Battle of Sevastopol 1941- 1942

The Battle of Sevastopol was a World War II battle which was fought between German forces and the Red Army, over the control of the main Soviet Black Sea Fleet naval base. It took place in the port-city of Sevastopol, on the Crimean Peninsula, from October 30, 1941, to July 4, 1942. During the Battle of Sevastopol the Germans made use of heavy artillery (200-800mm).

When Operation Barbarossa was launched on June 22, 1941, the Crimean Peninsula was not even in the German plans. It was assumed that when Moscow fell under German control, the entire Soviet Union would just crumble down. But, in July 1941, two Russian naval aircraft attacked the Axis oil fields at Ploiesti, Romania, destroying 11,000 tons of oil. This Soviet air raid had been launched from Sevastopol. Thus, on July 23, 1941, Adolf Hitler issued Directive 33 which not only called for the conquest of the Crimean Peninsula, but it was also to be done as a priority.

The assault on Sevastopol was carried out by the 11th Army, under the command of Erich von Manstein. The 11th Army was an element of Army Group South and consisted of 9 German infantry divisions, augmented with two additional ones that arrived during the battle, arranged in two corps, plus various supporting elements including 150 German tanks, and several hundred aircraft. For the attack on Sevastopol, the Germans used the heaviest concentrations of artillery fielded by the Wehrmacht until then; they used one 800mm railroad canon, two 600mm mortars, two 420mm howitzers, and more than one hundred 283mm howitzers. The German 11th Army was reinforced by two Romanian rifle corps.

The defence of Sevastopol consisted of the Black Sea Fleet, the Separate Coastal Army under Petrov, and the city garrison which numbered one brigade, three regiments and 19 battalions of marine corps. There were also 82 pillboxes with naval guns, and 220 machine-guns deployed in defferent parts of the city.

The Battle of Sevastopol began on October 30, 1941, when the German 132nd infantry division made a rapid thrust into Sevastopol. The Germans tried to burst into the city from the north, north-east and east, but they had to fall back when the Soviets counterattacked. The Germans then encircled the city, which was reinforced by the Soviets by sea, receiving the bulk of the Russian troops that had been evacuated from Odessa.

On 11 November 60,000 German and Romanian soldiers launched another attack, but after ten days the attack ground to a halt. Manstein had decided to attack the enclave’s southern flank, because of its seemingly poorer fortifications. But the terrain in the south was extremely difficult, and the Germans failed to force a breakthrough. On December 4, the local Soviet command reported that the defences had been re-established.

Erich von Manstein transferred his forces to the north. The Germans also moved in their largest artillery piece, the 800mm-gun Schwerer Gustav in preparation for another attack. Then the German 11th Army started a five-day artillery barrage of the city, in order to ferret the Soviets out of their caves and bunkers; and, on December 17, 1941, six German infantry divisions and two Romanian brigades with 1,275 guns and mortars, using over 150 tanks and 300 aircraft launched the second assault on the city.

On December 21, as the Germans, who had broken through Colonel Kudyurov’s 40th Cavalry Division to a point less than two kilometers from Severnaia Bay, prepared for their final push, the Soviets launched a counter attack and forced the Germans back with the aid of the newly arrived 79th Independent Naval Infantry Brigade. By January 4, 1942, every Axis unit had been stopped by Soviet counter-attacks.

On May 8, 1942, the 11th Army launched a counterattack, code named Unternehmen Trappenjagd, which was aimed at driving the Soviet forces out of the Kerch area and resuming the offensive on Sevastopol. The Germans had 7 infantry divisions and a panzer division. Approximately one third of the German forces were Romanian. After a number of feints in the north, the 11th Army broke through, in the south, pursuing the enemy up to the Kerch straits. On May 8 the Soviets surrendered and 170,000 prisoners fell into German hands.

Having expelled the Soviets from the Kerch area, the German attention turned once again to Sevastopol. To help with the siege von Manstein had at his disposal some of the largest guns ever built, such as the super-heavy 600mm Mörser Karl mortar and the 800mm "Gustav" railway gun. On May 21, 1942, the Germans launched a bombing and bombardment of the city. On June 2 the main barrage began, using all of the resources of the Luftwaffes Luftflotte 4. It continued for five days before the main attack began. On June 7, 1942, the Germans assaulted the secondary defensive line.

The Soviet outer defensive rings were breached by June 16, 1942, as the 54th Corps seized most of the bay’s northern shore, yet strong Soviet pockets of resistance held fast on the 54th Corps flanks, while the 30th Corps’ westward attack ground to a halt before the Soviet defensive system’s bulwark, the so called "Sapun Line", which began almost exactly south of the bay’s crown. It became clear that von Manstein’s plan had overestimated the effect that incapacitating the Severnaia Bay ports would have on the defenders. On the night of June 28, Erich von Manstein launched an amphibious crossing of the bay aiming to outflank the troublesome Sapun Line.

On the Sapun Line’s northern end, forces of the 30th Corps—reinforced with elements of the 54th Corps, managed to breach the defences. On the line’s southern end, having feigned against the center, German and Romanian troops managed to break through the Soviet defensive lines. As the German 11th Army closed in, the Communist Party and administrative officials were evacuated by submarine. On July 4, 1941, the city fell after the defeat of the Inkerman Heights line. Although Sevastopol had been taken by the Germans, Soviet troops still held out in the caves around the peninsula until July 9. A cluster of Soviet pockets that had to be smothered and the task of mopping up these pockets raged on until late autumn.

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Thor is Carlos Benito Camacho, the manager and writer of this blog.

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