The taking over of the command of the remnants of the "Armed Forces of South Russia" by General Wrangel. Domestic policy of his government. Brief review of the Crimean theater of operations. Characteristics of Wrangel's army ; its reorganization. General Wrangel's plan of campaign. Disposition of Red forces. Development of the operation during the summer of 1920 in Northern Taurida. Failure of the Red Thirteenth Army in June. Reaching of the continent by Wrangel's army; its initial successes. Disposition of hostile forces. Plans of the Red command. Raid of Zhloba's cavalry corps. Wrangel's efforts at expanding his base of operations. Conclusions. (See Sketch 17, and map pertaining to chapters XIX, XX, and XXI - original text).
General Wrangel, assuming command of the remnants of the "Armed Forces of South Russia," upon replacing General Denikin, could not, nor had he any particular desire to, alter the foreign or internal policies of his predecessor; he merely endeavored to change the forms of application of these policies. Let us consider, for example, the agrarian policy. Here Wrangel proceeded to yield the estates of the landowners to the peasantry but this without proper compensation for the same that was to be exacted over a period of 25 years.,
Of what avail could such laws be to the Crimean peasantry, approximately forty per cent of whom had no land whatever and who, in order to insure their daily bread had to seek work as share-croppers or as day laborers. And the peasant who did own a farm of his own had a parcel of land so small )on the south coast of the Crimea it amounted to less than one-half desiatin - 1.35 acres) that he could even dream of taking advantage of the offer to purchase land from the private owners. Hence Wrangel's agrarian laws could have been taken advantage of not by the peasantry as a whole but only by some few of the wealthy peasants.* As regards the working class, Wrangel's domestic policy was characterized by a desperate struggle against workers' organizations and trade union movements.
* B. Shustov - The Crimean A.S.S.R., published by the State Planning Commission, Moscow, 1927, p. 33.
Behind the lines there continued to flourish as heretofore regime of
speculators, plunderers, of bribery and administrative excesses. Retaining all
negative features of the former government of General Denikin, the new
government headed by General Wrangel brought these up to their ultimate stage.
The situation behind the lines of Wrangel's forces is well characterized by a
document provided in the report of General Slashchov, submitted to General
Wrangel on September 12th. In this report, referred to in Wrangel's notes and
in Slashchov's memoirs, the latter demanded the imposition of special taxation
on the imposition of special taxation on the bourgeoisie and the inauguration
of public hangings of speculators.
No wonder that behind the lines of Wrangel's forces, in spite of the cruel repressive measures, even during the period of the successful operations of Wrangel's forces in Northern Taurida, the situation always remained quite precarious. After landing in mid-August on the south coast of the Crimea, the organizer of the revolutionary movement in the Crimea, comrade Mokrousov, within a few days (according to the admissions of "White" chroniclers) already found himself at the head of detachments of several hundred insurrectionists. The Red partisans harassed Wrangel's communications in the immediate vicinity of Sevastopol and Simferopol.
Within Wrangel's army an internal, secret struggle was carried on
between the "young" and "old" members of the army. One of
Wrangel's historians who has gained some renown, V.Nemirovich-Danchenko, in his
book, In the Crimea under Wrangel,presents the rather characteristic views of
one to whom he refers as a deserving officer of the general staff, reproaching
General Wrangel at the latter's headquarters about the youthful age of the
officers at his headquarters, about the "wonder child" type who know
nothing and see the only criterion for victory in audacious adventures. The
authority of the commander-in-chief was strengthened and maintained by the
promotion of men from among his own friends, and by the removal from positions
of authority of any one who disagreed with him or who manifested too much
independence (as noted, for instance, in the differences between Wrangel with
Slashchov). As a result protectionism, career seekers, intrigue, were rampant
within Wrangel's army.
In the situation of General Wrangel, confirmed monarchist that he was, compelled to maneuver about, to cover his own convictions and the attitude of his army with hazy platitudes which, in his opinion might attract to his army and its aims the sympathy of the population, whose attitude was largely against czarism - in this situation the historian cannot fail seeing signs of the doom of the entire Wrangel movement.
On the 12th of June, 1920, when the Wrangel army had already developed its action in Northern Taurida,there was discovered at Sevastopol the plot of the Duke of Leightenberg involving a considerable number of naval officers. This upset General Wrangel not so much because of the monarchist ideas involved as of the effectual nature of the program of the plotters, which called for the immediate replacement of General Wrangel by the former Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, or even by the "yellow-faced" duke. The punishment of the abortive plotters brought about a situation wherein the unfortunate duke together with his bodyguard were safely removed to Constantinople, while the rest of the culprits were dismissed, some of them being sent to the front. The "democratic" army received even these measures of "democratic" Wrangel rather frigidly, regarding it as too severe a treatment of the offenders.
Early in June there was set up General Wrangel's department of state for his territories. At the head of this department was placed V. A. Krivoshein, an adherent of Stolipin, who for many years had served as Minister of Agriculture in the Czarist government.
The aims of General Wrangel in the spheres of politics and strategy had grown in proportion to his territorial gains. Originally these involved merely an endeavor to settle in the Crimea and to conclude a peace with the Soviet government, with the aid of Great Britain, on an equitable basis. Later on, after his first military victories, Wrangel dreamed of once more setting in motion a civil war within Soviet territory, utilizing for the purpose the support of the Don and Kuban Cossacks and the Ukrainian wealthy peasant elements. These plans of General Wrangel, as we shall see, came to naught.
From the military and geographical standpoint, the Crimea- Tauride theater of operations had differed considerably from the Ukrainian and White-Russian theaters of operations.
There was much difference also as regards the various sectors of this theater of operations. The continental portion of the theater (northern Part) was mostly made up of plains and steppes, and of open terrain, most suitable for the employment of large cavalry forces. The population was quite densely settled and grouped together in large towns separated from one another by considerable distances. The system of improved roads was sufficiently developed, while railway communications were sparse. Local resources here were in abundance. The population was homogeneous as regards nationality; from its class standpoint it was made up predominantly of peasant, with considerable wealthy peasant elements.
Resembling a pendant on two narrow crosspieces, the Chongar and Perekop isthmuses joined the continental part of the theater of operations to the Crimean sector, with the same plain and steppe terrain in a considerable portion of it as in Northern Taurida, without, however the wealth of local resources. The Perekop and Chongar narrows fitted in with the action of the troops within this theater in definite strategic areas leading to the principal seaports on the Black Sea - Sevastopol and Feodosia. The extreme southern portion of the theater of operations - the Crimean south coast, was highly mountainous; throughout the campaign it remained outside the principal zone of operations.
The Perekop and Chongar isthmuses, with their fortifications, dominated by hostile naval forces in the Sea of Azov and Black Sea, were capable of presenting considerable barriers for any forces endeavoring to penetrate the Crimea from the north Owing to the narrowness of these isthmuses they were also unfavorable for the operations of forces attempting to reach the continent from the Crimea, impeding the development of such forces. The above features of these isthmuses were responsible for the apt designation of the Crimea militarily as the "Crimean Bottle" with the Chongar, and especially the Perekop isthmuses as the bottleneck of the same.
The principal military forces of the enemy in the Crimean theater of operations consisted of the former Volunteer Army. which General Wrangel now designated as the Russian Army. Having been converted into a professional mercenary army, the Volunteer army soon acquired the peculiar aspects of such armies. The discipline of this army was beginning to take on a particularly strange aspect; there was inaugurated the system of the appointment of not only lower rank officers but of even higher commanders by election. The latter, in order not to lose their popularity, had to close their eyes to the plunder and insubordination of their men.
Certain generals vied among themselves for first place, engaging in bitter struggles to gain primacy.
On assuming command in April* over the remnants of the Volunteer and Cossack armies, General Wrangel first of all wiped out all opposition among the Cossack troops, and he removed from place of authority those generals whose rivalry he had reason to fear.
* Before General Wrangel assumed command here General Slashchov was in command of the remnants of the Volunteer Army that had assembled in the Crimea for the defense of the latter.
With the formal consent of the weak-willed Don Ataman Bogayevsky,whom General Wrangel turned into a figurehead, Wrangel relieved from command General Sidorin, commanding the Don Corps, General Kelchevsky, chief of staff or the same corps, and the chief of the Political Section (there was a section bearing the above title), Count Du-Shail, who had launched a campaign against General Wrangel in the newspaper "Donsky Viestnik," and he turned them over for trial by general court- martial. The latter sentenced the two generals to hard labor; General Wrangel graciously took this opportunity to show clemency and revoked the hard labor sentence, limiting their punishment to dismissal from the army. At the same time, General Wrangel took steps to bring General Slashchov to trial.
Thus consolidating his own position, General Wrangel busily engaged himself in the reorganization of his army and the establishment of proper order within his military forces. The entire army was organized into four corps. In view of the great shortage of horses, the Don and Kuban cavalry was temporarily converted into infantry. Wrangel's reorganization efforts continued throughout April and May and proceeded quite smoothly, inasmuch as the forces and attention of the Soviet command were at this particular time consumed by the events on the Polish front. Owing to this circumstance, General Wrangel succeeded in bringing up the strength of his forces to about 20,000 infantry and cavalry effectives by the latter part of May, 1920.
Early in June, 1920 General Wrangel's army, under cover of Slashchov's corps, which held the Perekop and Chongar isthmuses, completed its reorganization. Against Slashchov's corps, on the line: Skadovsk - Genichesk - Kirillovka and further up to Nogaisk, there deployed the Red Thirteenth Army with a total of 12,765 infantry and cavalry troops ( the Latvian, 52d, 3d, and 46th infantry divisions, 85th and 124 infantry brigades). The 15th Infantry Division of this army was to be transferred to the forces operating in Western Ukraine, and reached Kakhovka by the end of April, while the 2nd Cavalry Division, referred to as the Blinov Division, was disposed in the vicinity of the Petrovsk village.*
*We have been unable to establish the exact figures involved in the
strength of the opposing forces before the beginning of the decisive operations
in Northern Taurida. However, notwithstanding the contradictory data on the
subject at our disposal, we are able to state definitely that at the outset of
the operation Wrangel enjoyed a superiority of two-to-one over the forces of
the Red Thirteenth Army facing him.
During the month of May, 1920, the Thirteenth Army made several attempts to force the isthmuses and to invade the Crimea, but all these efforts were unsuccessful. Early in June the Thirteenth Army prepared to resume these efforts on a larger scale, but was anticipated in this by the suddenly revived action of Wrangel's forces.
This revival on the part of Wrangel's forces had been due not so much to any political or strategic reasons as to matters of an economic nature. The tremendous number of refugees that had accumulated in the Crimea were ruining Wrangel's food reserves, and this finally raised the question of the feasibility of the continued physical existence of the very military forces under Wrangel, which included at this time about 22,000 infantry and 4,6000 cavalry troops (in round numbers).**
**According to some sources, the total number of persons that Wrangel had to fee reached 150,000 early in July. This practically coincides with Wrangel's own admission that in his army there were six mouths to feed for every combatant.
Hence in mid-May General Wrangel, as he states in his memoirs, developed a plan for a summer campaign which provided for the following:
(1) The advance of his forces to the line: Berdiansk - Pologi
-Alexandrovsk - Dnieper;
(2) An operation for the possession of the Taman peninsula with the object of establishing in the Kuban new bases for defensive action;
(3) An advance to the line: Rostov - Taganrog - Donets coal region - Grishino - Sinelnikovo;
(4) Clearing of Red forces from the Don and Kuban districts ( the Cossacks were to furnish the men necessary to continue the campaign).
On the Crimea isthmuses were to be erected fortifications of the field type for the purpose of securing the main base of operations of the armed forces of the White South - the Crimea.*
* The writer G.N. Rakovski, who was close to the Don army circles, in his book "End of the Whites," (Konets Bielykh), published by Volya Rossii, 1921, states that General Wrangel at first pursued more modest aims. He merely attempted to get our of the "Crimea bottle" to obtain provisions on the continent, and this was why he deemed it necessary to move up his forces to the line shown in (1) above, of his plan. According to Rakovski, General Wrangel originally contemplated no operation at all in the Caucasus. With the object of the political protection of the main operation along the flanks, it was intended to bring about uprisings in the Don territory and to establish contact with the Ukrainian insurrectionists.
In launching his campaign toward the continent, General Wrangel went counter to the wishes of the British government, with the result that the latter disclaimed all responsibility for the further fate of the remnants of the "Armed Forces of South Russia."
On June 5th the Thirteenth Army was disposed as follows: Main forces, in the Perekop area. The group of forces commanded by comrade Raudmets commander of the 52d Division ( comprising the Latvian Division, the 52d Division, 124th and 85th infantry brigades and the 3d Division) occupying the line: Preobrazhenka (12km. northwest of Perekop) - Pervo-Konstantinovka, was preparing to launch an attack. The units of this group, greatly reduced in strength during the April fighting (in mid-April the Whites made a successful tactical raid on the right flank of this group in the vicinity of Khorol) and the engagements fought in May,had not yet been resorted to war strength (Sketch 18). In the Salkov area the weak 46th Division covered in the vicinity of the Salkov railway station the enemy's outlet from the Chongar peninsula, and at Genichesk the outlet from the Arabat area.
The military operations on both isthmuses assumed the aspect of position warfare Both sides were occupying entrenches positions,often surrounding their lines with wire entanglements. The main forces of the Thirteenth Army,their morale considerably undermined by the unsuccessful actions for the possession of the isthmuses, further lost their combat efficiency by reason of the unaccustomed position warfare situation.
No strategic cooperation existed between the two groups of forces. The northern shores of the Putrid Sea (Sivash) between the groups were occupied by the weak, extended 124th Brigade (42 Division). Several days before the beginning of the decisive events there arrived in the army area the Cavalry Division commanded by Blinov,which had reached there by marching from the Caucasus Front, on route to the Novo-Nikolayevka - Novo-Pokrovka - Gromovka area, in army reserve, where it completed its concentration on June 3d. The Thirteenth Army, in contradistinction to the forces under General Wrangel, did not take advantage of the lull in the fighting for the purpose of shifting considerable units to the rear with a view to their proper reorganization, replenishment and rest. The units crowded in along the isthmuses were maintained in full readiness for action and exhausted their strength in minor undertakings
of a purely position warfare nature. In evaluating the disposition
of the units of the Thirteenth Army prior to the decisive events, it must be
admitted that the army was entirely unprepared for the defense of Northern
Taurida. The commander of the Thirteenth Army and of the front here was
wavering for some time about the launching of a decisive attack, while at the
same time, notwithstanding the events that were taking place on the Polish
front, he could not see his way clear to undertake a temporary defense of his
lines and to effect an appropriate regrouping of his forces in accordance with
the requirements of the situation. The echelonment of forces in depth was
lacking. The communications system was poorly organized. The Perekop group of
forces was based on Kakhovka and partly on the only main railway line of Salkov
- Melitopol, which was also being used by all of the other army forces. The
main line of communications connected with this same trunk railway extended to
Melitopol along the Sea of Azov, where the White navy continued to be in
control. The plan for the withdrawal of the forces, in spite of the extremely
difficult conditions involved in such a retrograde movement, that had to be
effected in space bordering on one side by the Dnieper and on the other by the
sea, had not been worked out by the commander, who continued merely to look
vainly forward. The 15th Division which arrived from the Caucasus Front,
intended to reinforce the assault detachment of the Perekop group of forces on
the eve of the decisive events, was once more detached from the army and
transferred to the control of the commander of the Polish front.
The situation of the Thirteenth Army was further aggravated by the fact that the Makhno brigand bands which became active in the rear of this army had also diverted a portion of its forces and thus served to detract the attention of the army commander from his mission.
General Wrangel's plan of operations, set forth in his directive of June 3d, provided for the stationing of the 11 Corps under General Slashov in the Melitopol area for an assault against the rear of the Red Perekop group of forces, while at the same time launching an attack with the I Army Corps (General Kutepov) and the composite corps (General Pisarev) through the isthmuses, crush the Thirteenth Army and drive it beyond the Dnieper. For the execution of this mission General Wrangel's army occupied its line of departure as follows:
The composite corps commanded by Pisarev (Kuban division and 3d Cavalry Division) was concentrating in the Chongar area;
The Don Corps commanded by General Abramov (2d and 3d Don divisions and Don brigade) was left in G.H.Q. reserve in the Dzhankoi area;
The I Army Corps commanded by General Kutepov (Drozdovski,Kornilov, Markov divisions, 1st and 2nd Divisions) was concentrating on the Perekop isthmus. Upon this corps, representing one of the best units of Wrangel's forces and hiving at one time served as the shock force of General Denikin's Volunteer Army, now devolved the principal mission of defeating the main forces of the Thirteenth Army opposing it;
The II Army Corps commanded by General Slashchov (l3 and 34th infantry divisions, Terek-Astrakhan cavalry brigade ), embarking on transports at Feodosia, proceeded accompanied by naval escort to the vicinity of Kirillovka (near Melitopol) where it was to effect a landing. General Wrangel had placed much hopes on the landing operation of this corps ( the landing operations effected in mid-April in the vicinity of Khorel and also at Kirillovka were in a measure to be repeated by General Slashchov).army at the beginning of the decisive operations as 25,000 infantry and cavalry effectives (against 15,000 to 16,000 infantry and 3,000 to 4,000 cavalry on the Red sides, according to his, apparently somewhat exaggerated data), while the composite and the Don corps hardly had any horses and were and compelled to operate in dismounted formation.
The operation developed as follows:
General Slashchov's corps, embarking on transport vessels at
Feodosia (on or about the 28th) at 2:00A.M. on June 6th made its appearance in
the Sea of Azov and at l0:A.M. the landing of the troops got under way in the
area to the south of Kirillovka, the Yefremovka village being first occupied to
secure the landing. In order to divert the attention of the Red forces from the
main landing point at the Kirillovka village, the enemy staged landing
demonstrations on the right flank of the Perekop group of forces. In the
afternoon, 8 km. south of the Alexeyevka village, in the afternoon,8 km. south
of the Alexeyevka village in the Karkinitskii gulf there appeared two
steamboats with barges in tow and,opening fire on Khorol, dropped anchor.
Obviously, the immediate objective of General Slashchov was the capture of Melitopol and the severance of the only trunk rail line on which the forces of the Thirteenth Army were based; the action of the Slashchov corps were at the same time to facilitate the emergence of the remaining corps of General Wrangel's army from the "Crimean bottle."
The commander of the Thirteenth Army, upon the receipt of information of the enemy landing in the vicinity of Kirillovka and at Khorol, reacted as follows ( order of the Thirteenth Army dated June 6th, No. 078). The commander of the group of forces operating in the Perekop area was ordered to maintain the positions dominating the exit of the Perekop isthmus and to maintain close observation of the coast of the Karkinitskii gulf, while maintaining a reserve of not less than an infantry brigade in strength for the contingency of an attempted hostile landing in the Kalanchak area.
The group of forces under Nesterovich (124th and 85th infantry brigades and 42d Cavalry Regiment) was to remain in the Pervo-Konstantinovka Vladimirovka - Strogonovka area, and in the event that the enemy should launch an attack, proceed against his flank and rear without permitting the enemy to leave the Perekop isthmus. This same group was called upon to maintain observation of the Sivash (putrid Sea) coast in the sector: Pervo-Konstantinovka - Overyanovsk Lake, and to maintain close contact with the 46th Infantry and 2nd Cavalry divisions.
The commander of the 46th Infantry Division was ordered to defend tenaciously the positions held by this division at Salkovo and to liquidate the landing detachments of the enemy at Kirillovka. For the execution of the latter mission the commander of the 46th Division was once more attached the 138th Infantry Brigade that had been in army reserve and was further given control over the Melitopol garrison and armored trains operating on the inner front. The 138th Brigade was sent to the B. Utling area, and the 2nd Cavalry Division, remaining in army reserve, was to effect its concentration in the Petrovek village area by not later than noon of the 7th June.
On the other hand, on June 7th, the I Army Corps (General Kutepov) and the composite corps (General Pisarev) of Wrangel's army, supporting their infantry units with their cavalry, tanks and armored trains, moved toward the continent via the Perekop and Slakov isthmuses.
The enemy endeavored to defeat our units and to drive them out of the Perekop sector, and to turn the flank of our Pereko group of forces in the east.
In the Salkov area fighting developed in the area to the south of Rozhdestvenskoye - Rykovo.
Efforts of Hostile landing detachments that had effected a landing at Kirillovka to make their way to Volkaneshty were repulsed
A number of vigorous encounters took place, mostly in the nature of meeting engagements, in which the Red army divisions, regrouping their forces during the actual fighting, endeavored to delay the advance of the enemy and to force the hostile forces back into the Crimea. More intensive battles developed in the Perekop area. The Red 3d Division and the 85th Brigade that had withdrawn to the east (to Pervo-Konstantinovka - Vladimirovka) launched vigorous counterattacks, endeavoring to cut off the White forces that penetrated the area north of the isthmus. Pervo-Konstantinovka changed hands twice during the day and by evening remained in the hands of the Red forces, in spite of the vigorous resistance of the Whites who had committed to action their reserves - the Drozdovsky division and tank units which participated in the penetration of the Red Perekop fortifications. The Latvian division withdrew to the Chaplinka area in the evening, losing tactical cooperation with the Pervo-Konstantinovka group of forces. Here we find some of the engagements to have been won by the Red forces. Combat activity during the first phase was in a manner split up into three independent actions - the Perekop, Salkov and Melitopol undertakings, without any immediate tactical cooperation between them.
With a view to liquidating the penetration of the White forces, the commander of the Thirteenth Army adopted the following measures (orders of the commander of the Thirteenth Army of June 7, No. 079).
The group of forces operating in the Perekop area was required to restore the situation with the least practicable delay and, by launching an attack against the flank and rear of the enemy, to destroy the over-extended hostile forces in that area. Upon the accomplishment of this mission, it was to execute the orders previously issued to it of preventing the enemy from getting through the Perekop gorge and effecting landings on the Karkinitskii gulf coast.
The 46th Infantry Division was required to liquidate the hostile forces which penetrated in the Salkov area by means of vigorous action, attacking the enemy from the Gromovka - Novo- Troitsk area in flank and rear. At the same time the commander of the 46th Division was ordered to liquidate the hostile landing detachments which effected a landing at Atmanai and Kirillovka. The Blinov 2d Cavalry Division, upon the completion of its concentration in the Petrovsk village area, passed to the control of the commander of the 46th Division.
Only on the 8th of June, somewhat lowering the pace and intensity of its advance in the northern direction, did the I Corps of the White forces succeed in overcoming the resistance of the Red Pervo-Konstantinovka group of forces, and by a turning movement of the 2nd Cavalry Division (General Norozov) created a threat to the freedom of movement of its exposed right flank, in connection with the withdrawal of the Raudmets group of forces. But therefore the situation of the White forces was considerably complicated on the 8th of June in the Chjongar area, in spite of the fact that the penetration effected on the previous day, with the aid of tanks, of the Salkov position, did not involve any special efforts on the part of General Pisarev's corps. The 46th Division which withdrew on the night of June 7-8 with its main forces, after the loss of the Salkov position, to the northwestward, established contact with the Blinov 2nd Cavalry Division, which had been shifted to the Petrovsk area and placed under the control of the commander of the 46th Division. In the Novo-Mikhailov area, the flank screening force of General Pisarev engaged in vigorous action with these forces, while the main corps forces had already reached the line: Uritsino railway station - Rozhdestvenskoye.
On the night of the 8--9 June the Blinov Cavalry Division, after penetrating the White screening force, by a bold thrust, made its way to Novo-Mikhailov, capturing machine-guns and several hundred prisoners, including among them the staff of the 3d Cavalry Division (capture of General Revishin),
Notwithstanding these separate tactical victories, the situation of the Thirteenth Army continued to remain rather difficult from the strategic standpoint. Control of the army units was disrupted. The Pervo-Konstantinovka group, the 46th Division and Blinov cavalry division, were in contact with army headquarters by radio only, which was often out of use owing to the shifting of headquarters. The supply of munitions was interrupted.
The re-transfer of the 15th Division, which had already succeeded in crossing over the only bridge at Kakhovka to the right bank of the Dnieper was protracted. This division was actually committed to action at a time (June 10th in the Chernoi valley) when the decimated 52d and Latvian divisions were practically incapable of further effectual action.
On June 9th Slashchov, who was proceeding at an extremely slow pace, notwithstanding his obviously superior forces over those of the Thirteenth Army confronting him,* finally seized the city of Melitopol. On June 10, 11 and 12 Slashchov continued to engage in fighting in the Melitopol area, moving at an extremely slow pace in a westerly direction and barely overcoming the ever-increasing pressure from the north of the units of the Thirteenth Army (group of forces commanded by comrade Latsis).
* It is interesting to note that General Slashchov speaks, in this connection, in his memoirs, of some sort of unusually difficult and exceedingly heroic battles fought by his corps.
On the 9th of June the situation in the Chongar area was still difficult for the White forces. General Wrangel was gradually committing his reserves - the Don Corps - to action in this sector.
On June 1st the Blinov cavalry division, in a spirited attack, defeated the Kuban division and, capturing prisoners and a battery of artillery, nearly seized the city of Novo- Alexeyevka. This constituted the final incident in the heroical resistance of the isolated units of the Thirteenth Army.
The capture of Melitopol led to the final disruption of the control of this army. Strategic coordination of the efforts of its units was no longer possible. The commander of the Thirteenth Army sought to locate his forces by radio. At this time - June 10 to 12 - the situation of the forces of the Thirteenth Army, already out of control, might well have become disastrous, but the energy of Wrangel's forces was by now somewhat on the wane and diminishing as a result of the fighting. Instead of launching a vigorous pursuit, the Wrangel forces were barely moving in the wake of the retreating Red forces. Wrangel's headquarters lost much time in assuming full control of his scattered units. to insure their strategic cooperation.
On the 12th of June the Perekop group of White forces captured Kakhovka and Aleshka; the 52d and the Latvian divisions withdrew from Kakhovka to the right bank of the Dnieper, destroying the crossing behind them, while the remaining units of the Thirteenth Army were in general retreat in a northeasterly direction between the Dnieper and Melitopol. On the 12th of June Wrangel issued his directive for the pursuit of the Red forces in which General Slashchov, instead of attacking the rear of the retreating forces, was ordered to maintain Melitopol; the rest of the forces - to maintain the seized ground and to continue the pursuit. Thus, after gaining considerable tactical successes and capturing considerable territory, General Wrangel still failed in gaining his basic mission - the destruction of the Thirteenth Army and the prevention of its withdrawal behind the Dnieper.
The success in the development of the operation of the White forces in reaching the continent was greatly facilitated by the landing effected by Slashchov. It should be remarked that the point for the landing had been properly selected. It was close to the advance bases of the Thirteenth Army at Melitopol and not far from the only trunk railway line over which the Thirteenth Army received all of its supplies.
Being unable to prevent the enemy from getting through the Crimea bottleneck, the Thirteenth Army found itself in difficult straits. Slashchov's corps, occupying Melitopol on the 10th of June, might by a flanking action, have driven it against the stream of the lower Dnieper in the sector of the river where no crossings were available. This however did not happen; conducting a series of vigorous rear guard actions, the Thirteenth Army made its way out of the trap that was being prepared for it by means of a difficult flank movement.
On June 23d the line of the hostile front on the continent extended in a semi-circle along the line: Nogaisk - Bolshoi Tokmak - Popov railway station ( all points, inclusive), and farther along the left bank of the Dnieper river up to the town of Aleshka, inclusive (See Sketch 18).
Wrangel's forces were gradually taking up positions as follows: from the sea of Azov up to Gnadenfeld - the 2nd Don Division (mounted) and the 3d Don Division (dismounted) of General Abramov's Don Corps; from Waldheim through Bolshoi Takmak up to the Popov railway station - the 13th and 34th infantry divisions of the II Army Corps, commanded by General Slashchov; in the Mikhailovka - Drozdovsky area, the infantry division and 2nd cavalry division (General Morozov ) under the general control of the commander of the Drozdovsky Division, General Vitkotsky; the Kuban Cossack Division, situated with main forces in the Bolshaya Belozerka village, having suffered heavy casualties in the fighting during the first part of June, was performing reconnaissance and security missions along the left bank of the Dnieper (against the Dnieper stream and against Nikopol); to the left of it was situated the native brigade with main forces at Verkhny Rogachik. Opposite Kakhovka in the Drimtovka - Natalino area there continued in position the Markov and Kornilov divisions. Protection of the sector from Kakhovka up to the mouth of the Dnieper was assumed by the lst Cavalry Division of General Barabovich, which was as yet without horses (dismounted). On this line the enemy halted temporarily, intending to consolidate his positions, replenish his units and move up his supply organizations.
The plan of the commander of the front and the Thirteenth
Army was as follows: The group of forces on the right (Latvian and 52d infantry divisions) was to develop its advance from, the Berislav area in the general direction of Kakhovka - Perekop; the group of forces commanded by comrade Fedko (3d, 46th and 15th divisions, 2d Infantry Brigade and two brigades of the 23d Infantry Division), deploying on the line; Sherebets - Orekhov - Pologi (exclusive), delivered attacks in the general direction of Melitopol. The action of these two groups was to immobilize the main forces of the enemy.
Taking advantage of this circumstance, the Zhloba cavalry group, concentrated on June 27th in the Gusarka - Popovka - Belmanka - Tsare - Konstantinovka area, proceeded against Melitopol. At 9:00 P.M. of this date the units of the cavalry corps reached the following points: lst Cavalry Division - Tsare-Konstantinovka; 2nd Cavalry Division - Popovka and Alexeyevka.
The Zhlova cavalry core was reinforced with the Blinov 2d Cavalry Division and the 40th Infantry Division.
The assault detachment of the Zhloba group of forces was given the immediate objective of defeating the Don Corps and then capturing the Melitopol area at the earliest possible moment.
The capture of Melitopol brought the Zhloba assault group into the rear of the main forces of the hostile Tokmak group, cutting it off from the Crimea.
After the defeat of the Don Corps, the commander of the Thirteenth Army intended to send the cavalry assault group against Perekop, while directing the infantry forces attached to it against Salkovo.
The advance of the Zhloba assault group was launched on the 28th of June. The units of the cavalry corps at 2:00 P.M. left the Tsare-Konstantinovka - Belmanka area with the object of occupying Verkhny-Tokmak - Mogilyansk. By evening, after a battle, the cavalry corps occupied Verkhny-Tokmak and Chernigovka. By 7:00 P.M. the entire cavalry corps had concentrated at Chovka. Meanwhile, the 40th Infantry Division attached to the corps, after some vigorous fighting, occupied Andreyevka and Sofiyevka ( villages situated 12 km and 20 km. to the southwest of Berestovka, respectively), moving up scout detachments to the line: Saltychye - Yeliseyevka - Rozenfeld.
Notwithstanding the uncompleted concentration of the cavalry group of forces itself and the insufficient readiness of the rest of the units of the army for the intended offensive, G.H.Q. urged on the army, and the army urged the troops to accelerate their action. It is to be noted that back on June 25 and 26 General Wrangel had learned from his intelligence agencies of the approach of the Zhloba cavalry group. Thus, as we have since learned, the strategic surprise in the employment of the cavalry corps, on which the Red command had been counting, did not exist. The results of the hastening of all events provided merely come tactical surprise, the enemy not having expected the attack at such an early juncture. This tactical surprise had the effect of disrupting the regrouping of General Wrangel's forces which he had provided for with a view to the formation of two strong assault detachments for employment against the areas where the Zhloba cavalry group was to effect its landing and concentration (basic mission was the taking of the Red cavalry effecting its penetration, into a pincer movement), under cover of weak screening forces left in the Alexandrovsk and Berdiansk areas.
On the 28th of June, capturing machine-guns and prisoners of the Don 3d Division, the Zhloba cavalry group penetrated the front of the Don corps and occupied Chernigov.
On June 29th, by 8:00 A.M., units of the cavalry corps, after some fighting, reached the line: Nikolaidorf - Shparrau and, developing their further advance, by 2:00 P.M. reached the Klefeld - Alexandrkron and Shardau - Marientall area ( all points on the Ushanly river). The enemy, with a force including about one cavalry division, supported by armored cars and a squadron of 12 airplanes, launched an attack from the Mikhailovka area against the flank and rear of the cavalry group. Under the pressure of these forces, the left-flank units of this corps were compelled to withdraw from the Gladenfeld - Shparrau line. After a proper regrouping of forces, the cavalry group in turn counterattacked and once more repelled the hostile forces to the Ushanly river. On the enemy side there had also participated some aircraft which continually subjected the Red cavalry to machine-gun fire and bombardment. *
* Here is how the commander of the 2nd Division, comrade Lysenko, describes these events of the 29th of June in his report to the corps commander, comrade Zhloba "The division was assembled in the central square of the Chernigovka village at 6:00 A.M. Owing to the late start of the leading elements on their way from this village, the division was delayed there until 9:00 A.M. There appeared from the northwesterly direction about 12 airplanes of the enemy dropping bombs on the village. At 10:00 A.M. the division left the Chernigovka village and proceeded with the lst Cavalry Division over the highway. On reaching the Kontenusfeld and Shparrau villages the division turned left and proceeded along the valley, in the direction of the Rudnervied village, arriving at the latter at noon. The division then proceeded over the highway to the Alexandertal village, but upon reaching the mound situated three kilometers west of the village there was discovered an enemy force in the strength of about one cavalry division with two armored cars on the way from the Frantsital village. The division entered the Mariental village and began concentrating on the southern outskirts of the latter, in a woods. Discovering this, the enemy turned to the left and launched an attack. The left flank of the 4th Brigade did not hold out and began withdrawing in the direction of the Kontenusfeld village, and by so doing compelled the 3d Brigade, which had been preparing to launch a counterattack, to withdraw in the valley of the Ushanly river. The divisional units and the Dybenko division were confronted by eight hostile airplanes which dropped about 20 bombs each, causing much confusion among the troops. The casualties among the men and animals were considerable. In the 2nd artillery battalion the horses and crews of five guns were killed or wounded, with the result that the guns had to be abandoned, but were recaptured later by a renewed advance launched by the division. The division, concentrating at the edge of the Gizdeifeld village, together with the remaining cavalry of the group of forces, launched an attack at 6:00 P.M. and dislodged the enemy from his positions on the high ground. The enemy, declining to accept the attack, began a hasty withdrawal in the direction of Alexandrkron - Mariental, whence, without stopping, he proceeded in the direction of Manuilovka - Marianova. The division assembled in the valley of the Ushanly river, sending out a detachment in pursuit of the enemy. At 8:00 P.M. there once more appeared over our lines eleven hostile airplanes which dropped about 15 bombs. The day's casualties of the division are considerable; details are being checked. Heaviest losses were inflicted by the artillery and aircraft. It is necessary to hasten the sending out of the corps airplanes to the front; there is considerable complaint among the men over the needless losses".
We note here the full cooperation of the hostile cavalry and aviation, and the lack of preparation on the part of our cavalry to cope with hostile aircraft.
On June 30th the enemy launched an attack with his infantry forces on Nikolaidorf from Rikenau, but after a brief encounter withdrew to the high ground situated six kilometers west of Nikolaidorf.
With a view to liquidating the resistance of the enemy operating in the vicinity of Morgenau and Rikenau, the commander of the cavalry group decided on the delivery of a night raid. The units of the 1st Cavalry Division approached Rikenau at l0:00 P.M. and, not finding the enemy there, occupied without fighting Fridensdorf, Morgenau and Rikenau. At midnight of the 30th June, units of the cavalry corps were disposed for the night as follows: 1st Cavalry Division - at Paulsheim - Marianval; 2nd Cavalry Division - at Kontenusfeld - Gnadelfeld; and the Blinov 2nd Cavalry Division - in the Shparrau area.
During the day of July 1st fighting continued On the night of July 1-2 the units of the 1st Cavalry Division delivered a raid on the Bliumenort - Tige - Orlov area, killing about 400 infantry troops of the enemy in these villages.
At 1;00 P.M., July 2d, units of the lst and 2nd cavalry divisions of the cavalry corps and the 2nd Blinov Cavalry Division launched an attack in the general direction of Pragenau - Astrakhanka. Encountering several times during the day enemy resistance (at Pragenau and Likhtenfeld), where the enemy endeavored to gain time by maintaining certain villages and containing the Zhloba cavalry forces by machine gun and artillery fire; the cavalry group remained for the night in the Tigerveide - Likhtenfeld - Alexandrov - Pragenau area.
Thus, Zhloba, disturbed by the hostile aircraft (it should be noted here that his cavalry found itself completely unprepared for action against hostile aircraft), continued to engage in vigorous fighting in the valley of the Ushanly river. In the course of four days his cavalry had covered a total of 30 to 40 kilometers. After gaining considerable success on the very first day, the cavalry group in the days that followed indulged in minor undertakings and practically marked time. Instead, it should have avoided unimportant actions, and properly and decisively penetrated far into the rear of the enemy.who was already panic-stricken ( the enemy was already evacuating Melitopol on the 29-30 June) The delay in the action of the cavalry forces here permitted the enemy to complete without interference a regrouping of his forces for the purpose of liquidating the penetrating forces - which regrouping might well have been disrupted by more decisive action on the part of Zhloba's cavalry group.
The extremely slow and sluggish movement of the Zhloba cavalry group, the low efficiency of the group of forces under Pedko, the successfully delivered brief thrusts of the White II Corps against the Yanchekrak - Shcherbakov front, the unsuccessful, half-hearted attempts of the Berislavsk group on June 29 and 30 to extend its base of operations in the Kakhovka area - all this had made it possible for the enemy to accomplish the regrouping of his forces without any outside interference. Control of the operation by the commander of the Thirteenth Army was complicated by reason of Zhloba's conduct, who had failed to furnish the Army Headquarters any information concerning his actions. The 40th Infantry Division, formally placed under Zhloba's control, was given no orders by the latter and it operated independently, also very tardily and nervelessly.
Having decided on the launching of a bold campaign. the commander of the Thirteenth Army failed to provide (nor did he have sufficient time for the purpose) for the requisite regrouping of his forces, and he continued basically to maintain the ground on the entire army front that had been occupied during the previous fighting, stretching out his forces in a thin line. The bold strategic plan was disrupted by a lack of preparations for the actual operations involved.
By evening of July 2d, the Wrangel forces intended for employment in the liquidation of the Zhloba cavalry group, were disposed, according to data from White sources, as follows: Don 2nd Division (1,500 infantry and about 100 cavalry), main forces concentrated in the vicinity of Orekhovka; Don 3d Division (2,000 to 3,000 infantry) occupied the Astrakhanka village area; units of the I Army Corps occupied the following areas: Karnilov division (1,800 infantry) the Orlov - Tige - Rozenrot - Lindenau area; the Drozdovsky detachment (2.500 infantry) and the 2nd Cavalry Division (l,500 cavalry) the Gabshtadt - Molochnaya area. In the vicinity of Bolshoi Tokmak were concentrating units of the 13th Infantry Division. On the railway section of Fedorovka - Stulnevo armored trains were cruising about Avistion under the control of General Tkachev was to assist in reconnaissance and attacks from the air. According to General Wrangel, the forces designated for employment against Zhloba included about 70 guns (exclusive those carried on the armored trains).
Thus, the aggregate strength of the White assault group amounted to 10,000 or 11,000 infantry and cavalry troops - practically double the strength of the cavalry corps.
The Zhloba cavalry group of forces, without as yet realizing the seriousness of the situation, was preparing, after a brief rest, to resume the offensive on July 3d. Wrangel's forces, surrounding the Zhloba cavalry group in a semi-circle, on the other hand, received orders for the 3d of July, for the launching of a general offensive, to turn the flank of Zhloba's forces in the north (on Valdgeim) and south (in the general direction of Gnadenfeld). The situation was now ripe for decisive action. The Taurida plains, parched by the sultry summer weather, was to become the arena of historical events on the morning of July 3d.
On the morning of the 3d of July a meeting engagement developed in the Klefeld - Alexandkron area between Zhloba's cavalry and the Don 3d Division. The successful action of the Red cavalry began to drive the Don 3d Division toward Astrakhanka - Melitopol, but this was brought to a halt with the appearance in the rear of the Red cavalry of the Kornilov forces, who had seized Rikenau and were advancing southward, against the rear of Zhloba's forces, supported by armored cars. A spirited cavalry attack launched with the reserves of Zhloba's forces and units taken off from the sector of the Don 3d Division succeeded in repelling the Kornilov forces by means of concentrated artillery and machine-gun fire. The Zhloba cavalry group of forces, attacked frontally and from the rear, forced its way through in the northwest, toward Bolshoi Tokmak, but came upon the units of the 13th Infantry Division of the Whites and the fire of the armored trains cruising over the railway line. Forced to withdraw in a southerly direction, the cavalry group was subjected to the assaults of the Drozdovsky forces. Pursued by the hostile aircraft, darting about between the hostile assault groups, the units of the cavalry corps, suffering considerable losses, finally made their way by small elements to the east and northeast. The Zhloba cavalry, not being properly prepared for action, poorly trained, having acquired its assault tactics during the phase of Denikin's defeat, had now found itself in this new situation, unequal to the task of engaging the enemy who, compared to Denikin's forces, was much better trained and led.
On.the 4th of July, in the sector where the White II Corps had left a screening force, there was being felt the pressure of the Fedko group of forces, which had somewhat recovered from the previous fighting (Sketch 18). These even succeeded in seizing Bolshoi Tokmak for a few hours. Along the Alexandrovsk - Melitopol railway, by evening of July 5th, units of the Thirteenth Army, forcing back the screening force of the II Corps (34th Division), occupied the small town of Mikhailovka. On the 2d and 3d of July the western group succeeding once more in crossing the Dnieper, temporarily occupied Kakhovka and the Korsun Monastery. The operation as a whole, however, was already disrupted. The enemy, gaining freedom of action in the sector of the Zhloba cavalry group, now had an opportunity, without any particular difficulty, of liquidating the belated advance of these units of the Thirteenth Army. On July 6th all units of the eastern group of the Thirteenth Army in the Bolshoi Tokmak - Mikhailovka sector were already retreating. The plan of the Red command to clear Northern Taurida of the Wrangel forces had ended in failure.
Soon after this operation there was another change in the command of the Thirteenth Army. In the course of two months of vigorous fighting the army had undergone three changes in commanders. But there is hardly any need for special proof that the frequent changes of commanders during the civil war represented anything out of the ordinary. As a consequence of these changes, the commanders of large units were not always sufficiently familiar with the troops under their control, with the nature of their proficiency, combat efficiency, or the nature of the training and efficiency of their subordinate commanders. On the other hand, these frequent changes in commanders did not aid in the matter of gaining proper confidence in the strength of their commands or the sense of responsibility in the missions before them.
Finally, these changes, as a rule, were made at the very height of the fighting, and were not timed to coincide with preparations for new military undertakings. We furthermore wish to note here that during our civil war there was greatly felt the lack of a central establishment for refresher courses, with brief training schedules for the high command, where the latter might have had an opportunity to take advantage of the strategic and tactical experiences of the war.
The ruinous extension of forces in cordon formation, owing to the impossible effort to cover properly and faithfully with the limited available forces the entire territory; deficiencies in control which often led to the collapse of bold undertakings that had promised full success - all such shortcomings in staff functions might well have been overcome in a measure with the aid of a central establishment providing brief training schedules for members of our high command.
Having gained some strategic success, with numerous tactical victories, Wrangel at the same time suffered a major defeat on the political front. Efforts at the staging of another uprising in the Don territory were unsuccessful. A force landed with the above in view on the 9th of August between Mariupol and Taganrog numbering about 800 men (under command of Colonel Nazarov ) was soon dispersed (in the Don territory, in the vicinity of Konstantinovsk) and was destroyed by Soviet forces, in view of the completely indifferent attitude of the Don Cossacks toward them.
Wrangel also endeavored to arrive at an understanding with Makhno, He had undertaken the organization of detachments of former Makhno adherents, designating some of these at "Father Makhno's detachments" (Yatsenko's detachments, etc.), and he sent a delegation to Makhno himself, whose main forces were situated in the Gulyai Pole area. Makhno, however, not only rejected all of Wrangel's importunities but even, apparently, executed some members of the delegation.
Having suffered a defeat in his landing in the Don and in establishing close relations with Makhno's forces, Wrangel also failed in his further efforts to extend his base of operations in Northern Taurida. His offensive undertakings, directed against Pologi - Zherebets - Alexandrovsk, failed to produce any decisive results and later on, until the complete change in the campaign in the Crimea, the vacillation in the Crimean front became ever less important in nature.
The further course of the campaign was noted for the beginning of the struggle for initiative. This was the result of the accumulation of Soviet forces in this sector of the front and the improvement in their combat efficiency. But before proceeding with an analysis of the further events, let us summarize the phase of action just covered.
The original success of Wrangel's forces, which exceeded his own expectations, caused Wrangel to embark upon adventurous, extensive undertakings, and prompted his efforts to abandon the Crimea. The strategic successes gained by him in view of the absence of a dependable base of operations, was bound, sooner or later, to render his position untenable. Efforts at the establishment of strategic cooperation with the Polish armies did not prove successful for political reasons. The leaders of the Polish foreign policy, headed by Pilsudski, found unacceptable, as heretofore, any union with forces whose ultimate objective was the restoration of "one, inseparable Russia." Thus the task confronting Wrangel was one that was isolated politically and strategically from all else, and he was operating on his own responsibility and risk. The absence of political and strategic cooperation among its enemies was of course favoring Soviet policy and strategy. The only matter not favoring the Soviets was that the intensified activity of General Wrangel in Taurida happened to coincide with the more decisive events of the campaign in Poland, diverting from the Polish front the attention of the Soviet high command. Meanwhile, the general strength of our military forces and the material resources of our country had been such as to preclude our pursuing simultaneously decisive objectives in both directions. The division of forces between the two adversely affected the interests of both sectors of our southwestern Front, and the course of the operations on these fronts assumed a protracted nature. This was responsible for the lagging pace in the conduct of our operations of the Polish front, and was the main reason for the adverse nature of our campaign against General Wrangel's forces in Northern Taurida.