Battle of the Sea of Azov
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|Battle of the Sea of Azov|
|Part of the Eastern Front of World War II|
Sea of Azov
|Casualties and losses|
|Unknown||Unknown human losses
3 gunboats scuttled
Sea of Azov offensive Operation
After concluding the Battle of Kiev in September 1941, the German Army Group South advanced from the Dniepr to the Sea of Azov coast. The city of Rostov was assigned as the objective for the 11th Army now commanded by General von Schobert, however he died in a crash on the same day after landing his liaison Fieseler Storch aircraft in a minefield. To replace him, General of Infantry von Manstein was ordered to travel from the Leningrad sector of the front to the extreme southern sector. He would also receive support from the 4th Luftwaffe Air Fleet.
At this time the LIVth Army Corps of the 11th Army was still engaged in Crimea, and because the Romanian forces were still engaged in the Siege of Odessa, the Army's resources for the Rostov objective were severely limited even against retreating Red Army troops. Therefore, initially von Manstein replaced the LIV Corps with the smaller XXXth Army Corps and XLIXth Mountain Corps, and ordered the LIV Corps into the first echelon in the advance to Rostov.
Late in September the 3rd Romanian Army joined the 11th Army in its advance towards Rostov, but was severely depleted by the attacks of the Soviet 9th and 18th Armies on 26 September. This forced a halt to the Army's advance to safeguard its flank, and forced von Manstein to use his only mobile reserve unit, the Leibstandarte Brigade to shore up Romanian defenses.
First Battle of Rostov
The assault on Rostov began on 17 November, and on 21 November the Germans took Rostov. However, the German lines were over-extended, and von Kleist's warnings that his left flank was vulnerable and that his tanks were ineffective in the freezing weather were ignored. On 27 November the Soviet 37th Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Anton Ivanovich Lopatin, as part of the Rostov Strategic Offensive Operation (17 November 1941 – 2 December 1941), counter-attacked the 1st Panzer Army's spearhead from the north, forcing them to pull out of the city. Adolf Hitler countermanded the retreat. When von Rundstedt refused to obey, Hitler sacked him, and replaced him with von Reichenau. However, von Reichenau saw at once that von Rundstedt was right and succeeded in persuading Hitler, via Franz Halder, to authorise the withdrawal, and the 1st Panzer Army was forced back to the Mius River at Taganrog. It was the first significant German withdrawal of the war.
The offensive along the Azov coast was resumed in the summer of 1942, during Fall Blau. With air support from the Ju 87s of Sturzkampfgeschwader 77, Wilhelm List's Army Group A recaptured Rostov, the "gate to the Caucasus", on 23 July 1942 relatively easily.
Further South along the coast, the remaining small ports and coastal areas still in Soviet hands were captured by Romanian Cavalry. Yeysk fell to the Romanians on 8 August. The campaign came to an end on 23 August, when the Romanians captured the port of Temryuk after bitter house-to-house fighting against Soviet naval infantry. As Romanian troops entered the last Soviet-held Azov port, the main warships of the Soviet Azov Flotilla were scuttled to avoid capture: gunboats Bug, Don and Dniester (each of 840 tons and armed with two 130 mm guns).
With the Sea of Azov secured, the Axis proceeded to launch a massive amphibious operation (Fall Blücher) in a bid to wipe out Soviet resistance on the Taman Peninsula and open the sea route to the Crimea.
- Werner Haupt, Army Group South: The Wehrmacht in Russia 1941-1945, pp. 87-91
- Clark, Alan (1965). Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict 1941–45; p. 178
- Hayward (2001), p. 145.
- Robert Forczyk, The Caucasus 1942–43: Kleist’s race for oil
- Malcolm H. Murfett, Naval Warfare 1919–45: An Operational History of the Volatile War at Sea, p. 203