Soviet reinforcements, being ferried across the Volga to
Chuikov, keeps 62nd Army up to strength, despite its terrible
losses from the German attacks.
As long as 62nd Army can hold the west bank of the Volga, they
can be supplied and supported across the river. Arrayed north
and south of the city, Paulus’ nine divisions now face sixteen
Soviet Divisions, and there are more being moved into positio
At the headquarters of the 5th Tank Army a first briefing, with
the commanders of the Don and Southwestern Fronts and a number
of their army commanders, took place concerning the upcoming
offensive of the Red Army. The date was set on 12th November.
The date of the great Soviet offensive was set on 12th November,
but it was decided
to postpone it for a week because the movements of troops and
supplies had fallen behind schedule.
Paulus again asked Hitler to send reinforcements in effort to
make a final and
last attack to capture the city.
The 62th Army counterattacked the Barrikady and the Red October
factories trying to
widen their Volga bridgehead but the counterattack failed.
5 German Battalions of combat engineers are appearing on the
just across from the Barrikiady factory. Three thousand
troops specially trained
in demolition and destruction. They are assinged to capture
Russian strongholds :
a chemist shop and the “Commissar’s House”. These
two points are dominating the Volga bank and represent the
points of resistance in the area.
6th Army has inched its way forward to the point where it is now
in control of more than 90% of the city. Still Chuikov will not
give up, and continues to fight for every room of every
building, on every street, in his tiny beach-head of rubble
along the Volga. The orders for the upcoming Red Army offensive
were signed by the several commanders.
Hitler is returning to his house in Berchtesgarden having just
made a speech saying
That “ no power on earth will force us out of Stalingrad"
The Luftwaffe withdraws more of its planes from Europe to the
Mediterranean, as Hitler prematurely announces the capture of
Although Paulus claimed to have taken the city he starts another
against the factory district. 7 German divisions attacking over
a three mile front
east of the gun factory. After 5 hours of fighting he committed
his reserves .
Paulus reaches the Volga in the Red October factory area.
The Russian forces are split into three parts.The Soviet
casualties were high as usual,
but the Russian command feels that this was Paulus's last
On the evening the German attack is losing its punch.
Again the 62th Army begins to counterattack. In Stalingrad a
rumour is spread that it won't be long now before a major
offensive, the greatest yet, will be launched.
General Richthofen's 4th Air Fleet attacks the Russian
bridgeheads at Kletskaya and Serafimovich on the Don river.They
are knocking out several pontoon bridges.
The Russian are responding by building new bridges with the
surface just below that of
the river. So the are invisible from the air. Richthofen is
wondering when the Russian offensive would begin, but like other
Germans Richthofen is not really worrying muh about the
offensive, because he too is confirmed that the Russians are
48th Panzer Corps is pulled back from Stalingrad to reinforce
Third Romanian Army on the weakly held left flank of 6th Army.
Altought the luftwaffe is having great difficulty in getting air
intelligence because of the
bad weather, a reconnaissance plane is flying over a mile long
column of Soviet tanks moving west, and there was no arguing
with the findings.
Crossing the Volga is no longer possible. The first flakes
of ice appearing on the river. For the Russians it is no longer
possible to send reinforcements to Stalingrad.
The Luftwaffe’s Fliegerkorps VIII, war worn by its continuous
work over Stalingrad, has been reduced to about four hundred
aircraft of all types ready for operations. The VVS is no longer
outclassed in sky, and contests for air superiority over
Stalin is sending a telegraphed message to Zhukov that
everything is prepared
in Moscow and Zhukov could set the date of the beginning of the
offensive anytime from this point on. Zhukov and Vasilevski
agree that the attack should begin in the north on November
19th. And in the south a day later. The operation is called
Twenty-second Panzer Division arrives at their newly designated
assembly area behind 3rd Romanian Army as part of the newly
formed unit; Panzer Reserve Heim, on Paulus’ northern flank.
The Division has lain dormant for two months behind the Italian
lines further north, without the fuel to conduct any kind of
training or maintenance operations, much less operational
maneuvers. When finally ordered to move out, half
of the tanks are found to have been disabled by vermin. Nesting
in the insulating and camouflaging straw, the rodents chewed up
the tanks’ electrical wiring. The ones that do fire up, hit
the road without their support vehicles, and quickly run into
trouble as the roads begin to ice up. Unequipped for such icy
conditions in their first move since September, only forty-two
of the unit’s one hundred and four tanks arrive to bolster 3rd
Romanian Army. Built around the Corps staff of the 48th Panzer
Corps, Heim’s other Panzer unit in his reserve group is the
1st Romanian Panzer Division with only twenty-one German built
tanks and eighty-seven Czech built Skoda 38-T tanks; very
vulnerable to the T-34.
Hitler's reaction of the buildup forces
on Paulus flanks is to urge Paulus on to strong
action and to capture every bit of the city.
"The difficulties of fighting in Stalingrad are well known
to me" tells Hitler to Paulus
by radio. " but the difficulties on the Russian side must
be even greater now with the
ice drifting down the Volga. If we make good use of this period
of time we shall save a lot of blood later on. Therefore I
axpect that the commanders will once again fight with their
usual dash in order to break through to the Volga, at least at
the ordnance factory and the metallurgical works and to take
these parts of the city."
Paulus is relaying Hitler's urgings to his commanding officers
and orders a new
attack. Ice is cutting of the communication with the
eastbank of the Volga. The command is reduced to supply the
slender bridgehead from the air. The airdrop target is too
small. Many of the supplies fell into the river or into German
The Germans are renewing the attack on Stalingrad in a driving
cold rain. They are
gaining ground and it seems that they are able to win in this
The Russian defense is reduced to to three bridgeheads. In the
north is the
small bridgehead holding by General Gorokhov's men. Near the
Barrikady factory is a bridgehead of about a half square mile,
about 800 square meter holding by Colonel Lunikov's men. General
Rodimtsev's men are holding the left flank, a strip of land a
few hundred yards wide. The greatest depth of the bridgehead,
east of Mamayev Hill is a mile, about 1600 meters.
General Chuikov's command post is inside the Volga cliffs, east
of Mamyev Hill.
All the Russian positions are under German artillery fire and
most of them are exposed to
German machine guns.
Operation Uranus: Hundreds
of thousands of fresh Russian troops have massed both north and
south of besieged Stalingrad. Two Air Armies; the 17th and 2nd,
support Southwest Front, while 16th Air Army, under General S.I.
Rudenko, flies with Don Front. A fourth air army, the 8th,
supports Stalingrad Front. In a driving snow storm, Don Front
and Southwest Front lead off the attack to draw German armor
away from Stalingrad Front, in the south. The defense of the
German northern wing, entrusted to the Romanian 3rd Army,
collapses from the weight of Southwest Front’s attack. Taking
55,000 casualties, the Romanians haven’t got a prayer of
stopping the Red Army. Even the 48th Panzer Corps, needed to
protect the Luftwaffe’s airstrips supporting 6th Army, is
forced to pull back, west across the Chir river. The Russians of
21st Army and 5th Tank Army race southeast, towards Kalach,
where they hope to meet up with 51st and
57th Armies from the south. Nearer to the Volga, Don Front’s
forces make smaller pincer attacks designed to trap the German
11th Corps north of the city. These, however, are stopped by the
German infantry. Panzer Reserve Heim is first ordered to attack
towards 21st Army, but is then redirected against 5th Tank. The
men of 1st Romanian Panzer Division never receive the order to
redirect their attack, and run headlong
into the 21st Army without the support of the German 22nd Panzer
Division, and the Czech built tanks are shattered. The tanks of
22nd Panzer, still without track sleeves to prevent skidding on
the ice, can only deliver twenty tanks and a single anti-tank
gun battalion to do battle with 5th Tank Army. These quickly
blend in with the Romanians fleeing from the battlefield.
The southern wing of the massive Soviet pincer, Stalingrad
Front, moves into action, as the 6th Army continues to fight,
house to house, against Chuikov’s reinforced 62nd Army.
Yeremenko delays his opening artillery barrage until the fog
begins to lift, and at 10:00 am, the attack begins. A Marine
Brigade of 57th Army mistakenly attacks too soon, and the
artillery preparation in front of them is redirected lest they
eliminated by their own bombardment. Surprisingly, the Russian
Marines of 143rd Brigade break through the second line of
Romanian defenses, and so Tolbukhin channels his 13th Mechanized
Corps through this gap. The Fourth Romanian Army fares no better
than did the Third, suffering thirty-five thousand losses and
casualties. By 1:00 p.m., both 51st and 57th Armies are
screaming towards Kalach, with the Romanians in panic stricken
flight all around.
Close to the city’s southern outskirts, Shumilov’s 64th Army
runs up against the German 297th Infantry division, and is
slowed considerably in their advance. Hoth orders the 29th
Motorized Division, behind the 297th, to attack north, into the
flank of Tolbukhin’s 13th Mechanized Corps. That night, after
doing considerable damage to the advancing Russians, Von Weichs
orders Hoth to pull the 29th Motorized Division into a defensive
posture on 6th Army’s western end of the south flank. This
allows the Soviets free
reign to join up with 21st Army near Kalach. At the same time,
Hoth is stripped of his remaining German units, which are
transferred to Paulus. This leaves Fourth Panzer Army with some
fleeing Romanians under Hoth’s nominal control, and nothing
Paulus has already ordered three Panzer divisions to pull out of
Stalingrad, to strengthen his left wing, on Von Weich’s
orders. Already weakened by the failure of the logistics chain
to properly supply him, these units have to scrounge fuel for
the sixty mile move to the west.
The Russians are sweeping away all resistance from in front of
their simultaneous drives on Kalach. From the north, Southwest
Front has advanced sixty miles, and in the south, Stalingrad
Front has covered thirty miles. Directly in the path of 21st
Army’s 4th Tank Corps, is Paulus’ own headquarters at
Golubinskaya, only ten miles north-east of Kalach. Two hours
before the Golubinskaya HQ is overrun, Paulus moves to an
HQ at Nizhne-Chirskaya, forty miles to the south-west. Flying
over his fleeing troops, en route to the new HQ, Paulus realizes
how totally routed the Romanian armies are, and that 6th Army is
quickly being surrounded by Russian armor. He quickly request
authorization to withdraw from Stalingrad, and form up a new
defensive line, some one hundred miles to the west, on the Don
and Chir Rivers. The urgent request, heartily endorsed by the
new German Chief of Staff, General Zeitzler, is typically
refused by Hitler, who orders 6th Army to hold their positions,
and await further orders for their aerial resupply. With only a
single rail line into Stalingrad from the west, Luftflotte 4 has
already been flying supplementary supplies to 6th Army, as well
as trying to keep Army Groups A and B supported in the Caucasus.
Even the current combination of air and rail resources have
proven incapable of meeting Paulus’ requirements. Now that the
rail line is about to be lost, the promise of being able to keep
Paulus resupplied entirely by air is pure fantasy.
OKH orders Manstein’s 11th Army
Headquarters, now fully seven hundred miles north of 6th Army
after their transfer from the successes of the Crimean campaign,
to assume command of the newly formed Don Army Group. His
mission is to push the Soviets back across the Volga river. To
achieve this, Don Army Group is given control over Paulus’ 6th
Army, the utterly shattered 3rd and 4th Romanian Armies,
Hoth’s nonexistent 4th Panzer Army, and the re-formed 48th
Panzer Corps, now under the command of General
Von Knobelsdorff, using the debris from the smashed Panzer
Reserve Heim. So long as Hitler directs 6th Army to remain in
place, however, Don Army Group cannot exercise any authority
over it, relegating the Army Group to a sort of stew-pot of
chewed up leftovers, already mauled by the Soviets
By noon, 5th Tank Army’s 26th Tank Corps is across the Don
just outside Kalach, having captured a German pontoon bridge
intact. Overnight, the Russians mass just outside the town.
Sensing disaster, the Commander of Fleigerkorps VIII, General
Martin Fiebig, warns Paulus’ Chief of Staff, General Schmidt;
an ardent Nazi, that the Luftwaffe would not be able to supply
an encircled 6th army from the air alone.
Hitler, leery of the reasons for Paulus’ transfer to
Nizhne-Chirskaya, orders him to move his HQ again. This time,
Hitler selects the location; Gumrak, barely ten miles from the
Volga itself, deep inside the encircled pocket! Once inside the
pocket, Paulus again warns Army Group Headquarters of the fuel,
food and ammunition shortages inside Stalingrad, and requests
authority to order a breakout to the southwest if he
deems it essential to save the Army. Von Weichs endorses the
request, and forwards it to Hitler, warning that the Luftwaffe
would, at best, be able to provide 10% of 6th Army’s minimum
daily requirements. He goes so far as to state that the proposed
breakout will mean heavy losses,"...but far less than those
that must ensue if the situation is left to develop , as it must
do, in existing conditions, with the inevitable starving out of
the encircled army as the certain result. Hitler’s response is
to travel to his East Prussian Headquarters from Berchtesgaden,
where he can study the
situation, and he forbids Zeitzler from taking any decisive
action until he arrives.
Kalach the scene of fierce fights during the past summer’s
advance by 6th Army, is further reduced to utter ruins. Hitler,
his personal aircraft grounded by bad weather, sits on his train
bound for East Prussia, while Stalingrad Front’s 4th
Mechanized Corps reaches Sovetsky, only ten miles from Kalach.
At 2:00pm, tanks from Southwest Front’s 4th Tank Corps arrive
on the scene, placing the noose around 6th Army’s offered
up head. Paulus pulls in his exposed units, and develops his
planned breakout, scheduling the start for the 27th. About
230,000 German and 12,000 Romanian soldiers remain inside the
Stalingrad pocket, which is strung out north to south, along
some forty-five miles on the western side of the Volga. Paulus
is warning Hitler that he has only food supply for six days.
For his failure to stop two Russian Armies with his two tank
divisions, General Heim is relieved and summoned to Hitler’s
headquarters. In a subsequent court-marshal presided over by Göring,
Heim is sentenced to death. Subsequent to the trial, he is
luckily released from the sentence as the facts of the case
absolve him of blame for the fiasco. The circumstances of his
release are nebulous.
Göring guarantees that the Luftwaffe can resupply 6th Army. The
commander of Luftflotte 4, Wolfram Von Richthofen, is not so
sanguine. Sixth Army requires five hundred and fifty tons of
cargo daily. This could only be met by 225 Ju-52 sorties each
day; requiring, at a bare minimum, that many aircraft; one third
of the entire Luftwaffe establishment of some seven hundred and
fifty Ju-52’s. There are two airfields from which to mount
such an effort; Tatsinskaya, and Morosovsky. Should bad weather
ground the transports for any given day; a fairly regular
occurrence this time of year, the next day’s deliveries would
have to be doubled. Compound that with wear and tear on the
engines eroding operational readiness rates; which are already
down in the forty per cent range, and losses to Soviet air
defenses, (they are facing four Soviet Air Armies), and it
becomes immediately apparent that 6th Army is going to die if
ordered to remain in Stalingrad. All the German commanders know
this, except Hitler, and perhaps, Göring. Manstein’s rescue
attempt is a desperate grasp at straws.
The commander of the 94th Division, in charge of the northeast
zone; General Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach, recognizing the futility of
waiting for an authorization to withdraw from Hitler’s
headquarters, urges Paulus to begin an unauthorized withdrawal.
His letter to the commander of 6th Army is endorsed by the
remaining Corps commanders as well. Still, Paulus will not
countenance such disobedience to Hitler’s direct orders.
The beginning of the Stalingrad Air-lift.
With but a single 1,000 watt radio transmitter available inside
the pocket, Paulus sends a hand written message to Field Marshal
Von Manstein, who only now arrives at Novcherkassk on the lower
Don, twenty-five miles northeast of Rostov, in an effort to
break through to the trapped men of 6th Army. In it, he
acknowledges that his continued obedience to Hitler dooms his
men to death, but he will not disobey his
clear orders to remain in position.
OKH confirms Hitler’s orders to 6th Army, and the airlift is
The iron ring around Stalingrad is closed. To convince the world
that a great victory
is achieved, Stalin let foreign correspondents see what is
happening in the bend of the Don.
Zhukov is answering questions of Stalin concerning the
liquidation of the Germans
at Stalingrad. And if possible the liquidation of the Germans in
the bend of the Don.
They are also talking about th cutting off of the German forces
in the Caucasus.
By the end of November 1942, overall Luftwaffe strength is some
five hundred planes lower than was available at the start of
Barbarossa. The first production run of the HE-177; a 4 engined,
long ranged heavy bomber, has been interrupted to convert the
aircraft to a transport, so that it could assist in the resupply
efforts to 6th Army. Although powered by four engines, these
were paired to only two propellers. Twelve hundred of the
aircraft were eventually built, but reliability problems and
disappointing engine performance seem to have prevented its
widespread employment as a strategic bomber. The Luftwaffe also
introduced into service a huge transport around this time frame;
the six engined (with six propellers) Me-323. This was capable
of moving ten tons a distance of three hundred miles. Both
planes were tried in the effort to supply Sixth Army, and both
were miserable failures.