Could Paulus have disengaged on 11-10-42?

witchbottles

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Its no secret that Gen Paulus asked Hitler for permission to disengage and withdraw from Stalingrad only 8 days before Uranus kicked off, 12 days before he was surrounded and cut off.

By all accounts, the remnants of 6th Army were in no position to disengage at that time at all. I do not believe there was a capability to save more than a small fraction of the Wehrmacht troops in the city by that time. Hitler's replay to continue the assault was likely the correct response to Paulus and his retreat request. Trying to disengage would have destroyed his army anyway at that time, and resulted in the survivors surrendering when cut off from further retreat.

So when was the opportune moment for the Wehrmacht to pull back if they intended to save most of 6th Army?

I would hazard a guess that a dug in line from Kuibyshev Sawmill to the Mamayev Kurgan to Rynok was the main line of resistance the Germans should have tried to hold. Recall that Paulus had a single mission, to screen the flanks of 4th Pz Armee and Army Group B as they advanced towards the south. Paulus was ordered to do this by holding a line from the Don bend to the Volga.

German attempts to push farther than the line I gave above were a mistake, and an irreversible one. Once committed beyond those points, Wehrmacht troops were in a "do or die" situation - something they were not prepared for, nor assigned as a mission.

Yes, Hitler had ordered the seizure of Stalingrad in September. But that was not 6th Army's mission as assigned by Fall Blau.

I'm not saying Hitler was correct in attacking at all in 1942, he likely would have been better served to hold a strong defensive line backed by mobile tank brigades. But by November 10th, the writing was on the wall that 6th Army had been sacrificed anyway. So ordering them to hold and continue the assault was, in my narrow view, a correct decision.

thoughts?
 

mooreshawnm

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With Stalingrad to Kalach only being about 60 miles I don't see that a jump back would have been all that difficult. I would think that ample time if the Army had operational freedom. I don't know if the allied formations to the north and south could have kept up with the 'advance' or manage to transfer enough of their depots so they could continue to fight when they reached their new positions...but the front would be shorter and there would be actual reserves for a change. There were a ton of German divisions in the city itself (burned out admittedly) that could have held a lot more ground in a defensive posture as part of the line.

Just as interesting, if Paulus had received permission on the 10th and started moving on the 13th how quickly would the Soviets have exerted serious pressure? How rigid were their offensive dates? Would the Soviets have pushed their offensive 6 days early when they saw the Germans leaving rearguard forces and bailing to the west? Could they? Had they ever had a spur of the moment offensive with any kind of success at that point? Or were they set and ready to go a week before they actually did?

That's a good question and one I've never considered asking. Thank you.
 

Redwolf

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Yeah. The situation would certainly have been easier than getting out of Normandy and the Falaise gap.

They would have lost a lot of equipment and would have been combat-ineffective for a while. But men do matter, as we have seen by the events after Falaise. By September the western front German troops made a pest out of themselves again. And that was much later in the war with more air activity both against the retreating troops and against equipment production.

It would also have offset the operation that the Soviets were making investments in.
 

Proff3RTR

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What most people fail to understand is just how weak 6th Army was by Novemberr 42. 94th infantry Division for example was by end of November 42 only 650 odd strong! that is a whole Infantry Division! I have posted combat returns on this subject on this section of the forum before. Also fuel levels would of ran out before 6th army had moved 30 miles, far short of Kalach.
14/16/& 24th Panzer Divisions were very, very weak, and would of been burnt out very fast and then the army would of lost it's cutting teeth.
29th Motorized Division which was in relatively good condition could of carried the army forward a few more miles, but not enough I feel to alter the fact that 6th army would of ran out of combat power and fuel long before Kalach, and on open steppe as well, low food stocks, very few horses to help move heavy weapons. the list goes on, 6th army was, once it started it's attack into Stalingrad proper, stuck there.

The only thing that would of saved the army was if they had not gone into Stalingrad in the first place, but just held short of it, smashed it to bits as a war economy area and mask the flanks as they were supposed to do at first. This would of allowed them to slowly rebuild units and form a reserve. Also it would allow easier lateral movement of these reserves, also as 6th army would of been effectively on the defensive they would of been able to cut down on their ammunition usages to a degree, thus taking pressure off of an already strained logistical network.

Freedom of movement was always a German strong point, look what Von Mainstien managed to do when given a free reign, if this was allowed the war would of still ended with the defeat of Germany, but the fate of the 6th army may very well of been different.
 

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This is what I posted in another thread on this subject.

Bill,

What always does, and always will is how the 6th Army even managed to get to Stalingrad, yet alone take almost 9/10ths of the place, 24th pz Div was reporting a combat strength on the 11th od September (2 days before 6th Army launched its first big attack into Stalingrad) as follows

Total strength =15401, combat strength =8714 this includes just short of 1400 attached other ranks from Flak Abt 602,RAD Gruppe K22, I./Eratz Abt I, Pz.Jg.Abt 670 & 1./Flak Regt 5

Pz Regt 24 had 41 x Off, 8 x Tech Off, 437 x NCO, 1174 x Soldiers
21st Pz.Gren.Regt had 30 x Off, 3 x Tech Off, 263 x NCO, 1125 x Soldiers
26th Pz.Gren.Regt had 28 x Off, 5 x Tech Off, 264 x NCO, 1424 x Soldiers
Krad.Abt.4 had 14 x Off, 0 x Tech Off, 156 x NCO, 763 x Soldiers

those are the 4 main fighting units of 24th panzer Division, The division had the following Panzer strength 4 x Pz II, 6 x Pz III Kz (short) 2 x Pz III Lang (long), 2 x Pz IV Lang, 2 x Pz Bfwg (command Panzers)
As can be seen she was roughly at 75% Combat strength, Panzer wise she was well below strength, and on a good day could muster between 34 and tops 40 panzers, but the average was 20 odd.

By 21st September this had dropped to the following
Pz Regt 24 had 35 x Off, 8 x Tech Off, 445 x NCO, 1171 x Soldiers
21st Pz.Gren.Regt had 30 x Off, 3 x Tech Off, 256 x NCO, 1049 x Soldiers
26th Pz.Gren.Regt had 26 x Off, 4 x Tech Off, 208 x NCO, 1095 x Soldiers
Krad.Abt.4 had 13 x Off, 0 x Tech Off, 159 x NCO, 690 x Soldiers

Not any major drops but this was during the Divisions time in the southern half of the city around the Grain Elevator.
But now look at what was classed as 'trench' Strength I.E those who got shot at

Trench strength as of 20th September 1942 of main Infantry sub units within 24th Pz division
Pz.Gren.Regt 21 =747
Pz.Gren.Regt 26 = 633
K4 = 378
Pz.Pi.40 = 363

Now this following Table is the losses within the Division as of 31st october 1942 (when the Divison was holding gound within the Red October Steel Mill (namely halls 10 & 9)
Pz.Gren.Regt 26 = 72.9%
Pz.Gren.Regt 21 = 67.9%
K4 = 48.6%
Pz.Regt 24 = 20.4%
Pz.Art.Regt.89 = 24.5
Pz.Pi.Abt.40 = 41.0%
Pz.Jg.Abt.40 = 43.3%
Pz.Gr.Brig.24 36.9%

Trench strength as of 31st october 1942 of main Infantry sub units within 24th Pz division
Pz.Gren.Regt 21 = 417
Pz.Gren.Regt 26 = 309
K4 = 134
Pz.Pi.40 = 141

As can be seen pretty much all of the Combat units were either over half strength losses or in the case of the two PanzerGrenadier regiments (21 & 26) almost down to thier last 25% man power.
added to this was the low Panzer strength by then, all 24th Pz Divs Panzers were getting ready to support Operation Hubertus in the area in and around the Red Barricades Gun tube factory and there was not many left running by then.
Now, look at this strength return as of 6th November 1942 ( 7 days after the unit had taken control of part of the red october steel mill)
Pz.Gren Regt 21 = 189
Pz.Gren.Regt 26 = 137
K4 = 125
Pz.Pi.40 = 30

as can be seen, the 'Leg' Units of 24th Panzer Division had by this time been burnt out as fighting units, the Pioneer battalion (Panzer Pioneer Abtielung 40 or Pz.Pi.40) was 30 men strong (it should of at full strength been over 700).

So as can be seen, in little under 2 months of fighting in Stalingrad 24th pz was a shell of it's former self, some Infantry division were even worse (94th Infantry for example was less than 600 men for the whole divison!)

a break out might of succeded in mid November, but no later then start of December as the units were simply not up to it.
 

mooreshawnm

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This is what I posted in another thread on this subject.

'Unit numbers'

...a break out might of succeded in mid November, but no later then start of December as the units were simply not up to it.
At 600 men per Div it would have been an even quicker move than I thought! (teasing there)

Should have cut out that last line. If they could have broken out they definitely could have fallen back prior to the offensive kicking off.
 

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At 600 men per Div it would have been an even quicker move than I thought! (teasing there)

Should have cut out that last line. If they could have broken out they definitely could have fallen back prior to the offensive kicking off.
Breaking out and actually getting to where you need to go are two different things my friend. 6th Army may well of been able to orchestrate a break out, but they certainly did not have the man power of fuel or basic logistics to cover the ground. Also remember the men were by December completely done in, and certainly were in no shape, mental or physical to effect a clean break from contact and move as an organized body of men able to cover 60 odd miles to the nearest German troops. Von Mannstien got to within 30 Odd Km by mid December, this was Paulus's best chance, I think they may of done it if a series of events and luck went their way, but it would of been very hard indeed.
 

witchbottles

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Breaking out and actually getting to where you need to go are two different things my friend. 6th Army may well of been able to orchestrate a break out, but they certainly did not have the man power of fuel or basic logistics to cover the ground. Also remember the men were by December completely done in, and certainly were in no shape, mental or physical to effect a clean break from contact and move as an organized body of men able to cover 60 odd miles to the nearest German troops. Von Mannstien got to within 30 Odd Km by mid December, this was Paulus's best chance, I think they may of done it if a series of events and luck went their way, but it would of been very hard indeed.
I would disagree , by December, the remaining forces were in scattered command at best. They were short of everything, including ammunition and fuel, the two main components needed to make a push out.

Remember he remains of the 24th Pz Div armored forces were committed to try an immediate counterattack before the Russian pincers met, and most of their tanks were left dead in the snow from a 36 hour running tank battle. That was in November.

I simply do not think Paulus could have successfully disengaged the army 4-6 days before the Russians kicked off Uranus. It was far too late. By that time, Hitler's order to continue your assault was, rather with hindsight than any at the moment perceived intelligence , luckily the best order he could have given. Remaining in Stalingrad with the 6th meant they continued to draw Volga Front units and reserves, manpower and machinery, and above all, artillery, that would otherwise have been committed against Manstein as he tried to seal up the Army Group South front after the disaster. Those men in the rubble continued to ""screen" the open portions of the german line, albeit with their lives at that point.

In pure hindsight, it was likely a lucky call, but Hitler had a knack for those from time to time. Being megalomaniacally insane does not mean you are stupid, just that you act completely irrational and with violence and vengeance and personal greed as your primary responses to influence decisions. In Hitler's case, more than once, it acted to create a good, ( or in this case the best of the bad) choice on the battlefield.

I am still rather in agreement, by the time the 6th army was committed into the attacks on Central Stalingrad and the DTW, Red October area, it was too late to save it.


Disengaging as Paulus was asking, just before the front collapsed, may have resulted in around 1500-2000 troops actually surviving in smaller pockets to reach German lines. This occurred many times during the Bagration offensive in AG Center and South - small pockets managing to break through after being encircled in the sweeping combined arms drive of the summer of 1944. None of those men delayed the process of the defeat in Russia or the retreat to Berlin in any way - so just saving a few of the men was not enough.

Falaise had a large quantity of manpower escape in a short tie, close to return to the factory areas of the Reich - which were actually in full wartime production finally. Those factory areas had larger stockpiles of weapons for refitting units, as transportation was under such heavy attacks by mid 1944 that few supply trains could get through. It was these weapon stockpiles, the men from Falaise and Mortain, and the VG call up of late 1944, along with the recall of some of the waffen -SS armored formations, that allowed Hitler to amass the needed tools for Wacht Am Rhein in the first place.

The men at 6th Army or even AG South in Nov 42-Jan 43 had no such luxury of a shorter march to the Reich and resupply. Manstein called off the breakout precisely because he could see the arrayed force the Russians were deploying in the field was a true combined arms army, and they had learned the lessons of war well. He knew then that pulling back while Paulus' men died, while a painful decision to make, was the correct one.

One sacrifices their pawns for a better position with strength, able to mass because of those sacrifices. 6th Army, by its very nature and mission, were the pawns in the Fall Blau operations..

just my thoughts as I explore the battles a bit more.
 

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I would think Guderian's PzGrp around Tula would be a better example of what I would look for than either Bagration or Falaise. I believe there were regular infantry divisions there in addition to the mech formations. How far back did they move and on what kind of timeline? I realize a '41 German division isn't the same as one in '42 but I believe 2nd Panzer Group's state of supply and complement would have been very similar to the 6th Army's. Weather too.
 

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Jon makes a good point,

But as I said, the luck gods would of had to been with Paulus to allow a link up with Von Manstein. once locked in to Stalingrad though it is I feel mute, as they were never going to be allowed to leave that place.
24th Pz was smashed up well what was left of it as Jon points out, 29th Motorized might of been able to left the army forward a bit, but who knows.

Ultimately 6th Army was sacrificed to save what was left of Army group south, this has happened a few times in history, but Stalingrad was certainly a hell of a sacrificial lamb.
 

witchbottles

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Jon makes a good point,

But as I said, the luck gods would of had to been with Paulus to allow a link up with Von Manstein. once locked in to Stalingrad though it is I feel mute, as they were never going to be allowed to leave that place.
24th Pz was smashed up well what was left of it as Jon points out, 29th Motorized might of been able to left the army forward a bit, but who knows.

Ultimately 6th Army was sacrificed to save what was left of Army group south, this has happened a few times in history, but Stalingrad was certainly a hell of a sacrificial lamb.
This is my understanding after examining a large number of source materials. By rights, by sheer luck (the man was lucky, even if he was insane), by desperation ( perhaps he was now beginning to realize why Brautisch and Guderian had both come to identical conclusions the September before), it doesn't matter, the end result is the order to expend themselves in the city to tie down Russian resources was the correct one to give in November, 42.

Its happened more than a few times in history, and certainly was rather common in many theaters in world war two.
 

Proff3RTR

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This is my understanding after examining a large number of source materials. By rights, by sheer luck (the man was lucky, even if he was insane), by desperation ( perhaps he was now beginning to realize why Brautisch and Guderian had both come to identical conclusions the September before), it doesn't matter, the end result is the order to expend themselves in the city to tie down Russian resources was the correct one to give in November, 42.

Its happened more than a few times in history, and certainly was rather common in many theaters in world war two.
I know Jon,

My old Regiment (3rd Royal Tank Regiment) was sacrificed 3 times during WW2 (Calais in 40/Greece in 41 & The tip of the Bulge during Wacht am Rhine) 4 if you include Sidi Resigh in NA.
Not much fun for those men ordered to carry out the order, but sometimes needed.

If 6th Army had not been sacrificed I think the whole of Army Group South would of folded.
 

witchbottles

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I know Jon,

My old Regiment (3rd Royal Tank Regiment) was sacrificed 3 times during WW2 (Calais in 40/Greece in 41 & The tip of the Bulge during Wacht am Rhine) 4 if you include Sidi Resigh in NA.
Not much fun for those men ordered to carry out the order, but sometimes needed.

If 6th Army had not been sacrificed I think the whole of Army Group South would of folded.
Seen it twice myself, both ended fairly well, the sacrificial lambs coming out in one case with all 5 Marines wounded but alive; the other case with 3 dead, 17 wounded from the company of recon Marines left to hold the line.
 

Proff3RTR

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Seen it twice myself, both ended fairly well, the sacrificial lambs coming out in one case with all 5 Marines wounded but alive; the other case with 3 dead, 17 wounded from the company of recon Marines left to hold the line.
Hard fights, when you are told to be a speed bump as it were. Only done it once myself as a Multiple commander, told to hold a rough stop line for a few hours out in Afghan, lots of support, but bloody close either way.
And recon always holds the line so every other SOB can high tail it outta there.
 

Dave68124

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And recon always holds the line so every other SOB can high tail it outta there.
During the Cold war when we still trained for the Russian horde, we were always told that our expected life span on the battlefield as recon would be measured in seconds.
 

witchbottles

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One of those Recon Marines became a good friend later in life. After Somalia had ended for the US; we went home. His hip wound had healed and he lateral moved into aviation fire-fighting MOS. We ran into each other when again when he got assigned to our base in Tustin, CA. Now he was a Sergeant, so we lived only up the hill in SNCO housing from the apartment he had for his family in NCO quarters. Lots of BBQs and football games and we became godparents of his son, he gave away my oldest daughter at her wedding as I was deployed, and so on.

All because one very bad day we drug a bleeding young corporal up the ramp and evac'd him out of the s#$%tstorm to the Teddy Roosevelt and her onboard trauma surgery center.

and he remembered the door gunner that bandaged him up while I remembered the guy laying there in a ton of pain with a pelvis fractured by a rifle bullet.

Bad endings sometimes become good beginnings as well.

And yes, attached units are the first thrown into the gap to plug the line for everyone else to get out. That is because they are an integral part of the whole. a division fighting without its recon company is still combat effective on the line. the recon company without its division is a speed bump. In Somalia, they did good, holding off until the helos came back again with fire support from the Cobra gunships this time.

The guys left behind at Al-Khafji were just sad, and we were ecstatic to get them back a few days later. An oversight led to no evac orders arriving at the runway tower guard stations. 5 Marines held the roof with a radio, 5 M16A2s and a pair of claymores until relieved by a LAV battalion assault to their positions. Thy earned their Navy Crosses, and then some.
 

Proff3RTR

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One of those Recon Marines became a good friend later in life. After Somalia had ended for the US; we went home. His hip wound had healed and he lateral moved into aviation fire-fighting MOS. We ran into each other when again when he got assigned to our base in Tustin, CA. Now he was a Sergeant, so we lived only up the hill in SNCO housing from the apartment he had for his family in NCO quarters. Lots of BBQs and football games and we became godparents of his son, he gave away my oldest daughter at her wedding as I was deployed, and so on.

All because one very bad day we drug a bleeding young corporal up the ramp and evac'd him out of the s#$%tstorm to the Teddy Roosevelt and her onboard trauma surgery center.

and he remembered the door gunner that bandaged him up while I remembered the guy laying there in a ton of pain with a pelvis fractured by a rifle bullet.

Bad endings sometimes become good beginnings as well.

And yes, attached units are the first thrown into the gap to plug the line for everyone else to get out. That is because they are an integral part of the whole. a division fighting without its recon company is still combat effective on the line. the recon company without its division is a speed bump. In Somalia, they did good, holding off until the helos came back again with fire support from the Cobra gunships this time.

The guys left behind at Al-Khafji were just sad, and we were ecstatic to get them back a few days later. An oversight led to no evac orders arriving at the runway tower guard stations. 5 Marines held the roof with a radio, 5 M16A2s and a pair of claymores until relieved by a LAV battalion assault to their positions. Thy earned their Navy Crosses, and then some.
Damn straight boys there, they should of got the CMH IMHO, that is hard core. Then again, You know Afghan Jon, lots went on out there that should of been recognized but was not.
 

Proff3RTR

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During the Cold war when we still trained for the Russian horde, we were always told that our expected life span on the battlefield as recon would be measured in seconds.
I think they quoted for the Tank troops roughly 10 mins or less, us lot in Recon land were lost, we would of gotten off a radio/contact msg and then blamo! dead.
 

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I think they quoted for the Tank troops roughly 10 mins or less, us lot in Recon land were lost, we would of gotten off a radio/contact msg and then blamo! dead.
We were taught at NBC school that the guys with the lowest life expectancy in the Cold War era / gulf war era were the recon units, but that is because their equip / vehicles were not NBC sealed / shielded. It was a given that the NBC-1 report message would likely come from the next unit upwind, as they would be out of the immediate effect area. WMDs are no laughing matter.

I worked for 5 and a half years on Photo recon RF-4B jet engines before transitioning to helo's.

Our motto was " Alone, unarmed, and unafraid". The aircrew said it was really, "alone, unaware, and unsave-able". They used a datalink to get real time FLIR imagery to the base - the mach 1.6+ and a full load of 1million candlepower WP "photoflash" canisters ( 32 of them ripple fired in a single set) might buy them enough time to outrun a radar seeker or outfox a IR homing missile. But AAA was gonna get you, dead to rights. RHAW gear or no, the backseater was only going to give that plane about another 5 minutes before someone tagged it out of the sky, max typically, enough time to get the datalink FLIR images transmitted.

23mm, 37mm,l and 85mm "birdstrikes" make a mess of any jet aircraft.
 

witchbottles

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Damn straight boys there, they should of got the CMH IMHO, that is hard core. Then again, You know Afghan Jon, lots went on out there that should of been recognized but was not.
happens everywhere. I got told one time to get my arse up on the flight deck in desert cammies, for an award ceremony ( I was knee deep in muck inside the floorboards of a CH-46 with a terminal case of exfoliation on her main vertical cabin spars). I had no idea why I was supposed to be up there. IO get a uniform on, and pin on a set of cheap-o plastic chevrons - then pulling on my cover as I exited the shelter area, the Sgt Maj grabbed me and told me to get in the head of the award line. I was getting an award.

okay... god knows what the heck for.

I found out when the XO read the award letter as the CO pinned it on me. for doing my job, I got my Air Medal ( I kept some silly CNN reporter from walking into a set of spinning tail rotors with his "interviewee" as they exited our CH-53E a few weeks prior. Turned out that "interviewee" was really the CO 3-24 Mech. I had saved some LtCol's arse from being fishie food off of KKMH.

heck, if I'd known he was a tractor driver..... ;)
 
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