The tank battle of Lauban, 1-8 March 1945

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Oberst_Emann
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Post by Oberst_Emann » 13 Aug 2005 20:34

Thank you very much Acolyte. I've always been interested in learning more about this very obscure German counterattack.

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Acolyte
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Post by Acolyte » 14 Aug 2005 18:17

It's interesting you see no mention of this battle at the History Department of the US Military Academy. The German counterattack is not even shown on their maps:

http://www.dean.usma.edu/history/web03/ ... p%2032.htm
http://www.dean.usma.edu/history/web03/ ... p%2082.htm

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Post by Andreas » 09 May 2007 11:07

I would still be very interested in further information on this battle from the Soviet side.

All the best

Andreas

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Acolyte
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Post by Acolyte » 11 May 2007 22:52

I guess you should ask Russian forum members, I cannot read Russian sources since I can't speak the language :cry: (not that I have any Russian sources :lol: )

Art
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Post by Art » 14 May 2007 15:37

Well, a new book on the history of Soviet 3rd Tank Army written by Dmitry Shein was issued right on the previus week. Surely it would have an intersting information about the batlle of Lauban. I made a couple of raids on the bookshops on this weekend but still haven't found this book. So I'm afriad we should wait for some time.

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Kamen Nevenkin
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Post by Kamen Nevenkin » 25 May 2007 14:59

Following the request of the fellow forum member Andreas, I’m posting a lousy translation of a Soviet account on the battle of Lauban. It belongs to the history of the Soviet 3rd Tank Army (A.M.Zvartsev, 3-ya Gvardeiskaya Tankovaya, Moscow, Voenizdat, 1982, pp. 227 -234). IMO, it by no means could be characterized as "very short and biased". Here we go.

By 15 Febryary 1945 the Soviet Lower-Silesian operation was well in progress, but the German resistance grew heavier with every passing day. So Marshal Konev decided to capture a bridgehead on the opposite bank of Neisse river at Goerlitz using for that purpose the forces of his right wing, namely 3 GTA, 4 TA, 13 A and 52 A. At the same time the Front's left wing (6 A) was to seize Breslau. It was the 3 GTA that was given the task to capture Goerlitz and Lauban and force the Neisse. On that day it had 418 tanks and SU in running condition.

General Rybalko, the commander of the 3 GTArmy, decided to attack the German grouping in the Goerlitz area from two directions - from the NE with 6 GTCorps and from the east with 7 GTC. This decision, however turnued out to be not so clever, because the Army's intelligence had failed to recognize the arrival of strong German reinforcements in that area and the troops of the army were dispersed and were not able to deliver a concentrated blow. Soon Rybalko found out his own mistake and regrouped 7 GTC to the sector of 6 GTC, but valuable time was already lost, the offensive was postponed for two days and the 7 GTC was committed to the battle in piecemeal fashion.

6 GTC attacked on 17 Feb along the Noidorf [sic] - Gorlitz road, but having encountered fierce resistance on the western bank of the Gross-Chirne [sic] river advanced forward very slowly and ended that day engaged in heavy battles with enemy tanks some 4-5 km west of river Kweis [sic]. In the meantime 7 GTC reached river Kweis at Lauban, but was not able to cross it due to the heavy enemy fire from its left bank. That situation didn't mach Rybalko's expectations and he ordered 54 and 55 GTBrigades of 7 GTC to be transferred to the sector of 6 GTC and cross Kweis there using the bridges already prepared by the engineers of that corps at Noidorf. The objective assigned to the both brigades was to bypass Lauban to the north, and with "sudden strike", while cooperating with 56 GTBr and 23 GMotRifleBrigade that were to advance from the east, to capture Lauban. At 8:00 on 17 Feb 54 and 55 GTBr crossed Kweis and reached Noidorf but there they were met by heavy tank fire and were forced to switch over to defense at the southern suburbs of that settlement. In the meantime 56 GTBr and 23 GMRBr slowly approached Lauban from the east, but due to the fierce German resistance it took them a whole day to reach the outskirts of the town.

The situation worsened on the next day. The German Command had canceled all attacks in the vicinity of Jauer and Strigau and during the night of 17/18 Feb had transferred 8.PzD to the threatened Lauban sector, so when in the morning of 18 Feb 7 GTC renewed its offensive on Naumburg, it found itself attacked by fresh panzer troops at Lauban and Loewenberg. Because of this, the commander of 7 GTC moved the 56 GTBr (reinforced by one battalion of 23 GMRBr) to the east and ordered it to push the enemy away from Seifersdorf and the Lauban - Ottensdorf highway. That objective was achieved thanks to the combined efforts of the brigade and the newly arrived 57 GHeavy Tank Reg. In the Loewenberg sector the attacks of the 8.PzD were repulsed by the 9 GMechCorps.

On 19 Feb the Germans moved 408 InfDiv and 10 PGDiv to the Loewenberg sector, but the commander of the 9 MechCorps managed to deploy its forces between Loewenberg and Goldberg and to repulse all enemy attacks. The situation didn't change much on the next day and all tree corps remained involved in heavy battles.

In order to regain freedom of maneuver for the stuck 3 GTA, on 20 Feb Konev transferred one rifle division from 52 A to Loewenberg. This allowed Rybalko to pull out 9 MC and reinforce with it the sector of 7 GTC in attempt to destroy the enemy panzer grouping NE of Lauban. During 20-21 Feb the Soviet drive to Goerlitz rolled forward again, but the territorial gains were minimal. Lauban itself became a scene of bitter urban combat and some houses were recaptured several times. Grenadiers attacked the tanks with Panzerfausts and Soviet losses mounted considerably. By 21 Feb the tank brigades of the army had no more than 15 - 20 tanks left. It is not a wonder that on that day 7 GTC numbered only 55 tanks, while the armored strength of 9 MC was reduced to 48 tanks. Let alone that most of the AFV had been worn out and their technical resource was critically low. The personnel casualties were bloody too - the combat strength of 23 GMRBr, three battalions-strong, was down to 550 riflemen. The combatants were exhausted from the fruitless fighting and overal combat efficiency of the 3 GTA was critically low.

The bad condition of the Rybalko's troops produced worries in not only in the Konev's HQ, but even in Moscow. While at the HQ of 52 A, Konev received a call from Stalin himself and took him a lot of efforts to assure the Supreme Commander that the 3 GTA would achieve its objective and not fall victim of the fierce counterattacks of three German panzer divisions.

In order to crush the bitter enemy resistance at Lauban, Rybalko once again regrouped its troops and formed in the vicinty of the town a powerful grouping comprised 7 GTC, 51 and 53 GTBr of 6 GTC, part of 9 MC, 16 SP Arty Brigade, 57 GHTReg and several arty and mortar regiments. Furthermore, on 22 Feb 254 RifDiv from 52 A arrived in the sector of 6 GTC. The new attack produced some results and by the end of 22 Feb the both tank brigades of 6 GTC, in cooperation with the rifle division, were fighting for Nieder-Langenau and Gruenau. At the same time 54 and 55 GTBr of 7 GTC were still engaged in heavy street fighting in the northern and central parts of Lauban, where they were opposed by the units of 6 VGD and 17.PzD. In the town center all streets were barred by concrete anti-tank obstacles, something that most of the Soviet tankmen had never encountered before. Having destroyed 10 enemy tanks and up to a battalion of infantry, the both brigades seized the Wuenschendorf railway station, where they captured 4 trains with military materiel and liberated more than 300 Soviet citizens that had been used for slave labor.

The German reaction to the Soviet gains in Lauban was swift and already on 23 Feb their command moved to Lauban the recently formed Infantry Regiment 1461 [sic] and 55th Machinegun Battalion [sic]. In order to smash the enemy resistance within the town, Rybalko regrouped there all of the remaining units of 7 GTC and 9 MC and further reinforced them with artillery and army troops. Nevertheless, the battle soon deadlocked and struggle was transformed into a positional warfare. The Soviet forces lacked the necessary infantry strength so much needed for such kind of combat and by the end of 27 Feb very few gains were made - only several blocks in the northern and southern districts of the town. Still worse, during the night the Germans counterattacked and recaptured those thinly defended blocks. On 28 Feb the brigades of the corps and the newly arrived 214 Rif Div of 52 A kept fighting for Lauban but no significant progress was made. The Germans, in turn, moved another three battalions and up to 30 Panzers and StuG in the northern and western districts of Lauban and once again checked the advance of the Soviets.

At the same time 6 GTC was slowly adavnced towards Neisse and Goerlitz, while 9 MC was repelling the enemy attacks against the left flank of the 3 GTA.

On 3 March the German troops surprisingly attacked the 6 GTC with 17.PzD and 6.VGD, while FBDiv and 8.PzD struck 9 MC thus threatening to encircle the Soviet troops fighting in Lauban. On 4-5 March the Germans managed to push back the brigades of the 6 GTC in the Hennersdorf – Steigau sector, crossed the Kweiss river and reached Logau. In the meantime FGDiv, supported by 20 tanks, attacked 7 GTC in attempt to encircle Lauban. On the left flank the enemy breached the positions of 9 MC and reached Naumburg. Rybalko, who had arrived at the HQ of 9 MC, decided to commit his reserve. He ordered 53 GTBr with 248 Rifle Reg to attack hill 256, destroy the enemy and take Seifersdorf.

After an intensive fire preparation by Katyusha rocket launchers, 53 GTBr moved forward. The attack was led by the platoon of junior-lieutenant S.M.Zaboryev. Zaboryev’s T-34 was the first who reached the railway embankment where the first engagement with the enemy took place. His tank destroyed 2 panzers, 2 SPW and up to 40 soldiers, but then was hit and Zaboryev died a hero’s death. For that action he was post-mortem awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union. The counterattack was successful - those enemy panzers that had penetrated into the rear of the 9 MC had been wiped out by the tankmen of 53 GTBr, the SP artillerymen of 16 SP Arty Br and by the artillerymen of 9 MC. The enemy infantry, deprived from tank support, was surrounded in the woods south of Naumburg and shot to pieces.

Having failed to envelop Lauban, on 5 March the Germans launched direct attacks on the town from the north and the south. The understrength brigades of 7 GTC kept repelling the enemy attacks and very often one Soviet tank was fighting again 5 –7 German machines. Rybalko was now aware that Lauban could no longer be held and asked Konev for permission to evacuate the town. Konev sanctioned the withdrawal.

In the morning of 6 March 3 GTA occupied a new defensive line running some 5-6 km north and east of Lauban. From 6 to 12 March both 52 A and 3 GTA were repulsing local German attacks. On 13-14 March 3 GTA was pulled out and deployed at Bunzlau to rest and refit. At that moment it had 255 tanks and SU.


Some additional info from BA-MA.

8.PzD:
(2 March):
38 PzIV (12 Operational), 18 PzV (2), 10 PzIV/70 (3), 9 JgPz 38 (7), 14 sPak (Sfl + mot Z) (12). Moreover 15 PzV and 10 PzIV/70 were en route for the division (they most probably arrived on 4 and 5 March respectively).


16.PzD was thrown in combat on 5 March in the vicinity of Langenöls (northeast of Lauban). On the same day it had the following strength:
8 PzIV (1 operational), 13 PzV (10), 2 BefPzV (2), 17 PzIV/70 (14), 36 StuGIII (32), 1 StuGIV (0), 11 JgPz38 (11), 1 PzBeobIII, 2 lePzSpWg (SdKfz 222), 1 sPzSpWg (SdKfz 234/3), 3 sPzSpWg (SdKfz 234/4), 1 leFH (Sfl), 28 leFH (mot Z) and 8 8.8-cm sFlak (mot Z).


17.PzD
(1 March):
1 Pz III, 31 Pz IV and 9 sPak (Sfl).

(8 March):
9 PzIV, 20 PzIV/70, 3 FlakPzIV/2-cm Flak-Vierl, 1 BefPzIII, 2 PzII Ausf L, 4 lePzSpWg, 4 sPzSpWg, 9 leSPW, 35 mSPW, 1 sPak (Sfl) (SdKfz 138), 8 sPak (mot Z), 19 leFH (mot Z), 9 sFH (mot Z) and 3 10.5-cm sK(mot Z).

FBD
(1 March):
39 Pz IV and Pz IV/70 (16 operational), 20 PzV (10) and 29 StuG (10)

(8 March):
8 PzIV (6 operational), 2 BefPzIV (1), 19 PzV (6), 38 StuGIII (8), 20 StuGIV (3), 5 StuH (0), 3 FlakPzIV/2-cm Flak-Vierl (2) and 2 FlakPzIV/3.7-cm (0).


FGD
(1 March):
5 Pz IV (3 operational), 17 PzV (10) and 33 StuG (22)

(8 March):
3 PzIV (1 operational), 26 PzV (4), 2 BefPzV (2), 9 JgPzV (5), 15 StuGIII (4), 27 StuGIV (6), 3 StuH (2), 4 FlakPzIV (2), 5 PzBeobIV (3), 6 leFH (Sfl) (5) and 12 leFH (Sfl) (9).

Sorry, but I have no idea about the strength of the other German units fighting in the area, namely PzBrig 103, 6.VGD and the battle group of 21.PzD.

Hope this helps

Kamen

Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 25 May 2007 15:13

Excellent information Kamen, thank you very much!

All the best

Andreas

Jan-Hendrik
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Post by Jan-Hendrik » 25 May 2007 15:39

Indeed, thank you !

Jan-Hendrik

Martin Block
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Lauban 1945

Post by Martin Block » 25 May 2007 19:26

Some additional info:

On 1.3.1945 the Pz.Brig. 103 had available:
4 Pz. IV/70(V) (2 operational)
7 Panther (3 operational)
12 Stu.Gesch. (12 operational)

This report however is somewhat strange because
a) when the I./39 (Panther) later returned to the 17. Pz.Div. during the second half of March 1945 it arrived with at least 19 Panthers without having received any replacements. So why were only 7 reported on 1.3.1945?
b) To the best of my knowledge none of the units under Stab Pz.Brig. 103 was equipped with Stu.Gesch.. Could perhaps be a confusion with Pz. IV/70(A) of the I./Pz.Rgt. 29. These vehicles in some other reports were also at times refered to as "StuG IV". But in this case I can't tell for sure what happened.
c) I'm completely missing any Pz. IV of the II./Pz.Rgt.9 and Jagdpanthers of the I./Pz.Rgt. 29 in this report. Maybe all Pz. IV had already been lost, but at least some Jagdpanthers should appear since 6 were later handed over to 8. Pz.Div..
As already said, this report somewhat confuses me. Maybe it's only a partial one???

On 1.3.1945 the 6. V.G.D. had available:
Pz.Jg.Kp. 1183 with 9 Jagdpz. 38 (only 1 operational)
Pz.Jagd-Abt.(gp.) 3 with 19 Jagdpz. 38 (only 4 operational)
elem. H.Pz.Jg.Abt. 681 with 3 - 8,8 cm Pak (2 operational)
6 Pz. IV from the 17. Pz.Div. (4 operational)
6 Pz. IV (4 operational) and 3 Panther (2 operational) from the 21. Pz.Div.
All units were only tactically attached to 6. V.G.D. for the attack. It's own Jagdpanzer unit, Pz.Jg.Kp. 1006, was still located in Milowitz waiting for its Jagdpz. 38.

On 1.3.1945 the 21. Pz.Div. had available:
17 Jagdpz. IV/70(V), 2 Jagdpz. IV L/48 and 1 StuG III (11 out of them operational)
32 Pz. IV (7 operational)
34 Panther (3 operational)
8 Flakpz. IV ( ? operational)
4 Pak-Sfl. (3 operational)
This included the above mentioned tanks attached to 6. V.G.D.. Apparently almost all operational Pz. IV and Panther tanks of the I./Pz.Rgt. 22 were subordinated to that division for the attack. The discrepancies in terms of operational tanks may be due to different times of day. Perhaps one report was prepared in the morning and one in the evening, I don't know.

Martin Block
Last edited by Martin Block on 26 May 2007 07:34, edited 1 time in total.

Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 25 May 2007 19:47

Excellent information Martin.

All the best

Andreas

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Alex Yeliseenko
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Post by Alex Yeliseenko » 26 May 2007 11:13

irreparable losses 3 GTA (12 jan - 8 march 1945)

all - 556

tanks - 454

IS-122 - 5
T-34 - 448
Valentine - 1

SPG - 102

ISU-122 - 30
SU-85 - 33
SU-76 - 29
SU-57 - 10

irreparable losses 3 GTA 1-8 march 1945

03/01

Tanks and SPG - 16 (tanks 10/SPG - 6)

03/02

11 (8/3)

03/03

18 (13/5)

03/04

30 (23/7)

03/05

19 (17/2)

03/06

16 (9/7)

03/07

4(4/0)

03/08

1(0/1)



Regards.

Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 26 May 2007 12:16

Thanks a lot Alex!

All the best

Andreas

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Ingsoc75
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Post by Ingsoc75 » 26 May 2007 14:03

I was looking at the photos from the first page:

Image

Would there of been that much foliage in early March 1945?

Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 26 May 2007 14:04

Well spotted.

All the best

Andreas

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Kamen Nevenkin
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Post by Kamen Nevenkin » 26 May 2007 15:34

I suppose that the figures posted by Alex are taken from the newly published history of 3 GTA, but only Alex himself can confirm that. Anyway, excellent information, indeed.

All of the three pics posted on the previous page have nothing to do with Lauban. The first one is a well-known SS-propaganda photo taken in the vicinity of Warsaw in the summer of 1944; the second one shows a SU column ambushed and destroyed in Moravia (Brno area?), Apr 45, while the third one even is not a German by origin - it portrays a Soviet tank column in Silesia resting near a destroyed German vehicle.

Kamen

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