The Reichstag ruins satisfied
Sightseeing historical tour of the city of Berlin, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Victory.
The storming of Berlin on April 21 - May 2, 1945 refers to unique events in the world history of wars.
It was a battle for a very large city with a lot of solid stone buildings.
Air defense tower near the Zoo. Large ground-based concrete bunkers, armed with air defense artillery, used by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War to concentrate the deployment of large-caliber anti-aircraft gun groups to protect strategic cities from the aerial bombardment of the anti-Hitler coalition. They were also used to coordinate air defense and served as bomb shelters.
"The tower turned out to be a tough nutlet. The shelling of its 152-mm artillery was completely inconclusive. Then, according to flakturm, 105 203-mm caliber concrete shells were fired. The corner of the tower was destroyed, but it continued to live until the surrender of the garrison. Until recently, Weidling's command post was located there. Our troops passed the air defense towers at Humbolthayn and Friedrichhein, and until the surrender, these structures remained in the German-controlled territory of the city. " Alexey Isaev historian. In the foreground, the destroyed IP-2!
Tempelhof Airport. Marshal Chuikov: “An hour before the start of the artillery preparation for the taking of the Tempelhof airfield, the denominator of the 220th Guards Rifle Regiment of the 79th Guards Rifle Division, Sergeant Nikolai Masalov, brought the banner of the regiment to the Landwehr canal. ... the canal. The bridges and the approaches to it are heavily mined and tightly covered with machine-gun fire. ... There were about fifty minutes before the attack of the Guardsmen. There was silence, as before a storm, it was disturbing, tense. And suddenly, in this silence, broken only the sound of the fires, the children's crying was heard. As if from somewhere out of the ground, the child’s voice sounded devious and inviting. He was crying, he repeated one word that everyone could understand: "Mutter, Mutter ..." "It seems that on the other side of the channel." He told comrades Masalov. He approached the commander: “Let me save the child, I know where he is.” It was dangerous to crawl to the Humpback Bridge. The square in front of the bridge was shot through by machine-gun and automatic cannon fire, not to mention mines and land mines hidden under the ground. Sergeant Masalov crawled forward, clinging to the asphalt, sometimes hiding in shallow funnels from shells and mines. ... Here he crossed the embankment and took refuge behind the ledge of the concrete wall of the channel. And then he heard the child again. He called his mother plaintively, persistently. He seemed to hurry Masalov. Then the guard rose to his full height - tall, mighty. Battle orders gleamed on their chests. Neither bullets nor fragments will stop this ...
Masalov spilled over the channel barrier ... A few more minutes passed. For a moment, the enemy machine guns fell silent. Holding their breath, the guardsmen were waiting for the child's voice, but it was quiet. They waited five, ten minutes ... Did Masalov risk in vain? .. A few guardsmen, without saying a word, got ready to throw. And at that time everyone heard the voice of Masalov: “Attention! I'm with a child. Cover me with fire. Machine gun on the right, on the balcony of the house with columns. Shut his throat on him! ... ”The artillery preparation began. Thousands of shells and thousands of mines seemed to cover the exit of the Soviet soldier from the death zone with a three-year German girl in her arms. Her mother probably tried to escape from Tiergarten, saving her daughter, she hid under the bridge and died there. Passing the girl to the nurses, Sergeant Masalov again stood at the banner of the regiment, ready to roll forward. "
The river Spree with its high stone banks crosses Berlin from its south-eastern suburbs to the north-western and passes through the center of the city. Within the city limits, the Spree had to force both troops advancing from the north and troops advancing from the east. The first in Berlin to approach the Spree were the troops of Colonel-General Berzarin. In the photo: in front of the Reichstag there is a ditch of the unfinished line of the Berlin subway, the work was done in an open way.
One of the "finds" of the Germans in the defense of their capital was the tank company "Berlin", assembled from tanks not capable of independent movement. They were dug in at the crossroads of streets and used as fixed firing points in the west and east of the city. Such a pillbox could connect with the basements of neighboring houses. The crew consisted of a gunner, loader and commander. In total, the company "Berlin" consisted of 10 tanks "Panther" and 12 tanks Pz. Iv.
Technique in the battle for Berlin: Sturm Berlin
Even the struggle for Stalingrad is inferior to the battles for Berlin in terms of basic quantitative and qualitative indicators: the number of troops involved in the battles, the number of combat vehicles involved, as well as the size of the city and the nature of its development.
To some extent, with the storming of Berlin, we compare the storming of Budapest in January-February and of Koenigsberg in April 1945. The battles of modernity, such as the battles for Beirut in 1982, remain the pale shadow of the grand battles of World War II.
On the preparation of Berlin for the defense, the Germans had 2.5 months, during which the front stood on the Oder, 70 km from the city. This training was not at all an improvisational character. The Germans have developed a whole system of turning their own and other cities into “festungs” - fortresses. This is the strategy that Hitler followed in the second half of the war. Cities- "fortresses" were to defend themselves in isolation, supplied by air. Their goal is to hold road junctions and other important points.
The Berlin fortifications of April-May 1945 are typical enough for German “festungs” - massive barricades, as well as residential and administrative buildings prepared for defense. Barricades in Germany were built on an industrial level and had nothing to do with the piles of trash that block the streets during the period of revolutionary unrest. Berlin, as a rule, was 2? 2.5 m in height and 2? 2.2 m in thickness. They were built of wood, stone, sometimes rail and shaped iron. Such a barricade easily withstand shots of tank guns and even divisional artillery with a caliber of 76–122 mm.
Part of the streets completely barricaded, not leaving even the passage. On the main highways, the barricades nevertheless had a three-meter wide passage, prepared for a quick closure by a wagon with earth, stones and other materials. Approaches to the barricades were mined. This is not to say that these Berlin fortifications were a masterpiece of engineering art. Here in the area of Breslau, Soviet troops were confronted with truly cyclopean barricades cast entirely from concrete. In their design provided huge moving parts discharged across the passage. In Berlin, nothing like this has ever been encountered. The reason is quite simple: German commanders believed that the fate of the city would be decided on the Oder front. Accordingly, the main efforts of the engineering troops were concentrated there, on the Seelow Heights and on the perimeter of the Soviet Kyustrin bridgehead.
Company of fixed tanks
The approaches to the bridges via canals and exits from the bridges also had barricades. In the buildings, which were to become defense points, brick windows were laid with bricks. In the masonry, one or two embrasures were left for firing from small arms and anti-tank grenade launchers - faust-cartridges. Of course, not all Berlin houses have undergone such a restructuring. But the Reichstag, for example, prepared well for defense: the huge windows of the building of the German parliament were walled up.
One of the "finds" of the Germans in the defense of their capital was the tank company "Berlin", assembled from tanks not capable of independent movement. They were dug in at the crossroads of streets and used as fixed firing points in the west and east of the city. In total, the company "Berlin" consisted of 10 tanks "Panther" and 12 tanks Pz. Iv.
In addition to special defensive structures in the city, there were air defense facilities suitable for ground battles. It is primarily about the so-called flakturmah - massive concrete towers with a height of about 40 m, on the roof of which were equipped with anti-aircraft guns up to 128-mm caliber. In Berlin, they built three such giant structures. These are Flakturm I in the area of the zoo, Flakturm II in Friedrichshain in the east of the city and Flakturm III in Humbolthayn in the north. (About the anti-aircraft towers of the Third Reich "PM" wrote in detail in the number 3 for 2009. - Approx. Ed.)
Forces "Berlin Fortress"
However, any engineering structures are absolutely useless if there is no one to defend them. This was the biggest problem for the Germans. In Soviet times, the number of defenders of the capital of the Reich was usually estimated at 200,000. However, this figure seems to be too high. The testimony of the last commandant of Berlin, General Weidling, and other captured officers of the Berlin garrison lead to a figure of 100? 120 thousand people and 50? 60 tanks at the beginning of the assault. For the defense of Berlin such a number of defenders was clearly not enough. It was obvious to professionals from the very beginning. In a summary of the generalized combat experience of the 8th Guards Army storming the city, it was stated: “For the defense of such a large city, surrounded on all sides, there was not enough force to defend each building, as was the case in other cities, so the enemy defended mainly groups quarters, and inside them separate buildings and objects ... ”The Soviet troops storming Berlin numbered, according to the data of April 26, 1945, 464,000 people and about 1,500 tanks. The 1st and 2nd Guards Tank armies, the 3rd and 5th Shock armies, the 8th Guards Army (all - the 1st Belorussian Front), as well as the 3rd Guards Tank Army and some forces participated in the storming of the city. 28th Army (1st Ukrainian Front). In the last two days of the assault, units of the 1st Polish Army participated in the battles.
One of the mysteries of the battle for Berlin is to preserve intact the many bridges over the Spree and the Landwehr Canal. Given that the banks of the Spree in the center of Berlin were dressed in stone, forcing the river outside bridges would be a daunting task. The solution was given by the testimony of General Weidling in Soviet captivity. He recalled: “None of the bridges was prepared for the explosion. Goebbels commissioned this organization, "Spur", due to the fact that during the explosions of bridges by military units, economic damage was caused to surrounding possessions. It turned out that all the materials for preparing bridges for the explosion, as well as the ammunition harvested for this, were removed from Berlin during the evacuation of the Shpur facilities. It should be noted that this concerned bridges in the central part of the city. On the outskirts everything was different. For example, all the bridges across the Berlin-Spandauer-Schiffarts canal in the northern part of the city were blown up. The troops of the 3rd Shock Army and the 2nd Guards Tank Army had to cross over. In general, it can be noted that the first days of the struggle for Berlin are connected with the forcing of water obstacles on its outskirts.
In the thick of quarters
By April 27, Soviet troops overcame the areas with low-rise and sparse buildings and went deep into the densely built-up central areas of Berlin. Coming from different directions, the Soviet tank and combined arms armies aimed at one point in the city center - the Reichstag. In 1945, it had long since lost its political significance and had conditional value as a military object. However, it is the Reichstag that appears in the orders as the target of the advance of the Soviet formations and associations. In any case, moving from different sides to the Reichstag, the Red Army troops threatened the Führer’s bunker under the Reich Chancellery.
The assault group became the central figure in street battles. The Zhukov Directive recommended the inclusion of 8? 12 guns in caliber from 45 to 203 mm, 4? 6 mortars 82? 120 mm in the assault detachments. The assault teams consisted of sappers and "chemists" with smoke bombs and flamethrowers. Tanks also became constant members of these groups. It is well known that their main enemy in urban battles in 1945 was manual anti-tank weapons - Faust-cartridges. Shortly before the Berlin operation, tanks were screened in the army. However, they did not give a positive result: even when the grenade of the faust cartridge was detonated on the screen, the armor of the tank penetrated. Nevertheless, in some parts of the screens are still installed - rather for psychological support of the crew, rather than for real protection.
Did the "faustnik" burn tank armies?
Losses of tank armies in battles for the city can be assessed as moderate, especially in comparison with battles in open areas against tanks and anti-tank artillery. Thus, the 2nd Guards Tank Army of Bogdanov lost about 70 tanks from faustpatrons in the battles for the city. At the same time, she acted in isolation from the combined arms armies, relying only on her motorized infantry. The share of tanks hit by "faustnik" in other armies was less. During the street fighting in Berlin from April 22 to May 2, Bogdanov’s army lost 104 tanks and self-propelled guns (16% of the fleet of combat vehicles by the beginning of the operation). The 1st Guards Tank Army of Katukov, during the street fighting, also lost irrevocably 104 armored units (15% of the combat vehicles that were in service at the beginning of the operation). The 3rd Guards Tank Army Rybalko in Berlin itself from April 23 to May 2 irrevocably lost 99 tanks and 15 self-propelled guns (23%). The total losses of the Red Army from the faustparons in Berlin can be estimated at 200 × 250 tanks and self-propelled guns from almost 1800 lost during the operation as a whole. In a word, there is no reason to say that the Soviet tank armies were burnt down by “faunters” in Berlin.
However, in any case, the massive use of faustprony hampered the use of tanks, and if Soviet troops relied only on armored vehicles, the battles for the city would have become much more bloody. It should be noted that the Faustprony was used by the Germans not only against tanks, but also against infantry. The infantrymen, forced to go ahead of the armored vehicles, fell under a hail of shooters of the "faustnik". Therefore, barrel and rocket artillery provided invaluable assistance in the assault. Specificity of urban battles forced to put the divisional and attached artillery to direct fire. Paradoxically, it sounds, but the guns on direct fire were sometimes more effective than tanks. The report of the 44th Guards Cannon Artillery Brigade on the Berlin operation stated: “The use of 'Panzerfausts' by the adversary led to a sharp increase in tank losses - limited visibility makes them easily vulnerable. The guns do not suffer from this disadvantage, their losses, in comparison with tanks, are small. " It was not an unsubstantiated statement: the brigade lost only two guns in street battles, one of them was hit by the enemy with a faius launch.
The brigade was armed with 152-mm howitzer ML-20. The actions of the gunners can be illustrated by the following example. The battle for the barricade on Sarland-Strasse did not start too successfully. "Faustnik" knocked out two tanks IS-2. Then the gun of the 44th brigade was exposed to direct fire 180 meters from the fortifications. After releasing 12 shells, the gunners pierced the passage in the barricade and destroyed its garrison. Brigade guns were also used to destroy buildings turned into strong points.
From the "Katyusha" direct fire
It has already been said above that the Berlin garrison defended only certain buildings. If such a stronghold could not be taken by an assault group, it was simply destroyed by direct-line artillery. So, from one stronghold to another, the assault went to the city center. In the end, even "Katyushas" began to put on a direct lead. The frames of large-caliber missiles M-31 were installed in houses on windowsills and shot at buildings opposite. The optimum distance was 100-150 m. The projectile managed to accelerate, broke through the wall and exploded inside the building. This led to the collapse of partitions and ceilings and, as a consequence, the death of the garrison. At smaller distances, the wall was not pierced and the case was limited to cracks in the facade. This is where one of the answers to the question of why the Third Shock Army of Kuznetsov was the first to reach the Reichstag is hidden. Parts of this army made their way through the streets of Berlin with 150 M-31UK (improved accuracy) shells fired at direct fire. Other armies also shot several dozen M-31 shells from direct fire.
To victory - through!
Another "destroyer of buildings" was heavy artillery. As stated in the report on the actions of the artillery of the 1st Byelorussian Front, "in the battles for the fortress of Poznan and in the Berlin operation, both during the operation itself and especially in the battles for the city of Berlin, large and special power artillery was crucial." In total, during the assault on the German capital, 38 high-powered guns, that is, 203-mm B-4 howitzers of the 1931 model, were put in direct fire. These powerful tracked guns often flash in a newsreel devoted to the battles for the German capital. The calculations of the B-4 operated boldly, even boldly. For example, one of the guns was installed at the intersection of Liden-Strasse and Ritter-Strasse, 100–150 m from the enemy. The six shells fired were enough to destroy a house prepared for defense. Turning the cannon, the battery commander destroyed three more stone buildings.
In Berlin, there was only one structure that withstood the B-4 strike - it was the Flakturm am Zoo anti-aircraft defense tower, also known as the Flakturm I. The units of the 8th Guards and 1st Guards Tank armies entered the Berlin Zoo. The tower turned out to be a tough nut to them. The shelling of its 152-mm artillery was completely inconclusive. Then flakturm direct fire fired 105 concrete-projectiles of 203 mm caliber. As a result, the corner of the tower was collapsed, but it continued to live until the surrender of the garrison. Until the last moment, the command post of Waidling was located in it. The air defense towers in Gumbolthayn and Friedrichhain were bypassed by our troops, and until the surrender these structures remained in the German-controlled territory of the city.
The garrison Flakturm am Zoo to some extent lucky. The tower did not come under fire from the Soviet artillery of special power, 280-mm Br-5 mortars and 30-mm Br-18 howitzers of 1939 type. No one has already set these tools for direct fire. They fired from positions 7–10 km from the battlefield. The 8th Guards Army was given the 34th separate division of special power. His 280-mm mortars in the last days of the storming of Berlin were beaten at Potsdam Station. Two such shells pierced the asphalt of the street, floors and exploded in the underground halls of the station, located at a depth of 15 m.
Why not "smeared" Hitler?
The three divisions of 280-mm and 305-mm guns were concentrated in the 5th Shock Army. The army of Berzarin was advancing to the right of the Chuikov army in the historical center of Berlin. Heavy tools were used to destroy solid stone buildings. The 280-mm mortar division hit the Gestapo building, fired more than a hundred shells and achieved six direct hits. The division of 305-mm howitzers only on the penultimate day of the assault, on May 1, shot 110 shells. In fact, only the lack of accurate information about the location of the Fuhrer’s bunker prevented the early termination of battles. The Soviet heavy artillery had the technical ability to bury Hitler and his retinue in a bunker or even to smudge them with a thin layer over the labyrinths of the last refuge of the Fuhrer possessed.
It was Berzarin’s army, advancing in the direction of the Reichstag, that came closest to Hitler’s bunker. This caused the last spike in activity of the Luftwaffe in the battles for the city. On April 29, groups of attack aircraft of the FV-190 and Me-262 fighter jets attacked the battle formations of the troops of the 5th Shock Army. Jet Messerschmites belonged to Group I of the JG7 squadron from the Reich Air Defense, but they could no longer have a tangible influence on the course of the hostilities. The next day, April 30, the Fuhrer committed suicide. On the morning of May 2, the Berlin garrison capitulated.
The total loss of the two fronts in the battle for Berlin can be estimated at 50? 60 thousand people killed, wounded and missing. Were these losses justified? Of course. The fall of Berlin and the death of Hitler meant the demoralization of the German army and its surrender. There is no doubt that without the active use of various techniques, the loss of Soviet troops in street battles would have been much higher.
Alexey Isaev - Candidate of Historical Sciences, author of many books on the history of the Great Patriotic War. Via popmech.ru
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