Operation Bagration: Soviet Offensive of 1944

Operation Bagration: Soviet Offensive of 1944

7/25/2006 • World War II

Geographically, it dwarfed the campaign for Normandy. In four weeks, it inflicted greater losses on the German army than the Wehrmacht had suffered in five months at Stalingrad. With more than 2.3 million men, six times the artillery and twice the number of tanks that launched the Battle of the Bulge, it was the largest Allied operation of World War II. It demolished three Axis armies and tore open the Eastern Front. Operation Bagration, the Red Army’s spring 1944 blitzkrieg, was designed to support Allied operations in France, liberate Russian territory and break the back of the Wehrmacht once and for all.

In the south, Germany and its allies — mostly Hungarians and Romanians — held the line near the Ukraine’s western borders, south of the impassable Pripyat Marshes, with two army groups. To the north, in the Baltic republics, three Red Army groups faced Germany’s Army Group North.

It was in the center, in Belorussia (so-called White Russia), where the main Soviet blow would fall. There Adolf Hitler fielded 38 infantry divisions, two Luftwaffe field divisions, seven security divisions, two Panzergrenadier divisions and one panzer division, all grouped into four armies and led by Field Marshal Ernst Busch, a commander whose promotion was mainly due to his unquestioning loyalty to the Führer.

While Belorussia was the center of gravity for Germany’s eastern forces, it had by no means come fully under Wehrmacht control. Partisan activity was more pronounced there than in other sectors, where Nazi reprisals since 1941 had been brutal even by Eastern Front standards. Punitive operations by the Germans in January, February and April 1944 had left entire villages leveled, their inhabitants lined up and executed. All told, an estimated 1 million people, including the region’s entire Jewish population, had been exterminated. In response to this terror, by mid-1944 partisan numbers had swelled to something between 143,000 and 374,000, depending on who was counting.

What was worse for the occupiers, those partisan forces were becoming increasingly well organized and in better touch with Soviet authorities — who could direct their activities to maximum advantage.

The Red Army’s earlier progress in the Baltic region and Ukraine left a “Belorussian Bulge” in the center, from which Field Marshal Busch requested permission to withdraw in order to shorten his line and relieve the danger of a pincer movement against the salient. Hitler, concerned with wavering support among his Finnish, Hungarian and Romanian allies, was determined to cling to his defenses at the eastern end of the bulge, and the army high command, Oberkommando des Heeres, or OKH, denied Busch’s request.

Hitler’s no-retreat policy in the east left Busch in a vulnerable position. His sector was a tempting target for the Red Army, since the eastern end of the bulge included the 50-mile-wide land bridge between the Dniepr and Dvina rivers that guarded Russia from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Control of that gap would allow armies to pass overland to Moscow — or Berlin.

Another problem for Busch was that his army, while strong in raw numbers, included a large proportion of Luftwaffe field units, security troops, Hungarian and Slovak divisions, and Volksdeutsche — ethnic Germans from the occupied territories whose desire to lay down their lives for the Führer was rightly suspect. By 1944 the German army, still dependent on horse-drawn wagons for supply and movement, was an old-fashioned, slow force compared to its Communist opponents, who had been liberally supplied with the ubiquitous 2.5-ton Studebaker truck manufactured in capitalism’s heartland. Worse yet was the lack of air cover; Germany’s Sixth Air Fleet was vastly outnumbered along Army Group Center’s front.

The offensive would be a characteristically Soviet enterprise, a massive push along a 450-mile-long axis of advance. Four army group fronts would launch artillery barrages and attack simultaneously. To the north, the First Baltic Front under General Ivan Bagramyan, ultimately fielding 359,500 men, would push into Latvia to screen the right flank of the main assault and support forces farther south. Below him, the Third Belorussian Front under General Ivan Chernyakhovsky, with 579,300 men, would capture heavily defended Vitebsk and the area north of Orsha, then push southwest toward Minsk, the Belorussian capital, and Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, crushing or encircling Busch’s Third Panzer Army at Vitebsk and his Fourth Army, centered around Orsha. South of Orsha, General Georgy Zakharov’s Second Belorussian Front, with 319,500 men, would help complete the encirclement of Minsk and push west toward Grodno on the Niemen River as part of a mopping-up operation in the wake of the other fronts.

Farthest south, the First Belorussian Front — 1,071,100 men commanded by General Konstantin Rokossovsky — would assault Busch’s Ninth Army, skirting the Pripyat Marshes and pushing due west toward Bobruisk on the Berezina River, then in the general direction of Minsk. The First and Third Belorussian fronts, which held the bulk of the armor and firepower, would attack along converging lines with the aim of encircling the German armies east of Minsk, not simply pushing them back into Poland. To aid the attackers, partisan units coordinated by Stavka, the Red Army high command, would launch demolition attacks against Belorussian railways to prevent reinforcements from reaching the threatened zone.

Because the undertaking was so extensive and complex, the four army group fronts would fall under the overall command of two trusted Stavka representatives. Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevsky, the organizer of victory at Stalingrad, would direct the two northern fronts, while the southern fronts would be supervised by Marshal Georgi Zhukov, who directed the defenses of Leningrad, Moscow and, with Vasilevsky, Stalingrad.

For an offensive of this scope, the Red Army assembled 118 rifle divisions, eight tank and mechanized corps, 13 artillery divisions and six cavalry divisions, a total of approximately 2.3 million frontline and support troops. The attack would be led by the rifle and tank divisions, which collectively fielded 2,715 tanks and 1,355 assault guns. To feed the offensive, the Red Army stockpiled 1.2 million tons of ammunition, rations and supplies behind the front lines.

The assaulting troops would be supported on the ground by 10,563 heavy artillery pieces and 2,306 Katyusha multiple rocket launchers, nicknamed “Stalin’s Organ” because of their pipe-organ appearance. Air cover would be provided by 2,318 fighters of various types, 1,744 Ilyushin Il-2 Shturmovik ground-attack planes, 655 medium bombers and 431 night bombers; another 1,007 medium bombers would be drawn from the Soviet strategic bomber reserve. The code name selected for the operation referred to General Piotr Bagration, the fiery Russian prince who died fighting Napoleon at Borodino in 1812.

If successful, Operation Bagration promised huge rewards for Stalin. Minsk and other major Belorussian cities would fall back into Soviet hands, and a successful push would isolate Army Group North, which could then be dispatched more or less at Stalin’s leisure. To capitalize on the anticipated success, as Bagration achieved its objectives and the Nazis fed troops from northern Ukraine into Belorussia to stop the onslaught, a secondary Red Army attack would thrust toward Lwow in northern Ukraine, driving Axis troops out of Soviet territory; Romania, Hungary, Warsaw and East Prussia would become the new front lines of the war.

In the days preceding Bagration, Stavka executed a massive deception plan designed to convince its German counterpart, OKH, that the main attack would come farther south. Forces in the Ukraine were ordered to prepare deceptive concentrations similar to the phantom army that had assembled under Lt. Gen. George S. Patton opposite the Pas de Calais prior to the landings at Normandy. The Red Army Air Force clamped down on Luftwaffe reconnaissance missions along the front, allowing only occasional flights that would spot the phony troop concentrations, while headquarter units made greater use of more secure telephone lines in lieu of radio communications.

For its part, OKH concluded that the presence of oil-rich Romania and the more maneuverable terrain of the Ukrainian steppes made that sector the most likely target, particularly since the Red Army had just concluded an offensive in that region during the late winter.

Hitler and OKH were convinced that the next attack would be launched in the northern Ukraine, and reinforcements to the east — including the potent 56th Panzer Corps — were diverted to Field Marshal Walter Model’s Army Group North Ukraine, leaving Busch’s Army Group Center with only about 11 percent of the tanks and assault guns allocated to the Eastern Front. While some members of Busch’s intelligence staff predicted a major Belorussian offensive in mid- to late June, Busch himself was evidently persuaded to accept the OKH assessment as more accurate and, following Hitler’s policy to the letter, he refused to let his army commanders pull back to shorten their fronts and pack their defensive lines more tightly.

Operation Bagration was preceded by coordinated partisan attacks on German supply lines, code-named “Rail War” and “Concert.” Between June 19 and 23, Belorussian guerrillas sabotaged rail networks and bridges — detonating some 10,500 demolition charges during the night of June 19-20 alone — impeding the movement of ammunition, food and reinforcements to the front.

Originally timed for June 14, 1944, the operation’s start was delayed by Soviet rail congestion until June 22, 1944 — three years to the day from the Nazi invasion of Soviet territory. The offensive opened at 5 a.m. with a massive artillery bombardment. Each of the thousands of guns along the line was allotted roughly 6 tons of ammunition to fire during a two-hour barrage. The shelling was conducted in a rolling manner so as to destroy the Wehrmacht’s forward trenches and pillboxes, then catch retreating soldiers in the open before they could reach the safety of their intermediate lines. The less precise Katyusha batteries showered artillery targets with 82mm and 132mm rockets to ensure that nothing remained alive in the forward zone. Shocked German survivors described this barrage as the most intense and destructive they had ever witnessed.

The preliminary work on several fronts began the same day with a reconnaissance in force, with company- to brigade-size raids designed to gather intelligence and fix German troops in place so they could later be destroyed. Several divisions also launched attacks against Busch’s Third Panzer Army to bore openings in the line, while the flanks of a four-division German salient at Vitebsk were squeezed to create jumping-off points for the encirclement of that city. That night, Soviet medium bombers flew 1,000 sorties to soften up the German line.

The next day, June 23, the full weight of the assault lurched forward. Abandoning their costly human-wave techniques of 1941, Red Army soldiers concentrated their fire upon tactically valuable ground, seized it, and then called up tanks to the new positions to deliver a larger breakthrough. By the afternoon of the second day, the Third Panzer Army’s line was perforated and Vitebsk was in danger of encirclement by two Soviet armies.

As the Soviet Forty-third Army closed in around Vitebsk from the north and the Thirty-ninth Army attacked from the south, Busch meekly requested permission from OKH to withdraw to a secondary line of defense, called the “Tiger Line.” But Hitler, still waiting for the main blow to fall elsewhere, had designated Vitebsk a “fortified place,” to be held to the last man. By nightfall, two German divisions were encircled and two others were fighting for their lives.

Subsequent attacks by the Soviet Thirty-ninth Army crushed Busch’s LIII Corps, and within three days, five German divisions — about 28,000 men — were wiped out. A continued drive west shattered the Third Panzer Army’s IX Corps by the end of the month, effectively destroying the Third Panzer Army.

Fifty miles south of Vitebsk, Busch’s Fourth Army, fielding 12 divisions, was fighting to hold the line around the Dniepr River and Orsha, a critical juncture along the Moscow–Minsk highway. Lead elements of the Eleventh Guards Army ran headlong into the 78th Sturm (Assault) Division, which had been kept at high strength and was heavily supplied with artillery to hold the crucial highway.

Anticipating well-prepared fixed defenses, each of the assaulting rifle divisions was preceded by a company of T-34 tanks fitted with mine-rollers, a heavy tank regiment, a heavy artillery regiment and an engineer assault battalion. Following this came a wave of flamethrower tank companies and light artillery regiments to liquidate pockets of resistance.

This massive push bogged down in a cluster of tank traps, mines and German infantry positions liberally supplied with Panzerfaust antitank rockets. But before long, General Chernyakhovsky managed to move his tanks north of Orsha, and promptly fed a mixed task force through the woods to exploit the gap. By the end of the day, the road to Minsk was within reach of the Third Belorussian Front.

By June 25, Chernyakhovsky had fed the Second Guards Tank Army through the breach, demolishing one of Fourth Army’s two corps. Despite Hitler’s firm refusal to allow a withdrawal from Orsha — and Busch’s endorsement of this policy — the commander of Fourth Army quietly pulled his units back toward more defensible lines. The next evening Orsha fell to the Red Army, and the road to Minsk now lay open.

Farther south, 13 divisions of Busch’s Ninth Army successfully resisted initial attacks by Rokossovsky’s First Belorussian Front (consisting of the Third, Forty-eighth and Sixty-fifth armies), which had to contend with bad weather as it worked its way around the north edge of the Pripyat Marshes. During the morning of June 24, the first day of the main assault in this sector, the Soviet Third Army — equipped with 500 tanks and assault guns and 200 heavy antitank guns — was repulsed, but at heavy cost to the Axis.

As the weather began to improve, the Third Army mauled two infantry divisions and began to break through German lines, driving a wedge between Busch’s Ninth and Fourth armies. The Ninth Army’s commander, General Hans Jordan, moved up his reserve, the understrength 20th Panzer Division. But as Rokossovsky committed his Sixty-fifth Army and the I Guards Tank Corps to the battle, 20th Panzer began taking losses with no appreciable effect on the advance. Jordan therefore ordered the division to move toward Bobruisk. By the end of June 24, Soviet tanks were six miles behind the Ninth Army’s lines, the vanguard of a spearhead three miles wide at its tip and 18 miles wide at its base.

It was not until June 26, three days after the main assault began, that the first Axis reinforcement, the 5th Panzer Division, arrived from the Ukraine to plug the gap between the Third Panzer and Fourth armies. Boasting 70 Panther and 29 Tiger tanks, 5th Panzer was sent to hold the line east of the Berezina River until Busch’s retreating Fourth Army could establish a proper defensive line. Soon thereafter, the Fourth Army endured a scene reminiscent of Napoleon’s 1812 campaign: A mass of troops retreating from the east had abandoned their heavy equipment on the east side of the Berezina and were fleeing west in disorder, crossing small crowded bridges under fire.

Rokossovsky’s men drove west toward Bobruisk, a critical crossing point on the Berezina, threatening to cut off those German units fighting on the east side of the river. As Rokossovsky’s Third Army crept toward Bobruisk, Busch, following Hitler’s “no retreat” injunction, refused to allow his infantry to cross. When the Soviet IX Tank Corps and I Guards Tank Corps captured Bobruisk and the major crossings over the Berezina, several German infantry divisions found themselves trapped on the east side. Rokossovsky exploited the collapse of German resistance in this sector with a cavalry and a mechanized corps, killing or capturing thousands of German

As Soviets were pouring across the Belorussian border, Hitler and OKH were slow to grasp the danger Army Group Center faced. On June 26, Busch and Ninth Army’s General Jordan flew to Hitler’s headquarters to convince the Führer to relent on the no-retreat policy that was destroying armies a division at a time. Furious with the near-collapse of the Ninth Army, Hitler relieved both Jordan and Busch, replacing the latter with Field Marshal Walther Model, commander of Army Group North Ukraine and the Führer’s top troubleshooter.

At the end of June, Model arrived at Minsk to find the Red Army across the Berezina, only eight miles from his new headquarters, and Army Group Center without reserves left to counterattack Soviet bridgeheads. The city of Borisov, the Berezina crossing point for the Moscow–Minsk highway, fell the day after Model’s arrival, and some 40,000 Germans were trapped east of Bobruisk. Soviet artillery and the Red Air Force turned a 15-mile German pocket east of the Berezina into a slaughter pen, and about 10,000 troops were killed and another 6,000 captured. Many of those who escaped the slaughter east of the river became trapped a second time at Bobruisk as two tank corps closed in around the city and captured it on June 29, effectively destroying the Ninth Army. In a week’s fighting, Rokossovsky’s forces had killed about 50,000 German soldiers, captured another 20,000 (including 3,600 wounded prisoners at Bobruisk who would be murdered by their Soviet captors) and destroyed some 3,000 artillery pieces and armored vehicles.

Picking up at the Berezina line, Rokossovsky continued his drive northwest toward Minsk, hoping to trap Model’s retreating Fourth Army along with any remnants of the Ninth Army that had escaped the cauldron at Bobruisk. Meanwhile, farther north, Model’s 5th Panzer Division, on the Moscow highway, braced itself for the onslaught of two converging Belorussian fronts, Rokossovsky’s First and Chernyakhovsky’s Third. Because Hitler refused to permit an orderly withdrawal, the only reinforcements available at Minsk were stragglers who had filtered in from the front, and they were for the most part unarmed, disorganized and demoralized.

On July 1 and 2, the 5th Panzer Division fought a series of intense battles against the Fifth Guards Tank Army northwest of Minsk, buying time for wounded and administrative personnel to be evacuated west along railway lines. By the end of a week’s fighting, 5th Panzer, a supporting Tiger battalion and some smaller reinforcements had knocked out 295 Soviet armored vehicles. By July 8, however, all the Tigers were lost, the division was reduced from 125 tanks to eight, and its position was outflanked to the south. The remaining panzers withdrew westward to regroup, abandoning comrades retiring toward Minsk from the Berezina. When the Fourth Army was permitted to retire west of the Berezina, there was almost nothing left to save. By the end of the operation, it had lost some 130,000 of its 165,000 men.

On the evening of July 2, even Hitler conceded that Minsk was a lost cause, and OKH permitted the evacuation of remaining Axis forces — some 1,800 organized troops from differing units, another 15,000 unarmed stragglers from the east, 8,000 wounded and 12,000 rear-echelon staffers. The next morning, Chernyakhovsky’s tanks entered Minsk, closing off another large eastern pocket and trapping some 15,000 isolated German soldiers lurching west in division- and brigade-size groups. As food and ammunition ran low for these marooned units, they broke into smaller formations, which quickly became vulnerable to unforgiving partisan bands and special Red Army infantry detachments. About 900 of the 15,000 trapped soldiers managed to reach German lines, and by July 8 the pocket collapsed. Model’s Fourth Army ceased to exist.

To the north, other units of the Third Panzer Army became isolated as a result of the rapid advance on Minsk and were quickly crushed. Meanwhile, Stavka expanded the objectives of its exhausted soldiers, ordering them to push westward toward Grodno, Brest and other cities along the Polish and Lithuanian borders despite dwindling supplies of gasoline and ammunition.

As Model’s intermediate lines were collapsing, he tried to form a line of resistance from Vilnius to the Ukraine, partly based on a series of trenches left over from World War I. In the center, he took the remnants of the Ninth Army, reinforced them as best he could, and redesignated the thin group as a component of the Second Army. With a 45-mile gap yawning between the tattered shards of the Third Panzer Army and Army Group North, Model was exceedingly vulnerable, but sooner or later the Soviet tanks had to outrun their fuel and ammunition supplies, and Model could give East Prussia and Poland a respite while he rebuilt his forces.

The Soviet juggernaut was not yet spent, however. By July 8, portions of Model’s line cracked, and Vilnius was soon surrounded. Despite Hitler’s initial orders to hold the Lithuanian capital “at all costs,” on the night of July 12-13 some 3,000 of the 15,000 trapped men broke free, leaving the rest to face the certainty of death or captivity when the city fell on July 13. Pinsk and Grodno fell by July 16, and Third Panzer Army’s line collapsed by the end of the month, pushing Model’s northern flank onto Prussian soil. As Bagration drew to a close, the Red Army held bridgeheads over the Niemen River, the traditional border of Russia and Poland, and had reached the Gulf of Riga at the Baltic, isolating Army Group North. By mid-August Model could do nothing more; he was decorated and transferred to the Western Front for a brief term as supreme commander in that crumbling theater.

All told, Operation Bagration cost Hitler 350,000 men (including 31 generals), plus hundreds of tanks and more than 1,300 guns. Of the men lost, 160,000 were taken prisoner, half of whom were murdered on the way to prison camps or died in Soviet gulags. In a throwback to ancient times, 57,000 German prisoners taken from pockets east of the Berezina were shipped to Moscow and paraded before Muscovites on July 17, partly to refute Nazi claims of a “planned withdrawal” from Belorussia, and partly to rebut suggestions by Western newspapers that the operation had been made easy because large numbers of German troops had been tied down in western France.

During their 400-mile drive from Vitebsk to Warsaw’s outskirts, the Soviets lost some 765,000 troops, of which 178,000 were either killed or missing, plus 2,857 tanks and assault guns, and 2,447 artillery pieces. Despite those losses the Red Army launched a follow-up campaign in northern Ukraine, the Lwow-Sandomierz offensive, employing more than 1 million men, 1,600 tanks and assault guns, 14,000 artillery pieces and mortars, and 2,800 combat aircraft. The offensive, launched on July 13, smashed Army Group North Ukraine, which had released units to help stop the collapse of Army Group Center.

By early August, the German Fourth Army and almost all of the Ninth and Third Panzer armies were gone. Thirty German divisions disappeared, and nearly 30 more were crippled. The Red Army was within striking distance of the Vistula and had reached the outskirts of Warsaw. By mid-August, Red Army soldiers were entrenched on Prussian soil, only 350 miles from Berlin, and Romania, with its vital oil fields, was poised to desert the Axis cause. Until January, however, the exhausted Soviet giant would remain relatively quiet, refitting and re-equipping for the final push from the Vistula to Berlin.

Many German and Soviet accounts agree that Operation Bagration was Hitler’s worst military setback of the war. But the offensive lacked a single, dramatic focal point, such as at Stalingrad, and the commanders and place names sound strange to Western ears. For those reasons, the operation was never acknowledged in the West to the same degree as any number of smaller campaigns — such as Overlord, the Ardennes Offensive, the Torch landings in Africa or Operation Husky in Sicily. Given the massive waves of soldiers and tanks that Stalin mustered for the offensive and marked improvements in Soviet war-fighting capabilities — Stavka’s successful deception campaign, the effective use of partisans, improved infantry-armor tactics and superior weaponry such as the Shturmovik ground-attack plane and the T-34 medium tank — it is an unfortunate omission. Nevertheless, Bagration, combined with the Lwow-Sandomierz offensive in the Ukraine, dramatically turned the tide of war against the Third Reich.

The irreplaceable German losses in Belorussia, in conjunction with the Normandy landings and the July 20 attempt on Hitler’s life, spread demoralization throughout the upper ranks of the Wehrmacht’s command structure, and made certain that the Red Army would ever after move west. Operation Bagration also ensured that the former Soviet republics, from the Baltic Sea to the Crimea, would return to the Communist fold. In so doing, it set the stage for Soviet domination of much of Eastern Europe for the next 40 years.

This article was written by Jonathan W. Jordan and originally appeared in the July/August 2006 issue of World War II magazine.

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50 Responses to Operation Bagration: Soviet Offensive of 1944

  1. Nari says:

    Petre Bagrationi was not a Russian prince. He was from Georgia, from Georgian royal dinasty.

  2. diego says:

    Stalin was Georgian too

  3. Paul Jackson says:

    Let’s see

    Operation Bagration
    765 000 Russian casualties v
    350 000 German casualties
    This equals brilliant victory of manouvre by dynamic peoples army.

    The Somme
    610 000 French/British casualties v
    450 000 German casualties
    This of course is a hideous blunder by a bunch of donkeys.

    There has to be a whole bunch of German casualties that are not being mentioned, either that or I’m that little kid saying the Emperors got no clothes on.

    • rlthtzhz says:

      Your numbers are not good pal;)

    • A.N. says:

      The losses for the Germans were 440,000 men while the Soviets permanently lost only 178,000 men. That’s nearly a 3:1 kill ratio in the Red Armies favor.

    • Boogahtube says:

      LOL well the Somme is considered a hideous blunder in POPULAR history, but historians themselves consider it a British/Entente Victory.

      Then there’s the fact that Bagration captured vast swathes of Byelorussia while the Somme gained a few miles…

  4. Corrector says:

    Re: Diego

    Please note that the term casualties does not mean the number killed. It means the total number of people killed, wounded, taken prisoner, gone missing, and caught some debilitating disease.

    The Germans suffered 290,000 killed/missing and 150,000 captured, in addition to another 120,000 wounded/sickened.

    The Soviets, on the other hand, suffered ~178,000 men killed/missing and a insignificant number captured. The vast majority of their casualties were the 590,000 men who were wounded/sickened.

    For both sides, the vast majority of men were able to recover from their injuries. So, in truth, the permanent losses for the Germans were 440,000 men while the Soviets permanently lost only 178,000 men. That’s nearly a 3:1 kill ratio in the Red Armies favor.

    • Vaclav Flek says:

      The figures about German casulaties are not exact, in fact they were lower. The principal mistake is however done by confounding “captured” and “missing” categories. In the German accounts they all were practically “missing”, unless their death was clearly acknowledged, they did not use the category “captured”. By the logics displayed above the same type of losses is counted twice. Also note that only 57.000 German prisoners were paraded in Moscou. Besides there was lower effectivity of Soviet medical system in the field and it can be reasonably assumed that more soldiers have died or were permanently crippled on Soviet than on German side.side

  5. Wasabi says:

    Hitler was Stalin’s best feild commander. Since the Soviet winter offensive his dedication to “hold at all costs” robbed the German feild commanders of their most potent weapon,…maneuver. Manstein illustrated this brilliantly in the winter of 43 in his withdrawal/counterattack to retake Karkov, even after the debacle of Stalingrad and the retreat of the 1st Panzer Army from the Caucuses.
    But I suspect that that even without the military prowess of Adolph Hitler, the Red Army would have eventually over powered the Wermacht, but with much heavier casulaties and a year later. The post-war map may also have been much different.

    • Travis says:

      It is Adolf not Adolph Hitler. Yes the stand fast mentality hurt both the USSR and Germany on the Eastern Front – see Stalin;s orders to stand fast in front of Kiev in the Autumn of 1941.

    • A.N. says:

      Well, the German generals always blame Hitler…the German generals never confess own mistakes, its easy to blame someone who is dead.For instance during the russian winter offensive 1941-42 the generals wanted to redraw, it was only Hitlers orders to stay where they where that stoped the redraw. Otherwize it would have been panic and the german army had not stoped redrawing until they had reached the german border

  6. […] in late 1942). The last major German offensive around Kursk in the summer of 1943 was halted. The enormous Soviet offensive of 1944 dwarfed anything the Western allies could put on the continent that same year. This event would […]

  7. Dédé73 says:

    BAGRATION offensive

    May be one of the reasons which can explain the defeat of German Army (Center Group) is the very low number of fighters.
    At the 22nd of June 1944, The 6th Luftflöte (général Von Greim) was equipped with only 40 (forty) fighter . Those fighters were reinforced few later but they were missing during the beginning of Soviet Offensive) .
    It was due mainly to the campaign of strategic bombing over Germany by 8th Air force, which forced German fighters to struggle in Germany against Flying Fortresses and more difficult ,(since May 1944) long range fighters Mustang P 51. By this way, Soviet assault planes as IL-2 could strike german troops and véhicles more easily.

    • outsider says:

      you make some good points about air support. In the earliest years of Operation Barbarossa, the Germans demonstrated their superiority in close air support of ground operations. (I suspect) they first mounted anti-tank guns on aircraft. A gunner on board a swooping aircraft could aim at the relatively thin armoured upper and rear parts of tanks. Of course, the Wehrmacht eventually lost their edge in exploiting the airborne anti-tank weaponry. Moreover, even before the Soviets learned the trick, the air weapon was more effective during summer than winter. When the weather turned bad, the invaders lost a significant advantage and incurred their biggest reverses. Anyway, the Soviets learned the value of close air support from their adversaries.

  8. […] Re: Operation Bagration New Link Is: Operation Bagration: Soviet Offensive of 1944 […]

  9. Bruce says:

    When considering the short-distance punches of previous Soviet offensive and counter-offensive operations (less likely to produce major encirclement), limits not of leadership (men like Rokossovsky were among the best), but of logistical ability (Red Army simply did not have enough trucks to support long drives prior to 1944 Lend Lease levels), it seems some credit for the level of success in Bagration should also be given to the Studebaker Co.

    • Dmitry says:

      True, Lend Lease truck made a differense.
      But if you really wanted to ‘consider’ – lets consider the sagnificant increase of Western Allies casualties and questionable success of Normanfy Invasion in case of limited success of Bagration.
      Should I mention booming post-war US economy in which ‘Lend Lease ‘ played significant role?

      Did you really had to drop your two cents? Geez…

  10. Sophia Stalzer Wyant says:

    I understand that my brother Wilhelm Spreitzer born in 1921 in Wildbach, Gottschee may have been in this area during the war.

    Any information regarding him would be greatly appreciated.

    Sophia Stalzer Wyant

  11. Frank says:

    While the Germans were severely handicapped by that military genius Adolf Hitler, one must give credit to the improved Soviet battle doctrine. Their leadership and combined arms coordination evolved through hard-fough bloody warfare with a skilful and highly disciplined enemy. The Soviets learned their lessons well. Two ideas for thought:
    1. The previous defeats that led the Germans to occupy such a precarious position in the first place, and
    2. Bagration was a brilliant success, but we in the west do not give credit where it is due. Germany had lost he war before Normandy (as big as an event as it was in the West).

  12. Sophia Stalzer Wyant says:

    Frank, THANK YOU for your comments. What I remember hearing from that time long ago was that part of the German Army was correlled into a swamp area and that most of them died in that quick sand area. Have you ever read or heard anything about that?

    Any comments will be appreciated.

    Do you know of any other sites where survivors may have posted messages?

    THANK YOU from Minnesota

    • Eric says:

      Came across this comment while doing some research on the subject.

      I believe this to be true. My grand-father was in the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front and told me this story. His unit (no description of how large it was) was retreating through the swamps and only 5 men came out alive.
      Many were shot by partisans, many died overnight by drowning. Exhausted soldiers would just lie on the ground and their body heat would melt the ice underneath causing them to drown.
      He said that when they came out on the other side, an officer who was waiting for them lost his mind when he realised how large the losses were.

      He died about 10 years ago, so I can’t quizz him more about it. It’s an interesting subject, I’ll keep looking to see if more information is available.

  13. Bingre says:

    I think, leaving behind all lyrism and poetry, the war beacame at one simple conclusion- the strongest take the upper hand, When the Red Army, wich was bigger than the German since the beggining, rallyes from the firsts losses, upgrade the equipment to be better than the German the victory became at sight. Someone can tell there is the famous Tigers and Panthers panzers but they were always vastly outnumbered, besides the panzer 4 was the german warhorse but markedly inferior to the t 34, their main tank . And there is the logistics- when the German Army still use horses to pull wagons the Red Army got 220000(!) new American trucks. This fact always was minimized\encovered by the Soviets but was crucial as an advancing huge armored force needs constant suplies.
    In 44 the industrial war production from the German was nealy equal to the Soviets but they got to deployed it in 3 fronts…
    Greetings to all.

    • A.N. says:

      Well, with Germanys limited nature resources, for instance, no oil, its a very bad idea to attack Russia.Even more stupid is to be att war with Russia and USA at the same time…So, it was the germans own fault that they had to fight at three fronts…To build those slow, clumsy Tigers was also very stupid, a lot of resources of steel and oil wasted, of wich Germany did not have much.Had been much smarter to build a tank like the russian T34, easy to massproduce..When the germans built one Tiger, the russians built 10 T34… Masses IS QUALITY, at least if you want to win a war

      • bingre says:

        Hitler when attacked Russia did not the homework. He was blinded with all thevictorys all over Europe. I give you na ex.: Before Barbarrossa the Germans had several comercial agrements with thhe Russians wich Stalin respectfully complied,( in fact Stalin did everything to avoid the war with the Germans), and along this process several Russian partys came to Germany to “see things” in a friendly atmosphere. When the Russians (wich already had the t 34’s beggining to roll out), saw that the pz 3 was their main tank, asked them:” – where is the other tanks?” The german answer:”- There is none.” The Russians did not believed it. Hitler never bothered himsel to study what the Russians had or could bring in in a total war, that’s called arrogancy? Everybody knows the rest.

      • Bruce says:

        The Germans lost because Halder ignored his Logisticians who told him that german logistic capability would limit their advance to 500 to 700 km after which they would be forced to halt and build up supplies before advancing again, the German General Staff kept this information from Hitler.

  14. billy madison says:

    severall millions of lives were affected but yet our world has yet to notice that it has been affected by satan himself and through only world religion would we be able to defeat him and have world peace!

  15. […] ci riuscirà nei pochi mesi che ci separarano alle elezioni, avrà la sua Bagration… Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Mi piaceBe the first to like this post. This entry was […]

  16. juan pujols says:

    Hurrah for the Red Army. This operation saved American lives and hindered the Axis. Who can dispute the heroism and valor of the Russian man during Bagration? Too bad the cold war obscured the enormous efforts and triumphs on the Soviet side during World War II and the massive mistreatment of Russian prisoners of war at the hands of the Germans. This not a political comment, but a realistic assessment: the Red Army WAS the strongest and most valorous.

  17. […] total, la operación Bagration llevó 350.000 y 765.000 alemanes tropas soviéticas [fuente: History.net ]. Pero incluso con el Tercer Reich en su agonía, se necesitarían muchos miles más de los […]

  18. […] total, la operación Bagration llevó 350.000 y 765.000 alemanes tropas soviéticas [fuente: History.net ]. Pero incluso con el Tercer Reich en su agonía, se necesitarían muchos miles más de los […]

  19. […] total, la operación Bagration llevó 350.000 y 765.000 alemanes tropas soviéticas [fuente: History.net ]. Pero incluso con el Tercer Reich en su agonía, se necesitarían muchos miles más de los […]

  20. […] total, la operación Bagration llevó 350.000 y 765.000 alemanes tropas soviéticas [fuente: History.net ]. Pero incluso con el Tercer Reich en su agonía, se necesitarían muchos miles más de los […]

  21. […] total, la operación Bagration llevó 350.000 y 765.000 alemanes tropas soviéticas [fuente: History.net ]. Pero incluso con el Tercer Reich en su agonía, se necesitarían muchos miles más de los […]

  22. […] total, la operación Bagration llevó 350.000 y 765.000 alemanes tropas soviéticas [fuente: History.net ]. Pero incluso con el Tercer Reich en su agonía, se necesitarían muchos miles más de los […]

  23. […] total, la operación Bagration llevó 350.000 y 765.000 alemanes tropas soviéticas [fuente: History.net ]. Pero incluso con el Tercer Reich en su agonía, se necesitarían muchos miles más de los […]

  24. […] total, la operación Bagration llevó 350.000 y 765.000 alemanes tropas soviéticas [fuente: History.net ]. Pero incluso con el Tercer Reich en su agonía, se necesitarían muchos miles más de los […]

  25. […] total, la operación Bagration llevó 350.000 y 765.000 alemanes tropas soviéticas [fuente: History.net ]. Pero incluso con el Tercer Reich en su agonía, se necesitarían muchos miles más de los […]

  26. JamesW. says:

    The fact that Hitler had spent his own soldierly combat career on the western front effectively meant that both in Normandy & in the `44 Christmas offensives he was sucked in by his ego/will issues into recklessly spending the SS panzer & Luftwaffe ‘fire brigades’ which had previously capably checked the Soviet offensive forces & generally stabilised the eastern front.
    Clearly,he absence of these crucial ultramodern forces of the Nazi war machine allowed Bagration to succeed – the Germans themselves rated the eastern front fighting as less severe/dangerous – excepting for the nasty ideological hatred type stuff..Notwithstanding that, it is to their shame that the total allied applied military effort was,[ given their crushing industrial/logistical superiority], so profligately wasteful in lives/resources & 1/2 arsed politically too.

  27. bingre says:

    The Battle of the Bulge was a suicidal gamble from Hitler. With no air support only a miracle could save the operation ( and little artillery, and little fuel), and they even planned to catch enemy fuel deposits to continue the whole thing!
    The eastern front always was the bitter front for both sides, the Germans always had 2/3 of their divisions there. The probability of surviving after surrending was very low for both sides in the eastern front, the war conventions means notning there. Instead the western German pow’s got a nice chance of coming home after the war.So when Germany surrender masses of people and soldiers ran to the western powers.

    • JamesW. says:

      The eastern front was, apart from the primitive conditions & extremes of ideological hate crimes perpetrated by both sides, less severe than the materially/firepower overwhelming western front, the Nazi awards system recognised this in making points allocations for Iron Cross,Knights Cross,etc. & as an example, were in the east, still effectively using Stukas in daylight anti-tank strafing, something impracticable against the RAF& USAAF interceptor opposition in the west.
      The Luftwaffe made a major tactical attack [Bodenplatte] in support of the ‘Bulge’ on 1 Jan`45, but despite both sides suffering embarassingly severe damage, the massive allied airforces soon replaced their losses, – something the Nazis couldn`t match.
      The western allies shot their fair share of captured Nazi combatants [fairly – according to their own rules of war,since Waffen SS, even Hitler Youth – were deemed ‘outlaws’, fit to be shot summarily] & likewise post-war put ‘surrendered enemy personel ‘ into defacto concentration camps to starve & die of disease, very similar to the Nazi treatment of Soviet P.O.W.s.
      The Geneva convention was bypassed since the Nazis could no longer reciprocate with their western P.O.W.s -as they`d been liberated.The western allies also callously turned over many of their war captives & surviving Russian & eatern european captives/slaves of the Nazis to Stalin,even in the sure knowledge they`d likely be ‘liquidated’,- or sent to the gulag, as a minimum.
      As for the 2/3s of Nazi forces kept fighting in the east, those were missing the mechanised , mobile Panzer units sent to the west, if those SS & Army were present for Bragration, it would not have been such a roll-over- but there were just not enough to go around.
      In purely military terms,however, it is incredible [& not to the allies credit] that the Nazis were still capable of an organised fighting resistance for nearly another year after D-day/Bagration..

  28. TOES says:

    Juan Pujells i agree. russians do ALL the work but get no credit

  29. Que Chimba says:

    You have been watching too many John Wayne and Oliver Stone movies buddy.. The yanks have always been \Johnny come Lately\ get in the fight in the 9th Round when the other guys have already reduced your opponent to a punch-drunk stumbling wimp, who can hardly raise his hands to defend himself..World War one, World War Two… heck you even got yore ass kicked by teany-tiny Vietnam…

    Read Anthony Beevor, if you want to learn military history, and forget about \saving Captain Ryan’s ass\ and other Hollywood propoganda…

  30. Chris says:

    As A.N. mentioned, the number of killed and captured Russians is closer to 200,000, the higher figure of 500,000 includes ‘sick and wounded’.

    Given the Russian tactical superiority at this stage of the war I am curious why Russian casualties were this high, especially wounded and sick. In fact, I came to this website to see if I could find the answer to this question. Were there a few big kill zones for the Germans, were the Russian soldiers in marginal health due to the size of their army and the challenge of their logistics? The terrain was both large and challenging with swamps.

    • Bingre says:

      The Germans, usually, along the war killed more Russians than the other way around. The point is that the Russian manpwer and resources were much bigger than the German side. But the Germans had better equipment and the conditions of the regular German soldier were better than the Russians. The Russians could withstand the initial catástrophes of Barbarrossa, the Germans, after, not. Stalingrad was the first and with the Operation Bagration the German Central Army Group was almost vaporized, only the panzers could put some stiff resistance.

  31. […] impressive as Overlord and D Day were, Vladamir Putin was not there simply to make up the numbers. Operation Bagration, the Russian offensive of summer 1944, was arguably the greatest strategic defeat the Germans […]

  32. Sam Heilman says:

    It is true that seemingly endless supplies of t-34s helped the Soviets defeat the Germans, but even had they had an easier to build tank they would not have been able to outproduce the Soviets at their own game, so they were better off producing quality tanks. It was the stand and fight tactics they were using that killed them; they were too reluctant to retreat

  33. Bingre says:

    For sure those ss divisions could do much more damage in the east than they did in the west, because those ss were pounded from the airin the west and barely could move in the day. But they could do little in the east too; even if those ss cuold destroy a big amount of tanks and men the Russians always could replenish them again, sooner or later, the Germans not.
    In fact the Germans could last even longer if Hitler did not launch the doomed from the beggining Bulge operation. The quantity of war equipment abandoned for lack of fuel was huge, and was top material, Panthers , Jagdpanthers, etc. Patton at some point thought in let the Germans get through to Paris or wherever and then just cut their backs and pound them from the air.
    In 44 The German war production peaked,maybe that´s why they could last another y, albeit the destruction from the air raids, but they in other hand had millions of slaves working…The Russians (the epicentre of the war) could get through but their losses in men and material was much bigger than the Germans.
    Some late studies with models reached the conclusion that without the bombing destruction the German war production should be bigger enough to stop the Russians…

  34. Douglas Gray says:

    Generally, the Germans were so well trained that whether winning or losing, attacking or retreating, they inflicted twice as many casualties as they took. They lost against Russia, but took seven million Russians with them. Even then, if Hitler had listened to his generals, he could have forgotten about Stalingrad and Moscow, taking the Caucacus oil fields, etc.

    Compared to the Eastern Front, the Western Allies only had to face a small number of undermanned divisions.

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