Against the Flood.
The Russian Juggernaut Strikes Successfully for the First Time.

By Wolf Höpper taken from

I would like to thank Mr. Wolf Höpper a lot for this excellent and very interesting work about operation Uranus.

I. Foreword

The battle for Stalingrad is probably the best-documented single engagement during WWII, but still many historical aspects are only available to serious students and many of the commonly held beliefs are simply exaggerations perpetuated through many secondary sources.

Much detail is either not known or simply left out of many accounts, often since they would destroy certain myths taken as historical facts.

The latter is especially true of the Romanian participation during the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad – Operation Uranus. Nearly every book that describes this period paints a picture of wildly routing and heedlessly fleeing Romanian soldiers that simply threw away their weapons as soon as the first shot was fired.

Another perpetual myth is that the Germans didn’t realize the possibility of any Soviet offensive plans.

Paulus and his subordinate officers are often blamed for not taking steps to counter a possible enemy offensive or even planning for such an event.

When countermeasures are mentioned, they are evaluated correctly as being insufficient, but don’t take many aspects into account to explain what the Germans were faced with.

The third and probably most misinterpreted fact is Operation Uranus was executed by the Soviets like a clockwork training mission and the German and Romanian forces didn’t stand the slightest chance of keeping them from reaching their goal.

All three of these facts are simply not true. The following article will highlight that statement and shed new light on some of the misinterpretations, which are taken widely as historical facts. Another intention of this article is to fill a gap in the available literature. No single book describes the Soviet counter-offensive from the view of both sides.

II. Overall View

When the German high command started its summer offensive in 1942, Fall Blau, Hitler’s first and primary goal was to seize the Caucasian oil fields. Like other plans, these were changed both strategically and tactically. Initially, the city of Stalingrad on the Volga was not the primary goal, but it later became one. During the course of the ongoing offensive, Hitler changed the flow of strategic operations and decided to split the strong spearhead in two directions, sending the elite 6th Army and parts of 4th Panzer Army directly against Stalingrad.

Although many historians claim this redirection was purely political. Capturing the large industrial city bearing his most hated adversary’s name would have been a propaganda coup. Hitler had other war related reasons to change his mind.

The Dzerzhinsky Tractor Plant produced, at the beginning of 1942, around 250 T-34 tanks every month. The factory also produced about 25% of all Soviet tractors (which were changed to Red Army military models even before the outbreak of war with Germany!). The steel, necessary for this production, was delivered by the city’s own steel mill, Krasniy Oktyabr, later a place of unprecedented bloodshed. Also Stalingrad housed one of the most important oil refineries supplying the Soviet war economy. Capturing this industrial output would have a direct effect on the ability of the Soviets to conduct war.

The city also functioned as a gigantic shipment hub for about 30 million tons of goods. Nearly 9 million tons of raw oil was transferred from the Caucasus oil fields at Baku Batum. Grain from the Ukraine and the Kuban area was shipped northwards through Stalingrad to Moscow.

After the initial offensive against the city failed, and the fight for the ruins turned into a war for strategically unimportant goals, Hitler sent in special assault pioneer units to take the last Soviet nests of resistance. The codename for this operation was Hubertus (for further information see Operation Hubertus... ).
While this last German offensive effort was undertaken, the Soviets launched their long planned counteroffensive – Operation Uranus, with the aim of completely destroying the German aggressors.

After throwing nearly all available German units into the bloodbath of Stalingrad, and stretching the flanks further and further, Hitler replaced German units, guarding the strategic flanks, with allied troops – Romanians, Hungarians and Italians.

The time for the Soviets to turn the table had come.

III. Preparatory Phase

III.1. Initial Planning of the STAVKA
The plan for destroying the 6th Army at Stalingrad was a direct adaptation the German Blitzkrieg strategy. On both flanks of the attacker large numbers of mobile forces, mainly mechanised or motorised, were concentrated on a narrow sector. After supporting rifle units broke the initial defensive line, the mobile formations would drive deep into the rear of the enemy to disrupt communications and logistic systems. This was intended to hinder the enemy bringing up reserves and establishing a new line of defence.

Later the initial rifle units would be brought up to tighten the ring around the enemy forces and keep the enemy from relieving and re-supplying cut-off units.

In other words, the Soviets imitated the German Blitzkrieg, which had cost them so dearly during the previous year and nearly brought them to the brink of destruction.

III.2. Laying Out the Plan
Initially the plan to destroy the German 6th Army was envisioned and detailed by General Zhukov. During the night of 12-13 September 1942 Vasilevsky, Chief of General Staff, and Zhukov, having worked out their initial plan to counterattack at Stalingrad, presented it to Stalin. At the same time the Germans started their casualty intensive assault on the city of Stalingrad – and the infamous house-to-house fighting had began.

To execute this plan as intended, the Red Army had to hold Stalingrad at all costs, to focus the German attention and keep the German attackers from withdrawing troops to build up mobile reserves.

At the same time Zhukov planned to launch a minor offensive at Army Group Centre, to hinder the German movement of units, especially mobile formations, to counter Operation Uranus. He devised another offensive plan against the German 9th Army of Army Group Centre – Operation Mars.
Incidentally on the same day, while Zhukov and Vasilevsky conferred with Stalin, their adversaries, General Paulus and General Oberst von Weichs, flew to Rastenburg to convince Hitler the 6th Army must be extracted from its protruding and dangerous positions. All arguments were fruitless, and Hitler insisted on not only holding the ground gained, but to also finish the conquest of the city.

Once Stalin had approved the initial operational plan, Zhukov and Vasilevsky flew to the Stalingrad area and studied the actual situation there. On 28 September Zhukov flew to Moscow to discuss his plan with Stalin. The Chief of General Staff, Vasilevsky, remained with the Stalingrad Front. Vasilevsky discussed, with the commanders of the Stalingrad and Don Fronts, their roles in the coming offensive. Zhukov did the same for the Southwest Front. Up to this point no commander below the front level knew anything about plans to attack on a large scale. The Soviet high command kept everything as secret as possible. Most army commanders were not informed until the plans were finalized and set into motion.

The offensive was scheduled to take place on 9 November for the northern attack and one day later for the southern attack. The plan had to be postponed, because the relevant reinforcements and supplies did not arrive in time.
The responsible commanders were informed on 3 and 4 November (Don and Southwest Front) and on 9 and 10 November the attack would start on 19 November.

III.3. Reasons and Considerations
For Zhukov and Vasilevsky it was clear that the overstretched German front line was very brittle. They also realized directly attacking German units could prove fatal. They felt their German counterparts were still tactically superior to them, especially in the field of mobile warfare. During that time the Soviet high command was not very confident that large independent tank-mechanised forces could be a decisive factor on the battlefield. Their previous experience with such formations proved disastrous during the spring offensive to recapture Kharkov. Another factor for attacking the German allied armies and not the fascist aggressors themselves lay in the fact that the German soldier was still tactically better trained, better equipped and by far more battle-hardened than his allied counterparts.

The strongest reason to attack the adjoining minor allied troops was the knowledge that the commanding officers of these armies were not as capable as the Germans. The belief was that any measures taken against the attacking Soviet troops would have been easier to counter.

The Soviet high command, through its extensive espionage network, was also aware of the fact many non-German soldiers asked themselves why they should fight for Hitler in a foreign country. Especially the Romanians, after re-conquering their previously lost territories, were war weary. The same held true for the Italians and the Hungarians. The Italians lacked confidence because their home country was many thousands of kilometres away and not directly threatened by Stalin’s armies.

Right from the beginning the secrecy of the new operation was high. The newly established units were raised in the sector opposing German Army Group Centre and transferred to their assembly areas in the south. The Soviets intended to disguise the real theatre of operations and deceive the Germans into believing the new offensive will take place in the Army Group Centre sector.

The build up of supplies was so secretly managed, that many army commanders near Stalingrad wondered why previously normal requests were now simply denied by their superior commanders.

The war council of the Stalingrad Front was explicitly informed, on 21 October, that an offensive was to be mounted in their sector.

Stalin also had significant intelligence about distrust developing between the Romanians and Germans. The latter didn’t fulfil their promises to deliver weapons and other necessary war goods to Romania. The Romanians questioned the need to form a second Romanian army as demanded by the Germans. A harsh reply by the German command and the problems receiving the promised war goods led to more distrust. Another reason for distrust was German Army Group B’s use of the Romanian forces of the 3rd Army to relieve the Italian division Pasubio. The Romanians protested that this would overextend their capabilities. Their objections were ignored.
Stalin was also well informed about the fact no significant reserves could be freed to strengthen the Romanian forces. On 16 October, the differences between General Hauffe (Romanian) and General Steflea (German) boiled over. The Romanians refused to replace any Italian units with their own, until the promised German reinforcements arrived.

The Romanians had good reasons for delaying the replacement of the Italian divisions. They hadn’t received any of the promised infantry and panzer divisions, while the Italian 8th Army had the German 22. Panzerdivision and 62. Infanteriedivision attached directly as front reserve, and another two divisions (298. and 339. Infanterie divisions) interwoven into their frontlines.
When the final disposition and regroupings of the Romanians were completed, an effective reinforcement and improvement of the existing field positions could not be properly undertaken. Russian partisans threatened the German supply lines, especially the railways. The shipment of wood, concrete and sand for construction purposes was curtailed. Other supplies like ammunition and fuel had more relevance to the German supply system. This all contributed to a little improvement to the Romanian positions. Stalin, Vasilevsky and Zhukov were well aware of these deficiencies.

The commander of the Stalingrad Front, General Colonel Yeremenko, ordered on 2 November that his subordinated Armies (57th under General Tolbukhin and 51st under General Trufanov) should finish their preparation for the upcoming offensive by 10 November.

On 13 November the State Defence Committee under Stalin met. In this meeting Zhukov and Vasilevsky explain their evaluation of the overall situation. Larger regroupings of the enemy were not detected. The Soviet supply situation was good despite drawbacks in certain areas. The Soviet forces were sufficient to execute the plan and the operation was already planned down to regimental level. The troops would hear about the attack plans one day before the actual date to keep up the secrecy as long as possible. Zhukov was confident, that around the third or fourth day, the troops of both pincers would meet at Kalach.

From 14 November Vasilevsky observed the preparations on the Stalingrad sector. He had been given sole responsibility for Operation Uranus because Zhukov, who planned the supporting offensive Mars against Army Group Centre, was busy getting that operation started.

After several visits from Zhukov to the different Fronts, and his reassurance that all preparations were going on as planned, the decision was made. Operation Uranus would start on Thursday 19 November. The offensive would take place in two phases.

In the north the new Southwest and Don Fronts were to attack on 19 November and the Stalingrad Front would attack one day later. This delay on the Stalingrad Front resulted from the fact that they had a far wider area to cover and they had to cross the Don River.

The planned time schedule became endangered. The supply of fuel, ammunition and winter clothing did not arrive in time. The planners hope by 16 November, at the latest 17 November, all supply problems would be solved. The responsible planners realized the upcoming winter operation would hinder the effectiveness of their regular infantry. Therefore the Soviets issued 400 to 500 sleds to each rifle division. This allowed the soldiers to be towed by tanks, along with their heavy infantry weapons, machine guns, grenade launchers, etc., more easily across the already snow covered steppe. Large numbers of snow shovels were also issued, so the rifle divisions could dig their way through the snow if necessary.
Around 16 November the Soviets started to adjust their artillery. This was conducted in such a manner, that it seemed to the opposing forces as only sporadic shelling to harass them. Tank units were only allowed to move during the night hours. At all costs, the Soviets tried to maintain the best possible level of secrecy.

Very unusual in the Soviet planning was the high concentration of anti-aircraft units. In the areas of the 5th Tank and 21st Armies, 2 AA divisions, 9 AA regiments, 5 AA detachments and 10 AA batteries were accumulated.

This accounted for 260 AA guns and 325 AA machine guns. For the first time the employment of AA troops was better coordinated with the Soviet high command establishing AA divisions (each 4 regiments strong). They were primarily used to defend railway stations handling the arrival of reinforcements.

This was a clear indication the Soviets still feared the German Luftwaffe might intervene and try to disrupt the offensive plans by attacking the unloading of troops and supplies.

Although the Soviet railway organisations and executives were doing their best, the last assault forces don’t arrive in their designated assembly areas until 19 November, barely hours before the artillery started their barrage.
III.4. German Intelligence and Countermeasures
Abwehrgruppe B, the intelligence department of Army Group B, expressed their evaluation of the Russian operational possibilities for a pincer attack against the flanks of the 6th Army in a report, which was directly transferred to Berlin and forwarded to the General Staff at the OKW. This report, verified by the statements of interrogated prisoners, that Zhukov intended to attack with three armies north of Stalingrad to link up with the forces fighting within the city itself. Although no clear operational plan can be derived from that, it becomes obvious, that:

a) Zhukov, directly subordinate to Stalin, was planning to counter-attack against the Romanian held flanks.

b) Zhukov, the commander of the successful counter offensive the year before at Moscow, was the mastermind for creating the offensive plan. Any plans from Zhukov indicated a serious threat.

c) Together with the reports from the Luftwaffe reconnaissance departments that the Soviets were enhancing the bridge capacities at the Don and Choper rivers, an offensive in that area was at least planned, if not imminent.
The Germans had even learned about the intended strength of this northern attack force: 10 rifle divisions, 10 Katyusha regiments, and 3 tank corps supported by two air divisions.

On 5 October, during planning meetings and conferences in which the establishment of a pure Romanian Army Group was examined, Marshal Antonescu expressed his fears for a Russian counteroffensive against his forces to General Hauffe, the commander of the German army mission in Romania.
On 8 October Reinhard Gehlen (Fremde Heere Ost - Foreign Armies East) evaluated the idea that a Russian winter counterattack to regain lost territory was very likely. He even stated, "the Russian command authorities have the ability to actively execute operations during the winter". Gehlen also assumed the Soviets would attack west of Stalingrad against the weak fronts of the German allied troops. Later he changed his evaluation to a possible offensive against Army Group Centre. The reason for this change in his assessment is pretty simple. The recon units of Army Group Centre clearly realized the extent of the planned supporting Soviet operation Mars, which was intended to prevent that Army Group from sending reinforcements to the south after operation Uranus had started.
One very interesting, but totally neglected, fact was the mentioning of "Staff Major Ostrovskiy" in the reports of the Ic officer (enemy intelligence gathering) from the 376. Infanteriedivision, Dr. Ostarhild. The rear area security forces captured persons which acted as agitators of the Russian civilian population. After the interrogation the Germans learned, that their mission was to establish a net of agents along the German-Romanian army line up to Rostov, and were to conduct sabotage acts as soon as the Russian winter offensive started.

On 11 October the commander of Nachrichtenaufklärung 1 reports large groupings of Soviet forces between the Don and Volga River.
On 16 October the Romanians received some long promised reinforcements for the weak front line troops of the V Army Corps. These consisted of 2 artillery regimental staffs, 1 assault gun battalion, 2 10cm cannon detachments, 2 heavy field howitzer detachments, 2 21cm mortar cannon detachments, 3 light observation detachments and 1 rocket artillery regiment (less 1 detachment).

The Romanians welcomed these reinforcements, since they lacked support from the German independent artillery formations. All of their artillery was integrated into their existing infantry and cavalry divisions, and no higher echelon units existed.

The infantry of the VI Army Corps had integrally 5 battalions, and the I, II, IV and V Army Corps only 4 battalions per division. For the cavalry the strength was reduced to 3, sometimes 5 battalions with 2 to 3 batteries per battalion. Besides that no independent artillery was available. This clearly indicates the bad general staff training and planning abilities of the Romanian highest staff echelons.

Since the Romanians were sending more and more newly raised infantry and cavalry divisions to their new front sectors, they also regrouped their already existing formations.

The 15th Infantry Division detached one third of its combat units and reinforced them with the 13th Infantry Division, a move that would prove useful in the future. This battle group was designated Detachment Voicu.
After the 298. Infanteriedivision and 22. Panzerdivision were designated as reserves behind the Italian front line and the Soviet bridging operations across the Don River became known on 25 October, Hitler finally realized a Russian winter offensive was possible. Contrary to this evaluation, he issued his operational order no. 1, dated 23 October, where he had already dismissed any possibility of such an operation. Nonetheless he expressed his worries about the weak flanks of the 6th Army many times during the daily staff meetings.

On 30 October when the plans for establishing a pure Romanian Army Group were manifesting more and more, the Romanian 18th Infantry Division was placed between the 2nd and 1st Infantry Divisions. Each division held back one regiment as a reserve.

Finally on 31 October the ongoing reinforcements of the Russian bridgeheads at Kletskaya and Serafimovic were clearly reported. Fremde Heere Ost defined them as purely defensive measures.

A possible attack was only considered on a tactical, but not a strategic level. Gehlen’s department evaluated the situation and came close to envisioning the actual Soviet preparations. The Southwest Front was moved to their assembly areas around the end of October to the beginning of November.

Around 2 and 3 November, the German radio recon units discovered a reorganisation of the Soviet troops between the Don and the Volga. It was noticed that the 1st Guards Army (General Major K.S. Moskalenko) disappeared from radio traffic along with a general decline in other radio traffic. The Germans concluded from this information, that the Soviet radio traffic had been hidden on orders from the high command.

Hitler mentioned in his daily general staff meetings concerns about a possible Soviet winter offensive against the weak Romanian and Italian armies (3rd and 8th respectively). Therefore he ordered one panzer and two infantry divisions to be transferred from France to the rear areas of these armies as reserves. But the order was not carried out until the 2 November.
Around 1 to 2 November, nearly every higher German frontline commander, including Paulus, Hoth, von Weichs and others, backed by the reports and memorandums of General Hauffe, were well aware that the Romanian frontline units would not be able to effectively repulse a major Soviet attack in their sectors. These concerns were delivered to and noted by the General Staff and the OKH, but no additional steps were ordered.

Even with pressure from the Romanian General Staff, the deficiencies in training and equipment of Romanian units was not addressed. The Germans promised help, but no effective improvements were made, including the problems with the supply situation.

The only German action was to express concerns about Romanian troop organisation and training methods. Hitler received these reports and memoranda and agreed with them. Nothing, except for promises to help, was done to fix these deficits. The only real measure planned was a large-scale training program hosted by the German 4th Panzer and 6th Armies. Unfortunately the program was scheduled to start until April 1943. An improvement on the delivery of new equipment was promised by Keitel, but never fully realized.
After the intended Soviet attack become clear, Hitler ordered the first substantial counter-measure. On 3 November he ordered the veteran 6. Panzer and 306. Infanterie divisions to be transferred from France to the threatened Don sector. He saw this measure as sufficient and left his headquarters, together with Keitel, Jodl and his adjutant to speak before his old comrades in Munich (see Operation Hubertus...).

On 5 November the 6th Army and Army Group B planned to draw the XIV Corps back from their assignments in Stalingrad and transfer it to a reserve area around the Don – Dobraya area. 14. Panzer and 60. (Motorised) Infanterie divisions made up the corps. Another order, where the withdrawal of the 24. Panzer and 3. (Motorised) Infanterie divisions were outlined, followed. The problem with this order was that it only allowed the units to be withdrawn if they were not vital for the ongoing fighting in Stalingrad. That meant no division was withdrawn, since the Stalingrad commanders saw every combat force as vital.
The same day the 6th Army completed the raising of “alarm units”. These consisted of 100 companies totalling 11,131 men. They were raised from the following:

60 by the different divisions
9 by corps staff and troops
20 by army staff and army subordinated troops
11 by army troops (independent, from the Army Group subordinated troops).

All of these men were taken from supply, maintenance, staff or other rear area services. Similar measures were taken by 4th Panzer Army from its German units.
On 6 November German radio recon units intercepted, for the first time, radio traffic from an up to then unknown Soviet Southwest Front. This indicated the arrival of further reinforcements on the Russian side.

On the evening of 7 November Oberst Schöne, another liaison officer with the 3rd Romanian Army, reported the Soviets were amassing large numbers of tanks in the Kletskaya area, which clearly indicated the established bridgeheads would be used as jumping off points for a large scale Soviet offensive.

The Russians intended to secretly mask their assembly areas, but good work of the German Radio Recon units spoilt any chance of this. The masses of tanks and motorised vehicles could not be hidden any longer. The 6th Army was informed of this development the next day at 0640 hours.
Paulus ordered schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 670, Artillery Abteilung 849, and a Flak battery to be transferred to the XI Army Corps under the artillery commander of the 6th Army, Oberst Lepper. Lepper also received the following units:

Pionier Battalion 376 (less 1 pioneer company)
Flak Machine Gun Battalion 614 (less 1 company, AA machine gun battalion)
2nd/Panzerjäger Abteilung 46 (anti-tank unit)
Flak combat group Daiber (mixed anti-aircraft unit)

It took until 11 November for these units to assemble at Sredniy.

Additionally Panzerjäger Abteilung 611 was transferred to the Romanian 3rd Army that same day.

A staff meeting at the Army Group’s headquarters, where the main strength of the Soviet forces for the upcoming offensive were detailed (nearly all frontline infantry divisions and artillery batteries were exactly plotted), it was decided to raise a reserve combat group under the commander of Grenadier Regiment 190. The units were to be withdrawn from the German 62. Infanteriedivision and transported with Italian vehicles to the Perelazovskiy area. It included:

Staff Grenadier regiment 190 (staff personal only)
Nachrichtung Zug 162 (signals platoon)
Panzerjäger Abteilung 162 (anti-tank detachment)
Fahrrad Abteilung 162 (bicycle detachment, less 1 platoon)
II/Artillery Regiment 54 (artillery battalion)
Panzerjäger Abteilung 611 (anti-tank detachment)

The unit numbered 27 officers, 110 non-commissioned officers and 676 soldiers.
On 11 November the liaison officers of the 24. Panzerdivision reinforcement group noticed strong Soviet forces around the Don bend at Kletskaya. The division prepared, on their own initiative, a plan for a quick withdrawal of its motorised and mechanised units from their positions in Stalingrad. The division had enough fuel for all of its vehicles to move only 10 km. Later the 6th Army HQ approved the move, but despite several requests for fuel, no gas was allotted for movement.

The same day, German radio reconnaissance units were able to identify the entire command structure and order of battle of the Soviets in their designated offensive areas.

From that point on the German command echelons, at least up to Army Group B and possibly to the Fuehrer headquarters itself, were fully aware of the Soviet preparations and their possible operational goals. Even the latter offensives against the Italian 8th and Hungarian 2nd Army were outlined by the intelligence gathering services.

That day Grenadier Regiment 132 of the 44. Infanteriedivision was prepared for withdrawal from its positions and designated as reserve behind the left wing of 376. Infanteriedivision at Mukovninskiy. The withdrawal of a panzer division staff was ordered, and the 14. Panzerdivision with one Panzerkompanie, one light artillery detachment, one Flak detachment, one panzerjäger detachment and the relevant supply and maintenance units were also withdrawn from that division’s Stalingrad sector.

On 12 November Colonel Gehlen presented his report about the Soviet operational possibilities to the General Staff of the Army. Here he doubts the possibility of a large scale counteroffensive, but doesn’t discount the possibility of small scale flank attacks against the 6th Army’s neighbouring allied armies.
The same day, II/Panzer Regiment 4 and another panzer company were transferred from Stalingrad to the assembly area of their parent formation, 14. Panzerdivision. Large parts of Werferregiment 51 (rocket launcher regiment) were withdrawn from Stalingrad and subordinated to XIV Panzer Corps. Later it was transferred to intersection between the 3rd Romanian and 6th German Armies. In this position the rocket launchers were be able to support either the 1st Romanian Cavalry or German 376. Infanteriedivision.

A new report from Colonel Gehlen presented at the General Staff of the Army meeting on 18 November warns of an imminent major Soviet counterattack against the flanks of 6th Army, namely the 6th Romanian Army Corps.

This warning was ignored by the highest commanding officers of the German General Staff.

The days before 19 November are marked by dense fog. This significantly hindered the German air reconnaissance aircraft from pinpointing the assembly areas of the Soviets and an accurate evaluation of the Soviet’s strength could not be made.

Some units had begun to arrive to reinforce the front. The 22. Panzerdivision was transferred into the Romanian sector. During May the division had received Heeres Flak Abteilung 289 as an attachment and they remained with the unit in November. After earlier battles, the 22. Panzerdivision was ordered to march to the Mankovo - Kalitvenskaya/Chertkovo area for refitting. Here Pioneer Battalion 50 (without the halftrack company) was subordinated to the LI Army Corps of 6th Army to participate in the taking of Stalingrad. Also II/Panzer Grenadier Regiment 140, 10th Flak company/Panzer Grenadier Regiment 140, two companies with Pz 38 (t) and parts of Kradschützenbataillon 24, together with supply and maintenance units were sent for the establishment of the new 27. Panzerdivision west of Voronezh at the end of October.
Until 18 November the division was positioned east of Naumov – southwest Serafimovitich – northeast of Chernyshevskaya. There they were put under command of the 3rd Romanian Army. On 19 November they had only 1/3 of their 104 panzers operational:

44 Panzer III and Panzer IV (mix of 5cm and 7.5cm guns, both long and short barrelled versions)
18 Panzer II
24 Panzer 38(t)
50 – 60 Sd Kfz 251 armoured half-tracks

Other vehicles came from Millerovo. They included, besides other combat vehicles, 11 new panzers.
After the few German mobile reserves had finally reached their assembly areas, a calculation by the supply officer of the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps paints a rather dark picture. Since fuel was a constantly short supply resource, the subordinated units had only enough fuel for the following action radii:

Romanian 1st Armoured Division: 200 km

German 22. Panzerdivision: ca.142 km
Panzer Regiment 204: 40 km
Panzer Grenadier Regiment 170: 220 km
Kradschützen Battalion: 200 km
PanzerJagd Abteilung 140: 190 km
Nachrichtung Abteilung: 110 km
Staff Artillery Regiment: 140 km
II Artillerie Abteilung: 140 km
III Artillerie Abteilung: 90 km
IV Artillerie Abteilung: 100 km
Beobachter Battalion: 5 km
German 14. Panzerdivision: 25 km

Kampfgruppe Simons: 115 km

Despite the woeful supply status, General Heim, the commanding officer of XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, deployed his troops so they could directly attack towards the expected breakthrough at Kletskaya. Although he had only relatively weak formations under his command, he contacted the Romanian divisional and corps commanders in the relevant sectors about conducting a preliminary artillery bombardment to disrupt the Soviets and hinder the assault on the Romanians. Due to lack of ammunition and fuel, this plan could not be executed. Even his proposal to attack the Soviets after they enlarged their bridgeheads on 18tNovember was denied by the Army’s HQ. Nonetheless he ordered his units to be alert the next day, especially the armoured group and the subordinated Panzerjägerabteilungen 611 and 670. From 0400 hours on 19 November all units were fully alert and expected the Russian offensive at any moment.

III.5. Overview of the Romanian Army’s Status at Stalingrad in November 1942
The Romanian army was not prepared to be involved in the larger operations envisioned by the Germans. Even early in the German-Romanian relationship, the German Wehrmacht sent officers and training personnel to Romania to improve the overall effectiveness of the Romanian army.

Besides the well-known deficits (outdated infantry and artillery weapons from WWI, insufficient war industry, none or poor motorisation, and nearly no modern heavy weapons), the greatest draw back could be found in the inadequate training of the Romanian officers.

The existing training and education level was largely influenced by the pre-war French instructors from before the outbreak of the war. This training combined with a lack of willingness to fight against the Soviet Union beyond there initial goals greatly hindered their effectiveness to resist the serious threats they were being faced with.

Another factor influencing their situation was the relationship between the Romanian officer and his men. The officers, mostly members of the aristocracy, and their subordinates, farmers and workers, did not have a good relationship. The Romanian officers still employed a leadership style like that employed during the Feudal period. Only very few of the higher-ranking Romanian officers were considered able. There were some examples of good commanders such as the commander of the 3rd Army, General Dimitrescu, and Mihail Lascar, commander of the 5th Infantry Division. They were considered, even amongst their German counterparts, as able tacticians and enjoyed high respect.
Another myth that is often perpetuated is that whole armies, (the 4th Romanian Army particularly) only had one or two anti-tank guns at the outbreak of the Soviet offensive. Contrary to this the following details of how both Romanian armies were equipped with anti-tank guns paints a different picture. The 3rd Army had three Anti-tank gun companies (motorised 4.7cm Bohler guns) and each division and each regiment had one horse drawn company with 12 to 16 guns of 3.7 or 4.7cm calibre at their disposal. In October every one of the infantry divisions received six horse-drawn, German conversions of French field guns, 7.5 cm anti-tank guns (PaK97/38). The 4th Romanian Army had the same number of anti-tank units, except for the army level units, which didn’t arrive before the operation started. So the Romanian 3rd Army had 60 anti-tank guns for 160 km of front line and the 4th Army (excluding German units) 34 for 250 km. However, there was a lack of close combat weapons like magnetic hollow charges, Molotov cocktails and similar improvised means, since the Romanians were not generally trained in their use.

IV. Strength of the Axis Forces

The following tables illustrates the strength of Axis forces before the offensive began: Personnela PaKb Panzersc Artillery Batteriesd
6th Army
XI Army Corps
376. ID 8187/5269/4105/6464 15/18 6/3/2/0/0
44. ID 10601/6748/2365/4238 11/17 6/3/2/0/0
384. ID 8821/5025/1804/5937 12/18 6/3/2/0/0
VII Army Corps
76. ID 8023/4740/8033/6981 4/20 9/2/0/0/0
113. ID 9461/5064/5564/5854 11/13 9/2/0/1/0
XIV Panzer Corps
94. ID 7469/2924/2581/8235 4/6 9/3/0/0/0
16. PzD 11051/4855/1843/7673 17/4 0/17/11 6/3/0/0/0
60. ID(mot) 8933/4812/2071/5848 9/4 5/17/5 6/3/0/0/0
3. ID(mot) 8653/4498/4530/4831 8/8 0/22/7 6/2/0/0/0
LI Army Corps
71. ID 8906/4331/8134/7353 12/13 9/3/0/14 cannons/0
295. ID 6899/3459/59/9037 5/13 9/2/0/1/0
100. JD 8675/4688/2132/7739 9/6 8/2/0/0/0
79. ID 7980/4304/2018/8294 30/19 9/3/0/0/0
305. ID 6683/2915/1562/8520 7/10 6/3/2/0/0
289. ID 7540/4021/2379/7852 15/6 6/3/2/0/0
24. PzD 10950/6160/1675/5126 ?/? 5/37/17 6/3/0/0/0
4th Panzer Army
IV Army Corps
371. ID 10317 19/6 6/3/2/0/0
297. ID 9898 12/12 9/3/0/0/0
Romanian 20th ID 13100 29/6 8/0/0/0/0
Romanian VII Army Corps
29. ID(mot) 12000 0/12 0/4/48 unknown
XXXXVIII Panzer Corps
(19/20 Nov)
14. PzD 10389/4760/934/5434 11/7 0/29/7 0/0/0/0/3 heavy
22. PzD unknown 0/8 5/22/11 3/1/0/0/3 heavy
Romanian 1st AD 13100 81/9 87/21/0 9/0/0/0/3 heavy


a) The personnel numbers are broken out as follows: total number/combat strength/Russian helpers (German Hiwi = Hilfswillige, willing helpers)/required personnel to reach full strength. These numbers were those from 1 November.

b) The numbers for PaK (anti-tank guns) are divided into medium/heavy types; if the self-propelled pieces are included it is not known. For the 14. Panzerdivision they include the numbers of the subordinated Panzerjäger Abteilung 670 (anti-tank detachment) and parts of schwere Artillerie Abteilung 849 (heavy artillery detachment) (Editors note: I suspect the Romanian numbers are more likely to be light/medium or heavy).

c) The number of Panzers reads as Panzer II/Panzer III/Panzer IV. In the case of the 22. Panzer and Romanian 1st Armoured Divisions the numbers read Panzer 35(t) or Panzer 38(t)/Panzer III/Panzer IV. The exact types are not listed.

d) The artillery numbers read as light/heavy/rocket launchers/captured/FlaK

e) For the 14. Panzerdivision the Kampfgruppe Seydel numbers can be extracted from the article Operation Hubertus elsewhere on this site and have to be added.

f) These numbers don’t include the Kampfgruppen Simon and Lepper, besides the other Army/Corps level assigned units (assault gun, artillery, pioneer detachments, construction battalions, etc.). Also the listed numbers seem to be prior to the launching of Operation Hubertus, since Group Scheele is not mentioned at all.

V. The Juggernaut Strikes – A Day-by-Day Account

V.1. 19 November

At a few minutes past 0500 hours the phone of the 6th Army’s headquarters rang. A Leutnant Stöck, liaison officer with the IV Romanian Army Corps informed the officer-on-duty, Hauptmann Behr, that Romanians of the 1st Cavalry Division have captured a Soviet officer and after interrogating him had learned that a major Soviet offensive was to begin at 0500 hours in the Kletskaya sector.

Since that time had already passed, Behr decided not to wake up General Arthur Schmidt, the Ia of 6th Army. His reasons were simple. First, the Romanians warned of an upcoming Soviet offensive in their sectors nearly daily and second, these warnings proved every time to be false. Afterwards Schmidt regarded these early morning wake-ups as nonsense. So Behr didn’t take any further steps other than noting the call in the diary.

The weather during the morning hours was clearly favouring the defenders. All along the front strong snowfalls were reported, but during the afternoon they stopped and the sky partially cleared.
Shortly before the offensive Vasilevsky contacted, via phone, Vatutin, Christyakov, Romanenko and STAVKA in Moscow. He was trying to determine if the offensive should be delayed. Although the calls were hectic and every commander warned of the bad weather situation, the plan to begin the offensive was not changed. Shortly before the offensive was to be launched Rokossovski phoned the commander of the 65th Army, General Batov, and demanded a report about the situation. Batov mentioned that visibility was less than 200 meters and proposed a delay for the offensive. Rokossovski stuck with the plan and kept all orders as they existed.

The Soviet 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps received orders to move from their assembly area north of Starokletskiy, they marched during the night towards their planned breakthrough sector at Kletskaya. The 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps arrived at the Don bridges at 0500 hours. At the time the corps intended to start its exploitation movement, they however discovered that all bridges, except one, across the Don were destroyed. So the corps crossed the Don over the frozen ice.
The initial deployment of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps was as follows:

The main body of the corps was assembled around the left flank of Gromki, reference point 218.8 with the following order:

The 5th Guards Cavalry Division, 1st battalion of 21st Guards Mortar Regiment and 1st battalion of 152nd Mortar Regiment were to exploit the breakthrough of the rifle divisions towards Vlaskov and Selivanov, reaching the line of Nizhne-Buzinovka and Erik.
The 6th Guards Cavalry Division, with 2nd battalion of 21st Guards Mortar Regiment, 4th Guards Tank Regiment, 1250th Tank Destroyer Artillery Regiment and 8th Independent Horse Artillery battalion advanced towards Chimlovskiy and Platonov. At the end of the day Verkhne-Buzinovka was their objective.

The 32nd Cavalry Division with two battalions of the 152nd Mortar Regiment, following the trail of 6th Guards Cavalry Division, was kept as a mobile reserve. The intended assembly area for the second day of the operation was Malonabatovskiy, Evlampievskiy and Bolshenabatovskiy.
The 5th Tank Destroyer Brigade, an artillery regiment of the 3rd PVO AA Division, a training battalion and the 3rd Guards Separate Tank Destroyer Battalion were designated as an operational reserve.

At 0520 German, 0720 Russian time, a loud trumpeting started along the whole front before the Romanian positions. The Soviets blow their trumpets like the horns of Jericho, and thereby give the signal for more than 3500 artillery pieces to open fire. The codename of the preliminary artillery barrage, "Syrene", was a well-chosen one. The medical officers of the German 22. Panzerdivision, 50 kilometres from the bombardment, felt the earth tremble! They knew instantly, what the day would bring for them.
This time, when Leutnant Stöck informs the Army’s HQ, General Schmidt is awakened. At this point Stöck informs Behr that he thinks the Romanians will not be able withstand a strong Soviet attack. Behr does not take his report seriously.

What Stöck doesn’t know was that during the preceding night Soviet engineers, clad in white camouflage outfits, probed forward into no-mans-land and started clearing minefields.

If he had known this, he could have expressed his concerns more forcefully.

Shortly after 0520 hours the 21st Army started its artillery barrage against the Romanian 5th, 6th, 13th Infantry Divisions and 1st Cavalry Division. It lasted 50 minutes and was followed by the rifle divisions’ (96th, 63rd, 293rd and 76th) attacks. The Romanians initially put up stiff resistance and the defensive lines were maintained.

At 0550 hours the commander of XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, General Heim, was informed of the Soviet attack against the Romanians. He ordered an immediate reconnaissance missions towards Kletskaya and Bolshoyie, he decided, at 0945, without any orders from the Army Group, to employ his corps to the northeast. He intended to attack the advancing Soviets at Kletskaya with his combat forces, the German 22. Panzerdivision, the Romanian 1st Armoured Division and the armoured combat group of 14. Panzerdivision. Heim therefore intended the Romanian I Army Corps to handle their problems on its own, at least initially. His plans included a counter-attack later, since he knew that the Romanians were not combat effective. His own limited strength didn’t allow for a simultaneous counter-attacks in two directions.
Before he was able to strike at the Soviets, fate strikes his units first. The 22. Panzerdivision found the majority of their tanks were immobilized. A quick inspection found that the rubber parts of the starter motors, the turret rotation mechanisms and other electrically driven mechanisms weren’t working. The mystery was solved when they realised mice, which had nested in the covering straw on the engine decks, had chewed through the rubber parts of the electrical systems. This problem was not discovered beforehand because the 22. Panzerdivision hadn’t received enough gas to perform even basic maintenance checks. Inquiries and complaints about the supply situation sent by the panzer crews and commanders were totally ignored. So from the very beginning 39 panzers weren’t available for counter-attack operations.
When the division finally reached its designated assembly area, a further 34 panzers broke down. Several panzers even caught fire and burned out completely. Undaunted, the mechanics started to repair and replace the broken panzers. They worked even while the division made their movement keeping up the panzer strength as much as possible. However, Panzer Regiment 204 was down to 42 operational panzers.

At 0650 hours Zeitzler at the Fuehrer HQ, far away from the actual situation, orders a redirection of the Panzer corps to the northwest. The High Command estimated that the infantry on their own can handle the attacks at Kletskaya. Also the armoured group of 14. Panzerdivision was subordinated to the Romanian IV Army Corps for that purpose. Shortly thereafter Kampfgruppe Simons and Panzerjägerabteilungen 611 and 670 were added.
At about the same time that the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps was being redirected the Soviet rifle divisions’ assaulted the Romanians without the assistance of tanks. The Soviets directed their artillery barrage further back to hit the second line of the Romanian defensive positions. The aim was to keep the Romanians from bringing reserves forward and to interdict the enemy’s own artillery. The badly equipped Romanian artillery crews answered bravely the Soviet challenge with their own shelling of the Russian assembly and jump off areas. The first line of infantry took up the fight. Because their positions were not too seriously hit, a real whirlwind of bullets hit the first Soviet infantry assault and the first attack was stopped.
The Romanian positions only took minor damage from the Soviet artillery barrage because Soviet artillery was not able to adjust their firing parameters and data accordingly, and because of the bad weather. During the shelling the forward observers were not able to correct the fire, because the thick falling snow, combined with heavy fog, restricted their visibility.

As mentioned before, the first Soviet infantry assault was repulsed. The 13th Romanian Infantry Division was especially successful at stopping the Soviet attacks. The Soviet 76th Rifle Division and 27th Guards Rifle Division were not making any progress breaking the Romanian lines. An immediate counterattack by the Romanian IV Army Corps, with parts of the 1st Regiment (previously detached from 15th Infantry Division at Verchna Salomobovskiy), was repulsed. The regiment withdrew, because its endangered right flank was under constant attack from the Soviet 76th Rifle Division.
A second attack, this time supported by the 4th Guards Tank Brigade, was also successfully repulsed. The Soviet artillery stopped firing on the Romanian positions for fear that they may endanger their own assault forces. The shelling created a serious problem for the Soviet attackers. The artillery left massive craters in the ground that proved very difficult for the supporting tanks to cross. The markings for the previously cleared minefield lanes were also blown away, which required the accompanying engineers to clear new routes.

This delay enabled the Romanians to recuperate from the initial shelling and infantry assaults. They were able to put up a stubborn and determined defence. Several more infantry attacks were repulsed and a large number of Soviet tanks were knocked out. During the initial attack the Soviet assault forces gained no breakthroughs or substantial ground.

However, a lack of sufficient Romanian anti-tank weapons would prove disastrous. After the initial Soviet attack plan faltered the tank corps were sent in directly to achieve the breakthrough on their own.

At 0700 hours the Soviet 8th Cavalry Corps (21st, 55th and 112th Cavalry Divisions) moved forward from their assembly areas and positioned themselves right behind the rifle units. Before they jumped off for their breakthrough advance, the columns of 1st Tank Corps and 8th Motorcycle Regiment passed the line. After them the 112th and 55th Cavalry Divisions moved into action at 1300 hours.
The attack first aimed for Blinovskiy and Ust-Medveditskiy and then repulsed a counter-attack from Station Seniutkin. Here the first positions of the Romanian 7th Cavalry Division were attacked. The Romanians, encountering Soviet cavalry, furiously counter-attacked.

The 8th Cavalry Corps was only able to advance on a narrow sector at first, because the Soviet 8th Guards Tank Brigade supported the initial assault against the boundary line between 9th and 14th Infantry Divisions. The left flank of 8th Cavalry Corps attacked Blinov (Bolshoyie) from the Romanian left flank, and dislodged the defenders.
The Romanian 14th Infantry Division was divided into at least two parts. The division took its right wing back towards Verkhna Omichinskiy to avoid being overrun. This retrograde movement opened the dam for the already waiting Soviet mobile forces to exploit. Half an hour later formations of the 5th Tank Army, mainly 1st and 26th Tank Corps, marched towards the positions of the II Romanian Army Corps. The 26th Tank Corps bypassed the left flank of the 5th Romanian Infantry Division. Finally the 8th Cavalry Corps burst through the lines of the 14th and 9th Romanian Infantry Divisions and advanced towards positions of the reserve 7th Romanian Cavalry Division east and south of Blinovskij.

The commander of 5th Tank Army, General Romanenko, expected a quick breakthrough here and committed his tank forces immediately in the following manner. 1st Tank Corps, in two columns, with 117th Tank Brigade, 33rd Destroyer Anti-tank Artillery Regiment and 89th Tank Brigade in the right column. The 159th Tank Brigade, the corps command, and the 44th Motorised Rifle Brigade moved on the left. The assigned PVO regiment of anti-aircraft defence batteries was distributed amongst these units. The anti-tank units marched behind the Tank Brigades on the right.
26th Tank Corps advanced on four march routes in two echelons. The Motorised Rifle Brigades moved on the left, covered by the Tank Brigades on the right flank. The anti-tank units marched on the left flank. By dispatching the anti-tank units on each flank, the Soviets hoped to counter any enemy armoured counter-thrust.

The attack of the 1st Tank Corps was initially held up. The intended breakthrough sectors were still held by the Romanian infantry. The corps had to open its own advance route, which they did successfully. This was achieved because the Soviets employed the tactic of having the infantry ride on the tanks to the enemy positions.

They then jumped off and engaged the Romanians. Stubborn Romanian resistance around Korotkovskiy and Shirk held up the 19th Tank Brigade, advancing on the left of the corps flank. Here the Romanian 1st Armoured Division held these towns and refused to give up its positions. After several attacks were repulsed, the Soviet 1st Tank Corps resumed its advance southwards once the units of the neighbouring 26th Tank Corps arrived.

The 26th Tank Corps didn’t attack at full strength against the defending Romanian 14th Infantry Division. The attack succeeded in severing the connection between Romanian 1st Armoured Division and the 14th Infantry Division. The 14th Infantry Division withdrew its left wing back to Klinovoy. Up to this point the Soviet 14th Guards Rifle Division, 47th Guards Rifle Division, 119th Rifle Division and 50th Guards Rifle Division were still fruitlessly battling with the Romanians.
In front of the Romanian IV Army Corps, the battle started to change. Around 0700 hours the 4th Tank Corps of 21st Army achieved the first breakthrough. The Romanians stood their ground until mid-day, when the 4th Tank Corps together with the arriving 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps finally tore open the first defensive line of the 13th Infantry Division (IV Romanian Army Corps), between Kletskaya and Starakletskiy. Again some resistance nests remained and they defended themselves stubbornly. This was possible only because the tanks and mechanised infantry units simply bypassed them. The 4th Tank Corps was able to throw the Romanian 13th Infantry Division’s right wing back in a western direction.

Later Kletskaya was cleared of the remaining Romanian resistance.

Around 0800 hours the Romanian 36th Infantry Regiment (9th Infantry Division) left Bolshoyie. Parts of that regiment were encircled southwest of the village by units of the Soviet 8th Cavalry Corps and 1st Tank Corps. The main body of the division was pressed south-westwards. Shortly thereafter the artillery positions of the 9th Infantry Division, south of Bolshoyie, were overrun.

Between 0830 and 0900 hours von Seydlitz-Kurtzbach, commander of LI Army Corps was informed by Paulus about the start of the enemy offensive. At once he orders that Group Seydel (14. Panzerdivision), Group Scheele (24. Panzerdivision), the heavy gun company of 14. Panzerdivision’s assault gun battalion 244, and the newly raised assault gun company of 24. Panzerdivision, to be released. A panzerjäger company of the 71. Infanteriedivision was transferred to the threatened area south of Kletskaya. Around 0900 the Soviet 1st Tank Corps broke through the right wing of the Romanian 14th Infantry Division. Only six German made 7.5 cm anti-tank guns slowed that advance for a while. Afterwards the Soviets advanced to the south and east. The breakthrough of 1st Tank Corps, northeast of Kalmykovskiy, was redirected to the southwest; where they connected northeast of Klinovoy with the cavalry units breaking through from Bolshoyie. After the Soviets started advancing to the southeast, the whole left flank of the 14th Infantry Division broke and routed.
Already days before the Soviet offensive, parts of the 14. Panzerdivision were drawn out of the city of Stalingrad and transferred to the great Don bend at Verchna Businovka. The mass of the remaining combat ready troops consisted of Panzer Artillery Regiment 4, Panzerjäger Abteilung 4 (anti-tank battalion), and Panzer Nachrichtung Abteilung 4 (signals battalion).

Both grenadier regiments had a combined strength of one battalion and Kradschützen Bataillon 64 (motorcycle troops) was down to company strength. The regimental staff of Panzergrenadier Regiment 108 was already at Kamenskaya together with the main supply and maintenance services. The few remaining combat forces were put under command of Panzergrenadier Regiment 103.
In the early morning, after the offensive had become known, the division was readied and the remaining panzers of the regiment at Stalingrad set into motion to meet with the rest of the panzer division at the new assembly area. The movement of the vehicles was greatly hindered by the lack of sufficient fuel, the bad visibility, and the ever-present muddy ground. The units of 14. Panzerdivision, without their Panzergrenadier regiments, managed to assemble at Suchanov and Verkhna Businovka.

It appears that until 0945 hours, 6th Army HQ didn’t realise the full extent of the Russian offensive. At this point the 6th Army finally informed the Army Group B headquarters of the offensive. After hectic telephone calls between the staff officers of Army Group B and 6th Army, both Panzergrenadier regiments of the 14. Panzerdivision were ordered to be quickly withdrawn from their positions in Stalingrad. They were combined with forces of the 44. Infanteriedivision and assembled for the defence of Melo-Kletskiy.
At 1010 hours General Oberst von Weichs gave the 3rd Romanian Army the freedom to use the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps to counter-attack Soviet forces to the northeast.

At 1100 the main body of the Soviet 5th Tank Army finally reached the lines of the attacking rifle divisions. The planned exploitation movement halted because the Romanian defenders still held their positions. The Soviet commander ordered his units to attack immediately and again the Romanians held their ground, which proved very difficult for the attackers to cross.

At 1105 hours General von Sodenstern informed General Schmidt, that the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps was to be sent towards Bolshoyie to help the Romanians and hinder the Soviets from further breakthroughs. The intention of the commanding officer of panzer corps, General Heim, to attack directly towards Kletskaya was overruled by this order. Another small part is added to the mosaic of the unfolding catastrophe for the 6th Army. The 22. Panzerdivision would have been in a good position to strengthen the Romanian defenders and hinder the Soviets from breaking through.

The Romanian 1st Cavalry Division was still successfully defending its positions. They reported only 20 attacking enemy tanks otherwise they faced infantry. General Sodenstern ordered one regiment of the German 44. Infanteriedivision to be transferred into that area to support the Romanians, since the German sector was quiet.
The Romanian I Army Corps, with its 7th and 11th Infantry Divisions, was weakly attacked and defended its positions well. Additionally the V Army Corps was not seriously assaulted and took over command of the routed and separated units of their neighbours.

Army Group B ordered, at 1150 hours, the Romanian 7th Cavalry Division to block the Kuckan Valley from the south. The Soviet cavalry attack crashed into them during the afternoon forcing the Romanian forward elements to retreat towards Blinovskiy, where they set up defensive positions. With their artillery subordinated to the 9th Infantry Division, and lacking substantial anti-tank weapons, the Romanian cavalry soldiers defended the village until 1900 hours, when they were forced to abandon it. The rest of the main line was defended until the next morning.
In the attack sector of the Soviet 21st Army the defensive lines of the Romanian 13th Infantry Division were finally broken at 1300 hours. The Soviet 76th Rifle Division advanced immediately towards positions 1 km north of Platonov, Chimlovskiy, Selivanov and Vlasov. There they encountered strong defensive positions established by the German Kampfgruppe Lepper. Around Selivanov, the rifle division was repelled. Parts of the German kampfgruppe counterattacked and stopped the advance. The Soviet infantry were forced to dig in. Shortly thereafter reinforcements were requested, but units of 3rd Guard Cavalry Corps were not able to participate, since their recent defeat prevented them from reaching the area. The accompanying tanks of 4th Guards Tank Regiment, 21st Guards Motorised Regiment and motorised artillery had to return to Kletskaya for re-supply.

Another reason for these delays was the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps was seriously delayed. The crossing of the Don River, by the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps, took until 1330 hours since much of the equipment had to be hand carried and the wagons unloaded. Although the command staff of the divisions and corps had already established liaison connections to the 4th Tank Corps, the latter was scheduled to attack towards Estratovskiy and Manoilin to capture the state farm at Pervomayskiy and Evseev.

During the fighting a disadvantage became very clear to the German staff leading the defence. Although many German officers were sent as liaison officers to the Romanians, communication greatly enhanced by new telephone lines, and a great number of German signals equipment handed to the Romanians; the picture of the overall situation was still not clear. The reasons were fairly simple. At some points the Romanian defence faltered and the commanding officers fled as soon as the attack started. Most of the Romanian field units had to make decisions on their own, without advice or intelligence. On the other hand many decisions or reports were not sent back to the higher German command staffs. The German 6th Army didn’t receive any usable reports except for pleas for help. The simplest answer was the Soviets advanced so quickly that radio and signal installations were simply overrun.
Around 1400 hours, a message reached 6th Army headquarters that contradicted their previously optimistic opinion of the situation. The message said the Soviet 4th Tank Corps had breached the lines of the 13th Romanian Infantry Division and advanced more than 10 kilometres to Gromik. The 6th Army finally realised that the Soviets were attacking on a greater scale than previously thought.

Mistakes were being made in the other pincer of the Soviet attack. The advancing rifle divisions of the 21st Army were not able to clear the enemy minefields and neglected to mark their advance routes.

The following breakthrough units of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps simply rode into the minefields and suffered high casualties. The engineer units of the 5th and 6th Cavalry Divisions had to complete the task. The advance of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps was halted for about two hours.

At 1400 hours the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps was finally able to cross the minefields and passed through the positions of the 293rd and 76th Rifle Division. Parts of the latter were still fighting the defending Romanians of the 13th Infantry Division. At the end of the day, units of the 5th Guards Cavalry Division captured the area around Vlasov, Selivanov and Chimlovskiy. They were not able to advance further. What was even worse, they hadn’t crossed the little river Kurtlak before they had to stop their advance. Despite this the 6th Guards Cavalry Division engaged in fierce combat around Platonov and repelled several counterattacks conducted by elements of Kampfgruppe Lepper.
The German 22. Panzerdivision was ordered to immediately counterattack the most forward Soviet units, but had only 30 panzers available. The panzer division was also dealing with fuel shortage problems. They partially solve this by borrowing large stocks from their Romanian counterpart, the 1st Romanian Armoured Division.

The Romanian 1st Armoured Division had the following panzers operational on that day:
11 Panzer IV (long)
11 Panzer III (short)
112 Panzer 38(t) and Panzer 35(t) {R-2}
Because the Romanian 1st Armoured Division was employed separately from the German panzer division, instead of in a concentrated manner, the Soviet advance forces were able to overrun the Romanian II Army Corps headquarters at Shirk and destroy the German liaison radio station. Any further coordinated employment was therefore not possible, since the German staff of XXXXVIII Panzer Corps didn’t have radio communication with the Romanians.

During the evening, the divisional staff of 16. Panzerdivision was ordered to withdraw its units from the Stalingrad city area to stop the Russian breakthrough. Because they had to retreat from ongoing combat operations, many panzers of Panzer Regiment 2 were delayed until 21 November 0300 hours before they could finally be withdrawn.
At 1700 hours General Strecker’s XI Army Corps was ordered to establish a new southward running defensive line. Even at this point, the German generals hadn’t fully realised the Soviets intended to encircle the whole 6th Army. Richthofen wrote in his diary he hoped the Russians didn’t reach the vital railway lines, so supply could still be possible. At this point Kravtchenko’s 4th Tank Corps had already advanced 30 kilometres.

At 1800 hours General von Seydlitz-Kurtzbach received the Army’s order to withdraw all units of the 24. Panzerdivision not still deployed in Stalingrad and redirect them to the area around Peskovatka and Vertiyatshi.

Once there they were to prepare for a counterattack.

After the 4th Tank Corps moved through the initial breakthrough sector, they advanced to the area of Vlasov and ran into stubborn resistance around the Pervomayskiy State farm near Verkhna Salomobovskiy. The Romanian 15th Infantry Division, only two regiments strong, was able to stop the advance for the remainder of the night. What the Romanians didn’t realise was that parts of that tank corps advanced on their right wing without any resistance. This was possible because there simply were not enough infantry units to plug the gaps. Neighbouring Kampfgruppe Lepper could not provide enough assistance. Before the fight for the Kurtlak River had even began in earnest, the Soviets had already broken through.

At 1815 hours the 24. Panzerdivision received the order from LI Army Corps to attack the following day Soviet units attacking from the Kletskaya area (90 km north of Kalach). They were to do this only with the units that were not engaged at Stalingrad. The division knew, from this order, that the lines of the Romanian forces had been pierced. In their two panzer battalions only 60 panzers were available. The order stated that the division was to receive supplies, gasoline in particular, and march via Karpovka to the Verchanyi-Pestkovka area. The divisional staff was to move before the rest of the division and set-up their headquarters at Ossinovskiy under LI Army Corps command. During the move not all units were withdrawn. Kampfgruppe Scheele remained under Group Schwerin in the city of Stalingrad.

At 2200 hours the headquarters of 6th Army received an order that all attacks, except for small assaults to hold positions, had to be abandoned. Therefore the planned attack, to finally capture Stalingrad (Operation Hubertus), scheduled for the next morning, was cancelled. In addition the 6th Army was ordered to withdraw two fast motorised units and one infantry division to meet the growing Soviet threat. If possible, one strong unit was to be assembled to support the planned counterattack of XIV Panzer Corps.

At 2230 hours General Schmidt suddenly announced that he would retire to his rooms and sleep.

After Hauptmann Behr phoned Leutnant Gerhard Stöcker, the latter was surprised at how relaxed the Ia of the 6th Army was reacting to all the bad news. Nonetheless it seemed to inspired some kind of confidence in Schmidt.

Meanwhile the Soviet 5th Tank army was still attacking the positions of the Romanian 9th, 14th and 5th Infantry Divisions. Only after shifting the attacking echelons the 26th Tank Corps, were they finally able to break through the lines of the 5th and 14th Romanian Infantry Divisions by dawn of 20 November. The Romanians were defeated because the Soviets were able to change their attack route and bypass the strongest resistance points.

Results of the first day:

Although a partial breakthrough was achieved by the 26th Tank Corps and 47th Guards Rifle Division, the majority of the 5th Tank Army was still engaged in mopping up the Romanian defenders. The 1st Tank Corps and 8th Cavalry Corps were not able to rout the fearless Romanian infantry and were prevented from achieving their breakthrough.

By evening the Soviets had managed to enlarge their penetration at Bolshoyie to 21 km wide and 36 km deep. The Romanian forces, damaged but still capable of fighting, establish a defensive line on both flanks of the breakthrough.

This gave the German 6th Army the opportunity to cut the Soviet mechanized formations off. The Romanian 1st Armoured Division was in a perfect position to perform that task.

Despite heavy losses, the Romanian 5th and 9th Infantry Divisions still held their positions and the Soviets only advanced about 15 to 20 km from the original frontline. The Soviet 8th Cavalry Corps still had to take Blinovskiy from the Romanian 7th Cavalry Division to achieve a decisive breakthrough.

The one chance the Germans had to defeat the penetration of the Soviet 1st and 26th Tank Corps was missed because of several factors. The Romanian 1st Armoured Division was already well positioned on the exposed left flank of the penetration.

The German 22. Panzerdivision was assembled around Ust-Medvedichiy. Both of these units were so weak and inexperienced that they could not make the attack themselves. The XXXXVIII Panzer Corps commander could not call for help from the Romanian 1st Armoured Division because he simply did not know its location! General Heim, XXXXVIII Panzer Corps commander, knew that ordering an attack by the weak 22. Panzerdivision would fail. Another force, the panzer combat group of 14. Panzerdivision was not committed. The reasons for this are unclear and no source mentions any combat actions for them on this day. These factors combined to save the Soviet tank corps from an Axis counterattack.

At this point, the 29. Infanteriedivision (motorised) was the only uncommitted reserve division of any substantial combat value. Although Army Group B intended to direct it towards the Soviet breakthroughs, Hoth insisted the division remained under his command. His 4th Panzer Army was made up of 70% Romanian troops and that argument was sufficient to keep the division near Verkhna Zaritinskiy. Because the division was the only combat ready unit of the whole 6th Army, Hoth wanted to keep this division as a reserve. He knew the Soviets would attack his front, and he desperately needed some reserves if there was to be a chance of stopping the Soviets.

V.2. 20 November

Alone in his farm hut, sleep alluded General Yeremenko that night. He worried that his part of the attack should be postponed until all German reserves were drawn of to the northern pincer.
Even after long conferences with STAVKA, in which the situation at the northern front was explicitly analysed, he was simply ignored and therefore feared failure in his sector. To make things worse, the weather was as bad as the day before. Thick ice frost, combined with heavy fog, was lying on the steppe. Additionally his assault forces were getting disorganised while forming for the attack. Finally he decided to postpone the beginning of his part of the offensive. STAVKA demanded an explanation immediately. He expressed his reasons in a detailed manner. STAVKA was not pleased, but at least he was able to get them to acknowledge the problems.

At first the weather did not improve, and Yeremenko hesitated to give the signal for the attack. STAVKA was waiting confirmation that the southern armies were attacking. After another call by Moscow, Yeremenko answered that he had information that the weather will clear up in the next few minutes. It was shortly before 1000 hours. Only minutes later, he ordered the preparatory barrage against the Romanians.
The initial shelling lasted for 45 minutes. Following its cessation the ground troops begin their advance. During the night engineers had cleared paths through the minefields. South of Beketovka the 64th and 57th Armies supported the assault of the 13th Mechanized Corps. Forty kilometres to the south the 4th Mechanized and 4th Cavalry Corps of the 51st Army started their offensive.

A German battalion commander, Major Bruno Gebele, the most southern commander of a German unit, contacted his neighbour, Oberst Gross, from the 20th Romanian Infantry Division, and asked for an evaluation of the situation.

He had received reports from his forward positions that masses of Soviet infantry and tanks had assaulted the Romanian lines. He worried about his flanks, since he knew that the neighbouring battalion only had one horse-drawn 3.7 cm anti-tank gun available! The Romanians fought fiercely, despite the fact the majority of their senior and non-commissioned officers fled.

Unlike the northern pincer the rout of the Romanians started earlier in this area. Here Yeremenko led the operations directly.

Despite the smoothness of the initial Soviet assault, the Soviet forces seriously lack supplies. This situation occurred because shipments across the Volga were still very dangerous because of the ice flow. This was really felt on the second day when food rations of the assault forces were already running out. By the third day the 157th Rifle Division didn’t have any meat or bread at all. Yeremenko decided on an improvisation to overcome the shortcomings. All vehicles of the 64th Army, even ambulances, were designated to carry supply for the advancing mechanized forces.
During the southern attack, the Soviets had another advantage. Their positions, especially the artillery, were established and coordinated much earlier than those on the northern sector. This let the artillery hit the Romanian positions with far higher precision. The rifle divisions advanced a lot faster and were not held back like their counterparts in the north.

The VI Romanian Army Corps (1st, 2nd and 18th Infantry Divisions), was almost completely destroyed and the remnants fled in disorder. Only the 20th Infantry Division held its positions. With the collapse of the Romanian positions Hoth’s headquarters was directly threatened.

The Romanian 6th Cavalry Regiment, defending the Abganerovo Station area, was the only unit able to defend itself against the assaulting Soviet tank forces.

During the night of the 19/20 November, parts of the 16. Panzerdivision crossed the bridge at Golubinka with the forward elements being sent to Suchanov. Here the division planned to establish a defensive line and make contact with German units expected to arrive at the southern area of that sector. The columns marched along the frozen Don River where they refuelled at a nearby German airfield. The whole march was very difficult, since the German panzers didn’t have the winter anti-slip track extensions. Many tanks had to be retrieved after they had slipped into bogs and small ravines. Most movement was difficult because of breaking tracks and problems negotiating the small, but steep, hills they encountered.
At 0300 hours the 5th Guards Cavalry Division of 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps was split into two groups and followed two different advance routes. After one group captured Maoirovskiy by 1230 hours, two regiments of the 1st Romanian Cavalry Division attacked them. Sixteen assault guns, of Kampfgruppe Lepper, attacked the southern thrust. Here a classic cavalry battle raged. The Soviet 20th Guards Cavalry Regiment charged against the Romanian cavalry. A bloody fight ensued, after which the Romanians retreated. The Romanians lost 150 dead, 300 prisoners and more than 800 horses. After regrouping the Soviets intended to advance towards Nizhne-Buzinovka.
The 6th Guards Cavalry Division and two subordinated regiments of 32nd Cavalry Division continued to fight for Platonov, where they were able to drive the defenders back from the northern and northeastern parts of the State Farm. In the eastern section of the farm a joint force of Kampfgruppe Lepper and Romanians held. After seeing that the attacks were unsuccessful, the commander of Soviet 21st Army ordered the 76th Rifle Division to attack the farm directly. He also directed the cavalry formations, after leaving some screening forces behind, to continue the advance towards the Axis rear areas around Selivanov.

The defenders recognised the intended encirclement and retreated towards the southeast. The 65th and 85th Cavalry Regiments, of 32nd Cavalry Division, finally captured the State Farm. The Germans left 150 dead and 3 destroyed assault guns behind.

At 0500 the 5th Tank Army ordered the 21st Cavalry Division to shift to the reserve of the 1st Guards Army. The latter intended to conduct, with the 5th Tank Army, a joint attack against the Gorbatovskiy area.

There the remaining forces of the 7th, 9th and 14th Romanian Infantry Divisions were positioned. The remaining two divisions of the Soviet corps, together with the previously assigned 35th Guards Mortar Regiment, the 586th PVO AA Artillery Regiment, 179th Tank Destroyer Artillery Regiment, and the 511th Tank Flamethrower Battalion advanced through Bolshaya Donshchinka towards Russkaya Sloboda-Petrovka. This operation was coordinated with the 1st Tank Corps.

The 5th Tank Army renewed its offensive efforts attempting to break the enemy lines in their sector and to completely destroy the Romanian 3rd Army. At dawn they attacked in the same areas combining with a simultaneous attack by the neighbouring 21st Army.

On that day the 16. Panzerdivision started to withdraw its units from Stalingrad. They were replaced by a converted construction battalion and formations of the 94. Infanteriedivision. Although the tired and weary soldiers hoped for warm sleeping quarters, they were assembled at Orlovka. At a balka west of Rynok, the I/Panzergrenadier Regiment 79, I/Panzergrenadier Regiment 64, parts of 5th and 10th companies/Panzergrenadier Regiment 64, 11th/Panzergrenadier Regiment 64, Kradschützen Bataillon 16, parts of Artillery Regiment 16 and the remaining forces of Panzer Regiment 2 gathered. Here the weary soldiers received the news that they were not going to rest but were to be committed to another attack: They finally learned of the Soviet breakthrough on the northern flank of 6th Army.

As the morning was dawning, these forces combined into one combat group and marched 60 km west. They were hindered by knee-high snow and a freezing wind blowing over the steppe. Suddenly the forward elements encountered masses of dark points in front of their route. They were Romanians, without weapons, fleeing in panic towards the south. All attempts by the German officers to rally them were unsuccessful.

By this time the 24. Panzerdivision was prepared to participate in the counterattack.

Kampfgruppe Scheele, and the remaining units/vehicles at the maintenance area near Kamenskaya, was put under the command of Panzergrenadier Regiment 21 (Oberst von Below).
It was intended to withdraw these units and later feed them into the ongoing counterattack. The remaining units of 24. Panzerdivision were designated Kampfgruppe Don and included:

Divisional Staff
Parts of Panzer Nachrichtung Abteilung 86 (signals)
1st company/Kradschützen Abteilung 4 (armored cars)
2 weak Panzer abteilungen under Oberst von Winterfeld (later combined into one battalion)
IV/Panzer Artillerie Regiment 89 (FlaK battalion – 8.8cm AA guns)
Panzerjäger Abteilung 40 (minus 1 platoon, anti-tank battalion)
Bad weather, road conditions, snow, ice, and thick fog all hinder the quick movement of the attacking units. During the transfer, a new order from 6th Army arrived and redirected them to Suchano – Yerusslanovskiy – Shvorin. The division headquarters were to be moved to Ssuchano.

At 0930 hours the Soviet 4th Cavalry Corps was ordered to advance through its designated breakthrough point and capture Abganerovo. In two march columns the divisions advanced, while the supporting units (one training battalion, four independent tank destroyer battalions and the 149th Tank Destroyer Artillery Regiment) were left behind the 61st Cavalry Division as a reserve. Their advance was held up by the also bogged down 4th Mechanized Corps. The visibility was so bad that many vehicles simply collided with each other throwing the whole advance into turmoil.
The 1st Tank Corps, 8th Cavalry Corps and 8th Motorcycle Regiment assault the positions around Peshanyi. Several not very well coordinated attacks were repulsed by the Romanian 7th Cavalry Division and elements of the German 22. Panzerdivision. Toward evening the defenders abandoned their positions and retreated southwards. After the infantry units of 1st Tank Corps encountered stiff resistance, they change their attack route towards Bolshaya Donshchinka in the hope of achieving a breakthrough. The 8th Cavalry Corps remained to resume the attack the next day. Here the advancing mechanized formations were greatly hindered by the bad road system.

The whole corps was concentrated along only one passable road. This caused many traffic problems and prevented a faster advance.

The 26th Tank Corps, on the other hand, had to clear the region north of Perezalovskiy, since straggling Romanian units put up another defensive perimeter here and the 1st Romanian Armoured Division started to counterattack.

The decisive advance of 5th Tank Army was held up because of the defence of the Romanians, especially around Peshanyi, preventing Soviet mobile formations from exploiting the breakthroughs. On the other hand, the 1st Romanian Armoured Division constantly attacked the Soviet 124th Rifle Division, and prevented this formation from linking up with units of the 21st Army. This prevented a complete breakthrough by the Soviets in the sector of the 3rd Romanian Army.
But Yeremenko faced another problem. His mechanized units were not fully equipped with motorised transport. Therefore the advance in the southern pincer was less ferocious than in the northern sector. The 13th Mechanized Corps was clearly lacking trucks to mobilise its infantry. They had to be partially brought forward on recently captured railway lines directly to the battlefield. Despite this his formations were still advancing. The weak remaining Romanian resistance was broken easily.

When it finally seemed that the mechanised Soviet formations can advance without hindrance, they run into the elite German 29. Infanteriedivision (motorised). General Leyser’s division met Tanashtshishin’s 13th Mechanized Corps 15 km south of Beketovka. Since Hoth didn’t have communications with the Army Group, he decided on his own to use the 29. Infanteriedivision (motorised) to counterattack the Russians.

Its Panzer Abteilung 129 was over strength and has 55 panzers available.

South of Servlennaya the 29. Infanteriedivision (motorised) attacked with its armoured group at 1230 hours. Hoth was also able to assemble some Romanian units to participate in this attack. As soon as the opposing tank forces meet, a bloody fight ensued. The Germans had surprise on their side, and together with the better trained and more experienced panzer crews, the tank brigade of 13th Mechanized Corps was destroyed. The majority of the 90 corps tanks were destroyed. At this point the fog began to rise and the German panzer commanders spotted a train unloading masses of infantry to the west. Quickly the panzers take the Soviet infantry under fire. Hundreds of high-explosive rounds were fired into the train and wagons. The already unloaded infantry was also shelled. The advance of the whole 13th Mechanized Corps came to a standstill. The commanding German officer, General Leyser, immediately wanted to pursue the retreating enemy and finish him off, but Army Group B ordered them to withdraw and secure the rear area of the 6th Army. Because the Soviets were surprised to encounter that kind of resistance, Leyser’s plan could have worked in disrupting the southern attack. The higher German command, in the author’s opinion, misused that opportunity as the following details will show.
The news of the German success against the 13th Mechanized Corps also reached the 4th Tank Corps under General Volski. He therefore halted his advance towards Kalach and threatened to stop any movements at all if he didn’t receive reinforcements. What he didn’t know was that the Germans had withdrawn. So Leyser’s plan might have worked.

At 1500 hours parts of the old main line of resistance were won back, but the positions have to be abandoned again. From the previously smashed Romanian 2nd Infantry Division only 300 soldiers remained with the division.

In the afternoon the remnants of Panzer Regiment 36 (14. Panzerdivision) get their first combat contact with forward elements of the 26th Tank Corps. Despite small local successes, the sounds of combat resulting from the attack of the Soviet 26th Tank Corps on their left flank, indicates that the German forces were already bypassed. The division defended itself to the north, west and south with its panzers and artillery. Infantry forces were not present. During the night the panzers were directed towards Verchnaya-Businovka, where the Soviets were rapidly moving towards Manoyilin. The FlaK battalion, IV/Panzer Artillery Regiment 4, held and secured the withdrawal of the panzers. The 14. Panzerdivision still hoped for the arrival of the promised infantry regiment from the 44. Infanteriedivision. The Flak unit was, despite holding the Soviet tanks at bay, overrun a few hours later by the arriving infantry of 26th Tank Corps. The Flak unit lacked its own infantry support to successfully defend itself. To cut off the 26th Tank Corps, the 14. Panzerdivision intended to use its panzers to take Manoyilin. All available forces of the 14. Panzerdivision were gathered and sent forward to retake the strongly defended Manoyilin. The attackers suffered severe casualties and the force had to retreat. During the retreat the panzers managed to annihilate a cavalry regiment of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps.

By this point the situation was not good for the 14. Panzerdivision. The Soviets, instead of taking up the offer to fight, retreat or simply bypass the German tanks. This astounded the German panzer crews and kampfgruppe commanders. This meant the Germans were constantly participating in a kind of cat-and-mouse game, where a cohesive defensive line could not be established. When the Soviets did accept the challenge they suffered serious casualties. During 19 and 20 November, in only two days of combat, the 14. Panzerdivision knocked out 34 T-34 medium tanks and one KV-1 heavy tank.

At 1505 hours, when the destruction of the Romanian 2nd Infantry Division was confirmed by the commander of I/FlaK Regiment 12 at Nariman, the commander of IV Army Corps, General Jaenecke, ordered the raising of a Kampfgruppe at Yagodnyi under Major Pickel.
This group consisted of:

From 297. and 371. Infanterie divisions each one infantry battalion, 1 artillery battery, 1 panzerjäger company
StuG Abteilung 243 (assault gun battalion, less one battery)
FlaK Abteilung 602 (AA battalion)
1 light and 1 heavy battery of I/FlaK Regiment 12
4th/Artillery Regiment 59 (1 battery of heavy howitzers)
1 battery from II/Artillery Regiment 72
Signal troops.

It was intended to employ this combat group during the next morning to regain the lost Romanian main defensive line.
At 1555 hours the 6th Army headquarters repeated its order to Korück (command staff) to establish a defensive line Erik-Rozkovskiy-Novovasilevskiy and promised reinforcements. By midnight the following units had either arrived or were on the march to these locations:

Feldgend-Alarm-kp (field police alarm company)
AlarmKp Bf Chir (ad-hoc infantry company raised by the commander of the Chir river area)
AlarmKp Kalach (ad-hoc infantry company from Kalach)
AlarmKp Cernyskovskiy (ad-hoc infantry company from the Cernyskovskiy area)
AlarmKp of NaFü 6th Army (ad-hoc infantry company raised by the 6th Army’s signals battalion)
6 tank destroyer troops (pioneers trained in close combat techniques against tanks, raised by the pioneer school at Kalach)
4th/FlaK 38 (4th Company of FlaK regiment 38 with 3 platoons, each 3 guns strong)
3rd/Werkstatt KP 113 (3rd platoon of the maintenance company 113)
Armee-SanKp 2/542 (army medical company)
Pioneer Kolumn 113 (light bridging column – engineers)
InstKp 113 (another maintenance company)
4 light and 1 heavy PaK platoons

Even with these units the frontline was thin: Over a length of 27 km, 600 to 700 men were deployed in small battlegroups, most without heavy weapons. During the upcoming combat, these formations were sacrificed without any real reason.
Finally at 1800 hours the advance of the 4th Cavalry Corps was resumed and the 61st and 81st Cavalry Divisions moved forward. During the waiting period the combined forces of the 4th Mechanized Corps and 126th Rifle Division had captured Plodovitoye.

Only weak resistance, from remnants of the Romanian 1st Infantry Division was encountered before the advancing 51st Army. Their advance was finally blocked by the Romanian 6th Cavalry Regiment at Abganerovo and Abganerovo Station. To defeat this resistance the 4th Cavalry Corps enveloped this area from north and south. Even with this envelopment the Soviets were not able to throw the Romanians out of these vital positions.
On the breakthrough by 26th Tank Corps, the towns of Novotsaritsinskiy and Perelazovskiy were captured along with the staff of the Romanian II Army Corps. Because of this the German communication lines to all units the corps were lost. The German liaison radio station was also overrun. From that point the whole Romanian II Army Corps was cut off from higher command echelons.

The breakthroughs by the 21st Army also had consequences for the neighbouring German units. The 376. Infanteriedivision, despite repulsing the small assault groups trying to infiltrate the German lines, had to regroup and prepared to take up new positions to keep contact with the German units acting south of it. The 44. Infanteriedivision undertook similar preparations for repositioning and lost large amounts of supplies and equipment in the following chaos of the retreat.
News of the Soviet offensive finally reached the German OKH. The first reaction that was ordered and immediately offered to the Romanian general staff was to send more weapons. When the break down of the Romanian divisions became obvious, the German high command promised to send 242 anti-tank guns and 225 howitzers sometime in the future.
Later at 2100 hours the 6th Guards Cavalry Division occupied Svenikovskiy, without encountering any resistance.

For the upcoming night 1st Tank Corps was ordered to move towards Bolshaya Donshchinka. Here they ran into the German 22. Panzerdivision, supported by newly reformed and rallied Romanian infantry units. Panzer Regiment 204, under Oberst von Oppeln-Bronikowski, finally engaged the Soviet tank forces and clashed with them in Pests any, 48 km south of Serafimovich.

The division was down to only 20 panzers, but managed, with the support of their anti-tank guns, to knock out 26 Soviet tanks. This unequal battle was broken off by the Germans. The 22. Panzerdivision retreated because their Panzer 38(t) tanks proved worthless against the superior T-34 tanks of the 1st Tank Corps. Their low numbers of tanks didn’t enable them to engage the numerically superior Soviets for long anyway.
On the southern pincer one small ray of hope remained. At the end of the day the 29. Infanteriedivision (motorised) still had 52 panzers operational. The armoured fist of the division was still ready to punch against the advancing Soviets.

Meanwhile the 1st Tank Corps turned towards Perelazovskiy and Lipovski, where they overran rear area service and supply units. At the day’s end, the corps gathered around Lipovski and refuelled.

At the close of the day the 8th Cavalry Corps fortified their gained positions of the previous day and undertook reconnaissance missions around their perimeter.

Results of the second day:

Although the Romanians defended their positions stubbornly, their rear area and supply units were seldom able to do so.

This was mainly because they either lacked weapons, even basic infantry weapons like rifles, hand grenades and machine guns; or they were simply not trained in their use. Their only hope of survival was to flee. Isolated groups took up arms wherever available and fought the best they could against the superior Soviet forces. Their resistance proved futile in the end, they were simply no match for the Soviet units.

The Romanian staff officers were less energetic. The Soviet 26th Tank Corps captured many important staff papers from command posts. Also the unwillingness of Romanian officers to resist the Soviets when they arrived is well known. Far more troubling was the fact that the Soviet tank forces captured large stocks of Romanian and German fuel which could be used in the Soviet trucks and light tanks (most Soviet medium and heavy tanks were diesel powered). This enabled them to sustain their drive for Kalach.
Still some hope for re-establishing a front line and preventing a disaster remained. The most important and still functioning Romanian formation were the remnants of V Army Corps, and the remnants of 5 other divisions: the 5th, 6th, 9th, 13th and 14th Infantry Divisions. They were commanded by General Leutnant Mihail Lascar, a highly respected Romanian officer, who set up a well organized and tactically well executed defence with his units. After the fight for Sevastopol he received the German Knights Cross for his outstanding command abilities. The main reason why he didn’t surrender his forces was that he expected the German XXXXVIII Panzer Corps to come to his aid.
This northern pocket of resistance has another effect. The Soviet tank and cavalry units were advancing without properly covering their flanks. They were seriously in danger of being cut off by counterattacks.

Despite the far higher casualties the Soviets were inflicting during the southern pincer of their offensive, the advance here was less successful. The counterattack of one German mechanized division, the 29th, caused great concerns with the opposing commanders. Another factor was the stiff resistance by the 20th Romanian Infantry Division enabling the successful German counterattack. Lastly, the inability of higher-ranking Soviet officers to coordinate difficult operations beyond direct assaults became obvious.

V.3. 21 November

After the 376. Infanteriedivision had established the new defensive line it became clear, after the most forward elements of the Soviet 4th and 26th Tank Corps reached the Ossinovskiy – Ostrov line, that the rear area of 6th Army around Golubinskiy was highly vulnerable.

Therefore General Strecker, commander of XI Army Corps, planned to move some of his divisions to this sector and block the possible Soviet advance. He could do this because the 44. and 376. Infanterie divisions were not too seriously threatened from the pursuing Soviet forces and the 14. Panzerdivision was still holding around Businovka-Businovka.

It was planned to refit the I/Panzergrenadier Regiment 21 at the maintenance area and move them, together with the 1st/Panzer Pioneer Battalion 40, to the new assembly area of 24. Panzerdivision.

The chaotic situation during the following days rendered this plan unfeasible and both units were held at Kalach where they participate in the fighting against the Soviet bridgehead. Later both units were pushed southwards and out of the cauldron. Many of their survivors later form the nucleus of newly raised units after the original 24. Panzerdivision was destroyed at Stalingrad.
During the night the thermometer drops to -26 degrees Celsius and the Don River freezes completely. Raging snowstorms limit the visibility to less than 10 meters at times. The snow blanket, which melted during the previous day, was frozen to ice. This proved a problem that hindered the German force’s movement in the following days.

At midnight, after the Soviets received tank support and started to attack from the west and southwest, the cavalry of 8th Cavalry Corps finally captured the town of Pronin after a fierce night battle.

The Romanian 7th Cavalry Division was forced again to retreat and, unable to withdraw its artillery, they leave 18 guns behind robbing them of their supporting artillery.

The 1st Tank Corps continued its advance towards the Bolshaya Donshchinka – Russkaya Sloboda line. After they approached the Bolshaya Donshchinka area, the tanks received anti-tank fire from the 22. Panzerdivision, whereupon the corps moved southwest to avoid the fight. The connection between 1st Tank Corps and 8th Cavalry Corps was lost. General Heim cannot react to this situation properly and the possible isolation of the 1st Tank Corps cannot be taken advantage of.

Verkhne-Buzinovka was attacked by the 6th Guards Cavalry Division and the subordinated 18th Guards Cavalry Regiment at 0400 hours. Here two battalions and 27 panzers of 14. Panzerdivision defended. The fighting was intense, but 14. Panzerdivision’s counterattacks to retake the town were unsuccessful. The Soviet cavalry retreats once they realised an unhindered advance here seemed unlikely.
Afterwards the Soviets shifted the 6th Guards Cavalry Division, while leaving screening forces, and encircled the State Farm from the south. The 32nd Cavalry Division followed behind and advanced towards Osinovka. Here they encountered elements of the 14. Panzerdivision battle group, namely the divisional staff with its organic combat elements.

The 197th and 65th Cavalry Regiments were assigned for the direct assault against Verkhne-Buzinovka. As soon as the 32nd Cavalry Division moved south, the Germans counterattacked out of the Farm.

The attack didn’t succeed, and the 14. Panzerdivision was forced to retreat towards Osinovka. The small village was finally seized by the Soviets. The 197th Cavalry Regiment inflicted 100 dead and captured another 19 German soldiers in the town.

The advance of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps to the southeast continued during that night. Around 0500 hours the 5th Guards Cavalry Division arrived around Nizhne-Buzinovka and was immediately attacked by German aircraft. The cavalry scattered in all directions so the losses were insignificant.

At dawn in the southern Soviet attack sector the remnants of the defending Romanian 1st and 4th Infantry and 5th Cavalry divisions were driven back from their positions between Plodovitoye and Abganerovo by units of the 4th Cavalry Corps.
Having realised that the breakthrough was still not complete the Soviet 5th Tank Army orders their 124th and 119th Rifle Divisions to attack southeastwards to link up with the 21st Army and widen the existing breakthrough.

The Romanians established an all-around defence at Raspopinskoye. Here they hold against the Soviet rifle divisions from the 5th Tank and 21st Army.

At 0600 hours the 20th Guards Cavalry Regiment attacked the positions of the 24. Panzerdivision and were met by stiff resistance from two infantry companies at Nizhne-Buzinovka. The Germans were driven off the State Farm, but counter-attacked at 0930 hours with 15 panzers and a company of Panzergrenadiers (submachine gunners) out of Sukhanovskiy.

In the pursuit following the repelling of the German attack, the cavalry regiment captured Sukhanovskiy at 1600 hours. Another counterattack by six German panzers at 1800 hours was also successfully repelled.

In the morning of that day the 19th Tank Brigade finally joined the rest of the 26th Tank Corps at Perelazovskiy. The infantry of 1st Tank Corps was still trying to overthrow the Romanian defence at Peshanyi (Ust-Medvetskiy).

At other points on the Soviet advance routes, the mechanized units encounter resistance. The leading elements of the transferred 16. Panzerdivision were already assembled, and their officers evaluated the information they have received. Suddenly the forward elements of Panzer Regiment 2, 16. Panzerdivision, received enemy tank fire. The Soviet 4th Tank Corps had already reached Suchanov and the Liska River and was advancing from the west towards Kalach. The panzers of the division had driven right into the advancing Soviet tank forces. After a brief, but intense, fire-fight, the Germans were forced to retreat and tried to establish a defensive line at the river southwest of Golubinka. Shortly after the column reorganised, the order was revoked and the old attack route had to be resumed.

This time, the road was clogged by retreating Romanian artillery and cavalry units, intermingling with the 16. Panzerdivision combat group and other allied troops. After an hour, the combat group radioed the divisional staff and realised that the order to retreat was not given by them! Several radio transmissions with the XIV Panzer Corps also proved fruitless. The source of this mysterious radio order is still unknown. The division’s officers even thought some kind of deception in their own ranks was possible.

The combat group moved towards the north and tried to establish a cohesive defensive line at Bolshaya – Nabatovskiy. But the strong enemy forces were immediately pressuring them.
The hastily established Kampfgruppe Dormann (I/Panzergrenadier Regiment 64 and Kradschützen Battalion 16) tried desperately to throw back the enemy forces of the 4th Tank Corps. The panzers repulsed an enemy cavalry regiment’s attack. The front held and the Soviets didn’t try again to cross the Don River here. The 9th/Panzer Regiment 2 lost ten panzers in the defence.

On the left flank of 5th Tank Army the Romanians undertook several counterattacks. They were so successful here that the capture of Korotkovskiy and Shirk by the Soviets, scheduled for the first day, was delayed until the evening of 22 November. The Soviet schedule was already behind, and the planned goals were either not met or had been costly to meet. The 8th Cavalry Corps was held around the Chir River by hard fighting Romanian units. Therefore the planned advance of the 21st Army was basically stopped and its units were used to broaden the breakthrough areas for the long due drive through of the 1st Tank Corps of 5th Tank Army.
The Soviet 21st Cavalry Division was detached from 8th Cavalry Corps and directly subordinated to 5th Tank Army. The division was ordered to annihilate the retreating remainders of the 7th, 9th and 14th Romanian Infantry Divisions around Rubaskin, Singin and Gorbatovskiy.

During the day the 21st Cavalry Division attacked out of Karaseev and advanced towards the Frunza State Collective Farm No. 2. They were counterattacked three times by the 9th Romanian Infantry Division.
By the morning parts of the 8th Cavalry Corps were engaged with enemy forces of the V Romanian Army Corps. This corps was reinforced by tanks of the 1st Romanian Armoured Division. The 112th Cavalry Division attacked out of the Bolshaya Donshchinka area against a Romanian infantry regiment supported by 25 tanks of the 1st Romanian Armoured Division. The Romanians retreated towards Medvezhiy. The 55th Cavalry Division captured Malaya Donshchinka on the march and fought against the stubborn resistance of the Romanian 14th Infantry Division. The Romanians held Bolshaya Donshchinka fiercely, and the fight lasted for the whole day.

The 47th Guards Rifle Division pursued the retreating Romanian units and captured Varlamov. Thereafter they resumed their advance in the direction of Chernyshevskaya. The left flank units of the 8th Cavalry Corps were engaged by the German 22. Panzerdivision around Peshanyi and made only slow progress in that sector.

The German 22. Panzerdivision undertook an attack in a northeastern direction, but was surrounded. An attack from their southeast was able to block their rear area and the units of 8th Cavalry Corps and 26th Tank Corps nearly encircled them. A fierce fight between the 22. Panzerdivision and elements of the 8th Cavalry Corps ensued, and 22. Panzerdivision’s Panzer Regiment 204 was quickly reduced down to a single company of operational panzers. Later the division fought its way out of this dangerous situation and retreated south-westwards to Chernysochotskiy. During the retreat they were constantly harassed by the Soviet 8th Cavalry Corps.

At 0740 hours the 6th Army headquarters sent a rather optimistic situation report to the headquarters of Army Group B, where Paulus and Schmidt still considered the thrust of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps against XI Army Corps as the main threat. After a report that Soviet tank columns advanced only 30 kilometres west of the Army’s headquarters, they were finally convinced that the main axis of advance was further west.

Unfortunately no German reserves or substantial troops were available there. Large supply and fuel stocks were falling into the hands of the advancing Soviet forces. The German generals realised that both of the diagonally aimed advances were poised for Kalach. The encirclement of their Army becomes obvious.

Until that day the headquarters of the 6th Army was located at Golubinskaya, but at 1400 hours Soviet tank units reached the area. General Oberst Paulus and his second in charge, General Major Schmidt, escaped in some nearby Fieseler Storch airplanes, which evacuated them to Nizhna-Chirskaya. This was intended winter headquarters of the 6th Army.

At 0830 hours Abganerovo was reached by the Soviet 4th Cavalry Corps. They were immediately attacked by mounted Romanian cavalry of the 6th Cavalry Regiment. After a brief fight the town was captured. The corps’ horses were tired and the men weary, so a further pursuit of the retreating Romanians was aborted. The 277th Regiment of 81st Cavalry Division continued to advance and captured Abganerovo Station at 1200 hours.

The 1st Tank Corps was still held up fighting enemy resistance in front of them. Only the 26th Tank Corps gained further ground and advanced further forward. On their way they reach Dobrinka, where the commanding staff of the 6th Army rear area, Korück 593, was located. This command staff was established on 20 October to secure the rear area of 6th Army. Nominally the commander, General von Rothkirch, had the following units for securing the vital areas:
Reserve Division 403 with
Infantry Regiment 354
II/Reserve Police battalion 8 (motorized)
Cavalry Regiment 403 (Cossacks, cavalry)
1 platoon of armoured cars
1 signals company
3000 men of the border security forces to secure economical important objects
Security Battalion Wacht Battalion 571
Bicycle Security Battalion B
Military Police (motorised) battalion 521
Military Police (motorised) battalion 551
3 groups of general field police
After the enemy forces at Dobrinka were engaged as best as the weak defence allows, Korück 593 retreated with remnants of their troops to Surovibino, where they combine with Kampfgruppe von Stumpfeld and reinforce the defence there.

The 26th Tank Corps advanced rapidly and reached the Plestiskovskiy-Ostrov line. This operation opened a 30 to 40 kilometre gap between these two attacking tank corps, resulting in a situation where the 26th Tank Corps was very vulnerable to being cut off.
Several days before the Soviet attack the repair and replacement facilities of Panzer Regiment 36 (14. Panzerdivision) at Akssay raised a company of panzer crews with no tanks. The division, after transferring parts of their combat units to meet the upcoming threat, informed the commander of I/Panzer Regiment 36, Major Sauvant, that he and his men might be needed. So under his direction, an infantry company with about 150 men was raised. The commanding officer was Oberleutnant Jauch. In addition, 8 panzers left the workshops there and were assembled as panzer company Wohlleben. After the breakthrough on the southern sector became known, Kampfgruppe Sauvant advanced towards height 146.5 near Abganerovo. Shortly after midday, the rest of the 6th Army staff was evacuated to Gumrak, where the new HQ was established.

During the early afternoon Kampfgruppe Don reaches Kalach. They were unable to cross the bridge since the road was blocked by retreating German and Romanian vehicles. The chaos was increased by rumours that the Soviets were only a few kilometres away. In reality the Soviet 1st Tank Corps was still more than 60 kilometres away from Kalach. The 26th Tank Corps was still advancing towards Dobrinka and Lobosinskiy. Only the energetic efforts of some battle hardened German officers and the threat to shoot the fleeing Romanian and German soldiers, enables the kampfgruppe to cross the bridge and kept them on the march.

The designated assembly area was reached around midnight. Only the armoured cars remained stuck in the traffic jam.

During the afternoon Kampfgruppe Sauvant engaged forward elements of the Soviet 4th Cavalry Corps. The slightly faster advancing panzers, together with gathered Romanians from the shattered 1st Infantry Division, finally repulsed the Soviet forces. During the night the kampfgruppe was shifted to north of Gontsharovskiy as a reserve of the 4th Panzer Army.

Since the 26th Tank Corps was basically the only uncommitted Soviet mechanised unit, the commander of 5th Tank Army ordered them to advance towards Kalach. The right flank rifle and cavalry divisions reached the area around Gorbatovskiy and immediately attacked that village. The fighting lasted until midnight. The retreat of the German and Romanian units enabled the 21st Army to advance southwards.
After severe fighting, the remaining units of 16. Panzerdivision finally reached their ordered positions north of 14. Panzerdivision. The positions were as follows from left to right:

Battalion Wota (I/Panzergrenadier Regiment 79)
Battalion Dörnemann (I/Panzergrenadier Regiment 64)
APC Company Oberleutnant Dietz
Combined kampfgruppe of the remaining forces under Hauptmann Strack
The panzer regiment - in reserve
Shortly thereafter, the panzer regiment and Kampfgruppe Strack crossed the eastern bank of the Don and attacked the Soviet 6th Guards Cavalry Division and 32nd Cavalry Division near Dmitriyevka. The Soviet anti-tank defence proved too strong and the German battlegroups had to retreat towards Evlembrovskij. Later the 6th Guards Cavalry Division and 32nd Cavalry Division captured Osinovka at 1400 hours. Here they were forced to rest for four hours, since men and horses alike were totally exhausted. Any further advance on the day was totally impossible.

Results of the third day

The northern German armoured group, consisting of the German 22. Panzer and Romanian 1st Armoured divisions, was holding up the majority of the Soviet 1st Tank Corps. The Romanian 7th Cavalry Division was still fighting a bold fighting withdrawal against the Soviet 8th Cavalry Corps.
The encircled groups, under Mihail Lascar, despite giving some ground on their eastern flank still held down the majority of the Soviet rifle divisions. An all-out Soviet advance was therefore not possible. The 1st Tank Corps was still not participating in the exploitation movements and continued to battle with the German 22. Panzerdivision.

The German counterattacks were greatly hindered and ultimately prove fruitless. The reasons:

a) The three panzer divisions were withdrawn from Stalingrad piecemeal. It would have been necessary to withdraw them as quickly as possible. Part of the reason this did not happen was the whole extent of the Soviet offensive only becomes clear during the third day.
b) A coordinated counterattack with the combined forces of these combat groups was not possible, because the commanding corps, XIV Panzer, didn’t have sufficient information about the Soviet advance routes and the strengths of the forces opposed to them.

c) All German efforts were hindered by the retreating units and rear area services. Therefore it took the majority of the intended counterattack forces too long to reach their assembly areas and conduct sufficient reconnaissance before the attack. Also bad weather contributed a great deal to the difficulties the German reserve units had in their movements.

The German infantry divisions neighbouring the Romanian 3rd Army, 376. and 44., were forced to retreat and set up new defensive lines farther to the east. The movement of their retreating units also caused traffic problems for the German mobile forces.

V.4. 22 November

When the German XI Army Corps realised that its rear area was threatened and the danger of being cut off was imminent, the commanding officer ordered the 376. and 44. Infanterie divisions to retreat to new defensive positions at Blinoye Peresopka and Verchna-Golubaya. The 376. Infanteriedivision was ordered to move further south, during the next day, and establish a planned defensive line behind Golubinskaya. Kampfgruppe Simons, Lepper and the remnants of the Romanian 1st Cavalry Division were ordered to retreat and take up positions next to the German infantry.

At dawn on 22 November the Soviet 6th Guards Cavalry Division and 32nd Cavalry Division of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps reached the area of Evlampievskiy and Bolshenabatovskiy.
Their reconnaissance forces probed these locations and discovered they were heavily defended by the Germans. About three battalions of the 24. Panzer and 16. Panzer divisions with about 70 panzers were stationed there. The Soviets left this island of resistance as it was, and passed towards the southern and northern edge of Malo-Golubinskiy. Here they were stopped by reserve units of the 16. Panzerdivision blocking the passage to Lucanskij.
During the morning hours, the vital armoured cars of Panzer Aufklärungs Abteilung 24 arrived with the rest of Kampfgruppe Don. After conducting some reconnaissance missions with them, the 24. Panzerdivision drew the following conclusions about the overall situation:

The Soviets had expanded their breakthrough and were continuously advancing. The 14. Panzerdivision was still holding a relatively secure position northeast of Verkhna Businovka. The 14. Panzerdivision was mainly being attacked by cavalry forces from the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps of the Soviet 21st Army.

The Soviet 5th Tank Army was attacking southwards of that position.

The 6th Army command initially intended to set-up a defensive line from Yesseyev to Dobrinskiy, but didn’t have any real combat formations to carry out the plan, as nearly every unit was tied up in Stalingrad or near it. One of the first alarm units to be called upon was a bakery company equipped with infantry weapons from the Army’s stocks and sent to Mayorov to defend the village.

During the night before 22 November the Soviet deputy commander of the Stalingrad Front ordered the 61st Cavalry Division (4th Cavalry Corps) to move into the rear of the 4th Romanian Infantry Division and dislodge them from their defensive positions at Tundutovo, Sadovo and Obilno. The Romanians stubbornly fought against the attack of the 91st Rifle Division, which didn’t make any considerable progress in that sector. For the mission a battery of the 149th Tank Destroyer Artillery Regiment, a Guards Motorised Brigade and three armoured cars were assigned.
The Soviets succeeded with an attack at another point. On the morning of 22 November, Panzer Company Wohlleben discovered that the vital heights near Abganerovo had again been seized by Soviet troops. The Soviets attack out of that assembly area towards Abganerovo and Abganerovo Train Station. Company Wohlleben couldn’t participate in the fighting there, since they first had to fight off Soviet infantry arriving on trucks. The vital town of Abganerovo and its railway station were therefore lost. The Romanian 6th Cavalry Regiment was forced to retreat.
A planned counterattack by Kampfgruppe Sauvant was aborted, since the Soviets had dug-in large numbers of their famous 7.62cm “Ratsch-Bumm” (ZIS-3) all-purpose guns. The fighting for Abganerovo and Abganerovo Station cost the Soviets only minimal losses of 27 killed and 34 wounded. This compared to about 300 killed and 600 taken prisoner for the Romanians.

The Soviet victory was only possible because the German 29. Infanteriedivision (motorised) was ordered to retreat the day before. The order from Army Group B stated that the division was to establish a defensive perimeter around the Rokotino area, to keep the Soviets from advancing into the rear of Stalingrad. This order was a miscalculated evaluation of the actual events happening on the ground. The Soviets never intended to directly link with their beleaguered comrades in the city, like the German officers assumed. It turned out to be a major strategic error.

The Soviet battlegroup left Abganerovo at 0800 hours and advanced towards Kurgan Solianoye and Umantsevo, where they battled elements of the 8th Romanian Cavalry Division. The Romanians put up a strong defensive fight and held Umantsevo until 24 November. The Soviet advance was stopped at this point.

Kampfgruppe Don (24. Panzerdivision) was ordered to capture the line between Businovka-Businovka – Yerik and start reconnaissance activities until the rest of XIV Panzer Corps arrived.

The 24. Panzerdivision planned to attack with its two panzer battalions from Suchanovskiy north towards Businovka.

It did so and ran into units of the Soviet 5th Tank Army. Other units met enemy advances and the 24. Panzerdivision transmitted via radio that they had encountered advancing cavalry and tank units. A link to the 14. Panzerdivision could not be established, since Businovka was already enemy controlled.

At 0800 hours the Soviet 112th Cavalry Division, accompanied by the staff of 8th Cavalry Corps, moved towards Krasnoyarovka and Arzhanovskiy. They intended to cut off the retreating elements of 5th Romanian Army Corps, Romanian 1st Armoured Division and German 22. Panzerdivision.

After the 23rd and 28th Guards Cavalry Regiments, of 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps, deployed for their attack, the 25th Guard Cavalry Regiment was put behind them in reserve. The cavalry rode into battle on their horses, sabres drawn, until they were shelled by mortar and machine gun fire. After they dismounted, the attack continued, but was considerably slower.

Around 0800 hours the Soviets penetrated the first line of defence around the State Farm and quickly cleared the town of any resistance. The Germans lost about 200 soldiers.

The rear echelons of 55th and 112th Cavalry Divisions were attacked at 0930 hours by German and Romanian motorized units (including 20 panzers). The attack column was discovered by the 8th Cavalry Corps at 0830 hours.

The independent anti-tank battalion, the training battalion and the artillery of 55th Cavalry Division set up a defensive perimeter and, together with 35th Guards Motorised Regiment, repelled the attack. The German 22. Panzerdivision lost a number of panzers and trucks and withdrew south. For the first time, the German air support was really felt. The German attack was supported by Ju-87 Stukas of General Leutnant Fiebigs 8th Flieger Corps.

The main Soviet forces continued their exploitation advance. Enemy tanks and motorized infantry of the Romanian 1st Armoured Division were reported by 55th Cavalry Division approaching from the east and southeast.
After 1000 hours, the corps commander of 26th Tank Corps, Rodin, decided to take Kalach by night. He ordered Lieutenant Colonel Filippov, commander of 14th Motorised Rifle Brigade to take Kalach in a lightning blow during the night.

While this decisive action was undertaken, the rest of the corps came under attack around Collective Farm Pobeda Oktyabr. Here some elements of the 24. Panzerdivision, assisted by ad-hoc combat groups of stragglers, set up a cohesive defensive line during 21 November. The 26th Tank Corps was not able to break this resistance.

The XIV Panzer Corps ordered the 16. Panzerdivision, in conjunction with elements of the 24. Panzerdivision, to attack northwest of Mostovskiy towards Tsvorin and eliminate the enemy forces there. After that a turn south or north was at the division’s discretion, according to situational circumstances. This attack, if successful would definitely cut off the most forward Soviet units, the 26th and 4th Tank Corps. Unfortunately the division was still assembling and the attack was aborted. Any further thoughts of attack seemed unlikely as parts of the division were already defending east and west of the Golubaya sector. The panzer regiment, as the first arriving combat unit of that division, nonetheless attacked in the dense fog towards Suchanov, but was stopped by excellently camouflaged Soviet infantry of the 5th Ski Brigade. These troops were well equipped with anti-tank weapons. This together with the ever-present fuel shortage forced the division to retreat. Another problem to hamper the attack was the near complete lack of signal units. Motorcycle riders had to carry the messages and orders between the different parts of the division.

The Soviet 159th Rifle Division, on the 5th Tank Army’s right flank, captured Kamenka and advanced toward Bokovskaya.
The 21st Cavalry Division (8th Cavalry Corps) followed retreating enemy units and turned towards Verkhna-Maksay, and later southwards. The plan of the corps commander was to attack towards Chernyshevskaya and join with the rest of the corps, since the previous engagements had separated the division from the main body. The 119th Rifle Division captured Korotkovskiy and prepared to attack Zhirki.

Around 1300 hours the 47th Guards Rifle Division (5th Tank Army) debouched on the Chir River, captured Demin and Chernyshevskaya and finally eliminates the enemy resistance in front of their lines. A further advance was stopped by a hastily assembled combat group, Kampfgruppe Wantke, consisting of soldiers returning from leave, converted rear area soldiers, and assembled parts of the retreating Romanian 1st Armoured Division.
During the morning the Soviet 8th Motorcycle Regiment and an assigned tank company attack Oblivskaya, a minor airfield. They were repulsed and could not clear the objective of German resistance. The regiment was moved to Perelazovskiy, which it completed by evening.

The 14. Panzerdivision retreated to Verchnaya-Golubaya. During the withdrawal, panzers that had been immobilized during the fighting had to be destroyed due to a lack of proper recovery services.

The 5th Tank Army command realised the threat to its exposed mechanised formations because the covering rifle divisions were still held back fighting Romanian infantry units. However the 5th Tank Army ordered a further advance of its tank corps. The intention was to counter any probable enemy reserve movement and advance further southwest towards Kalach.

During the night and the whole next day, the tank corps advanced in a classic blitzkrieg fashion: Drive onwards to your goal without engaging the enemy, so they are constantly unbalanced.

During the day the connection between the 24. Panzerdivision and the XI Army Corps at Ossinovskiy was severed by advancing Soviet cavalry. The last order 24. Panzerdivision received from the corps was to use the newly arriving grenadier regiment to close the gap with the 14. Panzerdivision. The grenadiers never arrived. Despite this the 24. Panzerdivision launched its counter-attack.

At the heights of Suchano, to the west and southwest, the panzerjägers and FlaK took up defensive positions to guard the flanks of the attacking panzer battalion. Although Businovka was defended by Soviet cavalry, and another unit that was advancing west of the village, both panzer battalions made good progress and partially routed them. During that attack the situation changed. West of Yerusslanovskiy a strong tank brigade of 26th Tank Corps advanced, accompanied by motorised infantry, through the Bystrik-Yerik valley.

The bakery company stationed at Mayorov was no match for this force and was almost instantly annihilated.

The advancing Soviets split their forces. The weaker force advanced towards Suchano, but the main force advanced towards Yerusslanovskiy.

Another unnoticed group moved south of Katshalinskaya towards Kalach. This was the assault group that would take the bridge and seal the fate of 6th Army.

The panzer attack towards Businovka was stopped and redirected to take Yerusslanovskiy. The panzers seized the village and engaged enemy forces in a deadly tank duel. The few panzers managed to repulse the Soviets, but could not advance, since they lacked trained infantry support. Only small groups of retreating Romanians, supply units, and scattered security forces were available.
While the enemy was held here, Soviet infantry and dismounted cavalry, with tank support, attack Suchanov from the north.

The German kampfgruppe was bypassed on both flanks, as mobile enemy forces crossed the Liska sector and take Ossinovskiy and Lipologovskiy. Because their own casualties were mounting, the 24. Panzerdivision withdrew its units from the advantageous positions. The timely arrival of the rest of XIV Panzer Corps, especially the 16. Panzerdivision, was unlikely and Army headquarters denied a request for reinforcements.

During the night the retreat was, despite biting wind, freezing temperatures and strong snow falls, executed in an orderly and organised manner. After the majority of its combat units crossed the small bridge at Suchano, the 16. Panzerdivision’s staff also retreated under protection of the panzers.

The 376. Infanteriedivision, down to 4,200 soldiers, was ordered to retreat in a southeastern direction and crossed the Don two days later at Vertiyatshi. On their way back they were able to acquire some panzers from a repair facility at Peskovatka.

Attacks against the front of the German IV Army Corps were mainly repulsed and only a small bulge in the 76. Infanteriedivision’s line was achieved. The Soviet 24th Army tried to dislodge this sector, to hamper the German retreat, and to keep the advancing mobile units supported. The attacks lacked the fierceness and necessary supplies and German front held.
At 1700 hours the 112th Cavalry Division arrived at Krasnoyarovka, where they set up defensive positions running from northeast to east along the Chir River bank. At midnight, the retreating German and Romanian units tried to break through to their own lines, but were repulsed and retreated towards Russkaya Sloboda and Petrovka. After the action, the 35th Guards Motorised Regiment, 179th Anti-tank Artillery Regiment and 511th Tank Flamethrower battalion were detached from 8th Cavalry Corps and put into the reserve of 5th Tank Army. The 174th Anti-tank Artillery Regiment missed most of the action due to lack of fuel.
To finally destroy the cut off enemy units, the 55th Cavalry Division was ordered to attack them from behind. The 112th Cavalry Division was ordered to attack from their recently gained positions. This action was scheduled for the next day. The German 76. Infanteriedivision was directly assaulted by the 26th Tank Corps. The Soviets were headed for Vertiyatshi. The German 76. Infanteriedivision held their positions until 28 November when they were also forced to retreat.

At 2100 hours Soviet tank and cavalry forces attacked the 24. Panzerdivision in strong numbers, bypassing them in the south, and capturing the area thinly held by the various alarm groups. A new defensive line was established at the Rossotich sector. At the same time, the supply and medical units of the panzer battalions were taking up arms and establish a defensive perimeter in and around Sveciy Krassniy. One of the retreating panzer companies was encircled at Yerusslanovskiy, but fought its way out eastwards, inflicting heavy casualties on their attackers.
At 2200 hours the Soviets attacked the little village of Gontsharovskiy, south of Abganerovo with strong infantry forces from the 302nd Rifle Division. Kampfgruppe Sauvant supported the Romanian infantry defending and the assault was held off until midnight.

On the right wing of the 6th Guards Cavalry Division, the 32nd Cavalry Division (3rd Guards Cavalry Corps) attacked at midnight towards Bolshenabatovskiy and encircled it from the northeast. The 6th Guards Cavalry Division regrouped and attacked towards Luchenskiy and Kalachkin. The 5th Guards Cavalry Division moved during the night, and destroyed a number of retreating enemy units.
At midnight the forces surrounded east of Verkhna-Fomikhinskij break out of Shirk and reach the lines of the German 22. Panzerdivision south of Bolshaya Donshchinka. Here they joined forces for a counter-attack against the Soviet bridgehead at the Chir River. The 5th Tank Army reacted quickly and ordered the 346th Rifle Division and 8th Guards Tank Brigade to night march. It was intended to counterattack this threat the next day.

During the day panzers from the XIV Panzer Corps repair workshop at Kotelnikova arrive at Akssay. Major Sauvant raised another panzer company with 10 panzers under the command of Oberleutnant Schmid. The required staff and signals vehicles also arrived. Kampfgruppe Sauvant now had two weak panzer companies (18 panzers), one infantry company and a reserve company (consisting of various supply and rear area units).

By the end of the day the Soviet 1st Tank Corps reached Tuzov and Zrianinskiy. From there reconnaissance forces were sent towards Surovikino and Rychkovskiy. The tank corps was also free to exploit the breakthrough. The 26th Tank Corps reached the Don area near Kalach.

Results of the Forth day

The events of the 22 November continue on from the previous day:

The Germans desperately tried to counterattack the advancing Soviet tank and cavalry formations, but were repulsed and forced to retreat. The only positive aspect was that the retreat of the XI Army Corps was executed very well and most of the equipment saved. Even the pursuing attacks of the Soviets were repulsed. The German northern lines remained intact and even held against the Soviet attacks during the cauldron phase of the battle. Later in February the XI Corps contains the last German soldiers to surrender at Stalingrad.
Elsewhere the overall situation was bad:

In the southern Soviet attack area the advancing forces were resuming their movements and marched unhindered towards the vital bridge at Kalach. The German 29. Infanteriedivision (motorised) and the Romanian 20th Infantry Division were forced to hold their positions, although they would have been able to easily cut off the Soviet mechanized units. Failing that a counterattack would have at least slowed down the Soviet advance. The southern Soviet forces were not as well supplied as their northern counterparts.

General Hoth was forced to move his headquarters to Nishna-Chirskaya. The delay, while new communications were established, prevents Hoth from resuming his staff work for several days. The only good point here was several officers rally the retreating troops at Verkhna-Cirshiy and thereby establish on 24 November Kampfgruppe Abraham. This force played a vital role in supporting the German Operation Wintergewitter, the attempt to relieve the trapped 6th Army.
The Soviets were now threatening the right wing of the German ad-hoc army, later named Army Corps Hollidt, which desperately tried to establish a cohesive defensive line to hold the Chir River against the Soviets.

V.5. 23 November

During the night the mechanised and mounted units of the southern Soviet pincer partially resume their attacks against the remnants of the Romanian 1st and 18th Infantry Divisions. The first attacks were successful and the Romanians were thrown out of their defensive positions.

The panzers and infantry of Kampfgruppe Sauvant then counterattacked and repelled the Soviets. The defensive position was held until the morning. The kampfgruppe was later bypassed and a hastily transferred alarm company was surrounded at Vodeno, north of Akssay. The unit was ordered to break out and retreat to Akssay.

Company Schmid was transferred to strengthen the defence perimeter around Akssay. The company was able to overtake advancing Soviet cavalry units without being harmed.

After a short fight, the German infantry at Vodeno was relieved and the reinforced kampfgruppe marched as ordered to their new positions.

At dawn of that day the 5th Guards Cavalry Division captured Golubinskiy and Malo-Golubinskiy.

The 32nd Cavalry Division advanced towards Bolshenabatovskiy and met strong resistance. This point marked a significant step in the encirclement of the German 6th Army. The German 16. Panzerdivision undertook four counterattacks with panzers and infantry against the 32nd Cavalry Division. Although the Germans didn’t succeed in throwing the Soviets back, the latter were also unable to advance. By making these attacks the 16. Panzerdivision sealed its own fate, losing any chance of breaking free.

After midnight the Soviet 55th Cavalry Division left the Bolshaya Donshchinka area to carry out the orders issued the day before.

Unfortunately they didn’t have radio contact with either the 8th Cavalry Corps or the 112th Cavalry Division. At Medvezhiy the leading elements of 55th Cavalry Division attacked the rear units of the retreating 22. Panzerdivision. At 0300 hours panzers and 250 Kradschützen of this division counterattacked the 55th Cavalry Division, while they were on the march. The attack was repulsed by the Soviet cavalry strongly supported by anti-tank units.

Once more the German Luftwaffe made their presence felt. The 112th Cavalry Division came under German air attack for 6 hours. Each attack consisted of 10 to 30 aircraft. A total of 300 sorties were carried out. The advance of this division was greatly hindered, and it took the Soviets several hours to recuperate from the air attack.

The 21st Cavalry Division finally captured the Frunza State Collective Farm No. 2. This occurred around dawn and came after pursuing the retreating Romanian units. The Romanians put up another stubborn fight around Gorbatovskiy and Ushakovo, which were later captured by the Soviets during the night.
At 0400 hours the Soviets attacked the new positions of the 24. Panzerdivision, but attempts to flank the Germans were stopped by the panzers. Further to the north, Soviet mobile forces (cavalry, motorised infantry, and tanks) advanced towards Lutshinskoye to capture the Don River bridge. Again the German combat group was bypassed because they lacked the infantry forces to set up a defensive line. The divisional staff ordered the retreat to Skotovod. That retreat led them later from Nabatov to Glaskov. It was intended to establish a new defensive line there, with the XI Army Corps north and 16. Panzerdivision south of the town.
An intended attack by the 24. Panzerdivision towards Nabatov was abandoned due to their own recon platoon report of strong enemy forces there. The breakthrough was directed towards Golubinskaya to Maly-Nabatovskiy. One platoon covered the rear area, while two were up front attacking. The attack succeeded and Kampfgruppe Don finally linked up with units of the 16. Panzerdivision.

At the Golubaya sector Oberst von Below awaits the kampfgruppe with further reinforcements:

II/Panzergrenadier Regiment 21
I/Panzer Artillery Regiment 89
3rd/Panzer Pioneer Battalion 40
2nd/K 4 (Armoured halftracks)
Staff Panzer Regiment 24
The kampfgruppe was reorganised and an attack to gain the vital height 198.4 planned for that night. During the attack the panzerjäger battalion encountered a Soviet cavalry brigade and destroyed it completely. Together with the panzers, the objective was then captured.

Later the division planned to attack towards Yelampievskiy to close a gap that couldn’t be sealed off by the 16. Panzerdivision. Before the attack could begin Soviet cavalry and tank forces advanced through the opening in the front line. The only defensive forces here were a construction battalion, a medical company, and a motorised infantry company, raised from extra tank crews of the panzer regiment several weeks before.

They also suffered heavily during the house-to-house fighting at Stalingrad. These scattered forces barely held against the numerically superior and far better equipped Soviets.

The Soviet 119th Rifle Division of 5th Tank Army captures Shirk before dawn, and continued its advance towards Verkhna-Cherenskiy, joining forces with the 21st Army there. The remaining parts of Romanian 1st Armoured Division were nearly destroyed during encounters with the Soviets as they advanced.

During the night the 124th Rifle Division captured Karagichev and advanced towards Verkhna-Fomikhinskiy, which was conquered after an assault that evening. They join with the 21st Army, which then completed the encirclement of the remains of the 3rd Romanian Army.

Parts of 1st Tank Corps attacked towards Surovikino and Rychkovskiy. During the morning hours the Soviets offered the encircled Romanians, under Lascar, an honourable surrender. At first he refused, but after receiving reports that his soldiers were lacking ammunition and food, he accepted the offer. The units under his command fought bravely despite the superiority of the Soviets in nearly every aspect. Five divisions of the 3rd Romanian Army encircled around Raspopinskoye surrendered and marched into captivity.
When the Soviets attacked the bridge at Kalach at 0500 hours, the 3rd Maintenance Company and a spare part company of 16. Panzerdivision joined the defence of the bridge. When the first Soviet T-34 tanks arrived the soldiers thought they were captured vehicles of the German pioneer school used for anti-tank training. Due to the misunderstanding the bridge’s explosive charges were not triggered. A hard fought combat then ensued. The Soviets attacked en-masse forcing the defenders of the 16. Panzerdivision to retreat eastwards and therefore escape the cauldron. They rejoined other supply and maintenance units at Morosovskaya, 100 km southwest of Kalach.

But from this point on the 16. Panzerdivision had virtually none of their own supply and other rear area units at their disposal.

At 0520 hours the Golubaya sector was the only cohesive line formed with a relatively strong defence established. An counterattack by the panzer battalion of 24. Panzerdivision failed, because the promised Grenadier Regiment 134 had still not arrived. The Soviet bridgehead at Yelampievskiy could not be destroyed.

In the meantime a small Soviet cavalry force, probably battalion sized, moved secretly south of Kampfgruppe von Below. A panzer platoon, waiting there in reserve, discovered them and attacked through the Suachaya-Golubaya valley and annihilated it completely.

Finally Grenadier Regiment 134 arrived on trucks and attacked in conjunction with the panzers over Goryuschkin towards Yelampievskiy. The 16. Panzerdivision advanced from the south and gained height 201.4, hemming in the Soviet bridgehead. However, the success couldn’t be exploited as news arrived that two Soviet tank brigades had broken through at Marinovka. The combined attack forces of 16. and 24. Panzer divisions were immediately redirected towards Pestkovka to meet the new threat. When the panzers arrived at the expected breakthrough area no enemy was visible. The obviously incorrect report had cost the Germans victory in the sector. The engagement in the north and transfer to Pestkovka drew the only available attack force of significance away from the southern Soviet pincer, allowing it to finally reach Kalach.

The Soviet 8th Motorcycle Regiment was split into several groups and attacked retreating units south of Bolshaya Donshchinka.

Because the attempts of the 159th Rifle Division to capture Bokovskaya were repulsed by German panzer forces supported by infantry, the 159th Rifle Division and 47th Guards Rifle Division dug in at their newly established lines.

The 8th Cavalry Corps aborted its frontal attacks south of Bolshaya Donshchinka because the 346th Rifle Division and 8th Guards Tank Brigade had arrived and pressed the attack forward. Even this flank attack was not a success and was repulsed. At dawn the main body of the corps reached the line of Naumov, Petrovka and Arzhanovskiy. The 22. Panzerdivision was finally bypassed and forced to retreat.

Kampfgruppe Sauvant dispatched panzer company Schmid from Akssay towards Peregrusnye in the south to engage elements of the 4th Cavalry Corps that had advanced in to the area. The company halted the Soviet advance and enabled the remaining supply units of the 14. Panzerdivision to retreat from Akssay to Shutoff.

In the area of height 222, the enemy broke through the positions of 14. Panzerdivision during the night endangering the whole left flank of XI Army Corps and a general retreat was ordered.

The Soviet 26th Tank Corps cleared Kalach around 1600 hours of all Axis resistance.
The 1st Tank Corps advanced over the endless steppe without encountering significant resistance. This had the effect of splitting the attack into three directions. The northern group advanced towards Popov. The centre group headed for Verkhna-Cirskaya. The southern spearhead marched towards Surovikino. The southern and northern detachments had to stop their advance, since their supplies, especially fuel, were running low. The centre continued advanced towards Verkhna-Cirskaya.

On 20 November, when the Soviet breakthrough was telephoned to all units of the 14. Panzerdivision, Hauptmann Sauerbuch, quartermaster (Ib) of the 14. Panzerdivision command staff, left hospital where he was ill with a serious case of jaundice. He contacted the headquarters of his division and informed them, that he will raise a kampfgruppe to defend the area, in case the Soviets should reach it. The area was also fortified as well as possible. The terrain was rough and greatly hindered the deployment of tanks, which the defenders used to their advantage.

After the Soviets capture of Kalach, the 14. Panzerdivision retreated over the eastern Don river bank to Peskovatka. During the following night Panzer Regiment 36 received orders from the VIII Army Corps to assemble at Peskovatka, since its combat groups were still fighting the advancing Soviets at the Don under command of the 16. Panzerdivision.

By the day’s end the Soviet 86th and 65th Cavalry Regiments had taken the northern part of Bolshenabatovskiy in hard street fighting. The 197th Cavalry Regiment advanced to the eastern edge of the State Farm and cut the road to the east.

In the evening the forward elements of 1st Tank Corps attacked the German bridgehead at Verkhna-Cirskaya.

They run into the new Kampfgruppe Sauerbuch there. It consists of the following units:

1st/Kradschützen Battalion 64 (armoured cars, Sd Kfz 250) under Oberleutnant Feßmann
Group Domaschk (motorized infantry in halftracks)
Group Aly (gathered supply drivers and mechanics, equipped with infantry weapons)
Group Elbinger (similar to Group Aly)

They held a line southeast of the Chir train station, covering both Don bridges east of Mikosh.

The Soviets arrived piecemeal, with each of their attacks repulsed in turn. Some units threatened to bypass the northern flank, so Group Feßmann (10 Sd Kfz 250, 1/2 company of Kradschützen, 4 x 7.5cm anti-tank guns) attacked the Soviet infantry. The Soviet infantry routed and caused their tank formations to panic also. The Soviet advance was stopped in this area.

The panzers of the 14. and 16. Panzerdivision were concentrated on the road from Malonabatovskiy to Trekhostroskaya. From there they attacked the flanks of 6th Guards Cavalry Division in continuous series of battles. The Soviet 6th Guards Cavalry Division broke through the resistance and advanced on to the road. They didn’t clear it of the German alarm units. However, the road was continually under disruptive fire making if difficult for any reserves trying to use it.
In the south Kampfgruppe Sauvant withdrew and marched through Shutov to Darganov.

The rearward units also retreated before them in the same direction. Once there the kampfgruppe established a new defensive line. During the night, the kampfgruppe was ordered to return to Shutoff and secure the village. The Soviets followed close behind and secured their positions with a line of 7.62 cm guns. Akssay was reported to be strongly fortified, so any planned attacks were dropped.

At the end of the day the northern kampfgruppe of 14. Panzerdivision had only 24 operational panzers.

During the day the tank spearheads of the Soviet 4th Tank (General A.G. Kravtchenko) and 4th Mechanized Corps (General W.T. Volski) meet at Sovyetskiy.

Another propaganda myth put forward by the official Soviet version of events claims that around 1600 hours both spearheads met before Sovyetskiy, and the agreed signal (a series of green flares) were fired, soldiers from both sides run to each other and cheer wildly. This is nothing but pure fantasy. The truth was completely different. Both spearheads thought the forces opposite them were enemy and they started to attack each other. For half an hour both sides fought each other and suffered heavy casualties in men and tanks. After sending reports to their superiors, the following was stated:

The commander of the 45th Tank Brigade, Colonel Leutnant K S Chidkov received reports that despite giving the agreed upon recognition signal several times, his units received fire from the opposite side. Thinking they were German mechanized units they attacked and fired back.

On the opposing side the second in charge to Yeremenko, Leutnant General M M Popov reported, after conferring with the commander of the 36th Mechanized Brigade, that the 45th Tank Brigade was the guilty party, since no signals were fired.

Despite this unfortunate mistake the first step of the operational plan was completed. The whole German 6th Army was completely cut off from their supply lines.
Results of the fifth day

This day finally marked the encirclement of the 6th Army. The encirclement of the 6th Army was weak at this point. The Soviet rifle divisions from the northern pincer were still on the march and were trying to gain positions to cut supply routes. The Germans transfer large amounts of supplies, over the open steppe, during the next few days.

A breakout and disruption of the Soviet encirclement was very possible at this point. If the 6th Army could of concentrated its mechanised formations against the south and withdraw its infantry units from the city, a general retreat would have succeeded.

The Soviets faced their own supply problems. (See statements concerning the southern pincer above).

Although the Soviet casualties were not published up to this point, it can be said that the Soviet units were near the point of exhaustion. A determined attack against them could have succeeded.

The Soviet mechanised and cavalry formations of the 5th Tank and 21st Army were still advancing and the protruding frontline at the Golubaya sector was drawn back. The German 44., 384. and 376. Infanterie divisions were retreating together with the kampfgruppen of the 14., 16. and 24. Panzer divisions. The new front line was running from Nishniy Abatov to east of Bolsha Nabatovskiy.

For the Germans the bright spot was they were able to establish and consolidate their defensive lines. This was especially true of the northern line of the cauldron, which remained strong and solid.

Otherwise the first death knell had sounded.

The Taking of the Bridge at Kalach

The vital Don bridge at Kalach was the main object of the whole operation Uranus. The German 6th Army had no real combat troops stationed there. Only an amalgam of units:

A transport company of the 16. Panzerdivision
Workshops and maintenance facilities of the 16. Panzerdivision
A small contingent of military police
A heavy Flak battery of the Luftwaffe

The securing of the bridge itself was given to one 8.8 cm Flak and 25 men of a construction battalion from Organisation Todt. From surplus personnel a weak infantry battalion was organized and equipped with infantry weapons.

During the night of 21/22 November the most vital order of the operation was issued by General Major Rodin, commander of the Soviet 26th Tank Corps. He gave Lieutenant Colonel G N Filippov, commander of 19th Tank Brigade, the order to advance and take the bridge at Kalach.

At 0615 hours, Filippov ordered his assault force to advance over the seemingly endless steppe. At the front of his column were three captured German vehicles, 2 panzers and 1 armoured car. He intended to trick the German bridge security forces and seize the bridge before the detonation charges were triggered.

Shortly after the columns started to move, Filippov, with the crew of the first vehicle, discovered an old Russian man accompanied by two German soldiers. His men shoot the Germans on the spot, and Filippov asks “Uncle Vanya” which way to the bridge. After the old man hears his mother language, he calms down and proposes to lead the soldiers to the bridge. He climbs aboard a T-34 and the column marches on.

The Germans had established a pioneer training school at Kalach. The commander of this school was Oberst Josef Linden, who was commanding the surviving assault pioneers at Stalingrad. The Luftwaffe had built a small training facility on the eastern bank of the Don River.

The pioneer school was located on a hill east of the city limits. It was a normal working day despite the fact for the last 36 hours masses of troops, rear area services and supply columns were flooding north-eastwards through town. The acting commander of the school, Colonel Mikosh, was not worried since no orders for retreat were issued to him. So the usual training in close combat, explosives use, and weapon knowledge continued. Not only German, but also Romanian soldiers and non-commissioned officers were trained here. The latter trained in the use of German magnetic mines.

Also a nearby panzer repair workshop of the 16. Panzerdivision used the bridge several times per day to visit a firing range to adjust the guns of newly repaired tanks.

The German instructors also used several captured T-34s and older model tanks for instruction on the use of close combat anti-tank weapons. These tanks moved every morning over the bridge to the training grounds on the steep western riverbanks. All of these indicate it wasn’t unusual to see many types of vehicles, including Soviet made vehicles, crossing this bridge.

All lights were turned off to maintain blackout conditions in the Soviet column. A further 16 T-34 tanks with tank riding infantry accompanied the small battle command. Before the tanks entered Kalach, the T-34s were separated and moved to an area where dense brush and small trees provided cover for them. It was at the same point where on the 2 August German panzer crews spotted Stalingrad for the first time.

Filippov’s small “German” battlegroup passed the first German security posts at the outskirts of the town and advanced deeper into it.
Hundreds of German soldiers applauded and saluted them, when they passed them by. Filippov discovered the Germans were using the captured T-34s for training. Once this became known he decides to pull his own tanks forward and cross the bridge with them.

When Feldwebel Wiemann, security guard and gunner of the 8.8 cm Flak, sees the enemy tanks advancing towards the bridge, he is not alarmed, since everything seems normal.
On his first day, he was alarmed, but some military police soldiers explained the facts about the Soviet tanks, and so he was not worried, when the “normal” return of the tanks took place. Suddenly machine-guns from the tanks start firing on the security guards, now he is fully alert! Russians! He immediately strikes the alarm, a piece of steel hanging from a rail. His men, until then sleeping in a hut next to the heavy Flak gun, storm out of their quarters and start to man the gun. Only 8 anti-tank rounds are available, nonetheless Wiemann gives the order to fire. The first T-34 blazes like a torch. The second shot lifts another up and the tank flies into the Don.
The mighty 88 fires two more times but then only the sound of the burning wood from the nearby hut can be heard.

Although several of his T-34 tanks were destroyed, Filippov’s battlegroup was able to cross and seize the bridge. After successfully seizing his objective, he established an all around defensive perimeter and contacted the 26th Tank Corps to announce his success and demanded reinforcements to hold the vital objective.

Three times the Germans tried to retake or detonate the bridge, but every attempt was repulsed. After the first detonation attempt was defeated by Filippov’s group, motorised infantry arrived and reinforced the small Soviet battlegroup. The German attacks were supported by artillery and mortars, which fired from the heights across the Don River.

After the motorised infantry reinforcements arrived, Filippov ordered an attack to take the town of Kalach. During the morning hours the Soviets advanced to the town centre through the chaos of cramped and crowded streets. Around midday, the 3rd battery of the nearby Flak training school, supported by infantry, several 7.5cm anti-tank guns, one 8.8cm Flak gun and two mortars tried to push back the Soviet bridgehead, but were bloodily repulsed. The Soviet defenders knew that holding here at all costs would guarantee the success of the whole operation.

After darkness set in a new attack to clear the town of German resistance was mounted by the Soviets. A German 15cm howitzer battery, which supported the previous attacks, was withdrawn to Stalingrad, thus allowing the Soviets to completely take the town by 1600 hours. The surviving defenders retreat further to the eastern edge of the town.

The situation became precarious for the few German defenders.
Their heavy weapons lacked ammunition or were knocked out, so the survivors blew up their workshops and all non-transportable supplies and retreated. Many of these soldiers took the way south and hereby survived the catastrophe that was sealed that day. Others drove towards Stalingrad to meet their comrades and share their common uncertain future.

VI. Conclusions

The Soviet planning called for a mere three days to break through the enemy line of defence. The actual events did not run so smoothly. In the case of the 5th Tank Army, for example, this goal was accomplished in five days. This delay resulted for several reasons:

With some exceptions, the 47th Guards Rifle Division, 159th Rifle Division, and the 8th Cavalry Corps were not able to reach their mission goal of reaching the Chir River. The mobile-mechanised units had to fight hastily gathered reserve forces along with the remaining units of the initial defence. The rifle divisions were held up by the stubborn often underestimated Romanian forces. Therefore the myth, that these soldiers fled as soon as the first shot was fired has to be at least partially readdressed.

What general conclusions can be drawn from the information above?

The German General Staff, Army Group B, and 6th Army were all well aware, that the Soviets were planning to counterattack in the Stalingrad sector. Starting around 11 November they even had a very clear picture of the composition of the Soviet assault forces, although some parts might not have been revealed to them at this point. Any statement that the offensive took the responsible commanders totally unaware is historically inaccurate and cannot be taken as well researched, but is only a subjective evaluation by the people making these statements.

Although all responsible German officers were aware of the upcoming Soviet offensive, their counter measures remained insufficient, because the following points hindered them from acting appropriately:
a.) The 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army didn’t have significant reserve units because most of the first rate formations were stuck in the fight for the city of Stalingrad. The only exception is the 29. Infanteriedivision (motorised) under 4th Panzer Army.

b.) The units that were withdrawn from the city to counter the offensive were simply insufficient. This is especially true of the three German panzer divisions committed to Stalingrad. They should never have entered the city to fight. If they had remained in reserve or at least out of the city, the Soviets would have faced far greater opposition than the battle worn and decimated combat groups that these divisions actually formed during the initial encirclement battle. Even after parts of these divisions were withdrawn the panzergrenadier regiments still remained in the city. A good example is 14. Panzerdivision in which their withdrawal was ordered too late to be any help.

c.) Hitler demanded too much of 6th Army at that point. He believed they should counter the Soviet offensive and still seize Stalingrad simultaneously! With the already burnt out and severely reduced units at their disposal, this order was simply not realistic.

d.) The 22. Panzerdivision was considerably weakened through previous detachments of various units and the incomplete upgrade to more modern German tanks. This division was basically not fit to fulfil the upcoming assignment. It is not recorded whether Hitler, or the general staff, knew these facts when they were deciding how to utilize this division.

e.) General Heim’s deployment of his forces to meet the Soviet breakthrough units. Together with the Romanian infantry, he had a good chance to repulse or at least slow down their advance from these positions and his counter thrust was intended to keep the Soviets off balance. Therefore the 6th Army might have had more time to withdraw units from Stalingrad and organize a more effective defence than they actually did. The order to change his route of attack not only took that chance away, but also cost his units losses, which hindered him in later actions. Although full success seems unlikely, taking only numbers and equipment aspects into consideration, the 6th Army still had a good chance to prevent disaster, even if it was only temporarily.

The myth of the unreliable, wildly routing Romanian forces, maintained by many authors, cannot be applied to all of the Romanian units:

a.) Many authors don’t take into account, that when German forces encountered fleeing Romanians, they were seeing, many times, rear area units or parts of totally shattered front line units. The same held true for many German units, especially supply and rear area services, like the field post, bridging columns, maintenance units and other non-combat formations. The illustration of many of these German instances was not shown in this article, since the focal point was on the military aspects of the operation.

b.) On many occasions the Romanian units held their ground and defended the best they could. This is especially true during the initial Soviet attacks on the Romanian V Corps. Their demonstrated combat abilities were a lot higher than many ‘experts’ in the German staff expected them to be. Hoth (4th Panzer Army commander) mentions that the Romanian infantry divisions were overcome by ‘Panzerschreck’ (tank fear) and fled. This is the source of many of the myths surrounding the Romanian forces. There is no reason to suspect it didn’t happen in the Romanian 3rd Army also, but Hoth is the only one who mentions it. For the most part, the Romanian units were answering the Soviet attacks with great determination as detailed earlier.
Like the Soviets admit in their operational study, the plan took longer to execute than anticipated. There were several reasons for this delay:

a.) The supposedly weak Romanians gave a far stiffer fight than originally assumed by the planners.

b.) The initial artillery barrage, in the northern sector, simply didn’t dislodge the enemy defence leaving most units able to defend their positions effectively.

c.) Their own units were not up to the planned training standard. Many formations were either newly raised or had to be rebuilt after serious losses preceding the offensive. Many soldiers simply lacked experience. Many commanding officers, take Batov as an example, were not very confident that the attack would succeed. This leads to greatly hindered execution of the plan, since even minor setbacks were thought to be far more serious than they actually were.

d.) As an example of the successful counterattack by the German 29. Infanteriedivision (motorised) showed, the Soviets were still at a tremendous disadvantage concerning their tactical command abilities. When the Soviets faced regular German combat formations, even at company or battalion level, the Soviet soldier still showed certain deficiencies in his abilities. The German panzer command capabilities were still far superior. Later Operation Wintergewitter, to free the encircled 6th Army, would demonstrate this.
The most overlooked fact for the success of Operation Uranus was an event taking place far further west than most people would consider related. The Allied landing in Northern Africa put a strain on the German command and staff system. Hitler was so entangled with paranoia of further Allied landings, especially in southern France, that it prohibited him from examining the available facts thoroughly.
The first active ground engagement of American forces in the European war gave the Soviets an advantage. The best German divisions at that time were kept in reserve just in case they were needed in Western Europe. The three SS Panzergrenadier Divisions, that would only three months later thwart the Soviet advance towards Rostov, were not available to the German command on the East Front. If these divisions would have been available for the beginning of Operation Uranus or later in the relief attempt, then history might have been changed.

VII. State of the historical research at the time of writing

Although every book about the battle for Stalingrad portrays the events of this article more or less, none can be recommended solely as the ultimate reference source for the Operation Uranus portion described above. Every author places emphasis upon certain aspects causing us to have to consider many sources.

Soviet planning and operations description:

These two books are highly recommended:

Louis Rotundo’s edited version of the official 1943 Soviet General Staff Study. Although it includes a lot of propaganda, especially in term of writing style, the data concerning the actual flow of operations formed the basis of this article. The number of inflicted casualties and captured equipment, etc. can mostly be neglected, since this official study was, like Rotundo outlines in his preface, intended to be an instruction tool for training officers. Aside from the memoirs of involved officers, not too much original Soviet material is available for this time frame.

Earl F. Ziemke´s classic “From Moscow to Stalingrad” gives a good insight into the Soviet side at the high command level.

German side:

The same for Ziemke’s book can be said for Kehrig’s book detailing the German side. The German – Romanian relationship and its changing states of agreement is profoundly researched and documented. This book is an invaluable source about the battle as a whole. The only drawback being that not every operation/engagement is described in detail. Otherwise the book is full of hard facts based on actual original documents.

The German divisional histories of the panzer units can be neglected here. Basically all available data for the battle is included in this article. The divisional histories of the infantry units were also neglected, because the main focus prevented a more detailed representation of the events from their side.

Romanian involvement:

The problem here is the author doesn’t speak or read Romanian. Although a bibliography (“Rumänische Militärische Bibliograhie” (Auswahl 1944 – 1984) Militärverlag Bukarest, 1985) was tracked down early in the research process, the book didn’t handle the subject of Romania during WW II except the uprising on 23 August 1944 and the involvement of the Romanian army against the Germans until the end of the war.

If Romanian historians have more data, or if there are more recent books describing the involvement of the Romanian Army during Operation Uranus, please let us know. It might be possible since the Romanian archives were opened. Unfortunately such data was not available to the author. Every described event including any Romanian participation was therefore taken from German and English sources.

(Editors Note: I can recommend Mark Axworthy’s Third Axis, Forth Ally as a good account of the Romanian involvement in WWII. Also Reluctant Axis: The Romanian Army In Russia 1941-44 by Mihai Tone Filipescu covers the Romanian participation on the Eastern Front. Both are in English.)

(Most of these are only available in German)

Beevor, Antony "Stalingrad"
complete paperback edition
Goldmann Verlag,
München, Germany
March 2001
ISBN 3-442-15101-5

Boog, Horst "Der Globale Krieg, Die Ausweitung zum Weltkrieg und der Wechsel der
(and others) Initiative"
Volume 6
Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt
Stuttgart, Germany
ISBN 3-421-06233-1

Carell, Paul “Unternehmen Barbarossa“
Verlag Ullstein GmbH
Frankfurt – Berlin - Wien

Craig, William "Die Schlacht um Stalingrad"
licensed edition
Verlag Kurt Desch GmbH
München, Germany
ISBN 3-420-04692-8

Grams, Rolf "Die 14. Panzerdivision 1940 – 1945"
License edition of Edition Dörfler
Eggolsheim, Germany
no date

Kehrig, Manfred "Stalingrad Analyse - Dokumentation"
Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt
Stuttgart, Germany

Piekalkiewicz, Janusz "Stalingrad – Anatomie einer Schlacht"
Licensed edition of Südwest Verlag, München
Bertelsmann Club GmbH
Gütersloh, Germany
No date

Rotundo, Louis "Battle for Stalingrad - The 1943 Soviet General Staff Study"
Pergamon-Brassey´s International Defense Publishers, Inc.,
Washington, USA
First edition 1989
ISBN 0-08-035974-4

Schröter, Heinz "Stalingrad – bis zur letzten Patrone"
Licensed edition
Cinema-Velag Albert Annies
Waiblingen, Germany

Senger u. Etterlin jr. "Die 24. Panzerdivision 1939 – 195"
Dr. F.M. Licensed edition of edition DÖRFLER
no date

Stoves, Rolf "Die gepanzerten und motorisierten deutschen Großverbände"
Podzun-Pallas Verlag
Kohlhäuser Str. 8
61200 Wölfersheim-Berstadt, Germany
second printing 1994
ISBN 3-7909-0279-9

Werthen, Wolfgang "Geschichte der 16. Panzerdivision1939 – 1945"
Verlag Hans Henning Podzun
Bad Nauheim, Germany

Ziemke, Earl F. "Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in The East"
Center of Military History
United States Army
Washington D.C., USA