|General (later Feldmarschall) Fritz Erich von Manstein (November 24, 1887-June 9, 1973), commander, 56th Panzer Corps, of the Fourth Panzer Army of Army Group North, and Generalmajor Erich Brandenberger (July 15, 1892-June 21, 1955), commander, Eighth Panzer Division, plan the advance to the bridges over the Dubissa River at Airogola, Lithuania, on the opening day of Operation Barbarossa. The Dubissa River viaduct was a necessary step to capturing the bridges at Dvinsk, Latvia; those bridges gave the Germans access to Leningrad, Belorussia and Central Russia. Eighth Panzer Division was tasked with securing bridges along the route to Dvinsk. Manstein wrote in his memoirs, “On the very first day [56th Panzer Corps] had to thrust fifty miles into enemy territory in order to capture the crossing over the Dubissa at Airogola. I knew the Dubissa sector from World War I. What we should find there was a deep, ravined valley whose slopes no tank could negotiate. In the First World War our railway engineers had labored there for months on end to span the gap with a masterly construction of timber. If the enemy now succeeded in blowing up the big road viaduct at Airogola, the corps would be hopelessly stuck and the enemy would have time on the steep far bank of the river to organize a defense which would in any case be extremely difficult to penetrate. That we could thereafter no longer expect to make a surprise descent on the Dvinsk bridges was perfectly obvious. The Airogola crossing was indispensable as a springboard. Excessive though Corps [Headquarters] requirements may appear to have been, Eighth Panzer Division (General Brandenberger), with which I spent most of the day, still fulfilled its task. After breaking through the frontier positions and over-running all enemy resistance further back, it seized the Airologa crossing with a reconnaissance force by the evening of 22nd June. 290th [Infantry] Division followed, marching at record speed; andThird Motorized Infantry Division, which had started moving over the Memel at Noon, was directed towards a crossing south of Airogola. The first step had succeeded.“ By the end of the first day, 56th Panzer Corps had driven all the way to Dvinsk and seized those bridges, allowing Army Group North to head for Leningrad while occupying Latvia by July 10, 1941.
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|June 22, 1941
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February 5, 2024