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4th and 5th Battles of the Courland Pocket 1944 | WW2 BATTLESTORM History Documentary Part 10

4th and 5th Battles of the Courland Pocket 1944 | WW2 BATTLESTORM History Documentary Part 10

Last time, frost had descended upon Courland,
allowing the Soviets to launch another offensive against the German lines. That was the Third
Battle of Courland – the Christmas Battles. This time, we’re going to cover the Fourth
and Fifth Battles of Courland, and dig a little deeper into that ongoing question – why don’t
the Germans just evacuate the pocket already!? All the pro-German authors think that’s
the right thing to do, so just get on with it Hitler! Well, let’s find out. 12th and 4th Panzer Divisions, with the 12th
Luftwaffe and 19th SS Divisions, launched a limited attack in the Dzukste area, and,
by the 6th of January, had taken about 2 miles of ground. The Germans claimed to have inflicted
massive losses on the Soviets – although most of the tanks in 4th Panzer Division were taken
out or had broken down during the attack. Whether these claims are true or not, what
is certain is that 4th Panzer Division was pulled out of the line, and ordered to Liepāja
on the 17th of January 1945 where it was evacuated to Gdansk. Since Doppelkopf, the division
had lost, in total, 20 Panzer IVs and 12 Panthers, and had claimed 215 Soviet tanks. Clearly
such a claim was probably exaggerated, and the only reason the Germans had lost so few
tanks was because knocked out tanks had been repaired and sent back into the line and not
counted as kills, but still such a ratio is pretty good. There were other evacuations. Earlier in the
war, 830 Dutch civilian workers were sent to the Latvian slave labour camps as part
of a labour contract signed between the SS and the Dutch National Socialist Party. “Around 300 Dutch managed to get a boat
out of Liepāja in January 1945. The rest were left behind to become prisoners of the
Soviets.” And on the 19th of January, Hitler ordered
that all commanders down to division level should report any planned movement or action
to him so that he could have a say in the decision. He also said that the commanders
were responsible for providing accurate reports – thus, anyone who gave false reports would
be punished – and anyone who failed to maintain communications with the High Command would
also be punished. This was so that nobody could use the excuse of a “communication
breakdown” to get around such a restrictive order. Just imagine this. Any movement or action
from any division in any area must report to Hitler before they do anything? Talk about
centralized control of the army. Even glancing at a map of Courland should make you rethink
such a policy. The sheer number of divisions, and the huge volume of decisions that would
need to be made – by one man – is overwhelming. And that’s just for Courland. Extrapolate
that to all other areas and you’re taking on a super-human task that is simply impossible
to do. The whole point of a command structure is to allow junior commanders to make decisions
– to decentralize the army, a business, an economy – and allow local initiative – decisions
to be made by those closest to the action. Auftragstaktik. In his attempt to centrally
control the army though, Hitler effectively crushed all initiative, rendered the commanders
ineffective, and caused deadlocks within the command structure, as commanders had to wait
for a decision from above – which sometimes never came. Not only did this reduce the effectiveness
of the army at the local level, but it strangled the entire system from top to bottom. The
High Command were overwhelmed by decisions, orders and reports. They dutifully updated
the maps, and passed on orders. But they went without sleep, and lost their patience. They
never talked of rebellion though. The fighting would continue regardless. But even so, it’s
clear that this order was one of the final nails in the coffin for the Wehrmacht. “The war at sea was also getting harder.
The ships not only had to defend against numerous air attacks, but Soviet submarines and motor
torpedo boats were also active. The German U-Boats were no longer operational. By the
beginning of 1945, 14 U-Boats were operating in the eastern Baltic Sea, but by the end
of January there were only five: U-242, 370, 475, 676, and 745. The others returned to
their bases to be fitted with snorkels. “U-475” was the last U-Boat to leave the Baltic Sea
on 3/17.” In fact, on the 12th of January 1945, Nielsen’s
U-370 sank the Finnish minelayer Louhi (which had laid mines nearby under Soviet escort).
10 of the crew were killed, with another 31 being picked up by the escorts. This would
be the last U-Boat kill in the Baltic. But Courland would continue to be a training
base for the new super U-Boats, some of which (the smaller Type 23’s) were launched against
Britain in the west. The Type 21’s were never brought to combat readiness though,
meaning that one of the excuses for staying in Courland – the need for U-Boat training
bases – is basically rendered meaningless. The U-Boats did evacuate 2,000 people in the
Baltic, but apart from that their role was practically nil. In late January, Schörner received the Swords
and Diamonds of the Oak Leaves of the Knight’s Cross. After this, he was transferred to and
made commander of Army Group Centre. Lothar Rendulic replaced Schörner as commander of
Army Group North. Like Schörner, Rendulic was a devout National Socialist, and extremely
loyal to Hitler, who believed that he could rely upon Rendulic for support. Rendulic had
slaughtered Yugoslavian Partisans as commander of 2nd Panzer Army, and had commanded 20th
Mountain Army in Finland, where his forces had scorched the earth. Lapland and part of
Norway suffered under Rendulic’s retreat. Sounds like the perfect commander for Hitler
to assign to Army Group North. Army Group North’s strength in January 1945
had been reduced to 399,500 men, which isn’t much of a decrease from the 407,000 after
the Third Battle of Courland. The reduction had come from Army personnel (like 4th Panzer
Division) rather than rear services or civilians, as more units were shipped to the Reich. It’s
also clear that the evacuation of East Prussia, which began after the 20th of January, was
stretching the Kriegsmarine to breaking point. Could the evacuation of Courland really continue
now? Well, what’s interesting is that, looking
at the German maps of the Courland Pocket from November 1944 to March 1945, we can see
some interesting clues hinting at a potential evacuation. In November, the blurry map shows
the German positions in blue. But in December, we see green lines on the map. These indicate
“Festung” or “fortification” lines, which go from east to west, eventually forming
hold-outs around Ventspils and Liepāja. These lines continue into January and February 1945,
and in my opinion, show the planned step-by-step route of withdraw of Army Group North, much
in the same way Army Group North had withdrawn from the rest of the Baltics and the Riga
area. By March 1945, these lines disappear from the maps. This suggests that a plan was in place to
evacuate Army Group North from Courland, and that plan had been drawn up sometime before
the 1st of November 1944. The ongoing evacuation of civilians and troops from Courland, which
had seen hundreds of thousands of people leave Courland for the west, then slows down in
January 1945 perhaps as the evacuation of East Prussia gets underway. So going off these
maps, by March 1945, the Germans appear to abandon their plans to evacuate Courland,
possibly because it was no longer feasible for the Kriegsmarine to perform such a task,
or because it was seen as pointless. But either way, this is further evidence in support of
the idea that the Germans were evacuating Courland, and wanted to do so, but didn’t
have the resources to evacuate all in one go – as many of the pro-German and anti-Hitler
authors claim. On the 23rd of January 1945, the Fourth Battle
of Courland began with a short but heavy Soviet artillery bombardment. The aim (once again)
was to reach Priekule, Saldus, and the area northwest of Dobele, as well as Liepāja. Frankewitz’s 215th and von Mellenthin’s
205th Infantry Divisions were hit hard by the initial bombardment, before nine rifle
divisions supported by tanks advanced against them. When the line was broken at one point,
the grenadiers of 215th Infantry Division – armed with panzerfausts and Sturmgewehr
44 assault rifles – counterattacked and threw the Soviets back to their starting positions,
preventing the Soviets from splitting the divisions apart. But the situation was critical.
So, elements of 12th Panzer Division (itself boosted by the equipment left behind by 4th
Panzer Division), were sent in as reinforcements. As a result, these divisions managed to hold
on, and plug any gaps in the lines. “The 205th ID destroyed 117 combat vehicles
within five days!” I can’t verify this statement, but at the
very least it would indicate that the Soviet concentration point was against von Mellenthin’s
division. Eleven rifle divisions assaulted German positions
on both sides of Priekule, where the 912th Sturmgeschutz Brigade racked up more tank
kills in support of Rank’s 121st and Haehling’s 126th Infantry Divisions. Brandner himself
achieved his 57th armoured vehicle kill during the fighting, and his unit’s tank kill claim
for the war reached 500. Barth’s 30th Infantry Division took the
weight of the blow, along with the Nordland Division. 14th Panzer Division was ordered
to move up and counterattack, although it took until the 25th for it to reach the area.
The counterattack started at midday, as 14th Panzer drove into the forests south of Priekule.
Tiger tanks from Gilbert’s 510th Panzer Battalion were in support. “They restored the old main combat line
by that evening. 63 Russian tanks lay as wrecks along the way!” The Soviets regrouped, hit the Germans with
heavy mortar fire, and won back the first combat line. And the fighting continued for
several more days. On the 25th of January 1945, Army Group North was renamed “Army
Group Kurland”. And on the 29th of January 1945, a new general – Generaloberst von Vietinghoff
takes command of Army Group Kurland. This commander had been in command of several formations
throughout the war – including 5th Panzer Division, 9th, 15th and 10th Armies, and he
wasn’t a National Socialist, but he had a lot of experience and was a proven commander. The day after von Vietinghoff takes command,
the former cruise liner – the Wilhelm Gustloff – was sunk by Soviet submarine S-13 as it
made its way from Danzig to Kiel as part of Operation Hannibal – the evacuation of East
Prussia. An estimated 9,400 people were killed, including 5,000 children and 373 female naval
auxiliaries. This was the single largest loss of life for one ship in maritime history. Meanwhile back on land, the offensives in
Courland died down by the end of January and early February, and the Fourth Battle of Courland
faded away. Between the 24th of January and the 3rd of February 1945, the Germans reported
that the Soviets took approximately 40 to 45,000 casualties, 541 tank losses, and 178
aircraft losses. German casualties are not recorded in the sources I have, but Haupt
does say that Germany losses were high as well. Now, according to the German sources, von
Vietinghoff conducted a study (called the “Laura” study) and decided that it wasn’t
possible for Army Group Kurland to breakout to the south now that Memel was lost. So von
Vietinghoff thought that the best course of action was evacuation of men and material
by sea. If they withdrew to a large bridgehead at Liepāja, this would free up most of the
forces for evacuation (which, it was hoped, would take just 19 days). Right so, let’s just think about this for
a second. What the German accounts are saying is that it was only now that the Germans realized
that they couldn’t break out of the Courland Pocket? And that the only way out was by sea?
Really? They only just realized it now, after weeks of being trapped in Courland and evacuating
troops by sea? Not only that, but we have maps that show the potential withdraw routes
for the Army Group back into the western ports, and they appear on the maps from November
– months before von Vietinghoff appears on the scene. And to top it off, the evacuation of Courland
– with somewhere near 400,000 men at this time – could take just 19 days to accomplish?
The evacuation of East Prussia is ongoing, and they’ve been evacuating constantly since
the Courland Pocket was formed and haven’t evacuated anywhere close to 400,000 men – but
don’t worry, it can all be done in just 19 days. But it gets better. The sources go on to say
that the “General von Vietinghoff” plan was sent to Berlin on the 15th of February,
and was discussed for two days. Buttar states that Guderian was the one who presented the
plan, and Haupt and Kurowski both note that Guderian and Dönitz were in favour of the
plan. Dönitz even said it would take four weeks (which is 28 days) to evacuate the men,
but that they could do it. “By ruthlessly employing all ships that
are available and cutting back on all other demands for shipping space – along with the
strongest possible support by the Luftwaffe – I calculate that all manpower and requisite
material can be brought back within four weeks. The embarkation capacity of Windau [Ventspils]
and Libau [Liepāja] are adequate.” Oh wow, I guess this is an open and shut case.
I mean, why on earth would anyone say no to this? Why wouldn’t you want to evacuate
the Army Group from Courland if they could actually do it? And in just 4 weeks as well.
The ports are adequate, they can evacuate the troops in 4 weeks. Both Guderian and Dönitz
are telling you that this is the right thing to do. So clearly, this is definitely the
right thing to do. You would have to be mad to say no, right? And, of course, none of the pro-German sources
offer an explanation as to why Hitler says “no”. In fact, Haupt just states – “Hitler stared wordlessly at the Grand Admiral,
then shifted his gaze to General Guderian: “The withdrawal of the troops from Kurland
is out of the question!” Kurowski goes even further – “With that, Hitler pronounced the final
death sentence for Heeresgruppe Kurland. He wrote off an entire army group. All the fighting,
all the suffering in Kurland was, in the final analysis, in vain.” Right, I want you to just hold that thought
for a moment. Just hold that thought. Because, as you’re about to see, it’s surprising
how easy it is for a person to fall for something, even though what’s on the screen right now
is actually directly contradicting the very thought you have now. It’s telling you that
what these authors are saying is wrong. It’s telling you that the evacuation was not possible. But TIK – what’s on the screen clearly says
that the evacuation is possible. No it doesn’t. Some of you may have realised, and some of
you may be tempted to pause the video to ponder this for a little longer, but I’m guessing
some of you haven’t realised and want to know. Well, for starters, you’d think that Hitler
would have some reason – any reason at all – for saying no to this brilliant plan, not
just a flat “nope”. If it was so amazingly clear that evacuating Courland is the right
thing to do, there would be no reason to say no. The fact that he has said no, and the
fact that these authors have failed to provide ANY explanation as to why Hitler may have
said no – even if it was a completely stupid reason – is a big red flag. Their explanation
is – Hitler’s a madman and just said “no” for no reason. Ok… So let’s read this
quote again, this time with emphasis – “By ruthlessly employing all ships that
are available and cutting back on all other demands for shipping space – along with the
strongest possible support by the Luftwaffe [who are practically dead at this point] – I
calculate that all manpower and requisite material can be brought back within four weeks.
The embarkation capacity of Windau [Ventspils] and Libau [Liepāja] are adequate.” …but only if we make this the absolute priority,
and sacrifice everything else we have, and possibly jeopardize many other fronts in the
process to make it work. Now, you might say – oh come on TIK, that’s
your emphasis, and that’s not what Dönitz is saying. Oh really? How about we read this
quote from Dönitz’s own memoirs. “Owing to a lack of shipping and the inadequate
port facilities in Libau [Liepāja] only a fraction of the army in Courland could be
evacuated.” Wow… wait a second. Let’s put these quotes
side by side, shall we. This first quote clearly says they can evacuate the troops because
the ports are adequate, and this second quote says they can’t evacuate the troops because
the ports and shipping are inadequate. “Adequate” and “inadequate” are two directly contradictory
words. And these two statements are thus direct contradictions. Again, big red flag. In fact,
you should take a screenshot. This is quite possibly the strongest proof that I’ve ever
seen that the German generals and the pro-German authors are lying through their teeth. Talk about hiding the truth in plain sight.
People can twist things that counter their own ideas in such a way that, even evidence
to the total opposite of what they’re claiming, completely supports their argument and their
agenda. Kurowski actually quotes this in full, and yet, because of the way he presents it,
the reader comes away with the impression that this is a brilliant plan. And Haupt’s
account is equally as twisted. It’s marvelous in its deceitfulness. And this is something to ponder too – was
Hitler being lied to by his generals? Because this might actually be proof that this was
the case. Dönitz is basically telling Hitler – Yes, we can evacuate the troops, if we sacrifice
everything we have for this one task, and the ports are adequate for the evacuation.
But possibly (although it may be an after-the-war assessment) he actually thinks the ports are
not adequate enough for the task at hand. I can’t confirm that exactly with the sources
I have, but we’ve seen plenty of evidence that suggests that the ports could not evacuate
this many troops. And in addition to this, Haupt and Kurowski don’t fully explain the
situation. Buttar’s explanation for why Hitler may not have approved the Laura plan
makes a lot more sense, and provides more context – “Any diversion of shipping to rescue Army
Group Courland would have brought Hannibal to a complete halt.” [Hannibal being the
ongoing evacuation of East Prussia.] “The consequences of this for the trapped civilians
would have been considerable. The use of almost every available ship allowed Hannibal to complete
the civilian evacuation only days before the end of the war, so its suspension for several
weeks would have resulted in tens of thousands of refugees being left in the east Baltic
ports when they fell; given that the ports became fiercely contested battlefields, many
of the trapped refugees would probably have died.” Hitler’s priority is clearly the German
civilians of East Prussia who are in the firing line of the Soviet advance. Courland is pretty
stable at this time, and there’s no rush to evacuate the troops, so priority goes to
East Prussia. Now, if Haupt and Kurowski are correct in their assessment that both Guderian
and Dönitz were in-favour of this plan at the time when they presented the plan to Hitler,
then that would mean they were saying – forget the civilians, the troops in Courland are
more important. Hmmm, I wonder why Hitler decided not to go along with this? Now, it’s up for debate, but it does appear
to be the case that these generals and admirals were saying this at the time. Dönitz’s
explanation for Courland in his memoirs is… basically to state that he was for evacuating
Courland (calling Courland a “burden to the navy”), but that Führer rejected it,
and that it wasn’t possible anyway, but should have been done, and don’t blame him
for it. So yes, contradictions everywhere. Lunde, in his book “Hitler’s Wave-Breaker
Concept: An Analysis of the German End Game in the Baltic” basically says Dönitz’s
memoirs are not to be trusted. And I’m saying Haupt, Kurowski and none of the German generals
are to be trusted in their assessments of World War Two either. You’ve got to be careful
when doing history and read between the lines. Again, we will come back to this, but the
idea that Courland could have or should have been evacuated at this point is simply fantasy. Another former passenger liner, the SS Steuben,
was sunk on the 10th of February 1944, sending another 3,500 to 4,000 people to their deaths
in the Bay of Danzig. Kriegsmarine ships did bring in snow camouflage uniforms to Axis
forces in Courland, but between the 1st and the 13th of February, only 13,000 tons of
supplies made it into Courland by the sea. As Haupt is quick to point out – “This was not enough!” Again, more evidence that the Kriegsmarine
was stretched too thin. However, perhaps they didn’t need to ship too many supplies into
Courland because they were shipping men out of it – men who could leave their own ammunition
and supplies behind. The 215th Infantry Division was pulled from the line on the 17th of February
and moved to Liepāja to be evacuated from Courland. In fact, one of the men of this
division completely contradicts Haupt – “Our supply system functioned well, as did
the mail from home. When it came to major fighting, there were always sufficient supplies
of ammunition.” With 4th Panzer Division gone, Army Group
Kurland had just the 12th and 14th Panzer Divisions as armoured forces. This wasn’t
flexible enough for the situation. So the decision was made to form Panzer Brigade Kurland,
from the staff of 29th Panzer Regiment. This wasn’t really a Panzer Brigade, since the
only tanks it had were a company of 10 captured T-34s. But it was fully motorized, with two
battalions of Hetzer tank-destroyers, some battalions of combat engineers, and the armoured
reconnaissance battalions from 12th and 14th Panzer Divisions. Nevertheless, Panzer Brigade
Kurland would provide a third armoured and motorized group for Army Group Kurland, which
would play its part in the final battles for the Courland Pocket. The Soviets on the other hand had received
200 Lend Lease Sherman tanks allowing them to restock their depleted tank units. In addition,
Soviet air attacks hit the harbours of Liepāja and Ventspils, where Anton’s 6th Air Defence
Division and the Green Hearts attempted to limit the damage. But it was clear that the
Soviets had almost complete air superiority, and several of the German fighter veterans
lost their lives in these engagements. Then at 0700 hours on the 20th of February
1945, 2,000 artillery guns and mortars pounded the German lines once more between Dzukste
and Priekule. The Fifth Battle of Courland had begun. Once again, the Soviets did what they had
done many times before – aiming for Liepāja, and hoping to split Army Group Courland apart.
21 Rifle Divisions and several tank brigades struck the German lines on both sides of Priekule.
Except, it wasn’t quite as clean cut as that – “On this occasion, there appears to have
been confusion in the Soviet attack plans; many of the infantry units assigned for the
initial assault failed to move forward during the artillery bombardment, resulting at first
in isolated groups of tanks attempting to penetrate the German positions with little
support.” 563rd Volksgrenadier Division, and the 121st,
126th, 263rd, and 290th Infantry Divisions were in the line of fire. Haehling’s 126th
Infantry Division stubbornly held onto Priekule itself, as they were bypassed and surrounded
by the Soviets. Despite the fact that the town was declared a fortress on the 21st of
February, on the night of the 22nd, the divisional forces in Piekule broke out and fought their
way back to friendly lines. Feyerabend’s 11th Infantry Division, Unrein’s
14th Panzer Division, and Brandner’s 912th Sturmgeschutz Battalion plugged the gap north
of Priekule. One company of Panthers from 14th Panzer claimed 26 enemy tank kills for
no Panthers taken out in return. But, according to Hunt, on the 21st of February 1945, Vassily
Alexandrovic Igonin, age 18, took a hand grenade and threw himself under a Tiger tank. He destroyed
the tank, but died in the process, and was posthumously awarded the Hero of the USSR.
So clearly the fighting wasn’t all one sided. The 18th Army had to throw the 132nd and 225th
Infantry Divisions into the fire in order to completely stabilize the front. So, having failed in the west, on the 1st
of March the Soviets attacked near Saldus. The 122nd Infantry Division was pushed back,
and Dzukste fell, but the 24th Infantry and 19th SS Divisions held onto their positions
in the forests. When the Kurland Panzer Brigade was sent in, the situation was stabilized there as well. So yes, after more than a week of fighting,
the Soviets had barely gone anywhere, and the offensive was called off in early March.
However, Rank’s 121st Infantry Division did take heavy losses (losing all her battalion
commanders) and was forced to withdraw from the line. They claimed to have taken out 250
tanks and vehicles in this action. And whether this is true or not, after the battle they
were moved to 87th Infantry Division’s sector, allowing 87th Infantry Division to be moved
to the line east of Liepāja. So the Fifth Battle of Courland had ended.
The Soviets had taken 70,000 casualties, had lost 600 tanks and 178 aircraft. In exchange
they had gained a couple of miles of ground in the Priekule and Dzukste areas. Full German
losses aren’t stated for the 5th Battle of Courland, but 18th Army supposedly lost
just 5,400 men. Now before you jump to any conclusions regarding
the Soviet losses and the fact that they couldn’t break through in the Courland area, remember
their priorities. Berlin was the aim, not Courland. The Fourth and Fifth Battles of
Courland – as it has been argued by some authors – were probably more of a way to burn through
German supplies and keep the Germans in Courland tied down, rather than to crush the pocket.
Given that they only lasted a few days each, and that Soviet forces had previously been
moved to the west to fight on German soil, there is some merit to that argument. What
do you think? Let us know in the comments below. Next time, we will see the final battle
for Courland, and the final capitulation of Army Group Courland. Surely with East Prussia
sorted they would attempt a last minute evacuation of the Army Group? Right? Well, we’ll find
out. Thanks for watching, bye for now.

Reader Comments

  1. Notes and Sources

    I couldn’t give the page number for Dönitz’s memoirs because I’m using the Kindle version which doesn’t use page numbers for some stupid reason. But I’m really interested to hear what you think about Dönitz’s contradictory claims. Is he directly to blame for this? Are Haupt and Kurowski manipulating the evidence somehow? Is Dönitz guilty or innocent? Let me know.

    The 4th and 5th Battles of Courland aren’t talked about in much detail in the sources – probably because the German lines held pretty firm. The argument that they were launched just to burn through German supplies has some merit, and I currently subscribe to that view, since most of the ‘good’ Soviet formations were transferred from the two Baltic Fronts to the west. What remained weren’t the ‘best’ that the Soviets had to offer, and it does make sense that they were actually trying to use up German supplies and keep the Germans tied down in Courland. But the opposite could be argued – that they were trying to destroy Army Group North/Courland, but were rubbish. Your thoughts?

    Not a lot more to say on this one. Just a reminder, next week’s video will be the follow up to the Why Hitler HAD to go to War video. I expect a backlash on it (as I had on the original video). So I won’t be doing a Q&A that week because I don’t want the backlash to spill onto a Q&A video.


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    Paterson, L. "Steel and Ice: The U-Boat Battle in the Arctic and Black Sea 1941-45." The History Press, Kindle 2016.

    Perrett, B. "Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank 1936-45." Osprey Publishing, 2007.

    Raus, E. "Panzer Operations: The Eastern Front Memoir of General Raus, 1941–1945." Kindle.

    Rees, L. "The Holocaust: A New History." Penguin Books, 2017.

    Snyder, T. "Blood Lands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin." Vintage, 2011.

    Számvéber, N. “Illustrated History of the Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 202.” PeKo Publishing Kft, Kindle 2016.

    Tieke, W. "Tragedy of the Faithful: A History of the III. (germanishes) SS-Panzer-Korps." Fedorowicz Publishing Inc, 2001.

    Wilbeck, C. "Sledgehammers: Strengths and Flaws of Tiger Tank Battalions in World War II." Aberjona Press, Kindle 2015.

    Wilbeck, C. "Swinging the Sledgehammer: The Combat Effectiveness of German Heavy Tank Battalions in World War II." Fort Leavenworth, PDF 2002.

    Zeimke, E. “From Stalingrad to Berlin: The Illustrated Edition.” Pen & Sword, Kindle 2014.

    Zaloga, S. "T-34/76 Medium Tank 1941-45." Osprey Publishing, 2010.

    Zaloga, S. "T-34-85 Medium Tank 1944-94." Osprey Publishing, Kindle 2010.

    Finnish and Soviet Treaty 1944 – the “Moscow Armistice”

    Inflation in Germany

    I’ve also used some maps and information from

    A full list of all my WW2 and related books can be found here

    Thanks for watching! Bye for now!

  2. 1:04 Is that a Pz4 being recaptured by the germans or smth? There's a white star on the back of it yet theres a cross on the left?

  3. Why didn't the Soviets have any succes at this time in Kurland? Why does Kurland turns into a WW1-style slugfest?

  4. Good vidya.
    Especially the part where you patiently explain that human witnesses are fallible (and many maliciously so).

  5. From 16:00 to 28:00 of this presentation lies the best Historical analysis i have ever seen so far in my life for uncovering frauds in WW2 literature. It ranks as such with your clear video emphasis that any lay person will also be able to follow.

  6. Thanks for the laugh TIK. A perfectly British comment if I've ever heard one. "GET ON WITH IT!"

  7. TIK, I know what I am about to say is, very picky. But in time index 2:05 show a British aircraft with D-Day marks in the top left corner.

  8. You should use this theory on the evacuation plan as the basis of a masters. It’s new and adds to our current understanding of the campaign, therefore should qualify for an MA.

  9. TiK should do a video on the Wilhelm Gustloff and whether or not it's an atrocity (probably not in the legal sense, but a morally repugnant act regardless).

  10. TIK no longer calls pro german general sources pro nazi
    im not sure if I like this more or less on one had its factually correct on the other its hilarious to hear someone call an anti hitler source a pro nazi source

  11. Hitler centralizing the command was bad for the army? Finally, a military decision Hitler made that was actually bad and not just something the generals blamed him for!

  12. Everyone but the wheraboos know that German claims of Soviet tank losses are exaggerated. Great series though!

  13. I love how you are doing such an in depth exlanation of a campaign that had little to do with the end of the war, no one cared about before, yet I am totally engaged and engrossed. Love it.

  14. Thank you . I'm beginning to understand all that mess . For many years I struggled with the small data I had . É simplesmente esclarecedor .

  15. another excellent chapter on the Kurland campaign as i would call it from a Soviet point of view!
    as for the losses it's always hard to be sure because of many factors! as for tank losses i was of the opinion that we are actually talking about
    (knocked out) tanks, so many would be repaired and put back into service, if this the case than the tank losses on both sides should be viewed it this light, as for infantry losses it is best to look at division's or armies reports to see what they say, started with 10'000, ended with 5,000/ do the math? but did they get reinforcements during the battle??? it's a daunting task at times, and for decades we had no really accurate Soviet figures to go by, now it appears we have some!
    As for the Soviets efforts in Kurland I say yes they wanted to keep as many Germans there as possible so they could not be used on the main front, but the Germans did get out quite a lot considering their efforts there, and the Soviet units involved did take what can be viewed as massive losses, clearly the Germans gave as good as they got! and probably more so.
    also it was terrain favorable for defense, so that part played into the defenders hands as well.
    To sum up then the Soviets were in a pinch, but they could afford it more than their enemy, so they got some of what they wanted but looking at the losses it was kind of a hollow victory.

  16. I think Donitz is most likely saying in that first quote “yes it is technically possible to evacuate army group north if we throw our full weight behind it”, I wouldn’t put match stock into his post war words they are very political and the context is completely different. In that instance it seems he’s setting up the idea to get shot down by Hitler.

  17. How was the soviet sub supposed to know that the ship was full of kids? for all they knew it was packed with soldiers. it wasn't like they could come up and take a look.

  18. Hitler's "No" is definitely tied to protecting the people of Germany (E. Prussia) evacuations in Op. Hannibal. Doenitz's statement is telling–ruthlessly taking vessels from (other fronts/ current duties/ operations) it could be done. It was an either or situation. Not a we can do both. The Kriegsmarine however hadn't replaced losses of surface vessels since the Norway Invasion, ergo they could either evacuate Kurland, or Prussia, but not both. Haupt & Kurowski's account do not take into account Hitler's avoidance of the stabbed in back legacy, and keeping the German People protected as long as possible. Speer & Hitler didn't go full blown war economy until '43, so they were buying time. The mistakes made by Haupt (!) & Kurowski here are (besides feeding the Manstein-Guderian-Doenitz narrative from memoirs (written AFTER errors of memory prone) is in not asking what surface fleet assets the Kriegsmarine & merchant fleet had left by fall-winter '44. Logistics. Superb work again TIK! <3


  20. Having proposed such things in a business context many times, I know that if I said what Donitz is quoted as saying I would have meant exactly what you interpret.

    "If this is the most important thing in the world and I can get anything I ask for from anyone, then we can do it and probably in four weeks."

    One time I was given complete priority to pull any resources I needed and delay any other project. This was because the CEO had already promised investors without asking if the project at hand were possible. And with dictatorial powers within the corporation, I was able to get the resources for my team to achieve what we had promised.

    Every other time I phrased a proposal in those terms, the task was not accomplished.

    It is sometimes hard for people to get the message across right to their bosses correctly. "I can do it if you give me two more teams" sounds to some managers magically like "I guarantee I will do it by tomorrow."

  21. This channel is what I want to see more of, picks apart the very soul of the battle. Something I haven't seen ever really, in my 17 years on this planet.

  22. Such a great video , you never fail to surprise me with hard written sideless evidence!! Well done for even reading Donitz memoar, it is inspiring to see how much work you put in.

  23. This is a very impressive feat you've undertaken, documenting these campaigns in such incredible detail, and you're pulling it off amazingly well.
    I just have a suggestion that might help make these videos a little more polished. You cite Vincent Hunt and his book Blood in the Forest a lot by showing a photo of the auther next to a piece of text from his work. If you could superimpose a little animation of a moving mouth onto Vincent Hunt's photo whenever you're quoting him, I think it would make for a nice visual detail that would really enhance the quality feel of your documentary.

  24. Hello TIK im sorry to bother you but can you recommend books on Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (Ardennes Offensive/Battle of the Bulge)?

  25. Do plan or have a video planned for the seelowe heights battle? From what I have heard that was a very messy battle.

  26. I'm beginning to get the feeling that you could make a very dangerous drinking game that involves Haupt and unnecessary exclamation marks.

  27. Courland appears to be the polar opposite of both the official German analysis of it, and the popular assumptions about it. So far from beleaguered, the Army Group was adequately supplied, and did comparatively well against their Soviet counterparts. Where else on the Eastern front did the Wermacht do as well during the last 6 months of the war in Europe? The only question I have left is, could 16th and 18th Armies have been employed more effectively? From what I've seen, probably not. On the whole, Courland looks like more of a success than a disaster. They held out longer than the rest of the Reich, lol! Not only that, but they periodically sent a division or two back to reinforce Germany! They may have been a drain on the Kreugsmarine's overstretched resources, but not a significant enough drain to force the kind of hard decisions one might expect. Prussia was evacuated simultaneously with the ongoing supply of Courland. "Let that sink in." Put another way, during the winter of 1944-45, the Kreugsmarine accomplished what the Luftwaffe could not do at Stalingrad two years before – times two!

  28. Shortest attack lines, means the defender packs it with men, meaning Soviet artillery kills more. simple always with soviets…I does work.

  29. "But I’m really interested to hear what you think about Dönitz’s contradictory claims?"

    1. What was the time difference between, we can do it, as compared to, we can't do it. As German naval/air strength waned and Soviet's increased, maybe they are both correct depending on the timeframe.

    2. Official reports are always designed to be rosy, diary's are usually a bit more truthful.

    3. Evacuating civilians from your "own" territories (East Prussia) makes more sense from a political standpoint, they get assimilated back into society, their stories will resonate within the country, military folks get sent back into a frontline.

    4. Have to be careful applying "then facts" and "hindsight facts". Keep in mind, truth at that moment in time and within the context of that author (I am talking wartime authors), can be true then and false later or both.

    Concerning those green lines (defensive lines?), I believe it was that along with "phase lines" for a timed withdrawal.

    Honestly, I think both sides were trying to accomplish the same thing….tie down as many as the enemy forces as possible while using the least resources necessary.


  30. 33:45 well I highly doubt a hand grenade would destroy a Tiger Tank even it it blew up from underneath. Maybe, if he had a land mine or something. That story sounds very fishy, and is likely News Paper Propaganda Fodder. They likely selected a random boy who died and fabricated a heroic story around him to hopefully motivate men to fight harder.

  31. Tik, if the germans had put all there effort in Moscow and reached it. Do you think they would have won because stalin is in Moscow and so once stalin is dead. There would be no successor which will cause a massive instability in the Soviet government. Please answer thanks

  32. The fourth and fifth battles against the german Pro Generals Writers reaches a screaming Crescendo. Oberst TIKs Research Thrusts nearly obliterate Haupt and the other Guy whose name i have forgotten.

  33. Dönitz damned the plan with faint praise. I'd ignore "ruthlessly", that's just Nazi speak (and many other dictatorships for that matter), also "adequate". The contradiction between Dönitz's assessment of Laura and his memoirs is maybe merely hindsight.

  34. The 18 yr old Russian hero, he destroyed a Tiger tank with a hand grenade. AP shells bounce off from range, yet a hand grenade is effective? Couldn't I see that as Russian propaganda?

  35. By this stage of war had Germans in the pocket exhausted their supply of toilet paper leading to many desertions

  36. Fuehrer Naval conference 17th Feb 1945. Hitler asks how could transport to Kurland be improved, Doenitz replies all means have been exhausted, more transports could only be found by removing them from the Skagerrak route which Doenitz said he would hesitate to recommend (Norway would be isolated). Hitler agrees. Hitler then asks Doenitz how long would it take to evacuate Kurland. Doenitz informs him that he has 35 transports available. A round trip takes 7 days, each lift could take 25,000 men 5,600 Horses and 3500 vehicles. Hitler then estimates that he has 300,000 men to evacuate including auxiliary units and it would, therefore, take 90 days. Hitler included normal delays such as blocked sea lanes and weather in his estimate. Hitler asked about Russian interference in such an evacuation. Doenitz believed if the Russians acted energetically they could disrupt movements through air attacks something that they only had done before on the 16th Feb. Any ship lost in such an operation could not be replaced. In comparison, Hitler asked about transporting a division from Norway, Doenitz assured him it would be smoother and The chief of the Operations Division told him any troops evacuated from Norway could be synchronized with the rail network to the embarkation ports.

    Fuehrer Conferences on Naval affairs 1939-45 is always worth getting

  37. 33:35 only in Stalin's Russia can such heroism be found!!! Oh, and such powerful grenades… probably made of Stalinium.

  38. A hand grenade is not even close to enough explosives to destroy a Tiger tank. It's more likely, assuming there is any truth to the story, that the 18 year old Russian soldier used some type of I.E.D. or "Improvised Explosive Device" to destroy a Tiger tank. Those Tigers were hard to destroy so it's an impressive feat no matter how he did it. I just know that he didn't do it with a regular old hand grenade. They were probably using U.S. made grenades because "the lend lease act" continued until the end of the war. This gives me more confidence in my assessment Because I've exploded a U.S. made grenade before, and have seen them exploded a couple of times. They simply aren't strong enough to take out a Tiger.

  39. I commented on wrong video your most popular video not newest just wanted to see if you could make video on Korsun-Shevchenkovski offensive and Korsun-Cherkassy pocket

  40. Awesome video TIK! This shows the absolute value of your method of questioning everything you read about historical narratives. Despite 30 odd years of studying WW2, the year or so I have been watching your channel, I have certainly come to re-think just about every event of the war. Well done mate, you're a treasure to the history community. It would be interesting to see a collaboration between you and Mark Felton Productions. Just a thought….

  41. From what I understand by those two quotes, the port facilities in Liepaja aren't sufficiënt. The port facilities in Ventspils AND liepaja are sufficiënt..

  42. I knew a chick in college who like to emphasize things by declaring "Ex-cla-MA-tion point!" at the end of her sentences. Maybe Haupt should have done that.

  43. 28:35 Interesting to note that S-13 and her commander Alexander Marinesko sent the Von Steuben to the bottom too.

  44. Do you take video suggestions? Would be interesting for you to cover the Finnish-Soviet war, went looking for some info and was surprised you had no videos about it.

  45. Wanted to ask how much an impact Canada made during WWII. American history comes out as the US saving the day. But how much did Canada provide troops, material? I suspect they made a massive but under reported impact.

  46. Just came back from 3 weeks in Kurland and you seem to perhaps doubt the high casualties conflicted on the Russians. One thing we saw was Russian cemetaries everywhere. Small and large, and even the largest outside of Russia itself lays in Kurland which says alot I think. Countless are still missing and are being found every day by organisations. I met a man last week who told me he had found 83 Russian soldiers in the last few days. They were given a proper grave. Same goes for the Germans.

  47. This could be such a nice channel without all these snarky side remarks, which really makes it look unprofessional.

  48. finding this series really boring because it appears to be strategically insignificant. Who cares who wins, the Germans are doomed and losing anyway at this rate and are about to surrender in literally months, this is only useful in explaining so called superior German skill when in fact they had the defender advantages, took significant loses, and strategically lost and failed to withdraw when they should have done. There also wasn't enough strategic incentive to win this battle and pocket by Russia as they were closing on Berlin anyway. I think this should be half a video and you should have moved on to a different battle series, ie continuing in north Africa rather than this totally random jump to the end of the war over a battle which doesn't turn the tide of the war

  49. Those green lines aren’t evidence for a evacuation. You really just decided that for yoursef. No idea why you think pre-made defensive lines around important coastal cities point to a planned evacuation.

  50. If you ever fancy doing some video material for the battle for Budapest I’ve some books on the subject.

  51. Im with my grandparents in kurland now and near our home we found several rifles a front wheel of a tank and some 30 years ago there were mines near theyre home.Great to learn about the battle keep up the good work!

  52. The pic of workers at 2:30 doesn't fit! That's an allied typhoon on the tarmac! And prob Dutch or German Civilian impressed workers!

  53. Please read BBC's report today how the Soviet's lied about their losses at a critical battle of Kursk. Objective evidence of long lost WWW2 aerial photos of the battlefield as well as report from a Soviet war photographer passed down to his family are sound reasons to doubt any Soviet source anywhere on the Ost front. Of course they led about the massacre of Polish prisoners until after 1990.

  54. "with the strongest possible support by the Luftwaffe"
    Translation: If we strip every plane from bomber defence the Western Front and the rest of the East…

  55. I'm a bit late to the party – it's been an open tab on my pc for a while. I wanted some clear time to really watch it & it was worth waiting for. Thanks TIK for another great piece of history. Overall, General/admiral memoirs are self serving & not to be trusted where they can't be independently verified. I'm now going to binge on the next episode. Thanks again TIK!

  56. I understand why you think you are absolutely correct in your historical interpretation but I will remind you that I thought the same for years with the written resources that I had available. Your assumptions are only as good as your sources & that is a historical variable which only time will prove. I'm not hating here ok.

  57. 25:08 Doenitz spoke that the evacuation is not possible but he mentioned only one Harbour, Libau, in his 2nd statement not two like in the first statement, so hes right with only one harbour only a fraction could be eveacuated

  58. Why weren’t the troops from Coorland sent to East Prussia? Königsberg might not have fallen then, holding the Russians back and allowing the allies to take Berlin.

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