Siege of Sevastopol (1941–1942): Wikis

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Siege of Sevastopol (1941-1942)
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
Eastern Front 1941-12 to 1942-05.png
The Eastern Front at the time of the siege of Sevastopol. (click to enlarge)
Date 30 October 1941 - 4 July, 1942
Location 44°36′17″N 33°32′28″E / 44.60472°N 33.54111°E / 44.60472; 33.54111 (Battle of Sevastopol)Coordinates: 44°36′17″N 33°32′28″E / 44.60472°N 33.54111°E / 44.60472; 33.54111 (Battle of Sevastopol)
Crimean Peninsula
Result Strategic Axis victory
Belligerents
Nazi Germany Germany
Romania Romania
 Soviet Union
Commanders
Nazi Germany Erich von Manstein
Romania Gheorghe Avramescu
Soviet Union Ivan Petrov
Soviet Union Filipp Oktyabrskiy
Soviet Union Gordey Levchenko
Strength
350,000+ 106,000
Casualties and losses
at least 25,000 killed, 50,000 wounded or captured, 25,000 Romanians killed or wounded[citation needed] 106,000 killed or missing (at least 5,000 suicides)[citation needed]

The Siege of Sevastopol took place from 30 October 1941 to 4 July 1942 between German forces and those of the Red Army, the Black Sea Fleet and elements of the Red Air Force over the control for the main Soviet Black Sea Fleet naval base during the Second World War. It is notable for use of German heavy artillery (200-800mm range) during the siege.

Contents

Forces

The German 11th Army, commanded by Erich von Manstein, besieged Sevastopol. At the time of the final assault in June 1942 the army consisted of 9 German infantry divisions (including 2 received during the battle) in two corps, and two Romanian rifle corps, plus various supporting elements including 150 tanks, several hundred aircraft, and one of the heaviest concentrations of artillery fielded by the Wehrmacht.

  • German 11th Army
    • 306th HARKO
      • Elements 672nd Artillery Battalion (1 railroad cannon 800 mm)
      • 833rd Heavy Mortar Battery (2 mortars 600 mm)
      • 688th Railroad Artillery Battery (2 cannons 283 mm)
      • 458th Heavy Artillery Battery (1 howitzer 420 mm)
      • 459th Heavy Artillery Battery (1 howitzer 420 mm)
      • 741st Artillery Battalion (howitzers 283 mm)
      • 742nd Artillery Battalion (howitzers 283 mm)
      • 743rd Artillery Battalion (howitzers 283 mm)
      • 744th Artillery Battalion (howitzers 283 mm)
    • German LIVth Corps
      • 31st Artillery Observation Battalion
      • 556th Artillery Observation Battalion
      • 22nd Infantry Division - commanded by General der Infanterie Ludwig Wolff
        • 16th Infantry Regiment
        • 47th Infantry Regiment
        • 65th Infantry Regiment
        • 22nd Artillery Regiment
        • 22nd Pioneer Battalion
      • 24th Infantry Division
        • 31st Infantry Regiment
        • 32nd Infantry Regiment
        • 102nd Infantry Regiment
        • 24th Artillery Regiment
        • 24th Pioneer Battalion
      • 50th Infantry Division
        • 121st Infantry Regiment
        • 122nd Infantry Regiment
        • 123rd Infantry Regiment
        • 150th Artillery Regiment? (Battalion?)
        • 150th Pioneer Battalion
      • 132nd Infantry Division
        • 436th Infantry Regiment (2 Battalions)
        • 437th Infantry Regiment (2 Battalions)
        • 438th Infantry Regiment
        • 132nd Artillery Regiment
        • Attached
        • 213th Infantry Regiment (2 Battalions) from 73rd Infantry Division
    • German 30th Corps - commanded by General der Infanterie Hans von Salmuth
        • 29th Observation Battalion
      • 28th Light Division
        • 49th Jäger Regiment
        • 83rd Jäger Regiment
        • 28th Artillery Regiment
        • 28th Pioneer Battalion
      • 72nd Infantry Division
        • 105th Infantry Regiment
        • 124th Infantry Regiment
        • 266th Infantry Regiment
        • 172nd Artillery Regiment
        • 172nd Pioneer Battalion
      • 170th Infantry Division
        • 391st Infantry Regiment
        • 399th Infantry Regiment
        • 401st Infantry Regiment (only cadre)
        • 240th Artillery Regiment
        • 240th Pioneer Battalion
        • 240th Bicycle Battalion
    • Romanian Mountain Corps
      • 1st Mountain Division
      • 4th Mountain Division
      • 18th Infantry Division

The defence of Sevastopol was provided mainly by the Black Sea Fleet and the Separate Coastal Army under Petrov (which had been shipped in from Odessa). The city garrison numbered one brigade, three regiments and 19 battalions of marine corps (ca. 23,000 men, ~150 field and coast guns and 82 aircraft), commanded by B. A. Borisov. 82 pillboxes with naval guns, 220 machine-gun earth-and-timber emplacements and pillboxes, 33 km of tank ditches, 56 km of wire entanglements and 9,600 mines were laid to improve the defence.

  • Coastal Batteries
    • 2nd Battery (4 open turrets 1 x 100 mm)
    • 8th Battery (4 x 45 mm between Cap Filent and Balaklava)
    • 10th Battery or Mamaschaj(4 x 203 mm)
    • 12th Battery or Fort Schishkova (4 x 152 mm)
    • 13th Battery (4 x 120 mm)
    • 14th Battery (3 x 130 mm)
    • 18th Battery or (Cape) Fiolent(4 x 152 mm)
    • 19th Battery or Balaklava(4 x 152 mm)
    • 30th Battery or Fort Maxim Gorky I (2 turrets 2 x 305 mm)
    • 32nd Battery
    • 35th Battery or Fort Maxim Gorky II (2 turrets 2 x 305 mm)
    • 54th Battery (102 mm)
    • 111th Battery (Sebastopol's Harbour)
    • 112th Battery
    • 113th Battery (Sebastopol's Harbour)
    • 114th Battery
    • 116th Battery
    • 119th Battery
    • 706th Battery (2 x 130 mm)
    • Khersones' Battery
    • Zunge's Battery

Securing the Crimean peninsula

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The assault on Perekop

The 11th Army, under von Manstein, was tasked with invading the Crimea to secure the right flank of Army Group South during its advance into the Soviet Union.[1] Hitler also intended to use the Kerch peninsula to land forces in the Caucasus.

Von Manstein, believing the Red Army to offer stiff resistance during the Crimea Campaign halted his attack so that he could redeploy more forces to the front. Due to a general reduction in combat on the Eastern front, and as Red Army's 51st Army forces took up prepared defensive positions, this became possible. The 11th Army order of battle included three German Corps:

  • XXX Corps
22nd Infantry Division
72nd Infantry Division
Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler
  • XXXXIX Mountain Corps
170th Infantry Division
1st Mountain Division
4th Mountain Division
  • LIV Corps
46th Infantry Division
73rd Infantry Division
50th Infantry Division

Additionally von Manstein also commanded a Romanian Mountain Corps.

Though Soviet forces in the Crimea totaled 235,600 men, only around 50,000 were deployed in the Isthmus of Perekop, which connects the Crimean peninsula to the mainland. This was problematic for the Soviets but would in the end enable a large number of Soviet troops to avoid capture after the isthmus was captured by the Germans. The low numbers of defenders were further reduced by Joseph Stalin, who insisted upon a Soviet attack from the isthmus. This attack failed, costing the Soviet forces heavy losses and disrupting work on fortifications.

The Battle of Crimea began on 24 September 1941, going through the narrow and desolate isthmus area. A furious five-day struggle followed, with the Soviets displaying determined resistance in a ten-mile deep defensive system. Following the capture of the initial objectives, von Manstein's forces were depleted by urgent requirements elsewhere. Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and the 49th Mountain Corps, were assigned to 1st Panzer Group and most of the Romanian units were also withdrawn. von Manstein received 42 Corps' headquarters and the 132nd and 24th Infantry divisions as reinforcements.

The second phase of the entry to the Crimean peninsula was launched towards Perikop on 18 October 1941. This battle took 10 days and was characterized by bitter fighting. The six remaining German divisions were now attacking eight rifle and four cavalry divisions, many of whom had been shipped in from Odessa (occupied by Romanians) around the 16 October 1941. However, the Soviet Divisions would, even at full strength, number around half that of a German Division, and several of the defending Divisions were already understrength from the fighting in the Odessa area. Due to the terrain, von Manstein was forced to make a frontal assault on three narrow strips of land, with the Soviets occupying prepared defensive positions, and enjoying tank and air superiority. Nevertheless, on 28 October the Soviet defence collapsed and the Crimea looked set to fall.

The 11th Army proceeded in full pursuit of the retreating enemy, despite heavy losses. Von Manstein reported that about 100,000 Soviet troops were captured along with 700 guns. Soviet sources claim that merely 68,200 Soviet losses of all kind were inflicted. By 16 November 1941 Crimea was virtually in German hands with only the fortress of Sevastopol remaining under Soviet control.

The first offensive on Sevastopol

A rapid thrust was launched towards Sevastopol on 30 October 1941 which commenced the Defence of Sevastopol (Russian: оборона Севастополя), consisting of two infantry divisions and one motorized brigade. The Germans tried to burst into the city from the north, north-east and east, but were beaten back. The Germans then encircled the city. During this time the city was reinforced by sea, receiving the bulk of the Soviet troops evacuated from Odessa. A more prepared attack was launched, and this soon intensified into an all-out effort. On 11 November 60,000 Axis soldiers launched another attack, but after ten days were forced to halt the attack. The attacks were repelled, primarily because von Manstein decided to attack the enclave's southern flank, counting on its seemingly poorer fortifications. The terrain in the south was prohibitively difficult, however, and the Germans failed to force a breakthrough. On 4 December the local Soviet command reported that the defences had been re-established.

On 1 November 1941 official Soviet records report their forces in the Crimea as consisting of the Separate Coastal Army with the 25th, 95th, and 172nd Rifle Divisions, 7th Naval Infantry Brigade, 2nd, 40th, and 42nd Cavalry Divisions, three to four artillery regiments, a fighter aviation regiment, and support units.[2] The other major formation, the 51st Army, consisted of HQ 9 Rifle Corps, the 106th, 276th, and 320th Rifle Divisions, three artillery regiments, 120th Separate Tank Battalion, and eight aviation regiments. Forces directly under Crimea HQ consisted of the 156th, 184th, 271st, and the 421st Rifle Division, and the 48th Cavalry Division.

With the defences reestablished, Von Manstein abandoned the attack in the south and transferred his forces to the north. The Germans also moved in their largest artillery piece, the 31-and-a-half inch gun Schwerer Gustav in preparation for another attack. The Wehrmacht began a five-day artillery barrage of the city. On 17 December 1941 six German infantry divisions and two Romanian brigades with 1,275 guns and mortars, over 150 tanks and 300 aircraft launched the second attack. The late date meant that inclement winter weather hindered the Luftwaffe's operations, and the Soviets used this to reinforce the enclave. On 21 December as the Germans, who had broken through Colonel Kudyurov's 40th Cavalry Division to a point less than two kilometres from Severnaia Bay, prepared for their final push, the Soviets launched a counter attack, forcing them back with the aid of the newly arrived 79th Independent Naval Infantry Brigade.[3] The second storming attempt also failed. The 79th Brigade and the 345th Rifle Division had just been shipped in by a Soviet flotilla consisting of the cruisers Krasnyi Kavkaz, Krasnyi Krim, the destroyer Kharkov and escorts under the personal command of Vice-Admiral Oktyabrskii. By 4 January 1942 every Axis unit had been stopped by Soviet counter-attacks. Shortly thereafter the Soviet winter offensive began, producing the Wehrmacht's so-called "Winter Crisis."

The Soviet landing at Kerch

Alexander Deyneka, "The Defense of Sevastopol", 1942

On 26 December 1941 the Soviets landed on Kerch, and on 30 December executed another landing near Theodosia/Feodosiya, landing a total of 41,930 troops of the Soviet 44th and 51st Armies. These forces were quickly reinforced. This landing was an attempt to regain the initiative in the Crimea, and relieve the pressure against Sevastopol, which von Manstein was preparing to attack again despite the inclement weather. The initial success of the Soviet Forces, however, soon emboldened the Soviets to envision a drive to the Isthmus of Perekop.

The only Axis reserves in the Kerch area were the 46th Infantry Division under General Hans Graf von Sponecks command, and a Romanian mountain regiment. At first denied permission to retreat, von Sponeck nevertheless conducted a fighting retreat in which the German division lost most of its heavy equipment, and the Red Army advanced all the way to the Parpach neck before a front could be established. A series of attacks and counterattacks followed, with the last Soviet attack launched on 9 April 1942. Six divisions and 160 tanks tried to push back the Germans, failing completely after just two days.

German counter offensive

On 8 May 1942 the 11th Army launched a counterattack, code named Unternehmen Trappenjagd, aimed at expelling the Soviet forces in the Kerch area and resuming the offensive on Sevastopol. Opposing the German forces were 17 rifle (infantry) divisions, along with several independent brigades. The Germans had 7 infantry divisions and a panzer division. Approximately one third of the German forces were Romanian. After a number of feints in the north, the 11th Army broke through, in the south, pursuing the enemy up to the Kerch straits. On 18 May the Soviets surrendered and 170,000 prisoners fell into German hands. [4] Soviet sources claim that some 140,000 were evacuated, though many of these were infirm. Krivosheev puts total Soviet losses at 176,566, putting von Mansteins claim of 170,000 POWs alone in a dubious light.

The renewed attack on Sevastopol

Bombarding the city

After expelling the Soviets from the Crimea, the German attention turned once again to Sevastopol. To help with the siege von Manstein had at his disposal some of the largest guns ever built. Along with large numbers of regular artillery pieces, three examples of the six operational super-heavy 600mm Mörser Karl mortars were deployed late in February 1942, and the 800mm "Gustav" railway gun[5][6] was brought in and deployed for the assault. "Schwerer Gustav" (heavy Gustav) was installed at the former Tatar Khan's palace in Bakhchisaray and required several thousand personnel. It wasn't very useful, but managed once to penetrate 90 feet into an underground ammunition depot.

On 21 May 1942 the Germans launched a bombing and bombardment of the city. On 2 June the main barrage began, and all of the resources of the Luftwaffes Luftflotte 4, commanded by Wolfram von Richthofen, descended on their targets, continuing for five days before the main attack began. On 7 June 1942, the Germans assaulted the secondary defensive line.

The attack begins

Von Manstein's plan for the final assault on Sevastopol, Unternehmen Störfang (English: "Operation 'Sturgeon Catch'"), erroneously postulated that the Severnaia Bay ports constituted a logistic lifeline whose severance would topple the Sevastopol enclave without the Germans having to batter down every inch of it. Since a southward attack from the extreme north sector offered the path of least resistance to the bay, von Manstein decided to commit his main effort there with the 54th Corps, which possessed five divisions beforehand and would receive yet another during the attack. An additional east-to-west holding attack would be delivered by the 30th Corps — comprising three divisions—against the enclave's southern sector to prevent the Soviets from transferring forces across Severnaia Bay to reinforce their northern flank. Each German Corps was supported by a smaller Romanian Corps. This plan disregarded the fact that substantial Soviet supply deliveries to the enclave could not resume, in any event, before autumn returned to fog out the Luftwaffe and that knowing this, the Soviets had hoarded considerable supplies in advance, as they were not able to do before the attacks on the enclave in 1941. Neither Severnaia Bay nor the enclave's entire shoreline constituted the sought-after lifeline. There was no alternative to battering down the entire enclave, were it to be captured.

The outer defensive rings were breached by 16 June 1942, and the 54th Corps soon seized most of the bay's northern shore, yet strong Soviet pockets of resistance held fast on the 54th Corps flanks and even in its rear, while the 30th Corps' westward attack ground to a halt before the Soviet defensive system's bulwark, the so called "Sapun Line", which began almost exactly south of the bay's crown. It became clear that von Manstein's plan had overestimated the effect that incapacitating the Severnaia Bay ports would have on the defenders. On the night of 28 June von Manstein launched an amphibious crossing of the bay aiming to outflank the troublesome Sapun Line. This was an extremely costly operation for which the available German flotilla was hopelessly unsuited, while German aviation and artillery, despite all of their efforts, could do little against the deep subterranean Soviet coastal defences. The Germans attacked ferociously, but the Soviet defenders managed to hang on until nightfall, whereupon they could be reinforced. Despite all of this, von Manstein continued to feed troops into the battle.

Breaching the defences

destroyed Soviet "Maxim Gorky" Naval Artillery

Success however, materialized elsewhere. On the Sapun Line's northern end, forces of the 30th Corps—reinforced with the part of the 54th Corps, which von Manstein had decided to land on that tiny stretch of Severnaia's southern shore already captured by the 30th Corps, managed to breach the defences. On the line's southern end, having feigned against the center, German and Romanian troops managed to force through the Soviet defences. Though it was breached at both ends, the Soviets might have tried to hang on to the Sapun Line, but they had run out of shells. The Soviet commander, Petrov, accordingly ordered a withdrawal west to Khersones, where more supplies awaited his men. Cape Khersones was where he intended to make his last stand. The exhausted German forces were unable to immediately pursue and thus allowed the Soviets to reform. Von Manstein launched a massive bombardment of the city of Sevastopol, in order to suppress the defences, though these, with the exception of one stronghold near the shore, were left unmanned because Petrov had naively hoped he could spare the city annihilation.

Final days of the siege

The harbour after the Battle (July 1942)

As the German 11th Army closed in, Stalin himself made it categorically clear that top commanders, Party and administrative officials be brought out by submarine. Oktyabrskii and Petrov were flown out at the last moment.[7] The city fell after the defeat of the Inkerman Heights line on 29 June 1942. The light cruiser Chervona Ukraina ("Red Ukraine"), four destroyers, four cargo ships and the submarines С 32 and Щ 214 were lost. The soldiers fought on even after their installations had been ripped apart by artillery fire. Smoke, which some claim was toxic, forced the troops out into the open, where fire from tanks and the artillery cut them down. Even with this impressive support, the Germans still took twenty-seven days to finish seizing the city proper. On 4 July Chersonesos fell to Germans, and Sevastopol was secured. Hitler, delighted at hearing the good news, phoned von Manstein and commended him as "The Conqueror of Sevastopol", informing him that he had ordered von Manstein's promotion to Generalfeldmarschall. Despite Sevastopol having been taken Soviet troops still held out in the caves around the peninsula until 9 July. The fighting in the officially conquered enclave was, nevertheless, not yet over. There remained a cluster of Soviet pockets that had to be smothered. The ensuing "mopping up" raged on until late autumn, claiming more casualties. Sevastopol was renamed as "Theodorichhafen" (according to Theodorich, King of Ostrogoths) after fell of the city.

Aftermath

52,540 Soviet personnel were awarded the medal for the defense of Sevastopol even though the city was captured.

The Germans claimed over 90,000 Red Army soldiers had been taken prisoner, and an even greater number killed. However these claims seems an overstatement, as according to Soviet sources the Soviet garrison defending Sevastopol totaled 106,000 men beforehand, and received only 3,000 in reinforcements during the attack, while it is known that 25,157 persons were evacuated, the overwhelming majority being either wounded soldiers or officers evacuated on Stalin's orders. A more reasonable estimate puts the Soviet losses at 90,000 captured and 11,000 dead.

Soviet accounts claim that there were very few Soviet troops who survived the German onslaught; Von Manstein himself records that the Soviets preferred to blow themselves up along with the German soldiers closing in on their positions rather than surrender. Von Manstein ascribed this behavior to the ruthlessness of the "commissars" and to the basic "contempt for human life of this Asiatic power". Another explanation for the Soviet unwillingness to surrender, was the fear Soviet servicemen had for their treatment if they were taken prisoners of war by the Wehrmacht.

Von Manstein put his own losses at 24,000, a claim that may seem low. However, this figure excludes all Romanian losses, though the Romanians fought well and hard in Sevastopol, rendering an indispensable contribution to the victory. It also excludes all German losses sustained during the "mopping up" fighting after the capture of Cape Khersones. The fall of Sevastopol resulted in Von Manstein's promotion to Generalfeldmarschall, as promised. Hitler and others were deeply impressed by what they perceived as his hardness.

Although a success in the end, the operation had taken much longer than the Germans had imagined. Operation Blau, Army Group South's advance towards Stalingrad and Caucasus was just beginning, and the German offensive would not have the 11th Army to support them.

References

  1. ^ Von Manstein, (2004)
  2. ^ Combat Composition of the Soviet Army, 1 November 1941
  3. ^ Erickson, Road to Stalingrad, 2003 Cassel Military Paperbacks Edition, p.290
  4. ^ Manstein's memoirs, ed. 1982, p. 238
  5. ^ Biggest Gun Made. The Science News-Letter, Vol. 48, No. 12 (Sep. 22, 1945), pp. 179-180.
  6. ^ Charles B. Burdick, "DORA: The Germans' Biggest Gun," Military Review 11 (1961): 72-5.
  7. ^ Erickson, Road to Stalingrad, 2003 Cassel Military Paperbacks Edition, p.351

Sources and External links

Media

Sevastopol defense video made by Ukrainian "Inter" television company for the 61st anniversary of Victory Day. (in Ukrainian)


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