And her less known, but no less important points.
“The scale of the battle unfolded near Stalingrad between the Don and Volga rivers is difficult to imagine. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the mass man in the street, a complex multi-faceted battle on the Volga has been reduced to a set of stamps - fighting in the city, eye sockets of buildings. On the first floor we are on the second floor - the Germans, crossing under fire, etc. All this was. But this is only one of the heroic pages of our glorious past. Other, no less heroic and much larger events in the steppes near Stalingrad, were overshadowed. But the key moments of the Battle of Stalingrad took place not in the city, but in the bare steppe to the north-west of Stalingrad.
The geographical names Kotluban, Samofalovka, Kuzmichi, Gorodische say little to the modern layman. Although it was there that the most bloody and dramatic battles of the Battle of Stalingrad took place. It was the steppe expanses that became the scene of intense and bloody battles with the use of large masses of armored vehicles supported by rifle formations and aviation. The forgotten 564-km journey lost by God near the Kotluban station was mentioned in the reports up to and including the frontlines.
It was here that a positional crisis arose when the means of attack (the Soviet side) come into balance with the means of defense (Paulus). We cannot break through the rich anti-tank defenses of the Germans (in German terminology, fighting for a land bridge); Paulus, in turn, cannot remove the infantry and mechanized formations involved here, in order to send them to the aid of the units storming the city on the Volga. A somewhat unexpected conclusion follows from here - it was here that the forces of the land bridge were used to force many times more forces than in the city itself, both from the German and from the Soviet side. But first things first.
How did it happen that the Germans, having been defeated near Moscow, went through the Soviet defense like a knife through oil and reached Stalingrad and the Caucasus? The fact is that the “blue operation” (Fall Blau) was carried out by the Germans after the Kharkov operation that failed for us (the so-called “Second Battle for Kharkov”). In an effort to surround the Germans, our troops themselves fell into the boiler. Then, as a result of encirclement, a large group of Soviet troops perished in the Barvenkovo Cauldron. As a result of this, a wide gap was formed in the front, where motorized infantry rushed and Tanks Fedor von Bock and Hermann Goth. It should be said that N.S. Khrushchev, who was a member of the military council of the South-West direction, had a direct relationship to the Kharkov disaster. G.K.Zhukov repeatedly spoke about this in private conversations, which later came to him in the form of the Khrushchev disgrace. Khrushchev and Tymoshenko guaranteed Stalin the success of the operation and persuaded to begin its implementation.
To better understand what happened on the Volga, you need to "systematize" what happened a little. The battle of Stalingrad can be divided into three major stages.
1. Maneuvering battle on the distant approaches to the city: mid-July - late August 1942
2. Fighting for the city and the counterattacks of the Stalingrad Front on the flank of the 6 Army: the end of August — 19 in November 1942.
3. Surrounding the army of Paulus, a reflection of Field Marshal Manstein’s attempt to unblock it and the destruction of the encircled troops during Operation Ring.
Why, in spite of the "Barvenkovsky cauldron" (operation "Friederikus" in German terminology), did the Germans so quickly make their leap through the Don steppes towards Stalingrad and the Volga? If you do not go into lengthy arguments, the main reason was the mastery of the strategic initiative, the possibility of choosing to deliver the main blow. In addition to this - the qualitative superiority of the Germans, as well as the perfect organizational structure of the German armored forces, which allows the strike forces to act in many ways autonomously in isolation from the main forces. That is, to develop a breakthrough in depth without losing penetrative power. The whole strategy of blitzkrieg was based on this principle. The German forces were supported by the most experienced and powerful in supporting the ground forces of the VIII air corps of V. von Richthofen. Do not overlook the higher motorization of the Wehrmacht, which was more than relevant in the endless Don steppes near Stalingrad.
But the forgotten heroic page of the first stage of the battle on the Volga is not the famous cauldron on the right bank of the Don, in the Kalach region, where significant forces of our 62 army (3 rifle division; 5 fighter-anti-tank regiments; 3 tank battalion) got into the agile phase of the battle. These people died or were captured, but they detained a steamroller of German mechanized formations, which enabled the Soviet command to transfer reserves.
Again and again, the boilers in which the Soviet troops fought and died fiercely proved to be a significant factor in the failure to meet the deadlines of the offensive by the Wehrmacht’s motorized divisions. Both the Kiev and Vyazma boilers of the 1941 year were “rich” in prisoners and the loss of the Soviet troops, but they gave our country an equally valuable resource — time. The divisions of the Germans, standing on the perimeter and compressing the boiler, did not go forward. By the way, the Nazis tried with different degrees of success to reproduce such tactics in the second half of the war, by creating cities of fortresses - festungs (from him. Festung).
Unforeseen delays "in the run" of the German armies to the Don and Volga led to the fact that the Soviet command was able to concentrate reserves on the prepared lines of the Stalingrad defensive lines. It should be said that Stalin's foresight sometimes bordered on supernatural foresight. (Or by understanding WHERE, in the end, is Hitler! - N.S.) The fact is that he ordered the Stalingrad defensive lines to prepare for defense back in 1941, when Stalingrad was still deep in the rear!
After the breakthrough of the Germans to the nearest approaches to the city, they came to the Don in the area of Peskovatka, Vertyachy, and Triostrovskaya. Immediately, a bridgehead was formed at the Vertyachy farm, where active accumulation of forces began. 23 August 1942, the enemy launched an offensive from this bridgehead. The rifle division that defended the perimeter of 98 was swept away by a barrage of fire - later a man without an equipment was able to gather around 300. The Germans rushed to Stalingrad. Soon the Wehrmacht’s tank units formed an elongated "finger", which, with its apex, rested against the village of Rynok, now flooded with the Volgograd reservoir. Our 62 army was cut off from the main forces, its supply was carried out only along the Volga and partially through the air. The Soviet command understood that the presence of a German breakthrough to the river and the blocking of a group of Soviet troops in the city put the defense of Stalingrad on the brink of an abyss. Complete freedom of action of the German XIV tank corps in Stalingrad meant the fall of the city in a few days. The forces of the Germans needed at any cost to delay the storming of the city, imposing on them a battle off the streets of Stalingrad.
Generally all история The battle of Stalingrad is a vivid example of the retention of the city by an external (flank) impact on the attackers. But then by the beginning of autumn 1942, everything was hanging by a thread. On September 2 a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Great Britain, GM Malenkov arrived at the command post 1 of the Guards Army of the Stalingrad Front. Without a doubt, this was the decisive moment of the war. Stalin sent Malenkov to ensure that Stalingrad was not surrendered.
[Remarque: Generally, it was Malenkov who later played the role of the “eye of the sovereign” in the headquarters of fronts and formations. Suffice it to say that George Maximilianovich headed a commission to ascertain the causes of the huge losses of the Voronezh Front during the Battle of Kursk and, in particular, the counterstrike near Prokhorovka. The findings of the commission are classified so far!].
It took the genius of Zhukov, his iron hand and unbending will. Marshal Zhukov preempted the Germans for only a few days, and maybe hours. The strike of the mechanized units of the Stalingrad Front was carried out in a hurry, units entered into battle in parts, reconnaissance of the area was not carried out, not all brigade commanders even had maps of the area. Aviation and artillery could not suppress the firing points of the Germans, the infantry lay down, the tanks went to the lines of anti-tank defense without cover. Of the tank formations, only 7 tank corps Rotmistrov, who “did not advance absolutely a meter”, were able to enter into battle - this is a quote from the combat report.
However, it was this blow that cost us a lot of blood that became a salutary for the city. The German XIV tank corps was deployed from Stalingrad, Paulus was forced to put up a ground bridge for defense, to which the Russian powerful 9-ti battalion divisions were rushing. The fact is that due to heavy losses most of the divisions of the Wehrmacht by that time were "optimized" and converted into 6-ti battalion, which was later secured in the state. So on defense, Paulus threw the strongest old-fashioned divisions and a full-fledged tank corps. They were deployed from the city and defended the ground bridge, and the Stalingrad ruins went to the division weaker.
With his offensive, Zhukov turned the tide of battle; the Germans were in the meat grinder. And she had this terrible meat grinder for both sides; one should not think that for the Germans these battles took place without a trace. The terrible positional battles began, where the strengths of the Wehrmacht could not have manifested themselves - powerful tank strikes followed by enemy coverage and surroundings.
18 September 1942 was followed by the second offensive of the Stalingrad Front. It was no less bloody and also did not bring a decisive result. The tanks of the 62 Tank Brigade passed through the German positions, broke into the village of Borodino (about 10 km), where they were all burned by the Germans. But the main goal of the positional battle nevertheless reached. The strongest in terms of qualitative and quantitative composition German units were excluded from the composition of the troops storming the city and bled to death in the steppes around Stalingrad.
In essence, the Soviet command imposed Paulus zugzwang. In chess, the so-called situation is called, when each subsequent move worsens the situation, but it is impossible not to go, because a forced sequence of moves is imposed. Having suffered great losses during the repulse of the offensive of the northern wing of the Stalingrad Front, Paulus was forced to throw into the city battles the most valuable mechanized units of the 14 and then the 16 of the tank division. And they "melted" in urban battles. It was precisely them that Paulus did not have enough to repel the blows of Operation Uranus. It turned out that at first Paulus lost or very weakened the infantry divisions necessary for the assault on city streets, and then instead of them ditched tank divisions in the city. As a result of the actions of our troops, as a result of their pressure on the Germans, Paulus got stuck in positional battles north of Stalingrad, and this became a salutary for the city. However, our troops failed to carry out the "maximum program", the Soviet troops could not make their way to the connection with the 62 army. Ground bridge resisted under a hail of blows. But that is why Stalingrad was not taken by the Germans. And then. 19 November 1942, the new offensive of our army began, which led to the encirclement and subsequent death of the best army of Hitler's Wehrmacht.
[Remark: Soviet military leaders are often reproached for agreeing to their own, personal evacuation from the 41-42 boilers of the year (Tymoshenko from the Kiev boiler, Admiral of Oktyabrsky from Sevastopol). However, these are isolated cases. But General Efremov, the commander of the notorious 33 th army killed in the environment, refused to evacuate, sending a seriously wounded fighter in his place. So did the commander of 63 "black" Corps Petrovsky. The enemy was different.
Pragmatic Germans understood that the life of an officer, however cynical it might sound, costs more than the life of a simple soldier. And they saved their command cadres without a shadow of a doubt. Shortly before repelling the second offensive of the Stalingrad Front, commander of the XIV tank corps von Wittersheim proposed to withdraw troops from the city. This offer cost him his job, he was dismissed for his proposal, his place was taken by the commander of the 16 Panzer Division, Hans Valentin Hube. When the disaster at Stalingrad became inevitable Hube left the cauldron on the plane. Arriving on the mainland, he compiled a list of competent and efficient officers whose lives should be saved. They left the Stalingrad boiler: Lieutenant-General Count von Schwerin, Lieutenant-General Pfeiffer, Major-General Steinmetz and many others. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the flight of commanders of the 6 Army has become widespread. “To die for Germany” were not in a hurry and smaller officers, for example, Major Willy Langate, commander of the tank regiment 14 of the tank division, future commander of the division “Kurmar”].
Kitchen strategists of all stripes often blame the Soviet command for all mortal sins (filled up with corpses, won by quantity, won with cruelty to their own). The most common lie - piled up with corpses. Let's ask ourselves: why, being already surrounded, the German 6 army did not dare to break through? After all, very soon the entire commanding staff of the 6 army became clear that the army was on the brink of the abyss. The release of Goth and Manstein - Operation Wintergewitter The Winter Thunderstorm failed, despite the fact that E. Routh's 6 Panzer Division was only 40 km from the internal front of Paulus’s troops. But Paulus did not receive a breakthrough order and did not give such an order. We should not think that the army was clinging to the Stalingrad land because of the Fuhrer's stupid obstinacy "to keep the city of Stalin at any cost." The sequence of actions dictated brutal military expediency. The fact is that the Soviet command launched Operation Small Saturn and the 6-I German Panzer Division received a new order - to advance to the Tatsinskaya area, which finally put a bold cross on the fate of the Paulus army. And 6-I army received its last task: to hold out as long as possible, delaying the maximum number of Soviet troops in order to ensure the flank of the withdrawal of Army Group "A". The German command absolutely deliberately sacrificed 330 thousand people in order to avoid even more catastrophe - the environment of the army group in the Caucasus. Therefore, the thesis “filled up with corpses” in this case fits exactly to the German side. War is war, hard decisions were made by both parties.
Stalingrad became not only a symbol of the Wehrmacht’s military catastrophe, it marked a colossal scrapping of the mentality of the German military and civil society. Suffice it to say that the backbone of the future of the pro-Soviet "Union of German officers" and "Free Germany" was formed precisely by people who were captured at Stalingrad. Field Marshal Paulus himself became the most famous person who had gone over to the side of the USSR after the Battle of Stalingrad. But other examples are no less characteristic. Thus, the well-known German military leader, commander of the army corps, Lieutenant General Walter von Seidlits-Kurzbach, with a professional eye appreciated the prospect of war on the Eastern Front and considered it beneficial to cooperate with the Soviet authorities. During the Korsun-Shevchenko operation, he repeatedly addressed through a loudspeaker to surrounded German troops with a call to cease resistance. Leaflets signed by him were actively scattered, which undoubtedly influenced the morale of the Germans, and saved many lives of Soviet soldiers.
In this sense, Stalingrad can be compared with the battle on the Kulikovo field. The victory on the Kulikovo Field did not bring liberation from the Tatar yoke, it lasted for a long time, but it became the first victory over the enemy, which seemed invincible, which made the final liberation a matter of time. Stalingrad is a victory at a time when the Germans were at the peak of their power and military success. But although, as after the Kulikovo Field, the war continued for a long time, it became clear to everyone that victory would come without a doubt.
Instead of an epilogue. I have often heard from other cities that we have a “heavy” city and “heavy” people. Gloomy not always smiling. This is not quite true. We just have everything close by. Until the middle of the 70-s, the favorite toys of the children of the surrounding villages and farms were military ammunition items, and sometimes weapon. Not far from the airport in the city, right under the feet of the trench line. The war is near. She sometimes looks out of the most unexpected angles. I lived in my own home for more than 30 years. Once down the stairs, I suddenly saw a stamp stamped on an I-beam “KRUPP 1941” carrier beam. Like this. Beam trophy. Engineering reserves 6 army went to the good business of building my house. War has always been near at Stalingrad. And the farther those events go from us, the stronger trenches grow, the more myths and fables flourish, implanted by our kitchen strategists and armchair fighters for the truth of war. If I have managed to dispel these myths at least a little bit, I will consider my task accomplished.