Operation Bagration | World War II

Operation Bagration | World War II

Overview

The 1944 Soviet Byelorussian Strategic Offensive Operation was codenamed Operation Bagration; a military campaign fought in Soviet Byelorussia on the Eastern Front of World War II between 22 June and 19 August 1944, just over two weeks after the start of Operation Overlord in the west, forcing the Germans to fight on two significant fronts at the same time. The Soviet Union annihilated 28 of Army Group Centre's 34 divisions, destroying the German front line. With about 450,000 German deaths and 300,000 more German forces cut off in the Courland Pocket, it was the most devastating defeat in German military history.

The Red Army launched an offensive against Army Group Centre in Byelorussia on June 22, 1944, to encircle and destroy its main component troops. The German 4th Army and most of the Third Panzer and Ninth Armies had been decimated by the 28th of June. In the Minsk Offensive, the Red Army used the collapse of the German front line to encircle and destroy German units in the region of Minsk, liberating Minsk on July 4th. With the cessation of solid German resistance in Byelorussia, the Soviet offensive continued in July and August to Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.

For the first time, the Red Army could completely implement Soviet deep fighting and maskirovka (deception) techniques despite suffering enormous losses. Moreover, operation Bagration moved German mobile reserves from the Lublin Brest and Lvov Sandomierz areas to the major sectors, allowing the Soviets to launch the Lvov Sandomierz and Lublin–Brest offensives. In addition, it enabled the Red Army to reach the Vistula River and Warsaw, putting Soviet forces within striking distance of Berlin, in line with the Soviet deep operations concept of striking into the strategic depths of the enemy.

Background

As the Soviet setback in Operation Mars showed, Germany's Army Group Centre had previously proven difficult to counter. Despite lowering its front line, Army Group South had been exposed by June 1944, following defeats in the combats that trailed the Battle of Kursk, the Battle of Kiev, the Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive, and the Crimean Offensive in late summer, autumn, and winter 1943–44. Army Group north was similarly driven back in the north, leaving Army Group Center's lines projecting eastward and threatening to lose communication with neighbouring military groups.

The German High Command anticipated the next Soviet onslaught to be directed against Army Group North Ukraine (Field Marshal Walter Model), despite lacking intelligence capability to predict Soviet intentions. One-third of Military Group Centre's artillery, half of its tank destroyers, and 88% of its tanks had been redeployed to the south by the Wehrmacht. Model's area received the entire operational reserve on the Eastern front (18 Panzer and mechanized divisions, stripped from Army Groups North and Centre). There were just 580 tanks, tank destroyers, and assault weapons in Army Group Centre. Over 4,000 Soviet tanks and self-propelled artillery stood in their way. The German lines were sparsely held; the 9th Army sector, for example, had 143 troops per kilometre of front.

The Soviet Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive in Ukraine played a crucial part in the subsequent fall of Army Group Center during Operation Bagration. The German High Command had been persuaded by the success of this Soviet onslaught that the southern area of the Eastern Front would be the staging region for the tremendous Soviet summer offensive of 1944. As a result, reinforcements were prioritized for German forces stationed in the south, particularly panzer divisions. Furthermore, during the Soviet offensive aimed at the city of Kovel in the spring of 1944, Army Group Center was significantly weakened by the fact that it was forced to transfer nine divisions and numerous independent armoured formations from its main front to its far-right flank, which was situated deep in the back at the junction with Army Group South. Military Group North Ukraine, the inheritor to Army Group South, would receive these soldiers. At the commencement of Operation Bagration, Army Group Center was effectively depleted of over 100,000 personnel and 552 tanks, assault rifles, and self-propelled artillery.

The Soviet Union was able to recapture Byelorussia and Ukraine within its 1941 borders, advance into German East Prussia, and, most importantly, reach the outskirts of Warsaw after gaining control of Poland east of the Vistula River, thanks to Operation Bagration and the neighbouring Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive, which began a few weeks later in Ukraine. The campaign allowed the Vistula–Oder Offensive, the next operation, to get close to the German capital. The achievement of the Byelorussian operation, which had approximately reached Warsaw, shocked the Soviets at first. After that, however, the advent of the Soviets aided the Warsaw revolt against the German occupiers.

Because of the complete coordination of all strategic front actions and signal traffic to confuse the adversary about the offensive's aim, the fight has been hailed as a triumph of the Soviet philosophy of "operational art." The Red Army's tactical actions effectively avoided the Wehrmacht's mobile reserves and consistently "wrong-footed" the German forces. Despite the vast powers at their disposal, Soviet front leaders misled their opponents regarding the primary offensive vector until it was too late.

Soviet Plans

Strategic Aims and Deception

Although it has a broader military application, the Russian maskirovka is similar to the English camouflage. During World War II, Soviet leaders used the word to describe attempts to create deception to surprise the Wehrmacht forces.

In the summer of 1944, the Oberkommando des Heeres expected the Soviets to undertake a robust Eastern Front onslaught. The Stavka (Soviet High Command) examined a variety of possibilities. By the 28th of April 1944, the operation schedule for June and August had been set. Due to the availability of significant enemy mobile troop’s equivalent in strength to the Soviet strategic fronts, the Stavka opposed an offensive in either the L'vov or Yassy-Kishinev sectors. Instead, they proposed four options: an offensive into Romania and through the Carpathian Mountains, an offensive into western Ukraine aimed at the Baltic coast, an attack into the Baltic, and an offensive in the Byelorussian SSR; the first two were rejected as being too ambitious and vulnerable to flank attacks. The third option was ruled out due to the enemy's superior preparedness. The only safe choice was to launch an offensive against Byelorussia, which would pave the way for future offensives.

The Soviet and German High Commands identified Western Ukraine as a staging location for an attack on Poland. Knowing that the enemy would anticipate this, the Soviets launched a maskirovka campaign in Byelorussia to catch the German armoured militaries off guard by creating a crisis that would force the Germans to move their powerful armoured forces to the central front to support Army Group Centre, fresh from their conquest in the First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive in April–June 1944. Bagration's main goal was to achieve this.

The maskirovka was a double bluff to increase the odds of success. First, the Soviets left four tank armies in the L'vov-Peremyshl area, and the Germans were aware of their presence. In April- June, the attack on Romania persuaded the Soviets that the Axis forces in Romania needed to be removed, keeping the Germans worried about their defences in Romania and southern Poland and pulling German troops to the L'vov sector. After launching an offensive against Army Group Centre, which lacked mobile reserves and support, a crisis in the central sector would compel German armoured forces north from Poland and Romania to Byelorussia, despite the presence of massive Soviet concentrations threatening German-occupied Poland.

The Red Army's order of battle reveals the Soviets' intent to strike their main blow against the Vistula. According to Soviet general staff analyses of the Byelorussian and L'vov-Sandomierz operations, the L'vov-Przemyl operation received the lion's share of the tank and motorized corps. The L'vov operation required six guard’s tank corps and six tank corps and three guards mechanized and two mechanized units. There were twelve tanks and five mechanized units in total. The Baltic and Byelorussian Fronts of Operation Bagration, on the other hand, were only given eight tanks and two motorized corps. The offensive's Soviet battle order does not mention the 1st Byelorussian Front (an essential aspect of the L'vov-Peremshyl operation). It aimed to guard the Lublin–Brest Offensive's flank and engage in offensive operations in that area, and it contained another six armies.

The 1st Ukrainian Front, the forefront of the Vistula, L'vov-Premyshl operation, received the majority of tactical resources, particularly anti-tank artillery. The 1st Ukrainian Front received 38 of the 54 anti-tank regiments assigned to the Byelorussian-Baltic-Ukrainian operations. It shows that the Soviet preparations for the L'vov operation were considered, and whoever planned the offensive was intended to keep the newly conquered territory. The Vistula bridgehead was the aim of this operation, and the massive anti-tank artillery units assisted in repelling significant counter-attacks by German armoured formations in August–October 1944. According to one American author, the United States provided approximately 220,000 Dodge and Studebaker trucks to motorize the Soviet troops, which enabled these Soviet advancements.

The L'vov operation and the defence of the 1st Ukrainian Front received the majority of the aviation groups, fighter aircraft, and assault aviation (strike aircraft). The L'vov operation received 32 of the 78 fighter and attack aviation divisions committed to Bagration, accounting for roughly half of the aviation units that contained more than the Byelorussian operation. The Vistula bridgeheads were to be protected from air attacks, while German counter-offensives were to be attacked from the air.

The Success of Deception

The German High Command, Army Group Center, and army commands had identified a substantial portion of the concentration against Army Group Centre by the beginning of June 1944, however they still believed the main operation would be against Army Group North Ukraine. The Russian concentration here and at the Autobahn suggests that the enemy attack will be focused towards the wings of the Army Group, the Chief of Staff of Military Group Centre told Chief of the Military General Staff, Kurt Zeitzler on June 14. On the 10th of June, the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) endorsed the Army Group Centre's opinion in its assessment of the enemy situation:

When it is still assumed that the attack on Army Group Centre will be a secondary operation within the context of the global Soviet offensive operations, it must be remembered that the enemy will be able to build concentrations in front of Army Group Centre, the force of which cannot be underestimated given the ratio of the power between the two sides.

On the 19th of June, Army Group Centre reported in its estimate of the enemy situation that the enemy air force concentration had increased (4,500 out of 11,000), casting additional questions on OKH's estimate. However, OKH found no evidence to support this theory. Except for the 6th Guards Army in Vitebsk, the army leadership spotted some enemy units near the front. It recognized the locations where the primary Soviet attacks would occur shortly before the offensive began. However, the strategic reserves of the Soviet Union were not discovered.

Operations Rail War and Concert

Many Soviet partisan groups in the Byelorussian SSR were ordered to renew their attacks on railways and communications when Operation Bagration began. Large numbers of explosive charges were put on rail tracks starting on June 19th, and while many were cleared, they had a substantial disruptive effect. When the breakthrough and exploitation phases of the operation were finished, the partisans were used to clean up encircled German soldiers.

Disposition of Forces

Around 1,670,300 combat and support men, 32,718 mortars and artillery pieces, 5,818 tanks and attack guns, and 7,799 aircraft had been committed by the Stavka. Army Group Centre had a combat strength of 486,000 soldiers (849,000 total, counting support staffs). The military group had 3,236 field guns and other weaponry pieces (excluding mortars), but only 495 operational tanks and assault weapons and 920 available aircraft, 602 functional. The demotorized 14th Infantry Division was the solitary large reserve force in Army Group Centre. At the same time, the 20th Panzer Division, with 56 tanks, was stationed in the south near Bobruisk, and the Panzergrenadier Division Feldherrnhalle, which was still developing, was also held in reserve. Furthermore, collaborationist troops such as the Lithuanian Security Police aided the Germans. The Germans built substantial field fortifications in Byelorussia due to the relatively static lines, which included several trench lines to a depth of several kilometres and heavily mined defensive belts.

Aside from the pro-German and pro-Soviet forces, various third-party elements, most notably the Polish Home Army's resistance units, were also active in the battle during Operation Bagration. Both the German and Soviet-led forces were fought by the latter. However, several Home Army partisan organizations saw the Soviet Union as a more significant threat and negotiated ceasefires or ad hoc coalitions with the German occupiers. The Home Army's leadership denounced such bargains, and numerous partisan officers who worked with the Germans against the Soviets were court-martialed as a result. However, the Polish Home Army engaged Soviet soldiers on various occasions in self-defence. The Polish Home Army backed up incoming Soviet forces and attacked German troops following Operation Tempest's plan most of the time. On a tactical level, the idea was to work with the advancing Red Army while Polish civil officials emerged from the shadows and seized power in Allied-controlled Polish territory. The strategy failed because after cooperating against German troops, Soviet troops attacked Polish Home Army groups. Many soldiers from the Polish Home Army were killed in action, enlisted in the Soviet-controlled Polish People's Army, murdered, imprisoned, or deported.

Feste Platze

The Wehrmacht relied on logistical lines of communication and centres, which OKH designated Feste Plätze (fortified towns must be held at any costs) on Hitler's instructions. General Jordan of the 9th Army was concerned about the army's vulnerability as a result of its immobility, correctly forecasting that "if a Soviet offensive breaks out, the Army will either have to switch to a mobile defence or see its front crushed." The Feste Plätze covered the entire length of the Eastern Front because the initial onslaught in Belarus was supposed to be a deception. At Vitebsk, Mogilev, Orsha, Minsk, Baranovichi, Babruysk, Slutsk, and Vilnius, Army Group Centre had Feste Plätze.

Battle - First Phase: Tactical Breakthrough

The start of Operation Bagration was staggered, with partisan strikes behind German lines beginning on June 19–20. The Red Army conducted probing attacks on German frontline positions and bombing raids on the Wehrmacht's communication lines on June 21–22. The main offensive started early on June 22nd, with a tremendous artillery barrage against the defensive lines. The initial assault was successful almost everywhere.

The "deep fight" phase of Soviet operations aimed to break past tactical zones and forward German defences. Fresh working reserves were to exploit the breakthrough and operating depths of the enemy front utilizing powerfully mechanized and armoured units to encircle enemy concentrations on an Army Group scale once these tactical offensives were successful.

Vitebsk–Orsha Offensive

The 3rd Panzer Army, commanded by Georg-Hans Reinhardt, guarded Army Group Centre's northern flank; the lines ran through swampy terrain in the north, through a salient around Vitebsk, and to a section north of the key Moscow–Minsk route, held by the 4th Army. It was opposed by Hovhannes Bagramyan's 1st Baltic Front and Ivan Chernyakhovsky's 3rd Belorussian Front, both of which were tasked with breaking through the fortifications to the north and south of Vitebsk and cutting off the salient.

By the 24th of June, the 1st Baltic Front had forced the German IX Corps over the Dvina and encircled the LIII Corps near Vitebsk, creating a 40-kilometre-wide breach in the frontline. The Soviet command deployed its mobile units into the operational depth to exploit the situation. The VI Corps was attacked from the south by the 3rd Belorussian Front, which pushed it so far south that it came under the command of the 4th Army.

On the 24th of June, the LIII Corps was permitted to evacuate with three divisions, leaving one in Platz Vitebsk. The city, however, had already been ringed by the time the order arrived. The commander of the Vitebsk "strongpoint," General Friedrich Gollwitzer, decided to defy the order and have his entire corps break out simultaneously. The unit started a breakout attempt on June 26th, abandoning its heavy equipment, but ran across Soviet barriers outside the city. Vitebsk was seized on the 29th of June, with the entire LIII Corps of 28,000 soldiers removed from the German fighting order.

The 3rd Belorussian Front launched operations against the XXVII Corps of the 4th Army, which held Orsha and the important Moscow-Minsk highway. Despite a tough German defence, Orsha was liberated on June 26th. The mechanized forces of the 3rd Belorussian Front were able to penetrate well into the German rear, reaching the Berezina River on June 28th.

The lengthy front of the 4th Army, commanded by Kurt von Tippelskirch, was the focus of Soviet operations in the centre sector. The majority of it, the XXXIX Panzer Corps and XII Corps were encircled and pinned down by processes from the 2nd Belorussian Front in the concurrent Mogilev Offensive Operation, according to Soviet plans. The key Moscow–Minsk route and the town of Orsha, which Chernyakhovsky's 3rd Belorussian Front was commanded to conquer, were by far the most crucial Soviet objectives. A breakthrough here against General Paul Völckers' XXVII Corps would complete the encirclement's northern pincer. The 78th Assault Division managed extensive defensive fortifications along the Minsk highway, a specially strengthened regiment with extra artillery and assault gun support. The commander of the 78th Division had designated Orsha as a Fester Platz (stronghold).

On the 22nd of June, the Soviet attack on this area began with a massive artillery barrage that demolished defensive positions, razed bunkers, and detonated munitions depots. The German defences were subsequently attacked by infantry from the 11th Guards Army, 5th Army, and 31st Army, who broke through the initial defensive belt on the same day. The insertion of massed Soviet tank brigades met the German deployment of its only reserve division the next day, achieving the operational breakthrough. By the 25th of June, Soviet soldiers had pushed their way into the German rear.

The nearby collapse of the 3rd Panzer Army's VI Corps, just to the north, posed a significant threat to Völckers' position. The 11th Guards Army had smashed the remnants of VI Corps by midnight on June 25th, and the German forces were retreating on June 26th. The 2nd Guards Tank Corps rapidly advanced up the road towards Minsk, with a subsidiary force breaking out to encircle Orsha, which was liberated on June 26. The major exploitation force, Pavel Rotmistrov's 5th Guards Tank Army, was next committed through the gap in the German lines. General Georg Pfeiffer, the commander of the VI Corps, was killed on June 28th after losing contact with his divisions. With the arrival of the 5th Guards Tank Army's front units at the Berezina River on June 28, the operation effectively ended.

Mogilev Offensive

The 4th Army's centre was defending the Byelorussian bulge, with most men stationed on a thin bridgehead east of the Dnieper River. On June 22, the Mogilev Offensive began with a heavy artillery barrage against the German defensive lines. The 2nd Belorussian Front was tasked with pinning the 4th Army in Mogilev while the Vitebsk–Orsha and Bobruysk Offensives developed around it.

General Robert Martinek's XXXIX Panzer Corps struggled to retain its lines east of Mogilev in the face of an attack by the 49th Army, which sustained heavy casualties. Tippelskirch, the commander of the 4th Army, requested that the army be permitted to retire on June 25. When he didn't get authorization, he ordered his men to withdraw to the Dnieper; however, Busch's Army Group commander overruled him and told Tippelskirch to call the units back to their posts. However, it was impossible because there was no longer a unified frontline. On the 26th of June, with the front failing, Busch met with Hitler and gained permission to withdraw the army to the Berezina River, 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Mogilev. On the evening of June 27, the 49th Army stormed the Dnieper crossings and fought its way into the city through the night while mobile infantry encircled the garrison from the northwest.

The German XII Corps and the XXXIX Panzer Corps began retreating towards the Berezina bridges during the day. Travel was practically tricky during the day due to the Soviet air force's omnipresence, while Soviet tank columns and roadblocks posed persistent challenges. Finally, on June 30, the main bulk of the 4th Army arrived at the crossing. Under heavy Soviet shelling, it had nearly accomplished the corner on 2 July but was retreating into a trap. The Mogilev Offensive succeeded in achieving all of its immediate objectives; not only was the city taken, but the 4th Army was also stopped from disengaging in time to avoid encirclement in the Minsk Offensive, which began shortly after.

Bobruysk Offensive

On June 22, the 1st Belorussian Front of Konstantin Rokossovsky launched the Bobruysk offensive counter to the German 9th Military on the southern edge of Military Group Centre incurred terrible losses attempting to breakthrough the German fortifications. Rokossovsky ordered more bombing and artillery preparations the next day and launched more strikes.

In the north of the sector, the 3rd Army broke through, trapping the German XXXV Army Corps against the Berezina. The 65th Army then burst through to the south, encircling the XXXXI Panzer Corps in a pocket east of Bobruysk under persistent aerial bombardment by 27 June. On the 28th of June, some units of the 9th Army were able to break out of Bobruysk, but up to 70,000 soldiers were killed or captured. Finally, after fierce street warfare, the soldiers of the 1st Belorussian Front seized Bobruysk on June 29.

Second Phase: Tactical Attacking Against Army Group Centre

The second phase of the operation engrossed on the retaking of Minsk, the capital of the Byelorussian SSR, and the completion of the large-scale encirclement and destruction of most of the Army Group Centre that had begun in the first phase.

Minsk Offensive

The 3rd Belorussian Front's main exploitation forces (the 5th Guards Tank Army and an associated cavalry-mechanized group) began pushing forward to secure Berezina crossings on June 28, followed by the 11th Guards Army. In the south, the 1st Belorussian Front's exploitation forces began to shut the lower pincer of the trap that had developed around the German 4th Army. While the divisions of the 4th Army began to retire through the Berezina bridges, where they were battered by severe air bombardment, the Germans moved back the 5th Panzer Division into Byelorussia to cover the approaches Minsk. After forcing Berezina bridges, Soviet soldiers pressed their attack on Minsk. In the primary hours of 3 July, the 2nd Guards Tank Corps was the first to break into the city; battle raged in the centre, which was eventually cleared of German rearguards the next day. The encirclement to the west of Minsk was closed by the 5th Guards Tank Army and the 65th Army, trapping the entire German 4th Army and many of the remnants of the 9th Army.

Only a segment of the 100,000 militaries in the pocket east of Minsk escaped over the next few days. Minsk had been freed in what was possibly the Wehrmacht's most significant setback, and Army Group Centre had been annihilated. Military Group Centre lost 25 divisions and 300,000 troops between June 22 and July 4, 1944. The Germans lost another 100,000 men in the following weeks.

Polotsk Offensive

The Polotsk offensive had two goals: to take Polotsk and protect the main Minsk Offensive's northern flank from a hypothetical German counter-offensive from Army Group North. The 1st Baltic Front successfully chased the 3rd Panzer Army's retreating remnants back to Polotsk, where they reached on July 1. German forces sought to organise a defence using rear-area support units, and several divisions urgently relocated from Army Group North. Over the next few days, groups of the 1st Baltic Front's 4th Shock Army and 6th Guards Army battled their way into the city, clearing German forces on 4 July.

Third Phase: Tactical Attacking Operations in the North

In the third phase, strategic offensive actions in the north will be carried out. As German resistance began to crumble, Soviet soldiers were ordered to push as far as possible beyond the initial Minsk objective, and the Stavka issued new goals. As a result, the third phase of offensive operations was launched, considered part of Operation Bagration. Field Marshal Walter Model hoped to re-establish a self-protective line running over Lida using what was leftward of the 3rd Panzer, 4th, and 9th Armies and new reinforcements after Ernst Busch was dismissed on the 28th of June.

Siauliai Offensive

The Šiauliai attack encompassed the activities of the 1st Baltic Front against the remains of the 3rd Panzer Army from July 5 to July 31. The Lithuanian city of Šiauliai was its primary target. With the 3rd Guards Mechanised Corps attached, the 43rd, 51st, and 2nd Guards Armies attacked Riga on the Baltic coast. The shore of the Gulf of Riga had been reached by the 31st of July. The 6th Guards Army protected Riga and the extended flank of the penetration to the north. The severed linking among the leftovers of Army Group Centre and Army Group North has been repaired thanks to a hastily organized German counter-attack. In August, the Germans attempted to reclaim Šiauliai in Operation Doppelkopf and Operation Cäsar but were unsuccessful.

Vilnius Offensive

After completing the Minsk Offensive, elements of the 3rd Belorussian Front launched the Vilnius Offensive, which was met by remnants of the 3rd Panzer Army and the 4th Army. The 4th Army's units, particularly the 5th Panzer Division, attempted but failed to defend the critical rail junction of Molodechno. The 5th Guards Tank Army, the 11th Guards Army, and 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps took it on July 5. By 7 July, Soviet forces had reached Vilnius, which the 3rd Panzer Army soldiers held. The city had been encircled by the 8th of July, trapping the garrison, who were ordered to hold their ground at all costs. After that, Soviet forces fought their way into the city in fierce street-by-street combat (alongside an Armia Krajowa uprising, Operation Ostra Brama). On the 12th of July, the 6th Panzer Division counter-attacked and established a temporary escape route for the trapped men. Still, most of them died when the city surrendered on the 13th of July.Tthis phase of the operation is usually known as the Battle of Vilnius. On the 23rd of July, Hoßbach, the 4th Army commander, agreed with Model and committed the freshly arrived 19th Panzer Division to a counter-attack in the Augustow Forest to cut off the Soviet spearheads. It was a flop.

Belostok Offensive

Between 5 and 27 July, the 2nd Belorussian Front conducted operations intending to capture the Polish city of Biaystok (Belostok). After two days of action, the 40th and 41st Rifle Corps of the 3rd Army, on the front's left flank, stormed Biaystok.

Lublin–Brest Offensive

Between 18 July and 2 August, Marshal Rokossovsky's 1st Belorussian Front carried out the Lublin–Brest assault, which built on the initial victories of Operation Bagration toward eastern Poland and the Vistula. By July 21, the 47th and 8th Guards Armies had crossed the Bug River, and the latter had reached the Vistula's eastern bank by July 25. On July 24, the 2nd Tank Army was instructed to turn north towards Warsaw to cut off the retreat of Army Group Centre units in the Brest area. Brest was conquered on July 28th, and by August 2nd, the Front's left-wing had gained bridgeheads across the Vistula. The operation was practically completed at this point, and the balance of the summer was spent defending the bridgeheads against a series of German counter-attacks. The process came to a close with the destruction of the German Army Group North Ukraine and Soviet bridgeheads west of Sandomierz across the Vistula River.

Kaunas Offensive

The Kaunas assault encompassed Chernyakhovsky's 3rd Belorussian Front's activities from July 28 to August 28 in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas, following the end of the Vilnius attack. By the 30th of July, all Wehrmacht resistance on the Neman River's approaches had withdrawn or been wiped out. Kaunas was taken over by the Soviets two days later.

Osovets Offensive

This attack encompassed the activities of the 2nd Belorussian Front from August 6 to 14, following the end of the Belostock Offensive, intending to fortify the fortified territory at Osowiec on one of the Narew River's tributaries. The massive stronghold complex guarded the access to East Prussia through the marshes of the region. German soldiers maintained their defensive position along the Narew until the East Prussian attack in January 1945.

Aftermath

Operation Bagration was the most significant Soviet triumph in terms of numbers. The Red Army reclaimed a large portion of Soviet territory and those Baltic and Polish territories whose populations had been severely harmed by the German occupation. The advancing Soviets discovered towns decimated, villages depopulated, and the occupants had killed or deported a large portion of the inhabitants. 57,000 German captives were paraded through Moscow to demonstrate the scale of the triumph, captured from the encirclement east of Minsk: even marching quickly and twenty abreast, it took 90 minutes for them to pass.

The German army not ever improved from the losses in equipment. People suffered during this period, having lost about a quarter of its Eastern Front workforce, exceeding even the percentage of casualties at Stalingrad (about 17 entire divisions). Many experienced soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and commissioned officers were among the casualties, which the Wehrmacht could not replace at this point in the war. The fact that 31 of the 47 German divisional or corps commanders participating were killed or captured demonstrates the extent of the Soviet victory. Nine German generals were killed, including two corps commanders; 22 were arrested, including four corps commanders; Major-General Hans Hahne, commander of the 197th Infantry Division, went missing on June 24th, and Lieutenant-Generals Zutavern and Philipp of the 18th Panzergrenadier and 134th Infantry Divisions committed suicide.

The Germans compensated a high price for the near-total destruction of the Army Group Centre. Although modern research suggests that roughly 400,000 people died, the exact number of German victims is unknown. On the other hand, the Soviet Union grieved significant losses, with 180,040 killed and missing, 590,848 wounded and sick, 2,957 tanks, 2,447 artillery pieces, and 822 aircraft. Moreover, as supplies were shifted to the centre sector, the offensive separated Army Group North and Army Group North Ukraine, weakening them. When confronted with further Soviet offensives in their sectors, this drove both Army Groups to evacuate from Soviet territory far more swiftly.

The end of Operation Bagration coincided with the defeat of many of the Wehrmacht's most potent forces fighting the Allies on the Western Front in Normandy's Falaise Pocket during Operation Overlord. Following these startling triumphs, supply constraints, rather than German resistance, slowed and stopped the Allies' exploitation. As a result, the Germans could deploy armoured forces from the Italian front, where they could afford to surrender territory, to the front lines near Warsaw, where they could withstand the Soviet onslaught.

With 2.3 million troops engaged, three Axis armies were destroyed, and massive swaths of Soviet territory were regained, one of the most significant Soviet operations of WWII.

Last updated: 2022-January-13
Tags: History World War II
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