- Vistula–Oder Offensive
Infobox Military Conflict
partof=the Eastern Front of World War II
caption=Soviet troops enter
date=12 January – 2 February 1945
place=Central Poland and eastern Germany
combatant1=flagicon|Nazi Germany Germany
Ferdinand Schörner, Josef Harpe
Army Group A)
1st Belorussian Front), Ivan Konev
1st Ukrainian Front)
|strength1=450,000 [Duffy pages 51, 59 ]
casualties1= Losses on the eastern front during January and February: OKW claims:
334, 000 wounded and
total 1.103,000 [Max Hastings Armageddon. The Battle for Germany 1944-45 published by Macmillan, London]
695,000 enemy killed and
86,000 enemy captured Fact|date=February 2007
casualties2=43 251 killed and missing;
149 874 wounded and sick;
193 125 total [Russia and USSR in wars of the XX century - Military losses; Moskow, "Olma-Press", 2001, available online at http://www.soldat.ru/doc/casualties/book/]
The Vistula-Oder Offensive was a successful
Red Armyoperation on the Eastern Front in the European Theatre of World War II; it took place between 12 January, 1945 and 2 February, 1945. The offensive took Soviet forces from their start lines on the Vistulariver in Polandto the Oderriver deep in Germany, about seventy kilometers from the capital Berlin.
In the wake of the successful
Operation Bagrationthe 1st Belorussian Frontmanaged to secure two bridgeheads west of the Vistula river between 27 July and 4 August 1944. [Duffy, p.11] The Soviets remained inactive during the failed Warsaw uprisingthat started on August 1, 1944, though their frontline was not far from the insurgents. The 1st Ukrainian Frontcaptured an additional large bridgehead at Sandomierz(known as the Baranow bridgehead in German accounts) during the Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive. [Duffy, p.12]
Preceding the offensive, the Soviets had built up large amounts of
materieland manpower in the three bridgeheads. The Soviets greatly outnumbered the opposing German army in infantry, artillery, and armour. All this was known to German intelligence and General Reinhard Gehlen, head of " Fremde Heere Ost" passed his assessment to Heinz Guderian. Guderian presented the intelligence results to Adolf Hitler, who refused to believe them, dismissing the apparent Soviet strength as "the greatest imposture since Genghis Khan".Beevor, p.] Guderian had proposed to evacuate the divisions of Army Group Northtrapped in the Courland Pocketto the Reich via the Baltic Seato get the necessary manpower for the defence, but Hitler forbade it. In addition, Hitler commanded that one major operational reserve, the troops of Sepp Dietrich's Sixth SS Panzer Army, were moved to Hungaryto support Operation Frühlingserwachen.
Two Fronts of the Red Army were directly involved. The
1st Belorussian Front, holding the sector around Warsawand southward in the Magnuszewand Puławybridgeheads, was led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov; the 1st Ukrainian Front, occupying the Sandomierzbridgehead, was led by Marshal Ivan Konev.
Zhukov and Konev had 163 divisions for the operation with a total of: [Duffy References pages 24, 25 ]
*13,763 pieces of
field artillery(76 mm or more)
Katyushamultiple rocket launchers
1st Belorussian Front(Marshal Georgy Zhukov)
1st Polish Army(General Stanislav Poplavsky)
**3rd Shock Army
**1st Guards Tank Army
**2nd Guards Tank Army
**5th Shock Army (in Magnuszew bridgehead)
**8th Guards Army (in Magnuszew bridgehead) (General
69th Army(in Puławy bridgehead)
**33rd Army (in Puławy bridgehead)
1st Ukrainian Front(Marshal Ivan Konev)
**3rd Guards Army
**4th Tank Army
**3rd Guards Tank Army
**5th Guards Army
Soviet forces in this sector were opposed by
Army Group A, defending a front which stretched from positions east of Warsaw southwards along the Vistula, almost to the confluence of the San. At that point there was a large Soviet bridgeheadover the Vistula in the area of Baranowbefore the front continued south to Jasło.
There were three Armies in the Group, the Ninth Army deployed around Warsaw, the Fourth Panzer Army opposite the Baranow salient in the Vistula Bend, and the Seventeenth Army to their south. [ [http://www.onwar.com/maps/wwii/eastfront2/vistula-oder.htm Web map copy] of Ziemke References page 26] The group had a total of 400,000 troops, 4,100 artillery pieces, and 1,150 tanks. [Ziemke, p. 23] Army Group A was led by
Colonel-General Josef Harpe(who was replaced, after the offensive had begun, by Colonel-General Ferdinand Schörneron 20 January). [Duffy page ? ]
Order of battle
Army Group A(Colonel-General Josef Harpeto January 20; then Ferdinand Schörner)
**Ninth Army (General
Smilo Freiherr von Lüttwitzto January 20; then General Theodor Busse)
LVI Panzer Corps(General Johannes Block)
***XXXXVI Panzer Corps (General
***VIII Corps (General
**Fourth Panzer Army (General
***LXII Corps (General
***XXIV Panzer Corps (General
Walther Nehring)Only two divisions of this corps, the 16th and 17th Panzer Divisions, were allocated to Fourth Panzer Army, where they were committed in the attempted defence of Kielce. The remaining two formations, the 19th and 25th Panzer Divisions constituted Army Group A's general reserve, and were committed in support of Ninth Army.]
***XLVIII Panzer Corps (General
Maximilian Reichsfreiherr von Edelsheim)
**Seventeenth Army (General
***XI SS Corps
German intelligence had estimated that the Soviet forces had a 3:1 numerical superiority to the German forces; there was in fact a 5:1 superiority. [Duffy, page 51, 59 ] In the large Baranow / Sandomierz bridgehead, the Fourth Panzer Army was required to defend from 'strongpoints' in some areas, as it lacked the infantry to man a continuous front line.Sims and Schilling, p.23] In addition, on Hitler's express orders, the two German defence lines (the "Grosskampflinie" and "Hauptkampflinie") were positioned very close to each other, placing the main defences well within striking range of Soviet artillery. [Duffy, page ? ]
The offensive commenced in the Baranow bridgehead at 04:35 on January 12 with an intense bombardment by the guns of 1st Ukrainian Front against the positions of Fourth Panzer Army.Duffy, p.67] Concentrated against the divisions of XLVIII Panzer Corps, which had been deployed across the face of the bridgehead, it effectively destroyed their capacity to respond; a battalion commander in the 68th Infantry Division stated that "I began the operation with an understrength battalion [...] after the smoke of the Soviet preparation cleared [...] I had only a platoon of combat effective soldiers left".Captain Reinhardt Mueller, interviewed in Sims and Schilling, p.24]
The initial barrage was followed by probing attacks and a further heavy bombardment at 10:00. By the time the main armoured exploitation force of the 3rd Guards and 4th Tank Armies moved forward four hours later, Fourth Panzer Army had already lost up to two-thirds of its artillery and a quarter of its troops.Hastings, p.280]
The Soviet units made rapid progress, moving to cut off the defenders at
Kielce. The armoured reserves of Fourth Panzer Army's central corps, the XXIV Panzer Corps, were committed, but had suffered serious damage by the time they reached Kielce, and were already being outflanked. XLVIII Panzer Corps, on Fourth Panzer Army's southern flank, had by this time been completely destroyed, along with much of Recknagel's LXII Corps in the north. By January 14 the 1st Ukrainian Front had forced crossings of the Nidariver, and began to exploit towards Radomskoand the Warthe. Fourth Panzer Army's last cohesive formation, the XXIV Panzer Corps held on around Kielce until the night of January 16, before its commander, Nehring, made the decision to withdraw.
The 1st Belorussian Front, to Konev's north, opened its attack on the German Ninth Army from the
Magnuszewand Puławybridgeheads at 08:30 on January 14, again commencing with a heavy bombardment.Duffy, p.72] The 33rd and 69th Armies broke out of the Puławy bridgehead to a depth of 30 km, while the 5th Shock and 8th Guards Armies broke out of the Magnuszew bridgehead. The 2nd and 1st Guards Tank Armies were committed after them to exploit the breach. The 69th Army's progress from the Puławy bridgehead was especially successful, with the defending LVI Panzer Corps disintegrating after its line of retreat was cut off. Though the Ninth Army conducted many local counter-attacks, they were all brushed aside; the 69th Army ruptured the last lines of defence and took Radom, while the 2nd Guards Tank Army moved on Sochaczewand the 1st Guards Tank Army was ordered to seize bridgheads over the Pilicaand attack towards Łódź.Duffy, p.75] In the meantime, the 47th Army had crossed the Vistula and moved towards Warsaw from the north, while the 61st and 1st Polish Armies encircled the city from the south.Duffy, p.78]
The only major German response came on January 15, when Hitler (against the advice of Guderian) ordered the "
Panzerkorps Grossdeutschland" of Dietrich von Sauckenfrom East Prussiato cover the breach made in the sector of Fourth Panzer Army, but the advance of Zhukov's forces forced it to detrain at Łódź without even reaching its objective. After covering Ninth Army's retreat, it was forced to withdraw south-westwards to the Warthe.Duffy, p.80]
Taking of Kraków; escape of the XXIV Panzer Corps
On January 17, Konev was given new objectives: to advance towards
Breslauusing his mechanised forces, and to use the combined-arms forces of the 60th and 59th Armies to open an attack on the southern flank towards the industrial heartland of Upper Silesia through Kraków. Kraków was secured undamaged on January 19 after an encirclement by the 59th and 60th Armies, in conjunction with the 4th Guards Tank Corps, forced the German defenders to withdraw hurriedly.Duffy, p.88]
The second stage of the 1st Ukrainian Front's objective was far more complex, as they were required to encircle and secure the entire industrial region of Upper Silesia, where they were faced by Schulz's Seventeenth Army. Konev ordered that the 59th and 60th Armies advance frontally, while the 21st Army encircled the area from the north. He then ordered Rybalko's 3rd Guards Tank Army, moving on Breslau, to swing southwards along the upper Oder from January 20, cutting off Seventeenth Army's withdrawal.Duffy, p.91]
In the meantime, the shattered remnants of Fourth Panzer Army were still attempting to reach German lines. By January 18, Nehring and the XXIV Panzer Corps found that their intended route northwards had been blocked, so pulled back to the west, absorbing the remnants of LXII Corps that had escaped encirclement.Duffy, p.82] Much of the remainder of LXII Corps was destroyed after being trapped around
Przysucha. Screened by heavy fog, the lead elements of XXIV Panzer Corps reached the Wartheon January 22, and having linked up with von Saucken, were finally able to cross the Oder, some 350km from their positions at the start of the Soviet offensive.
Withdrawal of Seventeenth Army from Upper Silesia
On January 25, Schulz requested that he be allowed to withdraw his 100,000 troops from the developing salient around
Katowice/ Kattowitz. This was refused, and he repeated the request on January 26. Schoerner eventually permitted Schulz to pull his forces back on the night of January 27, while Konev - who had allowed just enough room for the Seventeenth Army to withdraw without putting up serious resistance - secured the area undamaged.Beevor, p.60]
On Konev's northern flank, the 4th Tank Army had spearheaded an advance to the Oder, where it secured a major bridgehead at
Steinau. Troops of the 5th Guards Army established a second bridgehead upstream at Ohlau.
Advance of 1st Belorussian Front; taking of Warsaw by Soviets
In the northern sector of the offensive, Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front also made rapid progress, as Ninth Army was no longer able to offer coherent resistance. Its XXXVI Panzer Corps, which was positioned behind Warsaw, was pushed over the Vistula into the neighbouring Second Army sector.Duffy, p.103] Warsaw was taken by January 17, as Army Group A's headquarters issued orders for the city to be abandoned; units of the 2nd Guards and 3rd Shock Armies entering the city were profoundly affected by the devastation wrought by German forces after the
Warsaw Uprising.Duffy, p.104] Hitler, on the other hand, was furious at the abandonment of the 'fortress', arresting Colonel Bogislaw von Bonin, head of the Operations Branch of OKH, and sacking both the Ninth Army and XXXVI Panzer Corps commanders, Generals Smilo Freiherr von Lüttwitzand Walter Fries.
The 2nd Guards Tank Army pressed forward to the Oder, while to the south the 8th Guards Army reached Łódź by January 18, and took it over by January 19. The 1st Guards Tank Army moved to encircle
Poznańby January 25, and the 8th Guards Army began to fight its way into the city on the following day, though there was protracted and intense fighting in the Siege of Poznań before the city would finally be taken.
To the north east of Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front, the lead elements of Marshal Rokossovsky's
2nd Belorussian Fronttaking part in the East Prussian Offensivereached the Baltic coast of the Vistula deltaby January 23 and so succeeded in isolating Army Group Centrein East Prussia.Ziemke p. 31]
Zhukov's advance to the Oder
After encircling Poznań, the 1st Guards Tank Army advanced deep into the fortified region around the
ObraRiver against patchy resistance from a variety of " Volkssturm" and "Wehrmacht" units. There was heavier resistance, however, on the approaches to the fortress of Küstrin.
The German reorganisation of command structure that resulted in the creation of
Army Group Vistulawas accompanied by the release of a few extra formations for the defense; the V SS Mountain Corps, with two reserve infantry divisions, was deployed along the Obra and the prewar border fortifications known as the " Tierschtigel Riegel", while the " Panzergrenadier-Division Kurmark" was ordered to reinforce it.Le Tissier, p.32]
The military historian Earl Ziemke described the advance thus:
On 25 January 1945, Hitler renamed three army groups.
Army Group Northbecame Army Group Courland; Army Group Centrebecame Army Group North and Army Group Abecame Army Group Centre.Ziemke p. 32]
The 2nd Guards Tank and 5th Shock Armies reached the Oder almost unopposed; a unit of the 5th Shock Army crossed the river ice and took the town of
Kienitzas early as January 31.Hastings, p.295]
Stavka" declared the operation complete on February 2. Zhukov had initially hoped to advance directly on Berlin, as the German defences had largely collapsed. However the exposed northern flank of 1st Belorussian Front in Pomerania, along with a German counter-attack ( Operation Solstice) against its spearheads, convinced the Soviet command that it was essential to clear German forces from Pomerania in the East Pomeranian Offensivebefore the Berlin offensive could proceed.
Liberation of Auschwitz
On January 27, troops of Konev's
First Ukrainian Front(322nd Rifle Division, 60th Army) liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp, finding graphic evidence of the Holocaustthere.
Flight of ethnic Germans
Anthony Beevorand several other commentators the soldiers of the Red Army looted and committed many atrocities. As a result of the Soviet advance, many thousands of Germans fled to the West, attempting to reach the American and British lines. [Beevor, Antony. "Berlin: The Downfall 1945", Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5]
Death marches of concentration camp prisoners
During January, the Germans also began to 'evacuate' remaining concentration camp and POW camp inmates from areas throughout Poland,
East Prussia, Silesiaand Pomeraniain the path of the Soviet offensive, sending them on forced marches for hundreds of kilometers westwards. Large numbers died in the process.
The Vistula-Oder Offensive was a major success for the Soviet military. Within a matter of days the forces involved had advanced hundreds of kilometres, taking much of Poland and striking deep within the borders of the Reich. The offensive broke Army Group A, and much of Germany's remaining capacity for military resistance. However the stubborn resistance of German forces in Silesia and Pomerania, as well as continuing fighting in
East Prussia, meant that the final offensive towards Berlin was delayed by several months, by which time the "Wehrmacht" had once again built up a substantial force on this axis.
East Prussian Offensive, the parallel offensive in East Prussia
Operation Solstice, German counter-offensive in Pomerania
East Pomeranian Offensive, the operation to clear the northern flank of 1st Belorussian Front
Silesian Offensives, operations to clear the southern flank of 1st Ukrainian Front
Battle of Berlin
*Beevor, A. "Berlin: The Downfall 1945", Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5
*Duffy, C. "Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945" Routledge 1991 ISBN 0-415-22829-8
*Hastings, M. "Armageddon. The Battle for Germany 1944-45", Macmillan, London
*Le Tissier, T. "Zhukov at the Oder", Greenwood, 1996, ISBN 0275952304
*Rees, Laurence "Auschwitz" BBC books
*Sims, D and Schilling, A. "Breakout from the Sandomierz Bridgehead", "Field Artillery", Oct 1990
*Ziemke, Earl F "Battle for Berlin"
* [http://www.historic-battles.com/Articles/Operation%20Sonnenwende.htm Operation Sonnenwende: Savior of Berlin?]
* [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JAP/is_1_14/ai_n15400337 Combat service and logistic support in the Vistula-Oder strategic offensive operation]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Vistula Offensive — can refer to: * Soviet westward offensive of 1918–1919 * Soviet Vistula Oder Offensive in 1945See also: Vistula Operation … Wikipedia
Vistula — For other uses, see Vistula (disambiguation). Vistula River Confluence of the Narew and the Vistula at Modlin Origin Barania Góra, Silesian Beskids … Wikipedia
Oder–Neisse line — The Oder Neisse line The Oder Neisse line at Usedom … Wikipedia
Oder-Neisse line — The Oder Neisse line ( pl. Granica na Odrze i Nysie Łużyckiej, de. Oder Neiße Grenze) was drawn in the aftermath of World War II as the eastern border of Germany and the western border of Poland. The line is formed primarily by the rivers Oder… … Wikipedia
Army Group Vistula — ( de. Heeresgruppe Weichsel ) was an Army Group of the Wehrmacht , formed on January 241945. It was put together from elements of Army Group A (shattered in the Soviet Vistula Oder Offensive), Army Group Centre (similarly largely destroyed in the … Wikipedia
East Prussian Offensive — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=East Prussian Offensive East Prussian Strategic Offensive Operation caption=Soldiers of the German Fourth Army man positions on the East Prussian border immediately prior to the offensive partof=the Eastern… … Wikipedia
Lower Silesian Offensive — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Lower Silesian Offensive caption= partof=Eastern Front of World War II place=Lower Silesia date=February 8, 1945 ndash; February 24, 1945 result=Soviet Victory combatant1= combatant2=flagicon|USSR Soviet Union… … Wikipedia
Upper Silesian Offensive — Part of Eastern Front of World War II Date 15–31 March 1945 Location Upper Silesia, Germany Result … Wikipedia
Sandomierz–Silesian Offensive — The Sandomierz Silesian Offensive was part of the Soviet Vistula Oder Offensive (12 January 3 February 1945). It was carried out by the 1st Ukrainian Front under Ivan Konev.The 1st Front begun its offensive on January 12, starting from the… … Wikipedia
Prague Offensive — Part of the Eastern Front (World War II) Ba … Wikipedia