Wehrmacht and Red Army Soldiers Face Off at the Donets
|Soviet soldiers providing cover for reconnaissance troops as they cross the Donets River in Ukraine, May 30, 1943 (source)|
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
April 8, 1943
The Red Army has scored a defensive victory over the German forces attempting to take the river and railroad town of Izium. This victory doesn't compare with the immense achievements of the Russian winter offensive, but nevertheless it is of extreme importance as a measure of the relative strengths of the opposing forces now linked up on opposing sides of the Donets River.
The Germans began their major assaults south of Izium five days ago. This local offensive was aimed at establishing a river crossing at Izium and at the same time cutting the important railroad running northwestward from the city. The Red Army is using this railroad to supply its forces all along the left bank of the river.
Although this fighting was on a narrow sector, it was an all-out German attempt to secure local superiority and create a bridgehead which would outflank the Soviet troops holding the river to the north. The Red Army still holds a narrow strip of defenses on the right bank. (Large numbers of fighters and bombers participated. The land forces attacked night and day, supported by tanks and mobile artillery. The fighting was exceedingly bitter.)
During these battles for the Izium crossing the Germans tried everything in the book, but they couldn't overcome the stubborn Red Army resistance—the kind of resistance which was marked by one counterattack after another.
Yesterday the Germans gave up, for the time being at least. They ceased their attacks. And this morning the Russian communiqué announced that it was the Soviet troops and not the Germans who succeeded in taking advantageous positions from the enemy.
More importantly, a summary of the German losses in the past five days for the Izium crossing is significant. Over 2,500 Nazi soldiers were killed, thirty-seven tanks were knocked out, and twenty guns, including many of the self-propelling type, were smashed. Also there was a large number of machine guns, armored cars, and over a dozen planes put out of action.
In many ways this is the best fighting news we've had since the official completion of the Red Army's winter offensive at the end of March. It proves two things: first, that the Soviet forces which retreated to the Donets line during the German counteroffensive still pack a punch, which is a constant worry to the Nazi command; and second, that whatever Hitler is planning for this summer, he is going to have to consider the possibilities of a Russian summer offensive.
With the possibility of a second front on his mind, Hitler must be doing some tall thinking right now.