Battle of Sovkhoz «Red Star» (Sovkhoz 79)

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Battle of Sovkhoz «Red Star» (Sovkhoz 79)

Post by Yuri » 12 Feb 2007 22:50

The most full description of battle in area of Sovkhoz (State Farm) «Red Star» or the same, – Sovkhoz 79, - was given by the American historian professor Russel H.S. Stolfi

The description of this battle contains also in memoirs of the military leader German Wermacht general – major F.W. von Mellentin – at that time borrowing a post of the Chief of a Staff 48th Panzer Korp.

Being in American to a captivity, the description of battle for Sovkhoz «Red Star» was given by the von Mellentin's chief – the commander 48th Panzer Korp general-leitenant von Knobelsdorff.

Has a little told about this fight general-colonel Balk – at that time general-major the commander 11th Panzer Division. As we find out soon from indications captured, the division Germans named «Ghost».

Some lines field-marshal Manshtejn is literally has devoted to these events in the memoirs. That field marshal Manshtejn gives in one of appendices to the memoirs however is important result document very interesting to our case «The Estimation of conditions for December, 9, 1942». In this document field-marshal specifies forces of Soviet 5-th tank army.
It is interesting in the sense that on the part of Red Army in this battle divisions of the left wing of this Soviet army which commander at that time was general - lieutenant P.L. Romanenko participated.

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Post by Yuri » 12 Feb 2007 22:57 ... 3.htm#map1

Chir River Battles
Dec 4-22 1942
Chir River: 4 - 22 December 1942
by Russel H.S. Stolfi

The headquarters of the 48th Panzer Corps and the divisions under its command began to arrive in the Chir salient on 4 December 1942.

Relationship of the Chir River Battles to the Stalingrad Pocket - less than 20 miles from Group Adam to the 6th Army.

Manstein set the German 336th Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Walter Lucht, under the operational control of the panzer corps and this steady, veteran Saxon unit completed its deployment close to the Chir River by 6 December in the face of mounting Soviet pressure against the stopgap alarm units already in position.

Amazingly, as the German infantry division went into position, it found a German bridgehead at Verkne Chirskaya and on ground nearby at the confluence of the Chir and Don Rivers on the Stalingrad side of the Chir. Colonel Adam, Colonel General Freidrich Paulus's adjutant, had scraped together rear area troops beginning on 19 November 1942, and kept them fighting there in a truly heroic hedgehog barely 20 miles from the closest lines of his commander's encircled army. [20]

Lucht set the right flank of the 336th Infantry Division just north of Nizhne Chirskaya at Lissinski on the west bank of the Chir opposite Adam's hedgehog on the east bank. He then directed his three infantry regiments up against the Soviet forces already across the lower reaches of the river along an area some 25 miles to the northeast, reaching from Nizhne Chirskaya to Nizhne Kalinovski. The Germans had to hold the physical position on the lower Chir in order to relieve the 6th Army, and Knobelsdorff s directions to Lucht to hold every inch of ground included immediate local counterattacks to prevent the Soviet from making territorial gains.

As the 336th Infantry Division completed its move into position on 6 December 1942, elements of the 11th Panzer Division advanced closely behind into the same area. The panzer division had the mission to cross the Don near Nizhne Chirskaya and support the planned relief of the Stalingrad pocket by the 4th Panzer Army lying immediately to the south. Lieutenant General Hermann Balck, commander of the panzer division, began to reconnoiter assembly positions for his regiments on 7 December 1942 and found himself immediately in a crisis as the Soviets launched a major offensive.

The Soviets attacked on 7 December 1942 in reaction to growing strategic fears about the German forces building up with 4th Panzer Army across the Don and south of the 48th Panzer Corps. The Soviets recognized the German buildup as the preliminaries before a relief thrust into the Stalingrad pocket. To secure their victory over the encircled 6th Army, the Soviets boldly and effectively had begun to mass the remainder of their great strategic reserve under Operation Saturn to drive through the Italian 8th Army to the Sea of Azov and trap the German forces in Army Group Don and Army Group A in an optimistic attempt to end the war in 1943.

As the Germans "massed" for the relief of Stalingrad early in December 1942, the Soviet High Command was forced to shift forces to the Southwestern Front (partly opposite 48th Panzer Corps), the Stalingrad Front, and Don Front to ensure the encirclement of the 6th Army and to interfere directly with the German 48th and 57th Panzer Corps deploying for the relief drive. The pressure that built up against 48th Panzer Corps between 4-6 December and the ensuing attack was part of the Soviet action to maintain the encirclement of 6th Army, while simultaneously concentrating opposite the Italian 8th Army for the breakthrough toward Rostov.

The Soviets attacked the German force with the breakthrough 5th Tank Army, which had been one of two operational armies that had just encircled the 6th Army from the north. The 5th Tank Army had advanced from Betonskaya through the Rumanian 3rd Army to Kalach and the Chir in the period 19-23 November 1942. [21]

Aeriel view of battle between Germand and Soviet tanks.

The tank army had stood quietly along and just west of the Chir from 24 November-4 December 1942, recovering from its previous exertion and screening the Soviet lines of encirclement around Stalingrad from the west. By 4 December 1942, the Soviet Southwestern Front, however, had ordered it to break upthe German front on the Chir and to interfere with any German relief attempt based on the German salient there.

Under the unforgiving eye of impetuous, tough, Lieutenant General N.F. Vatutin, the front commander, General Romanenko launched the 5th Tank Army against the lower Chir hoping that, with a moderately strong effort from part of his force, he could smash straight through the center of the opposing lightly armed German emergency units in position since 23 November. Romanenko made his big attack on 7 December 1942 and immediately found himself engaged with two elite German divisions.

The battles that developed were ones between a hybrid German panzer corps and a strong Soviet tank army. The panzer corps had a strong panzer division, a strong horse-drawn infantry division, and, after several days, a moderate-sized, tactically inept Luftwaffe field division.

Figure 1 illustrates the organization and size of the German unit and estimates the strength of the 48th Panzer Corps at approximately 32,500 men in its divisions at the beginning on December 1942.

At the same time the 11th Panzer Division probably had a total of approximately 75 tanks. The division of course would never employ that number of tanks in an engagement because a significant percentage would always be down for repair, and, as the combat developed, manywould be destroyed or damaged in battle.

Figure 2 illustrates the organization and size of the 5th Tank Army and estimates its strength at approximately 85,000 men in its corps, divisions, and brigades at the beginning of December. This Soviet tank army had at least four large formations with tanks, including an independent tank brigade and one tank, mechanized, and guard cavalry corps. There were probably 280 tanks available on the eve of the battles and the Soviets fed in significant numbers of new tanks during the fighting. [22]

Unlike the Germans, the Soviets throughout the war penny- packeted huge numbers of tanks into regiments and brigades assigned to infantry divisions to provide greater impetus to the infantry advance. From 1939-1941, the Germans kept their tanks concentrated exclusively in the panzer divisions (and short-lived light divisions of 1939). As the Germans began to reorganize their relatively small number of motorized rifle divisions in November 1942 into the famed panzergrenadier divisions, they included a single panzer battalion in the new organizations. [23]

The Germans otherwise provided few tanks, mostly captured foreign material, to infantry formations engaged in rear area security, in counter-partisan operations, and in a few other unusual circumstances. German infantry divisions, accordingly, fought in the Eastern Campaign with no tanks under their operational control, while commonly facing Soviet infantry divisions advancing with attached, independent tank regiments and brigades. However they were organized, the Soviet forces clearly outmatched the Germans in numbers of men and weapons, but the style of the opposing commanders, and particularly the sense of superiority among the Germans, would tell heavily in the Chir battles as it had in 1941.

Arriving at the command post of the 336th Infantry Division at Verchne Solonovski, Balck found that the Soviet 1st Tank Corps, 5th Tank Army, was already across the Chir and had broken through the left flank of the infantry division and thrust approximately 12 miles west of the Chir to Sovkhoz 79 (State Farm 79).

Balck innovatively set up his command post alongside that of Lucht and not far from the headquarters of the panzer corps. This violation of (healthy) tactical convention paid great dividends because the Germans reduced their reaction time to the multiple crises. The technique also was typical of the innovative style of the self confident German commanders. The situation on 7 December 1942 is illustrated in detail on Map 1.

Map 1: 7 December (slow: 91K)

Knobelsdorff had challenging subordinate unit commanders to direct in Balck and Lucht. The latter faced immediate operational disaster and wanted Balck and his mobile forces to attack the Soviet 1 st Tank Corps frontally from the southwest -the direction from which the panzer division was arriving from Rostov. Balck refused to attack with his armor from that direction, because, in his technical judgment as the tank commander, that the terrain was unsuitable for the advance of armor.

Even more importantly, Balck pointed out that a frontal attack (the Soviet tank corps had originally been heading southwest) along a single axis would merely push the Soviets back in and amongst the rear of the 336th Infantry Division. The Soviet lst Tank Corps had reached a government farming complex (Sovkhoz 79), Balck decided to destroy it there, so Knobelsdorff "simply" assigned the 11th Panzer Division the mission of annihilating the powerful Soviet formation. The engagement around Sovkhoz 79 set the model for the rest of the battles on the Chir River -- Lucht coolly kept the infantry shield in position along the river, Balck ruthlessly concentrated the entire panzer division against the single strongest threat, and Knobelsdorff kept the missions decisive and free of detail.

Gifted Commander: Balck

Knobelsdorff had a gifted commander in Balck. The panzer leader had a unique quality of seeing the decisive action required at the next higher level of command and taking that action to master crisis around him. With or without directives and with unparalleled self-confidence, Balck tended to unleash himself as a panzer division commander on the panzer corps' opponent. In an interview with the author in Asperg, West Germany, Balck described his reputation in the German army in the following terms: "My commanders began to use the expression when I was on the scene that 'it's just old Balck again. Let him do whatever he wants to do.'" [24]

He went on to elaborate that when he was a battalion commander he had somewhat retarded regimental commanders and took the actions he felt necessary within the framework of the (to him) obviously discernible general mission. He went on to explain that he was driven by the same spirit of action with virtually all of his superiors in his military career.

Curiously enough when queried by the author on how he reacted to his own subordinates operating in the same spirit, he wagged his finger ominously and stated: "It didn't work that way." [25]
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Post by Yuri » 12 Feb 2007 23:15

Chir River Battles
Dec 4-22 1942
Orders of Battle: German and Soviet
by Russel H.S. Stolfi

Figure 1

Divisions under command 48th Panzer Corps
Chir River Battles (4-22 December 1942)

German 336th Infantry Division (Generalleutnant Walter Lucht)

685th Infantry Regiment
686th Infantry Regiment
687th Infantry Regiment
336th Antitank Battalion
336th Engineer Battalion
336th Reconaissance Company
336th Artillery Regiment
336th Signal Company
TO&E Strength Nov 42: Approx 15,000 men, 0 tanks
Actual Strength Nov 42: Approx 11,000 men, 0 tanks

German 11th Panzer Division (Generalleutnant Hermann Balck)

15th Panzer Regiment
110th Panzer Grenadier Regt
111th Panzer Grenadier Regt
231st Antitank Battalion
61st Motorcycle Battalion
119th Panzer Artillery Regt
231st Panzer Recon Battalion
231st Panzer Engr Battalion
231st Panzer Signal Battalion

TO&E Strength Nov 42: Approx 14,000 men, 104 tanks
Actual Strength Nov 42: Approx 11,500 men, 75 tanks
German 7th Luftwaffe Field Division (After approx 9 Dec 42)

13th Field Infantry Regt
14th Field Infantry Regt
7th Field Antitank Battalion
7th Field Antiair Battalion
7th Field Artillery Regt
7th Field Engineer Battalion

TO&E Strength Nov 42: Approx 12,700 men, 0 tanks
Actual Strength Nov 42: Approx 20,000 men, 0 tanks
Sources: Mitcham, Hitler's Legions, pp. 230,362,430, and Ziemke, Defeat in the East, p. 506. Actual strengths estimated by author.

Figure 2

Soviet Forces engaged with 48th Panzer Corps
Chir River Battles (4-22 December 1942)

5th Tank Army Forces

Six Rifle Divisions: 119, 259, 321, 333 RDs, 4, 47 Gds 48,000 men, 0 tanks
One Guards Cavalry Corps (3rd GCC): 5,6 GCDs, 32CD 14,000 men, 30 tanks
One Tank Corps (1st TC) 9,500 men, 115 tanks
One Mechanized Corps (5th MC) 13,500 men, 100 tanks
One Independent Tank Brigade (89th TB) 1,000 men, 35 tanks

Subtotal: 85,000 men, 280 tanks
Other Forces versus right flank 48th Panzer Corps
(Includes part of 5th Shock Army)

One Rifle Division: 154 RD 7,000 men, 0 tanks
One Cavalry Division: 56 CD 3,500 men, 0 tanks
Subtotal: 10,500 men, 0 tanks
Grand Total: 95,500 men, 280 tanks

Sources: Distributed among
(1) 1984 Art of War Symposium, Soviet Offensive Operations, 1942-43
(2) Strategy and Tactics, War in the East, and
(3) Ziemke, Defeat in the East. See article notes for full citations of these works.
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Post by Yuri » 12 Feb 2007 23:23

Chir River BattlesDec 4-22 1942
Battle of Sovhkoz 79
by Russel H.S. Stolfi

To destroy the Soviet 1st Tank Corps, Balck directed the 15th Panzer Regiment under Colonel Graf Schimmelmann, followed by 111th Panzergrenadier Regiment, to advance along the higher, better tank country northwest of Sovkhoz 79. The German force moved by night into the rear of the Soviet tank corps partly astride the enemy corps' communications with the bridgehead over the Chir.

Soviets crossing the Don by pontoons.

Balck simultaneously moved the 110th Panzer Grenadier Regiment against the west side of Sovkhoz 79 and the Pioneer Battalion and flak (antiaircraft gun) detachment of his division to the south with the mission to block any attempt of the Soviets to advance farther in that direction.

Lucht directed the artillery of his division in range of Sovkhoz 79 to support the attack on the mobile force, and, according to Balck's pencil sketch of the action, placed some infantry elements to the east of the state farm. [26]

Most of this activity took place during the afternoon of 7 December and the evening of 7/8 December 1942, and the Germans began their attack around first light (about 0700 at the latitude of Stalingrad) on 8 December 1942.

In the battle that followed, the Germans and Soviets engaged forces that were fairly closely matched in terms of their full strengths on their tables of organization (men) and equipment (weapons and other hardware). As such their strengths lay in the following key factors:

Battle of Sovkhoz 79 [27]

TO&E (Approx) Gernian II.Pz.D.
Men: 14,000
Tanks: 104 (Pz.III & Pz.IV)
Artillery: 24 (105mm), 14 (150mm)

TO&E (Approx) Soviet I.Tk.C.
Men: 11,900
Tanks: 189 (T-34 & KV)
Artillery: 48(76mm), 8(122mm)

The German 11th Panzer Division arrived on the fly at the battle deploying from administrative march columns directly into combat. It is difficult to imagine it at full TO&E strength even though it was an elite unit heading for an important assignment. The division also would have lost tanks along the way to mechanical breakdown and terrain hazards but probably none to Soviet air attack and, of course, none to ground attack.

In summary, it is necessary to assume that the division went into combat on the morning of 8 December 1942 with less than its allowance of 104 tanks. It is reasonable to assume that the panzer regiment had been reduced by mechanical breakdown to a figure of approximately 55 tanks in running order for the attack. Similar calculations would have to be made for numbers of men, artillery, etc., but the calculation for tanks would give the best picture of the striking power of 11th Panzer Division.

The Soviet 1st Tank Corps arrived at Sovkhoz 79 after a prepared attack from a large bridgehead already across the Chir and its breakthrough of the thin strongpoint line of the German 336th Infantry Division. Having the initiative, the commander of the 5th Tank Army can be assumed to have sent the attacking tank corps into action with close to full strength after its period of inactivity from 23 November to 6 December 1942.

The 1st Tank Corps, however, would have been subject to normal day-to-day break down and misadventure, special attrition in the move across the river, and in the advance to the state farm, and some percentage of combat losses along the way. The Soviet tank corps probably had about 105 tanks at Sovkhoz 79 and to the north of it on the morning of the battle.

The 15th Panzer Regiment and 11th Panzer Grenadier Regiment achieved surprise in their attack, advancing north of Sovkhoz 79 into the rear of strong Soviet forces which were heading off to the east to attack the German infantry engaged against the Soviet bridgehead. The 110th Panzer Grenadier Regiment pinned down strong Soviet forces in Sovkhoz 79 itself while the German pioneer and flak units to the south physically blocked the enemy and directed fire into the state farm.

By late afternoon, Balck's division had destroyed the Soviet 1st Tank Corps, countinig 53 Soviet tanks "shot up" on the steppe. [28]

The German count of tanks destroyed on 8 December 1942 by 1 1th Panzer Division supports a view that the Soviet 1st Tank Corps necessarily engaged a larger number of tanks approximating the total of 105 suggested above. The sources used by the author to describe this action do not elaborate on how the German tanks and Panzergrenadiers pursued the remnants of the 1st Tank Corps back to the strongly held bridgehead over the Chir or how the German infantry re-established its strongpoint line.

The situation on the day of the battle, however, is shown in detail on Map 2, which graphically displays the extent of the German victory, particularly when compared with the map showing the earlier situation on 7 December 1942.

Map 2: 8 December (slow: 99K)

The fighting in this battle and during the remainder of the engagements cannot be understood without knowledge of the ruthlessness of the communist bureaucracy in setting the psychological style of the combat. As the Germans moved into Sovkhoz 79, they found the bodies of more than 100 German prisoners executed in various ways by the Russian troops. German interrogation of Russian prisoners in the following days revealed that the troops of the Soviet 157th Tank Brigade, 1st Tank Corps, had been instructed to take no German prisoners in the fighting after 19 November 1942, with the level of detail including the point that Germans could be shot in front of Rumanians but that it was not right to shoot Rumanians in front of Germans. [29]

Balck promulgated an order of the day on 14 December 1942 in which he described the Soviet policy and suggested the hard fate of the division in the event of defeat. The politically-inspired Soviet policy seems to have had a dual purpose in it: first, to wear down the nerves of the German forces, and second, to keep the decreasing combat manpower of the Soviets in the fight by suggesting that if the Russians shot German prisoners and deserters that the Germans would do so after discovering the recently directed Soviet policy. Capture and desertion, thus, would be ruled out as life-extending options for Soviet combat soldiers after November 1942.

In the period 9-13 December 1942, Balck noted that every day passed the same as the other. "Russian breakthrough at X - attack - by evening everything is cleared up." [30]

Under the ultra-aggressive direction of General Vatutin [31] commander of the Soviet Southwestern Front, the 5th Tank Army vigorously attacked to throw the 48th Panzer Corps out of the salient on the lower Chir. Badly beaten in the first encounter, the Soviet army commander continued either to misjudge the basic correlation of forces or was just incapable of directing the subordinates under his command into a decisive, concentrated blow against the 48th Panzer Corps.

Unable to join the 57th Panzer Corps south of the Don in the attack toward Stalingrad, Knobelsdorff and Mellenthin were forced to bend every effort toward preventing the 5th Tank Army from crossing the Chir and driving down the north bank of the Don to Rostov. Balck, as commander of the fire brigade 11th Panzer Division, commented on a style of fighting during the day and moving every night to block the next Soviet breakthrough.

The technique developed in a pattern: after fighting during the day, the division moved, concentrating near the next breakthrough area, attacking at first light, surprising and smashing the enemy. Then, as Balck notes, the same game the next day, six or twelve miles farther east or west.

On 9 December 1942, the 7th Luftwaffe Field Division moved into position on the left (northwest) flank of the 336th Infantry Division, strengthening the front at the beginning of the difficult days from 9-17 December 1942. On the evening of 11 December 1942, elements of the 5th Tank Army, driven hard by its competent but stiff and unimaginative commander, General Romanenko, simultaneously broke through the left flank of the 336th Infantry Division at Nizhne Kalinovski and its center 15 miles southeast at Lissinski.

Knobelsdorff, who met with Balck every evening, directed him in general terms to clear up the situation. The commander of l1th Panzer Division decided to beat the enemy at Lissinski first, then turn northwest with the entire division and advance to eliminate the large bridgehead at Nizhne Kalinovski. Marching through the night of 11 /12 December, the concentrated panzer division attacked at dawn and annihilated the Soviet bridgehead. Later in the day, Balck led the division 15 miles northeast and attacked the strong Soviet bridgehead at Nizhne Kalinovski compressing it significantly into the dimensions shown on Map 3.

Map 3: 12 December (slow: 100K)

The next morning, 13 December 1942, as the division was about to attack the bridgehead again, it was hit by a Soviet advance that drove in its right flank and surrounded a panzer grenadier battalion. Balck counterattacked and relieved the surrounded battalion, but was unable to eliminate the strong and dangerous bridgehead.

The Chir front was quiet on 14 December 1942. The next day, 15 December 1942, Knobelsdorff moved the 11th Panzer Division south from Nizhne Kalinovski to Nizhne Chirskaya near the influence of the Chir and Don Rivers. Five days earlier, the 4th Panzer Army, with the 57th Panzer Corps as its spearhead, had begun the German drive toward Stalingrad to relieve the 6th Army. Knobelsdorff had the mission to advance with the 11th Panzer Division across the bridge still held by the Germans in Colonel Adam's bridgehead and support the drive of the 57th Panzer Corps.

By 16 December 1942, 11th Panzer Division was prepared to advance the next day across the Don River as part of German Operation Wintergewitter - "Winter Storm" -- the relief of Stalingrad. [32]

Just as the division prepared to cross the Don on the morning of 17 December 1942, corps headquarters received the devastating news that strong Soviet forces had broken through the 336th Infantry Division six miles north of Nizhne Chirskaya. Knobelsdorff ordered the 11th Panzer Division to march north and counterattack the Soviet forces to restore the situation. Almost simultaneously, 48th Panzer Corps received information that major Soviet forces had broken through the Italian 8th Army farther west and were advancing south in the general direction of Rostov.

The 48th Panzer Corps began to fight again against the new Soviet offensive on the lower Chir. The Germans identified elements of both the 5th Tank Army and 5th Shock Army, the latter showing up in fighting near the confluence of the Chir and Don.

On 18 December 1942, 11th Panzer Division drove into the Soviet bridgehead six miles north of Nizhne Chirskaya but soon received reports that a Soviet mechanized corps had broken out of the bridgehead at Nizhne Kalinovski, 12 miles farther to the northwest. Balck was adamant about staying with the Chirskayabridgehead and eliminating it completely before heading north.

On the evening of 18 December 1942, however, Mellenthin, as corps Chief of Staff and speaking in the name of Knobelsdorff, who was out of touch with headquarters, firmly directed Balck to advance immediately to master the greater crisis. Paraphrased, the discussion went roughly as follows: [33]

Balck: Better that we finish up things here first then move out to the other position.
Mellenthin: No, this time it's more ticklish. The division has got to move off immediately. Every second counts. Let's go.
Balck, accordingly, broke off his unfinished attack against Lissinski and moved the 11th Panzer Division during the night of 18/19 December 1942 to the area south of Nizhne Kalinovski.
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Post by Yuri » 12 Feb 2007 23:49

Previous to battle at State Farm «Red Star» events professor Russel H.S. Stolfi describes so:
Chir River Battles
Dec 4-22 1942
Immediate Preliminaries:
19 November - 4 December 1942
by Russel H.S. Stolfi

In Operation Uranus, the Soviet high command exploited the untenable position of the German 6th Army by gripping it with several Soviet armies and simultaneously massing additional armies tailored to effect the first really successful Soviet operational advances of World War II -- the double envelopment of the Germans at Stalingrad.

Russian anti-tank guns and crews moving forward

On 19 November 1942, the Soviets attacked with the 5th Tank Army and the 21st Army (comparable with very strong German corps-level organization) to surround Stalingrad from the northwest. One day later, on 20 November 1942, the Soviets attacked with the 51st and 57th Armies of the Stalingrad Front to surround the city from the south.

Along the fronts of those armies, the Soviets launched powerful attacks with infantry divisions supported by army and front artillery and by independent tank regiments and brigades. For the deep operational advances to surround the 6th Army, the Soviets concentrated one operational level group with the 5th Tank Army and another with the adjoining (to the east) 21st Army to make the advance to Kalach in the rear of the 6th Army. The Soviet mobile groups included the 1st and 26th Tank Corps and 8th Cavalry Corps in the 5th Tank Army. The latter army advanced with the 1st Tank Corps up against the lower reaches of the left (north) bank of the Chir River where it would soon be joined by strong infantry and artillery forces.

On 23 November 1942, the Soviets completed the encirclement of the 6th Army by linking up at Sovetsky, 10 miles east of Kalach on the Don. [11]

At approximately the same time, elements of the 5th Tank Army came up against the lower reaches of the Chir in a weakened state, but facing virtually no German formations capable of serious resistance to an advance to the west. These elements of the 5th Tank Army sat tamely along the Chir River for approximately ten days while the Soviets concentrated on the airtight encirclement of the 6th Army, and then began to press westward to prevent relief of the Stalingrad pocket from the outside.

Between 23 November-4 December 1942, the Germans, coordinated largely by Colonel (later General der Panzertruppe) Walter Wenck, as newly appointed Chief of Staff of the 3rd Rumanian Army, frantically improvised defenses by scraping together Luftwaffe personnel, rear area army men, and combat soldiers returning from leave and hospital, into a thin defensive line. [12]

Given the Soviet preoccupation with Stalingrad and the energetic measures of Wenck, the situation between the Don and the Chir Rivers stabilized beyond expectation. [13]

Wenck notes, for example, that the only reserves he could count on were men in the stream of personnel returning from leave. [14] The Germans ingeniously organized film showings at traffic junctions that attracted stragglers and men returning from leave, who were then collected, reorganized, rearmed and sent back to the front. The Germans posted signs, lettered "to the fuel issuing point" that attracted vehicles in vast numbers, and solved the worst transport problems on the Chir front [15] by commandeering those vehicles. The situation remained critical along the first forty miles of the Chir northwest from its confluence with the Don, however, because the Germans there were able to organize only static posts of ad hoc units armed with small arms and mortars but few antitank guns and only a single piece of artillery. [16]

During this extraordinary period, paralyzed elements of the Soviet 5th Tank Army stood facing a line of static outpost manned largely by German rifle and machine gun squads filled by men, largely strangers to one another but held together by the formidable, mission- oriented discipline of the German Army.

In the middle of this period, on 27 November 1942, the hero of the piece, the 48th Panzer Corps, was miles away from the lower reaches of the Chir encircled in a small cauldron (German expression for a pocket or encirclement) northwest of Kalach, just east of the middle reaches of the Chir River. [17]

German tank hits a mine.

The 48th Panzer Corps, consisting of the 22nd Panzer Division and 1st Rumanian Armored Division, had been a weak mobile force backing up the 3rd Rumanian Army northwest of Stalingrad on 19 November 1942. Out of its full complement of 104 tanks, the 22nd Panzer Division had only 42 tanks (Panzer IIIs and IVs) in running order on the day of the attack. Out of its complement of 108 tanks, the Rumanian armored division had 10 Panzer IIIMs, 11 Panzer IVs, and 98 Panzer35(t)s, the latter aging Czech tanks with 37mm guns. [18]

The 48thPanzer Corps stood with 212 tanks (only about 110 of them in running order) in the path of the Soviet 5th Tank Army, and was overrun and surrounded by 27 November 1942. The panzer corps managed to fight its way out of encirclement and went into positions on the west bank of the middle reaches of the Chir River near Petrovka on about 29 November 1942 with the units under command barely able to defend themselves.

The Germans, now being reorganized under Field Marschal Erich von Manstein in the newly established Army Group Don (21 November 1942), immediately recognized the importance of the positions on the lower Chir River. By 27 November 1942, those positions lay closer to the 6th Army than any other German territory on the eastern front. They were also up against the right (north) bank of the Don and critically located to support a drive to relieve Stalingrad from along the left (south) bank of the Don.

Although the Chir line was closer to the 6th Army than the adjacent German units of 4th Panzer Army on the south bank of the Don, Manstein rejected the lower Chir River as the location from which to drive a relief force through to the encircled army because the rescue formations would have to cross the Don River in their drive toward Stalingrad.

Manstein needed the Chir salient to pin down powerful Soviet forces on the left flank of the 4th Panzer Army, and required German formations from the salient to join the panzer army as the planned advance developed. Manstein decided to move the 48th Panzer Corps headquarters to the lower reaches of the Chir River to hold the salient and everything that it represented to the potential successful relief of the 6th Army. With the failures of the German and Rumanian mobile force to halt the Soviet 5th Tank Army, however, Manstein ran into high level interference in the reorganization of his forces.

Because of the failure of the 48th Panzer Corps to halt the Soviet 5th Tank Army, Hitler personally dismissed the commanding general, Lieutenant General Ferdinand Heim and the chief of staff Colonel Friebe, leaving in place the operations officer (1a), Major von Ohlen. The German Army High Command appointed Colonel F.W. von Mellenthin as Chief of Staff on 27 November 1942, and, two days later after appropriate briefings, he arrived at the battle headquarters of the 48th Panzer Corps in Petrovka. Mellenthin came from 15 months of duty under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel as intelligence officer (Ic) and assistant operations officer (Ia, assistant) in Panzerarmee Afrika.

With no combat experience in the Soviet Union whatsoever, he nevertheless proved to be a tower of steadiness and decisiveness in the Chir River battles. Lieutenant General Hans Cramer arrived at Petrovka on 30 November 1942 to be temporary commander of the panzer corps. Several days later on 4 December 1942, Panzer General Otto von Knobelsdorff arrived as permanent commander at Nishne Chirskaya at the confluence of the Chir and Don where the headquarters of 48th Panzer Corps had moved on the same day. Knobelsdorff was a flexible and broad minded man, well suited to meet the rapidly shifting crises in the salient. [19]
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Post by Yuri » 13 Feb 2007 00:20

The foreword to article of professor Russel Stolfi

48th Panzer Korps
Coming in Issue # 3
by John D. Burtt

December 1942: the German Sixth Army was cut off in Stalingrad. Soviet forces drove westward, attempting to exploit the huge hole in the Axis line. To the west of Stalingrad, the Soviet 5th Tank Army attacked across the Chir River, attempting to push the German forces further back towards their vital bottleneck at Rostov. Defending the Chir were the 11 th Panzer Division and several infantry formations under command of 48th Panzer Korps.
In six days of mobile battle the Germans barely managed to hold the river line and roughly handled two Soviet corps. The Battles on the Chir River later would be cited in many history texts as examples of masterful mobile warfare in the face of imposing odds. But this tactical victory was bought at the price of losses the Germans could not afford; the severe casualties prevented 11th Panzer from joining the relief attack towards Stalinegrad.
48th Panzer Korps simulates these tense days along the Chir River. The game emphasizes weapon type interactions in a mobile setting. In combat, units fire at one another; weapon and target types determine effectiveness. For example, infantry units are feeble against armor, but deadly against unprotected guns. Target priority rules determine which units must be fired upon, so that armor units can protect personnel and personnel can protect artillery. Each weapon needs the support of the others.
Morale is critical; units with strong morale can remain in place or press home an attack despite heavy losses, while units with weak morale may have to retreat immediately. Players have options of retreating or attempting to stand in place.
The sequence of play highlights the distinction between mobile and set-piece combats. Players have the choice between coordinating multiple stacks in "prepared combat" - after which units can move half the normal distance at most - or fighting with individual stacks in "mobile combat", which also allows full movement. The right combination of power (prepared combat) and movement (mobile combat) is essential to victory for either side.
To provide background, Dr Russel Stolfi discusses the Chir River battles which provide the context for 48th Panzer Korps and General Otto von Knobelsdorf provides insights into the command problems of the 48th Panzer Corps with his debriefing by the US Army after the war in 'Reverses on the Southern Wing'.

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Post by Yuri » 13 Feb 2007 00:28

Reverses on the Southern Wing
Chir River Battles Dec 4-22 1942
by Lieutenant General Otto von Knobelsdorff

Editor's note: This is the first hand account of the Chir River battles by the Commander of the 48th Panzer Corps, General von Knobelsdorff, on file at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. No changes were made to the account which does contain sortie discrepancies. For example, von Knobelsdorff refers to the Roumanian Second Army, instead of the Roumanian Third, and refers to the 336th Division as the 338th.

I arrived at the command post of the XLVIII Panzer Corps in NIZHNYAYA CHIRSKAYA at approximately 1500 on 5 December 1942 having left the XXIV Panzer Corps. I immediately assumed command of the XLVIII Panzer Corps, taking over from Lieutenant General Kramer. The Corps Chief of Staff was a certain Lieutenant Colonel von Mellenthin, G.S.C., who himself had joined the Corps a few days before.

The Corps consisted of a division commanded by a certain Colonel Adam. The Colonel had been in charge of officer personnel records of the Sixth Army which was encircled at STALINGRAD. He happened to have been in the rear when the Sixth Army was suddenly cut off. His division consisted of a motley crew of train soldiers, supply units, men going on or returning from leaves, road and bridge construction engineers, police, gendarmerie, railway operating units, etc. Their officers were likewise somewhat of a motley bunch. The units which had been organized over night had but little fighting value. They were neither trained nor equipped for major action, nor did they have the necessary heavy weapons and signal communications equipment. Yet, they had fought well so far, although the cold made their sufferings more acute than that of other, regular units.

The division, holding a bridgehead across the DON east of VERKHNYAYA CHIRSKAYA, was the nucleus of the Corps in the corner formed by the DON and CHIR rivers. Adjoining on the right and extending up to the boundary there was a thinly-held line along the DON made up of 24 Pz Dw Division rear echelon elements. On the left there were those elements of the 338th Infantry Division that had arrived from the Hungarian Army sector by rail and on foot.

The division was commanded by Major General Lucht. Its operations officer was a certain Lieutenant Colonel Wiese, G.S.C. Adjoining the division there were newly organized units under the command of Lieutenant General von Stumpffeld and a colonel of engineers by the name of Schmidt. These units extended to the left Corps boundary in the vicinity of OBLIVSKAYA, inclusive. The outpost line ran generally along the railway STALINGRAD- MOROZOVSKI and, in certain places, along the southern bank of the CHIR River.

The Russians held only one salient north of NIZHNYAYA CHIRSKAYA, the old Cossack capital which was still inhabited by some Ataman Cossacks. There, in the corner formed by the two rivers, the enemy had advanced across the railway along a narrow sector in the vicinity of NOVY MAKSIMOVSKlY. But Colonel Adam's Division held the commanding heights north of RYCHOV Station. A regiment, commanded by Captain Sauerbruch, G.S.C., held a bridgehead on the east bank of the DON east of VERKYNYAYA CHIRSKAYA. The bridgehead was approximately as large as the woods there. Captain Sauerbruch's regiment consisted almost exclusively of police and military police units. Further to the south, the regiment's positions ran along the west bank of the DON. The 24th Panzer Division had dispatched reconnaissance patrols across the river.

The enemy situation was the following: major Russian forces were pushing southwest on both sides of the DON. East of the DON, in the area of the AKSAY River, the Fourth Panzer Army had halted the Russian advance. West of the DON the XLVIII Panzer Corps and the German units to the west of it were under heavy attack by continually reinforced Russian elements, supported by numerous tank brigades. These tank brigades were a new feature of the Russian Army.

The enemy's objective was clear:

1. He was aiming to make the relief of German units encircled at STALINGRAD impossible.
2. He was trying to reach the SEA OF AZOV, pushing along the DON, in order to cut off and annihilate the Fourth Panzer Army and the other German armies north of the CAUCASUS in this manner.

As of 5 December the XLVIII Panzer Corps was still under the Roumanian Second Army, General Dimitrescu, commanding; Colonel Wenck, G.S.C., was the Army's German chief of staff. The Corps was to hold its positions for the time being. After the attachment of the 6th and 11th Panzer divisions, the Corps was to be transferred to the Fourth Panzer Army and join the latter in the STALINGRAD offensive and relief of the encircled 6th Army. Preattack reconnaissance was to be carried out immediately.

I assumed command of the Corps just as major Russian attacks in the river triangle had been fended off. We calculated on the continuation of those attacks. In the morning of 6 December I immediately visited the command post of Colonel Adam's Division in order personally to obtain an estimate of the situation and to scout possibilities for an attack. It was first of all necessary to hold the high ground north of RYCHKOV. In Russian hands it could have made a deployment from out of the river triangle impossible.

On 6 December there were scattered and unsuccessful minor Russian attacks, chiefly against NOVY MAKSIMOVSKIY. It was demonstrated that an attack across the DON over the swampy woods and meadows along the low ground on the river banks was not advisable although the ground was frozen.

After 7 December the Russians attacked from the east with the objective of seizing the bridgehead and thus causing the fall of the German positions on the high ground in the vicinity of RYCHKOVSKIY which were no longer going to be tenable once their communications along the DON were cut. With the exception of negligible terrain losses, Captain Sauerbruch's police regiment repulsed all enemy attacks. Still, the situation was extremely critical. One could see that neither bridgehead nor high ground could be held for any length of time by such forces as we had there. This was especially true in the light of enemy preparations for a major attack in the vicinity of NOVY MAKSIMOVSKIY and in the area to the west of SUROVIKINO.

In the evening of 7 December the Commanding General of the l1th Panzer Division, Major General Balck, arrived at Corps Headquarters. The advance elements of his division had followed him into the area east of MOROZOVSKI.

General Balck was ordered to move the division to the area west of NIZHNYAYA CHIRSKAYA on the following day and immediately commence reconnoitering possibilities for an attack. Elements of his antitank and assault gun battalions were to be rushed to the high ground north of RYCHKOVSKIY in order to strengthen our grip on our positions there.

The reconnoitering activities of the 11th Panzer Division commenced in the morning of 8 December. The division had ordered all unit headquarters forward for this purpose. The troops themselves were to move into their new billets minus their headquarters.

While this reconnaissance was in progress powerful Russian forces supported by numerous tank units, attacked along a broad front between the bridgehead and SUROVIKINO. They swept over the high ground north of RYCHKOVSKIY -- the German reinforcements had not arrived as yet -- and reduced the size of the bridgehead until it was no longer tenable for any length of time, chiefly so, because the bridge itself, the only physical link with the bridgehead, was not within plain view and reach of the enemy. South of the rail line at NOVY MAKSIMOVSKIY, the Russians pushed into the woods in the vicinity of YEZITSKY.

The situation was the worst in the sector of the 338th Infantry Division and further to the west in the area south of SUROVIKINO. Infantry elements of the 338th Infantry Division that had arrived until then were holding the high ground on the southern bank of the CHIRin the LISINSKIYCOLOVSKIY sector. They were unable to sweep the dead space of the river bank with their fire. Snow flurries and fog limited visibility.

Just as they had been taught, the German infantrymen let the Russian tanks thunder over them while they stayed in their foxholes and heroically held their positions. Infantry further to the west simply withdrew. Russian tanks continued to roll south where, aided by poor visibility, they wrought havoc among reserves and artillery, appearing unexpectedly and virtually on top of the German units. The division, only parts of which had arrived, had nothing with which to stage a counterattack.

In this critical hour the XLVIII Panzer Corps decided to have the 11th Panzer Division stage a counterattack. The division was en route without its higher command echelons. The commanders of the various 11th Panzer Division elements and the Commanding General of the 338th Infantry Division who was in NIZNIY SOLONOVSKIY at the time, quickly agreed on steps to be taken.

Toward noon the first elements were ready to counterattack on both sides of the town. They completely surprised the Russians and in a spirited attack they threw them back into the CHIR valley beyond the furthest advanced lines of German infantry. The Russians lost a large number of tanks. Other Russian tanks hid in the balkas [deeply cut ravines] behind the front lines where they continued to be a nuisance to the troops during the following days until every last one of them had been knocked out individually.

The operation was completed by the time the various higher unit headquarters of the 11th Panzer Division, recalled from their reconnaissance mission, arrived on the scene. The division had demonstrated what a well-trained unit can do even without its regular command. Byholding on to its positions the 338th Infantry Division had likewise contributed brilliantly to this German victory. During the following weeks the division repeated this fact of permitting Russian tanks to lumber over its lines and in this manner make it possible for the positions to be held until after Christmas. Without this faithful steadfastness by the division the STALINGRAD offensive itself would have been entirely impossible because the Fourth Panzer Army and the Corps would have been in too difficult a situation.

After the loss of the high ground north of RYCHKOVSKIY the bridgehead east of VERKHNYAYA was no longer tenable. The Corps therefore ordered its evacuation to be carried out in the evening of 8 December. The latter, apparently not detected by the Russians, was accomplished according to plan. The bridge was ordered to be dynamited. Heavy Russian artillery fire repeatedly destroyed the ignition wire. It seems that the personnel of a road construction engineer battalion, mostly older men, were not able to muster enough nerve to repair the wire properly under fire.

Quite miraculously it took the Russians until the next day to notice this, although they had been very close to the bridge all night long and though the furthest advanced German lines were approximately one km away from the bridge.

The Russians renewed their attacks against the 338th Infantry on 9 December. By the time darkness fell, the enemy infantry and tanks had worked their way close to the high ground held by the division, exploiting the confusing jumble of the many ravines that rose from the bottom of the river valley. Again history repeated itself.

The German infantry permitted the Russian tanks to crunch over its lines and repulsed Russian infantry that followed the tanks. Again the Russian tanks were destroyed by the 11th Panzer Division in the depth of the battle position. Losses were pretty high on both sides.

The Russians likewise renewed their attacks east of the CHIR and moved major units over the DON bridge which had not been dynamited. Enemy pressure against the Corps had meanwhile increased greatly. The Corps Commander was finally forced to report to the Commanding General of the Fourth Panzer Army, who had flown to the Corps command post in order to discuss the STALINGRAD offensive, that he did not believe himself able to make the 11th Panzer Division available for the attack.

The Corps commander stated that he would be happy if he could maintain the positions his Corps was holding at the time and if he would not be forces to withdraw the Adam Division to the western bank of the CHIR. This was the situation as he saw it, unless other powerful units took over the mission of defending and thus enabled the 11th Panzer Division to be made available for the attack. The Corps commander stated that an attack by his Corps was utterly out of the question in view of the existing situation.

The situation of the 338th Infantry Division presented the same picture on 10 December. The left wing of the Adam Division and, further to the west, Colonel Schmidt's outfit were likewise under heavy attack. The Russians pushed the latter across the STYR River to the south and penetrated its position on both sides of the road SUROVIKINO-NIZHNIYE KALINOVKA, pushing south along a line that ran west past SYSOYKIN.

At this point and at the very moment the 7th Air Force Infantry Division [Luftwaffenfeld Division] was about to be committed. The division had been activated recently and had just been attached to the Corps. The officers and men of this division were completely unseasoned. They had been performing duties with a variety of air force ground elements. Their infantry combat training was utterly inadequate. These men had never been in combat before. The division artillery had received training in antiaircraft firing only. Most of the officers had never even heard of such a thing as weapons and firepower coordination.

The division's arms and equipment were, however, much better than those of the ground forces divisions. But there was no one who knew how to handle the division's weapons. The soldiers were rather fine physical specimens; they were willing to fight, but they were completely untrained. They were nothing but pure, unadulterated cannon fodder.

And so, the first echelons of the 7th Air Force Infantry Division arrived at the very moment the Russians were breaking through. The division had been ordered to occupy a sector extending roughly from a point south of SUROVIKINO to CHNYENEVSKIY along the southern bank of the CHIR. It was to relieve the units there, which consisted mostly of improvised elements.

The furthest advanced air force infantry battalions had been assigned their respective sectors by their division headquarters. However, the division had quite apparently neglected to inform the battalions sufficiently well on the serious nature of the situation. It had failed to give them detailed instructions and orders on how to effect an undetected night time relief. The battalions therefore drove right into the outpost lines. They rumbled along with their trains, without providing for security on the march, without reconnaissance, just as they had been accustomed to doing when they used to take over airfields behind the front.

In this fashion, two battalions blissfully kept on driving, never noticing the slightest change in the situation, until they were right in the middle of the Russians where they were duly and promptly wiped out without firing a shot. This was a terrific shock to the division - so terrific, as a matter of fact, that it was for the moment in no shape to be sent into combat as an independent unit. There was nothing left to do but dispatch the 11th Panzer Division to eliminate the enemy salient. This it did in the course of the afternoon and in the morning of 11 December with complete success.

The various individual elements of the 7th Air Force Infantry Division were attached to the 338th Infantry Division. The latter incorporated the air force infantry division's proposed sector into its own and placed the air force infantry battalions along quiet sections of its now quite extensive sector.

On 12 December the Russians unsuccessfully renewed their attacks at the same points. They expanded the scope of their attacks to the west, crossed the CHIR west of OVLIVSKAYA in the sector of the adjacent unit, and advanced perilously close to the road ARTEMASH-SIVOLOBOV. The enemy took OBLIVSKAYA and utilizing the woods there, he occupied the high ground of the town.

For the time being the Corps had nothing whatever to throw against this enemy force. The only available 11th Panzer Division element was its reconnaissance battalion. This battalion, together with units attached to it and with a few heavy antiaircraft batteries stationed in the area, was given the mission of securing against a further enemy break-through, guarding the area along the eastwest road. The battalion once again, accomplished its mission successfully.

The 11th Panzer Division was supposed to clear the situation there once and for all on 12 December. The Corps intended to keep the panzer division behind its lines as mobile reserve for the purpose of meeting future enemy penetrations. In the meantime the XLVIII Panzer Corps, tied down by Russian attacks, was ordered to cease its participation in the STALINGRAD push. It remained attached to the Roumanian 2nd Army.

The 6th Panzer Division which had been earmarked for attachment to the Corps was ordered straight to the eastern bank of the DON in order to participate in the Fourth Panzer Army's attack. Thus the Corps did no longer have to hold the corner formed by the DON and CHIR rivers which was a difficult mission anyway, considering the forces available to the Corps. The Corps ordered the Adam Division to speed up the construction of positions already reconnoitered on the western bank of the CHIR and to inform the Corps when the move from the east bank to the west bank could be effected.

As far as I can remember this move was accomplished during the night between 13 and 14 December. This eliminated a sore spot. We were now on the high ground that commanded the river triangle for a long distance. On the other hand we were hardly in a position to support the Fourth Panzer Army by staging an attack of our own.

Once the positions on the west bank of the CHIR had been occupied the headquarters of the Adam Division was dissolved. It was replaced by the division headquarters of Major General von der Gabelente which had been moved out of STALINGRAD just in time.

The Corps' DON sector was extended to the south to approximately the town of BALAKHANOVSKIY for the purpose of making things easier for the Fourth Panzer Army. This southern extension of the Corps sector was thinly manned with elements that were available after the river triangle was evacuated and with rear echelon elements of the 24th Panzer Division.

The 11th Panzer Division had to eliminate several minor enemy penetrations in the sector of the 338th Infantry Division on the morning of 12 December. It also had to wipe out a few centers of enemy resistance which had remained behind the front. For this reason it took the division until noon of the day before it could start its counterattack south of OBLIVSKAYA. This seemed like a very unpleasant delay at first, but later on it turned out to have been all for the best.

In this particular area the sector of the 11th Panzer Division's reconnaissance battalion had been reinforced early in the day with several 8.8 cm antiaircraft batteries and the division's antitank battalion. While this was happening the Russians moved one tank brigade across the CHIR. Subsequent prisoner-of-war statements revealed that this brigade stood poised to strike at the sector of the reconnaissance battalion and that it was generally aimed at the Corps command post at TORMOSLIN, i.e., to the south.

The 11th Panzer Division was approaching from the east. On favorable terrain, without being directed by the Russians, the division was standing by on the Russian tank brigade's flank, facing west.

At 1300 the Russian tank brigade moved against the reinforced reconnaissance battalion. The 11th Panzer Division, still facing west, allowed the Russians to move south one or two km away from its position. After the Russian tank brigade had paraded by, the panzer regiment of the 11th Panzer Division rolled west a short distance, wheeled south, and then simply fell in behind the Russians. The latter never noticed this. Their attention was focused forward on a break- through. Then the panzer regiment opened fire in the Russians rear and knocked out every last Russian tank without suffering any losses whatever. The Russian brigade was wiped out completely. More than 60 Russian tanks, most of them of American manufacture, littered the battle field. A total of 250 Russian tanks had been destroyed in battle in and behind the German outpost lines since 5 December.

Defeating the Russian infantry which followed the tanks turned out to be a more difficult task. The tank battle had lasted until darkness fell at about 1500. When the Russians saw that all their tanks had been knocked out they moved strong infantry units across the CHIR near and east of OBLIVSKAYA during the following night. The 11th Panzer Division attacked the flank of this infantry force while the latter was advancing south on 13 December.

The fighting raged back and forth until the Russians were finally forced to withdraw into the woods southeast of OBLIVSKAYA. There the [11th Panzer] division stopped. It was too weak to engage a numerically superior enemy in the woods. Besides, the division's tanks were needed on the left wing on the von der Gabelente Division where Russian tanks had effected a penetration. These salients were eliminated by the division's panzer regiment. The armored infantry brigade of the division had to be left in the Gabelente sector, leaving the panzer regiment as the sole mobile reserve of the Corps.

In the meantime the Russians had continued their attacks against the Fourth Panzer Army east of the DON. The Panzer Army was still in the process of deploying its units for its own offensive when the Russian attack occurred. The Army was thus forced to counterattack without having completed its deployment. The 6th Panzer Division was not assembled in toto as yet. The 11th Panzer Division was likewise to be transferred to the Panzer Army. At this point the Commander of the XLVIII Panzer Corps put his foot down, pointing toward the serious nature of the situation in his sector. The 11th Panzer stayed with the Corps.

To the left of the Corps, in the Roumanian sector, the Russians continued to gain ground. They had successfully begun a largescale attack against the Italian sector. Heavy enemy attacks continued along the entire frontage of the XLVIII Panzer Corps. On the whole the Corps succeeded in repulsing all enemy attacks. But the situation continued to deteriorate, the lines thinned as a result of constant losses, and the soldiers became more and more fatigued, for they were engaged in continuous fighting without rest or reprieve.

After initial successes the Fourth Panzer Army offensive ran out roughly along the MISHKOVA River sector, where the Russians finally counterattacked. This sealed the fate of STALINGRAD, for Hitler had prohibited the evacuation of the city; he had likewise forbidden the Sixth Army to cut its way out of the encirclement and join heads with the Fourth Panzer Army which it probably could still have done.

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Post by Yuri » 13 Feb 2007 00:54

Here in the biography of general Balk (in battle for state farm «Red Star» he was the commander of 11-th Pz. Div) there is a description of battles on river Chir in December, 1942

In May 1942, Balck assumed command of the 11th Panzer Division in Byelorussia and was promoted to Generalmajor in August. In that position he fully demonstrated his impressive range of command abilities. He emphasized leading from the front to remain in constant touch with the action. His principal axiom was "Night marches save blood."12

By December 1942, the German Sixth Army was encircled in Stalingrad. Field Marshal Eric von Manstein, the commander of Army Group Don, planned to relieve the Sixth Army with Colonel General Hermann Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army, supported by the XLVIII Panzer Korps. On 7 December, before the XLVIII Panzer Korps could link up with the Fourth Panzer Army, elements of General P.L. Romanenko's Soviet Fifth Tank Army launched heavy attacks at various points along the Chir River, a tributary of the Don. By the end of the day, the Soviet I Tank Corps had crossed the Chir and penetrated 10 miles to the south, reaching Sovchos (State Collective Farm) 79.

When the attack came, two divisions of the XLVIII Panzer Korps were deployed along the river's west bank. The 7th Luftwaffe Field Division was on the left, and the 336th Infantry Division was on the right. To their rear, Balck's partially deployed 11th Panzer Division formed the corps reserve. Until that November the 11th Panzer Division had been operating near Roslavl in Byelorussia, more than 400 miles northwest of the confluence of the Chir and the Don. On 25 November, the division started to move by rail to join Army Group Don. By 6 December, the 11th Panzer Division was assigned to the LXVIII Panzer Korps, although only the division's 15th Panzer Regiment was in position. Balck's 110th and 111th Panzergrenadier Regiments were still in transit and did not close until late on 7 December.
With most of his combat units still en route from the railhead, Balck and his commanders were making a ground reconnaissance for the followon move toward Stalingrad when the Soviets attacked. The LXVIII Panzer Korps sent the 11th Panzer Division a warning order to have the 15th Panzer Regiment prepare for a possible counterattack. In the absence of their commander, the division staff passed along the warning order, and the 15th Panzer Regiment began moving forward.

When Balck got the word, he immediately moved to the 336th Infantry Division's command post at Verchne Solonvski. Contrary to all prevailing German doctrine, he decided to collocate his command post with that of the 336th. Balck then began analyzing the orders flowing in from corps ordering the 11th Panzer Division to throw the Soviets back across the Chir. Balck reasoned that if the threat was great enough to delay the relief drive toward Stalingrad, then simply forcing the enemy back across the Chir would be inadequate. He immediately began working to have the mission changed to one of destroying the enemy. His efforts were successful: the LXVIII Panzer Korps' orders were changed as Balck wished.

Because of the desperate situation, Balck was forced to commit his division piecemeal. Despite reinforcement by the 15th Panzer Regiment, the 336th Infantry Division was unable to prevent the enemy from reaching Sovchos 79. As the Soviets hunkered down in that position for the night, Balck brought up the remainder of his units and planned his attack for the following day.

Balck struck just before dawn on 8 December. The 110th Panzer-grenadier Regiment conducted a holding attack against the Soviet front, with the 15th Panzer Regiment supported by the 111th Panzer-grenadier Regiment, delivering the main blow against the Soviet rear. Later in the day the Soviets brought up previously uncommitted armor in an attempt to roll up the 336th Infantry Division's left flank. Balck left two Panzer-grenadier regiments to mop up at Sovchos 79 and sent the 15th Panzer Regiment to deal with the new threat. By the day's end, the Soviet I Tank Corps had lost 53 tanks and effectively ceased to exist.

For the next three days, the 11th Panzer Division fought a series of running battles, successively eliminating Soviet bridgeheads across the Chir. The division continually marched at night, fighting during the day, using speed, surprise and shock actions. Balck issued only verbal orders to his regimental commanders, either by radio or face to face, and continually positioned himself at critical points of any action.

Late on 11 December, the Soviets made two more major penetrations into the sector of the XLVIII Panzer Korps. After another night march, the 11th Panzer Division attacked the flank of one of the Soviet penetrations at Lissinski. Once that threat was defeated, Balck moved his division 15 miles to the northwest and attacked the Soviet bridgehead at Nizhna Kalinovski.
At dawn on 13 December, the 11th Panzer Division was preparing to make its final counterattack when it was hit on the right flank by a strong Soviet assault. One of Balck's battalions was temporarily surrounded, but he continued the originally planned attack on the Soviet bridgehead while simultaneously extracting his encircled battalion. By the end of the day, the Soviets had been fought to a standstill, although the Nizhna Kalinovski bridgehead was not completely eliminated. By that point, the 11th Panzer Division had been marching by night and fighting by day for almost eight continuous days.

On 10 December, the Fourth Panzer Army had begun its drive to relieve the Sixth Army at Stalingrad. Despite being heavily engaged along the Chir, the XLVIII Panzer Korps had the mission to link up with and support the Fourth Panzer Army. To do so, the XLVIII Panzer Korps had to cross the Don. On 15 December, the 11th Panzer Division began moving south toward Nizhna Chirskaya, just below the confluence of the Chir and the Don. On 17 December, Balck's division was prepared to force a crossing, but the Soviets struck first.

Ignoring the thrust of the Fourth Panzer Army, the Soviets launched a massive blow against the Italian Eighth Army farther north along the Don. The Soviet drive threatened to cut off Rostov, at the mouth of the Don on the Azov Sea. Such a move would have isolated Field Marshal Ewald von Kleist's Army Group A in the Caucasus. Manstein was forced to draw heavily from the Fourth Panzer Army to defend Rostov, and that sealed the fate of the Sixth Army in Stalingrad.

The new Soviet drive overlapped into the sector of the XLVIII Panzer Korps, overrunning units of the 336th Division. The crossing of the Don by the 11th Panzer Division was cancelled, and once again Balck's troops were thrown into the breach. The 11th Panzer Division counter-attacked on 18 December at Nizhna Chirskaya. It then conducted another night march and attacked at dawn on 19 December at Nizhna Kalinovski. Balck's 15th Panzer Regiment, which was now down to about 25 tanks, came up from behind 42 Soviet tanks in march column. The Germans fell in to the rear of the column in the darkness, and the Soviets mistook them for their own tanks. At the right moment, the 15th Panzer Regiment opened fire, rolling up and destroying the entire column.

Balck's panzers then turned to meet another Soviet column of 23 tanks. Positioned on low ground, the Germans had perfect belly shots when the Soviet tanks crested some higher ground to the front. The 15th Panzer Regiment destroyed a total of 65 enemy tanks that day without suffering a single loss.

By 22 December, the series of defensive battles along the Chir was over, with the Germans clearly the tactical victors. The Fifth Tank Army had been virtually eliminated, despite a Soviet local 111 superiority in infantry, 71 in tanks and 201 in guns.13
Tactical victory did not, however, translate to operational success. On 22 December, the XLVIII Panzer Korps received orders to move immediately 90 miles to the west to form blocking positions in front of Rostov. The 11th Panzer Division moved first and temporarily came under the control of the Romanian Third Army. Two days later the remainder of the LXVIII Panzer Korps arrived and resumed control of Balck's division.

When Balck first arrived in the Rostov area, he concluded "the situation was so grave it could only be saved through audacity—in other words, by attacking. Any attempts at defense would mean our destruction."14 With only 20 operational tanks, Balck moved his division toward Skassyrskaya to block the Soviets. When he found nothing at Skassyrskaya, he continued moving farther south to Tatsinskaya, which put him in the Soviet rear.
Balck deployed his units around Tatsinskaya. Meanwhile, the Soviet XXIV Tank Corps commander
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Post by Yuri » 13 Feb 2007 19:58

Very well the relief is seen on the Japanese maps.

In particular, the Japanese map «Battle of Stalingrad: Phase 7 : 1942.12.8-12.18» allows to see a relief in area of bottom watercourse Chir: Obkivskaya – Surovikino – Sovkhoz 79 – Nezhne-Chirskaya.

It is not difficult to see, that this Japanese map repeats all that is present on a map of professor Russel H.S. Stolfi «Map 1_7 December»

Near to hieroglyphs I have written on cyrillics and the latin alphabet the name of corresponding settlement, the river and battle group.
It is necessary to make one essential remark to this map.
On a map of the American professor (and as consequence, on Japanese the same) is not true it is specified an arrangement of settlement with the name «Sovkhoz 79».

There, where professor Russel H.S. Stolfi has placed state farm ¹ 79 and where at him(it) the area of an environment of Russian 1 Tank Corps is designated, 3-rd branch of StateFarm 79 is actually located. The settlement designated on maps ñâõ. ¹ 79 (Ñûñîéêèí)= svkh. No 79 (Sysoykin), is located on distance of 14 km to northeast from the place specified by the professor (from 3-rd branch of Sovkhoz 79)
Actually the Sovkhoz 79 (Sysoykin) is located there where the American professor has designated area of an environment of 333-rd Rifle Division.
As we shall see, this circumstance has basic value.
As any tank and any person from structure 1 Tank Corps in 3-rd branch of state farm ¹ 79 did not appear, neither up to nor after December, 8.
Accordingly, on one unit from structure 333 RD was not on December, 8, 1942 in state farm 79 (Sysoykin)

Besides I have added some names of settlements which are not present at professor Russel H.S. Stolfi but there is in the description general Knobelsdorff.

The name of settlements are given on a map of 1942 of scale 1 : 100 000 (1 sm – 1 km).
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Post by Yuri » 16 Feb 2007 13:50

The chief of an army headquarters of XLVIII Pz. Korp von Mellenthin also has written memoirs
The book with memoirs has been issued in London in 1956.
F.W. von Mellenthin
" Panzer Battles 1939-1945.
In 1957 von Mellenthin's memoirs have been translated to Russian. In the USSR they were released by publishing house "Voenizdat" (Military publishing house).
Much to our regret, I have von Mellenthin's memoirs only in Russian.
However the constant member of this forum ATH has kindly sent me copies of several england pages from von Mellenthin's memoirs on English language. On these pages the former chief of XLVIII Pz. Korp tells about battles in region of sovkhoz "Red Star" (state farm 79 ).
From sanction ATH I have arranged copies devoted to them on this string.

To battles on the river Chir von Mellenthin has given the whole chapter, having named her with it is rather remarkable "And Quiet Flows the Don".
(For those who does not know, I shall tell, that such name has the well-known novel Michael Sholokhov for whom he has received the Nobel Prize)

Interestingly that before arrival on Chir von Mellenthin was at war in Northern Africa where in structure of the èòàëî-German army participated in battles against a troops of the British empire.
On the river Chir (in the beginning in region Petrovka, and then in region the sovkhoz 79) von Mellenthin for the first time has seen, how the Red Army is at war. The impressions from these unforgettable meetings with Russian on a battlefield von Mellenthin has told at the end of the chapter "And Quiet Flows the Don", in the special paragraph "The First impressions about tactics Russian ".

Impression of this German commander are curious in many respects.
It is a pity, that do not have copies of these pages from the English book.
Return translation from Russian on English will strongly distort the original English text. However it is better than is nothing also I there has risked to carry out translation of those places from Mellenthin's memoirs which concern battles on the river Chir.

The text with my translation will be placed behind copies of pages from the English book which has transferred ATH.
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Post by Yuri » 16 Feb 2007 14:03

F.W. von Mellenthin
«Panzer Battles 1939-1945»

"And Quiet Flows the Don "

(From end page 215 and further)

In the meantime approach Hotha to Stalingrad went at full speed, and 48th Panzer Corps, despite of critical conditions on the river Chir, should accept too in it participation. Unfortunately, our bridgehead at Nizhne-Chirskaja as a result of continuous attacks Russian has been left, and that we could carry out our problem and will incorporate to 4th Tank Army, we needed to seize this lost bridgehead all over again. On December, 14 on the river Chir all was quiet, and on December, 15 the 11 Panzer Division has departed from the positions around of Russian bridgehead at Nizhne-Kalinovka and was moved to Nizhne-Chirskaja that it will be forwarded through half frozen Don and Gotha will incorporate with unblocking a grouping. Positions of 11 Panzer Division have held subdivisions «Alarmeinheiten» from Nizhne-Kalinovka from structure of an airfield division.

By December, 16 advance Hoth's parties have left to the river Aksaj-Esaulovskiy. Now them the distance less separated from 6-th army than 65 km, and we have put 11-th Panzer Division a task to force on December, 17 Don and to start to come in a southeast direction for support of a troops of the left flank of army Hoth (on actions by the Army Gotha I shall stop in detail in the following chapter)

On December, 16 conditions at the front 48th Panzer Corps was not clear. The 5-nd Tank Army Russian has stopped attacks of German positions on the river Chir, and it seemed quite possible, that she will undertake attempt to force Don to meet Hoth ‘s army. Bad weather interfered with conducting air reconnaissance. But on December, 17 conditions has cleared up: during this moment when 11 Panzer Division collected to force Don, Russian powerful impact have broken through positions of 336th Infantry Division in 100 m to the north of Nizhne-Chirskaja. Did not remain other exit how to commission 11 Panzer Division which has rejected Russian back to coast of the river. On December, 18 11 Panzer Division continued to conduct battles on liquidation of this bridgehead Russian on the river Chir and, certainly, would carry out the problem if Russian from bridgehead the message on new approach has not been received from Nizhne-Kalinovka, about 30 km to northwest. There the Russian motorized corps managed to overcome opposition parts "Alarmeinheiten" and to break through on wide front German defense. The general von Knobelsdorff has been compelled to direct 11 Panzer Division to close a gap though Balk objected to this decision, considering necessary at first to destroy the opponent in a strip of 336-th Infantry Division.

Having received the order, general Balk has decided to act immediately that on dawn unexpectedly to strike a blow on the opponent. According to such plan 110th Panzer-Grenadier regiment should hold down the opponent from front, 15th Tank Regiment - to attack east flank Russian, and 111th Panzer-Grenadier Regiment which is taking place in a reserve, - to follow directly 15th Tank Regiment and to provide the right flank (see the map 31).

9.00 by December, 19 a troops have held initial positions. As soon as it is already light, forward units of subdivision of 15th Tank Regiment have seen tank units Russian which moved in battle orders in a southern direction. As the German regiment managed to be approached imperceptibly, his twenty five tanks have followed Russian tanks, and before the opponent has understood, that moving for him the second wave tanks are not Russian, but German, the last have put out of action forty two machines. The prevailing height 148.8 has been grasped. On other side of this height the group of the tanks moving in the same direction, as the first has been noticed still. Again German tanks under skilful command of captain Lestmana attacked Russian tanks from rear and have destroyed them before the last have understood, that occurs. So for amazingly short time, not having lost any machine, twenty five German tanks have destroyed sixty five battle machines Russian. This battle has resulted in failure of Russian approach. The rests ran in front of our tanks, not rendering any serious resistance.

In the evening on December, 19 the 3 Mechanized Brigade Russian has undertaken distracting approach against the left flank of 11 Panzer Division and has grasped positions of 1-st batallion of 110th Panzer-Grenadier Regiment. However the 15th Panzer Regiment soon managed to restore position.

On December, 20 11-n Panzer Division has renewed the actions with the purpose to reject Russian for Chir. In the beginning approach developed successfully, but by the evening Russian have put strong impact on the right flank of a division, and came into rear to a 111th Panzer-Grenadier Regiment. The created dangerous position has been liquidated by forces of a tank regiment, thus Russian have lost ten tanks.

Owing to strong impacts Russian general Balk has decided to proceed on December, 21 to defense and has given an order to the regiments on carrying out under a cover of darkness of a regrouping. At 2 o'clock in the morning both panzer-grenadier regiments have informed about break of their positions Russian. Night was the light, full moon well covered a way to Russian tanks and an infantry which have rushed into an arrangement of our units during that moment when the last have been held by the regrouping. 15th Panzer Regiment has immediately passed to counter-attack, and soon from Panzer-Grenadier regiments favorable messages have arrived. Balk has thrown 61st Motorcycle Batallion in counter-attack on a joint of 110th and 111th Panzer-Grenadier Regiments where, apparently, there came the main enemy forces. When it is already light, it became clear, that the 11n Panzer Division has achieved in defensive fight the big success: hundreds Russian laid before our positions. However and Germans as have had very big losses. On December, 22 at the front 48th Panzer Corps all was quiet; actually our heavy defensive battles on the river Chir were completed. But rout of 8-th Italian Army has created an awful gap on our left flank in which parts of 1-st Guards Army Russian have directed. On December, 22 our corps has received the order to leave a boundary of the river Chir and together with 11-th Panzer Division will be moved on 145 km to the west, in region Tatsinskaja. If we have not made this march, nothing would rescue Rostov.

Before completing the description of battles on the river Chir, I should give due to general Balk, the born commander - tankman. <…> His remarkable successes were result of a full co-ordination of operations with two infantry divisions and an army headquarters of 48th Panzer Corps. <…> Flexible such tactics many times allowed to correct an emergency and to render huge losses to the opponent. For the specified period in a strip of 48th Panzer Corps it has been destroyed over 700 tanks of the opponent.

That writes itself Balk about these operations: «The success of defense on the river Chir has been achieved due to heroic actions of 11 Panzer Division. If on this site of front defense would be broken through and if Russian have allowed to promote to Rostov, the German army on Caucasus would appear cut off and her they will suffer the same fate German army under Stalingrad. Conditions developed so, that from 11th Panzer Division it was required to do the utmost for fulfilment of a task in view.
Within several weeks the division every night made marches, before a dawn always it appeared in the most vulnerable for the opponent a place and striking a blow for one hour before Russian. This tactics demanded from a troops of an improbable pressure, but we had few losses because we always reached full suddenness. In a division was considered as an axiom, that «night marches keep life», but validity demands to note, hundred anybody at that time could not tell plainly to you when our soldiers slept <…>" .

From both sides again created and badly equipped connections were entered into battle. So, at Germans Airfield Divisions which in some days of battles, as a rule, lost fighting capability operated: despite of a good hardware, their preparation left to wish much the best, and besides they did not have skilled commanders. Creation of airfield divisions was Germana Goering handwork, and had no under itself of any sensible basis. And for this absurd soldiers paid the lives.

At Russian crews of tanks, it is especial in the mechanized corps, hardly in general had training any preparation. This lack was one of the main reasons promoting a victory of Germans on December, 19
Conducting operations on the river Chir was facilitated by that command by 5th Tank Army Russian stopped in battle of the case, not having coordinated on time the beginning of their operations and not having organized interaction between numerous rifle divisions. Thus, the 11 Panzer Division had an opportunity to strike impacts serially that on one, on other case. Eventually, offensive force of 5th Tank Army has been weakened up to such degree, that the 11 Panzer Division could make withdrawal and begin similar actions against other Russian Tank Army.

The first impressions about tactics Russian

I am going to complete this chapter a statement my first impressions about tactics Russian. I was repeatedly convinced of a consequence, that these first impressions developed at me during battles on the river Chir, appeared completely correct.

<… skill to filter through positions of the opponent, and as aspiration to grasp and keep bridgeheads as bases of the future approaches Is marked.- Yuri>

Tactics Russian represents a strange mix: alongside with magnificent skill to filter into location of the enemy and exclusive skill in use of field fortification there was becoming almost nominal inflexibility of Russian attacks (though on occassion actions of tank connections, parts and even subdivisions were appreciable exception). Reckless recurrence of attacks on the same site, absence of flexibility in actions of artillery and a unsuccessful choice of region of approach from the point of view of district testified about inability creatively to approach to the decision of problems and in due time to react to changes in conditions. Only few commanders of an average link showed independence in decisions when conditions unexpectedly varied.
In many cases successful attack, having dug or an encirclement were not used Russian simply because anybody from higher command about it did not know.
However, despite of this slowness of command, Russian quickly and frequently made a rotation on a first line. As soon as the division sustained heavy losses, she was removed night in rear and, filled up and had a rest, again appeared in some days on any other site of front.

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Post by Yuri » 17 Feb 2007 17:37

In above resulted report of the former commander 48th Panzer Korp the general von Knobelsdorff mentions a name of colonel Adam - the commander of battle group formed in village (stanitsa) Nizhne-Chirskaja and working on a site of front in between Chir and Don in a corner formed{educated} by merge of currents of these two rivers.
In memoirs of the chief of an army headquarters of this case von Mellenthin as mentions a name of this colonel Adam.
At that time colonel Adam held a post 1-st aide-de-camp of an army headquarters 6 army. Colonel Adam as has written memoirs where in particular has told about how he has got in Nizhne-CHirskaja as then formed here battle groups and as he had to take command of one of such groups.

The route of movement of a column of an army headquarters of 6-th army under command of colonel Adama from Golubinskaja through Peskovatka and the Kalach in Nizhne-CHirskaja is shown by dark blue lines on the Japanese map. The Japanese map displays stages of an encirclement of the German-Romanian grouping in region Stalingrad in the end November, 1942 (Operation "Uranus")
Colonel Adam very shortly mentions actions of 11-th Panzer Division general Balka.
Unfortunately, Sovkhoz 79 nahodlsja outside the left border of that site on which battle group "ADAM" operated.
Nevertheless, memoirs of colonel Adama are very useful, they enable to see the common picture of the events happened at the end of November and the beginning of December, 1942 in region of state farm 79.
Besides memoirs of colonel Adam pozvoljut indirectly to define number of battle groups, of structure of 48th Panzer Korp during battle for state farm 79.

The book of memoirs of colonel Adam is issued in 1965 in Berlin.
It is translated to Russian and it is issued in the USSR in 1967.
All citations from memoirs of colonel Adam are given from Russian translation. It can strongly distort the original text. In what I bring the apologies.
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Post by Yuri » 17 Feb 2007 18:45


The difficult decision. Moscow, Progress. 1967

The storm has burst

Phone has furiously rung out. I at once have regained consciousness from dream. I have not had time to take a tube as has heard a far rumble. Storm fire, has thought I. The orderly officer has reported: «Alarm, mister the colonel! Immediately to the chief of a staff!»
That was the beginning of the Soviet counterattack. On a leaf of a calendar appeared on November, 19, 1942.
After me to Schmidt there has arrived the commander army. Has rung out phone. From Osinovka reported the commander of XI Korp Shtreker.
- Here the real hell, - informed Shtreker, - unimaginable storm fire has fallen upon our positions. The Earth is literally ploughed up. At us significant losses. However the basic impact, probably, is put on Romanians. I have communicated on phone with the left neighbour, Romanian IV Army Korp. His chief of a staff is adjusted rather pessimistically. He is afraid of a panic in the armies. Our divisions keep firmly, but because of a blizzard very bad visibility. We shall report command on a course has put.
General Pauljus has explained Shtreker:
- For maintenance of your left flank I am going a 14-n Panzer Division to commission a southwest from Melo-Kletskaya. About the further you find out, when the direction of the main impact of the opponent will be found out.
The output of XIV Panzer Korp from city prepared. The Joint Staff has received the information on an event from the officer of communication at 6-th Army on his own radio station; that was the major of the Joint Staff background Zitzevich which has replaced major Menzel. But all of us yet did not know anything determined about intentions and a direction of the main impact of the opponent. At last about 7 hours general Shtreker has again had an effect.

Break at the Romanian

- The opponent has struck a blow from the bridgehead. We while stand firm. Impact is put on Romanian 3-rd Army. The 376-n Infantry Division informs, that Russian have broken through positions of IV Romanian army corps and progress in a southern direction. Position of Romanian 1-st Cavalry Division is completely not clear. She any more has no any communication{connection} with the left neighbour. I shall throw an 376-n Infantry Division for a cover of our flank, having unwrapped her front to the west. Telecommunication with 44-th Infantry Division is broken. The messenger the motorcyclist has reported, artillery firing almost at all routs forward positions at the Romanian, tanks have razed to the ground red all.
Pauljus has approved movement of 376-th Infantry Division on the cut position, has demanded restoration of connection with 14-th Panzer Division, and Romanian 1-n Cavalry Division which has receded to the east, has subordinated to XI Army Korp.
From an army headquarters of an army group "B" we have have found out, that the Soviet artillery within many hours brought down thousand tons of steel on a position of Romanian 3-rd Army. Then two shock armies have broken from bridgehead at Kletskaja and Serafimovich. Romanians, probably, bravely defended, but have been crumpled and inverted in flight. Now the Soviet tanks corps, mechanized infantry units and a cavalry uncontrollably move further to the west. Neither German, nor the Romanian army headquarters could not tell, where there are forward parts of the coming opponent. One was clear: threat of 6-th army from rear is already created.
On November, 19 staff officers of army have have carried out in painful expectation. Then with each hour messages on accident more and more became frequent. Though by the evening yet had no exact representation about scales of the Soviet successes, but it was clear to everyone, that we are threatened with danger of death. About 19 hours I was with the report to Pauljus.

Our first counter-measures

At night with 19 for November, 20 the army headquarters had already a clear idea of conditions. The 14-n Panzer Division has reported, that by the evening on November, 19 the opponent tanks and a cavalry has promoted in our rear approximately on 30 kilometers. The artillery regiment of a division already beat off vigorous attacks of the opponent. From new reports of 11-th army corps it was found out, that Romanians have been attacked by strong armoured formations which, not meeting serious resistance, have crumpled all on the way. Survived ran in fear on the south and the east. Probably, the Romanian 3-n Army more did not exist. But also many our rear services were captured with a panic before the person of the opponent torn to the south.
Naturally, this night in an army headquarters anybody also did not think of dream. All chiefs of departments have collected at Schmidt. Without any attributes of internal excitement he has explained new conditions to the west of Don, having completed the following words:
- It is necessary to prepare transferring of command point of army in Nizhne-CHirskaja.
Schmidt was sure, that... the opponent can be broken in open fight, and has presented Pauljus offers which he developed together with the chief of an operations section. The offer were reduced to the following.
XIV Panzer Korp in structure of tank regiments of 16-th and 24-th Panzer Divisions the forced march goes to Don and from height to the west Golubinskaya renders a flank attack on forces of Red Army advancing on the south and destroys them. The army headquarters of XIV Panzer Korp passes to command point of army in Golubinskaja. The 14-n Panzer Division will be subordinated to him. Actions of assault groups in city immediately to stop.
All free parts are removed from sites VIII and LI Army Korpses, and from them the reserve of 6-th Army is created.
The bridgehead on western coast of Don, to the west of the Kalach, is held under command of colonel Mikosh by military - engineering school and school anti-aircraft, increased by all subdivisions of rear services which it is possible to do without.
The officer school in Suvorovskaja is alerted.
The army headquarters to be translated from November, 21 in Nizhne-Chirskaja. Responsible for fulfilment - colonel Adam.
Wounded and to subdivisions of a quartermaster service which it is possible to do without, are removed in region to the south of the river Chir as approach Russian threatens the railway and by that to the basic communications of supply of army.
Pauljus has approved these offers. Corresponding orders have dispatched in a troops.

Hopes for highest authorities

It was already far for a midnight. It was impossible to assume, that till a dawn new reports have arrived. On command point of army there was nothing to do, and I conducted Pauljus up to his apartment. On road he has started talking with me:
-.. We Shall hope, that, at least, now Hitler and his encirclement will try to grasp in the created position and will give an order to leave city. It now not so is simple, in fact all the Romanian 3-n Army is rejected from the Don front. Actually Russian tanks corps and a cavalry divisions before themselves have no anybody. So I a little expect and that Heim's XLVIII Panzer Korp will constrain onslaught Russian.
We came to a refuge commanding. I have said goodbye and has returned to myself.
... <Colonel Adam with the help of clerks has started burning documents which were not absolutely necessary - my insert. Yuri>. When we have completed work, the dawn already was occupied.

Impact from the south

In half an hour when I had still a shave, has rung out phone.
The operator has informed:
- At the device the chief of an operations section, mister the colonel.
«That else could happen?», - I thought, bringing a tube to an ear.
- Immediately come to the chief of an army headquarters! General Pauljus already here, - has heard I voice Elhlepp on the other end of a wire.
In Schmidt's room from the big whitewashed furnace what are in country log huts, there was pleasant heat. Commanding armies together with the chief of an army headquarters, chiefs of operative and prospecting departments faced to a map, hanging on a wall. There was an analysis of new conditions. With intense attention I watched how plotted last data a map.
In region of action of 4-th Panzer Army the red fat arrow which has cut in the center a first line has been conducted. The Soviet Army has entered battle and on a southern direction.
Pauljus has summed up:
- Today early in the morning after strong artillery preparation the opponent attacked positions of 4-th Panzer and Romanian 4-th Army. At present position there is not yet clear. From the north the Red Army continued to come. Her left wing moves ahead in a southeast direction on Verhne-Buzinovka. We should reckon with that in some hours to XI Army Korps the road on the south will be cut off. The most serious threat is created for branch line Morozovskaja - station Chir.
We also get into a mess also! Soviet Supreme command began to close ticks. We have tried to prevent this a counteroffensive XIV and XLVIII Panzer Korps. But if this attempt will not be possible? If our tanks divisions are too weak? What then?
Then the opponent will pull together a loop, and the 6-n Army appears in the boiler.

The general submits the official report about illness

Restlessly I walked on the room - three steps forward, three steps back. As I tried to seize myself, my ideas again and again came back to an operative map. As terrible phantoms, rose before eyes red arrows the coming opponent. If them mentally to prolong, they will be left at the Kalach. My God, my God, what to do? Whether our tank regiments will get ready in time, whether can prevent threat of rear of 6-th Army?
The answer has been received faster, than we would like it.
Pauljus has caused me to itself. His room has been literally impregnated with a tobacco smoke. The ashtray on a table up to edges is filled with stubs. About her there was a untouched cup of black coffee. Commanding as has smoked the next cigarette.
- You know, Adam, that general - major Besler several days ago has accepted 14-n Panzer Division. However today he has submitted the official report about illness, has declared, that his old illness of heart has become aggravated. He asks of the sanction to return home. I have agreed. The commander who at such situation reports about illness, is unsuitable and is a burden for army.
-.. In fact this desertion.
- Let command of an army group understands it. I informed about having place. General Besler so hastened, that, probably, soon there will be. The chief of an operations section of 14-th Panzer Division has reported to Schmidt, that Besler already is in the machine on a way to station Chir. He at all did not consider necessary to wait arrival of the receiver. What shame, that such pettiness carries a rank of the general!
-.. I do not believe, that Besler is sick. He values for the life.
- We shall look, that will show investigation. Personnel administration by it will engage. Whom do you recommend to appoint receiver Besler? This question should be solved immediately.
- If general - major Schmidt agrees, I offer colonel Lattman, the commander of an artillery regiment of 16-th Panzer Division. I think his one of the most capable officers of our army. He is clever, flexible, circumspect and vigorous. Besides Lattman knows armoured forces thoroughly. It is especially important in such difficult situation.
After Schmidt has approved my offer, Pauljus also has given a consent. On telegraph the consent management of the staff on replacement of command of 14-th Panzer Division has been requested.
In some hours colonel Lattman was in an army headquarters in Golubinskaja. The chief of an army headquarters has explained to him conditions. It was not necessary to envy the new division commander in connection with the problem put before it. The 14-n Panzer Division has already had in previous battles heavy losses. And the main thing - an artillery regiment has been literally routed by tanks of the opponent.

Hours of alarm and uncertainty

We experienced disturbing days. The most different hearings rushed. Nobody knew, whence they have undertaken. Nobody knew, that in them is true. Whether really the opponent has cut off a way on highway on the right coast of Don to station Chir? Whether it is true, what he has achieved a branch line from Morozovskaja to Don and what the 4-n Panzer Army is routed? What measures the Main command of overland forces to eliminate the threat has accepted armies from rear? Where to be XLVIII Panzer Korp? Whether he has passed to approach? With what results?
Our nerves have been tense excessively. At last in the evening on November, 20 we have have found out something about position from our right neighbour - 4-th Panzer Army. The opponent has broken through German defense from the south and has promoted to Don. Command of an army group has allocated 29-n motorized division to close a gap, but the division could not resist to onslaught of the Soviet troops. IV army corps and the Romanian 20-n Infantry Division have receded and now battled front on the south. About other taking place in the south of the Romanian divisions it was known nothing. Under last reports, the Soviet tanks came directly to command point of 4-th Panzer Army.
What revolution was accepted with business? A gaping gap on our left flank, and now for the right
The opponent broke the increasing forces through our front which has been broken open in several places. Forward parts of his coming troops quickly approached. And we did not have any reserves to prevent fatal threat.
From an army headquarters of an army group "B" it became known, that counter-attack of weak XLVIII Panzer Korp of the general - lieutenant Heim at once has been beaten off. Niches air forces to which probably would manage to facilitate position, could not conduct operations because of a blizzard. The Soviet tank units come from the north, having reached a valley of the river Liski, have turned on a southeast, on the Kalach. The next units continued advance on the south that has put under direct threat unique communications of supply - the railway going from the west through Morozovskaja to Don and to station Chir. Before the opponent already were the way on the south down to a mouth of Don at sea of Azov is almost open. It meant, that the Soviet troops just about will leave for rear of an army group "A", consisting from 1-st Panzer and 17-th Armies and working on Caucasus. It became clear, that we are waited with terrible accident if the German command will not operate quickly and effectively.

Pauljus again suggests to leave Stalingrad

What was to do in the circumstances? Pauljus has presented the Main command of overland forces the offer to leave Stalingrad, armies to make the way on a southwest and thus to shun an encirclement. The army group "B" has supported offer Pauljus before Hitler's HQ.
Pending the answer of minute hours - eternity seem hours. In the meantime our troops which has got under impact conducted battles, not being in a condition to stop the opponent.
Parts of rear connections at approach of tanks with red a five-pointed star ran in a wild panic to the east.
Nevertheless command of 6-th Army and an army group "B" obediently expected the decision of supreme commander in chief. In the evening, at last, there has arrived the long-awaited telegram. Break from an encirclement has not been permitted. It was necessary to keep Stalingrad - will Hitler and the Joint Staff was those
At night general - major Schmidt has informed chiefs of all departments on last events. New menacing news have arrived; has proved to be true, that the Romanian 3-n Army is completely routed. The gap in our left flank has increased. XI army case and a 14-n Panzer Division bled profusely in defensive battles. The 4-n Panzer Army has been divided on two, her army headquarters ran to the west. Rear services of all parts ran, pursued by the Soviet tank wedges. How soon the opponent appears at Golubinskaja?
In connection with such problem, and, hence, with real threat for command point of army there was a urgent necessity to transfer him in other place. In Golubinskaja command of army was not any more in safety. Therefore Schmidt in the consent from Pauljus has appointed transferring command point to November, 21.
Till a dawn were burnt on fires of a sheaf with confidential affairs and unnecessary documents were burnt on fires. But also now the Red army did not leave alone us. Suddenly some staff lorries have come tearing along in village. They should pass on road on the right coast of Don through station Chir to Nizhne-Chirskaja. However, having left from Golubinskaja on some kilometers, they, ostensibly, have encountered groups of the opponent.
We supposed, that the Soviet troops prepare us for all surprises. But we have found this message pure imagination. The chief of an operations section colonel Elhlepp has noticed:
- For fear reductions have seemed to them.
But it were not reductions. Clearness was brought with the motorized investigation immediately equipped with Schmidt under command of the officer. Some automobile cross-country vehicles and motorcyclists with extinguished fires and the muffled motors slowly moved ahead to the south. Has not passed also hour as they have returned, and the commander of a patrol has reported, that red tanks really stand on the right to coast of Don no more than in 20 kilometers to the south of Golubinskaja. Thus, we have been cut off the shortest way to new command point in Nizhne-Chirskaja. In vague mood we have strengthened sentries. Some anti-tank guns have held positions on the road going along Don.

Transition in Nizhne-Chirskaja

It seemed, and the nature was up in arms against us. At night with 20 for November, 21 mercury in the thermometer has fallen up to a mark a minus of 20 degrees. Thawn for a day snow a captivity the bark has turned in ice. It is road, the connecting Golubinskaja from the highway, going along Don, became smooth as a mirror. Was terrible to think that to our heavy machines is necessary to climb up on this abrupt slope. But while business has not reached before yet.

Pauljus has decided to organize forward command point of army between Don and Volga to provide a reliable and continuous control of troops. Chiefs of operative and prospecting departments and one quartermaster with corresponding officers of connection and transport there should lie. This command point has been solved to arrange to the west of Gumrak, near to station.

In the early morning at Golubinskaja there has arrived the general of Hube, the commander of XIV Panzer Korp with the army headquarters. He has reported, that tank parts of 16-th and 24-th Pazer Divisions are taken off from front and in second half of day or will leave to Don in the evening. This news has installed in all of us vivacity. To Hube concerned in an army headquarters with the big respect. In fact he once in August has made the way with 16-th Panzer Division through enemy front from Don to Volga. Certainly, I knew, that tanks have had in battles for city the big losses. But, as if drowning grasping at a strow, I assigned big my hopes for Hube.

Pauljus has characterized to the corps commander conditions on western coast of Don then he has explained to him his problem: tank regiments of 14-th, 16-th and 24-th Panzer Divisions to take on the flank the opponent advancing on the south. It should eliminate threat of 6-th Army from rear. The army headquarters of XIV Panzer Korp has held our command point in Golubinskaja. Cable and a telephone system not were it is curtailed, so the corps headquarters has kept communication with all case and divisional army headquarters, and as with new command point of army.
On November, 21 about the midday I conducted Pauljus and Schmidt on air station in Golubinskaja. There there were only two "Shtorhs" which should deliver generals and their personal aide-de-camps to new command point. All other planes of a squadron of communication of an army headquarters were changed the place in Nizhne-Chirskaja. Shaking with me a hand at parting, Pauljus has added:
- Be immediately sent in a way. You should get over through Don at Perepolnyj and move on east coast to the south. The latest tomorrow in the morning we shall meet in Nizhne-Chirskaja.

Only planes have come off the ground as from heights about Don strong fire was open. «We shall hope, that all will leave safely, - I have thought. - In fact "Shtorh" can fly only at small height».

But it was necessary to hasten. All staff property has already been shipped on some tens motor vehicles. In view of affinity of the opponent I considered expedient to form five columns. Each of them was under command of the chief of a department, including the chief of engineering service of army of colonel Zelle and the chief of communication of colonel Arnold. I have headed the fifth column. We assumed after transition through Don to collect in Peskovatka at an army headquarters of 8-th army corps and therefrom together to move further.

Hardly we have risen on ice-covered road on abrupt coast. Sometimes drivers and commands should help each other. Eventually, all machines have overcome rise. First the highway on high coast of Don was almost empty. We quickly moved forward. But on a measure of promotion to the bridge at Perepolnyj we moved ahead all more slowly. Even more often blocked up a way the overturned machines or vehicles. Pretty often boxes of all kinds and the sizes laid in the middle of road, and we have been compelled to go round them. Rifles, steel helmets, and also some the broken guns and even two - three tanks with recognition symbols Wermacht designated a way of departure of the Romanian and German connections. All here spoke about flight. On highway drave the machine from the west. They tried to get out everywhere where the slightest gleam between the machines gone on highway so construction of own column was almost impossible to keep only opened. Near to the bridge the disorder threatened to develop in chaos.

There has stepped night. With extinct headlights our machines slowly moved on the second speed. Suddenly shout and abuse on road. Then all has stopped. When I have left the machine to find out the reason of a jam, I have met the colonel Selle. He has acted with the satellites on half an hour before me. I assumed, that he already on east coast. A sell tried to liquidate together with the satellite captain Gottsman a traffic congestion. It was uneasy, in fact we have collided with moving towards to 16-th Panzer Division. Her steel giants crossed Don from the east to the west to hold the initial region specified by command of army. The direct reason of a traffic congestion was the tank which slipped on absolutely ice-covered road and has risen across a way. A sell slightly has not reached to this place. Captain Gottsman just left the machine when the following tank which also slipped has approached; the leg of the captain has got under a crawler band, and him has wounded so hardly, that he has soon died.

After that incidents we were slowly touched further on an ice cover. Only in many hours we have transferred all machines through the bridge. After short rest in an army headquarters of VIII Army Korp, pending while all columns will collect, we have moved on the south on east coast of Don.

Steppe has powdered fresh dropped out with a snow. He has covered also road so columns had to move forward on a compass. About 5 o'clock in the morning on November, 22 we have passed through the Kalach. Except for several guard posts, all have been shipped in deep dream, as if the opponent absolutely far. The deep silence still reigned and in the village arranged little bit further to a southeast where the department of supply of army was located. Completely frozen, we there had a rest within one hour, enjoying a room heat, hot coffee and - as a special delicacy - newly-baked bread.

I have commanded to wake ober-quartermaster. It was found out, that he at all did not understand, what dangerous position has developed. Now he has sounded the alarm and took of a measure for redeployment. But it was easier to tell, than to make. Thousand tons of vehicles were necessary for movement of warehouses with the foodstuffs, regimentals and field mail. In two days I have have found out, that much should be destroyed

From a department of supply of army up to the bridge through Don at Nizhne-Chirskaja was already nearby. But that we now have gone through, has surpassed everything, that was earlier. A terrible picture! Urged forward by fear in front of the Soviet tanks, lorries, automobile and staff machines, motorcycles, horsemen and a cartage rushed to the west; they ran against each other, jammed, overturned, blocked up road. Between them pedestrians made the way, trambled down, squeezeed, clambered. The one who stumbled and fell down to the ground, could not become independent any more. Him trampled, moved, pressed
In feverish aspiration to rescue own life people left everything, that prevented hasty flight, threw the weapon and equipment, motionlessly there were on road the machines completely loaded by an ammunition, field kitchens and vehicles from a transport - in fact on unharness horses it was possible to move more quickly forward. Wild the chaos reigned in Verhne-Chirsky. Soldiers moving from the north and officers of Romanian 3-rd Army and rear services of XI Army Korp have joined fugitives from 4-th Panzer Army. All of them which covered with a panic and have become stupid, were similar against each other. All ran in Nizhne-Chirskaja

Pauljus and Schmidt take off for the boiler

On November, 22 about 9 hours I have arrived with last columns to Nizhne-Chirskaja and have reported on Pauljus, that the order on transferring command point is carried out. He just sat together with the general - colonel of Hot commanding by 4th Panzer Army. Both commanding and some officers from their army headquarters discussed conditions.
Soon I again should be in a room where passed meeting. From Hitler the radiogramm which I have transferred Pauljus has been received. He has read aloud the brief text. Goth with the army headquarters responded for fulfilment of other problems. For Pauljus and Schmidt has been given the order immediately to take off for limits of the formed boiler and to place command point near to station of Gumrak.
Amazement was reflected in all persons. While Goth, probably, was glad, that it is saved of the decision of difficult questions, Pauljus and Schmidt have deeply reflected. It is not surprising: in fact the Supreme command in the created catastrophic position has assigned to them the huge responsibility. New disturbing news have again arrived; XIV Panzer Korp of Hube which should suspend promotion of the opponent, having attacked his flanks, already almost at all had no some fuel. It was not necessary and think of approach, the case could not hold the positions, and the opponent has pushed aside him to the east from Don, as well as XI Army Korp. The important bridge in the strategic relation through Don at the Kalach is given without battle. The way on the south - a presumable way of departure of 6-th Army - appreciably was in hands of the opponent. In total a little bit kilometers separated his advance parties from the Kalach. There was no the force, capable it to stop. We should reckon with that the boiler will become isolated within this day.
- Happiness in fight, - has wished at farewell the general - colonel of Goth general Pauljusu. It was more than a doubtful wish in this damned situation.
"Fizeler-Shtorh" already waited Paulus and Schmidt. Before the flying away commanding has called me to itself in a room.
- Now we should leave, Adam. I do not know, when we shall meet. As the senior officer you will head an army headquarters. As soon as the Red Army will reach undercurrent Chir, transfer an army headquarters through Tormosin in Morozovskaja and be united there with management of rear of army which already has left there.
I conducted Pauljus and Schmidt up to air station which has been arranged at edge of city. We have silently said goodbye, and they have sat in the plane.
Propellers have twirled, went on full revolutions. Planes have started moving, have come off the ground, have lain a rate on the east, have flown over Don and have quickly disappeared behind opposite woody coast.
To pass five or six kilometers up to my army headquarters, it was required more than hour. The automobile hardly moved, making the way on the streets hammered by people and every possible transport. Nizhne-Chirskaja has turned to army camp.
The message that the army headquarters here was placed was at lightning speed distributed. Where an army headquarters, there it is safe - so thousand soldiers thought and remained in a small cossack small town on the river Chir.

We create battle groups from the retarded soldiers

In the evening I have called with the commandant of station Chir.
- What you know about the opponent? Where there are his forward units?
- Unfortunately, I cannot tell it, mister the colonel. With me there were all some employees, all other have receded together with the loaded machines. Here in warehouses some more ñîò tons of the foodstuffs, equipment and fuel. I do not know, how I shall send them from here. I have not enough machines.
- Here has got stuck hundreds lorries. I shall try to send a part to you. Under all circumstances hold with me communication. If there will be something new, ask to inform immediately. In Verhne-Chirskij the battle group of colonel Mikosh is arranged. Join it if the opponent will supersede you from station. But necessarily take away with itself all weapon, all machine guns.
To me colonel Abraham and captain Gebel were. They have reported on arrival of officer school which I have caused in Nizhne-Chirskaja.
Has again rung out phone. Colonel Vinter, the chief of an operations section of an army headquarters of an army group "B", inquired about position on undercurrent Chir. From him I have have found out also, that in region Verhne-CHirskij, to the east of Morozovskaja, any more there was no German soldier. It was necessary to undertake something immediately. I have suggested to form of the soldiers who have accumulated here battle group for maintenance of Nizhne-Chirskaja and bridgehead to the east of Don at Verhne-CHirskij. The officer school should make a nucleus of group. Winter has completely agreed. To tell the truth, at night I already a little that could make. Therefore I have charged captain Gabel to send the increased reconnaissance units in northern direction down to station Chir, to establish communication with colonel Mikosh and to organize guards of Nizhne-Chirskaja. It was ordered to commander of a town garrison to collect a column of lorries and to direct it on station Chir.
About 23 hours the army group "B" has again caused me by phone and has transferred the following order: «To prepare forces of battle groups defense of bridgehead for the east from Don and a railroad line, to provide 6-th armies after evacuation Stalingrad withdrawal in a southern direction».
I am facilitated have sighed. So, command of an army group nevertheless expected to receive from the main command of overland forces the order on break from an encirclement. Immediately I have caused to myself the staff officer to discuss actions for November, 23. First of all, it was necessary to liquidate a traffic congestion created by transport in streets Nizhne-Chirskaja. For fulfilment of this problem all staff officers and commandant's offices of city have been sent on business. It was simultaneously ordered all mans serving in rear - the soldier and officers, except for drivers, to supply with the weapon and an ammunition and to direct on an assembly point at school. There them will divide into groups.
The basic precondition of successful direction of troops - a correct estimation of the opponent. The Supreme command has broken this principle in the most irresponsible image. What, in effect it was possible to undertake now when the army actually is in an encirclement? Only one - to break on a southwest. For now it is necessary to keep bridgehead above Don to the east of Nizhne-Chirskaja.
I have firmly decided to use with approach of day all forces for achievement of this purpose.

Station Chir has broken off

The weariness, eventually, has overcome me. But not for long the dream which has brought oblivions last. About two o'clock in the morning of me have inconsiderately woken. Before me there was colonel Arnold, the chief of communication of army.
- The commandant of station Chir any more does not answer. My linear patrols informing, that in a direction of the railway there is a strong rifle and machine-gun firing. While I yet do not know details. Operative group Mikosh has sent investigation to station Chir.
I have jumped from the mattress.
- To cause immediately to me commandant Nizhne-Chirskaja and captain Gabel.
I have felt all weight of the responsibility for covered in city of the exhausted soldiers, for the weapon and equipment. The responsibility for appeared under heavy threat 6-n Armies.
The officers caused to me immediately were. I informed them on last events.
- Captain Gabel, - has told I, - immediately send new investigation. I should find out urgently, what conditions at station Chir where there are advance parties of the opponent. Inform your scouts, that operative group Mikosh also conducts investigation in a direction of station Chir.
I have commanded to the commander of a town garrison to strengthen sentries at exits from settlement and to reconnoiter district between city and station.
From telephone conversations with group Mikosh it was found out, that the reconnoiter data are not received yet. The colonel was afraid, as though to not get in an encirclement in connection with promotion of the opponent on the south. I have informed him, that with approach of day to the west of Verhne-Chirskij on plain approximately in 2 kilometers to the south of the railway, we shall enter the increased battle group into business. Further I have suggested to establish close interaction with operative group of colonel Chekel on about the Don bridgehead. Flanks of both groups converged at the destroyed railway bridge through Don.
In the meantime reconnoiter has informed, that the opponent the advance parties has saddled a railroad tracks at station Chir, and his patrols have filtered to the south though have departed back when from our side fire was open.
... Captain Gabel has organized at school in Nizhne-Chirskaja an assembly point for the soldiers who were beaten off from the parts. From different directions there there arrived groups under command of cadets of officer school. They have been armed and supplied with an ammunition so at once it was possible to form companies and batallions. Teachers of officer school have been appointed by commanders of batallions, cadets - companies, platoons.
Again formed parts immediately have held the positions specified by him. To the middle of day the first batallions already stood, ready to defense to the west of Verhne-Chirskij. I have assigned command by them to captain Gabel. To him, probably, and in dream did not dream, that it is necessary to command such motley, hastily hammered together group. In the bulk it were soldiers from service of rear, field mail, building organization Todt. The small amount of soldiers has joined them, retarded from the divisions which have undergone to impact of the Soviet troops and as soldiers holidayers. They have been armed with rifles, pistols and three manual machine guns. It did not inspire especial vivacity. But all of them aspired to help the comrades who have appeared in an encirclement in region between Volga and Don. News that the boiler has become isolated, was confirmed to me with quartirmeister of 6-th army the captain of General Staff Tjumpling. He participated in defensive battles under the Kalach and, escaping to Don, observed, how the Soviet ticks were closed to the west of Stalingrad.
In some hours it became empty in Nizhne-Chirskaja. Were cleared carriageway roads. I have transferred the colonel Selle command by an army headquarters and have charged him to transfer an army headquarters to Tormosin, and itself have remained in Nizhne-Chirskaja. Now my main task was to extract anti-tank guns, artillery, mortars and tanks for battle groups. Without this weapon they could not render the opponent of serious resistance. I already early in the morning by phone have commanded to our workshops in Tormosin all repaired guns, tanks and machine guns as soon as possible, not later than evening, to deliver in Nizhne-Chirskaja. Really, in second half of day the first guns began to act. The colonel Selle, having arrived in Tormosin, has vigorously supported this action. He has clean taken out literally all from workshops, has forced repair groups to work day and night and almost daily delivered the weapon and an ammunition.

Urged forward by fear...

I aspired to visit all battle groups. On the automobile cross-country vehicle I have done in the opposite direction that way on which has arrived no more than day back. Already on the eve in any way it was impossible to tell, that on road the order was kept. But now I did not find the words, struck with what chaos is generated by panic flight.
The stream of the soldiers who are urged forward by fear did not stop.

Defense without the heavy weapon

In Verhne-Chirskij I have met colonel Mikosh. His battle group was unwrapped all on distance about one and a half kilometers from the opponent. But her dugs out and entrenchments have been well equipped. Soldiers by turns could have a sleep in the houses arranged behind a front line which, however, continually were fired from "katjusha". And colonel Mikosh did not have any gun or a mortar to answer the opponent. Even more serious was position of battle group of colonel Chekel on bridgehead about Don which I after this have visited. She was dug round on a marge of a wood, and she was attacked continually by the small Soviet subdivisions which were not giving to soldiers of rest. Absence of the heavy weapon was even more dangerous to them, than for colonel Mikosh.
- Without artillery support, - colonel Chekel has noticed, - we here for a long time shall not hold on. Some tanks are necessary for us even.
Workshops to Tormosin will direct all serviceable heavy guns to Nizhne-CHirskaja, will bring up an ammunition, I hope to you tomorrow something to help, - I consoled him, having added some words about the defensive measures undertaken in the morning. Then I have gone to again created battle group Gabel. According to the given order she{it} was dug round to the west of Verhne-Chirskij, kilometers in two the railway.
A little bit calmed, I have come back back. Certainly, without the heavy weapon position at us disgusting. But if the opponent even for some days has left alone us, we could consolidate zone of defense.
I considered expedient that all three battle groups were under uniform command. It would strengthen their fighting capability in cases of approach Russian. I have decided day to discuss in the same it with command of an army group.
During my absence our officer, the teacher of military school in Suvorovskaja, has formed six more companies from retarded the soldier. I immediately under his command have sent them on forward. In interaction with battle group Gebel they provided on both sides Chir of road going along the river. So one more dangerous defended area has been increased. Little by little the burden of cares became easier.
The front has received also other desired help. The commander of a town garrison has reported, that on November, 22 there arrived to Nizhne-CHirskaja completely made up company bakery and a platoon of a field slaughterhouse. They have got away from tanks of the opponent, that at the created position it was difficult to blame him. I at once have included both these parts in structure of battle groups.

The commander of battle groups on the river Chir

At me one more conversation with an army group "B" has taken place. Communication has been established within several minutes. Colonel Vinter has approached to the device. I have reported to it that has entered into business of 18 companies to the west of Verhne-CHirskij and as about other measures accepted by me.
-.. It is fraught with complications and that three battle groups are not under uniform command. I suggest to unit them in divisional battle group.
- It agree. Who will command battle group?
- Here I have a colonel of Abraham from 76-th Infantry Division.
- It agree. You know Abraham better, than I. But without an efficient army headquarters he will be helpless.
- Here the army headquarters commanding is arranged by artillery of army. The general here is not present, so, the army headquarters can proceed with its full complement to Abraham. I can dispose accordingly?
- Certainly, Adam. There are still questions?
- Still! How affairs on a site more to the left of us are? Reconnoiter informs, that there there is no German soldier.
Is, unfortunately it is true.... If at me the division somewhere will be freed, I to unwrap her to the left of you. Before it is necessary to operate with the battle groups formed from the rests of receded parts.
- Are bad prospects....
- I considered your wishes.... By the way, where you are going to arrange the command point? In Nizhne-CHirskaja it is dangerous to remain.
- I today have transferred our army headquarters to Tormosin. I personally remain here while position on ×èðå and bridgehead about Don in the slightest degree is not stabilized.
After conversation I have caused to myself the colonel of Abraham, have informed him on the offer to accept command by again created divisional group and have informed him, that the army headquarters of an army group has approved this step. To my greatest amazement, he has refused, pleading illness....
Without hesitation I have decided, that itself I shall take part command by battle group. The general of Pauljus with whom at me wire communication, strangely enough, was still kept, has approved my decision.
Command by an army group "B" has given a consent. His operations section has informed me, that under the order of general Sodernshtern, the chief of an army headquarters of an army group, I obey directly to an army group up to new orders.
I have collected an army headquarters commanding artilleries of army, have allocated duties, have given a lot of orders. Battle groups providing the precise organization.
The staff officer has reported to me on arrival of the heavy weapon from Tormosin: two antiaircraft guns of calibre 8,8 cm, four howitzers of calibre 10,5 cm and four anti-tank guns of calibre 5,5 cm. Next day there should arrive tanks. The mood at me has risen: if we will be supported also with an army group, we shall stop the opponent.
On the night of November, 24 captain Gebel has informed on brisk activity of the Soviet investigation. The next days the opponent some times attacked us small forces. It{he}, undoubtedly, probed forces of our defense. Gradually Soviet attacks became more and more sensitive, battles are more persistent, and our losses are more serious.

Assignment von Manshtein

Soon after a counteroffensive of Red Army the Main command of overland forces has carried out some organizational actions concerning a troops, battling on Don and in Stalingrad. 6-n army, battle groups on Chir and the rests of Romanian 3-rd Army have made a new army group "Don" to which should operate between army groups "A" and "B". Commanding the army group "Don" on November, 28 had been appointed general - field marshal a background of Manshtein. My battle group has been subordinated to the XLVIII Panzer Korp which army headquarters has been transferred in Tormosin. This corps under command of the general - lieutenant of the Heim to a start of an attack has been arranged in rear of Romanian 3-rd Army and should stop approach of the opponent. The general of Pauljus not spoke time to me, that counts it one of the most dangerous illusions of the Main command of overland forces. And it is valid, the trouble has burst. Both considerably weakened divisions of the Heim have been surrounded. With small the rests of the troops his managed to make the way to the west. Hitler has made his whipping boy and has removed from a held post. In spite of the fact that his divisions obviously not had battle experience, technical equipment and number, on a background of the Heim have cast fault and for the Soviet break. The general has been expelled from Wermaht, but, however, is rehabilitated later. His receiver became the general of a tank troops von Knobelsdorff which on December, 1 has arrived to Tormosin.
In the beginning of December more to the left of my battle group the 336-n infantry division has taken position. Besides to me have subordinated some companies of an airfield division (LFD). They have been excellently armed and equipped, and the main thing - at them was of what our soldiers most of all dreamed: winter regimentals. Clearly, that the mood of my infantrymen could not improve, when they have seen all these heaps fur coats, fur waistcoats, fur caps, valenki, winter warm mittens, padded cotton wool of camouflage suits with which soldiers of the air forces which are taking place under protection of Goering have been supplied. In addition still they have cut a poor figure in fight. The majority of officers kept arrogantly though had no any representation about operations of an infantry.

Unblockade Goth's Army

These days me the general has visited in Nizhne-Chirskaja von Knobelsdorff. He has confirmed that was already known to me on hearings: in region Kotelnikovo, to the east of Don, the new 4-n Panzer Army under command of the general - colonel Hot prepared for impact. Within the next few days she should break through a ring of an encirclement and unwrap attack on a wide front. Simultaneously army group under command of the general of an infantry of Hollidt should from region to the west of headwaters Chir take on the flank the opponent attacking the south. XLVII Panzer Korp under command of the general of a tank troops von Knobelsdorff together with just arrived 11-th Panzer Division and still expected divisions should come from bridgehead to the east of Nizhne-Chirskaja. The corps commander has received from us the detailed information on conditions on bridgehead about Don and disposition of troops of the opponent.
Occurrence of German tanks in immediate proximity from us has caused huge rise among soldiers and officers.

New attack on the river Chir

All feverishly waited for day when unblockade the army will strike a blow. Meanwhile "May" still loomed in inaccessible far. We had only beginning of December in literal sense of this word and accordingly affairs were. After the 336-n Infantry Division has held positions to the left of us, strong Soviet units have struck a blow on her site. The division has been pushed aside. It had been created threat on our left flank. To tell the truth, the 11-n Panzer Division has restored position. But in the meantime the flame has made the way in the other place, and it the 11-n Panzer Division too should extinguish. She has indeed turned to front "fire-fighting crew" which hastened to break there where under onslaught of the opponent threatened a thin string of our defense. However in these day time and night mobile battles she too has been strongly shabby. On our site we any more did not see a lot her, though extremely required support of tanks in a kind of more and more amplifying attacks of the opponent. Affairs on bridgehead about Don was poorly. He it was more and more narrowed, felt, that soon it is necessary to clear him. All this again has considerably worsened mood. If several days ago arrival of our tanks promoted rise of spirit. That now the mood fell faster, than ever earlier. Became usual, that soldiers without the permission abandoned the positions. To us informed on refusals to obey. Everyone have been covered with fear before a captivity.

The general - lieutenant a von of Gablents replaces me

Again in Nizhne-Chirskaja the radiogramm from the boiler has been received. She concerned personally me. The general of Pauljus urgently demanded, that I have flied. I have decided to carry out order Pauljus immediately.
... On it the consent provided that one of the division commanders freed in the boiler will be appointed by my receiver has been given. Commanding army has agreed.
On December, 10 in Nizhne-Chirskaja there has arrived together with the army headquarters the commander of 384-th Infantry Division the general - lieutenant a baron von of Gablents. We were well familiar.
- the 6-n Army again requires the 1-st aide-de-camp. Therefore, Adam, I should replace you.
- Is excellently, but what became with your division, mister the general?
-.. When in the evening on November, 24 we have reached east coast of Don, from my division a little that remained.... Therefore Pauljus has decided to disband a division. The residuary officers and soldiers have been allocated on other infantry divisions.
- Except for 384-th Division have been disbanded also other divisions, mister the general?
- Yes, an 94-n Infantry Division which also has been destroyed during flight.... The Commander of 94-th Infantry Division should take off from the boiler to collect coming back holidayers of 6-th Army.
Transfer of battle groups has been made quickly, without any stoppages.
After I have made the review of conditions and have characterized a status of troops, we have left to commanders. I have taken advantage of this opportunity to say goodbye to them and to thank them for self-denying actions.

IN Morozovskaja

The automobile has delivered me to other day in a department ober-quartirmeister to 6-th Army in Morozovskaja. Here the army headquarters of Romanian 3-rd Army to which my battle group last days has been subordinated has been placed. When I have reported on the arrival, commanding, general - colonel Dumitresku, has invited me to a dinner. There I have met alongside with the Romanian chief of an army headquarters and the German chief of an army headquarters of the colonel Wenk. I have have found out from him, that to the north of Morozovskaja all front has come to movement. To reinforcements which we have thrown, hardly it is possible to close the formed gaps....
After a dinner I have returned to a department ober-quartirmeister, hoping, that up to a start I still contact my old comrades and colleagues. Unfortunately, I have not found my friend to the colonel Selle. He too has accepted battle group on the river Chir, near to Surovikino.
At all my sense of duty which I then yet have not lost, me was not on myself when I thought that will not pass also day as I shall get in it devil's scorching heat. Besides and outside of the boiler our position by the little was better. Before our dismembered front to the west of Don there were the strong, well armed and equipped Soviet armies ready to the further battles. During lines of days they attacked our battle groups and I could not count the Romanian 3-n Amy also, that for the Soviet command there was unnoticed an expansion under Kotelnikovo to our new army under command of the general - colonel Hot. The Soviet command, probably, has concentrated large forces in steppes between Don and Volga. And still our front on untercurrend Chir? How for a long time he still will hold on? A 11-n Panzer Division and an 336-n Infantry Division have been strongly exhausted and will use all forces to beat off attacks of the opponent. From them Hot is impossible to wait for support of army.

Break is forbidden

- Seidlits demanded, that I operated contrary to the fuhrer's order. For this purpose I did not have any bases. Seidlits himself has given us an obvious case of that turns out when commanders operate at own risk. He, without ours it is conducted, has allocated back an 94-n Infantry Division on a northeast site of the boiler. The opponent has solved a manoeuvre and has immediately struck by departing parts. The division has been completely routed, so we have been compelled her to disband. I have commanded to a division headquarters to take off for limits of the boiler. Our actions only then can be crowned with success, when they will be coordinated to intentions of the Supreme command.
Has rung out phone. Since December, 12, communication with an army group "Don" on short waves has been established. Caused Manshtein.... Then I had no opportunity to find out in full details about tragical destiny of 94-th Infantry Division. Later it is a lot of months, in a captivity, the general a background of Seidlits has told to me, that, giving 94-th Infantry Division the order on departure, he has been firmly convinced, that his actions are according to the planned plan of break offered commanding army. Not fault of Seidlits, that in two - three days of Pauljus has obeyed Hitler's order.

To me entrust the King Cross

The mood was suppressed. Here has come batman and has invited Pauljus to the device on a call of field marshal a background of Manshtein. We were guarded. Whether there has arrived the saving order? Elhelpp has told:
- Is really fast reciprocal signal would be!
... Commanding has come back in the room, accompanied with mine sergeant-major Kjupper. It was strange and could not have that the common with the order on a breaking out from the encirclement. While I reflected, Pauljus has approached to my chair.
- I owe to all of you, sirs to inform pleasant news. Today our 1-st aide-de-camp the colonel of Adam for its participation in the organization of defense on the river Chir, for shown by him thus selflessness and courage is awarded with the Knig Cross.
With these words the general has handed over me the high award.
I was so is struck, that not at once have answered on intimate congratulations of Pauljus. All have rushed to me, pressed to me hands. For short time deprivations and death are forgotten. Me the huge pleasure has seized, I sincerely was proud, is especial when commanding have emphasized, that for the first time, perhaps, in the German military history aide-de-camp of army is awarded with the supreme award. But I have not had time to feel rather happy as all this has disappeared. A bowl of pleasure the bitterness of memoirs on battles accompanied with huge victims on undercurrent Chir, about many comrades, then and after given out has poisoned the lives. At the end of November command of an army group has demanded of us that we have provided an opportunity of withdrawal of 6-th Army. For the sake of this purpose the soldiers receding down to Nizhne-Chirskaja, have implicitly held the specified positions. And I perceived as the internal duty rendering assistance to the comrades, taking place in the boiler in so heavy position. For the sake of it were ready to give all forces. But victims and losses were vain. Here could change nothing and my Knig Cross.

The message of colonels Selle and van Hooven

At the end of December the colonel Selle has arrived to the boiler. Perplexed we have shaken each other hands. Then I have have carried out him to a dugout commanding.

My friend the colonel Selle

To the next days to me there arrived experts, mainly from tank and motorized divisions, all of them shined for pleasure. As a result of protests of command of army at night planes with the foodstuffs and an ammunition again sat. They took away experts in an army group "Don".
I was sincerely pleased to a start from the boiler of the colonel Selle. In October, 1942 our doctor advised him urgently to pass a rate of sanatorium treatment. The sanction has already been given, as suddenly began the big counteroffensive of Red Army. A colonel Selle at once has declared then, that cannot leave a troops. In the beginning of December on the river Chir he has accepted battle group, and has received from Schmidt the useless order later to return to the boiler. Though health at him was weak and he hardly kept on foots, he never tried to depart from the boiler. Several days ago I asked him to photograph me. I would like to send with the next officer of communication a film and the chamber to the wife and the daughter. Then we have frankly talked. A Selle, the old member of a nazi party awarded with a gold badge, has told to me, what not time advised Pauljus to operate contrary to Hitler's orders and to act how prompts him conscience, the responsibility for army. However in military questions of Pauljus adheres Schmidt's to point of view. He, the Selle, counts it fatal. The general - colonel together with the chief of an army headquarters bear, thus, the responsibility for wanton destruction of 6-th army. Then in an attack of anger against Hitler and Goering the colonel of an engineering troops has broken with jacket with high collar a gold party badge, has stopped on the frozen together snow and has crushed him.
Though this stage, as a matter of fact, was only gesture without any further consequences, she nevertheless has made on me impression as was expression of the decisive protest, while Pauljus, Schmidt, Elhelpp and others demanded unconditional submission to immoral orders. It is possible, that the chief of our army headquarters would not enter colonel Selle the list flying away of the boiler if has has found out about our conversation. Schmidt, however, has informed me on January, 22, that Selle will leave the boiler. I wanted the first to inform my friend this joyful message.

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Post by Yuri » 19 Feb 2007 16:03

After thirty seven years after impressing victories on Russian, gained on the Chir River in battle of sovkhoz "Red Star" (state farm 79 or sovkhoz 79) and in battle at height 148.8, experience of generals the Balck and the von Mellenthin on reflection of attacks of hordes Russian have been claimed in completely other conditions by the American commanders from the block of the NATO.

The matter is that on May, 19, 1980 the USSR 1st Guards Tank Army in structure of four tank divisions and one motorized-rifle division (6th GTD, 7th GTD, 9th TD, 11th GTD and 27th GMRD) has crossed border two Germany on site Bad NeuStadt - Hunfeld - Bad Hersfeld and has directed on the Kassel-Frankfurt Autobahn on a southwest in depth of territory of Germany.

On this site at the block of the NATO was present only two divisions.
In strip Bad NeuStadt - Fulda - Hunfeld was U.S. 8th Mechanized Division,
And in strip Hunfeld - Lauterbach - Bad Hersfeld a way to Russian tanks could block 3rd Armoured Division.

Russian had a significant numerical superiority and the American commanders have become puzzled, as they are Americans - had no experience of struggle against the enemy in conditions when this enemy had such monstrous superiority in strength.

However then the American generals have recollected the German generals the Balck and the von Mellenthin. In fact, these two former Wermaht's commanders assured readers of the books, that in due time they achieved a victory on Russian when east barbarians had a tenfold numerical superiority. So was, for example, in December, 1942 at defense on the river Chir in battle of state farm 79 (sovkhoz 79) and battle at height 148.8.
Having recollected these applications the Balck and von Mellenthin, the American generals have decided to take advantage of services of former commanders of that Wwrmacht's troops Balck and von Mellenthin about the help have asked.

Arrived on a call of Americans, generals the Balck and the von Mellenthin have received in the order 3rd Armoured Division. Having understood a situation, generals the Balck and the von Mellenthin promised to give the decision in five minutes. Also the decision was valid, equal in five minutes is ready. Operating under orders of generals the Balck and the von Mellenthin American 3rd Armoured Division was quit three Russian divisions in down and ashes.

Russian in a panic ran, as them have learned it to do in December, 1942 on the river Chir at that time still young the general the Balck and lieutenant colonel Mellentin with the help of German those divisions 48th Panzer Korp.

When the threat of enslavement which has hung above Europe has been eliminated by Russian barbarians, the German generals the Balck and the von Mellenthin have shared with the American commanders the experience of struggle against superior forces Russian by the example of battles on the river Chir in December, 1942.

Educational battle on May, 19 1980 (it is clear, that it was educational battle) is a post - WWII a history.
Who wishes to get acquainted with a course of battle on May, 19 1980 on the German - German border, can glance here. ... enthin.pdf (1.5 MB in pdf)

However, in holding after that educational battle of conference generals the Balck and the von Mellenthin have shared experience of struggle which they have received in battles against Russian on the river Chir in December, 1942 with the students.

Therefore much that generals the Balck and the von Mellenthin spoke in May, 1980, has direct relations to the battles happened in December, 1942 on the river Chir in sovkhoz 79 and in region of height 148.8.

Here the most typical applications of the German generals, former commanders of German 48th Panzer Korp which tank divisions operated during the period battle of Stalingrad on the river Chir are given.

My epigraph to materials of conference of generals of the Balck and von Mellenthin from BDM-report by General William DePuy.

From of the « BDM-report by General William DePuy (U.S. Army Ret.) », p. 11
Gen. von Mellenthin: «Believe us, they are masses and we are individuals. That is the difference between the Russian soldier and the European soldier ».
Mr. Dunnigan: « More education on the part of the Russian soldier, more sophistication, more exposure to Western ideas - do you think that would change it in any way»?
Gen. Balck: «No, I do not believe so».
From conversation between Tsar Paul I and the Great Russian Commander generalissimo Alexander Suvorov.
Tsar Paul I: « We should adopt experience at Prussia ».
Generalissimo Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov: « Russian always beat Prussian, so there to adopt ».
– 1 –

By General William DePuy (U.S. Army Ret.)
BDM Corporation,
December 1980

reproduced and edited by Reiner K. Huber
Universitaet der Bundeswehr Muenchen,
December 2004


This paper presents an edited version of the BDM-report∗ by General William DePuy (U.S. Army Ret.) summarizing the analysis of the opinions and ideas of retired German Generals Balck and von Mellenthin with respect to tactical problems of NATO vis-à-vis the Soviet Union in the late seventies / early eighties. It was scanned from the type-written original without the two photographs showing the German Generals with U.S. Generals Gorman and Otis during the simulation exercise organized within the framework of a conference held at BDM. May 19-23, 1980. The purpose of the conference was to examine twentieth century German military experience in battle against Russian forces with the intent of developing insights useful in aiding understanding of the challenges NATO faced Europe as it prepared to confront the Soviets in any future conflict.

the German Generals referred to a series of human factors and behavioral parameters which they regarded as important for success based on their extensive field experience in World War II, especially in situations when they fought successful battles against a numerically superior enemy. The respective statements in the report are marked by a yellow background.

∗Technical Report BDM/W-81-077-TR, McLean, VA, December 19, 1980

– 2 –

1. Generals Balck and von Mellenthin 9
2. The Character and Style of the Russian Army 10
3. The Character and Style of the German Army 14
4. Defensive Doctrine and Tactics 19
- The Simulation Process 20
- The German Solution 21
- The U.S. Solution 28
5. Tactics and Techniques in General 35
6. Organizing the Fighting Elements 40
7. Other Subjects on which the Generals had important and interesting
Comments 43

– 3 –

Under the auspices of the Director of Net Assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense, The BDM Corporation hosted a conference an tactical warfare during the period 19 to 22 May 1980.

The purpose of the conference was to examine twentieth century German military experience in battle against Russian forces with the intent of developing insights useful in aiding our understanding of the challenges NATO faces today in Europe as it prepares to confront the Soviets in any future conflict.

In World Wars I and II the Germans learned many valuable, if enormously costly, lessons about the Russians as a people with a distinctive cultural heritage, and as soldiers whose military traditions, proclivities and character in battle derive from these same cultural roots. Owing to their intrinsic nature, these same basic traits and broad patterns of behavior would likely find similar expression on any future battlefield. Thus, the relevance of their study is meeting our current knowledge needs.

In spite of the vast wealth of experience the Germans gained in modern warfare against the Russians, there has been little systematic examination of it in the United States, especially as the result of such an examination might be applied to the study of actual and potential problems facing NATO in the event of conflict with the Soviets in Europe. This conference, then, was an effort at developing relevant, transferable insights, appropriate for application in contemporary and future tactical situations, based an the extensive experience of two veteran German general officers who came to know the Russians as few living persons have.

In this endeavor, BDM was extremely fortunate in being able to arrange for the participation of two distinguished retired German generals, Hermann Balck and Friedrich von Mellenthin. Brief biographies of Generals Balck and von Mellenthin follow this Introduction.

Both of these officers gained considerable command experience in combat against the Russians on the Eastern Front during World War II. In so doing, they achieved a virtually unmatched record of battlefield success, despite being greatly outnumbered, in terms of men and materiel, on many occasions. Indeed, toward the end of the war it became the normal condition. Of special significance for us today is the fact that while expecting to be outnumbered by as much as ten or more to one, they also expected to win - and often did. General Balck experienced battle against the Russians in World War I as well, sustaining seven wounds and earning the Iron Cross First Class as a junior officer.
– 4 –
During the conference, Generals Balck and von Mellenthin served as guest lecturers and participated in a series of discussions and manual European conflict simulations. The success of the conference, gratifying by any standard, was due in large measure to the unique contributions made by these two truly exceptional officers.

Both General Balck and General von Mellenthin had visited the United States on other occasions to participate in conferences addressing their experiences during World War II. These efforts produced a number of interesting historical insights into German doctrine and operational concepts that were employed in combat against Russian forces. The goal of the present effort was to have the generals describe techniques and principles of warfare which they found successful in their experiences and considered relevant for NATO in Central Europe today.

In order to provide a forum best suited to pursuing these discussions, a small panel of experienced and highly qualified defense experts, both military and civilian, was chosen to participate in the conference. The panel included:

• General William E. DePuy (USA, Ret.), former commander of the 1st Infantry Division, Assistant Vice Chief of the US Army General Staff, commander of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, and principle author of FM 100-5, Operations. General DePuy generously agreed to serve as rapporteur for the conference and prepare this report of the proceedings. BDM would like to extend a special thanks to General DePuy for his immeasurable contributions to enhancing the quality and usefulness of the conference and for the widespread interest shown in its results. Balck and von Mellenthin's respect for General DePuy was evident in their references to him as a «kindred spirit». Later, General von Mellenthin noted in reviewing this report, «I find the report very good, the tactical lessons of General Balck and myself came out very well».
• Lieutenant General Glenn K. Otis, US Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans.
General Otis previously commanded the 1st Armored Division in VII Corps and served as head of the US Army Combined Arms Combat Development Activity at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
• Lieutenant General Paul Gorman, USA, J5 (Plans and Policy), Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Gorman formerly commanded the 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized) in V Corps and was one of the authors of the US Army's tactical doctrine as set forth in FM 100-5, Operations.
• James Dunnigan, President of Simulations Publications, Inc., New York, a leading authority an military gaming and both NATO and Warsaw Pact forces.

– 5 –
• Dr. Dan McDonald, one of the founders of BDM and a leading figure in the technology of engagement simulation, test and evaluation, and operational experimentation.
• Colonel von Uslar-Gleichen German Army Attaché, who participated and assisted throughout the conference.

The conference lasted four days. The first three days consisted of a series of discussions and manual map exercises, the latter involving the active participation of the panel of US defense experts and Generals Balck and von Mellenthin. This provided a realistic operational context for comparing and contrasting approaches. On the last day of the conference, the results of the previous days' activities were reviewed and summarized. For this purpose, the panel was expanded to a much larger group of some thirty participants from government and the research community.

The conference attempted to identify and analyze insights provided by Generals Balck and von Mellenthin that are relevant for current NATO defense problems. A key element of this approach was the need to articulate and understand the detailed complexities of Soviet offensive and NATO defensive tactics. To facilitate this understanding, the guests and panelists used a manual map board simulation designed by BDM to deploy forces and illustrate the various defensive tactics discussed during the course of the conference. The simulation was used principally to depict combat methods; the US V Corps area of AFCENT served as the basis for discussion. During the conference, Generals Balck and von Mellenthin were asked to assume the roles of US commanders and illustrate their defensive concepts for US V Corps using the simulation technique. Their concept was then compared and contrasted with V Corps defensive concepts presented by both General Otis and General Gorman, using the same technique. This approach provided a framework for discussion as well as some very interesting insights into the players themselves. The results of these exchanges are
treated, in some detail, in the body of this report.

A transcript of the entire conference, consisting of 155 typed pages of material, was prepared from more than twenty hours of audio tapes recorded during the four days of meetings. Where ambiguities appeared, the discussion was reconstituted through consultation with certain of the participants. The present report, prepared by General DePuy, summarizes the major themes and most significant comments contained in the original conference transcript of 18 August 1980. During the conference itself, various subjects came up for discussion on more than one occasion. This final report individually addresses all topics of consequence, bringing to bear all relevant comments regardless of where they may have appeared in the original transcript. The footnotes found throughout are keyed to the original transcript as well.

– 6 –
The most interesting themes to emerge during the four days of the conference were:

• Generals Balck and von Mellenthin themselves and their relationship, one to another - that of a commander and his trusted chief of staff.
• The character and style of the Russian Army.
• The character and style of the German Army, including a discussion on the concept of Auftragstaktik.
• Defensive doctrine and tactics:
- Generals Balck, von Mellenthin and Otis
- Generals Balck, von Mellenthin and Gorman
• Tactics and techniques in general
• Organization of the fighting elements
• Some trenchant comments by Generals Balck and von Mellenthin and other subjects:
- The position of command posts in the delay
- The impact of tactical air forces
- Balck unfamiliar with Hutier (infiltration) tactics
- The impact of Soviet guerrilla operations

– 7 –


General Balck was born an December 7, 1897 in Danziglanfuhr, Prussia. In 1913, he became a cadet with the Goslar Rifles. He joined the Hanoverian Military College in February 1914 and returned to his unit at the outbreak of World War I. During World War I, General Balck fought on the Western, Eastern, Italian and Balkan fronts while rising to the rank of company commander. In 1922, he joined the 18th cavalry regiment at Stuttgart. Balck was transferred to General Guderian's - Inspectorate of Mobile Troops at the Army High Command in Berlin in 1938. During the Polish Campaign, Balck was in charge of the reorganization and refitting of the Panzer division. He fought on practically every major German front during the war. A synopsis of his posts during World War II includes Command of the 1st Motorized Infantry Regiment 1st Panzer Division; Command of the 3rd Panzer Regiment of the 2nd Panzer Division; Economy Commissioner; Inspector of Mobile Troops; Commander 14th Deutschland Division ( apparently, here a mistake, correctly - 11th Panzer Division – Yuri ) ; Commander 14th Corps at Salerno; Commander 48th Panzer Corps; Commander 4th Panzer Army; Commander in Chief Army Group "G" in Alsace; and, at the end of the war, Commander in Chief 6th German Army. He surrendered to US troops in Austria in 1945 and was in captivity until 1947. He is currently publishing his war diary which he kept from August 1914 until May 1945.


General Von Mellenthin was born an August 30, 1901 in Breslau, Germany, located in the province of Silesia. He was educated in the Real Gymnasium in Breslau. His first military assignment was with the Seventh Cavalry Regiment in April of 1924. Two years later he was sent to the Infantry School in Ohrdurf and later that year attended the Cavalry School in Hanover. General Von Mellenthin was commissioned a lieutenant, February 1, 1928 and served as a Regimental Cavalry Officer until October 1935 when he attended the War Academy in Berlin for General Staff training.
Upon graduation from the Academy, he was assigned to the Third Corps staff in Berlin as the intelligence officer. At the outbreak of World War II, he proceeded from post to post eventually having appeared on practically all of Germany's fronts, at one time or another. A synopsis of the positions he held during World War II include: Operations Officer for the 197th Infantry Division; Intelligence Officer - 1st Army; Intelligence Officer 2nd Army; Intelligence (later operations) officer to the Panzer

– 8 –
Intelligence (later operations) officer to the Panzer Army Africa; Chief of Staff - 48th Panzer Corps; Chief of Staff 4th Panzer Army; Chief of Staff - Army Group "G"; and Chief of Staff - 5th Panzer Army. After the war, General Von Mellenthin emigrated to South Africa where he was an executive for Lufthansa Airlines until his retirement. He has been the author of numerous articles and books; the most famous of these are Panzer Battles and German Generals of World War II.
continuation follows
Last edited by Yuri on 19 Feb 2007 17:58, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Yuri » 19 Feb 2007 16:17

continuation by
Technical Report BDM/W-81-077-TR, McLean, VA, December 19, 1980
– 9 –

1. Generals Balck and von Mellenthin

Those readers who may not have studied the background of the distinguished German participants might not appreciate the full authority with which they speak - authority growing out of an incomparable set of experiences in war against Russians -- and others, including U.S. forces - and a record of battlefield performance unsurpassed anywhere in the history of modern warfare. Additionally, the character and personalities, as well as the personal relationships between these officers, were fascinating and compelling.

General Balck tends to be a man of few words - somewhat brusque almost laconic, but deeply thoughtful. He was, and is, clearly a man of iron will and iron nerves. He exudes a strong aura of confidence - confidence in himself, in the German Army and in the German soldier. He has no doubt about the superiority of the German over the Russian, although he sees enviable strengths in the Russian character - about which, more later.

General von Mellenthin is a more gentle officer on the outside. However, his record and Balck's esteem tell us that he is also a man of steel at the core. Von Mellenthin is thoughtful, bright and articulate. He is a product of the German General Staff system - a thorough professional. Consistent with the tradition of that corps, von Mellenthin played the loyal and faithful role of close advisor and principal staff officer during our discussions, just as he did an so many critical occasions when serving as General Balck's Chief of Staff on the field of battle. His working example of the Commander/Chief of Staff relationship was worth 10,000 words of description. General Balck also considered von Mellenthin as his deputy commander and used him as a pinch-hitter when subordinate commanders failed or faltered. One exchange during our discussions put all this into a clear perspective:

Gen. von Mellenthin: «The Position of the Chief of Staff of a tank corps, of an army, etc., together with the commander there must be a good marriage. They must live together and think together, General Balck and myself were very close. When he went to the front lines I stayed behind and kept all things under control while he was at the Schwerpunkt, or vice versa. I myself, every second or third day, went to the front. General Balck then sat at the desk at Corps or Army Headquarters.

– 10 –
I don't know if you have in the United States the same strong Position of Chief of Staff as we have in the German Army. You know, I had complete freedom when he was away - to make my own decisions. It is very important that the Position of the Chief of Staff should be a strong one». 1/ p.18

The combined experiences of these officers at Division, Corps, Army and Army Group levels in Russia, at Salerno, in North Africa, before Budapest, in Lorraine against Patton, over many years of continuous fighting, are the bona fides of the opinions they have offered. Furthermore, these officers have faced the Russian Army under conditions of substantial inferiority in numbers and equipment, in the cockpit of armored and mechanized combat, a Situation that American officers may face in the future.

2. The Character and Style of the Russian Army .

Gen. Balck: «Many military leaders [of foreign armies] got to Moscow, but nobody came back unharmed».
Gen. v. Mellenthin: «The Russian is unpredictable. Today he is a hero attacking in great depth, tomorrow he is completely afraid and not willing to do anything». 2/ p.4

General Balck was indelibly impressed with the vast distances encountered in Russia and their impact on military operations. In short, Russia is endless. It absorbs armies. Coupled with an enormous population, vis-à-vis the Germans, these characteristics placed victory out of reach in World War II.

It was General Balck's opinion that the defeat of Russian armies in World War I resulted from the closing of the Dardanelles and the ensuing crisis in war materials. This led to a Situation in which senselessly drilled Russian soldiers were sent to the battlefield unarmed, and were expected to follow and pick up the rifles of their dead and wounded comrades from the preceding waves. This bloodthirsty method of waging war, he thought, speeded the onset of revolution: «That is too much even for the Russians». 1/ ibid.

On the positive side, General Balck attributed to the Russians an ability to «fall back into primitive existence» when the weather or the tactical circumstances were appalling. 2/ ibid.

– 11 –
He also recognized that the Russians learned as the war continued but his faith in the Russian capacity to improve was clearly limited:
Mr. Dunnigan: «Do you feel that on the Russian side there was an excessive amount of command from the top, or was it just that they did not have any initiative?»
Gen. Balck: «It was a combination of both».
Mr. Dunnigan: «You think that is still in effect today?»
Gen. Balck: «That won't change».
Mr. Dunnigan: «Why would you think that?»
Gen. Balck: «It is because no army can separate itself from the principles on which it has acted from the very outset». 3/ pp. 21-22
Gen. v. Mellenthin: «Believe us, they are masses and we are individuals. That is the difference between the Russian soldier and the European soldier».
Mr. Dunnigan: «More education on the part of the Russian soldier, more sophistication, more exposure to Western ideas - do you think that would change it in any way?»
Gen. Balck: «No, I don't believe so».1/ pp. 23-24

The discussion turned to the critical question of Soviet methods. Because the Russians place great emphasis upon the use of set formations in the attack - almost geometric in their precision - the question always arises as to whether, therefore, they lose the ability to use the terrain for cover and concealment. On this point General Balck was drawn into an interesting discussion of the relative military merits of mountain people versus prairie people.

Gen. DePuy: «[Did the Russians in World War II attack in very specific formations, and if so]
did they use the cover and concealment of the terrain?»
Gen. Balck: «It is understood of course that the terrain is to be used. Occasionally that use of terrain may be replaced by speed».
Gen. DePuy: «This is by the Russians?»
Gen. Balck: «Yes, they were quite good at it».
Mr. Karber: .....»When a tank company attacked, did the tanks line up in a geometric formation, a rigid formation, or did the attack from one terrain feature to another, covering each other with fire?»
Gen. Balck: «Both were done, sometimes correctly, sometimes in the wrong way».

– 12 –
Gen. DePuy: «The Israelis say, that [the Syrians] did not use the terrain. They kept their Soviet-style formations. They kept on line and in columns, and therefore denied themselves the use of covered routes and concealment. Did you observe anything like that in Russia?»
Gen. Balck: «The answer is yes. Normal European and American countries educate their people like we do. There is a different class of prairie people – prairie nations like Hungary, like some peoples in Asia. They are used to flat, open terrain, and they use this kind of attack - the formation that was previously criticized. Then there is a third category: mountain people. They adapt more to the features of the terrain, and they are more apt to adapt to modern warfare. Prairie people should not be used in modern warfare because that courts disaster».
Mr. Karber: «Does the General consider the Soviets to be prairie people?».
Gen. Balck: «Partially». 1/ pp. 25-27

The discussion then touched on a related and important point, the value of speed.

Mr. Karber: «The General said that sometimes the Soviets would use terrain – and sometimes they would use speed. Which did General Balck and General von Mellenthin consider the most difficult to defend against?»
Gen. Balck: «Speed». 2/ p. 27.1

There are three classic methods of breaching a defense. The first is by surprise or stealth - falling unexpectedly upon the defender at night or in bad weather, without visible preparation, often involving feints in some other area. A variation of this tactic is infiltration of the defense prior to a deliberate attack. The Russians were acknowledged as masters of Infiltration.

The second method is to advance from position to position using cover and concealment – fire and maneuver. It is more difficult to determine the extent to which the Russians use these tactics. They are the heart of the tactical methods used by the Western armies. There is some recent evidence in Soviet military publications that the Russians may be moving in this direction - that they may be emphasizing direct fire suppression from successive over watch positions.

– 13 –
The third method is the concentration of large forces, in narrow zones, in specified formations, with follow-on echelons positioned and scheduled to pass through or around the leading assault waves should they lose momentum. This tactic relies on mass and Speed and saturation of the defense. It is the classic breakthrough tactic heretofore favored by Soviet doctrine.
The Impression gained from the conversations with Generals Balck and von Mellenthin is that the Russians in World War II favored the mass and Speed tactic, but also employed the other two when conditions required. Today we can probably expect a diversified mixture of all three.

General von Mellenthin had more to say about the Russian character and performance:

«He always attacks with massive superiority. Normally in doing so he follows a certain pattern. Often he was very skillful in making use of the terrain. He was a master in infiltration in forest conditions, in the villages and during night combat».

«He learned operations during the war and trained and educated the leadership without
any respect for life ..... during combat actions».

«His reaction to [terrifying developments] was really unpredictable It can vary from
courage to panic».

«Meeting engagements confuse the Russian, disrupt his concept, and he will wait for new orders from above. He often simply stops and waits until some more forces arrive, or he just waits for new orders. The Russians are strong, but they are immobile - they are rigid and bound to certain patterns, and they are thus more vulnerable than we are. Especially on the lower command levels, we have the better individuals». 1/ p. 114.

There was another characteristic of the Russians that apparently made a deep impression on General Balck. He regarded them as untrustworthy, or perhaps cunning would be a better word, as well as faithful to their cause. Cited here is only one comment on this point, but there were many more:

– 14 –
«A division took up quarters .... near a wooded area. The evaluation of the commander was that there were 10,000 guerrillas in the forest, with an airfield and fortifications, and that we could expect an attack any hour. One guerrilla and his [girl friend] had come over to our side «he is keeping us up to date on everything». After two weeks [the Germans invaded that wooded area from three sides]. Results: a deserted air strip, no fortifications, at most 300 guerrillas, and all the rest had been propaganda. The [defector and his girl friend] had disappeared without trace. Any Russian that changes sides is suspect. Only once did I see a Russian that was really ready to change sides». 7/ p.

3. The Character and Style of the German Army

« .... We always felt superior toward the Russians .... we were not afraid of them.....» (General von Mellenthin). 2/ p. 23
Throughout the discussions it was clear that both the German generals considered the individuality of the German fighting man - his freedom to take initiative and the system which engendered these policies and attitudes - to be the key to superlative German performance.

Gen. DePuy: «....Were you successful in receiving from your company, platoon, and squad leaders the same individualistic responses to situations, opportunities and initiatives as you did at division, brigade and battalion»?

Gen. Balck: «Yes, and it is very important how that was achieved. Generally the German higher commander rarely or never reproached their subordinates unless they made a terrible blonder. They were fostering the individual's initiative. They left him room for initiative, and did not reprimand him unless he did something very wrong. This went down to the individual soldier, who was praised for developing initiative. Of course, there were exceptions, and there was sometimes trouble, but generally independent action along the line of the general concept was praised and was accepted
as something good». 1/ p. 24

– 15 –
In this same vein the discussion turned early on, and returned often, to Auftragstaktik – the theory and practice and training in the use of mission-type orders, in order to amplify the advantages which flow from the full exploitation of the battlefield initiative of the German officer and soldier.

Gen. DePuy: «The American Army in World War II talked a lot about mission-type Orders, which is our version of Auftragstaktik. One of the examples given to the American Army by German officers visiting our service schools in the 1930s was this: «The division commander ordered the cavalry commander to seize a Bridge over a river because the division was going to cross that river. When the cavalry commander got to the bridge there was an enemy tank regiment [there]. Question: what does the cavalry commander do? Auftragstaktik solution: report to the [division] commander by radio - look for other bridges, fords, boats - in other words, do what the next higher commander would do if he were there and knew the same situation. Is that a good explanation of Auftragstaktik»?

Gen. v. Mellenthin: «Exactly». 2/ p.78-79

The success of Auftragstaktik presumably rests, at least in part, on knowledge by the subordinate of the higher commander's concept of operations and objectives. In these circumstances the Subordinate can choose sensible courses of action which contribute to the desired outcome within the framework of the overall schema. Obviously there are two ways to achieve this understanding. One is to explain it carefully; the other is to campaign together over such a long period that the «modus operandi» is second nature to all concerned. It is also a by-product of doctrine and training.

Gen. DePuy: «....I would like to have General Balck tell me what [orders he would have issued] to that Panzer Division commander - in order to find out how much detail is required - how simple or extensive would that order be»?
Gen. Balck: «The order would be, and was, the following: 'The Russians are breaking through at point X - at a certain command you attack [at point Y]' - and that is what they did». 1/ p.19

– 16 –
Further on the same subject:

Gen. DePuy: «[Coming back to the same point], how explicit, how complete, how detailed was the concept of the defense on the Chir River: was it standard operating procedure (SOP), or was it 'a detailed explanation of how [General Balck] intended to operate»?
Gen. von Mellenthin: - Wants General Balck to answer - 2/ ibid.

This is one example of the way General von Mellenthin habitually deferred to his commander: a deference rooted in respect - respect for the system, and respect for the man.

Gen. Balck: «It depended entirely on the subordinate. If he was a stupid fellow, you had to go into much detail explaining the situation to him; if he was an intelligent officer, a word was sufficient for him». 1/ ibid.

Mr. Karber: «Did the Subordinate who was given a very short order, to attack such and such a unit at such and such coordinate -did he, before that, have a detailed concept of General Balck's Overall battle plan»?
Gen. Balck: «I can only answer that by saying yes, because word had gotten around that the Chir line was to be held. We lived off a century-long tradition, which is that in a critical situation the subordinate with an understanding of the overall situation can act or react responsibly. We always placed great emphasis on the independent action of the subordinates, even in peacetime training». 2/ p.21

This led to several exchanges on the selection of leaders and their training:

Mr. Karber: «It has been said that on the Eastern front, in the German Army, it was the NCOs that held the fabric of the troops together. Do you feel that the NCOs had a much stronger position than you would estimate in today's armies»?
Gen. Balck: «Yes. When I was a peacetime commander, I made a point to see that nobody could become an NCO unless he had a half year of training. Later on, when I was commander of the fast, or motorized, unit, I developed the concept of having these NCO schools. I had an argument about this with our Chief of Staff (General Halder) who said: 'Oh no, two weeks will be enough!' Then there was a compromise. He said all right, 3 months - and I agreed, and then I extended it without saying anything to half a year . .... The fact is if somebody knows his craft, if he knows what to do, then you don't have to give him any commands, any orders.

– 17 –
{you don't have to give him any commands, any orders.} One of my successors [as regimental commander] told me after the Poland Campaign that [the regiment] had few losses among the officers because the NCOs were so well-trained that the officers did not have to be around everywhere. Another aspect is that there were very few incidents of mistreatment of subordinates, because an NCO had some knowledge. He did not have to go around mistreating his subordinates, he can convince them by his mind -not by force».
Mr. Dunnigan: «How did you select NCO candidates, and what did you teach them in those six months»?
Gen. Balck: «The company commander selected them. He said, 'Oh, well, this private might be fit to become an NCO.' Then we tested them and anyone who flunked - they were out . .... I tried to train them to teach the recruits in a sensible way - to make them understand: not just dumb drill or something like that, but by giving them something to think. Any education has to be carried [out] by respect for the human being, and by respect for the individual's own free will. That is not always easy, but that is the only thing that gets you somewhere». 1/ pp.24-25
Mr. Dunnigan: «....Do you have any other advice for the training system that a Corps commander should use»?
Gen. Balck: «It is extremely important for the NCO training units not to be employed under any circumstances. It happened so often in combat operations that there were losses and these valuable units were senselessly sacrificed». 2/ p.66

Obviously General Balck as Corps commander did not receive enough replacement NCOs from the training base in Germany. This is an endemic problem in all armies in peace and war. His message seems to be that you must select and train these key leaders even when their temporary absence hurts - and their training must not be interrupted, regardless of the emergency. In short, one must not eat the seed corn.

The selection of good combat leaders in peacetime poses a problem, as far as General Balck is concerned.

Mr. Karber: «. Have you noticed any characteristics in soldiers, especially your leaders, that you observed in peacetime, which comes through as a competent wartime leader»?

– 18 –
Gen. Balck: «I can only answer that by saying no. It is just by accident if you can observe that
in peacetime». 1/ p.71

Again on the same subject:

Gen. Balck: «You will experience in any war that there will be a total reversal. Those people who were considered very good people in peacetime often would be lousy in war, and those who were doing very poorly in peacetime can suddenly become excellent». 2/ p.69

On the last day of the discussion, when a large number of interested observers attended that session, it became apparent that invidious comparisons were being drawn between the German and U. S. Armies, to the effect that the German leaders were uniformly superior in battlefield tactics. The patent excellence and superb performance of Generals Balck and von Mellenthin at the discussion led the audience easily in that direction. In this connection, a graphic and important German term is Finqerspitzengefuehl. Translated literally, it means «fingertip-feeling». The idea it conveys, however, is that of an instinctive sixth sense for terrain and tactics - a masterful touch in the art of war.

Gen. DePuy: «Out of every one hundred German generals, [how many] had Finqerspitzengefuehl»?

Gen. Balck: «Three or four, but they were unrecognized». 1/ p.147

Nevertheless, the character and style of the German Army were powerful forces at work on the battlefield. Performance is the final measure of effectiveness. The performance of the German Army was consistently higher than its adversaries. Even in the last years of the war, the numerical superiority of the Allies and their overwhelming advantage in materiel was often frustrated by the tactical and technical competence of the German forces. General von Mellenthin in his summary statement touched on factors which contributed to that relative superiority in battlefield performance:

– 19 –
Gen. von Mellenthin: «We found that leaders at any level grow with their experience. [Their] initiative should be fostered in the case of a division commander just as much as in the case of a platoon commander…»
«Commanders and subordinates start to understand each other during war. The better they know each other, the shorter and less detailed the orders can be. To follow a command or an order requires that it is also thought through on the level from which the order was given. The following-through of an order requires that the person to whom it was given thinks at least one level above the one at which that order was given. For example, an order for a tank battalion requires thinking also on the level of the brigade. The mission requires one to be able to think, or to penetrate by thought, the functions of higher command». Auftragstaktik is not limited to any levels. It applies to the division commander and his chief of staff just as much as to the tank commander and his gunner. «Our training system and the German mentality are favourable to this historic principle». 2/ pp.113-114

There are no doubt other reasons for German successes on the field of battle, including their meticulous attention to detail, their manifest courage and steadfastness in the face of difficulties, and their strong initiative and perseverance. We will now turn to the application of these skills and characteristics to the conduct of defensive operations.

4. Defensive Doctrine and Tactics

Over the past six or seven years, a lively and important new debate has arisen over the proper tactics for the defense of Western Europe by NATO land forces.
The U. S. Army, turning from its long war in Vietnam against a lightly armed and elusive enemy to a heavily armed and numerically superior Warsaw Pact force, proposed an "active defense". This defensive concept, involving a variety of tactics, counts upon superior intelligence, high mobility, rapid concentration, elasticity in the face of breakthrough attacks, and carefully executed counterattacks.

Certain critics have argued that such a defensive concept relies too much on attrition, does not fully exploit the mobility of modern armoured forces, and - perhaps most importantly – does not take advantage of the presumably less flexible Soviet mentality and control procedures.

– 20 –
Others simply recommend that NATO adapt the tactics used so successfully by the German Army in Russia. It is for this reason, above all others, that the meetings with Generals Balck and von Mellenthin are of such current interest.

There are two major differences between the situation in NATO in 1980 and the combat environment in Russia in 1942 and 1943. The first is space. The German Army had room to maneuver. For example, von Manstein's counterstroke at Kharkov carried the equivalent distance from Frankfurt to Hanover. The Russian sweep around his left flank after Stalingrad carried more than the distance from the East German border through Germany, Holland and Belgium.
The second major difference is the composition of the defending forces. A U. S. or German amored division disposes of about 300 main battle tanks. General Balck's 11th Panzer Division more often than not contained about 25. Additionally, all NATO infantry in the Central Region is fully mechanized. In Russia, almost all German infantry was an foot.

Against this background, discussion of defense tactics took place throughout the four sessions but particularly an Tuesday, 20 May. On the morning of that day, Generals Balck and von Mellenthin gave a visual and descriptive explanation of their concepts for the defense in the sector of U. S. 3rd Armoured Division, through the use of a simulation technique developed at BDM. With the visual assistance of that simulation technique, the German generals deployed 3rd Armoured Division's units in the defense in accordance with their judgment and experience fighting Russians. Participating with them, as the principal observer, was General Glenn Otis, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans in the U. S. Army. Just two years ago General Otis had commanded U. S. 1st Armoured Division in VII Corps, and not too many years before that he was a brigade commander in 3rd Armoured Division. His interaction with the German generals focused an the question of the applicability of the tactics and techniques they had developed an the Eastern Front in World War II to the situation facing NATO an its central front today.

The Simulation Process
continuation follows

Return to “WW2 in Eastern Europe”