Monday, December 17, 2018

September 20, 1941: Death at Kiev

Saturday 20 September 1941

Kiev 20 September 1941
Wehrmacht troops fire across the Dniepr River using a 3.7 cm Pak 36 anti-tank gun on or about 20 September 1941 (Schmidt, Federal Archive Bild 183-L29208).
Eastern Front: Having surrounded an immense pocket of Soviet troops near Kyiv and taken the city itself on the 19th, the Wehrmacht begins reducing the cauldron on 20 September 1941. There are over 800,000 Red Army men in the area, all desperate to avoid the horrors of special German POW camps for captured Russians. Men attempt to break out in all directions, and some succeed. However, large groups are blocked by the German panzers and about 75% of the trapped men ultimately go into captivity.

155th Station Hospital in California, 20 September 1941
"Zone of Interior, Camp Roberts, San Miguel, California. Partial view of 155th Station Hospital personnel and ambulance vehicles. This picture was taken on 20 September 1941." (WW2 US Medical Research Centre).
Among the trapped Soviet soldiers are numerous generals. Stalin could have rescued them - but he sacrifices them as an example to the rest of the Red Army. Some try to slip away through the woods, but the Germans are everywhere. In the Shumeikovo Woods, General Mikhail Kirponos, the commander of the Kyiv Military District, leads an ad hoc force composed of 1000 men from his headquarters staff and about the same number recruited on the way in a desperate escape attempt. Kirponos is killed, Major General V. I. Tupikov also perishes, and Lieutenant General Potapov is captured.

The New Yorker 20 September 1941
The New Yorker, 20 September 1941 (Peter Arno).
The 5th Army's artillery commander, General V.N. Sotensky, also is captured near Lokhvista by the 3rd Panzer Division under the command of Lieutenant General Walter Model. This helps to raise Model's profile, whose forces previously closed the encirclement of Kyiv at Lokhitsa by meeting the 16th Panzer of Army Group South there. Because of these achievements, Model soon will be promoted to General of Panzertruppen and given command of XLI Panzer Corps.

Field Marshal von Leeb and General von Kuchler 20 September 1941
On the Soviet front on 20 September 1941. The commander-in-chief of Army Group North, Field Marshal Ritter von Leeb, and Commander-in-Chief of the 18th Army, Colonel-General von Küchler, at a forward artillery observatory at Krasnejo Selo looking through a scissors telescope. (Schröter, Federal Archive Figure 183-B12786).
As the day ends, the Soviet pocket is a scene of chaos and fleeing men. Each hour brings more German troops to strengthen the line so that the Red Army soldiers cannot escape. As is often the case in such situations, the Soviet forces to the east of the pocket do almost nothing to try to relieve their trapped comrades, a tendency that mystifies the Germans throughout the war. However, the trapped Soviet soldiers, having lost the battle, now are deemed unworthy and thus appropriate to leave to their doom.

War correspondent at Tobruk, 20 September 1941
"Tobruk, Libya. 1941-09-20. Warrant Officer I.T. Fisher of No. 5 Field Unit, Military History and Information Section directing a cine camera through the window of a ruined building." 20 September 1941. (Australian War Memorial 020634).
It all seems like a perfect victory for the Wehrmacht. However, OKH Chief of Staff Franz Halder, privy to reports from across the front and now extremely cynical of "final victories," is not so sure. He writes in his war diary:
The enemy must have been able to extricate from Kiev more troops than we thought he would, and he now seems to be fighting for elbow room in the northeastern and eastern direction. We are now approaching the crisis stage of the encirclement.
The encirclement is complete and the enemy commanders are dead - and the "crisis stage" has not even been reached because there are large Soviet forces nearby that haven't made a serious effort to relieve the trapped men at Kyiv! This reflects another tendency that repeats itself throughout the war on the Eastern Front and which also mystifies the Germans: no matter how badly they are beaten, the Soviets always have more troops available to create more crises. It is a problem the Germans never understand, never solve, explain away repeatedly in highly detailed staff analyses, and which ultimately dooms them.

RAAF pilots in England, 20 September 1941
"400213 Squadron Leader K. W. Truscott DFC (left) and 402150 Sergeant K. B. Chisholm (center) of No. 452 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF at an RAF station, with the Squadron Intelligence Officer." 20 September 1941 (Australian War Memorial under the ID Number: SUK10019).

September 1941

September 1, 1941: Two Years In
September 2, 1941: Germans Pushed Back at Yelnya
September 3, 1941: FDR Refuses to Meet with Japanese
September 4, 1941: Hitler Furious at Guderian
September 5, 1941: Germans Evacuate Yelnya
September 6, 1941: Japan Prepares for War
September 7, 1941: Hitler Orders Drive on Moscow
September 8, 1941: Leningrad Cut Off
September 9, 1941: Germans Attack Leningrad
September 10, 1941: Guderian Busts Loose
September 11, 1941: Convoy SC-42 Destruction
September 12, 1941: Starve Leningrad!
September 13, 1941: Zhukov at Leningrad
September 14, 1941: Germany's Growing Casualties
September 15, 1941: Sorge Warns Stalin Again
September 16, 1941: Soviets Encircled at Kiev
September 17, 1941: Iran Conquest Completed
September 18, 1941: Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in Action
September 19, 1941: Germans Take Kiev
September 20, 1941: Death at Kiev
September 21, 1941: Raging Soviet Paranoia
September 22, 1941: Defense of Nickel Mines
September 23, 1941: Air Attacks on Leningrad
September 24, 1941: Japanese Spying Intensifies
September 25, 1941: Manstein at the Crimea
September 26, 1941: Kiev Pocket Eliminated
September 27, 1941: Massacre at Eišiškės
September 28, 1941: Ted Williams Hits .400
September 29, 1941: Babi Yar Massacre
September 30, 1941: Operation Typhoon Begins


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