Zhitomir–Berdichev Offensive

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The Zhitomir–Berdichev Offensive[1] operation (Russian: Житомирско-Бердичевская наступательная операция) was a part of the strategic offensive of the Red Army in the right-bank (western) Ukrainian SSR. The offensive operation was conducted by the forces of the 1st Ukrainian Front commanded by General of Army Nikolai Vatutin during World War II, from 24 December through to 14 January 1944.

The task was to defeat the opposing German 4th Panzer Army of Army Group South and advance to the Southern Bug river while preventing new attempts by the enemy to recapture Kiev. After an opening attack across a 300 kilometer front, Soviet troops advanced from 80 to 200 km and nearly liberated all of the Kiev and Zhitomir regions, along with the regions of the Vinnytsa and Rivne Oblasts. The 1st Ukrainian Front gained a position north of the main German forces of Army Group South. The German forces retained the western shore of the Dnieper in the Kaniv region.

A panzer group checks its position
Soviet T-34 tanks await orders to move forward

Manstein brought the 1st Panzer Army up to join the 4th Panzer Army in launching a series of counterattacks against the flanks of the extended Soviet forces. These counterattacks, conducted over the following three weeks, succeeded in creating a series of loosely-held pockets, and the Germans began to stabilize their front. The German counterattacks inflicted considerable losses in men and material upon the Red Army, and a cohesive defensive position eventually was restored. However the Soviet's held a great number of forces in reserve, and the success von Manstein achieved could not last.

In addition to the Soviet formations and units, the 1st Czechoslovak Brigade also participated in the operation.

As a result of the Kiev Strategic Offensive operation late in 1943, troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front under Vatutin took a large bridgehead on the right bank of the Dnieper in the Kiev region that “overhung” the enemy group of the troops in the south-western Ukraine. In an attempt to reduce the bridgehead and to retake Kiev, German forces counter-attacked in the region south of Zhytomyr. The attempt to retake Kiev failed during the Kiev Strategic Defensive.

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