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The whole of III Panzer Corps had a long flank and extended supply routes to worry about. North of the 1st Panzer Division, the attack force consisted of only Panzer Regiment Bäke, the 506th Tiger Battalion, and the Panther Battalion, the SPW battalion, and the reconnaissance battalion of the 16th Panzer Division. The rest of 16th Panzer Division, as well as the entire 17th Panzer Division and all of the Leibstandarte, fought to protect the flank and keep the supply route to the lead units open. The last component of III Panzer Corps was the 198th Division, which was fighting at the base of the salient that III Panzer Corps had driven into Vatutin’s front, and which had succeeded in recapturing Vinograd and reestablishing the connection with SS-Leibstandarte.586

The extended flanks called for reinforcements, and during 13 February Hube instructed the XXXXVI Panzer Corps to make a plan showing how quickly the 4th Mountain Division could be relieved and sent to III Panzer Corps. Initially the 4th Mountain Division could be relieved by the 6th Panzer Division, but Hube demanded that the latter division would later have to be made available as a reserve.587

One reason for Hube’s concern may have been the presence of Zhmachenko’s 40th Army, which attacked the 34th Infantry Division near Tinovka. After a thorough preparation by mortars and rocket launchers, infantry supported by tanks assaulted. The attack carried into Tinovka and street fighting ensued, while the advancing Soviet forces isolated German defenders on Hill 235 west of the village. Eventually the 34th Division halted the Soviet attack, but clearly reserves at hand would be preferable. If Zhmachenko succeeded in breaking through, the consequences could be disastrous for the Germans. Not only would the relief attempt be impossible, the entire III Panzer Corps could be cut off.588

For the moment German intelligence did not suggest that Zhmachenko had strong armored forces on hand, and the ground conditions were as much a hindrance to Soviet mobile operations as they were to the Germans; but circumstances could change. It was more prudent to begin moving the 4th Mountain Division soon. As a further consideration, the gap between 1st Panzer Army and 8th Army was still almost undefended. More troops would be needed to prevent the Red Army from exploiting it.589

Maintaining the Bridgeheads

During 13 February, von Vormann’s XXXXVII Panzer Corps made very little progress. Almost all of the tanks in 11th Panzer Division were out of fuel, as not even tracked vehicles designed to pull other heavy equipment could get forward. The I./26 Panther Battalion had three tanks still running. One of them was commanded by second lieutenant Fisch, who moved forward toward suspected Soviet tanks. Within a short time his tank was struck repeatedly and he was hit by splinters in the back and head. Fisch was killed almost instantly, but his crew drove the tank back to safety. Little else happened in the 11th Panzer Division’s sector. The tank crews tried to alleviate the supply problems by distributing the scarce ammunition between the tanks, to ensure that each had at least some rounds of both high-explosive and armor-piercing. For the moment, supply was the limiting factor on the readiness of the tanks. The I./26 Battalion actually had 20 Panthers in running order, but the majority of them were inoperable due to lack of fuel or ammunition.590

Somewhat more success was achieved by the 13th Panzer Division at Yurkovka, but still the gains were only modest. The bridgehead was slightly enlarged, but that was about it. From an armchair general’s point of view, it could be argued that it would have been better to send 13th Panzer Division to reinforce the bridgehead already taken by 11th Panzer Division. However, that would mean two divisions on a road network that already was overstrained in the present weather conditions. Colonel Reinhard, the Chief of Staff of XXXXVII Panzer Corps, had to borrow a Storch aircraft to get forward and visit the 11th Panzer Division’s command post. It cannot have been an encouraging trip, since it must have been obvious to Reinhard that only tanks could still move, and then only at great strain to their engines and transmissions, and by consuming scarce fuel. Furthermore, many German soldiers had been afflicted by “Volhynian fever,” a kind of typhoid disease. It seemed that von Wietersheim and his chief of staff had also been infected.591

More drama took place inside the pocket, as fighting raged on its perimeter. During the night, fighting had continued at Komarovka, Shenderovka, and Novo Buda and the struggle for these vital localities continued into the morning of 13 February. The Germans penetrated into the furthest parts of Komarovka at about 08.00hrs, but soon faced a Soviet response. At 09.10hrs heavy Soviet artillery fire rained down on the German positions around Novo Buda. Stemmermann asked for air power to attack the positions of the Soviet artillery units, because lack of ammunition prevented his artillery from effectively countering that of the enemy. In the meantime, the German soldiers could only hunker down in their foxholes and wait for the major attack that seemed certain to follow soon.592

The German fears were fully justified. During the night, Selivanov’s cavalry had moved to get into position to attack on 13 February. He had his 11th and 12th Guards Cavalry Divisions available to assault Novo Buda and Shenderovka, while 63rd Cavalry Division, supported by 19 tanks, attacked Komarovka. It was vital to prevent the Germans inside the pocket from moving further to the southwest, where the German III Panzer Corps constituted the gravest threat among the enemy forces outside the pocket.593

After an artillery preparation lasting more than an hour, the Soviet forces, supported by tanks, attacked and penetrated Novo Buda, where the Wallonien Brigade had just relieved the 266th Infantry Regiment. The commander of the latter unit, Major Siegel, was still in Novo Buda when Soviet tanks rolled into the streets between the houses. He watched helplessly as a Soviet tank slowed down and stopped very close to him. His orderly had just left with the only available Panzerfaust to fight another tank and Siegel could only wait in silence. Fortunately for Siegel, Lieutenant Peters was not far away and he stalked the imprudent tank and hit it with another Panzerfaust.594

The 266th Infantry Regiment had not gotten far from Novo Buda and swiftly conducted a counterattack, which recaptured the village. The Wallonians once again assumed responsibility for the village, but the Soviet soldiers remained just outside. Major Lippert, who commanded the Wallonian Brigade, was about to direct his soldiers to their positions when he was hit in the chest just as he stepped out from a house. The wound was severe and Lippert passed away quickly. His adjutant, Leon Degrelle, assumed command over the Brigade while Soviet artillery began to shell the village. Lippert’s body was placed in a coffin, which was later fastened to an SP gun in an attempt to bring the corpse out of the pocket and bury it.595

The fighting at Novo Buda was only a prelude to a greater battle. Stemmermann’s pleas for air support increased, as Soviet artillery continued to shell Novo Buda. The Luftwaffe liaison officer at the 8th Army staff replied that he had already asked the I. Fliegerkorps to support the ground units fighting in the Shenderovka–Steblev area. In the meantime the 2nd Ukrainian Front continued its attacks on Komarovka and Shenderovka. A force of about a dozen Soviet tanks attacked from Morentsy, along the road to Novo Buda and Komarovka, but was repulsed. Within the villages, bitter house-to-house fighting ensued, but neither side made much progress. However, Konev’s chief aim was to prevent the Germans from moving further toward the south or west. At least temporarily, this objective was achieved.596