In May 1944, Soviet troops were able to put German and Romanian defenders in Crimea on the run thanks to the Crimean Offensive. To be able to launch it, the Soviet Union organized the Kerch-Eltigen Operation. This operation aimed to land in two different places of the eastern cost of Crimean Peninsula in order to attack the rest of Crimea in the near future. Let’s have a look at what happened before, during and after this operation (I would like to prepare a longer article about this operation, but I don’t have enough sources at the moment. I will continue editing the post everytime I find more information).
Before the battle
1943 was the year of the German defeats in Stalingrad or Kursk. In the south, months before Kerch-Eltigen Operation, German 17th Army was trying to hold ground in the Kuban bridgehead but finally it retreated to Crimea after getting the retreat order. German troops reached Crimea in October 1943. Once in Crimea, German and Romanian defenders were unable to be reinforced and supplied by ground forces as Soviet had already conquered the ground north of Crimea. In any case, Axis powers were being resupplied and reinforced by sea, as Hitler wanted to keep Crimea for political reasons.
Following previous victories and in order to be able to attack Crimean Peninsula, Soviet troops organized an amphibious operation. The idea was to land in the peninsula, crossing the Taman Bay.
In this battle, Soviet Union deployed 18th and 56th Armies along with the Black Sea Fleet and the Azov Flotilla. The 18th Army landed in Eltigen while 56th Army did so in Yanikale. Let’s check both landings separately, as they had very different outcomes. To understand correctly the landing, please check the map above (attribution in the caption).
Landing in Eltigen
Even though the weather and conditions were quite bad, the 318th Rifle Division (part of the 18th Army) and the 386th Naval Infantry Batallion landed in Eltigen, pushing Axis troops back. This first wave was reinforced, but Axis troops were able to siege the position by land and also by sea, as the Axis ships blocked Eltigen beachhead by sea. After 5 weeks, Axis troops attacked on December 6, conquering the position. Soviet troops suffered huge casualties during this fighting.
Landing in Yanikale
On November 3, 4.400 soldiers (part of 2nd and 55th Guards Rifle divisions and the 32nd Rifle Division) landed in Yanikale. By November 11, there were 27.700 Soviet troops defending the beachhead. German V Army Corps and Romanian 3rd Mountain Division were not able to push back Soviets anymore.
After the battle
Axis powers starting reinforcing their troops in the Crimean Peninsula but Soviet were doing the same. Only a month later landing in Yanikale (on December 4) there were 75.000 Soviet troops already in the beachhead, along with many tanks and other guns. As said before, Axis troops did manage to push back Soviets.
Soviet Armed Forces used this beachhead to conquer the Crimean Peninsula 5 months after the end of Kerch-Eltigen Operation.
“Kerch-Eltigen Operation”. Wikipedia. 28 March 2020. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerch%E2%80%93Eltigen_Operation>
“Crimean Offensive”. History Lapse. 28 March 2020. <https://en.historylapse.org/crimean-offensive>