The Tatsinskaya Raid was a Soviet armoured raid deep into the German rear conducted by 24th Tank Corps under the command of Major General Vasily Mikhaylovich Badanov in late December 1942, during the last phases of the Battle of Stalingrad (Operation Little Saturn)…. The Soviet force captured its objective, the Luftwaffe airfield at Tatsinskaya, destroying over 72 aircraft on the ground, but was left cut off and without supplies. Despite the loss of most of the tank corps during the ensuing breakout, the raid was a great operational victory.
The Tatsinskaya Airfield, 260 km away from Stalingrad, became the most important airfield for the supply of the trapped 6th Army in Stalingrad after all land connections were severed after 24 November 1942, when the airlift began. From Tatsinskaya, a Ju 52 plane would take approx. 1¼ hour to reach Stalingrad, from where it would return after a 3½ hour turnaround, theoretically making it possible to complete a mission in six hours. Tatsinska….
24th Tank Corps belonged to 3rd Guards Army, which was commanded by General D.D. Lelyushenko, which was a part of the Southwestern Front under the command of N.F. Vatutin. The corps was designated as the army's exploitation force…. 24th Tank Corps was ordered to commence its operation at 1130 hours on 17 December…. On Christmas Eve, 24 December 1942, they captured the airfield with an attack from three sides. The airfield may not have received a warning, since flight operations were still going on. An eyewitness account by a Soviet officer describes the scene:
Our tank detachments unexpectedly broke into Tatsinski military airport. First to penetrate enemy's territory was captain Nechaev's battalion. A tough fight between tanks and enemy artillery began. Germans were shooting grenades at the Russian tanks and managed to blow up several of them. However the Soviet tank crews broke the Nazi defense. After they destroyed patrol forces, Russian soldiers started shooting German pilots that rushed to their planes desperately hoping to save their lives.
24th Tank Corps claimed the destruction of over 300 planes on the airfield, while German estimates were 72 were actually destroyed, or almost 10% of the transport capacity of the Luftwaffe. The airfield defenses were quickly over-run, and while over 100 transport planes managed to escape, German losses were heavy….
Once the airfield was seized however, 24th Tank Corps was cut off, and found itself without supplies deep inside the German lines…. This led to the need for Badanov and his surviving men to break out to escape destruction, and permission to do so was given on 28 December. Most of the matériel and many men were lost during the break-out, but the damage to the Germans had been done. German forces engaged in the relief of Stalingrad had to be withdrawn to deal with the raiders, and many invaluable transport planes of the Luftwaffe had been destroyed, with their crews and ground personnel mostly killed. 24th Tank Corps claimed the destruction of 84 tanks, 106 guns, the killing of 12,000 Axis soldiers and the capture of almost 5,000 more in this operation.
Despite the loss of most of the tank corps, the raid was a great operational success. 24th Tank Corps operated up to 150 miles (240 km) from its supply base, and had to rely on captured supplies to keep operational….
After the fall of Tatsinskaya, the Ju 52 from there were relocated to Salsk, while the He 111 went to Novocherkassk, increasing the distance to travel considerably.