The Kuban bridgehead (German: Kuban-Brückenkopf), also known as Gotenkopf (Gothic head), was a German retreat position on the Taman Peninsula, which existed from January to October 1943. It had originally been held by the Germans after the retreat from the Caucasus in preparation for a renewed offensive on the oil fields of the Caucasus. As the German Army withdrew to the Panther-Wotan line, the troops located in the bridgehead were evacuated across the Strait of Kerch to the Crimea. The German 17th Army under the command of Generaloberst Richard Ruoff, later under the command of General der Pioniere Erwin Jaenecke, was tasked with the defense of the bridgehead.
The Kuban bridgehead was held despite repeated Soviet attacks during this period. This enabled the evacuation by sea, using the Marinefährprahm, of 239,669 soldiers, 16,311 wounded, 27,456 civilians and 115,477 tons of military equipment (primarily ammunition), 21,230 vehicles, 74 tanks, 1,815 guns and 74,657 horses to the Crimean peninsula. The Luftwaffe further evacuated from the bridgehead 15,661 men from an airfield at Slavyansk-na-Kubani.
Around a month after the evacuation was completed, 17th Army was cut off and trapped in the Crimea.
The Kuban Shield (Ärmelschild Kuban) was awarded to commemorate those who fought to defend the bridgeheads in the Kuban region. The 1977 war film Cross of Iron directed by Sam Peckinpah, featuring James Coburn, Maximilian Schell, James Mason and David Warner, is set on the Kuban bridgehead.
- Friedrich Forstmeier: Die Räumung des Kuban-Brückenkopfes im Herbst 1943. Wehr und Wissen Verlags-Gesellschaft, Darmstadt 1964 (Beiträge zur Wehrforschung 2/3, ISSN 0067-5253).
- Wolfgang Pickert: Vom Kuban-Brückenkopf bis Sewastopol. Flakartillerie im Verband der 17. Armee. Vowinckel, Heidelberg 1955 (Die Wehrmacht im Kampf 7, ).
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