The Raid on Tatsinskaya - Christmas 1942

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Andreas
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The Raid on Tatsinskaya - Christmas 1942

Post by Andreas » 23 Aug 2006 08:49

Below is an article I wrote for Wikipedia. I would be quite interested in having it improved to a level where it can be put onto AHF. I do not think it is anywhere near that level yet, since it primarily focusses on the Soviet side, and does not make sufficient use of a wide range of sources. So I would be particularly interested in comments on the German side of things, maps, etc., and in corrections on the Soviet side.

Any criticism most welcome.

All the best

Andreas
The Tatsinskaya Raid occurred during Operation Little Saturn in late December 1942. It was an armoured raid conducted by the 24th Tank Corps under the command of Major General Vasilii Mikhailovich Badanov.

Date: 16 December, 1942 to 28 December, 1942
Location: Tatsinskaya, Russia
Result: Soviet Strategic Victory

Combatants
Wehrmacht XXXXVIIIth Panzerkorps Red Army 24th Tank Corps
Commanders
Hermann Balck
V.M.Badanov

Casualties
German
Soviet claims for 12,000 KIA
5,000 POW
unknown WIA
84 Tanks
106 Guns

Soviet
Unknown KIA
Unknown MIA
Unknown WIA
up to 190 tanks

The Purpose
The Red Army had encircled the Wehrmacht’s 6th Army in Stalingrad with Operation Uranus, conducted from 19 November 1942. By the middle of December, the German relief effort called Operation Winter Storm was making progress to within 48km of the encirclement ring, and the airlift with which the encircled army should have been kept going until the siege was lifted was in full swing. In this situation, the STAVKA decided to launch Operation Little Saturn, to encircle all of German Army Group A, by penetrating to the south and the coast of the Sea of Azov. The danger this operation created was so serious that the German command had to give up any hope of relieving the besieged 6th Army, and instead turned its attention to fighting the advancing Red Army formations, while simultaneously trying to move as many formations as possible to the west. As a consequence of the threat, the most potent of the German divisions involved in the relief effort, 6th Panzer Division, was turned west, and ordered to first clear the raiding force from Tatsinskaya, and later to establish a new frontline towards the north of the airfield. With that decision, any hope of breaking through to 6th Army had gone.

The Battle
Soviet Planning
24th Tank Corps[1] belonged to 3rd Guards Army which was commanded by General D.D. Lelyushenko. The army was a part of the Southwestern Front under command of N.F. Vatutin. The 24th Tank Corps was designated as the army's exploitation force, in line with the doctrine of Deep Battle. It was therefore not to be committed during the initial breaching of the tactical defenses of the axis forces in the sector, but would be committed once a breach in these defenses had been opened.

The assault by 3rd Guards Army commenced during the morning of 16 December 1942. In order to accelerate the breaching of the Axis tactical defense by his rifle formations, Lelyushenko committed the other two tank corps available to him (17th and 25th Tank Corps) during the initial phase of the battle.

24th Tank Corps was ordered to commence its operation at 11.30 hours on 17th December. At this stage, 17th and 25th Tank Corps had already reached the operational depth, and were in the process of encircling Italian 8th Army and battling the forces of Army Detachment Hollidt. 25th Tank Corps later conducted a deep raid towards Morozovskaya to the east of Tatsinskaya itself. The purpose of the two deep raids was to cut off the German formations conducting Operation Winterstorm, the relief attempt for 6th Army.

The Raid
The raid was aimed at the German Luftwaffe's airfield of Tatsinskaya, from which a major part of the Stalingrad relief airlift was conducted. On Christmas Eve, 24 December 1942, they captured the airfield with an attack from three sides. The airfield may not have received a warning, since flight operations were still going on. An eyewitness account by a Soviet officer describes the scene:

“Our tank detachments unexpectedly broke into Tatsinski military airport. First to penetrate enemy’s territory was captain Nechaev’s battalion. A tough fight between tanks and enemy artillery began. Germans were shooting grenades at the Russian tanks and managed to blow up several of them. However the Soviet tank crews broke the Nazi defense. After they destroyed patrol forces, Russian soldiers started shooting German pilots that rushed to their planes desperately hoping to save their lives.” (from the Voice of Russia Article)

The 24th Tank Corps claimed the destruction of over 300 planes on the airfield, including 72 Junkers 52, or almost 10% of the transport capacity of the Luftwaffe. The airfield defenses were quickly over-run, and while over 100 transport planes managed to escape during the battle, losses to the German side were heavy. As the tanks were low on ammunition, almost all of the planes destroyed were rammed by the tanks. A number of planes were destroyed while still on railway cars on which they had arrived to contribute to the Stalingrad airlift.

Once the airfield was seized however, the 24th Tank Corps was cut off, and found itself without supplies deep inside the German lines.

German Reaction[2]
Already while the battle for the airfield and the town were going on, it became clear to Badanov that he had been cut off, when march columns of his 24th Motorized Brigade were followed from the north by German forces, and on the 26th December the last elements of 24th Motorized Brigade managed to break through the encirclement ring to join the main force of the Corps. German Army Group Don under Fieldmarshal von Manstein had meanwhile ordered XXXXVIIIth Panzerkorps to move towards the deep penetrations the Red Army had achieved with the 11th Panzer Division and 6th Panzer Division. From the 26th December the two divisions had cut off completely the connection between 24th Tank Corps and 1st Guards Army. Towards the north, a mixed Kampfgruppe blocked the road for other Red Army formations that might have come to the assistance of 24th Tank Corps. The German command also brought up the 579th Infantry Regiment of the 306th Infantry Division. Together, these forces now conducted an attack to destroy the 24th Tank Corps.

The STAVKA reacted by ordering the Front command to assist Badanov's force. The available units were 25th Tank Corps, which was reduced to 25 tanks by heavy combat, and 1st Guards Mechanized Corps, which had already incurred losses too. They were reinforced with infantry, but did not manage to break through to Tatsinskaya. This led to the need for Badanov and his surviving men to break out to escape destruction, and permission to do so was given on 28 December. Most of the materiél and many men were lost during the break-out, but the damage to the Germans had been done. German forces engaged in the relief of Stalingrad had to be withdrawn to deal with the raiders, and many invaluable transport planes of the Luftwaffe had been destroyed, with their crews and ground personnel mostly all killed. The 24th Tank Corps claimed the destruction of 84 tanks, 106 guns, the killing of 12,000 Axis soldiers and the capture of almost 5,000 more in this operation.

Analysis
Despite the loss of most of the Tank Corps, the raid was a great operational success in some aspects. It also showed major shortcomings in the organisation of the Soviet Tank Corps, in particular its weakness in sustaining independent operations in depth and over time, and therefore contributed to the further refinement of Soviet tactics.

24th Tank Corps operated up to 150 miles (240km) from its supply base, and had to rely on captured supplies to stay operational. The follow-on rifle divisions were not mobile enough to keep up with the Tank Corps, allowing the Germans to cut off the connection between the raiding force and its base, and ultimately defeating the operational intent of cutting off a large part of the German forces in the region.

Despite this, the raid for the first time in the war had pushed a strong combat-capable formation deep into the rear of mobile German formations, forcing the German command to adapt its own operational plans while doing so. Previous raids had been by much weaker cavalry or airborne forces operating together with partisans, and these had not been able to create as much damage.

Much was learned by the Soviet command from the raid, and it probably gave further impetus to create the new tank armies as independent formations capable of conducting sustained operations deep in the enemy rear. The almost complete loss of the equipment and that of many of the personnel of the 24th Tank Corps also brought home the truth that operating so deep behind enemy lines carried exceptional risks.

Recognition
STAVKA was quick in recognising the exceptional achievement of the 24th Tank Corps. Major General Badanov became the first recipient of the newly created Order of Suvorov for this operation, and quickly went on to command 4th Guards Tank Army later in the war, with which he participated in Operation Kutuzov in July 1943. From 1944 onwards he commanded the Red Army Armoured School, and he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General.

Already during the raid, 24th Tank Corps was renamed 2nd Guards Tank Corps and given the honorific title 'Tatsinskaya' to honour of its achievement. It later played a key role in the Battle of Prokhorovka, as well as many other important operations during the remainder of the war.

Captain Nechaev, commander of the last tanks of the Tank Corps was made a posthumous Hero of the Soviet Union for his actions.

Forces
Soviet Forces
24th Tank Corps
The strength of the corps was 90% of tanks provided for in the TO&E for a total of 159 tanks, 50% of motor transport, and 70% of personnel. The Corps was supplied with two units of ammunition[3], two units of fuel and lubricants, and five days of rations.

24th Tank Corps (Major General of Tank Troops V.M. Badanov)
Corps Troops
13th Mining Engineer Company
158th Mobile Repair Base
4th Guards Tank Brigade (Colonel G.I. Kolypov) [4]
54th Tank Brigade (Colonel V.M. Polyakov)
130th Tank Brigade (Colonel S.K. Nesterov)
24th Motorized Rifle Brigade (Colonel V.S. Savchenko) [5]
Reinforcements attached to the corps for the raid:

658th Anti Aircraft Artillery Regiment
413th Guards Mortar (Rocket) Battalion
Air support was provided by 3rd Composite Air Corps of 17th Air Army, through an aerial liaison officer travelling with the HQ of the 24th Tank Corps.

Other Forces
25th Tank Corps
1st Guards Mechanized Corps

German Forces
XXXXVIIIth Panzerkorps
11th Panzer Division
6th Panzer Division
306th Infantry Division

Notes
1 A tank corps was actually a division-size formation, but commanded by an officer in the rank of a Corps commander.
2 Glantz, D. 'From the Don to the Dnepr' pp.68-71
3 one unit (also referred to as 'combat load') is defined as standard expenditure of the item in question during a day of combat.
4 At this time, a tank brigade consisted of two tank battalions (usually with two medium companies of 10 T-34 and one light company of 10 T-70 each) and one motorized rifle battalion, as well as an anti-tank artillery battery, and a headquarters company.
5 Motorized rifle battalions consisted of three motorized rifle battalions, an artillery battalion, an anti-aircraft artillery battalion, a mortar battery, and a headquarters company.

References
Erickson, J. 'The Road to Stalingrad'
Glantz, D. 'From the Don to the Dnepr'
Porfiryev, ‘Raid to Tatsinskaya’, VIZH 11/1987
Scheibert, H. ‘Panzer zwischen Don und Donets’
Voice of Russia Article
Article (in Portuguese) on Operation Winter Storm
Through the Furnace of War – article on evolvement of Soviet mechanized formations
Russian map showing advance along the middle Don river
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatsinskaya_Raid
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Mark V.
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Post by Mark V. » 27 Aug 2006 16:32

Excellent article, Andreas. One minor detail, though. 25th TC (along with 17th TC and others) was at the start of Op.Little Saturn part of the 1st GA. I don't know exactly when it became subordinated to 3rd GA.

Marko

Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 29 Oct 2007 13:56

Here is an interesting paper on the airlift:

http://stinet.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc ... tTRDoc.pdf

All the best

Andreas

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CrazyThumbs
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Post by CrazyThumbs » 30 Oct 2007 14:25

Good overview of the battle. I was just reading about it in Antony Beevors Stalingrad.

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 30 Oct 2007 16:57

I might be off but as I remember "In this situation, the STAVKA decided to launch Operation Little Saturn, to encircle all of German Army Group A, by penetrating to the south and the coast of the Sea of Azov." This was in fact operation Saturn, operation Little Saturn was more so the destruction of the Italian 8th Army because Operation Saturn couldn't be pulled off since the 2nd Guards Army, Malinovsky's army, was diverted from its original mission to help stop Manstein's push toward the 6th Army.

Also: "From the 26th December the two divisions had cut off completely the connection between 24th Tank Corps and 1st Guards Army."
The tank corps was part of the 3rd Guards Army but at this point its connection was with the 1st Guards?

Our former Commissar of the forums had me translate Badanov's recollections of this battle, 16 pages worth, you might want to contact him and see if he's willing to share the info with you :)

Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 30 Oct 2007 18:58

Thanks for the corrections.

For a variety of reasons, I seriously doubt our Commissar would share these with me. You don't happen to have them still?

All the best

Andreas

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 30 Oct 2007 19:09

Andreas wrote:Thanks for the corrections.

For a variety of reasons, I seriously doubt our Commissar would share these with me. You don't happen to have them still?

All the best

Andreas
I do, but this was a favor I did for David, and I wouldn't give out this information unless I knew it was OK with him :(.

Andreas
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Post by Andreas » 30 Oct 2007 19:21

That's fair enough.

All the best

Andreas

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 30 Oct 2007 20:40

Andreas wrote:That's fair enough.

All the best

Andreas
Any reason for why you don't think he'd share the info with you?

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Post by Art » 31 Oct 2007 08:39

Kunikov wrote: This was in fact operation Saturn, operation Little Saturn was more so the destruction of the Italian 8th Army
Right, but Stavka bore in mind that "Little Saturn" could be extended and become "Big".
peration Saturn couldn't be pulled off since the 2nd Guards Army, Malinovsky's army, was diverted from its original mission to help stop Manstein's push toward the 6th Army
Not exactly. It was first decided that the Army was to participate in reducing Stalingrad pocket, and only when the German relief operatin began it was diverted against 4th PzA.

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Post by Art » 31 Oct 2007 11:05

Art wrote: It was first decided that the Army was to participate in reducing Stalingrad pocket, and only when the German relief operatin began it was diverted against 4th PzA.
That is quite clear if look at Stavka documents. On 13th December Stavka issued the directive ordering to change tha plan of Saturn operation and downsize it nearest objective. The day after on 14th December the new directive was sent to Vasilevsky, which read:
"First. Due to the changed situation on the south postpone the execution of the first phase of operation"Ring"[operation against Stalingrad pocket].
Second. All the units of Yakovlev [pseudonym of Malinovsky] first of all mechanized units must be moved to the south by a forced march and situated in the rear of the units opearating against enemy Kotelnikovo group...."
So first "Saturn" was substituted with "Little Saturn" and only after that the 2nd GA was diverted to the south, these were independent events.

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Kunikov
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Post by Kunikov » 31 Oct 2007 12:35

Thanks art, all this time I thought that without the 2nd Guards Army "Saturn" couldn't be performed.

Art
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Post by Art » 31 Oct 2007 17:18

I checked Vasilevsky's memoir, he wrote that he received the permission to divert the Army to the south in early hours of 13th December, though the official directive was issued only on 14th - almost two days later. It seems that the "dates" issue is not so simple as I thought. Moreover, according to Vasilevsky on 4th December it was decided that the Army was to participate in the operation against encircled group, but he mentions that this task was "preliminary", it seems that this means that after completion of the operation it was planned to switch it offensive to Rostov, though I'm not sure that I fully understand this.

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Post by ATH » 31 Oct 2007 23:04

Art, it's almost every western historian since Glantz at least who have this interpretation of the transformation of Saturn into Little Saturn.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As for a bit more precision in the German side of things, let's talk first about Gruppe Pfeiffer:

Generalleutnant Pfeiffer was leading the 94.I.D. inside the pocket in Stalingrad until the 11.12.1942 when he was flown out to Morosowskaja to become the "Bevollmächtigten General des Oberbefehlshaber der 6.Arme außerhalb der Festung Stalingrad" - the "authorized General of the 6th army CiC outside Festung Stalingrad" - and had authority over all services, troups and basically, all "possessions" of the 6th Army outside the pocket (and had the role to assemble them). "Stab Pfeiffer" was based in Morosowskaja. That is, he had that role until probably the 22.12.42, the day when Gruppe Pfeiffer is first mentioned in the Tagesmeldungen of rum.AOK.3. Actually, on the 22.12.42, rum.AOK.3 was divided in two "Sicherabschnitts", Nord and West; Nord was basically Gruppe Spang with 8 Lw.FD. and West was Gruppe Pfeiffer. The latter was assigned a sector to cover along the Bystraja and the Gnilaja.

As of the 23.12.42, Gruppe Pfeiffer had assembled and was composed of at least 4 abteilungen :

KG Tzschöckell (for those of you who read the thread about the Battle for Sovkhoz 79, he is the same as the one who led the defence of the Don bridgehead until relieved by Obst. Sauerbruch) – his KG was made up of members of the Nebeltruppen and was posted in Krjukoff, SW of Skassyrskaja (or NW of Tatsinskaja) and was guarding the left flank.

KG von Burgsdorf (made up of “Urlaubers” of 16.Pz.Div.) – was defending around Skassyrskaja. When the Soviets launched their attack on the town, the KG was pushed back east and south. It reassembled in Tazinskaja.

KG von Mathiesen (another Urlauber Btl.[29ID(mot)?]) was defending the right flank and was posted between Gryneff and Kalmykoff.

KG von Heinemann (from VIII Flieger-Korps?, not as the others, from 6th Army) was posted at Skassyrskaja and was pushed back east or south (maybe was incorporated in KG von Burgsdorf, but not sure).

Other small units in the next couple of days would be attached to Gr.Pfeifer.
Among them (I don't know if some of them were previously parts of one of the aforementioned KGs):

- Urlauber-kp.Aaman / 29ID(mot), an eisenbahnpolizei-kp., PZ10a (1/2 of PanzerZug10): all three were screening Bahnhof Kowylkin at least from the 24.12. An advance by Soviet tanks was even beaten back by the armoured train.
- Schwadron Overbeck / 24.Pz.Div.
- others ?
Last edited by ATH on 02 Nov 2007 07:05, edited 1 time in total.

Jan-Hendrik
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Post by Jan-Hendrik » 01 Nov 2007 07:54

KG Tzschökell
Please, it is the GM Paul Tzschöckell :wink:

Jan-Hendrik

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