Central Front (Soviet Union)

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The Central Front was a major formation of the Red Army during the Second World War.

The Central Front describes either of two distinct organizations during the war. The first entity existed for just a month during the German invasion of 1941, before it was annihilated. A year and a half later, the name was revived for the second creation, which existed for about eight months in 1943, until it was incorporated into the B'elorussian group of Fronts and renamed accordingly.

The Central Front: 1941

The first version was created on July 24, 1941 from the right wing of the forces in the Western Front, including a new designation of the 3rd Army and the headquarters of the (disbanded) 4th Army, whose former HQ formed the Front headquarters. Colonel General Fyodor I. Kuznetsov took command.

The Front was a combination of the 13th and 21st Armies. 13th Army, in the area of Mogilyov, had under command the 61st Rifle and 20th Mechanised Corps and in the Krichevsky direction the 45th and 20th Rifle Corps. The other initial component of the Front was 21st Army, under General Lieutenant Mikhail Yefremov, with 25th Mechanised Corps, and 66th, 63rd, 21st and 67th Rifle Corps. The new Front's air component was 136 aircraft (75 patched and repaired) under the command of Major General (Aviation) G.A. Vorozheikin.[1] The Central Front thus became the first new Front formed after the German invasion. At the time the Front was created its boundary with the Western front was along the Bryansk-Roslavl-Shklov-Minsk line (all inclusive for the Western front), and the main operational direction of the front was along the Gomel-Bobruisk-Волковыск axis. On August 1, 3rd Army joined the Front, and on August 7 Kuznetsov was recalled to Moscow to be given a new assignment. Command was transferred to General Yefremov.

On August 8, Heinz Guderian's Panzergruppe 2 began its attack along the 13th Army sector. Four days later the German Second Army joined the attack. On August 17, the 63rd Rifle Corps was routed at the village of Skepnya (20 km to the east of Zhlobin), and two days later elements of the Second Army occupied Gomel. On August 22 3rd Army fell back from Mozyr. Under these blows the Front was eventually encircled and destroyed near Chernigov, and was formally disbanded on August 25, 1941. The surviving forces transferred to the first version of the Bryansk Front.

The Central Front: 1943

The second version of this Front was created on February 15, 1943. Then Colonel General Konstantin K. Rokossovsky took command, and was promoted to full General in April 1943. General Lieutenant M. S.Malinin was named as Front Chief of Staff while general-major K.F.Telegin was made the member of the Front's Military Council. The Front incorporated the headquarters and forces of the Don Front, plus additional armies; the 2nd Tank, 21st, 65th, and 70th Army (originally formed from NKVD forces) were made part of the Front, along with the 16th Air Army under General Lieutenant Sergei Rudenko. The Front's headquarters was established around 10 km to the east of Yelets.

As part of Stavka's general move to integrate and rationalise its Army Groups, the Front was renamed the 1st Belorussian Front on October 20, 1943.

Sources and references

  1. John Erickson, 'The Road to Stalingrad' (1975), 2003 Cassel Military Paperbacks edition, p.197