One of Adolph Hitler's grandest mistakes of World War 2 was turning on his former Ally - the Soviet Union - in the 1941 offensive known under the codename of Operation Barbarossa. It was only within time that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin mobilized his army to return the favor by having his generals devise Operation Bagration.
On June 22nd, 1944, the Soviet Army opened up with all its Red might, sending man and machine against the heart of the German war machine along the Eastern Front. No longer would there be running or retreating on the part of the Soviets. They had been beaten far back but their spirit remained intact. The war-producing elements of the Soviet Empire were in high gear and guns, tanks, bullets and bombs were all leaving industrial sectors to make it into the hands of the young Soviet soldiers. The Soviet war machine was producing some 1,000 tanks a month. The T-34 medium tank alone would account for 68% of total Russian tank production and alone top 35,000 examples. Alongside the T-34, the IS-2 heavy tank was also fielded with armor too thick for most of the German anti-tank weapons of the time.
Days prior to the offensive, the Soviet Army relied heavily on Soviet partisan forces operating behind the German rear. Their job was simple - to cause as much disruption along the German logistical lines as possible. This was accomplished through scores of sabotage missions (numbering some 40,000 total incidents) that targeted lines of communications and supplies. By the start of the offensive, their damage upon the German rearguard had been effectively completed.
As was typical of Soviet offensives, the drive began with an amazing an deafening artillery barrage against known German positions. the Red Army was spread out on four major fronts and comprised of fifteen individual armies all bend on the destruction of the German Army Group Center. The volleys were followed by movements of tanks, support vehicles and infantry covered overhead by aircraft from four air armies. In front of them lay over 1 million German soldiers with 1,400 aircraft of various types and some 1,000 tanks under the command of German Field Marshal Ernst Busch. The German Army was made up of German and Finnish forces in the north and German, Hungarian and Romanian forces to the south.
Concentrated firepower and tactical maneuvering placed the Red Army in front. Within weeks, they captured key defensive positions once belonging to the Germans. Vitebsk fell to the Soviets in the north. Several large German forces were completely encircled, cut-off and destroyed or captured including the fabled Panzer corps and their mighty tanks. Ilyushin IL-2 strike aircraft played a decisive role in engaging and obliterating tanks out in the open. Flexible land forces, sometimes moving at night, skillfully managed marshes and rivers to take German forces by surprise. Thousands of Germans fell to their guns or were taken prisoner, their fates for the moment left unknown.
Soviet momentum continued at a lightning pace, leaving small bands of encircled German forces in the wake. The Germans were forced into a flat-out retreat on all fronts, taken wholly by surprise at the speed, tenacity and force of the revived Red Army. As can be expected, little to no mercy was shown on any German captured. Some German fronts did attempt counterattacks but the Red Army proved too much. With more territory gained by the Russians, some 100,000 German soldiers found themselves cutoff from rescue. By the end of June, Army Group Center "...has now ceased to exist" - Chief of General Staff, Colonel General Heinz Guderian.
The strongest portion of the German defense lay with the Army Group North Ukraine. Their position was such that it was situated where the Germans believed any Soviet offensive would take place. Soviet Marshal Koniev relied on an additional two armies to help his forces push these German defenders back. More and more German-held cities ultimately fell into Soviet hands from there, and bridgeheads and defensive perimeters were soon set up to help counter any German attacks.
By the end of it all, the advance covered 450 miles in as little as two months. The offensive winded down by the end of August due to a stretched Soviet supply line. The front of the Soviet forces had captured territory in Lithuania to the north, held the border to East Prussia in the Northwest, covered most of Belorussia in the center, crossed into Poland and reached the outskirts of Warsaw to the West and took some land in the Ukraine.
The end of Operation Bagration yielded impressive results for the Red Army, though at the cost of many Soviet lives - military and civilian. Nevertheless, the Germans were on the defensive and in all-out retreat and the Red Army had kept up the momentum when it was needed most. Additional forces flooded to hold the captured ground while German soldiers were handed over to authorities in the East. Captured foes were subsequently paraded through the streets of Moscow, resulting in the formal celebrations of the removal of enemy forces from "White Russia".
The Soviet advance proved so swift, cold and decisive that 12 million West Germans and East Prussians headed west to avoid the Red Army presence, creating a major refugee situation for the German government. ©www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com
There are a total of (28) entries in the Timeline of Operation Bagration (June 22nd - August 19th, 1944). Entries are listed below by earliest date to latest date.