June 20, 2017

1943. Ten Miles From Kharkiv

Soviet Bid for Vital Railway
Soviet T-34/76 medium tanks roll through Moscow Avenue in liberated Kharkov during the Belgorod-Kharkov offensive in August 1943 (source)
From the Lancashire Daily Post, August 10, 1943:
Soviet Bid for Vital Railway

The threat to Kharkov and Briansk grows hourly as Soviet armies pursue with unabated vigour their twin offensive to capture these strategic centres.

North of Kharkov, they are only 10 miles from the city, said Bill Downs, broadcasting from Moscow to-day.

The commentator added: Kharkov will soon be liberated. Soviet forces are by-passing the retreating Germans on all sides.

All the German positions in the Donets basin are imperiled by a great outflanking movement north-west of Kharkov intended to cut off the city from communications many miles in the rear.

Poltava, where four railways meet, appears to be the Red Army's immediate objective in the quarter. It lies 75 miles west-south-west of Kharkov. Its fall will make Kharkov untenable.

Soviet forces have made striking advances in this direction, according to Henry Shapirov, British United Press Moscow correspondent.

Well across the railway from Kharkov to Sumy (100 miles to the north-west), they have occupied a town only 40 miles from Poltava and are within a few miles of the Kharkov-Poltava railway.

This line is one of the two remaining routes of escape left open to the German forces in Kharkov.


Robert Magidoff, N.B.C. Moscow broadcaster, said: "The Russians have complete air domination over the Kharkov front. The once so powerful Luftwaffe cannot protect the German infantry.

"The Germans' growing confusion is due not only to air attacks. Many communications have also been cut by Soviet armoured forces, and there is a disastrous loss of contact between the German tanks and fuel organisations."

William Downs, of the C.B.S., commenting on "the astounding Nazi confusion," added: "In some sectors it is almost a race between American Dodge and Ford trucks—Russia has thousands of them—and the German, French and Italian vehicles, in which the Germans pressed from all sides are fleeing."


Judged by precedents, and Moscow reports reaching Stockholm, advanced Soviet mobile guns and patrols have already put the Kharkov-Poltava escape railway out of commission, cables Bernard Valery, of Reuters.

The Sumy railway is now occupied for a stretch of 40 miles.

These reports state that the Soviet columns of fast-moving tanks and motorized infantry, which battered their way across three main railway lines north and north-west of Kharkov, are sweeping over the Ukrainian plains well behind the city in the west.

The left prong of the Soviet's wide encircling movement, driving from Chuguev (on the Donets 25 miles from Kharkov, to the east) is trying to cut the escape corridors for the German garrison to the south-west.


Harold King, Reuters special correspondent, cabled from Moscow to-day: The Red Army has now closed round Kharkov on three sides, and are 36 miles west of the city at Nikitovka.

Other Soviet forces are engaged in a frontal drive from a new direction, the north-east.

A Moscow radio broadcast stated: "In two directions Red Army units have cut vital communications and scattered enemy forces. The retreating Germans are losing heavily, but are resisting very stubbornly."

A military correspondent writes: "The menace to the German flank on the south Russia front is very much more serious than it was last winter.

"This time the Russian armies are not only fresh and remarkably well equipped, but they are animated with the spirit of victory.

"Kharkov is not organized like Orel as a great 'hedgehog' of defence. It would not be surprising if the Germans took time by the forelock and withdrew their garrison before it is cut off."

Red Air Force formations are striking massive blows at the Germans as the army drives on Kharkov.

"Red Star" declares: "In three separate days' operations Soviet airmen have destroyed or damaged 148 German tanks and 600 lorries, blown up 24 ammunition dumps and silenced 68 field and anti-aircraft batteries."


On the Briansk front, the fall of Karachev, key railway town 26 miles east of Briansk, is said to be imminent.

Its fall would represent an advance of 50 miles due west of Orel and would seriously imperil Briansk.

To-day's German communiqué says in the Bielgorod area "the great battle" continues and adds that west of Orel all enemy attempts at a breakthrough again failed, as did new enemy attacks in the Vyazma area.

South of Lake Ladoga resumed enemy attacks were also repulsed.

The enemy lost 215 tanks, and in two days 119 planes.

German resistance north-west of Orel, where Soviet troops are approaching Briansk from another direction, also shows signs of stiffening, but the Russian advance is continuing.

Reuters and B.U.P.