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Operation Koltso (Operation Ring) was the last part of the Battle of Stalingrad. It resulted in the capitulation of the remaining German forces encircled in the city.

The attack[edit | edit source]

The operation was launched on 10 January 1943 with a mass artillery bombardment of the German positions outside the city by the seven encircling Soviet armies. During the first three days of the operation, the Soviets lost 26,000 men and over half their tanks.[3] The eastern half of the Stalingrad pocket had been lost by 17 January.

The fighting then paused for four days while the Soviet forces regrouped and redeployed for the next phase of the operation. The second phase of the offensive began on 20 January with a Soviet push toward the airfield at Gumrak. Two days later, the airfield was occupied by the Soviets. Its capture meant an end to the evacuation of the German wounded and that any further air supply would be by parachute.

Paulus on 22 January sent a radio message to OKH "Russians in action in 6 km wide on both sides Voroponovo, some with flags unfurled to the east. No way to close the gap. Withdrawal to neighboring fronts who are also without ammunition, useless and not feasible. Supply with ammunition from other fronts also no longer possible. Food at an end. More than 12,000 unprovided for wounded in the encirclement. What orders shall I give the troops who have no more ammunition and will be further attacked with heavy artillery, tanks and massed infantry? Fastest decision necessary because dissolution in some places already started. Confidence in the leadership still exists."

The Germans retreated back into the city itself. But resistance to the Soviet advance gradually diminished due to the exhaustion of all supplies on the German side. On 25 January, General von Seydlitz told his divisional commanders to decide for themselves on the matter of surrender. He was immediately relieved of his command by Paulus. Seydlitz later fled the German lines under German fire and personally surrendered to the Soviets.[4]

On 26 January, detachments of 21st Army met up with the 13th Guards Division to the north of the Mamaev Kurgan which cut the German pocket in Stalingrad in two. Paulus and many of the senior German commanders were in the smaller southern pocket based in the city center of Stalingrad. The Northern pocket was led by XI Corps commander General Strecker and centered in the area around the Stalingrad tractor factory.

In bitter fighting, the Soviets gradually cleared the city center. By 31 January, German resistance in the southern pocket was confined to individual buildings. Soviet forces reached the headquarters of Paulus in the Univermag Department Store and the remaining German soldiers ceased resistance. Soviet Staff officers entered the building and negotiated terms with General Schmidt. Paulus refused to directly participate. In Soviet captivity, Paulus denied having surrendered. He claimed to have been taken by surprise. He refused to issue an order to the remaining Germans in the southern pocket to surrender. He denied having the authority to issue an order for the Northern pocket to surrender.[5]

The entire Soviet force at Stalingrad now concentrated on the northern pocket. Dense artillery fire was used to reduce resistance. Soviet forces then followed up destroying any remaining bunkers often with direct fire at short range from tanks or artillery. General Strecker continued to resist based on the idea that tying down the multiple Soviet Armies at Stalingrad as long as possible would help the German situation elsewhere in Russia.

The battle ends[edit | edit source]

By the early morning of 2 February, Strecker was informed that one of his officers had gone to negotiate surrender terms with the Soviets. He then decided to put an end to the fighting. He issued a radio message back to Germany saying that his command had performed its duty to the last man and then surrendered to the Soviets. Organized German resistance in the city ended.

Disposition of forces in and around Stalingrad.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, 1941-1945. A Brief History. Pp. 198-199
  2. The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, 1941-1945. A Brief History. Pp. 198-199
  3. Stalingrad (Beevor) p.356
  4. Stalingrad (Beevor) p.382
  5. Stalingrad (Beevor) p.390

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