Лица Победы. Севастополь
Faces of Victory. Sevastopol
History of the Defense of Sevastopol
Defense and liberation of Sevastopol during the Great Patriotic War (World War II).
Defense of Sevastopol

The defense of Sevastopol 1941−1942 comprises the battles between Soviet and German-Romanian troops, who captured most of the Crimea and sought to capture Sevastopol.

The defense of Sevastopol lasted 250 days, from October 30, 41 to July 04, 42. There were three main assaults on the city. Each time the assaults began after days of intense shelling and air raids.

The beginning of the defense

Sevastopol became one of the very first targets of German airstrikes on the territory of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. The bombing started as early as 3:13 in the morning. At the beginning of July, the city launched the construction of three land defense lines (forward, main, and rear). But by the beginning of the Battle of Sevastopol, this work had not yet been completed properly.
The Germans and Romanians approached the capital of the Black Sea Fleet in the last days of October 41. The city declared a state of siege, with the unification of all available forces of the army and navy into a single fortified area.

Who conducted the defense of Sevastopol

The following Soviet military leaders led the defense of Sevastopol:
Vice Admiral Philip Oktyabrsky, who served as Commander of the Black Sea Fleet since 1939;

General Ivan Petrov, commander of the Coastal Army of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, which arrived in Sevastopol from Odessa.

The first assault on Sevastopol

The first assault in the battle of Sevastopol was the attempts of the Nazis to capture the city on the move. Eleventh Wehrmacht Army assaulted on the fortifications without even waiting for the arrival and concentration of all of its main forces.

Despite the heavy support of artillery and aviation, the Hitler troops managed only slightly to wedge into the defense in two areas. The attackers suffered huge losses, so on November 21 they were forced to stop the assault and engage in a long siege of Sevastopol.

The pause in the battles was used by the Soviet command to strengthen and improve the defensive lines. Guns were removed from warships and turned into fixed artillery batteries. The invaders also pulled up heavy large-caliber artillery, as well as additional armored vehicles and aviation forces to the city.

The second assault on the city

The heroic defense of Sevastopol continued during the second assault, which began on December 17 and lasted until the New Year. The second defense of Sevastopol held the main attacks in the area of the Northern Bay. There the Nazis were able to make some progress. But on December 22, with the fire support of naval guns and aircraft, the Soviet troops organized counterattacks and returned to their former position.

At the end of December, the Red Army’s Landing Operation on the Kerch Peninsula greatly helped the defense of Sevastopol. The Germans were forced to urgently withdraw part of the forces from the siege of Sevastopol. The second assault on the city was aborted on December 31. Participants in the defense of Sevastopol in early January launched a counteroffensive and threw the enemy back to the starting positions.

The story of the third assault

For five months, the heroic defense of Sevastopol had a little bit of breathing room. The Germans were forced to spend all their efforts to eliminate the threat from the Kerch Peninsula, from where the Soviet troops threatened to gain their rear.
But in May 1942, the Germans managed to force out the Red Army from there. In addition, as a result of the heavy defeat of the Red Army near Kharkov, the 11th German Army was able to receive reinforcements, and the battle for Sevastopol unfolded with renewed vigor.

The Nazis began the third assault on the city at the end of May, with shelling and massive aerial bombardment that lasted for days. The blockade of Sevastopol from the sea was strengthened. On June 7, the Nazis stormed, again striking the main blow from the north and north-east direction, in the area of the Mekenziy Mountains. Fierce battles unfolded on the approaches to Mount Sapun and Balaklava.

On June 18, at the cost of heavy losses, the Nazis were able to break through to the Northern Bay. The defenders of the city who remained on the Northern side fought heroically until June 22−24, to the last cartridge and shell.

The Sevastopol defense was significantly complicated by the fact that due to the shorter nights, the strengthening of the blockade and the dominance of enemy aircraft in the air, it became incredibly difficult to get any supplies from the sea to the city. When the enemy took the Northern side, supplies stopped altogether. And it was impossible to bring the amount of ammunition necessary to hold the city on submarines and airplanes.

The battles during the defense of Sevastopol were extremely fierce. During the third assault, only 300−400 fighters remained in the divisions. But the Nazis also suffered heavy losses: according to their own testimony, by the end of June there were on average only 25 fighters in the companies.
Fall of Sevastopol

On the night of June 29, the Germans assault crossed the Northern Bay and captured Mount Sapun. Then they were able to break through to the Korabelnaya side, where stubborn battles continued for Malakhov Kurgan. Despite the heroism of the Red Army soldiers and sailors, it was already impossible to hold the city.

On July 1−2, the Soviet military and political command were removed from Sevastopol by submarines, small boats and airplanes. The remaining defenders of the city continued to stoutly and heroically fight the enemy on the Chersonese peninsula until the 4th, and in some places — until the 8th of July.
Badge of honor "Crimean Shield”
Badge of honor "Crimean Shield"

The commander of the 11th Army of the Wehrmacht, Erich von Manstein, noted in his memoirs that the fate of the assault on Sevastopol "hung in the balance until the last days" - his soldiers were so exhausted and battle-strained. For the capture of Sevastopol, Manstein was promoted to field marshal, and all the soldiers of his army were awarded special badges of honor "Crimean Shield".
Medal "For the Defense of Sevastopol"
Medal "For the Defense of Sevastopol"

In honor of the heroism of the defenders of the capital of the Black Sea Fleet, in December 1942, the medal "For the Defense of Sevastopol" was instituted, which was received by more than 50 thousand people. 37 Red Army soldiers and sailors were awarded the title of Hero of the USSR for the Battle of Sevastopol.
Liberation of Sevastopol

The situation before the assault

On April 8, 1944, the troops of the 4th Ukrainian Front under the command of Tolbukhin went on the offensive. Having broken through the strong enemy defenses in the area of Perekop, Sivash and Kerch, the Separate Coastal Army liberated most of the Crimean Peninsula. On April 15−16, our troops reached Sevastopol, which the Germans turned into a powerful fortified area during the occupation. Therefore, the attempt of the Russian troops to take the city on the move failed. Preparations for the assault on the city began.

By May 1, 1944, the Soviet forces numbered more than 240 thousand people, 5.5 thousand guns and mortars, 340 tanks and self-propelled guns, over 550 aircraft. By May 5, 1944, the 17th German Army numbered more than 72 thousand soldiers, with more than 1700 guns and mortars, about 50 tanks and assault guns and about 100 aircrafts.

The German Supreme High Command still demanded to hold the Sevastopol fortress at any cost. Hitler feared that the loss of Sevastopol would change the position of Turkey, which had already reacted rather negatively to the loss of most of the Crimea.

The beginning of a determined assault

On May 5, 1944, after 1.5 hours of artillery fire in the northern sector, the 2nd Guards Army of the 4th Ukrainian Front went on an assault near the Mekenziy Mountains. The offensive was supported as all times by heavy artillery fire and air strikes.
The battle in the Mekenziy Mountains area distracted the German command from the southern sector, where the main attack was being prepared.

Breakthrough of the enemy’s main defensive line

On May 7, 1944, at 10:30 a.m., after 1.5 hours of bombardment and air strikes, the troops of the 4th Ukrainian Front began storming Mount Sapun. To break through the powerful German defense (the Nazis had 6−8 pillboxes and bunkers per 1 km of the front), the Soviet command concentrated significant artillery forces here: from 205 to 258 artillery tubes and mortars on 1 km of the front. 3 out of 4 M-31 Guards Mortar Brigades 8 out of 10 Guards Mortar Regiments, 3 separate Guards mountain-pack mortar divisions operated in this direction. The pilots of the 8th Air Army made 2105 sorties on this day.

The multi-tiered fortifications of Mount Sapun were assaulted by units of the 63rd Rifle Corps under command of Koshevoy and the 11th Guards Rifle Corps of Rozhdestvensky. The fight was extremely stubborn. Soviet soldiers had to literally bite into the enemy’s defenses, converge with the Germans in hand-to-hand combat. Trenches changed hands. The Nazis desperately resisted. The fierce battle lasted for 9 hours. As a result, the German 5th Army Corps gave under. The capture of Mount Sapun and the entire ridge predetermined the collapse of the defense system of the German army and the liberation of Sevastopol.

On May 8, the commander of the Army Group South Ukraine Ferdinand Schörner requested Hitler’s headquarters to evacuate, as further defense of Sevastopol became impossible. On May 9, such permission was received.

Completion of the liberation of Sevastopol

By the end of May 9, 1944, after a 3-day fierce assault, our troops liberated Sevastopol. At 1 a.m. on May 10, Moscow saluted the soldiers-liberators of Sevastopol with 24 volleys of 324 guns. The whole of Russia rejoiced! The city of Russian glory has been liberated!

However, the battles still continued. There were about 30 thousand soldiers on the defensive lines. They needed to contain the Russian offensive in order to move the main forces by sea from the Chersonese Cape area to Romania.

On the night of May 11, the Germans retrieved the headquarters and command of the 17th Army. There were still about 50 thousand people left in the area of Chersonese.
The German-Romanian troops were retrieved under extremely difficult circumstances. The harbors of Sevastopol were lost. The ships were attacked by Russian planes all along their route. Landing on the watercraft was carried out directly in the sea in front of the Chersonese Cape, under fire from Soviet artillery and during air attacks.

On the night of May 12, Soviet intelligence officers found out that German troops had received an order, as of 4 a.m. to leave the last evacuation frontier on Chersonese Cape. The Soviet command decided to launch a night assault on enemy positions in order to disrupt the removal of the remnants of the German army. At 3 a.m., after a short artillery raid, Soviet troops launched a final assault on German positions. With the support of aviation and Guards Mortars, the defense of the German army was breached. Our troops began the pursuit of the enemy.

By 12 o’clock on May 12, 1944, the Soviet troops had completed the capture of the remaining German-Romanian troops. More than 21 thousand soldiers and officers were taken prisoners.
Results of the operation

The Crimean offensive operation was completed. If in 1941 — 1942 the Wehrmacht needed 250 days to take Sevastopol, then in 1944 it took 35 days for Russian troops to break through the powerful defenses of the Crimean Group and clear the peninsula from the Nazis and less than a week to liberate Sevastopol.
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