Precisely at 0500 hours Soviet guns opened fire, heralding a giant offensive, with six main thrusts launched across a 450-mile (730-kilometer) wide front involving 1,245,000 men, 14 combined-army armies, one tank army, 124 out of 168 rifle divisions committed to the attack, 2,175 tanks supported by 1,355 self-propelled guns, 24,000 guns and mortars, four "air armies" with 5,327 aircraft, plus a further 700 heavy bombers of Long-Range Aviation.
On July 2 all hope of extricating the encircled 4th and 9th Armies was extinguished. The German defensive system on the central sector of the Eastern Front had cracked wide open, obliterating 25 to 28 divisions with the loss of 300,000 men. The Red Army had achieved its greatest single success of the war, visiting on the German Army a catastrophe eclipsing even that of Stalingrad, quite as decisive as the fighting on the Western Front.
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