World War II: Soviet Retaking of the Crimea (April-May 1944)


Figure 1.--This photograph appeared in a Soviet newspaper, "The Stalin banner". The yoing Red Army soldiers belong to the the 4th Ukrainian Front Army who were preparing to retake the Crimea from the Germans. The caption read, "Children of War. Crimea. March 1944". Fotokorespondent lieutenant Semjannikov F.I.

The Germans reached the Crimea During Barbarossa, but did not finally take the Peninsula until mid-1942, defeating a major Soviet offense and smashing the defenses at Sevasttpol (July 1942). The Soviet victory at Stalingrad (January 1943) and resulting offense led to huge tank battlke of Kursk (July 1943). The Soviet victory at Kursk undermined German control of the Ukraine. The Soviers pressed the Germans throughout the Ukraine. The German 17th Armee (Army Group South) was forced to retreat from the Kuban Bridgehead across the Kerch Strait to the temporary safety of the Crimean Peninsula (October 1943). The Red Army advance placed the Germans and Romanians in the Crimea in a dangerous position. The Crimea was, however, one of the many positions in the East that Hitler was determined to hold decvoid of any realistic strategic assessment. The Romanians wanted to evacuate, but Hitler insisted the Crimea be defended. The German commander assured Hitler that they could hold the Soviets at the narrow neck of the Peninsula. He badly underestimated the growing strength of the Red Army and the mobility provided by American Lend Lease trucks. Thus the Germans did not evacuate when they still had the opportunity. The Red Army steadily pushed back the Germans in the southern Ukraine. This mean they eventually reached the Perekop Isthmus and cut off the land connection of 17. Armee with German lines (November 1943). As a result, the Soviets had succeeded in cutting off a sizeable force in the Crimea Penensula. Soviet troops begin their offensive to liberate Crimea (April 8, 1944). This set up the Battle for the Crimea. The Red Army's 4th Ukrainian Front engaged the German and Romanian 17th Armee. The 4th Ukrainian Front smshed through the German-Romanian defenses. The Germans finally attempted to evacuate across the Black Sea, but the effort was poorly executed. Both the Germans and Romanians experienced severe losses. Soviet troops recapture Sevastopol (May 9). The last Germans surrender in the Crimea (May 12). The Soviets had resisted the Germans in the Crimea for more than a year. The German position colapsed in only a month. It says a great deal about Hitler's managemenbt of the War that at the time the climatic battles of the War were shaping up (D-Day in the West and Bagration in the East--June-July 1944), that Hitler would waste an entire Army from the depleted Whermacht order of battle in the Crimea.






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Created: 7:33 PM 6/13/2009
Last updated: 7:33 PM 6/13/2009