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Military decoration for Polish soldiers who fought in the battle of Lenino


The Battle of Lenino was a tactical World War II engagement that took place from 12 October to 13 October 1943 as part of the Spas-Demyansk offensive operationmarker in the Duki-Ilovets direction near the town of Dribin, north of the village of Lenino in the Mogilevmarker region of the Byelorussian SSR. It was part of the offensive in the 33rd Army (General V.N.Gordov) sector north of Spas-Demyansk, of the Western Front to dislodge units of the 4th Army of the Army Group Centre forces.

The battle is particularly prominent in the Polish military historiography, as it was one of the first major engagements (with significant casualties) of Polish Armed Forces in the East.

The battle

The Polish 1st Tadeusz KoŇõciuszko Infantry Division under the command of Zygmunt Berling staging in the second echelon of the 33rd Army was destined to receive its first combat test in this operation. The division was ordered to counter-attack a German force which had previously counter-attacked the Red Army units, but had gone on a defensive. Unknown to the 33rd Army commander, the German units were reinforced during the previous night (by the 36th Infantry division?), and had time to entrench in terrain that had not been scouted by the Polish division. There was a failure in cooperation from other Red Army units, and a lack of Army artillery support or close air cover caused by the ongoing Wehrmacht panzer counter-attack against the 10th Guards Army to the north flank of the 33rd Army.

The division was forced to assume defensive positions, and was ordered to hold its ground due to the expected arrival in its sector of the 6th Guards Cavalry Corps which was tasked with breaking through the German defensive position.

Outcome

The Polish division had held its sector for two days despite sustaining heavy losses during the combat, and after two days was returned to the second echelon of the Front for rebuilding.The division sustained the following reported losses:
502 killed
1776 wounded
663 missing or captured
This totaled about 25% of the division's personnel.

326 German soldiers were captured by Polish division during the battle of Lenino. Polish division also reported destroying or capturing 72 machine guns, 42 artillery guns or mortars, 2 tanks and 5 enemy planes shot down. Enemy losses (apart from captured) were reported as 1500 soldiers.

Aftermath

Although a tactical failure, the battle was an operational success and was used for Polish and Soviet propaganda, as it was the first battle of the Soviet-backed Polish forces. On October 7, 1950, the anniversary of the battle was declared the official "Day of the Polish Army" by the authorities of the People's Republic of Poland. In 1989, when Poland exited the Warsaw Pact and Soviet sphere of influence, the day was replaced by the pre-war Day of the Polish Army date of August 15, to commemorate the Battle of Warsaw of 1920.

References

  1. Glantz,p.189-190

Sources

  • Istomin, V.P., Smolensk offensive operation 1943, Moscow, 1973 ( )[169074]
  • Glantz, D.M., Soviet Military Deception in the Second World War, Frank Cass, London, (1989) ISBN 0-7146-3347-X


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