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I'm afraid there is not much specific in this one, but still worth a read maybe.XIII.
Fights in the Ukraine at Millerovo and Starobelsk
Januar, Februar 1943
Those were the days, when Soviet winter offensive broke through to the south and west of Stalingrad with great strength and unpredictable masses of troops. The 6. Armee was trapped in the city on the Wolga, and the Red Army advanced to the south seemingly unstoppable. At this dark hour, when the fate of those fighting and dying in Stalingrad was not yet fully sealed, the division was sent from the central part of the frontline to the area east of Kharkov. Here, between the Aidar and the Oskol, the division was assigned a frontline in the northeast part of the Donbass, that had to be defended for several reasons.
... often even behind enemy lines
They fought without reinforcements and relief forces for four long weeks, to the left, right, and even in the back of the enemy. They held off the advance of the enemy, enabling the allied troops a full retreat. They went over to the attack from the defensive, advanced more than 100 kilometres to the east, and freed a there encircled German-allied Kampfgruppe. The army of the enemy was tireless. The Popow Panzer Army pushed on and on towards the south through the division's positions, but always unsuccessful in breaking the division's lines. The armour was followed by Soviet rifle corps. Popow thought that he could leave the destruction of this single divison to them. The German regiments were fighting as lost islands in the masses of the Soviet troops. In two weeks time, one of them was fully separated from the division, and had to break out from the ring on its own for four times. The situation was especially grave in the south. Two Soviet rifle divisions rushed on the division in vein. The commander of the Soviet battle group was then once again ordered to continue advancing to the south. He sent a third corps had to the west, and one full Soviet tank corps was matched against one German regiment, in which the battalions often had one machine gun for a hundred men. But, the Panzergrenadiers and Kradschützen held their lines, and only pulled back when they were ordered to do so.
They beat the enemy also during the retreat.
Then the division pulled back slowly and in full order. First, the way backwards had to be freed. The regiments beat the enemy also during the retreat, while it was trying to destroy them during march and in positional combat many times. They had also taken prisoners, and brought them with themselves, while in all of these weeks, the enemy didn't succeed in taking even the smallest number of prisoners. The division pulled back to take its place in the main frontline, which could be formed unharmed during the weeks of their fighting. Within this frontline, they once again went over to the offensive, and pushed the enemy back to the Donez again.
It's not just about the heavy burden of the responsibility and leadership that from the generals to the innumerable nameless of this division have carried. No-one else knew, how close often the dark fate was in these hours, and they all had to carry the weight of this knowledge!
Thanks go to the soldiers of the division.
In a "Tagesbefehl" about the decoration of the commander of the division with the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross of his Iron Cross, he thanked his soldiers and told them, how proud he was to be their commander. Once again, he talked about the battles, that have brought him, and the whole division, this decoration. He told them, that the order to retreat was given out only when the enemy broke the positions at another frontline with massed attacks and the flanks and rear of the division were endangered. He added: "Never has the enemy broken through our positions".
Could anyone say a unit greater then they were in the whole history of people and battles? Let the fanfares celebrate the trumpets sing, and over the victory and death, sing the lines of the old song, sang along in this regiment so often, that it was never defeated by the enemy.
War reporter Dr. Heinz Simon
There is little to add to this: at the Christmas of 1942 the division was marched from Briansk to Smolensk, where they were loaded on trains. The transports went to the endangered right flank of the frontline, which, after breakthroughs by the Romanians, Italians and Hungarians, still stood at the Caucasus. At that time, it seemed possible to free the 6. Army fighting at Stalingrad. But this quickly showed its impossibility, as the Russians had far more troops so as for the few divisions, sent here from other fronts, to be enough. Thus, first of all, the troops, fighting together with the allied forces, had to break free to save what could still be saved. The 19. Panzer-Division was committed to action here, and had to fight the hardest fights ever heard, until they have reached the old Mius line, and have fortified in its northern part.
Until this, the division was part of the Armee-Abteilung of General der Artillerie Fretter-Pico. Now the command went over to the 1. Panzer-Armee, Generaloberst v. Mackensen. Generalfeldmarschall v. Manstein, in his book "Verlorene Siege", writes the following about these battles on page 394: "Further to northwest, a wide gap at the front Heeresgruppen B was formed as result of the rout of the Italian army. The rather weak Kampfgruppe Fretter-Pico of Heeresgruppe B fought at Millerowo, from time to time almost completely surrounded." And on the same page, below: "The Armee-Abteilung Fretter-Pico (two shabby divisions), by this time transferred to my command, defended the line of the Donez on both sides near Kamensk." and following "By the 19th January, at Heeresgruppe B, a gap from Woroschilowgrad on the Donez to Woronesch on the Don (about 320 km) was formed as the result of dissolval of the Italian army and the rout of the Hungarian army on the Don. On 23rd January, the "frontline" up to Starobelsk has been subordinated to the Heeresgruppe Don. Practically in this area there was only the more or less weakened 19. Panzer-Division, which had to leave Starobelsk under the impact of three corps of the enemy" and on page 407: "Resistance was only shown in the area Millerowo where as a lonely island in the red tide, Armee-Abteilung Fretter-Pico fought on the recreated right flank of Heeresgruppe B". In his book, Grandfelmarschall Manstein mentions divisions or even corps very seldom. That the 19. Panzer-Division is mentioned has very special importance. As I have already mentioned, I have very few reports at disposition about the battles of the division in these times, thus I will rely on the notices of the Grandfeldmarschall, whose words show what has the division done. On page 427, the following is written: "As we couldn't count on the Italians any more, our unique activum was the 19. Panzer-Division at Starobjelsk. But already on the 24th January the division had to abandon Starobelsk. The fact that this brave division, led perfectly by Generalleutnant Schmidt (here erroneously named Postel) could still break through to the west, deserves special merits. Even though, they could not prevent the superior forces of the enemy in passing the Donez towards the south."
This would be absolutely great, extremely appreciated as way to little is known about such a great officer as was your father (may he RIP).If you still need further information concerning Oberst Rolf Maempel, perhaps I can find answers to your questions in the documents given to me by my family.
I am the daughter of the late Oberst Rolf Maempel.