Skip to comments.RUSSIANS AT THE PRUT, RUMANIAN BORDER; HOUR OF ACTION NEARING, SAYS CHURCHILL (3/27/44)
Posted on 03/27/2014 5:05:17 AM PDT by Homer_J_Simpson
Soviets block breakout path
Monday, March 27, 1944 www.onwar.com
On the Eastern Front... Kamenets-Podolski, on the Dnestr River and Gorodenka are captured by forces of the Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front (Zhukov). This movement is intended to block the breakout of the forces of the German 1st Panzer Army (Hube). Meanwhile, during the night, all units trapped in Hube’s Pocket receive the following signal: “1st Panzer Army will fight its way through the enemy and defeat him wherever he is encountered.”
In Italy... A British torpedo boat squadron destroys a small German coastal convoy off Vado.
In Burma... The British 33rd Corps (General Stopford) is assigned to 14th Army (General Slim). It is ordered to concentrate at Dimapur and then advance to Kohima. Meanwhile, a second brigade of the 5th Division arrives at Imphal by air while the third brigade is sent to Dimapur as a reinforcement for 33rd Corps.
In the Arctic... Convoy JW-58 sails from Iceland for Murmansk.
March 27th, 1944 (MONDAY)
FRANCE: 701 Eighth Air Force B-17s and B-24s, escorted by 960 P-38s, P-47s and P-51s attack 11 airfields. Ninth Air Force dispatches 53 B-26s to hit V-1 sites in northern France; only 18 attack due to bad weather.
VICHY FRANCE: The government authorises Frenchmen to enrol in the SS.
ROMANIA: German troops rush to reinforce the country as Soviet forces approach the border.
U.S.S.R.: The Red Army takes Kamenets-Podolski, in the Ukraine.
LITHUANIA: Kovno: Starting today SS troops round up and shoot dead all Jewish children under 13 years of age.
ITALY: Twelfth Air Force A-20s, A-36s, B-25s, P-40s and P-47s attack railway tracks, bridges, command posts and supply dumps.
BURMA: 130+ Tenth Air Force A-31s B-24s, B-25s, P-38s and P-51 attack supply dumps, troop concentrations, bridge and rail facilities.
Air Commando Combat Mission N0. 38 2:45 Flight Time Hailakandi, Assam to Meza, Burma. Bombed and destroyed bridge. The Japs repair this bridge as fast as we blow it up.
‘Notes: Had a 2 day break after coming back from Broadway and no record of what we did?. A sort of PX was put into operation. Remember that Zippo lighters were in short supply and sold only by lottery. Officers got a liquor ration and enlisted got a beer ration. We tried cooling our beer in a hypo solution liberated from the photo lab. Cooled the beer but left an awful taste on the cans. (Chuck Baisden)
CHINA: 60+ Fourteenth Air Force P-38s, P-40s and P-51s attack bridges, warehouses and ground troops.
FRENCH INDOCHINA: Six B-25s attack rail cars, a bridge and two factories near Viet Tri.
NEW GUINEA: Nearly 200 Fifth Air Force A-20s, B-24s, B-25s, P-39s, P-40s and P-47s attack a wide range of targets along the coast.
BOUGAINVILLE ISLAND: 8 Thirteenth Air Force P-40s hit a fuel dump.
MARSHALL ISLANDS: Seventh Air Force B-24s and B-25s attack Maloelap, Mille, Wotje and Jaluit Atolls.
NEW BRITAIN ISLAND: 23 Thirteenth Air Force B-25s and 34 fighters hit Wunapope with incendiaries.
Gilbert Islands: 9th Troop Carrier Squadron moves from Hawaii to Abemama and then to Saipan on 4 Aug 44.
The Soviets believe 1st Panzer Army will head south, across the Prut into Romania. They put their strongest blocking positions there. Instead, Hube decides to go west into southern Poland. The Soviet forces there are more thinly spread, and have longer and more tenuous lines of communication.
First Panzer is split into two mobile columns, each one under a corps command. Each column has a mix of panzers and infantry, with strong rear guards. While the army has sufficient supplies of food and ammunition, the Luftwaffe has to fly in gasoline for the motor vehicles. They are also flying out the wounded. The Luftwaffe has to constantly shift airfields as the pocket moves west, and cannot supply as much as the army needs. (Where have we heard this before?)
But the Germans retain their cohesion and are making progress. Units of 4th Panzer Army have been shifted from Poland to act as a relief force striking east to open a corridor.
To me, this is one of the strongest tests of any leader, to keep his troops together, disciplined and under orders during not just a retreat, but fighting out of a pocket. It would be so easy for it to disintegrate into a panic. Hube deserved the high marks Hitler gave him. But, as they say about a broken clock . . .
I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but after the loss of two army corps in the Korsun Pocket, and the mauling the German 8th and 6th Armies are taking, the complete loss of 1st Panzer Army would have been a catastrophe. The hole in the front could never have been repaired. All Hitler had to do was order Hube to “stand fast” just as he did with Paulus at Stalingrad and it would have happened. In fact, I think the Hube’s escape was made possible because the Soviets expected him sit there and be destroyed.
This battle is a striking contrast to the situation of 6th Army at Stalingrad. It shows that a cool-headed commander can keep his forces intact while surrounded, and fight his way out during winter. Maybe it could have been done at Stalingrad, too. Paulus would have had to get moving, though, not within days, but hours. Part of the problem was the city of Stalingrad itself, which hung around him like a boat anchor. It was Hitler’s prize and he could not give it up. Paulus didn’t have the personality of Hube to act independently.