Throughout 1942, the military situation near Leningrad remained very difficult. The main Russian Army ground forces near Leningrad were still blocked by the Germans, and there was no communication with the besieged city, except for waterway on Lake Ladoga.

In 1942 Soviet troops twice made the attempts to break the blockade, but both times unsuccessfully.

Luban Operation – 4 Months of All-Out Battles

The Red Army was planning to create a threat of encirclement of German troops and thus force them to retreat from the city. A different strategy other than mass attacks did not exist: it was important to make the enemy defend and forget about its plans to attack Leningrad.

Luban operation lasted from January to April – the first major attempt to break the siege of Leningrad. It was planned that the Leningrad front will break the blockade of the city from the north. For that purpose more than 180 tanks, 600 mortars and more than 65,000 soldiers were deployed. The other part of the “claw” from the south was represented by the Volkhov Front, which had approximately the same amount of force.

According to the memoirs of the commanders of both armies, these were “4 months of bloody, debilitating and not very successful battles.” During the most severe attacks Soviet troops lost thousands of people. In total during the Luban operation more than 100,000 people were killed.

As later wrote Marshal Zhukov, the front was too wide for a breakthrough, and the lack of tanks, artillery, aircrafts and ammunition at the time made ​​this breakthrough basically impossible. However, this operation has played a role: it managed to pull away from Leningrad 15 German divisions.

People took refuge in the basement, and they all died. Leningrad 1942-2009

People took refuge in the basement, and they all died. Leningrad 1942/2009. The collage by Sergey Larenkov

Sinyavinskaya Operation and the Failure of the German Plan “Northern Lights”

Unfortunately, even before the start of the offensive the Germans were already well aware of the plans of the Red Army, and they knew all the main directions of attack – Tosnoand Sinyavino. Wehrmacht managed to regroup.

The Germans had a very advantageous position – they kept Sinyavino heights (10-15 meters above the ground), while the troops of the Volkhov Front were advancing on swamped and loose soil. Germans answered with powerful counterattacks, engaged new battle tanks “Tiger” and later got the reinforcements in the form of Manste in army which was transferred from the Crimea region – 6 fresh divisions.

In mid-September, the Red Army was stopped 6 km from the Neva River. Then the Germans inflicted heavy blows from the flanks and again pushed the Red Army back to its original positions. By October 10 Russian soldiers managed to gain a foothold only in a small Neva bridgehead in Dubrovki area. Soviet troops again failed to break the siege of Leningrad, but the main thing was that they interrupted the fascists’ plan “Northern Lights”, which involved the capture of Leningrad in the early September of 1942. As wrote in his diary Manstein, German divisions suffered heavy losses in Sinyavinskaya direction – more than 60,000 soldiers, 1,500 tanks, guns, mortars, machine guns and more than 250 aircrafts were lost.

Thus, Nazis could even dream about a new offensive on Leningrad.


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