Battle of Uman
The Battle of Uman (15 July – 8 August 1941) was the German and allied encirclement of the 6th and 12th Soviet Armies—under the command of Lieutenant General I. N. Muzyrchenko and Major General P. G. Ponedelin, respectively—south of the city of Uman during the initial offensive operations of German Army Group South, commanded by Generalfeldmarshall Gerd von Rundstedt, as part of Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front during World War II.
The battles occurred during the Kiev defensive operation between the elements of the Red Army's Southwestern Front defending the Southern Bug bridges and the strategic rail road between Odessa and Smolensk, and elements of Panzergruppe 1 in Western Ukraine during the latter's advance from southern Poland to Crimea.
The Soviet forces were under overall command of the Southwestern Direction, commanded by Marshal Semyon Budyonny, which included the Southwestern Front commanded by Colonel General Mikhail Kirponos. The headquarters and many subunits of the 12th Army were able to evade the encirclement due to the inability of the German infantry formations to fully close the cauldron, however both armies were later disbanded, and escaping troops were incorporated into other units. This was among the large Axis encirclements that were executed against the Red Army.
In the initial weeks of Operation Barbarossa, Army Group South had rapidly advanced East, capturing Lviv, Ternopil and Vinnytsia, and destroying four mechanized corps that Kirponos used in a counterattack at the Brody. By 29 June 1941, the German advance was temporarily halted, but the Soviet forces were exhausted and started to retreat. With the failure of the Soviet armor counter-offensive against the German 1st Panzer-Armee, Army Group South continued to advance East and reached to within a few kilometers of Kiev by mid-July. An attempt was then made by Budyonny to counter-attack from north of Uman in the direction of Berdychiv to prevent Panzergruppe 1 from cutting off his lines of communication. However this counterstroke failed to contact significant German armoured forces which passed only some 50 km (31 mi) to the east of the Soviet concentration in its continued offensive. The counterstroke however exhausted the ability of Soviet formations to continue withdrawal more rapidly than the advance of the German offensive, and in mid-July German troops cut the rail road at Talnoye and other bridges over the Gorniy Tikich, and soon after the bridges over Sinucha.
Orders of battle
Most of the Soviet forces were severely depleted having withdrawn under heavy assaults from the Luftwaffe from the Polish border, and the mechanised units were virtually reduced to a single "Corps" after the Brody counter-offensive, its mechanised infantry now fighting as ordinary rifle troops.
The Axis forces were divided into those of Panzergruppe 1 that had suffered significant loses in matériel, but retained combat effectiveness, and the large infantry formations of the German and Romanian armies that attempted to advance from the West to meet the armored troops north of Crimea, the initial strategic objective of Army Group South.
- 6th Army
- 12th Army
- Elements of 18th Army
- 6th Field Army
- Panzergruppe 1 (reduced)
- 17th Field Army (included a Slovakian "mobile command" of brigade size)
- Hungarian Mechanized Corps
- 3rd Romanian Army
- 11th Field Army
The battles of encirclement
On 10 July 1941, Budyonny was given the general command of the troops operating in the Southwestern direction, to coordinate the actions of Southwestern and Southern Fronts. Budyonny had 1.5 million troops under his command in two strategic sectors of the front to defend: at Kiev (37th and 26th armies), and Vinnytsia-Uman. No sooner had he taken up his command than he was advised of the continued Army Group South three-pronged offensives deep into the breach created between the Kiev sector's 26th Army and the 6th Army to its south as General Ewald von Kleist’s Panzergruppe 1 drove a wedge between the two Soviet sectors of the front south of Kiev and north of Vinnytsia, capturing Berdychiv on 15 July and Koziatyn on 16 July. General Karl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel’s 17th Field Army advanced to the South of Uman and General Eugen Ritter von Schobert’s 11th Field Army advanced northward from the Romanian border. Budyonny was under strict orders from Joseph Stalin, who micromanaged the war early on, not to retreat under any circumstances.
Stavka and the Southern Front's command staff mistakenly assumed that the Germans were striving to reach the crossing of the Dnieper between Kiev and Cherkasy for a further offensive toward Donbass, and underestimated the danger of encirclement for the 6th and 12th armies. On 28 July, an order was given to the Southwestern and Southern Fronts to stop the Germans from crossing the Dnieper and to retreat only in the Eastern direction. As a result, an opportunity to avoid the danger of encirclement by retreating in the Southeastern direction was lost.
The effect of the closing Axis forces was to slowly force the concentration of the two Soviet Armies in an ever reduced area, with the combined HQs of the armies located in the town of Podvisokoye (Подвысокое).
On 2 August, the encirclement was closed by the meeting of Panzer Group 1 and advance guard elements of the German 17th Field Army. This encirclement was reinforced the next day by a second joining formed when the German 16th Panzer Division met with the Hungarian Mechanized Corps (Gyorshadtest). By 8 August, the Soviet resistance had generally stopped. Remnants of 20 divisions from the 6th Army and the 12th Army were trapped. German sources after the war reported about 103,000 troops were taken prisoner. Included among officers taken prisoner were commanders of both the 6th and 12th armies, four corps commanders, and 11 division commanders.
After the encirclement
As the pocket was eliminated, the tanks of Panzergruppe 1 turned north, and attacked toward Kiev on the orders to assist Panzergruppe 2 in closing another encirclement around that city. The Crimean objective was for a time left to the field armies; the first of many times when Hitler would change his mind about strategic objectives of the Army Groups.
The Stavka used the respite offered by the German refocusing of Panzergruppe 1 to re-establish its front using the 9th Coastal Army (independent) and either reforming the destroyed armies, or bringing into line reserve 37th and 56th armies from the interior military districts, with the 38th Army eventually left to hold an over-stretched Kharkov sector of the Front.
Citations and notes
- Léderrey, p.32
- Schobert was killed 11 September 1941 when his plane landed in a minefield
- including 80th Rifle Division, II formation, and 139th Rifle Division; Craig Crofoot, Armies of the Bear
- Life magazine, p.411, Steinberg
- Léderrey, Ernest, (Col.), Germany's Defeat in the East: The Soviet Armies at War, 1941–1945, The War Office, London, 1955
- Steinberg, Julien, Verdict of Three Decades: From the Literature of Individual Revolt Against Soviet Communism: 1917-1950, Ayer Publishing, 1971