Black Sea campaigns (1941–44)

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For the World War I campaigns in the same theatre, see Naval warfare of World War I.
Black Sea Campaigns
Part of the Eastern Front of World War II
Date 22 June 1941 - August 1944
Location Black Sea
Result Soviet Victory
Belligerents
Romania Romania
Nazi Germany Germany
Kingdom of Italy Italy
Bulgaria Bulgaria
Soviet Union Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
Naval Jack of Romania.svg Horia Macellariu
Nazi Germany Helmut Rosenbaum
Nazi Germany Clemens Schöler
Nazi Germany Klaus Petersen
Kingdom of Italy Francesco Mimbelli
Soviet Union Filipp Oktyabrskiy
Soviet Union Lev Vladimirsky
Strength
Romania Romania
4 Destroyers
13 Torpedo Boats
3 Submarines
5 Midget Submarines
2 Minelayers
Nazi Germany Germany
6 Type IIB U-boats
10 S-boats
23 R-boats
Kingdom of Italy Italy
4 Torpedo Boats
6 Midget submarines
Soviet Union Soviet Union
1 Battleship
5 Cruisers
18 Destroyers
44 Submarines
2 Gunboats
18 Minelayers
84 Torpedo Boats

The Black Sea Campaigns are the operations of the Axis and Soviet naval forces in the Black Sea and its coastal regions during World War II between 1941 and 1944, including in support of the land forces, and non-combat operations.

The Black Sea Fleet was as surprised by Operation Barbarossa as the rest of the Soviet Military. The Axis forces in the Black Sea consisted of the Romanian and Bulgarian Navies together with German and Italian units transported to the area via rail and Canal. Although the Soviets enjoyed an overwhelming superiority in surface ships over the Axis, this was effectively negated by German air superiority and most of the Soviet ships sunk were destroyed by bombing. For the majority of the war, the Black Sea Fleet was commanded by Filipp Oktyabrskiy, its other commander being Lev Vladimirsky.

All of the major Soviet shipyards were located in the Ukraine (Nikolayev) and Crimea (Sevastopol) and were occupied in 1941. Many incomplete ships which were afloat were evacuated to harbors in Georgia which provided the main bases for the surviving fleet. These ports such as Poti, however had very limited repair facilities which significantly reduced the operational capability of the Soviet Fleet.

Soviet naval strength[edit]

On 22 June 1941, the Black Sea Fleet consisted of:

Ship Type Number Note/class
Battleship 1 Parizhskaya Kommuna
Cruisers 5 Molotov, Voroshilov, Chervona Ukraina, Krasnyi Krym and Krasny Kavkaz
Destroyer Leaders 3 Leningrad-class destroyer and Tashkent-class destroyer
Destroyers (Modern) 11 6 Type 7, 5 Type 7U,
Destroyers (old) 4 Novik type
Submarines 44
Escort Vessels/Gunboats 2
Mine warfare vessels 18
Motor Torpedo Boats 84

Axis naval strength[edit]

Romanian Navy[edit]

The Royal Romanian Navy consisted of four destroyers (two Mărăști-class, two Regele Ferdinand-class), six fleet torpedo boats, three submarines (Delfinul/The Dolphin, Rechinul/The Shark and Marsuinul/The Sea Hog), five midget submarines (CB class),[1] two minelayers and seven motor torpedo boats.

Germany and Italy[edit]

As Turkey was neutral during World War II, the Axis could not transfer warships to the Black Sea via the Bosphorus. However, several small ships were transferred from the North Sea via rail, street and canal networks to the Danube. These included six Type IIB U-boats of the 30th U-boat Flotilla which were dis-assembled and shipped to Constanza in 1942. The Germans also transported 10 S-boats (Schnellboote) and 23 R-boats (Räumboote) via the Danube and built several armed barges in the captured Nikolayev Shipyards in Mykolaiv.

The Italian Regia Marina (Royal Navy) dispatched a small force to the Black Sea. The force dispatched included six CB class midget submarines and a flotilla of Torpedo Armed Motorboats (Motoscafo Armato Silurante, or MAS). The MAS were commanded by Francesco Mimbelli and were based in Yalta.

Operations in 1941[edit]

The Soviets began the war in the Black Sea by a bombardment of Constanța on 26 June. During this operation, the destroyer leader Moskva was lost to mines while evading fire from coastal batteries. The Black Sea Fleet supplied the besieged garrison in Odessa and evacuated a significant part of the force (86,000 soldiers, 150,000 civilians) at the end of October, but lost the destroyer Frunze and a gunboat to Stukas in the process. The Black Sea Fleet played a valuable part in defeating the initial assault on Sevastopol. In December, there was an amphibious operation against Kerch which resulted in the recapture of the Kerch Peninsula. A naval detachment including the cruiser Krasnyi Krym remained in Sevastopol to give gunfire support. Soviet submarines also raided Axis shipping on the Romanian and Bulgarian coasts, sinking 29,000 long tons (29,000 t) of shipping. During fall of 1941, both sides laid many mine fields in southern Black Sea: Romanian defensive minefield sunk at least 5 Soviet submarines during this period (M-58,[2] S-34,[3] ShCh-211,[4] M-34,[5] M-59[6]), however during such operations the Axis forces lost the Romanian minelayer Regele Carol I,[7] sunk by a mine laid by Soviet submarine L-4: 2 of the 5 Soviet submarines (M-58 and ShCh-211) will be later sunk on that same minelayer's fields, after the sinking of the ship, in addittion to another submarine sunk in 1942.

Operations in 1942[edit]

Operations in 1942 were dominated by the Siege of Sevastopol. During the winter, Soviet warships including the only battleship Parizhskaya Kommuna provided fire support and supply missions near Sevastopol. The Soviets continued supply missions until 27 June, losses were heavy and included the cruiser Chervonnaya Ukraina, destroyer leader Tashkent and six modern destroyers. The cruiser Voroshilov and destroyers tried to intervene without success in the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula in May and the Soviets could not prevent a landing across the Kerch strait in the Taman Peninsula in September. The remainder of the Black Sea Fleet evacuated to ports in the Caucasus that had very limited facilities. Soviet submarines were active in the western part of the Black Sea where they attacked Axis shipping. Unfortunately this included sinking the refugee ships Struma and Çankaya.

Operations in 1943[edit]

In 1943, the Black Sea Fleet was reduced to the following ships:

  • Battleship Sevastopol
  • Four cruisers (two Kirov class, Krasniy Krim and Krasniy Kavkaz)
  • Destroyer leader Kharkov
  • Five modern and three old destroyers
  • 29 submarines

All of these ships suffered from poor maintenance due to a lack of facilities.

Operations initially consisted of several offensive operations by the Soviets including the defence of Malaya Zemlya in Novorossiysk and some coastal bombardments and raids.

As the war was going badly for the Axis on other fronts, the Germans began to evacuate the Kuban bridgehead in September. This was successfully accomplished. Kharkov and two destroyers—Sposobny and Besposchadny—were sunk by Stukas while raiding the Crimea. As a result of this loss, Stalin insisted on personally authorizing the use of any large ships. The Kerch-Eltigen Operation followed in November.

Operations in 1944[edit]

By early 1944, the Soviet surface fleet was practically nonoperational due to a poor state of repair. Most of the offensive work was carried out by small vessels and the Soviet Naval air force. The land situation had significantly deteriorated for the Axis. The area around Odessa was liberated in March trapping the Axis forces in the Crimea. The last Axis forces near Sevastopol surrendered on 9 May 1944 and a considerable number of men were evacuated. (See Battle of the Crimea (1944) for details). On 20 August 1944, the Soviets carried on an unexpected large air raid against the main Axis base in Black Sea, a number of target were sunk including the German u-boat U-9,[8] while U-18[9] and U-24 [10] were both damaged and were scuttled few days later. The Naval war in Black Sea was now almost over, but U-boats remained operative until they consumed their fuel: with a single strike, the Soviet aviation had halved the German submarine force, but the effect could have been greater if such attack was accomplished earlier. During the raid was also sunk the old Romanian torpedo boat Naluca.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]