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> 41. Force and Deception at Stalingrad
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Posted: April 03, 2004 10:13 pm
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by Mihai Retegan

For British philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) "force and deception are, at war, two chief qualities". The force of Soviet attacks at Stalingrad (including the Don River's Bend and the Kalmuk Steppe) has been and will be dwelt upon by all belligerents.

The Romanian historiographers have to a lesser extent dealt with the subject. Looking forward to great revelations, it is necessary to cast light on all the aspects of the fights fought by the Romanians 2,000 km far from their homeland. One of these is related to the secrecy and deception, extensively used by the Soviets to conceal the place, date and targets of the offensive.

The reconnaissance elements of the 3rd Romanian Army had to answer two main questions: What does the enemy intend to do? What forces does he have at his disposal? In order to answer them, they drew up the observation and intelligence gathering plan, which was to be put into effect by the air intelligence (for in-depth reconnaissance), cavalry subunits (for direct reconnaissance), the picture being completed with the information gathered from prisoners of war and deserters.

Starting the latter half of Oetober 1942, air reconnaissance was made daily, along the communications lines. and over the bridgeheads south and west of the Don river. The reconnaissance reports pointed several movements of troops from north-east southwestward; grouping of troops in intermediate areas and on the directions of the future offensive; the pouring of fresh forces into the bridgeheads. Till November 12, the Romanian aviation identified in the field the Command of the "south-western" Front, the 51st Guard, the 5th Tank, 21st, 65th Armies and several big units.

On the basis of these data, on November 10, the Command of the 3rd Army considered that the "enemy has concluded deployment with a view to deliver the attack. It is very soon expected to start action, with the main thrust towards the right wing of the 3rd Army and wish a similar effort in the bridgehead towards Elanskaja-Tchebotarev".

After making an analysis of the disposition of forces and of the way in which geomorphologic conditions could influence the unfolding of combat actions, the Command of the 3rd Army deemed possible one of the following three offensive opcrations :

a) an attack in the area Kazanskaja Krasnojarskyi, at the junction of the Romanian 3rd and 8th Italian Armies, which would have allowed the Russians, after reaching the Azov Sea, to thwart any possibilities for the "B" and "A" Army Groups to withdraw;

B) an attack from the area Serafimovitch-Elanskaja towards Kalatch, in order to turn the defence of the 6th German Army.

When comparing the analyses made by the Romanian Commands with what was to happen after November 19, it proves that the intentions of STAVKA were correctly perceived. The Soviet counteroffensive did not take the Command of the 3rd Army by surprise, either as regards the place or the goals or forces engaged. The Soviet attack should have been offset by the action of Romanian-German divisions at the Don River's Bend. Unfortunately, the structure they were subordinated to - namely, the "B" Army Group Headquarters focused exclusively on Stalingrad.

So that, one may say a correct interpretation of data is not sufficient in a war in which the first place belongs to engines and logistics. While the latter element of Hobbes's assertion did not show itself as being true at the Don River's Bend, the former determined the outcome of the battle which started in late November 1942.
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