History 09/01/20 “Kerch catastrophe”: why fell the Crimean front

the defeat of the red Army on the Kerch Peninsula in the spring of 1942 has always been in the shadow of the defense of Sevastopol, it is little and rarely write. However, this event was perceived by the leadership of the country is very emotional. And let informally, but called it “Kerch catastrophe”, the first in a series of tragic defeats of 1942 year, which put the Soviet Union in dire Straits. Earlier failures at Vyazma and damanskom not taken so tragically, it has only failed to advance. In the Crimea were destroyed front, all in 1941.

the Reasons for the defeat in the Crimea call a lot. Among the main indicate poor management and weather. In Soviet times, of course, wrote about the huge advantage of the Germans in tanks and aircraft, but it is a tradition based on nothing “spells”.

the Troops of the Crimean front had, as usual in all operations, a substantial superiority in the course of the operation, both at the stage of the Soviet offensive and the beginning of the offensive of the Wehrmacht. May 8, comprising three armies of the Crimean front was 16 infantry and 1 cavalry division, 3 infantry, 4 armored, 1 marine infantry brigades, 4 separate tank battalions, 9 artillery regiments of RGK, 347 tanks and 350 combat aircraft. Moreover, the Crimean front have taken positions on AK-Moneycom isthmus with a width of 18-20 km.

part of the 11th army Manstein to attack identified 5 German infantry and 1 armored divisions, 2 Romanian infantry and 1 cavalry division, an improvised mobile group. Only 180 tanks. In the part of the 8th air corps, support troops, was 360 combat aircraft. Compounds of the Crimean front has been badly damaged in previous fights, but in the 11-th army manning was at the same level.

during the operation, the Crimean front lost 162 282 people, 4646 guns and mortars, tanks 196, 417 aircraft, 10 thousand vehicles, 860 tractors. In his memoirs, commander of the 11th army, Manstein, “Lost victories” is written on the “capture 170 thousand prisoners, the capture and destruction of 258 1133 tanks and guns”. But this number apparently includes all of the data battles since the beginning of the landing of Soviet troops in Kerch. German losses during the same period (including the actions near Sevastopol) are in the 7-8 thousand people. In any case, only as a disaster, the results of the operation will not be called. Were convicted and the representative of the Bet Lev Mehlis, reduced in rank, and the command of the Crimean front.

Indeed, all historians agree that the commander of the Crimean front, Lieutenant General D. T. Kozlov, behaved very hesitantly. What greatly contributed to the presence of the representative Rate, Lev Mehlis. Person in the military is illiterate, but endowed with enormous powers and are known for their repressive methods of management. Which is more uncomfortable to manage than helping. Who led the North Caucasus direction (which consisted of Sevastopol and the Crimean front) Marshal Budyonny, too, did not belong among the great generals.

a Very important role was played by the weather. If first frozen Kerch Strait has done a great service, that later became impassable roads, which sank even tanks, not allowed to expand the offensive.

In the opinion of Manstein, the problem of the red Army was in two minds of leadership and the absence of a plan “a bold deep operations”. But this view is difficult to accept. According to A. Isaev in his book “a Brief history of the second world war. The offensive of Marshal Shaposhnikov”, the plan was just developed great offensive operation by forces of three armies, with extensive use of mechanized cavalry group, conducting amphibious operations, and even the dropping of a major air assault in the district of Perekop, in order not to allow the Germans to withdraw from Crimea after the alleged defeat.

However, the execution of the operation, its preparation left much to be desired. Intelligence really is not carried out. Supply issues have not been resolved, and that in such a situation was one of the decisive factors. Themselves, the troops were poorly trained. Vitaly Abramov in his book “Kerch catastrophe 1942” provides data on the formed in the Caucasus national divisions that have been completely trained to military Affairs, and the vast majority of fighters do not know the Russian language.

In his memoirs Konstantin Simonov, who was at that time in the Crimea as correspondent of “red star” writes: “Here, on the Crimean front, there are now hysterical slogan “All go, go, go!””. The troops were driven into battle, frontal attack, trying as quickly as possible to achieve the goal. In the result only led to huge losses. In the result, the forces of the Crimean front was undermined by a failed offensive that, in fact, determined the result of the subsequent defeat.

However, it would be wrong to say that if in the Crimea was other Soviet military leaders, the situation could have turned out differently. It is worth Recalling though, that a similar pattern was almost the same time in the North-West of Rzhev. There are also Soviet troops unsuccessfully attacked, with only losses and no success at which these losses are justified. All in 1942 — is a continuous succession of the same results of the offensive operations of the red Army on all fronts. Only at Stalingrad after several unsuccessful attempts succeeded, but it was the only success for the entire year. And now, knowing the real picture of what was happening, it’s safe to say that the recipe for how to avoid the Kerch catastrophe, does not exist.

Cyril Shishkin

© Russian Seven

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