December 7, 1942.
After a two week offensive, the Red Amry's Operation Uranus had wrapped around the Axis forces concentrated at Stalingrad on the Volga River, pocketing the entire German Sixth Army and most of two Roumanian and one Italian armies. The German field command had already begun to recover from the rupture of the front. Small pockets of German troops (some fighting forces, some railroad engineers, some walking wounded, some cooks) had stabilized the situation where possible.
At one point east of Novomaksimovsky, German forces still held positions east of the Don river and less than 40 kilometers from the German lines of the Stalingrad pocket. As the German command sent troops forward to reinforce the paper-thin front line, it also created two small, but powerful, amrored forces with which it sought to break the siege on the Volga. One of these, the 48th Panzerkorps, was ordered to hold the Chir River line to allow the 11th Panzer Division to move east and join the relief effort towards Stalingrad. At the same time, the Soviet 5th Tank Army was ordered to drive though the German lines on the Chir and retake Rostov.
The battle these forces fought is still studied by military professionals as one of the classic mobile armored struggles of all time.