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Old 02-08-2018, 01:11 PM   #5031
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February 8, 1971
Operation Lam Son 719

By late 1970, there were increasing signs of heavy Communist activity in southeastern Laos, activity which heralded a North Vietnamese offensive. This build-up was alarming to both Washington and the American command, and prompted a spoiling attack to derail future communist objectives. This would involve an attack toward the Ho Chi Minh Trail. A success here would not only delay any enemy offensives, but create supply shortages that would be felt in 12-18 months just as the last US troops were leaving South Vietnam. It was also hoped to test the progress of “Vietnamization”, the turning over of main operations to the ARVN.

On January 7, 1971, General Abrams was authorized to begin detailed planning for an attack against NVA Base Areas 604 and 611. US operations would be hampered by the recently passed Cooper-Church Amendment, prohibiting US ground forces from entering Laos. Therefore, the American portion of the campaign, code-named Dewey Canyon II, would be limited to a preliminary drive along Route 9 to Khe Sanh to clear the route to the Laotian border and reestablish Khe Sanh as the main base for the next phase. This phase, Lam Son 719, would involve an ARVN armored/infantry attack along Route 9 toward the Laotian town of Tchepone, the perceived nexus of Base Area 604. This advance would be protected by a series of leapfrogging aerial infantry assaults to cover the flanks of the main column. After operations against the Base Areas, the force would retire back through the A Shau Valley. It was hoped that the force could remain in Laos until the rainy season was underway at the beginning of May.

Due to the notoriously poor ARVN security, planning was rushed. Individual units did not learn about their planned participation until January 17. The Airborne Division that was to lead the operation received no detailed plans until February 2. At the lower levels, it was limited to the intelligence and operational staffs of ARVN I Corps (Lt-Gen. Hoang Xuan Lam, who was to command the operation), and US XXIV Corps. When Lam was finally briefed in Saigon, his chief of operations was forbidden to attend the meeting, even though he had helped to write the very plan under discussion. Lam’s operational area was restricted to a corridor no wider than 15 miles on either side of Route 9 and a penetration no deeper than Tchepone. Command, control, and coordination were going to be problematic. Lt-Gen. Le Nguyen Khang, the Vietnamese Marine Corps commander and protégé of Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky, whose troops were scheduled to participate, actually outranked Lam, who had the support of President Nguyen Van Thieu. The same applied to Lt.-Gen. Du Quoc Dong, commander of ARVN Airborne forces also scheduled to participate.

Dewey Canyon II got underway on January 30. 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), with engineer and armor support drove for Khe Sanh against sketchy resistance, while 101st Airborne Division feinted into the A Shau Valley. By February 5, Route 9 had been secured up to the Laotian border. However, poor weather and obstacles pushed the rehabilitation of the airstrip a week behind schedule. A completely new airstrip had to be built and the first aircraft arrived on February 15.

By early 1971, North Vietnamese troop strength in the Base Area 604 area was estimated at 22,000 men: 7000 combat troops, 10,000 logistical and support personnel, and 5000 Pathet Lao, all under the command of the newly created B-70 Corps. The North Vietnamese were expecting some sort of operation as early as January 26, when the text of an intercepted radio message read “It has been determined that the enemy may strike into our cargo carrier system in order to cut it off.”

Tactical air strikes that were to precede the invasion and suppress AA positions were suspended due to poor flying weather. The land incursion began on February 8, with an attack along Route 9, airborne units covering the flanks. Two ranger battalions were helilifted into outposts that would serve as tripwires for any Communist advance into the incursion area. The mission of the central column was to advance down the valley of the Se Pone River, a relatively flat area of brush interspersed with patches of jungle and dominated by heights to its north and the river and more mountains to the south. Almost immediately, supporting helicopters began to take fire from the heights. Making matters worse, Route 9 was in poor condition, so poor in fact that only tracked vehicles and jeeps could make the westward journey. This threw the burden of reinforcement and resupply onto the aviation assets, a role that was made increasingly more dangerous due to low cloud cover and incessant AA fire.

The armored task force secured Route 9 all the way to Ban Dong, approximately halfway to Tchepone. By February 11, Ban Dong had become the central fire base and command center for the operation. Here the South Vietnamese forces stalled while awaiting orders from Gen. Lam. 2 days later, Abrams and Sutherland flew to Lam’s forward command post in order to speed up the timetable. At the meeting of the generals, it was instead decided to extend the 1st Division's line of outposts south of Route 9 westward to cover the projected advance. This would take an additional 5 days.

The North Vietnamese response to the incursion was gradual due to a US naval diversion off the North Vietnamese coast, but this did not last long. B-70 Corps commanded 3 divisions in the incursion area, the 304th, 308th and 320th. The 2nd Division had also moved up from the south to the Tchepone area and then began to move east to meet the ARVN threat. By early March, Hanoi had massed 36,000 troops in the area, outnumbering the South Vietnamese force by 2-1. The NVA plan was to first isolate the firebases with AA fire. The outposts would then be pounded by round-the-clock mortar, artillery, and rocket fire. Although the firebases were themselves equipped with artillery, their guns were quickly outranged by the NVA’s 122mm and 130mm pieces. Massed ground attacks, supported by artillery and armor would then finish the job.

On February 19, elements of 308th Division attacked the ranger outposts, which were overrun by the end of the 21st, the survivors fighting their way back to FSB 30. FSB Hotel 2, south of Route 9, and FSB 31 followed, manned by elements of the ARVN Airborne Division. Division commander Gen. Dong had opposed stationing his elite paratroopers in static defensive positions and felt that his men’s usual aggressiveness had been stifled. Vicious AA fire made reinforcement and resupply of the firebase impossible. An armored relief force never arrived, due to conflicting orders from Lam and Dong. The base fell on February 25.

While the main South Vietnamese column stalled at Ban Dong and the Ranger and Airborne elements were fighting for their lives, President Thieu and Gen. Lam decided to launch a face-saving airborne assault on Tchepone itself. If South Vietnamese forces could at least occupy Tchepone, Thieu would have a political excuse for declaring victory and withdrawing his forces. The decision was made to make the assault not with the armored task force, but with elements of 1st Division. That meant that the occupation of the firebases south of Route 9 had to be taken over by Marine Corps forces, which lost even more valuable time.

The assault began on March 3, when elements of 1st Division were helilifted into 2 firebases (Lolo and Sophia) and LZ Liz, all south of Route 9. 3 days later, 2nd and 3rd Battalions of 2nd Regiment were lifted from Khe Sanh to Tchepone (LZ Hope) by 276 UH-1s, the largest helicopter assault of the Vietnam War. For 2 days the two battalions searched Tchepone and the immediate vicinity, but found little but the bodies of NVA soldiers killed by air strikes. The NVA responded by increasing its daily artillery bombardments of the firebases. Their goal in Laos seemingly achieved, Thieu and Lam ordered a withdrawal beginning on March 9 that was to continue through the rest of the month, destroying Base Area 604 and any supplies discovered in their path. Gen. Abrams implored Thieu to reinforce the troops in Laos and keep disrupting the area until the beginning of the rainy season.

The battle was shifting to Hanoi’s advantage. AA fire remained devastating and the NVA had no trouble resupplying or reinforcing their troops. As soon as it became evident that ARVN forces had begun a withdrawal, the NVA increased its efforts to destroy these forces before they could reach South Vietnam. The undermanned firebases were attacked, and ARVN ground forces had to run a gauntlet of ambushes along Route 9. The retreat quickly devolved into a rout. One by one the isolated firebases were closed out or overrun and each withdrawal was costly. By March 25th, the South Vietnamese force that had survived had left Laos behind. The forward base at Khe Sanh had also come under increasing bombardment and sapper attacks and by April 6 it was abandoned and Operation Lam Son 719 was over.

Thieu made extravagant claims of success, but, although Lam Son 719 had set back North Vietnamese logistical operations in southeastern Laos, truck traffic on the trail system increased immediately after the conclusion of the operation. The American command’s claims of success were more limited in scope: MACV claimed that 88 NVA tanks had been destroyed during the operation, 59 by tactical air power. It also fully understood that the operation had exposed grave deficiencies in South Vietnamese “planning, organization, leadership, motivation, and operational expertise.”

For the North Vietnamese, the Route 9 - Southern Laos Victory was viewed as a complete success. The military expansion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail which had begun in 1970 at the expense of Laotian forces, was quickly accelerated. Laotian troops were soon withdrawing toward the Mekong River and a logistical artery 60 miles wide was soon expanded to 90 miles. Another result of the operation was a firm decision by the Politburo to launch a major conventional invasion of South Vietnam in early 1972, paving the way for the Easter Offensive.
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Old 02-09-2018, 12:33 PM   #5032
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February 9, 1917
Operation Alberich

Soon after taking over from Erich von Falkenhayn as Chief of the General Staff in at the end of August 1916, Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff ordered the building of a new defensive line east of the Somme battlefront from Arras to Laon. Ludendorff was unsure as to whether retreating to the Siegfried Line (known to the Allies as the Hindenburg Line) was the best thing to do, since withdrawing might impact morale. An offensive was considered if enough reserves could be assembled in the New Year. A study suggested that 17 divisions might be made available but that this was far too few to have decisive effect in the west. Ludendorff accepted the plan after representations by Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, commander of Army Group Rupprecht (1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th Armies, from the Somme front to the North Sea coast) over the objections of the 1st and 2nd Army commanders.

Other options, such as a shorter withdrawal, were also canvassed but lack of manpower made the decision inevitable, since even with reinforcements from the Eastern Front, the German army in the west numbered only 154 divisions against 190 Allied divisions, many of which were larger. A move back to the Hindenburg Line would shorten the front by 25–28 miles and require 13 fewer divisions. Rupprecht was appalled by the scale and methods proposed for a scorched earth policy and contemplated resignation, then concluded that it might suggest a rift had developed between Bavaria and the rest of Germany.

The operation began on February 9, 1917 throughout the area to be abandoned. Its intention was to destroy anything the Allies might find useful, from electric cables and water pipes to roads, bridges and entire villages. Railways and roads were dug up, trees were felled, water wells were polluted, towns and villages were destroyed and a large number of land mines and other booby-traps were planted. The town of Bapaume was reported as having been destroyed in 45 minutes. It was one of more than 200 places that were completely razed.

Alberich also meant the complete evacuation of the area’s civilian population. Of these, 140,000 people classified as able to work were deported on foot or by rail to elsewhere in the French zone of occupation or to Belgium. It took 18,000 boxcars to haul away the “movable items”, miscellaneous personal and household goods. The 15,000 defined as “unfit” - the sick, the old, and children - were evacuated separately. 2nd Army headquarters at least took some pains to provide cars and ambulances, with attendants instead of guards, for the latter category of deportees. But, however they were implemented, the deportations in particular caused discomfort - even guilt. Rupprecht compared Alberich to the devastation of the Palatinate by Louis XIV in the 17th century, still a trope for evil in Germany, and did not want his name associated with it.

On March 4, Gen. Louis Franchet d’Esperey, commander of the Northern Army Group, advocated an attack, while the Germans were out of their trenches and in the open. Robert Nivelle, Commander-in-Chief of the French armies, approved only a limited attack, to capture the German front positions and a possible opportunity to significantly upset the German withdrawal was lost. The withdrawal took place from March 16-20, with a retirement of about 25 miles, giving up more French territory than that gained by the Allies from September 1914, until the beginning of the operation.

Alberich was a tactical success. The military withdrawal took the Allies by surprise, delayed their advance, and it profoundly shocked not only French and British soldiers, but home fronts and neutrals. Destruction was a familiar aspect of the Great War. The Russians had devastated large swaths of their own territory in the Great Retreat of 1915, justifying it in terms of military necessity. The Germans made the same case - but that made no impression on public opinion in Allied and neutral countries alike. Alberich was executed in the heart of Europe, against what was considered civilized people. Its effects could be filmed, photographed, and reported ad infinitum. The destruction and depopulation were far in excess of obvious military requirements. They were also institutionalized, the work of detailed, systematic planning. It took little effort for Allied propagandists to present Operation Alberich as the pinnacle of “Hun barbarism”, and at Versailles, Alberich was used as a trope for legitimating and justifying claims for punitive reparations.

In an ironic twist, when the Germans launched their 1918 Spring Offensive, they found themselves advancing over the areas abandoned in Alberich, only to find that the devastation in the area hindered their own operations as much as it had those of the Allies.
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Old 02-10-2018, 12:37 PM   #5033
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February 10, 1258
Sack of Baghdad

Baghdad had for centuries been the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. By the middle of the 13th century, the power of the Abbasids had declined and Turkic and Mamluk warlords often held power over the Caliphs. Baghdad still retained much symbolic significance, however, and it remained a rich and cultured city. The Caliphs of the 12th and 13th centuries had begun to develop links with the expanding Mongol Empire in the east. Caliph an-Nasir li-dini'llah (r. 1180–1225) may have attempted an alliance with Genghis Khan when Muhammad II of Khwarezm threatened to attack the Abbasids.

According to The Secret History of the Mongols, Genghis and his successor, Ögedei Khan, ordered their general Chormaqan to attack Baghdad. In 1236, Chormaqan led a Mongol division to Irbil, which remained under Abbasid rule. Further raids on Irbil and other regions of the caliphate became nearly annual occurrences. Some raids were alleged to have reached Baghdad itself, but these Mongol incursions were not always successful, with Abbasid forces defeating the invaders in 1238 and 1245.

Despite their successes, the Abbasids hoped to come to terms with the Mongols and by 1241 had adopted the practice of sending an annual tribute. Envoys from the Caliph were present at the coronation of Güyük Khan as khagan in 1246 and that of Möngke Khan in 1251. During his brief reign, Güyük insisted that the Caliph Al-Musta'sim fully submit to Mongol rule and come personally to Karakorum. The Caliph refused.

In 1257, Möngke resolved to establish firm authority over the region. The khagan gave his brother, Hulagu, authority over a subordinate khanate and army, the Ilkhanate, and instructions to compel the submission of various Muslim states, including the caliphate. Though not seeking the overthrow of Al-Musta'sim, Möngke ordered Hulagu to destroy Baghdad if the Caliph refused his demands of personal submission and the payment of tribute in the form of a military detachment, which would reinforce Hulagu's army.

Hulagu raised a large expeditionary force, supplemented by Christian forces, including the King of Armenia and his army, a Frankish contingent from the Principality of Antioch, and a Georgian force, seeking revenge on the Abbasids for the sacking of their capital, Tiflis, decades earlier. About 1000 Chinese artillery experts accompanied the army, as did Persian and Turkic auxiliaries.

Hulagu led his army first to Iran, where he successfully campaigned against the Lurs and the remnants of the Khwarezm dynasty. After subduing them, Hulagu directed his attention toward the Ismaili Assassins, who had attempted the murder of both Möngke and Hulagu's friend and subordinate, Kitbuqa. Though Assassins failed in both attempts, Hulagu marched his army to their stronghold of Alamut, which he captured. The Mongols later executed the Assassins’ Grand Master, Imam Rukn al-Dun Khurshah.

Hulagu now sent word to Al-Musta'sim, demanding his acceptance of Möngke’s terms. Al-Musta'sim again refused, in large part due to the influence of his grand vizier, Ibn al-Alkami, who assured Al-Musta'sim that, if the capital of the caliphate was endangered, the Islamic world would rush to its aid.

Although he replied to Hulagu's demands in a manner that the Mongol commander found menacing and offensive enough to break off further negotiation, Al-Musta'sim neglected to summon armies to reinforce the troops at his disposal. Nor did he strengthen the walls. By January 11, the Mongols established themselves on both banks of the Tigris River so as to form a pincer around the city. Al-Musta'sim finally decided to do battle and sent out a force of 20,000 cavalry to attack; these were decisively defeated by the Mongols, whose sappers breached dikes along the Tigris River and flooded the ground behind the Abbasid forces, trapping them.

The Abbasid caliphate could supposedly call upon 50,000 soldiers, including the 20,000 cavalry under al-Musta'sim. However, these hastily assembled troops were poorly equipped and poorly disciplined. Although the caliph technically had the authority to summon soldiers from other Muslim empires, he either neglected to do so or lacked the ability. His taunting opposition had lost him the loyalty of the Mamluks, and the Syrian emirs, who he supported, were busy preparing their own defenses.

On January 29, the Mongol army began its siege of Baghdad, constructing a palisade and a ditch around the city. Employing siege engines and catapults, the Mongols attempted to breach the city's walls, and, by February 5, had seized a significant portion of the defenses. Realizing that his forces had little chance of retaking the walls, Al-Musta'sim attempted to open negotiations with Hulagu, who rebuffed the Caliph. Around 3000 of Baghdad's notables also tried to negotiate, but were executed. Five days later, on February 10, the city surrendered; the Mongols entered the city until the 13th, beginning a week of massacre and destruction.

Citizens attempting to flee were killed. Up to 90,000 may have died. (Arab sources claim over 200,000). Mosques, palaces, hospitals and libraries were looted. The famed Grand Library was destroyed. The caliph was captured and forced to watch all this before being executed himself. Baghdad was a depopulated, ruined city for several centuries and only gradually recovered some of its former glory.
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Old 02-10-2018, 12:38 PM   #5034
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937
Battle of Brunanburh

After Aethelstan defeated the Vikings at York in 927, King Constantine of Scotland, King Hywel Dda of Deheubarth, Ealdred I of Bamburgh and King Owen I of Strathclyde accepted Aethelstan’s overlordship at Eamont, near Penrith. Aethelstan became King of England and there was peace until 934.

Aethelstan invaded Scotland with a large force in 934. Although the reason for this invasion is uncertain, John of Worcester stated that the cause was Constantine’s violation of the peace treaty. The army harassed the Scots up to Kincardineshire and the navy up to Caithness but Aethelstan's force was never engaged.

Following the invasion of Scotland, it became apparent that Aethelstan could only be defeated by an alliance of his enemies. The leader of the alliance was Olaf Guthfrithson, King of Dublin, joined by Constantine II, King of Scotland and Owen, King of Strathclyde. Though they had all been enemies in living memory, they agreed to bury their differences for the time being in order to destroy the threat of Aethelstan.

In August 937, Olaf crossed the Irish Sea with his army to join forces with Constantine and Owen. The invaders raided Mercia, from which Aethelstan obtained Saxon troops as he traveled north to meet them. The invaders may have come in two waves, Constantine and Owen from the north, possibly engaging in some skirmishes as they followed the Roman road across the Lancashire plains between Carlisle and Manchester, with Olaf’s forces joining them on the way. It has been suggested that the battle site at Brunanburh was chosen in agreement with Aethelstan, on which “there would be one fight, and to the victor went England”. The battle probably occurred in October.

The main source about the battle is the praise-poem “Battle of Brunanburh” in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. After traveling north through Mercia, Aethelstan, his brother Edmund, and the combined Saxon army from Wessex and Mercia met the invading armies and attacked them. In a battle that lasted all day, the Saxons finally forced the invaders to break and flee. According to the poem, the Saxons “split the shield-wall” and “hewed battle shields with the remnants of hammers ... [t]here lay many a warrior by spears destroyed; Northern men shot over shield, likewise Scottish as well, weary, war sated”. All large battles were described in this manner so the description in the poem is not unique to Brunanburh. Aethelstan’s his army pursued until the end of the day, inflicting further loss. Olaf fled and sailed back to Dublin with the remnants of his army and Constantine escaped to Scotland; Owen’s fate is not mentioned. The poem records that Aethelstan and Edmund returned victoriously to Wessex.

However, it seems to have been a pyrrhic victory and Aethelstan’s power declined; after his death, Olaf acceded to the Kingdom of Northumbria without resistance. However, England was once again unified by the time Edmund I died in 946. The Norse lost all remaining territory in York and Northumbria in 954, when Eric Bloodaxe died. Aethelweard, writing in the late 900s, said that the battle was “still called the ‘great battle’ by the common people” and that “[t]he fields of Britain were consolidated into one, there was peace everywhere, and abundance of all things”.
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Old 02-11-2018, 02:08 PM   #5035
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February 11, 1659
Repulse from Copenhagen

During the Northern Wars, the Swedish army under Charles X Gustav of Sweden, after invading the Danish mainland, swiftly crossed the frozen straits and occupied most of the island of Zealand, with the invasion beginning on February 11, 1658. This forced the Danes to sue for peace. A preliminary treaty, the Treaty of Taastrup, was signed on February 18, 1658 with the final treaty, the Treaty of Roskilde, signed on February 26, 1658, granting Sweden major territorial gains. The Swedish king, however, was not content with his stunning victory, and at the Privy Council held at Gottorp on July 7, Charles X resolved to wipe his inconvenient rival from the map of Europe. Without any warning, in defiance of treaty, he ordered his troops to attack Denmark a second time.

The Swedish armies had never left Denmark after the peace and already occupied all of Denmark apart from the capital, Copenhagen. After a failed assault, Copenhagen was put under siege in the hope of breaking the defense by starvation. In October 1658, however a Dutch relief fleet under Lt-Adm. Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam defeated the Swedish fleet in the Battle of the Sound and lifted the sea blockade so that supplies and an auxiliary army could reach the capital. The Dutch were an ally of Denmark from the Anglo-Dutch Wars and were afraid that Swedish control of the Baltic would ruin their profitable trade in the area.

After the Danes had withstood about 6 months of siege, the Swedes decided to take the city by a grand assault, as a prolonged siege no longer offered hope of success, now that the sea lanes had been opened by the Dutch. The defenders had been forewarned by spies, so they had planned their defenses well and stockpiled weapons and ammunition.

The walls of Copenhagen bristled with about 340 pieces of artillery. Craftsmen, students and other civilians were divided into 9 companies, and each of these companies was allocated a part of the wall to defend. The professional soldiers were stationed at the outer field works, Kastellet (the Citadel) and Slotsholmen (the Castle Islet). There were also about 2000 Dutch troops and marines, bringing the strength of the defense to about 10,000 men. King Frederick III was in command. The Swedes, under King Charles and Otto Stenbock, numbered about 9000, all professional soldiers.

The Swedes started the action with a diversionary attack at Christianshavn and Slotsholmen on the evening of February 9. They were repulsed, and the Swedes left one of their assault bridges behind, which the Danes captured and measured. They found that the Swedish assault bridges were 36 feet long, and thus they realized that they could render these bridges useless by making the ice free parts of the moats wider than that. The moats and the beaches had been kept free of ice, and now the ice free zones were widened to 44 feet with help from 600 Dutch marines. The ice was thick, and the work was done in heavy snowfall from 4:00 in the afternoon till evening on the 10th.

Scouts reported that the Swedish army had moved from their camp, Carlstad, at Brønshøj and had taken up positions behind Valby Hill, and when the Swedes began their assault about midnight the same evening, they met heavy resistance.

The main assaults were made against Christianshavn and Vestervold, but the chopped-up ice and the massed weaponry on the wall made the densely packed attackers pay a horrific toll. Still, they fought their way to the top of the wall, and fierce hand-to-hand fighting ensued. When the Swedes realized that the assaults on the western part of the wall were in trouble, the choice was made to make a supporting attack at Østerport. The Swedes got very close to Nyboder and were in the process of crossing the moat, when they fell victim to a well-conducted ambush, and they withdrew with heavy losses. At about 5:00 in the morning the Swedes gave up and retreated. They had taken severe losses. Before the walls 600 bodies were counted, and many more had perished in the ice-cold water and were never found. On top of that there were many wounded. The Danes had lost only 17 dead.

In the spring, the Dutch sent a second fleet and army under Vice-Adm. de Ruyter to further reinforce the city and cut the Swedish supply lines so that the siege would have to be lifted altogether. After Nyborg had been taken by a Dutch-Danish force (see posting), the Danish Isles were abandoned by the Swedes. Negotiations were opened and the Treaty of Copenhagen was signed on May 27, 1660, marking the conclusion of the Second Northern War, ending a generation of warfare and establishing the present-day borders of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
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Old 02-12-2018, 11:55 AM   #5036
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February 12, 1942
The Channel Dash

On March 22, 1941, the battlecruisers Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst had sunk 22 British merchant ships in the Atlantic – totaling 115,000 tons. Such losses simply could not have been sustained and destroying the ships was seen as critical if the British were going to win the Battle of the Atlantic. Both formidable ships returned to Brest harbor for repairs after their triumphs on the 22nd.

Brest was an unusual choice for a refuge as the ships could easily be trapped in by the British Home Fleet if they attempted to sail back to Germany or by the fleet in Gibraltar if they attempted to get the Mediterranean. Brest was also in reach of RAF bombers. When it became known that both ships had berthed in Brest, Bomber Command made them a primary target following an order from Winston Churchill. Several bombing raids had damaged the 2 ships but did not disable them. In June 1941, the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen joined them.

The Royal Navy assumed that Raeder, head of the German Navy, would not tolerate 3 major ships remaining in harbor and not doing anything. The Royal navy therefore assumed that the ships would make a dash. It concluded that the ships would make their dash at night, that this would be done on a cloudy night to give the ships cover and make it impossible for bombers to operate, and that any dash would be as near to the French coast as was possible for such large ships so that fighter cover could be called if the Germans needed it - nighttime or not. Admiral Ramsey’s force at Dover was strengthened in response. The Royal Navy and RAF worked in unison on the plan to destroy the German ships - a plan that involved the Fleet Air Arm, Coastal Command, Bomber Command and Fighter Command. Though Bomber Command would not fly at night, it made plans for any attempt by the ships to make a daylight dash.

In June 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa - the attack on Russia. While the attack was massively successful in its initial stages, Hitler became more and more obsessed with defending his northern flank - believing that the Allies would launch an attack via Norway or land men and equipment in Murmansk. He therefore ordered that the 3 big ships should return to Germany rather than risk yet more damage from bombing raids in Brest. Hitler had already ordered the massive Tirpitz to Norwegian waters. The addition of the Prinz Eugen, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would make for an awesome naval presence there. On January 12, 1942, Hitler gave the order for them to return to Germany.

The British quickly became aware of increased Germany activity not only in Brest but also along the French northern coastline. The French Resistance reported that more German aircraft were being deployed to coastal airfields. In response to this, the Royal Navy tried to predict the route the ships might take and laid more mines. A study of weather predictions led the Navy to conclude that the ships would sail between February 10 and 15, as cloud cover would make such a journey much safer. The RAF was put on alert. The submarine Sea Lion had been positioned off of Brest to watch the harbor.

The Germans had put a great deal of thought into Operation Cerberus. British coastal radar had been jammed as a matter of course, but by February 1942, the success of the jamming had become extensive. Vice-Adm. Otto Ciliax, commander of the battlecruisers, could also sail knowing that the Luftwaffe could provide a total of 280 fighters to give air cover for the duration of the journey, under Col. Adolf Galland. From the start of the journey, Ciliax could expect a minimum of 16 fighters covering his force and a maximum of 32. When he got near to the Straits of Dover, this number would increase significantly.

The convoy, which included 6 destroyers, left Brest harbor at 2245 on February 11. The Sea Lion had ended its watch at 2135 as it assumed that the ships would not leave after this time, as they would not get to the Dover Straits in darkness. The Germans left Brest without being seen - a Hudson spotter plane using radar had swept past but faulty radar was common in early 1942 and it saw nothing. Visual contact was impossible due to the cloud cover. Other spotter planes also suffered from radar failure, allowing the convoy to round the Brest peninsula unseen.

By dawn next day, February 12, the convoy was sailing off Barfleur. Fog had assisted in camouflaging its movements. Both Coastal Command and Fighter Command had failed to pass on to Adm. Ramsey the fact that their surveillance had been hindered by faulty equipment. Ramsey still believed that the German convoy had yet to sail and he stood down the forces that had been brought together to attack.

Incredibly, the Germans steamed 3 large warships and 6 escorts up the Channel for 300 miles without detection. However, the weather and faulty radar equipment served the Germans well and gave them 13 hours at sea undetected. Ramsey’s defense force was also in disarray. His MTB force based in Ramsgate had been in action the previous night and was still recovering; Bomber Command would have found it nearly impossible to operate because of the weather conditions and the Bristol Beaufort squadrons based around the coast were forced to use different air strips because the one they wanted to use (North Coates) was snow bound. One patrol pane had flown directly over Ciliax’s force but had not broken radio silence and only passed on its information when the plane had reached its base - by which time the convoy was steaming past Beachy Head in Sussex.

At Dover, the gun batteries engaged the Germans. However, their shells fell short simply because they had to guess the exact whereabouts of the targets due to the poor weather conditions. MTBs from Dover attacked but could not get near enough and had to fire their torpedoes from a distance of 2 miles - none hit. German fighter cover was ferocious. An attack by Swordfish torpedo bombers also failed; all 6 planes were lost and their commander, Lt-Cmdr. Eugene Esmonde, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

As the German convoy continued to steam towards its base, there were more British attacks. Poor weather, poor communications and a curious desire for secrecy even during the attack all played a part in the Germans successfully getting through.

The bad weather (cloud at 700 feet) meant that bombers could not get to the height they needed to drop their armor-piercing bombs if they were to be effective - they simply would not see their targets. Of the 242 bombers involved, only 39 are known to have dropped their bombs, and none of them found their target. Destroyers sent out from Harwich were attacked by the RAF as no one had told the RAF that the destroyers were being sent into action.

At dawn on February 13, the German convoy reached port. The Scharnhorst had hit a mine and 4 of the escorts were damaged, but Ciliax was eager to contact Berlin that their operation had been a great success. The Germans had lost just 17 fighters. The British response to the breakout from Brest had been ineffective. However, there were few recriminations as the Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen and Scharnhorst were now all bottled up east of Britain where they could play no part in the Battle of the Atlantic. Even Adm. Raeder, stated that the Germans had won “a tactical victory (but) had suffered a strategic defeat.”
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Old 02-13-2018, 01:08 PM   #5037
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February 13, 1706
Battle of Fraustadt

Swedish successes in the early years of the Great Northern War led to a growing number of Polish-Lithuanian magnates switching sides, culminating in the formation of Warsaw Confederation on February 16, 1704 and the election of the Swedish-endorsed voivode of Poznan, Stanislaw I, as the new Polish king. The Saxon Augustus the Strong still enjoyed support of a Polish faction, the Sandomierz Confederation (formed on May 20, 1704), and about 75% of the Polish army. Augustus and his supporters declared war on Sweden, and joined the anti-Swedish coalition.

By October 1703 Augustus had had to abandon Warsaw. A Russo-Saxon-Polish-Lithuanian army was then assembled at Polotsk, another allied army in Saxony, and a third allied force commanded by Otto Arnold von Paykull advanced towards Warsaw, where Swedish King Charles XII and Stanisław were encamped. Paykull’s Saxon-Polish-Lithuanian forces reached the outskirts of Warsaw on July 31, 1705, where they were defeated (see posting). The army at Polotsk was blocked from a westward advance by Swedish forces under Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt. Thus, Stanislaw was crowned king of Poland in Warsaw on October 4, 1705 and he and his supporters concluded an alliance with the Swedish Empire in the Treaty of Warsaw in November.

Augustus was not done yet. In early 1706 he approached Warsaw with a cavalry force 8000 strong and ordered Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg to move the army assembled in Saxony into Poland-Lithuania. Swedish General Carl Gustav Rehnskiöld hurried to engage Schulenburg before Augustus’ forces could unite.

The Saxon army had not chosen its position carefully; Schulenburg had been maneuvered into a position chosen by the Swedes. Rehnskiöld withdrew his forces from Schlawa to Fraustadt. He later stated in his journals, “Thus I resolved to withdraw to Fraustadt with the thought to lure the enemy to me away from his advantageous position, deceiving him into thinking I was in full retreat”.

The Saxons, superior in infantry (9000 Saxons and 6300 Russians), but with less cavalry (4000 Saxons) than the Swedes, took a strong defensive position behind lines of chevaux de frise littered by artillery. The Swedes deployed in 2 lines, with cavalry on both flanks, between the villages of Geyersdorf and Röhrsdorf and ahead of the town of Fraustadt, entrenched behind frozen lakes and marshes opposing the Saxon-Russian army. Rehnskiöld placed his 3700 infantry in the center in 3 columns and his 5700 cavalry on both flanks.

On the left flank, the Swedish cavalry had some trouble passing through a frozen swamp, but the Saxon cavalry did not press its advantage. After regrouping, the Swedes charged the Saxon Garde du Corps and Chevaliers Garde regiments, utterly routing them. Col. von Krassow, commander of the Swedish cavalry on the right flank, passed outside the left Russian flank with 12 dragoon squadrons, near the village of Rörsdorf, and engaged the Saxon cavalry covering the Russian flank. After witnessing the destruction of the Saxon right flank, the left flank fled, and were routed by the Swedish dragoons. Von Krassow’s cavalry then wheeled into the Saxon-Russian rear, which caused several of the Saxon regiments to break.

The Swedish infantry now assaulted the Saxon-Russian line frontally, under heavy cannon and musket fire. Upon discovering that the allied left was held by the Russians (this was uncertain at first as the Russians had reversed their coats to show the inside red rather than their standard green - this was orders from Schulenberg, who doubted their combat value), Rhenskiöld directed his main assault here, as the Russians were now also being attacked from the rear by colonel von Krassow’s cavalry. The Russian infantry was quickly broken.

The Saxon center now had its flanks and rear exposed, and it buckled and broke in short order under the pressure along its left flank. The Saxon right initially held, inflicting some damage to the Swedish infantry until the cavalry in the frozen swamp attacked their rear. The Saxon-Russian army fell apart and the main body fled to the south through Fraustadt. The Swedish cavalry, previously bogged down in the swamp, raced ahead on the open terrain, and met the fleeing Saxons and Russians on the far outskirts of the town. Trapped by Swedish cavalry to their front and infantry to their rear, the defeated Saxon-Russian forces surrendered en masse.

The battle has been called the “Swedish Cannae”. In the end 7377 Saxons and Russians were killed and over 7300 taken prisoner (2000 of them wounded). The Swedes had some 400 killed and 1000 wounded. Schulenburg managed to escape, despite having suffered a bullet wound to his hip. 71 standards, the whole Saxon artillery, and 11,000 muskets had also been captured. Rehnskiöld executed about 500 Russian prisoners; apparently in retaliation for Russian atrocities in Courland or because he believed their inside-out coats were an attempt to be recognized as Saxons, who were given better terms in captivity. Hiding your own identity and claiming to be something else was frowned upon and sometimes considered reason enough to be denied quarter.

The army assembled in Polotsk had been moved to Grodno where it was tactically defeated and forced to withdraw eastwards around the same time. Charles XII then occupied a now defenseless Saxony, forcing Augustus to abandon both the Polish crown and his allies in the Treaty of Altranstädt on February 24, although he remained Elector of Saxony. However, he did not cease his efforts to recover his Polish throne.
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Old 02-14-2018, 11:54 AM   #5038
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February 14, 1943
Battle of Sidi Bou Zid

The Allied effort to capture Tunis in late 1942 following Operation Torch had failed and since year’s end a lull had settled on the theater, as both sides paused to rebuild. Hans-Jürgen von Arnim commanded the Axis forces, now strengthened to become 5th Panzer Army. Arnim chose to maintain the initiative gained when the Allies had been driven back the previous year by means of spoiling attacks.

In January 1943, the German-Italian Panzer Army (Afrika Korps) under Erwin Rommel, had retreated to the Mareth Line, originally a French line of defensive fortifications near the coastal town of Medenine in southern Tunisia. This linked them with Arnim and in the Sidi Bou Zid area there were elements from both armies, notably 21st Panzer Division transferred from Afrika Korps and the 10th Panzer Division from 5th Panzer Army.

Most of Tunisia was in German hands, but since November 1942, the Eastern Dorsale of the Atlas Mountains had been under Allied control. This was held by elements of the inexperienced US II Corps (Lloyd Fredendall) and the poorly equipped French XIX Corps (Alphonse Juin). Fredendall made Tebessa, over 80 miles back, his HQ and rarely visited the front. In the absence of clear intelligence, Fredendall dispersed his forces to cover all eventualities, which left his units too far apart for mutual support. At Sidi Bou Zid he had bypassed his divisional commanders and ordered the dispositions without studying the ground. Sidi Bou Zid was defended by US 34th Infantry Division’s 168th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) (Col. Thomas Drake) and the tanks of 1st Armored Division’s Combat Command A (CCA). Fredendall had deployed most of this force in defensive “islands” on high ground, which risked defeat in detail.

Rommel was very conscious of the threat posed by Allied forces on the Eastern Dorsale if they were to make an eastward thrust towards the coast some 60 miles to the east, split the two Axis armies and cut German-Italian Panzer Army’s line of supply from Tunis. On January 30, Arnim had sent 21st Panzer Division to attack the Faid Pass, held by French XIX Corps. Fredendall had reacted slowly and Arnim’s troops had overcome fierce French resistance and achieved their objectives while inflicting heavy casualties.

Two offensive-defensive operations were planned, with Unternehmen Frülingswind (Spring Wind) to be conducted by 10th and 21st Panzer divisions against US positions at Sidi Bou Zid, west of Faïd, after which, 21st Panzer Division would join a battlegroup of 1st Italian Army to attack Gafsa and 10th Panzer Division moved north for an attack west of Kairouan.

At 0400 on February 14, 4 battle groups totaling 140 German tanks drawn from 10th and 21st Panzer divisions (Lt-Gen. Heinz Ziegler), advanced through Faïd and Maizila Passes, sites that Gen. Eisenhower had inspected 3 hours earlier, to attack Sidi Bou Zid. The attack started with tanks of the 10th Panzer Division advancing westward under the cover of a sandstorm from Faïd in 2 battle groups (Reimann and Gerhardt groups). Elements of CCA tried to delay the German advance by firing a 105mm howitzer mounted on a Sherman tank. The Germans responded by shelling the American positions with 88mm guns. By 1000. the Germans had circled Djebel Lessouda (defended by Lessouda Force, an armored battalion group commanded by Lt-Col. John Waters, George Patton’s son-in-law) and joined up north of Sidi Bou Zid.

Kampfgruppen Schütte and Stenckhoff of 21st Panzer Division secured the Maizila Pass to the south and Kampfgruppe Schütte headed north to engage 2 battalions of the 168th RCT on Djebel Ksaira while Kampfgruppe Stenckhoff headed northwest to Bir el Hafey in order to swing round and make the approach to Sidi Bou Zid from the west during the afternoon. Under heavy shelling from KG Schütte, Col. Thomas Drake of the 168th requested permission to retreat, which was denied by Fredendall, who ordered him to hold and wait for reinforcements, which never arrived. By 1700, KG Stenckhoff and 10th Panzer Division had attacked CCA which had been driven nearly 15 miles west to Djebel Hamra, with the loss of 44 tanks and many guns. The infantry were marooned on the high ground at Djebel Lessouda, Djebel Ksaira and Djebel Garet Hadid.

During the night, US 1st Armored Division commander Orlando Ward moved up Combat Command C (CCC) to Djebel Hamra, to counterattack Sidi Bou Zid on February 15, but the attack was over flat exposed country and was bombed and strafed early in the move, then found itself between the two Panzer divisions, with more than 80 tanks. CCC retreated, losing 46 medium tanks, 130 vehicles and 9 self-propelled guns, narrowly regaining the position at Djebel Hamra. By the evening, Arnim had ordered 3 of the battle groups to head towards Sbeitla and were engaged by the remnants of CCA and CCC which were forced back. On February 16, helped by intensive air support, they drove back the fresh Combat Command B (CCB) and entered Sbeitla.

The experienced Germans performed well and caused heavy US losses before Gen. Anderson, appointed to coordinate Allied operations in Tunisia, ordered an Allied withdrawal on February 17. The left (northern) flank of 1st Army retreated from a line from Fondouk to Faïd and Gafsa to better defensive positions in front of Sbiba and Tebessa. Eisenhower blamed himself for trying to do too much, and the sudden French collapse in the central mountains. Confusing and overlapping command arrangements made things worse and when the US II Corps was forced out of Sbeitla on February 17 Axis forces converged on Kasserine, the Axis lack of unity of command and unclear objectives, had a similar effect on Axis operations. The poor performance of the Allies during the actions of late January and the first half of February, as well as at the later Battle of Kasserine Pass led the Axis commanders to conclude that, while US units were well equipped, they were inferior in leadership and tactics. This became received wisdom among the Axis forces and resulted in a later underestimation of American capabilities as they gained experience and replaced poor commanders.
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Old 02-14-2018, 11:54 AM   #5039
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1015
War for Sardinia

The Carolingian navy had a presence in both Pisa and Genoa in the early ninth century. The north Italian cities had sent ships to protect Sardinia from a Muslim fleet in 829, but it was probably a Muslim fleet operating out of Sardinia that raided Rome in 841. The period of the late tenth and early eleventh centuries corresponded with a large growth in Pisa's population and geographical extent: its walls and fortifications doubled in scope. It entered into frequent territorial disputes with neighboring Lucca, often violent, and its need for imports grew commensurately. Genoa, with even less hinterland to support its citizens and shipyards, was also pressured into looking for new markets.

Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia comprised the “route of the islands”, which linked the north Italian towns to the markets of northern Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. Without control of the islands the expansion of Pisan and Genoese trade would have been severely hampered. The rise of Pisan and Genoese trade in connection with increased military activity, especially against the enemies of the Christendom, has a contemporary parallel on the other side of Italy in the growing Republic of Venice.

The Annales pisani antiquissimi, the civic annals of Pisa, record only a few events from the tenth century, and all have to do with the waging of war. In 970 “the Pisans were in Calabria”, probably making war on its Muslim occupants in order to secure safe passage for their merchants through the Strait of Messina. The Annales also record a Muslim naval attack on Pisa in 1004 and a Pisan victory over the Muslims off Reggio in 1005. The Pisan attack was likely a response, and perhaps a serious attempt to put an end to Muslim piracy, for which Reggio served as a base.

A Muslim enclave may have been established in Sardinia around 1000. In 1004, Pope John VIII urged the Christian powers to expel the Muslims from the island, which lay directly across the sea from Rome. Meanwhile, Mujahid, the Balearic Muslim ruler planned to conquer Sardinia to legitimize his power at home. A freed slave, Mujahid found it necessary to legitimize his position by appointing a puppet caliph, al-Muiti, in 1013. The conquest of Sardinia was thus undertaken in the name of al-Mu’iti.

In 1015 Mujahid came to Sardinia with 120 ships. The twelfth-century Pisan Liber maiolichinus, records that Mujahid controlled all of the Sardinian coastal plain. In the Pisan histories, the expedition to Sardinia of 1015 is described tersely: “the Pisans and Genoese made war with Mujahid in Sardinia, and defeated him by the grace of God.”

Mujahid returned to Sardinia in 1016 intending a more thorough conquest. He arrived with a large fleet and a landing force capable of a rapid conquest. The local Sardinian ruler, Salusio, the judge of Cagliari, was killed in the fighting and organized resistance was broken. His troops may have met up with garrisons that had remained on the island after the failed expedition of 1015. He also established a beachhead at Luni, on the coast between Genoa and Pisa. Luni was reportedly taken by surprise, but the citizens and the bishop managed to flee. Both town and countryside were pillaged without resistance.

To solidify his conquest, Mujahid immediately set about building cities using the locals for slave labor (he may have had some buried alive in the walls of his new city). The area he controlled, the plain between the central mountains and the sea, corresponded roughly to the Judicature of Cagliari, whose judge he had defeated and killed.

The presence of Ilario Cao, a cardinal from Sardinia, in the curia of Pope Benedict VIII, a warlike pope, was probably instrumental in obtaining papal approval and even active support of a military venture to Sardinia. Benedict even granted privileges to those who took part in the campaign. The spark was probably the attack on Luni; Benedict responded by calling “all leaders and defenders of the Church” to chase them away. Mujahid sent a sack of chestnuts to the pope to illustrate the number of Muslim soldiers he would unleash on Christendom. Benedict sent back a sack of millet representing the number of Christian soldiers that would meet them. This story has been called into question, but that the papacy took a direct interest in Mujahid’s attacks on Christians lands cannot be doubted.

The combined forces of Pisa and Genoa, arriving in May, vastly outnumbered those of Mujahid. The emir’s troops were already restless because of a lack of sufficient booty, and so he tried to flee. His fleet was badly battered by a storm as it passed through a rocky cove, according to the Arabic sources, and the Pisans and Genoese picked off the remaining ships, capturing Mujahid’s mother and his heir. His mother seems to have been originally a European captured and sold into slavery, as she chose to remain with “her people” after her capture on Sardinia. His son and heir, Ali, remained a hostage for a number of years. Those Muslims who survived the wreck of their ships were slaughtered onshore by the local populace.

According to the Annales pisani, the Pisans and the Genoese fought for control of the island in the aftermath of their victory; in a battle at Porto Torres, the Pisans were victorious. Pisa secured a papal privilege and strengthened their control over the island by installing monks from Saint-Victor de Marseille and expelling all monks from rival Monte Cassino. Her interest in curtailing Islamic piracy did not stop at Sardinia. In 1034, her fleet destroyed the pirate base of Bône, Algeria. Mujahid never attacked Sardinia again.
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February 15, 1945
Operation Solstice

Launched January 12, 1945, the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive ripped a huge gap in the German defensive lines, and the Soviets had subsequently pushed from the Vistula River to the Oder River. As the Soviet advance west reached its farthest point, its apex narrowed, leaving long northern and southern flanks into which retreating German formations had moved and along which the Germans were attempting to reestablish a cohesive defensive line.

Gen. Heinz Guderian, chief of the German General Staff, had originally planned to execute a major offensive against the 1st Belorussian Front, cutting off the leading elements of Georgi Zhukov’s forces east of the Oder. The Soviets were to be attacked from Stargard (Pomerania) in the north as well as from Glogau (Silesia) and Guben (Brandenburg) in the south. In order to carry out these plans, he requested that the Courland Pocket (see posting) be evacuated to make available the divisions trapped there, removed troops from Italy and Norway, and involved Sepp Dietrich’s 6th Panzer Army which had been intended for counter-attacks in Hungary. In a meeting with Guderian, Hitler insisted that Courland be held and that the army continue with its planned attacks in Hungary; the meeting rapidly degenerated into a heated and farcical argument. After agreeing on a more limited counteroffensive, Hitler and Guderian then proceeded to have an even more heated argument when Guderian insisted that Walther Wenck direct the offensive rather than Heinrich Himmler (the commander of Army Group Vistula). Hitler, despite “almost screaming”, according to Guderian’s account, gave in on this point.

In its final form, Operation Solstice consisted of a more limited attack than had been originally planned by the 3 corps of 11th SS Panzer Army, which was being assembled in Pomerania, against the spearheads of the 1st Belorussian Front. The German forces would first attack along a 30-mile front around Stargard southeastwards towards Arnswalde, where a small garrison had been encircled, with their ultimate objective being the relief of Küstrin. Over 300 tanks were allocated to the offensive, but no trains were available to transport them. In addition, due to serious shortages, only 3 days’ ammunition and fuel were immediately available. German forces had also suffered heavy losses during the January combat in East Prussia and Poland. While the Germans were able to make good some of the losses through measures such as the mass mobilization of Volkssturm, the German forces in the east had clearly suffered both significant quantitative and qualitative losses as a result of the two Soviet major offensives in January 1945.

Zhukov had been made aware of a buildup of German forces opposing his 61st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies, but did not have information as to the exact timing and nature of the attack. STAVKA had noted with concern that while the Germans had moved 13 divisions between the main Soviet forces and Berlin, 33 divisions had concentrated in Pomerania, lending credence to the possibility of a German strike from Pomerania into the exposed northern flank of the 1st Belorussian Front. While the 1st and 2nd Belorussian Fronts were impressively large formations, the Soviet forces had also suffered serious losses in the Vistula-Oder Offensive. Soviet army strength was further weakened by the need to besiege encircled German “fortress cities” in Elbing, Poznan, Deutsch-Krone, and Schneidemühl. Armored strength was also weakened by the recent offensive operations; 2nd BRF fielded only 297 well-worn tanks early in February 1945. To compound their difficulties, the Soviets faced supply bottlenecks as well as increased German air activity, resulting in increased unit requests for anti-aircraft weapons.

Not all of the German units, which had to be reinforced across the bridges at Stettin were ready on the planned start date of February 15. Nevertheless, a part of the central corps, the SS Division Nordland, attacked towards Arnswalde that day. Initially the offensive was successful; the opposing forces of 61st Army were taken by surprise and the German spearhead reached the besieged outpost of Arnswalde and relieved its garrison.

The general attack opened the following day. The central corridor to Arnswalde was widened by III SS Panzer Corps, pushing part of the Soviet front back 5-7 miles. However, the attack by XXXIX Panzer Corps was unable to reach the Plöne Lake due to resistance by the Soviet 2nd Guards Tank Army, stalling 43 miles from Küstrin after pushing the Soviets out of Sallenthin and Muscherin, reoccupying some land on the eastern shore of Lake Madü, and recapturing Pyritz. Gruppe Munzel pushed some 2.5 miles to Liebenow, while III SS Panzer Corps advanced about half a mile to Reetz. Numbers of Soviet tanks and AT guns were destroyed by German Tiger II heavy tanks, but the German heavy tanks also took losses. In general, German progress was hindered due to strong Soviet resistance. On February 17, Gen. Wenck, commander of the offensive, was seriously injured in a car accident. While being driven back from a briefing in Berlin, he took over driving from his driver (who had been on duty and awake for 48 hours) and then himself fell asleep at the wheel. He was replaced by Hans Krebs, but command initiative had already been lost. Later that day, Zhukov threw the 3rd Shock Army, which had redeployed from the area of Jastrow, into a counterattack and the German offensive stalled.

Army Group Vistula halted Solstice on February 18. On February 19, Zhukov initiated a counteroffensive aimed at the capture of Stettin using 61st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies as well as 7th Guards Cavalry Corps. However, it stalled in heavy street fighting during the recapture of Arnswalde. There was no immediate German withdrawal, but the German command decided on February 21 to withdraw the headquarters of the XXXIX Panzer Corps as well as the Führer-Grenadier, Führer-Begleit, Holstein, and 10th SS Panzer Divisions westward behind Army Group Center, practically ensuring that eastern Pomerania would fall to the Soviets. Zhukov’s commitment of 70th Army into an attack on February 23 spurred a retreat with the German forces losing or abandoning many tanks. On February 24, Marshal Rokossovsky’s 2nd Belorussian Front renewed the offensive into Pomerania, opening a 37-mile wide gap in German lines west of Grudziadz and advancing almost 31 miles, further reducing the cohesion of German defenses.

Despite the initial gains, the operation was a complete failure. However, the operation convinced the Soviets to postpone their attack on Berlin while Pomerania was cleared.
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