75 years ago, the first assault on Sevastopol by the Red Army failed. The Germans relied on strong defensive lines, preserved the combat effectiveness of their main forces during the retreat, and fought desperately. The Soviet command made a number of miscalculations, hurrying with the assault, so attempts on April 15, 18-19 and 23-24, 1944 to break through the main defensive line of the Sevastopol fortified area ended in failure.
The situation before the assault
On April 15, 1944, the main forces of the 2nd Guards and 51st armies of Zakharov and Kreizer entered the approaches to Sevastopol. Without waiting for the approach to the city of the Separate Primorsky Army, which was advancing from the Kerch Peninsula, Marshal Vasilevsky and the front commander Tolbukhin decided to immediately go to the assault on Sevastopol. To prevent the evacuation of the 17th Army, Soviet aviation struck enemy ships and airfields. The Soviet command, preparing for the assault on the city, transferred the 19th Panzer Corps from the right flank to the left.
At the same time, the command of the German 17th Army by the end of April 14 was able to pull the main forces of General Konrad's northern grouping (49th Mountain Rifle Corps) to the city. On April 15, the last units of the Kerch group of Almendinger (5th Army Corps of the Germans and Romanian units) approached. The remnants of the troops were transported from Yalta by sea to Balaklava. Covering themselves with barriers and rear guards, the Germans retained their main forces, although they lost a significant part of their heavy weapons and equipment. The troops of the 49th corps took up positions in the northern sector of the Sevastopol fortified area (left flank), the 5th corps - in the southern sector (right flank). True, the enemy divisions that took up defensive positions in the Sevastopol fortified area were seriously battered. The Romanian divisions actually collapsed, lost their combat effectiveness, and the German ones became, in fact, reinforced regiments. The German command actively evacuated logistic units, civilian personnel, and collaborators. In the period from 12 to 20 April, 67 thousand people were taken out. The personnel of the German army on April 18 was about 124 thousand people.
The army commander, General Eneke, realizing that it was impossible to hold Sevastopol, repeatedly asked the high command to evacuate the troops. However, Hitler ordered to hold the city at any cost on April 12, and forbade the evacuation of combat-ready forces.
The moment for the assault was not the best chosen by the Soviet command. Firstly, the German army, although it was weakened, did not lose its combat capability, quite successfully retreated and took up previously prepared strong defensive positions. Secondly, at this time, the Soviet troops did not have a serious advantage over the enemy in manpower and weapons, which is necessary for the assault on well-fortified positions. The most powerful Soviet corps in the second stage of the pursuit lagged behind the forward detachments by 50-60 km, were withdrawn by the command to the reserve. Thus, the 13th Guards Rifle Corps of the 2nd Guards Army was located in the Ak-Mechet - Evpatoria - Saki area; The 10th Rifle Corps of the 51st Army is in the area of Simferopol. The main striking force of the front - the 19th Panzer Corps, suffered heavy losses. Regrouping and appropriate training of troops was required. The rear lagged behind, which led to a shortage of ammunition and fuel for artillery, aviation and tanks. Reconnaissance of enemy positions was insufficient.
An attempt at an offensive by the Soviet troops on April 15, 1944, predictably bogged down. It was not possible to suppress the firing points of the German forces with a short artillery bombardment. Soviet tanks had to storm enemy positions with well-equipped and camouflaged bunkers, bunkers and artillery batteries. Because of the heavy fire, our infantry was also unable to advance. At the same time, German aviation was not suppressed and during the day several times bombed the location of the Soviet tank corps. At the end of the day, the command of the 4th UV issued an order for a more thorough preparation of the operation.
Representative of the Supreme Command Headquarters, Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army, Marshal of the Soviet Union Alexander Mikhailovich Vasilevsky (left) and the commander of the 4th Ukrainian Front, General of the Army Fyodor Ivanovich Tolbukhin (far right) observe the course of hostilities on the approaches to Sevastopol
Guards rocket launchers are firing at enemy troops on Sapun Mountain. April 1944
Horse carts of the Red Army are passing along the road by the destroyed German self-propelled guns "Marder III" near Sevastopol. April - May 1944 Photo source:
The Fuhrer ordered to keep the fortress to the last bullet
The Germans have been improving the defense of Sevastopol for several months. They began to intensively fortify the city from the beginning of 1943, after the defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad. The Nazis turned Sevastopol into a fortress. At the same time, German specialists in the construction of military fortifications relied on the remaining Soviet defensive structures. Some old permanent firing points have been restored. Particular attention was paid to improving the fire system from field positions and mining the area.
The main line of defense of the Sevastopol fortified region passed along the heights in the area of Sugar Golovka, Sapun Mountain, Gornaya, the city of Kaya-Bash, st. Mekenzievy Gory. The steepness of the heights was above 45 ° and tanks could not overcome them. In addition, they were reinforced with special engineering structures. The entire area was shot through with multi-layered cross and oblique aiming fire. The firing points were created deep in the rocks, and they could only be destroyed with a direct hit. Thus, the fortified area was serious, with pillboxes and bunkers, powerful minefield of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, full-profile trenches, wire obstacles in 3-5 rows, anti-tank ditches. The Germans had a high density of artillery and machine guns, on May 5 - more than 50 guns and mortars, 67 machine guns per 1 kilometer of the front. As a result, the German defense was heavily saturated with easel and light machine guns at the forward edge and was supported by artillery and mortar fire from the depths of the defensive formations.
Non-commissioned officer of the Wehrmacht in a trench near Sevastopol. April 1944
A group of captured Romanian soldiers in Alushta. On the side of the road is a ZiS-5 truck, presumably used by German or Romanian troops. April 1944
German attack aircraft Focke-Wulf Fw.190 from the 2nd group of the 2nd squadron of close support of the troops, captured at the Chersonesos airfield during the battles for the liberation of the Crimea. In the background - Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter
In the rear there were two more lines of defense, where reserves were stationed. Forces and supplies were enough for a month of defense. Behind the defense lines there were airfields, which made it possible to take out the wounded, sick, bring in reinforcements, and various cargo. German combat aircraft supported the ground forces and covered the evacuation by sea.
For the defense of Sevastopol in April 1944, the Germans had a group of 100,000. It was based on five weakened divisions of the 17th Army as part of the 49th Army Corps (50th, 336th and 98th Infantry Divisions), 5th Army Corps (111th and 73rd Infantry Divisions) … Plus the remnants of other army and corps units, assault brigades. In the army reserves were the remnants of the Romanian infantry, mountain rifle and cavalry divisions.After the evacuation of Romanian units in Sevastopol in early May, about 72 thousand people remained, more than 1700 guns and mortars, tanks and assault guns up to 50, aircraft - about 100.
The assault on Sevastopol. Source: I. Moshchanskiy "Difficulties of Liberation"
The first assault on the Sevastopol fortress
On April 16, Marshals Vasilevsky and Voroshilov (he represented the Headquarters in the Separate Primorsky Army) agreed on a general offensive against Sevastopol on April 18 by the forces of the 2nd Guards, 51st and Primorsky armies. A separate Primorskaya army was included in the troops of the 4th UV. When deciding to start the assault on Sevastopol, the Soviet command believed that the enemy was actively taking out troops and leaving the Sevastopol bridgehead no later than April 25. That is, as the German troops withdraw, the defense of Sevastopol will inevitably be weakened and our troops will liberate the city, destroying the fleeing enemy.
On April 16-17, the troops of the 63rd Rifle Corps of the 51st Army and the 19th Panzer Corps, supported by aviation and artillery, continued to attack enemy positions. On April 16, the troops of the Primorsky Army, together with the partisans, liberated Yalta. By the end of April 16, the advanced forces of the 11th Guards Corps of the Primorsky Army reached Sevastopol. By the end of April 17, the advanced detachments of the 16th Rifle Corps made their way to Balaklava and started a battle for it.
On April 18, 1944, after artillery preparation and air strikes, at 16 o'clock, the troops of the 4th UV went on the offensive. Attacks by the 2nd Guards Army on the Soviet right flank. had no success. On the left flank, units of the Primorskaya Army in some areas broke the enemy's resistance, advanced 4-7 kilometers. Our troops occupied the villages of Nizhny Chorgun, Kamary, Fedyukhiny heights, the village of Kadykovka and liberated Balaklava. The 51st Army and 19th Panzer Corps in the center also attacked the enemy. Our infantry and tankers fought for Gaitany, Sugar Loaf and Sapun Mountain. Individual tanks wedged into the enemy's defenses, but the Germans fired strong flanking fire from Sapun Mountain and the Soviet riflemen could not pass after the armored vehicles. As a result, Soviet tanks retreated to their original positions. The 19th Panzer Corps, which had already been drained of blood during the offensive from Sivash to Sevastopol, suffered serious losses that day. So, if on April 18, 71 tanks and 28 self-propelled artillery units were on the move in the mobile unit, then on April 19 there were 30 tanks and 11 self-propelled guns. In fact, the 4th UV has lost its armored strike fist. On April 19, the tank corps was transferred to the operational subordination of the Separate Primorsky Army.
Thus, the unsuccessful offensive of the Soviet troops on April 18-19 showed that a more thorough preparation of the troops and the supply of ammunition to them were necessary. More serious impact on German positions from artillery and aviation. Due to the lack of ammunition, the Soviet artillery could not conduct a full-fledged artillery preparation, suppress the enemy's firing points.
Fighters Yak-9D, 3rd Squadron of 6th GIAP of the Black Sea Fleet Air Force, over Sevastopol
Soldiers of the Black Sea Fleet marines go to the attack near Sevastopol. The attack is supported by fire from the crews of the DP-27 machine gun and the PTRD-41 anti-tank gun
The command of the 4th UV, believing that the enemy was evacuating its troops, decided to conduct active hostilities in order to probe the German defense, and in time to find a weak point, strike and destroy the 17th Army. On April 20-22, 1944, our troops carried out attacks with separate reinforced detachments (up to a battalion), studying the enemy's defenses. On the night of April 23, Soviet long-range aviation struck at enemy positions.
On April 23-24, 1944, the troops of the 4th UV again tried to break into the enemy's defenses and then liberate Sevastopol. The general attack began at 11 o'clock on April 23, after an artillery and air strike. The troops of the 2nd Guards Army were able to wedge themselves into the enemy's defenses, fought especially stubborn battles in the area of the Mekenzievy Gory station.Parts of the 51st Army also had local success, capturing a number of enemy positions. The Primorsky Army with the 19th Tank Corps (it was partially restored, on April 23 - about 100 tanks and self-propelled guns) dealt the main blow in the Kadykovka area and advanced 3 km, but could not gain a foothold. The Germans, due to a lack of anti-tank weapons, could not immediately stop the Soviet tanks, and they passed the positions of the German infantry. However, then the Germans cut off our tanks from the infantry. Tanks without infantry support suffered heavy losses from flank artillery fire and retreated to their original positions.
On April 24 at 12 o'clock, after an hour of artillery preparation and a strike by bomber and ground attack aircraft, our troops again went on the attack. Particularly stubborn battles were fought in the sector of the 2nd Guards Army. The Germans fought fiercely and attacked themselves. In the area of art. Mekenzievy Gory, where the 50th Infantry Division defended, the Germans launched up to 20 counterattacks with forces from battalion to infantry regiment, with the support of self-propelled guns and aviation. The 19th Panzer Corps on the left flank again broke through the enemy positions, but under heavy artillery and mortar fire, suffering heavy losses, it retreated. On April 25, only 44 tanks and 16 self-propelled guns remained in the hull. After that, the 19th Panzer Corps was again pulled back to the rear for replenishment, training tankers and motorized infantry in combat in mountain conditions, and the actions of assault groups. Also, the tankers worked out interaction with the infantry, artillery and aviation. On April 25, our troops attacked again, but two days of bloody battles had already reduced the intensity of the battle. As a result, it was not possible to break through the defenses of the German army.
However, these attacks depleted the strength of the 17th Army. And the reinforcements were minimal. The command of the 17th Army requested an evacuation. The German Fuhrer was against it. On April 24, Hitler said that the loss of Sevastopol could lead to a sharp change in Turkey's position - Ankara could go over to the enemy camp. Also, this event will have a strong impact on the Balkan states. Hitler noted that to wage war, Germany needed Romanian oil and chrome from Turkey, and all this would be lost when Sevastopol was surrendered. Hitler also noted that Sevastopol could be safely left only after repelling the waiting Allied landing in France. On April 25, Vice-Admiral Brinkman, commander of the German Navy on the Black Sea, and the head of the Crimean naval region, Rear Admiral Schultz, told the Fuehrer that the fleet could deliver 6-7 thousand tons of cargo to the city daily, which roughly corresponded to the garrison's needs of 10 thousand. human. Hitler confirmed the decision to hold the Sevastopol Fortress. In addition, the German high command proceeded from the fact that when Sevastopol was surrendered and evacuated, only small units would be withdrawn, having abandoned heavy weapons, and the Russians, having taken the city, would free 25 divisions, which could soon be thrown into battle on another sector of the front. Therefore, the garrison in Sevastopol was supposed to further shackle the Russian grouping.
Only the wounded, civilian and Romanian troops were allowed to be taken out of Sevastopol. At the same time, the Germans practiced the forcible removal of civilians - women and children, who were loaded onto the decks (troops and weapons - into the holds) in order to avoid attacks by Soviet aircraft. After this order from Hitler, the transfer of reinforcements to Sevastopol by sea and by air was accelerated. However, the decline in manpower and equipment was greater than the number of reinforcements. In addition, the Romanian units, which had previously constituted the army's reserve, were taken out.
The command of the 17th Army asked to send two divisions so that the defense could continue. On April 27, Eneke, through the headquarters of Army Group South Ukraine, conveyed a message to Hitler, where he demanded that at least one division be sent and “freedom of action” (that is, the ability to start evacuations if necessary). On May 1, 1944, General Eneke, who expressed doubts about the need for further defense, was replaced by General K. Almendinger (former commander of the 5th corps) and sent to the command reserve.The new commander on May 3 confirmed the order to "defend every inch" of the Sevastopol Fortress."
In the period from April 26 to May 4, 1944, Soviet troops were preparing for a decisive assault on Sevastopol. At first, a new assault was scheduled for April 30, but then postponed to May 5. A regrouping of troops was carried out. On April 28, the 13th Guards Rifle Corps (2nd Guards Army), the 10th Rifle Corps (51st Army) and the 3rd Mountain Rifle Corps (Primorskaya Army) were transferred to the front line. The supply of ammunition and fuel to the troops was adjusted, since the main front-line and army warehouses were still located outside Perekop and in the Kerch region. Reconnaissance was carried out, defense, enemy fire system was studied. The artillery of the front was being pulled to the city. The troops carried out private operations to improve their position, to capture individual enemy positions and reconnaissance in force. Also, individual attacks weakened and weakened the defense of the Germans, led to losses in manpower and weapons. Soviet aviation struck enemy troops, primarily bombing airfields.
Destroyed Soviet tank T-34-76 stuck in German positions near Sevastopol. End of April 1944