Operation Nordpol (iii)

north pole

This was a German operation against partisans in the region of Smolensk in the German-occupied western USSR (1 August 1942).

In this area, between the leading edges of the two wings of the Soviet winter offensive of 1940/41, lay the Moscow Highway and the main railway line used by the Germans to support their forces before Moscow, so the closure of the neck of the ‘cauldron’ containing Generaloberst Walter Model’s 9th Army and General Richard Ruoff’s 4th Panzerarmee, of Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge’s Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’, was vitally important to the total success of the Soviet offensive. Thus partisan forces were instructed to move into the area, where they would be supported by elements of the IV Airborne Corps (notably the 4,000 skilled men of the 8th and 201st Airborne Brigades) dropped in the Germans’ rear, in areas to the south-east and south-west of Vyaz’ma, between 18 and 24 January 1942.

The combined airborne and partisan forces failed to secure their objectives, however, and were in their turn left isolated by the end of the Soviet offensives in April. These surviving Soviet pockets were the objective of the anti-partisan operation, which eliminated one group to the south-east of Smolensk between the railway lines linking Smolensk with Sukhinichi and Smolensk with Bryansk, and a second group to the east of Smolensk between the railways linking Smolensk with Vyaz’ma and Smolensk with Sukhinichi.