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Liveblogging World War II: November 26, 1942

Roy Lower: Luftwaffe Tactical Operations at Stalingrad:

Wild rumors were the least cf Generalleutnant Fiebig's problems at Oblivskaya. Between 22 and 24 November Soviet tank columns spearheading the Russian drive to encircle the Sixth Army had already covered over 50 miles. Behind them came seven Soviet Rifle Armies and nearly 60 divisions pouring through the gaping holes created by the first echelon on either side of Stalingrad. On the night of 23 November the converging Soviet columns linked up to capture the vital bridgehead at Kalach. With the trap closed, Russian attention now shifted to the exposed airfield at Oblivskaya.

Again, Fiebig was well served by one of his subordinates. As sometimes happens in dire situations, one man's iron will can galvanize lesser men and thereby accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. Oberst Reiner Stahel possessed such a will. A Luftwaffe Flak artillery officer, Stahel dragooned Rumanian and German stragglers, drafted cooks, railroad guards and construction companies to form a 5000-man force. By 22 November this force was in place, but it had a 50-kilometer front to protect. Almost immediately it came under attack by 6-8 Russian divisions. During the ensuing days it suffered 10 percent losses weekly and sometimes 50 percent losses at points of heaviest fighting. The Stahel detachment was supported in these operations by nearly every type aircraft assigned to Fliegerkorps VIII.

On 25/26 November attack aircraft from Oblivskaya flew mission after mission to thwart the Soviet advance. Anti-tank Hs-129s and prewar He-123 biplanes of Schacht Gruppe 1 and JU-87 Ds from StG 2 attacked with a fury born of desperation.... One morning there is musketry fire on the far side of the aerodrome... The met. [meteorological] Flier gives the alert by firing a succession of red Vereys. I immediately take off with the squadron and close to the airfield I see horses, their dismounted riders beside them, all Ivans. To the North an incalculable army of horses, men and material. I climb, knowing the conditions of our defenses and wanting to make preliminary survey of the general situation. It does not take me long: a Russian cavalry division advancing and there is nobody to stop them.... Their main force is two to three miles distant from our airfield... no ground forces in this area; the direst emergency.... Without intermission we take off and land; we are all in feverish haste. Unless we can wipe them all out before dusk our airfield will be threatened by nightfall....In the evening, I fly my seventeenth sortie the day and we take a good look at the battlefield. It is quiet, everything is wiped out...