Wednesday, January 30, 2019

November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol

Monday 10 November 1941

Bren Gun at Tobruk, 10 November 1941
"Men of the Leicestershire Regiment man a Bren gun near Tobruk, 10 November 1941" © IWM (E 6436) (colorized).
Eastern Front: General Erich von Manstein has been given the task of conquering the Crimea with his 11th Army. So far, it has gone quickly and fairly routinely as these things go. On 10 November 1941, he launches his first planned attack on the Soviet naval base of Sevastopol in the southeastern section of the Crimea. It is well-defended and surrounded by natural obstacles but defended by isolated and presumably demoralized troops. Sevastopol does not seem like much of a problem. As OKH Chief of Staff Franz Halder confidently notes in his war diary on 10 November 1941:
Good progress has been made in the Crimea, but it will take a few more days before we have cleared out the last enemy.
So, everything thing is going as planned and Soviet resistance is collapsing as everyone knew it would. Manstein uses the 50th Infantry Division to begin the assault in the area southeast of Sevastopol. It is commanded by Lieutenant General Karl-Adolf Hollidt, a recipient of both classes of the Iron Cross during World War I who is considered a true fighting general. General Hollidt is just the man to roll into Sevastopol and accept the honor of the surrender.

Private Eglinton, serving with the Voluntary Aid Detachment, 10 November 1941
Private Nancy Stewart Eglinton of Adelaide. She volunteered on 10 November 1941 to serve in the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and later served with the newly formed Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (Australian War Memorial P03947.001).
Hollidt's attack makes good ground in the direction of Balaklava. His men capture Uppa near the upper reaches of the Chorna (Chernaya) River, which flows into Sevastopol. As the day progresses, though, Manstein waits before expanding the attack with additional forces, which blunts the effort. Thus, Hollidt's offensive turns into more of a probing attack than a full-scale attempt to conquer the elaborate Soviet defenses, which include numerous bunkers and fortifications. The Sevastopol perimeter is 44 kilometers long, which poses problems for both armies but more so for the Germans, who have difficulty concentrating their forces for a determined attack. However, the Germans have heavy Luftwaffe support, though its effectiveness is somewhat lessened due to the hilly terrain. Manstein is confident that he can expand the gains in the morning.

USS Long Island, 10 November 1941
USS Long Island (AVG-1, later ACV-1, Commander Donald B. Duncan), photographed in Measure 12 (Modified) camouflage, 10 November 1941. Planes on her flight deck include seven Curtiss SOC-3A scout observation types and one Brewster F2A fighter. The Long Island was the first ship of her class and the first escort carrier in the US Navy (US Navy).
On the Soviet side, Major General Ivan Efimovich Petrov commands the Coastal Army that had been evacuated in good order by sea from Odesa, which fell to the Romanians. Petrov first had led his forces north of Sevastopol after entering the Crimea at Sevastopol to try to defend the Perekop Isthmus. However, after discussing it with his divisional commanders, Petrov then had decided to retreat to Sevastopol rather than east to the safer Kerch Peninsula (because it would be easier to retreat further east from there). Petrov's decision rests on his belief that it is important to defend this main base of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and that he has enough men to do it. Petrov commands about 52,000 Red Army soldiers, an impressive number. However, they have left much of their equipment and supplies behind in Odessa, and 21,000 of them are sailors untrained in land warfare. His best asset is 170 artillery pieces, some protected by massive concrete bunkers constructed in the 1930s that are impervious to all but the largest artillery shells or bombs. Petrov's troops only returned to Sevastopol one day ago, so the terrain is almost as new to them as to the Wehrmacht.

Lighting up a mate at Tobruk, 10 November 1941
"Men of the Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry lighting up their Italian cigars in Tobruk, 10 November 1941" © IWM (E 6509). Lighting up a friend is considered a mark of success and victory by both sides in World War II, particularly with captured smokes.
Hollidt's attack follows the coastal route from Yalta to Sevastopol along the old Vorontsov road which achieved fame during the Crimean War of the 1850s. This is the traditional attack route into Sevastopol by those coming by sea, as did the British 90 years earlier. The advantage of this route is that it avoids the hills in the central and northern sectors of the Sevastopol perimeter which serve almost as towering walls. However, Petrov is no fool and also realizes that the coastal road is easy to perceive as the "easy" road into the port and thus a likely avenue of attacks. He defends the area with crack troops of the first and second defensive sectors. Their objective is to give ground in the flatlands but hold the hills around Balaklava and at the village of Kamary (Oboronnoye), where the east-west valleys coming from the east end and the ground becomes flat again into the port itself. Hollidt today gets nowhere near these vital spots. Thus, while Hollidt does make some progress, he does not succeed in capturing anything vital to the Soviet defense. Manstein prepares to feed in another division on the 11th and see what happens. So far, everything still seems to be going according to plan on the German side.

Rita Hayworth on the cover of Time, 10 November 1941
Actress Rita Hayworth on the cover of Time magazine, 10 November 1941.
Battle of the Mediterranean: Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal completes its mission of ferrying aircraft to Malta and turns to head back to Gibraltar with the rest of Force H. The Germans have received word of this operation and have positioned U-81 (Friedrich Guggenberger) along the route.

November 1941

November 1, 1941: Finns Attack Toward Murmansk Railway
November 2, 1941: Manstein Isolates Sevastopol
November 3, 1941: Japan Prepares to Attack
November 4, 1941: German Advances in the South
November 5, 1941: Last Peace Effort By Japan
November 6, 1941: Stalin Casts Blame in an Unexpected Direction
November 7, 1941: Stalin's Big Parade
November 8, 1941: Germans Take Tikhvin
November 9, 1941: Duisburg Convoy Destruction
November 10, 1941: Manstein Attacks Sevastopol
November 11, 1941: Finland's Double Game Erupts
November 12, 1941: T-34 Tanks Take Charge
November 13, 1941: German Orsha Conference
November 14, 1941: German Supply Network Breaking Down
November 15, 1941: Operation Typhoon Resumes
November 16, 1941: Manstein Captures Kerch
November 17, 1941: Finland Halts Operations
November 18, 1941: British Operation Crusader
November 19, 1941: Sydney vs. Kormoran Duel
November 20, 1941: The US Rejects Final Japanese Demand
November 21, 1941: Germans Take Rostov
November 22, 1941: Kleist in Trouble at Rostov
November 23, 1941: Germans Take Klin, Huge Battle in North Africa
November 24, 1941: Rommel Counterattacks
November 25, 1941: HMS Barham Sunk
November 26, 1941: Japanese Fleet Sails
November 27, 1941: British Relieve Tobruk
November 28, 1941: Rostov Evacuated, German Closest Approach to Moscow
November 29, 1941: Hitler Furious About Retreat
November 30, 1941: Japan Sets the Date for its Attack


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