World War II In Europe. From Warsaw to Berlin. Part 5-The Defense of Sevastopol

The Heroism. From Odessa to Kerch.

The medal for the heroes of the Defense of Sevastopol.

Etsy

The medal for the heroes of the Defense of Sevastopol.

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After Kiev was occupied, the next goal of the Hitler’s troops in the South was Crimea. It was a major base of the Black Sea Fleet. Also, from Crimea, planes were flying off to bomb Romanian’s oil fields. They did it because Romania was fighting on Hitler’s side.

Just a few months before Crimea was blocked from the territory of the USSR (in this case-Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic), there was a directive that said “Do not hand over Odessa and defend it until the last opportunity”. Many other directives “remained on papers”; but this one had been fulfilled.  Between Aug 8, 1941 and Oct 16, 1941 Odessa was under siege. Hitler’s army was coming closer and closer. After  General Kuznetsov’s Division arrived from Sevastopol, German and Romanian Army forces were stopped and pushed back. But after the Nazis  invaded Crimea, most Soviet Army forces were shipped back to Sevastopol.

The Germans were on their way to Sevastopol, when they reached the town of Bakhchisaray.

In that town they experienced the strength of Soviet artillery.

The look of "Maxim Gorky-1" in 1941-42

Bunkers or forts were build before the defense of Sevastopol. The most famous was called Maxim Gorky-1.

“Maxim Gorky-1” wasn’t the only fort in Sevastopol. There was “Maxim Gorky-2” fort that was called “Stalin” in Europe (not in the USSR), and there were 8 “bastions” that were built during the Crimean War of 1854-1856.

The defense of Sevastopol was divided into 4 sections. Section 1 was the most southern.  Section 2 had a road in it that was going to the city of Yalta. The third one was going north-east. The fourth was going to the Perekop Isthmus that connects Crimea to Ukraine.

In November, the Germans decided to capture Sevastopol. The commanders of Sevastopol defense thought that they would attack in Section 2, because there was a plain  convenient for tanks. So, most of the Soviet Army forces were placed in there.

Soviet soldiers during the Defense of Sevastopol.

But the Nazis had other plans. They decided to attack in Section 4. This section touched Sevastopol’s “North Bay”. If they had captured it, the ships that carried support to defenders, wouldn’t be able to make their way in. When they started their offence it nearly became a tragedy. But something happened that saved Sevastopol in 1941.

At the end of December, 1941 there were two “sea landings” on the Kerch Peninsula (named after the city of Kerch) (the part of Crimea). One in Kerch and another in Feodosia. After that, the whole Kerch Peninsula was under the control of a newly founded Crimean Front.

 

The winter war campaign in Crimea.

By summer of 1942, the Germans had worked out a new offensive plan. Their new targets were the oilfields in the Caucasus (the highest mountain system in Europe) and the city of Stalingrad (nowadays Volgograd). But the Crimean Front and Sevastopol drew off considerable forces that could be used in offence. The Germans needed to get rid of the Soviet forces in Crimea. And they had some “luck” in that way.

At every Soviet front, there was one High Command Headquarters (see part 2) representative. Usually they were highly qualified generals. But in Crimea, that representative was Lev Mehlis. He was a Communis party official, and he didn’t know much about the war tactics. The commander of the Front -Kozlov- wasn’t the brightest head either. When they found out that soldiers were digging trenches and preparing for the defense, they told them to stop doing that. As a result, when the Germans started their offence, the Crimean Front was pushed out from the Crimean peninsula to the Taman peninsula (named after the city of Taman).

The map of Crimea

The map of Crimea. On the top, there is Ukraine; on the right side, there is Taman peninsula.

When the Crimean Front was “sent away” from the Kerch peninsula, 2 things happened:

  1. There were no more Crimean Front
  2. In Sevastopol crisis began.

All support was going to the Crimean Front, and not to Sevastopol. So, when the Nazis attacked Sevastopol, they had “double strength”:

  1. They had an army and Sevastopol had only marine corps.
  2. They had more support (bullets, food etc.).

Germans destroyed the “Stalin”, Maxim Gorky-1 and a bunch of other forts. They broke through to the North Bay, and thus delivering support to Sevastopol became even more dangerous. By July, the only region the Soviet Marine Corps continued to contain was Khersones. From there, the rest of the soldiers escaped on boats into the Black Sea. Most of them later were picked up by other ships.

When Crimea and Sevastopol fell, it was the year of 1942 – the year of challenges, the year of a great turning point-the year of the Battle of Stalingrad…

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