Core: The Soviets will get their revenge. This is how the Red Army invaded Berlin.
It began with what the German colonel called “a continuous thunderous roar from the east.” The Soviet bombardment was huge in the eastern suburbs of Berlin, houses trembled, pictures fell from walls, and telephones rang. Berlin civilians hear the roar, see the building vibrate, and know the time has come. In the ration queues, women and girls listened “with fear of voices ahead,” and asked each other whether Americans would arrive in Berlin before the Soviet Union.
It was April 16, 1945. The uproar was the sound of 8,983 Soviet artillery pieces, up to 270 weapons per kilometer, throwing stacks of seven million bullets (1.2 million on the first day alone) in German defenses on the Oder-Neisse River line. The final and most consequential battle of World War II in Europe begins – the battle for Berlin.
“Who Will Take Berlin? Us or Allies? “
After running out of breath to complete the “Oder balcony” in East Prussia and to bring supplies, the Soviet Army was finally ready to invade Berlin and end the war. For Russian tyrannical and paranoid rulers, Josef Stalin, there was nothing more important than defeating British and American troops to Berlin. It was not only prestige that demanded it, revenge for bloody cruelty and destruction was also spread by Germany to Moscow and Stalingrad.
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“Who will take Berlin? Us or Allies? “Stalin asked two of his top commanders, Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, commander of the 1st Belorussian Front, and Marshal Ivan Koniev, head of the 1st Ukrainian Front, who faces Berlin, at a Moscow conference on April 1.
“We will, and in front of the Allies,” Koniev answered.
“So, that’s your kind of person,” answered Stalin, who immediately gave them orders – Zhukov would drive Berlin from the center and north, while Koniev struck Berlin from the south, enveloping the huge German capital in a giant pincer movement. . To achieve this victory, Stalin collected 2.5 million people, 41,600 weapons, 6,250 tanks and 7,500 aircraft.
The Soviet Army in 1945 was a well oiled war machine, equipped with powerful T-34 and JS tanks, superior to most of their German counterparts and quite easy for Soviet tankers who were mechanically challenged to operate and maintain. Artillery is still the “God of War” of Russia. Infantry and tanks work together with skills, resolution, and aggressiveness. The Soviets understood the importance of surprises, maneuvers, and reserve commitments. They don’t rely on numbers alone to win battles.
But the Soviets had weaknesses. While ammunition is abundant, food, spare parts, and even uniforms are few. Soviet troops were often lean and hungry, expected to live off the ground. Most of their rations and transportation are American Lend-Lease.
Most importantly, the Army lacked discipline. Despite the toughness of Soviet political officers, Soviet troops in all echelons had a fondness for theft and rape, which was inspired by the strong propaganda of political writers Stalin, who dismissed the idea that the German invasion would be Soviet revenge. —Germany cannot be defeated, but damaged.
There is nothing left to lose
Zhukov’s attack on Berlin was the essence of the attack, and the general who “never lost a battle” planned this badly. He showed a bit of his usual enthusiasm and flexibility. Facing German troops digging on it on The height of Seelow, he mobilized 143 spotlights to blind the defenders, one every 200 meters. When the floodlights came on, the Germans fired on them, killing many female lamp operators.
The German defense was led by one of the nation’s sharpest minds, Colonel General Gotthard Heinrici, the son of a Lutheran priest, married a “mischlinge,” a half-Jew. Only Heinrici’s ability as a defense specialist kept him on the Wehrmacht payroll, as the boss of the Vistula Army Group, who actually defended Oder.
Heinrici planned his defense very carefully. He had nearly one million people to defend against the Soviets, counting training units, the Hitler Youth, police and Volkssturm, equipped with 10,400 tanks, 1,500 weapons, and 3,300 aircraft. Soviet outnumbered. Even worse, the German war machine has been torn down by defeat and retreated for years. The tank lacked fuel, artillery lacked bullets, and many soldiers were not paid for months. Their spirits were exhausted by the flow of defeat, refugees blocked the road, letters (when letters came) from their homes that their homes had been destroyed or their homeland inhabited by Allied forces.
But they continued to struggle. Some do it with courage from desperate and fanatical people who believe in Hitler. Others were members of SS foreign contingents, such as the tough Nordland Division, which consisted of Scandinavian Nazis – Sweden, Denmark, and Norwegian rebels – who had been heavily involved with Hitler. Another such outfit was the SS Charlemagne Division, consisting of the French. They fought with the courage of men who had nothing else lost. Capture means a court of treason in their homeland, and running away is impossible. So these mercenaries and opportunists – including scattering British rebels from the 50 strong British Free Corps – are also fighting.
The Germans also had some of their usual strengths: mobility, fast-thinking field commanders, an amazing ability to regroup under pressure, and large Tiger tanks that threw 88mm bullets and could withstand heavy bombardment.
There is another incentive for Germany to fight this final battle with determination. Propaganda Josef Goebbels continues to promise magic weapons to change the tide of battle. German troops fear the destruction that will rain down their homes if the Soviets conquer their homeland. The SS flew “military courts” and military police effectively patrolled the rear area. Anyone suspected of being a defector will get a quick drum war trial, surely followed by a hanging sentence.
The picture is gloomy. The German division standing on the main resistance line of Heinrici on the Neisse River and Seelow Heights is not a goose-legion that terrorized Europe in 1940. There was a contingent of German naval personnel pulled from ships and stationary bases, Luftwaffe ground crews and pilots without planes flying, personnel from an Army training school, and a number of incomplete Volkssturm units, consisting of locally drawn parents and Hitler Youth, often armed with only one disposable Panzerfaust antitank rocket launcher instead of a shotgun. Many do not have uniforms and weapons, and lack training.
The Typical “Morning Concert”
With this, Gotthard Heinrici faced Zhukov’s attack. In the beginning, everything went well for Germany. Apart from firing lights, the spotlights themselves were ineffective because their glare reflected the smoke and dust of Soviet bombing back. Orders and counters for turning it on and off are followed immediately. The sky and the closed rain blocked both sides.
Even so, the bombing was terrible. The Hitler Youth and young people who were trained at first thought it was a typical “Morning Concert”, but the old hands soon realized that this was a long awaited attack. Gerd Wagner of the 27th Parachute Regiment said, “In a few seconds, all 10 of my friends are dead.” Wagner himself regained consciousness in a smoky clam crater and could barely escape. Further back, an SS panzer battalion commander peered through his passage and saw “in the field of view, the eastern sky burning.”
Soviet bombing churned out Seelow Heights, leaving physical and moral devastation. An SS war correspondent found a confused soldier hanging around the wood, after throwing his rifle. This is his first experience on the Eastern Front, he said. He spent the war as a barber at the officers’ hotel in Paris.
However, Zhukov was still experiencing difficulties. He sent his men to storm Oder with the American amphibian DUKW, which was driven by female soldiers. Behind the Lend-Lease vehicles came all types of ordinary boats, many of which leaked. Under great fire, the ships landed and the Soviets drove through the minefield, making little progress. Nearing midday, troops wallow in thick mud and German shelling.
Germany is also not good. Joseph Goebbels made an enthusiastic speech on German radio that a new Mongolian storm would destroy himself on Oder’s wall, but Berliners, who could read maps, stepped into longer lines in the food store to fill their cupboards as quickly as possible. Heinrici wanted to counterattack, but Adolf Hitler, in his usually crazy decision, had taken his three panzer divisions and sent them to Czechoslovakia. At the German Army’s “holy sanctuary”, the command bunker at Zossen, Chief of Staff General Hans Krebs continued to take vermouth photographs from the bottle he kept in his safe, struggling with interrupted communication ahead and requests for desperate information. from behind.
During the day, frustrated Zhukov sent his tanks, but they fought against deadly Panzerfausts, muddy ground, and chaotic bridges, a nightmare for traffic control.
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