Vienna Offensive

Vienna Offensive

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Vienna Offensive
partof=World War II
place=Vienna, Austria
date=2 April, 194513 April, 1945
result=Soviet victory
combatant1=flag|Nazi Germany
combatant2=flag|Soviet Union|1923
commander1=flagicon|Nazi Germany Rudolf von Bünau
flagicon|Nazi Germany Wilhelm Bittrich
commander2=flagicon|Soviet Union|1923 Fyodor Tolbukhin
strength1=One army (understrength)
Local irregulars
strength2=Four armies (full strength)
casualties1=19,000 KIA
casualties2=18,000 KIA [Casualty figures for both sides in the battle as reported on the German ZDF television production on Austria's role in the Second World War ("Hitlers Österreich"), 26 April 2008; also [ Battle of Vienna (in German).] ] |

The Vienna Offensive was launched by the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front in order to capture Vienna, Austria. The offensive lasted from April 2 to April 13, 1945. The city of Vienna was surrounded and under siege for most of the offensive.


Previous agreements that Stalin reached with the Western Allies prior to April 1945 concerned the relative postwar political influence of each party in much of Eastern and Central Europe; however, these agreements said virtually nothing about the fateof Austria, then officially considered to be merely the Ostmark area of Greater Germany after the Anschluss. Stalin thus decided to postpone his offensive towards Berlin - for which the Soviets were ready as early as February - and secure both the flanks for that offensive, and the Austrian territory, a valuable bargaining chip for subsequent postwar negotiations with his Allies. [Glantz, p. 93.]

After the failure of Operation Spring Awakening ("Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen"), Sepp Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army retreated in stages to the Vienna area. [Dollinger, p. 199.] The Germans desperately prepared defensive positions in an attempt to guard the city against the fast arriving Soviets.

During the spring of 1945, the advance of Soviet General Fyodor Tolbukhin's 3rd Ukrainian Front through western Hungary gathered momentum on both sides of the Danube. [Laffin, p. 449.]

On March 30, the advancing Soviets forced the Hron River, forced the Nitra River, and, after they took Sopron and Nagykanizsa, crossed the border between Hungary and Austria. [Dollinger, p. 182.] Tolbukhin was now ready to advance into Austria and take Vienna.

The battle

On April 2, 1945, Vienna Radio denied that the Austrian capital has been declared an open city. On the same day, Soviet troops approached Vienna from the south after they overran Wiener Neustadt, Eisenstadt, Neunkirchen, and Gloggnitz. [Dollinger, p. 182.] Baden and Bratislava were overrun on April 4.

After arriving in the Vienna area, the armies of the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front surrounded, besieged, and attacked the city. Involved in this action were the Soviet 4th Guards Army, the Soviet 6th Guards Tank Army, the Soviet 9th Guards Army, and the Soviet 46th Army. The "O-5 Resistance Group," Austrians led by Carl Szokoll wanting to spare Vienna destruction, actively attempted to sabotage the German defenses and to aid the entry of the Red Army.

The only major German force facing the Soviet attackers was the German II SS Panzer Corps of the 6th SS Panzer Army, along with ad-hoc forces made up of garrison and anti-aircraft units. Declared a defensive region, Vienna's defense was commanded by General Rudolf von Bünau, with the II SS Panzer Corps units under the command of SS General Wilhelm Bittrich.

The battle for the Austrian capital was characterized in some cases by fierce urban combat, but there were also parts of the city the Soviets advanced into with little opposition. Defending in the Prater Park was the 6th Panzer Division, along the south side of the city were the 2nd and 3rd SS Panzer Divisions, and in the north was the Führer-Grenadier Division. [Gosztony, p. 261.] The Soviets assaulted into Vienna's eastern and southern suburbs with the 4th Guards Army and part of the 9th Guards Army. The German defenders kept the Soviets out of the city’s southern suburbs until April 7. However, after successfully achieving several footholds in the southern suburbs, the Soviets then moved into the western suburbs of the city on April 8 with the 6th Guards Tank Army and the bulk of the 9th Guards Army. The western suburbs were especially important to the Soviets because they included Vienna's main railway station. The Soviet success in the western suburbs was followed quickly by infiltration of the eastern and northern suburbs later the same day. North of the Danube River, the 46th Army pushed westward through Vienna's northern suburbs. Central Vienna was now cut off from the rest of Austria.

By April 9, the Soviet troops began to infiltrate the center of the city, but the street fighting continued for several days more. On the night of April 11, the 4th Guards Army stormed the Danube canals, with the 20th Guards Rifle Corps and 1st Mechanized Corps moving on the "Reichsbrücke" Bridge. In a "coup de main" on April 13, the Danube Flotilla landed troops of the 80th Guards Rifle Division and 7th Guards Airborne Division on both sides of the bridge, cutting demolition cables and securing the bridge. [Former members of O-5 tell a different story, claiming the bridge guards were actually O-5 members who turned their machine-guns on the Germans when they attempted to destroy the bridge. Toland, p. 354.] However, other important bridges were destroyed. Vienna finally fell when the last defenders in the city surrendered on the same day. [Descriptions of Soviet actions are from Ustinov, pp. 238-239.] Bittrich's II SS Panzer Corps, however, pulled out to the west on the evening of April 13 to avoid encirclement. [Gosztony, p. 262.] The same day, the 46th Army took Essling and the Danube Flotilla landed naval infantry up the river by Klosterneuburg.

While the street fighting was still intensifying in the southern and western suburbs of Vienna on April 8, other troops of the 3rd Ukrainian Front by-passed Vienna altogether and advanced on Linz and Graz. [Dollinger, p. 182.]


By April 15, 1945, armies of the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front pushed even further into Austria. The completely exhausted remnants of what had been the 6th SS Panzer Army were forced to flee to the area between Vienna and Linz. Just behind the retreating Germans were elements of the Soviet 9th Guards Army and the Soviet 46th Army. The Soviet 26th Army and the Soviet 27th Army advanced towards the area north of Graz just behind the retreating German 6th Army. The Soviet 57th Army and the Bulgarian 1st Army advanced towards the area south of Graz (near Maribor) just behind the retreating German 2nd Panzer Army. None of these German armies was in any shape to do more than temporarily stall the advancing Soviet forces.

Some of Vienna's finest buildings lay in ruins after the battle. There was no water, electricity, or gas - and bands of people, both foreigners and Austrians, plundered and assaulted the hapless residents in the absence of a police force. While the Soviet assault forces generally behaved well, the second wave of Soviet troops to arrive in the city were badly disciplined, looting and raping in a several-week orgy of violence that has been compared to the worst aspects of the Thirty Years War. [Gosztony, p. 263.]

Like Bittrich, General von Bünau left Vienna before it fell to avoid capture by the Soviets. From April 16, 1945 until the war's end he led "Generalkommando von Bünau", surrendering to the Americans on VE Day. Von Bünau was held as a POW until April 1947. Bittrich also surrendered to U.S. forces and was held as a prisoner by the Allies until 1954. Fyodor Tolbukhin went on to command the Soviet Southern Group of Forces and the Transcaucasian Military District prior to his untimely death in 1949, reportedly from heart problems.

Austrian politician Karl Renner astutely set up a Provisional Government in Vienna sometime in April with the tacit approval of the victorious Soviet forces,Lonnie Johnson 135–6] and declared Austria's secession from the Third Reich.

Final orders of battle (after the Vienna Offensive)

"German and German allied forces"

On April 30, 1945, the following order of battle was recorded by the German Army High Command ("Oberkommando der Wehrmacht", or OKW). From April 20 to May 2, OKW moved from Zossen (near Berlin) to Mürwik (part of Flensburg in north Germany, near Denmark). [Dollinger, p. 177.] This order of battle shows what remained "on paper" of the German armies that fought in Hungary and Austria.

* German 6th SS Panzer Army - east of Linz
** 117th Jäger Division (arriving)
** I SS Panzer Corps
*** 1st SS Panzer Division
*** 356th Infantry Division
*** 12th SS Panzer Division
*** 710th Infantry Division
** II SS Panzer Corps
***3rd SS Panzer Division
***Fuehrer-Grenadier Division

* German 6th Army - north of Graz
** IV SS Panzer Corps
*** 3rd Panzer Division
*** 5th SS Panzer Division
*** 14th SS Grenadier Division
** III Panzer Corps
*** 1st People's Mountain Infantry Division
*** 1st Panzer Division

* German 2nd Panzer Army - south of Graz (near Maribor)
** LXVIII Corps
*** 71st Infantry Division
*** 13th SS Alpine Division
*** 118th Jäger Division
** XXII Mountain Corps
*** 297th Infantry Division
*** Hungarian Szent László Infantry Division
** I Cavalry Corps
*** 23rd Panzer Division
*** 4th Cavalry Division
*** 3rd Cavalry Division
*** 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division

"Soviet and Soviet allied forces"

The order of battle for the 3rd Ukrainian Front during the same period was:

* 4th Guards Army
** 20th Guards Rifle Corps
*** 5th Guards Airborne Division
*** 7th Guards Airborne Division
*** 80th Guards Rifle Division
** 21st Guards Rifle Corps
*** 41st Guards Rifle Division
*** 62nd Guards Rifle Division
*** 66th Guards Rifle Division
*** 69th Guards Rifle Division
** 31st Guards Rifle Corps
*** 4th Guards Rifle Division
*** 34th Guards Rifle Division
*** 40th Guards Rifle Division

* 6th Guards Tank Army
** 5th Guards Tank Corps
** 9th Guards Mechanized Corps

* 9th Guards Army
** 37th Guards Rifle Corps
*** 98th Guards Rifle Division
*** 99th Guards Rifle Division
*** 103rd Guards Rifle Division
** 38th Guards Rifle Corps
*** 104th Guards Rifle Division
*** 105th Guards Rifle Division
*** 106th Guards Rifle Division
** 39th Guards Rifle Corps
*** 100th Guards Rifle Division
*** 107th Guards Rifle Division
*** 114th Guards Rifle Division

* 26th Army
** 30th Rifle Corps
*** 36th Guards Rifle Division
*** 68th Guards Rifle Division
*** 21st Rifle Division
** 104th Rifle Corps
*** 74th Rifle Division
*** 93rd Rifle Division
*** 151st Rifle Division
** 135th Rifle Corps
*** 233rd Rifle Division
*** 236th Rifle Division

* 27th Army
** 35th Guards Rifle Corps
*** 3rd Guards Airborne Division
*** 163rd Rifle Division
*** 202nd Rifle Division
** 33rd Rifle Corps
*** 78th Rifle Division
*** 155th Rifle Division
*** 206th Rifle Division
*** 337th Rifle Division
** 37th Rifle Corps
*** 108th Guards Rifle Division
*** 316th Rifle Division
** 320th Rifle Division

* 57th Army
** 6th Guards Rifle Corps
*** 10th Guards Airborne Division
*** 20th Guards Rifle Division
*** 61st Guards Rifle Division
** 64th Rifle Corps
*** 73rd Guards Rifle Division
*** 113th Rifle Division
*** 299th Rifle Division
** 133rd Rifle Corps
*** 84th Rifle Division
*** 104th Rifle Division
*** 122nd Rifle Division

* 17th Aviation Army

* 5th Guards Cavalry Corps
* 1st Guards Mechanized Corps
* 18th Tank Corps
* 2nd Breakthrough Artillery Corps
** 9th Breakthrough Artillery Division
** 19th Breakthrough Artillery Division
** 7th Breakthrough Artillery Division
* 3rd Anti-aircraft Artillery Division
* 4th Anti-aircraft Artillery Division
* 9th Anti-aircraft Artillery Division
* 22nd Anti-aircraft Artillery Division

* 1st Bulgarian Army
** III Corps
*** 10th Infantry Division
*** 12th Infantry Division
*** 16th Infantry Division
** IV Corps
*** 3rd Infantry Division
*** 8th Infantry Division
*** 11th Infantry Division
** 6th Infantry Division

See also

* Bombing of Vienna in World War II
* Eastern Front (World War II)
* History of Germany during World War II
* Battle of Budapest - 1944/45
* Operation Frühlingserwachen - 1945
* Prague Offensive - 1945
* Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front
* German 6th SS Panzer Army
* End of World War II in Europe



* Laffin, John, "Brassey's Dictionary of Battles", New York: Barnes and Noble, 1995. ISBN 0-7607-0767-7.
* Dollinger, Hans, Jacobsen, Hans Adolf, "The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan", New York: Crown, 1968.
* Gosztony, Peter, "Endkampf an der Donau 1944/45", Wien: Molden Taschenbuch Verlag, 1978. ISBN 3-217-05126-2.
* Ustinov, D. F., et al, "Geschichte des Zweiten Welt Krieges" (German translation of official Soviet history of World War II), Volume 10, Berlin: Militärverlag der DDR, 1982.
* Toland, John, The Last 100 Days, New York: Random House, 1965.
* Glantz, David, "The Soviet‐German War 1941–45" (essay) []

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