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> 49. The Defence and the Evacuation of Crimea
Posted: July 15, 2004 08:33 pm
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by Teofil Oroian

The military actions carried out by the German and the Romanian troops for defending Crimea during 1943-1944 detach themselves in the plan of the military history through the ampleness of the forces and means used (more than 700,000 men on both sides, 800 armoured vehicles, almost 9,000 cannons, 1,400 aircraft etc), through the complex character of the military actions of the forces involved in (land, air and navy forces), through the multifarious logistic problems raised in their course. The mission for defending "Crimean Fortress" which assured the control, both on sea and from the air, under the area of the centre and of the eastern part of the Black Sea, offering possibilities for the Axis to turn over the Soviet front on the Dnieper, but also to oblige the powerful Black Sea Fleet to keep distance in its refuge basis from Caucasus — was assigned, in October 1943, to the 17th German Army, that included, too, seven Romanian divisions. After rejecting the 6th German Army out of the south of Ukraine, the Soviet forces locked up the Perekop Isthmus on November 1, 1943, then establishing a bridgehead over the Sivash Sea, in the north, and in Kerci Peninsula, in the east, thus isolating on land the forces of the 171h German Army in Crimea. The only communication ways left were now those on the sea and in the air.

Being warried about the extremely difficult situation of the Romanian Divisions (and still it was increasing in gravity each day), respectively the 10th and 19th Infantry, 6th and 9th Cavalry, 1st and 3rd Mountain, that were disposed in a circular defensive system within the structure of the V and XLIX German Army Corps, also grasping the uselessness of such an action as the stubborn defence of the Crimea Peninsula was, Marshal Ion Antonescu took various and steadfast steps for bringing them back in the country. But all the Romanian demarches concerning this problem met the decision of the Fiihrer to keep Crimea - at any price — without taking into account the dangerous situation which existed in the Nogay Steppe. On October 28, 1943, Marshal Ion Antonescu sent an imperative message (in a letter form) to Hitler, in which he expressed his serious concerns about the fate of the seven Romanian divisions, marking proposals for their immediate evacuation through the Perekop Isthmus, that was not yet locked up. The answer which Hitler gave to this proposal on October 29 was a negative one. He again expressed his frrm decision to hold Crimea under his control. Yet, the f act was that Hitler's wishes did not took into account the Soviets' plans for reconquering Crimea. After several lame attempt, the Soviet Supreme Command decided to start an ample offensive operation, which purposed "to disipate and annihilate the enemy's group of forces by simultaneous blows executed by General F.I.Tolbuhin, from the north, from Perekop and Sivash, and by the Independent Seashore Army, led by General A.I.Eremenko, from the east, from the Kerci Peninsula, to the general direction Simferopol-Sevastopol, supported by the Black Sea Fleet, by the air big units of middle range and also by the partisan detachments". From the begin-ning of this operation, in the structure of the two Soviet groups of forces were 470,000 military men, 5,982 artillery pieces (mortars also included), 560 tanks and armoured vehicles, more that 1,000 aircrafts and the Black Sea Fleet.

During 1944

Yet planned to start in March 1944, the Soviet offensive operation for recon-quering Crimea was delayed because of the unfavourable weather and of the big storm in the Azov Sea, another term being fixed in April 1944. So, the offensive was launched on April 8, 1944 by the IV Ukrainean Front with the 2nd Guard Army and the 51st Army, which breach the defensive positions held by the German and Romanian troops since the first day.

Carrying its action on a front wide of over 40 km, the Soviet mass of troops that attacked in the northern part of Crimea reached on April 10 the alig-ment: 8 km east of Karanky south of Tomaschevka, 10 km west of Karanki, 13 kms south of Armyansk and began to follow the troops which withdrew, using the big units of the 2nd Guard Army, along the western seashore towards Eupatoria and those of the 51st Army in the central part of the peninsula, to the general direction Simferopol. The strong pressure of the Soviet forces, the lack of reserves and also the danger to be encircled by intercepting the lines of retreat of the German and Romanian forces from the Kerci Peninsula obliged the 17th German Army to give the order for the beginning of the retreat and of the evacuation, on April 10, in accordance with "Adler" code name of the operation. Hitler approved the retreat, but he ordered that Sevastopol should be kept as long as possible; from there only the wounded, the personnel of the logistic formations, different materials and other disposable forces were to be evacuated.

In a first phase, the 17th German Army withdrew to the defensive line "Gneissenau", thus forcing the Romanian troops that were under the operative coomand of its Headquarters to obey the given orders, even in the worst possible conditions. As an exemple, the rearguard of the V German Army Corps — which got out of the positions in Kerci only one day before the Soviet offensive was launched by the Independent Seashore Army -was constituted by the troops of the 6 Romanian Cavalry Division. Up to Parpaci position, the retreat of the German and of the Romanian troops from Kerci and from the Black Sea was executed in accordance with the provisions of the "Adler" hypothesis. But starting with this, because of the hastened events on the front Perekop-Sivash, of the interccption of the road Kerci-Feodosia-Simfcropol at Suia and Karasubassar, between Kerci and Feodosia, by the Soviets, and also because of the extremely violent partisans' actions, the retreat could not be carried out on the road Kerci-Simferopol-Sevastopol, but to another way: Sudak-Alusta-Yalta-Sevastopol. The heaviest losses were suffered by the 6th Cavalry Division in the rearguard, and also by the 3rd Mountain Division, which was "continously harassed by the guerilla formations".

Concomitantly with the withdrawal of "Konrad" Group, from the north, and "Allmendinger" from the east, the new defensive line at Sevastopol was set up. Here, the German Command introduced, starting with April 13, 4 battalions from the lst Mountain Division, 3 battalions from the 2nd Mountain Division, and the entire artillery of these two Romanian big tactical units. Also, the 3rd Romanian Mountain Division, composed of three battalions, replaced the V German Army Cdrps, that withdrew being in strong contact with the Soviet Independent Seashore Army. As a matter of facts, until the morning of April 15, the defence disposition of Sevastopol was realized exclusively by using Romanian units, under the direct command of the 17th German Army.

The Evacuation

In spite of the dramatic situation on the front, Hitler maintained his decision to resist. By diminishing the width of the defensive front he admitted, at last, the idea of carrying back a number of combatants. Thus started, on April 14, 1944, the evacuation operation, also called "The 60,000" Operation, which was performed mainly by the Romanian Military Navy's forces and also by the German similar ones. Until April 27 a number of 27,140 Romanian military men were evacuated and carried to Constanţa by ships. But in this moments the German Command ceased the evacuation, hoping that the forces under its command would keep the bridgehead at Sevastopol.

The Soviet offensive restarted on May 1, 1944, carried on by the divisions of the 2nd Guard Army, 51st Army and Independent Seashore Army, which on May 9 entered Sevastopol. The main body of the Romanian-German forces that still had remained in Crimea left the city during the night of May 7/8, withdrawing in the Kersones bridghead, with the view to be repatriated by sea or by air. The Romanian troops' evacuation began on May 11, in extremely difficult condi-tions, produced by the intense fire curtain sustained by the artillery in the area of the embarkment beaches and because of the very active presence of the Soviet aircraft, that sunk 3 of the Romanian trading ships involved in the crossing sea operation, also impedding the salvation operations.

During the evacuation of Crimea 42,190 Romanian military men were brought back in the country (39,194 of them by sea and 3,056 by air), which totalize about 90% from the effective of the Romanian troops withdrawn to Sevastopol. In such extremely complex, heavy and difficult conditions, the losses suffered by the Romanian big units in Crimea during April-May 1944 raised at 22,139 military men (from which 731 were officers, 629 N.C.Os and 20,716 soldiers). That represented 34% of the whole effective of the forces remained in the peninsula before the Soviet offensive was launched. Since November l, 1943, when the German troops and the Romanian ones were blocked in Crimea, until the complete evacuation of these men (May 13, 1944), the total losses raised at 30,897 dead, wounded and missing, among them 1,018 officers.

"The 60,000 Operation" proved the capacity of the Romanian Headquarters, of the commanding officers and of the troops to find a way out from any critical situation.

Our forces and the allied ones, too, withdrew continuing their fight along the Crimean land, avoided any attempt to be encircled, resisted to an enemy superior in forces and means and held blocked in the peninsula a considerable number of Soviet troops. The friendly air and the naval forces have cooperated, in the limits of their possibilities, with the view to put a good end to the evacuation. This way, the ambitious Soviet plan to destroy completely the German and the Romanian troops in Crimea was not accomplished, in the very last end.
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Posted: January 25, 2014 08:09 pm
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Russian book "The Crimeea liberation. The documents show it" :
11.04.44 at 6.00 The 16.Sov.Riffle Corps (gen.K.I.Provalov) liberated Kerch.
The 9.Rom.Cav.Reg. CO, (from the 6.Cav.Div.), taken prisoner, stated [?] :
"My Reg. was defending at south of Kerch city. When Russians broke the German defenses and went out to the road Kerch - Feodosia, it appeared the danger of encirclement for the regiment. The Germans retreated and I ordered the withdrawal on "The Turkish Wave" line. We failed to get the new defending position because Russian tanks appeared at the left flank. Seeing the Germans fled, Romanian soldiers had to surrender the whole squadrons … the orders I gave to squadron CO's were not executed. The 9.Cav.Reg. was completely destroyed, no soldier has passed from the Kerch peninsula. All tehnic and attached artillery was captured by the Russians(SovInformBureau, Moskva)

This post has been edited by Petre on January 25, 2014 08:13 pm
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