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The Lublin–Brest Offensive ( , 18 July – 2 August 1944) was a part of the Operation Bagration strategic offensive by Soviet forces to clear Germans from central‐eastern Polandmarker. The offensive was executed by the left (southern) wing of the 1st Belorussian Front and took place during July 1944; it was opposed by the German Army Group South Ukraine and Army Group Centre.

The operation was accompanied by several other offensives, particularly the Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive of the 1st Ukrainian Front in the south; both offensives launched weeks after the start of the successful Operation Bagration to the north which cleared German forces from most of Belarusmarker.

After reaching its target objectives, the offensive was continued as the Soviet forces advanced on Warsawmarker during August (2 August – 30 September 1944); however Soviet forces did not aid the Polish Warsaw Uprising, which is a matter of some controversy.

Opposing forces

On 15 June, Army Group South Ukraine under command of Ferdinand Schorner was composed of German and Romanian forces, 2 armies strong each: Romanian Third Army, Romanian Fourth Army, 6th Army (newly reformed after destruction of the previous 6th Army in the battle of Stalingradmarker), 8th Army.[486192] The Army Group Centre had the 2nd Army, 4th Army, 9th Army and 3rd Panzer Army.

The Soviet 1st Belorussian Front under command of Konstantin Rokossovsky included the 8 Guards, 28th, 47th, 61st, 65th, 69th, and 70th (Combined Arms) Аrmies, 2nd Тank Аrmy, 6th and 16th Air Аrmies, 11th Tank Corps, 1st Polish Army, 2nd Guards and 7th Guards Cavalry Corps.

The offensive: securing Lublin and Brest

After feinting on 9–10 July to draw German attention away from Soviet offensive preparations at Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive, and the success of that offensive, clearly visible in the first days (from 13 July), Konstantin Rokossovsky’s started their own push westwards.

On 18 July five armies of the 1st Belorussian Front (including one Polish army, the Polish First Army) deployed on the front’s left wing south of the Pinsk Marshesmarker, struck and shattered thedefences of Army Group South Ukraine 4th Panzer Army west of Kovelmarker. Within hours, the front’s 2nd Tank Army and several mobile corps began exploiting success to the west with the infantry in their wake.

Lieutenant General Nikolai Gusev's 47th Army and Colonel General Vasily Chuikov's 8th Guards Army tore into German defences, and by 21 July they had reached the Bug River. The next day, Lieutenant General Semyon Bogdanov's 2d Tank Army began its exploitation toward Lublin and the Vistula, while 11th Tank and 2nd Guards Cavalry Corps led the drive northwest toward Siedlcemarker to cut off the retreat of Army Group Center forces defending around Brest and Bialystok. Nazi concentration camp Maidanekmarker near Lublin was liberated on 22 July.

Although Bogdanov was wounded on 23 July during the fighting for Lublin and was replaced by Major General A. I. Radzievsky, the rapid advance continued, carrying the lead elements of 8th Guards Army and 2d Tank Army to the shores of the Vistula on 25 July. On 24 July Konstantin Rokossovsky’s forces captured Lublinmarker and pushed on westward towards the Vistula River south of Warsaw.. The Stavka ordered Radzievsky to turn his army northward toward Warsaw to help cut off the withdrawal of Army Group Centre.

On 28 July Brest was taken. By 2 August, the 1st Belorussian Front’s left wing armies seized bridgeheads over the Vistula River at Magnuszewmarker (Chuikov's 47th Army) and Puławymarker (Lieutenant General V. la. Kolpakchi's 69th Army) and commenced an almost two‐month struggle with counterattacking Wehrmacht forces to retain these vital bridgeheads as launching pads for future, even larger-scale offensives into heart of central Poland toward Berlinmarker. Army Group Centre's XLVI Panzer Corps conducted counter-attacks from August 8 to reduce the bridgehead. The 19th and Hermann Göring Panzer Divisions mounted several assaults during early August, but the Soviet lines remained firm.

Further battles of that period included the battle of Studzianki.

The controversy: bridgeheads instead of Warsaw

During the offensive bringing the 1st Belorussian Front’s left wing closer to the Vistula River, the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) staged an insurrection in Warsaw; the Soviet advance was one of the factors which accelerated the Uprising, as the Poles both counted on Soviet support and wanted to secure their capital independently (as part of the Operation Tempest).

Only days before the uprising begun in Warsaw (on 1 August), the Stavka (Soviet General Headquarters) commanded Rokossovsky to dispatch his 2nd Tank Army in direction of Warsaw’s eastern suburbs (Pragamarker). By 28 July, Radzievsky's army, with three corps abreast, engaged 73rd Infantry Division and the Hermann Goering Panzer Division 40 kilometres southeast of Warsaw. A race ensued between Radzievsky, who was seeking to seize the routes into Warsaw from the east, and the Germans, who were attempting to keep those routes open and maintain possession of Warsaw.

The 2nd Tank Army was to be protected on the right by a cavalry corps (the 2nd Guards) and the 47th Army, however the tank army reached the region east of Warsaw on 29 July, before the slower 47th Army could provide support; the 47th Army and the 2nd Guards were engaged in the battle around Siedlcemarker, 50 kilometres to the east. Germans counterattacked, in what became known as the Battle of Radzymin, with two panzer corps (XXXIX and IV SS). On 29 July, Radzievsky dispatched his 8th Guards Tank Corps and 3rd Tank Corps northward in an attempt to swing northeast of Warsaw and turn the German defenders' left flank, while his 16th Tank Corps continued to fight on the southeastern approaches to the city's suburbs. Although Lieutenant General A. F. Popov's 8th Guards Tank Corps successfully fought to within 20 kilometres east of the city, Major General N. D. Vedeneev's 3d Tank Corps ran into a series of successive panzer counterattacks by Model. Beginning on 30 July, the Hermann Goering and 19th Panzer Division struck the overextended and weakened tank corps near Radzyminmarker, north of Wołominmarker, 15 kilometres northeast of Warsaw. Although the corps withstood three days of counterattacks, on 2 and 3 August, 4th Panzer Division and 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking joined the fight. In three days of intense fighting, 3d Tank Corps was severely mauled, and 8th Guards Tank Corps was also sorely pressed. From 30 July through 5 August German forces succeeded in pushing Soviets back, inflicting heavy losses on the Soviet units. By 5 August 47th Army's forces had arrived in the area, and 2nd Tank Army was withdrawn for rest and refitting. The three rifle corps of 47th Army were stretched out on a front of over 80 kilometers, from south of Warsaw to Siedlce, and were unable to immediately renew the drive on Warsaw or to the Narew River with the strength and speed available to the tank units. German communications lines eastward to Army Group Centre had been damaged but not cut.

After that defeat, throughout the entire period up to 20 August 1944, the 1st Belorussian Front’s 47th Army remained the only major Red Army forces deployed across the Vistula River opposite Warsaw. The Soviets made no attempt to aid the uprising, concentrating on securing the west bank. Instead the 47th Army concentrated on securing Soviet positions east of the river, not providing the insurgents even with artillery support. At the time, the bulk of the 1st Belorussian Front’s centre and right wing were struggling to overcome German defences north of Siedlcemarker on the approaches to the Narew River and, according to Soviet accounts, were unable to support any action to aid Warsaw directly. Western and contemporary Polish accounts claim that Stalin deliberately withheld support for the Polish Home Army as he wanted the Home Army — supporting the Polish government in exile, a competition to the pro‐Soviet Polish Committee of National Liberation — to be destroyed.

On 20 August the 1st Polish Army of General Zygmunt Berling joined the Soviet 47th Army. Red Army forces north of Warsaw finally advanced across the Bug River on 3 September, closed up to the Narew River the following day, and fought their way into bridgeheads across the Narew on 6 September. Lead elements of two Polish divisions from the 1st Army finally assaulted across the Vistula River into Warsaw on 13 September but made little progress and were evacuated back across the river ten days later. The Uprising forces capitulated on 2 October; the Soviets would take Warsaw without a major battle during their advance early in 1945. American military historian David M. Glantz notes that while the Soviets could have taken Warsaw and aided the insurgents, from a purely military standpoint this would have required diverting efforts from attempts to secure bridgeheads south and north of Warsaw, involved the Soviets in costly city fighting and gained them less optimal positions for further offensives; this, coupled with political factors meant that the Soviet decision not to aid the Warsaw Uprising was based not only on political, but also on military considerations.

Aftermath - battle for the Narew bridgeheads

The bridgeheads at Serockmarker, the confluence of the Bug and Narew Rivers, had been established by the Soviet 65th Army at the end of the Lublin-Brest Offensive. The German XX Corps of Second Army was deployed in defence.

On October 3 elements of the 3rd and 25th Panzer Division, supported by the 252nd Infantry Division, were thrown into an attack to eliminate the 65th Army's positions in the bridgehead. On the southern face, German units reached the bank of the Narew by October 5. The memoirs of General Pavel Batov, 65th Army's commander, describe committing the 44th Guards Rifle Division in an attempt to halt the German advance.

An attack on the northern part of the bridgehead was planned for October 8, involving the 19th Panzer and Wiking divisions but the gains made were eliminated by a Soviet counter-attack on October 14.

Footnotes

  1. When Titans…
  2. Glantz.
  3. Brest, Belarus.
  4. Hinze, p.400
  5. See also Glantz, Failures of Historiography
  6. Zaloga, pp.78-79
  7. See the account of Armin Scheiderbauer in Williams and Rodgers, p.109
  8. See Batov, В походах и боях, Moscow 1962
  9. Williams and Rodgers, p.110; Batov gives the date as October 19

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