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Monday, May 09, 2005

Zhukov, Konev, The Battle of Seelow Heights, Berlin, and Strategic Air Power

Zhukov and Konev
The Soviet offensive into what was to become East Germany (GDR) had two objectives. Because of Stalin's suspicions about the intentions of the Western Allies to hand over territory occupied by them in the post war Soviet zone of occupation, the offensive was to be on a broad front and was to move as rapidly as possible to the west, to meet the Western Allies as far west as possible. But the overriding objective was to capture Berlin. The two were complementary because possession of the zone could not be won quickly unless Berlin was taken. Another consideration was that Berlin itself held useful post war strategic assets, including Adolf Hitler and the German atomic bomb programme[1].
Germany contained useful weapons caches [not cachets], including two kinds of missiles.

One, medium range ballistic: the V-2

Two, cruise: the V-1

Germany pioneered numberous jets and rockets including the Me-262, Komet, and prototypes sparking future advances in the United States (from the X-1 and Panther, to F-22's, drones, and scramjets), Soviet Union, France, England, Sweden, and China to name several.

An Englishman and a German put together jet technology at roughly the same time.

The Battle for Seelow Heights is mostly unknown, but strategically critical and symbolic in a war fought to the bitter end.

The battle of the Oder-Neisse
In the early hours on April 16 the offensive began with a massive bombardment by thousands of artillery pieces, and Katyushas rockets which sustained the barrage for days. Shortly afterwards and well before dawn the 1BF attacked across the Oder. The 1UF attacked across the Neisse before the dawn the same morning. The 1BF was the stronger force but it had the more difficult assignment and was facing the majority of the German forces.

The initial attack by the 1BF was a disaster. Heinrici anticipated the attack and withdrew his defenders from the first line of trenches just before the Soviet artillery obliterated them. The light from 143 searchlights which it was planned would blind the defenders was diffused by the early morning mist and made useful silhouettes of the attacking Soviet formations. The swampy ground proved to be a great hindrance and under a German counter barrage, Soviet casualties were enormous. Frustrated by the slow advance, or on the direct orders of Stalin, Zhukov threw in his reserves, which in his plan were to have been held back to exploit the expected breakthrough. By early evening a Soviet an advance of almost six kilometres had been achieved in some areas, but the German lines remained intact. In the south the attack by the 1UF was keeping to plan. Zhukov was forced to report that the Battle of the Seelow Heights was not going to plan. Stalin to spur Zhukov on told him that he would give Konev permission to wheel his tank armies towards Berlin from the south.

On the second day the 1BF staff were reduced to combing the rear areas for any troops which could be thrown into the battle. The Soviet tactic of using massed attacks was proving more costly than usual. By night fall of April 17 the German front before Zhukov remained unbroken, but only just. To the south Army Group Centre under the command of General Ferdinand Schorner were not proving such a hindrance. IV Panzer Army on the north flank of his formation was falling back under the weight of the 1UF Attack. He kept his two reserve panzer division in the south covering his centre, instead of using them to shore up the IV Panzer Army. This was the turning point in the battle because by nightfall the positions of both the Army Group Vistula and southern sectors of Army Group Centre were becoming untenable. Unless they fell back in line with the IV Panzer Army they faced envelopment. In effect Konev's successful attacks on Schorner's poor defences, to the south of the battle of the Seelow Heights, were unhinging Heinrici's brilliant defence.

On April 18 Both Soviet Fronts made steady progress but Soviet losses were again substantial. By the nightfall the 1BF had reached the third and final German line of defence and the 1UF having captured Forst was preparing to break out into open country.

On April 19 the fourth day the 1BF broke through the final line of the Seelow Heights and nothing but broken German formations lay between them and Berlin. The remnants of the IX Army which had been holding the heights and the remaining northern flank of the IV Panzer army were in danger of being enveloped by elements of the 1UF, these were the 3rd Guards Army and the 3rd and 4th Guards Tank Armies, which having broken through the IV Panzer Army turned North towards Berlin and the 1BF. Other armies of the 1UF raced west towards the Americans. By the end of the 19th the German Eastern Front line had ceased to exist. All that remained were pockets of resistance. The cost to the Soviet forces had been very high between April 1 and April 19, with over 2,807 tanks lost. During the same period the Allies in the West lost 1,079 tanks.

Much more unnecessary blood was shed, culminating in The Battle of Berlin

Battle of Berlin

The forces available for the city's defense included several divisions of the regular army and Waffen-SS, supplemented by the police, boys in the compulsory Hitler Youth, and the Volkssturm which consisted of elderly men, many of whom had been in the army as young men and some were veterans of World War I.

Berlin's fate was sealed, but the resistance continued. The Soviet advance to the city centre was along some main axis: from the south-east, along the Frankfurter Allee (ending and stopped at the Alexanderplatz); from the south along Sonnen Allee ending north of the Belle Alliance Platz, from the south ending near the Potsdamer Platz and from the north ending near the Reichstag. Reichstag with Moltke bridge, Alexanderplatz and Havel bridges at Spandau were the places were the fighting was heaviest with house-to-house and hand-to-hand combat. The foreign contingents of the SS fought particularly hard because they were ideologically motivated and they believed that they would not live if captured.

On April 28 Heinrici rejected Hitler's command to hold Berlin at all costs so he was relieved of his command and replaced by General Kurt Student the next day.

On April 30, as the Soviet forces fought their way into the centre of Berlin, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun and then committed suicide by taking cyanide and shooting himself. General Weidling, defence commandant of Berlin, surrendered the city to the Soviets on May 2.

Dresden was a transportation hub, industrial city, and potential bottleneck to the German war machine. Moreover, it is a cultural center or spiritual hub like Rome, Monte Cassino, St. Augustine, Williamsburg, Paris, Budapest, Istanbul-Constantinople, Cairo, Baghdad, St. Petersburg, Mecca, or Jerusalem.

US Strategic Bombing Survey


Summary Report

(European War)

September 30, 1945

[the conclusion -- Chip]

Of the Future

The air war in Europe was marked by continuous development and evolution. This process did not stop on VE-day; great strides have been made since in machines, weapons, and techniques. No greater or more dangerous mistake could be made than to assume that the same policies and practices that won the war in Europe will be sufficient to win the next one -- if there should be another. The results achieved in Europe will not give the answer to future problems; they should be treated rather as signposts pointing the direction in which such answers may be found.

The great lesson to be learned in the battered towns of England and the ruined cities of Germany is that the best way to win a war is to prevent it from occurring. That must be the ultimate end to which our best efforts are devoted. It has been suggested -- and wisely so -- that this objective is well served by insuring the strength and the security of the United States. The United States was founded and has since lived upon principles of tolerance, freedom, and good will at home and abroad. Strength based on these principles is no threat to world peace. Prevention of war will not come from neglect of strength or lack of foresight or alertness on our part. Those who contemplate evil and aggression find encouragement in such neglect. Hitler relied heavily upon it.

Suggestions for assuring the strength and security of the United States are by no means intended as a recommendation for a race in arms with other nations. Nor do they reflect a lack of confidence in the prospect of international relationships founded upon mutual respect and good will which will themselves be a guarantee against future wars. The development of an intelligent and coordinated approach to American security can and should take place within the framework of the security organization of the United Nations.

In maintaining our strength and our security, the signposts of the war in Europe indicate the directions in which greater assurances may be found. Among these are intelligent long-range

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planning by the armed forces in close and active cooperation with other government agencies, and with the continuous active participation of independent civilian experts in time of peace as well as in war; continuous and active scientific research and technical development on a national scale in time of peace as well as in war; a more adequate and integrated system for the collection and evaluation of intelligence information; that form of organization of the armed forces which clarifies their functional responsibilities and favors a higher degree of coordination and integration in their development, their planning, their intelligence, and their operations; and, finally, in time of peace as well as in war, the highest possible quality and stature of the personnel who are to man the posts within any such organization, whatever its precise form may be -- and in this, quality, not numbers, is the important criterion.

The air has become a highway which has brought within easy access every point on the earth's surface -- a highway to be traveled in peace, and in war, over distances without limit at ever increasing speed. The rapid developments in the European war foreshadow further exploration of its potentialities. Continued development is indicated in the machines and in the weapons which will travel the reaches of this highway. The outstanding significance of the air in modern warfare is recognized by all who participated in the war in Europe or who have had an opportunity to evaluate the results of aerial offensive. These are facts which must govern the place accorded air power in plans for coordination and organization of our resources and skills for national defense.

Speed, range, and striking power of the air weapons of the future, as indicated by the signposts of the war in Europe must -- specifically -- be reckoned with in any plans for increased security and strength. The combination of the atomic bomb with remote-control projectiles of ocean-spanning range stands as a possibility which is awesome and frightful to contemplate.

These are some of the many factors which will confront our national leaders who will have primary responsibility for correctly reading the signposts of the past. It is hoped that the studies of the German war, summarized here, and studies being conducted by the Survey in Japan, will help them in their task.


sojourning crow said...

how can we talk about those things what aren't to be mentioned in polite company if there's not toipic related to it.

can we just suggest or what??

Anonymous said...

Oh, Chip.

I have no words. Deepest love to you both.


El Cid said...

Chip and family

You have my deepest and heartfelt thoughts. You will one day again see Alexander. It will be a joyous reunion.

Lois (NY Nana) said...


May precious Alexander rest in peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife.

And may you never know such sorrow again in your lives.

With love,

Anonymous said...

I pray the Lord hold you upright and keep you strong. I pray the Lord that he takes this terrible burden from you and carries for you.
May you both be filled with peace and hope, that you will see your precious son again. May the Lord to protect and love you always.


Anonymous said...

Beagle - I am so sorry for you and your family, Baldy

Anonymous said...

Many prayers and hugs to you and your precious wife.


zulubaby said...

Beagle, I can't find words to express how sorry I am for you and your wife. I am thinking of you and wishing you love and strength. May his memory be for a blessing.


BabbaZee said...

May Hashem bless and watch over Beagle and Mrs. Beagle.
Mourning is for the living. For A., your angel, it is only glory now.
All my love and prayers to you, with all my heart and soul.

jlfintx said...

Chip, my deepest sympathy to you and your bride. said...

Chip, Praying for you, your wife, your family. Hold you wife as hard and fast as you can. sobbing....... nothing I can say.
Please G-d watch over this family


Anonymous said...

I will pray for you and yours Beagle.
My deepest sympathy . . .

Chip said...

Not that it makes me feel better, but think about all those dead Russian-Soviets in Seelow Heights, Americans in the Battle of the Bulge, or conscripted German kids.

Living another ten or fifteen years may or may not be better. It depends on what the grownups do.

The only thing rationalization does is help avoid feeling singled out for punishment.

The well-wishes are much appreciated.