Sonja and Katja: Improving the Iasi defensive position
After the successful neutralization of the Butor bridgehead in the area of the 6. Armee, Heeresgruppe Südukraine searched for further options to improve its defensive position. As one of the biggest cities in northern Romania, Iasi was of special political and military importance. Therefore it was only natural to strengthen the position there. This was possible by taking a relatively small area up to the valley of the creek Jijia. As the southern edge of this valley falls very steep for nearly 100meters, it provided a perfect natural defensive line - but only if in Axis hands.
Even further then during the Butor-operation, nearly all available Panzer units of the Heeresgruppe were concentrated in Korpsgruppe Mieth for this operation: Panzergrenadierdivision "Großdeutschland", 14., 24. and 23. Panzerdivision and parts of the SS-Panzerdivision "Totenkopf". Additionally, the local German and Romanian infantry divisions were involved.
Also on the soviet side an operation was prepared by the 2nd Ukrainian Front: Similar to the "Iasi-Kishinev"-operation realized in August 1944 , the attack was to take place near Iasi. The 2nd and 6th Tank Army were relocated there, coming from the area Targul-Frumos as well as from the Dnestr, to support 27th and 52nd Army. These preparations were recorded by the German Reconnaissance and thus accelerated the German efforts. That meant, the Germans had a time advantage.
After the frontline settled more or less since early April, the soviet 5th Air Army quickly improved its situation by several means: A lot of new airfields were built and new reinforcements were brought in. This is especially true for the 7th Fighter Corps which was fully equipped with Lend-and-Lease Airacobras. On the Axis side, the situation was better concerning infrastructure: The long-existing Romanian airfields could be used. Also here, a build-up of forces took place in May, but involuntarily: Due to the retreat from the Crimea, all units involved there came to Romania and thus German I. Fliegerkorps grew to big strength. Luftflotte 4's VIII. Fliegerkorps was not involved because it was based around Lviv / Lemberg in the area of Heeresgruppe Nordukraine. The Romanian ARR was partly reequipped with German planes: Several Fighters units converted to the Bf109, and the Grupul 6 arrived from Poland on 20th of May after having been trained with Stukas.
Air Forces in Bessarabia on 1st of June, 1944. German Ground attack include ca. 180 Fw190 from II./SG2 and SG10
Looking at the dislocation of Air Combat units, the picture is mixed: Many Soviet airfields were relatively close to the battle zone, but the Axis had one big trump in this aspect: The airfield at Iasi could be used on a day-by-day-basis and was only ca. 15km away from the front.
As nearly always on the Eastern Front, the aerial warfare accompanied
a ground battle. In this case, the German operation "Sonja"
began on 30th of May at 4:00. Roughly, there were four stages in the ground battles with the Axis
being the active side and the Soviets mostly defending and
Last update 03.03.11