German troops inside Stalingrad now faced diminishing supplies and an uncertain future.

The Soviet Army was busy consolidating and expanding its ring around Stalingrad. After smashing through the Romanian lines they increasingly came up against German units that put up a more determined resistance. Although the overall strategy of Operation Uranus was brilliantly executed, the Soviet tactics in the use of their infantry remained remarkably crude and wasteful at times.

Günter Koschorrek’s Wehrmacht replacement unit had only arrived in Russia a month before. He had made one hair raising trip into Stalingrad with a supply party, but continued to remain with the reserves in a base outside Stalingrad.

Although they had seen much activity around them since the 19th, Koschorrek himself had not yet faced the enemy in battle. His unit was hastily combined with a Pioneer Corps unit and joined the outer ring of German defences on the Don Heights Road, defending the village of Rytschov:

24 November.

At about midday one of the machine guns on our right flank suddenly starts hammering away. Then we hear rifle fire. The firing becomes more intense, and next we see Russian infantry appearing through the haze. I am meeting the enemy face to face for the first time, and, apart from an undeniable curiosity, also feel an enormous amount of nervousness and excitement.

The brown, huddled figures remind me somehow of a great herd of sheep moving over a snow-covered field. As soon as the herd comes under fire from us, they hesitate for a moment, move apart from each other, and then immediately move forward again.

Koschorrek suffered anxious minutes as the machine gunner next to him panicked and was unable to fire his gun. Shortly after he got it working the man fell wounded so Koschorrek took it over:

My mind goes blank. I only see the advancing stream of enemy soldiers coming directly at us. I again fire straight into it. Only fear is there – fear of this dirty brown heap of destruction constantly moving closer, which wants to kill me and everyone around me.

I do not even feel the burning pain on the inner surface of my right hand,which I have caught on the hot metal while changing barrels seconds after getting a jam. This is crazy! We are firing with four machine guns and at least eighty carbines from secure, covered positions into the advancing horde.

Our machine gun bursts rip openings in their ranks. Dead and wounded are hitting the ground all the time. But more of them are coming through the haze, and we can’t see them clearly. The first ones are now so close to our positions that we can readily make out the plump, bent figures with rifles and Russian Kalashnikovs [see comments below].

Then, suddenly, two of the machine guns on our right flank are silenced. Immediately the mass moves towards that flank from which they ’re now getting only rifle fire. Together with Meinhard, I continue to fire into it as it moves towards the right.

Their move now becomes their undoing: the heavy, hard-hitting fire of the 20mm quad anti-aircraft guns also comes as a surprise to us. Their bursts sound like low, regulated beats on a drum. We can see how the tracer rounds spew out of all four barrels and hit the middle of the attacking mass, tearing huge gaps in its ranks.

Our two machine guns on the right flank start firing again; I assume that their silence was deliberate. The quad machine gun is now raking the attackers in front of us, and when it stops firing stillness descends over the battlefield.

We can hear calls and crying in Russian. I take a deep breath.The first battle with the enemy has affected me deeply, but now all my thoughts are working again. I raise my head out of the trench and peer into the field ahead. In front of us lie innumerable brown clumps on the snow. The quad`s fabulous fire power still amazes me. I never imagined it would have an effect like that.

It was just the beginning of a long day followed by a night in an open foxhole.See Günter K. Koschorrek: Blood Red Snow.

A column of Soviet troops outside Stalingrad with Katushya rocket launchers and T-34 tanks.

{ 3 comments }

Nov

23

1942

Navajo code talkers join the Guadalcanal battlefield

23 November 1942: Navajo code talkers join the Guadalcanal battlefield

There was no room for error in a maneuver like that. The old Shackle communications system took so long to encode and decode, and it was so frequently inaccurate, that using it for the transmission of on-the-fly target coordinates was a perilous proposition. Frequently, in the midst of battle, instead of using the Shackle code, the Marines had transmitted in English. They knew the transmissions were probably being monitored by the japanese, so they salted the messages liberally with profanity, hoping to confuse the enemy.

Nov

22

1942

6th Panzer Division faces Partisan attacks across Russia

22nd November 1942: 6th Panzer Division faces Partisan attacks across Russia

The men in each car had been placed in the brakeman’s boxes; at night searchlights went into action whenever necessary. Their cones of light, shining out of both sides of the train as soon as the first shot was fired, dazzled the partisans and made it possible for our men to see every movement and discern their intentions. Thereupon they were defeated with rapid fire and hand grenades. The brakes were applied and the train came to a sudden halt.

Nov

21

1942

Romanian units collapse outside Stalingrad

21st November 1942: Romanian units collapse outside Stalingrad

Nobody reacts when I try to speak to them. I am glad when this nightmare passes by me, but a little further on I encounter another group. And once again this barely moving trail of ghosts winds past, some with open eyes, others with eyes shut. They don’t care where this road leads. They are running away from war and want only to save their own lives. Nothing else means a thing.

Nov

20

1942

The British enter Benghazi

20th November 1942: The British enter Benghazi

In doing so we came to a wadi and as we got to the lip we spotted an enemy machine-gun nest. The corporal alongside me popped a hand grenade into the nest, getting rid of that one. We tumed to our left flank and carried along the lip of the wadi and wiped out four more machine-gun positions and captured four prisoners before returning to our lines.The chap who was wounded died on the way back.

Nov

19

1942

Operation Uranus – Soviets attack outside Stalingrad

19th November 1942: Operation Uranus – shock Soviet attack outside Stalingrad

The next thing I knew was that all hell had broken loose. The vibrating air blew out the candle and we were trying to sort ourselves out in utter darkness. The whole place trembled, bits of earth fell on to us and the noise was deafening. We were sleep drunk, and kept bumping into each other, mixing up our uniforms, our boots and other equipment, and shouting out loudly to relieve our tension.

Nov

18

1942

British insight into the German military machine

18th November 1942: British insight into the German military machine

Recently 80 new Italian tanks had been left standing near the port of unloading for want of fuel. The tragedy was not as great as it seemed, inasmuch as the tanks were badly designed and constructed and practically worthless for modern war. He had told the Italians that 80 tins of sardines would have suited him better. Were it not for the fuel and supplies obtained in Tobruk, the position of the German and Italian armies in the desert would have become acute some months ago.

Nov

17

1942

Crew of U-331 suffer for half hearted ‘surrender’

17th November 1942: Crew of U-331 suffer for half hearted ‘surrender’

What survivors described as a biplane then approached them from starboard and fired a torpedo. The torpedo-track was clearly evident and Tiesenhausen ordered hard-a-starboard, but it was too late. (N.I.D. Note. This was an Albacore aircraft from H.M.S. “Formidable,” which later reported that one 18 in. Torpedo Mark XII*, Duplex pistol , set to 12 ft., speed 40 knots, was released 700 yards from the U-Boat. The U-Boat disappeared after the explosion of the torpedo and a second explosion was observed under water and wreckage was seen.)

Nov

16

1942

British celebrate the ‘end of the beginning’

16th November 1942: British celebrate the ‘end of the beginning’

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Henceforth Hitler’s Nazis will meet equally well armed, and perhaps better armed troops. Hence forth they will have to face in many theatres of war that superiority in the air which they have so often used without mercy against others, of which they boasted all round the world, and which they intended to use as an instrument for convincing all other peoples that all resistance to them was hopeless….

Nov

15

1942

Surviving an aircraft crash in the desert

15th November 1942: Surviving an aircraft crash in the desert

I was out of there very quickly. We all got out alive, but some of the passengers were injured. The ones who weren’t hurt soon had some tea brewed, by puncturing one of the wing tanks to get petrol, and brewing with usual half tins. The skipper ordered me to get back in the aircraft and send out an SOS on the radio. This was a bit dicey because there was petrol everywhere, and the generators for the radio gave off sparks.