LONDON -- The Red Army captured the five-way rail junction of Tarnopol in pre-war Poland today and 500 miles to the southeast smashed through rear guard screens before Sevastopol, from which the bomb-groggy Axis defenders were trying to flee Crimea by sea.
Premier Josef Stalin announced the capture of Tarnopol after three weeks of bitter street fighting, while Soviet front dispatches reported that the week-old Crimean campaign was roaring toward its end with Sevastopol within the Russian grasp.
Planes Blast Ships
Stormovik assault planes of the Red Air Force already had turned Sevastopol Harbor into an inferno of shattered evacuation ships as Gen. Feodor I. Tolbukhin's army charged down from the outlying hills, where the Germans and Romanians tried vainly to slow down the Soviet drive.
The capture of Tarnopol, which the Red Army surrounded on March 26, freed formidable Soviet forces for a resumption of Marshal Gregory K. Zhukov's drive on the old Polish plans which lead across the Vistula River to the Nazi frontier.
The Germans put up one of the bitterest stands of the Red Army campaign on the southern front at Tarnopol. city of 36,000 on the Lwow-Odessa railroad.
The drive against Lwow, richest prize in southern pre-war Poland, which lies 68 miles to the west, was expected to be renewed as a result of the capture of Tarnopol.
Stalin ordered the victors saluted with 20 salvos of 224 guns.
Battle Nears End
One week after it began, the Battle of the Crimea was reported nearing its end in a merciless slaughter of the routed survivors of about 100.000 troops now corraled in a 250-square-mile beachhead anchored on Sevastopol.
Red planes pounded the Nazi evacuation vessels and torpedo launches of the Black Sea Fleet dashed in and out of the coastal waters torpedoing ships loaded with enemy troops.
Unshaven, unkempt and tattered German and Romanian soldiers, their escape cut off by the lightning Russian advance, surrendered en masse.
More than 31,000 prisoners had been rounded up by Thursday, and almost as many more enemy troops had been slain by two Red Armies that smashed simultaneously into the Crimea from the north and east last week-end.
Gen. Tolbukhin's Fourth Ukrainian Army and Gen. Andrei Yeremenko's independent maritime army liberated more than 507 towns and villages of the Crimea yesterday in advances of up to 53 miles, the greatest ever achieved by Soviet forces.
Takes Tartar Capital
Gen. Tolbukhin's main column, racing down the first-class highway paralleling the Simferopol-Sevastopol railway, seized Bakhchisarai, ancient Tartar capital 19 miles northeast of Sevastopol, and pushed on toward the naval base.
Another force, advancing southward around the bay from the west coast port of Yevpatoriya, reached Alma. 18 miles north of Sevastopol.
There still was no indication whether the Germans would be able to make a stand at Sevastopol, where the Russians held out for 250 days in 1941 and 1942.
Ringed With Forts
Ringed with forts and built on a hillside honeycombed with caves and tunnels, Sevastopol remains a formidable city, but the speed of the Soviet advance and the Russians' complete control of the sea and air may bring its quick capitulation.
East of Sevastopol Gen. Tolbukhin's Fourth Armv effected a iunction with Gen. Yeremenko's forces and drove, on to the south coast to capture the port and health resort of Alushta, 43 miles east of Sevastopol. Gen. Yeremenko's men cleared the entire remainder of the Crimea to the north and east except for disorganized, isolated pockets, while the Fourth Army mopped up the west coast.
West of the Crimea, Gen. Rodion Y. Malinovskv's Third Army virtually completed the liberation of the Ukraine by clearing the entire southwestern tip below Odessa of the remnants of the routed garrison of that port.
Marshal Zhukov's First Ukrainian Army, rallying after a withdrawal in the face of strong German attacks. advanced on a 15-mile front and captured 40 towns and villages north of Cemauti. These included Starva Lagelnitsa. 38 miles south of Tarno-pol and 25 miles northeast of Skala and Torske. 33 miles north of Cer- nauti and 25 miles west of Skala.