Sunday, 24 April 2016

World of Tanks History Section: Halfway to Prague: Taking of Brno

In April of 1945, Soviet Marshal Radion Malinovskiy was faced with new battles in Czechoslovakia. The Red Army already knocked their enemy out of Bratislava and now had to develop its success to take Brno.

The Brno industrial center was of great significance for Germany since the occupation in 1939. Brno was the home to Zbrojovka Brno, one of the largest small arms manufacturer in Europe, as well as a Skoda factory.

From the Flank

After the Germans lost the Moravian industrial zone (also in Czechoslovakia) and a rapidly diminishing scrap was left of the "thousand year reich", the Brno industrial area was of vital importance to the Germans. The Soviets also needed it, as it opened up the road to Prague.

The taking of Brno had to be a combined operation. Mobile units would encircle the city. For this, Malinovskiy's Front was given the 6th Guards Tank Army, freed up after taking Vienna, in addition to General Issa Aleksandrovich Pliev's mechanized cavalry group.

Andrei Grigoryevich Kravchenko's army travelled a long way in the Vienna Offensive Operation, from Hungarian rivers and channels to the ancient streets of the Austrian capital. This path was not easy. For example, the 46th Guards Tank Brigade had 65 new M4A2 Sherman tanks in February of 1945. By the time the brigade was breaking through at Brno on April 23rd, it only had 13 tanks left. The small number of tanks was partially compensated with SPGs from the 51st and 208th SPG brigades, also beat up. In total, they gathered up three SU-122s, fifteen SU-76es, and ten SU-100s.

The first serious battle took place at Trzhevomyslitse. The Germans were seriously prepared: the village was occupied by tanks, SPGs, artillery and infantry. The report of the 46th brigade laconically reads: "it was impossible to take the village with a frontal attack". Soviet forces attempted to distract the Germans with SPG fire while tanks came around the flank. The maneuver was successful, and the tanks reached the outskirts of the village. The village with a complicated name was taken, at the cost of two burned up tanks. SU-100 gunners reported two destroyed Panthers and one Ferdinand.

There was a canal right after the village, and the Germans blew up all the bridges across it during their retreat. However, this did not hold the Soviets for long. By 03:00 on April 24th, engineers built a temporary bridge and the tanks moved forward once more. The next German stronghold was at Tuřany and the nearby height 228. First from tanks and artillery completely covered the road and the two lead tanks were knocked out. There was no possibility to advance, but this was 1945, and Soviet tanks didn't attack head on unless it was absolutely necessary. The tanks moved around, through Dvorksa village, and hit Tuřany from the side where they weren't expected. The battle didn't last long. the Germans ran before midnight, leaving behind nine tanks and SPGs (five of which were fully functional) and a variety of other vehicles.

Main Assault

For several hours, Soviet vehicles were stocking up on fuel and ammunition. There was no time to sleep; tanks moved out at 03:00. One German ambush was destroyed without losses and by noon our units reached Slatina, the last line of defense before Brno. It was impossible to move further: an advance party that was sent out lost three Shermans to a German ambush. Reconnaissance on foot didn't turn up much. "There was no possibility to move up, and no way around." the reports read, dryly. Soon, the Germans counterattacked, trying to take Slatina back from the Red Army, but came under fire from the SU-100s. The SPG gunners claimed two Ferdinands and as many StuGs.

The enemy defenses had to be softened up. Forward units called in artillery and aircraft support. On April 25th, shells and bombs pounded the German defenses into the dirt, after which the tanks went on the offensive again. Even now, reports came from the battlefield on "infantry battalions rose up to attack time after time, with no effect... the enemy staunchly defends each street, each block, each house".

By the evenings, the Soviet forces had a foothold in the outskirts of Brno. After that, it was the typical street fighting again: assault groups, with an infantry company, a tank platoon, a battery of SPGs and a platoon of 76 mm guns. Battles raged on with no rest. By dawn on April 26th, tanks reached the center of the city, having run out of ammunition. Thankfully, the Germans had no opportunity for a counterattack: Pliev's mechanized cavalry was attacking the city from the south. By the evening, the city fell.

The Bratislava-Brno operation was not over. Soviet forces moved on to meet their neighbouring Front, surrounding the Germans at Olomouc and making their way to Prague.

Original article available here.

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