Soviet Offensives: Summer-Autumn Campaign (August-October 1943)

Baltic offenive
Figure 1.--

The German Kursk Offensive was the last Germam offensive of any importance in the East. Kursk meant that the Germans no longer had the force to regain the initiative on the Eastern Front. German losses in the East had been massive. The Whermacht was not yet broken, but it was no longer as effective as before. The Germans were now left bracing and reacting to Soviet moves. And after Kursk, the Germas not only had to deal with resurgent and increasinly powerful Red Army, but the Allies began to mount offensive operations in the West. They had to commit reserves to occupy Italy which the Allies invaded (September 1943). And they had to move forces west into France to prepare for the coming cross-Channel invasion. The Red Army lost no time after Kursk in striking at the Germans. These offensives covered much of the Eastern Front. The ceterpiece was the Second Battle of Smolensk (August–October 1943). It was coordinated with the Lower Dnieper Offensive (August–September 1943). The Smolensk offensive lasted 2 months and drove German forces from the Smolensk and Bryansk regions, securing the approaches to Moscow. The advances to the south in the Ukraine were even more important. The German resistance was stiff limiting the asdvances in the Smolensk area, but major gains were made in the Battle for the Dnieper. The Germans had to commit 55 divisions to the Smolensk Front. As a result there were inadequate forces available to defend the Dnieper barrier in the south. The Red Army managed to overrun major German defensive positions. The German continuous line was now broken by the impassable Pripet marshes, complicating the mutual support of Army Group North and Center. Under-strength German divisions now were forcred to defend longer lines with weaker defensive positions. And the need to prepare for the Allied cross-Channel invasion in the West meant that was no hope for reinforcements. A once-united German front was now separated by the huge and impassable Pripet marshes, cutting Army Group South off from its northern counterparts, thus greatly reducing the Wehrmacht's abilities to shift troops and supplies from one sector of the front to the other. [Istomin, p. 163]During the Summer-Autumn offensives, the Red Army penetrated into Soviet areas that had been occupied for a substantial period (2 years) by the Germans. They discovered evidence of the terrible attrocities by the SS Einsatzgruppen units. And in addition to the horrendous killing operations, the Soviets found the terrible destruction left bby the Germans, basically Generalplan Ost put in operation. In the Smolensk area, the Soviets found industry and agriculture destroyed. In Smolensk oblast, some 80 percent of urban and urban and 50 percent of habitations destroyed. [Istomin, p. 15.]


Istomin, V.P. Smolensk offensive operation, 1943 (Moscow: Military Library, 1975).


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Created: 2:01 AM 3/4/2019
Last updated: 2:01 AM 3/4/2019