At this time, the Got army group consisted of twelve divisions, including three tank. The 17th Panzer Division received the task of crossing the northern bank of the river. Myshkova in the area of Gromoslavka, the 6th Panzer Division - in the area of Vasilyevka, the 23rd Panzer Division - to advance on the front of Kapkinka, Kruglyakov. On December 20, German troops launched an offensive in the north and northeast directions. The fights were for Nizhne-Kumsky, Vasilyevka, Chernomorov, Gromoslavka, Kapkinka. However, the 2nd Guards Army had already arrived in the battle area and firmly held the occupied line, continuing to concentrate suitable units.
The German tanker Scheiber, narrating the actions of the 6 Panzer Division, reports that after the capture of the Upper Kumsky they were inspired by the success and hoped that they would soon unite with the surrounded Paulus troops. Gunersdorf Battle Group rushed to the river located at the turn. Myshkova village Vasilyevka. “After a night march with detours, which was over 30 km ... the goal was achieved. The bridge was captured intact. This march was rated by higher authorities. The hope to reach Stalingrad and free the encircled was further strengthened. Only 48 km separated the Gunersdorf battle group from the surrounded army. ”
The advanced part of the group "Goat" broke through to the r. Myshkov and captured bridgeheads. There was a fierce struggle. The battle log of the 11 Tank Regiment of the German 6 Tank Division noted: “December 20 of the 1942 year: The gradually increasing Russian resistance grew stronger during the night. Own forces were weak, 21 tank without fuel and two weak companies of motorized infantry on armored personnel carriers - not enough to expand the bridgehead and to make possible further progress. Therefore, an order was given to occupy the all-round defense on the north bank. Under the ever-increasing pressure of the enemy, under the shelling of his infantry, artillery and mortars, they still managed to repel numerous attacks and keep the bridgehead in the hope that the next day reinforcements would come from the Zollenkopf group. In 4 hours 30 min. the first strong attack of the enemy was repulsed ... Crews of wrecked tanks are used to reinforce motorized infantry ... At the end of the day, the Zollenkopf group filled the bridgehead, but still failed to reject the small but persistent enemy from the southern outskirts of the village ... The main task was to clear part of Vasilyevka in the south shore. Russians settled here in houses, creating a well-developed defense system between them. This enemy, as well as being on the high northern bank, has so far succeeded in banning the delivery of materials and human replenishment on armored personnel carriers to the bridgehead. Being on the northern heights on both sides of the village, the Russians dominated their shelling, especially from the VET, controlled the southern coast. On the southern coast in the open, it was almost impossible to find good positions for artillery. ”
December 21 stubborn fighting continued. Warriors of the 2nd Guards Army restrained the onslaught of the enemy at the turn of Gromoslavka, Ivanovka, Vasilyevka, Kapkinka. German tanks supported by aviation, tried to break through the defense of our army. The 98th Rifle Division of the 1st Guards Rifle Corps and the 20th Separate Anti-Tank Artillery Brigade stubbornly defended Gromoslavka. Fierce battles went for Vasilyevka. Gunersdorf's strike group could not break further, and the Soviet troops liquidated the enemy bridgehead. On December 22, all German attacks were repelled. The German strike force was weakened by previous battles, and Soviet forces, on the contrary, seriously increased. More actively than in previous days, Soviet aircraft operated.
Thus, breaking through to the turn of the river. Myshkov’s Gotha army group was from the Paulus army surrounded by Stalingrad at a distance of just 35 — 40 km. However, she suffered great damage in humans and military equipment, and her offensive capabilities were undermined. People were exhausted, for a long time they didn’t have rest either day or night, and were roof over their heads. Sheibert also writes about the heavy losses of the division: “The number of companies due to the battles of the last days has decreased by about 50%. There were losses among the commanders of the companies that were not replaced. ” The Germans lost up to 60% motorized infantry and 230 tanks. The situation demanded that the army of Paulus independently began a breakthrough towards the Goth group. However, the command of the 6 Army did not decide on its own to make a breakthrough, but did not receive an order from above.
German bombers Heinkel He-177A-5 from the I./KG 50 at the airport in Zaporozhye. These bombers were used to supply German troops surrounded in Stalingrad.
Wounded German soldier smokes with pilots before being sent to the rear of Stalingrad
Meanwhile, 2-I Guards Army Malinovsky launched at the turn of the river. Myshkova its main forces and successfully repelled all enemy attacks. On its right flank was the 1-th Guards Rifle Corps under the command of Major-General I. I. Missan. The 24-I Guards Rifle Division of this corps took up defenses north of Shabalinsky, Chernomorov, Nizhne-Kumsky and 98-rifle divisions - the northern edge of Nizhne-Kumsky, Gromoslavka, Ivanovka. 33-I Guards Rifle Division was in reserve, remaining in the second echelon. The 3-th Guards Rifle Division of the 13-th Guards Rifle Corps repelled the attacks of the enemy from the left flank, on the Vasilyevka sector - Kapkinsky. The 2 Guards Mechanized Corps was concentrated in the rear of this division. Covering the flanks of the main forces of the army on the right (at the turn of Pchelinsky - Shabalinsky), the 300-Infantry Division occupied the defense, on the left (Birzovaya-Gniloaksayskaya line) - the 87-Infantry Division. At the turn of the river. Aksai fought battles of the 51 Army.
22 December counterattacks of parts of the 2 Guards Army north bank. Myshkov, from Nizhne-Kumsky to Vasilyevka, was cleared of German troops. However, in Vasilyevka and Kapkinsky 6-I and 17-I tank divisions of the enemy still held their positions. Tense battles here continued on December 23. But the enemy group has already moved on to defense. Colonel-General Got and the commander of the 57 tank corps, the general of the tank troops Kirchner acknowledged that "without the approach of fresh forces, it is impossible to continue the operation successfully." The offensive troops Manstein was finally stopped.
The position of the shock group of Goth was complicated by the fact that the troops of the South-Western Front struck a crushing blow at the enemy north-west of Stalingrad. This operation (“Small Saturn”) began at a time when the forward detachments of the Goth group reached the r. Aksai-Esaulovsky. “In this critical situation, the Russian command showed deep strategic insight ...” noted F. Mellenthin. “Instead of concentrating the swap reserves to repel Goth's strike, it launched a new offensive on the Middle Don against the unfortunate Italian 8; the offensive was carried out by large forces and on a broad front, up to the positions of the operational group Hollidt (which replaced the 3 Rumanian army) and the 48 tank corps defending on the Chir River. ”
There was a danger of a breakthrough of the Red Army to Rostov. The loss of Rostov was extremely dangerous for the very existence of Army Group Don and Army Group A. Therefore, all of the strike formations that advanced to this area were handed over to Army Group “B”. So, the 11-I tank division, which was advancing to the Kotelnik direction, was returning to the lower course of the river. Cheer The 6 Tank Division of the 57 Tank Corps was immediately ordered to the same area. The command of the army group "Don" was forced to go on the defensive in anticipation of the arrival of the motorized SS division "Viking" from the 1 tank army operating in the Caucasus direction. Thus, the attack of the army group "Got" was finally stopped.
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. Photo source: waralbum.ru/
A favorable situation has developed for the counteroffensive of the Soviet troops. German troops were exhausted and drained of heavy offensive battles. The main shock force of the Goth group responded from this site. 23 December Manstein gave the order to the 6 Tank Division to withdraw from positions and head for Morozovsky. At dawn 24 December, a column of tanks and vehicles headed for the new destination.
The balance of forces on the Kotelnikovsky direction, which initially gave superiority to the enemy, now turned out in favor of the Soviet troops. The 2-th Guards Army was reinforced by the 6-m mechanized and 7-m tank corps. By the beginning of the offensive, Soviet troops outnumbered the enemy: in humans — 1,5: 1 (149 thousand and 99 thousand), tanks — 2: 1 (635 and 310), artillery (guns and mortars of all calibers) - 1,6: 1 (1728 1101). In aviation, the enemy had superiority: 1: 1,7 (294 and 500 combat aircraft). In addition, the aircraft 8-th Air Army acted on the internal front of the environment.
The main attack was planned in the direction of Kotelnikovo by the forces of the four corps of the 2 Guards Army (1 and 13 of the Guards Rifle, 7 of the Tank, 2 of the Guards Mechanized Corps). Auxiliary strike was planned to be inflicted by two corps of the 51 Army (13 Tank and 3 Guards Mechanized Corps) in the general direction of Kiselevka, Zavetnoe, Dubovskoye. The 51 Army at first was supposed to act only by the troops of its right flank, assisting the 2 Guards Army in surrounding and destroying the enemy 17 and 23 tank divisions on the northern bank of the r. Aksay. The transition to the offensive of the 13 tank and 3 Guards mechanized corps was scheduled for December 27. The troops of the 2 Guards Army were deployed at the turn of the river. Myshkov, from Shabalinsky to Kapkinsky. To the left, at the turn of the Gniloaksay - Abundant, finished the preparation for the offensive of the 51-I army, to the right - the 5-I shock army. Lieutenant-General R. Ya. Malinovsky decided to deliver the main attack on the station Shabalinsky, Ivanovka in the direction of Kruglyakov.
On the morning of December 24, the 2-I Guards and 51-I armies launched an offensive. After a short artillery barrage, the troops of the 13 Guards Rifle Corps, despite the fierce resistance of the Germans, knocked the enemy out of Vasilyevka. Other formations also advanced successfully, the 24-division of the 1-th Guards Rifle Corps dislodged the enemy from Upper Kumsky. Persistent battles were for the collective farm. 8 Martha, Special Settlement, Zagotskot and other settlements. At night, the Germans, hiding behind strong rear-guard, began to move beyond the r. Aksay. The 23 Tank Division ensured the withdrawal of the remaining troops. The main forces of the enemy grouping retreated to the Kotelnikovo area.
It should be noted that the Germans very skillfully diverted troops. Retreating, they burned bridges across the river. Aksai, mined fords and shores. The German command equipped its rear guard with powerful fire weapons, created mobile groups of tanks and motorized infantry. Under their cover, the troops retreated to new frontiers. In addition, at the time of the withdrawal of troops, there was a massive use by the enemy of aviation — bomber and fighter. The fighting itself took place in difficult environmental conditions - a blizzard, a strong wind.
December 25 our troops continued the offensive, moving to the river. Aksay. The German aviation, trying to contain the movement of the Soviet troops, inflicted massive strikes on the combat formations of the Guards Army. The 7 Tank Corps, under the command of Major General Tank Troops P. Rotmistrov, broke through to Novoaksai and occupied it, capturing prisoners and numerous military equipment and supplies to 1000. This success ensured the advancement of rifle troops to the r. Aksay on the front of Novoaksai, Klykov. On the night of December 26, our tankers forced Aksai and at dawn captured Generalovsky. The main forces of the tank corps crossed the river. Aksay.
On the left flank of the 2 Guards Army, forward detachments seized ferries across the r. Aksay in the areas of Klykov, Shestakova, Antonov. In the 12 watch, General Malinovsky demanded that the commanders of the 1 and 13 of the Guards Rifle Corps should use force to advance the attack until the detachment of the ski units was allocated. On this day, the attack on the flanks of the army was particularly successful. Rotmistrov tankers, advancing on the right flank with the assistance of parts of the 1 Guards Rifle Corps, defeated the Romanian 6 Army Corps and reached the approaches to the Upper Yablochny. The German command threw the main forces of the 17 Panzer Division here, but it came under the heavy blow of Soviet aviation. The Germans left the Upper Apple. On the left flank of the Guards Army, the 6 th mechanized corps under the command of S. I. Bogdanov, breaking the resistance of the Romanian troops, by the end of the day was fighting for Samokhin, Sharnutovsky.
Thus, the enemy suffered a defeat and retreated in a southwesterly direction towards Rostov-on-Don. “At that time,” noted G. Dörr, “... on the broad front between the Volga and the Don, after a failed liberation and an unsuccessful attempt to leave the 6 army, what came to be expected: the complete defeat of the 4 Romanian army in the Kalmyk steppes and a retreat, or, rather, a struggle not for life, but for the death of the 4 tank army. ”
In the morning of December 27, the mobile group of the 51 Army entered into battle. The 13 th tank and 3 th Guards mechanized corps Tanaschishin and Volsky broke through the front of the 4 th Romanian army to deeply cover the enemy group from the south.
December 27 in 12 hours 7 tank corps attacked Kotelnikovo from the north, but failed to take the town. The Germans fiercely resisted and held the blow. The city was well prepared for defense, the Nazis mined passages, concentrated a significant number of tanks and anti-tank guns. 28 December Corps Rotmistrov renewed the struggle for Kotelnikovo. The tank corps, tearing away from the infantry units, attacked the enemy head-on with 62 and 3 of the Guards tank brigades. Simultaneously, the 87-I tank and 7-I motorized rifle brigades bypassed the enemy garrison from the west, striking its left flank and soon cut off all the roads leading from Kotelnikov to the west and south-west. In 16 hour. units of these brigades captured the enemy's airfield, located in 1 km west of Kotelnikov. Not knowing about the capture of the airfield by our troops, several German planes landed on it, which were captured. In the evening, the corps brigades broke into the northern and western outskirts of the city and engaged in fierce street battles with a fiercely resisting enemy. By the morning of December 29, our troops liberated the city and the Kotelnikovo railway station. This was facilitated by the 6 th Mechanized Corps under the command of S. I. Bogdanov, who was part of this area. The Germans, fearing the environment, left Kotelnikovo and retreated to Rostov.
In the battles for Kotelnikovo, the Germans lost up to 3 thousand killed and prisoners. 65 guns and mortars, 15 airplanes, a large amount of ammunition, etc. became trophies of our troops. 7 December 29 was transformed into 1942 Guards Tank Corps and awarded the honorable 3 Tank Corps name "Kotelnikovsky". P. A. Rotmistrov was awarded the Order of Suvorov, II degree and was promoted to lieutenant-general of tank forces.
Soviet General Pavel Rotmistrov, Commander of the 7 Tank Corps, at the T-34 tank
The mobile units of the 51 Army, with the support of rifle troops, also advanced successfully. During 27 — 28 December, our troops captured a number of settlements. The 3 Guards Mechanized Corps defeated the Romanian Infantry Division of the 4. 7 th Romanian Corps went even further, to the river. Sal on both sides of the covenant. By evening, the Romanian corps was broken. After this, Volsky's corps began to attack Zimovniki. Here the pans created a strong knot of defense, covering the way to the bend of the Don and to Manych. The tank corps of Tanaschishin also successfully advanced. 51-I December 30 army knocked out the enemy from the station. Repair and the next day began fighting for art. Zimniki. Shooting units of the army reached the line of the r. Sal.
After the liberation of Kotelnikovo, favorable conditions arose for the defeat of the enemy grouping in the Tormosin area. The German troops here were the closest to the surrounded Paulus army. That is, a springboard for a breakthrough to Stalingrad remained. Tormosin was a major communications hub. Here the Germans had a base for the supply of the group of armies “Don”, which supported the Tromosinsky and Lowchirsk groups. In addition, the German troops occupying Tormosin hung over the right flank of the 2 Guards Army, which was successfully advancing, and created a direct threat to our communications. Here at this time there was a certain gap between the troops of the South-Western and Stalingrad fronts. The offensive of the troops of the 5 th shock army of the South-Western Front in this direction developed slowly. The Soviet General Headquarters instructed the Malinovsky army to accomplish this task. The right wing of the Guards Army was turned in the direction of Tormos. Together with the 5 shock army, they were to defeat the enemy in the Tormosin area.
2-th Guards Mechanized Corps, in order to strike at the enemy, it was necessary to force the Don. For the infantry and artillery, forcing this serious water barrier in winter was not particularly difficult, but crossing the river of tanks was dangerous. By the time the thickness of the ice on the Don reached 30 — 40 cm, which was not enough for heavy weapons. Without having a forest for laying bridges, the engineering units engaged in artificial ice buildup. It was as if they were successful, the ferry was growing before our eyes. But the first T-34, who entered this shaky structure, fell into the water. Then the command decided to confine while the transfer of only infantry, armored vehicles and light tanks T-70 to the opposite bank.
By the end of the day 30 December Mechanized Corps attacked the enemy. The offensive developed successfully. The Germans were confused, the interaction of the troops temporarily disrupted. Our troops came to Tormosin from three sides. Initially, the Nazis had a strong fire resistance on pre-prepared lines east and south of Tormosin. But then they began hastily to move north. 31 December Tormosin was released. The main task was solved. True, our troops did not manage to surround and completely destroy the Tromosinsky and Nizhnechirsk groups of the enemy.
As a result, the Red Army counterattack ended in victory. By December 31, the troops of the Stalingrad Front reached the line Upper-Rubezhniy — Tormosin — Zhukovsky — Komissarovsky-Gluboky. During the operation carried out on the Kotelnikov direction, the 4-I Romanian army was completely defeated, and the 4-I German Tank Army with heavy losses was thrown back on 200 — 250 km from Stalingrad, in the Zimovnikov region. The remnants of the compounds of the army group "Don" departed to the south towards the line of Manych True, the Germans were able to maintain their mobile shock connections, they could not be surrounded and destroyed.
An attempt by the troops of Manstein to unblock the Paulus group surrounded by Stalingrad failed completely. The army group "Got" at first successfully broke through the Soviet front, but then during the fierce battles it was stopped and drained of blood, having lost its shock capabilities. The command of the 6 Army did not dare to make a breakthrough when the Goth troops were in 35 - 40 km from the troops of Paulus, awaiting the order of the High Command. And the order did not come.
However, Operation Wintergevitter (Winter Thunderstorm) forced the Soviet General Headquarters to cancel the original plan for Operation Saturn. The operation did not so big. In addition, the start date of the operation “Ring” was postponed - to destroy Paulus’s 6 Army.
Manstein called Hitler's order to keep Stalingrad at all costs as the main reason for the failure of the operation. In his memoirs, Manstein actually shifted all responsibility for the fate of the 6 army to Hitler's incompetence: “The reason for the death of the 6 army must, of course, be found in the fact that Hitler refused to give the order to leave Stalingrad”. Obviously, this is not the whole truth. The blame also lies with the command of the 6 Army itself, which did not dare to break through at the most convenient moment, when the Goth group broke through as close as possible; on the command of the army group "Don" and army group "B", who could not organize the rescue of the army of Paulus.
Also, do not forget the increased skill of the Soviet command and our troops, who did not allow the enemy to break through to Stalingrad, unlock the 6 army and restore the old front. In the war there was a strategic turning point. The initiative passed into the hands of the Red Army.
The arrival of the 2 Guards Army in Kotelnikovo direction changed the situation in favor of the Red Army. In addition, the offensive of the Soviet troops in the region of the Middle Don created the danger of a breakthrough towards Rostov. This forced the German command to throw all available forces on the dangerous area, depriving the Goth group of possible reinforcements. This finally stopped the advance of the enemy. And the Soviet army was able to go on the counteroffensive. The blow of the guard army Malinovsky was successful. During the operation carried out on the Kotelnikov direction, the 4-I Romanian army was completely defeated, and the 4-I German Tank Army with heavy losses was thrown back on 200 — 250 km from Stalingrad, in the Zimovnikov region. The remnants of the compounds of the army group "Don" departed to the south towards the line of Manych
The German tank Pz.III Ausf captured at Stalingrad. L with number 223.