Counterattack at Stalingrad, Operation Uranus: the course, dates, participants

Stalingrad became the place where a radical change took place in the Great Patriotic War and World War II. And he began with a successful Red Army offensive, code-named "Uranus."


The Soviet counteroffensive at Stalingrad began in November 1942, but preparations for the plan for this operation at the headquarters of the Supreme Command began in September. In the autumn the German march to the Volga choked. For both sides Stalingrad was important both in strategic and propagandistic sense. This city was named after the head of the Soviet state. Once Stalin guided Tsaritsyn's defense against whites during the Civil War. To lose this city, from the point of view of Soviet ideology, was unthinkable. In addition, if the Germans had established control over the lower reaches of the Volga, they would be able to stop the supply of food, fuel and other important resources.

For all of the above reasons, the counteroffensive at Stalingrad was planned with particular care. The situation was favorable to the situation at the front. The parties for a while switched to positional warfare. Finally, on November 13, 1942, the counter-offensive plan, codenamed "Uranus," was signed by Stalin and approved by the GHQ.

Initial plan

How did the Soviet leaders want to see the counter-offensive at Stalingrad? Under the plan, the South-Western Front under the leadership of Nikolai Vatutin was to strike his blow in the area of the small town of Serafimovich, occupied by the Germans in the summer. This group was ordered to break through at least 120 kilometers. Another shock formation was the Stalingrad Front. The site of his offensive was chosen Sarpinskie Lake. After 100 kilometers, the front armies had to meet with the South-Western Front near Kalach-Sovetskiy. Thus, the German divisions in Stalingrad would have been surrounded.

It was planned that the counteroffensive at Stalingrad would be supported by the auxiliary blows of the Don Front in the Kachalinskaya and Kletskaya districts. At GHQ, they tried to determine the most vulnerable parts of enemy formations. In the end, the strategy of the operation began to be that the attacks of the Red Army were applied to the rear and flank of the most combat-ready and dangerous formations. It was there that they were worst protected. Thanks to a good organization, Operation Uranus remained a secret for the Germans until the day it began. The unexpectedness and coordination of the actions of the Soviet units played into their favor.

Enemy Surroundings

As planned, the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad began on November 19. He was preceded by a powerful artillery preparation. Before the dawn, the weather changed dramatically, which corrected the plans of the command. The thick fog did not allow the aircraft to be launched into the air, since visibility was extremely low. Therefore, the main focus was on the artillery preparation.

The first under attack was the 3rd Romanian army, whose defense was breached by Soviet troops. In the rear of the formation stood the Germans. They tried to stop the Red Army men, but they failed. The defeat of the enemy was completed by the 1st Panzer Corps under the leadership of Vasily Butkov and the 26th Panzer Corps of Alexei Rodin. These units, having fulfilled the task, began to move towards Kalach.

The next day, the offensive of the divisions of the Stalingrad Front began. For the first day, these units advanced by 9 kilometers, breaking through the enemy defenses on the southern approaches to the city. After two days of fighting, three German infantry divisions were defeated. The success of the Red Army shocked and disconcerted Hitler. The Wehrmacht decided that the blow could be ironed out by a regrouping of forces. Eventually, after considering several options for action, the Germans transferred to Stalingrad two more tank divisions, which previously operated in the North Caucasus. Paulus until the day when the final encirclement took place, continued to send victorious reports to his homeland. He obstinately repeated that he would not leave the Volga and would not allow the blockade of his 6th Army.

On November 21, the 4th and 26th Panzer Corps of the South-Western Front reached Manolin Farm. Here they made an unexpected maneuver, sharply turning to the east. Now these parts moved straight to the Don and Kalach. The advance of the Red Army was attempted to detain the 24th Panzer Division of the Wehrmacht, but all its attempts did not lead to anything. At this time, the command post of the 6th Army Paulus urgently relocated to the village of Nizhniechirskaya, fearing to be overtaken by the attack of Soviet soldiers.

Operation "Uranus" once again demonstrated the heroism of the Red Army. For example, the advance detachment of the 26th Panzer Corps on tanks and motor vehicles moved across the Don River near Kalach. The Germans turned out to be too careless - they decided that a friendly unit, equipped with Soviet trophy equipment, was moving toward them. Taking advantage of this connivance, the Red Army men destroyed the relaxed guards and occupied a circular defense, waiting for the arrival of the main forces. The detachment held positions despite numerous counterattacks by the enemy. Finally, the 19th Tank Brigade broke through to him. These two formations jointly ensured the transfer of the main Soviet forces, who were eager to cross the Don in the Kalach region. For this feat the commanders Georgi Filippov and Nikolai Filippenko were deservedly awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

On November 23, the Soviet units took control of Kalach, where 1,500 soldiers of the enemy army were captured. This meant the actual encirclement of the Germans and their allies remaining in Stalingrad and the interfluve between the Volga and the Don. Operation "Uranus" was successful at its first stage. Now 330 thousand people who served in the Wehrmacht, had to break through the Soviet ring. In the circumstances, the commander of the 6th Panzer Army Paulus asked Hitler permission to break through to the southeast. The Fuhrer refused. Together, these Wehrmacht forces, located not far from Stalingrad, but not encircled, were united in a new army group "Don". This formation was supposed to help Paulus break through the encirclement and keep the city. Trapped in the trap, the Germans had nothing else to do but wait for the help of their compatriots from outside.

Unclear prospects

Although the beginning of the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad led to the encirclement of a large part of the German forces, this undoubted success did not mean that the operation was over. The Red Army men continued their attacks on enemy positions. Grouping of the Wehrmacht was extremely large, so at Stavka hoped to break through the defense and divide it into at least two parts. However, due to the fact that the front was noticeably narrowed, the concentration of enemy forces became much higher. The Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad slowed down.

Meanwhile, the Wehrmacht prepared a plan for Operation Wintergewitter (which translates as "Winter Storm"). Its goal was to ensure the elimination of the environment of the 6th Army under the leadership of Friedrich Paulus. The blockade was to be broken by Army Group Don. The planning and carrying out of Operation Wintergewitter was entrusted to Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. The main striking force of the Germans this time was the 4th Tank Army under the command of Herman Goth.


At the crucial moments of the war, the balance is inclined to one side or the other, and until the last moment it is completely unclear who will be the winner. So it was on the banks of the Volga in late 1942. The beginning of the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad was left for the Red Army. However, on December 12 the Germans tried to take the initiative in their own hands. On this day, Manstein and Goth began to implement the plan "Wintergewitter."

Due to the fact that the Germans inflicted the main blow from the area of the village Kotelnikovo, this operation was also called Kotelnikovskaya. The blow was unexpected. The Red Army understood that the Wehrmacht would try to break through the blockade from outside, but the attack from Kotelnikovo was one of the least considered options for the development of the situation. On the way of the Germans, who are striving to come to the rescue of their comrades, the first was the 302nd Infantry Division. She was completely scattered and disorganized. So Goth managed to form a gap in the positions occupied by the 51st Army.

On December 13, the 6th Panzer Division of the Wehrmacht attacked the positions occupied by the 234th Tank Regiment supported by the 235th Separate Tank Brigade and the 20th Fighter Anti-Tank Artillery Brigade. These units were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Mikhail Diasamidze. Also nearby was the 4th mechanized corps of Vasily Volsky. Soviet groups were located near the village of Verkhne-Kumsky. The military operations of the Soviet troops and units of the Wehrmacht for control of it lasted six days.

The confrontation, which came with the varying success of both sides, almost ended on December 19. The German grouping was reinforced with fresh pieces coming from the rear. This event forced the Soviet commanders to retreat to the Myshkov River. However, this five-day delayed operation also played into the hands of the Red Army. During the time when the soldiers fought for every street in Verkhne-Kumsky, the 2nd Guards Army was close to the area nearby.

Critical moment

On December 20, the army of Goth and Paulus separated only 40 kilometers. However, the Germans, who were trying to break through the blockade, have already lost half their personnel. The offensive slowed and, in the end, stopped. Goth's forces are over. Now, for the breakthrough of the Soviet ring, the help of surrounded Germans was needed. The plan for Operation Wintergewitter in theory included an additional plan for Donnershlag. It consisted in the fact that the blocked 6th Army of Paulus was to meet fellow comrades who were trying to break the blockade.

However, this idea was never realized. It was in the same order of Hitler "never to leave the fortress of Stalingrad." If Paulus broke through the ring and connected with Goth, he would, of course, leave the city behind him. The Führer considered such a turn of events a complete defeat and disgrace. His ban was ultimatum. Surely, if Paulus had fought his way through the Soviet ranks, he would have been tried in his homeland as a traitor. He understood this well and did not take the initiative at the most crucial moment.

Manstein's retreat

Meanwhile, on the left flank of the attack of the Germans and their allies, Soviet troops were able to give a powerful rebuff. The Italian and Romanian divisions, fighting on this sector of the front, retreated autocratically. The flight took an avalanche-like character. People left their positions without looking back. Now the Red Army opened the way to Kamensk-Shakhtinsky on the bank of the Severny Donets River. However, the main task of the Soviet units was occupied Rostov. In addition, strategically important airfields in Tatsinskaya and Morozovsk were naked, which were necessary for the Wehrmacht to quickly move food and other resources.

In connection with this, on December 23, the commander of the operation to break through the blockade, Manstein, gave the order to retreat in order to protect the communication infrastructure located in the rear. The maneuver of the enemy was taken advantage of by the 2nd Guards Army of Rodion Malinovsky. The flanks of the Germans were stretched and vulnerable. On December 24, Soviet troops again entered Verkhne-Kumsky. On the same day, the Stalingrad Front launched an offensive towards Kotelnikovo. Goth and Paulus could not connect and provide a corridor for the retreat of surrounded Germans. Operation Wintergewitter was suspended.

Completion of Operation Uranium

On January 8, 1943, when the position of the encircled Germans finally became hopeless, the command of the Red Army presented an ultimatum to the enemy. Paulus was to capitulate. However, he refused to do this, following the orders of Hitler, for whom the failure at Stalingrad would be a terrible blow. When they learned in the Stavka that Paulus insists on his own, the offensive of the Red Army resumed with even greater force.

On January 10, the Don Front began final liquidation of the enemy. According to various estimates at the time, about 250 thousand Germans were trapped. The Soviet counteroffensive at Stalingrad lasted for two months, and now the last spurt was needed to complete it. On January 26, the surrounded Wehrmacht group was divided into two parts. The southern half turned out to be in the center of Stalingrad, in the area of the Barrikady plant and the tractor plant - the northern one. On January 31, Paulus and his subordinates surrendered. On February 2, the resistance of the last German detachment was broken. On this day, the counter-offensive of the Soviet troops at Stalingrad ended. The date, moreover, became final for the whole battle on the banks of the Volga.


What were the reasons for the success of the Soviet counteroffensive at Stalingrad? By the end of 1942 the Wehrmacht ran out of fresh human resources. To throw in battles in the east there was simply nobody. The remaining forces were exhausted. Stalingrad became the extreme point of the German offensive. In the former Tsaritsyn it choked.

The beginning of the counter-offensive at Stalingrad was the key to the whole battle. The Red Army, by means of several fronts, was able first to surround and then to liquidate the enemy. 32 enemy divisions and 3 brigades were destroyed. In total, the Germans and their allies in the "Axis" lost about 800 thousand people. The Soviet figures were also enormous. The Red Army lost 485,000 people, of whom 155,000 were killed.

During the two-and-a-half months of encirclement, the Germans made no attempt to break out of the encirclement from within. They were expecting help from the "big earth", but the blockade by Army Group "Don" from the outside failed. Nevertheless, for the given time the Nazis established an air evacuation system, with the help of which about 50 thousand soldiers got out of the militia (mostly they were wounded). Those who remained inside the ring either died or were captured.

The counter-offensive plan at Stalingrad was successfully executed. The Red Army broke the course of the war. After this success, a gradual process of freeing the territory of the Soviet Union from the Nazi occupation began. In general, the Battle of Stalingrad, for which the counteroffensive of the Soviet Armed Forces was the final chord, turned out to be one of the most massive and bloody battles in the history of mankind. Fights on burned, bombed and ruined ruins were complicated by winter weather as well. From the cold climate and the diseases caused by it, many defenders of the motherland died. Nevertheless, the city (and after him the entire Soviet Union) was saved. The name of the counteroffensive at Stalingrad - "Uranus" - is forever inscribed in military history.

The reasons for the defeat of the Wehrmacht

Much later, after the end of World War II, Manstein published memoirs, which, among other things, described in detail their attitude to the Battle of Stalingrad and the Soviet counteroffensive under it. He accused Hitler of being surrounded by the 6th Army. The Fuhrer did not want to surrender Stalingrad and thus cast a shadow on his reputation. Because of this, the Germans were first in the cauldron, and then were completely surrounded.

The armed forces of the Third Reich had other complications. Transport aviation was clearly not enough to provide the surrounded divisions with the necessary ammunition, fuel and food. The air corridor was never used until the end. In addition, Manstein mentioned that Paulus refused to break through the Soviet ring to meet Got precisely because of a lack of fuel and the fear of suffering a final defeat, while also disobeying the order of the Fuhrer.

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