Smolensk Operation of 1943
Smolensk Operation of 1943
an offensive operation by troops of the Western Front and left wing of the Kalinin Front from Aug. 7 to Oct. 2, 1943, during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
In the 1943 summer and autumn campaign, the troops of the Kalinin and Western fronts were to advance along the western (Smolensk) axis for the purpose of defeating the left wing of Army Group Center, gaining control of the Smolensk-Roslavl’ line, and developing an offensive on Vitebsk, Orsha, and Mogilev. At the operation’s outset, the Kalinin Front, under the command of General of the Army A. I. Eremenko, and the Western Front, under the command of Colonel General V. D. Sokolovskii, numbered 1,253,000 persons, about 20,640 guns and infantry mortars, 1,430 tanks and self-propelled guns, and more than 1,000 combat aircraft. The Smolensk axis was defended by more than 40 divisions of the Third Panzer Army and Fourth Army of Army Group Center; the German forces were under the command of Field Marshal G. von Kluge and numbered approximately 850,000 persons, about 8,800 guns and infantry mortars, about 500 tanks and assault guns, and about 700 aircraft. Taking advantage of the wooded and swampy terrain, the fascist German troops established a strong defensive position, composed of four to five defensive zones to a depth of as much as 130 km.
On August 7, the main strike forces of the Western Front passed to the offensive. On August 13, they liberated Spas-De-mensk, on August 30, El’nia, on September 1, Dorogobuzh, and on September 16, Iartsevo. By September 23, they had moved up from the south and enveloped the enemy grouping near Smolensk. On August 13, the left wing of the Kalinin Front launched an offensive. On September 19, it captured Du-khovshchina, and on September 21, Demidov, moving down from the north to envelop the enemy in the Smolensk area. Threatened by encirclement, the enemy retreated. On September 25, Smolensk and Roslavl’ were liberated. In early October, Soviet troops reached the approaches to Vitebsk, Orsha, and Mogilev. The Soviet fronts were greatly assisted by partisans in Smolensk and Kalinin oblasts.
During the Smolensk Operation of 1943, Smolensk Oblast was liberated. Soviet troops advanced 225 km, routing five infantry divisions, one panzer division, and one motorized division and defeating 11 infantry divisions, three panzer divisions, and one motorized division; they pinned down significant numbers of the enemy, thereby creating favorable conditions for the offensive on the main, southwestern axis.
REFERENCEOperatsii Sovetskikh Vooruzhennykh Sil ν Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine, 1941-1945: Voenno-istoricheskii ocherk, vol.2. Moscow, 1958.
G. A. KOLTUNOV