This is the third and final Luftwaffe phase of our Stalingrad campaign. It covers the period between late November 1942 to early January 1943 on the Winter map...
It is the 19th November 1942, just after the first snowfall of winter. Marshal Zhukov, recently sent to coordinate the Western Front, launched Operation Uranus.
Three Soviet armies attacked the Romanians to the north of Stalingrad. The next day two further armies were unleashed on the Romanian 4th Army to the south of the city. The Romanians lacked tanks and antitank guns and were soon overrun. The soviet armies advanced in a wide pincer movement meeting to the west of Kalach on the 23rd.
The weather on the first day was a mixture of snow and fog and no Luftwaffe aircraft were able to take-off. The following days the weather again prevented more than a limited intervention by low flying Stukas.
Von Paulus and the 6th Army staff were slow to respond to the sudden Soviet offensive with most of their troops committed to the street fighting in Stalingrad. Even the panzer crews had been drafted in as infantry and many of their abandoned tanks were unserviceable due to lack of fuel and an infestation of mice in the wiring.
Von Paulus’s request to attempt a breakout and retreat to the west was firmly rejected by Hitler who couldn’t face abandoning Stalin’s city. With the bulk of the 6th Army surrounded in the Kessel (Cauldron) Göring proposed that his Luftwaffe would supply the trapped German forces and allow them to hold out until they could be relieved. Ju52’s and He111’s would fly supplies from Tatsinskaya airfield into Pitomnik. To survive 6th Army would need 700 tons of supplies a day, but even on the best day they would only receive 262 tons by air. Back to Top
Von Manstien was put in charge of the German’s relief efforts and launched Operation Winter Storm to break through to the beleaguered 6th Army.
Initially this was a success and by the 18th of December they got within 30 miles of the surrounded 6th Army. The relief effort was abandoned due to the Soviets launching Operation Little Saturn, an attack against the Italian army on the Don. Army group A was pulled back to the Caucasus and on Christmas day Tatsinskaya airfield was overrun by the Soviet 24th Tank Corp. This forced the Luftwaffe to operate from bases further west and reduced the amount of supplies reaching Stalingrad to a critical level.
Soon after becoming surrounded at Stalingrad the Luftwaffe had withdrawn to bases outside the Kessel, apart from a small volunteer force of six fighter pilots from JG3 who stayed to form the Platzschutzstaffel (airfield defence squadron) at Pitomnik. This operated with great success with 130 claims in just six weeks until mid January when they were withdrawn. Their ground crews were left to be captured when 6th Army surrendered on 4th February 1943.
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