110-Mi. Thrust in 6-days Takes Russians Third of Way to Reich

From the July 1, 1944 Edition of Stars and Stripes

Hitler’s armies on the central front limped west in confused retreat yesterday before the massive weight of a Russian steamroller that in the first six days of the Soviet summer offensive has driven a third of the distance to Germany–a swift 110-mile advance costing the Germans nearly 20,000 men a day.

Minsk, capital of White Russia, and Polotsk, an important communications town on the Vitebsk-Riga railway, were the local points of the Russian drive, which swept through and past Bobruisk, heavily-fortified communications town 87 miles southeast of Mink on the Gomel-Minsk railway.

Bobruisk’s capture by the armies of Gen. Constantin Rokossovsky (he was almost immediately promoted to marshal for the feat) eliminated the last of the old Nazi White Russian hedgehog positions and cleared the way for a drive to outflank Minsk from the southwest by a thrust to Baranovichi, 70 miles southwest of Minsk on the railway to Brest-Litovsk.

Flanking Threat to North, Too

A similar outflanking campaign from the northwest was under way north of Minsk, where Soviet columns driving west from the Vitebsk area were cutting 11 miles south of Polotsk in an advance that took them within a mile of the pre-war Polish border.

Moscow dispatches reported that these outflanking drives above and below Minsk were outpacing the Germans falling back on the capital ahead of three converging Soviet armies, the nearest of which was less than 30 miles from the town.

Rokossovsky’s army, part of which was moving rapidly up the Ptich River valley toward Minsk from the southeast, was reported getting air support rarely seen before on the Eastern Front. Bombers and fighters hammered road junctions and bridges, slowing the retreat and riddling Nazi columns in low-level sweeps.

In the far north, the Finns continued to fall back in spite of he new German promises of military aid. The Soviet communique announced that the whole length of the Arctic railway linking Murmansk with Leningrad had been cleared and that Petrozavodsk, capital of the Karelo-Finnish republic, on the Aunus isthmus between Lakes Ladoga and Onega, had been retaken.

The Soviet Information Bureau, summing up the first four days’ fighting on the White Russian front, announced that the Germans lost 52,000 dead and 25,000 prisoners in addition to immense quantities of equipment. The report covered the June 23-27 period, when Vitebsk, Orsha and Zhlobin were overrun.

An Associated Press correspondent in Moscow was permitted by the Russian censor to report yesterday that the number of German dead and captured “has soared toward the 150,000 mark.”

The information bureau summary added that the armies of Gens. Bagramian and Chernyakhovsky destroyed or captured nearly 500 German tanks and self-propelled guns and more than 7,000 trucks in the same four days.

soviet army advance minsk

For Further Reading Check Out:

Russia’s War: A History of the Soviet Effort: 1941-1945

For Related Articles See:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Past and Present WWII History Posts