Kharkov Operation of 1943

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kharkov Operation of 1943

 

(also Belgorod-Kharkov Operation), an offensive of the troops of the Voronezh Front under General of the Army N. F. Vatutin and the Steppe Front under Colonel General I. S. Konev from August 3 to 23 during the Great Patriotic War.

The operation was carried out during a counteroffensive of Soviet troops in the Kursk battle of 1943. The plan of the operation (code name, Polkovodets Rumiantsev) was to deliver a deep strike by the contiguous wings of the two fronts from the area north of Belgorod in the general direction of Bogodukhov-Valki in order to surround Kharkov from the west. A strike to encircle Kharkov from the south was to be delivered by the Fifty-seventh Army (Lieutenant General N. A. Gagen) of the Southwestern Front under the command of General of the Army R. Ia. Malinovskii.

The Belgorod-Kharkov base of operations was defended by a large grouping of fascist German troops (14 infantry divisions and four panzer and motorized divisions) of the Fourth Panzer Army and Task Group Kampf of Army Group South under Field Marshal E. von Manstein. During the operation the fascist German command transferred five panzer, one motorized, and four infantry divisions from other sectors of the front and from the reserve. However, the great losses suffered by the enemy forces during their offensive in the first stage of the Kursk battle, as well as the Soviet command’s concentration of strong groupings along the axis of the main strike, gave the Soviet troops a numerical superiority over the enemy.

On August 3, after three hours of intensive artillery and air force preparation, the troops of the Voronezh and Steppe fronts went on the offensive, breaking through the enemy’s defenses the first day. Into the breach moved the First Tank Army under Lieutenant General M. E. Katukov and the Fifth Guards Tank Army under Lieutenant General P. A. Rotmistrov. On August 5 units of Lieutenant General V. D. Kriuchenkin’s Sixty-ninth Army and Lieutenant General M. S. Shumilov’s Seventh Guards Army liberated Belgorod, after which the troops of both fronts launched an offensive on Kharkov that lasted 18 days.

The enemy had established strong defensive lines on the approaches to the city and a fortified perimeter; the city itself was prepared for defense on all sides. By August 11 units of the First Tank Army had cut off the Kharkov-Poltava railroad. The enemy unsuccessfully attempted to hold back the offensive of the Soviet troops through powerful counterattacks by tank units around Bogodukhov and Akhtyrka. The Forty-seventh and Fourth Guards armies, which were thrown into the battle, completed the rout of the enemy in the vicinity of Akhtyrka. During this time Lieutenant General I. M. Managarov’s Fifty-third Army and the Sixty-ninth and Seventh Guards armies of the Steppe Front were fighting on the approaches to Kharkov. The enemy grouping was enveloped from the north, east, and south. To prevent the enemy from withdrawing its forces and destroying the city, the commander in chief of the Steppe Front ordered a night attack on Kharkov on August 22. By noon of the next day, after heavy fighting, the troops of the Steppe Front, assisted by the flanks of the Voronezh and Southwestern fronts, liberated the city.

During the Kharkov Operation the Soviet forces inflicted great losses on the enemy, pushed the enemy 140 km to the southwest, and paved the way for the liberation of the Left-bank Ukraine and the Donets Basin.

REFERENCE

Kurskaia bitva. Moscow, 1970. (Collection of articles.)

A. G. KHOR’KOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.