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Alexander Alexandrovich Deyneka (1899-1969)  The Defense of Sebastopol  Oil on canvas, 1942  200 x 400 cm  The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Goback 4 / 106 Forward

Title: The Defense of Sebastopol
Description:
Alexander Alexandrovich Deyneka (1899-1969)
The Defense of Sebastopol
Oil on canvas, 1942
200 x 400 cm
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Siege of Sevastopol took place from 30 October 1941 to 4 July 1942 between German forces and those of the Red Army, the Black Sea Fleet and elements of the Red Air Force over the control for the main Soviet Black Sea Fleet naval base during the Second World War. It is notable for use of German heavy artillery (200-800mm range) during the siege.
The 11th Army, under von Manstein, was tasked with invading the Crimea to secure the right flank of Army Group South during its advance into the Soviet Union[1]. Hitler also intended to use the Kerch peninsula to land forces in the Caucasus.

Von Manstein, believing the Red Army to offer stiff resistance during the Crimea Campaign halted his attack so that he could redeploy more forces to the front. Due to a general reduction in combat on the Eastern front, and as Red Army's 51st Army forces took up prepared defensive positions, this became possible. The 11th Army order of battle included three German Corps.
Additionally von Manstein also commanded a Romanian Mountain Corps.

Though Soviet forces in the Crimea totaled 235,600 men, only around 50,000 were deployed in the Isthmus of Perekop, which connects the Crimean peninsula to the mainland. This was problematic for the Soviets but would in the end enable a large number of Soviet troops to avoid capture after the isthmus was captured by the Germans. The low numbers of defenders were further reduced by Joseph Stalin, who insisted upon a Soviet attack from the isthmus. This attack failed, costing the Soviet forces heavy losses and disrupting work on fortifications.

The Battle of Crimea began on 24 September 1941, going through the narrow and desolate isthmus area. A furious five-day struggle followed, with the Soviets displaying determined resistance in a ten-mile deep defensive system. Following the capture of the initial objectives, von Manstein's forces were depleted by urgent requirements else. Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and the 49th Mountain Corps, were assigned to 1st Panzer Group and most of the Rumanian units were also withdrawn. von Manstein received 42 Corps' headquarters and the 132nd and 24th Infantry divisions as reinforcements.

The second phase of the entry to the Crimean peninsula was launched towards Perikop on 18 October 1941. This battle took 10 days and was characterised by bitter fighting. The six remaining German divisions were now attacking eight rifle and four cavalry divisions, many of whom had been shipped in from Odessa (occupied by Rumanians) around the 16 October 1941. However, the Soviet Divisions would, even at full strength, number around half that of a German Division, and several of the defending Divisions were already understrength from the fighting in the Odessa area. Due to the terrain, von Manstein was forced to make a frontal assault on three narrow strips of land, with the Soviets occupying prepared defensive positions, and enjoying tank and air superiority. Nevertheless, on 28 October the Soviet defence collapsed and the Crimea looked set to fall.

The 11th Army proceeded in full pursuit of the retreating enemy, despite heavy losses. Von Manstein reported that about 100,000 Soviet troops were captured along with 700 guns. Soviet sources claim that merely 68,200 Soviet losses of all kind were inflicted. By 16 November 1941 Crimea was virtually in German hands with only the fortress of Sevastopol remaining under Soviet control.
The Germans claimed over 90,000 Red Army soldiers had been taken prisoner, and an even greater number killed. However these claims seems an overstatement, as according to Soviet sources the Soviet garrison defending Sevastopol totalled 106,000 men beforehand, and received only 3,000 in reinforcements during the attack, while it is known that 25,157 persons were evacuated, the overwhelming majority being either wounded soldiers or officers evacuated on Stalin's orders. A more reasonable estimate puts the Soviet losses at 90,000 captured and 11,000 dead.

Soviet accounts claim that there were very few Soviet troops who survived the German onslaught; Von Manstein himself records that the Soviets preferred to blow themselves up along with the German soldiers closing in on their positions rather than surrender. Von Manstein ascribed this behaviour to the ruthlessness of the "commissars" and to the basic "contempt for human life of this Asiatic power". Another explanation for the Soviet unwillingness to surrender, was the fear Soviet servicemen had for their treatment if they were taken prisoners of war by the Wehrmacht.

Von Manstein put his own losses at 24,000, a claim that may seem low. However, this figure excludes all Romanian losses, though the Romanians fought well and hard in Sevastopol, rendering an indispensable contribution to the victory. It also excludes all German losses sustained during the "mopping up" fighting after the capture of Cape Khersones. The fall of Sevastopol resulted in Von Manstein's promotion to Generalfeldmarschall, as promised. Hitler and others were deeply impressed by what they perceived as his hardness.

Although a success in the end, the operation had taken much longer than the Germans had imagined. Operation Blau, Army Group South's advance towards Stalingrad and Caucasus was just beginning, and the German offensive would not have the 11th Army to support them.


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Goback 4 / 106 Forward
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