June 17, 2014

A Russian Tank Trap

The seizure of Zhlobin

Žlobin is a city in Belarus on the Dnieper river. On 6 July 1941 the city was reached by the 10th Infanterie-Division (mot.), which belonged to the XXIV Pazerkorps, part of Guderian’s 2nd Panzergruppe. The Division was reinforced with 3rd Panzer-Division’s Panzer-Regiment 6 (minus the 3rd Battalion). The terrain around Zhlobin was gently rolling grassland alternating with swampy ground. The weather was warm and sunny.

The infantry attack had bogged down about two and a half miles southwest of the town. The tank component was ordered to attack. According to the plan the 1st Panzer-Battalion was to advance straight toward Žlobin. The 2nd Panzer-Battalion was to follow the 1st up to a point approximately one mile from the Russian Main Line of Resistance (MLR) northwest of Žlobin, turn southward, cross the railroad tracks, and drive southeastward to smash the Russian forces which might be holding positions south of the city.

The march column advanced according to plan. About two and a half miles northwest of Žlobin the 1st Battalion penetrated the Russian MLR against weak resistance, overran some Russian infantry elements, and then bypassed an artillery battery. Suddenly, when the lead tanks were only a mile from the outskirts of the city, they received devastating fire from Russian tanks which had been cleverly concealed among houses, farmyards, and barns at the edge of the town. The Russian tanks, lying in ambush, had held their fire until the last moment. When the 1st Battalion tanks veered to escape the onslaught, they received point-blank fire from the A/T artillery battery they had bypassed. In all the Germans lost twenty two tanks as a result of this ambush.

The 2nd Battalion had meanwhile received desperate calls for assistance over the radio, but could not come to the rescue because the high railroad embankment obstructed its path. The battalion commander therefore decided to bring relief by a direct thrust on Žlobin. Upon finding the Russian left flank open, the battalion entered the town from the south and destroyed twenty five of the thirty Russian tanks without suffering any losses. The Russians had not expected a thrust from this direction and had devoted all their attention to fighting the 1st Battalion.

The failure of the 1st Battalion's frontal attack must be ascribed to its laxity in reconnaissance and the lack of accompanying armored infantry, which could have neutralized the Russian A/T artillery battery.

Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 20-269. “Small Unit Actions During the German Campaign in Russia.” Historical Study. 1953.
Newton, Steven H. Hitler's Commander. Cambridge, MA: DaCapo, 2006.

Photo attribution
DA PAM 20-269