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Battle for Berlin. New article and new map for HB and FRB [Operation]Berlin!
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War Thunder presents new map [Operation]Berlin already available for Historic Battles and Full-Real Battles!

Check the historical background by our historical consultant Mark Barber and his brand new article exclusively for War Thunder!


About the author:
Mark Barber, War Thunder Historical Consultant
Mark Barber is a pilot in the British Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. His first book was published by Osprey Publishing in 2008; subsequently, he has written several more titles for Osprey and has also published articles for several magazines, including the UK's top selling aviation magazine 'FlyPast'. His main areas of interest are British Naval Aviation in the First and Second World Wars and RAF Fighter Command in the Second World War. He currently works with Gaijin as a Historical Consultant, helping to run the Historical Section of the War Thunder forums and heading up the Ace of the Month series.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Battle for Berlin

 

By the spring of 1945, the question of whether Germany could be defeated had become redundant. The questions now were when would Germany fall, and who would take the credit for capturing Berlin. After the success of the Normandy Campaign, British and American forces together with their allies were advancing east towards Berlin whilst the Red Army continued to advance through Eastern Germany. It had previously been agreed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 that Berlin would fall in the Soviet zone of occupation in post-war Europe, although the city itself would be further split into zones occupied by the different allied nations.


The Soviet forces were split amongst two fronts; the Belorussian front under the command of Marshal Zhukov, and the Ukrainian front commanded by Marshal Konev. As the two Russian fronts advanced towards Berlin throughout mid April, large scale air raids by RAF Mosquitoes and Soviet bombers were directed against targets within the capital. By April 16th, Soviet forces had arrived at the outer defences of Berlin and at 0300 hours, 9000 artillery and tank guns of Zhukov’s Belorussian front began the bombardment of German defenders which would last for days. Powerful searchlights were illuminated directly behind Soviet forces and directed towards the German lines in an attempt to blind the defenders against the first wave of the assault. However, this plan backfired drastically when the beams of light reflected against the clouds of dust and smoke kicked up by half a million Russian shells which had pounded the defensive positions. The lights dazzled the Soviet troops and silhouetted them as they advanced, making them easier targets for the German defenders. The fanatical German defense succeeded in halting the Russian assault, and the German lines remained intact by dawn. The Luftwaffe was still able to muster small numbers of aircraft and German bombers attacked the Russian front lines as they continued their assault on the outer defences of Berlin.

  

Meanwhile, to the south of the city, Konev began his own assault with the forces of the Ukrainian front. Konev’s forces succeeded in crossing the river Neisse, reaching the western bank within 20 minutes of the beginning of the assault. After engineers creating a bridgehead whilst still under fire, tanks were able to cross the river and the advance towards Berlin continued. However, Zhukov’s forces were still bogged down by German defensive positions to the east of the city at the high ground of Seelow Heights. After another failed assault spearheaded by tanks, Zhukov ordered more extensive aerial reconnaissance of Seelow Heights in an attempt to find a weak point in the German positions. Soviet bombers and artillery continued to bombard the defences. The Luftwaffe carried on in a desperate attempt to halt the Russian advance by targeting bridges and Russian ground forces but with the air superiority achieved by Soviet air forces, German bombers suffered heavy losses at the hands of Russian fighters. Russian bombers were also deployed en masse; in a complete reversal of the tactics they first employed nearly six years previously, German forces were subject to the horrors of Blitzkrieg warfare as Konev’s armour advanced towards Berlin behind a constant bombardment provided by Russian aircraft. Supported by air power, Konev’s forces quickly crossed the river Spree. By April 18th, Konev’s forces are within miles of Berlin and on the 19th Zhukov finally succeeded in overwhelming the German defenders at Seelow Heights, but at the cost of some 30,000 men. By April 20th, Hitler’s birthday, Zhukov’s forces had reached the northern outskirts of Berlin whilst Konev arrived at the south of the city. On the same day, the last 1000 bomber raid of the war wreaked havoc and destruction across Germany’s capital as American bombers devastated Berlin, followed up by precision strikes by British Mosquitoes. With artillery soon joining the bombers in the assault on Berlin, Germany’s capital was now under direct attack from ground forces.

However, Germany had prepared for the advancing Russian forces. Systematic networks of minefields and barbed wire surrounded the city to channel the Soviet forces into killing grounds, where machine gun emplacements and mortars would be able to be used to maximum effect. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Berlin, most of the regular Wermacht had been deployed outside the city to stem the Soviet advance and now the defences needed to be augmented by the civilian police and the Volkssturm – an organisation made up of those too old to be called forward for regular military service. Of the 41000 men employed in the city’s defense, fewer than 15000 were trained soldiers, with 24000 Volkssturm, 1700 civilian police and 1200 Hitler Youth and Labour Service boys making up the numbers. In addition to this, the Luftwaffe had also installed specially built Anti-Aircraft towers; three groups of paired emplacements. The first tower in each of the three groups was the Gefechtsturm or Combat tower, and housed eight 128mm guns supported by batteries of 20mm guns. The second tower – the Leitturm or Lead tower also housed 20mm gun batteries but acted as a Command Post. These enormous constructs were able to provide shelter for 10,000 civilians behind their concrete walls of up to 3.5 meters thickness and, with living space, provisions and a hospital ward, were the most defendable positions in Berlin during the final Soviet assault.

 

By 1900 on April 22nd, Soviet forces had arrived at the Teltow Canal on the southern outskirts and the Berlin defenders were locked in direct combat. However, they were quickly augmented on April 23rd when the survivors from Seelow Heights managed to retreat back into the city to bolster the defences with 45,000 soldiers and just 60 tanks. As Zhukov’s forces slowly advanced from the east, Konev’s units managed to cross the Teltow Canal on April 24th in the face of stiff resistance. Despite the intense rivalry between the two Russian Marshalls, they did coordinate their assault to an extent as they advanced block by block towards the centre of Berlin, although this was predominantly due to pressure from Moscow; on April 25th, the forces of Zhukov and Konev had completely encircled Berlin and joined together at the west of the city. Meanwhile, elements of Zhukov’s forces continued the advance to meet up with their US counterparts to the west before taking place along the banks of the River Elbe to finally ensure that the Western Allies had no chance of advancing on Berlin.


With dominance of the airspace over Berlin, Soviet forces were able to push towards the city centre with a far better view of the battlespace thanks to aerial reconnaissance. However, the rubble strewn streets and bombed out buildings were perfect places for infantrymen to set up ambushes and as Soviet tanks advanced along roads they were often easy prey for Panzerfaust armed defenders. However, the Luftwaffe flak towers proved to be impervious to even the heaviest Russian guns and now the 128mm anti-aircraft guns were turned against Russian armour. With no way of knocking out the huge flak towers, the Russians were forced to advance past them.


By April 28th the German defences had retreated to within only a few streets of the iconic Reichstag building and Adolf Hitler’s Command Bunker to the south. The fighting continued day and night through the final handful of square miles occupied by German forces. On April 30th, the first concerted effort by Soviet forces to take the Reichstag began. Infantrymen advanced with red banners to place on top of the building which Stalin felt represented all that Nazi Germany stood for. However, battered by fire from the Berlin Zoo flak tower some two kilometres away, the first assault was a failure. As assaults against the Reichstag continued throughout the afternoon, and within earshot of the gunfire of advancing enemy soldiers, Adolf Hitler committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. By early evening Soviet soldiers had entered the Reichstag and bitter hand to hand fighting ensued from room to room on every floor of the historic building. At 2250, with the battle still raging, one of the red banner parties managed to reach the Reichstag’s rooftop and plant the symbolic flag at the base of a statue – it had been Zhukov’s men who finally secured the honour for Mother Russia.


In the early hours of May 1st, news began to spread amongst the surviving German defenders that their Fuhrer had taken his own life. The already fragile morale of many defenders was now broken and German soldiers approached their Russian victors to discuss terms of surrender. At 0600 on May 2nd, the Berlin Garrison surrendered unconditionally and orders were transmitted for all remaining German units to cease fire, including the still undefeated flak towers. The raising of the red flag above the Reichstag was re-enacted for propaganda purposes and photographs and on May 8th, the surrender of all German forces was made official and the war in Europe was finally over after nearly six years of bloodshed.

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