October 30, 2012


Operation Barbarossa: Phase Three  (August 5,1941 – October 2, 1941)

By the middle of July, German troops managed to advance to Kiev short of a few kilometers. While 1st Panzer Army veered south, the 17th German Army charged eastward. In the process they succeeded in trapping three Soviet armies between them near Uman, They then proceeded to eliminate the pocket before veering north and crossing the Dnieper.  In the meantime, the 2nd Panzer Army, splitting off from Army Group Centre, crossed the Desna and joined 2nd Army on its right flank and together they succeeded in trapping four Soviet armies and elements of two other enemy forces.

The 4th Panzer Army, reinforced by tanks from Army Group Centre was about to launch its final attack on Leningrad. On August 8th, the Panzers penetrated Soviet defense lines: while the German 16th Army attacked towards the northeast, the 18th Army, backed by an Estonian guerilla formation cleared the area and advanced to Lake Peipus.  By the end of the month, 4th Panzer Army succeeding in advancing within 48 km (30 miles) of Leningrad.
Hitler gave the order to attack Leningrad - and that German forces take no prisoners.  On September 9, Army Group North began its final thrust and in ten days reached as far as within 11 km (7 miles) of Leningrad.  But as the Germans advanced their progress became exceedingly slow and casualties quickly mounted.  

Impatient with the lack of progress, Hitler ordered that instead of storming Leningrad, that German forces had to starve it into submission. (The "Hunger Plan" was established to secure ample food sources for the German armies, while simultaneously starving to death tens of thousands of Soviets and Jews. By 1944 over 4 million Soviets had died of starvation.)  Group Center was stranded, deprived of its Panzer forces and was vulnerable to several Soviet counter attacks. The German units suffered their first major defeat at Yelnya Offensive.

German commanders observe attack on Leningrad 1941

Soviet AA guns guard Leningrad sky Oct 1, 1941

Soviet troops in Leningrad 1941

Consequently, Hitler turned his attention back to Army Group Center and its mission to capture Moscow. He reallocated the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies, which had been advancing on Leningrad, to instead provide support for Army Group Center. But no thrust towards Moscow would be initiated until operations Kiev had been accomplished. Half of Army Group Centre had veered to the south, behind Kiev, while Army Group South, positioned at the Dniepr bridgehead advanced northward.
On September 16th, the Germans succeeded in encircling the Soviet forces in Kiev. Ferocious battle ensued during which the Germans unleashed a heavy barrage of fire power by tanks, artillery and aerial bombardment. The Germans won, after ten days of very heavy fighting. Soviet casualties were 452,720 KIA, 600,000 Soviet soldiers taken prisoners, as well as the confiscation of Soviet weapons - 3,867 artillery guns and mortars from 43 divisions of the Soviet 5th, 37th, 26th and 21st Soviet Armies.

Operation Barbarossa - Capture of Kiev September 19, 1941


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