75 years ago, on March 26, 1944, the Odessa offensive operation began. The offensive of the troops of the 3rd Ukrainian Front under the command of R. Ya. Malinovsky with the aim of defeating the coastal group of the Wehrmacht, and the liberation of Odessa.
The operation to liberate Odessa was part of the "Third Stalinist Strike" - a strategic operation to eliminate the coastal and Crimean groups of the Wehrmacht, the liberation of the Nikolaev, Odessa regions and the Crimean peninsula.
The operation ended with the complete victory of the Soviet troops. The 3rd UV inflicted a heavy defeat on the coastal group of the Wehrmacht, liberated Nikolaev, Ochakov and Odessa, Transnistria and a significant part of Moldova from the Nazis. Thus, conditions were created for the complete liberation of Moldova, advancement to Romania and further to the Balkan Peninsula. The northwestern section of the Black Sea coast was liberated from the enemy, which significantly improved the capabilities of the Black Sea Fleet and Air Force. Conditions were created for the blockade of the Crimean group of the Wehrmacht from the sea.
In fact, the "Third Stalinist strike", aimed at the liberation of Odessa and Crimea, was a continuation of the "second strike" (Dnieper-Carpathian strategic operation). The forces of the 3rd Ukrainian Front (3 UF) on March 6, 1944 began the Bereznegovato-Snigirevskaya offensive operation (it was part of the "second strike"). The 8th Guards Army under the command of General V. I. Chuikov, the 46th Army of General V. V. Glagolev and the mechanized cavalry group (KMG) of General I. A. Pliev broke through the defenses of the German 6th Field Army. In other sectors of the front, the 5th Shock Army of V. D. the main Soviet strike.
On March 8, 1944, KMG Pliev liberated Novy Bug. Then Pliev's group turned to the southwest. Thus, the German front was cut and a threat was created to encircle the main forces of the German 6th Army (16 divisions) in the area of Kherson and Nikolaev. German troops ended up on a kind of peninsula, which forms deep bays into which the Dnieper and Southern Bug rivers flow. This greatly complicated the withdrawal of troops, which was only possible through Nikolaev. The German command began the withdrawal of troops for the Southern Bug.
On March 11, Pliev's units reached Barmashovo. On March 12, the advanced units of KMG Pliev reached the Ingulets River in the Snegirevka area, cutting off the escape routes for the main forces of Hollidt's 6th Army. However, Soviet troops were unable to create a tight ring around the German group. The rifle divisions of the 8th Guards Army and the 23rd Panzer Corps, which were planned to reinforce Pliev's KMG, were linked by heavy fighting in another sector, 25-30 km north and north-west of Bereznegovatoe, and could not help in creating a dense " boiler "environment. As a result, the main forces of the German army, abandoning equipment, heavy weapons and material supplies, managed to break through to the west through the rare chains of Pliev's troops. The Germans retreated beyond the Ingul and Bug rivers.
The breakthrough of KMG Pliev into the rear of the enemy allowed the flank armies of the 3rd UV to develop a successful offensive. On March 11, troops of the 28th Army liberated Berislav, on March 13 - Kherson. Troops of the 57th and 37th armies of N. A. Gagen and M. N. Sharokhin attacked on the right wing of the 3UF front. Soviet troops broke through the enemy defenses and captured the settlements of Dolinskaya and Bobrinets, which were important communication centers. On March 18, Soviet troops reached the Southern Bug and the approaches to Nikolaev. Our troops on the move crossed the Southern Bug in several places and created bridgeheads on the western bank of the river for the development of the offensive.
As a result, Malinovsky's front broke through the German front and inflicted a serious defeat on Hollidt's 6th German army. German troops suffered heavy losses, especially in equipment: the 9th Panzer and 16th Motorized Divisions lost their combat effectiveness, five infantry divisions lost half of their personnel and almost all heavy equipment and weapons, one infantry division had to be disbanded. The German headquarters reacted to this defeat by shifting the command: the commander of the 6th Army, General K. Hollidt, and the commander of Army Group A, Field Marshal E. Kleist, were removed from their posts.
The Red Army, despite the difficult conditions of the spring thaw, advanced to the west up to 140 km, liberating significant territories of the Right-Bank Ukraine from the German invaders. Soviet troops reached the approaches to Nikolaev, creating conditions for a further offensive in the Odessa and Tiraspol directions.
Preparation of the operation. Forces of the parties
On March 11, 1944, Supreme Commander-in-Chief Joseph Stalin gave the order of the 3rd UV to pursue the enemy, seize the crossings on the Southern Bug, liberate Odessa and Tiraspol, and reach the state border of the Soviet Union on the Prut and Danube. According to the operation plan, the troops of the 3rd UV delivered three strikes: 1) the main attack on the Razdelnaya station was carried out by the troops of the 46th, 8th Guards armies, Pliev's KMG and 23rd Tank Corps; 2) units of the 37th and 57th armies attacked in the Tiraspol direction; 3) units of the 28th, 5th shock and 6th armies were to liberate Nikolaev. The left flank of the 2nd Ukrainian Front was supposed to support the 3UF operation and develop an offensive to the south, along the Dniester River.
In their report to Stalin on March 19, 1944, the front commander Malinovsky and Vasilevsky, the representative of the Headquarters (he supervised the planning of operations to liberate the Right-Bank Ukraine and Crimea), asked to provide assistance to the 3UF armored vehicles, artillery tractors, fighter aircraft, as well as to speed up the arrival of reinforcements for the units bled out in previous battles. The Supreme Commander also promised tanks, but it was not yet possible to allocate replenishment of personnel. In the meantime, the rains have washed away the already bad dirt roads. The supply of supplies to the troops was possible only with the help of tractors and all-terrain vehicles. Therefore, the beginning of the Odessa operation was postponed to March 26, 1944. To increase the mobility of troops, bypass enemy strongpoints and defense centers, capture crossings and bridges, mobile detachments were created in the division, consisting of up to a company of riflemen, a platoon of sappers on vehicles, with 1 - 2 guns or self-propelled guns.
By March 26, the forces of the 3rd UV consisted of seven combined-arms armies: 5th shock, 8th guards, 6th, 28th, 37th, 46th and 57th, mechanized cavalry group (guards 4th Cavalry Corps and 4th Mechanized Corps), 23rd Tank Corps. On March 29, the 28th Army was withdrawn to the headquarters reserve. From the air, the troops of the front were supported by the 17th Air Army. In total, the front consisted of about 470 thousand people, 435 tanks and self-propelled guns, more than 12, 6 thousand guns and mortars, over 430 aircraft. In addition, ships and aircraft of the Black Sea Fleet, and parts of the marines were involved in the operation.
Our troops were opposed by the troops of Army Group "A" (since April - troops of Army Group "South Ukraine"): the German 6th Field Army and the 3rd Romanian Army (16 German and 4 Romanian divisions, 8 brigades of assault guns and other units) … A total of about 350 thousand people with 160 tanks and assault guns, 320 guns and mortars. From the air, the enemy was supported by aircraft of the 4th Air Fleet (400 aircraft) and the Romanian Air Force (150 aircraft). Despite the previous heavy defeats, the German divisions retained their high combat effectiveness. The German defense relied on such serious water lines as the Southern Bug and the Dniester; there were also fortifications on the banks of the small rivers Tiligul, Bolshoi Kuyalnik, and Maly Kuyalnik. Odessa was considered the "fortress of the Fuhrer". Nikolaev, Ochakov and Berezovka were prepared for the defense.
On the night of March 26, the troops of the right wing and the center of the front launched an offensive with the aim of crossing the river. Southern Bug and break through the enemy's defenses on its right bank. However, the offensive developed slowly due to strong enemy resistance and a lack of ferry facilities. Therefore, the main efforts were shifted to expanding the existing bridgeheads in the regions of Konstantinovka and Voznesensk. By the end of March 28, units of the 57th and 37th armies expanded the bridgehead to 45 km along the front and 4-25 km in depth. After that, the front command regrouped the strike group (Pliev's group and the 23rd Panzer Corps) in the offensive zone of the 57th and 37th armies. Previously, the front strike group was located in the zone of the 46th Army. KMG Pliev was supposed to conduct an offensive in the area of the Razdelnaya station, where the railway leading to Odessa and Tiraspol passed, the 23rd Tank Corps - in the Tiraspol direction.
On March 26, a Soviet landing was landed in the port of Nikolaev: 68 fighters (marines, sappers, signalmen) under the command of Senior Lieutenant Konstantin Olshansky. The paratroopers had to engage in battle behind enemy lines, diverting his forces from the front. Soviet soldiers successfully landed at the trading port and took up a perimeter defense in the area of the elevator.
Until the morning of March 28, the Soviet marines fought surrounded, repulsed 18 enemy attacks. The Germans fiercely tried to destroy the Soviet landing, using artillery, flamethrowers and tanks. The German command was convinced to the end that the battle was being conducted by a large enemy landing. However, they could not destroy the Soviet landing. Nikolaev was liberated by the troops of the 6th and 5th shock armies on March 28. Only 11 marines survived, all were wounded and burned, five were seriously injured. Senior Lieutenant Konstantin Olshansky died on March 27. The Soviet paratroopers destroyed several tanks and cannons up to the enemy battalion. The heroic landing of Olshansky went down in the military history of Russia as one of the most striking examples of the heroism of Russian soldiers. All paratroopers received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, most of them posthumously.
Monument to the heroes of the Olshansk at the memorial in the center of Nikolaev
The threat of a breakthrough by the 3UF strike group into the rear of the Primorsky grouping forced the German command to begin a hasty withdrawal of the divisions of the 6th German and 3rd Romanian armies beyond the Dniester. At the same time, the Germans tried to restrain the breakthrough of the Soviet troops at the intermediate line of the Tiligul River. However, this was not done. By the morning of March 30, units of the KMG and the tank corps crossed the Bug in the Aleksandrovka area. On March 31, units of the 37th Army and Pliev's group broke the stubborn resistance of the enemy and began to develop movement in the direction of Razdelnaya. On April 4, Soviet troops occupied the Razdelnaya area, intercepting the Odessa-Tiraspol railway. Then the Soviet command threw KMG to the southeast in order to cut off the enemy's possibility of retreating beyond the Dniester. Soviet troops occupied Belyaevka, Mayaki and on April 7 reached the Dniester estuary.
Meanwhile, the left flank of the front was developing an offensive along the seashore in the Odessa direction. On March 29, Soviet troops crossed the Southern Bug. The next day, units of the 5th Shock Army, with the support of a landing party landed from the sea, liberated Ochakov and the Krasny Lighthouse fort at the mouth of the Dnieper-Bug estuary. The 8th Guards and 6th Armies began to bypass Odessa from the northwest, while the 5th Shock Army continued to move along the Black Sea coast.
Thus, the seaside grouping of the Wehrmacht was dismembered into two parts. Two army corps of the 6th Army (9 divisions and two brigades of assault guns) retreated to Tiraspol. The rest of the troops (10 German and 2 Romanian divisions, two brigades of assault guns, other units) were covered both in the north and northwest, pressed against Odessa. There was a threat to create an Odessa "boiler". On the morning of April 6, German troops (more than 6 divisions) went to a breakthrough in the Razdelnaya area, in the direction of Tiraspol. The enemy's blow fell on the 82nd Rifle Corps of the 37th Army, which had not yet managed to gain a foothold in new positions. At the cost of significant losses, the Germans broke through from the encirclement being created and united with theirs north-west of Razdelnaya. Pulling up additional forces, on April 7, the 37th Soviet army defeated the enemy, pushing the Germans away from Razdelnaya. However, the Germans were able to leave for the Dniester.
KMG Cossacks Lieutenant General I. A. Pliev on the banks of the Dniester near Odessa
On April 9, 1944, the troops of the 5th Shock Army entered Odessa. Troops of the 8th Guards and 6th armies approached the city from the northwest. In the Odessa region, Soviet troops captured huge trophies. The railway from Odessa was packed with trainloads of equipment and military equipment, which the Germans did not manage to evacuate. The German garrison in Odessa had the only way to retreat through Ovidiopol with a further crossing over the Dniester estuary. Here the Germans began to withdraw the rear units and troops. Another part of the German group tried to break through to the crossings across the Dniester in the Belyaevka area. The 17th Air Army and aviation of the Black Sea Fleet struck at the retreating enemy. Off the coast, ships, boats and submarines of the Black Sea Fleet sank transports that evacuated part of the troops and army property of the coastal group.
On April 10, 1944, Soviet troops liberated Odessa. An important role in the liberation of the city was played by the red partisans and underground fighters, who attacked the enemy from their catacombs and hideouts. During the two years of German-Romanian occupation, the city was a real "citadel of the partisan movement", as the German military historian Tippelskirch admitted. The partisans helped to clear Odessa from the Nazis and saved many city buildings, prepared for blowing up, from destruction.
Group portrait of the soldiers of the partisan detachment located in the underground camp in the catacombs near Odessa
On April 10, the cavalry divisions of the Pliev group found themselves in a difficult situation, which to the north of Ovidiopol came under attack from a strong enemy grouping retreating from Odessa. The Red cavalry was forced to withdraw to the north. The stretched forces of KMG and two corps of the 8th Guards Army were not enough to create a solid barrier on the path of the retreating German divisions.
After the liberation of Odessa, the 5th shock and 6th armies were withdrawn to the reserve, and the rest of the troops continued to pursue the enemy. The operation continued until April 14. The 23rd Panzer Corps, which broke away from the rifle units, was temporarily surrounded on April 10 in the Ploskoye area. On April 11, the troops of the 57th Army unblocked the tankers. On April 12, Soviet troops reached the Dniester, crossed the river and occupied several small bridgeheads. On this day, troops of the 37th Army liberated Tiraspol and seized a small bridgehead south-west of the city on the right bank of the Dniester, then expanded it. Parts of the 46th and 8th Guards armies on April 11-15 also reached the bank of the Dniester and crossed the river, seizing bridgeheads. Further movement of the 3UF troops was stopped by order of the Headquarters of April 14, 1944. Malinovsky's troops went over to the defensive at the lines they had reached.
Red Army soldiers run past a wrecked German armored train during battles at the Razdelnaya station near Odessa
Soviet T-34-85 tanks with a landing party go into battle for the Razdelnaya station in the Odessa region
Night attack by Soviet T-34-85 tanks at the Razdelnaya station in the Odessa region. Signal flares are used for illumination. In the background - the building of the Razdelnaya station, April 1944. Photo source:
It was a victory. Soviet troops defeated the coastal grouping of the Wehrmacht (6 German and 3rd Romanian armies). The enemy lost more than 38 thousand people killed and captured, a large number of weapons, equipment and military property. The Germans fled across the Dniester. It is worth noting the skillful resistance of the enemy. The German command was able to withdraw from the blow and save the main forces of the 6th Army from encirclement, to preserve the army's combat effectiveness.
The Red Army troops advanced to the west up to 180 km, liberated the Nikolaev and Odessa regions of Ukraine-Little Russia, part of Moldova. Having reached the Dniester and seizing bridgeheads on its right bank, the troops of the 3rd UV created favorable conditions for completing the liberation of Moldova and a breakthrough into Romania and further to the Balkan Peninsula. The northwestern section of the Black Sea coast, the important Odessa port, was freed from the enemy, its fleet and aviation. This made it possible to transfer the forces of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet to this area, blocking the Crimean grouping of the enemy from the sea.
Soviet units cross the estuary in the Odessa region
Soviet soldiers ride along the streets of liberated Odessa, clogged with equipment abandoned by the Germans
Soviet troops enter the liberated Odessa. The photo was taken on Lenin Street. Odessa Opera House is in the background. April 10, 1944
Soviet soldiers with a child in liberated Odessa