Operation Hubertus - Conclusions
OPERATION HUBERTUS - Evaluation and Conclusions
Operation Hubertus – Ljudnikov's Last Stand in Stalingrad
By Wolf Höpper
Return to Part Four...
Evaluation and Conclusions
Operation “Hubertus” was doomed to fail from the beginning. The following points explain.
1) The constant bombardment and artillery shelling created a battlefield in which the Soviet defenders largely held the advantage over the assaulting Germans.
The fields of rubble and craters were perfectly designed for defensive
actions and could be improved with relatively little effort. This also provided ample hunting ground for the ever-present Soviet
snipers. Like many surviving records and accounts of survivors
indicate, they proved at points more devastating than the actual combat
actions. Although it sounds theatrical, the role of the snipers
therefore can’t be underestimated.
2) The Volga riverbanks proved over and over again impenetrable to the German attackers. The Russians dug tunnels into the banks like moles. This enabled them to move supplies, reserves and command staffs out of the reach of German artillery and air bombardment. The command structure of Tschuikovs 62nd Army stayed, considering the desperate situation, relatively intact. Most of the time he had a good overall view of the different situations. Even when telephone lines were cut, the banks enabled runners to move with relative safety from point to point.
|3) The Germans lacked infantry support. Although before the final plans were drawn up the senior commanders, up to von Paulus himself, complained about inadequate infantry support for the assault pioneers. Often they advanced, fought down the main resistance only to lose their new positions because the Soviets counterattacked their overstretched and thinly held flanks.
4) The numbers of arriving German replacements was also very low. Mainly drawn from supply and rear area units, these nonetheless brave men lacked adequate infantry experience, and many of them hadn’t fired a weapon since their basic training. The unique problems of urban combat were absolutely alien to them.
Therefore they suffered high casualties. Their
Soviet counterparts were often no better trained, but gained great
experience during the previous fighting.
5) During the course of the operation von Seydlitz-Kurtzbach ordered large units of the attacking forces to be moved to other sectors, especially the panzers and artillery. Although panzers are not perfectly suited for urban warfare, they often brought relief to the hard fighting foot soldiers. The panzers from 24. Panzerdivision often stopped Russian attacks against their neighbouring units. His intention however cannot be misinterpreted or misjudged, since he read the reports about the developments on the 6th Army flanks and prepared for the likely Soviet counter-offensive. This only reinforces the lack of German reserves.
||6) The operation was not executed according to the wider plan. The battle groups Seydel and von Scheele were mainly held back and didn’t attack to relieve pressure on the assaulting pioneers. Thereby the original intention, to stop the Soviets from retaking the lost ground, was not executed and enabled the Soviets to counterattack effectively and stop the attackers.
7) The assigned assault forces were too small and weak for the difficult task. Although at points substantial gains occurred and important bridgeheads were captured, the Germans simply lacked the necessary forces to finally annihilate their opponents and capture the city.
One final personal opinion:
The Germans were simply running out of time.
The duration of the German effort to take the city was too long and badly coordinated between the different higher commanders. When the Germans started to thrust into the city suburbs they changed their attack axis several times and objectives changed accordingly. The repeated shifting of several divisions, for example 24. Panzerdivision, prohibited the Germans in the early stages from taking the city relatively easily.
The Germans also didn’t coordinate the efforts of the single divisions correctly and individually they had to take their assigned parts of city. This bleed the divisions white and led later to great problems holding their lines and prevented them from assisting the assault pioneers accordingly.
Von Paulus seemed simply not the right commander for this task. Although he reported the high running casualty reports to his superiors, he didn’t make any substantial proposals for solving the Stalingrad “problem”. He simply manoeuvred units around, couldn’t decide on a final attack plan and therefore threw his soldiers uselessly into a bloody mill that rivals the senseless massacres of WWI by von Falkenhayn. When the daily objectives and the relevant division orders were examined it is astounding that large units like regiments were assigned to gain microscopic aims, such as single houses, factory halls and, considering the overall picture, similar unimportant objectives. On this point von Richthofen was probably right when he attacked von Paulus verbally. Von Paulus’s later hesitation and unwillingness to break out of the encirclement seem another indication for this.
The final and most important reason for the operations failure is probably far simpler. If the Russians hadn’t had started their famous relief operation, the Germans would probably have swept Tschuikov’s troops into the Volga on 19 November. The last attack never happened, so all thoughts from this point on are purely hypothetical.
After all German attacks had halted in Stalingrad Major Linden resigned from his command in this sector and was assigned to the construction pioneers. His responsibility until the German surrender was to keep roads free from the snow, to keep the runways of the airports clear for supply flights and maintain the efficiency of the overall infrastructure of 6th Army during the encirclement. He was captured at his command post in the “Jäger-Park” 30 January 1943.
After he returned from captivity he retired to a pensioners’ home in his hometown of Essen. He never overcame the grief of the senseless sacrifice from his men.
The remaining assault pioneers were combined into a battle group under Hauptmann Krüger, assigned to 305. Infanteriedivision and were amongst the last to surrender in the northern cauldron. Only 35 walked out on 2 February into an unknown future. One amongst the few returning home after long years of captivity was Eugen Rettenmair, the commander of battlegroup of Grenadier Regiment 578.
|State of historical research at the point of writing
As I stated in my foreword, I am not a professional historian, so the following is based upon my own opinion, experienced through my own research.
At the time I wrote this article, it was very difficult at best to gather any information about “Operation Hubertus” at all. In most books, as I mentioned, the events are described sketchily at best. Only Manfred Kehrig in his unfortunately out-of-print book “Stalingrad, Analyse und Dokumentation einer Schlacht”, dedicates a whole chapter to the subject. He quotes only original transcripts and orders. Another great asset in this book are the highly detailed and accurate maps and orders of battle. For every military student this book must be considered the definite source about the whole Stalingrad campaign.
The historical interest in military nature of the battle of Stalingrad seems to mostly centred on either the early part, the combat actions in front of the city, or the events at and after the encirclement. The fighting in the city itself, and the specific actions, are most of the times neglected or, from a military historians point of view, only vaguely examined and pictured. For the subject of this article most general books can be ignored.
||Even the publications from veteran organisations, mostly former members of the Stalingrad divisions, are unfortunately most of the time not too accurate. They cannot be blamed, since their intentions to write about their history are probably different. Nonetheless such literature is always recommended for some in-depth analyses.
As a basic staring point for researching the Stalingrad battle two classics are recommended: William Craig’s “Enemy at the Gates” and Antony Beevor’s “Stalingrad”. They give mostly general overviews of specific events, but nonetheless provide ample information, some parts in-depth.
|Always a good source is the edited version of the German Army’s war diary. Here the decisions and measures that were taken by Hitler are detailed and it can definitely serve as a first hand account for the greater picture. It partially provides detailed information about the different service branches. This eight-volume monster reference covers basically the period from 1940 to the end of the war.
Very helpful for every student of military history concerning the German side is following Internet-Site: www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de. It is mainly based upon the multi-volume edition of Georg Tessin “Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939-1935”
Unfortunately I was not able to visit the German Bundesarchiv where there is certainly more original material, like orders, diaries, maps, sketches from commanding officers and the like. Another source for WWII subjects are the Russian archives. Certainly the Russian archives, especially the one at Volgograd itself, still contain vital, and up to this point mostly unexplored, information.
The Russian point of historical examination cannot be ascertained, since not many Russian historical works have been translated so far. Many sources, like “Battle for Stalingrad” (The 1943 Soviet General Staff Study) edited by Louis Rotundo, seem too exaggerate and give mostly wrong information concerning the involved combat strengths and casualties. Modern historical research might differ nowadays, but were not available to me.
A single book, which features and analyses the operation as the only subject, could not be found.
|Disclaimer & References
The author is not a graduate historian. This article doesn’t lay claim to be the final examination nor the final historical analysis of the Operation Hubertus. The author wrote this article as correctly as possible without bending historical accuracy or changing events, times or other relevant parts. It was intended as a try to provide the eager military student and every-day reader alike with a detailed telling of the events in the subject period and analise it from a mostly military point of view.
All facts, as far as they can be ascertained by more than one independant source, were taken from books written in German and German written web-pages. So any mistakes which might occur through misinterpretation, wrong translation, wrong counter-checking the different sources, or other circumstances, are the author’s alone.
References (in alphabetical order)
Beevor, Antony "Stalingrad"
Goldmann Verlag, München, Germany 2001
Original by Viking, London 1998
Carell, Paul "Unternehmen Barbarossa - Der Marsch nach Russland"
Verlag Ullstein GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, Germany 1963
Craig, William "Die Schlacht von Stalingrad"
Verlag Kurt Desch, München Germany 1974
Original: "Enemy at the Gates"
Harper & Row Publishers, 1973
Hauck, Friedrich Wilhelm "Eine deutsche Division in Russland und Italien,
305. Infanteriedivision 1941- 1945"
Podzun – Verlag, 6364 Dorheim/H., Germany 1975
Haupt, Werner "Die deutschen Infanterie-Divisionen"
Podzun-Pallas-Verlag, Markt 9, 6360 Friedberg 3, Germany 1992
Podzun-Pallas-Verlag, Markt 9, 61169 Friedberg, 1993
Kehrig, Manfred "Stalingrad. Analyse und Dokumentation einer Schlacht"
3. Auflage Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1979
(Beiträge zur Militär- und Kriegsgeschichte Bd. 15)
Kurowski, Franz "Stalingrad. Die Schlacht, die Hitlers Mythos zerstörte"
Bastei-Lübbe-Taschenbuch, Band 65099, Lübbe Verlag GmbH, 1992
Manitz, Hans Horst "Erinnerungsbuch 94. ID 1939-1945, Einsatz in Rußland
1941 bis Anfang 1943" published by Kameradschaftsverband 94. Infanterie Division
(veteran association), Germany 1985
Piekalkiewicz, Janusz "Stalingrad, Anatomie einer Schlacht" Lizenzausgabe für Bertelsmann Club GmbH, Gütersloh Germany
Buch Nr. 0400 5
Original edition by Südwest Verlag, München, Germany no year
Riebenstahl, Horst "Die deutschen Pioniere im Einsatz 1939-1945"
Edition Dörfler, licensed edition
Nebel Verlag, Eggolsheim, Germany no year
Sänger, Hans „Die 79. Infanterie Division“
Podzun-Pallas-Verlag, Markt 9, 6360 Friedberg 3 Gemany, no year
Schlager, Ferdinand "Pioniere in Stalingrad ’Mit ganz kleinen Stoßtrupps’"
in Sonderheft der II. Weltkrieg
Jahr-Verlag KG, Burchardstr. 14, 2000 Hamburg 1 Germany
Publisher: Dr. Christian Zentner, no year
Schramm, Percy E. (Publisher) "Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht
1942" (partial volume 1942, part 2)
Special edition by
Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Bonn Gemany no year
Schulz, Hubertus "Die Aufklärer (Rf. 1, K4, PzAA 24) der 1 Kavallerie-Division/24.
Ernst J. Dohany Verlag, Groß Umstadt Germany 1993
Selle, Herbert "Die Tragödie von Stalingrad", Hannover 1948
Dr. F. M. von Senger und Etterlin jr. "Die 24. Panzer-Division 1939 – 1945"
Edition Dörfler, licensed edition
Nebel Verlag, Eggolsheim, Germany no year
Stoves, Rolf "Die gepanzerten und motorisierten deutschen Grossverbände 1935 –
Podzun-Pallas-Verlag, Kohlhäuser Str. 8, 61200 Wölfersheim-Berstedt Germany
Second printing 1994
Tessin, Georg "Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmach und
Waffen SS im zweiten Weltkrieg 1939 – 1945"
Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, Germany 1972
Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, Gemany 1972
Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, Germany 1974
Biblio Vrelag, Osnabrück, Gemany 1975
Last Updated On Wednesday, October 21, 2009 by Wayne at Battlefront