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"A German Spearhead in the Kiev Operation" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on the operation of the German Sixth Army near Kiev during Operation Barbarossa was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 11, Nov. 5, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



GENERAL VON REICHENAU'S ARMY. Among the German forces which crossed the Russian frontier on June 22, 1941, was the Sixth Army, under the command of Field Marshal General von Reichenau. It appears that this army, on the eve of the campaign, was concentrated in German-held Poland in the Biala-Chelm sector immediately west of the Bug River (the Russo-German boundary under the agreement of August 21, 1939). The Sixth Army held the northern flank of the German South Group of Armies under Field Marshal General von Rundstedt. The Sixth Army included motorized infantry and panzer divisions, the Adolph Hitler Regiment (an S.S. unit), and foot infantry divisions, with necessary auxiliary services of all types, and had the support of aviation. "Panzer and motorized infantry divisions, as well as an S.S. unit" are listed by a German source as forming a part of the narrow penetration wedge which was to follow a panzer division spearhead.

In front of Von Reichenau's army was the Russian Fifth Army, which was a part of the Russian South Group of Armies under Marshal Budenny. The order of battle of the Russian Fifth Army is not known.

The German Sixth Army had on its right (southern) flank, the First Panzer Army of General von Kleist, while south of von Kleist was the Seventeenth Army of General von Stuelpnagel. These two armies later became the southern arm of the great Kiev encirclement. Further south, von Rundstedt's forces included Hungarian and Rumanian as well as German troops.

North of von Reichenau was the Center Group of Armies under General von Bock. No army of the Center Group maintained ground contact with von Reichenau after the jump-off from concentration areas; ground liaison between the two armies was prevented by the impassable Pripet marshes. East of the marshes, in the Dnieper Valley, the Second Army under von Weichs and the Second Panzer Army of Guderian later established contact with von Reichenau and became the northern arm in the Kiev encirclement.

THE PRIPET OR PINSK MARSHES AND THE ROUTES TO KIEV. The great marshes of Western Russia are variously called Pripet, after the river which runs through but does not effectively drain them, and Pinsk, for the largest city included in their vast expanse. The term "vast" is not an exaggeration, for the marshes extend from Brest-Litovsk on the German-Russian border eastward to and beyond the Dnieper, a distance of more than 300 miles, and stretch from north to south more than 150 miles.

The marshes had a marked influence on German strategy. Such roads and railroads as existed in them were not first-class. Moreover, a demolition which would be merely a nuisance on dry land would be disastrous in a region where any detour from a road-bed meant hopeless bogging down. Consequently, the marshes could not be effectively penetrated, and were thus a natural boundary between the two groups of armies.

From his concentration area, von Reichenau had to advance toward Kiev along the southern edge of the marshes. The axis of his advance was determined by the disposition of highways and railroads.

At Kowel, the railroad line from Biala and Brest-Litovsk joined the line from Chelm and Luboml. East of Kowel, the single line led to Kiev through the southern part of the marshes, across numerous tributaries of the Pripet River. From three of the villages on this railroad, branch lines ran north or northwest toward the Pripet River or the Dnieper (see map). This road and its branches were single-track, and the gauge was different from that of German railroads.

[German Spearhead in the Kiev Operation]

As with the railroads, a highway from Brest-Litovsk and a highway from Luboml met at Kowel, east of which a great highway led to Kiev. This highway was of asphalt and had four traffic lanes from the old Polish-Russian border to Kiev (according to some accounts, all the way from the new German-Russian border to Kiev). This road, which was south of and approximately parallel to the Kowel-Kiev railroad, led through well-drained country and cut across the Pripet tributaries in their upper courses.

VON REICHENAU ADVANCES AND BUDENNY RETREATS. Because of the difficulties inherent in the use of the Russian railroads, the Germans generally chose the highways for their spearheads in Russia -- in this instance, the excellent Kiev highway.

The men and materiel of von Reichenau's Sixth Army had apparently been concentrated as close as possible to the border, along all-weather roads. Some of the first units to enter Russia crossed the frontier near Brest-Litovsk and advanced along the highway from Brest-Litovsk to Kowel. Others, entering further south, advanced along the highway from Luboml toward Kowel. Like the other leading units, which literally rolled into Russia on the morning of June 22, 1941, the forward units of von Reichenau's army again used the spearhead tactics which had been so successfully employed in France and moved forward with great speed, protected by superior air strength. As the Germans advanced, the Russians retreated at an average rate of some 15 miles a day.

To the German commanders, as to observers outside the battle area, the parallel with the campaign in France must have appeared striking. In each case, large areas of important territory were promptly occupied by the Germans.

The Russian withdrawal, however, was not due entirely to weakness. Beyond question, the Russians knew that the Germans had massed great quantities of men and materiel along good highways, just across the Bug. Uncertain exactly when and exactly where these massed Nazi resources would be used, the Russians apparently held their forward positions with delaying forces only and elected to make their main defensive stand many miles to the east. In this way, the Russian commanders were able to learn the direction and strength of the German thrusts before committing the Russian reserves. Even in retreating, they could learn something of German tactics. Finally, when the main engagement would take place, German lines of communication would be long and Russian lines short. These considerations, as well as the strength of the Nazi military machine, probably played a part in the rapid Russian retreat before the German armies in the 1941 campaign. Nor was the German advance made without cost. Battered vehicles abandoned by the road, dead horses, and destroyed villages told of the fury of the Russian rearguard action.

FIGHTING BETWEEN A HIGHWAY AND A RAILROAD. Since von Kleist was on his right, von Reichenau appears to have had no difficulty on that flank as his spearhead advanced.

On the left (northern) flank, the situation was different. There was no ground contact with the nearest army of the Center Group; this army, in fact, was miles away, north of the Pripet marshes. Moreover, the Russians were in these marshes in considerable force and at once began to harass von Reichenau's left flank. Accurate and heavy Russian artillery barrages came down unexpectedly on German transport.

In spite of this harassment by Russian artillery, von Reichenau's forward troops continued to move ahead. The area taken by the spearhead troops extended not more than 2 or 3 miles on each side of the highway.

The situation on the marsh flank could not, however, be ignored. Resistance to the Russians was left to foot-infantry troops armed with the necessary heavy weapons and artillery. At every crossroad or junction, a task force had to be constituted to cope with a Russian attack which, if neglected, might threaten the flank. A German commentator, irked by the cost of the operations, stated that a full-scale battle had to be fought for each miserable village, which was worthless in the first instance and rubble when taken.

In the battles between the troops on the highway and those on the railroads, the Germans had the advantage. They were able to move forward more troops and material on the four-lane highway than the Russians could bring up on the single-track railroad, and a Russian retreat was forced. In no case, however, was the bulk of the Russians cut off. When outgunned by superior German artillery and in danger of being flanked by the advance on the highway, the Russian troops retreated along their railroad line to the next vantage-point and again harassed the German advance.

Shortly after the campaign began, the Germans were at Kowel, the junction of the railroad line which the Russians had determined to hold and the highway on which the Germans had determined to advance. After overcoming strong Russian resistance at Kowel, the Germans again moved forward, and took in turn Luck, Rowne, Zwaihel. Soon they were at Zhitomir, an important junction some 75 miles from Kiev.

After crossing several minor streams, their forward elements reached the heights west of the Irpen River. From the summit of this high ground they could see the spires of Kiev. They were 5 miles from the outskirts and 12 miles from the heart of the city. In 20 days they had come 312 miles. With Kiev in sight, an armored division hurried down the four-lane highway toward a wooden bridge over the Irpen.


THE GERMAN SPEARHEAD IS HALTED. Despite the unexpected and strong Russian assaults which had harassed their advance and were still continuing against their left flank well to the rear, the Germans claim they were confident on July 12 as they started down the western (left) bank of the north-flowing Irpen. Suddenly, in front of them, the wooden bridge of the great four-lane highway was blown out by Soviet troops. Germans often make light of Russian demolitions, but this one they conceded to be perfect. There was nothing left of the bridge, and the steep west banks were under Russian fire. The armored spearheads could not cross the Irpen, and had to retreat up the hill. The delay was annoying, but (according to German sources) it did not shake the confidence of men who had advanced 312 miles in 20 days.

For 20 days they had averaged 15 miles a day; in the next 2 months, however, they were not to move a yard!

The first difficulty was the terrain. Directly in front of the Germans was the Irpen River, a natural bastion of Kiev. Here in its middle course the Irpen had dry banks, but the channel was unfordable. There were many wooded areas on the slopes, particularly on the Russian-held eastern slope, and Russian troops in these woods commanded every yard of open space between the heights on the western bank and the river. Most of the cultivated land was in tall grain, under cover of which the Germans apparently constructed field fortifications. Suburban houses, which offered many opportunities for concealment, dotted both slopes, particularly the Russian-held eastern slope. The four-lane highway cut across the Irpen and ran straight up the hill through a wood toward Kiev, but the bridge was destroyed and every foot of the roadway was under Russian fire.

The Irpen position, moreover, could not be flanked by the German advance units which were halted there. To the north near the mouth of the Irpen, the terrain was swampy, and the Russians held the rail-line in menacing strength. To the south, the upper Irpen, which widened at places into lakes, was an obstacle; and across the divide between the Irpen and the Dnieper, the Weta and the Strugna Creeks were as well defended as the Irpen.

After von Reichenau's leading elements had been halted on the west bank of the Irpen, he immediately devoted himself to a three-fold task: the consolidation of the Irpen position; the elimination of the Russian artillery which was still pounding his supply line and interfering with the bulk of the Sixth Army's movements to its new concentration area east of Zhitomir; and the protection of the Irpen position by operations on the Weta and the Strugna. The accomplishment of these tasks would have the dual result of preventing a successful Russian counterthrust and of establishing the Sixth Army in positions from which, under more favorable circumstances, a further advance might be made.

THE HALTED GERMANS DIG IN AND RECONNOITER. Von Reichenau's forward units were much over-extended. According to German claims, these units were some 125 miles ahead of the foot-infantry divisions of their army and now had to devote themselves to holding on until the infantry divisions could come forward.

A headquarters for the defending German troops was apparently established in the little village of Milaja, just west of the Irpen, and the main body of the forward troops occupied two shallow ravines more or less parallel with the river. Fox holes were dug at once to give shelter to the troops, who were tired by their rapid advance. Construction was carried out under extreme difficulties. Any movement beyond cover brought a storm of Russian artillery fire. Russian aviators flew over the German-held houses on the west bank every 2 hours at a height stated by the Germans to be only 35 to 50 feet, dropping 5-pound bombs and machine-gunning the German positions.

There is no reference in available sources to German air reconnaissance over the Irpen position, but such reconnaissance was routine in similar situations and doubtless took place here. Ground reconnaissance was constant. From hidden positions just east of the village of Milaja, officers with camouflaged BC scopes searched the eastern banks of the Irpen. Soon a bunker was discovered. Some hours later a second bunker was detected, and finally the general course of a line of bunkers. Further observation with field glasses led to the discovery of field positions and to the conjecture that there was a tank-trap ditch behind a stockade-type fence. Numerous trucks full of men and materiel were seen to turn off into the woods on both sides of the main highway from Kiev. The Russians were evidently strengthening their already well-defended position.

THE RUSSIANS COUNTERATTACK. In a few days the Adolph Hitler Regiment took over the position from the spearhead troops, and was later relieved by infantry at dawn on a date unknown but shortly after July 20.

But the Russian reconnaissance and intelligence had been effective. The Russians had learned precisely what was happening on the German side of the river and during the relief of units launched a strong artillery attack. During the afternoon, Russian combat patrols crossed the river on footbridges. Even though the slope on the German side of the river was level and open in comparison with the slope on the other side, Soviet advanced units, under cover of their artillery, succeeded in hiding themselves in small hollows and depressions.

At nightfall, a German battalion was ordered to regain the lost ground. On a front which extended about a mile and a half north and 2 miles south of the highway, the Germans attacked along a line about 500 yards west of and parallel to the Irpen. Under the cover afforded by fields of tall grain, they used machine guns, rifles, and hand grenades against the newly-won Russian positions under fire, however, from Russian mortars.

After a conflict which lasted about an hour and was especially violent along the highway near the blown-up bridge, the Russians were pushed back across the Irpen. The large searchlights, which the Soviets had camouflaged in the treetops, began to flare across the German-held west bank, sweeping the grain fields, and the Germans did not attempt to pursue the retreating Russians across the river. The infantrymen sought out their old fox holes east of Milaja, and an hour before dawn set up their machine guns again in the positions they had occupied before the Russians crossed the river.

THE SIXTH ARMY CONCENTRATES BEFORE KIEV. Meanwhile, screened by the troops who had repulsed the Russian counterattack on the Irpen, the rearward combat units of von Reichenau's Army continued to move forward rapidly to positions east of Zhitomir.

The one road to Kiev had to be used by almost the entire Sixth Army; it was therefore imperative that any possible jamming and confusion be avoided. Rather than depend entirely upon guides and messengers, the Germans made great use of directional signs. At each junction there were many road markers bearing unit insignia. The signs were especially elaborate at Kotscherowo, where units turned off to protect the southern flank of the Irpen position, and at the junction south of Makarov, where units turned off to secure the northern flank. With these route markers as guides, motor vehicles left the highways without a halt for task missions against the Russian railroad positions or to move into concentration areas. Serials were formed, according to the speed of vehicles or the time a small unit was ready for moving, and the markers with division insignia were relied on to bring the subordinate units together again.

Provision had to be made for servicing and supplying advanced units, and one lane (at least between Zhitomir and Kiev) was designated for west-bound traffic, with three lanes for eastward movement of men and materiel. Over the west-bound traffic lane, transport elements of the forward units went to Zhitomir each night on missions of servicing and supply.

To sum up, the Germans, in the days following July 13, made use of the great highway to strengthen their position on the Irpen, and bring forward troops in great quantities. Some of these relieved the soldiers on the Irpen. Some were thrown off on the left flank to continue the fight for the railroad. Some moved to the South to prevent the Irpen position from being outflanked. Most of them, however, were brought just east of Zhitomir into a staging area which was almost as large as the original concentration area between Biala and Chelm on the west bank of the Bug. Supplies were also brought forward in large quantities. From this new concentration area, troops and supplies were in a position to be moved at the commander's will as operations developed.


THE RUSSIANS CONTINUE TO THREATEN THE GERMAN LFT FLANK. While von Reichenau in the days following July 13 was strengthening his position on the Irpen and was bringing forward the bulk of the Sixth Army into its new concentration area east of Zhitomir, Russian artillery was still active on his north (left) flank. The Russians on the railroad had apparently not retreated further eastward than Korosten, and Russian artillery was now dangerously near the new concentration area east of Zhitomir. Accordingly, von Reichenau determined to secure at any cost his exposed left flank, and launched a vigorous assault on the Russian position at Korosten. The railway junction here was defended by the Russians with bitter determination, and it fell into German hands only after hard fighting; again, the Russians retreated northwest and east along the railroad lines.

THE BATTLE FOR ANDREJEVKA. By July 23, the Germans had mopped up Korosten and other neighborhoods to the east, and now determined to take Andrejevka. Many details in regard to the struggle for this village are available and are believed to be typical.

For the Andrejevka engagement, German forward units apparently left the Zhitomir-Kiev highway at the junction near Makarov. During the night of July 22-23, several artillery battalions and a smoke battalion moved up under cover of darkness, and took their positions less than three-quarters of a mile from the infantry front line. At 0430, light and heavy field howitzers, 100-mm guns and 180-mm mortars opened fire against the Soviet field fortifications which German observers had detected on the southern edge of Andrejevka. At the same time, German smoke shells fell among the Russian field positions and spread a thick veil of smoke just in front of the village.

The heavy fire preparation, the laying of the smoke screen, and the beginning of the infantry advance had been coordinated. The Russians were blinded; neither their forward infantrymen nor their observers in observation posts could see more than five or six yards through the thick smoke. Unobserved, the German infantrymen left their positions of readiness and rushed across the open terrain toward Andrejevka, whole infantry companies reaching the edge of the village with hardly the loss of a man. The Russians were unable to check the German advance with their heavy weapons, because their firing was based on data obtained before the laying of the smoke screen.

The smoke screen had been launched under ideal weather conditions and remained for a long time.

As soon as the Soviet observers could see through the gradually disappearing smoke, they directed fire against the German attacking infantry. However, the German forward artillery observers quickly informed their batteries of the location of the Soviet artillery and heavy weapons positions. These positions were at once shelled heavily, and soon became silent.

The German infantrymen then entered Andrejevka, which consisted of many field positions, all excellently camouflaged and all liberally provided with machine guns and mortars. Houses and barns had been equipped for defense. The Russian positions were in many cases connected by cleverly arranged trench systems.

THE THREAT TO THE LEFT FLANK IS REMOVED. The engagement at Andrejevka was basically a struggle for the Korosten-Kiev railway line, which passed a mile or two to the north. With the German capture of this village, following the capture of Korosten and Malin, this vital railroad, except for a short suburban portion near Kiev, was in German hands. The Russians who had threatened von Reichenau's left flank withdrew now to assist in the defense of Kiev. No information is available as to their line of retreat; but most of them probably fell back along the railroad to the strongly held position east of the Irpen. The new Russian front line north of the Zhitomir-Kiev highway became something like the top half of the letter "C".

Overcoming the Russian resistance along the railroad reduced the threat of a Russian flank attack from the north. Few roads and railways led through the Pripet marshes toward the new German positions, and the Germans instead of the Russians were now aided by the fact that a slight demolition could render a whole area impassable.

Von Reichenau had not only secured his left flank; he was also getting into position to make contact (previously denied him by the Pripet marshes) with von Bock, whose Second Army and Second Armored Army were soon to move down from the north.


A CORPS MOVES TO SUPPORT THE RIGHT FLANK. While elements on the northern flank of von Reichenau's army were attacking Russian positions on the railroad north of the Zhitomir-Kiev highway, one of his corps was assigned a mission to the south. The mission of this corps was not only to assist in securing the Irpen position but to put von Reichenau's army into areas from which an assault upon Kiev could be made when the situation permitted.

The German units destined to take part in the large-scale operations south of the Irpen position turned off the main Zhitomir-Kiev highway at Kotscherowo, and proceeded in a southeasterly direction by way of Brusilov to Fastov. German panzer and motorized infantry divisions went first along the paved road, which stopped at Fastov, some 40 miles southwest of Kiev. Beyond Fastov, the troops had to advance toward their new positions along ordinary roads, which had been turned into mud by a three-day rain.

On a front of some 12 miles running from southeast to northwest astride the Fastov-Vasilkov-Kiev road, five infantry divisions were moved up to establish prepared assembly areas from which an attack was to be made later against Kiev. Fastov was the center of combat for the entire sector, since it was the only practical road to Vasilkov, the one city of any size between Fastov and Kiev. There were regimental assembly areas on each side of this road.

Two villages, Gelenovka on the left and Marjanovka on the right, flanked the roadway some distance in front of these assembly areas, and as the Germans approached these villages they encountered difficult terrain, for the Strugna had many tributary creeks with steep slopes. The two villages had, moreover, been very heavily fortified by the Russians, and here again, as north of the Zhitomir-Kiev highway, the Germans were compelled to use their heavy weapons and expend themselves in force against unimportant localities which the Russians had transformed into fortresses.

THE GERMANS USE DIVE BOMBERS AND TANKS IN CAPTURING THE VILLAGE OF GELENOVKA. The German heavy artillery had been moved into position, apparently south of Fastov, and by July 30 von Reichenau felt that his southern corps was ready to launch an attack toward Kiev. The attack was made at 0400 on a 12-mile front. Artillery concentrations fell on Gelenovka and Marjanovka--and at the same instant similarly heavy Russian artillery attacks were directed upon the German positions. The Germans learned later from prisoners that the Russians had, by an unusual coincidence, made their plans for an attack upon the German positions at this same hour.

Under the cover of fire by their artillery, German infantry troops moved into positions of readiness at the bottom of the small valley in front of Gelenovka. During this movement, they were under fire from Russian artillery.

Either by previous plan or because of the unexpectedly heavy Russian artillery fire, the Germans sent in eight dive bombers at 0530. The German and the Russian artillery fire ceased as the planes appeared. These dive bombers released their bombs at an altitude of about 450 feet. A decrease in Russian fire indicated that Soviet observation posts and guns had been hit by the bombs.

The advancing German infantry, however, had to cross broad fields of ripe grain before arriving at the edge of the village. In accordance with their customary tactics, the Soviets had taken advantage of the cover afforded by the grain and, digging deeply into the black soil, had constructed an elaborate system of field positions to protect the village. Russian machine-gun fire from flanking positions, as well as carelessly directed German infantry fire, increased the difficulties of the forward German units as they moved through the grain fields. There was heavy hand-to-hand fighting for the Soviet machine-gun and rifle nests. Finally, the leading German units reached the edge of Gelenovka. There again machine guns, rifles, and hand grenades were used on both sides in close combat in front of the village.

In spite of bitter and incessant fighting from 0400, Gelenovka was still held by the Russians shortly before sunset. At this time, German armored assault artillery advanced through lanes among the halted forward elements and charged into the village, firing in every direction from which resistance appeared. Riflemen followed closely and beat down any resistance not broken by the assault artillery. At sunset Gelenovka was finally captured. The exhausted infantry sat at the side of the road amid dead Soviet soldiers, crushed horses, and burned vehicles and watched a stream of Russian prisoners led to the rear.

According to German sources, an equally severe struggle was necessary to secure possession of other villages, including Marjanovka. When Marjanovka was taken, the Germans felt that they had entered the outer protective ring of the positions in front of Kiev.

THE GERMANS ARE STOPPED AT WETA CREEK BY RUSSIAN DEPLOYMENT IN DEPTH. On July 31, German troops worked forward from Marjanovka toward Vasilkov, the only city on the road to Kiev from the south. German observers with glasses sought for any possible show of hostile resistance in the tall grain. Infantrymen combed the grain fields and the steep slopes of the Strugna tributaries.

The Russians harassed the German advance by artillery fire; however, they evacuated the inhabitants of Vasilkov, and did not defend that city. The Germans entered the town, established headquarters, and dug in around the outskirts to protect the units and supplies which were brought up.

During the forenoon of August 1, the leading German elements continued beyond Vasilkov in close pursuit of the Russians. After passing through several villages and crossing several swamps, the Germans, encountering increased opposition, approached the Weta, which the Russians had determined to hold. Russian artillery and mortar shelling of the German forward positions was extremely heavy on August 1, 2, and 3.

In front of the Germans and across the Weta, the Russians had constructed a semicircular line of bunkers similar to those further north along the Irpen River. The Germans at once began efforts to force these positions. At dawn on August 3, a young lieutenant succeeded in leading his platoon into the valley through a ravine obscured from the enemy. The platoon crossed the Weta and surprised a hostile security group located behind wire obstructions and an antitank ditch. Although accurate Russian shellfire prevented this platoon from holding its position, the observations reported by the lieutenant formed the basis for his battalion commander's attack. During the evening of August 3, German heavy weapons units, varying from heavy mortars to light field howitzers, completed their movement into positions in front of the Weta bunkers. Fire began at once, and hits were registered on positions located by observers in advance posts.

On August 4 at 0400, German artillery opened a heavy concentration of fire against Russian fortifications in the woods across the Weta. Three Russian bunkers received direct hits. After 45 minutes of continuous firing, there was a lull of five minutes, and at 0450 the German shelling was renewed with increased intensity. Smoke mortars next went into action; their shells exploded in front of and between enemy bunkers, and covered the center of the valley with a smoke cloud. Artillery fire was continued. The commander of a German infantry battalion leaped out of his cover, led his companies down the slope, through the knee-deep Weta, and across a 70-yard open space to a lane cut through the Wire entanglements by the bridgehead platoon. Fortunately for the Germans, the bunker which protected the antitank ditch just beyond the wire had been put out of action by a mortar.

After crossing the antitank ditch, the right flank rifle company encountered another band of wire entanglements. Pioneers rushed to the front and cut a lane, through which a second special group of pioneers moved against the bunker on the right, bursting it open with two concentrated explosive charges. Then the flame throwers squirted their liquid fire into the hatchways, and a black smoke cloud obscured the view for some minutes. The Germans pushed on into the forest and found numerous abandoned field positions dug deeply into the earth. Their artillery fire had destroyed Russian resistance in that particular area. In places, the forest was a jumble of giant craters, broken trees, and torn branches. The air was full of dust mingled with the smell of exploded shells. A rolling barrage of German artillery, directed by observers with the leading elements, lifted just ahead of the Germans advancing through the forest. Finally the Russians were pushed out of their last positions in this area, which was over 100 yards inside the forest and a little more than a mile from the creek.

Simultaneously, other Russian bunker positions were penetrated, not only here, but on the front of the entire corps attacking on the south. The Russian fortifications were arranged in great depth, however, and this corps, while it had scored minor gains, could not effect a break-through.

Under heavy Russian fire the German riflemen lay on either side of the road in deep trenches which protected them from hostile shell splinters. They were surrounded by ankle-deep mud, and stretched pieces of canvas over themselves for shelters. They did not shave or wash for days. The field kitchens were several miles in the rear, and by the time meals could be served the food was cold. But, in spite of difficulties; the Germans held their position in spite of strong Russian counterattacks. They thought, according to their own accounts, that they would reach Kiev in 2 or 3 days. However, they remained in their positions, 12 miles from the heart of the city, and for a number of weeks made no advance against the determined Soviet resistance.

In the meantime the Germans strengthened their positions, turned Vasilkov into a headquarters town, and brought up supplies and reinforcements again by an all-out attack, which made no appreciable headway.


The situation before Kiev was finally resolved in September by events many miles away, both south and north. In the south, von Stuelpnegel had thrown a bridge across the river below Kremenchug, (see Tactical and Technical Trends No. 7 p. 40), and still nearer German forces had established bridgeheads across the Dnieper at Kanev, Rjishchev, and Tripole. Thus the west bank of the lower Dnieper was in German hands.

In the north, von Kleist had crossed the Desna near Novgorod-Seversky. Also, on the northern flank, a German advance to the northeast had forced the Russians out of Garnostaipol and across the Dnieper. The more northern elements of von Reichenau's Army had also established connection with von Weichs's army which had advanced north of the Pripet marshes, and had turned southward and crossed the Desna.

If the Germans had planned to take Kiev by a frontal attack, they had failed. Von Reichenau's army in two months of effort made no appreciable headway on the Irpen and on the Weta. The Germans had, however, dug themselves in so that they could not be easily thrown back. Whether the Germans had planned to take Kiev and had failed, or whether they had planned merely to secure strong positions before that city, they were now ready to become the holding attack in the envelopment which followed.

On September 17 at 0630 von Reichenau, once more began his attack on the Russian positions. As usual, violent artillery bombardment, assisted by dive bombers, paved the way for assaults with mortars, machine guns, hand grenades, and other weapons. The Russians again defended villages so stubbornly that each village outside of Kiev was destroyed. Because of the closing of the trap by armored troops far to the east of Kiev, however, the Russians had to cease their resistance, and withdraw across the Dnieper River. The city was captured by the Germans on September 19. Despite their heroic 10 weeks of resistance to the Germans in front of Kiev, the outflanking operations of von Bock from the north and of von Rundstedt from the south had forced the Kiev defenders into a disastrous position. The Russian soldiers who had fought so valiantly were withdrawn across the Dnieper, but were not able to escape from the trap which closed around at least four and possibly five of Budenny's armies.

*This paper is based chiefly on five articles published in the October 16, 23, 30, November 6 and 13, 1941, issues of the Illustrierte Beobachter. The source is believed to be reliable, but details in regard to the order of battle of the various task forces and in regard to the chronology of operations are unfortunately lacking.


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