Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

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Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Jeff Leach » 27 Nov 2018 10:44

On June 22 1941, the German 198th Infantry Division discovered and captured an undefended bridge at Skulyany on the Prut River (Romanian). The German formed a bridgehead, which came under heavy pressure from Soviet forces in the area from 22 - 30 June 1941. On 27 June 1941, the Soviets launched one of their heaviest attack.

An account of the battle reconstructed from the records of the German XXX A.K and German 198. I.D.

"While the night passed relatively quietly, the 235th Antitank Battalion reported that there was heavy Soviet shelling on the high ground southeast of Skulyany at 04:30 and about three hours later there was heavy artillery fire on the town itself. The Soviets attacked several times, with strong artillery support, the Skulyany bridgehead from the north during the morning. The first Soviet attack was supported by about 15 tanks and occurred at 05:30 in the sector of the II./326th Infantry Regiment at and to the east of Gherman Dumesti. This attack was broken up by well-aimed artillery fire.

The Soviets attacked again but this time on a front of about two to three kilometers in regimental strength in the same sector around 09:00. The Soviet attack was preceded by a barrage. The main effort of the attack being directed at the heights east of Miclăuşani. It took them less than an hour to break through the German lines and another hour to reach the area around Miclăuşani. Because of the broken terrain around the village, the newly deployed II./326th Infantry Regiment hadn’t had the time to properly set up its defenses. In the face of the strong Soviet attack the battalion had to give ground. One platoon of the 235th Antitank Battalion was also stationed at Miclăuşani where it suffered heavy losses. The platoon had fired off most of its ammunition when the protecting infantry withdrew. Without adequate infantry protection, the platoon was forced to change position and in doing so it lost two guns. The Soviet attack continued and starting pushing towards Skulyany. At this critical junction the commander of the bridgehead ordered his reserve of three companies of the III./305th Infantry Regiment to counter attack and recapture Miclăuşani. The counter-attack didn’t have that much trouble pushing the Soviet back and Miclăuşani was recaptured within an hour and the old front line was occupied again by the early afternoon. The 235th Antitank Battalion took part in the counterattack with with the commander of the 1./ company personally leading a half-platoon that was supporting the counter-attacking infantry. The regiment pointed out that the 1./235th Antitank Battalion was crucial in the recapture of Miclăuşani. During the whole of the attack, the Soviets laid harassment fire with heavy artillery on the town of Skulyany, its connecting roads and the crossing sites over the Prut River.

The German artillery support had been excellent, following the Soviet advance and inflicting heavy casualties. Even the Romanian II./6th Infantry Regiment conducted itself excellently during the defensive fight. A lot of credit for the successful defense of the bridgehead was given to the bridgehead commander, Colonel Buck. He was even mention in the Army News (Wehrmachtsbericht).

A short time later the 326th Infantry Regiment reported that Gherman Dumesti was clear of the enemy. It was discovered that the Soviets had withdrawn to positions about two kilometers north of Gherman Telenesti and appeared to be withdrawing even further back. The bridgehead defenses had held again. During the attack, small groups of the 326th Infantry Regiment had retreated in panic towards the river crossing. That evening, the 305th Infantry Regiment requested held in dealing with the lost (routed) soldiers milling about the river bank road. The regiment had already set up a check point at the bridge."

Recently, I discovered and account from the 256th Rifle Regiment of 30th (Mountain) Rifle Division, which took part in the battle.

"On 27 June 1941, three company and the machine-gun company advance from VALÂ-RUSLUJ to the Skulyany train station. They fought hard throughout the day together with other elements of the division. At 16:00 the enemy who had superior forces, went over to the offensive and this created a threat against the 369th Rifle Regiment (30th Rifle Division). A sapper company under command of Junior Politruk comrade Koval’čuk and a platoon of the reconnaissance under the command of Junior Lieutenant Priladyš, boldy led a counter-attack inspite of the enemy’s heavy defensive fire. In a bajonet-charge, up to three companies of the German-Rumanian forces were put to flight and left behind up to a hundred dead. Our positions around Gherman were restored. Our loses during the counter-attack were 14 men. During the battle Junior Politruk Koval’čuk and Junior Lieutenants Priladyš, Kokovihin and Evsûkov especially distinguished themselves. The regimental machine-gun company, under command of comrade Evsûkov, killed 56 German soldiers. Private First Class Amanov especially distinguished himself. The company lost 20 men during the battle. Also lost during the battle were Politruk Filonenko and Junior Lieutenant Kozorog."

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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by GregSingh » 28 Nov 2018 05:37

VALÂ-RUSLUJ
That would be Валя Русулуй (Valea Rusului), which is 16km N of Skulyany. But German report mentions Miclăuşani, which is 55km SE of Skulyany?
So Soviet report mentions attack against the bridgehead from the North, German report - Soviet attack from West/SW ?
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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Jeff Leach » 28 Nov 2018 07:52

GregSingh wrote:
28 Nov 2018 05:37
VALÂ-RUSLUJ
That would be Валя Русулуй (Valea Rusului), which is 16km N of Skulyany. But German report mentions Miclăuşani, which is 55km SE of Skulyany?
So Soviet report mentions attack against the bridgehead from the North, German report - Soviet attack from West/SW ?
Wrong Miclăuşani; The problem of a couple of villages or hamlets have the same name is quite common in this region. There is Another Miclăuşani about 2 - 3 kilometers North of Skulyany along the road leading north. You can see it on the German 1:300,000 and Romanian 1:100,000 maps. There are Soviet maps from the 9th Army and South Front that show the positions of Soviet forces.

There were elements of the 30th and 74th Rifle Divisions (and maybe the 176th Rifle Division) and either the 11th Tank or 15th Motorized Division attacking the bridgehead. Note the 30th (Mountain) Rifle Division is always called the 30th Rifle Division in the wartime record but the division records clearly state it was organized according to Mountain Infantry Division shtats (TOEs).

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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by GregSingh » 28 Nov 2018 08:38

OK, thanks!
I thought Soviets performed a pincer attack against the bridgehead, but that was not the case...
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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Jeff Leach » 29 Nov 2018 13:06

There really wasn't that much room to try and conduct a pincer movement. Its perimeter was only 3-5 kilometers.

Some more of the text (it really isn't ready for the public and need to be rewritten). On 27 June the Eastern face of the bridgehead was also attacked but there isn't much information about it.

"Around 10:30 the eastern face of the bridgehead came under heavy artillery fire and the front line started to waver and the withdrew. One platoon of the 2./ company (235 AT Bn), which was on alert, was ordered by the division command to move forward and strengthen the eastern front. The company commander personally lead the platoon through the Soviet artillery fire to the forward position on the eastern face of the bridgehead. The old defensive positions were quickly occupied again. The Soviets swept the whole of the front line and rear area of the bridgehead with a couple of artillery batteries the whole afternoon. During the afternoon fourteen Soviet batteries were identified. There were several local attempts to penetrate the German lines but these were easily repelled. The German’s own losses during the day were tolerable."

The Soviet attacks on the 27 June caused a lot of concern in the German command

"During the evening, there was a telephone conversation between the commander of the 11th Army and the commander of the XXX Army Corps about the 198th Infantry Division. Over the last few days there had been signs of weakening in the division and that was worrying. It was still expected that the enemy would launch further armored attacks against the bridgehead, which would only make matters worse. The 305th Infantry Regiment had performed well since the beginning of the operation, but it was in need of rest. The 308th Infantry Regiment was split up with two battalion deployed at the front. The 326th Infantry Regiment was already very weak and in the opinion of the 198th Infantry Division, it needed to be replaced."

For some unknown reason the 326th Infantry Regiment performed really poorly. Here there elements of the regiment had panic and in just a few days time the whole regiment was routed by a Soviet tank company. It took a few days, to reorganized it and one of its battalions was disbanded.

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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Jeff Leach » 29 Nov 2018 14:56

The 59th Light Artillery Regiment (30th Rifle Division) gives this account of the fighting on the 27 June 1941

"At dawn on 27 June, Colonel Gončarov assembled the remaining forced of the 369th Rifle Regiment and attacked toward Sculeni again. The advance came under heavy defensive fire from enemy mortars and machine-gun fire. Senior Lieutenant Kolomiec (of the 59th Light Artillery Regiment) accompanied the advancing infantry and accurately directed the batteries fire against the enemy mortar and machine-gun positions. This fire eliminated: one mortar battery, one antitank gun battery, two heavy machine guns and six light machine guns along with a a company of enemy infantry. Colonel Gončarov along with twenty men reached and occupied part of the town of Sculeni. The German reached violently to this. Lieutenants Kolomiec and Karčevskij directed the fire of our batteries and targeted every square meter of the town. They noticed enemy mortars on an island in the river and directed a hurricane of fire on them, silencing the fascist battery. As the day progress, our forces were forced out of the town. The enemy keep pressing and our forces conducted an orderly retreat back to their starting positions.

During the retreat Senior Lieutenant Kolomiec found paper on a dead German officer and he turned them over to Battalion Commissar comrade Šapiro. The commander of the 2/59th Light Artillery Regiment, Senior Lieutenant Karčevskij, had been wounded during the battle. He did not want to leave the battlefield despite his injuries but was ordered to by the regimental commander. On his departure Senior Lieutenant Kolomiec was assigned command of the 2/59th Light Artillery Regiment."

There is nothing here that directly contridicts the German accounts. The Soviet claims of German losses are clearly overstated. This accounts does confirm that Soviet artillery officer did accompany the attack and direct the fire of their battalion.

The regimental records state that their were five batteries of 76 mm guns (unclear if they were mountain guns or field guns) and one battery of 122 mm howitzers. The howitzer battery was later exchanged (most likely with a battery from the 121st Howitzer Regiment).

In these Soviet accounts, the political officers are very active and distinguish themselves often. Most likely their influense is exaggerated due to the political climate in the Soviet Union.

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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Art » 29 Nov 2018 21:16

Jeff Leach wrote:
27 Nov 2018 10:44
On June 22 1941, the German 198th Infantry Division discovered and captured an undefended bridge at Skulyany on the Prut River (Romanian).
Wasn't the bridge supposed to be defended by border guards?

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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by GregSingh » 29 Nov 2018 23:45

Wasn't the bridge supposed to be defended by border guards?
NKVD reports (we found this source not too reliable in the past) for 22 - 23.06.41 don't mention the bridge:

24-й пограничный отряд , 4-я комендатура

4-я комендатура отряда, штаб которой находился в м. Скуляны, охраняла участок государственной границы в 62,8 км. На правом берегу р. Прут, в районе с. Редени и Керпицы, было сосредоточено до двух корпусов мотопехоты противника численностью свыше 100 тыс. человек. По данным захваченных пленных, румыно-немецкие фашисты на этом участке имели задачу овладеть м. Скуляны и выйти на железную дорогу Кишинев — Бельцы.

В 5—30 22 июня 1941 г. противник силою до двух батальонов из с. Скулени и Фрасулени начала переправу через р. Прут в направлении м. Скуляны, но силами подразделений штаба комендатуры, 20-й и 2-й резервной застав был опрокинут и бежал на правый берег р. Прут.

На рассвете 23 июня 1941 г. противник, пополнившись свежими силами, после артиллерийской подготовки начал переправу через р. Прут и после 3-часового боя занял м. Скуляны. 20-я и резервная заставы, ведя бой с превосходящими силами противника, по приказу начальника штаба комендатуры Полякова отошли на новый рубеж за р. Гиромаре и заняли оборону.

23 июня 1941 г. 11 час. 30 мин.
24-й погранотряд: противник вторгся на нашу территорию на 8—10 км в направлении Скуляны — Чичуля и сдерживается частями Красной Армии. Численность противника — около четырех полков.
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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Jeff Leach » 30 Nov 2018 07:18

Art wrote:
29 Nov 2018 21:16
Jeff Leach wrote:
27 Nov 2018 10:44
On June 22 1941, the German 198th Infantry Division discovered and captured an undefended bridge at Skulyany on the Prut River (Romanian).
Wasn't the bridge supposed to be defended by border guards?
What really happened is unclear. The German records are confusing and I havn't seen any Soviet material about what happened. I wrote:

22 June 1941

"The possibility of being able to establish a bridgehead on the east side of the Prut River on the 22nd June came about by the unexpected seizure of a bridge over the river. This capture led to a discussion between the Corps Commander and the 11th Army’s Chief of Staff, which resulted in a set of guidelines in case the corps managed to capture any more intact bridges in its sector.



The following units were to be allocated to the Skulyany Operation: the 305th Infantry Regiment and the 235th Bicycle Squadron reinforced with one M.G. platoon and if possible one antitank platoon. The 235st Pioneer Battalion was to support the river crossing and after a bridgehead was formed, it was to build an 8-ton ferry.

...

The cross of the Prut River at Skulyany was moved forward to the evening of the 22nd June. One company of the 305th Infantry Regiment crossed the river in assault boats (Sturmbooten) and pneumatic rafts at 21:00. Apparently surprised by the outbreak of war the Soviets in the area offered no resistance. Skulyany (east) was occupied and within a couple of hours an infantry battalion, a bicycle company and an antitank company (minus one platoon) had crossed the river. Two more infantry battalions were preparing to cross the river. The units that had crossed the river occupied the high ground near the town. Losses are not known."

Thinking about it, I am pretty sure the Soviet at least partially destroyed the bridge there and the Germans built a pontoon-bridge near it.

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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Art » 30 Nov 2018 17:00

So the bridge was seized by German infantry crossing the river on the evening of 22.06. Did I get it right?

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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Jeff Leach » 30 Nov 2018 18:33

Yes. The German had established a bridgehead over the Prut River during the evening of 22 June.

But. Establishing a bridgehead over the Prut River on 22 June was not part of the original German plan. The Germans were afraid that establishing a bridgehead(s) would just give the Soviet a target to attack, which is what happened.

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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Art » 01 Dec 2018 09:07

As far as I can see Skulyany was supposed to be defended by Soviet 176 Division which was stretched along a 120 km (it's not a typo - one hundred twenty kilometers) line. Moreover its 591 Rifle Regiment assigned to Skulyany sector was still at Beltsy on the morning of 22.6 and spent the day marching to the Prut River. That explains why German crossing met little initial opposition. It doesn't seem that German cautious stance was completely justified - there were only weak Soviet border guard against them on the morning of 22nd.

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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Jeff Leach » 04 Dec 2018 10:15

The 30th (Mountain) and 74th Rifle Divisions were positioned in reserve behind the 176th Rifle Division. On 23 June the 30th Rifle Division was ordered to move forward and insert itself between the 404th and 591th Rifle Regiments (176th Rifle Division). The regimental boundary was somewhere near Drujineni. The 591th Rifle Regiment was attached to (or cooperated with) the 30 Rifle Division for the next 7 - 10 Days. A Romanian cavalry brigade formed another small Santa Maria to the north and there was some combat in the area against the 404th Rifle Regiment between 22 - 30 June.

The plan for the German 11th Army was to attack across the Prut River on about 30 June (Operation Munich). The Germans were cautious about forming bridgehead because they felt they would just give the the Soviet targets to attack and divert forces from the planned Operation Munich. With the establishment of a bridgehead the German quickly started forumlating a new plan to quickly drive for the Dniester River but the violent Soviet reaction to the bridgeheads discouraged these plans. There were even plans to form a bridgehead at Ungheni (not far from Sculeni) on 23 June with Romanian troops but these fell apart (some of the Romanian commanders might have actively sabotaged the plan).

The course of events confirmed the German fears. The Soviet conducted quite heavy attacks against the Sculeni Bridgehead. There were a couple of days when the German were worried that the bridgehead would have to be abandoned.

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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Jeff Leach » 11 Dec 2018 05:12

Here is a map of the area (10 kilometer grid and 100 meter elevations) with the positions of the 30th Rifle Division on 30 June 1941.

The division operated as four regimental groups, each rifle regiment was supported by a an attached battalion of artillery. The 591st Rifle Regiment (176th Rifle Division) was attached to the division until 02 July. The 360th Rifle Regiment (74th Rifle Division) was on its way to the area and it relieved the 369th Rifle Regiment on 30 June or 01 July 1941. Armored elements of the 2nd Mechanized Corps supported the infantry attacking the Sculeni Bridgehead but it is unclear which unit(s) supplied the tanks. The only vehicles reported in the area were armored cars and BT tanks. The 11th Tank Division had both T-34s and KV-1s and it is interesting that either type was used against the bridgehead

AHF-Sculeni Low.jpg
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Re: Battle of Skulyany Bridgehead, 27 June 1941

Post by Jeff Leach » 23 Jan 2020 09:43

Jeff Leach wrote:
11 Dec 2018 05:12
Armored elements of the 2nd Mechanized Corps supported the infantry attacking the Sculeni Bridgehead but it is unclear which unit(s) supplied the tanks. The only vehicles reported in the area were armored cars and BT tanks. The 11th Tank Division had both T-34s and KV-1s and it is interesting that either type was used against the bridgehead
The war diary entry for 03 July of the 11th Tank Division says, "The 3rd battalion 21st Tank Regiment under the command of Captain Nemzev with 15 BT-7s and 5 T 34s was cooperating with the 30th Mountain Rifle Division until 10:00 on 02 July. They attacked in the direction GORESHTI – Vrăneşti – Toxobeni – Gherman – Miclăuşani. The battalion’s action drove the enemy towards the Prut River, inflicting heavy casualties on them, caused panic in their ranks and destroyed a few antitank batteries.

German records confirm the successful attack, which routed the German 326th Infantry Regiment (198th Infantry Division) on 01 July.

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