Wehrmacht History 1935 to 1945


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22nd June 1941

WWII Timeline

Events On This Day

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters and bombers made daylight raid on Northern France. Thirty Luftwaffe fighters destroyed for loss of two. Bremen and Wilhelmshaven main targets of night raids. Others were Emden, Bremerhaven and Duesseldorf.

The Russian front

Operation Barbarossa
The Wehrmacht had amassed 3,206,000 soldiers and over 3,330 assorted panzers. Over 7,100 artillery pieces 600,000 motor vehicles 625,000 horses 250 assault guns, the Luftwaffe had amassed 2,840 aircraft.

Northern Sector

Erich Hoepner, 4th Panzer group attacked from the East Prussian frontier north of Memel and south of Tilsit. Supported by heavy artillery fire, and air intervention, Georg-Hans Reinhardt 41st Panzer Corps and Erich von Manstein 56th Panzer Corps struck Sobennikov's 8th Army, taking the Soviet command by surprise. Forward units were easily overrun. Erich von Manstein 56th Panzer Corps pierced the 8th Army's left flank and advanced quickly through closely wooded territory, and went by Rasainiai to reach the Dubissa River and secure a crossing after a audacious assault upon their Airogola viaduct.

Rasainiai fell to supporting in infantry after a brief engagement Georg-Hans Reinhardt 41st Panzer Corps launched its assault from Tilsit, hitting a single rifle division in the centre of the 8th Army with two panzer, one motorised and one infantry divisions. The lone defending division fighting desperately at the frontier was unable to hold back the German attacks and collapsed opening the road to Taurage. Pushing deep into the frontier zone Georg-Hans Reinhardt 41st Panzer Corps, The advance was slower than Erich von Manstein 56th Panzer Corps as the Soviets hurled repeated counter-attacks. Fyodor Kuznetsov attempted to rally his forces throughout the day, but the Luftwaffe's air superiority precluded any effective countermeasures at the border. The Headquarters of the Baltic military district, now renamed the North West front at Subach, along with many Soviet command and communication facilities came under fierce attack by the Luftwaffe As the panzers pressed ahead, the infantry began their long march.

The 18th Army commanded by Georg von Küchler moving out of its cramped assembly areas behind Erich von Manstein 56th Panzer Corps fanned out into Lithuania, pressing north along the coast towards Libau to lever the right flank of the 8th Army away from the coast. Further inland, costly engagements raged along woodland tracks, a small detachments of Soviet troops ambushed German units delaying the advance before they were destroyed or pulled back into the interior.
General Ernst Busch, led his infantry forward on the right wing of Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) pushing East from the East Prussian border towards Niemen River. These units hit the right wing of the 8th Army and the northern wing of the 11th army. Seriously shaken Fyodor Kuznetsov, armies started to break up. Early on in the day as Erich von Manstein 56th Panzer Corps drove along the road to Airogola viaduct, Fyodor Kuznetsov ordered the 3rd and 12th Mechanised Corps to concentrate for a counter-attack aimed at stopping the Germans pushing towards Siauliai. Subordinating both corps to the 8th Army commanded by Fyodor Kuznetsov ordered an attack at midday on the 23rd June 1941. The 12th Mechanised Corps ordered its forces to co-operate with the 3rd Mechanised Corps and attack the Germans at Taurage. However, due to the catastrophic break down of communications the battlefront commander was for the most part unaware of the dangerous situation evolving on the 11th army's sector. In essence Fyodor Kuznetsov was coping with a lesser of two evils his movements, only delaying Georg-Hans Reinhardt 41st Panzer Corps, advance momentarily, while Erich von Manstein 56th Panzer Corps pressed almost unhampered towards the Dvina River.

Central Sector

Fedor von Bock Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre) started its offensive, as the Luftwaffe arrived over Soviet air bases and military facilities behind the frontier. South West of Vilnius, Hermann Hoth 3rd Panzer Group ripped open the southern flank of Morozov 11th Army pushing the East for the Niemen River. With the 57th Panzer Corps on the left, 39th Panzer Regiment to its right and infantry following, Hermann Hoth 3rd Panzer Group severed the joint of the North West and West Front. As a consequence, Fyodor Kuznetsov was required to detach the 12th Mechanised Corps and the 3rd Mechanised Corps from Sobennikov's 8th Army and bring them South to aid the collapsing 11th Army. Even so, the movement of the two mechanised corps was harassed by the Luftwaffe, and was finally be halted by Georg-Hans Reinhardt 41st Panzer Corps in the first major tank battle of the campaign.

As the advance of the panzers got underway General Adolf Strauß 9th Army hit forward elements of Fyodor Kuznetsov 3rd Army. The surprised Soviet forces already out of touch with their Headquarters and hard pressed by German ground and air attacks endured awful casualties. Provisions ran low towards the end of the day due to relentless Luftwaffe attacks on forward supply dumps. The cohesion of the hard-pressed battlefront formations began to collapse after just the first few hours of armed combat.

Close to Grodno German infantry were involved in a ferocious struggle with the Soviets Fyodor Kuznetsov vainly tried to bring his armour into the battle. But despite that fact the 11th Mechanised Corps was deployed close to Grodno, it could not deploy being hampered in its movements by Albert Kesselring 2nd Air Fleet. Soviet armoured losses on the approach roads were crippling.
In the centre of the Heeresgruppe. Heinz Guderian 2nd Panzer Group launched a ferocious assault upon the garrison of Brest-Litovsk. Despite repeated attacks, they were not able to capture the city, the NKVD (The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) border guards, put up fierce resistance. After confused fighting in the outskirts the Soviets pulled back into the citadel and prepared to resist a sustained German siege. North and South of the city, the rest of Heinz Guderian 2nd Panzer Group started their offensive.

Joachim Lemelsen 47th Panzer Corps moved across the river Bug north of the town and pushed towards Pruzhany, where it met resistance from elements of the 14th Mechanised Corps. Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg 24th Panzer Corps, succeeded in crossing the River Bug south of Brest. As armour penetrated the Soviet defences The marching infantry of Günther von Kluge 4th Army got to grips with the Soviets left behind. As with the Hermann Hoth 3rd Panzer Group, infantry came after each armoured corps of Heinz Guderian 2nd Panzer Group.

As in the North in the centre the Germans had taken the Soviets completely by surprise. The 3rd, 4th and the 10th Armies, together with battlefront commander Dmitry Pavlov, having been caught completely unawares. Many Soviet units were under continuous ground and air attack and broke up in the first few hours of fighting. Nevertheless isolated detachments fought back ferociously inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking German divisions.

The Luftwaffe was extremely active throughout the day, bombing Soviet concentrations at Bialystok, Grodno, Lida, Volkovsky, Brest-Litovsk and Kobrin the latter Headquarters of Andreevich Korobkov 4th Army communications throughout the now redesignated West Front collapsed leaving Dmitry Pavlov, unaware of the disasters that were unfolding around him. In only two hours constant Luftwaffe attacks managed to shatter the command structure of the 4th Army. Fuel and ammunition dumps, came under particularly fierce attack, while numerous airfields were disabled. K.D. Golubev 10th Army, deep inside the Bialystok salient also came in for a considerable beating many of its supply facilities being lost.

Across the Central sector, the Soviet defences continue to remain wide open. K.D. Golubev 10th Army, in spite of fierce fighting were already losing their battle against Adolf Strauß 9th Army and Günther von Kluge 4th Army. With much of his rear services destroyed. It was only a matter of time before the army bled to death. K.D. Golubev reported to Dmitry Pavlov, that is 6th Cavalry Corps had been all but decimated and the remnants of his frontier rifle divisions were falling back. In an effort to restore the situation, Dmitry Pavlov, ordered the 14th Mechanised Corps to move from Pruzhany and launch an immediate counter-attack to throw the Germans back to the border. Despite severe difficulties in deploying the 14th Mechanised Corps managed to engage the 18th Panzer Division (Joachim Lemelsen 47th Panzer Corps) and embroiled it in a drawn-out armoured dual for most of the day.

By dusk, the Germans had committed elements of the 28th Rifle Corps (Günther von Kluge 4th Army) in Brest-Litovsk and determined to capture the city as quickly as possible. At the same time K.D. Golubev decided to begin the withdrawal of his 10th Army behind the Narew River to prevent its encirclement the collapse of his northern and southern flanks having jeopardised the whole army. The 6th Mechanised Corps was ordered to move up to the Narew River to protect the rear of the retiring rifle divisions. In an effort to ascertain what was happening at the K.D. Golubev 10th Army, Dmitry Pavlov sent his deputy General Boldin, to K.D. Golubev unit. Late in the evening General Boldin managed to locate K.D. Golubev, whose Headquarters had been moved to some woods South West of Bialystok. Here General Boldin was informed that the 10th Army had suffered extremely severe casualties, and the 6th Mechanised Corp's was badly short of tanks, but was moving to the east bank of Narew River to cover the withdrawal of the frontier units. Reporting these developments to Dmitry Pavlov, General Boldin was ordered to put a shock group together to stop any potential German incursion towards Volkovysk. During the night of the 22nd to 23rd June 1941 General Boldin trying to put together his small force. He planned to attack towards Grodno from the Northeast of Bialystok, where he assumed the 11th Mechanised Corp was already in action.

Southern Sector

Field Marshal Rudolf von Rundstedt Heeresgruppe Süd launched the first phase of its offensive against Soviet forces in the north west Ukraine. Once again the Luftwaffe was very active, attacking Soviet defences and airfields across the entire combat sector. Within hours the Luftwaffe had destroyed nearly 300 Soviet aircraft. While the Luftwaffe pounded Soviet ground and air forces, German panzers and infantry crossed the frontier. Paul von Kleist 1st Panzer Group with Walter von Reichenau 6th Army in close support, crossed the border between Rava-Russki and Strumilov to maintain pressure upon the joint of the Soviet 4th, 5th and 6th Armies. In the Rava-Russki region the 6th Rifle Corps was heavily engaged and despite bitter fighting, failed to prevent German forces crossing the River Bug. Assault troops successfully overwhelmed the NKVD (The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) guards on the bridges over the River Bug, opening the road to the interior.

The 3rd Panzer Corps, 14th and the 48th Panzer Corps of Paul von Kleist 1st Panzer Group were able to begin their advance towards Kiev, with only minor losses. Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel 17th Army also attacked, aiming to crush the Soviet 6th and 26th Armies deployed around Lvov. Fierce battles raged between Tomasov and Przemysel as the German infantry fought to break through the Russian frontier units. Around Przemysl, the 8th Rifle Corps of Kostenko's 26th Army, tried to hold of these attacks, but failed to prevent a crossing of the San River. Late in the day Przemysl fell to the Germans, but the 8th three Corps launched an prompt counter-attack, preventing the German exploitation of their gains.

As the day went on, the Germans set up secure bridgeheads over the River Bug so that by noon both Walter von Reichenau 6th Army and Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel 17th Army were across the river which had barred their advance. Amongst fierce fighting the Soviet border formations gave way to the attacks of 3rd Panzer Corps, the 15th Rifle Corps which was on the right flank of Potapov's 5th Army collapsed at the joint of the 5th and 4th Armies. Not long afterwards, the two armies lost contact. Further German pressure against the joint of the 5th and 6th Armies prompted Kirponos the commander of the South West Front as the Kiev military district have been redesignated to commit the 22nd and 4th Mechanised Corp. Nevertheless, by dusk he was aware of the danger represented by the deep advance of Paul von Kleist 1st Panzer Group into the northern flank and began the difficult task of concentrating his armour to counter the German thrust. The main obstacle to the execution of this decision was a complete superiority the Germans had already gained in the air.

In Africa, The British Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers attacked convoy off Libya, damaging one big ship. Night raid on Benghazi.

Near East, Enemy shipping at Beirut attacked by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) destroyer received direct hit and freighter was set on fire.

Go To: 23rd June


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The Second Great War.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

The War Illustrated.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

2194 Days Of War.
ISBN-10: 086136614X

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