Meanwhile let's revisit probably the most known and oft-remembered episode of the day of 8 December, that's the defeat of the Soviet motorized column, described in a number of secondary sources quoted below:
1. Hermann Balck “Order in Chaos. The memoirs of the general of panzer troops Hermann Balck”, University Press of Kentucky, 2015
...When the Russians got ready to attack the next morning [8 December] we were right there. They did not suspect our presence. The 15th Panzer Regiment, under its tested commander, Colonel Theodor Graf von Schimmelmann, was followed by the 111th Panzergrenadier Regiment. Both of my regiments hit the Russians in the rear, just at the moment they were starting to advance to the East. First they annihilated a long column of mechanized infantry, and then the mass of the Russian tanks that were attacking the 336th Division.
2. F.W. von Mellenthin’s memoir “Panzer Battles 1939-1945”, various editions:
On the night 7/8 December the 11th Panzer Division regrouped in accordance with the Balck’s orders, and the units moved to their assembly areas. When the attacked at dawn on 8 December they hit the Russians at the very moments when they were about to advance against the rear of the 336th Division, in the confident belief that the Germans were at their mercy. Panzer Regiment 15 bumped a long column of Russian motorized infantry coming from the north and took them completely by surprise, lorry after lorry went up in flames as the panzers charged through the column throwing the Russians into the wildest panic. The column was destroyed, and the Balck’s panzer regiment then advanced into the rear of the Russian armor at Sowchos [State Farm], with panzergrenadiers and artillery in close support.
3. A. Harding Ganz “Ghost Division. The 11th “Gespenster” Panzer Division and the German Armored Force in World War II”, Stackpole Books, 2016
During the night of 7–8 December Balck’s strike force moved over the high ground to the west, over terrain that was snow-covered and unmapped, to attack at 04,30 Uhr before that winter dawn, in freezing rain with the temperature hovering at zero degrees Celsius (32 F). Sighting through the gloom a long column of truck-mounted infantry heading south to support the Russian armor assembled at Sovkhoz 79, the panzers swept down behind the vehicles. They laced the trucks with Sprenggranate and machine-gun fire, conserving their main gun anti-armor rounds. The Rotarmisten drivers careened their trucks askew and the Ivans tumbled out, many to fall in the bloody snow. Schimmelgraf’s panzers continued south to Sovkhoz 79 behind the Russian armor, which was already moving out to attack what they believed was the weak left flank of the 336.I.D.
4. Schrodek G.W. Ihr Glaube galt dem Vaterland. Geschichte des Panzer-Regiments 15 (11.Panzer-Division). Munchen: Schild Verlag, 1976
..After the 111 Panzergrenadier Regiment came up the attack started at about 7.00 a.m. At this moment it became clear that the Russians themselves launched an attack to the east and didn’t expect any troubles in their rear.
The attack of the Panzer Regiment first struck a long column of hostile motorized infantry, which was fully defeated. Then Russian tanks appeared.
5. “Endgame at Stalingrad: Book Two” by David M. Glantz and Jonathan House, University Press of Kansas 2014:
…since the 11th Panzer Division’s enveloping 15th and 111th Regiments managed to maneuver northward 3 to 5 kilometers west of the state farm surreptitiously, they were not detected by the Soviet tank corps’ security and reconnaissance units, which were deployed roughly 2 kilometers west of the farm. Therefore, when the 15th Panzer Regiment began its assault eastward at 0650 hours, the first force it encountered was the 44 Motorized Rifle Brigade marching southwestward in column formation. The attacking panzers caught the motorized riflemen totally by surprise at about 0700 hours when the column was 2-3 kilometers north of the state farm.
According to XXXXVIII Panzer Corps’ and 11th Panzer Division’s daily records and situation maps, Balck’s forces began their attack promptly at 06.50 hours (see map 5). Attacking eastward, 15th Panzer Regiment’s tanks crushed the main forces of the 1st Tank Corps’ 44th Motorized Rifle Brigade along the road 2 to 4 kilometers north of the State Farm No.79 at 0700 hours, destroying most of the brigade’s truck, killing many of its riflemen, and scattering the remainder to the winds in a two-hour fight.
So, all sources agree that early in the morning tanks of the 11 Panzer Division surprised a large Soviet motorized column somewhere north of the State Farm 79 and defeated it completely. The identity of the column is mostly a mystery. The book by Glantz and House is the only one which identifies it as the 44 Motor. Rifle Brigade. Unfortunately, it’s based entirely on a guess, which the authors believed to be realistic enough to fit the German accounts. However, it is unambiguously clear from many Soviet documents (e.g. situation report of the 1 Tank Corps
) that on 8 December the 44 Motorized Rifle Division (reduced by that moment to a battalion of infantry) fought dismounted near the Hill 161 and did the same on the day before and the day after and didn’t march on trucks or on foot anywhere from this area.