On the morning of 7 December 1942, the men of KGr.zbv 50, a Luftwaffe transport squadron, woke to another dismal morning on the Russian steppe. The blinding snow of the previous week had been replaced by persistent, chilling rain, and the men had to pick their way across the mud on duckboards. For the last two weeks they had been operating out of Tatinskaya airfield in support of the encircled Sixth Army at Stalingrad, battling to keep their fleet of ageing Ju-52s in the air. The men had spent the night in tents clustered along the northern side of the runway. They were protected from the wind by embankments of snow, but the canvas was still frozen stiff most mornings. As they ate their breakfast in the mess hut, the officers, including their commander Oberstleutnant Otto Baumann, arrived in the truck they had driven over from their marginally better accommodation in the nearby village.
Wehrmacht In Action3 December 2014
The First Battle of Gazala
The Libyan village of Gazala is an unlikely strategic pivot. Located some 31 miles (50km) west of Tobruk, in 1941 it consisted of a squat mud-brick mosque and around 15 simple farmhouses. The people subsisted by herding goats, cultivating small patches of fertile land, and hunting birds in the nearby salt-marshes. It was these salt marshes, more specifically their proximity to the cliffs to the south, that gave Gazala its significance; the village marks a point where the flat coastal strip that runs along Libya’s mediterranean coast narrows to just 1.25 miles (2km) – one of the few defensible points in the otherwise featureless Western Desert.
I Was There3 December 2014
Arsenti Rodkin, 10 October 1944
This account was written by the Russian historian Artem Drabkin based on his interviews with Arsenti Rodkin. Rodkin served as a T-34 commander in the 1st Tank Corps from 1943 to 1945, taking part in the advance through Lithuania and into East Prussia. This account provides a glimpse of what life was like for those who opposed the German War Machine in the east, fighting as part of the brave and determined – but sometimes chaotic – Red Army. It also illustrates the difficulties that faced crews of the T-34/85 tank, which was massively front-heavy and had a gun that protruded 6ft 6 inches (2m) past the front of the hull.