Battle of Kerch Peninsula
Battle of the Kerch Peninsula (German: Unternehmen Trappenjagd) was a World War II offensive by German and Romanian armies against the Soviet Crimean Front forces defending the Kerch Peninsula, in the eastern part of the Crimea.
It was launched on May 8, 1942 and concluded around May 18, 1942 with the near complete destruction of the Soviet defending forces. The Red Army lost over 170,000 men killed or taken prisoner, and three armies (44th, 47th, and 51st) with twenty-one divisions. The operation was one of the battles immediately preceding the German summer offensive (Operation Blau), and its successful conclusion made it possible for the Axis to launch a successful assault on Sevastopol in the following months.
Some groups of Soviet survivors refused to surrender and fought on for many months, hiding in the catacombs of the quarries. Many of these soldiers were occupying the caves along with many civilians, who had fled the city of Kerch. Many of them died underground, including those who died of numerous poison gas attacks during counterattacks by the German Army.
In May, 1942, the main body of the army of General von Manstein resumed offensive operations with a carefully planned and well-executed attack against the three Russian armies which had reoccupied (in December, 1941) the Kerch Peninsula. The German press unanimously declares that this local offensive was one of the best prepared and well-executed attacks of the entire war, and that complete success was achieved; three Russian armies being completely destroyed and 165,000 prisoners captured. This victory, it is declared, ended for all time the Russian threat to relieve Sevastopol. Preparations for the storming of Sevastopol were at once begun by von Manstein's army, and the opening of the attack was scheduled for the first week in June. At least eight German infantry divisions, three Roumanian divisions, and one German armored division were assembled in the western Crimea for this operation.
BBC - History: World War Two