For a long while in the first part of 1943, partisan bands controlled the southern part of the area of Slavkovichi, in north-west Russia. Owing to a shortage of manpower, intimidation of local civilians, and partisan blockades, the Germans were not able to learn details about the composition of these bands, or the location of their headquarters. “Unternehmen Maikäfer” (Operation June Beetle) was an operation tasked with seeking out, attacking, and destroying these bands. The German units involved in this operation were “Gruppe Hofmann” and “Gruppe Spemann.” These formations were composed of a wide range of German security units, including many Eastern volunteer units. The operation began on May 12, 1943, and was regarded as a success, as it led to high enemy losses and the destruction of some partisan units. The enemy losses from this operation combined with other German offensive operations in that area at that time totaled 513 killed and 110 taken prisoner, with correspondingly high numbers of wounded and a large amount of weapons being captured.
The Korps order for “Unternehmen Maikäfer” stipulated that the participants in the operation be uniformed as follows:
Estonian units: Partially in Wehrmacht uniforms, partially in German Polizei uniforms with German helmets
Ostreiter units: Wehrmacht uniforms with red collar tabs and German helmets
Ost-Freijäger units: Latvian uniforms
Lithuanian units: Lithuanian uniforms
Armenian units: Wehrmacht uniforms, or captured uniforms similar to the German cut, with German helmets
Cossacks: Cossack uniforms, white fur caps
German units assigned to Gruppe Hofmann were to wear a white armband on the right upper arm, and those assigned to Gruppe Spemann were to wear a red armband on the left upper arm.