A timeline for Fortress Garrison Tarnopol.
Tarnopol, Polish- Ukraine, USSR (Mar – Apr 1944)
In 1944 Tarnopol was a town of 35,000 people (Buchner, 1995). The city was about 40 km west of the old Soviet-Polish border on the east bank of the River Seret. It had been Polish from 1920, was annexed by the Soviets in 1939, and captured by the Germans in 1941 (Wikipedia: Tarnopol Voivodship). The town was a transport hub with several railway lines running through it, the most significant being the Lvov to Odessa line which was the last railway line east of the Carparthians linking these two cities. Cutting this railway line would force the Germans to supply their southern forces via the long route through Rumania. Tarnopol was in a largely flat area, although a sprinkling of low hills, small woods, and villages dotted the plain. The River Seret and a marsh bordered lake cut off the western section of the town, comprising the suburbs of Zagrobela and Kukowce, from the main part of town. The connection was via a bridge over a dam. Moniushko (2005) described the town as being of “well built brick” houses, although Buchner says “stone”. Tarnopol was a German garrison town (4,600 men after reinforcements) and its only defences were field fortifications within a 2-3 km radius of the city centre. The town also lacked an airfield, and during the siege the garrison had to rely solely on unreliable air drops for supplies.
Note: Tarnopol (Polish) is also called Ternopol (Russian) and Ternopil (Ukrainian). Tarnopol was the name used in 1944.
Campaign Idea: 8 Stage Tarnopol Campaign
The idea here is to have a set of pre-planned linked scenarios, which happen in sequence. For example:
- The Russians are coming
- Russian Recce
- Push to the city
- Panzerverband Friebe to the rescue (Battle Group Friebe)
- SU 152s up close and personal
- Panzerverband Friebe tries again (Battle Group Friebe)
- Last Stand
(As you’ll notice I’ve actually got drafts of five scenarios, so you could play this as a 5 or 6 Stage Campaign.)
You can determine overall victory in a couple of ways:
- Victory in one game might affect details of the next, thus tipping the balance in favour of the player that keeps winning. The player who wins the last game, wins the campaign as a whole.
- Alternatively you assume history is largely going to repeat itself and keep each scenario independent and so forces are pre-determined for each game before the campaign starts. In this case award victory points for each game – highest total at the end wins.
Campaign Idea: Tarnopol 3 Round Campaign
But eight games is quite a lot, so you might try something like the 3 Round Campaign. The rounds would be:
- Penetration: the Russian attempt to break into the city.
- Consolidation: Either the German counter-attack or the second Russian attempt to break in.
- Counter-attack: Either the German defenders trying a desperate attempt to break out or the German Relief force trying to break through to the city.
Having only three rounds, hence games, there is a good chance you’ll play this to completion …more
Campaign Idea: Tarnopol Matrix Campaign
Another option is to lose the concept of pre-planned scenarios and use some mechanism to determine the general course of events. A Matrix Game is one possibility. I’ve outlined my ideas for such a campaign separately …more
Campaign Idea: Zagrobela Campaign
Another option is to ignore the events in the centre of town and concentrate on the rural suburb of Zagrobela. Being on the west of the river Seret, this suburb was critical to any relief attempt and/or breakout by the garrison. If Zagrobela fell to the Russians, then it was all over for the defenders. Probably due to this fact, at least for part of the time, the veteran Demba Fusilier Battalion was responsible for holding the suburb. Things to bear in mind: Zagrobela is isolated from the rest of the town, was semi-rural, and had relatively little cover.
The Russian “Mud Offensive” began on 4 Mar Zhukov (Erickson, 1996). Two Russian Fronts were operating in the vicinity of Tarnopol. Zhukov’s 1st Ukrainian Front in front of Tarnopol and Koniev’s 2nd Ukrainian Front to the south-east. As it only had indirect bearing on the events at Tarnopol I’ll describe Koniev’s activities first. The 2nd Ukrainian Front kicked off a day after Zhukov’s men at dawn (0750 hours) on 5 Mar 1944. They smashed the German defences on the Gornyi Tikich and took the German depot at Uman on 10 Mar. On the evening of 11 Mar Russian units took the Dzhulinka and Gaivoron crossings on the Bug. Within 48 hours Russian units had crossed the river on a 80 km front. At 1300 hours on 17 Mar the lead units reached the Dniester and put bridgeheads on the western bank . On 19 Mar Moghilev-Podolskii was cleared allowing a full crossing of the Dniester – a entire Corps was across by noon on 21 Mar. This operation pushed the right flank of First Panzer Army back to the northwest away from the left flank of Eighth Army. Koniev’s men reached the Soviet-Rumanian border on 25 Mar.
Zhukov’s 1st Ukrainian Front attacked at 0800 hours on 4 Mar (Erickson, 1996). The rail line to Tarnopol was the central axis of advance, coinciding with the junction between Fourth and First Panzer Armies. Within 48 hours, and despite the clinging mud, the Russians had broken through on a 160 km front (Buchner, 1995, says 40), and Zhukov’s tanks and motorised infantry had reached a depth of 40 km. The foot slogging infantry had to drag themselves and their equipment through the soaked earth, fighting isolated pockets of Germans as they advanced. By noon of 7 Mar the right wing of the Fourth Panzer Army had been pushed back to the Seret river, and some Russian troops had crossed. By the evening of the same day (7 Mar) three Soviet armies (60th, 3rd Guards Tank and 4th Tank) were closing on the line from Tarnopol to Chernyi-Ostrov. When tanks captured Volochisk, halfway between Tarnopol and Cheryni-Ostrov, they also cut the Lvov-Odessa railway line. German reinforcements stiffened resistance near the railway line in the Tarnopol-Proskurov sector, so Zhukov ordered Tarnopol bypassed to the south, thus cutting off the German garrison in the town.
First Encirclement (9-20 Mar 1944)
On 9 Mar Russian tanks and infantry broke into the Tarnopol (Buchner, 1995). German reinforcements, including anti-tank guns and assault guns, entered the town and rear echelon troops and civilians fled west. In heavy fighting the reinforced garrison had cleared the town of Russian troops by 11 Mar. Tarnopol, however, remained under continuous bombardment.
Scenario Idea: The Russians are coming
City based scenario representing the initial Russian attempts to enter the city. Could either be the Russian penetration or the German counter-attack, or a combination. Terrain or Breakthrough objectives could be used.
Meanwhile, and despite its weak garrison and poor defences, on 10 Mar 1944 Hitler declared Tarnopol the first “Fortified Place” (Buchner, 1995). As such it was to form a breakwater in the Soviet tide. The idea being that the garrison would remain in place while the Russians surrounded the town, thus tying up resources and hopefully delaying the Russian advance westward. With orders to hold on to the last man, the new commander, Generalmajor von Neindorff, organised the defence into four sectors: North, South, East and West (the Kutkowce and Zagrobela suburbs across the Seret). The troops dug in as best they could with the assault guns held in reserve for counter attacks.
In the period 13-20 Mar, the reinforced XXXXVIII Panzer Corps attacked southeast of Tarnopol with some success (Buchner, 1995). They closed the gap with First Panzer Army and opened up the route to Tarnopol.
Kamenets-Podolskii Pocket (21 Mar – 7 Apr 1944)
On 21 Mar, with Koniev across the Dniester, Zhukov initiated the next step in his plan – a thrust toward Chernovitsy to encircle First Panzer Army (Buchner, 1995; Erickson, 1996). Zhukov’s forces roared along the valley of Zbruch to the Dniester crossing at Zaleshchiki. German resistance was flattened and by 27 Mar Zhukov’s advance elements were close to Chernovitsy. Vinnitsa was also taken. By 28 Mar Koniev’s and Zhukov’s forces met up and some 200,000 men of First Panzer Army were encircled in the Kamenets-Podolskii sector south-west of Vinnitsa. The cordon was only loosely held and First Panzer began fighting its way westward. On 4 Apr two SS Panzer divisions tried to break the circle from the outside, at Podgaitsy. Their opponents fell back to Buchach, where on 7 Apr the SS relief force met the badly mauled First Panzer coming westward. Fighting continued north of Buchach to mid-April but First Panzer Army was saved.
Second Encirclement (23 – 24 Mar 1944)
During 21-24 Mar the Soviet 60th Army (11 rifle divisions, 1 artillery division and IV Guards Tank Corps) drove XXXXVIII Panzer Corps back to the Wosuzka River (Buchner, 1995). By 23 Mar Tarnopol was surrounded for the second and final time. Tarnopol was now 20 km behind Russian lines.
Russian attacks on Tarnopol also resumed on 23 Mar (Buchner, 1995). Tanks and infantry attacked from the north, south and east, but the defenders managed to fend the Russians off. The attacks continued the next day (24 Mar) but now included assaults on the western sector across the Seret as well. Both western suburbs were lost, Kutkowce permanently, but Zagrobela changed hands several times during the day and ended up in German control. Despite the relative lack of success of their attacks, by the evening of 24 Mar the Russians had four Rifle Divisions plus tanks, artillery and rocket launchers in place around the town.
Scenario Idea: Push to the city
Russian attacks against German defences outside the city. Could be any time from 23 – 31 Mar.
949th Grenadier Regiment
On 28 Mar the Russians attacked the south-eastern sector with infantry, tanks, artillery and close support aircraft. Facing them were the youthful 949th Grenadier Regiment. The defenders were entrenched but Green. I’ve put together a draft of Push to the City [Crossfire Scenario]
Another gritty option is something based on Zagrobela. Key conflicts were 23, 25, and 28 Mar 1944.
Panzerverband Friebe to the rescue (25 Mar 1944)
At 0430 hours on 25 Mar Oberst Friebe set out with an armoured battle group from 8th Panzer Division to break through to Tarnopol (Buchner, 1995). Friebe had the 2nd and 10th Panzer Regiments (including a Panther Battalion which led the way), and two half track mounted battalions of Panzer Grenadiers (1st Battalion from 8th Panzergrenadier Regiment and 1st Battalion from 74th Panzergrenadier Regiment). The battle group had to advance through mud, under artillery fire, across the Dolzanca River and then over three rows of hills, each with entrenched Russians. When the tanks stalled in front of defensive positions the Panzergrenadiers dismounted to clear them. By late afternoon the battle group managed to push through three Russians positions before reaching a fourth in woods 4 km west of Zagrobela. Under pressure from concealed anti-tank guns and anti-tank rifles, artillery, mortars, and ground support aircraft, Friebe decided his men could go no further and withdrew to regroup for an advance to the southeast. This second advance never happened as further casualties and the resulting confusion forced the battle group back to the German lines.
Scenario Idea: Panzerverband Friebe to the rescue
In this case it is the Germans attacking. Terrain or Breakthrough objectives could be used. The Germans will have armour and armoured infantry. The Russians will be in entrenched on high ground, with infantry, anti-tank guns, and anti-tank rifles, plus support from artillery, mortars, and ground support aircraft.
Withdrawal to edge of city (25 – 30 Mar 1944)
This relief attempt in fact brought no relief as the Russians continued to press Tarnopol on 25 Mar even as Friebe approached (Buchner, 1995). A Russian regiment deeply penetrated the eastern sector and was only evicted after much heavy fighting. During the evening the Germans in the northern sector saw off an attack by 17 tanks and escorting infantry. Simultaneously the defenders of Zagrobela in the west were mauled by a ferocious attack.
In the period 25-27 Mar the defenders could also see a steady flow of Russian reinforcements arriving, particularly in the west where the relief effort was foreseen (Buchner, 1995). The garrison experienced continuous artillery and mortar bombardment. Russian reconnaissance missions were frequent and increasing in number.
The next Russian attack began on 28 Mar with a 2 hour bombardment (Buchner, 1995). A Russian Rifle Division, supported by tanks, artillery and close support aircraft soon followed, attacking the young soldiers of 949th Grenadier Regiment in the south-eastern sector. The 2nd Battalion broke and was heavily mauled. Counter-attacks could not evict the Russians.
On 29 Mar another German counter-attack failed to pinch off the Russian penetration in the southeast and the defenders were forced to withdraw to the edge of the city (Buchner, 1995). The same day the Russians penetrated positions of the 949th Grenadier Regiment along Access Road IV.
Scenario Idea: Russian Recce
Shortening the perimeter (31 Mar – 9 Apr 1944)
Fighting continued but the next major Russian effort was on 31 Mar (Buchner, 1995). After several hours of bombardment strong Russian forces attacked between the two Railway lines in the east. They broke through the defensive positions and pushed as far as the Rail Station. In the absence of reserves the defenders in the north and south were withdrawn to the town edge. By now the garrison was squeezed into a pocked 1 x 1.5 km, and was entirely within the confines of the town. Continuous heavy shelling resulted in the destruction of most of the town. The fighting had devolved into typical urban combat with small groups fighting for every street and house. Moniushko (2005), who passed through a couple of months later, said the Germans had converted the well built brick houses into pill-boxes.
In the first two days of April fighting was particularly heavy in the west and east-southeast (Buchner, 1995). On 1 Apr the Russians penetrated the positions of the veteran Demba Fusilier Battalion in the western suburb of Zagrobela. On 2 Apr the Demba Fusilier Battalion cleared the penetration and drove off two subsequent Russians attacks (infantry supported by tanks). The defenders were less successful elsewhere, being driven back in the east and southeast. The last German reserves were use to blunt a Russian push towards the centre of the town. 10 Russian tanks were destroyed in the process. On 3 Apr the Russians tried and failed again. By this stage Stuka dive bombers were acting as flying artillery, hitting Russian troop concentrations around the town. On 4 Apr the Russians attacked again, forcing the defenders to shorten their perimeter again. On 5 Apr several more Russian assaults was repulsed. On 6-8 Apr there was some respite with the Russians contenting themselves to small raids.
On 9 Apr the four surrounding Russians divisions attacked in unison after a bombardment lasting several hours (Buchner, 1995). The defenders succeeded in seeing off the attacks in the north and west, but had to shorten their lines to cope with Russian penetrations in the east and south. The Russians used direct fire from anti-tank guns, light artillery and the massive SU-152 assault guns ( Moniushko, 2005) to destroy the German strong points.
Scenario Idea: SU-152s up close and personal
A few elements combine here for an interesting scenario.
- Fighting within the city.
- Russians attacking along the railway lines.
- Railway station being an objective.
- Stuka dive bombers acting as flying artillery
- In addition to infantry and tanks, the Russians used direct fire from anti-tank guns, light artillery and the massive SU-152 assault guns.
- Germans were dug into fortified buildings.
Or you could focus on the veteran Demba Fusilier Battalion in the western suburb of Zagrobela, where the terrain would be more open.
Panzerverband Friebe tries again (11 – 16 Apr 1944)
On 11 Apr the second relief attempt set out (Buchner, 1995). Once again Oberst Friebe set out with his armoured battle group (Panzerverband), but this time the 9th SS-Panzer Division Hohenstaufen was in support. Panzerverband Friebe stalled in the face of strong defensive fire and Hohenstaufen was delayed at at the Wosuszka river. It took until the morning of 14 Apr for pioneers of the division to put a bridge across the river. Friebe led 71 tanks and 27 assault guns toward Tarnopol but the going was still slow. They took Chodaczow Wielki on the evening on 15 Apr, only 9 km from their starting point. There they had to wait for air dropped supplies before continuing on the 16th. By then it was too late.
Scenario Idea: Panzerverband Friebe tries again
Once again the Germans attacking. Terrain or Breakthrough objectives could be used. The Germans will have armour and armoured infantry. The Russians will be in entrenched positions with infantry and anti-tank weapons.
Last stand (11 – 16 Apr 1944)
As with the earlier relief attempt, the Germans efforts did not stop the Russians from exerting pressure on Tarnopol itself (Buchner, 1995; note, Buchner seems to get confused about dates from this point in the narrative and consistently says March when April is intended). The Russians achieved several penetrations on 11 Apr, which the defenders managed to seal off. The Germans could not, however, deal with the major attack launched on the night of 11-12 Apr. On 13 Apr a Russian attack from the south split Zagrobela in the west from the main position in the centre of the town. On the night of 13-14 Apr most of the garrison moved across to Zagrobela as a prelude to a breakout. They had 1,300 men, one tank, two assault guns, two self-propelled guns, one anti-tank gun and two light infantry guns. Another 200 men, divided into small groups, remained in the east to delay the enemy, but were pushed out on the night of 14-15 Apr.
The Russians continued to shell, bomb, and strafe the remaining Germans clustered into a 1 km square centred on semi rural Zagrobela (Buchner, 1995). Ground attacks were also launched and at noon on 15 Apr the pocket radioed to say their commander had died in close quarter fighting.
Scenario Idea: Last Stand
Another couple of options:
1. The Russian attack which split the city in two.
2. Russian attacks on Zagrobela after the survivors had gathered there on 15 Apr.
Breakout (16 – 18 Apr 1944)
At 0200 hours on 16 Mar the survivors that were still mobile attempted to break out (Buchner, 1995). Taking the Russians by surprise they managed to break through the inner ring relatively easily. At this point they divided into two groups of about 700 men. One group headed west and the other southwest. The latter group crossed the hills southwest of Zagrobela, into a wood south of the village of Janovka. There they eliminated some Russian anti-tank gun and artillery emplacements, however, under being attacked from flanks and rear they were pushed out of the forest toward the west. By this stage all the officers had been killed. The survivors formed small groups and tried to break through, but only 43 reached the German armour at Chodaczow on 17 Apr. Little is known of the fate of the other group, however, on the morning of 16 Apr five men managed to reach the positions of the 357th Infantry Division north of Kozlov. Two more men appeared north of Kozlov on 18 Apr. Finally five prisoners were returned to Germans lines for propaganda purposes. That made a total of 55 who reach safety out of the original 4,600 men.
Scenario Idea: Breakout
A Couple of choices:
1. The initial German breakout
2. Follow one of the Germans sub-divisions on its path.
Buchner, A. (1995). Ostfront 1944: The German Defensive Battles on the Russian Front 1944 [D. Johnston Trans.]. PA: Schiffer.
Erickson, J. (1996). The Road to Berlin: Stalin’s war with Germany: Volume Two. Phoenix Giants.
Moniushko, E. D. (2005). From Leningrad to Hungary: Notes of a Red Army soldier, 1941-1946 (O. Sheremaet, Trans; D. M. Glantz, Ed.). Frank Cass.