By January 12 the main striking forceswere brought to Leningrad from the two northern fronts, 13thand 14th Air Armies, Air Defense Army of Leningrad, the Baltic Fleet and artillery. Guerrilla groups and forces concentrated on the Nevsky bridgehead were also engaged.
The Strategy was to Annihilate the Fascists in 2 Stages
The basic concept of the “Spark” operation was to break the siege by a counter strike attacks of Volkhov and Leningrad fronts, and then further destruct the enemy near the train station Mga to restore the communication with Leningrad .
It was decided that if one of the fronts was not be able to reach its target, the forces of the other front would keep moving forward.
Thanks to the gathered intelligence an accurate idea of the composition and disposition of the Nazi army was compiled; Red Army managed to keep its plans a secret.
Near Kazan Cathedral. Leningrad 1941/2012. The collage by Sergey Larenkov
The Annihilation of the “Bottleneck”
The main blow was planned on a narrow stretch of land, 12 km long, between the city of Mga and Lake Ladoga.
This area Nazis called a “bottleneck”. Here, there were 5 Wehrmacht divisions of 10-12 thousand men in each, about 50 tanks, more than 700 guns: for every kilometer of land there were about 28-30 guns. Ground troops were supported by the Air Force – 250 combat aircrafts.
Red Army forces outnumbered the Nazis: 20 divisions, 5,000 guns, 540 tanks, and more than 800 aircrafts.
The First 3 Kilometers of Victory
On January 12 German fortifications were hit from all sides: by aerial bombardment, light tanks crossed the “neck” by moving across the frozen Neva River. Infantry was protected from the air and from the ground by a moving fire barrage line.
Given the flaws of past operations, Soviet generals chose an average speed for the offensive of 2-4 kilometers a day. On the first day the Red Army was able to move in for 3 km. But from 13 to 17 of January the fights became longer – fascists provided fierce resistance. However, the forces of the Volkhov and Leningrad fronts concertedly and persistently were moving toward each other.
The “Spark” Started a Fire
On January 18 Schlusselburg was cleared from the Germans, but the main thing was that the first rifle and tank units of the two Russian fronts got connected. And by the end of the day the south coast of Lake Ladoga was already completely cleared of enemy troops. This day became a day of breaking the siege of Leningrad.
A land corridor of 11 km in length was created. Red Army forces began to secure its borders and prepare for further advancing.
In 17 day period a railroad 30 km long was laid down, which was immediately dubbed the “Road of Victory.” Already on February 7 the first train arrived in Leningrad carrying food for the brave people of the city.
But the complete lifting of the siege happened only a year later, on January 27, 1944.
To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev