The Full Wiki

Operation Solstice: Wikis

  
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...


More interesting facts on Operation Solstice

Include this on your site/blog:

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Operation Solstice
Part of Eastern Front of World War II
Date February 15, 1945 – February 18, 1945
Location Stargard in Pommern, Pomerania, Germany
Result Soviet Victory
Belligerents
 Germany  Soviet Union
Commanders
Walther Wenck
Felix Steiner
Georgy Zhukov

Operation Solstice (German: Unternehmen Sonnenwende), also known as Unternehmen Husarenritt or the 'Stargard tank battle'[1], was a German armoured offensive operation on the Eastern Front, one of the last such operations.

Originally planned as a major offensive, it was eventually executed as a more limited attack. It was repulsed by the Red Army, but helped to convince the Soviet High Command to postpone the planned attack on Berlin.

Contents

Planning

General Heinz Guderian

The operation took place as a response to the Soviet advance on Berlin early in 1945.

General Heinz Guderian had originally planned to execute a major offensive against the 1st Belorussian Front, cutting off the leading elements of Georgy Zhukov's forces east of the Oder. The Soviet forces were to be attacked from Stargard, Pomerania in the north as well as from Glogau, Silesia and Guben, Brandenburg in the south.[2] In order to carry out these plans, he requested that the Courland Pocket be evacuated to make available the divisions trapped there, as well as removing troops from Italy and Norway. Sepp Dietrich's Sixth SS Panzer Army, intended for counter-offensives in Hungary, would also be involved. Adolf Hitler insisted that Courland be held, and that the Army continue with its planned attacks in Hungary; the meeting rapidly degenerated into a heated and farcical argument.[3]

After agreeing on a more limited counter-offensive, Hitler and Guderian then proceeded to have an even more heated argument when Guderian insisted that Walther Wenck direct the offensive rather than Heinrich Himmler (the commander of Army Group Vistula). Hitler, "almost screaming" according to Guderian's account, nevertheless gave in on this point.[2][4]

Operational goals

In its final form, Operation Solstice consisted of a more limited counter-attack by the three corps of the Eleventh SS Panzer Army, which was being assembled in Pomerania, against the spearheads of the 1st Belorussian Front. The German forces would intitally attack along a fifty-kilometre front around Stargard south-eastwards towards Arnswalde, where a small garrison had been encircled: their ultimate objective was the relief of Kustrin.

The Wehrmacht originally codenamed the operation Husarenritt, but the SS insisted on the name Sonnenwende.[1]

Russian intelligence

Zhukov had been made aware of a buildup of German forces opposing his 61st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies, but did not have information as to the exact timing and nature of the attack.[5]

Deployments

Wehrmacht

Over 1,200 tanks were allocated to the offensive, but due to serious shortages only three days' ammunition and fuel were immediately available.[1]

Red Army

The offensive

Not all of the German units, which had to be reinforced across the bridges at Stettin, were ready on the planned start date of February 15. Nevertheless a part of the central corps, the SS Division Nordland, attacked towards Arnswalde that day.[2] Initially the offensive was successful; the opposing forces of 61st Army were taken by surprise, and the German spearhead reached the besieged outpost of Arnswalde and relieved its garrison.[2]

A general attack opened the following day.[2] Again, there was some initial success with further penetrations[2] by the flanking German corps, while the central corridor to Arnswalde was widened. A large number of Soviet tanks were destroyed at long range by German King Tigers. German progress soon slowed, however, thanks to strong Soviet resistance[2] and to a thaw, creating muddy conditions in which the superheavy German tanks performed poorly (Soviet T-34s, on the other hand, had excellent mobility even in those conditions).

On February 17, General Wenck, commander of the offensive, was seriously injured in a car accident; being driven back from a briefing in Berlin, he took the wheel from his driver (who had been on duty for 48 hours) and then himself fell asleep at the wheel.[2] He was replaced by Hans Krebs, but command initiative had already been lost.[2][6] Later that day Zhukov threw the 3rd Shock Army into a counter-attack; the German offensive stalled.

Army Group Vistula halted Sonnenwende on February 18.[2] On February 19, Zhukov initiated a counter-offensive aimed at the capture of Stettin using the 61st and the 2nd Guards Tank Armies as well as the 7th Guards Cavalry Corps, which however stalled in the heavy street fighting during the re-capture of Arnswalde.[7] There was no immediate German withdrawal, but Zhukov's commitment of the 70th Army into an attack on February 23 spurred a retreat, the German forces losing or abandoning many tanks.

Outcome

Despite the initial gains, the operation was, in tactical terms, a complete failure. German forces failed to penetrate towards Kustrin and suffered major losses of heavy equipment in the subsequent retreat. However, the operation convinced Zhukov and Joseph Stalin that the northern flank of the Soviet advance on Berlin was vulnerable, and therefore postponed the latter by some two months while Pomerania was cleared in the East Pomeranian Offensive.

See also

References

  • Beevor, Antony. Berlin: The Downfall 1945, Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5
  • Duffy, Christopher. Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945, Routledge, 1991, ISBN 0-415-22829-8
  • Tony Le Tissier, Zhukov at the Oder: the decisive battle for Berlin, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996, p. 101, ISBN 0275952304

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c Beevor, p.91
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Le Tissier, p.101
  3. ^ Beevor, p.89
  4. ^ Duffy, p.181-82
  5. ^ Duffy, p.183
  6. ^ Duffy, p.185
  7. ^ Le Tissier, p.102








Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message