The Demyansk Pocket was the name given to the pocket of German troops encircled by the Red Army around Demyansk, south of Leningrad, during World War II on the Eastern Front. The pocket existed from 8 February to 21 April 1942. A much smaller force was surrounded in the Kholm Pocket at the town of Kholm, about 100 km to the southwest. Both resulted from the German retreat following their defeat during the Battle of Moscow; the successful defence of Demyansk, achieved through the use of an airbridge, was a significant development in modern warfare. Its success was a major contributor to the decision by the Army High Command to try the same tactic during the Battle of Stalingrad where it failed to save the 6th Army under Paulus; the encirclement began as the Demyansk Offensive Operation, the first phase being carried out from 7 January-20 May 1942 on the initiative of General Lieutenant Pavel Kurochkin, commander of Northwestern Front. The intention was to sever the link between the German Demyansk positions, the Staraya Russa railway that formed the lines of communication of the German 16th Army.
However, owing to the difficult wooded and swampy terrain, heavy snow cover, the initial advance by the Front was modest against stubborn opposition. On 8 January, a new offensive called the Rzhev–Vyazma Strategic Offensive Operation started; this incorporated the previous Front's planning into the Toropets–Kholm Offensive Operation between 9 January and 6 February 1942 which formed the southern pincer of the attack that, beginning the second phase of the northern pincer Demyansk Offensive Operation between 7 January and 20 May, which encircled the German 16th Army's II Army Corps, parts of the X Army Corps during winter 1941/1942. German forces inside the pocket consisted of 12th, 30th, 32nd, 123rd and 290th infantry divisions, the SS Division Totenkopf, as well as Reich Labour Service, Organisation Todt, other auxiliary units, for a total of about 90,000 German troops and around 10,000 auxiliaries, their commander was commander of the II Army Corps. The intent of the Northwestern Front offensive was to encircle the entire northern flank of the 16th Army's forces, of which the 2nd Army Corps was only a small part, the Soviet command was desperate to keep the Front moving after this success.
The first thrust was made by the 11th Army, 1st Shock Army and the 1st and 2nd Guards Rifle Corps released for the operation from Stavka reserve. A second thrust was executed on 12 February by the 3rd and 4th Shock Armies of the Kalinin Front, with the additional plan of directly attacking the encircled German forces by inserting two airborne brigades to support the advance of the 34th Army; the front soon settled as the Soviet offensive petered out bad weather. After being assured that the pocket could be supplied with its daily requirement of 300 short tons of supplies by Luftflotte 1, Hitler ordered that the surrounded divisions hold their positions until relieved; the pocket contained two viable airfields at Demyansk and Peski capable of receiving transport aircraft. From the middle of February, the weather improved and while there was still considerable snow on the ground at this time, resupply operations were very successful due to inactivity of the VVS in the area. However, the operation did use up all of Luftflotte 1's transport capability, as well as elements of its bomber force.
Over the winter and spring, the Northwestern Front launched a number of attacks on the "Ramushevo corridor" that formed the tenuous link between Demyansk and Staraya Russa but was unable to reduce the pocket. On 21 March 1942, German forces under the command of General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach attempted to manoevre through the "Ramushevo corridor". Soviet resistance on the Lovat River delayed II Corps' attack until April 14. Over the next several weeks, this corridor was widened. A battle group was able to break the siege on 22 April. Out of the 100,000 men in the pocket, there were 3,335 lost and over 10,000 wounded. Between the forming of the pocket in early February to the abandonment of Demyansk in May, the two pockets received 65,000 short tons of supplies, 31,000 replacement troops, 36,000 wounded were evacuated; the supplies were delivered through over 100 flights of whitewashed Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft per day. However, the cost was significant; the Luftwaffe lost 265 aircraft, including 106 Junkers Ju 52, 17 Heinkel He 111 and two Junkers Ju 86 aircraft.
In addition, 387 airmen were lost. Richard Overy argues that the Demyansk airlift was a Pyrrhic victory, citing the loss of over 200 aircraft and their crew "when annual production of transports was running at only 500. Fighting in the area continued until 28 February 1943; the Soviet forces did not retake Demyansk until 1 March 1943, with the organized withdrawl of the German troops. The success of the Luftwaffe convinced Reich Marschall Hermann Göring and Hitler that they could conduct effective airlift operations on the Eastern front. Furthermore, it "determined Hitler in his belief that encircled troops should automatically hold on to their territory. After the German 6th Army was encircled in the Battle of Stalingrad, Göring convinced Hitler to resupply the besieged forces by airlift until a relief effort could reach them.
The Chaco War was fought between Bolivia and Paraguay over control of the northern part of the Gran Chaco region of South America, thought to be rich in oil. It is referred to as La Guerra de la Sed in literary circles, for being fought in the semi-arid Chaco, it was the bloodiest military conflict fought in South America during the 20th century, between two of its poorest countries, both having lost territory to neighbors in 19th-century wars. During the war, both landlocked countries faced difficulties shipping arms and supplies through neighboring countries. Bolivia faced particular external trade problems, coupled with poor internal communications. Although Bolivia had lucrative mining income and a larger, better-equipped army, a series of factors turned the tide against it, Paraguay came to control most of the disputed zone by war's end; the ultimate peace treaties granted two-thirds of the disputed territories to Paraguay. The origin of the war is attributed to a long-standing territorial dispute and the discovery of oil deposits on the Andean plains.
In 1929, the Treaty of Lima ended the hopes of the Bolivian government of recovering a land corridor to the Pacific Ocean, thought imperative to further development and trade. The impetus for war was exacerbated by a conflict between oil companies jockeying for exploration and drilling rights, with Royal Dutch Shell backing Paraguay and Standard Oil supporting Bolivia; the discovery of oil in the Andean foothills sparked speculation that the Chaco might prove a rich source of petroleum, foreign oil companies were involved in the exploration. Standard Oil was producing oil from wells in the high hills of eastern Bolivia, around Villa Montes. However, it is uncertain if the war would have been caused by the interests of these companies, not by aims of Argentina to import oil from the Chaco. In opposition to the "dependency theory" of the war's origins, the British historian Matthew Hughes argued against the thesis that Bolivian and Paraguayan governments were the "puppets" of Standard Oil and Royal Dutch Shell writing: "In fact, there is little hard evidence available in the company and government archives to support the theory that oil companies had anything to do with causing the war or helping one side or the other during the war".
Both Bolivia and Paraguay were landlocked. Though the 600,000 km2 Chaco was sparsely populated, control of the Paraguay River running through it provided access to the Atlantic Ocean; this became important to Bolivia, which had lost its Pacific coast to Chile in the 1879 War of the Pacific. Paraguay had lost half of its territory to Brazil and Argentina in the Paraguayan War of 1864–1870; the country was not prepared to surrender its economic viability. In international arbitration, Bolivia argued that the region had been part of the original Spanish colonial province of Moxos and Chiquitos to which Bolivia was heir. Meanwhile, Paraguay based its case on the occupation of the land. Indeed, both Paraguayan and Argentine planters were breeding cattle and exploiting quebracho woods in the area, while the small nomadic indigenous population of Guaraní-speaking tribes was related to Paraguay's own Guaraní heritage; as of 1919, Argentine banks owned 400,000 hectares of land in the eastern Chaco while the Casado family, a powerful part of the Argentine oligarchy, held 141,000.
The presence of Mennonite colonies in the Chaco, who settled there in the 1920s under the auspices of the Paraguayan parliament, was another factor in favour of Paraguay's claim. The first confrontation between the two countries dates back to 1885, when the Bolivian entrepreneur Miguel Araña Suárez founded Puerto Pacheco, a port on the upper Paraguay river, south of Bahía Negra, he assumed that the new settlement was well inside Bolivian territory, but Bolivia had implicitly recognized Bahía Negra as Paraguayan. The Paraguayan government sent in a naval detachment aboard the gunboat Pirapó, which forcibly evicted the Bolivians from the area in 1888. Two agreements followed—in 1894 and 1907—which neither the Bolivian nor the Paraguayan parliament approved. Meanwhile, in 1905 Bolivia founded two new outposts in the Chaco, Ballivián and Guachalla, this time along the Pilcomayo River; the Bolivian government ignored the half-hearted Paraguayan official protest. Bolivian penetration in the region went unopposed until 1927, when the first blood was shed over the Chaco Boreal.
On 27 February a Paraguayan army foot patrol and its native guides were taken prisoners near the Pilcomayo River and held in the Bolivian outpost of Fortin Sorpresa, where the commander of the Paraguayan platoon, lieutenant Adolfo Rojas Silva, was shot and killed in suspicious circumstances. Fortín was the name used for the small pillbox and trench-like garrisons in the Chaco, although the troops' barracks were no more than a few mud huts. While the Bolivian government formally regretted the death of Rojas Silva, the Paraguayan public opinion called it "murder". After the subsequent talks arranged in Buenos Aires failed to produce any agreement and collapsed in January 1928, the dispute grew violent. On 5 December 1928 a Paraguayan cavalry unit overran Fortin Vanguardia, an advance outpost established by the Bolivian army a few miles northwest of Bahía Negra; the Paraguayans burnt the scattered huts to the ground. The Bolivians retaliated with an air strike on Bahía Negra on 15 December, which caused few casualties and not much damage.
On 14 December Bolivia seized Fortin Boquerón, which would be the site of the first major battle of the campaign
Romanization of Russian
Romanization of Russian is the process of transliterating the Russian language from the Cyrillic script into the Latin script. As well as its primary use for citing Russian names and words in languages which use a Latin alphabet, romanization is essential for computer users to input Russian text who either do not have a keyboard or word processor set up for inputting Cyrillic, or else are not capable of typing using a native Russian keyboard layout. In the latter case, they would type using a system of transliteration fitted for their keyboard layout, such as for English QWERTY keyboards, use an automated tool to convert the text into Cyrillic. There are a number of incompatible standards for the Romanization of Russian Cyrillic, with none of them having received much popularity and in reality transliteration is carried out without any uniform standards. Scientific transliteration known as the International Scholarly System, is a system, used in linguistics since the 19th century, it is formed the basis of the GOST and ISO systems.
OST 8483 was the first Soviet standard on romanization of Russian, introduced in 16 October 1935. Developed by the National Administration for Geodesy and Cartography at the USSR Council of Ministers, GOST 16876-71 has been in service for over 30 years and is the only romanization system that does not use diacritics. Replaced by GOST 7.79-2000. This standard is an equivalent of GOST 16876-71 and was adopted as an official standard of the COMECON. GOST 7.79-2000 System of Standards on Information and Publishing–Rules for Transliteration of the Cyrillic Characters Using the Latin Alphabet is an adoption of ISO 9:1995. It is the Commonwealth of Independent States. GOST 52535.1-2006 Identification cards. Machine readable travel documents. Part 1. Machine readable passports is an adoption of an ICAO standard for travel documents, it was used in Russian passports for a short period during 2010–2013. The standard was substituted in 2013 by GOST R ISO/IEC 7501-1-2013, which does not contain romanization, but directly refers to the ICAO romanization.
Names on street and road signs in the Soviet Union were romanized according to GOST 10807-78, amended by newer Russian GOST R 52290-2004, the romanizations in both the standards are identical. ISO/R 9, established in 1954 and updated in 1968, was the adoption of the scientific transliteration by the International Organization for Standardization, it covers seven other Slavic languages. ISO 9:1995 is the current transliteration standard from ISO, it is based on its predecessor ISO/R 9:1968. ISO 9:1995 is the first language-independent, univocal system of one character for one character equivalents that faithfully represents the original and allows for reverse transliteration for Cyrillic text in any contemporary language; the UNGEGN, a Working Group of the United Nations, in 1987 recommended a romanization system for geographical names, based on the 1983 version of GOST 16876-71. It may be found in some international cartographic products. American Library Association and Library of Congress romanization tables for Slavic alphabets are used in North American libraries and in the British Library since 1975.
The formal, unambiguous version of the system requires some diacritics and two-letter tie characters, which are omitted in practice. British Standard 2979:1958 is the main system of the Oxford University Press, a variation was used by the British Library to catalogue publications acquired up to 1975; the BGN/PCGN system is intuitive for Anglophones to read and pronounce. In many publications, a simplified form of the system is used to render English versions of Russian names converting ë to yo, simplifying -iy and -yy endings to -y, omitting apostrophes for ъ and ь, it can be rendered using only the basic letters and punctuation found on English-language keyboards: no diacritics or unusual letters are required, although the interpunct character may be used to avoid ambiguity. This particular standard is part of the BGN/PCGN romanization system, developed by the United States Board on Geographic Names and by the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use; the portion of the system pertaining to the Russian language was adopted by BGN in 1944 and by PCGN in 1947.
In Soviet international passports, transliteration was based on French rules, so all of the names were transliterated in a French-style system. In 1997, with the introduction of new Russian passports, a diacritic-free English-oriented system was established by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but this system was abandoned in 2010. In 2006, GOST 52535.1-2006 was adopted, which defines technical requirements and standards for Russian international passports and introduces its own system of transliteration. In 2010, the Federal Migratory Service of Russia approved Order No. 26, stating that all personal names in the passports issued after 2010 must be transliterated using GOST 52535.1-2006. Because of some differences between the new system and the old one, citizens who wanted to retain the old version of a name's transliteration, in the old pre-2010 passport, might apply to the local migratory office before acquiring a new passport; the standard was abandoned in 2013. In 2013, Order No. 320 of the Federal Migratory Service of Russia came into force.
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A siege is a military blockade of a city, or fortress, with the intent of conquering by attrition, or a well-prepared assault. This derives from Latin: sedere, lit.'to sit'. Siege warfare is a form of constant, low-intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, defensive position. An opportunity for negotiation between combatants is not uncommon, as proximity and fluctuating advantage can encourage diplomacy; the art of conducting and resisting sieges is called siegecraft, or poliorcetics. A siege occurs when an attacker encounters a city or fortress that cannot be taken by a quick assault, which refuses to surrender. Sieges involve surrounding the target to block the provision of supplies and the reinforcement or escape of troops; this is coupled with attempts to reduce the fortifications by means of siege engines, artillery bombardment, mining, or the use of deception or treachery to bypass defenses. Failing a military outcome, sieges can be decided by starvation, thirst, or disease, which can afflict either the attacker or defender.
This form of siege, can take many months or years, depending upon the size of the stores of food the fortified position holds. The attacking force can circumvallate the besieged place, to build a line of earth-works, consisting of a rampart and trench, surrounding it. During the process of circumvallation, the attacking force can be set upon by another force, an ally of the besieged place, due to the lengthy amount of time required to force it to capitulate. A defensive ring of forts outside the ring of circumvallated forts, called contravallation, is sometimes used to defend the attackers from outside. Ancient cities in the Middle East show archaeological evidence of having had fortified city walls. During the Warring States era of ancient China, there is both textual and archaeological evidence of prolonged sieges and siege machinery used against the defenders of city walls. Siege machinery was a tradition of the ancient Greco-Roman world. During the Renaissance and the early modern period, siege warfare dominated the conduct of war in Europe.
Leonardo da Vinci gained as much of his renown from the design of fortifications as from his artwork. Medieval campaigns were designed around a succession of sieges. In the Napoleonic era, increasing use of more powerful cannon reduced the value of fortifications. In the 20th century, the significance of the classical siege declined. With the advent of mobile warfare, a single fortified stronghold is no longer as decisive as it once was. While traditional sieges do still occur, they are not as common as they once were due to changes in modes of battle, principally the ease by which huge volumes of destructive power can be directed onto a static target. Modern sieges are more the result of smaller hostage, militant, or extreme resisting arrest situations; the Assyrians deployed large labour forces to build new palaces and defensive walls. Some settlements in the Indus Valley Civilization were fortified. By about 3500 BC, hundreds of small farming villages dotted the Indus River floodplain. Many of these settlements had planned streets.
The stone and mud brick houses of Kot Diji were clustered behind massive stone flood dikes and defensive walls, for neighbouring communities quarrelled about the control of prime agricultural land. Mundigak in present-day south-east Afghanistan has defensive walls and square bastions of sun-dried bricks. City walls and fortifications were essential for the defence of the first cities in the ancient Near East; the walls were built of mudbricks, wood, or a combination of these materials, depending on local availability. They may have served the dual purpose of showing presumptive enemies the might of the kingdom; the great walls surrounding the Sumerian city of Uruk gained a widespread reputation. The walls were 9.5 km in length, up to 12 m in height. The walls of Babylon, reinforced by towers and ditches, gained a similar reputation. In Anatolia, the Hittites built massive stone walls around their cities atop hillsides, taking advantage of the terrain. In Shang Dynasty China, at the site of Ao, large walls were erected in the 15th century BC that had dimensions of 20 m in width at the base and enclosed an area of some 2,100 yards squared.
The ancient Chinese capital for the State of Zhao, founded in 386 BC had walls that were 20 m wide at the base. The cities of the Indus Valley Civilization showed less effort in constructing defences, as did the Minoan civilization on Crete; these civilizations relied more on the defence of their outer borders or sea shores. Unlike the ancient Minoan civilization, the Mycenaean Greeks emphasized the need for fortifications alongside natural defences of mountainous terrain, such as the massive Cyclopean walls built at Mycenae and other adjacent Late Bronze Age centers of central and southern Greece. Although there are depictions of sieges from the ancient Near East in historical sources and in art, there are few examples of siege systems that have been found archaeologically. Of the few examples, several are noteworthy: The late 9th-century BC siege system surrounding Tell es-Safi/Gath, consists of a 2.5 km long siege trench and other elements, is the earliest evidence of a circumvallation system known in the world.
It was built by Hazael of Aram Damascus, as part of his siege and conquest of Philistine Gath in the late 9th century BC (mentio
The Continuation War was a conflict fought by Finland and Nazi Germany, as co-belligerents, against the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1944, during World War II. In Russian historiography, the war is called the Soviet–Finnish Front of the Great Patriotic War. Germany regarded its operations in the region as part of its overall war efforts on the Eastern Front and provided Finland with critical material support and military assistance; the Continuation War began 15 months after the end of the Winter War fought between Finland and the USSR. There have been a number of reasons proposed for the Finnish decision to invade, with regaining territory lost during the Winter War being regarded as the most common. Other justifications for the conflict included President Ryti's vision of a Greater Finland and Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim's desire to liberate Karelia. Plans for the attack were developed jointly between the Wehrmacht and a small faction of Finnish political and military leaders with the rest of the government remaining ignorant.
Despite the co-operation in this conflict, Finland never formally signed the Tripartite Pact that had established the Axis powers and justified its alliance with Germany as self-defence. In June 1941, with the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Finnish Defence Forces launched their offensive following Soviet airstrikes. By September 1941, Finland occupied East Karelia and reversed its post–Winter War concessions to the Soviet Union along the Karelian Isthmus and in Ladoga Karelia; the Finnish Army halted its offensive past the old border, around 30–32 km from the centre of Leningrad and participated in besieging the city by cutting its northern supply routes and digging in until 1944. In Lapland, joint German–Finnish forces failed to capture Murmansk or cut the Kirov Railway, a transit route for lend-lease equipment to the USSR; the conflict stabilised with only minor skirmishes until the tide of the war turned against the Germans and the Soviet Union's strategic Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive in June 1944.
The attack drove the Finns from most of the territories they had gained during the war, but the Finnish Army halted the offensive in August 1944. Hostilities between Finland and the USSR ended with a ceasefire, called on 5 September 1944, formalised by the signing of the Moscow Armistice on 19 September 1944. One of the conditions of this agreement was the expulsion, or disarming, of any German troops in Finnish territory, which led to the Lapland War between the former co-belligerents. World War II was concluded formally for Finland and the minor Axis powers with the signing of the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947; the treaties resulted in the restoration of borders per the 1940 Moscow Peace Treaty, the ceding of the municipality of Petsamo and the leasing of Porkkala Peninsula to the USSR. Furthermore, Finland was required to pay $300 million in war reparations to the USSR. 63,200 Finns and 23,200 Germans died or went missing during the war in addition to 158,000 and 60,400 wounded, respectively.
Estimates of dead or missing Soviets range from 250,000 to 305,000 while 575,000 have been estimated to have been wounded or fallen sick. On 23 August 1939, the Soviet Union and Germany signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, in which the two parties agreed to divide the independent countries of Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania into spheres of interest, with Finland falling within the Soviet sphere. Shortly after, Germany invaded Poland leading to the United Kingdom and France declaring war on Germany; the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland on 17 September. Moscow turned its attention to the Baltic states, demanding that they allow Soviet military bases to be established and troops stationed on their soil; the Baltic governments signed agreements in September and October. In October 1939, the Soviet Union attempted to negotiate with Finland to cede Finnish territory on the Karelian Isthmus and the islands of the Gulf of Finland, to establish a Soviet military base near the Finnish capital of Helsinki.
The Finnish government refused, the Red Army invaded Finland on 30 November 1939. The USSR was expelled from the League of Nations and was condemned by the international community for the illegal attack. Foreign support for Finland was promised, but little actual help materialised, except from Sweden; the Moscow Peace Treaty concluded the 105-day Winter War on 13 March 1940 and started the Interim Peace. By the terms of the treaty, Finland ceded 11 per cent of its national territory and 13 percent of its economic capacity to the Soviet Union; some 420,000 evacuees were resettled from the ceded territories. Finland retained its sovereignty. Prior to the war, Finnish foreign policy had been based on multilateral guarantees of support from the League of Nations and Nordic countries, but this policy was considered a failure. After the war, Finnish public opinion favored the reconquest of Finnish Karelia; the government declared national defence to be its first priority, military expenditure rose to nearly half of public spending.
Finland purchased and received donations of war materiel during and after the Winter War. Finnish leadership wanted to preserve the spirit of unanimity, felt throughout the country during the Winter War; the divisive White Guard tradition of the Finnish Civil War's 16 May victory-day celebration was therefore discontinued. The Soviet Union had received the Hanko Naval Base, on Finland's southern coast near the capital Helsinki, where it deployed over 30,000 Soviet military personnel. Relations between Finland and the Soviet Union remained strained after the signing of the one-sided peace treaty
Operation Uranus 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, portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army. The operation was executed at the midpoint of the five month long Battle of Stalingrad, was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced in September 1942, was developed with plans to envelop and destroy German Army Group Center and German forces in the Caucasus; the Red Army took advantage of the German army's poor preparation for winter, the fact that its forces in the southern Soviet Union were overstretched near Stalingrad, using weaker Romanian troops to guard their flanks. 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 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 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, 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, to Soviet units arriving late due to logistical issues. Operation Uranus was first postponed from 8 to 17 November 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. 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 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 and German commanders began to plan their next movements. On 28 June 1942, the Wehrmacht began its offensive against Soviet forces opposite of Army Group South, codenamed Case Blue. After breaking through Red Army forces by 13 July, German forces encircled and captured the city of Rostov. Following the fall of Rostov, Hitler split German forces operating in the southern extremity of the southern Russian SFSR in an effort to capture the city of Stalingrad and the Caucasus oil fields.
The responsibility to take Stalingrad was given to the Sixth Army, which turned towards the Volga River and began its advance with heavy air support from the Luftwaffe's Luftflotte 4. On 7 August, two German panzer corps were able to flank and encircle a Soviet force of 50,000 personnel and 1,000 tanks, on 22 August German forces began to cross the Don River to complete the advance towards the Volga; the following day, the Battle of Stalingrad began when vanguards of the Sixth Army penetrated the suburbs of the city. By November the Sixth Army had occupied most of Stalingrad, pushing the defending Red Army to the banks of the Volga River. 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, information gained through the interrogation of Soviet prisoners. However, the German command was intent upon finalizing its capture of Stalingrad. In fact, head of Army General Staff General Franz Halder had been dismissed in September after his efforts to warn about the danger, developing along the over-extended flanks of the Sixth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army.
As early as September the Soviet Stavka began planning a series of counteroffensives to encompass the destruction of German forces in the south, fighting in Stalingrad and in the Caucasus, against Army Group Center. Command of Soviet efforts to relieve Stalingrad was put under the leadership of General Aleksandr Vasilevsky; the Stavka developed two major operations to be conducted against Axis forces near Stalingrad and Saturn, 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. Operation Uranus involved the use of large Soviet mechanized and infantry forces to encircle German and other Axis forces directly around Stalingrad; 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 preventing the Germans from reinforcing those sectors where Axis units were too overstretched to occupy effectively. The offensive was a double envel
The Kholm Pocket was the name given for the encirclement of German troops by the Red Army around Kholm south of Leningrad, during World War II on the Eastern Front, from 23 January 1942 until 5 May 1942. A much larger pocket was surrounded in Demyansk, about 100 km to the northeast; these were the results of German retreat following their defeat during the Battle of Moscow. The air supply of Kholm and Demyansk, while successful, led to an overconfidence in the German High Command in regard to the Luftwaffe's ability to air supply encircled forces which would lead to disastrous consequences at the Battle of Stalingrad in late 1942 and early 1943. At the small Kholm pocket, 5,500 German soldiers held it for 105 days; the pocket was too small for planes to land. Among the airdropped supplies were 35 of the first 50 prototype MKb 42 rifles; the German units in the pocket were part of: 218th Infantry Division Reserve-Polizei-Bataillon 65 Infanterie-Regiment 553 Parts of the 123rd Infantry Division Jagdkommando 8 III.
Bataillon of the Luftwaffenfeldregiment 1German forces made three attempts to relieve the pocket, in January and May 1942. While the first two failed the third one was successful, with the German forces in the pocket reduced in number to 1,200 by then. In July 1942, the Cholm Shield was awarded to the German defenders of the pocket, upon the suggestion of Generalmajor Theodor Scherer, similar to the Demyansk Shield. Scherer was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves by Adolf Hitler for the command of the defense of Kholm. Kholm was liberated by the Red Army on 21 February 1944. Members of the Reserve-Polizei-Bataillon 65, a police unit from Gelsenkirchen, were questioned after the war by the state prosecutor in Dortmund for their involvement in ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe; the unit was found to have taken part in a minimum of 5,000 executions and a large number of deportations to concentration camps. Among them was the hanging of a young girl in Kholm during the siege.
Zabecki, David. Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1598849808. Bourne, Merfyn; the Second World War in the Air: The Story of Air Combat in Every Theatre of World War Two. United Kingdom: Troubador Publishing. ISBN 1780884419. Media related to Battle of Kholm at Wikimedia Commons