The stalingrad trilogy, volume 3
This almost final book in the Stalingrad Trilogy covers the German Counteroffensives and Operation Little Saturn, and the death of the German Pocket after the failure to relieve the pocket.
The unexpectedly large pocket at Stalingrad meant that the Soviets had to re-evaluate their next offensive, Operation Saturn. A good fraction of the forces would be tied down holding the pocket and defending against the threatened German counteroffensive from the South. The plans were changed to Operation “Little Saturn” – a smaller offensive to broaden the offensive to the West and crush the Italian 8th Army. Meanwhile the armored forces from the first attack would press the Chir River line to immobilize the forces closest to Stalingrad. The strike force for Saturn’s east pincer would move to block any forces moving from Kotelnovko towards Stalingrad from the south.
The German’s counterattack ran into problems from the start as half of their force was embroiled on the Chir river and while it managed to hold ground and grind up units, it eventually had to retire due to Little Saturn’s forces threatening to cut it off. The other pincer got off to a good start against the weak and tired forces holding the ring but were stopped and driven back by 5th Tank Army, the diverted Saturn attack force.
Even if it had made more ground, it is hard to see what could have happened. The forces in the pocket did not have the mobility to retire across the snowy steppe in the face of heavy Soviet tank forces. They could hold in place fairly well, but only a crushing German victory that re-established the original front had a chance of saving the forces at Stalingrad. This was not going to happen.
Little Saturn at the end of December led to both German offensives being broken off. The focus then turns to the death of the Pocket over the next month. It was important to the rest of the German army for these men to hold out as long as possible, to keep the Soviet forces busy. The Germans managed to establish a new front far to the west to keep the war continuing, but the chance to win the war was definitively over.
Again, this is a very detailed, day to day and even minute by minute recounting of one of the major actions in WWII.