THE OSTROGOSHSK- ROSSOCH OPERATION

After the breakthrough of the front held by Italian 8th Army, on December 17th 1942, the Russian Armies 1st and 6th drove in depht into the Axis' rear, seizing important Tazinskaja airfield and threathening the Morozowskaja airport, that had be evacuate for several weeks.

In the first days of January, however, the situation of the Russian Southern Front seemed to be stabilized, after that the Sovietic troopsí thurst had been controlled, thanks to a series of measures that had well showed the strong 6th Panzer Divisionís counterattacks, shifted from the 4th Pz. Army area, that had caused heavy losses to Gen. Badanov's XXIVth Armored Corps and the stubborn durability of the hurried line, created along that held by Italian Alpine Corps, by units gathered in XXIVth Panzer Corps, whose were parts:


Ostrogoshsk- Rossoch Operation followed the Stalin's order to STAVKA on December 21st 1942:"to obtain the control of railway Liski - Kanterinowka, destroyng at the same time the Axis'units that were on the Woronesh Front. Railwayís control should permit to nourish all a series of thrusts towards Kursk, Charkow and the Donbass basin. All troops of Woronesh and South West Fronts have the task to attack the Axis's B Army Group".

Order of Battle-Russians.

Woronesh Front

38th Army

not employed

60th Army

not employed

40th Army

Lt. Gen. Kyrill Semionovic Moskalenko

†116th, 150th , 86th Armored Brigade

133 tanks as total

†141st , 107th , 305th , 322nd , 340th Fusiliers Division

10th Guard Fusiliers Division

223rd Fusiliers Brigade

in the breakthroughís sector, foreseen on 10 Kilometers, the army had 25 guns for 1 kilometer

XVIIIth Fusiliers Corps

†May. Gen. P. M. Zykov

161st , 219th , 270th , 309th Fusiliers Division;

Woroshilow Armored Regiment;

10th , 96th , 129th , 192nd , 1192nd Armored Brigade;

1288th Antiaircraft Regiment;

49th , 50th Pioneers Battalions;

1240th Antitank Regiment, with 1st 120 mm. Mortar Group;

785th Field Artillery Regiment;

496th Motorized Regiment;

1289th Antiaircraft Regiment;

3rd Armored Army

May. Gen. P.S. Ribalko

†XIIth Armored Corps, with:

30th , 97th , 106th Armored Brigade;

13th Motorized Brigade;

117th Antiair Artillery Regiment;

46th Antitank Battalion;

319th Antiaircraft Regiment

XVth Armored Corps

†May. Gen. Koptsov

111th , 180th , 184th , 267th , 350th , 172nd , 160th Fusiliers Division;

48th Guard Fusiliers Division;

37th , 87th Fusiliers Brigade;

88th , 97th , 113rd , 115th , 173rd , 179th , 195th Armored Brigade;

52nd Motorized Brigade;

82nd , 221st Armored Regiment;

47th Machine Gun Battalion;

368th Antitank Regiment;

71st Antiaircraft Regiment.

VIIth Cavalry Corps

†May. Gen. Sokolov

11th , 12th , 83rd Cavalry Division;

1 Armored Brigade;

3 Ski Brigades;

1 Antitank Regiment;

1 antiaircraft Regiment;

1 Motorized Regiment;

1 Katiushe Artillery Regiment.

†Cap. Scheller

The air support had been provide by 2nd Air Army.


Note about the Russian units employed in the Operation

- The "Front" term for Russians means about the Axis' "Army Group" term;

- The "Army" term for Russian means to Axis' "Corps term;

Besides,

A)

A Russian Division was composed from:

- n. 9,619 men, gathered in 3 Regiments, with:

- n. 24 "76 mm" field guns;

- n. 12 "122 mm." field guns;

- n. 56 "50 mm." Mortars;

- n. 83 "82 mm." Mortars;

- n. 21 "120 mm." mortars;

- n. 2398 light-machine guns or automatic rifles;

-n 522 light-machine guns.

B)

A Russian Armored Corps was on 3 Armored Brigades, with:

- 11,900 men;

- 240 tanks or selfpropelled guns;

- 40 artillery selpropelled guns;

Every brigade had 65 tanks ( 2/3 T34 or Kv, 1/3 light tanks).

C)

The Cavalry Corps had:

- 3 Cavalry Divisions (each with 4,645 men, 4,907 horses, 100 trucks, 42 mortars, 42 fied guns);

- 2 Tanks Regiments;

- 1 Selfpropelled Artillery regiment.

"Italian Troops"

The Italian Alpine Division had:

- 18,000 men, on 2 Alpine Infantry and 1 Alpine Artillery Regiment, with:

- n. 78 "45 mm" and "81 mm" mortars;

- n. 24 "75/31 mm."mountain guns

- n. 8 "105/11 mm." guns,

-4 Antitank Batteries with "75/39 mm" a.t. guns (each bactery had 6 pieces).

"German Troops""

The German Infantry Division had:

- 17,734 men, on 3 Infantry Regiments and 1 Field Artillery Regiment, with:

actually, during this operation men at disposal were in a very inferior number

"Ungarian Troops""

The Ungarian Light Infantry Division was on:

- 2 Infantry Regiments (each on 3 battalions, each battalion had 3 fusiliers companies and 1 machine guns company);

- 1 Field Artillery Regiment on 2 groups ( 1 light with 2 bacteries and 1 mixte with 4 bacteries) with:

.n. 24 "80mm." and "105 mm."guns

-1 Cavalry squadron


The Russian Plan

The Russian Plan (Sourch: Stato Maggiore- Esercito)

The Russian Plan was very simple: a double encirclements, with 2 lateral and divergent thrusts. From North, Russian IVth Armored Corps had to cover the plan's development, advancing forward, while Russian 40th Army had to push from the Uryw bridgehead in two encirclementís directions:

a) towards Alexejewka ( exterior wing), where it had to link with Russian 3rd Armored Army, arriving from South and, more exactly with XVth Armored Corps;

b)towards Ostrogoshsk (internal wing), where it had to link with XVIII Indipendent Armored Corps. This last, in fact, starting from the Schtschutschje bridgehead had to breakthrough in the middle of the great pocket, creating more internal enciclements towards North (Ostrogoshsk) and towards South (Karpenkowo) and then linking XII Armored Corps of 3rd Armored Army, that was come in from South.

From South the breaktrough had prevented in this way: The southern wing had been divided in two parts.

a) internal, that linked XVIII Indipendent Fusiliers Corps;

b)external, that had to link 40th Army at Alexejewka.

The Southern flank had covered by VII Cavalry Corps, whose target was Walujki.

Finished the preventived encirclement, 3rd Army had to face at West and clear up the pocket.


B Army Group's Front

B Army Group

Gen Von Weichs

Ungarian 2nd Army

Col.Gen. Gusztav Jŗny

Italian VIIIth Army

Col.Gen. Italo Gariboldi

German XXIV Panzer Korps

Col.Gen. von Paulus

Order of Battle - Ungarians

Ungarian 2nd Army

Col.Gen. Gusztav Jŗny

IIIrd Corps

May.Gen. Marcell Stomm

IVth Corps

Lt. Gen. JÚzsef Heszlťny

VIIth Corps

May. Gen. Jŗnos Legeza

And, in detail:

III Corps

May. Gen. Marcell Stomm

9th Light Division:

17th , 47th Infantry Regiment

Col. Kornťl Oszlŗny

6th Light Division:

22nd , 52nd Infantry Regiment

May.Gen. Oszkŗr Ginszkey

IVth Corps

Ten.Gen. JÚzsef Heszlťny

20th Light Division:

14th , 23rd Infantry Regiment

Col. Frigyes Vasvŗry

429th Infantry Regiment (German)

7th Light Division:

4th , 35th Infantry Regiment

May. Gen. Lŗszlo SzabÚ

13th Light Division:

7th , 31st Infantry Regiment

May.Gen. Lŗszlo HollÚsy-Kuthy

10th Light Division:

6th , 36th Infantry Regiment

Col. LŗszlÚ Molnŗr

VIIth Corps

May. Gen. Jŗnos Legeza

12th Light Division:

18th , 48th Infantry Regiment

May. Gen. UlaszlÚ Solymossy

19th Light Division:

13th , 43rd Infantry Regiment

May. Gen. Aladŗr Asztalossy

23rd Light Division:

21st , 51st Infantry Regiment

May. Gen. Gyula Vargyassi

The standards of an Ungarian Light Division were of 2 Infantry regiments, each on 3 battalions; each battalion was formed by 3 fusiliers companies and 1 machine guns company. From Division Headquartiers also depended: 1 cavalry squadron and 1 artillery regiment, with 2 Groups, 1 light on 2 bacteries and 1 mixte on 4 bacteries. There were 24 guns, ( 80 mm. and 105 mm.). From each Regiment Headquartier depended also 1 pioneers company with 2 machine guns, 1 guns company with 4 "75 mm." antitank guns, 1 mortar company and 1 antitank company with 47 mm. guns and 50 mm PAK 38.

On the rear of Ungarian 2nd Army there was Cramer Il Corps, but whose employ was heavy conditioned because Hitler had reserved to decide on its employ.

V. Cramer z.b. Corps

May.Gen. Hans Cramer

168th Infantry Division (2/3) (German)

26th Infantry Division (German) with: 39th , 77th , 78th Infantry Regiment; 26th Artillery Regiment

Ungarian 1st Armored Division: (about 70 carri ready to combact)

Col. Ferenc Horvŗth

700th Panzerverband ( about 50 Cecki tanks, 38 type and 1 Armored car company)

190th Sturmgeschutz Abteilung (about 30 selfpropelled guns)

To these detachments others joined, then:

Pz.Jg.Abt 559:

242nd Sturmgeschutz Abteilung

246th Gren. Rgt /88^ ID

In the center of the line interested from the operation, there was the Italian Alpine Corps, that was so formed:

Italian Alpine Corps

Lt.Gen. Gabriele Nasci

"Tridentina" Alpine Division:

5th , 6th Alpini Infantry Regiment. 2nd Mountain Artillery Regiment

Lt.Gen. Luigi Reverberi

"Vicenza" Infantry Division: 39th, 77th , 78th Infantry Regiment;

26th Artillery Regiment

"Cuneense" Alpine Division:

1st , 2nd Alpine Infantry Regiment;

4th Mountain Artillery Regiment

Lt.Gen. Battisti†

XXIV Panzer-Korps

Lt.Gen. Martin Wandel

Staff Chief: Col. Heidkamper

German 385th Infantry Division:

537th , 538th , 539th Infantry Regiment. 385th Artillery Regiment.

(5,072 men, 11 selpropelled guns)

May. Gen. Karl Eibl

German 387th Infantry Division:

541st , 542nd ,543rd Infantry Regiment. 387th Artillery Regiment.

(5,398 uomini+463 men of 318th Infantry Regiment. of Col. Melke, survived)

May. Gen. Arno Jahr

German 27th Panzer Division

(3,800 men, 8 tanks III e IV types, plus 5 damaged Panzer III type)

German Fuhrer Begleit Batallion:

(10 officers, 55 noncoms, 347 men + 124 men of II/14th Police Regiment and 6 armored cars)

German "Fegelein" SS Cavalry Brigade

(about 500 men, 1 tank plus tre selfpropelled guns)

Italian "Julia" Alpine Division:

8th , 9th Alpine Infantry Regiment; 3rd Mountain Artillery Regiment

Lt.Gen. Ricagno

TheUngarian front's breackthrough.

On January 12th 1943, at hours 10.00 Gen. Moskalenko's men started the attacks with the usual reconnaissance in force, in front of the Utyw's bridgehead, after an a hour heavy artillery shelling. The usual salvo of katiusha rocket launchers marked the preparationís end. The head battalions of 4 Infantry divisions, supported by tanks, soon gained the upper hand over Ungarian outposts in the right wing. The breackthrough happened in the 4th Infantry Regiment / 7th Light Division's sector, in the attack sector of Russian 107th Fusiliers Division and 86th Armored Brigade. Russians took about 1,000 prisoniers, while during the attack had only 5 dead and 42 wounded.( In accord Russian sourches; The Ungarian reconstruction is very differentÖ.). Seen the progress of the first day, Gen. Moskalenko obtained by his Front's commander to take the next day the true attack.

On January 13th , Russian 40th Army started its preparation fire, carring to attack its 4 Infantry Divisions on the first line (141st Infantry Division, 25th Guard Fusiliers Division, 340th Fusiliers Division and 107th Fusiliers Division) with its 3 Armored Brigades. The preparatory shelling was very efficient and the attempt of counterattack by the German 700th Armored Detachment had blocked by Russian 150th Armored Brigade. At the end of the day, the breach in the Ungarian front was 10 kilometers in wideness and in depht. The sending of Cramer Corps was refused by B ArmyGroup Headquartier, but at dusk German 168th Infantry Division moved towards Ostrogoshsk.

On January 14th , Russians, failing to disloge German 149th Infantry Regiment, carried on their own reserves, 305th Fusiliers Division and 253rd Fusiliers Division and, it seems, also elements of Russian IVth Armored Corps. Encircled the German regiment, Russians drove forward also in the northern sector of the bridgehead, seizing Storoschewoje, while in the center Russian 25th Guard Fusiliers Division seized Matjugino. Towards South Russians reached Potudan River, a Don's River tributary.

On January 14th , at hours 06.00, also Russian XVIIIth Indipendent Corps started its drive from the Stschutschje bridgehead with an artillery preparation made by 700 field guns. Here the attack headed against Ungarian 12th Light Division. Its two Infantry regiments, 18th Infantry Regiment and 48th Infantry Regiment suffered heavy losses, respectively, by Russian 129th Brigade and by Russian 304th Fusiliers Division. About 15.30 p.m. Russians brocke through the 18th Infantry Regiment's positions and, nearly in that time, Russians, overwhelming the 48th Infantry Regiment's sector and the German tactics reserves, readly rushed, also destroie Division's Headquartiers. At evening, Ungarian Division had lost 70 per cent of its force and also all reserves of Ungarian VIIth Corps had been emploied and destroied, so Russians could exploit the breach, continuing theye drive for all night. Russian operations, however, didn't quietly occur. In fact, while in the North they met a strong resistence by the Ungarian 18th Infantry Regiment's remainders and in the center their advance had notably delaied by Ungarian Muzsay combat team, They, on the contrary, managed to reach with their avangards the Woltschje's village, towards South-West. But, just here and in the Krutez's village, they engaged two German battalions of 77th Infantry Regiment of 26th Infantry Division belonging to Cramer Korps, that had just arrived and they had to stop. During all the night Russians and Germans fought at Krutez and finally Germans managed to block Russians, thanks to the artillery's arrive. At Woltschj, Russian 161st Fusiliers Division and 309th Fusiliers Division managed to seize the village.

On January 15th , The Russian drive reached Kolibella - Chrestiki - Koski line, but the resistence of Ungarian 19th Light Division's elements and remainders of the smashed 12th Light Division prevented further exploit. Thanks to German 26th Infantry Division's arrival, it seemed that the Russian XVIIIth Indipendent Corps's drive had finished, but on January 16th the situation changed.

On January 16th , Russian 40th Army managed the Ungarian Front's breackthrough with its 340th Fusiliers Division and 25th Guard Fusiliers Division, that headed towards South-West, with 150th Armored Brigade that pointed from Ostrogoshsk towards rears. At this moment the Ungarian units began to withdraw, in a not co-ordinate way. After a series of arguments between Gen. Jŗny, Ungarian Army's commander, and Gen. Cramer, the last had decide to launch his counterattack towards North, along the road coming from Rossoch, with the hope of blocking the armored attacks. However, the German 26th Infantry Division's counterattacks from Wolschj and those of Ungarian 1st Armored Division from Arki had blocked and they didn't porsue. On the contrary, Russians counterattacked and the same evening, the already wasted German 77th Infantry Regiment of 26th Infantry Division started evacuation from Wolschj, opening in this way the route to Russian attacks on the Italian Alpine Corpsí rear. Moreover, the right wing of Ungarian 1st Armored Division, that had held till to Don by Ungarian 13th Infantry Regiment, suddenly mained open because this unit had a total scattering, opening so the encirclementís way to Russian 219th Fusiliers Division and 96th Armored Brigade. These units so could follow the Don river and came in on the rear of Ungarian VII Corps towards the Alpini's positions.

On January 17th , Russian 107th Fusiliers Division reached Ostrogoshsk, when to Italian Alpine Corps had been permitted to withdraw, linking with Russian XVIII Indipendent Corps that came from other bridgehead.

On January 18th , Russian XVth Armored Corps of 3rd Armored Army, coming from south, that meanwhile had brockenthrough the XXIVth Panzer Korps's front, met near Alexejewka (making a larger turn than that of XIIth Armored Corps) the 40th Army's body. At this time, 40th Army started to create the esternal encirclement line, using two Divisions and 1 Infantry Brigade, continuing the barrage created souther by VIIth Cavalry Corps along Waluiki - Rossoschka - Istobnoje - Karajeschnik - Krestjanski -Chemelejowe line.

The state in the Ungarian Army's sector was heaviest, that its commander, Gen. Jŗny addressed to B Army Group Command an incontrovertible question: non lather of hours 20.00 of this day or Headquartiers gave him the withdraw's order for Ungarian VIIth Corps and for 1st Armored Division or he had act by his own initiative.

In the evening of January 18th Cramer Corps began to withdraw towards Kamenka to gather and then to attack towards Ostrgoshsk, in accord to the OKH' orders, issued by B Army Group, to block the Russian exploiting in the army rear, by a lateral attack. It was clear that Russians had forces far by far superior to the B Army Group's reserves and that the Axis positions on the Don River didn't defensible for long time. In fact, in front of positions held by the Italian "Vicenza"Infantry Division and by Ungarian 23rd Infantry Division, some Russian fixing attacks had been, but they had failed. Already, Ungarianl VIIth Corps, after the 12th Infantry Division's shattering, the 13th Infantry Regiment's disappear, had only 23rd Infantry Division and 1 regiment (43rd Infantry Regiment) of 19th Infantry Divivision. But, above all, its faith had signed, because Cramer Corps had moved, by upper orders, in the Ostrogoshsk area for a possible use towards Rossoch and therefore couldn't cover the Ungarian VIIth Corps' withdraw.

The XXIVth Panzer Korps breackthrough.

Also on January 14th 1943 the attack against XXIVth Panzer Korps' lines started, on the front held by Fegelein Group and by the 27th Panzer Division's Fuhrer Begleit Battalion. Thanks to the fog, Russian tanks and infantry filtered in the German line and at hours 14.30, they had penetrated with about 20-30 tanks, that continued towards North, mantaining at west of railway. However discovered, they didn't have attacked, because there weren't Axisíavailable reserves. The Korps' command only ordered a front's shortening to obtain as reserves German 385th Infantry Division and ordered to German 320th Infantry Division to prepare a task force to move to Nowo Markowka. It also ordered to 19th Panzer Division to attack on the flank the enemy advancing, but this division had already too pressed by Russian. This request then had shifted to B Army Group, together the request to withdraw XXIVth Pz. Korps towards Rossoch. Menawhile, in the evening, a part of German 387th Infantry Division had been encircled together Fuhrer Begleit Batallion and Fegelein Brigade.

The same evening, about hours 20.00, Gen. Nasci, Italian Alpine Corps' commander, in very vague terms had been informed by Gen. Schlemmer about Russian penetration. In the same evening, also Italian 8th Army's command issued order that foresaw the 19th Panzer Division's and 320th Infantry Division,s attack, but clearly understimating enemy's strenght and intentions. However, the breackthrough's seriousness was not clear to the same XXIVth Panzer Korps' command; in fact,in the same evening, Russian tanks and infantry by surprise fell on XXIVth Panzer Korps' tactic headquartiers at Shilin. Commander, Lt. Gen. Martin Wandel, unconscious went to meet Russians. From this sudden attack only the Staff Chief, Col. Heidkamper, the O5 Lt. Hans Koch, Lt. Melms and Intelligence officer, May. von Platen escaped. Losses ammounted to 10 officers and 68 noncom and men. All were shotted on the village's square.

On January 15th , the situation became serious also for Italian Alpine Corps, because at hours 05.30 about 20 Russian tanks with mounted infantry entried in Rossoch, carring a full surprise. Thanks to headquartiers men, but over all to Monte Cervino Alpine Battalion, to two German selpropelled guns and to Stukas, 12 Russian tanks had knocked out and others withdrew. 40 Russian soldiers had made prisoniers and too much killed in battle. At this time, the situation seemed serious to same Gen. Gariboldi, that asked B Army Group's Command for move back the Italian 8th Army in harmony with Ungarian 2nd Army. Meanwhile, in the morning of same day Russian tanks had reached Alexejewka.

Gen. Gariboldi had two meetings with Gen Tippelkirch to obtain the XXIVth Panzer Korps' withdraw on the Kalitwa River, but B Army Group, consulted, didn't authorize this move. In the evening, on the contrary the B Army Group's command accepted the request, but Gen. Gariboldi on his own initiative had already issued it. To the Gen. Nasci and his Alpine Corps arrived a radiotelegram.

Meanwhile, at XXIVth Panzer Korps, whose command had been taken by Gen. Eibl, there was a great alarm, because believed that Alpine Corps Command had ordered to withdraw to its own divisions. However, XXIVth Panzer Korps started his move towards the Kalitwa River at hours 20.00 of January 15th. In the same hours Cramer Corps, at north of Italian Alpine Corps, started a counterattack against Russian, but it failed.

On January 16th the XXIVth Panzer Korps' withdrawal continued, but other news of breackthrough in the south and in the north continued to arrive. During this day Russians launched theyr XII Armored Corps against Rossoch, that in evening fell in Russian hands, with heavy losses of Italian Monte Cervino Battalion,the 1st Alpini Regiment's Reserve Battalion, XXXth Alpine Engenners Batttalion, and a battalion of Vicenza Infantry Division. At hours 20.00, Gen. Nasci met Gen. Eibl, who confirmed the seriousness of the situation also because the German troops were in a bad way by numbers and without ammunition. These soldiers couldn't esecute the German General Tippelkirch's order: "Eibl Group dislink from enemy and in accord to alpine Corps and breckthrouh towards W or SW near Rossoch".

On January 17th , however, XXIVth Panzer Korps actually tried to seize Rossoch, but failed and therefore, during the withdrawal its columns mixed with those of Italian Alpine Corps that withdrew, often creating some problems of co-ordination and some conflicts among parts. Well, also if Rossoch had been seized by Russians of Armored Brigade, it had arrived very wasted, but in compensation Russian XVth Corps ran at full speed to complete the external encirclement, passing through Olichowatka and arriving in the evening to Kudeschowka - Marjewka.

At hours 17.30 of this day, Italian 8th Army'Command dispatched to Alpine Corps order to hold on the Don River, giving to Gen. Nasci the responsibily for its respect. To this order, clearly impossible to esecute, and moreover issued when the Northern wing, formed by Ungarian Army, was dissolving, had been ascribed the disaster and the break up's responsibility in whom Italian Alpine Corps incurred in the pocket. It need say, however, that already on January 16th a such order had arrived to Gen. Jŗny by Field Marshal Von Weichs, to held on Don River to permit German reinforcements' arrival. This was the same order that Italian 8th Army's command had given to Alpin Corps. It is clear, was the stubborn decision of Hitler to refuse of manoeuvring or falling back, that will be the cause of all the disaster. In fact this order pointed to hold a defensive line towards East, when Russian tanks of over two armored corps already ran in depht in the rear of Axis' divisions marshalled on The Don River, that were, pratically encercled. Perhaps German Command seemed convinced that the XXIVth Panzer Korps' strength was much greater than that actual, or it had underconsidered the Russian attack.

Gen Sokolov's VIIth Cavalry Corps could quietly head for Waluiki town, where 'll come in on January 19th , attacking in the same day the town.

On alpine front Russian attacked in force on January 15th , 16th , 17th Vestone and Edolo Battalions of Tridentina Alpine Division; only Vestone Battalion had 800 dead in fronts of its line, on January 15th , when had attacked for much than six times.

On January 17th , while Cramer Corps was returning on its starting positions and Russians already blocked the withdrawal's directrix of Alpine Corps, German Gen. Jŗhr ordered to German 385th Infantry Division and to German 387th Infantry Division to attack Rossoch, but failed. But the scattered German forces reconquested the eastern part of railway (it was the famous Col. Mielke's 318th Grenadier Regiment). However, the Rossoch depots, especially the fuel's depots, fell in Soviet's hands, who counterattacked also with tanks, thanks to 48th

Guard Fusiliers Division and 180th Fusiliers Division.

The Alpine corps' Ungarian flank.

On January 17th , at hours 03.00, Gen. Nasci understood by German laison officer at Tridentina Alpine Division that Ungarian VIIth Corps had received the withdrawal's order. He waited for his withdrawal's order, but, on the contrary, at hours 09.00, he received the order to hold on the Don River with the whole Alpine Corps. Finally, after two hours, he received by radio from Italian 8th Army's Headquartiers the permit to withdraw his troops.

During this night, the withdrawal of the three Ungarian surviving regiment started. They were 43rd (19th Division), 21st and 51st (23rd Division). 21st Infantry Regiment meet strong partisans' element (about 400) and it had open its way fighting and turning towards South, where it found the Tridentina Alpine Division' soldiers. Sister regiment of Ungarian 23rd Infantry Division, because of the hasty withdrawal from Kamenka by German 77th Infantry Regiment, had destroied by Russian XVIIIth Corps' tanks that were attacking from North on the road heading to Rossoch.

It was clear che the situation of Italian Army's northern flank was throwing and this worried all Italian commands. In fact only Cramer Corps, that was enough far away from Don River, was withdrawing with order.

Ungarians informed Tridentina Alpine Division about their own witdrawal, in accord with Alpine Corps, also if officers sendt by Gen. Nasci reached Ungarian Corps only at hours 15.00 of January 17th at Karpenkowo and from there they informed Gen Reverberi about happened Ungarian withdrawal. Their meeting with Ungarian VIIth Corps' Commander, Gen. Legeza happened the next morning at Budiennj, about 100 kilometrs at West of Don River, far away from fightings.

The withdrawal.

The Alpine Corps' withdrawal happened by Gen. Gariboldi's order, that next day B Army Group's Command denied with its "Army Group's order". It's clear that the delay in the withdrawal's order for Alpine Corps, also if attributed to Hitler's intentions and also B Army Group's command to gain time and to carry out to Eastern Front reserves comind from far away France, had been also originated by XXIVth Panzer Korps's pressure on the Alpine Corps' command, in the fear to main alone to withdraw. But of German corps was also part Julia Alpine Division, that just to cover the German corps' withdrawal crossed Kalitwa River only in the morning of January 17th (the withdrawal's order was of hours 12.00 on January 16th ), that's just in time to follow the withdrawal, while Tolmezzo Alpine Battalion held on other rivers's bank as rearguard, fighting for a whole day and lossing at the end half of its men of two companies ( 12th and 72th ), while its 6th company had to open its way fighting with bayonets.

The poor organization that had characterized the Italian troops' withdrawal in the last December seemed to can avoid by Alpine Corps' command by arrangement till from January of a withdrawal's notice. The esecutif withdrawal's order had issued by Gen. Nasci by phone between hours 11.00 and 11.30 on January 17th , order directed to subsidiary divisions and confirmed byhis phonogram at hours 12.30. This order trasmitted by Gen. Martinat had received by Tridentina's Commander, by Vicenza's Staff Chief and by Cuneense's Commander. In this order had been indicated the next held positions and the move sectors for the units, to avoid dangerous mixes. But the order's limit was that the move began when Russians already held in the corps' largest logistic base and along the Armeestrasse, that is the Italian army's retreat road. Moreover, to three Cops' divisions soon joined German divisions' and Julia remainders.

For luck of Italian and German troops also the Russian situation didn't seem so easy, for fuel lack, that Russian found at Rossoch, and for wearing by XII Armored Corps. In fact, its 106th Armored Brigade couldnot attack towards Postojalli. This thanks to XXIVth Panzer Korps' stubborn resistance at south of the Kalitwa River, but also for mistake to attack the town of Rossoch with tanks, that caused to Russians a wearing of their strenghth and a delay of march time. Howover, the XXIVth Panzer Korps' divisions and Julia withdrawing could outflank Rossoch towards north, to turn at left towards West. The remanider part of Russian XIIth Armored Corps, meanwhile, with its body pointed on Ostrogshsk, while Russian XVth Armored Corps already was at Sheljiakino and pointed towards north, with Alexejewka as its target.

At NorthWest of Rossoch it happened the great mistake of the confluence into the Cuneense Alpine Division's columns of the Julia Alpine Division and of German units. This move had been agreed by German Gen.Eibl and Italianl Gen Battisti, with the result that only Tridentina Alpine Division managed to well get out from, while for others units the situation became more and more chaotic. The problem now was that the Gen. Nasci's hypothesis, worded before the withdrawal and trasmitted to subordinated division's commanders weren't good because the enemy's presence, while the routes followed by German corps now intersected those of Italian divisions, increasing their march's problems.

At hours 23.15 on January 17th , while alpine troops started towards West, it came in by courier, to Italian 8th Army headquartiers the B Army Group's order issuing that Italian Alpine Coprs had been hold on the Don River to cover the action on Rowenki by German XXIVth Panzer Korps. This order was ignored because clearly not carried out, just as it happened for the Ungarian Army. At in the beginning of this order, sure there was OKH (that's Hitler), but B Army Group's Command, didn't feel to ignore it and therefore trasmitted it. In the night of January 18th the temperature farther fell, arriving to 45degrees C under Zero.

During this night German XXIVth Panzer Korps marched on two columns towards North, whose one, that Germans called Gruppe Jahr, joined Italian alpine divisions, that's Julia and Cuneense, The last, That of Gen. Eibl, ran a large turn towards North to reach Postojalyi. At 30 Kilometrs norther Russian tanks, already crossed through this village, waited on the road the withdrawing German 23rd Infantry Division and little by little that it passed they pulled to pieces.

On January 18th , all divisions marched to cross the valley where the Rollbahn ran from Rossoch trough Podgonoje and took to Kamenka. At hours 10.00 Gen. Nasci issued Operation Order n. 2, that was an clear agreement with German Geb. Eibl. This order issued that units continued their march towards West with a strong defence directed towards Rossoch, where all Russian infantry and part of XIIth Armored Corps mained.

The march of the 4 Italian divisions and all German Corps along the few suitable roads, already controlled by Russians, and that in the beginning had been assigned to three divisions, forced to leave all vehicles unable to move off road and so to exploit alpine mobility to cross towards West, trying to save the main elements to continue, that's the antitank guns.

Meanwhile, Tridentina Alpine Division was forward, because more free to move and on January 19th it became to fight to open its way. In this turn, 6th Alpine Regiment( Vestone, Verona, Val Chiese Battalions) covered the right flank of withdrawing Alpine Corps, meeting a hard and increasing resistance in front of both march columns. The crossing area was a Russian march directix, and therefore, the resistance soon seemed better organized. The roads from Rossoch had defended by Italian Julia and Cuneense Divisions and by German Gen. Jahr's 387th Infantry Division. All these units had continuosly attacked by Russians coming by Rossoch and they suffered heavy losses.

On Jaunary 20th , at hours 07.00, Alpine Corps and XXIVth Panzer Korps's Headquartiers had benn attacked at Opyt, missing all command vehicles and all radio sets available, except German 385th Infantry Division's radio set.

The Opyt fightings' importance is not for losses, also heavy and in the delay caused to withdrawal's move, but in the result that all radio set of Alpine Corps' Headquartiers had destroyed, so from this moment it was impossible to broadcast with other divisions and a little less to broadcast out the pocket. Luckily, the German 385th Infantry Division's radio set saved, but this fact made the big Italian corps still more dipendent by few German means on the place.

It needs to say that no security position of Alpine Corps, except the rearguard that had a couple of 75 mm. antitank guns, was able to block a tank assault. The Russian barrage formed by march directrix of Russian XIIth Armored Corps had crossed easily by Tridentina Alpine Division, while Vicenza Infantry Division arrived to Samoilenkoff, without big problems, because it was in a central position in that bottleneck between Popowka- Podgornoje. On the contrary, Italian Cuneense and Julia alpine Divisions, and German Jahr Gruppe suffered all the strenght of Russian units gathered in the Rossoch area. Received by Italian 8th Army Command a message that authorized to continue towrds NothWest rather than SouthWest, the units'i commanders got ready to force the barrage formed by a long spur, transversal to their move, marked by Kopanki and Nowo Postojalowka villages. First Julia Alpine Division move towards West with its 8th Regiment in first echelon, while its sister regiment, 9th Alpine Regiment mained as second echelon. At Nowo Postojalowka, 8th Regiment tried along all the day to open its way towards West by its scattered Gemona, Tolmezzo and Cividale Battalions, but in vain. Cuneense Alpine Division, that moved next about hours 17.00, arrived in this area at dusk and in the next mornig took part to fightings with its. Ceva and Mondovž Battalions. Now in the area also had arrived Julia Alpine Division's Headquartiers and 3rd Engeneers Battalion. These bloody and continuated fightings marked the end of Julia and Cuneense, as fighting units. Few Russian tanks managed not only to held Nowo Postojalowka, but also to counterattack and impunitly to play havoc with Italian soldiers. In fact, the 75 mm. Howitzer's EP shelling of Alpine Artillery showed their whole ineffectiveness. At dusk, the only passable way to avoid obstacle, was disengage from enemy heading towards North, with the Dronero Battalion of 2nd Alpine Regiment alone as effectiveness detechment. The pride and reitered attacks of alpinis and the Russian armored counterattacks caused in fact the formal shattering of the two divisions, because also 9th Regiment of Julia Division, held as rearguard in the Popowka area suffered several russian attcks that caused heavy losses, but it prevented that Russians coming from Rossoch to fall on the rear of units committed at Nowo Postojalowka. In the evening, also 9th Alpine Regiment approached the barrage a little souther of Nowo Postojalowka, at Kopankim with its three Battalions L'Aquila, Val Cismon, and Vicenza. With the artillery support by Udine e Val Piave Groups and the Nowo Postojalowka script repeated. Only in the night, a last, hopeless attack of Vicenza Battalion bent Russian resistance, but the conquered hamlet by a so expansive price couldn't be held. So, also 9th Alpine Regiment's remainders headed towards North. Meanwhile, German Jahr Group, had crossed the barrage during the night of January 20th , near Sowchose Lessitchanskijm village, that's norther of strong obstacle that was wiping out Italian soldiers. This Group that gathered the remainders of Fuhrer Begleit Battalion and of SS Fegelein Division, plus 387th Infantry Division's elements, had a dreary end at Nowo Postojalowka. Russians had managed to found the German column near Nowaja Postojalowka. They hardly attacked, succeding to destroy almost fully the German troops. Gen. Jahr trew with several hundreds men towards Sowchose Lenissnitschansckij, but he ended aginst a Russian tanks barrage. Before to be taken prisonier, he shot himself.

From this moment, The withdrawal's paths of all divisions joined to Tridentina Alpine Division's route and of German selfpropelled guns. But Julia Alpine Division's regiments had encircled: at Lessnitschanskij the 9th Regiment, but the Division's Headquartiers managed to cross the barrage, and at Nowo Georgiewskij the 8th Regiment. Both the sister regiments had destroied as fighting units together the 3rd Alpine Artillery Regiment's groups. Also the Division's remainders passed through Nowo Charkovka, but Tridentina Alpine Division had already open its way fighting, and from there all divisions passed. Vicenza Infantry Division followed Tridentina Alpine Division, at the head Pieve di Teco Battalion of Cuneense Alpine Division and two German selfpropelled guns. The same happened for Cuneense Alpine Division's remainders, about 7,000 men that bore rearguard fightings. Tridentina Division could count on the support of four German selpropelled guns and on XXIVth Panzers Korps' radio links and therefore also on German air reconnaissance.

The main column, formed by XXIVth Panzer Korps and Alpine Corps' shattered Headquartiers, by Tridentina Alpine Division, by German heavy weapons, and by German division's trains and sleds and in addiction a numberless tail of shattered men, headed quickly after the Postojalli seizure till Nowo Charkowka. This village had reached in the late afternoon on January 20th and had seized in the same evening, against the resistance of about two Russian battalions by Val Chiese and Vestone Battalions, supported by Bergamo and Vicenza Alpine Artillery Groups and by German selpropelled guns, with a so brilliant action that any Russian soldier could run away.

While it was fighting at Nowo Chrkowka, Gen. Eibl, who was at the end of column with rearguard, tried to climb up the column on a half-track, sitting upper a mudguard. He wished that column advanced most quickly and he cried out "go on!!": At hours 04.30 Genereal had wounded by a bombís busting. About his death there are several accounts. For a few had been a trumple up mine to wound Gen. Ebl, for others the reason is unknown. Gen. Nasciís version told about a unexploded bomb, while Col. Heidkamper referred that had been an Italian granade to wound him. Italian reporter Corradi told that nobody helped him, but 5th Health Sectionís Doctor, Lt. Adelfo Crosta soon operated together his fellow-worker Lt. Aldeghi of 5th Alpine Regiment Headquartiers Company, but couldnít much, because they were lacking even of morphine. In doctorís opinion the wound had been caused by a large sliver, that excludes the granade. Moreover, 5th Alpine Regiment Commander, Col. Adami, referred in that situation about several losses caused by casual enemy shelling of artillery and mortars that fell on the column from surrounding hills. But Germans mained persuaded of Italian responsability, at point that Gen. Schmundt, Hitlerís Wehrmacht adviser, carried out a search about details of Gen. Eiblís death. Col Heidkamper, meanwhile become 3rd Panzer Army Staff Chief, closed his report saing that, for him, the busting was of an Italian granade. In every way, Gen Eibl had be amputate his leg and at hours 18.45 on January 21st , after confessed, he died. However, it was a great loss for withdrawing armies, because Gen Eibl had been a very good officer that had well worked with Julia Alpine Division in the fightings made by this division together German 385th Infantry Division in the Kalitwa plain.

On January 21st , at hours 01.00, column retook its march and came in at Krazowka that had to be conquered, to continue towards Lymoriwka. In that envening an important radiomessage arrived to XXIVth Panzer Korps, that the mouth of the pocket wasnít now Waluiki, but Nikitovka, norther. Gen. Nasci than decided didnít follow the road forwards Warwarowka and ordered to head for Scheljiakino, that had reached on January 22nd and forced by 6th Alpine Regiment with German selpropelled guns and heavy weapons, putting back a Russian counterattack. So it had also broketrough the barrage on the Russian XVth Armored Corpsí penetration way, that through Olchowatka- Warwarowka road had reached Alexejewka. Because all comunications had been interrupted, it had been need also advise orher divisions about the moveís change, but this didnít make nor by Alpine Corps, nor by Italian 8th Army. Gen Nasci met at Ladomirowka Col. Moro who noticed him that in the Scheljiakino area there was also Cuneense Alpine Divisionís commander, Gen. Battisti, therefore he believed that also Cuneense Alpine Division followed the Tridentina,í way.

At this point Gen. Nasci decided a large turn towards South before to head on his final target, the Nikitowka area. In its way towards NorthWest The avangard had forced, after a short fighting at Nikolajewka, also the Malakejewka village, on January 24th, in the middle of snowstorm, where two German selfpropelled guns had damaged. Here the fighting had been successed thanks to Val Chiese and Vestone of Tridentina Alpine Division. The last battalion outflanked Russian to prevent that they avoided. On January 25th Nikitowka had reached and had seized against a light enemy resistance. During this day B Army Group sent a Storch aircraft that took news and maps. It was als a dropping of supply. The columnís avangard ( 6th Alpine Regiment) went forwards and passed the night at Arnautowo and Tereschow. The pocketís exit was near to come in.

The B Army Group dissolves.

Meanwhile, B Army Group Commander, Gen. Von Weichs reported to Hitler about military situation on his front, that with men and materials losses couldnít to be defended. The problem now was how cover the north flank of Don Army Group to avoid the accomplishment of Russian strategic target to outflank whole Axisí southern front. In withdrawalís case, therefore, it needed withdraw towards SouthWest with frontís right wing. In fact, all available units were Cramer corps, thatís a force of about an Infantry division, plus Grossdeutschland Armored Division, tha was unloading by trains and in few days an Italian German mixted division. Moreover, the German 2nd Armyís situation, desplaced at north of Ungarian Army, eroused heavy worry because it had almost encircled and Gen. von Weichts didínt know if it had witrdrew managed to exit from pocket without heavy losses.

The A Army Group already had withdrawed from Caucasus and German 6th Army, encircled by two months together several division of German 4th Panzer Army, lived the last act of Staligrad tragedy, while Don Army Group tried to cover the withdrawal from Caucasus through the Rostow bottleneck without being destroied in the third Russian offensive of that winter. Russian had not only completed Ostrogoshsk-Rossoch manouvres, but started the operation that followed it, called Woronesh-Kastornoje. On January 12th Russian considered accomplished the encirclement and had already taken 52,000 prisoniers, in large part Ungarians. From January 19th to 24th they passed to annihilation of pocket, advancing towards South with Rybalkoís 3rd Army, that had encircled Italian Alpine Corps and German XXIVth Panzer Korps , while the Russian 6th Army was pressing on German 27th and 19th Panzer Division.

For Russian Headqurtiers, in substance, Ostrogoshsk-Rossoch Operation had termined with a full success, except a little unforeseen event, that Italian, German and Ungarian colums were stubborn marching and fighting in the pocket to exit from encirclement. But Russian could mantain the moment also after the Ungarian and Italian Armyís defeat till February 20th , because in the whole Axisí southern front there was no reserve.

About the end of January IInd SS Panzer Korpsí first units began to come in.

The withdrawal of Alpine Corpsí other units.

The Italian Vicenza Infantry Divison, under command of Gen. Pascolini, in the night of January 23th headed towards Warwarovka, along the barrage created by Russian XVth Armored Corps, with a detachment of Morbegno Alpine Battalion of Tridentina Division. But this division had forced by strong Russian resistance to turn back. Maining its target Waluiki, divisionís remainders arrived about hours 13.00 on January 26th in front of Russian VIIth Cavalry Corps, that was waiting them from a week arraied along the railway. This happened, ironically, after that Vicenza Division had crossed the Tridentina Alpine Divisionís route at Malakejewka.

Also Cuneense Alpine Divisionís body arrived at Waluiki , convinced that this was the pocketís exit. Some distant groups, for example an Italian German mixed column, that received a message by a German laison aircraft headed towards Nikolajewka, managed avoid the bitter fate of this division. The routes of these detachments often had more and more off road to avoid Russian armored barrages. But Russians followed these unitsí march by air reconnaissance and therefore was enable to attack, shifting their forces on the roads controlled where it was necessary.

Nikolajewka and Waluiki Fightings.

Between January 26th and 28th withdrawing Italian divisions came in in front of the barrages that Russian VIIth Cavalry Corps, become VI Guard Corps for its success and Moskalenkoís 40th Army had stretched on the rear of Italian and Ungarian armies. After have marched for 250 kilometers, in the tall snow, with extremly cold temperatures, without regular feeding, Italian Cunneense and Vicenza Division, plus Juliaís remainders, at hours 17.00 were to had cross a strong barrage, whose nothing did know. At Wailuki they lacked of their heawy weapons because they had left in the snow during the march, except few mortars or 47/32 mm. Guns. Ammunition shortened. In a typical Kriegspeel didínt foresee that these units could be in activity.

The conclusion was inevitable, because coming in Waluiki they believed to can cross the Russian barrage. The Pieve di Teco Battalionís last drive on January 26th ,( the battalion was Vicenza Divisionís avangard), was also epic, but it couldnít change the forces ratios. Vicenza Infantry Divisionís remainders had taken prisioniers together their commander. In the next two days Julia Alpine Division and Cuneense Alpine Division Headquarteris had taken prisoniers, plus a part of this last division, pratically 2nd Alpini Regimentíremainders and a part of 4th Mountan Artillery Regiment. Other column, that of 1st Alpine Regiment, with Mondovž and Val Po Battalionsí remainders, that had alwaiys marched by its own and had separated from unitís body, arrived southern, where its men ended prisoniers or killed in action. Also their stubborn resistance tried against cossack cavalry, didnít can endure nbecause ammunitionsí shortage.

The things went better for the norther column, that of Tridentina Alpine Division, because leaded by air reconnoissance, it came out between the position of Russian VIIth Cavalry Corps and 40th Army, thatís where the Russian encirclement was weaker. But, just at hours 00.00 Italian avanguard situated in Arnatowo village, formed by 253rd Company of ValChiese Battalion and by 33rd Bactery of Bergamo Mountain Artillery Group had been attacked by Russians, who wished to separate the Tridentina column from its vanguard. Russians had pushed back only after the whole night of fightings thanks to 5th Alpine Regiment and to other artillery groups, and the only IInd Battalion/71st Artillery Detachment.

The Nikolajewka attack began at hours 10.00 of next morning with a only part of 6th Alpine Regiment, while 5th Alpine Regimentís battalions and artillery hadnít arrived; therefore it blocked. Most late Alpine battalions entried in the village but had to strongly fighting to avoid to be overwhelmed. The artillery support was too poor, being limited to few 47/32 pieces; the mainig two German selpropelled guns, after the damage of other two at Malkejewka, stopped when found in front of an antitank barrage and a gun had damaged. When Tridentina Division Headquartiers and Gen. Nasci, arrived and also 5th Alpine Regimentís remainders the commander of Tridentina, Gen. Reverberi disposed Vicenza Mountain Artillery Group and II/71st Artillery Detachment and most late Val Camonica Mountain Artillery Group, and rinforced the attack with 5th Alpine Regimentís remainders.

However, following Gen. Martinat and Reverberi a general drive occupied the village. This scene has more of napoleonic than of a world war IIís battle. But it was the save, because Tridentina division had only few hundreds men with ammunitions.

The march continued the next morning. Another Russian light barrage had crossed outflanking it and column continued till on January 29th , when it arrived at Bolche-Troizkoje. They were out of pocket.

The balance had known:

Of a initial force formed by 55,000 men, plus Vicenza Infantry Division and other smaller detachments as Horse Artillery, that were together Alpine Corps, thatís about 70,000 men, only 27,500 came out from the pocked, minus than 40 per cent. Losses ammounte abaut 40,000 men. Russian had claimed that with Ostrogoshsk-Rossoch Operation they took 86,000 prisoniers. Of whom Gen. Moskalenko told 71,000 by his men . It seems logical thought that 15-20.000 were alpinis ( at Waluiki 11,000 tell Kazakov, Voronesh Front Staff Chief), with a high per cent of wounded. Italian killed in action were specially in the long fightings for Nowo Postojalowka and Kopanki, for distruction of Juliaís remainders and finally for cold, tiredness and flus.

Ungarian Army had 147,971 losses between killed, wounded and missing, whose 105,085 during Ostroigshsk-Rossoch Operation, but We donít know the number of Ungarian saved with alpine corps. Gen. Nasci told about 6-7000.

For german we know that XXIVth Panzer Korps had about 10,000 men, but itís difficuld say how many had saved. Gen. Nasci told about 8-9.000, but on February 13th the German force reported only 3,239 men. But of these 713 had just arrived from Germany, therefore it mains only 2,526 men to whom had summed the wounded. Of wounded we know that about 3-4000 men had saved.

In each case on March 14th German 385th Infantry Division has disbanded. And only joining the three divisionsí remainders, thatís 387th , 385th and 298th German Headquartiers managed to form a new 387th Infantry Division.