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Operation Vernichtung
Part of World War II
Date November 11, 1944-January 12, 1945
Location southern Latvia and northern Lithuania
Result Soviet victory
Belligerents
German Roundel Germany
Soviet Roundel Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
German Roundel Felix Steiner Soviet Roundel Hovhannes Bagramyan
Units involved
Army Group Latvia First Baltic Front
Strength
560,000 troops
250 tanks
60 artillery pieces
1,280,000 troops<bs>500 tanks
100 artillery pieces
Casualties and losses
25,000 killed
150,000 wounded
350,000 captured
199 tanks destroyed
58 artillery pieces destroyed
40,000 killed
134 tanks destroyed
48 artillery pieces destroyed
Operation Vernichtung ("Obliteration") was a counter-offensive by the Wehrmacht designed to push the Soviet forces in Lithuania and Latvia back to northern Latvia. The Germans failed, and Army Group Latvia was destroyed. 25,000 of the Germans were killed, and most of the rest were captured or wounded. The Soviets lost 40,000 killed, but had a lot of reserves.

Background Edit

Previously, the Soviets had pushed the Germans out of Latvia, and forced the Germans into northern Lithuania. The Germans and Latvians, collectively known as Army Group Latvia, prepared a counter-offensive that would push the Soviets out of the Baltics and reclaim the country. The Axis forces, including the 500th Heavy Panzer Battalion and the German 30th Army (both not a part of Army Group Latvia), prepared their offensive: 300,000 Axis troops would advance from Aizpute and attack the Soviets in Liepaja, while 200,000 Axis troops would retake Jelgava; the other 60,000 would advance in between the two armies, and they would provide reinforcements if needed. The plan seemed brilliant, but the Soviets had several armies to spare, and they decided to send them out to push the Axis troops back as they marched.

Offensive Edit

Skirmish at Bauska Edit

The first battle came when Soviet and German tanks clashed at Bauska, with Friedrich von Weyler's 500th Heavy Panzer Battalion fighting a force of Soviet T-55 tanks. The German armor was destroyed by the Soviets, who had much more T-55s, and those tanks overpowered the German groups. The German infantry accompanying the tanks were slaughtered, with only a few living past the battle.

First Battle Edit

The Axis troops sent to fight the Soviets in Liepaja ran into the First Baltic Front, who sent 500,000 troops to fight them. The Soviets had armor that had just been bloodied at Bauska, and this armor assisted in attacking the Germans. The Germans had artillery pieces, but Soviet air suport blew it up, and killed several German troops. The Germans were weakened by Soviet artillery and tanks, with the armor punching holes in German lines for infantry to move in and mop up. The Germans lost 5,000 killed in the first action, plus many more thousands wounded or captured.

Second Battle Edit

The Germans who tried to take Jelgava were caught between the Soviet forces from Liepaja and the garrison from Jelgava, who flanked the Germans. The Soviets lost several troops in this fight, as the Germans' last armor killed off several Russians, but the Soviet artillery blew up German tanks and finished off the infantry. The Germans and Latvians lost 10,000 killed, plus many more wounded and taken prisoner.

Battle of Mazeikiai Edit

The Germans retreated from the offensive, on orders from commander Felix Steiner, who wanted to cut his losses. However, Hovhannes Bagramyan ordered the Soviet Army to give chase and hit the German rear flank. The Soviets killed several Germans with artillery fire, and their tanks blew up German artillery and vehicles that were retreating. The Germans lost 10,000 killed, again with a high amount of other casualties.

Finale Edit

The Germans and Latvians were drained of manpower ever since the beginning of the offensive, and with only 35,000 men left, the Axis army marched to Kaunas, where new commander Heinrich von Manningheim surrendered his command. Most of the survivors were emaciated, or were non-seriously wounded from the fighting. The offensive ended, and Army Group Latvia was disassembled.

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