Rank and File
A Clerk’s War
Thursday 1st to Monday 5th May 1941
General Rommel tried the ploy of calling off an attack only to resume it straight afterwards, but it may have backfired. When von Sponeck re-engaged Bakunin at Brzesc Litweski he found that the Russian had taken advantage of the break to bring up the revitalised 91 Strelkovaya. Rommel also called back General Gallenkamp’s 87.Infanterie, but that was no stratagem: Novyi Rozdil was becoming an impossible battle for us to win as the Red Army poured in fresh troops.
2nd Battle of Brzesc Litewski
The rest of the day’s events were mainly bombing and aerial reconnaissance reports. Udet informed von Kluge that two cavalry brigades had withdrawn from Chisinau, but Hoffman von Waldau advised that the defenders in Ratno had been reinforced. A new general, Mostovenko, now has 19 units: 2 armour, 2 light armour, 4 motorised, 2 infantry and 3 garrison brigades, with 3 tank destroyer, 2 anti-air and an artillery regiment. General Hansen was not concerned.
At 4PM General Felber made his move into Kobryn. 60. and 62.Infanterie were not too hard pressed: the battle was over by 11PM. 159 Strelkovaya, had taken the brunt of von Sponeck’s attacks in Brezesc Litewski and was in no condition to withstand two infantry divisions at full strength.
Battle of Kobryn
The day ended on a good note: Bolekhiv was ours. General Lvov and his two divisions could not hold off Harpe’s light tanks backed by tens of thousands of Hungarian infantry. I had feared another scan of casualty reports looking for my brother’s name, but all the losses were Hungarian.
Friday there was more information brought back by our aircraft after missions over battlefields. Dörstling obtained photographic evidence that Orhei had received additional troops. Our analysts estimated that the defenders have increased from 32,000 to 36,000, despite two days’ of heavy fighting. At least 6th Kampffliegerkorps reduced that number considerably. Grauert had worse news from Stryj. There is no doubt that the size of Filatov’s force has been boosted by at least 16,000, to 38,000 men. He now has 8 infantry, 3 mountain and 2 motorised brigades with 2 engineer, 2 tank destroyer and an anti-air regiment
Thousands of Russian infantry are marching into Orhei
In the south of Russia, heavy rain again affected our bombers, but it did not slow General Bieß and 10.Infanterie (mot) “Bitburg”. The soldiers manhandled their trucks and equipment along roads that had been turned to mud, while fighting their way north in to Zhmerynka. 42 Kavaleriyskaya could not resist the impetus of the famous Bitburg division and Bieß expects a short and successful battle.
Battle of Zhmerynka
The Luftwaffe had mixed fortunes during the day. At noon Schwartzkopff and 2nd Kampffliegerkorps were ambushed over Dunayivitsi and several dozen of our aircraft were destroyed by Kutakhov and his three fighter brigades. Schwartzkopff not only completed his mission (although its impact was sharply reduced), he returned later in the day. Kutakhov was waiting, but this time Schwartzkopff was not alone. As well as his own fighter escort “Sturm” had nine other Jagdgeschwader to help protect our bombers, and despite the difficulty in controlling such a huge force, the VVS had no affect on the mission.
Air Battle of Dunayivitsi: 5PM 2nd May
Again the day ended well, with victory in Illichivs’k. Friedrich-Willich is now moving into the province, adjacent to Odessa.
Our heavy bomber pilots, resting and recuperating after a bruising initial mission that saw many aircraft shot down, are to be retrained. New techniques have been developed that should improve our performance. The researchers have already begun to examine our strategic bombing tactics, which it is universally agreed, are years behind the rest of the world.
Overnight there was another uprising in Spain, once again involving the Catalan independence fighters. It will be some time before we can get enough troops into the mountains to settle things down.
Loss of La Pobla de Lillet
The first news from the Front on Saturday was shocking, and must have been quite depressing for General Buhle. Unfortunately it was confirmed: more troops had arrived in Stryj and Filatov now had more than 53,000 men. Another 5 infantry brigades, 3 more engineer regiments and another anti-air regiment are available. To make matters worse, Sperrle had been escorted by 800 Hungarian fighters. The resultant chaos over the battlefield meant that 1st Kampffliegerkorps did not inflict a single casualty on its first mission over Stryj. The next mission over Stryj was escorted only by JG 12 “Donner” and results were much better.
A few of the hundreds of Hungarian “Falcos” that are being committed to the air over the Front
While the presence of so many Hungarian fighters badly affected our bombing mission, they were very welcome when Zhavoronkov (with nearly 600 fighters) attempted to hit Sperrle’s bombers. Although the Hungarian Cr.42 “Falcos” did not harm the Russians much, they did prevent them from doing much damage. In the afternoon Sperrle handled things better: his bombers carried out their mission alone, but the Hungarians were close by and ready to intercede when the VVS attacked. Even with the protection of the Hungarian aircraft, we still did lose another ten Focke-wulfs, a s JG 12 threw itself into the battle.
Air Battle of Stryj: 5PM 3rd May
With losses mounting, we placed pressure on our Bulgarian allies. Not surprisingly Prime Minister Bogdan Filov agreed (von Ribbentrop’s “invitation” made the alternatives clear), and already some units of the Bulgarian Army have started to move north. We have requested that they concentrate on the Odessa area.
Our commanders were showing an admirable restraint in predicting the outcome of their battles, as they wait until the day is nearly ended before being confident enough to claim victory. General Bieß was correct: Zhmerynka was both short and successful. The news that brought a few cheers to the normally sedate OKW Aussenstelle Wilhelmstraße was the capture of Brzesc Litewski, albeit at a second attempt. The capture is a credit to General von Sponeck and his men and showed that Rommel’s gamble paid off. Sponeck’s troops suffered dreadful casualties in the first assault, but recovered more quickly than their opponents and were able to seize the fortifications relatively easily.
Finally captured: the remains of the Tiraspol Gate, part of the fortifications of Brzesc Litewski
It what was becoming an unpleasant start for the day, on Sunday morning our bomber pilots came back with more news of overnight troop movements. At least this time not all the news was bad. At Chisinau Iakolev has been relieved and has taken his division out of the province. At Orhei, however, Osyka has welcomed the night’s new arrivals, who have swelled his command to 43,500 men, including no less than 12 infantry brigades.
Bad weather was the story of the day along the front. The morning bombing missions were delayed until 11AM and even then few bomber units were able to fly. Ground movements were also affected, though General Müller started to move into Kamien Koszynski. It is a tribute to the effect our troops have had so far that General Pushkin, leading a tank and an infantry division, immediately started a tactical withdrawal. This was in spite of the fact that neither of his units has been affected by the fighting until now and Müller has just his own 10.Infanterie.
Battle of Kamien Koszynski
Even with the storms and rain along the Front, the day ended brightly. Although the Red Army had made a huge commitment to retaining Stryj, flinging division after division in to the battle, Buhle and his panzers have won a decisive battle, losing less than a thousand men.
Monday the office was in some turmoil, as there were major administrative changes. Late last night, 1st schwere Panzerkorps reached Danzig and was immediately loaded onto transports. At dawn they were on their way to Riga. As our forces in the Riga area were now getting quite impressive, OKH has decided that a new army was needed: 1st Baltic Army. General Kesselring (a relative of the Luftwaffe Generalleutnant of the same name) has taken command of the army. General Student is to lead the newly created 1st Baltic Korps (24th and 31st Infanterie), while our two Fallschimjäger divisions are to be formed into 1st Fallschirmjägerkorps under General Straube. All four korps are attached to 1st Baltic Army, which has been ordered to both secure and hold the city of Riga and start to push south to Kaunas, where it hoped it will meet von Manstein’s Polen Army Nord. If all goes to plan, we should trap more than a dozen Red Army divisions in Lithuania, where they can be crushed.
Parachutists on guard at Riga harbour: now part of 1st Baltic Army
The appalling weather continued, with air missions grounded over most of the Front. One of the few areas of clear sky was over Dunayivtsi, where unfortunately it could not help General Phleps and his exhausted 98.Infantierie. Aerial reconnaissance indicated that the enemy was starting to crumble, with at least one division pulling back, but it was too little, too late. Our motorised division had given its best, but with nearly a quarter of his men dead or missing and his food and ammunition gone, Phleps had no alternative but to retreat. His division has started to move to the rear areas to replenish its ranks.
Not that Poplavski had any respite. The ambitious von Förster volunteered his 25.Infanterie and th second Battle of Dunayivtsi started immediately.
Second Battle of Dunayivtsi
The other battle of Monday was in Zydaczów, where Harpe had taken 3rd leichte Panzer. I had hoped my brother would be given a break from combat, but it seems every unit is being flung back into battle as soon as it has caught its breath. OKH is insistent: the Red Army must not be given a chance to recover, and it must be bled of supply. So my brother’s Pzkpfw 48(t)G was somewhere in the woods south east of Lwów. At least it didn’t appear too dangerous as the Russians, though present in large numbers, are reported to be of poor quality after recent fighting. 101 Strelkovaya, a crack mountain division, was still gauged to be of no combat value as it had not recovered from the border battle for Drohobysc.
Battle of Zydaczów
The VVS tried to prevent our Hungarian allies from helping in Zydaczów, but Waber was ready to block any access to the lumbering Caproni Ca 135 bombers. Zhavoronkov was forced to head home, allowing the Hungarians an uninterrupted mission. Unfortunately our allies do not provide us with details of casualties inflicted.
During the afternoon Guderian was forced to send General Weise to assist our other allies, the Italians. One of their Generals, Ricci, a man with literally no experience of combat, had attacked the Russians in Stanislawow. His division, 2a Divisione Eritrea, a militia unit, had no chance of succeeding against Barinov who had two fresh regular infantry divisions. With the arrival of 345.Infanterie (mot) from Buczacz, Barinov has found it much harder to hold off the attacks.
Battle of Stanislawow
From Spain we heard that Port de Suert had joined the uprising, but nobody cared about rebels in the mountains of Catalonia. Von Rabenau could sort that out. We were more interested in word from General Ruoff to say that Blagodatov’s tnaks have withdrawn: we had won the Second Battle of Horodok. Our infantry had turned back an armoured division, though admittedly we suffered more casualties than the Russians. But “Vorwärts” stood its ground, and Ruoff received a congratulatory message from the Führer himself.
Loss of Pont de Suert
Horodok: not all the vehicles of 12 Tankovaya were able to retreat. This T-26 was forced to surrender to Ruoff’s men.
The weather has not helped our advance in the past few days. The forecast is that clear skies will return allowing our bombers to resume their onslaught. For the sake of the ground troops I hope the forecaster are right.
1st Baltic Army
General Kesselring is securing his bridgehead before pushing south
Polen Army Nord
Memel: No change (99% complete)
2nd Marijampole: No change other than Pfeffer shocking the defenders with the intensity of his attacks and reducing their ability to resist his troops (61%)
2nd Alytus: Only General Povetkin and his crippled 162 Strelkovaya garrison troops are left to hold off our panzers, which have launched a massive assault. (96% complete)
Taurage: Still the massive battle rages, but now the Russians are showing signs that they have had enough. General Ogurtsov has pulled out, taking half his force with him. General Bagramian (actually a better leader than Ogurtsov) has 6 Tankovaya, 133 Strelkovaya and 14 Kavaleriyskaya with which to hold off von Both’s five divisions. (63% complete)
Polen Army Sud
Ratno: The Russian General Larichev has taken over the defence and has launched a counter-attack with his only combat capable unit, 3 Tankovaya. 57 Motorizovayanna, 64 Strelkovaya and the two garrison divisions, 151 and 165 Strelkovaya, have all pulled back and are trying to escape the battle. General Hansen now has 3 motorised divisions (3,16,105) as well as 4th Panzer, with 23.Infanterie moving up from Shats’k. (93%)
Zydacsów: Harpe is facing no resistance at all as Filatov’s 86 Strelkovaya is the only unit left in the province. Every other Russian has fled: it seems lack of supplies has slowed Filatov and his men. (99% complete)
Kamien Koszyrski: Pushkin’s careful tactical withdrawal has been disrupted by Müller hitting him with a sudden shock attack. (47% complete)
2nd Dunayivtsi: Poplavski has seen 12 Tankovaya and 169 Strelkovaya leave making von Förster’s task much easier. (82% complete)
Soroca: Shurov is still holding on with 109 Motorizovayanna and 109 and 134 Strelkovaya, but his days appear numbered. Köstring has encircled some of his forward troops and has 111.Infanterie moving up from Botosani. (81% complete)
2nd Trembowla: Things have improved for General Crüwell as Dietrich has attacked from Buczacz with 2nd Panzer Division. Only 305 Strelkovaya remains from the original defenders. Liudnikov has been replaced by General Ivanov, and 5 Tankovaya and 163 and 202 Motorizovannaya are still fighting but are showing signs that they are reaching the end of their tether. (86% complete)
Stanislawow: No change (48% complete)
2nd Orhei: Gorodnianskij still has just two divisions in the front line, 11 and 308 Strelkovaya, and still has three divisions in reserve (127 and 300 Strelkovaya and 24 Krasnoznamaya). General Eppich, on the other hand, now has two divisions in combat (5th and 6th Gebirgsjäger) and another in reserve (6th Gebrigsjäger). (88% complete)
Finalised Battle Casualties
Brzesc Litewski: 1,872/29,981: 2,068/26,985
Novyi Rozdil: 171/9,199: 215/60,501
Kobryn: 23/19,987: 63/8,306
Bolekhiv: 183/26,739: 299/14,986
Illichivs’k: 259/19,989: 584/16,478
Zhmerynka: 71/9991: 387/21,812
2nd Brzesc Litewski: 320/28,107: 633/25,533
Stryj: 887/52,131: 1,736/64,364
Dunayivtsi: 2,357/10,000: 1,682/55,806
Horodok: 811/9463: 699/10,867
Total Battle Casualties for Thursday 1st to Monday 5th May
Prior Battle Casualties
Total Battle Casualties to date
German: 6,954 + 23,732 = 30,686
Russian: 8,366 + 34,184 = 42,550
Chisinau: Udet with 3rd Schlachtfliegerkorps: 162, 247, 55, 216 (680)
Chisinau: Muller-Michels with 4th Kampffliegerkorps: 228, 114 (342)
Dunayivtsi: Müller-Michels with 5th Kampffliegerkorps: 213, 387, 76, 156, 191, 207, 83 (1,313)
Dunayivtsi: Schwartzkopff with 2nd Kampffliegerkorps: 78, 216 (294)
Stryj: Sperrle with 1st Kampffliegerkorps: 319, 332, 273, 360 (1,284)
Stryj: Grauert with 4th Kampffliegerkorps: 106, 363, 304 (773)
Stryj: Sperrle with 1st Kampfliegerkorps + 8 Hungarian fighters: Nil
Bolekhiv: Grauert with 4th Kampffliegerkorps: 315 (315)
Trembowla: Schwartzkopff with 2nd Kampffliegerkorps: 345 (345)
Ratno: Hoffmann von Waldau with 5th Schlachtfliegerkorps: 171, 89 (260)
Orhei: Dörstling with 6th Kampffliegerkorps: 287, 362, 190 (839)
Orhei: Udet with 3rd Schlchtfliegerkorps: 178, 155 (333)
Memel: Kitzinger with 3rd Kampffliegerkorps: 263, 238 (501)
Total Bombing Casualties for Thursday 1st to Monday 5th May
Prior Bombing Casualties
Total Bombing Casualties to date
German: Nil + 620 = 620
Russian: 7,279 + 31,070 = 38,349
Total East Front Casualties for Thursday 1st to Monday 5th May 1941
German: 6,954 + Nil = 6,954
Russian: 8,366 + 7,279 = 15,645
Prior East Front Casualties
Total East Front Casualties to date
German: 6,954 + 24,352 = 31,306
Russian: 15,645 + 65,254 = 80,899