Battle for Right-Bank Ukraine

Battle for Right-Bank Ukraine
Battle for Right-Bank Ukraine

75 years ago, in April 1944, the Red Army completed the liberation of Right-Bank Ukraine. In the course of a series of operations, our troops defeated a strong and skillful enemy, advanced 250-450 km westward and liberated from the Nazis a huge territory of Little Russia (Ukraine) with a population of tens of millions of people and important economic areas of the country.

The Dnieper-Carpathian strategic operation became one of the largest battles of the Great Patriotic War both in its scale (5 Soviet fronts and 2 German army groups, about 4 million soldiers on both sides) and in its duration (4 months). This is the only battle of the Great War in which all 6 Soviet tank armies took part. Soviet troops inflicted a heavy defeat on the Wehrmacht in the southern strategic direction, reached the state border of the Soviet Union, began the liberation of Romania and created favorable conditions for the liberation of Central and Southeastern Europe from the Nazis.

During the first stage of the operation, from the end of December 1943 to the end of February 1944, the Red Army carried out the Zhitomir-Berdichev, Kirovograd, Korsun-Shevchenko, Rovno-Lutsk, Nikopol-Kryvyi Rih operations, throwing the enemy far beyond the Dnieper River. During the second stage of the operation, from March to April 1944, Soviet troops conducted the Proskurovsko-Chernivtsi, Umansko-Botoshansk, Bereznegovato-Snigirevskaya, Odessa operations. The enemy troops were defeated between the Dniester and the Southern Bug, the Red Army reached the western regions of Ukraine and the northeastern part of Romania. In addition, a strategic operation was carried out to liberate the Crimean Peninsula - April 8 - May 12, 1944.

As a result, the western part of Little Russia (Little Russia-Ukraine) - Right-Bank Ukraine, which occupied half of the territory of the entire Ukrainian SSR, was liberated. This event had important military-strategic, political and economic consequences. Soviet troops liberated important administrative and industrial centers of Russia-USSR from enemy occupation: Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Krivoy Rog, Kirovograd, Nikopol, Nikolaev, Odessa, Vinnitsa, etc. In these areas, important industrial industries were developed for the Soviet country: iron ore (Krivoy Rog, Kerch Peninsula), manganese ore (Nikopol), oil (Drohobych), shipbuilding (Nikolaev), textile, food, etc. The agricultural sector was also developed here: they grew wheat, rye, barley, corn, sugar beets, etc. In the regions of Polesie, cattle breeding was developed, in the central and southern parts of the Right Bank - gardening. There were large ports in the region: Odessa, Sevastopol, Feodosia, Kerch, Evpatoria.

Strategically, the victory of the Red Army on the Right Bank led our troops to Romania, to the borders of southern Poland, Czechoslovakia, to the Balkan Peninsula. The Soviet army was able to drive the enemy out of Central and Southeast Europe. Russia returned the Northern Black Sea region, ensuring the dominance of the Black Sea Fleet in the central and western parts of the Black Sea.

Battle for Right-Bank Ukraine

The submachine gunners of the 1st Ukrainian Front are on the attack. 1943 g.


Soldiers of the 2nd Ukrainian Front follow the T-34-85 tank during the offensive. 1944 Photo source:

The setting before the battle

In 1943, there was a strategic turning point in the Great War.The Red Army intercepted the strategic initiative and began to liberate the Soviet regions previously captured by the enemy. By the end of 1943, our soldiers freed more than two-thirds of the temporarily lost Russian lands from the invaders. Despite the fierce resistance of the Wehrmacht, Soviet troops reached the approaches to Vitebsk, Orsha, Zhitomir, Kirovograd, Krivoy Rog, Perekop, Kerch. Russian troops captured important bridgeheads on the right bank of the Dnieper.

The successes of the Soviet army in the liberation of our Motherland from the invaders were based on effective Soviet economy. Despite the military destruction, the occupation of important economic regions of the country, the economy of the USSR grew steadily. In 1944, compared with 1943, there was a significant expansion in the production of metal, fuel, and electricity, which in turn provided the material basis for the growth of the production of military equipment and weapons (with the simultaneous improvement of weapons, the emergence of new models). Thus, in 1944, compared with 1943, the smelting of pig iron increased from 5.5 to 7.3 million tons, steel - from 8.5 to 10.9 million tons, the production of rolled products increased from 5.7 to 7, 3 million tons, coal production from 93.1 to 121.5 million tons, oil - from 18.0 to 18.3 million tons, power generation - from 32.3 to 39.2 billion kW / h. The socialist economy confidently overcame the difficulties of the war, proving its effectiveness in the conditions of the terrible "competition" with the Hitlerite "European Union".

The position of the Third Reich by the 1944 campaign of the year deteriorated significantly. Victory period 1941-1942. were in the past. Hopes for victory on the Russian front were dashed. The German block was falling apart. Italy withdrew from the war in 1943. To save the Mussolini regime, the Germans had to occupy northern and part of central Italy. The Mannerheim, Horthy and Antonescu regimes in Finland, Hungary, and Romania realized that the war was lost. They showed less and less enthusiasm and looked for the possibility of salvation. The allies became unreliable, they had to be supported at the expense of German troops, which further depleted the capabilities of the German army.

The internal position of the Reich also worsened. Due to the total mobilization of all forces, the cruel plunder of the occupied territories, the German authorities were still able to ensure the growth of the war economy in 1944. The Germans produced even more weapons, equipment and ammunition. However, this no longer made up for the huge losses on the Russian front, and as the defeats in the East and the loss of previously occupied territories from the summer of 1944, the economy of the German Empire went down. The situation with human resources was especially difficult. The Wehrmacht monthly lost an average of up to 200 thousand people and demanded more and more new replenishment. And finding them was getting harder and harder. It was impossible to take more people from the industry of Germany, since the influx of foreign workers and prisoners who could replace the Germans was significantly reduced. We had to mobilize the elderly and youth. But emergency measures could no longer make up for the losses. In addition, the inflow of strategic materials and goods to Germany from neutral countries and occupied territories decreased, and a breakdown in transport and production ties began. Under the influence of the victories of the Soviet Union, resistance to the Nazis increased in European countries.

Thus, the 1944 campaign of the year began for the Reich in a situation of ever-increasing foreign policy and internal problems, the threat of military collapse.

Despite the military-political and economic crisis, Berlin was not going to capitulate. The German Empire still had powerful armed forces: 10, 5 million people (6, 9 million in the active forces and 3.6 million in the reserve, rear districts), including 7, 2 million people in the ground forces (about 4.4 million - the active army, 2, 8 million - the reserve army and the rear), more than 9, 5 thousand tanks and self-propelled guns, 68 thousand guns and mortars. The troops were quite efficient, fought fiercely and skillfully. The command corps was excellent.The military industry produced high-quality military equipment and weapons.

At the same time, thanks to the position of Great Britain and the United States, the Reich could still keep its main forces and assets on the Russian front, most of the most combat-ready divisions, aviation and armored formations. London and Washington, which at the beginning of the war relied on the exhaustion and defeat of both the Germans and the Russians, were in no hurry to open a second front in Western Europe, preferring military operations in secondary theaters. Publicly, the political leaders of the Anglo-Saxons talked about the destruction of Nazism and fascism in the name of freedom and peace, solidarity with the Soviet Union, but in reality they wished for the exhaustion of Germany and the USSR in the war. To eliminate Germany as a competitor within the Western world, to subjugate the German people to their will. To destroy the Soviet civilization, plunder the wealth of Russia and establish their own world order (in fact, the same slave-owning civilization that the ideologists of German Nazism planned to build). Therefore, the masters of the United States and England postponed the opening of the second front until the very last moment, were engaged in the seizure of territories in Africa, Asia, the Pacific basin, rushed to the Balkans to establish the power of their puppets there, to cut off the USSR from Central and Southeast Europe.


The situation in the southern strategic direction. Parties' plans

The position of Britain and the United States allowed the German military-political leadership to concentrate the main forces on the Russian front. The hope remained that the Third Reich would be able to withstand and hold onto vast areas of Eastern and Southeastern Europe until the anti-Hitler coalition collapsed. Hitler believed to the last that the United States and Britain would oppose the USSR. On the whole, he turned out to be right, the Anglo-Saxons really hated the Soviet Union fiercely and were already preparing for a new world war - against Russia. However, they preferred to finish off Germany before, but mainly with the hands of Russian soldiers, not to get on the rampage.

Therefore, the Hitlerite army in 1944 went over to strategic defense in order to hold the occupied territories and conduct only private offensive operations to improve the operational position of the troops. The German high command hoped to wear down the enemy with stubborn defenses on the Eastern Front and in Italy, in order to then seize the initiative into their own hands. In Germany itself and among the allies, the illusion was maintained that the front was firmly in the depths of the Soviet Union. The need for a stubborn defense of the borders in the east was also associated with the fact that the occupiers were engaged in total plunder of the still occupied areas, which made it possible to supply strategic raw materials and foodstuffs to Germany.

The Hitlerite leadership paid particular attention to the retention of the western part of Ukraine and Crimea with their industrial and agricultural potential. It was also important for the German armed forces to maintain control over the Northern Black Sea region, the Crimean peninsula, which made it possible to retain a significant part of the Black Sea basin. Western Ukraine and Crimea were a kind of bastions that defended the approaches to southern Poland and the Balkan Peninsula. Romania and Hungary could go out of war, after the Russians reached their borders.

In southern Russia, our troops were opposed by two German army groups. Army Group South of Field Marshal Manstein was located south of Polesye, on the front from Ovruch to Kachkarovka. The army group consisted of the 6th and 8th field armies, the 1st and 4th tank armies. Army Group A of Field Marshal von Kleist defended the Black Sea coast. It included the 3rd Romanian army and the 17th German army (it defended the Crimea). The German ground forces in the south were supported by the 4th German Air Fleet (1st, 4th, 8th Air Corps), as well as the Romanian Air Force. In total, 93 divisions (including 18 tank and 4 motorized), 2 motorized brigades and other units opposed our troops in western Ukraine. They included 1.8 million.people, 2, 2 thousand tanks and self-propelled guns (up to 40% of all troops and 72% of armored forces on the Eastern Front), about 22 thousand guns and mortars, over 1,500 aircraft.

The German command planned to hold their positions, and conduct separate offensive operations to destroy the Soviet bridgeheads on the right bank of the Dnieper. Also, the Germans were going to strike from the Nikopol bridgehead and the Crimea in order to restore the land corridor with the Crimean group.

The Germans planned to stop the Russians at the Dnieper border. Also, defensive lines were erected along the Goryn, Southern Bug, Ingulets, Dniester and Prut rivers. Strong defenses were prepared in the Crimea, at Perekop and in Kerch.


The commander of Army Group South, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, speaks with soldiers of the 8th Wehrmacht Army in the Cherkassy region. February 1944


Tanks "Panther" of the 5th SS division "Viking" on a railway track in the Kovel area. January - February 1944


Tank destroyers "Nashorn" Sd.Kfz. 164 of the 88th battalion of heavy tank destroyers of the Wehrmacht on a country road, during the fighting in the Kamenets-Podolsk region. March 1944


Hungarian and German tank crews at the late modification Tiger tank. Western Ukraine. 1944 g.

The Germans could not keep the so-called. "Vostochny Val" along the border of the river. Dnieper. In the fall of 1943, the Red Army crossed the Dnieper on the move and, in the course of fierce battles, captured and held large bridgeheads on the right bank. The bridgehead in the Kiev region (up to 240 km wide and up to 120 km deep) was captured by the troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front (UF). Troops of the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian fronts occupied a bridgehead in the area of ​​Cherkassy, ​​Znamenka, Dnepropetrovsk (up to 350 km wide and 30 to 100 km deep). The troops of the 4th Ukrainian Front liberated Northern Tavria from the enemy, reached the lower reaches of the Dnieper in the Kakhovka, Tsyurupinsk sector, made their way from the north to the Crimean peninsula, and occupied a bridgehead on the southern bank of the Sivash. Troops of the North Caucasian Front (since November 1943 - the Separate Primorskaya Army) seized a bridgehead on the Kerch Peninsula.

During the 1944 campaign, the Soviet Headquarters planned to clear the territory of the USSR of invaders, to conduct a series of successive offensive operations along the entire front from the North and Leningrad to the Black Sea and Crimea. At the same time, the first decisive operations (the so-called "Stalinist strikes") were carried out on the flanks of the Soviet-German front: in the north, they planned to completely liberate Leningrad from the blockade, to clear Novgorod from the Nazis and reach the Baltic borders; in the south - to liberate the western part of Ukraine and Crimea.

Thus, a strategic offensive in the south of Russia was supposed to lead to the defeat of a powerful enemy grouping, to the liberation of economically important regions of the country of Western Ukraine and the Crimea, the Black Sea coast and create conditions for a further offensive in the Balkans, in Poland and in the flank of the German army group " Center ", located in Belarus.

At the beginning of 1944, the general plan of the Soviet high command was as follows: 1) the 1st UV, under the command of Vatutin, delivered the main blow to Vinnitsa, Mogilev-Podolsky, the auxiliary - to Lutsk; 2nd UV under the command of Konev struck at Kirovograd, Pervomaisk. The interaction of the two fronts was carried out by the representative of the Headquarters Zhukov. This offensive was supposed to lead to the defeat of the main forces of Manstein, the split of the German front with the exit of the Red Army to the Carpathians; 2) the troops of the 3rd and 4th UV under the command of Malinovsky and Tolbukhin were to defeat the Nikopol-Kryvyi Rih grouping of the Wehrmacht with converging blows, then develop a strike on Nikolaev, Odessa and liberate the entire Northern Black Sea region. At the same time, at the second stage of the offensive, after the defeat of the enemy troops in the Nikopol region, Tolbukhin's troops switched to the Crimean operation. The troops of the 4th UV were supposed to liberate the Crimea together with the Primorsky army and naval forces. The actions of the 3rd and 4th UV were coordinated by the representative of the Headquarters Vasilevsky.

As part of the four Soviet fronts, by the beginning of January 1944, 21 combined arms, 3 tank and 4 air armies were operating. In total, more than 2 million soldiers and officers, over 1900 tanks and self-propelled guns, more than 31, 5 thousand guns and mortars, 2, 3 thousand aircraft.


Children of the liberated city of Nikolaev tear up a poster with the image of Adolf Hitler. Spring 1944


Soviet tanks M4 "Sherman" on the street of the liberated Ukrainian city


A column of Soviet heavy self-propelled artillery mounts ISU-122 from the 59th Separate Tank Regiment of the breakthrough of the 9th Mechanized Corps of the 3rd Guards Tank Army on the march in Western Ukraine. Photo source:

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