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The Gumbinnen Operation, also known as the Goldap Operation or Goldap-Gumbinnen Operation, was a Soviet offensive on the Eastern Front late in 1944, in which forces of the 3rd Belorussian Front attempted to penetrate the borders of East Prussia.
The offensive failed, due to strong resistance by the Wehrmacht. As a result, it is largely known through German accounts of the defense and because of the atrocities that were committed by troops of the 11th Guards Army which is called the Nemmersdorf Massacre.
Invasion of Sicily
Allied Invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major campaign of World War II, in which the Allies took the island of Sicily from the Axis powers of Italy and Nazi Germany. It began with a large amphibious and airborne operation, followed by a six-week land campaign, and initiated the Italian Campaign.
Husky began on the night of 9–10 July 1943, and ended on 17 August. Strategically, Husky achieved the goals set out for it by Allied planners; the Allies drove Axis air, land and naval forces from the island and the Mediterranean sea lanes were opened for Allied merchant ships for the first time since 1941. The Italian leader, Benito Mussolini, was toppled from power in Italy and the way was opened for the Allied invasion of Italy. The German leader, Adolf Hitler, canceled a major offensive at Kursk after only a week, in part to divert forces to Italy, resulting in a reduction of German strength on the Eastern Front. The collapse of Italy necessitated German troops replacing the Italians in Italy and to a lesser extent the Balkans, resulting in one-fifth of the entire German army being diverted from the east to southern Europe, a proportion that would remain until near the end of the war.
The Kurland Pocket was a group of German forces of Reichskommissariat Ostland on the Courland Peninsula that was cut off and surrounded by the Red Army from July 1944 through May 1945.
The pocket was created during the Red Army’s Baltic Offensive when forces of the 1st Baltic Front reached the Baltic Sea near Memel during its lesser Memel Offensive Operation phases. This action isolated the German Army Group North from the rest of the German forces between Tukums and Libau in Latvia. Renamed Army Group Kurland on 25 January, the Army Group remained isolated until the end of the war. When they were ordered to surrender to the Soviet command on 8 May, they were in blackout and did not get the official order before 10 May, two days after the capitulation of Germany. It was one of the last German groups to surrender in Europe.
The Minsk Offensive was part of the second phase of the Belorussian Strategic Offensive of the Red Army in summer 1944, commonly known as Operation Bagration.
The Red Army encircled the German Fourth Army in the city of Minsk. Hitler ordered the Fourth Army to hold fast, declaring the city to be a fortified place (fester platz) and defended even if encircled. The Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army attacked from the north-east, while the 2nd Guards Tank Corps moved in from the east, and the 65th Army advanced from the south. About 100,000 Axis soldiers from the Fourth and Ninth Armies were encircled, of whom some 40,000 were killed and most of the rest captured. The result was a complete victory for the Red Army, the liberation of Minsk, and the rapid destruction of much of the German Army Group Centre.
Occupation of Denmark*
During most of World War II, Denmark was first a protectorate, then an occupied territory under Germany. On 9 April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark in Operation Weserübung and established a de facto protectorate over the country. On 29 August 1943, Germany placed Denmark under direct military occupation, which lasted until the Allied victory on 5 May 1945. Contrary to the situation in other countries under German occupation, most Danish institutions continued to function relatively normally until 1945. Both the Danish government and king remained in the country in an uneasy relationship between a democratic and a totalitarian system until the Danish government stepped down in a protest against the German demands to institute the death penalty for sabotage.
Just over 3,000 Danes died as a direct result of the occupation. A further 4,000 Danish volunteers died fighting in the German army on the Eastern Front while 1,072 merchant sailors died in Allied service. Overall this represents a very low mortality rate when compared to other occupied countries and most belligerent countries.
An effective resistance movement developed by the end of the war and most Danish Jews were rescued in 1943 when German authorities ordered their internment as part of the Holocaust.
In 2003, in a speech for the 60th anniversary of the end of the 1940–43 collaborationist government, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Denmark’s cooperation with Nazis was “morally unjustifiable”, which was the first public condemnation of the World War II-era Danish leadership by a Danish leader. This was a foolish statement considering that other countries suffered harshly under the Nazis while Denmark enjoyed much autonomy and peace under German occupation.
Operation Astonia was the codename for an Allied attack on the German-held Channel port of Le Havre in France, during the Second World War. The city had been declared a Festung (fortress) by Hitler, to be held to the last man. Fought from 10 to 12 September 1944, the Allied objective was to secure the harbor facilities intact, to deliver supplies to the Allied armies in Continental Europe. The Allies refused to let the civilian population be evacuated, despite offers of free passage by the fortress commander. From 26 August, Royal Navy ships and Royal Air Force aircraft carried out a blockade and an extensive preparatory bombardment of the city, which killed over 2,000 civilians and 19 German troops. The land-attack was carried out by the British 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division and the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, aided by detachments of specialist armored vehicles from the 79th Armoured Division, including Canadian troops. The German garrison of about 11,000 men surrendered on 12 September; the port was badly damaged but it was re-opened on 9 October. After the killing of so many French civilians, Allied commanders allowed the French inhabitants to leave Boulogne and other ports before attacking.
Operation Bagration was the codename for the Soviet 1944 Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation, a military campaign fought between 22 June and 19 August 1944 in Soviet Byelorussia in the Eastern Front of World War II. The Soviet Union achieved a major victory by destroying the German Army Group Centre and completely rupturing the German front line.
On 23 June 1944, the Red Army attacked Army Group Centre in Byelorussia, with the objective of encircling and destroying its main component armies. By 28 June, the German Fourth Army had been destroyed, along with most of the Third Panzer and Ninth Armies. The Red Army exploited the collapse of the German front line to encircle German formations in the vicinity of Minsk in the Minsk Offensive and destroy them, with Minsk liberated on 4 July. With the end of effective German resistance in Byelorussia, the Soviet offensive continued further to Lithuania, Poland, and Romania over the course of July and August.
The Red Army successfully used the Soviet deep battle and maskirovka (deception) strategies for the first time to a full extent, albeit with continuing heavy losses. Operation Bagration diverted German mobile reserves to the central sectors, removing them from the Lublin-Brest and Lvov–Sandomierz areas, enabling the Soviets to undertake the Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive and Lublin–Brest Offensive. This allowed the Red Army to reach the Vistula river and Warsaw, which in turn put Soviet forces within striking distance of Berlin, conforming to the concept of Soviet deep operations—striking deep into the enemy’s strategic depths.
Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate), launched on 1 January 1945, was an attempt by the Luftwaffe to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries during the Second World War. The goal of Bodenplatte was to gain air superiority during the stagnant stage of the Battle of the Bulge so that the German Army and Waffen-SS forces could resume their advance. The operation was planned for 16 December 1944, but was delayed repeatedly due to bad weather until New Year’s Day, the first day that happened to be suitable.
Secrecy for the operation was so tight that not all German ground and naval forces had been informed of the operation and some units suffered casualties from friendly fire. British signals intelligence (Ultra) recorded the movement and buildup of German air forces in the region, but did not realise that an operation was imminent.
The operation achieved some surprise and tactical success, but was ultimately a failure. A great many Allied aircraft were destroyed on the ground but replaced within a week. Allied aircrew casualties were quite small, since the majority of Allied losses were empty planes sitting on the ground. The Germans, however, lost many pilots that they could not readily replace.
Post-battle analysis suggests only 11 of the Luftwaffe’s 34 air combat Gruppen made attacks on time and with surprise.The operation failed to achieve air superiority, even temporarily, while the German ground forces continued to be exposed to Allied air attack. Bodenplatte was the last large-scale strategic offensive operation mounted by the Luftwaffe during the war.
Operation Cobra was the codename for an offensive launched by the First United States Army seven weeks after the D-Day landings, during the Normandy Campaign of World War II. American Lieutenant General Omar Bradley’s intention was to take advantage of the German preoccupation with British and Canadian activity around the town of Caen, in Operation Goodwood, and immediately punch through the German defenses that were penning in his troops while the Germans were distracted and unbalanced. Once a corridor had been created, the First Army would then be able to advance into Brittany, rolling up the German flanks and releasing itself of the constraints imposed by operating in the Norman bocage countryside. After a slow start, the offensive gathered momentum, and German resistance collapsed as scattered remnants of broken units fought to escape to the Seine. Lacking the resources to cope with the situation, the German response was ineffectual, and the entire Normandy front soon collapsed. Operation Cobra, together with concurrent offensives by the Second British and First Canadian Armies, was decisive in securing an Allied victory in the Normandy Campaign.
Having been delayed several times by poor weather, Operation Cobra commenced on 25 July with a concentrated aerial bombardment from thousands of Allied aircraft. Supporting offensives had drawn the bulk of German armored reserves toward the British and Canadian sector and coupled with the general lack of men and material available to the Germans, it was impossible for them to form successive lines of defense. Units of VII Corps led the initial two-division assault, while other First Army corps mounted supporting attacks designed to pin German units in place. Progress was slow on the first day, but opposition started to crumble once the defensive crust had been broken. By 27 July, most organized resistance had been overcome, and VII and VIII Corps were advancing rapidly, isolating the Cotentin peninsula.
By 31 July, XIX Corps had destroyed the last forces opposing the First Army, and Bradley’s troops were finally freed from the bocage. Reinforcements were moved west by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge and employed in various counterattacks, the largest of which (codenamed Operation Lüttich) was launched on 7 August between Mortain and Avranches. Although this led to the bloodiest phase of the battle, it was mounted by already exhausted and understrength units and had little effect other than to further deplete von Kluge’s forces. On 8 August, troops of the newly activated Third United States Army captured the city of Le Mans, formerly the German Seventh Army’s headquarters. Operation Cobra transformed the high-intensity infantry combat of Normandy into rapid maneuver warfare and led to the creation of the Falaise Pocket and the loss of the German position in northwestern France.
Operation Corkscrew was the code name for the Allied invasion of the Italian island of Pantelleria which is located between Sicily and Tunisia on 11 June 1943, prior to the Allied invasion of Sicily during the Second World War. There had been an early plan to occupy the island in late 1940 called Operation Workshop, but this was aborted when the Luftwaffe strengthened the Axis air threat in the region.
Operation Donnerkeil – Betrieb Donnerkeil
Betrieb Donnerkeil (Operation Thunderbolt) was the codename for a German military operation of the Second World War. Donnerkeil was designed as an air superiority operation to support the Kriegsmarine’s (German Navy) Operation Cerberus, also known as the Channel Dash.
In 1941, Kriegsmarine surface vessels had carried out commerce raiding sorties in support of the German U-Boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. In January 1941, Operation Berlin was launched followed by Operation Rheinübung in May 1941. The dominance of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet prevented the German units returning to ports in the Baltic sea or Germany. The surviving ships, the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the cruiser Prinz Eugen, docked in the port of Brest, France. Throughout 1941 RAF Bomber Command attacked the ships in dock. The proximity of the ports to Royal Air Force (RAF) airfields allowed a large number of sorties to be flown against the targets in quick succession. The Oberkommando der Marine (Naval High Command), and Adolf Hitler desired to move the ships out of range from potential air raids.
In December 1941, the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (High Command of the Air Force) was ordered to formulate an air superiority plan for the protection of three German capital ships to escape from France to Germany through the English Channel. General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland prepared the aerial assets for the operation. Both Cerberus and its supporting operation, Donnerkeil, were launched on 11 February 1942. During the first phase of the operation the Germans achieved surprise. The German ships reached Germany on 13 February 1942, just two days after the start of Cerberus and Donnerkeil.
During the Channel Dash the Luftwaffe succeeded in defeating air attacks on the German ships during the operation, thus allowing them to reach German waters. In the air battles that took place over the Channel the British suffered heavy losses for a non-existent return. German losses were modest, and the operation achieved its objective.
Operation Doppelkopf – Betrieb Doppelkopf
Operation Doppelkopf and the following Operation Cäsar were German counter-offensives on the Eastern Front in the late summer of 1944 in the aftermath of the major Soviet advance in Operation Bagration with the aim of restoring a coherent front between Army Group North and Army Group Centre. The operation’s codename was a reference to the German card game Doppelkopf.
Operation Dragoon – Invasion of Southern France
Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on 15 August 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the United States Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up primarily of the French First Army. The landing caused the German Army Group G to abandon southern France and to retreat under constant Allied attacks to the Vosges Mountains. Despite being a large and complex military operation with a well-executed amphibious and airborne component, Operation Dragoon is not well known as it was overshadowed by the larger Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy (D-Day) two months earlier.
Operation Eiche – Gran Sasso Raid
The Gran Sasso raid or Operation Eiche (Oak) was the rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini by German paratroopers led by Major Otto-Harald Mors and Waffen-SS commandos in September 1943, during World War II. The airborne operation was personally ordered by Adolf Hitler, planned and executed by Major Harald Mors, and approved by General Kurt Student.