By Robert Forczyk
The battling round the city of Demyansk used to be one of many longest encirclement battles at the jap entrance in the course of the moment international battle, stretching from February 1942 to February 1943. initially, the German sixteen. Armee occupied Demyansk within the fall of 1941 since it was once key terrain - a crossroads positioned on excessive floor amidst a sea of swampy terrain - that will be used as a springboard for an eventual offensive into the Valdai Hills. as an alternative, the Soviet iciness counteroffensive in February 1942 encircled the German II Armeekorps and different devices, totalling approximately 100,000 troops, contained in the Demyansk Pocket. one other pocket used to be additionally created round Kholm, with one other 5,000 Germans within. but regardless of critical pounding from 5 Soviet armies, the embattled German troops held the pocket and the Luftwaffe prepared a tremendous aerial resupply attempt to maintain the defenders. For the 1st time in army heritage, a military used to be provided solely by way of air.
After preventing the Soviet iciness counteroffensive, the German sixteen. Armee fixed significant aid efforts to rescue their trapped forces within the Demyansk and Kholm wallet, that have been eventually relieved in April-May 1942. through the siege, the crack three. SS-Division 'Totenkopf' used to be nearly destroyed, ache eighty in line with cent casualties. besides the fact that, Hitler demanded that the 12 divisions of II Armeekorps stay within the slim Demyansk salient, whose base used to be simply 6km huge. through the summer time and autumn of 1942, the Soviets pounded the salient from either side, causing heavy casualties at the defenders. In February 1943, Marshal Timoshenko was once ordered to release an offensive to chop off the bottom of the salient and annihilate the 12 divisions. whilst, Hitler eventually got here to his senses after the Stalingrad debacle and certified the sixteen. Armee to withdraw from the pocket. hence, the Germans started to withdraw simply as Timoshenko opened his grand offensive to chop them off and ruin nearly 100,000 German troops. This quantity will finish with the drama of a German army-size withdrawal lower than fireplace in wintry weather, below assault from 3 sides.
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Additional resources for Demyansk 1942-43: The frozen fortress (Campaign, Volume 245)
Leichte Infanterie-Division arrives to block 1st Shock Army advance across Polist River. 9 2nd Guards Riﬂe Corps continues to advance south-west along Polist River. 10 20 February, North-western Front begins concentric attack with 1st GRC and Group Ksenofontov to complete encirclement of II AK in Demyansk. 11 25 February, Soviet link-up near Zeluch’ye creates the Demyansk pocket. 12 6–10 March, attacks by Group Ksenofontov and Group Moscow fail to crack outer perimeter of Demyansk pocket. 13 12 March, 329.
Kurochkin was not deterred by the difficulty of the terrain on the south side of Lake Il’men and directed Morozov to begin moving two strong shock groups, based upon 180th and 188th Rifle Divisions, into the forests on the east bank of the river Vergot in early January. Hidden among the snowcovered silver birch, the shock troops waited, without any fires or shelter for warmth. -deep (80cm) snow and to mark them, while pioneers helped to build ice roads for trucks and tanks. Although there were absolutely no roads in this area – which made Hansen confident that no serious attack could come from this direction – Kurochkin and Morozov were able to prepare a narrow mobility corridor through the frozen wilderness.
After this failure, the Soviets settled into a desultory siege of Stützpunkt Zamoschenka for the next week, but were hindered by shortages of artillery ammunition. Furthermore, bombardment from 76mm and 122mm guns proved unable to demolish the reinforced cellars that the Germans had built beneath the houses in the village. Despite the difficulty in reducing German strongpoints, Purkaev’s left wing made steady progress and by 15 January, 257th Rifle Division had advanced more than 20 miles towards Kholm.