Korsun-Shevchenkovskii Operation, the Encirclement and Breakout of 2 Wehrmacht Korps, 42nd and 11th,
In 4 days, the Soviet 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts with 336,000 troops, 524 tanks and Self-propelled guns, 5,300 artillery guns encircled the remnants of 6 under strength German divisions, only one of which, the 5.SS-Panzer Division 'Wiking' with the 'Wallonie' Brigade was combat capable, thereby, trapping c.54,000 German soldiers. The encirclement of German forces, see above map.
Generalfeldmarschall von Manstein launched a counterattack with 4 Panzer Divisions (3,11, 13 and 14. Panzer Divisions with only 58 Panzer and Sturmgeschutzen and a total infantry strength of 3,795. when III Panzer Korps arrived the attack began. The 4 Divisions 16, 17 and 1.Panzer Division plus the 1.SS-Panzer Division 'Liebstandarte' the Schwere Panzer Regiment Baake helped establish a bridgehead over the Gniloj Tikic river by February 8.
Supply of 60 cubic meters of fuel and 34 tons of ammunition February 13, dramatically improved the fighting ability of Panzer Regiment Baake with 100 Soviet tanks and SP guns destroyed. The breakout from the pocket began 23.00hrs February 16/17 with 8km separating German forces. Panzer Regiment Baake fought to Chizincy, (see above map) then turned south to take Hill 239 and facilitate the German troops leaving the pocket. At least 36,000 men escaped from the pocket with III Panzer Korps suffering 600 dead, 350 missing and 2,250 wounded, losing 156 Panzers and Sturmgeschutzen. The Soviets lost 80,000 men and 600 tanks. The alleged fixed bayonets charge against Hill 239 was not reported by eyewitnesses such as Obersturmfuhrer Hahls - see next article, simply the targeting of the mass of fleeing and panicked German soldiers by T34s, artillery and heavy machine guns was utterly devastating. The Soviets ability to strike south in force and destroy Generalfeldmarschall's Army Group South and end World War 2 January 1944 was missed due to the Red Army's inability to deploy massed formations of combined forces with effect. German armed forces won crucial local engagements thereby forcing the Soviets to deviate from their haphazard plans, if any!
Soviet units were depleted with Red Army Commissars press ganging newly liberated civilian men into army ranks. Civilians, partly armed and uniformed infiltrated German lines and when rounded up had very few weapons they were highly ineffective and verified the poor quality of Soviet armed forces. German depleted units could not replace losses, so that both armies were almost equal in fighting strength. Soviet tanks traversed the battle field with closed hatches so that German tanks could destroy them with ease. Both sides claimed victory. The tremendous loss of life on the Soviet side reflected Stalin's total disregard for human life, he killed more people than Hitler.
Who cared about German and Soviet soldiers fighting a war of annihilation on the OstFront from two discredited totalitarian regimes? The United States cares about the OstFront, every detail, particularly after action reports are stored in the US Military Archive where they are used for recreated war games because the US expected to fight the Soviets particularly during the Cold War. Books written about the OstFront command high prices.
Source: The Korsun Pocket, N Zetterling and A Frankson, Casemate, 2011;
Panzer Divisions, P.P. Battistelli, Osprey Publishing, 2009; The Battle of Korsun-Cherkassy, The Encirclement and Breakout of Army Group south, 1944, Nikolaus von Vormann