East Pomeranian Offensive


East Pomeranian Offensive

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=East Pomeranian Offensive
East Pomeranian Strategic Offensive Operation


caption=Soviet troops and vehicles in Danzig, March 1945
partof=the Eastern Front of World War II
place=Pomerania
date=February 24, 1945 – April 4, 1945
result=Soviet victory
combatant1=
combatant2=flagicon|USSR Soviet Union
flagcountry|Poland
commander1=)
commander2=flagicon|USSR Konstantin Rokossovsky (2nd Belorussian Front)
strength1=?
strength2=920,500; plus 75,600 of 1st Polish ArmySee [http://www.soldat.ru/doc/casualties/book/chapter5_10_1.html soldat.ru] , accessed 18/04/08]
casualties1=?
casualties2=225,692 (including 52,740 irrecoverable); plus 8668 of 1st Polish ArmySee [http://www.soldat.ru/doc/casualties/book/chapter5_10_1.html soldat.ru] , accessed 18/04/08] |

The East Pomeranian Strategic Offensive operation ( _ru. Восточно-Померанская наступательная операция) was an offensive by the Red Army in its fight against the German "Wehrmacht" on the Eastern Front (World War II). It took place in Pomerania and West Prussia, and officially lasted from 24 February 1945 to 4 April 1945.

In Soviet reckoning, it involved the following subordinate operations::Chojnice-Koeslin Offensive Operation 10 February 1945 - 6 March 1945:Danzig Offensive Operation 7 March 1945 - 31 March 1945:Arnswalde-Kolberg Offensive Operation 1 March 1945 - 18 March 1945:Altdamm Offensive Operation 18 March 1945 - 4 April 1945

Planning

The 2nd Belorussian Front, under Konstantin Rokossovsky, had initially been tasked with advancing westward north of the Vistula River towards Pomerania and the major port city of Danzig, with the primary aim of protecting the right flank of Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front, which was pushing towards Berlin. During the East Prussian Offensive, however, Rokossovsky was ordered to wheel directly north towards Elbing.Duffy, p.170] This left substantial German forces intact in Pomerania, where they threatened the right flank of Zhukov's formations.

As a result, once the initial phase of the East Prussian Offensive was over, the 2nd Belorussian Front was redeployed with the intention of attacking northwards into Pomerania, eliminiating the possibility of a German counter-offensive (similarly, the parallel Silesian Offensives of Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front in the south were in part designed to protect the 1st Belorussian Front's left flank). The need to secure the flanks delayed the Soviets' final push towards Berlin, which was originally planned for February, until April.

Stalin's decision to delay the push towards Berlin from February to April has been a subject of some controversy among both the Soviet generals and military historians, with one side arguing that the Soviets had a chance of securing Berlin much quicker and with much lower losses in February, and the other arguing that the danger of leaving large German formations on the flanks could have resulted in a successful German counter-attack and prolonged the war further: the Germans did in fact mount a surprise counter-attack in Pomerania in mid-February, Operation Solstice. The delay did, however, allow the Soviets to occupy significant parts of Austria in the Vienna Offensive.

German intelligence

As early as February 13, German intelligence services had deduced that the Soviets would seek to clear Pomerania before advancing on Berlin. The Second Army, defending a large and exposed sector running through Pomerania eastwards towards the edge of East Prussia at Elbing, sought permission to withdraw, but this was denied by Adolf Hitler.Duffy, pp.186-7] Grudziądz, on the Vistula, was surrounded on February 18 (the garrison, from the 83rd Infantry Division, finally surrendered the following month).

Deployments

Wehrmacht

*Army Group Vistula
**Second Army (Colonel-General Walter Weiß)
***XXXXVI Panzer Corps
***VII Panzer Corps
***XXVII Panzer Corps
***XXIII Corps
***XVIII Mountain Corps
***Fortress garrisons of Graudenz and Danzig
**Eastern flank of Third Panzer Army (reconstituted) (General Erhard Raus)
***III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps
***X SS Corps

It should be noted that the corps of Second Army were seriously understrength by this time, being composed largely of fragmentary or ad-hoc units. The Third Panzer Army had been rebuilt using the corps of the recently-formed Eleventh SS Panzer Army, the original formation having been largely destroyed in Lithuania and East Prussia, where its remnants were now defending Königsberg.

Red Army

*2nd Belorussian Front (Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky)
*Eastern flank of 1st Belorussian Front (Marshal Georgy Zhukov)
**3rd Shock Army
**1st Guards Tank Army
**2nd Guards Tank Army

The offensive

Breakthrough

Rokossovsky opened the offensive on February 24 using the fresh troops of Kozlov's 19th Army, but after an initial advance of some 20 km they were halted by intense German resistance. On February 26, he inserted the 3rd Guards Tank Corps east of Neustettin, where they achieved a penetration of 40km, and relieved Kozlov of command.Duffy, p.187] The 3rd Guards Tank Corps broke through at Baldenburg, while Neustettin on the Front's left flank fell to the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps on February 27.

Weiß had hurriedly assembled the VII Panzer Corps, including the remnants of the 7th Panzer Division, at Rummelsburg to threaten 19th Army's flank. However after a Soviet breakthrough at Koslin on March 2, Second Army found itself completely cut off from the rest of its Army Group.

1st Belorussian Front joins the attack

Zhukov's right wing, a grouping of the 3rd Shock Army and 1st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies, went over to the offensive on March 1, striking northwards with the main force concentrated at Reetz. The entire left wing of Third Panzer Army was cut off by their breakthrough, after Guderian refused Raus' request for withdrawal; the right flank withdrew towards Stettin.Duffy, p.188]

On March 4, forward Soviet tank units reached the Baltic, and the German forces in Pomerania were trapped in a series of encirclements. The Second Army began to fall back on the Danzig fortified area, while the X SS Corps of the Third Panzer Army had been surrounded at Dramburg.

The second phase

Rokossovksy opened the second phase of his offensive on March 6. The 2nd Shock Army threatened to cut off the defending forces in the fortress of Marienburg, which was evacuated two days later, while in the east Elbing finally fell on March 10.The defence of Marienburg was conducted by a "Kampfgruppe" under the nominal control of the staff of the 7th Infantry Division, including marine, SS and other units.] Weiß, having warned that the Elbing pocket could not be held, was relieved of command on March 9 and replaced by Dietrich von Saucken. The troops of the German Second Army withdrew in disarray into Danzig and Gdynia, where the 2nd Belorussian Front besieged them. Zhukov's forces, the meantime, cleared the remainder of Third Panzer Army from the east bank of the lower Oder, driving the Germans from their last positions in a bridgehead at Altdamm.

iege of Kolberg

Many civilian refugees from Pomerania had fled into the coastal town of Kolberg, which was surrounded by March 4. Nevertheless the town was successfully defended until March 18, by which time evacuation was complete.

iege of Danzig

The Danzig - Gotenhafen (Gdynia) Fortified Area, also the main port for refugees from East Prussia escaping to the west, was defended as long as possible by von Saucken in order to keep open evacuation routes.

Rokossovsky opened his final offensive on March 15; the main thrust, towards the coast at Zoppot between Gdynia and Danzig, being undertaken by the 70th and 49th Army advancing in parallel.Duffy, p.223] The fighting was savage, but by March 19 the Soviet spearheads had reached the heights over Zoppot, while the 4th Panzer Division had been pushed back to the outskirts of Danzig itself. By March 22, the 70th Army reached the sea, splitting the German defence. Gdynia was taken on March 26, its defenders and many civilians retreating to the headland at Oksywie, from where they were evacuated to the Hel Peninsula.

Danzig finally fell on March 28, after which the remnants of Second Army withdrew to the Vistula delta north-east of the city. Evacuation of civilians and military personnel from there and from the Hel Peninsula continued until May 10.

ee also

*Operation Hannibal, the evacuation effort by the "Kriegsmarine"
*Operation Solstice, the preceding German offensive in Pomerania
*East Prussian Operation, the parallel offensives of the 3rd Belorussian Front to the east
*The Heiligenbeil Pocket, the parallel defence of the German Fourth Army east of Elbing

Notes

References

*Duffy, Christopher. "Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945", Routledge, 1991, ISBN 0-415-22829-8
*David M. Glantz, [http://www.strom.clemson.edu/publications/sg-war41-45.pdf The Soviet-German War 1941–45] : Myths and Realities: A Survey Essay
**Beevor, Antony. "Berlin: The Downfall 1945", Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5


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