After the 21st Army's lines had been broken through the army's commander, General Gordov, asked permission to withdraw the 63rd Rifle Corps to the relative safety of Gomel. Stalin refused. By 16 August, the 63rd and 67th Rifle Corps lay cut off in a pocket on the eastern bank of the Dnepr, Gordov ordered remnants of his army to withdraw southward to the area around Gomel proper. Workers' battalions were formed to bolster the vital city's defenses. On 19 August, the 2. Armee reached the northern outskirts. At 17:05, the German assault commenced. Infantry with the help of Sturmgeschutze quickly overran Russian positions outside the city.