Baltic Offensive

The Baltic Offensive, also known as the Baltic Strategic Offensive, denotes the campaign between the German Army Group North and the northern Fronts of the Red Army in the Baltic States during the autumn of 1944.

The result of the series of battles was the isolation and encirclement of the Army Group North in the Courland Pocket and Soviet re-occupation of the Baltic States.

During 1944, the Wehrmacht was pressed back along its entire frontline in the east. In February 1944 it retreated from the approaches to Leningrad to the prepared section of the Panther Line at the border of Estonia. In June and July, Army Group Centre was thrown back from the Belorussian SSR into Poland by Operation Bagration. This created the opportunity for the Red Army to attack towards the Baltic Sea, thereby severing the land connection between the German Army Groups.

By 5 July 1944, the Shyaulyay Offensive Operation commenced, as a follow-on from Operation Bagration. The Soviet 43rd, 51st, and 2nd Guards Armies attacked towards Riga on the Baltic coast with 3rd Guards Mechanized Corps in the van. By 31 July 1944 the coast on the Gulf of Riga had been reached; 6th Guards Army covered Riga and the extended flank of the penetration towards the north.

The German reaction was rapid, and initially successful. A counterattack, code-named Operation Doppelkopf, was conducted on 16 August 1944 by XXXX and XXXIX Panzer Corps under the command of Third Panzer Army, Army Group Centre. Acting in coordination with armoured formations from Army Group North, they initially cut off the Soviet troops on the coast, and re-established a tenuous 30-kilometer-wide corridor connecting Army Groups Centre and North. The main objective of the attack was to retake the key road junction of Šiauliai (German: Schaulen), but the German tanks ran head-on into an in-depth defense by the 1st Baltic Front, and by 20 August the German advance had stalled with heavy losses. A follow-on attack, code-named Operation Cäsar, and launched on 16 September, failed in the same manner. After a brief period of respite, STAVKA issued orders for the Baltic Strategic Offensive, which lasted from 14 September to 24 November 1944.

The 20th Waffen Grenadier Division, consisting mostly of forced draftees from Estonia, was formed in the spring of 1944. This division took part in German efforts to halt the Baltic Offensive initiated by the Red Army in September-November of 1944. This massive Soviet effort penetrated through to the Baltic Sea and succeeded in permanently splitting the land connection between the German Army Group Center and Army Group North. As well as expelling German forces from Estonia and Lithuania, the rolling series of offensives trapped a large number of German troops in Latvia.