Military Review

As the Germans tried to save the army of Paulus. Operation "Winter Thunderstorm"

12 December 1942 launched Operation Winter Thunderstorm - an offensive by German forces under the command of Erich von Manstein from the Kotelnikovsky area in order to get Frederick Paulus's 6 army in the area of ​​Stalingrad.

German Command Actions

23 November 1942 in the Kalach-on-Don area, Soviet troops locked the encirclement around the Wehrmacht 6 Army. The command of the 6 Army was preparing to break through the encirclement ring. The breakthrough was supposed to take place on November 25, after regrouping necessary to concentrate the strike forces in the south-west. It was planned that the army would come out at dawn by the right flank east of the Don to the south-west and forcing the Don in the Upper-Chirskaya area.

On the night of November 23-24, Paulus sent Hitler an urgent radiogram in which he asked for permission to break through. He noted that the 6th Army was too weak and could not hold the front for a long time, which had more than doubled as a result of encirclement. In addition, over the past two days she suffered very heavy losses. It was impossible to remain surrounded for a long time - large supplies of fuel, ammunition, food and other supplies were needed. Paulus wrote: “The fuel reserves will run out soon, Tanks and heavy weapon in this case will be fixed. The situation with ammunition is critical. Food is enough for 6 days. ”

Hitler, in the evening of November 21, when the headquarters of the 6 Army, which was on the way of the Soviet tanks, moved from the Golubinsky area to the Lower Chirskaya, gave the order: “The army commander with headquarters will head to Stalingrad, the 6 Army will take all-round defense and wait for further instructions. ” In the evening of November 22, Hitler confirmed his first order: "The 6 Army will take all-round defense and wait for the unblocking offensive from the outside."

On November 23, the commander of Army Group B, Colonel-General Maximilian von Weichs sent a telegram to Hitler’s headquarters, where he also spoke of the need to withdraw troops from the 6 Army without waiting for outside help. He noted that the supply of the army, numbering twenty divisions, by air is impossible. With the existing fleet of transport aircraft in case of favorable weather, only the 1 / 6 portion of the food needed for one day can be transferred to the “boiler” daily. Army stocks will quickly run out and can be stretched only for a few days. Ammunition will be quickly spent, as the surrounded troops repel attacks from all sides. Therefore, the 6 th army must make its way to the south-west in order to preserve it as an effective force, even at the cost of losing most of the equipment and equipment. Losses due to a breakthrough, however, “will be much smaller than with a hungry blockade of the army in the boiler, to which otherwise events developing now will lead”.

The Chief of the General Staff of the Ground Forces (OKH), the infantry general Kurt Zeitzler also insisted on the need to leave Stalingrad and abandon the 6th Army to break through the encirclement. Details of the operation to exit the 6th Army from the encirclement scheduled for November 25 were agreed between the headquarters of Army Group B and the 6th Army. On November 24, they were waiting for Hitler’s permission to surrender Stalingrad and the order for the 6th Army to leave the encirclement. However, the order never arrived. On the morning of November 24, a report was announced by the Air Force command that the German aviation will provide the supply of surrounded troops by air. As a result, the main command - Hitler, the head of the OKW (high command of the Wehrmacht) Keitel and the chief of staff of the operational leadership of the OKW Iodl - finally inclined to the opinion that the 6th army would hold out in the encirclement area until it was released by releasing large forces from outside. Hitler told the 6th Army: “The army can believe me that I will do everything in my power to supply it and timely release ...”

Thus, Hitler and the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht hoped not only to free the 6 Army from the encirclement, but also to restore the Volga front. Paulus proposed to withdraw the troops, but at the same time he himself admitted that "under certain conditions, there were prerequisites for the planned operation to unblock and rebuild the front." German commanders needed positions on the Volga in order to maintain the strategic initiative, and as the basis for further offensive warfare. The supreme military and political leadership of the Third Reich still underestimated the enemy. Hitler and his generals clearly saw the situation and the threat of disaster. However, they did not believe in the Russian offensive capabilities, and they believed that the available forces and reserves of the Red Army were thrown into the Battle of Stalingrad, that they would not be enough to win a complete victory.

At the cost of great efforts, the German command was able to restore the front and stop the further advance of the Soviet troops south-west and south of Stalingrad on the external front of the encirclement. At the turn of the river. Chir was suspended from retreating the 3 of the Rumanian army that had been crushed and thrown back by Soviet troops. In the bend of the Don between the mouth of the river. Chir and district art. Veshenskaya (mainly along the river. Chir) the enemy organized a defense. In addition to the 3 of the Romanian army, German combat groups were quickly brought together (each up to a reinforced regiment). Then a fresh 17 Army Corps arrived in the same area, occupying a defense along the r. Chir and r. Curve near Dubovsky. Part of the German 48 tank corps, defeated by Soviet troops during the operation of the environment, occupied the gap between the 3 of the Romanian army and the 17 of the army corps. Thus, at the turn of the river. Chir, the enemy command created a new front of defense near Stalingrad. German troops also managed to create a steady line of defense in the area of ​​encirclement.

Meanwhile, in the Kotelnikov district, east of the Don, the 4 I tank army under the command of Colonel General Goth was preparing to strike. In the coming days, she had to break through the ring of encirclement and launch an offensive on a broad front. At the same time, an army group under the command of General of Infantry Hollidt was to attack from the area west of the upper course of the Chir from the flank of the enemy advancing to the south. The 48 tank corps under the command of the general of tank forces von Knobelsdorf (with headquarters in Tormosyn), together with the newly arrived 11 tank division and still expected connections, had to attack from the bridgehead east of the Lower Chirskaya. However, in the Tormosin area, the Germans did not succeed in creating such a strong deblocking group as it was concentrated in the Kotelnikovo area. Attempts to attack in this direction were unsuccessful. In continuous battles, the German 11 I tank division suffered heavy losses.

As the Germans tried to save the army of Paulus. Operation "Winter Thunderstorm"

German tank Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. G (Sd.Kfz. 161 / 2) during the repulse of the Soviet offensive near Stalingrad, near the village of Kotelnikovo. By car installed "eastern" tracks (Ostketten). In the background, the tank Pz.Kpfw. III

Formation of the army group "Don"

The preparation and conduct of the deblocking operation was entrusted to the group of armies "Don", created by the order of the OKH from 21 November 1942. It was located between army groups "A" and "B". The command of this army group was entrusted to Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. It included the Hollidt Task Force (in the Tormosin region), the remnants of the 3 Romanian Army, the 4 German Tank Army (newly created from the management of the former 4 Tank Army and troops arrived from the reserve) and 4- I am the Romanian army in the 6-th and 7-th Romanian corps. As a strike force, the Hollidt group had the 48 tank corps (with the 11 tank division) and the 22 tank division; The 4 Tank Army is the 57 Tank Corps (6 and 23 Tank Divisions).

To reinforce the group of armies "Don", divisions were hurriedly redeployed from the Caucasus, from near Voronezh, Orel and from Poland, Germany and France. Manstein was also subject to the troops, surrounded in the area of ​​Stalingrad (6-I army). The group was reinforced by significant reserve artillery forces. Army Group "Don" occupied the front of a total length of 600 km, from the village of Veshenskaya on the Don to the river. Manych It consisted of up to 30 divisions, including six tank and one motorized (16-I moto division), not counting the troops surrounded at Stalingrad. 17 divisions from the army group “Don” were in front of the troops of the Southwestern Front, and 13 divisions (united in the army group “Got”) opposed the troops of the 5 shock army and the 51 army of the Stalingrad Front.

The freshest and most powerful division was - 6-I tank division of Major-General Raus (160 tanks and 40 SAU). This division, along with the 23 armored division, and then the 17 armored division, was part of the 57 armored corps of the general of the tank troops of Kirchner. This corps became the main armored fist, with the help of which the German command tried to break through the encirclement. After heavy winter battles in 1941-1942. in Moscow, the 6 Tank Division in May 1942 was transferred to France to replenish and re-equip, the 11-Tank Regiment, which had the Škoda-35 Czechoslovak machines, received instead of them new German vehicles. The connection had strong frames. Along with experienced chiefs-corporals, it had a personnel core of non-commissioned officers and officers. Units were knit, had combat experience. X. Scheibert (commander of the 8 Tank Company of the 11 Tank Regiment) in his book: “To Stalingrad — 48 kilometers. The deblocking blow of the 6 Panzer Division, December 1942 of the year "noted:" The division’s combat capability can be assessed as outstanding. Everyone felt his great superiority over the enemy, believed in the power of his weapon, in the readiness of commanders. ”

27 November morning echelon 6-th tank division arrived in Kotelnikovo. Just at this time, after the shelling, Soviet units broke into the city. Within a few minutes, the division suffered its first losses. The 6 Panzer Division, by 5 December, was fully concentrated in the Kotelnikovo area, its motorized infantry and artillery took up defensive positions about 15 km east of the city.

Erich von Manstein, who was put in charge of the Don group by Hitler and received the order to unblock the Stalingrad group of Paulus, was a proven commander who gained fame in many operations. Manstein, as commander of the 11 army, became famous when he conquered the Crimea. For the capture of Sevastopol, Manstein was promoted to the rank of field marshal. Then the 11 th army under the command of Manstein, as having successful experience of siege and assault actions, was transferred for a decisive assault on Leningrad. However, the Soviet offensive of the Volkhov Front disrupted the plans of the German command. Paulus characterized him as a military leader, who "enjoyed the reputation of a man of high qualification and operational intelligence and able to defend his opinion before Hitler."

"Winter Thunderstorm"

On December 1, the command of the army group issued an order to conduct the operation “Winter Thunderstorm” (Operation “Wintergewitter”, with it. Wintergewitter - “winter storm”). The plan of operation provided for the following: The 4-I tank army was to launch an offensive with the main forces from the Kotelnikovo area east of the r. Don. The beginning of the offensive was scheduled no earlier than December 8. Army troops were asked to break through the front of the cover, strike the rear or the flank of the Soviet troops occupying the inner front line south or west of Stalingrad, and defeat them. The 48 tank corps of the Hollidt group were to strike the rear of the Soviet troops from a bridgehead on the Don and Chir rivers in the Nizhne-Chirskaya area.

6 th army in accordance with the proposed retain their previous position in the "boiler". However, a certain point, indicated by the headquarters of the army group, the 6-I army had to attack in the south-western sector of the encirclement in the direction of the r. Don Queen and connect with the advancing 4-th tank army.

Thus, Manstein decided to deliver the main blow from the Kotelnikovo area. Although the German troops, entrenched at the turn of the river. The Chir near Nizhne-Chirsk, were only 40 km from the surrounded Paulus troops, while the Kotelniki group (the Goth army group) was removed from them before the offensive at a distance of 120 km. Nevertheless, Manstein decided to attack from here.

This was largely due to the difficult situation on the river. Chir, which evolved for the German troops. As soon as the Soviet troops strengthened the encirclement ring, they immediately began attacking enemy positions along the r. Cheer The center of these attacks was the lower course of the river and a springboard in its mouth at the Don. As a result, the Germans have exhausted all the offensive opportunities here. The troops, united under the command of the 48 tank corps, repulsed these attacks. However, when the strike group "Hollidt", intended as the main force for the unblocking operation, managed to come to the German defensive front along the r. Chir, the newly created 48 tank corps has already exhausted its strength. Thus, the 48 tank corps was not only unable to assist the unblocking counterstrike with the operation from the Chirsk bridgehead, moreover, he had to surrender this position, which was closest to the troops in Stalingrad, already on December 15.

The German command postponed the start of the deblocking strike to December 12. This had to be done because of the delay in the concentration of troops intended for the offensive. Hollidt's group did not have time to take the initial positions for the offensive due to insufficient road capacity, and the 4-I tank army was waiting for the arrival of the 23-th tank division, which was delayed due to the thaw in the Caucasus. In addition, Manstein had to abandon the idea of ​​two strikes. Thus, of the seven divisions intended for the Hollidt group, two were already engaged in battles at the front of the 3 of the Romanian army, and the operational status did not allow them to be recalled. The 3-I Mountain Division did not arrive at all, by order of the OKH it was transferred to Army Group A, and then Army Group Center. Army Group “A” also detained artillery from the reserve of the high command. The revitalization of the Red Army at the front of the 3 of the Romanian army exhausted the capabilities of the 48 tank corps, which could not simultaneously repel attacks and launch a counter-offensive. Thus, Manstein decided to abandon two deblocking attacks. It was finally decided that the main attack should have been delivered by the 4-I tank army.

11 December Manstein gave the order to start the operation. The situation in the southern sector of the front deteriorated, and it was necessary to advance. It was decided to strike the blows with the 6 and 23 armored divisions, to which the 17 armored division subsequently joined. Manstein offered General Paulus a counterstrike from the Stalingrad area.

To be continued ...
Articles from this series:
1942 Campaign

The Third Reich again goes on the offensive.
"The whole Russian front was falling apart ..." Wehrmacht breakthrough in the southern strategic direction
Stalingrad Fortress
1942 year. "The operation in the south develops without stopping"
How the German army broke through to Stalingrad
Expectations to take Stalingrad a sudden blow failed
Breakthrough of the 6 of the German army to the northern outskirts of Stalingrad
Defeat of the Crimean Front
"The spirit of optimism ... vital at the command post of the front." Kharkov disaster of the Red Army
Khrushchev dumped all the blame for the Kharkov catastrophe on Stalin
How the Wehrmacht stormed the Caucasus
Battle for the Caucasus: no invasions from land
The battle for the "black gold" of the Caucasus
How failed operation "Edelweiss"
"Soviet troops fought for every inch of land ..."
"Verdun of World War II ..."
"It truly was hell." How to reflect the first blow to Stalingrad
"We will storm Stalingrad and take it ...". Second storming of the stronghold on the Volga
The second assault on Stalingrad. H. 2
The third assault on Stalingrad
"Tanks drive through people like wood." The third assault on Stalingrad. H. 2
“We are fighting as if we are possessed, but we cannot make our way to the river ...”
Battle of Stalingrad changed the course of the “Big Game”
The German command is focused on "extremely active" defense and "a sense of superiority of the German soldier over the Russians"
"Stalin's holiday": Operation "Uranus"
"Stalin's holiday": Operation "Uranus". H. 2
Stalingrad "boiler"
Bloody Mars
Bloody Mars. H. 2
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  1. 210ox
    210ox 13 December 2017 06: 27
    Thank you for the interesting article ... I need to give Kolya from Urengoy to read, this is my proposal to his teachers. Maybe you will think that these unfortunate Germans forgot in the steppes of Rostov and Stalingrad.
    1. svp67
      svp67 13 December 2017 06: 30
      Quote: 210ox
      that ... unfortunate Germans forgot in the steppes of Rostov and Stalingrad

      Their fates and lives ...
    2. moskowit
      moskowit 13 December 2017 08: 56
      And according to Bondarev’s book “Hot Snow”, about the most tense moment of this operation, let this lad and his comrades write an essay ....
      1. antivirus
        antivirus 13 December 2017 12: 14
        it is now brutal
        it is necessary to protect the psyche of youth
    3. novel66
      novel66 13 December 2017 10: 45
      as well as Romanians Hungarians and so on
    4. ando_bor
      ando_bor 13 December 2017 13: 43
      Quote: 210ox
      Thanks for the interesting article ... We must give a read to Kolya from Urengoy, this is my suggestion.

      Stalin is to blame, he did not outweigh all the fascists, so they had to die as innocent prisoners of war, and Kolya says everything correctly, according to the law, both Soviet and Russian.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 13 December 2017 07: 25
    Now, in the light of modern ideology, when we drape the Mausoleum on May 9, when they hang Mannerheim’s “memorial honor”, ​​when they say from the stands of the Bundestag: “Ah, Germans forgive us” .. Operation Winter Thunderstorm can be called a humanitarian mission ...
  3. bunta
    bunta 13 December 2017 08: 08
    The troops surrounded in the area of ​​Stalingrad (6 Army) were also subordinate to Manstein.

    Did Paulus obey Manstein?
    1. otto meer
      otto meer 13 December 2017 10: 52
      Quote: bunta
      Did Paulus obey Manstein?
      Absolutely right. Field Marshal von Manstein is the commander of the Army Group Don, which, among others, included the 6th Army under the command of General Paulus.
  4. Luga
    Luga 13 December 2017 11: 12
    Somewhere, maybe even directly at Manshtein (it was a long time ago, I don’t remember), I read that the decision to strike from the Kotelnikovo region seemed to Manshtein to be risky, and in the supreme headquarters they considered him completely adventurous. The Germans were very afraid that, instead of repelling this blow, the Russians could inflict their own and cut off the communications of the releasing group, which, thus, having connected with Paulus, would end up in the same boiler with him. The Germans had nothing to protect the only supply line in the area - the Stalingrad-Tikhoretskaya railway. In general, they, like, did not believe in the success of the strike if Paulus stood still. Now, if Hitler gave him the order to break through, they would kill us all. However, Hitler insisted, both on the blow, and that Paulus stayed and did not move.
    As far as I remember, this option was considered by us - a short blow in the direction of Kotelnikovo from the east, but Stalin decided that a tit in his hand is better, if, if a releasing group connects with those around it, it will raise their morale and increase combat effectiveness, and how it can end is unknown. It is possible that he was right.
    1. antivirus
      antivirus 13 December 2017 12: 18
      Now, if Hitler gave him the order to break through, they would kill us all. However, Hitler insisted, both on the blow, and that Paulus stayed and did not move.
      I remember from childhood --- not to allow troops to be cut off in the Caucasus .-- this is to keep Rostov \ Don and the east of it.

      ruin some in Stalingrad - save others in the south and +++ in the game of diplomats "we can capture the oil of Grozny and Baku"
      bargain with the West
    2. Yura Yakovlev
      Yura Yakovlev 14 December 2017 15: 43
      "Hitler insisted both on the blow and that Paulus hold on and stay on the spot."
      Hitler had very good reason for this from the experience of battles on the Northwest Front.
      Surrounded by the Demyansky Cauldron, they not only found themselves in more comfortable conditions, but were also able to inflict enormous damage on our troops. But there they were able to provide an air corridor and break through the Ramushevsky corridor, in which the surrounded troops provided everything necessary for the narrow gauge railway. And here it was not possible to establish an air corridor due to the great remoteness of those surrounded. The gained experience also played a role in the defeat of the encircled group.
      1. Molot1979
        Molot1979 15 December 2017 07: 57
        But Manstein was distinguished precisely by the fact that he often put on the orders of Uncle Adolf. For which, in the end, he took off. But this is when it will be. Why didn’t he give Paulus the order to break through? Not so German generals trembled before Hitler, there, Hube from Kharkov removed his troops against the direct orders of Berlin, and nothing got away with it. Manstein was even more impudent and self-willed, however, he did not order to break through. So he had some kind of calculation of his own. Otherwise, there is no logic.
        1. Yura Yakovlev
          Yura Yakovlev 15 December 2017 09: 07
          The logic was iron. The fact is that hostilities took place simultaneously, both when encircling near Demyansk and when encircling near Stalingrad, but in the "Demyansk Kotl" German troops were surrounded much less with the same total number of participants in the battles. But the losses of our troops near Demyansk are commensurate with the losses of the Germans near Stalingrad.
  5. polpot
    polpot 13 December 2017 11: 45
    Contempt and underestimation of the enemy’s capabilities played an evil joke on the enemy with the Nazis.
  6. BAI
    BAI 13 December 2017 12: 09
    Everyone felt their great superiority over the enemy, believed in the strength of their weapons, in the preparedness of commanders

    The Germans were distinguished by this throughout the war. Even in 1945. Especially - the Air Force.
    1. Molot1979
      Molot1979 15 December 2017 07: 53
      On May 9, 1945, this sense of superiority peaked.
  7. Cyril Troekurych
    Cyril Troekurych 13 December 2017 14: 42
    Germans still pay all evgey for colophost
    Kremlin pay evgeyam pension
    Evgey already rob 100 race
    that's what the dry residue has at the moment
  8. Fisherman
    Fisherman 13 December 2017 14: 59
    Interesting article
  9. Drozdov
    Drozdov 13 December 2017 21: 09
    "zg" is a rare occurrence
    unsurprising result
    underestimation, halkin goal, neglect
    will live!
  10. 32363
    32363 13 December 2017 22: 12
    my colleague’s grandfather was a radio operator in the command tank, from the same tank group that was trying to break through to Paulus.
  11. Molot1979
    Molot1979 14 December 2017 08: 10
    I’m not quite catching something. Why does everyone accuse Paulus of breaking through a hundred to meet Manstein if the troops of the 6th Army were subordinate to this Manstein? To whom then could Herr Friedrich give orders? And if the 6th army was subordinated to Mr. von Lewinsky (let us call him by that name, which he wore at birth), then this is not Paulus, and Manstein did not give the order for a breakthrough, so he enters? And if he didn’t give it, then why? Apparently, Manstein had some sort of his usual brilliant plan, in which a certain important role was assigned to the standing motionless troops of the 6th army. He wanted not only to break through, but simultaneously surround and destroy the Soviet troops? But since the plan failed, and Paulus went to the Soviet camps, they blamed him for the failure, saying that he was a fool, and could have pulled towards ...
  12. NF68
    NF68 14 December 2017 18: 57
    + + + + + + + + + +
  13. Yura Yakovlev
    Yura Yakovlev 15 December 2017 09: 19
    The strongest impression of the Battle of Stalingrad I received from the story of the mother of my friend, who served as a nurse. The surrounded Germans were so badly frostbite, and in such a huge amount that the orderlies had to saw off their legs for several days without anesthesia in order to save the lives of these villains.
  14. Leonid Har
    Leonid Har 15 December 2017 15: 39
    The article ends at the most interesting place.