Rank and File
A Clerk’s War
Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th April 1941
With the end of the month approaching, we (the OKW Filing section) were under pressure to keep up to date. Traditionally OKW provided the Cabinet with a concise picture of the world at regular intervals, and the end of the month signalled one of these. So we needed to clear the decks for the expected additional workload.
Although the war in Russia provided the bulk of our work, there were other items. One such was the despatch of General von Donat and 717 Sicherungsdivision to Barcelona. OKH is getting increasingly annoyed with insurrections flaring across western Europe and is determined to keep order.
The news from the east, at least at first, was not good. Wünnenberg has pulled 9th Panzer out of Alytus, leaving nearly 1,200 men and scores of tanks behind. The Russians have 98,000 men in the province and there was no real prospect of success. Harder to understand is Hell’s withdrawal from Orhei. The battle has only been going on for a matter of hours and things were going well. Presumably von Kluge knows what he is doing.
General Wünnenberg left many of his Panzer IIIs behind when ordered to withdraw from Alytus
There was one win, Bieß capturing Kam’yanets’-Podol’s’kyi. Our experienced commanders make it look easy.
Udet’s bombers carried out an early morning raid on Chisinau and brought back depressing news. They detected 17 military formations in and around the city, nearly 40,000 men. Volkmann was aware that a new general, Iakovlev, had taken over the defence of the city, but had been unaware that he still had 8 infantry, 2 motorised and 2 cavalry brigades with 2 tank destroyer, an engineer, an artillery and a rocket artillery regiment as support.
A blueprint for the BM 8-36 rocket launcher, smuggled out to us by one of our agents shortly before his career ended abruptly. It launches the RS-82 82mm rocket.
3rd Kampffliegerkorps was also operating early in the morning. Landing after a raid on Memel they had great news: only 4 infantry brigades with anti-air and an anti-tank regiment had made it into the city so far. Kitzinger urged von Wietersheim to crush the invaders, though at least part of his enthusiasm would have been the presence of the anti-air regiments. Our bombers fear the steady casualties caused by ground fire and take every opportunity to direct our infantry to where the dreaded anti-air guns are situated.
After a week of fighting in Dunayivtsi it seems the Russians are stronger than ever. Schwartzkopfff counted nearly 44,000 troops in the area, including 2 armour, 3 motorised, 3 infantry, 3 garrison and 2 cavalry brigades. Not to mention 3 tank destroyer and an anti-air regiment and several thousand HQ troops. General Phleps is doing well, but he may need some help if this is not to turn into another battle of attrition.
Also early in the morning, Christiansen was busy over Riga. It is vital that our transport aircraft can maintain their supply deliveries uninterrupted, and 4th Jagdfliegerkorps has made it a personal issue of pride that the VVS will not reach the heavily laden Arados. Vershinin and 24 and 2 IAD were soon on their way, twenty five aircraft destroyed in minutes over the city. The steady fighting is starting to take its toll on our Messerschmitts: they may need to be rotated to a quieter part of the Front.
Air Battle of Riga
It seems that General von Manstein has a liking for calling off attacks at night only to recommence at dawn: does he believe that the enemy is lulled into relaxing and is vulnerable to a quick resumption of combat? It may well be true, and Wünnenburg will definitely hope this is the case. 9th Panzer was again alone as it started afresh to move across the Memel into Alytus. First reports were promising: although the Russians were led by General Kirponos (who has caused us so many problems at Marijampole) he had only four divisions, all of which are showing signs of exhaustion.
Second Battle of Alytus (note the transport aircraft on a supply mission to Riga).
Perhaps von Kluge decided to try von Manstein’s ploy. However, instead of sending General Hell and 4th and 6th Gebirgsjäger back into Orhei, he opted to use a fresh division, Eppich’s 5th Gebirgsjäger. It seemed to work: Afanasiev’s one effective infantry division was shocked by the sudden attack. (I did receive another sealed envelope that morning: General Hell’s response to the order to call off his attack was bordering on insubordination. Had he not been a much-decorated officer von Kluge may have done more than just ignore it).
Second Battle of Orhei
Just before noon there was a direct call from General Rommel to OKH: Lwów had fallen. Schack has claimed the city and Antonov and his men are retreating. Minister Goebbels made sure that this made the radio news broadcasts at noon and it was lauded as a great victory. I suppose it worked as our national unity was increased, but I had access to the casualty list, which showed the battle in a different light. 4,000 of our soldiers died in the 10 days it took to clear the Russians from the city. Was it worthwhile?
Even after 8 days of heavy street fighting, Gallenkamp’s 87.Infanterie needed no rest. A thousand men missing from their ranks and with no fresh supplies they have surged from Lwów into Novyi Rozdil. Gallenkamp has assured General Rommel that his men are capable of continued combat, and the prize is worthwhile. Glazunov had just one infantry division to hold the province and he also had two HQ detachments to protect.
Battle of Novyi Rodzil (note the presence of Italian troops nearby)
Following the example set by 87.Infanterie, 22. and 102.Infanterie (mot) also spurned rest, and plunged straight into another battle, for Stryj. This could have been expected from Petersen’s division, a veteran of Unternehmen Stierkampf, but this is the third battle since the 19th for Buhle’s 102. ID (mot). It has been joined by 6th Panzer, with which it won the battle of Gródek Jagiellonski. At least in this battle we have the odds on our side: Buhle has 31,000 men to Remezov’s 25,000.
Battle of Stryj
On the last day of the month a coastal division joined IV Armeekorps. General Berger’s 167.ID is to be based at Aalborg. Von Rundstedt’s pleasure at receiving a brand new unit was reduced when he was also ordered to release Ludke’s 58.ID which was directed to board troop trains for Danzig. Also bound for Danzig was 1st schwere Panzerkorps. Either we were expecting an enormous invasion force from the Ostsee or Riga was about to see a huge influx in it population.
With a few factories now free, they were quickly commandeered by Chief of Staff Bayerlein’s men. New work gangs were assembled and road works begun in Mosty, Grodno, Shats’k, Kowel, Edinet and Cetatea Alba. Supply networks are to be pushed as far east as possible (without risk of being captured in a counter-attack).
While the weather stays fine our infantry can march forward in the dust, but we need to make sure that these primitive roads are paved before the weather turns.
Grauert was the first to take his aircraft over Novi Rozdil, and reported both good and bad news. The good news was that Lutchinski has just 3 infantry brigades with an artillery regiment. The bad news is that the two HQ have already been evacuated – the Red Army obviously had little hope of holding the province.
Sperrel was not far behind Grauert, with 1st Kampffleigerkorps hitting Filatov’s defenders in Stryj. There was good news for Buhle: he faced just 5 infantry brigades (2 motorised). There was warning for General von Langermann und Erlenkamp and 6th Panzer: there were two tank destroyer regiments present.
Before lunchtime another victory of sorts. There was no doubt of the win, as Drohobycz is ours, but the cost was again huge: 3,733 men. There will be no only many grieving families across the Reich, but the recruiting stations will be full as another wave of call-up papers is delivered. I have to admit that I could hardly bring myself to run my eyes down the long casualty list from 3rd leichte Panzer: would my brother’s name be there? But he was safe: although “Wunsdorf” had lost nearly 300 men it seems that Heinz had been kept safe by the 50mm front armour of his Pzkpw 38(t)G
During the afternoon, as the diplomatic pouches with the military situation maps were emptied at the Foreign Ministry, there was thankfully not a lot of action. Just one new battle began, and of course it had to involve my brother again. General Harpe, keen to show he deserved being promoted to lead von Manstein’s own division, had assumed control of three Hungarian infantry divisions and was already fighting for possession of Bolekhiv. The woods are hardly perfect terrain for the light tanks, but at least there are more than 15,000 infantry to clear the deadly Russian anti-tank guns.
Battle of Bolekhiv: so far our supply network has stood up to the strain of continuous combat. We believe the Russian logistics have not managed as well
We had to work late that night, as last minute documents for the end of month were delivered. So I heard of a small naval engagement in the Ostsee soon after it happened. The “Graf Zeppelin” could probably claim this as her first kill, as it was aircraft from 1st and 2nd CAG that located and attacked a group of Russian troopships in the North-East Ostsee. Although the aircraft did not sink any of ships, Admiral Marschall soon had 1st Schlachtflotte within range and manged to destru one flotilla before the other could escape into the dusk.
Air Attack NE Ostsee: 3PM 30th April
Naval Attack: Ne Ostsee: 4PM 30th April
We do not know whether the ships were loaded, nor where they may have been headed. There is a suspicion that they may have been trying to reinforce Memel by sea.
The end of the month did not bring the swift victory we so much desire, in fact the ratio of losses had swung against us in recent days. I was concerned that we could be descending into a battle of attrition, but a few of the officers with whom I have dealing explained that this would have been expected. The battles against the Russian border defences that took the longest to complete would cost the most lives: once we had them on the run the Luftwaffe and our speedy motorised and panzer units would keep them demoralised. They advised me to keep confident. I will do my best, but the figures do not look comforting.
Polen Army Nord
Memel: No change, though it is reported that a Russian fleet is in the port. (77% complete)
2nd Alytus: Wünnenburg has been reinforced by Nehring, whose 1st Panzer is attacking from Kalvarija, while General Kirponos and 62 Turkestanskaya have moved north, leaving the battle. Kirponos has been replaced by General Krasnopetsev, but his infantry division has not been replaced. (70% complete)
2nd Marijampol: Pfeffer now has all three of his divisions (21,56 and 75) in the battle, a sizeable bridgehead over the Memel and reports having made a breakthrough. (50% complete)
Taurage: The longest lasting battle on the Front is getting even more ferocious as both sides pour in more troops. Ogurtsov now has all six of his divisions in combat (82 Motorizavannaya has been forced to withdraw) and has launched a counter-attack. 72.Infanterie has turned Ogurtsov’s flank by attacking from Laukuva. While it looks as though we are winning this battle, the death toll will be horrendous. (52% complete)
Polen Army Sud
Novyi Rozdil: Gallenkamp’s task has got much harder, as the Red Army floods into the province. 25 Chapaevskaya has made to the front line, although weakened by the fighting for Lwów. A fresh division, 15 Sivashskaya, is in reserve, with two other veterans of the bitter street fighting for the city. (22% compete)
Stryj: Buhle is sees victory within his grasp, with 3rd Panzer moving to support from Drohobysc. Filatov, on the other hand, has seen his best unit, 15 Sivashskaya, sent to reinforce Novyi Rozdil. (82%)
Bolekhiv: Attacked from 3 sides, Lvov has little option but to use delaying tactics to slow our progress as well as to reduce our ability to inflict casualties. (67% complete)
Ratno: Burgatsov has been given some additional troops, but so has General Hansen. The Russians have the previously untried 3 Tankovaya which should give some added power to the defence, but his other two new divisions (4 Tankovaya and 57 Ural’skaya) are units in name only, totally disorganised and demoralised after the slaughter in Shats’k. Hansen has been joined by 3.Infanterie (mot) and has encircled some of the enemy. (70%)
Brzesc Litewski: Larianov has fled with his shattered 159 Strelkovaya, leaving General Bakunin to hold the fortifications with a demoralised second line unit, 172 Strelkovaya. Although 91 Strelkovaya has recovered little while resting in reserve, von Sponeck’s three divisions should be able to overwhelm the defenders. (62% complete)
2nd Horodok: The Russian assault has ended, and Ruoff is holding off the enemy tanks. (8% complete)
Soroca: Köstring’s assault had its effect, and all four of his divisions are now engaged. Shurov’s men are weakening. (62% complete)
2nd Trembowla: After starting well, Crüwell and 3rd Panzer have been unfortunate. Turchinjski has benefitted from defeats in nearby provinces, as his force has been swelled by 5 Tankoya and 202 Motorizovannaya from Kolomyja and 163 Motorizovannya from Buczasc. Although 18 Strelkovaya has left Trembowla, the other three divisions are moving up to replace it. Crüwell has redoubled his efforts, launching an assault, but he is fighting against huge odds. (21% complete)
Dunayvitsi: Phleps has also run into difficulties. Another new Russian leader, Poplavski, has managed to extricate 44 Corps HQ from the front line. He has12 Tankovaya in reserve but this unit is already committee to the attack on “Vorwärts” in Horodok. Nevertheless, 98.Infanterie (mot) is taking heavy casualties and needs help. (44% complete)
Chisinau: Sharokhin has lost his cavalry division: it has had enough and is retreating. He is left with four infantry divisions, all running short of supplies. (73% complete)
2nd Orhei: Afanasiev has taken the badly affected 195 and 53 Strelkovaya and handed over command to Gorodniansky. Although he has only two divisions to hold off Eppich and 5th Gebirgsjäger Division, three divisions have arrived in Orhei, 300 Strelkovaya which has recovered from its losses at Tiraspol, and 127 and 308 Strelkovaya from Slobozia. 127 Strelkovaya was badly hit as it retreated across Tiraspol and is effectively useless, but the other two units are ready to fight again. (59% complete)
Illichivs’k: With 6th Gebirgsjäger mounting a flank attack from Cetatea Alva, Zhmachenko and 81 Motorizavannaya are already defeated. (94% complete)
Riga and environs
Von Schobert is moving 31.Infanterie south into Bauska
Finalised Battle Casualties
Alytus: 1,175/10,000: 813/98,245
Orhoi: 193/19,076: 202/41,501
Lwów: 4,068/49,983: 2,983/45,974
Drohobycz: 3,733/31,987: 4,547/44,974
Total Battle Casualties for Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th April 1941
Prior Battle Casualties:
Total Battle Casualties to Date
German: 9,169 + 14,563 = 23,732
Russian: 8,545 + 25,639 = 34,184
Chisinau: Udet with 3rd Schlachtfliegerkorps: 123, 224, 150, 154 (651)
Memel: Kitzinger with 3rd Kampffliegerkorps: 187, 368, 313 (868)
Memel: Löhr with 2nd Schlachtfliegerkorps: 115, 274 (389)
Memel: Keller with 7th Kampffliegerkorps: 280 (280)
Dunayivtsi: Schwartzkofff with 2nd Kampffliegerkorps: 232, 309, 192, 300, 154 (1,187)
Dunayivtsi: Schwartzkofff with 2nd and 5th Kampffliegerkorps: 345 (345)
Novi Rozdil: Grauert with 4th Kampffliegerkorps: 143, 257, 284 (684)
Stryj: Sperrle with 1st Kampffliegerkorps: 198, 279, 195 (672)
Taurage: Weise with 5th Schlachtfleigerkorps: 125, 166 (291)
Trembowla: Müller-Michels with 5th Kampffliegerkorps: 279 (279)
Total Bombing Casualties for Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th April 1941
Prior Bombing Casualties:
Total Bombing Casualties to Date
German: Nil + 620 = 620
Russian: 5,646 + 25,424 = 31,070
Total East Front Casualties for Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th April 1941
German: 9,169 + Nil = 9,169
Russian: 8,545 + 5,646 = 14,191
Total Casualties to Date
German: 9,169 + 15,183 = 24,352
Russian: 14,191 + 51,063 = 65,254
Unterseebootsflotte Activity Report for Saturday 19th April to Wednesday 30th April 1941
14 transports and 1 escort (all British) sunk
Axis Military Situation Maps at end of April 1941
Libia: Supply is running freely across North Africa and the Italians seem unopposed as they stream into Egypt
Greece: The stand-off continues
China:The IJA also seems to have no supply problems, except in a few areas. Our liaison officers in China report the High Command is pleased with progress
IndoChina: With very low priority for supplies, the Japanese are defending doggedly
The East Front: Now the border defences have been smashed at key points, we hope to encircle large numbers of Russian troops. Losses have been higher than anticipated and we need to deliver some decisive blows.