Operation Bagration dwarfed the Allied Normandy landings by a long margin. D-Day happened on June 6, 1944. Bagration too happened in June, 1944. On June 23, 1944.
But most school text books in the English speaking world only speak of D-Day. Few of us have even heard of Bagration. Two reasons for that. One is that the English media mostly tom-toms American and British effort during WW2 despite the fact that even a two bit historian will tell you that the real decisive fighting (in the European theater) of the war occurred on the Eastern Front. Secondly the Soviet government had thrown a veil of secrecy on WW2. Russian war archives lay inaccessible till the Soviet Union broke up in 1990s.
But it was one of the most decisive battles of the second world war. Stavka, the Russian High Command wanted to break the back of the German Army with Bagaration, And it succeeded in doing that. Hundreds of thousands of German soldiers were captured or killed. The Red Army threw in 2.4 million soldiers, 5000 tanks, 36000 artillery guns and 5000 warplanes.
The soldiers of German Army Centre did not know what hit them when Operation Bagration started. The German Army was almost destroyed and the remnants was chased by the Russians till almost Warsaw.
|Crestfallen captured German soldiers|
By June 25 five German divisions, numbering up to 35,000 soldiers were surrounded in the city of Vitebsk. The city fell into Russian hands in a few days.
On June 26 June, the Orsha-strategic center of the German defense was broken.The 1st Belorussian Front surrounded six German divisions in the area of Bobruisk.
Soviet aircraft, which now dominated the skies hammered the German positions mercilessly.
The Red army used massed tank columns to batter through the German defenses something which the Germans did earlier in the war.
The Russians liberated Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in July. 35,000 German officers and soldiers were taken prisoner.
By the end of August, 1944 the Red Army had advanced 500-600 kilometers along a 1100 km front. Belarus was almost freed. The once formidable German Army Center had been annihilated. It lost 6.00.000 men.
Soviet losses were 7,00,000 men, dead, injured or missing.
After Operation Bagration Russia had retaken Belarus and the road to Germany proper lay wide open.
THE BRAVE GERMAN SOLDIERS
From OPERATION BAGRATION: The Destruction of Army Group Centre June-July 1944, A Photographic History
People of Minsk welcome Ivan
Red army on the move: T-34 tanks and soldiers
German POW escorted by a Red Army soldier in Vitebsk
German trucks and armor were hammered by Soviet warplanes on the highway near Vitebsk
Women partisans in liberated Minsk. July 1944
Minsk liberated. Soviet fighters celebrate. July 2013
Anthony Tucker-Jones assesses the opposing forces and their commanders and gives a vivid insight into the planning and decision-making at the highest level. He recreates the experience of the soldiers on the battlefield by using graphic contemporary accounts, and he sets the Bagration offensive in the wider context of the Soviet war effort. He also asks why Stalin's road to retribution proved to be such a long and bloody one - for the Germans, despite their crippling losses, managed to resist for another ten months.
The Soviets punched massive holes in the disintegrating defenses almost everywhere, letting through a seemingly-unstoppable flood, pushing apart and encircling many precious German Panzer and infantry divisions. In the end Bagration cost the Wehrmacht more men and material than the catastrophe at Stalingrad sixteen months earlier. The shattering defeat of Army Group Centre resulted in the loss of over 300,000 men and witnessed Soviet forces pushing exhausted German remnants out of Russia and through Poland to the gates of Warsaw.