17th Army (Wehrmacht)

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For the equivalent formation in World War I, see 17th Army (German Empire).

The German Seventeenth Army (German: 17. Armee) was a World War II field army.

Commanding officers[edit]

Operational history[edit]

On 22 June 1941, the 17th Army was part of Army Group South (Heeresgruppe Sud) when Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa (Case Barbarossa) and invaded the Soviet Union. From 1 July, the Hungarian "Fast Moving Army Corps" (Gyorshadtest) was subordinated to the 17th Army.

The 17th Army was engaged in some very heavy fighting with Soviet forces in southern Russia. Along with 1st Panzer Army, the 17th Army encircled Soviet forces near Uman in central Ukraine during the Battle of Uman. Approximately 100,000 Soviet troops were captured.

Afterwards, the 17th Army and other German formations encircled even more Soviet troops during the Battle of Kiev. Approximately 450,000 were captured and, afterwards, Marshal of the Soviet Union (Marshal Sovietskovo Soyuza) Semyon Budyonny was dismissed from duty.

After Kiev, the German focus shifted towards Moscow and the Battle of Moscow. Army Group South was ordered to resume the offensive, with the objective of capturing Rostov-on-Don, the gateway to the Caucasus oil fields, and Kharkov a major center of heavy industry for the Soviet Union.

In 1942, Army Group South was to spearhead the German summer offensive in Russia known as Case Blue (Fall Blau). The 17th Army was to give flank protection to 1st Panzer Army as it struck towards the Don River. From June to July, the German 17th Army, the Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia, and the Romanian 3rd Army were organized as "Army Group Ruoff" (Heeresgruppen Ruoff).

In August 1942, what he considered slow progress, caused German dictator Adolf Hitler to re-organize his forces. Hitler sub-divided Army Group South into two new army groups: Army Group A (Heeresgruppe A) and Army Group B (Heeresgruppe B). Army Group A included the 17th Army, the 1st Panzer Army, and the 4th Panzer Army. Army Group B included the 2nd Army, the 6th Army, the Italian 8th Army, and the Hungarian 2nd Army. By October 1942, the Romanian 3rd Army and the Romanian 4th Army were added to further bolster Army Group B.

While Army Group B struck towards Stalingrad, Army Group A and the 17th Army attacked towards the Caucasus oilfields in what was to be known as the Battle of the Caucasus. However, by December with Soviet forces en-circled the 6th Army at Stalingrad, Army Group B withdrew from Southern Russia but 17th Army was ordered to hold the Kuban bridgehead. Hitler demanded a three-mile road and rail bridge across the Strait of Kerch in spring 1943 to support a push through the Caucasus to Persia, although the Cable Railway (Aerial tramway) which went into operation on July 14 with a daily capacity of one thousand tons was adequate for the defensive needs of the 17th Army in the Kuban bridgehead. Because of frequent earth tremors, vast quantities of extra-strength girders would be required, and their transport would curtail shipments of military material to the Crimea.[1]

By October 1943, the 17th Army was forced to retreat from the Kuban Bridgehead across the Kerch Strait to Crimea. During the following months, the Red Army pushed back the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) in the southern Ukraine. In November 1943, they eventually cut off the land-based connection of 17th Army through the Perekop Isthmus.

Hitler forbade a sea evacuation of 17th Army because he thought the Soviets could use the Crimea to launch air attacks against Romanian oil refineries. However, by the end of 1943, the Soviet began landing troops in Kersh Strait and, by 10 April 1944, moving troops near the Sivash and together with an attack at the Perekop Isthmus forced 17th Army to fall back to Sevastopol. The German Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, or OKW) intended to hold Sevastopol as a fortress, much as the Red Army had done during the first battle for the Crimea from 1941 to 1942. Inadequate repair to the defenses of Sevastopol made this impossible and, on 9 May 1944, Sevastopol fell in less than one month after the start of the battle.

The Army lost much of its heavy equipment in the Crimea. Considerable losses were suffered in terms of men lost in battle and losses associated with the sea evacuation.

The Army was subsequently reorganized and continued to fight on the Eastern Front, including in the Battle of Bautzen.

Battles, campaigns, and operations[edit]

Foreign units attached to the 17th Army[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer, Chapter 19 (1969, English translation 1970)