January 2, 1942 from the Germans was released all the Kerch peninsula, but subsequent actions have not brought Russian troops of success. Already on January 18 the Germans counter-attack could return under his control and forced Theodosius Russian troops retreat to the Ak-monaysky isthmus. Undertaken in February and March 1942 to break the sample from the Kerch peninsula to the rest of the Crimea area of success had not. For all this, even without achieving success harsh, Russian troops in the Crimea decided two principal objectives: the pressure on the shackled and surrounded Sevastopol significant forces of the 11th Army, preventing its use in the coming year to the Volga and the Caucasus. Realizing the importance of these challenges, Stalin mobilized to implement them a large force in the Russian army 3 — 47, 51 and 44 of which was formed by the Crimean front.
By May 1942 three Russian army tightly blockaded Parpachsky isthmus — the passage from the Crimea on the Kerch Peninsula. The length of the isthmus was only 18 km., The total length of the front with the small protrusion on its northern section was 27 km. In part 3 Russian armies deployed on the peninsula were 16 shooting, 1 Cavalry Division, 3 and 4 armored infantry brigade, three tank battalions, 9 artillery regiments RGC, a number of other smaller parts.
Building a defense of the Crimean Front
The order of battle of the Crimean Front forces was followed: from north to south were placed part of the 47th Army (commander, Major-General Kolganov K.), 51th Army (commander, Lieutenant-General VN Lvov), and the 44th Army (commanded by Major J. Cherniak C). Army took over the front line of defense widths of 10, 9 and 8 km. respectively. The bulk of Russian troops — 12 infantry divisions were in the front of defense. Second position defended by the 2nd Infantry Division and the 151st of the fortified area in the band of the 47th Army was held at a distance of 12 km., In the band of the 51st Army — 5-9 km., In the band of the 44th Army — 2-5 km. On this basis, in the band of the 44th Army second line of defense is almost merged with the first. The defense in this area was very shallow, very feeble, respectively. Provisions of the front consisted of one infantry division, 3 brigades and 1st infantry regiment, who were at a distance of 15-20 km. from the front edge. On bolshennom distance from the front was only 72-Cavalry Division (50 km.) And the 156th Infantry Division, located near Kerch, 30 km away. from the front.
The first position of the main line of defense was poorly prepared, consisted of individual foxholes, trenches, bunkers, which were scattered across the countryside without any system and at times were not even connected between a communication trenches. These engineering structures and fortifications were poorly camouflaged that it was quite difficult to carry out in the naked steppe terrain. The headquarters of armies, divisions, communication is very close to a front edge for a long time did not change the location of their own and were well known to the adversary.
The well has been strengthened second position of the main line of defense in front of which was dug anti-tank trench width of 10 and a depth of 5 meters. For this moat placed bunkers and pillboxes 151st cheer, which was reinforced with 2 infantry divisions. Most of the infantry divisions of the first tier of the front had a shortage of personnel, which reached up to 30-50%, also lower the morale of the troops. The substitution of certain divisions of the first band was not carried out in a few months. So at the site of the future breakthrough in the 63rd Mountain Division were defectors to the side of the Germans, more murders occurred authorized special department and the 1st of the commanders of regiments. In fact it was the signal for the reorganization part but division not even shot with their own positions.
Second defense line was actually in front of only the front-line maps and took place in 30 km. west of Kerch on the Turkish line of the shaft. Designed to strengthen and around the Kerch, but engineering work in these areas was carried out very slowly and in the main only with the involvement of the local population. For the system works is not enough equipment and construction materials that are on the peninsula were in need. Built structures not protected because were not infrequent occasions when they are in a take away timber for firewood. Troops occupied these positions were not, with all this prime position between the shaft and the Turkish fortifications crotch was not quite.
The hunt for the Great Bustard
Naturally the German High Command could not put up with being in the Crimea such a strong group of troops, which shackled the main forces of the German Army 11. By early May, the German troops were ready to step in and reset the capture of Kerch landing in the sea. The commander of the 11th Army Manstein developed an operation codenamed "The Hunt for the Great Bustard," which ran across the active phase of May 8, 1942.
The front of the Russian armies in the isthmus stood quite typical outline: in the southern part of it went exactly to the north, and the northern region had a ledge to the west, which was formed after the Russian troops were able to send to escape one of the Romanian divisions. Conduct a counterattack against the flank of the formed lip — this decision was on the surface. But because of its obviousness Russian command concentrated here two armies, and almost all the reserves. Manstein was able to overcome this stumbling block, and the fact that he chose a different path, though gives it the 1st of the greatest strategists of the German army. Manstein did everything in order to assure the Russian command on coming to the north. Here strenuously constructed incorrect artillery positions, sent messages specifically designed to intercept services, held constant shuffling of troops.
At this time, Manstein is ready to hit the south, against the more feeble the 44th Army. The main attack was to be the forces of the 30th Army Corps, composed of three infantry divisions, which were to break through the defense of the Russian army and free the way for the 22th Armored Division, Major-General Wilhelm von Appeals and mechanized brigade of Colonel von Groddeka. Tank units had to go to the rear of the defending group and turn north, making coverage Russian armies on the isthmus.
For the operation, Manstein used 6 German divisions (5 infantry and 1 tank), and 2 Romanian infantry divisions, one cavalry division and a separate mechanized brigade. 5 divisions at this time continued to block Sevastopol. From the air, the support of this group provided the 8th Air Corps separate and the main force of the 4th
Air Fleet. To carry out preparatory bombardment of Sevastopol were sent here languid battery guns. Despite the fact that the German-Romanian Russian grouping inferior to men in 2 times, 1.8 times the artillery, the tanks is 1.2 times superior to the Soviet side, and only the amount of air is 1.7 times, Manstein's plan worked to 100%. Already on May 16, German troops reached the Kerch and in another day or over 4 organized resistance to the sea pressed Russian troops.
During the day before the coming May 7 German aircraft conducted a series of bombing attacks on the headquarters of the front and army, troops bombarded the battle lines, rear, anti-aircraft batteries. As a result of bombing was paralyzed headquarters, communication breakdown and Air defense. The offensive against the 44th Army was preceded by a massive air strike on its bunched positions. Some positions for day or bombed 10 times. Stronger airstrikes Germans were applied in those areas where the planned entry of their own armored forces. From 8 to 11 May on the Kerch Peninsula in the air without annoying hung up to 800 German aircraft.
After a long bombardment leading positions in the band of the 44th Army were almost hour artillery treated after fire was moved to the depths of the defense. The main portion of the breakthrough Germans elected positions 63rd Mountain Infantry Division. German axis coming advocated road Feodosia — Kerch, the Germans used their own favorite method of coming along transport arteries. Immediately to the front kick in the rear of the 63rd Division was landed Sloop landing in an amount of about 250 people. His landing was virtually unchecked because the site does not actually guarded the coast.
Defending in the first echelon of Russian divisions could not stand the pressure and had to retreat to the east, the retreat was held in shambles and some even like a rout. To counteract the breakout was involved 72nd Cavalry Division and the repair and refurbishment of the 44th battalion of the army, but the samples were not led to nothing. By the end of the first day or the coming of the Germans broke through the front of the 44th Army in the 5-km area and moved forward by 8 km.
By the final on May 9 in the band of the 44th army was no longer a solid defensive front, the remnants of the infantry divisions in small groups without annoying retreated to the east of the 72th Cavalry Division could not stop them. Headed for a breakthrough to a depth of 30 km, the samples to eliminate it or to have failed. Already for the next day the Germans came to the Turkish shaft to Kerch they had to 30 km., The troops of the 47th Army is 2.5 times further. On the coastal strip on which the retreating 51th Division and the 47th Army, and its width in some places does not exceed 1 km. fallen off a barrage of fire. The coastline of Azov sea was littered with dead bodies, a damaged and abandoned equipment, and in the middle of the dead was the commander of 51th Army, Lieutenant General Lions.
Since May 10 disaster was no longer avoid. In the process of fighting with 8 to May 20, Russian troops have lost about 160 thousand people killed, wounded and prisoners, about 200 tanks, 417 aircraft, more than four thousand guns and about 10 thousand cars. The Taman peninsula managed to evacuate about 140 thousand people, 22 guns, 29 rocket launchers "Katyusha", 157 aircraft.
All three armies were placed in front of a train, while one army had to be kept in reserve. All divisions were placed in one line, and their battle lines were very condensed. Each connection takes up defensive positions on the front of about 2 km. Measures to establish a defense-in-depth command of the front were not conducted. The entire group of Russian troops was placed in an offensive build, in order to strike the right wing of the front, the artillery had the same group and had prepared for the defense positions.
Along with this command posts armies were placed very close to the front. In the 47th Army at 9 km., In the 51 th — 7 km., In the 44 th — 11 km. Spare command posts were missing. The command post of the front was also pretty close to 30 km. from the front, and a spare gearbox even closer. As a result of this, even if de minimis, advancing enemy command and control was lost. With all of this transition to the new CP often occurs randomly.
Also, except for trivial mistakes in preparing the defense and command and control in the criteria of modern mobile warfare on the front commander Lieutenant-General Kozlov as his commanders, poorly acted presence at the front of the representative rate Mehlis. The horror behind him before the highest authorities and memory about 1937 almost all straitjacket Russian command.