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Battle of Kharkov Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 5/5/2014

The Soviet's haphazard offensive netted them ground against the Germans, only to lose it all a short time later thanks to Manstein's methodical response.

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As it stood, the Soviet city of Kharkov was the fourth largest city in the whole of the USSR. The taking of such a city would certainly be a feather in Hitler's cap and a blow against Stalin. Winter was in full swing and the hard turf of the Soviet countryside was ripe for battle. A massive Soviet offensive was launched to regain the ground lost to the Germans the year before. Across three major fronts, the Soviet Army moved in. On February 8th, 1942, the Russians move in and retake the city of Kharkov from its German occupiers through bloody and intimate hand-to-hand street fighting - there since November of 1941.


The Russian offensive proved an initial success as German invaders were being driven away from Soviet towns and bridgeheads. While some of the German retreat was of necessity, other retreats were strategic moves meant to buy the German Army some more time and allow the Red Army to use up its energy, resources and supplies. German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein convinced Adolph Hitler of his retreat plan and the Russians were falling right into the trap. After the loss of his men in Stalingrad, Hitler was open to retreat.


The Soviet advanced proved pricey for their forward elements were stretched thin and low in number - particularly in tanks but also in infantry. Time was of the essence for both sides, however, for the Russian spring was at hand, a time when solid frozen turf would soon turn into impassable muddy nightmares.


While the Soviet Army pushed on against the "retreating" Germans, Manstein unleashed his counterattack when all his pieces were in place. For days, the hapless Russian infantry and their few tanks were shellacked into oblivion with all sorts of random actions and uncoordinated retreats following. German artillery opened up on the Eastward-bound Russians and pounded them while infantry, air strikes and armor attacks did their part.


By March 14th, the 4th Panzer Army completes its surrounding of Kharkov until the city is officially recaptured on March 15th with full control coming on March 18th. Spring now approached and both sides dug in and around the city waiting for their next orders to come down the pipe. The retaking of territory and the capture of Kharkov proved the German's brilliance in the age of mechanized warfare - and also proved how much more the Russians had to learn about such actions.


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There are a total of 17 Battle of Kharkov Timeline Events. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence.

1942
Monday
February 2nd

Adolph Hitler approves of the order for retreat for German forces at Rostov.

1942
Thursday
February 5th

Rostov is officially abandoned by General Manstein's forces.

1942
Friday
February 6th

German General Manstein meets with Hitler and proposes a new German counter-attack against the Russians.

1942
Sunday
February 8th

The Soviet Army officially retakes the Russian city of Kursk.

1942
Thursday
February 12th

German Army Group Don is renamed Army Group South.

1942
Thursday
February 12th

German Army Group B is renamed Army Group Center.

1942
Saturday
February 14th

Russian General Vatutin and his South-West Front army reach the city of Kharkov.

1942
Saturday
February 14th - February 18th

Street fighting begins between the German I SS Panzer Corps and the Russian 3rd Tank Army and 40th Army forces in Kharkov.

1942
Tuesday
February 17th

Adolph Hitler meets with General Manstein to plan a German counter-offensive.

1942
Wednesday
February 18th

German forces are officially driven from the Russian city of Kharkov.

1942
Friday
February 20th

The Germans unleash their counterattack using the 4th Panzer Amry, 1st Panzer Army and the II SS Panzer Corps.

1942
Saturday
February 28th

The Germans recapture lost ground and push elements of the Russian Army back. The German army reaches as far in as the River Donets while General Vatutin's forces are surrounded.

1942
Saturday
March 7th

German General Hoth and his 4th Panzer Army form up and launch an offensive against the Voronezh Front near Kharkov.

1942
Thursday
March 12th

Street fighting throughout Kharkov erupts once more as German forces enter Kharkov.

1942
Saturday
March 14th

The 4th Panzer Army surrounds the city of Kharkov.

1942
Wednesday
March 18th

The Germans complete the retaking of Kharkov.

1942
Wednesday
March 18th - March 26th

The Soviets and Germans both dig in within and around the city of Kharkov, preparing to fight another day.