Sevastopol, The Beginning

As part of Army Group South’s operations in Ukraine, the German 11th Army and the Romanian 3rd and 4th Armies invaded Crimea on 26 September, 1941, through the Isthmus of Perikop. The Soviet 51st Army and the Black Sea Fleet proved unable to prevent the occupation of Crimea by the Germans. Kerch and the Kerch Peninsula were lost and the Soviets were pushed across the Kerch Strait to the Taman Peninsula.

Sevastapol, though isolated, avoided conquest. Army Group A took over occupation duties. The Balaklava Hills south of Sevastopol were taken 30 October, 1941. In mid-December the German’s second offensive took place and they pushed to within eight kilometers of the city.

At the end of 1941 the Soviets retook Kerch with an amphibious operation and the German attack on Sevastopol was called back to oppose them.

General von Manstein, commanding the offensive against Kerch, examined the Soviet defenses and found an anti-tank ditch nearly four meters deep and ten meters wide filled with water, and guarded by a field of mines, barbed wire obstacles and pillboxes.

On 8 May, 1942, Manstein’s first attack, of three divisions with Luftflotte IV support, was on the stronger northern flank. This feint was pushed back. The main attack took place on the weaker southern front. Assault boats entered the anti-tank ditch from the Black Sea. Portal bridges, thrown across the ditch, allowed assault troops to advance. By 17 May the battle was over. One hundred seventy thousand Russian soldiers were captured, as well as 250 tanks, and 1,100 artillery pieces.

The remainder of the Soviet forces again withdrew to the Taman Peninsula. Eighty-six thousand soldiers were evacuated, including twenty-six thousand wounded. The reasons given for the loss included lack of communication and leadership.

During the winter of 1941-42 Sevastopol underwent continuous shelling and bombing. The defenders of the fortress of Sevastopol were commanded by General I. E. Petrov’s Coastal Army with seven rifle divisions, four brigades, two Marine regiments, two tank battalions and an armored train: 106,000 men, 600 guns, 100 mortars, 38 tanks, and 55 aircraft.

The German forces numbered ten infantry divisions and 120 batteries of guns: 204,000 men, fifty-six heavy guns of 190 to 420 mm, super heavy 615 mm mortars, and 800 mm railway guns, 670 lighter guns of 76 to 420 mm, 655 anti-tank guns, 720 mortars, 450 tanks and 600 aircraft. The Naval blockade possessed 19 motor torpedo boats, 30 patrol boats, eight anti-submarine boats, and 150 anti-shipping aircraft.

The bombardment began on 2 June. The first infantry attacks began on 7 June with the main assault against the Kamyshly-Belbec sector with an auxiliary attack from the south, up the Yalta highway. Luftwaffe supported with 600 to 1,000 sorties per day.

Sources: ‘The Siege of Savastopol,’ Colonel Vasili Morozov, History of the Second World War Magazine, 1970s

Red Army Resurgent, John Shaw and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Time-Life Books, Inc., Chicago, IL, 1979

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