Operation “Uranus”, the German 6th Army is surrounded at Stalingrad

One of the greatest battles of World War II begins, when General Vasilievsky directs five Soviet armies (a total of 1,100,000 men, 900 tanks, 1,500 aircraft and 13,450 guns) against the Romanian I and III Armies, protecting the south of the 6 German Army in Stalingrad.

The operation, which had been carefully prepared by the Soviet staff (STAVKA), organized the concentration of strong reserves on the flanks of the German line while the German 6th Army was increasingly consumed in a battle of attrition inside Stalingrad. This meant that the Soviet forces fighting in Stalingrad were being systematically annihilated while receiving minimal reinforcements, barely enough to keep them from collapsing, while the Germans were slowly but steadily entering the city, pushing them towards the Volga. It was a tough decision, one of many that the Soviet staff made during the war, pinning down the enemy while preparing to strike them hard in the rear.

At 07:30 in the morning, 3,500 Soviet guns and mortars opened fire on the positions of the Romanian III Army. The 80-minute pounding cleared the obstacles in front of the positions of the Soviet 21st and 65th Armies who attacked en masse but after fierce fighting were repulsed. It was the turn of the 5th Armored Army to break through the Romanian defenses, which, like many second-line units in the Axis forces, lacked sufficient anti-tank assets to deal with the Soviet T-34s and KV-1s. By afternoon, the 4th Armored Corps and the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps had broken through the breach opened by the 5th Army and the Romanian defenses in the north were overwhelmed.

On the morning of November 20, the Soviet 51st Army opened fire on the Romanian 6th Corps and, supported by the 57th Army, attacked in thick fog. Despite the initial resistance, the Romanians and Italians collapsed despite the intervention of the German 29th Mechanized Division reserve, which was somewhat successful but meaningless, as all the supporting units around it were disintegrating.

On the 22nd of the month, the two ends of the Soviet pincers “close” in the village of Kalats, trapping 290,000 Axis men. von Paulus’ 6th German Army, the Wehrmacht’s strongest formation at the time, was trapped in the ruins of a ghost town. Once again, the hyperbole Field Marshal Goering would intervene disastrously by assuring Hitler that the Luftwaffe could not only effectively sustain the pinned down forces by airlift but also destroy the Soviet line with its bombers. As in the Battle of Britain, he was wrong. Gradually the German Army losing its airfields one by one will “die” from lack of supplies.

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