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Third siege of Sevastopol
Written By: Peter Ayers Wimbrow III
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Third siege of Sevastopol
Sevastopol
Third siege of Sevastopol
A veteran of the soviet Navy and defender of Sevastopol with the author at Sevastopol on the 60th Anniversary of Liberaton Day, May 9, 2004.
Third siege of Sevastopol
The author with monument in far background: the curve representing a sail for the naval units and the point representing a bayonet for the soldiers.
Third siege of Sevastopol
Russian troops marching side-by-side with Ukrainian troops on Liberation Day in Sevastopol, May 9, 2004, because the previous year Russian spectators threw things at the Ukrainian troops when they marched separately."
Third siege of Sevastopol
Liberation Day, 2004, the author in Sevastopol in friendlier times with a Russian Admiral and a Ukranian General.
Third siege of Sevastopol
Sevastopol after liberation, 1944.

    This week, 70 years ago, Sevastopol’s third siege, within 100 years, and the second within two years was ending. The first siege, during the Crimean War, lasted almost a year when the city was defended by the Imperial Russian Army and Navy against British, French, Turkish and Sardinian Armies and Navies. The second siege lasted 250 days and ended when the city was captured, in July 1942, by Romanian and German troops, commanded by Eric von Manstein, after a bombardment by the largest guns used in World War II. The third siege, by the Red Army, lasted a mere 35 days.
    Sevastopol is the second largest Black Sea port and is located on the Crimean Peninsula. The Crimea was annexed by the Russian Empire under Catherine the Great in 1783. In 1954, Nikita Khrushchev transferred the peninsula to the Ukraine, where it remained until recently, when its citizens voted, overwhelmingly, to return to Russia.
    Sevastopol currently has a population of 350,000. Prior to the Second Siege of Sevastopol, and after the Third Siege, it was home to the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. After the breakup of the U.S.S.R., and until the Crimea’s recent return to Russia, it was home to both the Russian and Ukrainian Black Sea Fleets.  At the beginning of the war its inhabitants numbered 112,000.   
    The Crimean Peninsula is connected, by land, to the Ukraine by the very narrow - four miles at its narrowest point - Perekop Isthmus. On November 1, 1943, that link was severed by the Red Army’s 4th Ukranian Front, commanded by Fyodor Tolbukhin. With that, the 17th Army, commanded by Irwin Jaenecke, had no land connection to other Axis forces.
    The same day, elements of the XX Rifle Corps of the 18th Red Army, commanded by Gen. Evgenii Petrovich Zhuravlev, crossed the Kerch Straits and landed 12 miles south of Kerch at the village of Yenikale. Future leader of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev, was Chief Political Commissar of the 18th Army. Vice Admiral Lev Vladimirsky was in charge of Naval Operations. Two days later, elements of the 2nd, 32nd and 55th Guards, Rifle Divisions also landed at Yenikale. The next day, 318th Mountain Rifle Division, under the command of Colonel Vasilii Fedorovich Gladkov, landed at Eltigen, just a few miles from the initial landings. The 383rd Rifle Division followed at Yenikale on November 7.
    Defending the Kerch Peninsula was the 17th Army’s V Corps, commanded by Karl Allmedinger, consisting of the German 98th Infantry, the 3rd Romanian Mountain and the 6th Romanian Cavalry Divisions, commanded by, respectively: Lt.-Gen. Martin Gareis; Major-General Leonard Mociulschi; Brig. Gen. Corneliu Teodorini. On December 7, General Mociulschi’s cavalrymen counterattacked and eliminated the Soviet bridgehead at Eltigen and on December 11, they retook Mt. Mithridates, capturing more than 2000 Soviet prisoners in these operations. Meanwhile, the Soviets were reinforcing the Yenikale Beachhead, which by now had 75,000 men, 582 guns, 187 mortars, 128 tanks, 764 trucks and more than 91,000 tons of munitions and materiel.
    On April 8, the Fourth Ukranian Front’s new Commander, Rodion Malinosky, sent the Second Guards Army and the 51st Army, commanded by Georgiy Fedorovich Zakharov and Yakov Grigorevich Kreizer, into the Crimean Peninsula by way of the Perekop Isthmus.
    After leading the Separate Coastal Army to the liberation of Kerch on April 11, and Simferopol, two days later, General Andrei Ivanovich Eremenko was transferred to the Baltic Front and was succeeded by Lt.-Gen. Kondrat Semenovich Melnik. Simferopol, which currently has a population of 350,000, is the capital of the Crimea and is located 37 miles northeast of Sevastopol.
    Meanwhile, Gen. Jaenecke’s 17th Army had retreated to Sevastopol, with the General boasting, publically,  that, “At Sevastopol stands the 17th Army, and at Sevastopol, the Soviets will bleed to death.” Privately, he was begging that Sevastopol be evacuated and his Army be withdrawn.
    The 17th Army included the following corps: Romanian Mountain, now commanded by Hugo Schwab; German 49th Mountain, commanded by Rudolf Konrad; Romanian Cavalry, commanded by Major-General Constantin Trestioreanu; General Allmedinger’s V.             
    The Romanian Conducător, Marshal Ian Antonescu, finally convinced the German Führer to evacuate Sevastopol. On April 14 the Red Army captured the ancient Tartar capital of Bakhchisaray and the evacuation began. It lasted until April 28, when Hitler suspended it. On April 15, 1400-year-old Alushta fell, and the Red Army reached the outskirts of Sevastopol.
    By May 3, 1944, Axis strength had been reduced to 65,000. Four days later the Red Army stormed Sapun Mountain, which dominated the city. After a nine-hour battle, the Soviets captured the heights. This was the key to the defense of the city. By now, General Jaenecke had been relieved and replaced by General Allmedinger. General Mociulschi assumed command of V Corps.
    The next day, Hitler finally agreed to resume the evacuation of Crimea.  On May 9, the Soviets declared Sevastopol liberated. The remaining Axis troops had retreated to the Chersonesus Peninsula, about two miles from the city. By May 12, only the First Mountain Division, commanded by Constantin Voiculescu, who would die in a Soviet prison, remained, of the Romanian troops, as a rear guard. It was lost the next day. Of the 64,712 Romanians that began the year in Crimea, 22,522 had been lost.
    But the evacuation efforts, known as “Operation 60,000,” overseen by Rear-Admiral Horia Macellariu, were relatively successful. Using Romanian, Hungarian and German ships, 150,000 Axis soldiers were transported to the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta. For this, Admiral Macellariu became the only Romanian sailor to receive the Knight’s Cross.
    General Jaenecke was arrested in Romania and court-martialed. However, Army Chief-of-Staff Heinz Guderian intervened, and his life was spared. He was dismissed from the army on January 31, 1945. On June 14, 1945, he was arrested by the Soviets, tried as a war criminal, convicted and sentenced to die. His sentence was commuted to 25 years hard labor, of which he did ten before being released.
    Only 3000 residents remained in Sevastopol upon its liberation.
    Sevastopol was recognized as one of the first four Hero Cities of the Soviet Union, along with Leningrad, Stalingrad and Odessa, on May 1, 1945. Kerch received the honor in 1973.

NEXT WEEK: MYITKYINA
 
Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own.  Mr. Wimbrow can be contacted at wimbrowlaw@gmail.com.
 
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