Friday, September 26, 2008

Battle of the Day: The Battle of Rostov, 1941

On this day in 1941, the Battle of Rostov commenced, one of the first major failures of the German army.

On this day, in a push for the oilfields of the Caucasus, the German 11th army and the Romanian 3rd army lunged forward to take the city of Rostov. But attacks from the Soviet 8th and 19th Army halted their advance, setting the stage for the extended Battle of Rostov, which itself was to result in the truly epic Battle of Stalingrad.

In World War II, especially in Europe, because of the full integration of air power, motorized units, and radio communication, "battles" come to denote much different events as opposed to the battles of previous wars. Rather, there were engagements of various sizes as a result of one or both sides conducting operations, the scope of which might encompass hundreds if not thousands of miles over the course of weeks or months. The Battle of Rostov is a good example.

Though the action began on the 26th of September, the Russian efforts to drive the Germans off their course did not conclude until November the 16th, then the Germans seized the initiative and pressed an assault which took the key town of Taganrog on the 17th, but Rostov was not captured until the 21st. The Germans had been exhausted and over-extended by the advance and a Soviet counter-attack on the 27th pushed them back to Taganrog, where the Battle ended on December 2nd. The withdrawal from Rostov to a defensive position behind the Mius river at Taganrog was the first time the German army had been forced by enemy pressure to withdraw. Hitler attempted to prevent this retreat which resulted in the firing/resignation of Field Marshall Gerd von Rundstedt, a blow to the German High Command of more significance than the withdrawal itself.