the air­lift

the ef­forts to cre­ate hitler’s Promised sky bridge fell short

History of War - - STALINGRAD -

Sup­ply­ing the men and ma­chines in the Stal­in­grad pocket by air be­gan on 23 Novem­ber. JU-52 trans­port planes flew into Pit­o­m­nik air­field (roughly 20 kilo­me­tres or 12 miles from cen­tral Stal­in­grad) mainly from Tatsin­skaya 260 kilo­me­tres (160 miles) to the west. For a JU-52 the flight time was 75 min­utes one way, but over three hours was re­quired for un­load­ing, re­fu­elling and wait­ing time.

De­spite the ob­jec­tions of lo­cal Luft­waffe com­man­ders Go­er­ing would not ex­plain to Hitler that the air bridge was un­able to de­liver the nec­es­sary ton­nage of sup­plies. It was es­ti­mated that 300 tons per day would keep the gar­ri­son func­tion­ing, whereas 750 tons would en­able it to per­form at an op­er­a­tional ca­pac­ity. This lat­ter fig­ure was re­vised down to 500 tons in light of ex­pe­ri­ence. The re­al­ity was some­what dif­fer­ent. Even when HE-III and FW-200 bombers were pressed into ser­vice to sup­ple­ment the JU52S the de­liv­ery of 300 tons was achieved only once.

Tatsin­skaya was over­run by Soviet ar­mour on 24 De­cem­ber. It was re­cap­tured four days later. Flights were switched to air­fields fur­ther west, ex­tend­ing the flight time. Up to 45,000 wounded were evac­u­ated by air. Pit­o­m­nik fell on 17 Jan­uary, and Gum­rak be­came the main airstrip for six days, un­til it too was cap­tured. The re­main­ing air­field couldn’t deal with trans­port planes. Sup­plies were parachuted in but most were lost in snow as the Luft­waffe re­fused to dye the white para­chutes.

ABOVE: The Sovi­ets placed bat­tery after bat­tery of an­ti­air­craft guns on the flight paths to Stal­in­grad. These took a heavy toll of the lum­ber­ing, fully laden air­craft both ar­riv­ing and de­part­ing

ABOVE: A wrecked JU-52 at Tatsin­skaya. Sur­prised by the at­tack, many air­craft took off but 72 (Luft­waffe fig­ures) were de­stroyed on the ground. The Sovi­ets claimed 300 de­stroyed in­clud­ing “a train­load of dis­as­sem­bled air­craft”.which­ever fig­ure is cor­rect, it was a heavy blow to the air­lift

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