Share with:

On 11 February, the III Panzer Corps continued its drive east. The force reached the Gniloy Tikich River and established a small bridgehead on the eastern bank. It was unable to advance further, meaning that Group Stemmermann had to fight its way out.

Group Stemmermann consisted of six divisions: the 57th, 72nd, 88th and 389th Divisions, Corps Detachment B (Division Group 112), all infantry formations with no armored components; and the 5th SS Panzer Division with the attached 5th SS Infantry Brigade and the Narwa Battalion. The only units considered still capable of offensive operations were the 72nd Infantry and 5th SS Divisions. 

Both sides realized that the Wehrmacht relief efforts had reached a critical stage. Despite heavy Soviet propaganda inducements, very few German soldiers and no Waffen-SS men in the cauldron had surrendered. Zhukov thus decided to send parlementaires under a white flag with surrender demands. Red Army emissaries presented letters for both Stemmermann and Lieb signed by Marshal Zhukov and Generals Konev and Vatutin. After cordial talks, refreshments and a handshake, the Soviet delegation departed without a positive answer.

The German air force mounted an aerial resupply operation to both the encircled forces and the German relief columns. On 28 January, the VIII Aviation Corps deployed 832 transport aircraft, 478 bombers (from which supplies were dropped at low altitude), 58 fighter bombers, and 168 fighters. Over the course of the operation, 32 transport aircraft, 13 bombers, and five fighters were lost. After the Korsun airfield was abandoned on 12 February, deliveries were dropped in by parachute.

The Luftwaffe delivered 82,948 gallons of fuel, 868 tons of ammunition and four tons of medical supplies to the encircled forces and 325 tons of ammunition, 74,289 gallons of fuel and 24 tons of food to spearheads of the relief formations, as well as evacuating 4,161 wounded while the Korsun airfield remained operational. The operation had only met about half (78 tons) of the daily requirements (150 tons) of the encircled troops as estimated by the German 8th Army headquarters.

Stemmermann began withdrawing troops from the north side of the pocket, reorienting the thrust of the escape direction, and attacking south to move toward the relief forces on the north bank of the Gniloy Tikich. The encircled forces aimed to capture the villages of Novo-Buda, Komarovka, Khilki and Shanderovka at the southwestern perimeter of the pocket to reach a favorable jump-off line for the breakout. On 11 and 12 February, elements of the 72nd Infantry Division captured Novo-Buda and Komarovka, respectively. On the evening of 15 February, Khilki was secured, against a Soviet counterattack.[46] However, of all the German divisions in the pocket, the 5th SS Panzer Division contributed the most to continued operations. Since the SS Division Wiking was the only truly mobile force inside the pocket, the division's tracked units were repeatedly shifted from one end of the pocket to the other to shore up crumbling lines.

The pocket had "wandered" south and half-way toward the relief force and rested on the village of Shanderovka. The settlement was heavily defended by the Soviets; it was captured by 72nd Infantry troops, retaken by units of the Soviet 27th Army and recaptured by the Germania regiment of 5th SS Panzer Division. By nightfall on 16 February, the III Panzer Corps fought its way closer to the encircled formations, with spearheads now seven kilometers from Group Stemmermann.