June 1944 Attack Which Destroyed 27 German Divisions in Five Days
Collapse of German Army Group Center shattered the continuous German front line on the Eastern Front which was never restored.
The Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944 remains one of the greatest achievements of the Anglo-American alliance in World War Two.
Yet a battle of even greater significance to the Allied victory over Nazi Germany took place two weeks after D-Day.
This battle is largely unknown in the West although it was a far greater catastrophe for the German Army than Stalingrad. This battle, is either known as Operation Bagration (the code name give to the plan by the Soviets) or, and this is far more descriptive, the Collapse of German Army Group Center.
An Army Group was the largest command and control formation utilized by the Wehrmacht in World War Two. In the Soviet Union there were usually just three covering the entire line of more than a thousand kilometers. So you can see they were gigantic military formations.
On the night of 21/22 June 1944, the three year anniversary of the German invasion, the Soviets launched an attack of a ferocity never seen before in the Western world.
Soviets destroyed twenty-seven German divisions in five days.
The 300,000 men serving in those divisions simply vanished. Literally wiped off the face of the earth. Few were ever heard from again and no one knows what happened to those divisions or their higher echelon commands, except they were wiped out.
Germany still lists over 3 million men as missing in action from World War Two.
In the first five days, the Soviet Army advanced over one hundred kilometers to the actual headquarters of German Army Group Center which was in Minsk.
This forced HQ of Army Group Center to evacuate in great disorder and worse for the Germans, they could not move the mountains of supplies that were staged at Army Group for movement to the front and they had to be set afire.
Germans could not retreat fast enough.
Soviet columns were motorized with American trucks and Soviet built tanks while the Germans were reduced to using horse transport. So the Germans kept retreating. The connection between Army Center and Army Group North, which formed a continual front line against the Soviets, was severed, never to be restored.
In the second phase of the battle which lasted from 4 July through 29 August, the Soviets moved another 480 kilometers ending up on the border of East Prussia in the northern area and a few miles from Warsaw to the south.
Meanwhile in the east, the Soviet Operation Bagration boasted triumphs to match those of the Americans and British. Indeed the Russians’ achievement was much greater, since they faced three German divisions for each one deployed in France.Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945 by Max Hastings
Operation Bagration – Vitebsk–Orsha Offensive. Soviet soldiers on the southeastern shore of river Dvina in Vitebsk, June 26th 1944.
Operation Bagration – Minsk Offensive. Column of German POWs marching on the Minsk-Smolensk highway, July 1944.
[Images courtesy of Wikimedia.]