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The All But Forgotten Battles of Operation Barbarossa.

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe October 1939 to February 1943' started by evilroddy, Jan 10, 2023.

  1. evilroddy

    evilroddy Member

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    Operation Barbarossa began on June, 22nd, 1941. In most treatments of the Great Patriotic War/The War in the East Barbarossa is portrayed as a steady but sometimes delayed advance on Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev/Rostov with only Moscow holding back the juggernaut of German and other Axis invaders. However there were many great battles including one or two tank battles that were bigger than the alleged greatest clash of armour in the 1943 Kursk Salient, the Battle of Prokhorovka. Battles such as Kelme and Raseiniai in the Baltics, in the centre, the long seige of Brest and the tank Battles at Grodno, Lepel, Vyazm'ma, Senno, Sol'sy and Bobruisk. In the south the titanic tank battle in the Bloody Triangle between Lutsk, Rovino and Dubno centred around the Brody-Dubno region was far bigger than the Battle of Prokhorvka at Kursk in 1943. The Battle of Kiev and the battles around Korosten and Rostov were also mammoth struggles too. Yet for the most part these battles have been all but forgotten, even by many WWII enthusiasts. Why did these battles slip into obscurity and should we think about resurrecting these great clashes for posterity?


    The same amnesia has happened to the great battles of 1942. But that is a topic for a future post.

    Cheers and be well.
    Evilroddy.
     
  2. evilroddy

    evilroddy Member

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    Crickets? No one has any opinions on this topic?

    Cheers and be well.
    Evilroddy.
     
  3. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Why don't you write some posts about some of these battles? I think most of us here would be glad to learn more about the Eastern Front.
     
  4. evilroddy

    evilroddy Member

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    Carronade:

    Okay, but I am going to cheat whenever possible and instead post links to the battles. The first will be Raseiniai from June 23-25, 1941 in Lithuania.

    Battle of Raseiniai - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

    Avalanche Press

    Battle of Raseiniai

    Notice the sources are mostly from wargaming sites because there is precious little academic scholarship in English of many of the battles mentioned in the OP.

    Cheers and be well.
    Evilroddy
     
  5. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    I'll be honest, I don't know much about the Eastern Front. I've read some books but they all tend to focus on Kursk, the battles around Moscow, or Stalingrad. Very little, if anything, has been written about the battles you mentioned. Maybe the authors were constrained by lack of information or skipped them so they could focus elsewhere. In any case, expanding is never a bad thing. I'm aware that many of the links you've provided are from gaming sites (I'm not a gamer), but can you summarize the key points presented? It might spark further discussion that leads to deeper reading.
     
  6. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    There was a war in Europe? Well, isn't that interesting, live and learn.
     
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  7. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Where did you get the idea these are forgotten battles?

    Earl Ziemke covered most of them at the grand strategic level in Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East back in 1985. John Erickson covered them even earlier in The Road to Stalingrad in 1975. David Glantz has covered the period extensively in Stumbling Colossus, Barbarossa: Hitler's Invasion of Russia 1941, and the three volumes of Barbarossa Derailed. There are also any number of smaller and more detailed works on certain aspects of the early battles, such as Forczyk's Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front 1941-1943 Schwerpunkt.
     
  8. evilroddy

    evilroddy Member

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    RichTO90:

    An excellent response. Well done and thank you! I have read Erickson, David M. Glantz except for the Barbarossa Derailed trilogy (which is far too expensive to get my hands on), Robert Forczyk's excellent two-volume study of Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front. I have also read Eastern Europeaan and Russian histories in translation on the great battles of the early part of the Great Patriotic War. These battles are mentioned in passing as you say on the strategic level but generally there is little if any operational level history detailing the battles themselves. Indeed it was the title of an essay written by David M. Glantz in the mid-1990s which I paraphrased as the title of this thread.

    It wasn't until the post-Soviet era that Soviet documents and archives became available to Western researchers in order to flesh out these forgotten battles and it was Glantz who led the charge in the West to rewrite this period of Soviet military history until he fell out of favour with the Ruseian powers that be. But the books which you listed and others are still niche books, the ideas of which have not really permeated into mainstream historical analysis yet, and thus for all intents and purposes these are still forgotten battles for the vast majority of historians and WWII enthusiasts. The Germano-centric version of the war still stands largely un-broken. I hope this thread will play some small role in correcting what has been forgotten and in bringing to light a more complete and nuanced understanding of the War in the East/The Great Ptatrioticc War.

    It is likely going to be an obstacle that this discussion is happening during the almost one-year long Russo-Ukrainian War but I hope we all can separate the past from the present in this discussion. That is a general caveat and is in no way connected to anything you or any other poster has written to date in this thread. I just wanted to be proactive in keeping things historical rather than current as some of these battles happened in the Ukraine (now just Ukraine).

    Cheers and be well.
    Evilroddy.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2023
  9. evilroddy

    evilroddy Member

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    LRusso216:

    In this you are not alone. Indeed you are among the vast majority of folks who have good knowledge of WWII but little knowledge of this aspect of the War in the East. The Great Patriotic War has been largely portrayed from the Axis perspective as Soviet-era archives were largely closed to the West and Western researchers/writers until after 1989-1991 and the fall of the USSR. Today that Germano-dominant perspective is being challenged but the voices are few and the task of moving historical perceptions is immense.

    The Battle off Raseiniai (or Kaunas as the Germans called it) was a big battle where Soviet heavy KV-1 M1939 and M1940s, KV-2s, a few up armoured KV-1E tanks and medium T-34 M1940 and M-1941s were concentrated in significant numbers. The German Pz35(t), Pz38(t) and many Pz III tanks could not defeat the heavier or well sloped armour of these tanks except at suicidally close ranges. So when these heavy and medium Soviet tanks attacked en masse near Raseiniai, they quickly overwhelmed and broke through the lighter German tanks and got into the German rear areas, causing havoc. The Germans tried to stop them with anti-tank and tank destroyer screens but failed. PaK-36 guns with their 3.7cm guns were simply overrun and crushed as were the rarer but more powerful PaK-38 anti-tank guns with long 5.0cm guns. The Germans were forced to bring up 10.0 cm and 10.5 cm artillery guns firing over open sights to engage the Soviet medium and heavy tanks with some effect. They also deployed the very large and very visible Flak-36/16 and Flak-36/38 8.8cm anti-aircraft guns to destroy these Soviet tanks but lost quite a few of them to long-range enemy fire while they were setting them up. One immobilised 152mm Howitzer-armed KV-2 blocked an entire kampfgruppe's advance for a day and destroyed several Pz-35(t) tanks, four 5.0cm PaK-38 anti-tank guns, one 8.8cm Flak -36 gun and killed lots of infantry who tried to assault the Soviet armoured behemoth (the KV-2 was generally a rather poor bit of heavy artillery, but in the direct fire role it was very effective in the early war.).

    That one-tank engagement described above and an ambush by five KV-1 and KV-1E tanks on a German armoured column is what most informed people know about the Battle of Raseiniai. But it was a major German defeat of thier lighter panzers which was only mitigated by the very poor Soviet logistics which meant that these Soviet heavy and medium tanks ran out of fuel and ammunition quickly while they had broken through the German lines. Soviet communications and comnand and control were also very bad as most of these tanks had no radios and those that did were unreliable at long distances. So the crews of the Soviet tanks which broke through at Raseiniai either abandoned their fuel-less tanks, or were destroyed piecemeal by German infantry, aircraft or artillery or drove back to their lines if they had the good fortune to run out of ammunition before running out of fuel. The weaker Soviet light tanks were slaughtered en masse as usual, so the Germans managed a claim a victory nonetheless.

    Cheers and be well.
    Evilroddy.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2023
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  10. evilroddy

    evilroddy Member

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    R Leonard:

    Yes, the Second Sino-Japanese War spread like wildfire in just two years! ;)

    Cheers and be well.
    Evilroddy.
     
  11. evilroddy

    evilroddy Member

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    The Bbattle of Kelme as it is called by the Germans or the Shyaulyai Counter-Offensive Operation (sometimes spelled Siauliai in English) as it is named by the Soviets, happened on June 23-24th, 1941 in Lithuania during the openning moves of Operation Barabarossa. As the Germans were preparing to invade eastwards, a presient Soviet General Fyodor Kuznetsov, Commander of the Baltic Military District ordered the 3rd and 12th Mechanised Corps forward from Riga in Latvia to Shyaulyai in Lithuania to be ready to support the Rifle Diivisions guarding the Lithuanian frontier. The 3rd Mech. Corps was hurriedly moved up just as the Axis invasion began.In earnest on June 22nd, 1941. By late afternoon June 23 the first elements of of the 28th Tank Division under the command of Gen. P. Chernyakhovsky in the 3rd Mechanised Corps had arrived. The Division commander opted to put in a hasty attack as soon as possible. To this end he ordered about 40 BT-7M and T-26 M1939 light tanks from the 55th Tank Regiment to attack into what Chernyakhovsky thought was the flank of either the German 6th or 8th Pz. Div. but was instead the 21st Infantry Div.

    A battle through, grassy, wooded and rolling low hills developed. The Soviet light tanks penetrated into the German infantry positions but ran into stiff resistence from German Panzerjaegers and their anti-tank guns. Changing course, some of the Soviet tanks, unsupported by either infantry or artillery moved through woods and began to overrun isolated German infantry and anti-tank positions piecemeal, punctuated by small scale tank on tank actions at very close ranges. The Soviets pushed on but met increasingly determined and coordinated German resistance while their own tanks' fuel and ammunition stores ran low. As time went on new tanks of the 3rd Mechanised Corps joined the counter-attack until almost 100 light tanks had been committed but the attack bogged down as German infantry and Pz. Jag. units put up better and better resistance and finally got the upper hand. Of the 40 tanks which the 55th Tank Regiment committed to the attack just short of half were lost. Of the follow-on tanks about a third were lost before Chernyakhovsky ordered an end to the now three-hour long attack and pulled back his tanks under cover of darkness in the early morning hours of June 24th.

    Cheers and be well.
    Evilroddy.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2023
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