Turn 63-64: 27th August 1942 - 9th September 1942
The last large-scale offensive operation of the Ostheer of Summer 1942, Unternehmen Fridericus, was launched in the morning of 27th August 1942 with numerous Luftwaffe air strikes against the Soviet frontline units. When the ground operations began a few hours later, the Germans had to discover, that the Red Army had pulled back several units in anticipation of the German onslaught. Still, the Germans rolled forward undeterred and on 29th August the elite LIX. AK of Walter Model broke through the Soviet defenses behind the Pronya. Behind the the panzers of Guderian and von Manstein rolled through the gap towards Ryazan. One day later XXXXVII. PzK fought its way through and stood at the gates of the city at the Oka. With 2nd Panzer Army's divisions covering the right flank, von Manstein's divisions swung northwest towards Serebryanye Prudy, bypassing Ryazan to the west. In the meantime the offensive arm built around 4th Panzer Army, supported by Weiss' LIII. AK, broke through the Soviet 10th Army's lines south of Kashira and headed towards 3rd Panzer Army, brushing aside resistance of 3rd Shock Army and 32nd Army. On 1st September the link-up between Hoth and von Manstein's forces was complete, trapping eight rifle divisions between them and the Pronya. STAVKA, realising that it would be impossible to bail the units out, decided to sacrifice them and pull the mass of the Soviet units behind the mighty Oka, leaving only Ryazan as a bridgehead.
After resting the forward divisions for three days, with the Mikhailov pocket being cleared by the units of 4th Army's I. and IX. AK, the Germans regrouped to prepare the assault on Ryazan, while pushing forward to the Oka. Ryazan was well defended by the 1st Shock Army with two rifle corps and a rifle division. However, the German High Command had utmost faith into the abilities of Walter Model and his crack troops who had already captured Leningrad in 1941 and Sevastopol in March 1942. For the Ryazan operation the Germans assigned Model 12 divisions with 191.000 men, 1.988 guns and mortars and 1.230 AFVs. It was the largest set-piece battle the Wehrmacht had fought to that date. On 4th September the Luftwaffe opened the assault with a massive bombardment that turned the city into rubble and units of LIX. AK entered the city right after. Despite clawing themselves into the houses and ruins of the city, the Soviet defenders steadily lost group and moreover also couldn't count on reinforcement from the other side of the Oka, since the Luftwaffe heavily interdicted the area. On 7th September the Germans reached the Oka and split the Soviet defenders, who were then overwhelmed by the sheer number of German soldiers that kept coming at them. On 9th September the last of them either surrendered or routed over the river, giving 3rd Panzer Army total control over the city.
While the German offensive raged in the centre, STAVKA took the opportunity to mass units in the Vyshny Volochek sector for a limited offensive against 18th Army's L. AK. When the Soviets attacked on 28th August they achieved total surprise, since sloppy reconnaissance had failed to pick up the Soviet build-up. Under attack by three guards rifle corps and subjected to heavy artillery fire, 86th Infantry Division was forced to pull back on 1st September and the Soviets used the gap that was created south of the Shlina river to push a tank corps through. In addition the Red Army also launched an airborne operation to create chaos in the German rear, successfully putting three airborne brigades on the ground. However, not everything went smoothly for the Soviets as 55th Army's attack agaisnt 126th Infantry Division was repelled, despite the use of two guards rifle corps.
Despite the initial shock, the high command of Army Group North was quick to react and on 3rd September two divisions of its reserve arrived to deal with the airborne units and help stabilise the front of L. AK afterwards. In the northern part 5th Mountain Division came down from Tikhvin, while the landings at Firovo were dealt with by 101st Jäger Division originally stationed in Rzhev. Additionally XXXX. PzK marched northwards from their positions behind the front of 9th Army and launched a swift counterattack against 9th Tank Corps on 5th September. With the tank corps routed a day later, the lines of L. AK was secure again. However, OKH wasn't content with just sealing the breakthrough and on 2nd September von Kluge ordered Hoth's 4th Panzer Army to immediately pull out Weiss' XXVII. AK and Kempf's XXXXVIII. PzK (which included two of the finest German panzer divisions with the 1st and 11th, as well as Division Großdeutschland) and rail them north. Von Kluge's aim was to hammer the Soviet guards rifle corps with the elite German formations and capture the eastern bank of the Msta with its good defensive terrain and the city of Vyzhny Volochek. But before these units arrived at the front, STAVKA had already decided to give up the operation and pulled back to the initial positions, removing the guards rifle corps from the frontline.
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