The troops of the Southwestern and right wing of the Don Front broke through the defense of the 3rd Romanian army in several sectors. Developing the offensive in a southeasterly direction, the mobile formations advanced 35–40 km in the first two days, repelling all the enemy’s counterattacks. On November 20, the Stalingrad Front went on the offensive, which broke through the defenses of the German 4th tank Army and the 4th Romanian Army. The situation near Stalingrad has radically changed.
The situation before the counteroffensive
The battle of Stalingrad was of great importance both during the Great Patriotic War and World War. The Soviet army still held back and ground the main forces of Germany and its satellites on the Eastern (Russian) front. Trying to achieve a decisive victory during the 1942 campaign of the year (to crush the Soviet armed forces and the USSR), the German leadership used the resources of not only the German economy, but also the economies of its satellites, as well as the occupied countries. The German military-industrial base continued to increase its capacity and, compared to the previous year, the production of military equipment in 1942 increased by 1,5 - 2 times. The forcible use of millions of foreigners and prisoners of war as labor allowed the leaders of the Third Reich to free men of military age from the German economy and form new divisions from them. Despite the enormous losses suffered by the German troops in the fight against the USSR, the number of German divisions continued to grow. By the fall of 1942, the Soviet-German front had 266 divisions, including the 72,5 divisions of the allies and satellites of the Third Reich. Thus, compared with the beginning of the war, the Hitler command additionally attracted a significant number of divisions to the Soviet-German front.
The main and most combat-ready part of the divisions of the German Empire was shackled by heavy fighting on the Eastern Front. In addition, the most trained and experienced cadres of the Wehrmacht died there, which led to a qualitative deterioration in its composition. At a time when the Soviet Union was bleeding to death, Britain and the United States were in favorable conditions, carried out further mobilization of their economies and the construction of armed forces in order to achieve their victory in world war (Anglo-Saxon block). The masters of the United States and England unleashed a world massacre, set the Germans and Russians free again, and waited for the moment when two great powers, exhausted by a fierce fight, could be finished, and establish their own "world order."
The level of military production in the USA and England was significantly ahead of the production of the countries of the German bloc. In 1942, the United States and Great Britain had everything they needed to deploy offensive operations in the European theater, having superiority over the enemy. At the same time, Germany and its allies did not have enough forces in the West to sustain American and British troops in the event of an invasion of France. Their main, best forces were bound by fierce battles in the East. That is, the conditions for the landing of the Allies in Europe were the most favorable. However, they were in no hurry. In the summer of 1942, when the martial law of the Soviet Union was extremely difficult, the American and British leadership did everything to stay away from real war.
JV Stalin in his memorandum to William Churchill wrote: “As a result of an exchange of opinions in Moscow that took place on August 12 p. I found that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Churchill, considered it impossible to organize a second front in Europe in 1942. As is known, the organization of the second front in Europe in 1942 was predetermined during a visit to Molotov in London, and it was reflected in the agreed Anglo-Soviet communiqué published on June 12. year
It is also known that the organization of the second front in Europe was aimed at diverting German forces from the Eastern Front to the West, creating in the West a serious base of resistance to the German fascist forces and thus alleviating the position of the Soviet troops on the Soviet-German front in 1942. It is quite clear that the Soviet command was building a plan for its summer and autumn operations in the hope of creating a second front in Europe in 1942. It is easy to understand that the refusal of the Government of Great Britain to create a second front in 1942 in Europe delivers a moral blow to the entire Soviet public, counting on creating a second front, complicates the position of the Red Army at the front and damages the plans of the Soviet command.
It seems to me and my colleagues that the 1942 year represents the most favorable conditions for creating a second front in Europe, since almost all the forces of the German troops, and moreover the best forces, are diverted to the Eastern Front, and in Europe there are a small number of forces left, and worse . It is not known whether 1943 will represent the year with the same favorable conditions for creating a second front as 1942 will. We believe, therefore, that it is in 1942 that it is possible and should create a second front in Europe. But I, unfortunately, failed to convince the Prime Minister of Great Britain of this, and Mr. Harriman, the representative of the President of the United States at the talks in Moscow, fully supported Mr. Prime Minister. ”
14 August 1942 In Churchill, in response to IV Stalin for this memorandum, he proposed that the planned operation of the Anglo-American forces in North Africa be proclaimed as a second front. However, such a proposal to deploy hostilities far from Europe and the more vital centers of Germany could not replace the real opening of a second front in Europe. Indeed, when the British-American forces landed in French North and North-West Africa in November 1942, and then followed their offensive against the Italian-German forces, this did not pull a single German division out of the Soviet-German front.
At the same time, the leadership of England and the United States traditionally knew how to avert their eyes very well, to deceive the public in their own countries and in the world (voices were growing louder and demanding to help the heroic Soviet people). To calm public opinion, the myth of the inaccessibility of the Atlantic Wall was created and later inflated in every way the importance of the fighting in North Africa. As a result, nowadays a western man in the street can recall victories in Africa, El Alamein, and think that the German bloc was defeated by heroic American and British soldiers, and the Russians, at best, were partisan somewhere in the forests and marshes of Siberia.
German forces in the west were extremely weak. The German general B. Zimmerman, the wartime permanent head of the operational department of the headquarters of the Western Front, that is, a very well-informed person, later wrote: “We can say without exaggeration that the Eastern Front was persistently pumping out all combat-ready living force from the German armies in the West and military equipment ... To hide the real weakness of the German defense system in the West, Hitler ordered to complete the construction of fortifications along the English Channel during 1942 ... but everywhere to finish them e succeeded, not to mention the equipment of the "Atlantic Wall" weapons. " The commander-in-chief of Army Group West, Rundstedt, in a report submitted to him by OKW noted that “in the Western theater of operations, the majority of German soldiers are too old. Often in the service were officers with artificial limbs. One battalion was formed from people suffering from ear diseases. Later, the whole 70-division was equipped with soldiers who had gastric diseases and needed a special diet ... There was an acute shortage of heavy weapons, especially tanks. "
During the entire 1942, the German air forces in the West had only 400 combat-ready bombers and up to 200 combat-ready fighters. The Atlantic Wall as an impregnable barrier preventing the United States and England from opening a second front in Europe did not really exist. He was only the fruit of the propaganda of the German Nazis and the Anglo-American racists. General Halder, in his book “Hitler as a commander,” wrote: “Was it possible to repel an invasion and thereby create the basis for the conclusion of an honorable peace? Did the “German fortress” have the hope of grinding the strength of its opponents on their ramparts? Not. We must finally get rid of these fairy tales resolutely ... This was clear as early as the beginning of 1942. ”
Thus, Britain and the United States had excellent chances to land their armies in Europe and significantly reduce the duration of the war (and Russian losses). But they were not going to do this - the exhaustion of the USSR and Germany was in their strategic interests. As during the First World War, Western democracies only pretended that they were “allies” of Russia. Russia and Germany had to collapse, exhausted by a fierce battle, and the United States and Britain to establish their world order. However, the enemies of the Russian people miscalculated. Further developments showed all the fallacy of calculations for the death or at least a significant weakening of the Soviet Union.
German soldiers during the fighting in Stalingrad. Photo source: http://waralbum.ru/
German plans for the winter campaign
Heavy losses at Stalingrad and the Caucasus; the length of the main forces of Army Group "A" and "B" (front to 2300 km); the problem of supplying troops with the immense remoteness of their strategic rear, the inability to create a full-fledged road network and the intensification of the partisan movement; active actions of the Soviet troops in other strategic areas, which deprived the enemy of the opportunity to transfer his troops from the Army groups "North" and "Center" to the southern wing of the Soviet-German front. In the face of these facts, the headquarters of the German ground forces was forced on October 14 1942 to order the German forces to go over to the defensive, with the exception of Stalingrad and small areas in the Tuapse and Nalchik areas. The German High Command set the task for the troops on the Eastern Front to "by all means keep the achieved lines."
The upcoming winter campaign should create the prerequisites for the continuation of the offensive in 1943 in order to "permanently destroy" the Red Army. The High Command demanded that the troops: at all costs hold the winter position; lead an active defense, not allowing the enemy to calm down and misleading him; in the case of attacks by Soviet troops, not to allow the slightest withdrawal or operational retaliatory maneuver; cut or surrounded parts must defend until help arrives. Equipment positions proposed to complete before the onset of frost. Emphasis was placed on "extremely active" defense and "a sense of superiority of the German soldier over the Russian" in order to preserve the offensive rush of troops and at the same time prevent the Red Army from "partially" seizing the initiative. It was also proposed to provide intensive reconnaissance in order to keep abreast of events occurring at the front and in the rear of the Soviet troops in order to avoid the situation in the previous winter, when the Red Army unexpectedly went on the offensive by large forces (Moscow Battle).
Thus, the German High Command believed that the winter months would preserve the prerequisites for the continuation of the Wehrmacht offensive on the Eastern Front from the spring of 1943. In winter, the troops had to strengthen their defensive positions and conduct active defense in order to prevent the Russians from seizing the initiative. At the same time, conducting measures to prepare for the winter of solid defense, the enemy paid particularly great attention to the central sector of the Soviet-German front, where Army Group Center was constrained by the vigorous actions of the Soviet troops. The German command believed that it was here that a major offensive of the Red Army was being prepared. In mid-October, German intelligence noted 1942: "The enemy apparently is preparing a major winter operation against the central army group, for which he should be ready around the beginning of November."
In general, the command of the Wehrmacht did not expect a large counter-offensive of the Red Army near Stalingrad. The German Foreign Intelligence Division of the Eastern Intelligence 6 in November gave the following prediction: “The main direction of future Russian operations against the German Eastern Front is becoming more and more apparent in the band of Army Group Center. However, it is not yet clear whether the Russians intend, along with this, to conduct a major operation on the Don or whether they will limit their goals in the south for the reasons that they will not be able to succeed simultaneously in two directions due to lack of strength. ” The Germans had certain guesses about the upcoming Russian offensive in the south. But the main thing they did not know: the scale and time of the strike, the composition of the shock groups and the direction of their strikes.
Hitler also insisted on completing the operation in Stalingrad itself, although it had already announced “victory” in advance. 8 November 1942 of the year at the party congress Hitler announced: “I wanted to reach the Volga at one particular point ... By chance this city bears the name of Stalin himself. But I didn’t want to go there for that reason ... I went there because this is a very important point. Through it transported thirty million tons of cargo, of which nearly nine million tons of oil. There was flooded wheat from Ukraine and Kuban for shipment to the north. Manganese ore was delivered there ... I wanted to take it, and - you know, we don’t need much - we took it! Only a few points remained unoccupied. Some people ask: why don't you take them quickly? Because I do not want a second Verdun there. I will achieve this with small shock groups. ”
On November 17, two days before the start of the Soviet counter-offensive, Hitler ordered the 6 Army to break through to the Volga in the factory part of Stalingrad. Paulus told his troops: "I am convinced that this order will cause new inspiration in our brave troops." It is clear that this order in the bloodless, exhausted by the hardest fights in the "Red Verdun" German forces could not cause any inspiration. The shadow of inevitable death has already hung over them.
German soldiers surrounded by Stalingrad
Army Group "B"
A group of armies "B" operating on the 1300-kilometer front on the Voronezh and Stalingrad directions under the command of M. Weichs had 6, 2 field armies and 4 tank armies, 8 Italian, 2 Hungarian, The 3 th and 4 th Romanian armies (by November 1 there were 82 divisions and four brigades). The main strike force of the fascist German forces - the 6-I and 4-I tank armies - was drawn into protracted battles in the Stalingrad area. From the air, the German troops supported the 4 air fleet.
The left flank, located at Army Group Center, was the 2-I German army under the command of Hans von Zalmuth, operating in the area north-west of Voronezh. Here in the 210 km wide strip there were 14 divisions. More to the right, mainly at the turn of the river. Don, defended 2-I Hungarian army under the command of G. Yani. With the width of the occupied band of 190 km, it included 12 divisions, including two German ones. Then followed the 8-I Italian Army, General Italo Gariboldi, with the 180 km width, she had 10 Italian and two German divisions. To her right was the 3-I Romanian Army Petre Dumitrescu, who acted in the 170-km-wide strip and had 10 divisions. Next were the German unions: 6-I army of Friedrich Paulus as part of the 16 divisions with the width of the sector 140 km; then the 4 Tank Army of G. Gotha, whose three German divisions acted on the sector in 50 km. Seven part of this army Romanian divisions with a width of approximately 200 km were located along the bend of the Volga, south of Stalingrad, stretching to the south of the hilly elevation, Yergeni. Around November 20, it was intended that these Romanian troops, who were subordinate to the command of the 4 tank army, should be allotted K. Constantinescu to an independent 4 Romanian army. Almost had no interaction with this army 16-i motorized division, which was, however, included in the 4-th tank army. It provided the flank of Army Group “B” and controlled a sector approximately 300 km wide, up to the Terek, where the 1 Tank Army operated.
The troops of the German 6th Army were drawn into the struggle for Stalingrad by their main forces, and the 4th Panzer Army, adjoining them from the south, also dealt a blow to Stalingrad. In the offensive battles of October - November 1942, the formations and units of these armies were thoroughly exhausted and bloodless. The sedentary and poorly equipped Romanian divisions were tasked with providing the flanks of the main strike group. The front line of Army Group B was greatly extended, which created a problem in command and control. In addition, there were problems of a coalition nature. In particular, Romanians and Hungarians were hostile to each other (territorial, historical dispute between the two countries). What became the basis for the deployment of the 8th Italian army between the 2nd Hungarian and 3rd Romanian armies. Among the weaknesses, it can also be noted that the armies of the German allies, which were inferior to German troops in armaments and equipment, command personnel and combat readiness, were assigned wide bands, while German troops in the region of Stalingrad concentrated on a relatively narrow section. German divisions, a small number of which were part of the Allied armies, could not significantly affect their combat effectiveness, in addition, they partially transferred their artillery units and combat engineer battalions to Stalingrad, where the most difficult battle took place.
Another serious problem was the lack of maneuverable reserves. In the operational reserve of Army Group “B” there were only the 294-I infantry division, the 22-I German tank division and the 1-I Romanian tank division. In Germany itself, new connections were being formed, and mobile connections were in France. However, the enormous length of the already occupied territory of Russia and the front of Army Group “B” did not allow, in case of a sudden crisis, to timely tighten the necessary forces. The transfer of only one tank division required 80-90 railway trains. The railway lines connecting Germany with the Eastern Front were overloaded, most of the railway lines were single-track and not everywhere were converted to a narrow gauge, there were not enough wagons and other equipment. Therefore, it took about three weeks from the time of the loading order to the arrival of a single division from Western Europe to the place of hostilities in Russia.
The Red Army go on the attack on the enemy at Stalingrad
To be continued ...