Signal communications in the pocket of Stalingrad and communications with the outside.

Report written by the former Army Chief Signal Officer (Armee-Nachrichtenführer) of  6th Army High Command (AOK 6) Generalmajor Wilhelm Arnold.

1) Telephone communications

When the 6th Army began its advance to the Don River in July 1942, the Army Chief Signal Officer had at his disposal for the construction of thelephone and telegraph lines the Army Signal Regiment (three battalions) and one battalion of the signal regiment of Army Group B. Despite the swift advance and the great difficulties encountered in the procurement of equipment these units were able to maintain uninterrupted telephone and telegraph communications with Army Group B in the rear and with the corps in the front. From Belgorod, Army headquarters moved only into small villages, primarily for security reasons.

Therefore, an entirely new line had to be laid. Two open wire metallic circuits could be increased to an average of six channels by superposing connections and employing carrier frequency equipment. The lines were usually laid beyond the current trunk lines joined the net.

The supply situation had deteriorated because Army Group B had only a limited number of railroads at its disposal. Therefore, the Army in Kharkov assumed the task of manufacturing wire and some line construction equipment. A Russian cable factory in Kharkov, which had been restored to operation, turned out enough wire to meet mere than half of the Army’s requirements. In the almost treeless steppe the procurement of telegraph poles presented an extremely difficult problem. Reconnaissance patrols in liaison planes flew over rivers and ravines, to ascertain from the air if a suitable stohk of trees existed. Tree felling details with trucks then went out to pick up the timber.

When the Stalingrad pocket began to form (19 November), Army headquarters was located at Golubinskaya on the Don River. Preparations for a second headquarters (to be used during the winter) had been made at Nizhne-Chirskaya on the Chir River. Three lines were maintained to rear installations. One of them, the line constructed by Army across the steppe by way of Kachalinskiy and Kiselev to the old Army Group Don, was being dismantled in part. The lines to the new Army Group Don (Novocherkassk near Rostov) followed the Surovikino-Morozovsky railroad and the Rychkov - Nizhne-Chirskaya - Morskovska highway. These were Russian telephone lines that had been repaired. A restored Russian cable ran along the Richkov-Kalach highway to Peskovatka (VIII Corps);  the linking section had been constructed on the western bank of the Don River Road. The line leading along the railroad from Kalach to Gumrak Station via Karpovka had been repaired: When the pocket was on the verge of being closed on November 21, Field Marshal Paulus, on two occasions, passed through the Russian ring at night. He was accompanied by part of his staff, including the signal officer, with radio transmitters. The party first went to Nizhne-Chirskaya via Peskovatka and Kalach: After a conference with General Hoth at Nizhne-Chirskaya, Field Marshal Paulus returned to the pocket on 23 November flying a liaison plane over the Russian lines at an altitude of 5-12 meters. The same airplane subsequently was to pick up the Army signal officer, but was shot down on the return trip; the signal officer who carried the radio codes for the encircled Army entered the pocket two days later aboard a bomber. Meanwhile the pocket had receded from the Don. The forces holding the western and southern sectors prepared positions in the steppe. Toward the end of November the pocket was approximately 40km long, and 20-30km wide. Army Headquarters was located in primitive, splinterproof shelters near Gumrak Station. Communications into the pocket could still be maintained via Karpovka, since the Russian, for some strange reasons, did not cut the lines until 21 November; but on that day the line went out.

A new communications net had to be created inside the pocket. Several Junkers aircraft arrived with spiral-four cable, A communications net was constructed of spiral-four cable, which linked the five corps CP’s, and was connected to Gumrak in the center with four cables. This system provided adequate telephone communications approximately until January.

A new communications net had to be created inside the pocket.

 In this set-up maintenance was very difficult, because heavy artillery fire and constant bombing attacks caused many breakdowns. However, these could almost invariably be repaired quickly, since most of the telephone companies of Army and the signal battalions of the corps were used for that purpose. As compared to normal conditions, the maintenance service increased approximately tenfold. I recall an instance, when one of the repair groups performed 175 repair jobs within a 24-hour period. Several repair shops established in bunkers were scattered throughout the encircled area for quick and primitive repair of cables. A substantial supply of spiral-four cable was flown in during the first month, but additional quantities were accidentally located in a forward depot in the pocket. When, after the large scale Russian penetration on 10 January, the ring of encirclement was tightened, telephone communications failed more and more after 13 January, because the cables in the narrow pocket were constantly destroyed by artillery fire. The trouble shooters who had been working day and night in a temperature of 35° C below zero, at a daily food ration of 100 grams of bread, collapsed from exhaustion. From that time on, command over the corps and divisions in the pocket was exercised by means of radio, primarily 5-watt equipment.

 2) Radio communications 

Diagram of Radio Communications,

6. Armee, 25 November 1942.

Radio proved to be a reliable means of communication. The Russians did not succeed in neutralizing a large number of radio stations by artillery  fire or air raids. Their attempts at jamming were also unsuccessful. The radio transmitters were dispersed in the steppe and operated in dugouts which were kept as small as possible. In many instances a number of vehicles, parked near these installations (for example at Army Headquarters), invariably attracted air attacks and thus diverted attention from the radio stations. Since Army disposed over only one heavy B-type short-wave radio set, (the heavy-long wave sets had not been taken into the pocket), a 70-watt short-wave transmitter, the type used in submarines, was flown in. A second submarine radio set was to be brought in during the month of December but could not be put into operation because several transport planes carrying parts of the set were shot down. The two short-wave sets at Army Headquarters, which served as the only means of communications to the rear area were usually overloaded, but could maintain satisfactory contact with the outside. They used a special code which was not known to any other German headquarters. The corps and divisions were prohibited from communication with units outside the pocket.

Radio communications inside the pocket worked well because of the short distances. However, until 10 January, radio was used only on a minor scale, because telephone communications were intact up to that date. Communication with the outside of the pocket (Army High Command and Army Group Don) was greatly facilitated when, after numerous unsuccessful attempts, we succeeded in establishing voice communications with Army Group Don, and from there by wire with the Army High Command and the Zone of the Interior. The micro-wave transmitters which were inside the pocket normally had a maximum range of 40km in the steppe. In order to increase that range and bridge the distance of 110km from the western edge of the pocket to the first German lines, the sets had to be set up in the highest possible location. Not far from Nizhne-Chirskaya was Hill 114 which constituted one anchor point of our line. In order to establish our call station as high as possible above the flat terrain of the steppe, a high wooden structure was erected on the highest point along the western edge of the pocket, Hill 20, almost in the front lines; it was set up at dusk and had to be removed again before daybreak. Twice the structure was shot to pieces, but when it was erected for the third time we could finally use it. Toward the end of Novomber I sent air force engineer Leucht, a specialist in micro-wave equipment, out of the pocket by plane. With the assistance of Army Group he set up another station on Hill 114, and had it connected to the telephone net. On 3 December I was able to report to Field Marshal Paulus that voice communications had been established with Army Group. A lengthy conversation, the first one since the encirclement, took place immediately between Field Marshal Paulus and General von Manstein. Subsequent calls were also made to the Fuehrer Headquarters, and to the Chief of Supply and Administration at Morozovski. The news about the restoration of telephone communications with the Zone of the Interior raised the morale in the pocket to some extent. Even long-distance marriages were performed over that line. Unfortunately, voice communications only worked until 22 December 1942, because the German front was withdrawn at that time, and the now very wide gap could not be bridged any longer.

The signal units were confronted with the additional task of playing a part in the aerial convoys of the Junkers transport airplanes. Air transport was the sole means of supplying the encircled Army. Everything depended on it. Every shell, every loaf of of bread, and every drop of gasoline had to be brought in by air. That was particularly difficult because the transport planes, flying in close formation, had to cover the last lap of their journey withaout fighter protection. Because of the long distance between take-off fields and the pocket our fighters could not make the trip both ways without refueling in the pocket. But the serious shortage of gasoline precluded such an operation. Therefore, the convoys of the airtransport regiments were compelled to fly the last 100 km without fighter cover. The Russians took advantage of this situation and had their Rata fighters attack the unprotected transparts. Our losses were corresponingly high. For our encircled forces it was paramount that these losses

Be reduced. With the permisson of Field Marshal Paulus I relieved three of the four available intercept platoons of their regular mission, intercepting enemy messages, on one day, and assigned them to the sole task of monotoring the command transmitters of the Russian fighter regiments. Their frequencies were entiely unknown to us. After three days of constant searching with all receivers at our disposal we succeeded in locating the frequenies of the two Russian command transmitters in which we were interested most. Receivers were now set up at the fighter base in the pocket. We only had three fighter planes because fuel was not available for more. Russian speaking interpreters manned the intercept stations. When ever a formation of Junker transports was reported by radio, the fighters prepared for take-off. Soon the Russian command transmitters would order the Rata fighters to attack, and announce the exact altitude and positions of the transport planes. The announcement of the position report,

Translated by the interpreters, was the signal for our fighters to take-off. For the most part they reached the transport plans ahaed of the Rata fighters. As a result the losses of the aerial convoys considerably reduced.

3) Radio intercept

The intercept companies consisting of an evaluation section and three platoons, were at the disposal of Sixth Army in the pocket of Stalingrad. In addition to these units we had two intercept platoons of Fourth Panzer Army, thus a total of five intercept platoons. During

the entire period of encirclement the work of this reinforced intercept company was of the utmost importance to Sixth Army. The surrounded Army had no other means of collecting information about the enemy. A desperate attempt to send the three fighters in the pocket on a reconnaissance mission had failed. As a result, Army G-2 moved his entire section into the bunker of the intercept company’s evaluation detachment. Fortunately, a large group of Russian interpreters had been assigned to the intercept company for some time. After the intercept stations had been installed, and the company had acquainted itself with the new assignement, we were able to determine the organization and approximate strength of the opposing Russian forces within a relatively short time. At first, Russian radio dicipline was poor which enabled us to intercept and evaluate a series of clear radio messages. In the north-east sector, at least, this condition changed only, apperently strict Russian signal officer was assigned there. He repeatedly prohibited all transmission of uncode messages under treat of immediate execution of violators. However, even most of the coded Russian radio messages were deciphered by the intercept company quickly enough to be fulle exploited. During the preceding year we had sent many specialist of the intercept company to Army Group B or to the Zone of the Interior for thorough training in deciphering the Russian three-, four-, and five-figure codes. That measure now yielde good results.

The well-coordinated employment of the five intercept platoons enabled us to present Field Marshall Paulus almost nightly with a complete picture of the changes that had occurred in the Russian lines during the day. In most instances we were able to determine the Russians intentions for the following day. We could then rush the few tanks that were still maneuverable to the threatened points in time. In the south and the west it was even possible to intercept regularly the exact Russian tank status reports.

On 12 December 1942, when General Raus began his relief thrust from the south through the Kirgize Steppe on Stalingrad, with his very strong 6th Panzer Division (200 tanks and assault guns) and the very weak 17th and 23d Panzer Divisions (with only a few tanks) several radio sets of the signal company, and a few sets of the intercept company were turned in on the frequency channels of this relief force.

General Raus’ command channel, the channels of the forward divisions and the regiment in the main effort were monitored, and as the relief force continued its advance the voice communications of the armored spearheads became also audible. Simultaneously, the intercept companies monitored the command channels of the Russian forces (primarily that of General Popov) which faced the forces of General Raus. This method of intercepting messages from both friendly and hostile forces provided us continuously with a fairly clear picture of the situation. Intercepted reports of particular importance were passed on to General Raus by radio. Thus the German signal units preformde their duty at Stalingrad even under the most trying conditions. Field Marshall Paulus told me several times that their achievements helped us materially to endure in the long and bitter struggle.

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Generalmajor Wilhelm Arnold 

Born : 20 September 1894 – Eschwege - Germany

Died : 26 January 1986 – Hannover-Münden - Germany

Buried : Hermannshagen Friedhof – Hannover-Münden  Germany 

Entered military service as Fahnenjunker on 26 February 1914

Military career


Fahnenjunker : 26 February 1914

Fähnrich : 27 September 1914

Leutnant : 29 January 1915

Oberleutnant : 18 October 1918


German Army

Hauptmann : 1 April 1927

Major : 1 October 1934

Oberstleutnant : 1 April 1937

Oberst : 1 April 1940

Generalmajor : 1 October 1943


Flew out of the Stalingrad pocket

on 1 January 1943.

Second World War

Kdr. Armeenachr. Rgt. 632 : 1 September 1939

mFb. Armeenachr. Rgt. 521 : 1 October 1939

Kdr. Armeenachr. Rgt. 521 : 12 October 1939

mFb. Armeenachr. Fhr. AOK 6 : 20 December 1941

Führerreserve OKH : 15 January 1942

Führerreserve Wehrkreis Kdr. II : 5 January 1943

Nachr. Fhr. f. d. Landes Befest. I. Wehrm. Befh.

Norwegen : 1 August 1943

Armeenachr. Fhr. AOK Norwegen : 15 April 1944

Ag. Chef Ag. Nachr. I. OKH/Chef H Rüst u BDE :

30 July 1944


Awards won during World War 2 :

Spange E.K. II on 30 May 1940

Spange E.K. I on 26 June 1940