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Korsun Pocket

The Korsun-Shevchenkivskyi Offensive took place from 24 January 1944 to 16 February 1944. The offensive was fought by the Red Army's 1st Ukrainian and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts against forces of the German Army Group South in the Korsun-Shevchenkivskyi area. It was a part of the much larger Dnepr-Carpathian Strategic Offensive Operation in the Ukraine.

 

The two Soviet encirclement rings, inner and outer, were created despite constant German counter-attacks. Armies of two Ukrainian Fronts managed not only to inflict serious casualties on the German forces inside the salient, they also tied up 15 additional German divisions, including 8 panzer divisions, that attacked the outer ring. Soviet forces remained highly mobile throughout the operation, rapidly moving wherever they were needed. During the battle the 2nd Tank army, 13 rifle divisions, and a large number of artillery and engineer units were moved from the outer ring to the inner ring; and 2 tank corps, 2 rifle divisions, and large numbers of artillery were moved from the inner ring outside, as the situation demanded.

 

The battle began with a simultaneous two-pronged Soviet attack around the Korsun-Shevchenkivskyi salient, which resulted in a link-up ten days later, on January 28. Trapped in the pocket were 60,000 men, a total of six German divisions at approximately 55% of their optimal strength, along with a number of smaller combat units. The Soviets hoped for a Stalingrad-style victory and expected the German forces to surrender. However, the Luftwaffe aerial supply performance into the cauldron was much more successful this time around, with plenty of supplies flown in, and the wounded regularly flown out. German forces refused to surrender.

 

A German relief effort by the III Panzerkorps eventually stalled, with no other options left but for the defenders to break out. The defenders launched a desperate effort, slowly fighting their way through Soviet lines. By February 16 they were only 7 km away from freedom. Heated battles the next day led to the defenders abandoning all of their heavy equipment, but linking up with the relief force. By German estimates, 36 out of 60 thousand men trapped in the pocket managed to successfully break out. Soviet estimates claim that not a single German made it out, with 55,000 Germans killed, and 18,000 more captured inside the pocket.

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