Liberation of Smolensk, 1943

Discussion in 'The Eastern Front' started by Earthican, May 13, 2013.

  1. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  2. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    The 76.2mm field guns to my knowledge equipped both field artillery and anti-tank regiments. It was a true dual-purpose gun. See e.g. this

    Other options would be the 57mm AT gun, but that was rare, and the 45mm AT gun, although you have to pity the operators.

    All the best

  3. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Thank you Andreas.
    Before I start commenting on the 29th GRD attacks --and because we love maps-- I'll post the German situation map for 10 Aug 1943, four days into the battle. It shows where the Soviets made progress in the zone of the 268.ID and the left wing of 260.ID. It also shows progress north of Kirov (German: Kirow). There may also be a slight dent in the 352.ID zone showing the extent of the Soviet attack zone which included, north to south, the 5th, 10th Guards, 33d, 49th and 10th Armies.

    A KG of 56.ID has taken over the left wing of the 268.ID zone and 2.PzD is backing up the middle.

    Attached Files:

  4. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books


    Had a look into Zaloga's Red Army Handbook. On 1 Jan 43 there were 91 76mm independent AT regiments, and 64 45mm. There were further a number of mixed brigades. BY 1 Jan 44 the 45 mm regiments had practically disappeared, and there were 111 or so independent 76mm AT regiments.

    All the best

    Earthican likes this.
  5. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Thank you for taking the time to look that up. Glad to know what we know and what we don't know.

    I have not seen any passage in the text that would clarify whether the 1130th AT Regt had the 76.2mm or the 45mm. I understand that the Soviets were pretty aggressive in their use of the 76.2mm for direct cannon fire on any target. The Germans dubbed these high-velocity guns as ratschbum, meaning something like "crack boom".

    Spend those Reputation Points wisely. ;)
  6. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Since I posted the assault on height 233.3 by the "1st Assault Engineer Brigade", in the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must post the second taking of height 233.3 by the 29th GRD and the 22d GRD. The text did not mention that the Germans re-took the height but that seems the likely explanation.

    I am a little suspicious of the speed in which air attacks are arranged. By my "reading" under one hour. Western Allies may have achieved such speed with "cab rank" aircraft flying cover over an armored column.

    Or perhaps the speed of the ground attack was "forced" by the availability of aircraft over the target area.

    Or the Soviet Air Force was better at ground support operations.

    repeat map link:

  7. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Given the narrow frontage and the type of objectives, the attacks by the rifle regiments of the 29th GRD look very much like battalion size formations. On the other hand, there are few, if any, battles in the west European theater that are comparable to this extended trench fighting in the east

    Some Internet "research" indicates that the Soviet rifle battalions may have attacked with companies in echelon, in other words, on a single company front. Thus a regimental attack with two battalions would have two lead companies. I can see how this formation lends itself to penetrating successive trench lines. I don't think this echelon of companies should be seen as waves of infantry. The discussion seems to indicate the attainment of an assault position for the lead company before assuming a linear formation.

    The text has not described any pitched battles for the villages. Which is as I expected, still assuming most of the structures are built of wood. Villages made concise geographic objectives that could be easily recognized on the ground, either for orienting the direction of an attack or rapidly organizing a defense. But unless fortified they possessed few advantages for defense other than concealment.

    For the 29th GRD's second day of attack (11 August), the KV's of the 64th Guards Tank Regt get a rest after four days of battle and are replaced by the 119th Tank Regt equipped with the T-34. From sol's find:

    German counter-attacks supported by armor (tanks or assault guns ?) prevented any gains through the daylight hours of 11 August. After night fall the 29th GRD launched attacks that advanced the line up to 2 kilometers by morning.

    second 29th GRD map at the RKKA website:
  8. gpo son

    gpo son Senior Member

    Great stuff, we are reading, keep it coming. studying anything in the east must be a daunting task if only because of the scale. But I was not aware of the differences in unit sizes until you pointed it out It always did seem odd the Soviets could muster such a huge number of Armies. now I get it.

  9. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    I wasn't sure whether to post this. I found this summary of the Rifle Division in 1943. This is part of a long passage that recounts the steady reduction of the Rifle Division though the war.

    One missing item though: the rifle battalions had one 82mm mortar section and three rifle companies of four platoons each.

    Also the list of 5th Army divisions and their manpower does not mention that they were involved in this offensive since 7 August 1943.

  10. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    A few excerpts regarding the German units identified by the 29th GRD.
    -The 131.ID was south of the 268.ID and likely ordered to send their reserve to help plug the 268.ID line.
    -Elements of the 36.ID (Mot.) backed up the 268.ID from the beginning of the offensive.

    Mentioned earlier, there were batteries of an assault gun battalion attached to the corps. This link has some information about 667.StG.Abt:
    from the link:
  11. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    With the main clash of armor taking place in the Ukraine, German armor in AGC was left with the task of meeting Soviet strength head-on and without maneuver. While it could accomplish this mission the results would not be a tally of destroyed enemy equipment and columns of prisoners.

    On 12 August the Germans launched strong counter-attacks with 2.PzD. Without a German account of the battle it is hard to say whether this was an attempt to restore their line or buy time to withdraw. The text describes a fourth line of defenses some 17 km behind the main line (first three defense lines).

    I was curious about the state of 2.PzD and did some searching. Apparently 2.PzD, along with 9.PzD and 20.PzD, were used in the northern thrust of CITADEL. Books covering Kursk provide a snapshot of these divisions that might not have been available otherwise (attached). I was unable to find their post battle strengths. Cutting the armor strength by half might be a reasonable approximation.

    repeat link to second 29th GRD map:

  12. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Lexikon der Wehrmacht says that at the start of ZITADELLE the division's armoured regiment only had one battalion, but it seems to have had an additional battalion attached to it as well, from the strength number, or that battalion was overstrength. Strength before ZITADELLE is given as:

    12x PzII
    8x PzIII with short 50mm
    12x PzIII special (long 50mm)
    20x PzIII with 75L24 short barreled gun
    1x PzIV with 75L24 short barreled gun
    59x PzIV special with long 75mm gun
    6x command tanks

    Total combat capable tanks (III and IV) = 100

    As for Soviet rifle divisions, it is probably best to think of them as a British infantry brigade group, i.e. with support elements such as artillery and stuff integrated. The numbers are a reasonable match.

    All the best

  13. Koshkin

    Koshkin Member

    Very interesting topic. However long experience of studying the Russo - German War tells me that using a Soviet era account such as Istomin is fraught with difficulties. This topic is covered in David Glantz 's Forgotten Battles series and his daughter has translated and studied both sides of the Battle although David does not have time to publish it himself and is unlikely to interest a commercial publisher.
    The defending German armies were the 4th and 9th the former was commanded by Gotthard Heinrici, probably the best defensive general on the German side.

    The battle is an interesting one as it was largely an infantry one, the attacking Soviet armies of the Western and Bryansk Fronts lacked any operational exploitation forces in the former of tank armies and only had tactical exploitation forces in the 2nd Guard Tank Corps and 5th Mech Corps (equipped with Valentines) both of which were under strength. Meanwhile the Ostheer only had local counter attack forces in the Panzer Divisions as mentioned above.

    The course of the Battle was a series of Soviet assaults which achieved local
  14. Koshkin

    Koshkin Member

    Penetrations but failed in exploitation and we're countered by local German counter attacks or by prompt withdrawals to the next line of defence. So the two German armies fell back in good order over the period up to October when they reached the Panther Line at Orscha. This they successfully defended until June 1944.

    Main points of interest are:
    1) successful German defense in the absence of Soviet Tank Armies
    2) German withdraw over long distances without any problems from The Fuhrer despite the loss of Smolensk. But then Heinrici and Model had his full confidence and there were no operational level breakthroughs.
    3) Kirosheev does not list casualties in detail so they were probably heavy.
    4) significance of Tank Armies to overall success especially given the results of Operation Bagration in July email 1944.
  15. Koshkin

    Koshkin Member

    You probably need a linking thread over at Armchair General RKKA forum and Axis History forums to develop this project further.
  16. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Thank you, Koshkin, for the assessment of this campaign and how it differed from other sectors.

    Your warning about relying on the Soviet text is needed. Of course, using Goggle Translate we are lucky to get the bare facts let alone a subtle white-wash of the campaign results.

    Another assessment of the campaign here:
  17. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    In the preceding paragraph on the LdW page, there is a mention of the 507.SPzAbt equipped with Panthers attached to 2.PzD. Assuming both sources are generally correct, then, of the "84 modern tanks" deduct the 59 Pz IV and 25 Pz V would make two strong companies. Again cutting 2.PzD numbers in half might approximate its August strength.

  18. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    After being repulsed by the Soviets, the Germans withdrew during the night of 12/13 August without being detected by the 29th GRD. On the 13th, the 87th GRR sought out the new German position at height 206.5 and north of Vava (looks like BaBa). For the next five days repeated attacks would fail to move the line again. Some progress was made south of the zone of the 29th GRD before the whole offensive was paused to re-gather strength.

    I attached another segment of the 1953 US Army map of the battle area and marked the German fourth line as described by the text. Viewers should recognize the east-west rail line --note the main highway, in red, south of the railroad. I marked two towns that can by found on the 29th GRD sketch.

    I also put a yellow rectangle (bottom right) around the area of the aerial photo (post 9:

    repeat link to second 29th GRD sketch:

    Attached Files:

  19. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books


    The para says literally that it was slated to become sPzAbt 507 on 7 May 43, but that on 30 June this was abandoned and it became I. Abteilung again, and then was equipped with Panthers. I seriously doubt it saw action during the summer, more likely doing conversion to the new type and then having to be transported somewhere.

    This is confirmed if you look here:

    Essentially it was a 1-battalion regiment. Love the orderlyness of the Wehrmacht.

    An Abteilung of Panther would have about 60 tanks or so, I think.

    All the best

  20. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Yes, other sources are suggesting there were no Panthers on the northern shoulder of Kursk. Hard to believe that a book length narrative could be mistaken about the presence of Panthers with 2.PzD.

    I never count on German units to be up to strength in men or equipment. In my view, ten tanks can make a viable company.


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