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Operation Bagration ( , Operatsiya Bagration) was the codename for the Sovietmarker 1944 Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation' during World War II, which cleared German forces from the Belorussian SSR and eastern Polandmarker between 22 June 1944 and 19 August 1944.The operation was named after 18th–19th century Georgianmarker Prince Pyotr Bagration, general of the Russian army who received a mortal wound at the Battle of Borodinomarker.The Soviet armies directly involved in Operation Bagration were the 1st Baltic Front under Army General Hovhannes Bagramyan, the 1st Belorussian Front commanded by Army General Konstantin Rokossovsky, who was promoted to Marshal on June 29, 1944, the 2nd Belorussian Front commanded by Colonel-General G. F. Zakharov, and the 3rd Belorussian Front commanded by Colonel-General Ivan Chernyakhovsky.This action resulted in the almost complete destruction of the German Army Group Centre and three of its component armies: Fourth Army, Third Panzer Army and Ninth Army. The operation "was the most calamitous defeat of all the German armed forces in World War II". By the end of the operation most of the western Soviet Union had been liberated and the Red Army had achieved footholds in Romania and Poland.

The objectives of the operation are more complicated. The Red Army practiced the concept of Soviet Deep Operations, Soviet Deep Battle and Maskirovka, (military deception). It has been suggested the primary target of the Soviet offensive was bridgehead on the Vistula river in central Poland, and that Operation Bagration was to create a crisis in Belorussia to divert German mobile reserves to the central sectors as a part of Maskirovka, removing them from the Lublinmarker-Brestmarker, LvovmarkerSandomierzmarker area where the Soviets intended to undertake the Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive and Lublin-Brest Offensive. This allowed the Red Army to reach the Vistula river and Warsaw, which in turn put Soviet forces within striking distance of Berlinmarker, conforming to the concept of Soviet deep operations - striking deep into the enemy's strategic depths.


Army Group Centre had previously proved tough to defeat as the Soviet defeat in Operation Mars had shown. But by June 1944, despite shortening its front line, it had been exposed following the severe defeats of Army Group South in the battles that followed the Battle of Kurskmarker, the Liberation of Kiev and the Liberation of the Crimea in the late summer, autumn and winter of 1943–44—the soviet-called third period of the Great Patriotic War. Operation Suvorovmarker had seen Army Group Centre itself forced to retreat westwards from Smolenskmarker during the autumn of 1943.

By the middle of June 1944 the Western Allies on the Cotentin Peninsulamarker were just over 1046 km (650 miles) from Berlin, while the Soviet forces at the Vitebsk Gatemarker were within 1200 km (745 miles) of the German capital. For the Third Reich the strategic threats were about the same.Ziemke, p.11 Hitler underestimated the threat posed by Soviet troops facing Army Group Centre and had redeployed one third of Army Group Centre's artillery, half their tank destroyers and 88 percent of their tanks to the Southern front where the German high command expected the next major Soviet offensive.

Bagration, in combination with the neighbouring Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive launched a few weeks later in Ukrainemarker, allowed the Soviet Union to recapture Belorussia and the Ukraine within its 1941 borders, advance into German East Prussia, but more importantly, the Lvov-Sandomierz operation allowed the Red Army to reach the outskirts of Warsawmarker after gaining control of Poland east of the Vistula river. The operation enabled the next operation, Vistula–Oder Offensive, to come within sight of the German capital.. The Soviets were initially surprised at their success of the Belorussian operation which had nearly reached Warsaw. The Soviet advance encouraged the Warsaw uprising against the German occupation forces.

The battle has been described as the triumph of the Soviet theory of "the operational art" because of the complete co-ordination of all the Strategic Front movements and signals traffic to fool the enemy about the target of the offensive. The military tactical operations of the Red Army successfully avoided the mobile reserves of the Wehrmacht and continually "wrong-footed" the German forces. Despite the huge forces involved, Soviet front commanders left their adversaries completely confused about the main axis of attack until it was too late.

Prelude to the battle

The Maskirovka campaign

Soviet deception

The Russian word maskirovka literally means 'camouflaging' in English, but has broader application in military use, and during WWII was used by Soviet commanders to describe a broad range of measures to create deception with the goal of inflicting surprise on the Wehrmacht forces.

The Oberkommando des Heeres expected the Soviets to launch a major Eastern Front offensive in the summer of 1944.Stavka considered a number of options. The overall timetable of operations between June and August had been decided on by 28 April 1944. The Stavka rejected an offensive in either the L'vov sector or the Yassy/Kishinev sectors owing to the presence of powerful enemy mobile forces equal in strength to the Soviet strategic fronts. Instead they suggested four options, an offensive into Romania and through the Carpathiansmarker, a huge offensive into the western Ukrainian SSR aimed at the Baltic coastmarker, an attack into the Baltic and Belorussian SSR. The first two options were rejected as being too ambitious and open to flank attack. The Third option was rejected on the grounds the enemy was too well prepared. The only safe option was an offensive into Belorussia which would enable subsequent offensives from the Ukraine into Poland and Romania.

Both the Soviet and German High Commands recognised the western Ukraine as a staging area for an offensive into Poland. The Soviets, aware that the enemy would anticipate this, engaged in a complex maskirovka campaign to catch the German armoured forces off guard by creating a crisis in Belorussia that would force the Germans to move their powerful Panzer forces, fresh from their victory in the First Jassy-Kishinev Offensive in April-June 1944, to the central front to support Army Group Centre. This was the primary purpose of Bagration.

In order to maximize the chances of success, the maskirovka was a double bluff. The Soviets left four tank armies in the L'vov-Peremyshl area, and allowed the Germans to be fully aware of their presence. The attack into Romania in April- June 1944 further convinced the Soviets that the Axis forces in Romania needed removing and kept the Germans concerned about their defences there and in southern Poland, while drawing German forces to the L'vov sector. Once the offensive against Army Group Centre had been initiated, lacking mobile reserves and support, it would create a crisis in the central sector that would force the German armoured forces north to Belorussia from Poland and Romania, despite the presence of powerful Soviet concentrations threatening German-occupied Poland.

The intent of the Soviets to strike their main blow towards the Vistula can be seen in the Red Army's (albeit fragmented) order of battle. The Soviet General Staff Studies of both the Belorussian and L'vov-Sandomierz operations reveal that the L'vov-Przemyślmarker operation received the overwhelming number of Tank and Mechanized Corps. Six Guards Tank Corps and six standard Tank Corps along with three Guards Mechanized and two standard Mechanized Corps were committed to the L'vov operation. This totaled twelve Tank and five Mechanized Corps. In contrast, Operation Bagration's Baltic and Belorussian Fronts were allocated just eight Tank and two Mechanized Corps. Furthermore the 1st Belorussian Front, which formed a key part of the L'vov-Peremshyl operation, is not mentioned on the Soviet battle order for the offensive. It contained a further six armies and was to protect the flank of the Lublin–Brest Offensive as well as engage in active offensive operations in that area.

The allocation of tactical resources, in particular anti-tank artillery, was allocated to the 1st Ukrainian Front, the spearhead of the Vistula, L'vov-Premyshl operation. Thirty-eight of the fifty-four anti-tank regiments allocated to the Belorussian-Baltic-Ukrainian operations were given to the 1st Ukrainian Front. This demonstrates that the Soviet plans for the L'vov operation were a major consideration, and whoever planned the offensive was determined to hold the recently captured territory. The target for this operation was the Vistula Bridgehead, and the enormous anti-tank artillery forces helped repulse a series of heavy, concentrated, counter attacks by German armour in August-October 1944.

Most of the aviation units, both fighter aircraft and assault aviation (strike aircraft) were given to the L'vov operation and the protection of the 1st Ukrainian Front. Of the seventy-eight Fighter and assault aviation Divisions committed to Bagration, thirty-two were allocated to the L'vov operation, nearly fifty percent of the aviation groups committed to Bagration and contained more than was committed to the Belorussian operation. This concentration of aviation was to protect the Vistula bridgeheads against air attack and to assault German counter offensives from the air.

German reactions

Towards the beginning of June, the German High Command, Army Group Center and the Army Commands had identified a large part of the concentration against Army Group Centre, although it was still considered that the main operation would be against Army Group North Ukraine. On 14 June, the Chief of Staff of Army Group Centre said to General Kurt Zeitzler that "...the Russian concentration here [in front of 9th Army] and at the Autobahn clearly indicates that the enemy attack will be aimed at the wings of the Army Group". On 10 June the OKH took over the opinion of Army Group Centre in its estimate of the enemy situation: "When it is still to be considered that the attack against Army Group Centre will be a secondary operation in the framework of the global Soviet offensive operations, it must be taken into account that the enemy will also be capable in front of Army Group center to build concentrations of which the force of penetration cannot be underestimated in view of the ratio of forces between the two sides".

On 19 June it was noted in the estimate of the enemy situation by Army Group Centre that the concentration of enemy air forces had become greater (4500 out of 11000) and that this left new doubts regarding OKH's general estimate. The OKH, however, thought there was no ground for this supposition.Shortly before the beginning of the Soviet offensive, the individual army commands had detected some enemy forces near the front and identified the places where the main attacks would be carried out, with the exception of 6th Guards Army near Vitebsk. The Soviet strategic reserves were also not detected.

Operations Rail War and Concert

The first phase of Operation Bagration involved the many partisan formations in the Belorussian SSR, which were instructed to restart their campaigns of targeting railways and communications behind German lines. From 19 June, large numbers of explosive charges were placed on rail tracks, and though many were cleared, they had a significant disruptive effect. The partisans would also be used to mop up encircled German forces once the breakthrough and exploitation phases of the operation were completed.

Deployments during Operation Bagration.
The encirclements of Fourth Army east of Minsk and Ninth Army near Bobruisk are clearly shown, as is the encirclement of the LIII Corps of Third Panzer Army in Vitebsk.

At the commencement of the offensive, Stavka had committed approximately 1,700,000 combat and support troops, approximately 24,000 artillery pieces and mortars, 4,080 tanks and assault guns and 6,334 aircraft. German strength at the outset was approximately 800,000 combat and support troops, 9,500 artillery pieces, but only 553 tanks and assault guns and 839 aircraft. In particular, Army Group Centre was seriously short of mobile reserves: the demotorized 14th Infantry Division was the only substantial reserve formation available, though the 20th Panzer Division was positioned in the south near Bobruiskmarker and the understrength Panzergrenadier-Division Feldherrnhalle was also held in reserve. The relatively static lines in Belorussia had, however, enabled the Germans to construct extensive field fortifications, with multiple trench lines to a depth of several kilometres and heavily mined defensive belts.

Order of Battle


Second Army was not involved in the first or second phases of the German defense, being positioned south of the main axis of Soviet operations.

Red Army

Two special representatives to Stavka were appointed to coordinate the operations of the Fronts involved: Alexander Vasilevsky and Georgy Zhukov.

The 1st Belorussian Front was particularly large, and included further units which were only committed during the following Lublin-Brest Offensive.

The battle - first phase: the tactical breakthrough

Operation Bagration began on 22 June 1944, the same calendar day on which the Germans had previously invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, with probing attacks throughout the German lines. The main offensive began in the early morning of 23 June, with an artillery bombardment of unprecedented scale against the defensive works. Within hours, some sectors of the German defenses were in danger of being breached.The first phase of Soviet deep operations, the "deep battle" envisaged breaking through the tactical zones and forward German defences. Once these tactical offensives had been successful, fresh operational reserves exploited the breakthrough and the operational depths of the enemy front using powerful mechanized and armoured formations to encircle enemy concentrations on an Army Group Scale.

Vitebsk-Orsha Offensive

The operation was conducted by the 1st Baltic Front and 3rd Belorussian Front against the positions of Army Group Centre's northern army, Third Panzer Army, and the northern flank of Fourth Army.

In the north, the 1st Baltic Front pushed the IX corps over the Dvina, while encircling the LIII Corps in the city of Vitebskmarker by 25 June. To the south, the 3rd Belorussian Front drove through the VI Corps, shattering it. Vitebsk was taken by 27 June, the entire LIII Corps of 30,000 men being destroyed.

The 3rd Belorussian Front simultaneously opened operations against Fourth Army's XXVII Corps holding Orshamarker and the main Moscowmarker - Minskmarker road. Despite a tenacious German defense, Orsha was liberated by 26 June, and the 3rd Belorussian Front's mechanized forces were able to penetrate far into the German rear, reaching the Berezinamarker River by 28 June.

Mogilev Offensive

The primary aim of the Mogilev Offensive, and of the 2nd Belorussian Front, was to pin down the majority of Fourth Army while the developing Vitebsk-Orsha and Bobruysk Offensives encircled it. The 2nd Belorussian Front's units attacked on 23 June, aiming to force crossings of the Dnepr against two of Army Group Centre's strongest corps, the XXXIX Panzer Corps and XII Corps.

The Dnepr was crossed by the 49th Army by 27 June, and by 28 June it had encircled and taken the town of Mogilevmarker. The XXXIX Panzer Corps and XII Corps began to fall back towards the Berezina Rivermarker under heavy air attack, but were retreating into a trap.

Bobruysk Offensive

The Bobruysk Offensive, against Ninth Army on the southern flank of Army Group Centre, was opened by the 1st Belorussian Front on 23 June, but suffered heavy losses attempting to penetrate the German defenses. Rokossovsky ordered additional bombing and artillery preparation, and launched further attacks the next day.

The 3rd Army broke through in the north of the sector, trapping the German XXXV Corps against the Berezinamarker. The 65th Army then broke through the XXXXI Panzer Corps to the south; by 27 June the two German corps were encircled in a pocket east of Bobruyskmarker under constant aerial bombardment.

Some elements of Ninth Army managed to break out of Bobruysk on 28 June, but up to 70,000 troops were killed or taken prisoner. The 1st Belorussian Front's forces liberated Bobruysk on 29 June after intense street fighting.

Second phase: Strategic offensive against Army Group Centre

The second phase of Operation Bagration involved the entire operation's most significant single objective: the retaking of Minskmarker, capital of the Belorussian SSR. It would also complete the large-scale encirclement and destruction, set up by the first phase, of much of Army Group Centre.

Minsk Offensive

From 28 June, the main exploitation units of the 3rd Belorussian Front (the 5th Guards Tank Army and an attached cavalry-mechanised group) began to push on to secure crossings of the Berezinamarker, followed by the 11th Guards Army. In the south, exploitation forces of the 1st Belorussian Front began to close the lower pincer of the trap developing around the German Fourth Army.The Germans rushed the 5th Panzer Divisionmarker into Belorussia to cover the approaches to Minsk, while the units of Fourth Army began to withdraw over the Berezina crossings, where they were pounded by heavy air bombardment.After forcing crossings of the Berezina, Soviet forces closed on Minsk. The 2nd Guards Tank Corps was the first to break into the city in the early hours of 3 July; fighting erupted in the centre, which was finally cleared of German rearguards by the following day. The 5th Guards Tank Army and 65th Army closed the encirclement to the west of Minsk, trapping the entire German Fourth Army, and much of the remnants of Ninth Army.Over the next few days, the pocket east of Minsk was reduced: only a fraction of the 100,000 troops in it escaped. Minsk had been liberated, and Army Group Centre utterly destroyed, in possibly the greatest single defeat suffered by the Wehrmacht in the whole war. In twelve days, 22 June - 4 July 1944, Army Group Centre lost 25 divisions and 300,000 men. In the few subsequent weeks the Germans lost another 100,000 men.

Polotsk Offensive

The Polotsk Offensive had the dual objective of taking Polotskmarker itself, and of screening the northern flank of the main Minsk Offensive against a possible German counter-offensive from Army Group North.

The 1st Baltic Front successfully pursued the retreating remnants of Third Panzer Army back towards Polotsk, which was reached by 1 July. German forces attempted to organise a defense using rear-area support units and several divisions hurriedly transferred from Army Group North.

Units of the 1st Baltic Front's 4th Shock Army and 6th Guards Army fought their way into the city over the next few days, and successfully cleared it of German forces by 4 July.

Third phase: strategic offensive operations in the south

As German resistance had almost completely collapsed, Soviet forces were ordered to push on as far as possible beyond the original objective of Minsk, and new objectives were issued by Stavka. This resulted in a third phase of offensive operations, which should be regarded as a further part of Operation Bagration.

Field-Marshal Walter Model, who had taken over command of Army Group Centre on 28 June when Ernst Busch was sacked, hoped to reestablish a defensive line running through Lidamarker using what was left of Third Panzer, Fourth and Ninth Armies along with new reinforcements.

Shyaulyay Offensive

The Shyaulyay Offensive covered the operations of the 1st Baltic Front between 5 July and 31 July against the remnants of Third Panzer Army; its main objective was the Lithuanianmarker city of Šiauliaimarker ( ; ).

The 43rd, 51st, and 2nd Guards Armies attacked towards Riga on the Baltic coast with 3rd Guards Mechanised Corps attached. By 31 July, the coast on the Gulf of Rigamarker had been reached. 6th Guards Army covered Rigamarker and the extended flank of the penetration towards the north.

A hurriedly-organised German counter-attack managed to restore the severed connection between the remnants of Army Group Centre and Army Group North. During August, the Germans attempted to retake Šiauliai in Operation Doppelkopf and Operation Cäsar, but failed.

Vilnius Offensive

The Vilnius Offensive was conducted by units of the 3rd Belorussian Front subsequent to their completion of the Minsk Offensive; they were opposed by the remnants of Third Panzer and Fourth Armies.

Units of Fourth Army, principally the 5th Panzer Division, attempted to hold the key rail junction of Molodechnomarker, but it was taken by units of the 11th Guards Army, 5th Guards Tank Army and 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps on 5 June. German forces continued a precipitate retreat, and Soviet forces reached Vilniusmarker, held by units of the Third Panzer Army, by 7 July.

By 8 July, the city had been encircled, trapping the garrison, who were ordered to hold fast at all costs. Soviet forces then fought their way into the city in intense street-by-street fighting (alongside an Armia Krajowa uprising, Operation Ostra Brama). On 12 July, 6th Panzer Division counter-attacked and temporarily opened an escape corridor for the besieged troops, but the majority of them were lost when the city finally fell on 13 July (this phase of the operation is commonly known as the Battle of Vilnius).

Belostock Offensive

The Belostock Offensive covered the operations of 2nd Belorussian Front between 5 July and 27 July, with the objective of the Polishmarker city of Białystokmarker.

The 40th and 41st Rifle Corps of 3rd Army, on the front's left wing, took Białystok by storm of 27 July, after two days of fighting.

Lublin-Brest Offensive

The Lublin-Brest Offensive was carried out by Marshal Rokossovsky's 1st Belorussian Front between 18 July and 2 August, and developed the initial gains of Operation Bagration towards eastern Polandmarker and the Vistula. The 47th and 8th Guards Armies reached the Western Bug River by 21 July, and the latter reached the eastern bank of the Vistula by 25 July. Lublinmarker was taken on the 24 July; the 2nd Tank Army was ordered to turn northward, towards Warsawmarker, to cut off the retreat of forces from Army Group Centre in the Brestmarker area. Brest was taken on 28 July and the Front's left wing seized bridgeheads over the Vistula by 2 August. This effectively completed the operation, the remainder of the summer being given over to defensive efforts against a series of German counter-attacks on the bridgeheads.The Operation ended with the defeat German Army Group North Ukraine and Soviet bridgeheads over the Vistula river west of Sandomierz.

Kaunas Offensive

The Kaunas Offensive covered the operations of Chernyakhovsky's 3rd Belorussian Front from 28 July to 28 August, towards the Lithuanianmarker city of Kaunasmarker, subsequent to their completion of the offensive against Vilnius.

Osovets Offensive

This offensive covered the operations of 2nd Belorussian Front from 6 August to 14 August, after their completion of the Belostock Offensive, with the objective of the fortified area at Osowiec on one of the tributaries of the Narew River. The very large fortress complex there secured the approaches to East Prussia through the region's marshes.

German forces were able to stabilise their line of defense along the Narew, which they held until the East Prussian Offensive of January 1945.


Compared to other battles, this was by far the greatest Soviet victory in numerical terms. The Red Army liberated a vast amount of Soviet territory (whose population had suffered greatly under the German occupation). The advancing Soviets found cities destroyed, villages depopulated, and much of the population killed, or deported by the occupiers. In order to show the outside world the magnitude of the victory, some 50,000 German prisoners, taken from the encirclement east of Minsk, were paraded through Moscow: even marching quickly and twenty abreast, they took three hours to pass.Merridale, p.241 In a symbolic gesture the streets were washed down afterwards.

The German army never recovered from the materiel and manpower losses sustained during this time, having lost about a quarter of its Eastern Front manpower, similar to the percentage lost at Stalingradmarker (about 20 full divisions). These losses included many experienced troops, NCO and other officers, which at this stage of the war the Wehrmacht could not replace. The operation was also notable for the number of German generals lost: 9 were killed, including 2 corps commanders; 22 captured, including 4 corps commanders; Major-General Hahn, commander of 197th Infantry Division disappeared on 24 June, while Lieutenant-Generals Zutavern and Philipp of the 18th Panzergrenadier and 134th Infantry Divisions committed suicide.

Overall, the near-total annihilation of Army Group Centre cost the Germans 2,000 tanks and 57,000 other vehicles. According to Steven Zaloga, German losses are estimated at 300,000 dead, 250,000 wounded, and about 120,000 captured (overall casualties at 670,000); However, German Armed Forces Military History Research Office gives losses as 26,397 confirmed killed in action, 262.929 missing or captured (with about 150,000 captured) and 109.776 wounded.. According to archival research, official Soviet losses were also substantial, with 178,507 killed or missing, 587,308 wounded and sick, with 2,957 tanks and SP guns, 2,447 artillery pieces, and 822 aircraft also lost.

The offensive cut off Army Group North and Army Group North Ukraine from each other, and weakened them as resources were diverted to the central sector. This forced both Army Groups to withdraw from Soviet territory much more quickly when faced with the following Soviet offensives in their sectors.

The final destruction of much of Army Group Centre around Minsk coincided with the destruction of many of the German army's strongest units in France in the Falaise pocketmarker, although the scale was much smaller than Bagration in numerical terms and especially in terms of damage to Wermacht in both personnel and materiel. On both eastern and western fronts, the subsequent Allied exploitation was slowed and halted by supply problems rather than German resistance. However, the Germans were able to transfer armoured units from the Italian front, where they could afford to give ground, to resist the Soviet advance near Warsawmarker.



  • Figures for total German losses along the Eastern Front from 1 June–29 August 1944 were 71,685 killed, 503,564 and 325,381, for a total 900,630.
  • The German Order of Battle for Army Group Centre in mid-July shows the remnants of Ninth Army incorporated in Second Army; Third Panzer Army reduced to Korps-Abteilung G and fragments of IX and XXVI Corps; and Fourth Army consisting of the battered 5th Panzer and 50th Infantry Divisions along with Kampfgruppe Flörke, some remnants of security divisions and part of the Totenkopf (all under the command of Helmuth Weidling, who had previously been commanding a corps of Ninth Army at Bobruisk) plus 7th Panzer (see Hinze, Ostfrontdrama 1944). Though Soviet forces were exhausted and their supply lines dangerously extended, the extremely weak forces arrayed against them encouraged commanders to push on as far as possible.



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