They say that the true defining factor of an excellent commander is not in the offense when soldiers are mostly prepared but during the retreat when most of the troops are in poor shape, desperate, and low in morale, and the odds are not in your favor. In times like this, soldiers and military leaders come up with the most unusual measures to successfully pull off the maneuver. That’s exactly what the German forces had to do when they had to retreat from the Russian forces. Their object of success? Lentil soup.
Battle of Stalingrad
During the Battle of Stalingrad in November 1942, the German 2nd Battalion from the 132nd Infantry Regiment was part of the German forces sent to stop the Russian troops’ encirclement of the city, which was rapidly coming both from the north and south.
They immediately went to work and set up defensive positions on the west banks of Don River. By mid-November, they received an order to move toward the village of Verkhne-Buzinovka, 25 miles away from their position. They arrived at the village the next day and were immediately met with relentless firing from the Soviet forces in the north and northwest. They managed to repel the assaults before the 1st and 2nd battalions managed to engage them and even captured around 80 Russian troops and 2 miles of ground that left the Soviet forces with no choice but to retreat.
The next day, the Germans woke up wto find a huge column of Soviet tanks, infantry, and artillery heading to their position. Knowing they were greatly outnumbered, they wasted no time and rushed back to the edge of the village and created a defensive line. The Germans, at this point, didn’t even have enough time to organize their units, so men were mixed and assigned to different officers and units with different roles. They created a defensive line, and the officers were given specific sections of the line to look after.
They held fire and waited until the Soviet column was about 1,500 meters from the village before they opened fire with everything: Machine guns, mortars, artillery, and rifles, all firing at the same time and causing chaos among the advancing Soviets.
At least for a while.
The Germans managed to slow down the advance and use the time to reorganize themselves, solidify defenses, and resupply the troops. Meanwhile, the Russians also regrouped and reorganized before throwing an all-out assault on the German position. German commander Verkhne-Buzinovka knew they did not have a fighting chance and that the next move should be a retreat. The problem was that it was mid-afternoon at that time, and going through the retreat route would be dangerous as the broad daylight would expose them to the Soviet’s bullets. He decided they would wait until dawn, when the darkness would help them retreat.
They made preparations for the retreat while holding their defenses until the evening.
Lentil Soup as Decoy
The German commander had a brilliant idea of utilizing the fact that the Soviet troops were hungry and underfed during the war and that they would be desperate for food. With that, Verkhne-Buzinovka ordered his cooks to make a large batch of lentil and pea soup from the stockpile of legumes that they found in one of the buildings in the village.
Outside, the Soviets continuously advanced until they arrived at the front of the first buildings that they would reach. The German used it as a cue to light the fire and start cooking the ingredients of their soup, which were basically all mixed together into large pots filled with water. The Germans also emptied the contents of their mail sacks onto the streets. By night, many of the troops helped in the retreat forces before the Russians managed to occupy the area. The two groups exchanged a heavy barrage of artillery until the Soviets reached the abandoned German camp. They searched for the enemies and instead found hot lentil soup, and with their stomachs grumbling, it was just hard to resist. The Soviets helped themselves with servings of the hot soup rather than continue their pursuit of the rapidly retreating Germans.