Gumbinnen Operation

The Gumbinnen Operation,[3] also known as the Goldap Operation (or Goldap-Gumbinnen Operation, Russian: Гумбиннен-Гольдапская наступательная операция), was a Soviet offensive on the Eastern Front late in 1944, in which forces of the 3rd Belorussian Front attempted to penetrate the borders of East Prussia.

Gumbinnen Operation
Part of Eastern Front of World War II
Czołg niemiecki w Gołdapii (2-910).jpg
German Panther tank in Goldap, November 1944
Date16–30 October 1944
Location
Result German victory
Belligerents
 Germany  Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
Units involved

Nazi Germany Army Group Centre:

Soviet Union 3rd Belorussian Front:

Strength
318 tanks, assault guns and tank destroyers[1] 377,300 men[2]
Casualties and losses

16,236 men[2]

6,801 killed or missing
9,435 wounded
115 tanks and assault guns destroyed[2]

79,527 men[2]

16,819 killed or missing
62,708 wounded
914 tanks and assault guns destroyed[2]

The offensive failed, due to strong resistance by the Wehrmacht. As a result, it is largely known through German accounts of the defense and because of the atrocities that were committed by troops of the 11th Guards Army, most notably the Nemmersdorf massacre.

PlanningEdit

The operation was planned as a result of the success of the Memel Offensive Operation to the north. The troops of the 1st Baltic and 3rd Belorussian Fronts had succeeded in pushing the Third Panzer Army back to the East Prussian border, surrounding the city of Memel and reaching the shore of the Curonian Lagoon. Stavka permitted Chernyakhovsky to further exploit this success by attacking along the GumbinnenInsterburgKönigsberg (now Kaliningrad) axis deep into East Prussia.

Chernyakhovsky's plan involved using the 11th Guards and 5th Armies to break open the German defensive lines, before pushing through exploitation forces from the 2nd Guards Tank Corps and 28th Army. The 31st and 39th Armies would advance on the flanks of the main force.

The opposing German forces, from the Third Panzer and Fourth Armies, were aided by the presence of substantial fortifications, and had been heavily reinforced.

DeploymentsEdit

WehrmachtEdit

Red ArmyEdit

The offensiveEdit

On 16 October, the 5th and 11th Guards Armies went onto the offensive and initially penetrated some 11 km into the German defensive belt. The flanking armies commenced operations the next day, by which time units of the 11th Guards Army had crossed the East Prussian border.

 
German troops on the outskirts of Gołdap, retaken on 3 November 1944

The Soviet troops ran into extremely strong resistance. It took them four days to penetrate the initial tactical defenses, while the second defense line was so strong that Chernyakhovsky was compelled to commit the 2nd Guards Tank Corps to break it. Casualties were extremely heavy. On 20 October, the second line was ruptured by the 11th Guards Army and 2nd Guards Tank Corps east of Gumbinnen, defended by the guns of the 18th Anti-Aircraft Division and the Fallschirm-Panzerdivision Hermann Göring, which had been redeployed in the area to counter the Soviet advance. On 21 October, the Soviets' reserve, the 28th Army, was committed, but the offensive in the north was fought to a standstill in the region of Ebenrode thanks to some effective German counter-attacks.

Gumbinnen was taken by 22 October, but retaken by German forces on the 24 October, after the Germans committed the 5th Panzer Division, and Heavy Panzer Detachment 505 (equipped with Tiger IIs). Also Nemmersdorf (located on the banks of the Angrapa River) was taken by units of the 2nd Guards Tank Corps on the 21 October, but already retaken by German forces on the 23 October.

Units of 11th Guards Army found themselves cut off in the area of Großwaltersdorf, and were involved in intense fighting. In the meantime, the Germans had pressed more reserves, including the 102nd Panzer and Führer Grenadier Brigades into counter-attacks at Goldap, on the southern sector of the Soviet penetration. The town was retaken on 25 October.

The Soviet attacks continued until 27 October, as the flanking armies sought to close up to the 11th Guards Army.

There was more fighting in the operation's immediate aftermath: on 28 October, the 31st Army retook Gołdap in a surprise attack; the town was again taken by the 5th Panzer Division, which was redeployed from the Gumbinnen area, on 3 November.

See alsoEdit

  • East Prussian Offensive, in which the Front renewed its attack into East Prussia the following January, this time successfully.

ReferencesEdit

  • Dieckert, K. and Großmann, H. Der Kampf um Ostpreußen, Gräfe und Unzer Verlag, München, 1960
  • Frieser, Karl-Heinz; Schmider, Klaus; Schönherr, Klaus; Schreiber, Gerhard; Ungváry, Kristián; Wegner, Bernd (2007). Die Ostfront 1943/44 – Der Krieg im Osten und an den Nebenfronten [The Eastern Front 1943–1944: The War in the East and on the Neighbouring Fronts]. Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg [Germany and the Second World War] (in German). VIII. München: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. ISBN 978-3-421-06235-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Glantz, D. The Failures of Historiography: Forgotten Battles of the Soviet-German War, https://web.archive.org/web/20161216063344/http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/failures.htm
  • Zeidler, Manfred (1996). Kriegsende im Osten – Die Rote Armee und die Besetzung Deutschlands östlich von Oder und Neiße 1944/45 [End of War in the East - The Red Army and the Occupation of Germany east of Oder and Neisse 1944/45] (in German). Munich: Oldenbourg. ISBN 3-486-56187-1.

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ Frieser et al. 2007, p. 612.
  2. ^ a b c d e Frieser et al. 2007, p. 616.
  3. ^ Glantz, Failures of Historiography