East Prussian Operation of 1945

East Prussian Operation of 1945

 

a major Soviet offensive during the final phase of the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), from January 13 to April 25. The aim of the East Prussian Operation was to route a strategic grouping of the enemy in East Prussia and northern Poland. The East Prussian Operation was carried out by the troops of the Second Byelorussian Front (Marshal of the Soviet Union K. K. Rokossovskii) and of the Third Byelorussian Front (General of the Army I. D. Cherniakhovskii; from February 20, Marshal of the Soviet Union A. M. Vasilevskii), with the participation of the Forty-third Army of the First Baltic Front (General of the Army I. Kh. Bagramian) and with the support of the Baltic Fleet (Admiral V. F. Tributs). This force was composed of 15 combined-arms armies and one tank army, five tank and mechanized corps, and two air armies and numbered 1,670,000 men, 28,360 guns and infantry mortars, 3,300 tanks and self-propelled guns, and nearly 3,000 aircraft. The enemy had created a mighty fortifications system in East Prussia. In early 1945 this area was held by Army Group Center (from January 26, Army Group North) under the command of Colonel General G. Reinhardt (from January 26, Colonel General L. Rendulić). This force was composed of one panzer army, two field armies, and one air army, a total of 41 divisions and one brigade numbering 580,000 men and 200,000 members of the Volkssturm, 8,200 guns and infantry mortars, about 700 tanks and assault guns, and 515 aircraft. The plan of the Soviet Supreme Command was to cut off the East Prussian grouping from the rest of the forces of fascist Germany, to press it toward the sea, and to destroy it by delivering enveloping blows north of the Masurian Lakes to-ward Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) and south of these lakes toward Mlawa and Elbing (now Elblag).

The troops of the Third Byelorussian Front launched the offensive on January 13 and, overcoming the stubborn resistance of the enemy, on January 18 broke through the enemy’s defense north of Gumbinnen (now Gusev) along a 65-km front at depths of 20-30 km. The troops of the Second Byelorussian Front passed to the offensive on January 14, broke through the main zone of defense after intense combat, and, developing a swift offensive, reached the Baltic Sea north of Elbing on January 26. The troops of the Third Byelorussian Front reached the coast on January 22-29. The bulk of the enemy forces (about 29 divisions) were split into isolated groupings (the Heilsberg, Königsberg, and Samland groupings); only part of the German Second Army had time to cross the Vistula into Pomerania. The destruction of the groupings pressed against the sea was entrusted to the troops of the Third Byelorussian Front, which was reinforced by four armies of the Second Byelorussian Front, the remaining forces of which began the 1945 East Pomeranian Operation. The troops of the Third Byelorussian Front resumed the offensive on March 13 and liquidated the Heilsberg grouping by March 29. The Königsberg grouping was routed in the course of the 1945 Königsberg Operation, and its remnants capitulated on April 9. The routing of the Samland grouping was completed on April 13-25.

In the course of the East Prussian Operation, Soviet troops showed exceptional heroism and high skills, overcoming several powerful zones of defense that were fiercely and stubbornly defended by the strong enemy. The victory in East Prussia was achieved after lengthy and hard combat at the price of considerable losses. As a result of the East Prus-sian Operation, the Soviet troops occupied all of East Prussia, thus eliminating the outposts of German imperialism in the east, and liberated the northern part of Poland.

REFERENCE

Istoriia Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny Sovetskogo Soiuza 1941-45, vol. 5. Moscow, 1963.
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