Herewith the battle of Brody which was part of the destruction of AGNU) from the perspective of the 14 Galician Division.- sadly the 150 footnotes do not appear in context but the text from them has been added at the end just for a laugh
My sources were:
All the afteraction reports filed by the German units involved, Soviet Staff report of the battle, interviews with survivors:
bye for now
Change of Plans at the 11th Hour
On 25th June, 1944, an advance party consisting of a group of officers from the Division's general staff, left Neuhammer for the proposed operational area in the Stanyslaviv district to make the necessary arrangements for its arrival.
The following day, without any warning, its command received notification from the German Army High Command (OKH) that the deployment orders had been changed. Now it was to be assigned to the 4th Panzer Army, which held the front east of L'viv in the centre of the battle lines of Army Group North Ukraine, in anticipation of a major Soviet offensive in this area.
A few days earlier on 22nd June, 1944, symbolically the third anniversary of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, to complement the Allied landings in Normandy, the first phase of the Soviet summer offensive known as Operation Bagration had commenced on the Eastern Front. The offensive had begun in Belorussia with the total destruction of the German Army Group Centre (Heeresgruppe Mitte). The awesome size of the forces that the Soviets unleashed in this area were so great that in a period of just twelve days, twenty five German divisions simply disappeared in the worst defeat ever suffered in German military history.
Even before they had completed the destruction of Army Group Centre, the Soviet High Command (STAVKA) had begun massing forces in the Brody region in preparation for the second phase. This was the L'viv - Peremyshyl' Operation (later known as the L'viv - Sandomierz Operation, after the Soviets had achieved more than they originally planned), the objective of which was to occupy L'viv in western Ukraine and the city of Sandomierz in Poland thereby overrunning Galicia and the southern part of the Generalgouvernement (Poland).
According to a recently declassified Soviet secret report on the operation, the First Ukrainian Front under Marshal I.S Konev, which was to undertake this offensive had subordinated to it (including Front operational reserves); 74 rifle divisions (numbering 843,000 troops) grouped together as seven infantry armies, (1st, 3rd & 5th Guards, 13th, 18th, 38th & 60th Armies). (See Appendix 9).
Armoured and mechanised support for what was the most powerful single Front entity in the Red Army, was provided by a total of 2,041 tanks and self propelled guns. These were grouped together as three tank armies (1st Guards Tank, 3rd Guard tank and 4th Tank) and two independent Calvary Mechanised Groups named after their commanders 'Baranov' and 'Sokolov') which between them consisted of seven tank corps, 3 mechanised brigades, 4 separate tank brigades, 18 tank regiments, and 24 self propelled artillery regiments.
Operational support for the Front consisted of 9,797 guns and mortars (4,887 guns and 4,910 mortars - not including anti-aircraft guns ) grouped in 4 artillery divisions, 8 gun artillery brigades, 1 howitzer artillery brigade, 4 howitzer artillery regiments, 6 anti-tank [destroyer] brigades, 36 antitank artillery regiments, 19 mortar regiments, 1 mortar brigade, 4 guards mortar brigades and 14 guards mortar regiments.
These ground forces were complimented by 2nd Air Army which was comprised of nine aviation corps, three aviation divisions, four aviation regiments and four separate aviation squadrons. Altogether these disposed of 3,246 aircraft (679 bombers, 1,419 fighters, 1,046 assault [ground attack] aircraft and 102 reconnaissance and spotter planes).
Konev's own figures for the forces involved reveal only one significant discrepancy and this is the number of men under his command, which he cites as numbering 1,200,000 (or 357,000 more than is stated in the Soviet General Staff Report).
Defending the sector directly opposite the First Ukrainian Front stretching from the Prypiat marshes to the Carpathian Mountains, was Army Group North Ukraine now under the command of Generaloberst (Colonel-General) Joseph Harpe. This was comprised of the 4th and 1st Panzer Armies and the 1st Hungarian Army. Together these amounted to a total of thirty one German divisions (including four panzer) and twelve Hungarian light divisions or brigades, almost all of which were understrength, some quite significantly (the average size being between 7-9000 men).
The Army Group had approximately one hundred and eighty one tanks, (forty three of the tanks were within 4th Panzer Army), and additional self propelled guns, and limited Luftwaffe support. (see map 1 for disposition of forces as of 12th July, 1944).
There is some discrepancy over the actual fighting strengths of the German forces involved as quoted in the previously cited Soviet General Staff report especially with regard to armour and aircraft. Notwithstanding this, according to their own calculations the Red Army in this sector enjoyed an overall superiority, outnumbering the Germans 1.5 / 2 to 1, in artillery, tanks and quantity of divisions and by a ratio of 4.5 / 1 in aircraft, although these should be regarded as extremely conservative estimates.
Moreover, the German forces also had to contend with the considerable impact of the increasing activities of partisan units operating behind their lines, which disrupted communications and supplies to the frontline units.
The position of this already depleted Army Group had deteriorated significantly since the collapse of Army Group Centre. To partially compensate for the recent loss of most of its reserves, the decision was taken to divert the Galician Division to reinforce the front in the sector against which the full weight of the Soviet offensive was expected to fall.
Before returning to the HQ of AGNU to obtain fresh deployment orders, the Galician Division's Operations Officer Major Heike, informed Governor Wächter of the peremptory decision by the OKH to redeploy it at short notice in a different sector. Alarmed at the possible consequences of the new orders, which at a single stroke negated most of the concessions that he had won for the Division in relation to ensuring it a cautious introduction to combat, Wächter agreed with Major Heike to make urgent representations to get the orders revoked.
Proceeding to the Army Group headquarters, Major Heike was informed that the Galician Division had now been assigned to the XIII Army Corps (hereafter XIII.A.K.) of the 4th Panzer Army, which was established in position in the Brody district 96kms east of L'viv. Upon arrival, it was to occupy a secondary defensive line and as far as possible continue with its battle training.
The requests to rescind the standing orders met with some sympathy from the Army Group's staff. However, after recent developments on the Eastern Front they were not prepared to grant the Galician Division any special dispensation since its utilisation in the dire military situation took precedence over its propaganda value in terms of potential long term political developments. Under these circumstances all attempts by Governor Wächter and the Division's representatives to alter the decision inevitably resulted in failure.
In the meantime, on the 28th June orders were given for the bulk of the newly redesignated '14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (galizische Nr. 1)' to entrain for the Eastern Front. As it relied heavily on horse draft for its transportation and supply vehicles, the first unit to leave was the veterinary company under the command of SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Kopp, along with its equipment and a large quantity of hay. This was followed by other priority units including the anti-aircraft detachment commanded by SS-Sturmbannführer von Kuester, and SS-Obersturmbannführer Beyersdorffs' Artillery Regiment which proceeded to the Belys military railway station at Neuhammer and, oblivious to the witches cauldron into which they were about to be thrown, boarded trains and headed east. Thereafter a further four railway transports left each day.
In the wake of the Division's departure, on 15th July, 1944, the Training and Reserve Regiment which consisted of about seven thousand men, was transferred temporarily to the training facility at Wandern near Frankfurt an der Oder. It stayed here one month until 15th August before finally moving to Neuhammer, where it joined the personnel allocated to form the 3rd battalions of the three infantry regiments which had remained behind at the camp and the bulk of the personnel from the Galizischen SS-Freiwilligen Regiments 4 & 5.
To their great disappointment, another group of over two hundred Ukrainian soldiers mostly drawn from those who held administrative positions, also stayed behind having been selected to attend a five month unteroffizier (nco) course at a Wehrmacht run school in Laibach (Slovenia). Amongst this group the desire to join their companions who had left for the front in Galicia was so strong that they had to be kept under guard until the train arrived to transport them to the school.
A New Assignment
After a two day rail journey, on 30th June the first echelons arrived in the new district and detrained at the station in the town of Ozhydiv, where XIII.A.K. had its headquarters. The remaining transports followed over the course of the next few days. From Ozhydiv all arriving units proceeded to generally defined assembly areas.
The unloading of the Division's matériel took place day and night and was interrupted several times by the sudden appearance of Soviet aircraft in the vicinity of the station, seeking a vulnerable target. As a countermeasure, along with two 3.5 cm guns from XIII.A.K.s' Flak Rgt 33 deployed at the station on the wagon platform, the Division's battery of 8.8 cm anti-aircraft guns and several of its 2cm cannons were installed in, or close to the rail depot. Unloading was then resumed under the protection of the guns which were able to successfully contain most of the attacks, prevent any casualties and keep the level of damage to a minimum.
With the movement orders well underway, Governor Wächter summoned SS-Brigadeführer Freitag to attend a final meeting in L'viv. Now that the Division's deployment was completely beyond his influence, Wächter could only reiterate to Freitag the significance of the forthcoming engagement and remind him that the ultimate responsibility for its performance, was in his hands.
As they discussed the ramifications of the new battle orders in L'viv, Major Heike and his adjutant reported to the commander of XIII.A.K. General Artur Hauffe at his HQ in Ozhydiv for a briefing on the overall situation and the new instructions for the Division's tactical deployment. In his memoirs Major Heike states that neither the Corps commander nor his Chief of Staff Colonel Kurt Von Hammerstein knew anything about the as yet unblooded 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (galische Nr. 1) and both were dubious of its combat capabilities. To make matters worse, in contrast to General Raus, they also proved to be somewhat less inclined to make any allowances for its special needs and idiosyncrasies as a unit made up of foreign nationals.
The prospect of additional reinforcements in their sector, was however welcomed especially since all of XIII.A.K.s' Wehrmacht infantry divisions were at medium or minimum strength. Added to this the Galician Division was better armed and equipped than the Corps' other regular army formations, which was a further source of encouragement.
In his assessment of the situation, General Hauffe envisaged a Soviet advance on L'viv, in the event of which XIII.A.K. would be barring the way especially in the area of Zolochiv. Therefore, rather than a direct frontal attack against prepared German positions, the Soviets were expected to employ a pincer movement from the north and south of the Corps area. In this eventuality, the Galician Division, would be given the task of preventing any attempt at outflanking the Corps and if the German front was penetrated, it would be committed to a counterattack to close the resultant gap. Contrary to the standard German practice when confronted with possible encirclement, of breaking up divisions into individual units and deploying them as semi-autonomous groups, a special request was tendered that as a non German formation, it should always be deployed as a whole unit and remain under its Divisional command.
Evidently, the import of this request was not fully realised by the commanding General and his staff, as later events would prove with alarming clarity.
As part of the 4th Panzer Army, XIII.A.K. held a sector of the front that included the town of Brody and the outlying areas immediately to the north, south and east. Following a previous encirclement lasting from the end of March until mid April 1944, when the Corps had successfully held out until it was relived by a German counter-attack, from mid April until late June 1944, the Brody sector had remained quiet. This afforded the Germans the opportunity to recuperate and strengthen their positions. The Frontline known as the HKL (Hauptkampflinie - main line of resistance), had been well developed in an engineering sense with defenses echeloned to a depth of 6-8 kms. It consisted of three to four trench lines (the first being continuous and full profile) connected by a dense network of communications trenches, several rows of barbed wire entanglements, anti-tank and anti personnel mine fields and the same obstructions along likely tank axes. Mined obstacles were constructed in forest sectors and key bridges, roads and buildings were also prepared with explosive charges for demolition. More importantly work began on building a static defensive line in its rear area known as the Prinz Eugen Stellung (Prince Eugen defence position), within which the Galician Division was ordered to occupy the so called 'Rudolf Position' and having done so, continue with the construction of the defensive installations and emplacements.
In July 1944, XIII.A.K. consisted of:
A headquarters unit - based in Ozhydiv with a commanding general and his staff, support, rear echelon and supply services, together with attached Corps artillery group, anti-tank, and pioneer units, [total strength 555 ] and the following infantry units;
454th Security Division: [total strength 5,929 ] commanded by General Major Johannes Nettwig which was in position on the Corps left flank north of Stanyslavchyk,
361st Infantry Division: [total strength 10,131 ] under Knights Cross holder General Major Gerhard Lindemann which was in the centre of the Corps lines, west of Brody,
Korpsabteilung 'C': [total strength 11,312 ] under the command of General Major Wolfgang Lange composed of the 183rd, 217th, and 339th Division groups, (each at approximately regimental strength) which held the front around Boratyn & Hai Starobridski
Later, the 349th Infantry Division [total strength 10,588 ] commanded by Knights Cross holder Generalleutnant Otto Lasch, was attached to the Corps and covered its right flank near Shyshkivtsi.
These units were augmented by the assault guns of Sturmgeschutz-Brigade 249, and II./Flak Rgt 33 for anti-aircraft support which was added to the Corps strength at the beginning of July.
Lastly, there were the remaining garrison forces within the city of Brody itself which was comprised of the remnants of three infantry battalions with a combined strength of 743 men, Sicherheit Battalion Bauer and elements of the 361st Infantry Division including a Panzerjager Zug which altogether amounted to a further 1,352 men.
With the addition of the 15,299 men of the 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (galische Nr. 1) [which was designated as the Corps tactical reserve], XIII.A.K's total theoretical paper strength stood at approximately 55,100 men of which about 43,175 (including 11,000 from the Galician Division) were actually deployed in the field. On XIII.A.K.s' left was LVI Panzer Corps (4th Panzer Army) while on the right was LVIII Panzer Corps (1st Panzer Army) both of which had infantry divisions manning their fronts.
Based on information obtained from reconnaissance reports and the interrogation of Red Army prisoners, XIII.A.K. command anticipated an attack in its sector beginning in mid July.
No further reinforcements were available to the Corps, and any attack would have to be repulsed with minimal armoured support since the whole of the 4th Panzer Army had less than fifty operational tanks within its entire sector and their effectiveness was limited as they suffered from a crippling shortage of fuel. Likewise, critical air support would also be largely absent since much of the Luftwaffe had been diverted from the Eastern Front to cope with the Allied landings in Normandy and increasingly heavy British and American bombing raids on German cities and industrial targets.
So as to leave no doubt about the realities of the situation, in his command briefing General Hauffe revealed that the latest intelligence reports indicated massively unequal odds in terms of the known ratio of enemy to friendly forces in the vicinity of his weakened corps, that would in all probability render it inadequate for the task that it had been assigned.
****** ****** ******
By the end of the first week in July the last rail transports had arrived along with SS-Brigadeführer Freitag, who came to the district by car. Altogether, of the 15,299 men serving with the 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (galische Nr. 1) (consisting of 346 officers: 1,131 ncos, and 13,822 enlisted men), approximately 11,000 deployed at Brody. Of the officers, around 150 were Ukrainian. Freitag reported the arrival of all the Division's operational and administrative forces to the necessary authorities, after which its general staff allocated positions to individual sections which took up their places and began digging in (see map for location of units).
The terrain in the sector which XIII.A.K. was defending was mostly flat with the exception of the hills of Iaseniv and Pidhirtsi which were cut with the Seret and Buh river valleys. The soil was mainly rich loam which quickly became soaked during rainy periods. The area was heavily forested with small populated points - many situated in hollows - and punctuated with occasional swampy meadows. The abundance of forests and wooded groves provided ample natural cover especially from the air. Moreover the region had the additional benefit of further natural obstacles formed by three rivers; the Seret, the Styr and the lower reaches of the Buh. The road network was well developed, although the predominantly dirt roads became difficult to traverse after rain, especially for wheeled transport.
The Galician Division held a line anywhere between 10-12 kms from the HKL approximately 36 kms in length, running from S/W of Stanyslavchyk in the north to a point S/E of Iaseniv close to the Seret river in the south. (see map 2). Its three infantry regiments were placed in a linear disposition; Waffen-Grenadier-Regiment 31 (hereafter WGR 31) supported by the III artillery battalion was based in the area of Turie and assigned the northern flank; in position covering the centre near the village of Chekhy was WGR 30 supported by the II artillery battalion; while WGR 29 together with elements of the Panzerjäger (anti-tank) company took up position on the southern flank beside the village of Iaseniv.
The Divisions' headquarters was situated in the rear of the three infantry regiments between Sokolivka and Ozhydiv as were its supply and support units. The command post of the artillery battalion was established nearby in the vicinity of the village of Tsishky, a short distance from the IV heavy artillery battalion, while the anti-aircraft batteries were deployed in defence of strategic positions according to the capabilities of their weapons.
The forward most unit was the Fusilier Battalion which occupied a position in front of the Division's main line near Sukhodoly, east of the Styr River. This served as an intelligence unit, establishing observation points to monitor Soviet activities. Situated just behind the battalion to provide it with covering support was the I artillery battalion.
Bivouacked in the forest just outside Sokolivka, the Pioneer Battalion was assigned the task of felling trees and preparing materials for the other sections which had been ordered to build bunkers, trenches, gun positions and fortifications.
The 14.Feld Ersatz Bataillon commanded by SS-Hauptsturmführer Kleinow was one of the last units to arrive on 7th July. It was stationed furthest to the rear, some 20kms behind the Division's positions. Its four companies were located in the proximity of Krasne in the villages of Kutkir, (two companies) Kuduriawci and Bezbrody where they continued with their training.
As the Division occupied its sector, its German command staff were confronted by the acknowledged risks associated with using it on home territory. Because of previous experiences with the Ukrainian troops, the possibility of desertion to the ubiquitous UPA units which were known to be active in the area was considered to be a very real threat, more so because of the recent reoccupation of parts of eastern Galicia by the Soviets. There were also concerns about its employment in an area populated by both Ukrainians and Poles.
These anxieties were initially partly obviated by the fact that by order of the Corps command billeting in villages of operational units was strictly forbidden (because of attacks from Soviet aircraft), which required all units to set up quarters in wooded areas nearby. For the first two or three days contact with the population was also forbidden. Later this was relaxed and the soldiers quickly mingled with the local Ukrainian civilian population who referred to them as "our boys".
Cordial relations with the civilians engendered a number of benefits and enabled many to supplement their rations with food willingly provided by the villagers. Others, not wishing to place any further burden on the local population, chose instead to augment their dietary requirements by 'fishing' with hand-grenades in the nearby rivers.
In contrast, to meet their own supply needs, XIII.A.K.s' German units in the area formed 'requisitioning detachments' which forcibly procured cattle, pigs, sheep, grain and horses from the peasants (in exchange for worthless government bonds) leaving them with very little. This understandably gave rise to frictions with the Ukrainian soldiers who, upon learning of the seizures, often intervened with their weapons on behalf of the peasants. Thereafter, to avoid difficulties, further necessary requisitioning was undertaken with the assistance of the Galician Division.
While contact with the local population did not result in large scale desertions which the Germans had feared, it did facilitate the opening of communications between the local UPA units and almost all the Division's sub sections. This led to un-official co-operation between the two forces. For its part the UPA was able to furnish the Division with intelligence information regarding the strengths, dispositions and activities of the Red Army forces in the regions they had already occupied. In return the Division undertook the unauthorised provision of quantities of weapons, ammunition, supplies and uniforms to the UPA and even managed to undertake limited weapons training sessions with the insurgent personnel. The Division also recruited limited numbers of young men in the area without any military training whom the UPA had instructed to join, in an attempt to thwart the Soviet policy of conscripting all able bodied men in areas which they had re-occupied and sending them into battle with little, if any, training. A Waffen-Unterscharführer serving with WGR 29 recalled:
"On 2nd July, 1944 at 11.30am we [staff company WGR 29] entered the village of Iaseniv situated about 15kms south west of Brody which had become an important transport and communications centre for the German armies fighting in Ukraine. As a former member of 'Prosvita' (enlightenment) I had already visited the region in 1942-43 and had made many friends in the village. The population greeted us warmly and made us feel at home...in almost every house in the village you could find an UPA member. They were simple village boys, mostly farmers sons poorly trained and without ammunition, equipped mostly with revolvers....
The front was quiet for the first couple of weeks after our arrival, during which our two Unteroffiziers [nco’s] Krasij and Smyk used every spare minute to train the UPA recruits. At that time an [unofficial] agreement was reached between the Division and the local population whereby all the young men in the area with any sort of military training would join the UPA, while those without training were to join the division. On a single day 120 volunteers were registered at the HQ of the 29 Regiment and transported to [the Reserve battalion at] Krasne for training."
Throughout the first week in July the Division continued to establish itself within the so called 'Rudolf Position' which together with the 'Lange-Riegel' (Long Bolt) position formed part of the Prinz Eugen Stellung. All units were kept busy with a variety of tasks associated with its' envisaged role, defending a static defensive line. Anti-tank obstacles were erected and concealed, firing positions for guns of all sizes and calibres selected and cleared and infantry support weapons sited. The signals units laid telephone lines to regimental HQs' and the pioneers placed barbed wire barricades and laid minefields infront of the prepared positions. To avoid detection, at every opportunity supply work was carried out at night.
Since 6th July the Army Group had expected the Soviet attack to begin and consequently on this day all units of the XIII.A.K. were put on state of alert which gave fresh impetus to the work.
Regular reconnaissance missions were undertaken by small groups from all three infantry regiments. These served the dual purpose of assisting the Divisional command with establishing the location, strength and intentions of the enemy forces opposite, while at the same time enabling the Ukrainian soldiers to obtain battle training under front conditions.
As soon as it was practical, the heavy artillery battery under the command of Waffen-Sturmbannführer Palienko was brought into action in support of the Corps army units which were holding the frontline and in doing so gained valuable experience.
To improve their own occupied positions and determine the composition and strength of the German forces, the 1st Ukrainian Front's headquarters planned its own 'Razviedka boem' (reconnaissance -in-force). By the second week in July, this had translated into a noticeable increase in terms of Soviet air reconnaissance and long range artillery fire, activities which augured an imminent offensive. Advance patrols and attack groups infiltrated the German lines, sometimes to a depth of several kilometres which resulted in the outbreak of skirmishes some of which involved the forward most units of the Division.
Significantly, within XIII.A.K.s sector, based on available intelligence information, in the days proceeding the Soviet offensive, its Divisions' repeatedly reported to the Corp's HQ that they did not expect to find themselves facing the main thrust of the assault but rather a large scale holding attack on their section of the front.
"Kessel von Brody" (Encirclement at Brody)
The expected Soviet attack began on 13th July, a day earlier than originally planned with a minor action. XXXXII Corps of the 4th Panzer Army was given permission to withdraw, covered by strong rearguards, from a bulge toward Torchyn to shorten the German line. Marshal Konev promptly followed up this move by ordering Gordov's 3rd Guards Army to pursue the retiring units. Assisted by air formations from the 1st Guards and 5th Assault Aviation Corps which flew 664 sorties on this day against the withdrawing units and various strong points, the forward battalions from units of 3rd Guards Army and 13th Army, with armoured and artillery support, successfully overcame the foremost German defensive line and gained several kilometres of ground.
The next day the First Ukrainian Front launched its main offensive with two blows falling in decisive sectors adjacent to XIII.A.K., where the Soviets had concentrated the bulk of their infantry, cavalry and mechanised forces; to the north near Horokhiv and to the south in the vicinity of Nusche.
In the northern sector, following the earlier successes of the forward elements, the assault began with a twofold objective; delivering an attack along the Stoinaiv / Kaminka Strumilova axis which would envelop the German forces west of Brody from behind; and developing the offensive towards the ultimate objective of Rava Russka.
Having successfully pierced the German front line near Horokhiv, a part of 13 Army's infantry forces, accompanied by hundreds of tanks and aircraft, quickly began to push south west towards the northern perimeter of XIII.A.K. in the general direction of Radekhiv.
On 14th July, sub units of the 291st and 340th Infantry Divisions, fell back and hastily occupied part of the Prinz Eugen Stellung. Simultaneously, in an attempt to restore the front 4th Panzer Army counterattacked with two Panzer divisions hitherto held in reserve, - 16th and 17th - (which between them could deploy only 43 serviceable tanks) against the enemy penetration in the Horokhiv and Druzhkopil region. Even with the limited support of German bombers, before they could make any significant headway the counter-attack was halted by vastly superior forces. The 3rd Guards Army and Putkov's 13th Army inflicted heavy personnel and equipment losses on these panzer units and on the 291st & 340th Infantry Divisions, leaving the Soviets free to continue their advance and expand on the breakthrough.
Over the next three days Marshal Konev further consolidated the initial gains on the northern flank of XIII.A.K., adding further infantry, mechanised and tank divisions (including Lieutenant General Baranov's Cavalry Mechanised Group and then Colonel General Katukov's 1st Guards Tank Army), which poured through the gap which had been created. Baranov's Cavalry Mechanised Group which moved into the penetration sector under the protection of an umbrella of aircraft from 2nd Air Army, immediately advanced to the south-west to fulfil its assignment of capturing Kaminka Strumilova and seizing and holding a bridgehead on the western bank of the Buh river. The execution of this manoeuvre was intended to block the retreat path of XIII.A.K., and other German forces west of Brody while concurrently preventing them from receiving any further reinforcement.
The Soviet offensive in the south and breakthrough
in the area of Sasiv - Zolochiv
Events on XIII Army Corps' southern flank followed a similar course. As it was here that the Galician Division was sent into action, what ensued in this sector will be related in greater detail.
On the 14th July, in conjunction with the Soviet strike on the northern flank, a second offensive thrust commenced at the juncture of the 1st and 4th Panzer Armies, which threatened to split them apart and encircle XIII.A.K.
While the frontal attacks on the 14th July against the positions of Korpsabteilung C (hereafter abbreviated K.A.C.) were successfully repulsed, further to the south the Soviet 38th and 60th Armies under Generals Moskalenko and Kurochkin respectively, attacked at the weakest point of the front where the 349th & the 357th Infantry Divisions met. In preparation, an extraordinarily heavy, concentrated and continuous artillery barrage took place during the afternoon in concert with a powerful air strike delivered by 618 bombers and ground attack aircraft of 2nd Air Army aimed against the main centres of defense (for 50 minutes between 15.40-16.30 hours, there were more than 1,000 aircraft continually above the battlefield in 38th and 60th Armies' penetration sectors).
The assault that followed in 60th Army's offensive sector, led by the infantry divisions of the 15th and 23rd Rifle Corps, fell on the 349th Infantry Division (especially its southernmost unit - the 913th Regiment), whose forward positions were quickly fragmented and overrun. In the next few hours the 913th Regiment sustained what its subsequent battle report described as "heavy losses in both men and weapons" and was reduced to a mere fraction of its original strength. The 349th Infantry Division's Fusilier Battalion which was initially deployed infront of the 913th Regiment was according to the same report "totally destroyed" and several of the Division's artillery batteries sited in the vicinity were either destroyed or had to be abandoned and later fell into enemy hands intact. The remnants of these battered units, formed into ad-hoc battlegroups, were forced to retreat in violent fighting to the west, under constant harassment by enemy aircraft which were active until sunset.
The explanation offered for the 349th Infantry Division's failure to hold the front as cited in it's subsequent battle report was given as follows;
"Reasons for the breach
1. Intense bombardments, constant heavy air attacks. No action from our own Luftwaffe and meagre quantity of ammunition, much too insufficient for a major counterattack.
2. Far too wide defense front (4-6 km per btl). Consequently; total engagement of all infantry and weapons in the front line, scant reserves.
3. At the outset, immediate severe initial losses in men and heavy weapons
4. Destruction of communications network
5. The right flank was surrounded for hours, so that the positions of the right wing, despite its weak force, had to be re-shaped and lengthened."
Once they had broken through the prepared German positions, the 60th and 38th Armies' continued their advance towards Zolochiv and Sasiv - by so doing driving a wedge between XIII.A.K. and its right hand neighbour XXXXVIII Panzer Corps.
First counterattack by 14. Waffen-Gren.-Div. der SS (galische Nr. 1)
and 1. & 8. Panzer Divisions fails
The German command responded to this development by committing its tactical reserves comprising of the 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (galische Nr. 1), and the 1st & 8th Panzer Divisions, at once.
In rigid accordance with German military doctrine, XIII.A.K. command ordered part of its reserve to reinforce the positions of the 349th Infantry Division. The Galician Division's Waffen-Grenadier-Regiment 30 (hereafter WGR-30) with artillery support was removed from its own command, subordinated directly to the Corps command and ordered to move out of its reserve position to assist the 349th Infantry Division in halting the penetration to the east of the village of Koltiv. The rest of the Galician Division was placed on full alert but remained in place.
Because of the urgency of the order, WGR-30 had no alternative than to begin its advance without either the Divisional staff or the regimental commander SS-Obersturmbannführer Forstreuter, having had time to familiarise themselves with the terrain in the projected area of engagement. As the regiment set out it received its baptism of fire from enemy aircraft which strafed its marching columns, inflicting casualties, destroying vehicles and halting its advance. Then came the first encounters with the disorderly groups of retreating veteran German infantry from the shattered units of the 349th Infantry Division which had been holding the frontline. A Ukrainian platoon commander from 3/I/WGR 30, wrote;
"On 14 July the 30th Regiment according to orders, had to march and occupy the front lines in the Koltiv region because of the break in the German lines by the Soviets. It was a hot day and marching was very difficult. Reaching Pidhirci shortly after noon the regiment encountered heavy bombardment and aircraft attacks which continued for more than three hours prohibiting it from moving. By evening and in heavy rain the regiment started to move again. Towards morning it passed Sasiv [turned east towards Koltiv] and had to plough through German soldiers running away from the front. Some were without weapons, many shouting that the Russians were not far behind and that we should turn back, some were sitting and staring, some were even crying. This was a very demoralising example especially for our soldiers from the 'Galician Division' who had never seen real fighting and its cruelties."
Nevertheless, another Ukrainian grenadier from the same regiment who was present recalled the self-belief that still pervaded as they moved into attack;
"It was still early in the morning when we marched through Koltiv, smouldering houses corpses of civilians here and there ...and worried villagers especially women who brought us delicious curdled milk which we drank with great pleasure while marching. Right after the village the road went onto wild forest and there we were confronted by soldiers - some on horse wagons, others running fast on foot towards and then passed us, always looking back. Some were tending their wounds while they were running. It was not a pleasant experience for us freshly arrived from our peaceful base at Neuhammer but (although I am sure not many will admit it) this was the Wehrmacht fleeing (we called them "brotboitli" ) not us Waffen-SS, we'll show them how to behave in the front lines! How naive we were."
Once it had reached its line of deployment, on the morning of 15th July at around 8.00am, in a wooded area in the vicinity of the villages of Koltiv and Lukavets', its two infantry battalions and support units came into contact with Red Army units. Before the Ukrainians had even properly deployed, Soviet infantry accompanied by numerous T34 tanks and Ilyushin fighter planes attacked inflicting heavy casualties. Thereafter WGR-30 set about a desperate attempt to close the breach.
No sooner had the battle begun than the Regiment was beset in the most part by exactly the same problems that the 349th Infantry Division had experienced the previous day. The extended length of the position the regiment occupied meant its individual companies were spread out which in turn undermined their effectiveness. The essential communications links between the regimental headquarters and battalion commanders, were virtually non existent and those that were available were only usable for a short period. Added to this, throughout the day the front in this sector remained fluid preventing its artillery battalion from providing effective support for the infantry. Although the insertion of the WGR-30 relieved the pressure on the weakened 349th Infantry Division, outnumbered three to one, armed only with light infantry support weapons and without any air cover, it was predictably unable accomplish its mission. Despite this, it is to the credit of the regimental commander SS-Obersturmbannführer Forstreuter and his surviving officers that some companies although heavily depleted, did at least manage to narrow the gap although by doing so suffered further significant losses in manpower and matériel.
The report later given by the Chief Operations Officer of the veteran 349th Infantry Division which had itself been routed almost at once, perhaps to mitigate its own failings, gives a highly critical evaluation of the Galician Division's early contribution to the fighting;
"15th July... the  Division was reinforced by part of the SS-Freiwilligen Division "Galizien" [sic] whose weaponry was first class but whose fighting value was zero. In the following days, the best equipment fell into Russian [Soviet] hands because the Galicians, with only a few exceptions were unable to withstand any Russian [Soviet] attacks and represented a burden for our infantry. It must however be taken into account that this was a newly established non-German unit, not battle hardened, which was first deployed during a retreat and was therefore particularly vulnerable to the material superiority of the Russians [Soviets] in this area."
The same day, in conjunction with the attack by WGR-30, 1st Panzer Army (as 4th Panzer Army had previously done), ordered its mobile tactical reserve consisting of the 1st & 8th Panzer Divisions to strike at the Soviet spearhead The German command was very confident that these two powerful veteran formations would repair the broken front and re-establish contact with XIII.A.K.
The counterattack by 1st Panzer Division which was executed with perfect smoothness, caught the 38th Army by surprise, penetrated it's left flank in the vicinity of Oliiv and temporarily threw back it's combat formations 2-4 kms in several sectors.
In marked contrast, a little further to the west only a small part of the 8th Panzer Division actually managed to engage the enemy in the region of Kruhiv before being forced into XIII.A.K.'s area. The Soviet General Staff report on the battle states that air reconnasiance revealed the concentration area of the approaching tanks and to pevent any further incursions into 38th Army's flank, Konev, who recognised the threat that the German armoured formations posed, immediately ordered the 2nd Air Army commander Colonel General S. A. Krasovsky "to destroy the enemy tank grouping by large scale attacks from bombers and assault aircraft". In compliance with this order, 2nd Air Army delivered bombing and assault strikes against the panzer divisions located north and north east of Zborov. A total of 1,848 sorties were completed during the afternoon of 15th July, during which 17,200 bombs of different types were dropped and 1,700 rocket missiles and 83,000 conventional missiles were launched - a total of 716 tons - on the German armour in an area of only 7 square kilometres. As a result of this 1st Panzer Division sustained considerable losses in both tanks and personnel, and was forced to disengage from the fighting to withdraw and reorganise. The brunt of the 8th Panzer Division fared far worse. The commander of this Division had disregarded his explicit instructions to advance on a carefully reconnoitred route through a wooded area. Instead, to save time he moved his forces along the main road Zolochiv / Zborov road, which he had been expressly forbidden to do. Caught in transit on an open road it suffered what were described as "devastating losses" and as long columns of tanks and lorries went up in flame all hopes of closing the gap in the front at the first attempt evaporated.
In the aftermath of the combat on 14th-15th July, in the southern sector the Soviets had achieved a small but decisive breakthrough which the Front Commander Marshall Konev was determined to exploit. The armoured vanguards followed by the infantry pushed through the villages of Harbuziv, Perepelnyky, Iwaczow, Nushche and Trostianets' Malyi until they reached the main paved road at Pluhiv, along which the strong armoured and mechanised units advanced towards Zolochiv In so doing they formed a narrow corridor approximately 16 kms long and 6kms wide between XIII.A.K.s' southern flank and the hastily restored defensive positions on the northern flank of XXXXVIII Corps.
At the end of the day XIII.A.K. together with sizeable parts of the 340th Infantry Division and the 349th Infantry Division which had become separated from their respective parent Corps, was isolated from its neighbouring Corps to both the north and south. Moreover the failure of the counterattacks meant that German offensive capabilities had been sharply reduced.
Creation and expansion of the 'Koltiv Corridor'/ further
attempts to close the gap / remainder of the Galician Division committed /
withdrawal to the Prinz Eugen Stellung.
By the morning of the 16th July, the Soviet Front command had shifted the main weight of the attack to the southern sector where the progress of their offensive had been slower, especially in the area of 38th Army where German resistance had "succeeded in upsetting 38th Army's offensive and extremely complicating its operations on subsequent days". To accelerate the penetration of the German defensive positions, Konev had already begun moving substantial fresh veteran armoured and infantry reinforcements into what became known as the 'Koltiv corridor' which was constantly being expanded in a west and north-westerly direction. The main forces of General Pavlo Rybalkos' elite 3rd Guards Tank Army, (6th & 7th Guards Tank Corps and 9th Mechanised Corps) were committed into the corridor between Koltiv and Trostianets' Malyi (ultimately over 1,000 Soviet tanks and self-propelled guns were to pass through it). The narrow sector and lack of roads forced the army's formations to move westwards along a single route in a continuous compact column in the general direction of Krasne. This placed them in an extremely vulnerable position, although this was largely offset by the presence of aviation in the form of large fighter formations which supported the insertion of the mobile forces into the existing penetration area.
Hoping to take advantage of the difficult Soviet situation and fearing the arrival of large tank and mechanised forces in its rear areas, the German command continued to counterattack throughout the day in an attempt to liquidate the spearhead.
XIII.A.K. which was threatened with the prospect of complete encirclement, began by strengthening the precarious position on its right flank. To achieve this, the Galician Division's two remaining regiments (WGR's 29 & 31) together with their artillery support units and other combat elements which constituted the last of its tactical reserve, were belatedly committed (see map 3). Under the direct command of XIII.A.K.s' staff, they received orders to abandon the defensive positions they had built and join up with the battered remains of WGR-30 in the field. In the first stage they were to move to their assembly area to the south of Pidhirtsi, after which they were to advance towards the front in a south-easterly direction.
As an added contingency measure, on the morning of 16th July, because of the rapidly worsening situation in this sector, XIII.A.K., also ordered the creation of a blocking force composed of elements of the K.A.C. This blocking force, commanded by Major Lawatsch, was given the task of securing the line Pobocz, - Maidan Peniatsky, - Zharkiv.
Even before either of these tactical manoeuvres had been effected, by midday on 16th it had already become apparent that by virtue of the enemy's immense superiority and the rapidity of the advance the preventative measures taken to contain the Soviet thrust in the south were in vain. Following the fall of Zolochiv, it was clear that a large scale retreat would be necessary if XIII.A.K. was to have any hope of avoiding complete encirclement. Thus the units on Corp's left flank (454th Security Division, 361st Infantry Division, & K.A.C.), received orders to withdraw to the unmanned Prinz Eugen Stellung. The orders specified unequivocally that the withdrawal was not to begin until 24.00hrs on the night of the 16/17 July by which time Major Lawatschs' blocking force and the Galician Division would be in position. The heavy weapons and rear echelon units were to relocate to the woods south of Ozhydiv, to be followed by combat elements and rearguard which were to conduct a fighting withdrawal only when they were under severe enemy pressure.
The 349th Infantry Division which had been unable to hold the Prinz Eugen Stellung in its sector, was also instructed to disengage from the enemy and withdraw to the general line Koltiv-Opaky-Huta Verkobuzka. Retirement to new positions offered XIII.A.K.'s command distinct advantages, the primary strategic intention behind this move being to narrow the front thereby freeing up part of its forces. These could then be re-grouped and utilised in accordance with the demands of the developing situation.
The withdrawal to the section of the Prinz Eugen Stellung stretching from Stanislawcyk to Wolochy by the 361st Infantry Division, 454th Security Division and K.A.C. proceeded according to plan. XIII.A.K., then ordered the 361st Infantry Division to form a Kampfgruppe from its reserve battalion (Kampfgruppe Haid ) for despatch by truck to the area east of Sasiv and then to Koltiv to assist the 349 Infantry Division in an attack scheduled for the following morning.
Further to the south, the Koltiv sector was comparatively quiet in comparison with the ferocity of the fighting of the previous two days, and had begun to stabilise to a degree partly because of the reorganisation of the Soviet forces in the area. During a temporary lull in the fighting, the two surviving regiments (911th & 912th) of the 349th Infantry Division, along with the remnants of its other sub-units and their heavy weapons, were able to pull back to its new line without significant difficulty.
Behind the front, on 16th July the progress of the Galician Division's WGR's 29 and 31 and other combat support units as they proceeded separately by forced march towards Pidhirtsi, was severely retarded by attacks from the ever present dive bombers and fighter planes. Upon reaching their staging area, without any appreciable rest or respite, both regiments were transferred ahead to the front and in the evening moved out separately for an attack.
WGR 29 proceeded towards Maidan and Huta Peniatska, while WGR 31st moved further south and deployed in the vicinity of Verkhobuzh, Opaky and Koltiv. Here the Ukrainian infantry found little evidence of the 349th Infantry Division and K.A.C. which were supposed to be holding the front. In several cases, individual elements of these Wehrmacht units had, contrary to their explicit orders, rather expeditiously already started to leave their emplacements a few hours before and retire westwards. As a result of this, several of the Galician Division's combat units became embroiled in sporadic battles in the wooded areas around, Peniaky, Opaky and Verkhobuzh during the night of the 16th / 17th with elements of the Soviet 15th and 23rd Rifle Corps.
WGR-30, which had lost almost half of its total strength in its first engagement including all of its Ukrainian company commanders killed, wounded or missing by now was temporarily no longer effective as a cohesive fighting unit. Consequently it was withdrawn from the front and pulled back for reorganisation to Ruda Koltowska behind the northern bank of the Buh river. Here as well as being used as the Divisional reserve, it was assigned the task of clearing the surrounding woods of the enemy infiltration’s and securing the main Koltiv - Sasiv road.
17/18 July: Korpsabteilung 'C' split up for emergency assignments/
final attempt to close the gap, all units engaged at the front.
By dawn on 17th July, XIII.A.K., had moved into its new position and re-grouped its forces. Korps Abteilung C now occupied the centre of XIII.A.K.s' lines facing north east. To its' left was the 361st Infantry Division (less Kampfgruppe Haid) at the railway line 1.5km north east of Zabolotsi and to its' right the Galician Division at the forest tip, 1.5km south-west of Wolochy. While two of the K.A.C.s' Divisional groups held the front, Div. Gr.339 with artillery support, was withdrawn and received the order to reconnoitre in a southward direction over Bilyi Kamin' for an attack on Pochapy and Zhulychi. For this the Lawatsch blocking force was dissolved.
Around midday on the 17th July, K.A.C. was also ordered to move its Fusilier Battalion into the vicinity of Iaseniv, to secure the main road in this area and counter a renewed Soviet strike towards Maidan. To the north of this sector where the I & II battalions of the Galician Division's WGR 29 were deployed, the brunt of the attacks were principally carried out by the reinforced 68th Guards Rifle Division (of 23rd Rifle Corps) led by expendable penal battalions suitably primed with extra vodka rations. A Waffen-Unterscharführer recalled the attack:
"On Monday July 17th our unit [staff company 29th Regiment] under the command of SS-Obersturmführer Weiss along with the 8th heavy company under the command of Waffen-Obersturmführer Yaskevych was ordered to counter-attack against the Soviet units which had virtually wiped out our 1st battalion. For this we were armed with MG 42's, rifles, hand-grenades and Panzerfausts.
We marched through Hayi Dubecki in an easterly direction. On the way we came across wagons loaded with dead and wounded.....Leaving the company under the command of Waffen-Unterscharführer Levko, SS-Obersturmführer Weiss took a group of 22 men and heading south east towards Zharkiv reached the edge of a wood where a small unit of the 1st battalion was holding out under attack and heavily outnumbered by two companies of Soviets.
From our concealed position we watched the Soviets attack, against all military training in tight formation stumbling and shouting obscenities. With cries of U-r-r-a! the drunken ranks of the Soviets were advancing one after the other not even bothering to fall to the ground and take cover. We waited in silence until they got to within 100 metres of us and then opened fire from the flank with seven MG 42's. They were taken completely by surprise and within minutes the remaining Soviets were fleeing in panic into the wood leaving some fifty corpses on the battlefield. We advanced another 200 metres or so and tried to make contact with the unit which had been holding out. By now the sun had set and the evening air was heavy with the smell of alcohol from the dead Soviets.... Our fighting unit had secured the defensive positions of the first battalion. This was the first and last successful engagement of the staff company unit."
WGR 31 was similarly locked in combat throughout the day and the following night with the 99th Rifle Division (23rd Rifle Corps) and elements of the 336th Rifle Division (15th Rifle Corps) in the vicinity of Opaky, Verkhobuzh and Koltiv. In both cases, the Division's Pioneer Battalion, Panzerjäger Abteilung and Fusilier Battalion, were used to reinforce weak points and localities in which the fierce Soviet assaults were particularly heavy and where the local Polish population was, as had been anticipated sometimes hostile to the Ukrainian soldiers as evidenced in this account;
"I was a Waffen-Oberschutze serving with the independent 'Panzerjäger' [anti-tank] company under the command of SS-Obersturmführer Rader which was occupying a position about 2kms east of Iaseniv ...at three or four pm our platoon received orders to pack up and move to a position about twenty km's to the east. We travelled on the roads and across country in our 'Raupenschlepper Ost' (caterpillar tractors) towing our anti-tank guns to the village of Huta Peniatska. Here our platoon was deployed in a cemetery as infantry support for two companies of Ukrainian fusiliers.
At first light we came under heavy mortar fire from the Soviets. Then, with cries of OORAHH! two Red Army battalions mounted a frontal bayonet charge. When they were five hundred metres infront of us we opened fire using anti-personnel shells as very effective direct fire artillery. We continuously shortened our range, until finally we were firing over open sights. Eventually we could not fire for fear of hitting our two Ukrainian companies which counter-attacked. The Soviets stopped, started to return automatic fire and began to withdraw in disorder to a village. We opened fire again, but a few minutes later our platoon was ordered to retreat to our Company HQ in Iaseniv leaving the infantry behind. The battle had lasted about two hours.
In the afternoon, somewhere between Huta Peniatska and Iaseniv we stopped in a clearing in the forest. While our platoon commander tried to get further instructions by radio we came under mortar fire which stopped after we shot the observer whom we located in a tree. We received instructions to proceed to the village of Maidan. We arrived there in the late afternoon and stayed there overnight. At three or four o'clock in the morning we were attacked by Soviet infantry. Our platoon was ordered to retreat while the Ukrainian infantry in the village covered our withdrawal. In the excitement the driver of my tractor caught the wheel of the gun against a tree. I ordered him to back up which he did with such force that he 'Jack-knifed' and the bracket attaching the gun to the truck - which was already cracked - broke.
I ran to the first house and asked a man in Ukrainian to give me some chains so I could attach the gun to the truck. He answered in Polish "I don't have chains". The same thing happened at the next two houses and I realised that it was a Polish village. When I returned empty handed to my men who had come under fire, one of them had already been killed. I was confused - my men who were farmers sons themselves told me that there is no such thing as a farmer who doesn't have a chain, so I ran back to the first house and put a pistol to the farmers head and said "either I have the chains in five seconds or you are dead." He gave me the chains and we attached the gun to the tractor with them. Unfortunately by that time (5.00am) Maidan was in Soviet hands and when we started to move through the village we received machine gun fire from houses and windows on all sides. I ordered the men to fire panzerfausts at the houses which burst into flame and in the confusion we managed to slip through the village and back to Iaseniv where the panzerjager company reassembled and received some food and supplies."
To the rear of the front line, the Division's artillery batteries struggled to manoeuvre into new firing positions in support of the infantry, on the earth roads which, already badly damaged by bombardments, were transformed into mud by heavy rain which began on the night of 16/17th July. The support and medical units experienced the same difficulties as they persevered to maintain ammunition supplies and evacuate the constant stream of wounded to casualty clearing stations on roads where motor vehicles and horsedrawn supply carts sank up to their axles and fatigued the horses. From its headquarters situated in a small wood a few kms south of Oles'ko, in the centre of its lines, the Division's staff maintained contact with all its individual sub-units and co-ordinated their movements and actions in an endeavour to comply with the directives that it had been given in what was later described as "the most difficult and most unclear frontal sector of the Corps".
Elsewhere in the south on the 17th July, the 349th Infantry Division reinforced with Kampfgruppe Haid had been ordered to attack to retake the Prinz Eugen Stellung in the vicinity of Kruhiv-Peniaky. The attack began as planned but quickly ran into strong Soviet defensive positions supported by heavy JS-2 [Joseph Stalin- 2] tanks. Although some progress was made, with only local reinforcement and minimal armoured backing from a handful of self propelled guns and tanks, the infantry units found themselves in an identical situation to the Ukrainians and were quickly pinned down and unable to move. A strong Soviet counter-thrust captured Huta Verkobuzka which the 349th Infantry Division was unable to retake, and when darkness fell on 17th July, the attack ground to a halt.
Once again, XIII.A.K.'s command had overestimated the capabilities of its forces, none of which had been able to achieve their objectives in this difficult sector where the course of the front line was in a constant state of flux.
***** ***** *****
Following the failure of the attempt to retake control of the south eastern most part of the Corps' area, during the night of the 17/18 July K.A.C.s' Divisional Gruppe 339 reinforced with artillery and six self propelled guns, was given fresh instructions to make a renewed effort to seal off the area of enemy penetration in the south. Divisional Gruppe 339 was ordered to march in a southward direction until it reached Ruda Koltowska. Here it was to attach itself to the 349th Infantry Division. Both units were then to attack southward to take the village of Obertasiv where they were to join with the 8th Panzer Division which had reorganised and was still assumed to be striking northward, to re-establish a solid front.
Although Divisional Gruppe 339 and elements of the 349th Infantry Division managed to achieve their objective and reach their destination - the high ground north of Obertasiv - on the morning of 18th, the attack by the 8th Panzer Division which had been placed under the command of Major-General Von Mellenthin, had to be aborted when for the second time direct orders were disobeyed, this time by the commander of the panzer regiment, thereby preventing it from reaching the target area.
Simultaneously, K.A.C.s' Fusilier Battalion had received fresh orders from XIII.A.K., to advance from its assembly area south of Maidan, and with the support of two self propelled guns, retake the village of Huta Verkobuzka. On its right flank were elements of the Galician Division whose combat units were still heavily immersed in trying to gain control of the forested area and eliminate the numerous infiltrations with local counterattacks.
In the extremely dense woodland south of Maidan, contact between the Fusilier Battalion of K.A.C. and elements of the Galician Division on its immediate right was soon lost. The battered units of the Galician Division which had re-committed WGR-30, confronted by an enemy equipped with liberal quantities of ubiquitous fighter planes, tanks, heavy artillery and mortars, made little impact on the attacking Soviet forces in its area of operations. Unable to overcome far stronger opposition and following bitter close combat with heavy losses, its units were forced to break off their engagement and retreat. It then received fresh orders to set up a blockade of the Iaseniv and Sasiv valleys and not to allow the enemy passage into the surrounding woodlands and XIII.A.Ks' rear.
With its right flank exposed, the Fusilier Battalion of K.A.C. found itself in an untenable position, and it too fell back to Maidan under cover of darkness.
Against manifestly unequal odds, XIII.A.K.'s last attempt to seal the gap created by the Soviet advance in the south and link up with the relief forces, had failed. As a result the Prinz Eugen Stellung had to be abandoned and XIII.A.K.'s left wing had to be bent back to form a front facing north.
General Hauffe still did not appreciate the full danger or the radically worsening operational situation. As prisoners subsequently revealed "Many officers reported to General Hauffe (XIII.A.K. commander) about his forces' situation and expressed the opinion that he should withdraw, but the general demanded that they hold out in the hope that help would arrive".
The meeting of the Soviet pincers at Busk / escape
of supply units / encirclement is completed.
As this was taking place, alarming news arrived at the Galician Division's HQ that its supply and reserve units stationed about 15 kms to the rear, had come under attack from the leading elements of the Soviet assault forces near Krasne and were therefore retreating westwards. The 14.Feld Ersatz Bataillon managed to disengage with minimal casualties and hurriedly escaped ahead of the approaching tanks after abandoning its few heavy weapons and most of its equipment as did several of XIII.A.K.'s other supply and support units situated furthest to the rear. Their comrades further to the east were not however so fortunate.
By the end of 17th July Lieutenant General Baranov's Cavalry Mechanised Group of the northern pincer had captured Kaminka-Strumilova, deep in the rear of XIII.A.K., and having dispersed an attack by two German infantry divisions - 20th Panzer Grenadier Division and 100th Jäger Divisions in the area, threw a detachment forward to the Derevliany region. Here, on the 18th, the 2nd Guards Cavalry Division (from Baranov's Group) linked up with the 71st Mechanised Brigade of the 3rd Tank Army in the south, whose forces had occupied the important road junction at Busk at noon on the same day. Before maintaining its westward advance, the latter left part of its forces (71st Mechanised Brigade, 50th Motorcycle Regiment and the 91st Separate Tank Brigade) in a strong screen along the northern bank of the Buh from Sasiv to Derevliany facing north and