Lvov-Sandomierz Operation of 1944
L’vov-Sandomierz Operation of 1944
a strategic offensive operation by forces of the First Ukrainian Front between July 13 and August 29 during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45.
General Headquarters of the Supreme Command decided to carry out a sequential series of strategic operations during the summer campaign of 1944. The main strike was directed at the center of the Soviet-German front with the objective of liberating the occupied part of Byelorussia, Lithuania, the western oblasts of the Ukraine, and the eastern part of Poland. To achieve this objective fascist German Army Group Center and Army Group Ukraine-North had to be crushed. The First Ukrainian Front (commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union I. S. Konev) was assigned the mission of destroying Army Group Ukraine-North (commanded by Colonel General J. Harpe), which consisted of the German Fourth and First Tank armies and the Hungarian First Army and had up to 42 divisions, including five tank divisions and one motorized division, with 600,000 men (900,000 counting rear units), 900 tanks and assault guns, 6,300 field guns and mortars, and 700 aircraft.
By mid-July the enemy had set up a defense consisting of three zones with a total depth of 40-50 km, not counting the inner and outer rings around L’vov. The First Ukrainian Front was made up of the First, Third and Fifth Guards armies, the Thirteenth, Eighteenth, Thirty-eighth, and Sixtieth armies (74 rifle and six cavalry divisions), the First and Third Guards Tank armies, the Fourth Tank Army (in all, seven tank and three mechanized corps in the tank armies), the Second Air Army, four detached tank and mechanized corps, 18 tank regiments, and 24 self-propelled artillery regiments (a total of 1.2 million men, 13,900 field guns and mortars of more than 76 mm, 2,200 tanks and self-propelled artillery guns, and 2,806 aircraft). A great superiority over the enemy in forces and means was achieved in the breakthrough sectors.
The plan of the operation was to deliver two powerful strikes and break through the enemy front along two axes 60-70 km from one another. The first strike was to be delivered from the region to the west of Lutsk in the general direction of Soka’ and Rava-Russkaia, and the second was to come from the Ternopol’ region against L’vov to crush the L’vov grouping of Germans and take L’vov and the fortress of Przemysl. The L’vov-Sandomierz operation began at the time of the successful offensive by the Byelorussian fronts.
Going on to the offensive on July 13, the troops of the First Ukrainian Front met stubborn enemy resistance in the second zone of his defense, especially along the L’vov axis. On July 16 a mechanized cavalry group was introduced into the battle, and on the morning of July 17 the First Guards Tank Army was brought in. After bitter fighting for the second defensive zone, to which the enemy brought the 16th and 17th tank divisions from his reserve, by the end of July 16 the entire tactical zone of the enemy defense was broken through to a depth of 15-30 km. On July 17 the forces of the front entered Polish territory.
On the L’vov axis the enemy created an assault grouping of two tank divisions and on the morning of July 15 pushed units of the Thirty-eighth Army back 2-4 km in certain regions. The enemy tank divisions were thrown into confusion by an attack by the Second Air Army and the artillery of the Thirty-eighth Army. On the morning of July 16 the Third Guards Tank Army was brought into the battle, followed by the Fourth Tank Army. By the end of July 18 the enemy defense was broken through to a depth of 50-80 km in a zone up to 200 km wide. The forces of the front had reached the approaches to L’vov and surrounded eight enemy divisions in the Brody region. By the end of July 22 they had been wiped out, and on July 27, L’vov, Przemysl, and Stanislav were liberated. Army Group Ukraine-North suffered large losses and was broken into two parts, between which there formed a gap of up to 100 km. This favorable situation was used for an advance by forces of the right wing of the front toward the Vistula. In order to set up a front of defense on the Vistula the fascist German command began moving to this region the command post of the Seventeenth Army, the 23rd and 24th tank divisions from Army Group Ukraine-South, two infantry divisions and the command post of the XXIV Tank Corps from other areas of the front, and two divisions and several smaller units from Germany.
On July 29-August 1 forces of the First Ukrainian Front crossed the Vistula and-took a beachhead in the Sandomierz region. During August the enemy made a series of strong counterstrikes and the front’s reserve, the Fifth Guards Army, was brought in to repulse them. The troops of the front beat back all the enemy’s counterstrikes and firmly consolidated the beach-head, which was up to 75 km wide and 60 km deep. On August 4 at the directive of General Headquarters the left-flank First Guards and Eighteenth armies, which were operating along the Carpathian axis, were brought together in the newly formed Fourth Ukrainian Front. On August 23 the Sixtieth Army and troops of the Fifth Guards Army took the city of Debica. The Thirty-eighth Army, supporting the left flank of the front, reached the Glinik-Krosno line of the front. On August 29 the forces of the First Ukrainian Front went over to the defensive, and with this the L’vov-Sandomierz operation of 1944 concluded.
In the course of the operation the fascist German Army Group Ukraine-North was crushed; 32 divisions were routed, and eight divisions were destroyed; the western regions of the Ukraine and, in cooperation with forces of the First Byelorussian Front, the southeastern regions of Poland were liberated. The crossing of the Vistula and the creation of the large Sandomierz beachhead was very important for the subsequent offensive of Soviet forces on the Silesian axis. The losses suffered by the enemy forced him to transfer up to six divisions from Army Group Ukraine-South into the zone of the First Ukrainian Front, which made the operations of the Second and Third Ukrainian fronts easier. From the point of view of the art of war the L’vov-Sandomierz operation was characterized by large scope, a variety of combat actions, and extensive application of different forms of operational maneuvering. In the course of the L’vov-Sandomierz operation the strategic mission of crushing Army Group Ukraine-North was accomplished with the forces of one front.
REFERENCESKonev, I. S. Zapiski komanduiushchego frontorn 1943-1944. Moscow, 1972.
Istoriia Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny Sovetskogo Soiuza, 1941-1945 gg, vol 4. Moscow, 1962.
I. S. KONEV