Battle of Białystok–Minsk


Battle of Białystok–Minsk

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Bialystok-Minsk
partof=World War II


caption=WWII Eastern Front at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa
date=June 22, 1941 - June 29, 1941
place=Eastern Poland, Belorussia
territory=
result=German victory
combatant1=flagicon|Germany|Nazi Germany
combatant2=flag|Soviet Union|1923
commander1=flagicon|Germany|Nazi Fedor von Bock
commander2=flagicon|Soviet Union|1923 Dmitry Pavlov
strength1=750,000
strength2=675,000
casualties1= 276 Aircraft
casualties2= Soviet estimate: 417,000 lost to all causes(German accounts give 287,704 POW) [Bergstrom 2007, p. 28: Cites Krivosheyev, "Grif sekretnosti snyat. Poterivooruzhyonnykh sil SSSR v voynakh, boyevykh deystviyakh i voyennykh konfliktakh", p. 162.]
1,500 Guns Destroyed
2,500 Tanks Destroyed
1,669 Aircraft [Bergstrom 2007, p. 28: Cites Pshenyanik, "Sovtskie Voenno-vozdushnye sily v bor'be snemetsko fashistskoy aviatssiey v letne-osenney kampanii 1941", p. 94.]
notes=

The Battle of Bialystok-Minsk was a German strategic operation conducted by the Army Group Centre during penetration of the Soviet border region during the opening stage of Operation Barbarossa lasting from 22 June 1941 until 29 June 1941. Its goal was encirclement of the Red Army forces around Minsk.

Prelude

Commanded by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, Army Group Centre was tasked with attacking from Poland through the Bialystok - Minsk - Smolensk axis towards Moscow. The Army Group included the 9th and 4th Armies. Its armored forces were Hoth's 3rd Panzer Army and Guderian's 2nd Panzer Army. The two infantry Armies fielded 33 Divisions and the Panzer Armies fielded 9 armored Divisions, 6 motorized divisions and a cavalry division. Army Group Center could call upon 2nd Air Fleet for air support.

Facing the German Army Group Center was the Red Army's Western Front commanded by General Dmitry Pavlov. It included the 3rd, 4th, and 10th Armies along the frontier. The 13th Army was held as part of the Stavka High Command Reserve and initially existed as a headquarters unit only, with no assigned forces. All together, the Soviet Western Front had 25 Rifle and Cavalry divisions, 13 tank and 7 motorized divisions.

The Red Army disposition in Belorussia was based on the idea of an aggressive response to a German attack, carrying the war into German-occupied Poland, but suffered from weakness along the flanks, created by the line of demarcation placement following the division of Poland in 1939. This forward placement of strong Soviet forces in a double-bulge defensive position enabled the OKH to undertake a double envelopment, severing most of Western Front's forces from other Soviet forces in a twin encirclement, centred on Bialystok and Novogrudok, to the west of Minsk.

Formations

oviet

*Western Front - Commander Army General Pavlov, Operations Officer General I.V. Boldin
**First Echelon
***3rd Army - V.I.Kuznetsov
***4th Army
***10th Army - K.D.Golubev
***6th Mechanized Corps
***11th Mechanized Corps
***6th Cavalry Corps
*Second echelon
**13th Army - Lieutenant General F.N. Remezov
**20th Mechanized Corps
**4th Airborne Corps

German

*Heeresgruppe Mitte
**2. Armee - Generalfeldmarschall Maximilian Reichsfreiherr von Weichs
**4. Armee - Generaloberst Ludwig Kübler
***VII. Armeekorps - General der Artillerie Wilhelm Fahrmbacher
***IX. Armeekorps - General der Infanterie Hermann Geyer
***XII. Armeekorps - General der Infanterie Walter Schroth
***XIII. Armeekorps - General der Infanterie Erich Straube
***XXXV. Armeekorps
***XXXXIII. Armeekorps - Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici
***LIII. Armeekorps - General der Infanterie Karl Weisenberger
***286. Sicherungsdivision - Generalleutnant Kurt Müller
**9. Armee - Generaloberst Adolf Strauss
***II. Armeekorps - General der Infanterie Walter Graf von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt
***V. Armeekorps - Generaloberst Richard Ruoff
***VI. Armeekorps - General der Pioniere Otto-Wilhelm Förster
***VIII. Armeekorps - Generaloberst Walter Heitz
**Panzergruppe 2 - Generaloberst Heinz Guderian
***XXIV. Armeekorps (mot) - General der Panzertruppen Leo Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg
***XXXXVI. Armeekorps (mot) - General Heinrich von Viettinghoff-Scheel
***XXXXVII. Armeekorps (mot)
***1. Kavalleriedivision - Generalleutnant Otto Mengers
***10. Infanteriedivision (mot.) - Generalleutnant Friedrich-Wilhelm von Loeper
**Panzergruppe 3 - Generaloberst Hermann Hoth
***XXXVIIII. Armeekorps (mot) - Generaloberst Rudolf Schmidt
***LVII. Armeekorps (mot) - General der Panzertruppen Adolf Kuntzen

The operation

During the initial phases of the German offensive, Western Front's lines of communication and airfields were attacked, severely affecting the ability of the Front to defend itself. Also caught in the German operation was a part of the 11th Army of the Northwestern Front. The Red Army's salient which jutted into German occupied Polish territory with its center at Białystok was ideal for OKH planning. Beyond Białystok, Minsk was a key strategic railway junction and a defensive position of the main road and rail communications with Moscow.

In the north, 3rd Panzer Army attacked, cuttifng the 11th Army from Western Front, and crossed the River Neman. The 2nd Panzer Army crossed the River Bug and by 23rd June had penetrated 60 km into the Soviet territory. The Panzer Armies' objectives were to meet east of Minsk and prevent any Red Army withdrawal from the encirclement. Operating with the Panzer Armies to encircle the Soviet forces, the 9th Army and 4th Army cut into the salient, beginning to encircle Soviet Armies around Bialystok. On 23 June , the Soviet 10th Army attempted a counter-attack in accordance with pre-war planning, but failed to achieve its goals. On 24 June, General Pavlov ordered his operations officer, General Boldin, to take charge of the 6th, 11th Mechanized Corps and 6th Cavalry Corps for a counter-attack towards Grodno to prevent the encirclement of Red Army formations near Bialystok. This attack failed with heavy losses, although it may have allowed some units to escape the western encirclement towards Minsk.

In the evening of 25 June, the German XXXXVII. Panzerkorps cut between Slonim and Volkovysk, forcing Pavlov to order the withdrawal of all troops in the salient behind the Shchara River at Slonim to avoid encirclement. Most formations could not break contact with the Germans, and due to the loss of fuel and transport assets those who could break out, had to withdraw on foot. This withdrawal opened the southern approaches of Minsk.

Five days after the invasion on 27 June, the pincer of Guderian's 2nd Panzer Army and Hoth's 3rd Panzer Army closed east of Minsk. The Panzer Armies had advanced 321 km into the Soviet Union and a almost a third of the distance to Moscow. It was a stunning achievement. On 28 June, the 9th and 4th German Armies linked up east of Bialystok splitting the encircled Soviet forces into two pockets: a larger Bialystok pocket containing the Soviet 10th Army and a smaller Novogrudok pocket containing the 3rd and 13th Armies. Ultimately, in 17 days the Soviet Western Front lost 420,000 personnel from a total of 625,000. On June 29 Minsk, the capital of Belorussia fell to Wehrmacht.

A second Red Army counter-attack by the 20th Mechanized Corps and 4th Airborne Corps failed to breach the encirclement as well, and by 30 June the pocket was completely closed.

The German forces surrounded and eventually destroyed or took prisoner the Soviet 3rd and 10th, 13th and portions of the 4th Armies, in total about 20 divisions, while the remainder of the 4th Army fell back eastwards towards the Berezina River.

The "Luftwaffe's" "Luftflotte 2" helped destroy the VVS Western Front. Some 1,669 Soviet aircraft had been destroyed. However it had suffered 276 losses, and 208 damaged. After only a week of fighting the total serviceable strength of the German "Luftflotte 1", "Luftflotte 2" and "Luftflotte 4" had been reduced to just 960 machines. [Bergstrom 2007, p. 28.]

Consequences

To the astonishment of the Germans, the Soviet troops trapped in the gigantic pockets continued fighting, and concluding operations were resulting in high German casualties. Many Soviet troops escaped due to the lack of German Infantry troops' motor transport that slowed the encirclement process, the very thing Hitler had been anxious to avoid.

On conclusion, 290,000 Soviet soldiers were captured, 1,500 guns and 2,500 tanks were destroyed, but 250,000 Soviet troops managed to escape. When Hitler realized that his victory at Bialystok and Minsk had only been partial there were bitter recriminations. Hitler blamed the Panzer Generals for leaving gaps in the lines and the Panzer Generals for their part were deeply frustrated as for almost a week their advance east had been stopped while they closed the pocket and waited for the infantry to catch up. They feared if the momentum of the armored offensive was lost, Soviet resistance behind the River Dnieper and River Dvina would consolidate.

However, the quick advance East created the possibility for the Wehrmacht to advance rapidly towards the land bridge of Smolensk, from which an attack on Moscow could be planned. It also created the impression in the OKW that the war against the Soviet Union was already won, within days of its start.

The Front commander General Pavlov and his Front Staff were recalled to Moscow, accused of intentional disorganization of defense and retreat without battle, and murdered. Families were repressed (according to NKVD Order no. 00486 about families of "traitors" of Motherland). They were "rehabilitated" in 1956.

Bibliography

*Bergström, Christer (2007). "Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July-December 1941". London: Chervron/Ian Allen. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2.
*Ziemke, E.F. 'Moscow to Stalingrad'
*David M. Glantz, House, Jonathan "When Titans Clashed" (1995)
*David M. Glantz, "Barbarossa: Hitler's Invasion of Russia 1941" (2001) ISBN 075241979X
*"The initial period of war on the Eastern Front, 22 June-August 1941 : proceedings of the Fourth Art of War Symposium, Garmisch, FRG, October 1987" / edited by David M. Glantz ISBN 0714633755.
*Bryan I. Fugate and Lev Dvoretsky, "Thunder on the Dnepr : Zhukov-Stalin and the defeat of Hitler's Blitzkrieg"
*Geyer, H. "Das IX. Armeekorps im Ostfeldzug"

References


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