peration Bagration had a unique quality that was unseen in any other Soviet offensive beforehand. This is the offensive operation that really decimated the German Army on the Eastern Front. Beforehand, the Germans kept on defending their current position, taking on waves of Soviet Infantry, thinking that at this rate they would sore the numbers of the Red Army and eventually manage a counteroffensive. The key element of every Soviet victory up until Operation Bagration was that the decisive, army-ending victory always eluded them.
State of the German Army in 1944
The Germans could lose men, they could lose their resources, they could even lose entire formations, but they would always be capable of further resisting and always fighting to their last breath. In a last-stand situation, not many soldiers would choose to surrender, even if they knew that death was inevitable. The point is that every Soviet offensive left the German forces damaged, however, still intact as an Army prepared to take on another wave of Soviet infantry.
What the Soviets were required to do in order to destroy the German Army and win the war was for them to destroy its core. In this case, it was the 47 German division commanders from the Eastern front. The Germans had a strong army because they were very organized and that was thanks to its commanders, cutting out the head of the snake would leave the German Army vulnerable to major Soviet Offensives with the help of the Romanian Army that had switched to the allied side on July 1944 (in the middle of the operation).
It is also imperative to mention that at this point in time many of the SS soldiers within Germany were deployed on the Eastern front as either division leaders or commanders. This did not only raise the morale of the German units but also helped them to organize better defenses against the Soviet offenses. Many historians actually criticize the efficiency of SS soldiers on the battlefield however, we must remember that these soldiers have not only been trained but also schooled for this particular war.
On the Eastern front during 1944, there were 3 types of German Soldiers. The first type was the summer soldiers, these were amongst the most dangerous and horrific foes someone could imagine during the war. They fought with finesse and might. They were tenacious, skilled, and courageous as they would advance into hardship or danger. You could shoot them, you could stab them but they would keep on fighting until their last breath.
The second type was the winter soldier, these soldiers were seen as warriors stuck in an alienated land as they were not used to fighting in such extreme conditions. They were still tenacious and lethal, however, under-supplied and frozen. Last but not least, the third type, is the beaten soldier. Don’t take their name in the wrong sense, they may be exhausted, however, they had the most amount of warfare experience. Nevertheless, this type had a major weakness which was lost hope for an Axis victory.
Operation Bagration at full speed
The operation was developed by what I consider to be the Red Army’s best general, Konstantin Rokossovsky who is actually the most decorated general from the Second World War with a record of over 500 victories. The reason why Operation Bagration was such a huge success was because of how well it was planned from a strategic point of view. It was about utilizing all the Red Army’s assets for one big push that would crumble the German Army within the Easter front.
The operation would last about 2 months, from the 22nd of June to the 19th of August 1944. The plan was to simultaneously breach the German major defenses at six points along the Frontline with the use of four million Soviet troops, 62,000 artillery guns, 7,500 tanks, and 7,100 aircraft. This was the time for the Soviet nation to show its real power. Even with many assets at hand, the Red Army still had a difficult task at hand as the Germans have heavily fortified for a last stand to hold the Eastern front.
The Germans had 800,000 soldiers left on the Eastern front, out of which a lot of experienced soldiers and personnel which was critical to any victory or defensive capabilities. The operation brought the annihilation of two German Armies and a half of a third. The remnants of the 9th Army were folded into the 2nd Army, the 3rd Panzer Army was reduced to a corps detachment and the 4th Army had the effective size of a larger corps (40,000 troops).
In this plan, a major goal was to take out those 47 division commanders, which actually was accomplished by the Red Army. Out of the 47 division commanders, 22 were taken as prisoners and nine of them were killed on the battlefield. The rest managed to escape however death had been discovered within their faith in 1945. The loss of experienced personnel, especially officers and NCO’s were lethal to the defensive abilities of the German Army. The Germans received rapid reinforcements from Italy to defend what was left of the Eastern front.
Operation Bagration had a bigger contribution towards the victory of the Second World War (at least on the Easter front) than most historians believe. It had been more effective at breaking the Wehrmacht than Stalingrad, Kursk and Dnieper combined. It was the first time in the entire war that the Germans lost an entire Army at once and in other words handicap them as combat-ineffective on the Eastern Front. Rokossovsky’s Hammer put the first true nail in the Wehrmacht’s coffin.