The Eltigen bridgehead

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The Eltigen bridgehead

Post by Victor » 12 Jan 2003 14:28

I wrote this for somebody on the feldgrau forum, but I thought that there might people interested about the subject here also. So here it is:

In September 1943 the Axis evacuated its forces in the Taman bridgehead to Crimea and started to prepare for the next Soviet assault.

In the night of 31 October/1 November Red Army troops landed south of Kerch and quickly took over village Eltigen. The bridgehead was widened the next day to about 4.5 km and had a depth of 1.5-2 km. Eltigen was in the sector of the 98th German Infantry Division. It was reinforced with a Romanian cavalry detachment from the 6th Cavalry Division: the "Mr. Horia" Detachment (3 cavalry squadrons, 1 MG platoon, 1 battery, one AT platoon). By 5 November the Axis forces managed to contain the Soviet bridgehead. They now had to eliminate it. The 10th Motorized Rosiori (cavalry) Regiment was also assigned to the German unit, for this operation. However, the assault, which was carried out on 7 November, failed.

Because the Red Army made another landing, this time NE of Kerch, the situation was becoming critical for the 98th Division, which also had to defend that sector. The German 5th Corps decided to move the whole Division to face the new threat. The Eltigen bridgehead was going to be taken over by the Romanian 6th Cavalry Division, which was deployed there from 14 November. Initially its mission was to defend against any possible Soviet attacks, but the German command later requested that the bridgehead be eliminated.

After the return of brig. gen. Corneliu Teodorini, the division's CO, the date for the assault was set for 4 December. The division was going to be reinforced with two battalions from the 3rd Mountain Division, one German StuG battalion, 12 German artillery batteries and will also benefit from the support of the Romanian 3rd Dive Bomber Group.

The attack began at 5:00 after a five minute artillery barrage. Only the right wing of the Romanian forces managed to advance. On the left the Soviets put up a heavy resistance, especially near the state farm and on hill 56.7, where they had a pillbox.

The next day, the division continued its attack, on three directions. The main push was made from west to east, from the state farm towards the lighthouse south of Eltigen. From the positions gained the previous day, two attacks were going to be launched: one towards west, in the rear of Soviet positions, and the other from south to north, aiming to clear the southern part of the bridgehead.

The 2nd Squadron/10th Motorized Rosiori Regiment managed to take the pillboxes north of hill 56.7. Thus gen. Teodorini ordered the all-out assault to begin. The forces were split into two groups:

1. Group "Col. Pasa": 9th Rosiori Regiment, 4th Squadron/5th Calarasi Regiment, 1st and 3rd Squadron/10th Motorized Rosiori Regiment, 14th MG Battalion and one German StuG battery. Its mission was to attack towards the lighthouse and then take the heights north of it.

2. Group "Lt. Col. Portasescu": 10th Motorized Rosiori Regiment (without the 1st and 3rd Squadron), 5th and 10th Mountain Battalion, two German StuG batteries. Its mission was to take the state farm and then advance towards the lighthouse.

By nightfall (at 15:30) the state farm had been taken, but the Soviet forces at the lighthouse were still holding out.

The division was reorganized into three groups for the battle on 6 December:

1. Group "Col. Pasa": 9th Rosiori Regiment, 4th Squadron/5th Calarasi Regiment and one German StuG battery. Its mission was to assault the hill 37.4

2. Group "Lt. Col. Portasescu": 10th Motorized Rosiori Regiment and one German StuG battery. Its mission was to advance occupy the lighthouse and advance towards the heights east of hill 37.4

3. Group "Lt. Col. Borislavski": 5th and 10th Mountain Battalion. Its mission was to take Eltigen, by attacking on the seaside.

The 14th MG Battalion was going to provide support for all three groups.

The vanatori de munte managed to enter Eltigen after heavy fighting. By 14:00 the lighthouse was also taken by lt. col. Portasescu, who started to advance towards the heights north of it. During the night, a group of Soviet troops managed to penetrate through the Romanian lines (14th MG Battalion) and flee towards north.

On 7 December, at 5:30 gen. teodorini ordered the final assault to begin. The 14th MG Battalion took the hill 37.4 along with may POWs, lt. col. Portasescu continued his advance, while col. Pasa took the heightd north of Eltigen. At 7:00 all objectives had been taken and the remaining Soviet forces were surrendering. At 7:15, gen. Teodorini reported to the German 5th Corps that "the Eltigen bridgehead was no more".

The 6th Cavalry Division had suffered 381 casualties (68 KIA and 313 WIA) and the 3rd Mountain Division (the 5th and 10th Battalions) suffered 484 casualties. 2,294 POWs were taken, along with 35 artillery pieces, 21 MGs, 35 mortars, 39 LMGs. The number of dead and wounded was also high.

The Soviet forces that managed to escape took refuge on the Mithridate Hill, south of Kerch. The Romanian troops eliminated this last stronghold on 11 December and captured 820 POWs, one AT gun, 60 MGs, 17 AT-rifles, 720 SMGs. About 1,100 Soviet soldiers were killed.

Also 76 tanks were destroyed and the Luftwaffe and the AAA claimed 251 VVS aircraft.

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