk.
As a result of the counteroffensive, which unfolded around Moscow in the winter of 1941, and the crushing blows inflicted on the Germans around Rostov and Tikhvin, the German command's main plans finally crumbled. The "conquerers" of Europe suffered their first heavy defeat. The myth of the German army's invincibility was shattered.
As a result of the counteroffensive conducted by Soviet forces in November 1942 around Stalingrad, the main German strategic group of forces, which had been attempting for months to seize Stalingrad, was destroyed. Following the historic victory at Stalingrad, the initiative was torn from the German command's hands. The Soviet armed forces themselves went over to a decisive offensive along the entire front.
As a result of the Soviet forces' counteroffensive conducted in the summer of 1943, the German-Fascist forces' main strategic group of forces, which had been concentrated against the Kursk salient and which was being defended by our troops, was defeated and Germany was placed in a catastrophic position. The German armies, under the blows by the Soviet forces, were forced to hurriedly fall back to the west. They could not be saved either by the notorious "Eastern Wall" along the Dnepr River, or by the powerful fortifications along the Vistula, Warthe and Oder rivers, their East Prussian bastion, or the Carpathian Mountains.
The Soviet army's victorious offensive operations in 1943, which led to the defeat of the enemy's main strategic groups of forces, created favorable conditions for the Soviet army's even larger and more brilliant offensive operations in 1944. If 1943 was the year of the war's turning point, then 1944 was the year of the Soviet army's decisive victories.
The mighty blows, launched along a broad front by our forces throughout 1944, crushed the entire German front from the Barents to the Black seas and threw back the German-Fascist armies far to the west, having cleared the fascist aggressors out of our Motherland's entire territory. The Soviet army, in carrying out comrade Stalin's orders, liberated from the fascist occupiers a significant part of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, all of Bulgaria and Romania, a large part of Hungary, and part of Norway. The defeat of the German-Fascist troops on the Soviet-German front was the decisive factor in the cause of liberating France, Belgium, Holland, and Italy from the fascist yoke. Military operations were transferred to German territory along a number of sectors. As a result of the Soviet army's crushing blows, Germany's satellites not only abandoned her, but turned their arms against her. By the end of the year 136 enemy divisions had been defeated and put out of action.
Germany's grave defeats, which had been inflicted on her by Soviet forces in 1944, narrowed its military-economic base and sharply worsened its economic situation. Germany lost powerful food bases on the territory temporarily occupied by her along the Ukrainian right bank, in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. Germany lost its Finnish nickel, Romanian and Hungarian oil, and Hungarian boxite, and was deprived of a significant part of its military enterprises in the liberated areas of Hungary.
The main mass of German industrial enterprises located in the northwestern part of Hungary and Austria, Czechoslovakia and Silesia, ended up under the direct blows of the Soviet army. The advance by Soviet troops into the Balkans deprived the Germans of the possibility of using Turkish raw materials. In 1944 Germany was also deprived of Western Europe's military-economic resources.
The mighty blows by Soviet forces in 1944 created extremely favorable prerequisites for the unfolding of new and final blows by the Soviet army in 1945. Our forces' offensive took on an unprecedented scope, which reflected the unwavering growth of the Soviet Union's military might and the further development of Soviet military art. If in 1944 the blows were launched consecutively along various sectors of the Soviet-German front, then in 1945 our blows were launched simultaneously along the entire front, from the Baltic Sea to the Danube River. The Soviet army's offensive operations in 1945 were characterized by a high rate of advance, great depth, and the broad and courageous employment of maneuver both for encirclement and deep frotal attacks.
As a result of these operations in the winter of 1945, powerful enemy groups of forces were defeated, encircled and destroyed. The Soviet army liberated all of Poland and a significant part of Czechoslovak territory, occupied Budapest, and occupied almost all of East Prussia and, having arrived along a broad front at the Oder and Neisse rivers, had driven deep into German territory in the provinces of Pomerania, Brandenburg and Silesia. Soviet forces had reached the immediate approaches to Berlin.
As a result of the organizational work by the party of Lenin and Stalin and the heroic efforts of all the workers, by the start of the Berlin Operation the Soviet army was plentifully supplied with everything necessary, including first-class military equipment.
By the start of the Berlin Operation our forces had acquired very rich experience in the conduct of large-scale offensive operations.
Finally, the entire rank and file of the Soviet forces was seized by a great moral upsurge. The troops and officers strove to carry out as quickly as possible the task set before the Soviet army by comrade Stalin — to complete the defeat of fascist Germany's armed forces, occupy its capital of Berlin, and to victoriously finish the Great Patriotic War.
The Overall Strategic Situation in the Spring of 1945
By April 1945; that is, by the start of the immediate preparation of the Berlin Operation, the overall strategic situation on the Soviet-German fron was as follows:
The forces of the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian fronts, as a result of the successfully conducted winter offenisive operations, had defeated the German Ninth, Fourth Panzer and Seventeenth armies, which were part of Army Group A, and had reached the central areas of Germany along a broad front. The troops of the First Belorussian Front had reached the Oder River along the sector from the shore of the Baltic Sea to the mouth of the Neisse River near Ratzdorf, having secured several bridgeheads along the western bank of the Oder River. Our troops were 60 kilometers from Berlin. The troops of the First Ukrainian Front reached the Neisse River along a sector from Ratzdorf as far as Penzig (Piensk — ten kilometers northeast of Görlitz), while its left flank had reached the Czechoslovak border along the sector Neustadt — Ratibor (Raciborz).
The forces of the Fourth, Second and Third Ukrainian fronts, having resumed their offensive in the second half of March and having defeated the German First Panzer Army, First Hungarian Army, the Eighth, Sixth Panzer, Sixth, Hungarian Third, and German Second Panzer armies, which were part of Army Group South, by the beginning of April had reached the front Ratibor — Ruzomberok — Banska Bystrica — Nitra — Sopron — Szombathely — excluding Osijek, while the troops of the Second and Third Ukrainian fronts had begun fighting on the approaches to Vienna and Bratislava.
The Yugoslav forces, as a result of the Soviet troops' brilliant successes, and with their direct assistance, had reached the front Osijek — Sid — Tuzla — Nevesinje (75 kilometers southwest of Sarajevo), where they continued fighting with the forces of the Germans' Army Group E.
The troops of the Second Baltic Front continued their operations to eliminate the Germans' Sixteenth and Eighteenth armies, which formed Army Group Courland, in the area Tukums — Libava.
The forces of the Third and Second Belorussian fronts, having defeated in East Prussia the Germans' Third Panzer, Fourth and Second armies, which formed part of Army Group North, at the beginning of April were completing the elimination of the remains of the Germans' East Prussian group in the areas of Konigsberg (Kaliningrad), to the southeast of Danzig (Gdansk), and north of Gdynia.
The strategic situation on the Western European theater, as a result of the brilliant successes by the Soviet forces in the Eastern European theater, had sharply changed in favor of the Anglo-American forces. The latter, having taken advantage of the successes of the Soviet forces' winter offensive, resumed their offensive in the second half of March and, having crossed the Rhine along the sector Bonn — Coblenz — Mannheim, had by 1 April reached the front Breda — Nijmegen — Oberhausen — Bonn — Siegen — Kassel — Mannheim — Strasbourg — Mulhouse, without encountering serious enemy resistance.
The British and American reactionary ruling circles sought to preempt the Soviet troops in taking Berlin and forced the advance of their armies to the east in every possible way. For this purpose, part of the divisions were loaded onto requisitioned motor vehicles, while the entirety of transport aviation was employed to supply these armies. Besides this, British headquarters was drawing up a plan for seizing Berlin by mounting an airborne landing.
On the Italian front French units were fighting along the Franco-Italian border along the sector Cesa — Nice. The Anglo-American forces were north of Florence along the line Ravenna — Lucca.
It should be noted that in 1945 the Soviet-German front, as in the preceding years of the war, remained the decisive one. The German command held the greater part of its armed forces against the Soviet troops.
By 1 April the overall strength of the German armed forces was 243 divisions, 44 combat groups, and 21 brigades, which translates into 275½ divisions. Their distribution along the various fronts is shown in Table 1.1.
Thus the Germans had 164 divisions, 27 combat groups, and 12 brigades in the Eastern European theater, which translates into 183½ divisions. On the Soviet-German front there were 29 panzer divisions, one panzer combat group, 11 panzergrenadier divisions, one panzergrenadier combat group, and one panzergrenadier brigade, while on the western front against the Anglo-American and French forces the Germans had only three panzer divisions, one panzer brigade, two panzer combat groups, and three panzergrenadier divisions. A significant part of the divisions operating in the west had been at one time defeated on the Soviet-German front and then transferred to France for refitting. These divisions were outfitted at 50-60 percent of strength by drafts from the latest "supertotal" mobilizations and consisted of, in the main, of 50-60 year-old men and 16-17 year-old teenagers.
As opposed to the western front, the German forces on the Soviet-German front continued to put up extremely fierce resistance to the attacking Soviet forces.
The disposition of German forces on the Soviet-German front by 1 April was as follows:
In our forces' rear, between Tukums and Libava, in the Konigsberg area, southeast of Danzig, and north of Gdynia, the forces of the Second Baltic and the Second and Third Belorussian fronts were blocking and pressing to the sea large German groups of forces: between Tukums and Libava the Sixteenth and Eighteenth armies counted between them 19 infantry and two panzer divisions; in the areas of Konigsberg, Danzig and Gdynia there was Army Group North (Fourth and Second armies), numbering 13 infantry, three panzer and one panzergrenadier divisions, ten infantry and one panzergrenadier combat groups, the remnants of an infantry division, which translated into divisions yields 181/3 infantry, three panzer, and 1½ panzergrenadier divisions.
The German command calculated on holding down 50-60 Soviet divisions by means of these groups' stubborn resistance.
Army Group Vistula (Third Panzer and Ninth armies) was responsible for the defense of the immediate approaches to Berlin along the western bank of the Oder River along a 270-kilometer front from Berg-Dievenow (on the shore of the Baltic Sea) to the mouth of the Neisse River against the forces of the First Belorussian Front, and included 19 infantry, four panzer, and six panzergrenadier divisions, and one infantry brigade and one infantry combat group, which translated into divisions yields 20 infantry, four panzer, and six panzergrenadier divisions.
Army Group Center (Fourth Panzer, Seventeenth, and parts of the First Panzer armies) were operating along a 470-kilometer front from the mouth of the Neisse River to Ratibor against the forces of the First Ukrainian Front, and included 16 infantry, six panzer, and three panzergrenadier divisions, as well as six infantry combat groups and the remnants of an infantry division, which translated into divisions yields 19½ infantry, six panzer, and three panzergrenadier divisions. Aside from this, in the Breslau (Wroclaw) area a German group was surrounded, consisting of a large number of independent groups, the remains of defeated volkssturm units and sub-units, with an overall strength of up to 43,000 men, 540 guns, and 120 tanks.
Along a 150-kilometer front excluding Ratibor — Ruzomberok, against the Fourth Ukrainian Front, there were operating nine infantry and two panzer divisions from Army Group Center's First Panzer Army.
Further to the south, along a 650-kilometer sector from Banska Bystrica to Osijek, against the Second and Third Ukrainian fronts, there was Army Group South (Eighth, Sixth Panzer, Sixth, and Second Panzer armies), consisting of 16 infantry, 12 panzer, one panzergrenadier, and two cavalry divisions, one infantry and one panzergrenadier brigades, four infantry, one cavalry, and one panzer combat groups, which translated into divisions yields 18½ infantry, 12½ panzer, 1½ panzergrenadier, and 2½ cavalry divisions.
On a 550-kilometer front from Osijek to Nevesinje, against Yugoslav forces, there were the forces of Army Group E, which included seven infantry divisions, two infantry combat groups, and five infantry brigades, which translated into divisions, yields 10½ infantry divisions.
There were also 21 infantry divisions and one infantry brigade undergoing formation in the central Germany, which were also employed on the Soviet-German front at the concluding stage of the war.(Continues…)
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Table of Contents
List of Maps xiii
List of Tables xiv
Preface to the English-Language Edition xvii
Part I The Preparation of the Berlin Operation 19
1 Introduction 21
The Overall Strategic Situation in the Spring of 1945 23
A Short Description of the Area of Military Operations 28
A Description of the German Defense 32
The Disposition of German Forces on 16 April 1945 41
2 The Operation's Preparation 55
The Overall Operational Plan. Instructions by the Stavka of the Supreme High Command 55
Decisions by the Front Commanders and Operational Planning 58
The Decision by the First Belorussian Front's Commander 58
The Decision by the First Ukrainian Front's Commander 63
The Decision by the Second Belorussian Front's Commander 66
3 Measures for Preparing and Supporting the Offensive 70
The Fight for the Bridgeheads 70
The Regrouping of Forces Before the Offensive 73
The Second Belorussian Front's Regrouping 74
The First Belorussian Front's Regrouping 79
The First Ukrainian Front's Regrouping 82
Training the Troops and Staff 85
Measures for Operational Masking 87
4 Organizing the Artillery Offensive 89
The Organization of the Second Belorussian Front's Artillery Offensive 89
The Organization of the First Belorussian Front's Artillery Offensive 91
The Organization of the First Ukrainian Front's Artillery Offensive 95
Anti-Aircraft Artillery Support for the Berlin Operation 100
5 Planning, Training and Employing the Air Force 103
The Aviation's Planning, Training and Employment in the Second Belorussian Front's Offensive 103
The Aviation's Planning, Training and Employment in the First Belorussian Front's Offensive 105
The Aviation's Planning, Training and Employment in the First Ukrainian Front's Offensive 108
6 Engineer Support for the Offensive 112
Engineer Support for the Second Belorussian Front's Offensive 112
Engineer Support for the First Belorussian Front's Offensive 115
Engineer Support for the First Ukrainian Front's Offensive 120
Chemical-Smoke Support for the Operation 125
7 Preparing the Dnepr Flotilla 127
8 The Organization of Communications 130
The Second Belorussian Front's Organization of Communications 130
The First Belorussian Fronts Organization of Communications 132
The First Ukrainian Front's Organization of Communications 135
9 Materiel Support for the Berlin Operation 139
The Second Belorussian Front's Rear Organization 139
The First Belorussian Front's Rear Organization 141
The First Ukrainian Front's Rear Organization 145
10 Political Support for the Operation 148
Organizational Measures 149
Propaganda and Agitation Work 151
11 The Disposition of the Fronts' Forces by the Start of the Operation 155
The Disposition of the Second Belorussian Front's Forces 155
The Disposition of the First Belorussian Front's Forces 159
The Disposition of the First Ukrainian Front's Forces 166
Part II Combat Operations by the First Belorussian, First Ukrainian and Second Belorussian Fronts 175
First Stage: The Breakthrough of the German Defense along the Oder and Neisse Rivers by the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts. Combat Operations by the Second Belorussian Front's Forward and Reconnaissance Units (16-19 April) 175
12 The Breakthrough of the German Defense by the First Belorussian Front (16-19 April) 177
Reconnaissance Battles, 14-15 April 177
The Fighting on 16 April 181
The Main Shock Group's Battles 182
The Right-Flank Shock Group's Battles 186
The Left-Flank Shock Group's Barries 187
The Fighting on 17 April 188
The Main Shock Group's Battles 188
The Right-Flank Shock Group's Battles 194
The Left-Flank Shock Group's Battles 194
The Fighting on 18 April 195
The Main Shock Group's Battles 196
The Right-Flank Shock Group's Battles 200
The Left-Flank Shock Group's Battles 200
The Fighting on 19 April 201
The Main Shock Group's Battles 203
The Right-Flank Shock Group's Battles 210
The Left-Flank Shock Group's Battles 210
Conclusions on the First Stage of the First Belorussian Front's Combat Operations 210
13 The Breakthrough of the German Defense by the First Ukrainian Front (16-18 April) 215
The Fighting on 16 April 215
The Main Shock Group's Battles 216
The Fighting Along the Dresden Axis 219
The Fighting on 17 April 222
The Main Shock Group's Battles 222
The Fighting Along the Dresden Axis 227
The Fighting on 18 April 227
The Main Shock Group's Battles 229
The Fighting Along the Dresden Axis 231
Conclusions on the First Stage of the First Ukrainian Front's Combat Operations 232
14 Combat Operations of the Second Belorussian Front's Forward and Reconnaissance Units (18-19 April) 236
Second Stage: The Development of the Breakthrough by the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts to Encirlce and Dismember the Germans' Berlin Group of Forces. The Breakthrough of the German Defense Along the Oder River by the Second Belorussian Front (19-25 April) 239
15 The First Belorussian Front's Offensive 241
The Fighting on 20 April 241
The Fighting on 21 April 245
The Fighting on 22 April 249
The Fighting on 23 April 255
The Fighting on 24 April 263
The Fighting on 25 April 268
16 The Offensive by the First Ukrainian Front's Main Shock Group 273
The Fighting on 19 April 274
The Fighting on 20 April 277
The Fighting on 21 April 282
The Fighting on 22 April 285
The Fighting on 23 April 288
The Fighting on 24 April 294
The Fighting on 25 April 298
17 The Offensive along the Dresden Axis (19-30 April) 300
The Fighting on 19 April 301
The Fighting on 20 April 301
The Fighting on 21 April 302
The Fighting on 22 April 302
The Fighting on 23 April 303
The Fighting on 24 April 304
The Fighting on 25 April 305
The Fighting on 26 April 306
Conclusions on the Second Stage of the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts' Combat Operations 308
18 The Forcing of the West Oder River by the Second Belorussian Front and the Breakthrough of the German Defense along its Western Bank (20-25 April) 320
The Fighting on 20 April 321
The Fighting on 21 April 323
The Fighting on 22 April 324
The Fighting on 23 April 325
The Fighting on 24 April 326
The Fighting on 25 April 327
Conclusions on the Second Stage of the Second Belorussian Front's Combat Operations 328
Third Stage: The Elimination of the Germans' Frankfurt-Guben and Berlin Groups of Forces by the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts, the Capture of Berlin and the Arrival at the Elbe River. The Pursuit and Defeat of the Germans' Third Panzer Army by the Second Belorussian Front (26 April-8 May) 333
19 The Elimination of the Frankfurt-Guben Group of Forces (26 ApriI-8 May) 335
The Situation on the First Belorussian Front's Left Wing and the First Ukrainian Front's Right Wing. The Correlation of Forces and the Troops' Objectives 335
The Fighting on 26 April 338
The Fighting on 27 April 340
The Fighting on 28 April 342
The Fighting on 29 April 343
The Fighting on 30 April 348
The Fighting on 1 May 350
Conclusions on the Combat Operations Against the Germans' Frankfurt-Guben Group of Forces 351
20 The Elimination of the Germans' Berlin Group of Forces. The Capture of Berlin (26 April-2 May) 354
A Description of Berlins Defense 355
The Fighting in Berlin 358
The Fighting on 26 April 362
The Fighting on 27 April 367
The Fighting on 28 April 370
The Fighting on 29 April 375
The Fighting on 30 April 380
The Fighting on 1 May 387
The Fighting on 2 May 388
Conclusions on the Fighting in Berlin 390
Features of Our Forces' Combat Activities in the Fighting for Berlin 391
Features of Employing Artillery 396
Features of Employing Tanks 399
Features of Employing Engineers 400
Features of Employing Aviation 402
Features of Troop Control 403
Features of Political Work 404
21 Combat Operations by the Second Belorussian Front After the Breakthrough of the German Defense on the Oder River up to the German Capitulation (26 April-8 May) 406
The Fighting on 26 April 407
The Fighting on 27 April 408
The Fighting on 28 April-5 May 409
Conclusions on the Second Belorussian Front's Combat Operations (26 April-8 May) 411
22 The First Belorussian Front and First Ukrainian Fronts' Combat Operations Following the Capture of Berlin up to the German Capitulation (3-8 May) 412
23 Conclusions from the Berlin Operation 414
The Operational Plan 415
The Scope and Pace of Operations 417
Actions of Rifle Formations in the Breakthrough 422
The Employment of the Fronts' Mobile Forces 425
The Employment of the Fronts' Second-Echelon Combined-Arms Armies 427
The Elimination of Surrounded Groups of Forces 428
Operational Support 432
Fighting for Bridgeheads and Features of Attacking from Them 434
Features of Employing the Combat Arms 435
Engineer Troops 447
Features of Control and Communications Work 449
Features of Organizing Rear Work 451
Features of Political Support for the Operation 455