Operation Winter Storm
In late November 1942, the Red Army completed Operation Uranus, encircling some 300,000 Axis personnel in and around the city of Stalingrad. German forces within the Stalingrad pocket and directly outside were reorganized under Army Group Don, to remedy the situation, the Luftwaffe attempted to supply German forces in Stalingrad through an air bridge. Originally, Manstein was promised four panzer divisions, due to German reluctance to weaken certain sectors by redeploying German units, the task of opening a corridor to the German 6th Army fell to the 4th Panzer Army. The German force was pitted against several Soviet armies tasked with the destruction of the encircled German forces, the German offensive caught the Red Army by surprise and made large gains on the first day. The spearhead forces enjoyed air support and were able to defeat counterattacks by Soviet troops, by 13 December, Soviet resistance slowed the German advance considerably. Although German forces took the area surrounding Verkhne-Kumskiy, the Red Army launched Operation Little Saturn on 16 December, Operation Little Saturn crushed the Italian 8th Army on Army Group Dons left flank, threatening the survival of Mansteins entire group of forces.
The 4th Panzer Army continued its attempt to open a corridor to the 6th Army on 18–19 December, Manstein was forced to call off the assault on 23 December and by Christmas Eve the 4th Panzer Army began to withdraw to its starting position. Due to the failure of the 6th Army to breakout and the attempt to break the Soviet encirclement, on 23 November 1942, the Red Army closed its encirclement of Axis forces in Stalingrad. Nearly 300,000 German and Romanian soldiers, as well as Russian volunteers for the Wehrmacht, were trapped in, amidst the impending disaster, German chancellor Adolf Hitler appointed Field Marshal Erich von Manstein as commander of the newly created Army Group Don. Composed of the German 4th Panzer and 6th Armies, as well as the Third and Fourth Romanian Armies, instead of attempting an immediate breakout, German high command decided that the trapped forces would remain in Stalingrad in a bid to hold out. The encircled German forces were to be resupplied by air, requiring roughly 680 t of supplies per day, the assembled fleet of 500 transport aircraft were insufficient for the task.
Many of the aircraft were serviceable in the rough Soviet winter, in early December. The German 6th Army, for example, was getting less than 20% of its daily needs, the Germans were still threatened by Soviet forces which still held portions of the Volga Rivers west bank in Stalingrad. Given the unexpected size of German forces closed off in Stalingrad, on 23 November Stavka decided to strengthen the outer encirclement preparing to destroy Axis forces in, on 24 November, several Soviet formations began to entrench themselves to defend against possible German incursions originating from the West. The Soviets reinforced the forces in order to prevent a successful breakout operation by the German 6th Army. However, this tied down over ½ of the Red Armys strength in the area, planning began for Operation Koltso, which aimed at reducing German forces in the Stalingrad pocket. As Operation Uranus concluded, German forces inside the encirclement were too weak to attempt a breakout on their own, Manstein proposed a counterstrike to break the Soviet encirclement of Stalingrad, codenamed Operation Winter Storm.
Manstein believed that—due to the inability of the Luftwaffe to supply the Stalingrad pocket—it was becoming important to relieve them at the earliest possible date
Operation Koltso was the last part of the Battle of Stalingrad. It resulted in the capitulation of the remaining Axis forces encircled in the city, the operation was launched on 10 January 1943 with a mass artillery bombardment of the German positions outside the city by the seven encircling Soviet armies. In the first three days, the Soviets lost 26,000 men and over half their tanks, the western half of the Stalingrad pocket had been lost by 17 January. On the 10th, it clear the main goal was the Pitomnik airfield. The 44th, 76th and 28th Infantry Divisions were badly hit, the 3rd Infantry Division, deployed on the southwestern corner of the cauldron since the end of Nov.1942, was ordered to retreat to new defensive positions to avoid encirclement. The fighting paused for four days while the Soviet forces regrouped and redeployed for the phase of the operation. The second phase of the offensive began on 20 January with a Soviet push toward the airfield at Gumrak, two days later, the airfield was occupied by the Soviets.
Its capture meant an end to the evacuation of the German wounded, Paulus on 22 January sent a radio message to OKH, Russians in action in 6 km wide on both sides Voroponovo, some with flags unfurled to the east. Withdrawal to neighboring fronts who are without ammunition, supply with ammunition from other fronts no longer possible. More than 12,000 unprovided for wounded in the encirclement, what orders shall I give the troops who have no more ammunition and will be further attacked with heavy artillery and massed infantry. Fastest decision necessary because dissolution in some places already started, confidence in the leadership still exists. The Axis retreated back into the city itself, but resistance to the Soviet advance gradually diminished due to the exhaustion of all supplies on the Axis side. On 25 January, LI Corps commander Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach told his commanders to decide for themselves on the matter of surrender. He was immediately relieved of his command by Paulus, Seydlitz-Kurzbach fled the German lines under German fire and personally surrendered to the Soviets.
On 26 January, detachments of 21st Army met up with the 13th Guards Division to the north of the Mamaev Kurgan and many of his senior German commanders were in the smaller southern pocket based in the city center of Stalingrad. The northern pocket was led by XI Corps commander General Strecker, in bitter fighting, the Soviets gradually cleared the city center. By 31 January, German resistance in the pocket was confined to individual buildings. Soviet forces reached Pauluss headquarters in the Univermag Department Store and the remaining German soldiers ceased their resistance, Soviet Staff officers entered the building and negotiated terms with General Schmidt
Italian participation in the Eastern Front
The Italian participation in the Eastern Front during World War II began after the launch of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, on 22 June 1941. Mussolini did this despite the lack of enthusiasm shown by German dictator Adolf Hitler, from 1941 to 1943, the Italians maintained two units on the Eastern Front. The first Italian fighting force was a unit called the Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia. The second force was a unit which subsumed the CSIR. The second force was called the Italian Army in Russia and was known as the Italian 8th Army. The Italian Army in Russia suffered heavy losses during the Battle of Stalingrad and was withdrawn to Italy in 1943, only minor Italian units participated on the Eastern Front past that point. Constituted on 10 July 1941, the Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia arrived in the southern Soviet Union between July and August 1941, the CSIR was initially subordinated to German General Eugen Ritter von Schobert’s 11th Army. On 14 August 1941, the CSIR was transferred to the control of German General Ewald von Kleists Panzer Group 1, on 25 October 1941, Panzer Group 1 was redesignated as the 1st Panzer Army.
The CSIR remained under von Kleist’s command until 3 June 1942 when it was subordinated to German General Richard Ruoff’s 17th Army, the CSIRs original commander, Italian General Francesco Zingales, fell ill in Vienna during the early stages of transport to the Soviet Union. On 14 July 1941, Zingales was replaced by Italian General Giovanni Messe, the CSIR had three divisions, the 52 Motorised Division Torino, the 9 Motorised Division Pasubio and the 3 Cavalry Division Amedeo Duca dAosta. The CSIR was sent to the sector of the German advance in the Ukraine in July 1941. In August 1941, as part of the German 11th Army, the CSIR pursued retreating Soviet troops between the Bug River and Dniestr River. While the 11th Army besieged Odessa, the CSIR was attached to First Panzer Group under General von Kleist, in its early encounters it was successful, taking a number of towns and cities and creating a favourable impression on its German allies. This cost them only 291 casualties of their own,87 killed,190 wounded, on October 20, the CSIR together with the German XXXXIX Mountain Corps captured the major industrial center of Stalino after heavy resistance from the Soviet defenders.
Units from the Pasubio Motorized Division captured the city of Gorlovka on November 2. While the CSIR did not participate in the siege of Odessa, with the onset of winter, the CSIR units began consolidating their occupation zone and preparing defensive works. In the last week of December, the 3rd Mobile Division was hit with a counterattack by Soviet forces. They managed to back the attacks long enough for the German 1st Panzer Army to provide back-up to their sector
Operation Little Saturn
The success of Operation Uranus, launched on 19 November 1942, had trapped 250,000 -300,000 troops of General Friedrich Paulus German 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army in Stalingrad. To exploit this victory, the Soviet general staff planned a campaign of continuous and highly ambitious offensive operations. Later Joseph Stalin reduced his ambitious plans to a small campaign codenamed Operation Little Saturn. Despite these victories, the Soviets themselves became over extended, setting up the stages for the German offensives of the Third Battle of Kharkov, by 6 July, General Hermann Hoths Fourth Panzer Army had taken the city of Voronezh, threatening to collapse the Red Armys resistance. The rapid German advance threatened to cut the Soviet Union off from its southern territories, the operation formed part of the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad, and was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced as early as September 1942 and these Axis armies were deployed in open positions on the steppe and lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor.
Operation Winter Storm, undertaken between 12–23 December 1942, was the German Fourth Panzer Armys attempt to relieve encircled Axis forces during the Battle of Stalingrad. In late November, the Red Army completed Operation Uranus, which resulted in the encirclement of Axis personnel in, German forces within the Stalingrad Pocket and directly outside were reorganized under Army Group Don, under the command of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. They would be supported by the 6th Army of the Voronezh Front, while General Rodion Malinovskys Soviet 2nd Guards Army blocked the German advance on Stalingrad, the modified plan Operation Little Saturn was launched on 16 December. This operation consisted of a movement which threatened to cut off the relieving forces. The Italians resisted the Soviet attack for two weeks, although outnumbered 9 to 1 in some sectors, but with huge losses. Manstein sent the 6th Panzer Division to the Italians aid, of the 130,000 encircled troops, to the south the advance of General Gerasimenkos 28th Army threatened to encircle the 1st Panzer Army and General Trufanovs 51st Army attacked the relief column directly.
In a daring raid, by 24 December tanks of the 24th Tank Corps had reached Tatskinskaya, the Soviet tanks drove through snowstorms onto the airfield and roamed about for hours, destroying the German transport planes at their leisure. With the relief column under threat of encirclement, Manstein had no choice but to back to Kotelnikovo on 29 December. Of the 200,000 -250,000 soldiers encircled 90,000 survived to be taken prisoner, only 5,000 lived to return to Germany. The Soviets attacked and pushed back the remaining units of the German 24th Army Corps on the Alpini left flank and contemporarily attacked the Alpini themselves. The Alpini held the front, but within three days the Soviets advanced 200 kilometers to the left and right of the Alpini, who were encircled and forced to try to escape a siege. Although the Alpini corps was ordered to hold the front at all costs, on the evening of January 17, the commanding officer of the corps General Gabriele Nasci finally ordered the full retreat, which was fully carried out on January 19
The operation formed part of the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad, and was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced in September 1942, and was developed simultaneously with plans to envelop and destroy German Army Group Center and these Axis armies lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor. The situation was exacerbated by the German decision to relocate several mechanized divisions from the Soviet Union to Western Europe, units in the area were depleted after months of fighting, especially those which took part in the fighting in Stalingrad. In comparison, the Red Army deployed over one million personnel for the purpose of beginning the offensive in, Soviet troop movements were not without problems, due to the difficulties of concealing their build-up, and to Soviet units commonly arriving late due to logistical issues. Operation Uranus was first postponed from 8 to 17 November, to 19 November, at 07,20 Moscow time on 19 November, Soviet forces on the northern flank of the Axis forces at Stalingrad began their offensive, forces in the south began on 20 November.
By late 22 November Soviet forces linked up at the town of Kalach, instead of attempting to break out of the encirclement, German dictator Adolf Hitler decided to keep Axis forces in Stalingrad and resupply them by air. In the meantime and German commanders began to plan their next movements, on 28 June 1942, the Wehrmacht began its offensive against Soviet forces opposite of Army Group South, codenamed Case Blue. After breaking through Red Army forces by 13 July, German forces encircled and captured the city of Rostov. The responsibility to take Stalingrad was given to the Sixth Army, the following day, the Battle of Stalingrad began when vanguards of the Sixth Army penetrated the suburbs of the city. By November the Sixth Army had occupied most of Stalingrad, pushing the defending Red Army to the banks of the Volga River, the German command was intent upon finalizing its capture of Stalingrad. Ultimately, command of Soviet efforts to relieve Stalingrad was put under the leadership of General Aleksandr Vasilevsky, Operation Uranus involved the use of large Soviet mechanized and infantry forces to encircle German and other Axis forces directly around Stalingrad.
For example, in early July the Sixth Army was defending a 160-kilometer line, Army Group B had the 48th Panzer Corps, which had the strength of a weakened panzer division, and a single infantry division as reserves. For the most part the German flanks were held by arriving non-German Axis armies, while German forces were used to spearhead continued operations in Stalingrad, their 37-millimeter PaK anti-tank guns were antiquated and they were largely short of ammunition. Only after repeated requests did the Germans send the Romanian units 75-millimeter PaK guns, the Italians and Hungarians were positioned at the Don west of the Third Romanian Army, but the German commanders did not hold in high regard the capability of those units to fight. The Sixth Army had suffered casualties during the fighting in the city of Stalingrad proper. In some cases, such as that of the 22nd Panzer Division, German formations were overextended along large stretches of front, the XI Army Corps, for example, had to defend a front around 100 kilometers long.
The Red Army allocated an estimated 1,100,000 personnel,804 tanks,13,400 artillery pieces and over 1,000 aircraft for the upcoming offensive. Across the Third Romanian Army, the Soviets placed the redeployed 5th Tank Army, as well as the 21st and 65th Armies, in order to penetrate, in total, the Soviets had amassed 11 armies and various independent tank brigades and corps
Second Army (Hungary)
The Hungarian Second Army was one of three field armies raised by the Kingdom of Hungary which saw action during World War II. All three armies were formed on March 1,1940, Hungarys head of state was Regent Admiral Miklós Horthy and the government was led by Prime Minister Pál Teleki. On April 3,1941, Teleki committed suicide when it became clear that Hungary was to part in the invasion of Yugoslavia. The comparatively small Hungarian Army had a strength of only 80,000 men. Militarily, the nation was divided into seven corps commands, each army corps consisted of three infantry divisions, each of which comprised three infantry regiments and an artillery regiment. Each corps included two brigades, two motorized infantry brigades, an anti-aircraft battery, a signals company, and a cavalry reconnaissance troop. On March 11,1940, the Hungarian Army was expanded to three armies, each with three corps. All three of these armies were to see action against the Red Army before the end of the war. Hungary did not immediately participate in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, adolf Hitler did not directly ask for, nor necessarily want, Hungarian assistance at that time.
Most of the Hungarian forces, including the three armies, were initially relegated to duties within the reenlarged Hungarian state. Hungary regained substantial portions of its territories that had been ceded following the loss of World War I, at the end of June,1941, Germany summoned Hungary to join in the attack on the Soviet Union. Hungary continued to resist joining in the war, the matter was settled on June 26,1941, when the Soviet air force bombed Košice. The Kingdom of Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union the next day, at first, only Hungarys Karpat Group with its integral Rapid Corps was sent to the Eastern Front, in support of the German 17th Army. Towards the end of 1941, only the exhausted and battle weary Rapid Corps was left, before Horthy would gain Hitlers consent to withdraw the Rapid Corps, he had to agree to deploy an even larger Hungarian force. Of the 3 Hungarian field armies, high command decided to send the 2nd Army, however the Armed Forces in general were so poorly equipped that practically all modern equipment was provided to the 2nd Army.
Even after these measures the 2nd Army still lacked adequate motorized transport. Germany has promised to provide the equipment, but failed to deliver any meaningful quantities. Practically all the armoured units Hungary had were re-organized into the 1st Hungarian Armored Division, almost all combat-worthy aircraft and supporting units were organized into the 1st Flight Group, attached to the 2nd Army
Battle of Stalingrad
Marked by fierce close quarters combat and direct assaults on civilians by air raids, it is often regarded as one of the single largest and bloodiest battles in the history of warfare. German forces never regained the initiative in the East and withdrew a vast military force from the West to replace their losses, the German offensive to capture Stalingrad began in August 1942, using the German 6th Army and elements of the 4th Panzer Army. The attack was supported by intensive Luftwaffe bombing that reduced much of the city to rubble, the fighting degenerated into house-to-house fighting, and both sides poured reinforcements into the city. By mid-November 1942, the Germans had pushed the Soviet defenders back at great cost into narrow zones along the west bank of the Volga River. On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, the Axis forces on the flanks were overrun and the 6th Army was cut off and surrounded in the Stalingrad area. Adolf Hitler ordered that the stay in Stalingrad and make no attempt to break out, attempts were made to supply the army by air.
Heavy fighting continued for two months. By the beginning of February 1943, the Axis forces in Stalingrad had exhausted their ammunition, the remaining units of the 6th Army surrendered. The battle lasted five months, one week, and three days, the war had been progressing well, the U-boat offensive in the Atlantic had been very successful and Rommel had just captured Tobruk. In the east, they had stabilized their front in a running from Leningrad in the north to Rostov in the south. There were a number of salients, but these were not particularly threatening, neither Army Group North nor Army Group South had been particularly hard pressed over the winter. Stalin was expecting the main thrust of the German summer attacks to be directed against Moscow again, with the initial operations being very successful, the Germans decided that their summer campaign in 1942 would be directed at the southern parts of the Soviet Union. The initial objectives in the region around Stalingrad were the destruction of the capacity of the city.
The river was a key route from the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to central Russia and its capture would disrupt commercial river traffic. The Germans cut the pipeline from the oilfields when they captured Rostov on 23 July, the capture of Stalingrad would make the delivery of Lend Lease supplies via the Persian Corridor much more difficult. On 23 July 1942, Hitler personally rewrote the operational objectives for the 1942 campaign, both sides began to attach propaganda value to the city based on it bearing the name of the leader of the Soviet Union. The expansion of objectives was a significant factor in Germanys failure at Stalingrad, caused by German overconfidence, the Soviets realized that they were under tremendous constraints of time and resources and ordered that anyone strong enough to hold a rifle be sent to fight. If I do not get the oil of Maikop and Grozny I must finish this war, Army Group South was selected for a sprint forward through the southern Russian steppes into the Caucasus to capture the vital Soviet oil fields there
Romanian armies in the Battle of Stalingrad
Overpowered and poorly equipped, these forces were unable to stop the Soviet November offensive which punched through both flanks and left the 6th Army encircled in Stalingrad. The Romanians suffered enormous losses, which ended their offensive capability on the Eastern Front for the remainder of the war. As a result, King Carol II was forced to abdicate in September 1940, in October, Romania joined the Axis and expressed its availability for a military campaign against the Soviet Union, in order to recapture the provinces ceded in June. After a highly successful campaign in 1941 as part of Army Group South. The spring and summer of 1942 saw the Third and Fourth Romanian Armies in action in the Battle of Crimea, by the fall of 1942, the two armies were poised to join the attack on Stalingrad. The Long Range Recon and the 112th Liaison Squadrons were at its disposal, in November came the German XLVIII Panzer Corps, composed of the 22nd Panzer Division and the 1st Armoured Division, which was put in reserve.
It had the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 8th Motorized Heavy Artillery Regiments, opposite the 3rd Army was the Southwestern Front, with a staggering force of 5,888 artillery pieces,728 tanks and 790 planes. The Romanian Fourth Army, commanded by General Constantin Constantinescu, with 75,580 men, occupied a line south of the city and it comprised the 6th and 7th Army Corps. The Romanian Air Corps put at its disposal the 15th, 16th, 17th Observation, thus the 18th Cavalry covered a line of 100 km. The reserve consisted of the 6th Roşiori Regiment, the 27th, 57th Pioneer Battalions, the Fourth Panzer Army had in the area the 29th Motorized Infantry Division. This army was supposed to check the advance of the Stalingrad Front, most of these formations were in deplorable shape, with at best 73% of necessary manpower, with the 1st Infantry Division going as low as 25% and an almost nonexistent arsenal of heavy antitank guns. Between these two armies was the Sixth German Army, under General der Panzertruppe Friedrich Paulus, the 37mm and 47mm AT guns were useless against Soviet tanks, so the Romanian troops had to use grenades, anti-tank mines and Molotov cocktails.
In the first hours, they managed to delay the advance and destroy some armor, the Soviets attacked west of Tsaritsa Valley and at Raspopinskaya, but were repulsed. By evening, the 1st Romanian Armored Division reached Sirkovsky, making preparations to attack Bolsoy the next day, on 20 November, the Soviet armored and motorized forces advanced towards Kalach, with the intention of encircling the 6th German Army fighting at Stalingrad. The 22nd Panzer Division, overwhelmed at Petshany by the number of Soviet tanks. In the 4th Corps sector,40 Soviet tanks attacked the 15th Infantry Division but were repulsed by evening with heavy losses, the 1st Cavalry Division had to retreat towards Stalingrad and was subordinated to the 6th Army. At the end of the day, the position of the Third Romanian Army had a 70 km wide gap in the centre. In this pocket were encircled the 1st Armored Division, three divisions and remains of other two infantry divisions
Pavlovs House was a fortified apartment building in which Red Army defenders held for 60 days against a heavy Wehrmacht offensive during the Battle of Stalingrad. The siege lasted from 27 September to 25 November 1942 and eventually the Soviet forces managed to relieve it from the siege and it gained its popular name from Sergeant Yakov Pavlov, who commanded the platoon that seized the building and defended it during the long battle. In late September 1942 between 30 and 50 soldiers of the 42nd Guards Regiment, 13th Guards Division secured the large apartment blocks from German control, the position was quickly fortified under the command of Lieutenant Ivan F. The Soviets had large amounts of support from the opposite side of the Volga. The strategic benefit of the house was that it defended a key section of the Volga bank, the tactical benefit of the house was its position on a cross-street, giving the defenders a 1 km line of sight to the north and west. In keeping with Stalins Order No, Pavlov was ordered to fortify the building and defend it to the last bullet and the last man.
Taking this advice to heart, Pavlov ordered the building to be surrounded with four layers of barbed wire and minefields, for better internal communication, Pavlovs soldiers breached the walls in the basement and upper floors, and dug a communications trench to Soviet positions outside. Supplies were brought in via the trench or by crossing the river, defying German air raids. Nevertheless and especially water was in short supply, lacking beds, the soldiers tried to sleep on insulation wool torn off pipes but were subjected to harassing fire every night in order to try to break their resistance. The Germans attacked the building several times a day, sources conflict on the date at which the siege began, and the date at which the Soviet reinforcements reached the building and lifted the siege. On September 27, a 30-man Russian platoon was ordered to retake an apartment building the Germans had just captured. Until November 25,1942 the defenders of Pavlovs House who participated in its defense from 26 September 1942 till 25 November 1942, the defense of the house lasted for 58 days and nights.
Vasily Chuikov, commanding general of the Soviet forces in Stalingrad, Pavlovs House was rebuilt after the battle and is still used as an apartment building today. There is a memorial constructed from bricks picked up after the battle on the East side facing the Volga. Pavlov was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union for his actions, a Russian TV documentary in 2009, Legendary Redoubt, on Russian Channel One reported on Pavlovs House. According to the documentary, the defense was in fact led by Lieutenant Ivan F. Afanasiev. This report does not discount Pavlovs efforts, which led to his earning the Hero of the Soviet Union, the last member of Pavlovs group, K. Turgunov from Turakurgan District, Namangan Province, Uzbekistan died on 16 March 2015, aged 93. Sihang Warehouse Pavlovs House - Stalingrad, September-November 1942 Map of Pavlovs House and the defenders of the house