Evaluation of the Situation of Sixth Army in the
Evaluation of the Situation
of Sixth Army in the
25 November 1942
by the Commanding General of LI Army Corps General of Artillery von Seydlitz
form. TOP SECRET
The Commanding General LI Army Corps, November 25, 1942
No. 603/43 g. Kdos.
To : Commander-in-Chief, Sixth Army
Having received Army order of 24.11.1942 on the continuation of the battle I feel obliged with a view to the gravity of the hour, to put my appreciation of the situation which has been reinforced by the reports of the last 24 hours down in writing once again.
The Army is faced with a decisive either/or; break-out to the south-west in the general direction of Kotelnikovo or destruction within a few days. This opinion is based on a sober evaluation of the actual circumstances.
1. Since there is virtually no stock-pile of supplies at the outset of the battle, the supply situation is the key factor for any decision.
For the supply situation of LI A.C. as of the evening of 23.11. see attachment.
The numbers speak for themselves.
Even the minor defensive engagements of the past few days have noticeably depleted ammunition stocks. Should the corps be attacked on its full front, which must be expected daily, then it will shoot itself completely dry within one or two days.
It is hardly to be expected that the ammunition situation is any better with the other army corps that have already been heavily engaged for days.
From the calculations made, it is clear that an
adequate supply by air lift of LI Corps alone is
questionable, therefore completely impossible
for the whole army. What 30 Ju (on November 23),
or the further 100 Ju that have only been
promised so far, can bring in, is only a drop.
To attach hopes to this, means grasping at a
straw. Where the large number of Ju required for
the supply of the army is to come from, is
nowhere in evidence. If they exist at all, the
planes will have to be flown in from all over
land daily instead of the envisaged 130, they could only bring in 1000 t of supplies, which would not suffice to cover the needs of an army of approx. 200,000 men engaged in heavy combat and without stockpiles. More than the coverage of the minimum fuel requirement, a small fraction of our own ammunition types and maybe also a fraction of the required food for humans, cannot be hoped for. The horses will all have died within a few days. Tactical mobility will thereby be restricted even further, the distribution of supplies down to the lines made more difficult and on the other hand, the fuel requirement increased.
There can be no doubt that the mass of the weather-proof Russian fighters will be deployed for attacks against the incoming cargo planes and against Pitomnik and Peskovatka, the only two air bases capable of handling bulk cargo. Heavy losses are inescapable, continuous fighter cover over the long distances and for the two bases far from assured. The weather situation will also variably influence the tonnage results.
The impossibility of adequate supply thus proven, the air lift can only delay the exhaustion of supplies of the army by a few days, in the case of ammunition within 3 to 5 days, but not prevent it. Extension of the food supply lies in our own hands up to a certain degree (extension by 100% was ordered three days ago in LI Corps), Extension of fuel and ammunition stocks depends almost entirely on the enemy.
2. The probable conduct of the enemy, for whom victory in a battle of destruction of classic proportions beckons, is easy to predict. Knowing his active mode of combat it is hardly to be questioned that he will continue his attacks against the encircled Sixth Army with undiminished force. We must grant him that he recognises the need to destroy the army before German relief operations can become effective. From experience we know that he has no compunction about sacrificing human lives. Our successes in containing him, especially on November 24 and the heavy losses we have seen him sustain at several points, should not lead us to self-deception,
The enemy is probably not totally unaware of our supply problems. The more persistently and harder he attacks, the more rapidly will we exhaust our ammunition. Even if no single attack succeeds, success will come about when the army has shot itself dry and is defenceless. To pretend that he does not recognise this would mean that we expect the enemy to act mistakenly. In the history of war such an attitude has always led to defeat. It would be a dangerous game and if it led to a catastrophe for Sixth Army, would have the most serious consequences for the course, and maybe also the result, of the war.
3. Operationally the conclusion is irrefutable; if it digs in, Sixth Army can only escape destruction if relief becomes effective within a few, i.e., within about 5 days, to such an extent that the enemy must break off his attacks. There is not a shred of evidence that this will happen. Should the relief only become effective later on, then the condition of helplessness will inevitably come about, i.e the destruction of Sixth Army.
What measures the OKH has taken for the relief of Sixth Army, is not clear. Relief from the west can only lie at a great distance, because our own security forces only stand to the westwards of the upper Chir and from about Oblivskaya onwards on the lower Chir. Therefore the deployment of relief forces must take place at a great distance from Sixth Army. Even with the aid of the effective rail line via Millerovo, the deployment of an army powerful enough to carry out a rapid penetration while simultaneously securing its northern flank, will take weeks. To this must be added the time required for the operation itself which, due to the inclemencies of the weather and the short days at this time of the year, will be far longer than during the summer.
The deployment of 2 Panzer divisions initiated
near Kotelnikovo for relief from the south and
their attack must be calculated as requiring at
least 10 days. The possibilities for a rapid
penetration by the attack are greatly inhibited
by the need to protect the flanks, particularly
the eastern flank, that will grow longer with
each step, leaving aside the unknown condition
the divisions are in and the question whether 2
Panzer divisions are strong enough at all. One
cannot count on the possibility of relief forces
being deployed by means of a larger number of
motorised columns. Neither the vehicles nor the
fuel can be available, otherwise they would
already have had to be made available earlier
and at far lower cost in fuel, to supply the so
4. The possibility that relief will become effective within the time dictated by the supply situation is therefore nil. The OKH's order to hold the position until relief is here, is obviously based on unrealistic foundations. It is therefore impossible to execute and will invariably lead to catastrophe for the army. If the army is to be preserved, it must immediately obtain a different order, or else immediately take a different decision itself.
With regard to the operational, political and moral effects, the idea of deliberately sacrificing the army should be beyond any consideration.
5. From the comparison of the time scales based on the supply situation and the operational requirements, including the probable actions of the enemy, the conclusion is so clear that further considerations are hardly required. None the less, the following factors, all pointing in the same direction, should be listed :
(a) The western perimeter is still far from being stabilised.
(b) On the northern front, it is impossible to contain a sharply concentrated attack by opposing forces for a longer period of time, because after first having pulled out 16th Pz.Div., then 3rd Inf.Div. (mot), the front had to be withdrawn to a shorter, but almost completely unprepared line.
(c) Tense situation on the southern front.
(d) Reduced combat strength of the heavily
(e) Due to lack of ammunition, prevention of
continuous reinforcement of the enemy
bridgeheads on the
(f) Condition of the divisions, heavily depleted
because of the attacks in
(g) The army compressed in a scanty steppe area that offers hardly any usable shelters and cover any longer, so that men and matériel everywhere exposed to the weather and enemy air attacks.
(h) Expected advent of severe frost with almost complete lack of firewood on the major part of the present perimeter lines.
(i) Only insufficient support by the Luftwaffe due to lack of favourably situated bases.
In contrast to this, no anti-aircraft protection, since all anti-aircraft formations must be exclusively used for anti-tank combat.
A comparison with last year's Demjansk pocket can lead to dangerously false conclusions. The distance to the German front was several times shorter. The supply requirements of one encircled corps were far less, particularly since there were far fewer of the weapons required here in the steppe (tanks, heavy artillery, mortars) to be supplied. Despite the short distance to the German front, at the time the establishment of a very narrow corridor into the pocket required weeks of heavy winter fighting.
6. The conclusion is clear.
Either Sixth Army defends itself in the pocket until it is shot dry, i.e., defenceless. Since, given continued enemy attacks and their probable extension to sectors of the front that have been quiet so far, this condition must occur before relief can become effective, such passive conduct means the end of the army.
Or the army acts and breaks open the ring of encirclement. This is only still possible if the army makes forces available by withdrawing them from the northern and Volga fronts, i.e., by shortening the front, and attacks with them on the southern front, and then by giving up Stalingrad breaks out in the direction of the weakest opposition, i.e., towards Kotelnikovo
This decision requires leaving much matériel
behind, but offers the chance of breaking the
southern jaw of the pincers, withdrawing the
army and its weapon from catastrophe and
preserving it for further operations. By doing
this, a parr of the enemy forces will remain
occupied for the duration, whereas if the army
is destroyed in the pocket, it will cease to
occupy any enemy forces at all. A public
announcement of the event that will not
substantially damage morale is possible. 'After
having completely destroyed the Soviet armament
centre of Stalingrad, the army has withdrawn
The expectation that the break-out will be successful is all the greater since the fighting to date has frequently demonstrated a poor stability of enemy infantry forces in open ground and as some of our own forces are still on the tributaries east of the Don and in the Aksai sector. As regards timing, the breakout must be initiated and carried out immediately. Any delay reduces its chances. With every delay the number of combatants and ammunition is
reduced. With every delay the enemy becomes stronger on the break-out front and can bring in further forces of containment against the Kotelnikovo group. With every delay combat power is reduced because of loss of horses and therefore loss of horse-drawn weapons.
If the OKH does not immediately rescind the order to dig-in, then conscience adamantly dictates the duty towards the army and the German nation to seize the freedom of action denied by the existing orders and to take advantage of the still existing possibility of averting catastrophe by our own attack. The complete destruction of 200,000 combatants and their
total material is at risk. There is no other choice.
signed von Seydlitz
General of Artillery
For the correctness of the copy:
signed. Schatz, Lieutenant
ATTACHMENT TO 603/42 g.K.
Supply situation of LI A.C. as of 23. 1 1. evening
Ammunition (excl. 3rd mot. Div., 60th mot. Div and 94th Inf.Div.)
Armour-piercing ammunition approx. 30 - 40%.
Hand-grenades only meagre stocks.
Tracer and signal ammunition only very meagre stocks.
3rd Inf.Div. (mot), 60th Inf.Div (mot) and 94th Inf.Div, latter as of 22.11.
light field how. 60%
heavy field how. 50%
heavy inf. rounds 25%
light inf. rounds 40%
Daily ammunition requirements of the corps (based on defensive combat to
(a) 400 t in case of lighter combat (50 t per div.) = 200 Ju
(b) 800 t in case of heavy combat (100 t per div.) = 400 Ju
2. Fuel situation
Exact reports from the div. not obtainable.
Stocks as good as exhausted.
The most urgent driving to bring up supplies, deployment of anti-tank troops, field guns, only possible for a short while longer,
Daily requirements of the corps under extreme economies:
80cbm (10 cbm per div.) = 40 Ju
3. Food situation
On average the div. dispose of:
7 full days soft food
4 full days bread
3.5 days flour
We must assume, however, that bakery operations have ceased because the mass of the bakery company is deployed in the Karpovka valley.
Daily requirements of the corps (on half rations)
80 tons soft food = 40 Ju
70 tons tinned food = 35 Ju
Assuming half-rations, the supply of the corps will require in total :
(a) in case of lighter combat : 598 tons of supplies = 295 Ju
(b) in case of heavy combat : 990 tons of supplies = 495 Ju
Signed for the Commander of the Corps
*Comment by the Chief of Staff of Sixth Army, Major General Arthur
'We are not to wrack the Führer's brains for him, and neither is Gen. v. Seydlitz those of the Commander in Chief.