Western Carpathian Strategic Offensive Operation

The 'Western Carpathian Strategic Offensive Operation' was a successful Soviet operation into the eastern part of the Slovak Republic (12 January/18 February 1945).

After passing over the Carpathian mountains and advancing from the north-western part of Romania, General Ivan Ye. Petrov’s 4th Ukrainian Front, which included General Leytenant Ludvík Svoboda’s I Czechoslovak Corps, and Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza Rodion Ya. Malinovsky’s 2nd Ukrainian Front, which included General de corp de armatâ Nicolae Macici’s Romanian 1st Army and General de corp de armatâ Nicolae Dăscălescu’s Romanian 4th Army, were ordered to drive back the German and allied forces holding the Western Carpathian mountains.

The Axis forces of Generaloberst Josef Harpe’s (from 17 January Generaloberst Ferdinand Schörner’s Heeresgruppe 'A' (from 25 January 'e]Heeresgruppe 'Mitte' comprised Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici’s 1st Panzerarmee, General Hans Kreysing’s 8th Army, parts of General Friedrich Schulz’s 17th Army and Altábornagy Dezső László's Hungarian 1st Army. The German defensive line was based in part on the mountainous terrain but also on several lakes and rivers.

The Soviet offensive began on the same day as the considerably larger 'Vistula-Oder Strategic Offensive Operation', while the 'East Prussian Strategic Offensive Operation' opened one day later. The three sub-operations of the 'Western Carpathian Strategic Offensive Operation' were the 'Kosice-Poprad Offensive Operation' (12/28 January), the 'Bel’sk Offensive Operation' (29 January/18 February) and the 'Pleshevets-Breznovsk Offensive Operation' (12 January/18 February).

At 08.15 on 12 January, and after a very heavy bombardment by the front’s artillery, General Polkovnik Kirill S. Moskalenko’s 38th Army of the 4th Ukrainian Front attacked with the CI Corps and LXVII Corps. Behind the attack’s left flank, the LII Corps was held in reserve for a follow-up attack. On 15 January, the Soviet offensive broke through SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Matthias Kleinheisterkamp’s XI SS Corps (from 1 February XI SS Panzerkorps) and pressed forward in an advance of 11.25 miles (18 km) in the next few days. On 16 January, Jasło (now in south-eastern Poland) was captured by the 70th Guards Division and 140th Division of the CI Corps.

On 18 January, to the south, General Polkovnik Andrei A. Grechko’s 1st Guards Army began its offensive against General Rudolf von Bünau’s XI Corps across the Ondava river. The 4th Ukrainian Front used about 215 tanks and self-propelled guns, 134 of them with the 38th Army but only 42 in the 1st Guards Army because of the mountainous terrain.

The front of Generalleutnant Carl Becker’s 253rd Division, deployed in the area 15.5 miles (25 km) to the south of Jasło, from Polany to a point lying to the south of Stropkov, was torn apart by the XI Corps and CVII Corps. The German troops were pushed back as much as 13.75 miles (22 km), and on the following day Presov was captured by Soviet troops.

Farther to the south, General Major Anton I. Gastilovich’s 18th Army attacked the positions of General Karl von Le Suire’s XLIX Gebirgskorps in the area also occupied by Vezérőrnagy Mikály Ibrányi’s Hungarian V Corps, and the city of Kozice was taken.

The left wing of the 2nd Ukrainian Front simultaneously launched its offensive from northern Hungary into the Ore mountains of Slovakia. General Leytenant Filipp F. Zhmachenko’s 40th Army drove back the Hungarian 1st Army back through the Rosenau cauldron to Rozňava, crossed the Sajó river and captured the city of Brezno in the 'Pleshevets-Breznovsk Offensive Operation', otherwise the 'Plesivec-Brezno Offensive Operation'. To the left of it, General Polkovnik Sergei G. Trofimenko’s 27th Army accompanied the advance on Zvolen.

By the end of January, the forces of the 4th Ukrainian Front had reached the German defensive position along the Soła river to the east of the line linking Żywiec, Jablonka, Liptovský Hrádok and Liptovský Mikulás. The 4th Ukrainian Front’s advance was stopped to the west of Strumień, Żywiec and Jablonka, and to the east of Liptovský Hrádok and Liptovský Mikulás. The heavily defended town of Bielsko-Biała was captured by the 1st Guards Army and the 38th Army. The 2nd Ukrainian Front continued the fighting until the middle of March and reached the Hron river.

In this offensive, the Soviets destroyed 17 Axis divisions and one brigade, taking 137,000 prisoners according to their own not always verifiable sources. In addition, the Soviets also claimed to have destroyed or captured 2,300 pieces of artillery, 320 armoured fighting vehicles and 65 aircraft. In the process, large parts of Slovakia and the southern areas of Poland were liberated from their German occupiers. The Soviets admitted that its own casualties were 78,988 men (including 16,337 killed and 62,651 wounded). The Romanian 1st Army and 4th Army lost 12,000 men (2,500 killed) and the I Czechoslovak Corps 970 men (260 killed). In addition, the loss of 359 tanks, 753 guns and 94 aircraft was admitted by the Soviets.

The Soviet offensive cost Germany the control of the Ore mountains, and with them some if their important sources of strategic metal ores.