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Battle of the Úterský Stream
Part of Invasion of Czechoslovakia
Map of the Battle of Křelovice 1938 (WFAC)
Date 30 September – 2 October 1938
Place Úterský stream, north of Plzeň, Czechoslovakia
Result German victory
Belligerents
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia
Commanders and leaders
Nazi Germany Walther von Reichenau
(Tenth Army)
Nazi Germany Heinz Guderian
(XVI Corps)
Nazi Germany Rudolf Schmidt
(1st Panzer Division)
Nazi Germany Erich Hoepner
(1st Light Division)
Nazi Germany Paul Bader
(2nd Motorized Infantry Division)
Czechoslovakia Sergej Vojcechovský
(First Army)
Czechoslovakia Jan Šípek
(I Corps)
Czechoslovakia Jan Kloud
(32nd Border Section)
Czechoslovakia Valentín Pozdíček
(2nd Division)
Units involved
Nazi Germany XVI Army Corps (mot.)
  • 1st Panzer Division
  • 1st Light Division
  • SS Infantry Regiment "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler"

Nazi Germany XIV Army Corps

  • 2nd Infantry Division (mot.)
Czechoslovakia 1st Corps
  • 32nd Border Section
  • 2nd Division
Strength
40,200 men
350 tanks
657 mortars and howitzers
and aerial support
4,000 men
100 machine guns
30 mortars and howitzers
Casualties and losses
1,800 killed
3,000 wounded
1,000 missing
62 tanks destroyed
1,200 killed
1,500 wounded
Invasion of Czechoslovakia
Battle of the Border
Opava    Bruntál    Šatov    Znojmo    Křelovice   České Budějovice

Bohemian front
Plzeň    Hořovice    Prague    Tábor    Hradec Králové    Kutná Hora    Jihlava


Moravian front
Prchala offensive   Hranice   Šternberk   Olomouc    Brno    Blansko    Vyškov    Třebíč    Vyškov    M Line


Polish front
Zaolzie Campaign


Hungarian invasion of Czechoslovakia
Komárno    Levice    Nitra    Zvolen    Kosiče    Užhorod    Trenčín


The Battle of the Úterský stream took place along the Útersky Stream north of Plzeň in western Bohemia, Czechoslovakia between 30 September and 3 October 1938. It was one of the opening battles of the Invasion of Czechoslovakia and World War II in general. It was fought between the forces of the Czechoslovak I Corps under General Jan Šípek and the German XVI Motorized Corps under General Heinz Guderian.

Before the battle

Czechoslovak defences and plans

General Jan Šípek

General Jan Šípek, commander of the 1st Corps.

With the rise of Hitler and his demands for unification of the Sudeten German minorities and return of other claimed territories (the Sudetenland), the alarmed Czechoslovak leadership began defensive plans in 1934 for the construction of border fortifications. On 20 March 1935 the General Staff established two bodies tasked with the development of the fortifications: the Fortification Council (Rada pro opevňování), led by Chief of Staff Ludvík Krejčí and tasked with the planning of the fortifications; and the Directorate for Fortification Works (Ředitelství opevňovacích prací, ŘOP), led by general Karel Husárek and tasked with the construction of the fortifications. The final plan for the permanent fortification program was presented on 4 June 1936.

By September 1938, a total of 3,933 pillboxes armed with light machine guns had been constructed in Western Bohemia (3,297 of the LO vz. 37 and 636 LO vz. 36). These were reinforced by a system of obstacles like barbed wire, Czech hedgehogs, anti-tank ditches as well as various natural obstacles like forests and streams. In the Blahousty-Plachtín sector around Křelovice, the ŘOP had constructed 141 pillboxes.

According to the Czechoslovak Deployment Plan VII of 15 July 1938, the defence of western Bohemia would only serve to cover the mobilization of the Czechoslovak Army and the withdrawal towards Slovakia. The First Army commanded by general Sergej Vojcechovský was responsible for the defence of western and northern Bohemia. In western Bohemia the army was tasked to defend the line running through Český Krumlov – Vimperk–Stachy – Klatovy – Staňkov – Stříbro – Manětín – Kryry – Blšany – Měcholupy – River Ohře near Louny. Responsibility for the defence of the area between Český Krumlov and Manětín fell to the 1st Corps under general Jan Šípek, who had two divisions (the 2nd and 5th), a border section of a division's size (the 32nd) and an independent combat group (Skupina 4) at his disposal.

The 32nd Border Section, under the command of general Jan Kloud, was tasked with the defence of the fortified line around the important industrial city of Plzeň. In the northern part of the unit's operational area, the Stříbro–Poříčí sector was of particular importance. A German breakthrough here would threathen the flank of the 1st Corps and result in the encirclement of Plzeň, as well as opening the rear area for a German advance on the Prague line (Pražská čára; also called the vnější obrana Prahy, or Outer Defence of Prague).

When the deadline for the German Godesberg ultimatum had passed at 2:00 p.m. on the 28 September, Kloud ordered the 32nd Border Section to prepare for a German attack. The soldiers were joined by a number of civilian volunteers, dug trenches and made improvised road blocks in the area. However, the defences at Křelovice also lacked any mines.

In addition to the regular army, the State Defense Guard (Stráž obrany státu, SOS) manned the border stations. SOS Battalion 8 in Stříbro, commanded by major Václav Diviš, consisted of 120 gendarms, 88 customs officers, 227 reservists and 115 active soldiers.

German plan

Generaloberst Heinz Guderian

General Heinz Guderian, commander of the XIX Army Corps.

On 30 September 1938, the Wehrmacht invaded Czechoslovakia. The main thrust of Fall Grün was to be conducted by the Second Army in Silesia and the Fourteenth Army in Austria, with each army forming a pincer. The Second Army would breach the Czech fortifications in northern Moravia and advance on Olomouc, while the Fourteenth Army would break through the fortifications in southern Moravia and then advance towards Brno. The two pincers were to meet between Brno and Olomouc, so that the enemy forces would be encircled in the west of Czechoslovakia, with the result being a strategic-level encirclement. Meanwhile, on Hitler's insistence, the Tenth Army, led by the XVI Army Corps, under the command of Heinz Guderian, would advance in a lightning strike against Plzeň and the capital Prague.

For the offensive, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German High Command) gave the Tenth Army the most powerful concentration of German armour and motorised forces. XIV Army Corps comprised four motorised infantry divisions, while the XVI Army Corps comprised one Panzer and one light division, with a total of 737 tanks. The 1st Panzer Division had a total of 448 tanks, comprising 248 Pz.Kpfw. Is, 134 Pz.Kpfw. IIs, 16 Pz.Kpfw. IIIs and 16 Pz.Kpfw. IVs, as well as 34 command tanks. The 1st Light Division had 289 tanks, of which 168 were Pz.Kpfw. Is and 99 Pz.Kpfw. IIs, as well as 22 command tanks.

Guderian's plan for 30 September was straightforward. The 1st Panzer Division in the north was to form the left flank of the assaulting force when it reached the Czechoslovak defensive positions between Krsov - Pláň - Štipoklasy sector. The 1st Panzer Division, reinforced by the SS Infantry Regiment Liebstandarte, a battalion of assault engineers, and divisional artillery of the 1st Panzer Division, was to make the main attack by breaking through the Czechoslovak fortifications here. The 1st Light Division was to attack south of Křelovice across the Úterský stream and protect the southern flank of the corps.

When a breakthrough had been achieved, the XVI Army Corps could advance along the north bank of the Mže River towards Prague, while also contribute to the encirclement of Czechoslovak forces in the important industrial city of Plzeň as the north pincer.

Throughout the day, large masses of troops and equipment assembled preparation for the river crossing.

Order of battle

Germany

Tenth Army
  • Commander: Generaloberst Walther von Reichenau
  • Chief of Staff: Maj.Gen. Kurt Bernard
  • HQ: Schwandorf

XVI Armeekorps
  • Commander: Lt.Gen. Heinz Guderian


1st Panzer Division - Lt.Gen. Rudolf Schmidt
1st Panzer Brigade
1st Panzer Regiment
2nd Panzer Regiment
1st Schützen Brigade
1st Schützen-Regiment
1st Motorcycle Battalion
73rd Artillery Regiment
4th Reconnaissance Detachment
37th Anti-Tank Detachment
37th Engineer Battalion
1st Light Division - Lt.Gen. Erich Hoepner
11th Panzer Regiment
65th Panzer Detachment
4th Kavallerie-Schützen-Regiment
76th Artillery Regiment
6th Reconnaissance Detachment
41st Anti-Tank Detachment
57th Engineer Battalion
Support units:
SS Infantry Regiment "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler" - SS-Obergruppenführer Joseph Dietrich

XIV Armeekorps
  • Commander: Gen.d.Inf. Gustav von Wietersheim


2nd Infantry Division (mot.) - Lt.Gen. Paul Bader
5th Infantry Regiment
25th Infantry Regiment
92nd Infantry Regiment
2nd Artillery Regiment
38th Heavy Artillery Regiment
2nd Anti-Tank Detachment
32nd Engineer Battalion

Czechoslovakia

First Army
  • Commander: Arm.Gen. Sergej Vojcechovský
  • Chief of Staff: Col. Ludvík Kašpárek
  • HQ: Kutná Hora

1st Corps
  • Commander: Div.Gen. Jan Šípek
  • Chief of Staff: Col. Čeněk Kudláček
  • HQ: Votice


32nd Border Section - Brig.Gen. Jan Kloud
18th Infantry Regiment
35th Infantry Regiment
153rd ZLO Regiment
III/32nd Artillery Detachment
II/131st Artillery Detachment
Armoured train 1
Improvised Armoured Train (IVO) 32
Tankette Section 3
Armoured Car Section 1

The battle

Opening moves

German tanks and General Guderian near Úterý (WFAC)

German Panzer Is and Panzer IIs of the 1st Panzer Division, along with General Heinz Guderian in a Sd.Kfz. 251/6 command vehicle, approaching Úterý on the 30 September 1938.

At 06:15 A.M. on 30 September 1938, the Tenth Army crossed the border and attacked west of Plzeň with two infantry divisions to the south, the 1st Panzer Division and the 1st Light Division in the center and three motorized infantry divisions to the north. The 1st Panzer Division crossed the border near Bärnäu-Pavlův Studenec and Mähring-Broumov, advancing towards the line Úterý – Bezdružice – Konstantinovy Lážně. The 1st Light Division, meanwhile, crossed the border near Waidhaus and Eslarn-Eisendorf and advanced on Stříbro. As the Czechs had decided to construct the fortified line 30 to 40 kilometres beyond the Czechoslovak-German border, in order to shorten the line the Czechoslovak forces had to defend, the Germans could advance relatively unopposed, facing only scattered border guard units of the State Defense Guard.

The light platoon of I./2nd Panzer Regiment advanced in front of the regiment, the 1st Schützen Brigade, the SS Infantry Regiment Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and Artillery Regiment 73 towards Úterý via Broumov – Zadný Chodov – Chodová Planá – Výškov – Hostičkov - Hanov. Here the northern column separated, with the 2nd Panzer Regiment and SS Regiment LAH advancing towards Úterý from the north via Křerkovice – Heřmanov and the others from the south via Zhořec – Bezdružice. To the right the motorcycles and armoured cars of the 4th Reconnaissance Detachment advanced in front of the 1st Panzer Regiment, followed by the 39th Engineer Battalion and a heavy Flak battery towards Konstantinovy Lázně via Branka – Halže – Vítkov – Planá – Vysoké Jamné. Guderian advanced alongside the 2nd Panzer Regiment in his 0-Series Sd.Kfz. 251/6 command vehicle.

After 18 km the 2nd Panzer Regiment made its first contact with the enemy near the village of Michalovy Hory. After a brief firefight the column continued their advance, reaching Bezdružice around 10:30 a.m., while the 1st Panzer Regiment reached Konstantinovy Lážně at 11:00 a.m.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Panzer Regiment encountered enemy resistance at Úterý at 11:45 a.m. as the fog lifted. The Czechs had deployed a covering force comprising the 1st Battalion/18th Infantry Regiment between Toužim and the Hlaváčkův Mill along the Úterský stream in front of the fortified line, in order to delay and inflict as much damage on the Germans as possible before it reached the line. Two tanks were destroyed by a hidden anti-tank gun, while the following infantry came under enemy fire and had to stop. The II./Artillery Regiment 75 was moved forward as the 3./SS Regiment LAH and 1./1st Schützen Regiment received orders to attack the enemy positions. The artillery opened fire on the positions along the stream at 800 m, and soon the trees in the nearby forest were set ablaze and the Czechoslovak soldiers either fled or surrender as the infantry fought its way forward taking out enemy resistance nests one by one. The infantry clears the positions in the nearby village of Olešovice, allowing the 2nd Panzer Regiment to continue the advance.

To the south, the 1st Panzer Regiment and the 4th Reconnaissance Detachment continued the advance northeastwards from Konstantinovy Lážně, crossing the Úterský stream near Potín. After forcing the covering force from the 1st Battalion/18th Infantry Regiment on the retreat, they advanced on the road running northeast past Ostrov and towards Blažim. By 13:30 p.m. the two columns rendezvous along the line Ostrov – Blažim – Krsy and prepare for the assault on the Czechoslovak fortified line.

Hoepners 1st Light Division advanced on Stříbro without facing any enemy resistance. From Waidhaus the motorcycles of 6th Reconnaissance Detachment lead the way, followed by the 11th Panzer Regiment and the 76th Artillery Regiment. They advanced along the route Rozvadov – Hošťka – Labuť – Staré Sedliště – Tisová – Ostrov – Nová Hospoda – Kurojedy – Dolní Plezom – Ošelín – Řebří, reaching the bridge over the Mže River at Svojšín by 11:00 a.m. Further south, the 65th Panzer Detachment and the motorized infantry of the 4th Cavalry Schützen Regiment advanced along the route Eisendorf – Nová Ves – Přimda – Velké Dvorce – Vysočany – Bor – Skviřín – Holostřevy – Benešovice, followed by the 57th Engineer Battalion. Having advanced 37 km, the 1st Battalion/4th Cavalry Schützen Regiment reached Stříbro by 10:45 a.m., where they came under heavy fire from the Czech bunkers on the other side of the Mže River. Shortly thereafter, the Czechs destroyed the bridges at Stříbro and Butov, as well as the railway bridge near Malovice, with demolition charges. After conferring with Generalmajor Friedrich-Wilhelm von Loeper, the commander of the 4th Cavalry Schützen Regiment, Hoepner ordered the division to disengage and advance on the villages of Sviňomazy and Trpísty, located in front of the fortified line along the Úterský stream.

30 September: initial attack

As the 1st Panzer Division regrouped behind the villages of Ostrov, Blažim and Krsy, Guderian ordered the division not to stop but to attack the Czech fortified line. At 14:00 German artillery deployed outside Bezdružice initiated a artillery bombardment on the Czechoslovak positions, and the attack was launched at 15:20 On the left flank, the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler attacked towards Štipoklasy, the 1st Panzer Regiment and the 1st Schützen Brigade moved on Pláň in the centre, while the 2nd Panzer Regiment moved on Krsov through Ostrov on the right flank.

The division made ground slowly, as the machine gun fire from the Czechoslovak bunkers and well-camouflaged anti-tank guns slowed down the attack. The German tanks, however, soon encountered the anti-tank obstacles in front of the bunkers and had to stop. Seven German tanks were destroyed and several others were damaged before the 1st and 2nd Panzer Regiments stopped the attack. In the centre the II./1st Schützen Regiment attacked through a pine forest 1 km west of Pláň, and reported good progress after having cleared two pillboxes. They requested tank support, however by 16:45 withdrawing tanks were reported, and by 18:00 p.m. the requested tank support was cancelled. Instead, the battalion ordered to withdraw behind the treeline, hold the area, and instead continue the attack after destroying the remaining enemy bunkers the following day. Assault teams are prepared to attack them during the night. During the evening, Guderian himself came up forward to assess the situation, and subsequently ordered the division to halt the attack, withdraw to their initial positions and regroup for renewed attacks in the morning.

By 19:30 Czech artillery activity increased in intensity, setting the villages of Ostrov and Blažim on fire. German artillery countered by firing on Krsov - Pláň - Budec and Štipoklasy, which also resulted in all villages getting set ablaze. Meanwhile, on the left flank, a Kampfgruppe comprising the III./SS LAH were lying 150 meters in front of the enemy positions, unaware that most of the division had pulled back to their initial positions due to lost radio contact to the rest of the Regiment. After having destroyed a bunker with an anti-tank gun, the Kampfgruppe slowly managed to pull back to their own lines.

To the south, the leading units of Hoepner's 1st Light Division reached the villages of Sviňomazy and Trpísty at 13:20, where they came under enemy fire from the bunkers on the other bank of the Úterský stream. They quickly retreated behind the villages as Hoepner ordered the Artillery Regiment 76 forward, which deployed between Kšice and Únehle, while 2./Artillery Regiment 76 deployed outside of Trpísty. As the 1./4th Cavalry Schützen Regiment received orders to attack the enemy positions. As the artillery opened fire on the Czech positions at 700 m, the German infantry moves on the bunkers. Despite destroying two of the bunkers, the attacks were broken and Hoepner ordered the division to renew the attack in the morning.

During the evening, General Jan Kloud requested reinforcements that could close any potential holes in the line. General Vojcechovský, commander of the First Army, ordered the 2nd Division, held in reserve in Plzeň, to dispatch a regiment towards Líštany and prepare the defences in the rear of the main defences between the villages of Lipno and Všeruby. At 21:00 general Valentin Pozdíšek of the 2nd Division ordered the 85th Infantry Regiment forward, reaching Líštany by 03:50 in the morning.

1 October: renewed attacks

German SS-VT soldiers near Stipoklasy (WFAC)

German SS-VT soldiers of Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler advancing on the village of Štipoklasy, 1 October 1938.

The following morning, scout units of the 1st Panzer and 1st Light Division conducted reconnaissance missions to find out the positions of the enemy fortifications, as German and Czech artillery activity continued during the day. After having located many of the bunkers, the Germans initiated a heavy artillery bombardment at 09:00 on the Krsov – Pláň – Štipoklasy and the Trpísty sectors, as German engineers of the 37th Engineer Battalion began cutting through the Czech anti-tank barriers and barbed wire. Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers of the Sturzkampfgeschwader 165 also attacked the Czech positions. Guderian again came up forward to assess the situation, and ordered forward a heavy battery of 8.8 cm Flak 18 anti-aircraft guns to engage the bunkers as well. The guns proved to be effective anti-bunker weapons, destroying several of the bunkers. The same morning, the 2nd Motorized Infantry Division of the XIV Army Corps had reached the fortified line near Trhomné – Jedvaniny – Plachtín north of Štipoklasy.

After three and a half hours of constant artillery fire and air attacks, the assault was started at 12:15. Light casualties were caused by Czech artillery fire from the start, and 500 m northeast of the Krsov – Pláň – Štipoklasy line the first enemy machine gun fire began. To the left, the SS LAH ordered the mortars to hold down the flanking fire of the bunkers while the platoons advance through the difficult, nearly coverless terrain. However, artillery support is not able to stop the flanking fire from the bunkers, and the 1. Kampfgruppe suffered heavy casualties. The SS LAH managed to clear three of the bunkers near Štipoklasy with hand grenades, but when two well hidden bunkers in a forest behind the Pláň – Štipoklasy road, the Leibstandarte halts the attack.

In the centre 1st Schützen Regiment, supported by tanks, used heavy machine guns and mortars to hold down the flanking fire of the bunkers while the 6th, 7th and 8th Company of the 2nd Battalion advanced into the dead angle of the bunkers and into Pláň, now either mostly in ruins or on fire. Despite being held back by anti-tank obstacles, the Pz.Kpfw. IVs could use their 75 mm guns on the bunkers, while soldiers used satchel charges and hand grenades as they attacked the bunkers from the flanks. By 16:10 they had cleared four bunkers southeast of Pláň: D-20/16/A-180Z, D-20/15/A-140Z, D-20/14/A-160Z and D-20/18/A-140. Now the battalion had to advance across flat terrain under heavy enemy machine gun fire, as the artillery support again was unable to stop the flanking fire from the bunkers. With ammunition running low, the battalion commander, colonel Hans von Boineburg-Lengsfeld, ordered his men to withdraw to the treeline in front of the Krsov – Pláň road and await further orders while soldiers were sent back to the supply vehicles in Blažim. Meanwhile, Letov Š-328 light bombers of the 4th Flight attacked Blažim at 14:15, resulting in several casualtied and destroying several German vehicles. Later, at 15:10, Avia B-71 bombers of the I/6th Squadron targeted German troops near Pláň, but without inflicting serious damage, as general Kloud ordered the 1st and 2nd companies of the 3rd Battalion, 85th Infantry Regiment to reinforce the positions in Pláň.

On the left flank of Pláň, the 1st Detachment, 2nd Panzer Regiment and 3rd Battalion, 1st Schützen Regiment got entangled with three well-hidden bunkers and anti-tank guns near a forest behind the Krsov – Pláň road. From a distance of 300 meters, the guns destroyed 8 tanks and damaged another 11 before German tank and artillery fire managed to take them out. By 18:00 the infantry had managed to take out the three bunkers, but lack of ammunition forced the battalion commander to orders his men to form defence groups.

Further south, the 2nd Detachment, 2nd Panzer Regiment and soldiers of the 1st Motorcycle Battalion moved on Krsov, but made slow progress due to heavy forests and well-hidden bunkers. While a road block prevented the tanks to continue towards Krsov, the motorcycle infantry were able to flank three of the bunkers, forcing the enemy to withdraw from the bunkers. As the soldiers fell back towards Krsov the 3rd and 4th Company formed groups and pursued the enemy. However, in front of Krsov the assault groups run into prepared reserves comprising 2nd Company and the machine gun company of the 2nd Battalion, 85th Infantry Regiment, which start a counterattack supported by artillery fire. The assault group withdraws to the forest north of Krsov, as mortars and machine guns are brought into position.

Destroyed Pz.Kpfw. II near Plan (WFAC)

A Pz.Kpfw. II tank destroyed by Czech anti-tank gun fire near Pláň.

In the Sviňomazy and Trpísty sector, reconnaissance units had discovered a 1 km gap in the defences between the bunkers E-21/19-A180Z and VII.b/103/A. Hoepner agreed with the regimental commander of 4th Cavalry Schützen Regiment, major general Friedrich-Wilhelm von Loeper, to split his regiment in two groups. The 1st Detachment, supported by the tanks of the 11th Panzer Regiment and artillery, were to diversionary frontal attack on the bunkers near the Trpísty – Pernarec road, while the 2nd and 3rd Detachments, 4th Cavalry Schützen Regiment crossed the Úterský stream further downstream between the bunkers and march through the forest. Their objective was to reach Pernarec, thus cutting of the bunkers from behind and opening the road for the rest of the division.

At 10:30 the Germans initiated an artillery bombardment on the Czech positions near Trpísty. After two hours of constant artillery fire the assault was started at 12:30. As the tanks opened fire on the Czech positions from a distance, the soldiers of the 1st Detachment crossed the Úterský stream north and south of the bridge in order to attack the bunkers from the flank. Meanwhile, the 2nd and 3rd Detachments crossed the Úterský and advanced almost unnoticed towards Pernarec through thick forests and hilly terrain. 9th and 10th Squadrons were dispatched to attack the bunkers near the Trpísty – Pernarec road from the rear. By then, three bunkers had fallen, and seeing they now were surrounded, the Czech defenders surrendered at 14:20. However, any further advance by the 11th Panzer Regiment were delayed due to Czech air attacks carried out by Avia B-71 bombers of the I/6th Squadron.

Unbeknownst to the battalion headquarters of SP XVII located in Krukanice, the 4th Detachment attacked Pernarec and Krukanice, taking the Czechs by surprise. After a short engagement, the Germans took 31 prisoners, including the battalion commander, lieutenant colonel František Sklenář.

Fearing a German breakthrough, general Kloud ordered the 1st and 3rd companies og the 2nd Battalion, 85th Infantry Regiment to launch a counterattack on Pernarec. At 17:10, following a artillery bombardment, the battalion took the Germans by surprise, and after fierce close combat, the 4th Detachment retreated to the forest southeast of Pernarec, where they regrouped and awaited the arrival of the rest of the division as well as ammunition.

Meanwhile, as the engineers continued clearing the Czech antitank barriers, the 9th and 10th companies of the 2nd Battalion managed to clear the two bunkers D-20/36/A-140Z and D-20/35/A-120 southeast of Pláň by 20:00 with the cover of darkness, hand grenades and satchel charges. Colonel von Boineburg-Lengsfeld, eyeing a possibity for a breakthrough, ordered the 9th and 6th companies, as well as the machine gun company, to form groups and move towards Úněšov in order to widen the gap in the Czech front. As the 6th and machine gun companies moved through Budeč and Číhaná before reaching Úněšov at 22:30, the 9th Company took up position to the south between the villages of Skupeč and Hvožďany. After having penetrated 6 km into the Czech defences, Colonel von Boineburg-Lengsfeld ordered the forward units to form defensive groups and to await the tanks of the 1st Panzer Regiment.

2 October: Breaktrough

German soldiers near destroyed bunker in Plan 1938 (WFAC)

German soldiers of the 1st Panzer Division in front of the destroyed bunker D-20/16/A-180Z near Pláň, 2 October 1938.

By midnight, elements of 2nd Battalion, 1st Schützen Regiment had penetrated 6 km into the Czechoslovak defence, reaching the village of Úněšov. However, the advance of the Schützen Regiment had come to a halt because of exhaustion. Orders for a counterattack against the Germans in Skupeč, Hvožďany and Úněšov were issued shortly after 01:00 on 2 October, and was to jump off at 06:30. Kloud ordered the 1st Battalion as well as the the 2nd Company, 2nd Battalion to advance side-by-side, supported by artillery.

The Germans were initially taken by surprise of the Czech counterattack, but the attack bogged down due to German artillery and machine gun fire. Meanwhile, by 05:00 of 2 October the German engineers finally managed to cut through the Czech anti-tank barriers. Guderian, in favor of the ununterbrochenen Angriff (uninterrupted attack), ordered the 1st Panzer and 1st Light Divisions to wheel northeastwards towards Hořovice and then on to the Berounka River. When the tanks of 1st Detachment, 1st Panzer Regiment arrived in Úněšov, Kloud called off the counterattack and ordered the regiment to withdraw towards Líštany. However, the 1st Light Division attacked the Czechs left flank near Pernarec along the route Březí – Chrančovice – Lišťany – Hunčice – Unesov–Plzeň road, cutting off the regiment's route of escape. As a result, the majority of the 85th Infantry Regiment was destroyed, with around 300 soldiers surrendering to the Germans.

German vehicles crossing pontoon bridge over the Berounka River (WFAC)

Vehicles of the 1st Panzer Division crossing a pontoon bridge errected over the Berounka River, 2 October 1938.

Chaos now errupted in the Czech lines. Colonel Karel Dubovský, the regimental commander of 18th Infantry Regiment, narrowly avoided capture by the Germans as the regimental headquarters in Všeruby withdrew towards Plžen. The 1st Panzer Division advanced towards the Berounka River through Zahrádka and Kaznějov, reaching the river near Čivice at 0800. As the only unprotected bridge over the Berounka in the area was in the village of Liblín 4 km to the north, Guderian ordered his engineers to construct a pontoon bridge near Čivice while ordering his reconnaissance units and the 2nd Panzer detachment, 1st Panzer Regiment to cross the bridge in Liblín and move eastwards against Vejvanov. By 14:00 a pontoon bridge had been erected over the Berounka, and by the end of the day over 200 tanks had rolled over this eye of a needle. Further south, the 1st Light Division reached the Berounka near Nynice around 09:00, and a pontoon bridge had been erected by 12:00

The German breakthrough, which had been noted by Czech air reconnaissance, alarmed the Czechs who called for a total effort against the bridgeheads on the Berounka, to isolate the three Panzer Divisions. General Šípek, commander of the 1st Corps, urged that the bridges be destroyed by air attack. Brigadier General Karel Janoušek, commander of the air units subordinate to the First Army, ordered to concentrate his bombers on the bridges.

Unfavourable weather limited air operations, but between 15:00–16:00, 22 B-71 bombers of the I/6th Squadron under Lieutenant Colonel Ludvík Budin, 17 Avia B-200 bombers of the 83rd and 84th Wings and 19 Letov Š-328 light bombers of the 3rd and 4th Wings took off escorted by fighters. The fighter escort was offset by the presence of German fighter units that outnumbered the Allied escort fighters by 3:1, and the 71st Wing lost three B-71s while the 4th Wing lost six Š-328s. In total, 22 bombers were lost, meaning a loss rate of 56–62 percent. The bombing results were poor, with only one bridge damaged.

General Jan Šípek, facing the risk of his forces being outflanked and surrounded, ordered the 1st Corps to withdraw towards the secondary defence line along the Vltava River.



Aftermath

The Czech defeat at the Úterský Stream resulted in the collapse of the 1st Corps. The German attack, especially the breakout from the bridgeheads on the Berounka, was so fast that there were hardly any major combats. Many Czech soldiers were in such shock that they were taken prisoner before they could offer resistance. General Šípek, after conferring with his superior, General Sergej Vojcechovský, ordered a general retreat for the 1st Corps. While the 5th Division managed to retreat to the secondary defence line, the 2nd Division was encircled in Plzeň, as the German 24th Infantry Division had reached Rokycany, after having broken through the Czech border fortifications near Buková on the 2 October.

After the Czech resistance ended, the XVI Army Corps advanced towards Hořovice, where it fought the Battle of Hořovice against the Czech 1st Fast Division. Later it crossed the Berounka and Vltava Rivers and took part in the Siege of Prague.

Although all the bunkers were either damaged or destroyed and the Czech resistance was finally broken, the Czechs had managed to halt the German advance for three days.

See also

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