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Most under appreciated battle of the Ostfront?

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe' started by Gibson, Mar 20, 2002.

  1. Gibson

    Gibson Member

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    Tactical engagement or strategic battle, lets hear them!

    I like learning about the obscurities of WWII, and especially on the East Front. Im sure there are plenty of unknown battles that few have read accounts of, but I would like to hear your thoughts on the actions that remain obscure, but are great examples of personal leadership, ingenuity, making do with little, or anything.

    The Winter War counts as the East Front in this discussion!
     
  2. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    I would select the battle at the Seelow Heights. It was a major defense effort that did not alter the outcome but did make the Russians pay a heavy price. The Germans were seriously outnumbered across the board and the quality of the troops were a fraction compared to the Russians. Yet, excellent leadership can still make the difference.
     
  3. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    Uh oh--now you ave done it--I have to chosses at least two--one from the the early war years and will also agree with PzJgr on the Battle of the Seelowe Heights as an underappreciated battle. I will be back tomorrow to say more.
     
  4. Miro

    Miro Member

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    The Seelow heights was definitely the last hooray for the Wehrmacht. Although they were outnumbered and outclassed in every single aspect, they performed quite oustanding feats and inflicted grievious casualties upon the Russian charge across the Oder. They were however aided in this by Stalin's impatience, the Soviet dictator had demanded an almost impossible schedule from his frontline troops and commanders. The Russian forces had a mere eleven days to reorganize, resupply and replenish before they were supposed to start the Berlin offensive. On top of that they encountered a deep and layered German defense for the first time in the war, although the quality of the Volkssturm units was nowhere near the Wehrmacht standards of previous years.
    Still, with little to lose and nowhere to run, the Germans fought fanatically for the last miles before Berlin.
     
  5. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    I will be answering this tomorrow since the library is about to close for the day.
     
  6. Gibson

    Gibson Member

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    Yes, the battle at Seelowe was an extremely important battle, but what about the area around Sevastopol before the major assualt began? I remember reading a harrowing story about the 132 ID raiding the towns around Sevastopol and being under direction naval fire trying to get to the peninsula itself. I dont have exact battle names... They were small but of great tactical importance.
     
  7. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    Seelowe, I think has to be the most underrated battle on the Eastern Front. I agree with what has already been said.

    Ive read in different books some snippets of Gotthard Heinricis own memories of the battle. He himself could definately not put any blame on any frontline commander is they had to pull back. I think the book: "The Last Battle" and another book by Shirer? are probably the two best written accounts (that I have seen-even though they were published in the 1960s) of the battles for the Seelowe Heights and for Berlin.

    Heinrici was badly shafted by Hitler and the High Command because, less than nothing was actually correct in any info he got on the forces under his new command. Some units were non-existant--others were on the other end of his area of responsibilities--than where they were listed to have been stationed in the first place.

    He also had too many 2nd class troops that were supposed to do the job of crak frontline soldiers. Many of his men didnt have rifles or pistols, and many who did--had captured weapons that were captured from French--Polish-Russian etx--soldiers. Then the problem of ammo was also a BIG SNAFU--too many differnet calibre weapons and not the correct ammo nor enough correct ammo for the weapons.

    He had for example: Stomach Battalions--too many Volkstrum units, a sizable number of Hitler Jugend units, etc etc, and not the combat experianced men he was supposed to have. He also was very short on combat experianced Officers and had Luftwaffe Fighter Pilots commanding Infantry and Anti-tank units in some cases.

    At least he did have a sizable amount of Panzerfausts on hand, but still not the numbers he was supposed to have on hand. On too many occasions--many of his men went into battle against swarms of T-34s with only 1 Panzerfaust, and no other weapon nor any Grenades.
     
  8. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Many a Soviet tank fell to the Tiger 2's of Schwere SS Pz. Abteilung 503 before their retreat back into Berlin and final destruction.

    One also has to look at the almost unknown battle(s) for Ost Prussia/ Bay of Danzig where several million German people escaped the clutches of the Soviet army. Talk about ruthless combat here ! man it was just plain awful !!!!!! :eek: :eek:

    E
     
  9. Miro

    Miro Member

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    I agree Erich, the battles in East Pruussia and Pomerania were brutal and fueled by the Wehrmachts desire to let as many civilians escape as possible. The one engagement that comes to mind is the struggle for the Frisches Haff, the last escape route west before the Soviets encircled the entire area.
    Sevastopol was another one of those pivotal sieges of the war, the only major one the Germans finished successfully, although with large losses, especially amongst the Romanians, who otherwise fought outstandingly against the staunch Russian defense.
     
  10. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Right- O Miro !

    another almost unknown encounter on the Ost Front, and this was when the Soviets first really tired to enter Ost Preussia was at Ebenrode in November of 44. The Soviets lost over 400 tanks and came to a stalemate in which they rallied and did not try to enter this area until 1945. My friend Helmuth was there as part of the Infantry regiment 43 of the 1st Infantrie Divison. He told me several times it was a slaughter......

    E
     
  11. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    I would also like to mention the evacuation for Riga, and the heavy fighting that occurred so the civilians and wounded-could be taken to relative safety.

    Its strange but, I havent seen much of anything about that fighting in print. If im not sadly mistaken--I think the Wilhelm Gustloff was part of the fleet of ships employed by the Kriegsmarine as to be detailed for the purpose of evacuating civilians and badly wounded soldaten.

    The Wilhelm Gustloff had on board appx 10,000-to-12,000 civilians and soldiers. A Russian Sub spotted them and sent torpedoes into the Gustloff.

    Now if we still think of a tragedy at sea being big like the Titanic and the Lusitania as for the numbers of lives lost, as being alot--take a gander at the appx loss of life from the Wilhelm Gustloff.

    It is estimated that appx 8,500+++ to over 10,000 lives (depending on the numbers of how many people were on board) were lost because of that Russian sub sinking the Gustloff. Only some 2,000 or less people were rescued. many dying later from wounds--or because of the freezing water.

    The numbers of civilians and wounded German soldiers fro this sinking was 4-5 times much more worse than the loss of life from the Titanic sinking.

    Both a terrible terrible tragedy, and both COULD have been avioded. :mad:

    I was lucky this week, when one of my favorite Militaria dealers on Germany, offered a Wilhelm Gustloff Cap Tally for sale--it was one of 3 items I wanted, but was the only item I was able to get due to the amount of customers his site gets--especially on friday mornings. Its nice to add another rare piece of militaria and history--to my feeble little collection. ;) Also, a good way to remember those lives needlessly snuffed out by a jerko russian sub kapitan :(
     
  12. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    What a find Karl ! Good for you and what a tribute to the fallen. I've looked over his cap tallies and am somewhat interested in one of his Zerstorer tallies of one of the ships that either made it through the war or was sunk. Same reasoning as above.
    The Wilhelm Gustloff could fill almost a whole thread on it's own. what a tragedy. My good friend from the 1st Infantrie Division fled on one of the very last ships out of Hela, the Sachsenwald. In route they passed the demise of the Goya and where the W. Gustloff was sunk. He has repeatedly said so many times the eerie quiteness over the freighter as they sailed pass with everyones field caps and helmuts removed. wouldn;t of that made an impressionable photo. Karl, and others, if you ever find any of the books by W.G. survior Heinz Schön, buy them. I have seen Die Gustloff-Katastrophe and Flucht über die Ostsee im bild, 1944-45. Trendous ! I own the thick book Ostsee '45, Menschen, Schiffe, Schicksale via Motorbuch Verlag and got it through Angleray books for about 22.00 bucks. All in Deutsch but the details are incredible. This man has definately done his homework.......the retreats of the civilian and militray personell from the east coasts to Germany and Copenhagen have hardly ever been spoken about yet written of.

    E
     
  13. Miro

    Miro Member

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    I agree guys the sinking of the Gustloff was a massive tragedy. Lately Guenther Grass one of germany's greatest post-war poets wrote a book about that terrible chapter and it sold like hot buns in Germany. Also the German weekly "Spiegel"
    is running a series on the "Flucht und Vertreibung" from East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. If you speak German, it's worth checking out.
     
  14. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Yes, I had already heard once about the Wilhelm Gustloff. I did not remember the name, but now i do. Thanks Carl! It really annoys me when people suffers about the Titanic's victims or Lusitania's. I always have to tell them the story of the Gustloff. The Titanic tragedy is remarkable because it was during peaceful times and the human losses were very high. The Lusitania had also a lot of casualties and many people thinks that it was the main cause of America's entry to WWI.
    But the 8.000 refugees on board the Gustloff who died is definetely the worst sea tragedy in History, in war or peace time.
    I am very sorry about all that German refugees from the East, who suffered the revenge of the Russians. Do you know about the 20.000.000 rapes to 2.000.000 German women? But it was not just the Red Army the butcjer there. What about the RAF and USAAF who killed 60.000 people in Dresden, a city with no important industry, a lot of historical buildings and millions of refugees!
    That's why I hate when people think that all German WWII veterans were damned butchers from Auschwitz and that Germany made alone all the atrocities. I hate when people do not see both sides of the coin!
     
  15. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    What about the Courland Pocket. I am sure there were some heavy duty fights of desparation by the Germans yet not much is documented. The Ultimate question would be, why were the men left there instead of evacuating them where they could have been more useful in the defense of Berlin?
     
  16. Andreas Seidel

    Andreas Seidel Member

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    I think the reason is that it was no longer possible to evacuate them.
     
  17. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Does anybody know when they first got surrounded? I will have to do some research but I think it was a considerable sized force that ultimately surrendered. I read about it in a book, can't recall the name, written by a Wehrmacht Leutnant. I will get the title later.
     
  18. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    In actuality the Luftwaffe was some help this late stage in the war. almost everything that could be bombed up and ready to go against the Soviets was used. Numerous, suicidal missions by Ju 88G-6 night fighters in the bombing/strafing role against Soviet motor columns by day and then tackling the soviet and RAF bombers by night. Some evacuations occured by the Luftwaffe but it was mostly of Luftwaffe ground personell. Remember that the Wehrmacht was being hammered unceasingly during late 44 into the winter of 45 by several different fronts. Ost Prussia could barely defend itself but with what little it has it was an admirable job it cannot be denied ! Look to see where the last evacuations were from to the west and what enormous Soviet armies were battling such little German reserves; and the Soviets lost too many men in taking almost worthless objectives.

    E
     
  19. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    Erich, thanks for the excellent info my friend [​IMG] I definatly need to learn more German so I can read more books and not miss out on many excellent sources for info. Im going to get a good scan for this rare tally and I am giving it to my U 181 friends to add to their collection of tallys including my mint Kommadant Wilhamlshaven tally and a few others.

    Hello Miro. Do you know if Spiegel has a website? I would like to try and see what they have to say.

    Quite welcome Friedrich [​IMG] and I totally agree with you that the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff was the worst tragedy to happen at sea. Im glad that the Russian high command decided to "bust" that kapitan of rank and treat him like the dog that he was.

    I definatelt know about the rapes and I believe 2 million is a conservative estimate. I also believe that somewhere from 100 thousand to over 1 million German women committed suicide because of what the russians did. I also totally agree with you about what the allies did to Dresden. That was nothing more than a terror bombing--had no effect on winning the war nor shortening it--only the wholesale slaughter of helpless civilians. That sickens me as well.

    Hello PzJgr, and I agree that not near enough is mentioned about the Kurland battles. I think that they were under the command of GFM Ferdinand Schorner, f im not mistaken.

    Schorner fought nmainly in order to hold back the russians as long as possible in order to give more civilians more of a chance to make it westward.

    Hello Andreas and you are correct.
     
  20. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Friends :

    May I recommend a book on the Ost Prussian front. By Motor Buch Verlag, about $ 20.00 through Angelray books. Authors: Dieckert/Großmann
    Der Kampf um Ostpreussen, Der umfassende Dokumentarbericht.

    Around 230 pages, great maps and some nice pics. This is a good book even if you don't read German.
    I vividly remember the two times that my good friend Ruth Reichert told me how she took her only son at the time across the frozen fields from Insteburg, trying to avoid Soviet shelling and strafing, getting on two or three trains going westward to Kassel. During this time all three trains were severely shot up. The noise, the suffereing with women kissing their dead babies and leaving them there in the snow as they (women) and old men gathered together and moved to the next city/village looking for a way westward..........

    E
     

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