Southern Front (Soviet Union)

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The Southern Front was a Front – a roughly Army group sized formation – of the Soviet Army during the Second World War. The Southern Front directed military operations during the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina in 1940, and then was formed twice after the June 1941 German invasion, Operation Barbarossa.

During the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina in 1940, the Soviets deployed three armies (12th, 5th and 9th).[1] Altogether the Soviet Southern Front opposing Bessarabia and Bukovina consisted of 32 (or 31) rifle divisions, 2 (or 3) motorised rifle divisions, 6 cavalry divisions, 11 tank brigades, 3 airborne brigades (one in reserve), 14 corp's artillery regiments, 16 artillery regiments of the Main Reserve Command and 4 heavy artillery divisions. In numbers this would be around 460,000 men, ca. 12,000 guns and mortars, ca. 3,000 tanks and 2,160 aircraft.

First Formation

After the German invasion, the Southern Front was re-created on June 25, 1941 from the forces in the Moscow and Odessa Military Districts, and included the 9th Army. It was commanded by General Ivan V. Tiulenev from June 1941 to August 1941. Lieutenant General Dmitri I. Ryabyshev took over on 30 August 1941 and held command until 5 October, when Colonel General Yakov Cherevichenko took command, until December 1941. During 1941 the Front fought in the border battles in the southern Ukraine, defended Odessa, and then conducted the defense and successful counteroffensive at Rostov-on-Don.[2]

Lieutenant General Rodion Ia. Malinovsky arrived in December and held the reins until July 1942. In 1942 the Front took part in the Donbass, Barvenko-Lozovaia, and Voronezh-Volgograd(Stalingrad) operations. According to Glantz and Bonn, the Front then suffered a notable failure at the Second Battle of Kharkov.[2] The Front received additional forces from the (disbanded) Southwestern Front on July 12, 1942 and was formally disbanded on July 28, 1942, with the forces transferred to the North Caucasus Front.

Second Formation

In July 1942, three armies (the 1st, 5th and 7th Reserve Armies) out of the Supreme High Command reserve were moved into the Stalingrad sector and redesignated the 64th, 63rd and 62nd armies respectively. They formed the core of the Stalingrad Front on 12 July. The Stalingrad Front was then divided into the Stalingrad Front, under General Lieutenant V.N. Gordov, and the Southeastern Front, under Colonel General Andrei I. Yeremenko on 7 August 1942 as the Battle of Stalingrad began. Stalin had actually taken the decision to split the two fronts on 3 August at 0300 despite protest from his advisors.[3] The Tsaritsa gully in Stalingrad was the dividing line. Yeremenko's new South-Eastern Front included the 51st, 57th, and 64th Armies. They were then re-transformed into the Don and Southwestern Fronts on 28 September with the Southeastern Front becoming the Stalingrad Front (Second Formation).[4]

The Southern Front was re-formed from the Stalingrad Front on January 1, 1943, and Colonel General Andrei I. Yeremenko stayed in command, until February 1943. General Lieutenant Rodion Malinovsky [promoted to Colonel General in February 1943] then filled in until Lieutenant General Fyodor I. Tolbukhin took command in March 1943. Tolbukhin was promoted to Colonel General in April. He would command the Front into 1944.

On 1 April 1943 Southern Front comprised 2nd Guards Army, 5th Shock Army, 28th Army, 44th Army, 51st Army, 8th Air Army, and a significant number of Front troops. Among the Front troops were the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps (3 гв. кк (5 и 6 гв., 32 кд, 14 гв. иптап, 3 гв. оиптдн, 64 гв. миндн)), 4th Guards Cavalry Corps (4 гв. кк (9 и 10 гв., 30 кд, 152 гв. иптап, 4 гв. оиптдн, 68 гв. миндн, 255 зенап)) and 5th Guards Cavalry Corps (5 гв. кк (11 и 12 гв., 63 кд, 150 гв. иптап, 5 гв. оиптдн, 72 гв. миндн, 585 зенап)), 3rd and 4th Guards Mechanised Corps, as well as the 76th, 78th, and 116th Fortified Regions.[5]

Southern Front was renamed the 4th Ukrainian Front on October 20, 1943.

Sources and External References

  1., Invasion of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina
  2. 2.0 2.1 Keith E. Bonn & David Glantz, Slaughterhouse: The Handbook of the Eastern Front, Aberjona Press, 2005, p.303
  3. Antony Beevor, 1999; John Erickson (historian), The Road to Stalingrad, 1993 via The Stalingrad Academy of Street Fighting
  4. Bonn and Glantz, 2005, p.303-4
  5. BSSA,, 1 April 1943