commanding Fourth Panzer Army.
The battle for Bobruisk, dated July 2nd 1944.
This report is written in haste as my convoy is being strafed by Soviet aircraft as it retreats towards Minsk.
I had taken up a protected position across the main highway with my left protected by a lake and my right on a string of hills. My armour had been drawn off by what I now know to be Operation Maskirovka (Camouflage); this Soviet deception meant that I had no armoured units except for a handful of Jagd Panthers.
The Corps commander deployed two veteran infantry divisions, the 342nd and 72nd, in the lightly wooded ground in the centre through which the highway passed, they also covered a vital hill on the left, in front of the lake. The 275th veteran infantry division was tasked with protecting the command centre to the rear, a village containing supply dumps behind the woods, and also the string of hills to the east. The Jagd Panthers were placed on a dominating position on these hills with obstacles and a minefield in front. We only had time to construct light defences before the Soviet assault.
The attack was heralded by the expected massive artillery bombardment. Fortunately this proved to be ineffective with only minor disruption to our units which was quickly recovered. Artillery continued to hit our forward positions as the Soviets advanced, but we had pulled back deeper into the woods and it had no further effect.
The Soviets attacked all along the line with armour and infantry. We allowed them to close in the centre and left, using recon platoons to hide our positions. As they approached, we opened fire, causing great losses and forcing many units to withdraw. The Jagd Panthers held off the attack by T34s on the right while flanking infantry in the woods pinned down his infantry. Fortunately the absence of Soviet artillery support and the Red airforce meant that our losses were light.
Eventually with weight of numbers (they had six divisions), some Soviet units gained the hill on the left. Assault engineers and flame tanks defeated a battalion on our left flank which was forced to retreat, exposing a dangerous hole in our line. To deal with this, the divisional commander called in all available artillery which disrupted his remaining intact units, then counter-attacked with a reserve battalion, restoring the front.
Captured officers reported that the Soviet command was near despair, as every attack had been shattered and they had few remaining undisrupted units; the commissars had unholstered their pistols and prevented any units running away. Under pressure, they committed their last units to close assault. Our units by this time were exhausted and low on ammunition; failing to stop the assaulting units. The close combat devolved into a series of small combats, with troops falling back on both sides. The German units falling back were misinterpreted as a retreat by other units of the 342nd division so the remainder of the division retreated as well; exposing the entire left flank and resulting in the capture of the vital hill and wooded area.
The Soviets were beginning to rally some of their armoured units and they were able to move a reformed infantry division into the woods to support their forward battalion. At last the Soviet artillery & airforce made an effect and hit the 72nd division in the centre, preventing it from counter-attacking. With the loss of the division on its flank it required the personal intervention of the Corps commander to hold them in position and not join in the retreat.
Knowing the position to be untenable, I ordered the withdrawal of the Corps on 1st July. The Soviet Corps was too damaged to prevent our escape. Unfortunately the Jagd Panthers ran out of fuel and had to be destroyed by their crews.