December 1942



The Germans in the Stalingrad pocket are already on half rations. As Paulus warned
Hitler by 23 November he had only six days of food supply. The reason is that the
Russian offensive had immediately cut them off from their railhead on the Chir.
These days the Germans are slaughtering 300 horses a day.

The Russian are attacking from the south against the 297th Infantry. The attack is
beaten off. It seems that the Russians are testing  the defenses and making the
Germans expend precious ammunition. The attack seems nothing serious.

The Russian High Command adopted another plan for the battle. Plan Saturn.
It is the result of Stalin's questions to Zhukov and Zhukov's answer at the end of
November. This plan is calling for the liquidation of the German troops in Stalingrad,
and the Germans in the bend of the Don, and finally the cutting off of the German
forces in the Caucasus.

Russians attack the Don Army Group along the Chir, trying up the German troops
needed to open a relief corridor to 6th Army. A new formation; Army Detachment
Hollidt, is attached to 3rd Romanian Army. This theoretically consists of the
ubiquitous 48th Panzer Corps, now made up of the 11th and 22nd Panzer Divisions,
the 3rd Mountain, and 7th and 8th Luftwaffe Field Divisions. Most of the 3rd Mountain
never arrives; elements are shifted here and there to meet local demands from Army
Group Center and Army Group A, and 22nd Panzer is in serious need of a refit. The
Luftwaffe Field divisions are incapable of conducting offensive action, and the 15th
such division, due to join the 57th Panzer Corps hasn’t even been formed yet.
With all this working against him, Von Manstein’s troops are subjected to a blistering
attack by 5th Tank Army, all along the Chir river. Army Detachment Hollidt, instead of
launching a secondary thrust north towards the pocket, is forced to spread its forces
thin and confront the new Russian offensive.

Russians are attacking from the north and northwest against the 44th Division.
The 14th Panzer Divisions is rushing in from reserve to help stop the attack.
One German regiment lost 500 men. Suddenly the Russians are gone. Again it seems
the attack seems nothing serious. The Russians are following Zhukov's orders,
more or less.

The Luftwaffe efforts to increase its rate of supply to the isolated army reaches
a new peak of threehundred tons delivered. This record amount is still little more than
half of the Army’s daily needs, which increase with every passing day’s shortfall of
deliveries. Sixth Army is already down to a two day supply of ammunition.

As an indication of the cofusian prevailing in the Stalingrad area, it was reported
that the encircled units of 6th Army had a comprimised strength not of 400.000 men,
as previously thought, but about 300.000. Consideration was given giving  up the
bridgehead at Voronezh, but 2nd Army reported that its present position was better
than the it would have to take up if withdrawn, so it was left where it was.

For the first time the luftwaffe brought in nearly 300 tons of supplies by 188 planes.
Paulus is encouraged when he is looking the figures of today.

German food rations to the troops freezing inside Stalingrad are reduced to 1,000
calories per day. Many of the horses used to haul the men and equipment are
slaughtered just to meet this starvation level requirement

Soviet units renew their attacks on the German positions along the Lower Chir river,
west of the Don.This constant pressure on an area that that holds the key to the
German airlift into the Stalingrad Pocket, prevents the release of the 48th Panzer
Corps to assist in the effort to relieve the pressure on 6th Army’s rear.

At a conference with Hitler, Zeitzler tries to get the Führer to release the 17th
Panzer Division from its positions behind the left wing of Army Group Don. The Führer
had ordered this unit, so necessary to the attempted relief of Stalingrad, to these
positions over Manstein’s objections, for fear of a massive new Soviet offensive.
Soldiers of 6th Army begin to die from malnutrition and exposure.

Operation Winter Tempest: The rag-tag Don Army Group, reinforced with divisions
from Western Europe and the 57th Panzer Corps from Army Group A, attacks north
with a re-formed 4th Panzer Army. From Kotelnikovo, Hoth’s tanks make progress
against 2nd Guards Army and 51st Army on the southwest approaches to Stalingrad.
Other units, such as Göring’s Field Divisions, are spectacular failures.

The Germans at Stalingrad were tightining their belts and going hungry, but they were
exhilarated by thet word that Manstein had started north. General Paulus had ten
radio operators monitoring the wavelengths hoping for news from Manstein. The
Russians jammed every channel, and if there were messages, none of them got
through. At night the Russians attacked along the 62nd Army front, in the factory
area and in the center of the city. Field Marshal Manstein launched his relief
expedition to Stalingrad, he took the Russians completely by surprise. General
Yeremenko telephoned Stalin and told him that he feared the Germans would hit
the rear of the Russian 57th Army, which was sealing off the southwestern edge of
the Stalingrad pocket. If Paulus were to strike from inside the pocket at the same
time with his 200.000 fighting troops, there was nothing to prevent his breaking out.

Hoth’s forces succeed in crossing the Aksay river, now frozen solid, about eighteen
miles north of Kotelnikovo. They must still cross a second river; the Mishkova some
thirteen miles further north, and then fight their way through the remaining thirty-five
miles in order to relieve 6th Army. Hitler, optimistic for the prospects of Hoth’s group,
now releases 17th Panzer to Von Manstein, but by the time they can arrive on the
scene, four days later, the Russians have already fought the offensive to a standstill.
Stalin authorizes Vasilevsky to transfer Second Guards Army from Don Front to the
Mishkova, to meet Manstein’s relief thrust.

Second Gards Army is moving up from the Don Front to the Mishkova river.

Hoth's attempt to break through the to Stalingrad came temporarily to an end.
The expected major attack on the Italian 8th Army had not yet occured, and Hitler
concluded optimistically that it appeared to be designed only to pin down reserves.

Operation Saturn: On Don Army Group’s northern flank, the Italian 8th Army comes
under attack by the Soviet 6th Army, under Kharitonov, and the 1st Guards Army,
under Kuznetsov. Further south, lay the 3rd Guards Army, under Lelyushenko, and
Romanenko’s 5th Tank Army. Like the Romanians before them, General Gariboldi’s 8th
Army is overwhelmed by the Russian onslaught, but they hold together for about
forty-eight hours. The Red Army threatens to cut off Don Army Group by streaking
clear down to Rostov.

The 17th Panzer Division, with only forty-four tanks, arrives near Verkhne-Kumsky
to assist Hoth’s forces which have been unable to even cross the Mishkova river, let
alone break through to Stalingrad.

 Manstein, seeing his forces halted and unable to break the Russian ring around Sixth
Army, tries to convince Paulus to mount a breakout attempt towards him. Again, Paulus
refuses to mount such an attack, and disobey his orders from Hitler. Manstein counters
that a failure to breakout now, will result in 6th Army’s death by attrition. There is little
more for Manstein to do, as the Russians are threatening to break through Don Army
Group, and cut them up, as well. The Italian 8th Army is collapsing on the flank of
Manstein’s Army Group. To fill the void left by the Italians, Army Detachment Hollidt
is forced to redeploy, and halt the Russian threat to Rostov, ending their proposed
counterattack to divert Russian forces from the breakout attempt.

Fourth Panzer Army is only thirty-two miles from Stalingrad when Field Marshal Von
Manstein orders Paulus to attack towards Don Army Group. The order is refused by
Paulus who has only enough fuel to make twenty of the thirty-two miles, and feels
it would mean certain death to the Army. The arrival of Malinovsky’s 2nd Guards Army
along the Mishkova ends the German hopes of 57th Panzer Corps breaking through
to 6th Army. The Luftwaffe brought in 289 tons of supplies. 1000 wounded soldiers
flew out of the pocket.

Army Detachment Hollidt, after regrouping with two of the Italian divisions from
the routed 8th Army, finds itself totally exposed to the enemy after these two division
flee in panic when they hear that Soviet tanks have indeed, outflanked them.
South of there, the Romanian 7th Division and 1st Corps Headquarters, both abandon
their positions on 48th Panzer Corps’ left flank, as well. The Russians are now free to
rampage along the German lines on the Chir river. Today the Luftwaffe brought in
291 tons of supplies.

Manstein reported to Hitler that the 4th Panzer Army had reahed a point about
thirty miles from Stalingrad, but was being heavily engeged by Russian tanks and
infantry and could make no more progress.

Chief of Staff Zeitzler tried to get approval for the breakout, but Hitler said the
6th Army could break out only if it could also hold Stalingrad on the Volga.
This nonsense convinced many of those around Hitler that his obsessions were now
in charge and that he was incapable of making a rational decision.

Faced with a potential disaster from the Russian forces on the Chir front, and after
the failure of a last ditch effort by sixty tanks from Hoth’s 57th Panzer Corps to break
through the 24th Guards Rifle Division, elements of 4th Panzer Army are transferred
from the rescue effort to stabilize the lines of Don Army Group.

The Soviets counterattack from the Mishkova sector, disintegrating the remaining
Romanians, and sweeping away what is left of 23rd and 17th Panzer divisions. The
rescue effort has failed, and the rescuers are either dead or running west, two steps
ahead of the Russians. The Germans inside Stalingrad watch as the lights of the
firefights grow dimmer in the distance, leaving them to their own private little hell.
Tatsinkaya airfield, one of only two airstrips within about a hundred and fifty miles of
Stalingrad, comes under Soviet artillery fire, and the transports are hurriedly flown off.
Owing to Göring’s orders not to abandon the airstrip until they come under direct fire,
more than a third of the Ju-52s are lost. Inside the Stalingrad pocket, the Russians
try using a psychological approach to warfare. Loudspeakers are set up to blare into
the German lines a repeated recording:
"Every seven seconds a German soldier dies in Russia. Stalingrad : mass grave."
Seven seconds are then loudly ticked off, and the message is repeated...and repeated
...and repeated...In the Red October plant German soldiers gathered to celebrate
Christmas around a Christmas tree that someone had carved from wooden crates.
Their Christmas Eve feast was a slice of horse meat, a piece of bread and extra
cigarettes. Someone produced some rum and a little wine. Two of the officers argued
the merits and demerits of suicide.

After a morning blizzard ends any German hopes for airlifted supplies as a Christmas
present, the Russians launch an attack into the German positions in the sector that
was held by the 16th Panzer Division ,the northeast area of Stalingrad, winning back
two miles of territory in some areas. Twelve hundred and eighty Germans die on this
Christmas day inside the Stalingrad pocket. Four thousand of the remaining horses
inside Stalingrad are slaughtered to feed the soldiers. Tomorrow, the bread ration will
be halved.

The airlift effort to supply 6th Army has come off the tracks. The deliveries today
brought by 38 Junkers an 3 Heinkel transportplanes are seventy tons. Although the
Luftwaffe has exceeded some of the early estimates of its responsible commanders,
and regularly delivered hundreds of tons of supplies, they have been unable to meet
the army’s single day minimum since day one. The five hundred and fifty ton
requirement figure was reduced to four hundred while 6th Army reduced its existing
stores and slaughtered its pack horses, but these are now gone as well.
Paulus is no longer able to even mount a breakout attempt. They can barely defend
themselves From now on each man would teceive two ounces of bread per day, soup
without fat for lunch, soup for dinner with a can of meat when it was available.

At night the teleprinter converstions ended. Russian tanks captured the relay stations
west of the pocket. From this point on, communication could be maintained only by a
handfull of field radio sets.

As the 4th Panzer Army was stalled behind the Aksai River, and the 6th Army is not
capable to break out of the Stalingrad pocket, the Russian forces in the west were
moving. The Russians threatened all the German forces in the Caucasus.

Army Group A is ordered out of the Caucasus, lest those troops be lost as well as 6th
Army. Fourth Panzer Army has been fought off by the Russians, who have now
succeeded in pushing them back beyond their Dec. 12 jumping off points. By month’s
end, the Luftwaffe’s bomber force is down to about seventeen hundred aircraft, on
all fronts. This includes the small divebombers as well as the larger, multi-engined
horizontal bombers, and the FW-200 coastal bombers. Of the fighters, JG5 is in
Scandinavia, JG2 and J26 are covering the English Channel, JG27 and JG53 fly over
Malta and North Africa. This has helped the Russians to achieve a 5:1 numerical
superiority in the skies over the Eastern Front.

On the Mishhkova Front, General Hoth's 4th Panzer Army had fought a desperate battle,
trying to maintain the Stalingrad corridor after all the rebluffs. The decision to dispatch
the 6th Panzer Division west to fend off the Russian drive toward the Caucasus had
sealed the fate of the 6th Army. All that Paulus could possible do now would be break
out and save a part of his forces. Already by Christmas 1942, it was probably too late
to have save the whole army in a break out, but most of the 270.000 men of the 6th
Army in the pocket could have been saved.

Manstein stopped thinking about saving the 6th Army. It was necessary instead that
they hold out and that they engage the half million Soviet troops in the ring around
Stalingrad. Otherwise these Russian Armies could be turned south, and the whole
German force in the Caucasus would be lost. The 4th Panzer Army was still only 22
miles (35 kilometers) from the 6th Army perimeter. General Biryuzov, the chief of staff
of the second Guards Army was  invited by General Pavel Rotmistrov to a New Years
Eve party at Kotelnikovo (Rotmistrov's quarters.) On a candlelit table was a real feast.
All kinds of cheese from France an Holland, French wines butter and bacon from
Denmark, and tinned fish and jams from Norway. All these delicacies were in packages
stamped " For Germans Only". Generla Rotmistrov apologized "Not all my men can read
German, so when they found this stuff they took it all. But we'll have to give the
candles back to Hitler, so that he can light them in mourning for his 6th Army.