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Operation Bagration

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During World War II, Operation Bagration was the general attack by Soviet forces to clear the Nazis from Belarus which resulted in the destruction of the German Army Group Centre, possibly the greatest defeat for the Wehrmacht during the war.

Army Group Centre had previously proved a tough nut to crack as Zhukov's appalling defeat in Operation Mars had shown. But by June 1944, despite shortening its front line it had been exposed following the crushing of Army Group South in the battles that followed on from Kursk, the Liberation of Kiev and the Liberation of the Crimea in the late summer and then autumn and winter of 1943 - 44 - the so-called third period of the Great Patriotic War.

Bagration, in combination with the neighbouring Lvov-Sandomierz Operation launched a few weeks later in Ukraine, allowed the Soviet Union to recapture practically all the territories within its 1941 borders, advance into the territory of Germany in East Prussia, and reach the outskirts of Warsaw after gaining of control of the part of Poland located east of the Vistula river.

The battle has been described as the triumph of the Soviet theory of "the operational art" - namely the complete co-ordination of all front movements and signals traffic to fool the enemy about the fundamental nature of the offensive attack. Despite the huge level of forces involved, Soviet front commanders left their opposite numbers in complete confusion about the axis of attack until it was too late for the Germans to recover the situation.

This attack began on the morning of June 22, 1944, three years to the day after the German attack on the Soviet Union. OKW had expected an attack on Army Group South, which had already been severely weakened and driven from most of Ukraine. The army group had received armaments diverted from Army Group Centre just prior to the attack.

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BagrationMap2.jpg
Deployments during Operation Bagration.

Operation Bagration pitted over 1,700,000 Soviet soldiers in 200 divisions with 6000 tanks and massed artillery against the 34 German divisions of Army Group Centre. This resulted in the death or capture of nearly 350,000 German troops.

The neighbouring Lvov-Sandomierz operation was launched on July 17, 1944, rapidly routing the German forces in Ukraine. The rapid progress of that offensive brought the Soviet forces to the gates of Warsaw in the final days of July. Operation Bagration also cut off and isolated the German units of Army Group North fighting in Courland. The disruption caused by these operations in turn helped the Soviet Union to advance into the Balkans in August 1944.

The Germans had transferred units to meet the invasion of Normandy two weeks before. Four Soviet “Fronts” (army groups) totaling over 120 divisions smashed into the thinly-held German line.

The Soviets achieved a ratio of ten to one in tanks and seven to one in aircraft over their enemy. At the points of attack, the numerical and quality advantages of the Soviets were overwhelming. The Germans crumbled.

The capital of Belarus, Minsk, was taken on July 3, trapping fifty thousand Germans. Ten days later the Red Army reached the prewar Polish border. Overall the annihilation of Army Group Centre cost the Germans 2,000 tanks and 57,000 other vehicles. German losses are estimated at 300,000 dead, 250,000 wounded, and about 120,000 captured; overall casualties at 670,000. Soviet losses were 60,000 killed, 110,000 wounded, and about 8,000 missing. Considering comparisons to other battles, this was by far the greatest victory in terms of numbers for the Soviets, having inflicted nearly 4 times as many losses for the Germans and capturing a vast amount of Soviet land back in a span of 2 months. It was one of the few major Axis-Soviet battles in which the Germans lost more troops than the Soviets. 2,957 tanks, 2,447 artillery pieces, and 822 planes were lost by the Soviets as well.

The German army never recovered from the matriel and manpower losses sustained during this time having lost about a fourth of its Eastern Front manpower, similar to the percentage lost at Stalingrad.

Named after General Petr Bagration, who died at the Battle of Borodino.de:Operation Bagration es:Operacin Bagration it:Operazione Bagration ja:バグラチオン作戦 sv:Operation Bagration

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