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Operation Uranus

Discussion in 'War on the Eastern Front' started by Spitfire XIV-E, Aug 27, 2007.

  1. Spitfire XIV-E

    Spitfire XIV-E New Member

    Jul 26, 2007
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    via War44

    Operation Uranus was the Russian Counter-Attack at Stalingrad from 19th - 30th November 1942. As Friedrich von Paulus's 6th Army were invested in the taking of the city, Russian High Command (STAVKA) had been planning a Counter-Attack since September. As German losses mounted they were forced to strip the Flanks of the perimeter for replacements leaving weaker allies to fill the gaps. General Chuikov in charge of the Soviet 62nd Army that was fighting the Germans in Stalingrad, was given just enough resources to tie down most of the 6th Army in the city and keep his own forces in fighting shape. Marshalls Georgi Zhukov & Alexander Vasilevski were the 2 masterminds behind "Uranus" and they planned to encircle the beleagured city with Pincer Attacks from the North & South of the City, meeting up at Kalach to the West. The Northern Flank of the perimeter was held by the Romanian 4th Army. It had a front of 138 km to defend. The Southern Flank was held by the Romanian 3rd Army plus elements of 4th Panzer Army. These had a 270 km front to defend. From the North, The Soviet 21st Army & 5th Tank Army would drive South. And from the South, The Soviet 57th & 64th Armies would drive North to encircle the German 6th Army and prevent it from being re-supplied, relieved or breaking out. The 65th Army commanded by General Pavel Batov would keep the Germans busy on other parts of the perimeter. To mask the build up of Soviet Forces, all attacking units along the front were ordered to build defensive positions for the benefit of German Aerial Reconaissance. All troop movements were made at night in to the assembly areas in strict March Discipline and Radio Silence was maitained with all orders being passed by word of mouth. Further to the North the Voronezh Front made preparations for an offensive to further mask Soviet intentions in the Stalingrad area.

    The Northern Pincer

    On 19th November at 05.30 a telephone call was received in Von Paulus's Headquarters reporting Trumpet Calls from the Russian lines indicating the start of a Russian Artillery Bombardment. After being ranged in over the previous days, 3,500 Guns & Katyusha Rocket Launchers opened fire in to the front of the Romanian 4th Army's positions. The noise this made could be heard over 30 miles away. The Soviet Armies moved forward, at first the Romanians held steady but then the Russians brought in their Armour and resistance began to crumble. The Artillery & Rocket barrage now moved forward and struck the Romanian Artillery positions and rear areas causing more havoc. By midday the Romanians had yielded ground and were in full retreat. Elements of 5th Tank Army now poured through the gap in the lines and began to fan out towards Kalach. So badly prepared was Von Paulus' 6th Army that it took all of 2 hours for any kind of response to be mounted to the desperate situation of the Romanian 4th Army and it's imminent collapse. There had been many warnings from the Romanians over the previous weeks about a Russian build up along the Don, but all went unheeded. Von Paulus himself had been making repeated complaints to the High Command in Berlin about his overstretched supply lines, poorly protected flanks and the Russian build up in the Stalingrad region. However Von Paulus had done nothing to help the situation. He had not prepared 6th Army for the attack which now seemed inevitable, did not pull his Panzer Forces in to a mobile reserve so that he could meet the Russian attack as it happened, and now the Germans were about to pay the price for these failings. Despite repeated attempts to Counter-Attack, the German position was becoming more & more hopeless. Many of the Panzer Divisions attached to 6th Army had taken heavy losses during the advance to the Volga in the summer & autumn and some had not been refitted. By the 26th November the 26th Tank Corps of 5th Tank Army had reached the lightly guarded bridge at Kalach and captured it. This was the last real hope of maintaining a life line to the 6th Army (Although Goering boasted that the Luftwaffe could keep 6th Army re-supplied with the necessary 500 tonnes per day. Barely a 10th of this was actually achieved) and now the door was well & truly shut. Von Paulus requested to be able to break out and regroup further west for a counter-attack but Hitler forbaid it. This decision would seal 6th Army's fate.

    The Southern Pincer

    On the morning of 20th November, forces of the Stalingrad Front opened the Southern Offensive. Although bad weather delayed the Artillery Bombardment until 10.00 hours. The 45 minute preparation was followed by the Infantry Divisions of 57th & 64th Armies moving forward to the attack. Despite stubborn resistance, German & Romanian forces were pushed back with heavy casualties inflicted. By the 23rd November the Forces of the Stalingrad Front advancing from the South had linked up with those of the Southwestern Front advancing from the North in the Sovietskiy area and this completed the encirclement of German Forces in Stalingrad. This happened so quickly that it had to be re-enacted for cameras afterwards as there were none to hand at the actual link up. A miracle was the only thing that could save 6th Army from it's grim fate now. Despite Erich von Manstein mounting an operation to try and open a path for 6th Army to retreat through he was repulsed whilst still some distance from the cut off Army. And now the news was grimmer still as all efforts to try and save the situation in Stalingrad were thwarted because of a new threat from Soviet forces to the North. Any hope that 6th Army might have had of being relieved was now gone. With the Russian Winter now closing in fast the temperatures began to plummit and heavy snow was falling. Soon it was minus 30, 40 & even 50 degrees below freezing making life extremely unpleasant for those who had to carry on in the pocket at Stalingrad. Casualties from Frost Bite were almost as many as those from enemy action. And as Medical Supplies and Food began to run out men began to starve to death and die from dyssentry and other deseases.


    As the Winter wore on the German situation in Stalingrad grew extremely desperate. With Food and Ammunition running low, Von Paulus again asked permission to mount a break out. Hitler still refused, insisting that - "I know the Brave 6th Army & I know it's commander and I know that they will do their historic duty". Paulus knew full well what Hitler was implying. Every man should fight on until the last bullet. The Russians knew it was only a matter of time before the Germans ran out of supplies and ammunition. They mounted repeated attacks in the city and this cut the 6th Army in 2. For the coup de grace they had assembled 7 armies outside the city to crush the pocket. Von Paulus requested permission to surrender and in response Hitler made him a Field Marshall on 29th January 1943 knowing that no German Field Marshall had ever surrendered. On the 31st January Von Paulus and his staff surrendered. At first the Russians were suspicious because they'd never seen such a High Ranking German Officer before. They even asked Von Paulus to produce evidence that he was the commander of the 6th Army. The majority of the Soldiers in the 6th Army followed their leaders in to captivity on 2nd February 1943. Small pockets held out until March but even they had to surrender eventually. Including the 91,000 Germans & Romanians captured in the city, a further 160,000 had been captured or killed in the fighting around the Rivers Don & Volga. A catastrophic loss. This was the turning point on the Eastern Front. The Russians were growing stronger by the day, and although there would be more fierce fighting to come it was only a matter of time before they would go over to the offensive and drive the Germans back from where they had come.



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