Operation Uranus

Operation Uranus
Part of the Battle of Stalingrad on the Eastern Front of World War II
Operation Uranus.svg
Date19–23 November 1942
LocationNear Stalingrad (now Volgograd)
48°42′N 44°31′E / 48°42′N 44°31′E / 48.700; 44.517
ResultDecisive Soviet victory
Encirclement of Axis forces
Belligerents
 Soviet Union Germany
Italy
 Romania
Hungary
Commanders and leaders
Soviet Union Joseph Stalin
Soviet Union Semyon Timoshenko
Soviet Union Konstantin Rokossovsky
Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky
Soviet Union Nikolai Vatutin
Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler
Nazi Germany Friedrich Paulus
Kingdom of Romania Petre Dumitrescu
Strength
1,143,500 personnel (including reserve)[1]
894 tanks[1]
13,451 artillery pieces[1]
1,500 aircraft[2]
German:
250,000+ personnel
unknown number of artillery pieces
732 aircraft (402 serviceable)
Italian:
220,000 personnel
unknown number of artillery pieces or aircraft[3]
Romanian:
143,296 personnel
827 artillery pieces
134 tanks
unknown number of aircraft[3]
Hungarian:
200,000 personnel
unknown number of artillery pieces or tanks[4]
Casualties and losses
UnknownUnknown

Operation Uranus (Russian: Опера́ция «Ура́н», romanised: Operatsiya "Uran") was the codename of the Soviet 19–23 November 1942 strategic operation in World War II which led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army, the Third and Fourth Romanian armies, and portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army. The operation was executed at roughly the midpoint of the five month long Battle of Stalingrad, and was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced in September 1942, and was developed simultaneously with plans to envelop and destroy German Army Group Center (Operation Mars) and German forces in the Caucasus. The Red Army took advantage of the German army's poor preparation for winter, and the fact that its forces in the southern Soviet Union were overstretched near Stalingrad, using weaker Romanian troops to guard their flanks; the offensives' starting points were established along the section of the front directly opposite Romanian forces. These Axis armies lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor.

Due to the length of the front created by the German summer offensive, aimed at taking the Caucasus oil fields and the city of Stalingrad, German and other Axis forces were forced to guard sectors beyond the length they were meant to occupy. The situation was exacerbated by the German decision to relocate several mechanized divisions from the Soviet Union to Western Europe. Furthermore, units in the area were depleted after months of fighting, especially those which took part in the fighting in Stalingrad. The Germans could only count on the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps, which had the strength of a single panzer division, and the 29th Panzergrenadier Division as reserves to bolster their Romanian allies on the German Sixth Army's flanks. In comparison, the Red Army deployed over one million personnel for the purpose of beginning the offensive in and around Stalingrad. Soviet troop movements were not without problems, due to the difficulties of concealing their build-up, and to Soviet units commonly arriving late due to logistical issues. Operation Uranus was first postponed from 8 to 17 November, then to 19 November.

At 07:20 Moscow time on 19 November, Soviet forces on the northern flank of the Axis forces at Stalingrad began their offensive; forces in the south began on 20 November. Although Romanian units were able to repel the first attacks, by the end of 20 November the Third and Fourth Romanian armies were in headlong retreat, as the Red Army bypassed several German infantry divisions. German mobile reserves were not strong enough to parry the Soviet mechanized spearheads, while the Sixth Army did not react quickly enough nor decisively enough to disengage German armored forces in Stalingrad and reorient them to defeat the impending threat. By late 22 November Soviet forces linked up at the town of Kalach, encircling some 290,000 men east of the Don River. Instead of attempting to break out of the encirclement, German leader Adolf Hitler decided to keep Axis forces in Stalingrad and resupply them by air. In the meantime, Soviet and German commanders began to plan their next movements.

Background

On 28 June 1942, the Wehrmacht began its offensive against Soviet forces opposite of Army Group South, codenamed Case Blue.[5] After breaking through Red Army forces by 13 July, German forces encircled and captured the city of Rostov.[6] Following the fall of Rostov, Hitler split German forces operating in the southern extremity of the southern Russian SFSR in an effort to simultaneously capture the city of Stalingrad and the Caucasus oil fields.[7] The responsibility to take Stalingrad was given to the Sixth Army, which immediately turned towards the Volga River and began its advance with heavy air support from the Luftwaffe's Luftflotte 4.[8] On 7 August, two German panzer corps were able to flank and encircle a Soviet force of 50,000 personnel and approximately 1,000 tanks, and on 22 August German forces began to cross the Don River to complete the advance towards the Volga.[9] The following day, the Battle of Stalingrad began when vanguards of the Sixth Army penetrated the suburbs of the city.[10]

German troops advancing in the Soviet Union, June 1942

By November the Sixth Army had occupied most of Stalingrad, pushing the defending Red Army to the banks of the Volga River.[11] By this stage, there were indications of an impending Soviet offensive which would target Wehrmacht forces around the city, including increased Soviet activity opposite the Sixth Army's flanks, and information gained through the interrogation of Soviet prisoners.[12] However, the German command was intent upon finalizing its capture of Stalingrad.[13] In fact, head of Army General Staff General Franz Halder had been dismissed in September after his efforts to warn about the danger which was developing along the over-extended flanks of the Sixth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army.[14] As early as September the Soviet Stavka (high command) began planning a series of counteroffensives to encompass the destruction of German forces in the south, fighting in Stalingrad and in the Caucasus, and against Army Group Center.[15] Ultimately, command of Soviet efforts to relieve Stalingrad was put under the leadership of General Aleksandr Vasilevsky.[16]

The Stavka developed two major operations to be conducted against Axis forces near Stalingrad, Uranus and Saturn, and also planned for Operation Mars, designed to engage German Army Group Center in an effort to distract reinforcements and to inflict as much damage as possible.[17] Operation Uranus involved the use of large Soviet mechanized and infantry forces to encircle German and other Axis forces directly around Stalingrad.[18] As preparations for the offensive commenced, the attack's starting points were positioned on stretches of front to the rear of the German Sixth Army, largely preventing the Germans from reinforcing those sectors quickly where Axis units were too overstretched to occupy effectively.[19] The offensive was a double envelopment; Soviet mechanized forces would penetrate deep into the German rear, while another attack would be made closer to the German Sixth Army in an effort to attack German units there directly in the rear.[20] While the Red Army prepared, the German high commanders—influenced by their belief that the Red Army, building up opposite Germany Army Group Center to the north, was incapable of mounting a simultaneous offensive in the south—continued to deny the possibility of an impending Soviet offensive.[21]

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Uran əməliyyatı
čeština: Operace Uran
한국어: 천왕성 작전
hrvatski: Operacija Uran
Bahasa Indonesia: Operasi Uranus
Nederlands: Operatie Uranus
português: Operação Urano
slovenčina: Operácia Uran
српски / srpski: Операција Уран
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Operacija Uran
українська: Операція «Уран»