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For the development of the general strategic offensive of the Soviet troops, it was necessary to end the army of Paulus in the shortest possible time, this would make it possible to free the troops occupied at Stalingrad.
The operation to destroy the encircled group, which received the code name "Ring", was entirely entrusted to the Don Front, to which from January 1, 1943, the 62nd, 64th and 57th armies of the liquidated Stalingrad Front were transferred. Colonel-General of Artillery N.N. Voronov.
The study of the situation suggested an operation plan - to cut the "cauldron" in a straight line from west to east, destroying at the first stage the enemy troops in the southwestern ledge. The strategic offensive of the Red Army required more and more forces, so the most necessary things remained at the disposal of the Don Front. There was no particular superiority over the enemy in the Stalingrad area.
As of January 10, 1943, the troops of the Don Front had 212 thousand people, the enemy had 250 thousand, guns, respectively, 6860 and 4130, tanks - 250 and 300, combat aircraft - 300 and 100. But the combat capability of the Soviet troops, confident of victory , was higher than Hitler's. The final outcome of the operation was not in doubt, but the Soviet command tried to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.
It was decided to issue an ultimatum to surrender before the start of the offensive. “At the headquarters of the Don Front,” wrote K.K. Rokossovsky, - we did not have any ready-made materials at hand, so we began to recall historical examples: the campaigns of Genghis Khan, the events of the 17th century, the sieges of castles, fortresses and cities. " In the end, the text of the ultimatum was drawn up and approved by the Headquarters.
The upcoming delivery of the ultimatum was announced to the enemy over the radio, leaflets with its text were scattered from planes over the "cauldron". He guaranteed life and safety to those who surrendered, and after the end of the war, return to Germany or to any other country where the prisoners of war expressed their desire. "
The first attempt on January 8 to send envoys failed, and fire was opened on them from German positions. On January 9, the parliamentarians were nevertheless received at the location of the enemy, where they handed over a package with an ultimatum. They were told that Paulus's headquarters rejected the surrender offer, which they already knew from the content of the leaflets. But, and if the enemy does not surrender, he is destroyed.
On the morning of January 10, 1943, 7 thousand Soviet guns and mortars opened devastating fire in the offensive sector - in the zone of the 65th Army, which began to storm the "cauldron" from the west. The crushing of the enemy's defense in depth began. The Soviet infantry was supported by artillery everywhere, with direct fire. The Nazis, who had superiority in manpower and tanks, often counterattacked. Fights were played out near each strong point, a dugout, often barely visible in the snow-covered steppe, where the blizzard whirled.
On January 13, 1943, the troops of the 15th Guards Rifle Division were ordered to break the enemy's defenses, narrow the encirclement, and destroy it. The 44th Guards Rifle Regiment was tasked with: in the area of x. Old Rogachik overcome 600 meters of open space, a minefield and get close to the enemy. Junior Sergeant Nikolai Serdyukov, the squad leader of this regiment, supported the advance of his company with machine-gun fire, was wounded, but continued to fight. The Nazis intensified the shelling of the company. It was necessary to silence the enemy firing points. Nikolai Serdyukov took the grenades and crawled to the bunker. He threw three grenades, but the enemy machine gun continued to hit. The company lay down. Serdyukov threw the last grenade, gave a long burst from a machine gun, but the enemy machine gun continued to pour fire, then the brave fighter got up, jerked to the bunker and closed his embrasure with his body. The fighters went on the attack and completed the task.
On January 15, Soviet troops captured the airfield at the Nursery. The already insufficient supply of Paulus's army decreased. Soviet pilots hunted down enemy transport planes and bombers equipped to carry cargo, shooting down dozens of vehicles every day. Near Stalingrad, the Nazi planes were met by dense anti-aircraft fire, the landing sites remaining in the hands of the enemy were continuously attacked by Soviet aviation and fired upon by artillery. At the same time, the continued advance of the Soviet troops to the west lengthened the route of the aircraft flying towards Stalingrad. If initially the German aviation bases were 200 km away from the "boiler", by the end of January this distance had increased to 450 km. The "air bridge" promised by the Hitlerite command to the encircled troops failed.
The defeat of the German fascist grouping at Stalingrad was a triumph of the strength and might of Soviet weapons, the greatest defeat for the fascist army.