Ethan Rowe Mr.
Powell Period 8 In May of 1945 the concluding battle of World War II in Europe was taken place. From the Allies side of the battle there were many different generals working together to accomplish the goal of decisively defeating Germany.For Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, Berlin was the major prize and he feared that the Red Army might be beaten to the city by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s 21st Army Group that was advancing rapidly from Holland into North Germany after German resistance in the west had more or less collapsed after the failure of the Ardennes offensive in December 1944 and the surrounding of Army Group B in the Ruhr Pocket in March 1945. This was averted however, by General Dwight D.
Eisenhower’s (Supreme Allied Commander) change of mind. In September 1944 he had outlined his belief in a letter to his two principle subordinate commanders, Montgomery and General Omar Bradley, that ” . . .
. Berlin is the main prize . . .
. There is no doubt whatsoever, in my mind, that we should concentrate all our energies and resources on a rapid thrust to Berlin” and “it is my desire to move on Berlin by the most direct and expeditious route”. (Strawson, pp. 03 – 4) Montgomery wrote back and urged the Supreme Commander to decide what was necessary to go for Berlin, plan and organise the operation and then undertake it to “finish the war”.
(Strawson, p. 104) While plans existed for crossing the Rhine and at the same time encircling the Ruhr, something that would be effected by the US 9th Army under Montgomery’s 21st Army Group and the US 1st Army from Bradley’s 12th Army Group, there were no real plan for what was to happen afterwards.Eisenhower’s strategy had always favoured a broad front advance but there was a lack of decision on what would happen once the Allied forces had rejoined and created a unified front again, roughly in the area of Kassel, apart from a vague notion of making a “great thrust to the eastward”. (Strawson, p.
104) The British had always viewed Berlin as the central objective and had envisaged that their forces, 21st Army Group, would be the ones to make the main thrust to the north and east. Indeed, Montgomery had already issued orders that after the encirclement of he Ruhr was complete, the British 2nd and US 9th Armies would advance with maximum speed to the River Elbe via Hamburg and Magdeburg while the Canadian 1st Army cleared Holland. Eisenhower effectively demolished this plan by continuing to plan for a broad front offensive with the US 9th Army reverting to Bradley’s command in order to help conduct mopping up operations in the Ruhr and then advance eastwards to an Erfurt – Leipzig – Dresden line with Montgomery’s 21st Army Group protecting the northern flank and General Jacob Devers’ 6th Army Group protecting the southern flank.Eisenhower thus intended to concentrate the Western Allies’ advance in the centre with Bradley in order to meet the Soviet advance around Dresden and cut Germany in two – as far as he was concerned, Berlin had become “nothing but a geographical location; I have never been interested in those.
My purpose is to destroy the enemy forces and his power to resist. While it is easy to see Eisenhower’s decision in light of the fact that at the time it was made, Montgomery’s 21st Army Group was still 300 miles from Berlin and the Soviets, who had reached the River Oder, were less than 50 miles from the city; that Model’s Army Group B in the Ruhr should be properly dealt with so that there was no chance of them breaking out and reforming a coherent defensive line in the centre; or that Hitler might retire to the ‘National Redoubt’ in the Bavarian and Austrian mountains that might require many months and the expenditure of large resources to reduce.What is not so easy to understand is that, given Eisenhower’s insistence that military operations should be in pursuit of political aims (and therefore in line with Clausewitz’s dictum of “war is the continuation of state policy by other means”), and given Berlin’s enormous importance as a political objective, why he suddenly made a complete turnabout and pronounced it as having no significance, as well as it having the one military objective that would destroy the German will to resist with its capture or demise – Adolf Hitler.The pleasure with which this change of mind was received (in a communication sent to Stalin, the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff on 28 March) in Moscow was equal to the consternation in London.
The British Chiefs of Staff were upset as they thought that: * Firstly, by communicating directly with Stalin, he had usurped the authority of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, their Governments and their Chiefs of Staff. * Secondly, the threat of a National Redoubt in Bavaria / Austria was exaggerated.
Thirdly, the Baltic and North Sea ports were of greater importance to eliminate the dangers of another U-Boat offensive as well as the liberation of Denmark and Norway which contained substantial enemy forces, or might more realistically harbour the enemies last main point of resistance. While Churchill had some sympathy for these views, he knew very well that Eisenhower’s prestige in Washington at that moment was very high and knew that it was vital to try and elicit from the Soviets their views as to the best points of contact between the two armies.Churchill criticised the change of plan because it shifted the axis of advance – the continuation of the drive on Berlin was of paramount importance as the rapid advances by the Western Allies had surprised and annoyed the Soviets and that “Nothing will exert a psychological effect of despair upon all German forces or resistance equal to that of the fall of Berlin”. (Strawson, p.
10) Churchill had already seen, not only the ending of the current great conflict, but the beginnings of the next, with the Soviets already going back on things that had been agreed at Yalta – the Allied Armies had to meet the Soviets as far east as they could get, and if possible take Berlin, as it was very likely that the Soviets would take Vienna. Eisenhower however, remained steadfast, supported by both Bradley and the US Combined Chiefs of Staff.Writing later, Bradley comments “We were less concerned with postwar political alignments than destruction of what remained of the German Army . .
. . As soldiers we looked naively on this British inclination to complicate the war with political foresight and non military objectives. ” (Strawson, p.
111) Naivety indeed – so much for Clausewitz’s dictum (http://www. historyofwar. org/articles/battles_berlin. html, Allied Plans).
Stalin’s reply to Eisenhower broadly agreed with the Supreme Allied Commander’s plan, with the exception of the use of liaison officers, in that: * Firstly, the Red Army and Western Allies should meet on the line of Erfurt – Leipzig – Dresden. * Secondly, Berlin had lost its strategic importance and only secondary forces would be allotted to its capture. * Thirdly, the main thrust by Soviet forces would begin in the second half of May. * Fourthly, the Germans were reinforcing the eastern front with the 6th SS Panzer Army, as well as three divisions from Italy and two from Norway.
It is obvious that the second and third points were in fact deliberate falsifications by Stalin to try and hide what he was really planning – to enhance Soviet prestige and establish the Communist domination of Eastern and Central Europe by the Soviet Union by entering Berlin first. This was born out by what happened in reality – a sequence of events that bore no resemblance to the message and something that even Churchill commented on. Stalin, while at the Soviet Main Planning Conference with Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov (Commander, 1st Byelorussian Front), Marshal Ivan S.
Koniev (Commander, 1st Ukrainian Front), General Antonev (Soviet General Staff) and General Shtemenko (Main Operations Directorate) on 1 April, asked Shtemenko to read out a telegram that indicated that the Western Allies were planning an operation to seize Berlin and that with Montgomery’s 21st Army Group already approaching the Elbe, they could get to the city before the Red Army (whether this was faulty intelligence or just a ploy of Stalin’s is open to question).Both front commanders readily declared that they should be the one to take Berlin. Zhukov lay in the better position, immediately east of Berlin with Koniev to his south who would only be able to directly assault the German capital after a considerable degree of redeployment.Stalin, always willing to stoke the rivalry between the two men, knew that the operational boundary between the two fronts, as drawn by the Soviet General Staff, ran from just south of Guben on the River Neisse via Michendorf to Schonebeck on the River Elbe and so silently erased it after Lubben on the River Spree implying that after this point, whatever happened was up to the commanders – whoever reached there first, would have the first crack at the capital.
To the north of Zhukov, the 2nd Byelorussian Front under Marshal Konstantin K. Rokossovsky was still engaged in East Prussia but would continue its advance westward to the north of Berlin as soon as it was practicable.To the south of Koniev, the 4th (under Col Gen I. E.
Petrov, then General I. A. Yeremenko) and 2nd (under Marshal Rodion Y. Malinovsky) Ukrainian Fronts would continue to advance into Czechoslovakia and to the south of them, the 3rd Ukrainian Front under Marshal Fedor I.
Tolbukhin would continue to drive west through Hungary and into Austria (http://www. historyofwar. rg/articles/battles_berlin. html, Stalin’s Deception).
Both men had just forty-eight hours to come up with a draft plan. After weeks of heavy fighting, they had hoped to be able to stop, rest, re-equip and reinforce their commands before the start of the next big offensive in May (something that Stalin had indicated to Eisenhower as well) but it was obvious that Stalin intended them to move much sooner. The two commanders, who would be vying for first place in Berlin, approached the task in different ways.Zhukov, whose 1st Byelorussian Front was only 50 miles directly east of Berlin, already had a small bridgehead across the River Oder at Kustrin and would use over 140 searchlights to blind the defenders and almost 10,000 artillery pieces in a short sharp barrage of 30 minutes.
Concealment was a real problem for Zhukov as the initial assault elements of the front (which contained four field and two tank armies, with another four field armies supporting the flanks) was packed into the small bridgehead and spring had come late this year with many trees still leafless and the ground sodden.Koniev on the other hand prepared to attack under cover of darkness with a barrage that would last 145 minutes. Overall, the Soviets deployed one gun for every thirteen feet of front. The targets for the bombardment and initial assaults were targeted with as much precision as possible, but despite extensive aerial and ground reconnaissance, Zhukov failed to identify the main line of resistance on the Seelow Heights (http://www.
historyofwar. org/articles/battles_berlin. html, A New Offense is Planned). Zhukov’s 1st Byelorussian Front attacked at 05.
0 on the 16th April and Koniev’s 1st Ukrainian Front at 06. 15. Although Koniev’s attack across the River Neisse went well, Zhuvok’s forces soon ran into trouble. The battle just west of the River Oder proved to be no walkover as the Seelow Heights were a critical defensive position in Army Group Vistula’s sector, and the Germans, under no illusions as to what a Soviet breakthrough would mean, fought desperately.
The Army Group had been under Col Gen G. Heinrici since the end of March after Hitler replaced Himmler with Heinrici, a veteran of the Eastern Front and expert on defensive tactics.He had pulled his men back from the forward positions just before the start of the attack and thus the artillery bombardment hit only empty positions while the searchlights merely lit up the Soviet tanks and infantry for the German gunners to rake with murderous fire. Stalin was furious at the delay, as well as Zhukov’s attempt to overcome it – the deployment of his mobile reserves, the 1st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies – that contravened Stavka’s (the Soviet High Command) orders.
After fierce fighting, Zhukov overcame the positions on the Seelow Heights but because of German reinforcements (Col Gen Helmuth Weidling’s LVI Panzer Corps) still found the going tough. As a result, Stalin ordered Koniev to direct his armoured forces directly at Berlin with the result that two Soviet Fronts were advancing for the city. All this proved too much for General Theodor Busse’s 9th Army and by 20 April, the German forces defending the approaches to Berlin had been overrun or routed, with Zhukov having cracked the three defensive lines in the Oder-Neisse area and had taken the Seelow Heights and Muncheberg. Rokossovsky’s 2nd Byelorussian Front also started its attack westwards forcing General Hasso von Manteuffel’s 3rd Panzer Army into retreat.
Koniev ordered his two tank armies (3rd and 4th Guards) to break into Berlin and both he and Zhukov tasked spearhead elements to continue westwards where contact was first made with American forces near Torgau on 25 April. Soviet long-range artillery had already started to pound what remained of Berlin to rubble, already heavily damaged by Anglo-American aerial bombardment, and, as the Soviets knew, rubble could make a formidable fortress. On 23 April, Stalin decreed that Zhukov had won the race and placed the front boundary line 150m west of the Reichstag, the main prize, placing it in 1st Byelorussian Front’s sector.Berlin was completely encircled by the 25 April, as was Busse’s 9th Army and elements of General F.
Graser’s 4th Panzer Army, in the area between Lubben, Zossen and Beeskow. Hitler had sent an impassioned plea for assistance to Gen Wenck to disengage his 12th Army from the Elbe near Magdeburg and march to the relief of Berlin. It is to Wenck’s credit that not only did he attempt this manoeuvre but managed to reach Potsdam before encountering Soviet resistance that was just too strong. He picked up the Potsdam Garrison and over 30,000 survivors of the 9th Army and withdrew westwards, hoping to surrender to the Americans (http://www.
istoryofwar. org/articles/battles_berlin. html, Operation Berlin Starts).While this was going on, Zhukov and Koniev had completed the encirclement of the city by 25 April and started to close in to what Goebbel’s Propaganda Ministry was describing as ‘Fortress Berlin’.
While the city had been preparing for a siege since January, the defences were still rudimentary and makeshift due to the lack of resources – certainly no match for the forces that were about to assault them but the defending forces could muster almost 100,000 troops (including the LVI Panzer Corps, reinforced by the 18th Panzergrenadier and 11th SS ‘Nordland’ Panzergrenadier Divisions) in a variety of makeshift formations. Certainly the urban terrain, with its many canals and rivers and damage done by bombing and artillery fire, naturally favoured the defence. The main attack started the next day, with the Germans fighting tenaciously, making skilful use of buildings and rubble to conduct sniping, counterattacks and ambushes, while many of the high flak towers were able to fire down onto the advancing Soviet forces.After two days of bitter fighting, Zhukov’s forces had reached Charlottenburg in the west and the River Spree in the Moabit area further east.
His forces, in clockwise order, were the 47th Army (advancing towards the Ketzin – Spandau area, eventually joining up with 4th Guards Tank Army from Koniev’s 1st Ukrainian Front), 2nd Guards Tank Army (Charlottenburg and Moabit), 3rd Shock Army (advancing south from the Pankow area), 5th Shock Army (advancing west from the Lichtenburg area), 8th Guards Army and 1st Guards Tank Army (advancing northwest from the Neukolln and Tempelhof areas).To the west of the 8th Guards Army lay Koniev’s forces with 28th Army (advancing from the Steglitz area), 3rd Guards Tank Army (advancing from the Teltow area) and 4th Guards Tank Army (advancing towards the Ketzin – Spandau area) The bridge on the Potsdamerstrasse was seized on the 28th and in the face of fierce opposition from the SS ‘Anhalt’ Regiment, the attack began on the Tiergarten (Zoo). Maj Gen S. I.
Perevertkin prepared his 79th Rifle Corps (comprising the 150th, 171st and 207th Rifle Divisions) to storm the Reichstag, but first the Soviets would have to overcome some serious obstacles.In front of the Reichstag lay Konigsplatz, across which there lay a water-filled antitank ditch and behind this numerous gun pits, artillery emplacements and trenches connected to the Reichstag itself. Additional mortars and artillery pieces were sited in the Tiergarten and the whole area was mined. As with every other building in the area, the Reichstag itself had been heavily fortified with the lower storeys being reinforced with steel rails and concrete and the doors and windows bricked up to provide loopholes.
It also had street-level cellar windows, which proved to be natural gun embrasures and the construction site for the abandoned U-Bahn (Underground) tunnel nearby was readily incorporated into the defence system. The area was defended by between 5 and 6,000 German troops of all kinds, including Army regulars, SS, Allgemeine-SS (defending the Ministry of the Interior), Volkssturm and 250 sailors from the ‘Grossadmiral Donitz’ Naval Battalion, reinforced with large numbers of stragglers and some tanks from the 11th ‘Herman von Salza’ Tank Battalion, the majority of whom were in the Reichstag itself (http://www. istoryofwar. org/articles/battles_berlin.
html, Berlin Under Siege). By the early morning of the 30th, the Soviets had seized the Moltke Bridge over the River Spree (despite German attempts to blow it), the western half of the Diplomatic Quarter and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, all of which were taken with heavy casualties. By this time, the Garrison had been squeezed into a long thin pocket running almost directly east to west from Charlottenburg in the west to the Prenzlauer Alee in the east.With the area to the northwest secured, the three divisions of the 79th Rifle Corps began their attack towards the Reichstag on the morning of 30 April.
The 171st Rifle Division (380th, 525th and 783rd Rifle Regiments) headed east then south following the River Spree in order to flank the Reichstag, 150th Rifle Division (469th, 674th and 756th Rifle Regiments) headed south then east across Konigsplatz to assault the Reichstag from the front and 207th Rifle Division (594th, 597th and 598th Rifle Regiments) headed southwest past the Kroll Opera towards the Charlottenburger Chausee.Three assaults at 04. 30, 11. 30 and 13.
00 were beaten back with heavy losses although the 171st Rifle Division managed to clear the eastern half of the Diplomatic Quarter and secure the southern end of the Kronprinzen Bridge against possible German counterattacks from across the river. It also enabled the Soviets to introduce tanks and self-propelled artillery forward of the antitank ditch to help the exposed infantry. At 14. 25, Maj Gen V.
M. Shatilov (Commander, 150th Rifle Division) reported that he thought he had seen a Red Flag over the steps of the Reichstag near the right-hand column.As the leading battalions contained a number of groups eager to have a go at planting a flag on the Reichstag, including a group of volunteers from Corps Headquarters under his aide, Major M. M.
Bondar with the 380th Rifle Regiment and some gunners under Captain V. N. Makov with the 756th, this report did not seem too unlikely. The wild enthusiasm with which the report was sent resulted in Zhukov issuing Operation Order No.
6 of that that read “Units of the 3rd Shock Army . . . having broken the resistance of the enemy, have captured the Reichstag and hoisted our Soviet Flag on it today, April 30th, 1945, at 14.
25 hours. ” (Le Tissier, p. 68) This false report was sent to Moscow and abroad but when war correspondents converged on the Reichstag, they found Soviet infantry had only advanced halfway across Konigsplatz. Aware of his error, Shatilov ordered his division to raise a flag or pennant on the building, whatever the cost.
The attack was renewed at 18. 00 with the support of armour and artillery and after heavy casualties, Soviet infantry managed to make it to the front steps of the building with its still intact bricked-up doorways. Fortunately, they carried two light mortars with them and so managed to blast a small hole in the brickwork allowing them in.What followed was desperate hand-to-hand fighting as the Soviets sought to expand the bridgehead.
By the time they had established telephone communications with regimental headquarters, they had managed to fight their regimental and battalion standards up to the second floor. As more and more Soviet troops broke in, close quarters fighting spread out over the whole building with the Germans putting up very stiff resistance, using every weapon they could lay their hands on and the Soviets trying to find their way in the darkened, unfamiliar rooms. Finally, the special banner party with Red Banner No. containing Sergeants M.
A. Yegorov and M. V. Kantaria managed to find their way around to the rear of the building where there was a stairway up to the roof.
Finding a mounted statue, they wedged the staff of their banner into a convenient crevice and thus the Red Flag, at 22. 50 on 30 April 1945, finally flew over the Reichstag (Red Army Target No. 105), and therefore Berlin. Bitter German resistance continued however, and it would not be until the morning of 2 May that fighting finally ceased in the Reichstag, with the remaining 2,500 defenders surrendering to Soviet forces.
By then, German resistance in the city as a whole was crumbling with elements of the 5th Shock Army, 8th Guards Army and 1st Guards Tank Army approaching the Reich Chancellery and the Fuhrerbunker having crossed Potsdamer Strasser and reached Potsdam Station to the southwest, crossed Kopenicker Strasse and the Landwehr Canal to the southeast and having crossed Lanberger Strasse to the east, were advancing down the Unter Den Linden.With no possibility of relief, Hitler had vowed to take his own life, rather than be captured by the Soviets. He named Admiral Donitz his successor and stripped Goring and Himmler of their offices, the former for trying to take power, the latter for putting out peace feelers. After dictating his will and political testament, Hitler and Eva Braun, his wife for one day, retired to their quarters in the Fuhrerbunker and committed suicide.
The exact manner of their deaths and what happened immediately afterwards has always been something historians have argued over, but the general consensus being that Hitler shot himself and Eva Braun took poison, their bodies being hastily cremated just outside the bunker. Goebbels followed suit on the 1 May and Weidling drafted an order for the remainder of the garrison to lay down its arms on the morning of 2 May 1945, and signalled such to Col Gen V. I. Chuikov.
A number of refugee groups, including both civilian and military personnel managed to break out and flee westwards, but at 15. 00 the Soviet artillery stopped firing, the sudden silence as they say, was deafening. The Battle for Berlin was over (http://www. historyofwar.
org/articles/battles_berlin. html, The Reichstag in Site). In Conclusion this is how The battle for Berlin was planned out, and executed by the Army Groups, and Generals of the Allied powers in Europe.Works Cited1.) Antill, P., Battle for Berlin: April – May 1945, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_berlin.html