Pictures from Slovakia WWII battlefields
These reports I made few years back..
The Slovak National Uprising broke out in late August 1944, being organised by high-rank officers of the Slovak Army and was aimed to push out the German troops, which just started to enter Slovakia in order to handle with increasing partisan activity, and to provide quick liberation of Slovakia by Red Army, which just ended their operation Bagration close to the Slovak north-east border in eastern Poland.
The history of the Uprising is still being studied by our historians, as this considerable military action against Nazis is rather complex and its picture presented offically here for over 40 years after the war was anything but real events.
On the Allied side fought 50-60,000 soldiers of Slovak Army and some 8,000 partisans. Germans attacked with 6-8 divisions supported by armor and Luftwaffe. In late October, the Uprising was defeated and the remainings of rebels infiltrated civilan population or fled to the mountains, trying to cross the front and meet the Red Army. Soviets started the support offensive through the Slovak-Polish border in beginning of September, but the corridor was not created by Slovak divisions as planned and Soviets were stuck in 3-month bloody offensive against well-prepared German defences in difficult mountain terrain.
One of the initial fights with advancing Germans occurred between towns of Zilina and Martin in north-west Slovakia, where the narrow valley of river Vah, crossing the mountain ridge of Mala Fatra, was defended by Slovak Army units and French partisans. Those Frenchs were mostly refugees from POW camps who joined the partisan troops operating in the mountains of Slovakia. Their leader was captain Georges de Lannurien from the 1st Czechoslovak partisan brigade.
This was the situation in the Strecno valley, 31.8.1944.
French partisans were dug in the mountain slope in Domasin meander (F), facing the ruins of Starhrad castle across the river Vah. Two Slovak battalions (ca 400 men) named by their commanders Slajchart (S) and Repassky (R) built defences on the heights above the road and railway tunnels. However, the positions on the left bank of the river (V), which were promised to be defended by partisan unit under the command of Soviet officer Velicko, were not set up from unknown reasons.
Defenders were equipped with machineguns, rifles, handgrenades, two 3.7cm PAK guns, three LT-38 light tanks and one Marder III self-propelled gun. The armored vehicles were lurking in the railway tunnel or in the road curve behind the French positions. Few 10cm mountain howitzers were located some 8km behind the defense lines.
In the morning time of 31.8.1944, German reconnaissance unit (D1) advanced toward the Strecno valley, but was stopped by artillery and machinegun fire and retreated back.
The first German attack (D2) was led by tanks Pz IV followed by SdKfz armored carriers. Tanks penetrated deep into the valley, where they were stopped by French soldiers in close combat. Frenchs attacked the tank column from the steep slope of Domasin hill (575) with hand grenades and 3.7cm PAK manned by A. Poupet hit the leading tank. After the track of the second Pz IV got damaged, Germans started to retreat back. Finally, the Marder III 75mm gun peered out the tunnel and hit the third tank.
In the meantime, part of German infantry crossed the river (D3) and quickly seized the non-defended left bank. They set up firing positions in the area of Starhrad castle ruin, and mortar and machinegun fire started hitting the French defenders from their right side, causing heavy casualties to them.
In the afternoon, six Ju-87D-3 striked on the defense positions of Slajchart battalion. Combination of air raids and heavy side fire forced French unit and Slovak battalions to withdraw back and to create new defense line in the forest between Domasin (575) and Rakytie (741) hills.
On 1.9.1944, Germans continued their offensive, throwing more troops into the battle. Wehrmacht infantry tried to attack on the right flank in the mountain terrain (D1), but was stopped by Repassky battalion and units were mixed in the dense forest. All attacks on the defense line Domasin (575) and Rakytie (741) were stopped. Marder III destroyed another two Pz IV tanks from the railway tunnel.
On the left side, Germans advanced on the hill Plesel (981) (D3) and built firin positions in the rear of Slovak-French defenders. After the tunnels were blocked by engineers, Allied troops retreated.
The fighting in the narrow valley of river Vah continued for another three days, until German troops finally broke the defense and continued in their advance toward the center of the Uprising, city of Banska Bystrica.
Yes, and what is that lecture for…
This is the view from the clearings left of the hill Domasin (575) at the ruin of Starhrad castle. From the ridge around the ruin, German mortars and heavy machineguns fired directly into French defense positions, located somewhere here (where I am standing).
This si the monument for the French fallen soldiers. The monument is located between the willage Strecno and the main road. Note the hills (from the left) Plesel (981), Domasin (575) and Rakytie (741) behind.
French casualties were heavy…
And the final panorama from the monument.
The city of Liptovsky Mikulas in central-northern Slovakia became a place of heavy fighting in January-April 1945 between Soviet and Czechoslovak troops (=Czechoslovak soldiers and mobilized civilians from liberated Slovakia who formed First Czechoslovak Army Corps within the Red Army), and German Wehrmacht. The place of combat was a wide walley of river Vah. From north it is surrounded by Western Tatras mountain ridge and from south by Low Tatras mountains. The fighting for city of Liptovsky Mikulas is often compared to the famous fighting for Dukla Pass in September-November 1944, when Soviet and Czechoslovak troops were penetrating from Poland through the Beskydy mountains to northern-east border of Slovakia, suffering (officially) 89,000 casualties.
The official historical documents (from communist era) about the fighting for Liptovsky Mikulas say just "the fighting was very hard" and "the Nazis were defending every inch of ground desperately", which usually means that human waves of soldiers were repeatedly thrown mercilessly agaist well-prepared German defense lines regardless of their losses. Unfortunately, no new historical books about that were written after the freedom had come to our country. However, even from the socialistic documents it is clear that first attack from east to capture the city was conducted without proper recoinnasance. Germans located their units to the north from the main road and cut-off the spearhead of Soviet troops reaching the city. The remainings of surrounded allied forces fought their way back to the east and the frontline has stabilized for long weeks there. Soviet and Czechoslovak troops several times captured some part of the city, but had to withdraw after German counterattacks. Interesting information comes from old man from that city I spoke once to. He told the first attack of Soviets stopped after capturing the local alcohol plant, which quickly decreased their ability to fight almost to zero and Germans massacred them afterwards.
To the north of the city, German defended ***** mountain ridges covered with snow oriented from north to south with antitank guns, snipers and machineguns and all attacks there collpased. The same occured on the south part of the frontline, where one Soviet infantry division repeatedly failed in costly attempts to break the German defence lines.
In the central part of the front nearby the city itself, fighting for the hill "Háj" (something like "forest") was going for three weeks. After the artillery and mortar preparation fire, the infantry captured some part of the hill and the enemy retreated, allowing own artillery and mortars to pounce the enemy troops on the hill and by counter-attack to push weakened enemy troops from the hill again.
At the end, in April 1945 Germans retreated after the frontlines in Poland and Hungary moved much more to the west and encirclement of German troops in Slovakia became a threat.
The position of battlefield on the Europe map:
City of Liptovsky Mikulas today (view to the north). Allied forces were coming from the right side. The hill "Haj" is clearly visible as a dominant terrain point above the city.
The monument on the top of the hill "Haj".
View from the top of the hill "Haj" to the east, where Allied forces were coming from. Soviet and Czechoslovak troops were fighting their way through the walleys and ***** mountain ridges covered with snow, defended by German troops.
The cost for the victory was deadly. Almost 2000 soldiers only from 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps is buried in the cemetery on the top of the hill.
City of Liptovsky Mikulas, when looking from the hill "Haj" to the south.
VERY good read and nice photos!! Thanks for sharing!! I never heard about this before. Imagine the surprise of the Germans upon realizing they were fighting, among all things, re-armed French ex-POWs! Are the French also buried nearby, or all the Czechs and French Buried together?
Great photos, the countryside looks amazing. I would love to go hunting or packpacking there and learn more about the battle there.
Concerning the battle for Dukla Pass, here is the link to our visit there in August 2005, but I already linked it here cca 1 year ago.
Wow, like the Armoured train photo's. Obviously soviet from the gun mantlets?
Its hard to think of french forced labourers off in Czechoslovakia, you tend to the French got sent to Germany?
Thanks for pointing out some interesting new areas!
what a accident,
I was on holiday in Mala Fatra last week and a have visited Strecno and Zilina - quard at strecno castle said me about french memorial (i didn´t know about this part of SNP history)
i have also visited my grandmother who lives in Slovakia (Bojnice) and somehow she started talking about my grandfother who fight as partisan during uprising and her father who fight during SNP and her own stories from the war, she has talent for tale
This train is a fake, a copy to mimic an historic train, now destroyed.
Originally Posted by kilroy1911
The train is armed with T-34/85 turret modified to look like the original one which were LT-35 turret.
This train was called the UPRISING TRAIN.
Thanks for the details of the battle, wish we had more indepth posts like yours.