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.