Summer 1944

Wehrmacht planners were convinced that the Soviets would attack again in the south, where the front was fifty miles from Lviv and offered the most direct route to Berlin. Accordingly they stripped troops from Army Group Centre, whose front still protruded deep into the Soviet Union. The Germans had transferred some units to France to counter the invasion of Normandy two weeks before. The Belorussian Offensive (codenamed Operation Bagration), which began on 22 June 1944, was a massive Soviet attack, consisting of four Soviet army groups totaling over 120 divisions that smashed into a thinly held German line. They focused their massive attacks on Army Group Centre, not Army Group North Ukraine as the Germans had originally expected. More than 2.3 million Soviet troops went into action against the German Army Group Centre, which boasted a strength of fewer than 800,000 men. At the points of attack, the numerical and quality advantages of the Soviets were overwhelming: the Red Army achieved a ratio of ten to one in tanks and seven to one in aircraft over the enemy. The Germans crumbled. The capital of Belarus, Minsk, was taken on 3 July, trapping some 100,000 Germans. Ten days later the Red Army reached the prewar Polish border. Bagration was by any measure one of the largest single operations of the war. By the end of August 1944, it had cost the Germans ~400,000 dead, wounded, missing, and sick, from whom 160,000 were captured, as well as 2,000 tanks and 57,000 other vehicles. In the operation, the Red Army lost ~180,000 dead and missing (765,815 totally, including wounded and sick plus 5073 Poles),[50] as well as 2,957 tanks and assault guns. The offensive at Estonia claimed another 480,000 Soviet troopers, 100,000 of them as dead.[51][52] The neighbouring Lvov-Sandomierz operation was launched on 17 July 1944, rapidly routing the German forces in Western Ukraine. Lviv itself was occupied again by the Soviets on 26 July, the first time being in September 1939 during the Nazi-Soviet alliance and joint invasion of Poland. This ti

e, the city was retaken by the 1st Ukrainian Front, a Soviet force, relatively easily. Ukrainian hopes of independence were squashed amidst the overwhelming force of the Soviets, much like in the Baltic States. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army, UPA, would continue waging a guerrilla war against the Soviets well into the 1950s. The Soviet advance in the south continued into Romania and, following a coup against the Axis-allied government of Romania on 23 August, the Red Army occupied Bucharest on 31 August. In Moscow on 12 September, Romania and the Soviet Union signed an armistice on terms Moscow virtually dictated. The Romanian surrender tore a hole in the southern German Eastern Front causing the inevitable loss of the whole of the Balkans.[citation needed] Soviet soldiers fights in the streets of Jelgava. Summer 1944 The rapid progress of Operation Bagration threatened to cut off and isolate the German units of Army Group North bitterly resisting the Soviet advance towards Tallinn. In a ferocious attack at the Sinimaed Hills, Estonia, the Soviet Leningrad Front failed to break through the defence of the smaller, well-fortified army detachment "Narwa" in terrain not suitable for large-scale operations.[53][54] On the Karelian Isthmus, the Soviets launched a massive attack against the Finnish lines on June 9, 1944, (coordinated with the Allied Invasion of Normandy). Three armies were pitted there against the Finns, among them several experienced guards rifle formations. The attack breached the Finnish front line of defence in Valkeasaari on June 10 and the Finnish forces retreated to their secondary defence line, the VT-line. The Soviet attack was supported by a heavy artillery barrage, air bombardments and armoured forces. The VT-line was breached on June 14 and after a failed counterattack in Kuuterselka by the Finnish armoured division, the Finnish defence had to be pulled back to the VKT-line. After heavy fighting in the battles of Tali-Ihantala and Ilomantsi, Finnish troops finally managed to halt the Soviet attack.