Vladislav Antonov
I can’t say that it’s THE WORST military defeat, but personally for my family - it is.
My great grand-father, just like all men at that time, was fighting against German invaders. He never returned from war, and there were no news or any documents about him. I decided to investigate the case to figure what happened to him.
After researching scanned archives, I was finally able to find some information about him. I figured that he was killed in November 1943 during failed offensive operation called “Orshanskaya offensive operation”. I became more curios and I decided to read more archive materials about this battle.


State Defence Committee of USSR - Comission Report M-715, 11-04-1944.


“In the conducted operations, our artillery did not supress the enemy's artillery, despite the concentration in large quantities and superiority over the enemy. It did not happen neither during an artillery barrage, nor during the battle. Often artillery targeted an empty sectors, did not hear infantry requests, and lost communication with infantry units. As a result, even the friendly forces were barraged. Infantry was attacking the unsupressed enemy positions and as the result suffered huge losses and did not advance. The work of our artillery, especially in the counter artillery duel part, was insufficient during all the stages of combat engagement”
“Contrary to the instructions of the HQ, which prohibited the use of special units as ordinary infantry in battle, gen. Gordov often used reconnaissance, chemical and sappers units in ordinary infantry operations.”
Instead of careful artillery and operation planning, Gordov sought to penetrate the enemy’s defenses with manpower. This is evidenced by the losses suffered by the army. The total number of losses incurred by the 33rd Army, is more than 50% of the losses of the entire front.


WTF moment:
“In his order of September 4, 1943, addressed to the commander of the 173rd rifle division, Colonel Zaitsev and the commanders of the regiments, Lieutenant Colonel Milovanov, Lieutenant Colonel Sizov, Major Guslitzer, gen Gordov demanded:
“All officers should be put into battle formation “chain” and go through the forest to smoke machine gunners from their nests”


On September 4, 1943, Gordov ordered Major General Ikonnikov, Chief of Staff of 70th regiment corps “Immediately send the entire command of the corps into the front-line. Leave in the headquarters only the chief of operations. "
Such inadmissible actions of Gordov led to disorganization of battle management and unreasonable losses in the officer corps. Over the past six months, in the 33rd Army, under the command of Gordov, 4 division commanders, 8 deputy division commanders and divisional chiefs, 38 regimental commanders and their deputies, and 174 battalion commanders were killed and wounded.
It gets only worse…


“Major shortcomings occurred in the preparation and conduct of intelligence operations, and especially in the rear of the enemy. The main task — capturing captives — is not performed in many cases. So, in December, 23 reconnaissance operations were conducted in 192 platoon regiment to capture a POW. Not a single prisoner in these operations was captured, and the losses of our reconnaissance groups amounted to 26 people killed and wounded. In 192, 247 and 174 pr, hundreds of search reconnaissance operations were conducted from January 1 to February 15 and not a single prisoner was captured. In 331 and 251 pr, scouts were repeatedly killed in their minefields, since they were not indicated on map”


“In the operation of the 33rd Army in the Vitebsk direction, on December 23, the entry of the tank corps into battle was planned after the capture of River Luchesa by the infantry (18 km deep defense). On this basis, tanks were not introduced into battle, and when the infantry was stopped by organized enemy fire from prearranged lines and the river continued to remain ahead, a tank corps, rushed into battle, lost 60 tanks and failed to succeed. In the operations on the Bogushevsky direction on January 8, the tank corps was brought into combat, when essentially the infantry had no success. Having suffered up to 70% of losses, the tank corps advanced 2-4 km with the infantry, and then was withdrawn from combat.”


Thus, the constant attempt of commanders to achieve a breakthrough in defense through the premature entry of the tank corps into a battle did not have any results, and led to the fact that only two tanks left in the tank corps”
“Our counter-battery and counter-mine-attack groups did not suppress the enemy’s artillery and mortars, as a result of which the advance of our infantry was hampered by the enemy’s strong artillery and mortar fire, which is evidenced by the fact that in some operations the percentage of shrapnel wounds reached 70-80%”
“Within 4 months, the chief of staff and the entire headquarters were located at a distance of about 100 kilometers from the location of the front command, and during this time the commander and chief of staff met no more than 3-4 times”

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HQ instructions prohibited the use of reconnaissance units as regular infantry in combat. This order was systematically violated on the Western Front. Thus, in January 1944, in 33 armies, all reconnaissance units and formations that participated in the offensive as linear units and were completely destroyed.
Results of offensive operation:
Over 26 thousands killed, and 78 thousands wounded. Offensive operation was stopped and Germans were able to retain their positions (while having 3 times less manpower and about 5 times less in artillery and tank power).
Incredible and outrageous incompetence of leadership. No wonder why my great-grand father died there.