Prague Strategic Offensive Operation

This was the Soviet offensive including the last major battle on the Eastern Front during World War II (6/11 May 1945).

Comprising four sub-operations 1, the 'Prague Strategic Offensive Operation' was undertaken by the Soviet forces to ‘liberate’ Prague, capital of the pre-war state of Czechoslovakia, from Generalfeldmarschall Ferdinand Schörner’s Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ and resulted, after Germany’s formal capitulation, in the death or capture of some 850,000 men of the German and allied forces.

The offensive was undertaken by Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza Ivan S. Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front, Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza Rodion Ya. Malinovsky’s 2nd Ukrainian Front and General Andrei I. Eremenko’s 4th Ukrainian Front (totalling 1.771 million men) as well as General Leytenant Karol Świerczewski’s Polish 2nd Army (69,500 men), General de corp de armatâ Vasile Anastasiu’s Romanian 1st Army and General de corp de armatâ Nicolae Dascalescu’s Romanian 4th Army (totalling 139,500 men), and General Major Ludvík Svoboda’s Czechoslovak I Corps (48,400 men), in all more than 2.028 million men. The operation was opposed by some 650,000 men of Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’, whose forces in this final battle comprised General Walther Nehring’s 1st Panzerarmee, General Fritz-Hubert Gräser’s 4th Panzerarmee and General Wilhelm Haase’s 17th Army, together with some 430,000 men of the so-called Heeresgruppe ‘Ostmark’, which had been formed on 2 April without any change in commander, from the remnants of Generaloberst Dr Lothar Rendulic’s Heeresgruppe ‘Süd’.

By the beginning of May 1945 Germany had been decisively defeated by the coalition of the Western Allies and the USSR, and Berlin, the German capital, was on the verge of capitulation as the surrounding Soviet forces pressed inward to the centre of the city. The one remaining major concentration of German troops, totalling more than 1 million men in two army groups, was that in south-eastern Germany and Czechoslovakia. These army groups were Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ and Heeresgruppe ‘Ostmark’, which until 30 April had been Heeresgruppe ‘Süd’. Opposing this German concentration on its northern, eastern and southern flanks respectively were the Soviet 1st, 4th and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts, while to the west of the German formations were elements of General Courtney H. Hodges’s US 1st Army and General George S. Patton’s US 3rd Army. These US forces were to play only a peripheral role in the events of the ‘Prague Strategic Offensive Operation’ as there was a demarcation line in western Czechoslovakia beyond which the US forces were not to advance except by agreement with the USSR.

At international level, both Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the UK and Premier Iosif Stalin of the USSR saw Prague as a significant prize whose seizure would significantly influence the political composition of a revived post-war Czechoslovakia. On 1 May, one day before Berlin’s capitulation, Stalin issued orders directing the 1st Belorussian Front to relieve the 1st Ukrainian Front in the Berlin area so that the latter could regroup to the south along the Mulde river and drive on Prague. One day later the 2nd Ukrainian Front was ordered to drive on Prague from the south-east. Stalin thus sought to ensure that Soviet forces were present in force in western Czechoslovakia when the German troops there finally surrendered.

From 30 April to 1 May, SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Waffen-SS und der Polizei Karl Hermann Frank made a radio announcement from Prague that he would drown any uprising in a ‘sea of blood’. At this time the situation in Prague was unstable, Frank knew that several Soviet army groups were advancing on the city and, more immediately, knew that he was faced by the population of a city ready to be liberated. At the same time, two divisions of General Leytenant Andrei A. Vlasov’s anti-Soviet Russkaya Osvoboditel’naya Armiya (Russian Liberation Army) reached the Prague area: the 1st Division (otherwise 600th Panzergrenadierdivision) took up position to the north of the city and the 2nd Division (650th Panzergrenadierdivision) deployed to the south of the city. Ostensibly allied with the Germans, the allegiance of the ROA would prove variable in the face of the particular situation the army faced.

The terrain now faced by the Soviet forces was varied, but for the most part it was both mountainous and forested. The axes along which the 1st and 4th Ukrainian Fronts were to advance were at right angles to the orientation of the mountain ridges, while that of the 2nd Ukrainian Front offered a less arduous route in regions of lower elevation. In particular, the 1st Ukrainian Front had to cross the Ore mountains to advance on Prague from the area to the north of Dresden and Bautzen. From the military point of view, the other significant military obstacle was a number of urban areas, of which the two largest were Dresden and Prague itself.

With Soviet and US forces pressing on it from all sides, Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ was deployed in a horseshoe shape straddling the historical regions of Bohemia and Moravia. To the west, General Hans von Obstfelder’s 7th Army (formerly part of General Friedrich Schulz’s Heeresgruppe ‘G’) had been pushed to the east by General Jacob L. Devers’s US 6th Army Group and had now been subordinated to Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’. The army was deployed along an essentially north/south axis in western Czechoslovakia. As well as single Panzer and Volksgrenadier divisions, the 7th Army had only four other notional divisions, two of which were battle groups (Kampfgruppe ‘Schulze’ and Kampfgruppe ‘Benicke’) and the other two replacement formations mobilised for combat and filled out with military school staffs and trainees. In the area to the north-east of Prague and just to the north of Dresden and Bautzen, General Fritz-Hubert Gräser’s 4th Panzerarmee defended a front aligned along a north-west/south-east axis, and had five Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions as well as 13 other divisions or Kampfgruppen. The 4th Panzerarmee had just won the Battle of Bautzen, damaging the Soviet 52nd Army and Polish 2nd Army. To the 4th Panzerarmee’s right flank was General Wilhelm Hasse’s 17th Army, which had a notional 11 divisions, including single Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions, organised in three corps. The army was deployed in an arc that began about 25 miles (40 km) to the south-west of Breslau and extending to the the south-east into the Ostrava area. From here the front ran farther to the south-east in the direction of Olomouc, where General Walther Nehring’s 1st Panzerarmee was deployed, and included a salient which extended to the east around Olomouc. The 1st Panzerarmee was notably large, at least in theory, with six Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions as well as 19 other divisions organised into five corps; five divisions were controlled directly by the army headquarters. In southern Moravia, General Hans Kreysing’s 8th Army of the Heeresgruppe ‘Ostmark’ was deployed on a front aligned to the south-west into Austria, where its right flank linked with SS-Oberstgruppenführer und Generaloberst der Waffen-SS Joseph Dietrich’s 6th SS Panzerarmee in the area to the north and west of Vienna. The 8th Army controlled eight divisions including single Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions.

Facing part of the 1st Panzerarmee and 8th Army in the Brno region, Malinovsky’s 2nd Ukrainian Front numbered 37 infantry divisions, six cavalry divisions, and four tank or mechanised corps in, from north-east to south-west, its 40th Army, 27th Army, 53rd Army and 7th Guards Army. The 2nd Ukrainian Front was expected to advance to the north-west across the less mountainous terrain to Prague, and would head its advance with the 6th Guards Tank Army. Forces allied with the Soviets in the 2nd Ukrainian Front’s sector were the Romanian 1st and 4th Armies, totalling 12 infantry and three cavalry divisions.

Confronting primarily the 1st Panzerarmee, Petrov’s 4th Ukrainian Front possessed 34 infantry divisions and one tank corps deployed, north to south, in 1st Guards Army and 18th Army. The 4th Ukrainian Front faced the dual obstacles of the small city of Olomouc as well as multiple hill ranges which extended at right angles across its projected line of advance. Unlike 2nd Ukrainian Front, the 4th Ukrainian Front lacked direct and major road connections from Olomouc to Prague, a factor almost guaranteed to slow its rate of advance. Forces allied with the Soviets in the 4th Ukrainian Front’s sector were the four infantry and single tank brigades of the Czechoslovak I Corps on the front’s northern flank.

From the region to the north of Dresden and Görlitz across a large arc to the area of Breslau, Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front had 71 infantry and three cavalry divisions, as well as nine tank and mechanised corps. The main strength of the 1st Ukrainian Front was massed to the north of Dresden for a direct advance on Prague and included the 3rd and 4th Guards Tank Armies, whose primary opponent would be the 4th Panzerarmee. To the east, the 3rd Guards Army, 28th Army, 52nd, 31st and Polish 2nd Army made up the front’s eastern wing of the front, the advance of which would fall primarily on the 17th Army. Facing the 1st Ukrainian Front’s main advance were the Ore mountains, as well as the urban areas of Dresden and Bautzen.

The weightiest punches of Soviet offensives late in World War II were characterised by two main features, namely the power of their tank armies and the availability of Stavka reserve artillery divisions. In May 1945 the 1st Ukrainian Front could call on six artillery divisions and one rocket-launcher division as well as one Polish artillery division, the 4th Ukrainian Front had two artillery divisions, and the 2nd Ukrainian Front commanded four artillery divisions and one rocket-launcher division.

Facing the 7th Army to the west were Lieutenant General Troy H. Middleton’s VIII Corps of Lieutenant General William H. Simpson’s US 9th Army, and Major General Clarence R. Huebner’s V Corps and Major General Stafford LeR. Irwin’s XII Corps of Patton’s US 3rd Army. The VIII Corps numbered one armoured and three infantry divisions, and the V Corps one armoured division and two infantry divisions. There was also an additional infantry division under direct 3rd Army control in the V Corps’ sector, and a second armoured division was to be subordinated to the V Corps before VE-Day. The XII Corps had two armoured divisions and two infantry divisions. Exerting some pressure on the 7th Army, these US corps did not advance on Prague, although their presence in western Bohemia stimulated Czechoslovak resistance to the German occupation, indirectly influencing the Prague Uprising. By agreement with the Soviets, the US forces advance in strength no father to the east of an irregular demarcation line which at points touched Leipzig, Karlovy Vary and Plzeň.

Realising that the Soviets would fall on Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ after the surrender of Berlin, on 5 May Schörner devised the ‘Blumen’ plan in which the units of Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ would attempt a fighting withdrawal to the west in order to surrender to US rather than Soviet forces. Schörner envisaged withdrawal phase lines (each given the name of a flower), and intended the 4th Panzerarmee to hold back the 1st Ukrainian Front for a time long enough for the other armies of his army group to fall back to the west.

Stalin’s order on 1 May for the three fronts to start the ‘Prague Strategic Offensive Operation’ specified at start date of 7 May, and on 4 May Konev issued detailed orders to his army commanders for three thrusts by the 1st Ukrainian Front. The main thrust was to be made on the right wing by three combined-arms armies, two tank armies (3rd and 4th Guards Tank Armies) and five artillery divisions, following the valleys of the Elbe and Vltava rivers. A secondary thrust by the 28th and 52nd Armies was to advance on the axis from Zittau to Prague, and a final thrust by the Polish 2nd Army was to cut off the south-eastern approaches to Dresden, which was itself was to be taken by the 5th Guards Army as part of the main thrust.

Suggesting to General Aleksei I. Antonov, the chief of the Soviet general Staff, that a US advance to Prague was now feasible, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander-in-chief Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, was told that such was not desired by the Soviets, and the same message was given to General Omar N. Bradley, commander-in-chief of the US 12th Army Group, at a meeting with Konev on 5 May. At this juncture military planning was overtaken by external events. By 5 May, the leading elements of the US V Corps had reached Plzeň, and information of this advance by Patton’s 3rd Army reached the population of Prague and now played a part in the decision of the city’s people to begin an insurrection against the German occupation.

This was the Prague uprising, an attempt by the Czech resistance to liberate Prague between 5 and 8 May, ending in a German victory and ceasefire, although only one day later the Germans surrendered to the soviet forces advancing on the3 Czechoslovak capital. Before the start of the uprising, among the many factors which affected the daily life of the majority of the population were the militarisation of the economy, the elimination of political rights, transportation of persons to Germany for forced labour, and a general national oppression which impinged not only on the working class, but also on members of the the middle class in including middle-ranking businessmen, and the lower categories of state and civic employees. The Czechoslovaks saw as their most important tasks were to prevent the Germans from devastating what Czechoslovak territory they still occupied and to stop them from continuing the war on Czechoslovak soil. The goal of the resistance was therefore to force the Germans occupying their country to retreat to Germany. However, the Czechoslovak resistance movement required the help of the Soviet forces in order to achieve the liberation of Czechoslovakia.

Throughout Czechoslovakia, in the spring of 1945 there were many partisan groups, both large and small, totalling about 7,500 persons. These undertook the ‘battle of the rails’, in which they attacked railway and road transport in general, and trains and stations in particular. Favourite targets included German troop trains, tracks and bridges, and there were many areas in which the Germans could use the railway lines only by day, and then not on a daily basis.

As noted above, on 30 April/1 May, Frank announced by radio that he would drown any uprising in a ‘sea of blood’, but as rumours of an impending Allied approach reached Prague, its people poured into the streets to welcome their liberators. Frank ordered the streets to be cleared, instructing his army and police forces in Prague to fire at anyone who disobeyed.

On 5 May, the Prague uprising was triggered by a morning broadcast on Czechoslovak radio. In a mixture of Czechoslovak and German, the broadcast announced ‘It is just six o’clock’. A group of Czechoslovak policemen then tried to seize the radio building on Vinohradská street, but did not know that a detachment of SS soldiers was already stationed there, and a severe firefight erupted. Against the background sound of the fighting, the radio station continued to broadcast messages of defiance, encouraging the population to rise against the Germans, and also broadcast an appeal in Russian and English for air support to hold off German armoured units. At about 13.00 on 5 May, armed Czechoslovak resistance fighters finally overwhelmed the Waffen-SS detachment holding the radio building, and the announcer broadcast a call to the Czechoslovak nation to rise and asked the people of Prague to build barricades. Elsewhere, Czechoslovak resistance fighters occupied the Gestapo and Sipo (Geheime Staatspolizei and Sicherheitspolizei) headquarters. In the afternoon the mayor of Prague announced his change of allegiance to the National Committee. The Czechoslovaks in the streets tore down German road traffic signs and store inscriptions, and attacked any Germans they saw and seized their weapons. Later in the day the insurgents learned of the German plan to destroy the uprising by use of heavily armed forces from outside the city, which were to advance into Prague to link with the Germans forces holding parts of the city, and the resistance movement soon learned that German armoured and motorised formations were heading for Prague. In the evening of May 5 there inevitably developed a shift in the balance of power between the insurgents and the Germans as the insurgents’ initial advantage began to wane.

By the morning of 6 May more than 1,000 barricades had been erected in Prague’s streets, and it became clear that Czechoslovak resistance forces had managed to seize half of the city before the Germans reacted in force. German garrisons throughout Prague were surrounded, and the insurgents attempted to force the besieged Germans to surrender by cutting off their electricity, water supplies, and telephone wires. Prague saw a wave of anti-German excesses, and some Germans, mainly of the SS, took revenge on the Czech non-combatants.

German forces outside Prague were now moving toward the city centre to relieve their besieged compatriots, and also to retake the local rail and road communications. High in the German thinking was the fact that possession of these vital transportation links would secure the passage to the west and the US forces for the formations of Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’.

On 6 May, the Germans attempted to recapture the radio station, but as their advance ran into significant resistance, both in the building and at the barricades in nearby streets, the Germans decided to force the issue with air power. The resulting bomber attack was successful, but the Czechoslovak resistance managed to maintain its broadcasts from the tower of a nearby church, which remained in use as an communications centre and resistance base between 7 and 9 May.

Given the news that US troops were already in Plzeň, there were high hopes in Prague that US armour would soon reach the Czechoslovak capital. But the insurgents were not aware of the fact that the USA and USSR had agreed a demarcation line for their forces some 43.5 miles (70 km) to the west of Prague, and Czechoslovak radio appeals for US support remained unanswered. At this time the insurgents also did not know the positions of the Soviet forces, and German pressure on them was increasing steadily.

On 7 May, armoured and artillery units of the Waffen-SS outside Prague, frustrated by the lack of decisive progress by army infantry, launched several potent armoured attacks on the city’s defenders. The situation immediately became worse for the insurgents, and a weighty combination of German air power, armour and artillery fell on the city, many of whose historical landmarks were bombed or otherwise destroyed. In the next hours, the German forces gradually but inevitably overwhelmed the Czechoslovak fighters, who had only a few anti-tank weapons and were quickly running out of ammunition.

During its movement to the south, the 1st Division (600th Panzergrenadierdivision) of the ROA, commanded by Generalleutnant Sergei K. Bunyachenko, switched sides and moved into Prague to support the Czechoslovak insurgency. The ROA’s commander, Vlasov, was initially reluctant, but ultimately did not resist Bunyachenko’s decision to fight against the Germans, and the 1st Division began to fight the Waffen-SS units sent to retake and, if necessary, raze the city. Comparatively well armed, the 1st Division reinforced the Czechoslovak insurgents at the radio station and taken the airport, helped to fend off the Waffen-SS assault, and together with the Czechoslovak insurgents succeeded in preserving much of Prague from destruction. However, as the new Czechoslovak council was led by communists, the 1st Division had to leave the city on the very next day and tried to surrender to the US 3rd Army. The Western Allies had little interest in aiding or sheltering any part of the ROA, however, fearing that any such action would adversely affect relations with the USSR. Soon after the failed attempt to surrender to the US forces, therefore, Vlasov, Bunyachenko and the ROA forces were turned over to the Soviets, and most were then executed as traitors.

On 8 May, faced with the fact their appeared to be no real prospect of the arrival of air from the Western Allies, and seeing that Prague was in imminent danger of destruction, the insurgent leadership attempted to negotiate, but was compelled to accept the German terms presented by General Rudolf Toussaint, the German military governor. These called for the immediate capitulation of the Czechoslovak forces and the unhindered passage of all Germans, including civilians, through Prague. In return, Prague would not be destroyed. Although the compromise seemed to give the Germans most of what they wanted, the Czechs were confident that the Germans would not have enough time to benefit from it.

The Prague uprising prompted Stalin to bring forward the start of the ‘Prague Strategic Offensive Operation’ by one day to 6 May. Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front began the Soviet offensive with an assault by the 3rd and 4th Guard Tank Armies and the combined-arms 13th, 3rd Guards and 5th Guards Armies. This concentration of five armies constituted Konev’s main attack, and drove to the south from the area around Riesa against the 4th Panzerarmee. The Soviet offensive began with a reconnaissance in force during the morning before a short but powerful artillery barrage was launched. The 13th Army, 3rd Guards Arm, and both tank armies (as well as two tank corps) attacked to the south in the afternoon, the 13th Army and the 4th Guards Tank Army pushing forward some 14.25 miles (23 km). By the evening, the 5th Guards Army had joined the attack with the objective of capturing Dresden.

Ending a separate 1st Ukrainian Front operation, 40,000 German troops in Breslau surrendered to the 6th Army after a two-month-long siege, so bringing to a belated end the ‘Lower Silesian Offensive Operation’. On 6 May, the 4th Ukrainian Front attacked to the west with the 1st Panzerarmee as its opponent and the city of Olomouc as it first major offensive.

In the west, the US V Corps and XII Corps attacked into western Czechoslovakia against the 7th Army. Elements of Brigadier General John L. Pierce’s 16th Armored Division captured Plzeň, and a combat command of Major General Hugh J. Gaffey’s 4th Armored Division took Strakonice. In all, the two corps advanced into Czechoslovakia with a strength of seven divisions.

On 7/8 May, continuing the 1st Ukrainian Front’s main effort, the 3rd Guards Army captured Meissen, and the 13th Army and 4th Guards Tank Army pushed 28 miles (45 km) farther to the south and reached the northern slopes of the Ore mountains. The 3rd Guards Tank Army and 5th Guards Army began the battle to capture Dresden. The 2nd Polish Army thrust to the south-west in support of the operations against Dresden. Farther to the east, the second attack of the front developed as the 28th and 52nd Armies attacked to the south.

After a 30-minute artillery barrage, the 7th Guards Army and the 6th Guards Tank Army led an attack to the north-west, opening the offensive of the 2nd Ukrainian Front. Adding to the difficulties of the 8th Army, the 9th Guards Army and 46th Army reinforced the attack on the Soviet left wing. By the end of the day, the front had advanced 7.5 miles (12 km) into the German line across a sector of the front of 15.5 miles (25 km) wide. Between the 2nd Ukrainian Front and 1st Ukrainian Front, the 4th Ukrainian Front continued its advance on Olomouc.

In Prague, meanwhile, German troops retook the Old Town Square, continuing overwhelming pressure on the uprising and the civilian population.

On 7 May, Generaloberst Alfred Jodl, chief of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht general staff, signed the surrender of all German forces at at Reims headquarters of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, the surrender to become effective at 00.01 on 9 May. In the western part of Czechoslovakia, on receipt of the news of the surrender, US forces ceased offensive operations and went over to a defensive posture. The US V Corps took Karlovy Vary on the day of the surrender.

The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht had last heard from Schörner on 2 May, when he reported his intention to fight his way to the west and surrender his army group to the Americans. On 8 May Oberst Wilhelm Meyer-Detring, a liaison officer from the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, was escorted through the US lines to see Schörner, whom he informed that the formal capitulation of Germany meant that any withdrawal by any substantial formation of Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ was not permissible, and that the German troops should therefore attempt to make their way to the west in small units and surrender to US forces, though Schörner believed that any such effort was impractical. On his return, Meyer-Detring reported that Schörner had ordered his army group to observe the surrender, but could not guarantee that it would be obeyed everywhere.

Pushing forward another 25 miles (40 km), the main thrust of the 1st Ukrainian Front broke through German resistance in the Ore mountains and reached position some 45 to 50 miles (70 to 80 km) from Prague. The advance of the 4th Guards Tank Army overran the headquarters of Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’, in the process capturing or killing the headquarters personnel but not Schörner who, deserting his command, made his way to Podbořany where, on the next day and in civilian clothes, he flew to Bavaria. Nine days later Schörner was detained in Austria by German troops and handed over to the Americans.

By the evening of 8 May, Dresden had fallen to the 3rd Guards Tank Army and the 5th Guards Army, and on the same day the 4th Ukrainian Front pushed the Germans out of Olomouc. The Soviets now broadcast a demand that the remaining German forces in the field lay down their arms by 23.00, but received no reply. Without a functioning army group headquarters and essentially leaderless, the component armies of Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ were now on their own and, Schörner’s for an orderly withdrawal notwithstanding, were destined to be captured by the Soviets.

It was at this stage that the Česká Národní Rada (ČNR, or Czech National Council), lacking the supplies for effective support the Prague uprising and fearing large-scale destruction in Prague, reached an agreement with the Germans by which German troops and civilians were to quit Prague during a ceasefire, though some SS units continued their attacks against the Czech insurgents in Prague. The turncoat 1st Division of the ROA, its relations with the ČNR broken down and realising that it could expect no mercy from the Soviets, joined the SS and other German troops in a wary alliance of convenience and starting moving to the west. The ROA’s 2nd Division had already contacted the Americans and started to move to the west.

During the night of 8/9 May, armoured formations of the 3rd and 4th Guards Tank Armies pushed some 50 miles (80 km) to the south and entered Prague at the break of day, these armoured vanguards being followed soon afterwards by elements of the 13th Army and 3rd Guards Army. With the help of the Czech population, Prague was freed of German troops by about 10.00 in a process aided by the fact that the German troops in and around Prague were more than anxious to escape to the west despite the fact Soviet columns, Czech partisans, and an angry Czech population rendered the journey to the US lines anything but certain.

During the course of the day, formations of the 4th and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts, including the Czechoslovak I Corps, also reached Prague. The arrival of forces of these other fronts meant that the bulk of Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ was now cut off and steadily compressed into a pocket in an area to the east and north-east of Prague.

With their formations within Prague and pushing farther west and south into Bohemia, the Soviets had achieved their military objective. Most of Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ was taken prisoner by the Soviets in the two days following the liberation of Prague, while elements of the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts pushed to west toward the demarcation line, extending from Chemnitz via Karlovy Vary to Plzeň, between the Soviet and US forces. With the completion of these movements, the ‘Prague Strategic Offensive Operation’ came to an end three days after VE-Day.

Fearing their treatment at the hands of the local population and/or Soviet troops, some formations of Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ continued their resistance until 11/12 May, and in the case of some smaller units, later into May 1945. The left flank of the 2nd Ukrainian Front met the leading elements of the US 3rd Army in the area of České Budějovice and Písek, and later the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts met with US forces in the regions of Karlovy Vary and Klatovy.

German soldiers, ethnic Germans and small numbers of ethnic Czech pro-Nazi civilians fleeing Prague were surprised by the advancing Soviets and completely routed. The Czech partisans resumed hostilities against the fleeing German troops regardless of their intentions or nationality.

The ‘Prague Strategic Offensive Operation’ had wholly destroyed Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ and parts of Heeresgruppe ‘Ostmark’, which had been the last of Germany’s major military formations, and in the aftermath of the offensive all surviving German soldiers became prisoners of war or fugitives. The number of Germans taken prisoner by the Soviets reached almost 900,000, and other German troops, numbering at least in the tens of thousands, surrendered to the US forces in western Czechoslovakia and Austria, although numbers of these were later passed to the Soviets.

All the German and allied forces were killed or captured, while the Soviets and their allies recorded losses of a mere 11,997 men killed or missing, and 40,501 men wounded or taken ill.

Czechoslovakia was free of the German occupation regime for the first time since a time late in 1938, but the nation’s pre-war borders were not not completely restored as the Soviets engineered the cession of Carpathian Ruthenia to the USSR in July 1945. Western Czechoslovakia was split by a military frontier between the two new superpowers, with the Soviet army and on the eastern side and the US Army on the western side. Although both armies left Czechoslovakia by the end of 1945, Stalin had achieved his goal of ensuring a strong Soviet military presence in Prague at the time of the surrender of German forces in Czechoslovakia, and communist influence in the post-war Czechoslovak army and government mounted. Czechoslovak soldiers who had fought with the Western Allies found themselves increasingly sidelined, and in 1948 a coup led to the country becoming a Soviet satellite.

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These were the 'Dresden-Prague Offensive Operation' (6/11 May), 'Sudeten Offensive Operation' (6/11 May), 'Olomouc Offensive Operation' (6/9 May) and 'Jihlavo–Benesov Offensive Operation' (6/11 May).