June 30, 1941 – The Battle of Brody was a tank battle fought between the Panzer Group 1’s IIIrd, XLVIII Army Corps (Motorized) and five Soviet Mechanized Corps of the Soviet 5th Army and 6th Army in the triangle formed by the towns Dubno, Lutsk and Brody in Ukraine between 23 and 30 June 1941. It is known in Soviet historiography as a part of the “border defensive battles”. Although the Red Army formations inflicted heavy losses on the German forces, they were outmaneuvered and suffered enormous losses in tanks. This was one of the most intense armoured engagements in the opening phase of Operation Barbarossa and remained the largest tank battle of World War II until the Battle of Kursk two years later. The condition of the VVS South-Western front air force followed the pattern of the entire front line, with the great majority of its aircraft being destroyed on the ground, as a result of Stalin’s refusal to put Soviet forces on alert, disregarding intelligence that German attack was imminent. In one example, Lieutenant Arkhipenkos 17th Fighter regiment were caught on the ground and finished off by the third day of the war, the remainder of the regiment, comprising only ten I-153’s and one Mig 1 were retreated to a reserve airfield near Rovno. Still the Soviet’s sent whatever aircraft that had survived to support the offensive. The air battle resulted in heavy casualties for the attacking Soviets. JG 3 under the command of Fliegerkorps IV shot down 24 Tupolev SBs on the first day. Among the casualties was the Commander of 86 SBAP, Podpolkovnik Sorokin. Just 20 of the initial 251 SBs remained with the unit. German losses were also heavy, 28 destroyed and 23 damaged (including 8 He 111s and Ju 88s). The efforts of the Red Army Air force were not without effect and the Southwestern Front Air force flew 523 sorties between June 22 and 24th and dropped 2,500 bombs. Gustav Shrodek a tank commander of the 15th Panzer regiment (11th Panzer Division): “At dawn of June 24th, the regiment underwent its first attack by Russian bombers. It shall not be the only one this day; completely the opposite. As a result of this the regiment now has several dead and wounded.” Otherwise, near total Luftwaffe air superiority was to be a major factor in breaking up the Soviet counterattack. The attack combined six mechanized corps under the command 5th Army to the north and the 6th Army to the south, under the general direction of the Southwestern Front commander Kirponos. Under the 5th Army command, K.K. Rokossovsky’s 9th and N. V. Feklenko’s 19th Mechanized Corps were to be deployed north-west of Rovno, while the 22nd Mechanized Corps was to assemble northeast of Lutsk. To the south, under the command of the 6th Army, Ryabyshev’s 8th and I. Karpezo’s 15th Mechanized Corps were to be deployed to the south-west and north-east of Brody, while The 4th Mechanized Corps under A. Vlasov was to be deployed between Sokal and Radekhov, on the left flank of the 15th Mechanized Corps. The plan called for these forces to assemble and begin offensive operations at 2200 hours, on 23 June, 36 hours after the initial German onslaught, in an attempt to catch the attackers off guard, and before they could solidify their position by bringing up reinforcements from the rear in support of their fast advancing 11th Panzer Division. The Soviet Corps commanders suffered under conditions of confusion caused by the shock of the initial German attack, loss of communications, constant harassment by the Luftwaffe, lack of transportation and the outflow of massive number of refugees and retreating soldiers fleeing the German advance, clogging the roads and making it difficult for the counter-attacking forces to properly assemble at their jumping off points. While communication between the Front headquarters and the individual army commands was generally good, communication to the front line units themselves was seriously flawed because it was dependent on the civilian telephone and telegraph network. German sappers, air attacks, and even Ukrainians nationalists guerrillas had aggressively targeted this system with the desired result. Operating in the dark, many front line Soviet front line commanders were left to their own devises, and this had numerable impacts on the effectiveness of Soviet command and control. In one instance, the commander to the 41st Tank Division of the 22nd Mechanized Corps, for want of any new directives followed pre-war plan and moved his division to the predesignated assembly point for his corps at Kovel, and in so doing, moved his division away from the fighting. Another endemic problem was the lack of transport for the infantry component of the Mechanized Corps. These were “motorized” division in name only. Many of these divisions only had partial complements of their full transportation establishment. Individual corps commanders had to improvise solutions to bring their full complement of soldiers to their assembly points. Rokossovsky succeeded in commandeering 200 trucks from the district reserve at Shepetovka, but this still left him in the position of mounting much of his infantry on tanks. Even then much of his infantry had to walk, since the trucks were used for carrying critical munitions and supplies. In one case, valuable heavy artillery belonging to the 22nd Mechanized Corps, was simply left behind for want of tractors to pull them. The commander of the 19th Mechanized, simply marched his corps forward in two echelons, with the tank divisions far in advance of his lagging infantry, meaning that his armored units arrived in the battle fields without infantry support. Ryabyshev the commander of the 8th Mechanized reported similar problems, since its artillery was towed by exceedingly slow tractors that held up the movement of the entire columns: “The columns were moving at top speed. Unfortunately, the tractor towed corps artillery was falling severely behind; the difference in speed was slowing down the overall concentration of forces.” These complications were compounded by the apparent inability of the Soviet commanders to assess an appropriate axis of attack in the context of the rapidly developing German salient—Between June 22 and June 24, the 8th Mechanized Corps was given three separate instructions about the precise point at which it was supposed to assemble, the original order from the Front Command, a new one from the commander of the 6th Army, and then again on the 24th of June again another new order from the Front command, meaning that the Corps crossed its own path and backtracked several times before finally arriving at Brody. Later, the commander of the 8th Mechanized Corps, D. I. Ryabyshev, was to write: “Around the second half of June 25, the Corps’ units deployed to the northwest of Brody. During the nearly 500 kilometer march, the Corps lost up to half of its older tanks and a substantial portion of its artillery and anti-tank guns to both enemy air attack and mechanical breakdowns. All of the tanks still in service also required varying degrees of maintenance work and were not capable of operating over long distances. Thus, even before the start of the counteroffensive the Corps found itself in a drastically weakened state.” As a consequence of the multiple problems of assembling the forces proposed for the attack the original ambitious schedule of attack was set back 6 hours to 0400 on the 24th of June. By the time this decision was made on the evening of the 23rd of June, barely 48 hours since the war had begun, the 11th Panzer Division had already penetrated 40 miles into Soviet territory with the 16th Panzer Division traveling in its wake. The 14th Panzer Division and 13th Panzer Division were well their way up the road to Lutsk, with the objective of reaching the Styr River on the 24th, and the 298th Infantry Division, the 44th Infantry Division and the 299th Infantry Division moving up to consolidate the advance. Even with the delayed schedule the counterattack would begin piecemeal since the full complement of the force proposed for the counterattack could not be brought into the position until two days later. The 4th, 8th, 9th, and 19th Mechanized Corps were still on the march. Supporting infantry corps were even further away. Kirponos’s Chief of Staff, General Purkayev, argued against the political officer attached to the Southwest Front, Commissar Nikolai Vashugin, on this point but Vashugin and Zhukov won out: the attack would begin without delay. Only two tank divisions of 15th Mechanized Corps in the south and a single tank division of 22nd Mechanized Corps in the north were in position to begin the attack on the 24th. The three Soviet formations notable for deploying a potent force of modern T-34 and KV tanks were 4th, 8th, and 15th Mechanized Corps. In fact 717 such tanks (both types counted together) were almost a half of the country’s 1,600 produced. Throughout the battles, the exact scale of the intended operations and the precise role of each corps in that plan were communicated poorly or not communicated at all. One of the commanders (Ryabyshev) noted “the Corps battle orders spoke only to its own mission objectives”. There was little to none communication between the individual corps to ensure co-ordination, therefore their actions are described separately. Soviet 10th Tank Division was subordinate to 15th MC. On 22 June 1941, the forward battalions captured Radekhiv from the German infantry, losing 2 tanks. Next day it faced the German 11th Panzer Division there, destroying 20 German tanks and losing 6 T-34 tanks and 20 BT tanks. It withdrew orderly for the lack of ammunition. On 26 June 1941, the division destroyed 23 German tanks and infantry battalion near Radekhiv, losing 13 KV and 12 BT-7 tanks. The 15th MC as a whole had 749 tanks, including 136 of T-34 and KV tanks. Corps spent the battle moving chaotically in the triangle Radekhiv-Brody-Busk, driven by a series of inconsistent orders. Except for the two aforementioned actions of the 10th Tank Division, its remaining forces were not in combat. On 7 July 1941 it reported in Berezovka (300 kilometers from the ex-border) with 9% of the tanks. 22nd Mechanized Corps On 24 June it attacked towards Viinytsya. On 29 June it reported as having 19% of the former number of tanks. On 1 July one regiment attacked toward Dubno unsuccessfully. On 15 July 1941 the 22nd MC had 4% of the tanks. 19th Mechanized Corps On 26 June it attacked towards Dubno from the north, but failed to reach it by a few kilometers. On 29 June the corps had 32 tanks remaining out of the original 453. 8th Mechanized Corps Ryabyshev’s 8th Mechanized Corps finally arrived on the scene on the 25th. On 26 June 1941, the 8th Mechanized Corps as a whole attacked successfully in the direction Brody–Berestechko against parts of the German 11th PD. Despite haphazard arrangements and difficulties the Soviet attack seemed to have met with a certain amount of initial success, catching the Germans on the move and outside of prepared positions, their tanks sweeping aside hastily arranged German anti-tank positions manned by motorcycle troops attached to the 48th Panzer Corps. Later the 8th MC acted divided into the Popel’s group and a second force remaining under the command of Ryabyshev. Popel’s group The group had about 300 tanks, including no less than 100 T-34 and KV tanks. On 27 June, Popel’s group surprised and defeated the rears of 11th PD and captured Dubno, a road crossing of strategical importance. This was the most successful Soviet action of the time, as it cut off supply lines of the German armored spearhead – the 11th PD. However, this was not exploited by Soviet command who failed to communicate with Popel’ and to provide supplies or reinforcements. The group waited in Dubno and prepared for defence, losing the operational initiative. The situation was considered “serious” by the German high command: By 28 June Germans gathered enormous forces. The Popel’s group came under attack by elements of 16th Motorized, 75th Infantry Division, two other infantry divisions, and the 16th Panzer Division. Encircled in Dubno, Popel’ defended until 1 July, when he retreated. Ryabyshev’s group The group had 303 tanks, including 49 T-34 and 46 KV. On 28 June in an attempt to follow Popel’, it met and attacked German 57th Infantry and 75th Infantry Divisions, as well as elements of 16th Panzer Division. The attack was unsuccessful and Soviets quickly retreated. On 1 July Ryabyshev reported in Tarnopol with 207 tanks, including 31 T-34 and 43 KV tanks. With no further combat, the 8th MC moved to Koziatyn, where on 7 July 1941 it had 43 tanks – 5% of the pre-war number. The 4th Mechanized Corps, commanded by Andrei Vlasov, was the strongest in the Ukraine having a 313 of T-34 and 101 of KV among the total the 979 tanks. It reacted slowly to the orders, and failed to assemble for attack. The most it achieved was on 28 June, when it secured the retreat of 15th Mechanized Corps from the pushing German infantry. Not attacking and not being attacked, on 12 July, the corps reported it retained no more than 6% of KV tanks, 12% of T-34 tanks, and 4% of light tanks. Besides these, there were no more notable Soviet counterattacks in this battle. The exact effect of the hesitation and confusion of command on the 27th of June on the outcome of the battle and the German attack into Ukraine is hard to determine. At the time when Soviet forces have taken Dubno and cut off the leading edge of the main German attack, Kirponos have thought that the same German attack threatened to outflank and encircle the Soviet forces attacking from the south. This led Kirponos to issue orders for a halt to the offensive and a general retreat in order rationalize (shorten) his front line, “so as to prevent the enemy tank groupings from penetrating into the rear of the 6th and 26th Armies”, according to H. Baghramyan. Georgy Zhukov was quick to have these orders countermanded after a debate with the Front commander and his staff. Orders for a renewed attack were issued two hours later. This led to even more of the confusion that was symptomatic of the Soviet command at the Battle of Brody. Rokossovsky, who was in command of the 9th Mechanized Corps attacking from the north, simply balked at these new orders stating that “We had once again received an order to counterattack. However, the enemy outnumbered us to such a degree, that I took on the personal responsibility of ordering to halt the counteroffensive and to meet the enemy in prepared defenses”, while Ryabyshev commanding the 8th Mechanized Corps to the south dutifully complied and remounted the attack. Ryabyshev seems to take the position held by Zhukov at the time, which is that if the attack had continued aggressively, and without delay, the Soviet effort might have been met with eventual success. On the other hand subsequent events seem to vindicate Kirponos’s position, which was that the attack was premature and would destabilize the solvency of the entire front. Shortly after the routing of the Soviet counter-attack Marshal Semyon Budyonny was given overall command of the combined Southwestern and Southern Front. Disaster unfolded at the Battle of Uman and one and a half million Soviet soldiers fell into captivity when the 26th and 12th Armies were encircled after Army Group South renewed its attack by pivoting south from the positions it had achieved during the Battle of Dubno—an outcome that Kirponos had foreshadowed in his arguments with Zhukov about the wisdom of the counter attack at Dubno. After the morning of the 27th the fact that Rokossovsky and Ryabyshev were following different scripts unknown to each other, can not have helped matters either way. The confrontation between Kirponos and Zhukov is no doubt what led Zhukov to tell the Southwestern Front political officer, Nikita Khrushchev, “I am afraid your commander (Kirponos) here is pretty weak”, a charge that Kirponos would never be able to answer since he died in the battle of Kiev after it was surrounded. The battle between Panzer Group 1 and the Soviet mechanized corps was the fiercest of the whole invasion, lasting a full four days. The Soviets fought furiously and crews of German tank and anti-tank guns found to their horror that the new Soviet T-34 tanks were almost immune to their weapons. The new KV-1 and KV-2 heavy tanks were impervious to virtually all German anti-tank weapons, but the Red Army’s supply had completely broken down due to Luftwaffe attacks. The German Kampfgeschwader, namely KG 51, KG 54 and KG 55 contributed a series of heavy low-level attacks against the Soviet ground targets. The headquarters of the Soviet 15th Mechanised Corps was destroyed, and its commander, General-Major Ignat Karpezo, was wounded. The Luftwaffe destroyed some 201 Soviet tanks in this area. The five Red Army corps were mishandled while being concentrated into large powerful groups. The German troops sought to isolate individual units, and destroy them. Meanwhile the Luftwaffe was ranging over the battlefields and were able to separate the supporting infantry and deny them resupply of fuel and ammunition. Ultimately due to lack of adequate planning and overall coordination the Soviet counter-attack failed to meet at Dubno. Panzer Group 1 took a severe battering in the battles around Dubno losing large numbers of its tanks, nevertheless it survived the battle still capable of operations. The Soviet forces on the other side took severe casualties rendering most of its forces non-operational. This defensive success enabled the Germans to continue their offensive, even if it had been delayed substantially by the surprising tenacity of the Soviet counterattack.