Dnepropetrovsk Offensive Operation

The 'Dnepropetrovsk Offensive Operation' was the Soviet fifth of the 10 sub-operations together constituting the 'Lower Dniepr Strategic Offensive Operation' (23 October/23 December 1943).

These sub-operations were the 'Kremenchug Offensive Operation' (26 September/10 October), the 'Melitopol Offensive Operation' (26 September/5 November), the 'Zaporozhye Offensive Operation' (10/14 October), the 'Kremenchug-Pyatikhatka Offensive Operation' (15 October/3 November), the 'Dnepropetrovsk Offensive Operation', the '1st Krivoi Rog Offensive Operation' (14/21 November), the 'Apostolovo Offensive Operation' (14 November/23 December), the 'Nikopol Offensive Operation' (14 November/31 December), the 'Aleksandriya-Znamenka Offensive Operation' (22 November/9 December) and the '2nd Krivoi Rog Offensive Operation' (10/19 December).

After Soviet forces had reach the lower reaches of the Dniepr river in the course of their great offensives during the summer of 1943, General Leytenant Vasili V. Glagolev’s 46th Army, General Leytenant Ivan T. Schlemin’s 6th Army and General Polkovnik Ivan I. Maslennikov’s (from 10 November General Polkovnik Vasili I. Chuikov’s) 8th Guards Armies of General Rodion Ya. Malinovsky’s South-West Front (from 20 October the 3rd Ukrainian Front) seized a pair of small bridgeheads on its right (western) bank of the Dniepr river: that in the north was the Aul bridgehead and that in the south was near Dnepropetrovsk). The Soviet operation to capture the city of Dnepropetrovsk was planned and implemented very rapidly, and was seen as the optimum way to combining both bridgeheads into a single lodgement. The operation was conceived on the basis of converging axes of attack, smashing the German forces in the Dnepropetrovsk area from the rear and then those in the Krivoi Rog area.

The Soviet strength was in the order of 100,000 men, 2,000 pieces of artillery and mortars, and a modest number of tanks and self-propelled guns. Air support was provided by General Leytenant Vladimir A. Sudets’s 17th Air Force, and from the Long-Range Aviation command came Polkovnik Ivan K. Brovko’s 3rd Guards Long-Range Aviation Division and General Major Nikolai A. Volkov’s III Guards Long-Range Aviation Corps.

The German opposition by Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein’s Heeresgruppe 'Süd' was based on Generaloberst Eberhard von Mackensen’s (from 29 October General Hans-Valentin Hube’s) 1st Panzerarmee, and comprised about 25,000 men, 700 pieces of artillery and mortars, and about 50 tanks and self-propelled guns.

Since at this time the Germans were severely strained in holding Krivoi Rog, which the Soviets were attempting to liberate in the 2nd Ukrainian Front’s 'Kremenchug-Piatikhatky Offensive Operation', the 2nd Ukrainian Front’s offensive on 23 October fell on German forces which were not expecting any such blow. The attack of 23 October from the main bridgehead was delivered by the 8th Guards Army, followed in the next day from the Aul bridgehead by part of the 46th Army, which liberated the village of Karnauhovka. Both armies broke through the German line and converged to link the bridgeheads into one lodgement, and by 25 October the Soviet advance had swiftly liberated Dnepropetrovsk and Dneprodzerzhinsk, which were both major industrial centres, as well as more than 40 settlements.

Moscow saluted the operation’s success with 20 volleys by 224 pieces of artillery. After completing this first stage of their offensive, the Soviet forces then readied themselves for the launch of the '1st Krivoi Rog Offensive Operation' and the 'Nikopol Offensive Operation' to the south-west and south respectively.

On 26 October, the Soviet troops were able to advance another 4.35 to 9.33 miles (7 to 15 km), liberating about 30 settlements. On 28 the offensive continued, but by this day its pace had already significantly decreased yet several more settlements were liberated.

Now possessing a clear understanding of the threat that had arisen, von Manstein quickly redeployed three Panzer, one Panzergrenadier and one infantry divisions to this sector, and strong German counterattacks now checked the Soviet advance in bloody fighting.

On 29 October the Soviet troops advanced 3.7 to 6.2 miles (6 to 10 km) in a number of directions and liberated 26 settlements. By 30 October the Soviet advance in some areas as much as 36 miles (58 km), and the large village of Shchorsk was liberated, in fighting that destroyed a German infantry battalion, eight tanks and two assault guns. On 31 October the station at Kudashevka and several settlements were taken, but by this date the Germans had largely halted the Soviet advance even though severe fighting still raged.

After regrouping his forces, Malinovsky again went on the offensive on 14 November, but could not create a decisive moment: in two weeks of combat, his armies were able to advance only 12.5 miles (20 km). Fighting nonetheless continued for almost another month, with neither side able to gain an advantage, and on 23 December the Soviet offensive was terminated.

In the course of the 'Dnepropetrovsk Offensive Operation', Dnepropetrovsk and Dneprodzerzhinsk, two of the most significant industrial centres in Ukraine, and 100 nearby settlements had been liberated, In overall terms, though, the 3rd Ukrainian Front had been unable to achieve all that had been expected of it. Even so, the front’s forces had inflicted heavy losses on the Germans.