Spitfires over Stalingrad

The three ME109 fighters were on Captain America's tail. Somehow the Luftwaffe pilots knew he was here at Stalingrad. They weren't at all happy that he had already shot down six of their number. Four ME109's and two Hienkel bombers.

The spitfire had been specially made for him. A larger than usual cockpit to allow room for his shield. Just as well, as machine gun fire from one fighter came perilously close to raking that cockpit. Finally though the cockpit did blow apart but Caps shield protected him.

An ordinary pilot would have bailed out at this point, but Cap came in so low over the ruined buildings that he was able to avoid the enemy fighters. Though the German 88 anti-aircraft fire gave him a hard time.

"If only we'd had him in the Battle of Britain" said one young RAF pilot watching the action from the other side of the Volga. "How do you think he got so good with spits" said the air ace Douglas Bader standing alongside the youth and winking to a nearby Russian interpreter.

Meanwhile Captain Britain and two RAF pilots took care of the Luftwaffe pilots still trying to tail Cap.

Cap reflected that, but for the smoke from the Stalingrad Tractor Factory and numerous other burning buildings, it might have been a beautiful perfect blue sky day. One thing was for sure though, it was desperately cold.

Steve reflected on how the RAF had been invited by the Russians, just a few weeks ago, to try to break German air superiority over the City. At the same time the Russians had also invited him, knowing that he was, in many ways, the ultimate street fighter, the ultimate tactician at this level. They were hoping that America's greatest hero could come up with a way to break the deadlock in this the most brutal conflict in human history. Cap had even been briefed by the great Russian General Georgi Zhukov himself. That was how highly they regarded him.

Several days ago Cap had gone out with Russian foot patrols getting a feel for how things were in the Stalingrad "academy of street fighting." The Soviets were doing a good job but he certainly had a few ideas for them. He was even introduced to the famous sniper Vasily Zeitsev.

Captain Britain's spitfire came alongside. Radio communications were out but he hand signaled for Cap to land, however Steve would have none of it. Their mission, essentially a reconnaissance one, to over fly the Stalingrad area was not yet done.

The German fighters were gone now and Captain America, minus windshield, Captain Britain and the two surviving pilots from the original RAF squadron headed south.

Looking down Cap was staggered at the destruction in the City. It didn't look any better up here than it had when he was with the foot patrols.

Moving to the southern limits of the now encircled City, Cap and his fellow pilots saw enough to realize the Wehrmacht was attempting a break out. They had to have been low on fuel but somewhere between 40 and 50 tanks, other armored fighting vehicles and infantry were moving south unopposed.

The four fighters flew further south approaching the Myshkova river only forty miles south of Stalingrad. There they were met with a hail of anti-aircraft fire from below. At first both captains thought that the Russians had failed to recognize the RAF roundels on the spitfires. But that wasn't the case.

Even as he bailed out Captain America recognized the German heavy armor below. Units of the 6th Panzer Division which must have been fresh from France. Captain Britain also managed to bail out but the two RAF pilots were less fortunate.

Steve realized he couldn't open his parachute too early as, even with his shield, he would be a prime target for half the German army. Leaving it to the last moment he opened the shute breaking his fall in a small but heavily wooded area as only Captain America can. By some miracle Captain Britain also landed unscathed. The two managed to find a temporary hiding spot.

The duo watched the German heavy armor roll by. Steve recognized the new Tiger tank, that he had heard about, among the armored formations. And there was other armor that he knew nothing about, but that looked very formidable. A fast, medium tank, that was nonetheless very heavily gunned and some monstrous self propelled artillery pieces. With them infantry that looked lean, tough and more importantly fresh. Among them Waffen SS units. Cap could smell Waffen SS a mile off.

"German heavy armor, here in this place, where they shouldn't be, can only mean one thing" said Cap to his British comrade in arms. "These Germans are trying to break though to Stalingrad.

Cap thought about the German armor and infantry to the North trying to break out and suppressed a shudder. They were less than forty miles from each other.

Just then a King Tiger rolled by that Cap knew was a command vehicle containing radio.

Captain America took another look at the big command tank. It was larger than one of the new Tigers and he had mistaken it for a King Tiger. Though the King Tigers were only supposed to be on the drawing boards.

Cap now saw that it was even bigger than a King Tiger. Larger, more heavily armored, with more sloping armor, and with a wicked long barrel gun that must have been at least a 120mm. An absolute monster.

It looked like Hitler was bringing out a few secret weapons in the attempt to relieve the surrounded German 6th army at Stalingrad.

The two captains raced toward the monster tank but before they could reach it they were fired on by dozens of SS troops. They also faced raking machine gun fire from several nearby Tiger tanks. Cap deflected the fire with his shield then launched himself among the SS closest to the big tank. Between the two of them the captains made short work of the Nazis.

Captain Britain climbed the monster tank and yanked its driver out of his turret. He then went below and seconds later the rest of tank crew were scrabbling out of its innards.

Meanwhile Captain America mopped up the SS men and ordinary Landsher still putting up some resistance.

The big tank was theirs for the moment and somehow Cap managed to radio the temporary RAF base east of Stalingrad.

Cap knew it would take a little while before the RAF and the Red Air Force could arrive so he decided to see what this tank could really do to slow up the German advance.

Now this particular command tank normally had a crew of four (commander, driver, gunner, and one other). Still if there were any two people in the world who could drive it on their own it was Captain America and Captain Britain.

The big tank started to move and started firing with its massive 120mm gun. German

Tigers and medium tanks responded but their 75mm and even 88mm shells were just bouncing off the massive sloping armor. Meanwhile German Mark IV medium tanks, the new secret medium tank (Cap discovered it was an early release of the Panther tank), and even Tiger tanks were being knocked out with monotonous regularity.

Eventually the big 120mm long barreled gun became superheated and wouldn't fire. At this stage the "Jerries", as Captain Britain referred to them, had maneuvered several of their huge self propelled guns into firing positions. The command tank took several monstrous 152mm shells and slowed then burst into flames.

The two captains scrambled away from the burning hulk with burning tanks seemingly all about them.

Finally the RAF and the Red Air Force arrived and in numbers. As it turned out Hitler wasn't the only one with a few secret weapons up his sleeve. The RAF came with its new Hawker Typhoon rocket firing ground attack aircraft and the Russians with their latest Sturmoviks. Spitfires and Yak fighters rode shotgun above.

If the two magnificent ground attack aircraft were largely untested before the battle the same could not be said of them afterwards. Both demonstrated that day what magnificent tank busters they were. No tank was safe from them.

It was getting dark and the two Captains continued to yell out encouragement for the attacking air forces.

Finally though Luftwaffe ME109's and a new and more dangerous fighter, that Cap had not seen before, drove off the attackers.

It looked as if the German attempt to relieve their soldiers in Stalingrad had been stopped fairly and squarely in its tracks.

The two captains commandeered two German motor cycles and headed north towards the Stalingrad encirclement. Cap wanted to see if the German 6th army forces he had seen attempting to break out to the South had been stopped.

It had been bitterly cold during the day but now, as night fell, temperatures plummeted. This might have been a problem for ordinary men but not for Captain America and Captain Britain.

Cap knew the dangers of any successful German breakout from Stalingrad (what the Germans referred to as the "Kessell"). Even a symbolic link up between the 6th army and Von Manstein's relief attempt from the South would have drastic consequences.

Cap knew, from when he was briefed by Georgi Zhukov himself, that the Russians had something big planned, something really big. But he also knew they needed time.

The two captains only had to motor about 35 miles north to see the stalled German break out attempt. Presumably the RAF and the Red Air Force would be back tomorrow but there was still some danger of a link up.

For some reason the Red Army was not in any kind of force hereabouts and was having trouble getting, even their well clad troops, into the area due to the weather.

After reconnoitering the German positions at the edge of Stalingrad the two Captains retired south a short distance.

Neither Captain slept that night keeping a constant watch out especially for small groups of "pathfinder" type soldiers probing ahead. For some reason, perhaps the extreme cold, there didn't seem to be any.

Cap knew that the German Army of late 1942 was a very resilient, very durable, very tough army. It was not safe to conclude the attempt to relieve Stalingrad had been completely stopped – yet!

Cap was proved right as very early morning brought the unmistakable rumble of heavy armor coming from the south. It was still fairly distant but sound can travel a long way in the quiet before dawn

The Germans were still coming and they didn't have far to go!

Captain America and Captain Britain looked on over partially snow covered semi steppe country. Slowly the distant rumble of the approaching German heavy armor increased. Finally the armored columns came into view. Above them the Luftwaffe, including the new rather mysterious high performance fighter, was out in force.

This despite all the damage that the two Captains and the Russian and British air forces had inflicted the day before.

To Cap it was just further evidence of the resilience of what was still, arguably, the worlds most powerful army.

To the north, surprisingly, there seemed no movement. Surely, no matter how exhausted they were, no matter how cold and hungry, the men of Paulus's 6th Army would make one last effort? Rather than just sit there?

"Where the hell is the RAF and the Red Air Force?" asked Cap. "Where's the Red Army?" replied Captain Britain.

Then amidst the partially snowy terrain, a little to the north west of their position, a small motorized convoy could be seen approaching them. It was Russian but only consisted of a few light vehicles. "Is that the best the mighty Red Army can do?" thought Cap, but he didn't voice those thoughts even to Captain Britain.

It turned out the small convoy had a group of expert Russian snipers fresh from Stalingrad (if anything inside of that City could be described as fresh!). They were led by the noble sniper himself Vasily Zeitzev. There was also an anti-tank squad equipped with the latest lend lease American bazookas and some Soviet anti-armor rifles. The contents of the convoy were a lot better than Cap had dared hoped. They also brought a crude radio transmitter.

The group was well camouflaged and for some unknown reason the Luftwaffe had not bombed or strafed it.

The two Captains had selected a quite magnificent spot to hole up in. A small ruined village with basements and cellars and underground tunnels and all sorts of vantage points among the rubble. A good defensible spot. Most important of all, the village was on a little knoll overlooking both Von Manstein's thrust coming from the South and the very southern edge of the Stalingrad salient.

Zeitzev and the ever present Russian Commissar brought the two Captains up to date with the tactical situation. Russian armored units including a new super tank (Cap learned later it was the first of the new Joseph Stalin super heavies) would be in position in 24 – 48 hours to blunt the German thrust.

"That will be too late" exclaimed Cap. Captain Britain nodded agreement.

With that Cap took command of the situation. He directed some of Zeitzev's snipers to pin down the German 6th Army infantry that were starting to move south from the edge of Stalingrad. The rest of the snipers were directed to target the German infantry advancing with von Manstein's panzers from the South as part of the relief effort. Cap directed the ant-tank crews to fire on the German armor as soon as it came into range.

Cap saw that the Germans now advancing from Stalingrad were particularly vulnerable with no supporting armored vehicles at all. He knew why. They were almost certainly completely out of petrol. Through good field binoculars he could see just see at least a dozen stalled panzers, probably not so much as an oily rag between them.

Under sustained long distance sniper fire from the little ruined village the unprotected 6th Army Landsher retreated back to the edge of the Stalingrad salient. Von Manstein would have to come to them.

Just then the Luftwaffe started bombing and strafing the small ruined village converting the huge amounts of rubble into even more rubble.

About then the RAF finally arrived. But only the fighters, supermarine spitfires, no fighter bombers. Cap didn't know it then but German night fighters had raided the Hawker Typhoon air base and caused considerable damage.

The spits supported by a few Russian yaks engaged the Luftwaffe. The young RAF pilots fought just as hard as if the battle was taking place over the heart of empire. Like Captain America they knew somehow that once again human history depended on the outcome.

The unlikely location for this contestation between the RAF and the Luftwaffe in the skies just south of Stalingrad was on relatively equal terms. Though the new Luftwaffe fighter (Cap later learned it was the Focke Wolfe 190) pressed the spitfires hard.

Picking up the long range sniper rifles both Captain America and Captain Britain started firing at any German aircraft not too close to an RAF fighter. With surprising success for both of them. Ordinarily it would be very difficult, almost impossible to shoot down a fighter aircraft with a rifle of any kind but the two Captains are not ordinary men. They each shot down five of the new Luftwaffe fighters.

Eventually the Luftwaffe withdrew and Cap establishing radio contact with the RAF acted as a sort of forward air controller. Directing the spits in against the German panzers that were starting to advance again from the South. "If only the fighter bombers were here" thought Cap.

Soon the spits ran out of fuel and ammunition and the Germans were still advancing. Cap saw that they were a mixture of Wermacht units. Elements from the 6th, 17th, and 23rd panzer divisions, and assorted infantry units. Der Fuehrer wasn't holding back. Cap even saw men from the SS Liebstendart.

The advancing German armor and infantry moved on towards the ruined village that the two Captains and the Russians were fighting from. They had obviously decided to take out this "annoying little village" before advancing the final few miles to the edge of the Stalingrad salient.

King Tigers, Tigers, Panthers and Panzer Mk 4 tanks and self propelled artillery blasted the well located little village turning rubble into fine dust. The Russians tried to return fire with their American lend lease bazookas but were forced into the basements and cellars. The two captains fired off their Russian made anti-tank rifles. Realizing these were only effective at short range they burrowed through the rubble and dust and fired off at the tanks at point blank range.

As German infantry followed the panzers, Russian rifles poked out of basements, cellars, from the shells of burned out buildings and from under the rubble of the little village. German infantry fell left right and centre, it was like another Stalingrad in miniature.

Eventually with most of the Russians defenders dead the Germans by passed the totally destroyed village and headed for Stalingrad.

Two motorcycle and side car units sped on ahead to meet their fellow Germans. Except they never arrived. The fast flying shield of Captain America took care of one and Captain Britain's marksmanship took care of the other.

The two captains, bloodied but unbowed, anti-armor rifles in hand, lay waiting just out of sight in a small depression

At that moment the RAF Hawker Typhoons finally arrived. The tank buster that would drive fear into the hearts of every German tank commander for the rest of world war two, let loose. It was a fearsome sight. Even so the two captains continued their personal fight.

When the ground attack aircraft finally left the battlefield it was getting dark, temperatures were plummeting and an almighty snow storm was starting. The storm went all night. The Germans could not possibly advance in it. Only the two Captains could move about in this dreadful weather. Even they eventually holed up – in the warmth of the still burning hulk of a Panzer Mk IV tank.

When day came the German tanks were frozen solid half buried in snow and there wasn't a German soldier to be seen. A live one that is and even many of the dead wer snow covered..

Captain America and Captain Britain heard a noise from above and looked up into the beautiful clear blue sky.

Approaching them from the direction of Stalingrad were ten RAF spitfires.

The spits gave a victory roll salute to Captain America and Captain Britain and then peeled off and returned to base.

From a distance Cap could see well clad white figures approaching on skies. He knew the Red Army had finally arrived.

Authors Note

Several weeks after the German relief attempt to reach their encircled troops at Stalingrad failed, the Russians launched Operation "Little Saturn" deep into the rear of the German armies. No further breakthrough to Stalingrad was possible and the fate of the German 6th army was sealed.

Captain America and Captain Britain were both made heroes of the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin himself.

An honor never before, or after, visited upon a non Russian.

End

Garth