5 – Siege of Sevastopol (30 October 1941 – 4 July 1942)
Operation Barbarossa saw the Axis powers invade the Soviet Union and it took place on 22 June 1941. The Axis forces quickly reached the Crimea and overran the majority of the area. However, they were unable to take the important port of Sevastopol despite numerous attempts and it soon developed into a bloody siege.
The first attempt to conquer Sevastopol took place in late October 1941 and further failures were suffered by the invaders in November. Heavy rains prevented more attempts until 17 December. Before the Axis forces made their first foray, a 32,000 force from the Independent Coastal Army had arrived in Sevastopol after escaping the siege of Odessa. In total, the city was defended by an estimated 118,000 men after the Soviets made use of the pause caused by the heavy rains and further reinforced the city.
The December offensive was repelled by stubborn resistance until an amphibious landing by the Soviets at Kerch from 26-30 December helped relieve the surrounded defenders. A bridgehead was sustained until May 1942 when Operation Trappenjagd, a German counter-offensive, destroyed this bridgehead and the trio of Soviet armies that were in support. The Axis powers managed to reduce the number of supplies getting into the city but a stalemate had occurred by that stage.
The German commander, Erich von Manstein, decided to launch another offensive in June. The first part of the plan ran smoothly as the German Luftwaffe successfully bombed Sevastopol and suffered minimal losses. German and Romanian ground troops were sent in on 7 June and once again, they encountered fierce resistance. Progress was slow but little by little, and with more Luftwaffe support, the Axis forces made inroads.
On 26 June, Soviet forces at Sapun Ridge were comprehensively beaten and important Soviet generals were flown out of the city. Another assault began on 30 June and by 3 July; the defenders were all but beaten. They managed token resistance until 9 July when the Axis invaders finally took the city. Estimates vary but at least 37,000 men were killed and 95,000 Soviet soldiers were taken prisoner.