Against the Flood - Operation Uranus (I)

The front around Stalingrad Against the Flood
The Russian Juggernaut Strikes Successfully for the First Time

By Wolf Höpper

I. Foreword
The battle for Stalingrad is probably the best-documented single engagement during WWII, but still many historical aspects are only available to serious students and many of the commonly held beliefs are simply exaggerations perpetuated through many secondary sources.

Much detail is either not known or simply left out of many accounts, often since they would destroy certain myths taken as historical facts.

The latter is especially true of the Romanian participation during the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad – Operation Uranus. Nearly every book that describes this period paints a picture of wildly routing and heedlessly fleeing Romanian soldiers that simply threw away their weapons as soon as the first shot was fired.

Another perpetual myth is that the Germans didn’t realize the possibility of any Soviet offensive plans. 

Paulus and his subordinate officers are often blamed for not taking steps to counter a possible enemy offensive or even planning for such an event.

When countermeasures are mentioned, they are evaluated correctly as being insufficient, but don’t take many aspects into account to explain what the Germans were faced with.

The third and probably most misinterpreted fact is Operation Uranus was executed by the Soviets like a clockwork training mission and the German and Romanian forces didn’t stand the slightest chance of keeping them from reaching their goal.

Stalingrad T-34 obr 1941

All three of these facts are simply not true. The following article will highlight that statement and shed new light on some of the misinterpretations, which are taken widely as historical facts. Another intention of this article is to fill a gap in the available literature. No single book describes the Soviet counter-offensive from the view of both sides.

II. Overall View
When the German high command started its summer offensive in 1942, Fall Blau, Hitler’s first and primary goal was to seize the Caucasian oil fields. Like other plans, these were changed both strategically and tactically. Initially, the city of Stalingrad on the Volga was not the primary goal, but it later became one. During the course of the ongoing offensive, Hitler changed the flow of strategic operations and decided to split the strong spearhead in two directions, sending the elite 6th Army and parts of 4th Panzer Army directly against Stalingrad.

Fighting around Stalingrad

Although many historians claim this redirection was purely political. Capturing the large industrial city bearing his most hated adversary’s name would have been a propaganda coup. Hitler had other war related reasons to change his mind.

The Dzerzhinsky Tractor Plant produced, at the beginning of 1942, around 250 T-34 tanks every month. The factory also produced about 25% of all Soviet tractors (which were changed to Red Army military models even before the outbreak of war with Germany!). The steel, necessary for this production, was delivered by the city’s own steel mill, Krasniy Oktyabr, later a place of unprecedented bloodshed. Also Stalingrad housed one of the most important oil refineries supplying the Soviet war economy. Capturing this industrial output would have a direct effect on the ability of the Soviets to conduct war.

The city also functioned as a gigantic shipment hub for about 30 million tons of goods. Nearly 9 million tons of raw oil was transferred from the Caucasus oil fields at Baku Batum. Grain from the Ukraine and the Kuban area was shipped northwards through Stalingrad to Moscow.

After the initial offensive against the city failed, and the fight for the ruins turned into a war for strategically unimportant goals, Hitler sent in special assault pioneer units to take the last Soviet nests of resistance. The codename for this operation was Hubertus (for further information see Operation Hubertus... ).

While this last German offensive effort was undertaken, the Soviets launched their long planned counteroffensive – Operation Uranus, with the aim of completely destroying the German aggressors.

After throwing nearly all available German units into the bloodbath of Stalingrad, and stretching the flanks further and further, Hitler replaced German units, guarding the strategic flanks, with allied troops – Romanians, Hungarians and Italians.

The time for the Soviets to turn the table had come.

III. Preparatory Phase

III.1. Initial Planning of the STAVKA
The plan for destroying the 6th Army at Stalingrad was a direct adaptation the German Blitzkrieg strategy. On both flanks of the attacker large numbers of mobile forces, mainly mechanised or motorised, were concentrated on a narrow sector. After supporting rifle units broke the initial defensive line, the mobile formations would drive deep into the rear of the enemy to disrupt communications and logistic systems. This was intended to hinder the enemy bringing up reserves and establishing a new line of defence.

Stalingrad Factory Hall

Later the initial rifle units would be brought up to tighten the ring around the enemy forces and keep the enemy from relieving and re-supplying cut-off units.

In other words, the Soviets imitated the German Blitzkrieg, which had cost them so dearly during the previous year and nearly brought them to the brink of destruction.


III.2. Laying Out the Plan
Initially the plan to destroy the German 6th Army was envisioned and detailed by General Zhukov. During the night of 12-13 September 1942 Vasilevsky, Chief of General Staff, and Zhukov, having worked out their initial plan to counterattack at Stalingrad, presented it to Stalin. At the same time the Germans started their casualty intensive assault on the city of Stalingrad – and the infamous house-to-house fighting had began.

To execute this plan as intended, the Red Army had to hold Stalingrad at all costs, to focus the German attention and keep the German attackers from withdrawing troops to build up mobile reserves.

At the same time Zhukov planned to launch a minor offensive at Army Group Centre, to hinder the German movement of units, especially mobile formations, to counter Operation Uranus. He devised another offensive plan against the German 9th Army of Army Group Centre – Operation Mars.  

Incidentally on the same day, while Zhukov and Vasilevsky conferred with Stalin, their adversaries, General Paulus and General Oberst von Weichs, flew to Rastenburg to convince Hitler the 6th Army must be extracted from its protruding and dangerous positions. All arguments were fruitless, and Hitler insisted on not only holding the ground gained, but to also finish the conquest of the city.

Once Stalin had approved the initial operational plan, Zhukov and Vasilevsky flew to the Stalingrad area and studied the actual situation there. On 28 September Zhukov flew to Moscow to discuss his plan with Stalin. The Chief of General Staff, Vasilevsky, remained with the Stalingrad Front. Vasilevsky discussed, with the commanders of the Stalingrad and Don Fronts, their roles in the coming offensive. Zhukov did the same for the Southwest Front. Up to this point no commander below the front level knew anything about plans to attack on a large scale. The Soviet high command kept everything as secret as possible. Most army commanders were not informed until the plans were finalized and set into motion.

The offensive was scheduled to take place on 9 November for the northern attack and one day later for the southern attack. The plan had to be postponed, because the relevant reinforcements and supplies did not arrive in time.

The responsible commanders were informed on 3 and 4 November (Don and Southwest Front) and on 9 and 10 November the attack would start on 19 November.

III.3. Reasons and Considerations
For Zhukov and Vasilevsky it was clear that the overstretched German front line was very brittle. They also realized directly attacking German units could prove fatal. They felt their German counterparts were still tactically superior to them, especially in the field of mobile warfare. During that time the Soviet high command was not very confident that large independent tank-mechanised forces could be a decisive factor on the battlefield. Their previous experience with such formations proved disastrous during the spring offensive to recapture Kharkov. Another factor for attacking the German allied armies and not the fascist aggressors themselves lay in the fact that the German soldier was still tactically better trained, better equipped and by far more battle-hardened than his allied counterparts.

Soviet Sapper prepares for battle.

The strongest reason to attack the adjoining minor allied troops was the knowledge that the commanding officers of these armies were not as capable as the Germans. The belief was that any measures taken against the attacking Soviet troops would have been easier to counter.

The Soviet high command, through its extensive espionage network, was also aware of the fact many non-German soldiers asked themselves why they should fight for Hitler in a foreign country. Especially the Romanians, after re-conquering their previously lost territories, were war weary. The same held true for the Italians and the Hungarians. The Italians lacked confidence because their home country was many thousands of kilometres away and not directly threatened by Stalin’s armies.

Right from the beginning the secrecy of the new operation was high. The newly established units were raised in the sector opposing German Army Group Centre and transferred to their assembly areas in the south. The Soviets intended to disguise the real theatre of operations and deceive the Germans into believing the new offensive will take place in the Army Group Centre sector.

The build up of supplies was so secretly managed, that many army commanders near Stalingrad wondered why previously normal requests were now simply denied by their superior commanders.

The war council of the Stalingrad Front was explicitly informed, on 21 October, that an offensive was to be mounted in their sector.

Stalin also had significant intelligence about distrust developing between the Romanians and Germans. The latter didn’t fulfil their promises to deliver weapons and other necessary war goods to Romania. The Romanians questioned the need to form a second Romanian army as demanded by the Germans. A harsh reply by the German command and the problems receiving the promised war goods led to more distrust. Another reason for distrust was German Army Group B’s use of the Romanian forces of the 3rd Army to relieve the Italian division Pasubio. The Romanians protested that this would overextend their capabilities. Their objections were ignored.

Stalin was also well informed about the fact no significant reserves could be freed to strengthen the Romanian forces. On 16 October, the differences between General Hauffe (Romanian) and General Steflea (German) boiled over. The Romanians refused to replace any Italian units with their own, until the promised German reinforcements arrived.

The Romanians had good reasons for delaying the replacement of the Italian divisions. They hadn’t received any of the promised infantry and panzer divisions, while the Italian 8th Army had the German 22. Panzerdivision and 62. Infanteriedivision attached directly as front reserve, and another two divisions (298. and 339. Infanterie divisions) interwoven into their frontlines.

Romanians receiving German medels
When the final disposition and regroupings of the Romanians were completed, an effective reinforcement and improvement of the existing field positions could not be properly undertaken. Russian partisans threatened the German supply lines, especially the railways. The shipment of wood, concrete and sand for construction purposes was curtailed. Other supplies like ammunition and fuel had more relevance to the German supply system. This all contributed to a little improvement to the Romanian positions. Stalin, Vasilevsky and Zhukov were well aware of these deficiencies.

The commander of the Stalingrad Front, General Colonel Yeremenko, ordered on 2 November that his subordinated Armies (57th under General Tolbukhin and 51st under General Trufanov) should finish their preparation for the upcoming offensive by 10 November.


On 13 November the State Defence Committee under Stalin met. In this meeting Zhukov and Vasilevsky explain their evaluation of the overall situation. Larger regroupings of the enemy were not detected. The Soviet supply situation was good despite drawbacks in certain areas. The Soviet forces were sufficient to execute the plan and the operation was already planned down to regimental level. The troops would hear about the attack plans one day before the actual date to keep up the secrecy as long as possible. Zhukov was confident, that around the third or fourth day, the troops of both pincers would meet at Kalach.

From 14 November Vasilevsky observed the preparations on the Stalingrad sector. He had been given sole responsibility for Operation Uranus because Zhukov, who planned the supporting offensive Mars against Army Group Centre, was busy getting that operation started.

After several visits from Zhukov to the different Fronts, and his reassurance that all preparations were going on as planned, the decision was made. Operation Uranus would start on Thursday 19 November. The offensive would take place in two phases.

In the north the new Southwest and Don Fronts were to attack on 19 November and the Stalingrad Front would attack one day later. This delay on the Stalingrad Front resulted from the fact that they had a far wider area to cover and they had to cross the Don River.

The planned time schedule became endangered. The supply of fuel, ammunition and winter clothing did not arrive in time. The planners hope by 16 November, at the latest 17 November, all supply problems would be solved. The responsible planners realized the upcoming winter operation would hinder the effectiveness of their regular infantry. Therefore the Soviets issued 400 to 500 sleds to each rifle division. This allowed the soldiers to be towed by tanks, along with their heavy infantry weapons, machine guns, grenade launchers, etc., more easily across the already snow covered steppe. Large numbers of snow shovels were also issued, so the rifle divisions could dig their way through the snow if necessary.

Around 16 November the Soviets started to adjust their artillery. This was conducted in such a manner, that it seemed to the opposing forces as only sporadic shelling to harass them. Tank units were only allowed to move during the night hours. At all costs, the Soviets tried to maintain the best possible level of secrecy.

Very unusual in the Soviet planning was the high concentration of anti-aircraft units. In the areas of the 5th Tank and 21st Armies, 2 AA divisions, 9 AA regiments, 5 AA detachments and 10 AA batteries were accumulated.

This accounted for 260 AA guns and 325 AA machine guns. For the first time the employment of AA troops was better coordinated with the Soviet high command establishing AA divisions (each 4 regiments strong). They were primarily used to defend railway stations handling the arrival of reinforcements.

Soviets in white snow suits.

This was a clear indication the Soviets still feared the German Luftwaffe might intervene and try to disrupt the offensive plans by attacking the unloading of troops and supplies.

Although the Soviet railway organisations and executives were doing their best, the last assault forces don’t arrive in their designated assembly areas until 19 November, barely hours before the artillery started their barrage.

Stalingrad III.4. German Intelligence and Countermeasures
Abwehrgruppe B, the intelligence department of Army Group B, expressed their evaluation of the Russian operational possibilities for a pincer attack against the flanks of the 6th Army in a report, which was directly transferred to Berlin and forwarded to the General Staff at the OKW. This report, verified by the statements of interrogated prisoners, that Zhukov intended to attack with three armies north of Stalingrad to link up with the forces fighting within the city itself. Although no clear operational plan can be derived from that, it becomes obvious, that:

a) Zhukov, directly subordinate to Stalin, was planning to counter-attack against the Romanian held flanks.

b) Zhukov, the commander of the successful counter offensive the year before at Moscow, was the mastermind for creating the offensive plan. Any plans from Zhukov indicated a serious threat.

c) Together with the reports from the Luftwaffe reconnaissance departments that the Soviets were enhancing the bridge capacities at the Don and Choper rivers, an offensive in that area was at least planned, if not imminent.

The Germans had even learned about the intended strength of this northern attack force: 10 rifle divisions, 10 Katyusha regiments, and 3 tank corps supported by two air divisions.

On 5 October, during planning meetings and conferences in which the establishment of a pure Romanian Army Group was examined, Marshal Antonescu expressed his fears for a Russian counteroffensive against his forces to General Hauffe, the commander of the German army mission in Romania.

On 8 October Reinhard Gehlen (Fremde Heere Ost - Foreign Armies East) evaluated the idea that a Russian winter counterattack to regain lost territory was very likely. He even stated, "the Russian command authorities have the ability to actively execute operations during the winter". Gehlen also assumed the Soviets would attack west of Stalingrad against the weak fronts of the German allied troops. Later he changed his evaluation to a possible offensive against Army Group Centre. The reason for this change in his assessment is pretty simple. The recon units of Army Group Centre clearly realized the extent of the planned supporting Soviet operation Mars, which was intended to prevent that Army Group from sending reinforcements to the south after operation Uranus had started.
76mm Zis-3 firing at enemy positions
One very interesting, but totally neglected, fact was the mentioning of "Staff Major Ostrovskiy" in the reports of the Ic officer (enemy intelligence gathering) from the 376. Infanteriedivision, Dr. Ostarhild. The rear area security forces captured persons which acted as agitators of the Russian civilian population. After the interrogation the Germans learned, that their mission was to establish a net of agents along the German-Romanian army line up to Rostov, and were to conduct sabotage acts as soon as the Russian winter offensive started.

On 11 October the commander of Nachrichtenaufklärung 1 reports large groupings of Soviet forces between the Don and Volga River.

Romanians were still using small calibre guns (37-47mm) as their primary anti-tank weapons. On 16 October the Romanians received some long promised reinforcements for the weak front line troops of the V Army Corps. These consisted of 2 artillery regimental staffs, 1 assault gun battalion, 2 10cm cannon detachments, 2 heavy field howitzer detachments, 2 21cm mortar cannon detachments, 3 light observation detachments and 1 rocket artillery regiment (less 1 detachment).

The Romanians welcomed these reinforcements, since they lacked support from the German independent artillery formations. All of their artillery was integrated into their existing infantry and cavalry divisions, and no higher echelon units existed.

The infantry of the VI Army Corps had integrally 5 battalions, and the I, II, IV and V Army Corps only 4 battalions per division. For the cavalry the strength was reduced to 3, sometimes 5 battalions with 2 to 3 batteries per battalion. Besides that no independent artillery was available. This clearly indicates the bad general staff training and planning abilities of the Romanian highest staff echelons.

Since the Romanians were sending more and more newly raised infantry and cavalry divisions to their new front sectors, they also regrouped their already existing formations.

The 15th Infantry Division detached one third of its combat units and reinforced them with the 13th Infantry Division, a move that would prove useful in the future. This battle group was designated Detachment Voicu.

After the 298. Infanteriedivision and 22. Panzerdivision were designated as reserves behind the Italian front line and the Soviet bridging operations across the Don River became known on 25 October, Hitler finally realized a Russian winter offensive was possible. Contrary to this evaluation, he issued his operational order no. 1, dated 23 October, where he had already dismissed any possibility of such an operation. Nonetheless he expressed his worries about the weak flanks of the 6th Army many times during the daily staff meetings.
Romanian Infantry on the march.

On 30 October when the plans for establishing a pure Romanian Army Group were manifesting more and more, the Romanian 18th Infantry Division was placed between the 2nd and 1st Infantry Divisions. Each division held back one regiment as a reserve.

Finally on 31 October the ongoing reinforcements of the Russian bridgeheads at Kletskaya and Serafimovic were clearly reported. Fremde Heere Ost defined them as purely defensive measures.

A possible attack was only considered on a tactical, but not a strategic level. Gehlen’s department evaluated the situation and came close to envisioning the actual Soviet preparations. The Southwest Front was moved to their assembly areas around the end of October to the beginning of November.

Around 2 and 3 November, the German radio recon units discovered a reorganisation of the Soviet troops between the Don and the Volga. It was noticed that the 1st Guards Army (General Major K.S. Moskalenko) disappeared from radio traffic along with a general decline in other radio traffic. The Germans concluded from this information, that the Soviet radio traffic had been hidden on orders from the high command.

Hitler mentioned in his daily general staff meetings concerns about a possible Soviet winter offensive against the weak Romanian and Italian armies (3rd and 8th respectively). Therefore he ordered one panzer and two infantry divisions to be transferred from France to the rear areas of these armies as reserves. But the order was not carried out until the 2 November.

Antonescu, the Romanian leader Around 1 to 2 November, nearly every higher German frontline commander, including Paulus, Hoth, von Weichs and others, backed by the reports and memorandums of General Hauffe, were well aware that the Romanian frontline units would not be able to effectively repulse a major Soviet attack in their sectors. These concerns were delivered to and noted by the General Staff and the OKH, but no additional steps were ordered.

Even with pressure from the Romanian General Staff, the deficiencies in training and equipment of Romanian units was not addressed. The Germans promised help, but no effective improvements were made, including the problems with the supply situation.

The only German action was to express concerns about Romanian troop organisation and training methods. Hitler received these reports and memoranda and agreed with them. Nothing, except for promises to help, was done to fix these deficits. The only real measure planned was a large-scale training program hosted by the German 4th Panzer and 6th Armies. Unfortunately the program was scheduled to start until April 1943. An improvement on the delivery of new equipment was promised by Keitel, but never fully realized.

After the intended Soviet attack become clear, Hitler ordered the first substantial counter-measure. On 3 November he ordered the veteran 6. Panzer and 306. Infanterie divisions to be transferred from France to the threatened Don sector. He saw this measure as sufficient and left his headquarters, together with Keitel, Jodl and his adjutant to speak before his old comrades in Munich (see Operation Hubertus...).

On 5 November the 6th Army and Army Group B planned to draw the XIV Corps back from their assignments in Stalingrad and transfer it to a reserve area around the Don – Dobraya area. 14. Panzer and 60. (Motorised) Infanterie divisions made up the corps. Another order, where the withdrawal of the 24. Panzer and 3. (Motorised) Infanterie divisions were outlined, followed. The problem with this order was that it only allowed the units to be withdrawn if they were not vital for the ongoing fighting in Stalingrad. That meant no division was withdrawn, since the Stalingrad commanders saw every combat force as vital.

The same day the 6th Army completed the raising of “alarm units”. These consisted of 100 companies totalling 11,131 men. They were raised from the following:

60 by the different divisions
9 by corps staff and troops
20 by army staff and army subordinated troops
11 by army troops (independent, from the Army Group subordinated troops).

All of these men were taken from supply, maintenance, staff or other rear area services. Similar measures were taken by 4th Panzer Army from its German units.

Grenadiers and a PaK36
On 6 November German radio recon units intercepted, for the first time, radio traffic from an up to then unknown Soviet Southwest Front. This indicated the arrival of further reinforcements on the Russian side.

On the evening of 7 November Oberst Schöne, another liaison officer with the 3rd Romanian Army, reported the Soviets were amassing large numbers of tanks in the Kletskaya area, which clearly indicated the established bridgeheads would be used as jumping off points for a large scale Soviet offensive.

The Russians intended to secretly mask their assembly areas, but good work of the German Radio Recon units spoilt any chance of this. The masses of tanks and motorised vehicles could not be hidden any longer. The 6th Army was informed of this development the next day at 0640 hours.

Grenadiers and a PaK38 Paulus ordered schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 670, Artillery Abteilung 849, and a Flak battery to be transferred to the XI Army Corps under the artillery commander of the 6th Army, Oberst Lepper. Lepper also received the following units:

Pionier Battalion 376 (less 1 pioneer company)
Flak Machine Gun Battalion 614 (less 1 company, AA machine gun battalion)
2nd/Panzerjäger Abteilung 46 (anti-tank unit)
Flak combat group Daiber (mixed anti-aircraft unit)

It took until 11 November for these units to assemble at Sredniy.

Additionally Panzerjäger Abteilung 611 was transferred to the Romanian 3rd Army that same day.

A staff meeting at the Army Group’s headquarters, where the main strength of the Soviet forces for the upcoming offensive were detailed (nearly all frontline infantry divisions and artillery batteries were exactly plotted), it was decided to raise a reserve combat group under the commander of Grenadier Regiment 190. The units were to be withdrawn from the German 62. Infanteriedivision and transported with Italian vehicles to the Perelazovskiy area. It included:

Staff Grenadier regiment 190 (staff personal only)
Nachrichtung Zug 162 (signals platoon)
Panzerjäger Abteilung 162 (anti-tank detachment)
Fahrrad Abteilung 162 (bicycle detachment, less 1 platoon)
II/Artillery Regiment 54 (artillery battalion)
Panzerjäger Abteilung 611 (anti-tank detachment)

The unit numbered 27 officers, 110 non-commissioned officers and 676 soldiers.

On 11 November the liaison officers of the 24. Panzerdivision reinforcement group noticed strong Soviet forces around the Don bend at Kletskaya. The division prepared, on their own initiative, a plan for a quick withdrawal of its motorised and mechanised units from their positions in Stalingrad. The division had enough fuel for all of its vehicles to move only 10 km. Later the 6th Army HQ approved the move, but despite several requests for fuel, no gas was allotted for movement.

The same day, German radio reconnaissance units were able to identify the entire command structure and order of battle of the Soviets in their designated offensive areas.

Artillery Battery of 10.5cm leFH18 howtizers

From that point on the German command echelons, at least up to Army Group B and possibly to the Fuehrer headquarters itself, were fully aware of the Soviet preparations and their possible operational goals. Even the latter offensives against the Italian 8th and Hungarian 2nd Army were outlined by the intelligence gathering services.

That day Grenadier Regiment 132 of the 44. Infanteriedivision was prepared for withdrawal from its positions and designated as reserve behind the left wing of 376. Infanteriedivision at Mukovninskiy. The withdrawal of a panzer division staff was ordered, and the 14. Panzerdivision with one Panzerkompanie, one light artillery detachment, one Flak detachment, one panzerjäger detachment and the relevant supply and maintenance units were also withdrawn from that division’s Stalingrad sector.

On 12 November Colonel Gehlen presented his report about the Soviet operational possibilities to the General Staff of the Army. Here he doubts the possibility of a large scale counteroffensive, but doesn’t discount the possibility of small scale flank attacks against the 6th Army’s neighbouring allied armies.

Soviet Riflemen The same day, II/Panzer Regiment 4 and another panzer company were transferred from Stalingrad to the assembly area of their parent formation, 14. Panzerdivision. Large parts of Werferregiment 51 (rocket launcher regiment) were withdrawn from Stalingrad and subordinated to XIV Panzer Corps. Later it was transferred to intersection between the 3rd Romanian and 6th German Armies. In this position the rocket launchers were be able to support either the 1st Romanian Cavalry or German 376. Infanteriedivision.

A new report from Colonel Gehlen presented at the General Staff of the Army meeting on 18 November warns of an imminent major Soviet counterattack against the flanks of 6th Army, namely the 6th Romanian Army Corps.

This warning was ignored by the highest commanding officers of the German General Staff.

The days before 19 November are marked by dense fog. This significantly hindered the German air reconnaissance aircraft from pinpointing the assembly areas of the Soviets and an accurate evaluation of the Soviet’s strength could not be made.

Some units had begun to arrive to reinforce the front. The 22. Panzerdivision was transferred into the Romanian sector. During May the division had received Heeres Flak Abteilung 289 as an attachment and they remained with the unit in November. After earlier battles, the 22. Panzerdivision was ordered to march to the Mankovo - Kalitvenskaya/Chertkovo area for refitting. Here Pioneer Battalion 50 (without the halftrack company) was subordinated to the LI Army Corps of 6th Army to participate in the taking of Stalingrad. Also II/Panzer Grenadier Regiment 140, 10th Flak company/Panzer Grenadier Regiment 140, two companies with Pz 38 (t) and parts of Kradschützenbataillon 24, together with supply and maintenance units were sent for the establishment of the new 27. Panzerdivision west of Voronezh at the end of October.

Until 18 November the division was positioned east of Naumov – southwest Serafimovitich – northeast of Chernyshevskaya. There they were put under command of the 3rd Romanian Army. On 19 November they had only 1/3 of their 104 panzers operational:

44 Panzer III and Panzer IV (mix of 5cm and 7.5cm guns, both long and short barrelled versions)
18 Panzer II
24 Panzer 38(t)
50 – 60 Sd Kfz 251 armoured half-tracks

Other vehicles came from Millerovo. They included, besides other combat vehicles, 11 new panzers.

Panzer III L
After the few German mobile reserves had finally reached their assembly areas, a calculation by the supply officer of the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps paints a rather dark picture. Since fuel was a constantly short supply resource, the subordinated units had only enough fuel for the following action radii:

Romanian 1st Armoured Division: 200 km

German 22. Panzerdivision: ca.142 km
Panzer Regiment 204: 40 km
Panzer Grenadier Regiment 170: 220 km
Kradschützen Battalion: 200 km
PanzerJagd Abteilung 140: 190 km
Nachrichtung Abteilung: 110 km
Staff Artillery Regiment: 140 km
II Artillerie Abteilung: 140 km
III Artillerie Abteilung: 90 km
IV Artillerie Abteilung: 100 km
Beobachter Battalion: 5 km
German 14. Panzerdivision: 25 km

Kampfgruppe Simons: 115 km

Despite the woeful supply status, General Heim, the commanding officer of XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, deployed his troops so they could directly attack towards the expected breakthrough at Kletskaya. Although he had only relatively weak formations under his command, he contacted the Romanian divisional and corps commanders in the relevant sectors about conducting a preliminary artillery bombardment to disrupt the Soviets and hinder the assault on the Romanians. Due to lack of ammunition and fuel, this plan could not be executed. Even his proposal to attack the Soviets after they enlarged their bridgeheads on 18tNovember was denied by the Army’s HQ. Nonetheless he ordered his units to be alert the next day, especially the armoured group and the subordinated Panzerjägerabteilungen 611 and 670. From 0400 hours on 19 November all units were fully alert and expected the Russian offensive at any moment.

Romanian R2 (Panzer 35t) tanks.

III.5. Overview of the Romanian Army’s Status at Stalingrad in November 1942
The Romanian army was not prepared to be involved in the larger operations envisioned by the Germans. Even early in the German-Romanian relationship, the German Wehrmacht sent officers and training personnel to Romania to improve the overall effectiveness of the Romanian army.

Besides the well-known deficits (outdated infantry and artillery weapons from WWI, insufficient war industry, none or poor motorisation, and nearly no modern heavy weapons), the greatest draw back could be found in the inadequate training of the Romanian officers.

The existing training and education level was largely influenced by the pre-war French instructors from before the outbreak of the war. This training combined with a lack of willingness to fight against the Soviet Union beyond there initial goals greatly hindered their effectiveness to resist the serious threats they were being faced with.

Another factor influencing their situation was the relationship between the Romanian officer and his men. The officers, mostly members of the aristocracy, and their subordinates, farmers and workers, did not have a good relationship. The Romanian officers still employed a leadership style like that employed during the Feudal period. Only very few of the higher-ranking Romanian officers were considered able. There were some examples of good commanders such as the commander of the 3rd Army, General Dimitrescu, and Mihail Lascar, commander of the 5th Infantry Division. They were considered, even amongst their German counterparts, as able tacticians and enjoyed high respect.

Another myth that is often perpetuated is that whole armies, (the 4th Romanian Army particularly) only had one or two anti-tank guns at the outbreak of the Soviet offensive. Contrary to this the following details of how both Romanian armies were equipped with anti-tank guns paints a different picture. The 3rd Army had three Anti-tank gun companies (motorised 4.7cm Bohler guns) and each division and each regiment had one horse drawn company with 12 to 16 guns of 3.7 or 4.7cm calibre at their disposal. In October every one of the infantry divisions received six horse-drawn, German conversions of French field guns, 7.5 cm anti-tank guns (PaK97/38). The 4th Romanian Army had the same number of anti-tank units, except for the army level units, which didn’t arrive before the operation started. So the Romanian 3rd Army had 60 anti-tank guns for 160 km of front line and the 4th Army (excluding German units) 34 for 250 km. However, there was a lack of close combat weapons like magnetic hollow charges, Molotov cocktails and similar improvised means, since the Romanians were not generally trained in their use.
Romanian Infantry in the snow

IV. Strength of the Axis Forces

The following tables illustrates the strength of Axis forces before the offensive began:

Artillery Batteriesd
6th Army        
XI Army Corps
376. ID
44. ID
384. ID
VII Army Corps
76. ID
113. ID
XIV Panzer Corps
94. ID
16. PzD
60. ID(mot)
3. ID(mot)
LI Army Corps
71. ID
  9/3/0/14 cannons/0
295. ID
100. JD
79. ID
305. ID
289. ID
24. PzD
4th Panzer Army
IV Army Corps
371. ID
297. ID
Romanian 20th ID
29/6   8/0/0/0/0
Romanian VII Army Corps
29. ID(mot)
XXXXVIII Panzer Corps
(19/20 Nov)

14. PzD
0/0/0/0/3 heavy
22. PzD
3/1/0/0/3 heavy
Romanian 1st AD
9/0/0/0/3 heavy


a) The personnel numbers are broken out as follows: total number/combat strength/Russian helpers (German Hiwi = Hilfswillige, willing helpers)/required personnel to reach full strength. These numbers were those from 1 November.

b) The numbers for PaK (anti-tank guns) are divided into medium/heavy types; if the self-propelled pieces are included it is not known. For the 14. Panzerdivision they include the numbers of the subordinated Panzerjäger Abteilung 670 (anti-tank detachment) and parts of schwere Artillerie Abteilung 849 (heavy artillery detachment) (Editors note: I suspect the Romanian numbers are more likely to be light/medium or heavy).

c) The number of Panzers reads as Panzer II/Panzer III/Panzer IV. In the case of the 22. Panzer and Romanian 1st Armoured Divisions the numbers read Panzer 35(t) or Panzer 38(t)/Panzer III/Panzer IV. The exact types are not listed.

d) The artillery numbers read as light/heavy/rocket launchers/captured/FlaK

e) For the 14. Panzerdivision the Kampfgruppe Seydel numbers can be extracted from the article Operation Hubertus elsewhere on this site and have to be added.

f) These numbers don’t include the Kampfgruppen Simon and Lepper, besides the other Army/Corps level assigned units (assault gun, artillery, pioneer detachments, construction battalions, etc.). Also the listed numbers seem to be prior to the launching of Operation Hubertus, since Group Scheele is not mentioned at all.

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Last Updated On Wednesday, November 18, 2009 by Wayne at Battlefront