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East Pomeranian Offensive

East Pomeranian Offensive

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The East Pomeranian Strategic Offensive operation was an offensive by the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 in its fight against the German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

. It took place in Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

 and West Prussia
West Prussia
West Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773–1824 and 1878–1919/20 which was created out of the earlier Polish province of Royal Prussia...

, and officially lasted from 10 February-4 April 1945.

In Soviet reckoning, it involved the following subordinate operations:
Konitz-Köslin Offensive Operation 10 February-6 March 1945
Danzig Offensive Operation 7-31 March 1945
Arnswalde-Kolberg Offensive Operation 1-18 March 1945
Altdamm Offensive Operation 18 March-4 April 1945 (near Stettin)

Planning


The 2nd Belorussian Front
2nd Belorussian Front
The 2nd Belorussian Front was a military formation of Army group size of the Soviet Army during the Second World War...

—under Konstantin Rokossovsky
Konstantin Rokossovsky
Konstantin Rokossovskiy was a Polish-origin Soviet career officer who was a Marshal of the Soviet Union, as well as Marshal of Poland and Polish Defence Minister, who was famously known for his service in the Eastern Front, where he received high esteem for his outstanding military skill...

—had initially been tasked with advancing westward north of the Vistula
Vistula
The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....

 River toward Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

 and the major port city of Danzig, with the primary aim of protecting the right flank of Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front
1st Belorussian Front
The 1st Belorussian Front was a Front of the Soviet Army during World War II...

, which was pushing toward Berlin. During the East Prussian Offensive
East Prussian Offensive
The East Prussian Offensive was a strategic offensive by the Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front . It lasted from 13 January to 25 April 1945, though some German units did not surrender until 9 May...

, however, Rokossovsky was ordered to wheel directly north toward Elbing
Elbing
Elbing is the German name of Elbląg, a city in northern Poland which until 1945 was a German city in the province of East Prussia.Elbing may also refer to:- Ships :* SMS Elbing, light cruiser of the Imperial Germany Navy...

. This left substantial German forces intact in Pomerania, where they threatened the right flank of Zhukov's formations.

As a result, once the initial phase of the East Prussian Offensive was over, the 2nd Belorussian Front was redeployed with the intention of attacking northwards into Pomerania, eliminating the possibility of a German counter-offensive (similarly, the parallel Silesian Offensives
Silesian Offensives
The Silesian Offensives were two 1945 offensives conducted by the Soviet Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front in World War II.-The offensives:...

 of Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front
1st Ukrainian Front
The 1st Ukrainian Front was a front—a force the size of a Western Army group—of the Soviet Union's Red Army during the Second World War.-Wartime:...

 in the south were in part designed to protect the 1st Belorussian Front's left flank). The need to secure the flanks delayed the Soviets' final push towards Berlin
Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II....

, which was originally planned for February, until April.

Stalin's decision to delay the push toward Berlin from February to April has been a subject of some controversy among both the Soviet generals and military historians, with one side arguing that the Soviets had a chance of securing Berlin much quicker and with much lower losses in February, and the other arguing that the danger of leaving large German formations on the flanks could have resulted in a successful German counter-attack and prolonged the war further: the Germans did in fact mount a surprise counter-attack in Pomerania in mid-February, Operation Solstice
Operation Solstice
Operation Solstice , also known as Unternehmen Husarenritt or the "Stargard tank battle", was one of the last German armoured offensive operations on the Eastern Front in World War II....

. The delay did, however, allow the Soviets to occupy significant parts of Austria in the Vienna Offensive
Vienna Offensive
The Vienna Offensive was launched by the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front in order to capture Vienna, Austria. The offensive lasted from 2–13 April 1945...

.

German intelligence


As early as 13 February, German intelligence services had deduced that the Soviets would seek to clear Pomerania before advancing on Berlin. The 2nd Army—defending a large and exposed sector running through Pomerania eastward toward the edge of East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

 at Elbing
Elbing
Elbing is the German name of Elbląg, a city in northern Poland which until 1945 was a German city in the province of East Prussia.Elbing may also refer to:- Ships :* SMS Elbing, light cruiser of the Imperial Germany Navy...

—sought permission to withdraw, but this was denied by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

. Grudziądz
Grudziadz
Grudziądz is a city in northern Poland on the Vistula River, with 96 042 inhabitants . Situated in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship , the city was previously in the Toruń Voivodeship .- History :-Early history:...

, on the Vistula
Vistula
The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....

, was surrounded on 18 February (the garrison, from the 83rd Infantry Division
83rd Infantry Division (Germany)
The 83rd Infantry Division, , was a German military unit that fought in several notable actions during World War II.-Formation:The division was formed December 1, 1939, at Bergen, and consisted of reservists from the north of Germany .It had the following organisation:*Infanterie-Regiment...

—finally surrendered the following month).

Wehrmacht

  • Army Group Vistula
    Army Group Vistula
    Army Group Vistula was an Army Group of the Wehrmacht, formed on January 24, 1945. It was put together from elements of Army Group A , Army Group Centre , and a variety of new or ad-hoc formations...

    • 2nd Army (Colonel-General Walter Weiß
      Walter Weiß
      General Walter-Otto Weiß was a Wehrmacht High Command officer in World War II. He became Commander in Chief of Army Group North on the Eastern Front in 1945. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves...

      )
      • XXXXVI Panzer Corps
      • VII Panzer Corps
      • XXVII Panzer Corps
      • XXIII Corps
        XXIII Army Corps (Germany)
        German XXIII. Corps was a corps in the German Army during World War II.-Commanders:* Infantry General Erich Raschick, April 1939 – 26 October 1939...

      • XVIII Mountain Corps
      • Fortress garrisons of Graudenz and Danzig
    • Eastern flank of 3rd Panzer Army (reconstituted) (General Erhard Raus
      Erhard Raus
      Erhard Raus was a Austrian Colonel General during World War II. He commanded the 6th Panzer Division during the early years of the war on the Eastern Front before taking Army and Army Group commands....

      )
      • III SS Panzer Corps
        III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps
        The III SS Panzer Corps was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on the Eastern Front during World War II. The The III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps (III. (germanische) SS-Panzerkorps) was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on the Eastern Front during World War II. The...

      • X SS Corps


The corps of the Second Army were seriously understrength by this time, being composed largely of fragmentary or ad-hoc units. The 3rd Panzer Army had been rebuilt using the korps of the recently-formed 11th SS Panzer Army, the original formation having been largely destroyed in Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 and East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

, where its remnants were now defending Königsberg
Battle of Königsberg
The Battle of Königsberg , was one of the last operations of the East Prussian Offensive during World War II. In four days of violent urban warfare, Soviet forces of the 1st Baltic Front and the 3rd Belorussian Front captured the city of Königsberg...

.

Red Army

  • 2nd Belorussian Front
    2nd Belorussian Front
    The 2nd Belorussian Front was a military formation of Army group size of the Soviet Army during the Second World War...

     (Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky
    Konstantin Rokossovsky
    Konstantin Rokossovskiy was a Polish-origin Soviet career officer who was a Marshal of the Soviet Union, as well as Marshal of Poland and Polish Defence Minister, who was famously known for his service in the Eastern Front, where he received high esteem for his outstanding military skill...

    )
  • Eastern flank of 1st Belorussian Front
    1st Belorussian Front
    The 1st Belorussian Front was a Front of the Soviet Army during World War II...

     (Marshal Georgy Zhukov
    Georgy Zhukov
    Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov , was a Russian career officer in the Red Army who, in the course of World War II, played a pivotal role in leading the Red Army through much of Eastern Europe to liberate the Soviet Union and other nations from the Axis Powers' occupation...

    )
    • 3rd Shock Army
      3rd Shock Army (Soviet Union)
      The 3rd Shock Army was a field army of the Red Army formed during the Second World War. The 'Shock' armies were created with the specific structure to engage and destroy significant enemy forces, and were reinforced with more armoured and artillery assets than other combined arms armies...

    • 1st Guards Tank Army
    • 2nd Guards Tank Army
      2nd Guards Tank Army (Soviet Union)
      The Second Tank Army of the Red Army was formed in January - February, 1943 on the basis of the 3rd Reserve Army of the Bryansk Front.Originally the Army comprised 11th and 16th Tank Corps, 60th, 112th and 194th Rifle Divisions, the 11th Guards Separate tank brigade, 115th Rifle Brigade, the 28th...


Breakthrough


Rokossovsky opened the offensive on 24 February using the fresh troops of Kozlov's 19th Army, but after an initial advance of some 20 km (12.4 mi) they were halted by intense German resistance. On 26 February, he inserted the 3rd Guards Tank Corps east of Neustettin, where they achieved a penetration of 40 km (24.9 mi), and relieved Kozlov of command. The 3rd Guards Tank Corps broke through at Baldenburg, while Neustettin on the Front's left flank fell to the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps on 27 February.

Weiß had hurriedly assembled the VII Panzer Corps, including the remnants of the 7th Panzer Division, at Rummelsburg
Rummelsburg
Rummelsburg is a German locality in the borough of Lichtenberg, Berlin.-History:The locality was founded in 1669 and on January 30, 1889 became a rural municipality, with the name of Boxhagen-Rummelsburg...

 to threaten 19th Army's flank. However, after a Soviet breakthrough at Koslin on 2 March, the 2nd Army found itself completely cut off from the rest of its Army Group.

1st Belorussian Front joins the attack


Zhukov's right wing—a grouping of the 3rd Shock Army
3rd Shock Army (Soviet Union)
The 3rd Shock Army was a field army of the Red Army formed during the Second World War. The 'Shock' armies were created with the specific structure to engage and destroy significant enemy forces, and were reinforced with more armoured and artillery assets than other combined arms armies...

 and 1st and 2nd
2nd Guards Tank Army (Soviet Union)
The Second Tank Army of the Red Army was formed in January - February, 1943 on the basis of the 3rd Reserve Army of the Bryansk Front.Originally the Army comprised 11th and 16th Tank Corps, 60th, 112th and 194th Rifle Divisions, the 11th Guards Separate tank brigade, 115th Rifle Brigade, the 28th...

 Guards Tank Armies—went over to the offensive on 1 March, striking northward with the main force concentrated at Reetz
Recz
Recz is a town in Choszczno County, West Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland, with a population of 3,001 as of 2004.-External links:*...

. The entire left wing of 3rd Panzer Army was cut off by their breakthrough, after Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

 refused Raus' request for withdrawal; the right flank withdrew towards Stettin.

On 4 March, forward Soviet tank units reached the Baltic
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, and the German forces in Pomerania were trapped in a series of encirclements. The 2nd Army began to fall back on the Danzig fortified area, while the X SS Corps of the 3rd Panzer Army had been surrounded at Dramburg.

The second phase


Rokossovksy opened the second phase of his offensive on March 6. The 2nd Shock Army threatened to cut off the defending forces in the fortress of Marienburg
Malbork Castle
The Marienburg Castle in Malbork is by area the largest castle in the world. It was built in Prussia by the Teutonic Knights, a German Roman Catholic religious order of crusaders, in a form of an Ordensburg fortress. The Order named it Marienburg...

, which was evacuated two days later, while in the east Elbing
Elbing
Elbing is the German name of Elbląg, a city in northern Poland which until 1945 was a German city in the province of East Prussia.Elbing may also refer to:- Ships :* SMS Elbing, light cruiser of the Imperial Germany Navy...

 finally fell on 10 March. Weiß, having warned that the Elbing pocket could not be held, was relieved of command on 9 March and replaced by Dietrich von Saucken
Dietrich von Saucken
Friedrich Wilhelm Eduard Kasimir Dietrich von Saucken was a general in the German army, the Wehrmacht Heer, during World War II...

. The troops of the German 2nd Army withdrew in disarray into Danzig and Gdynia
Gdynia
Gdynia is a city in the Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland and an important seaport of Gdańsk Bay on the south coast of the Baltic Sea.Located in Kashubia in Eastern Pomerania, Gdynia is part of a conurbation with the spa town of Sopot, the city of Gdańsk and suburban communities, which together...

, where the 2nd Belorussian Front besieged them. Zhukov's forces meanwhile, cleared the remainder of 3rd Panzer Army from the east bank of the lower Oder
Oder
The Oder is a river in Central Europe. It rises in the Czech Republic and flows through western Poland, later forming of the border between Poland and Germany, part of the Oder-Neisse line...

, driving the Germans from their last positions in a bridgehead at Altdamm.

Siege of Kolberg


Many civilian refugees from Pomerania had fled into the coastal town of Kolberg, which was surrounded by 4 March. Nevertheless, the town was successfully defended until 18 March, by which time evacuation was almost complete.

Siege of Danzig


The Danzig-Gotenhafen (Gdynia
Gdynia
Gdynia is a city in the Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland and an important seaport of Gdańsk Bay on the south coast of the Baltic Sea.Located in Kashubia in Eastern Pomerania, Gdynia is part of a conurbation with the spa town of Sopot, the city of Gdańsk and suburban communities, which together...

) Fortified Area—also the main port for refugees from East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

 escaping to the west—was ordered to be defended for as long as possible by von Saucken in order to keep open evacuation routes.

Rokossovsky opened his final offensive on 15 March; the main thrust, toward the coast at Zoppot between Gdynia and Danzig, being undertaken by the 70th and 49th Army advancing in parallel. The fighting was savage, but by 19 March the Soviet spearheads had reached the heights over Zoppot, while the 4th Panzer Division had been pushed back to the outskirts of Danzig itself. By 22 March, the 70th Army reached the sea, splitting the German defence. Gdynia was taken on 26 March, its defenders and many civilians retreating to the headland at Oksywie
Oksywie
Oksywie is a neighbourhood of the city of Gdynia, Pomeranian Voivodeship, northern Poland. Formerly a separate settlement, it is actually several centuries older than the city it is a part of currently.-Etymology:...

, from where they were evacuated to the Hel Peninsula
Hel Peninsula
Hel Peninsula |Nehrung]]) is a 35-km-long sand bar peninsula in northern Poland separating the Bay of Puck from the open Baltic Sea. It is located in Puck County of the Pomeranian Voivodeship.- Geography :...

.

Danzig finally fell on 28 March, after which the remnants of the 2nd Army withdrew to the Vistula
Vistula
The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....

 delta north-east of the city. Evacuation of civilians and military personnel from there and from the Hel Peninsula continued until 10 May. The Soviets declared the East Pomeranian Offensive complete a week after the fall of Danzig.

According to Soviet information, in the Battle of Danzig the Germans lost 39,000 soldiers dead and 10,000 captured.

See also

  • History of Pomerania (1933–1945)
    History of Pomerania (1933–1945)
    History of Pomerania covers the History of Pomerania before and during World War II.In 1933, the German Province of Pomerania like all of Germany came under control of the Nazi regime...

  • Operation Hannibal
    Operation Hannibal
    Operation Hannibal was a German military operation involving the evacuation by sea of German troops and civilians from Courland, East Prussia, and the Polish Corridor from mid-January to May, 1945 as the Red Army advanced during the East Prussian and East Pomeranian Offensives and subsidiary...

    , the evacuation effort by the Kriegsmarine
    Kriegsmarine
    The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

  • Operation Solstice
    Operation Solstice
    Operation Solstice , also known as Unternehmen Husarenritt or the "Stargard tank battle", was one of the last German armoured offensive operations on the Eastern Front in World War II....

    , the preceding German offensive in Pomerania
  • East Prussian Offensive
    East Prussian Offensive
    The East Prussian Offensive was a strategic offensive by the Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front . It lasted from 13 January to 25 April 1945, though some German units did not surrender until 9 May...

    , the parallel offensives of the 3rd Belorussian Front
    3rd Belorussian Front
    The 3rd Belorussian Front was a Front of the Soviet Army during the Second World War...

     to the east
  • The Heiligenbeil Pocket
    Heiligenbeil Pocket
    The Heiligenbeil Pocket or Heiligenbeil Cauldron was the site of a major encirclement battle on the Eastern Front during the closing weeks of World War II, in which the Wehrmacht's 4th Army was almost entirely destroyed during the Soviet Braunsberg Offensive Operation...

    , the parallel defence of the German 4. Armee east of Elbing