Orsha offensives (1943)

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Orsha offensives
Part of The Eastern Front of World War II
Date October 12, 1943 – November 19, 1943
Location Orsha region, Belarus, Soviet Union
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany  Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
Nazi Germany Gotthard Heinrici Soviet Union Vasily Sokolovsky
4th Army
193,510 men
Heavy fortifications
Western Front
310,900 men
steady reinforcements

The Orsha offensives were a series of battles, fought between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht during the winter of 1943. Orsha was a main traffic junction with the north-south road from Leningrad to Kiev and the east-west road from Minsk to Moscow. After the failure of Operation Typhoon in the winter of 1941, Army Group Centre had spent the most part on the defensive in the central sector of the front. The time afforded to them in 1942, a distinct period of inactivity, allowed the Wehrmacht to build formidable defensive positions.


Panther-Wotan Line

After their defeat in the Battle of Smolensk, the Wehrmacht retreated on a broad front to the Panther-Stellung line. The German 4th Army (Heinrici)—part of Army Group Centre—took defensive positions near Orsha. To the north. the 3rd Panzer Army (Reinhardt) took up defensive lines around Vitebsk, and to the south the 9th Army (Model) held the area east of Bobrujsk. The Soviet Stavka saw the liberation of Ukraine as their primary goal, so the Lower Dnieper Offensive had priority in equipment and reinforcements.

The battles[edit]

The 4th Army was in retreat to the Panther-Wotan line, pursued by the Soviets. Soviet troops then launched a heavy attack on both sides of the Minsk-Moscow highway. The thrust was directed at Orsha, a main traffic junction.




Frieser, "Das deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg" Vol. 8