Chapter VII - Red Army: Operation "Ring" (January 1943)

During the last week, fierce tank battle took place at river Aksai near settlement Verhne-Kumsky. Forces of the 51st army managed to inflict heavy damages to the enemy, stop it at the river Myshkovka and prevent it from linking up with encircled forces near Stalingrad. At the same time, Soviet HQ commenced massive attack against 8th Italian Army to the North-West of Stalingrad. Since all German and Italian forces at the middle stream of Don were defeated, all arriving German forces were assigned to the Group of Armies B, while 11th Tank Army, moving in the direction of settlement Kotelnikovo, returned to positions near river Chir. A bit later it was decided to move the 6th Tank Army of the 57th Corps. into the same region. The HQ of Group of Armies Don decided to temporarily go into defense and wait for motorized SS division Viking to arrive. The offensive operation of the army group "Hoth" was thwarted, and the last chance to de-block encircled army at Stalingrad was lost.

However, encircled Germans managed to arrange in-depth defense in Stalingrad. Soviet Supreme Command wanted to eliminate 6th German Army as soon as possible, and devised special operation to do that. It was assigned to the forces of the Don front. The final plan was codenamed "The Ring". According to it, Soviet forces were to divide the enemy by a strike directed from west to east. After that, on the first stage of operation, Soviet forces should have eliminated enemy at the so-called "Marinsky bulge". Later on, the enemy should have been dissected again and eliminated in parts. During the preparations for the operation, 65th army was reinforced greatly, totaling eight rifle divisions, 27th regiments from HQ reserve, two divisions of rocket-launching artillery, five AA artillery regiments, three detached artillery divisions of the air defense, six tank regiments and one tank brigade.