Late in the war, as the Red Army pushed towards Berlin, and soldiers in both armies prepared for the final battle, tensions ran high in both headquarters. The already beleaguered German 9th Army under General Theodor Busse, were under impossible orders from the High Command to hold back the Red Army at Halbe, some 60 kilometers from the German capital.
They were nearly surrounded and vastly outnumbered by the First Ukrainian Front, Commanded by Marshal Ivan Konev who was under intense pressure of his own. Stalin had been promoting a rivalry between Konev and fellow General Zhukov. Neither man wanted to come in second and face the General Secretary’s displeasure.
On the night of April 25, 1945 the German High Command ordered a fighting retreat. Could the Germans withdraw before the fast moving T-34-85, IS tanks, and ISU-152 Tank Destroyers of the Soviet 3rd and 4th Guard Tank Armies enveloped them completely? It was now a race. Busse decided to fight his way through the Soviet envelopment, preparing an attack where the Soviet lines were thinnest. Gasoline was in such short supply, it was reserved only for the Tigers which would lead the breakthrough:
“The ninth Army’s preparations were both thorough and drastic. Anything not essential for the breakout was destroyed or discarded. Motor vehicles were wrecked and their tanks drained to provide fuel for the fighting vehicles. Artillery pieces lacking ammunition were rendered unserviceable and every soldier with a firearm, whatever his trade or employment, was organized into a combat unit.” - Le, Tissier Tony. Zhukov at the Oder: The Decisive Battle for Berlin. Westport, Conn. Praeger, 1996. P. 247. Print.
The stage was set and the curtain had been drawn. Massed near the village of Halbe, the surviving German artillery fired the few rounds they had left as the battle began in earnest. The once-peaceful pine forest of Spree and the Village of Halbe rang with the sounds of gunfire.
When the smoke cleared days later, over half of the Ninth Army had been killed or captured. Although around 30,000 of the survivors (1/3 of the original force) had managed to reach the questionable safety of the German 12th Army, the 9th was finished as an effective fighting force. The Battle for Berlin was on.
Today, the Cemetery at Halbe contains the remains of more than 20,000 German soldiers, and is one of the largest war cemeteries in the nation.
In honor of the Battle of Halbe we're discounting a number of German and Soviet tanks, as well as making it more affordable to increase the size of your garage and customize the inscriptions on your tank for a limited time.
Event Starts: 04:30 PDT (07:30 EDT) on April 26, 2013
Event Ends: 04:00 PDT (07:00 EDT) on April 29, 2013