Soviet Naval Operations
Third Period (Jan 1944 - May 1945)
The strategic use of the Naval fleet in the third period of war was characterized by the general offensive of the Soviet Army. The third period of the GPW (January 1944-May 1945) was marked by the USSR Army conducting offensive operations on all the battle-fronts. The Navy participated in most of them. Fleets and flotillas actively participated almost in all offensive operations 1944-1945.
The Northern Fleet contributed to the forces of Karelian Front with the offensive in the Transarctic in October 1944 ; supporting with their fire of its coast and naval artillery, with actions of aviation and with tactical landings. Aviation, submarines and PT boats of northern fleet even more activated their actions on sea communications of enemy. Furthermore, the forces of the northern navy continued to successfully ensure piloting union escorts in the limits of the operational zone of fleet and moving of their transports and ice-breakers on Arctic and internal sea communications.
With the joint efforts of the Leningrad and Volkhov fronts together with the Baltic Sea fleet, the 900-day-long blockade of Leningrad was raised. The naval artillery and aviation, by waging an attack, helped our troops to break the enemy defense. The fleet carried out transportation of the 2nd attack army troops to the Oranienbaum beachhead. In September-October 1944, together with the Leningrad front troops, the fleet conducted successful operations for the Moonzund Islands liberation. In the course of the offensive along the Ukrainian right sea-coast, the Soviet troops reached the USSR frontier and then stepped on the Romanian territory.
The Red banner Baltic fleet contributed to the forces of Leningrad Front in the crushing defeat of enemy in the environs of Leningrad, using in the zone of attack of impact group its ship and coast artillery and aviation. In the course of Vyborg and [Svirsko]- Petrozavodsk operations it contributed to the forces of Leningrad and Karelian fronts by the fire of sea artillery, by tactical landings to the islands of Berkezunda, Vyborg coast, at the mouth of the Tuloksa River, and by the actions of its aviation.
Subsequently the KBF, together with the forces of the Leningrad Front, participated in the landing operation for the mastery of the islands of the Moonzundskogo Archipelago and in the offensive operations of the Soviet Army in East Prussia and East Pomerania. During this period the advanced actions of the KBF for the suppression of withdrawal routes by the sea of the groups of enemy isolated them on the seaside bridgehead. And the Fleet actions produced disruption of German transportation in the southern part of the Baltic sea.
At the beginning of the third period to the end of the war they actively acted on enemy sea communications fleet aviation, submarines and PT boats. The most remarkable actions of Red Banner Baltic Fleet for the protection of their sea communications, which reflected some new features in its strategic use, they were the rapid transportation of troops from and the guarantee of national-economic transportation from Sweden and Finland to Leningrad.
The Black Sea fleet and Azov military flotilla, and somewhat later created on its base the Danube military flotilla, contributed to the Independent Seaside Army and 4th Ukrainian front in the liberation of the Crimea. For this purpose they supported the flanks of the troops with their artillery, and set down the tactical landing forces. During the Yassy-kishinev operation they supported the flank of the forces of the 3rd Ukrainian front. With the breaking stress of forces acted on sea communications the aviation, the submarines and the PT boats of Black Sea fleet, which were being attempted to prevent the evacuation of enemy troops from the Crimea. These actions made it possible to come to the conclusion that the use of large above-water forces could lead to larger success. But this interfered with a number of circumstances, first of all the basing of such forces in the Caucasian coast.
During the third period Black Sea fleet, in spite of a number of the difficulties, caused mainly by the mine danger, and also by an increase in the volume of sea transportation for ground forces and national-economic loads, by the increased extent of sea communications, successfully managed providing of safety of its sea communications.
An essential influence on the nature of the military actions of the Naval fleet of the USSR was rendered the composition of the Naval forces of Fascist Germany. The Germans attempted to solve their problems in the northern, Baltic and Black Sea theaters by predominantly light forces and certain quantity of submarines. The Germans used a significant quantity of mines and position means in the close and island regions. Self-propelled landing barges and auxilliary vessels were widely used as the means of Engineer support and multipurpose designation.
The characteristic property of the organization of the German armed forces, which had an effect on the methods of operations of German Naval forces, was the absence of aviation. In contrast to the First World War, when strategic manuver by the basic nucleus of German Naval forces was limited to two theaters (Northern and Baltic seas), during the World War II of the alternative of the concentration of above-water forces in one theater and their weakening on the other was completely different. New strategic directions - the Atlantic and the Barents Sea - forced the Fascist-German command to select not between two, but between four theaters; strengthening above-water forces on one of them unavoidably led to weakening of these forces on the rest. Finally, for Hitler's management of war at sea it was necessary to count seriously with the advent of the new Black Sea theater, to which it was necessary to isolate the part of the Naval forces.
In connection with the special features of the composition of Fascist-German Naval forces and the tendency of their management not to risk valuable warships (from destroyer and above) in the theatres of naval operations, there occurred not one more or less large collision between the different forces. The separate military engagements between the Soviet and enemy surface ships and the launches by nature and to the region of actions predominantly relate to the battle between the light forces in the coastal area.
Somewhat otherwise proceeded the matter concerning the submarine forces. At the beginning of war the enemy directed in the Baltic sea 8 submarines, which as a result of the low efficiency of their actions were returned into the subordination of the commander of submarine forces. In the northern theater at the beginning of war it acted from 4 to 6 German submarines, and in 1942-1945 - from 9 to 30. The presence in the northern maritime theater of the significant numbers of enemy submarines naturally caused the need for the search for new forms and methods of fighting them.
Throughout the third period of the war, the main operational activity of the fleets and flotillas included the following: landing of sea and river landing force; artillery support of the army flanks; transportation of the troops, equipment and machinery. The Fleet proved itself to be a powerful striking force capable of making abrupt, unexpected changes in the coastal land forces operation zone. The fleets' independently-conducted operations usually included, first of all, submarine and naval aviation operations in the North, on the Black and Baltic Seas. It is in those operations that the Soviet Air Forces achieved its greatest and most impressive results.
During the war against Japan in August-September 1945, the Pacific Ocean Fleet successfully landed a number of operational and tactical landing bodies. In close cooperation with the Soviet Army units, the fleet liberated South Sakhalin, Kuril Islands, ports along the Korea eastern coast and Port-Arthur.
The military geographic special features of maritime theaters enhanced the accumulation by the Naval fleet of the experience of military actions at sea under the varied conditions, beginning from the actions in the close and shallow regions (Finnish and Gulf of Riga, Kurish-Gaf], the North Western area of Black sea) and ending with the regions (Barents and Sea of Japan) spacious adjacent with the ocean. The nature of northern maritime theater contributed to the accumulation of certain experience of military actions under the conditions of the Arctic.
The course of military operations during World War II showed that the Naval fleet of the USSR managed entire complex of tasks. It successfully contributed to the troops of the Soviet Army in conducting of operations in the coastal zones and were accomplished independent operations and systematic military operations on the disruption of sea communications of enemy and the protection of its communications. Sufficient to say that during the war the Soviet fleet ensured transportation on sea, lake and river communications of 9,8 mln. people (troops and citizen), more than 94 mln. t of military and national-economic loads destroyed more than 1600 warships and the vessels of enemy.
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