With AGS stymied along the length of the Dnepr Stavka had formulated a plan to shorten the line and ensare as many Axis formations as possible.
The Red Army still held Cherkassy and the high ground on the western bank of the Dnepr just a little farther southeast of the city. The Wehrmacht had finally taken and held the high ground on the west bank farther south on the river by placing pzr/mot forces on the pivotal terrain.
Under the command of Coastal Army attached to Southern Front, 12 cavalry divisions had been recently refitted and railed to the eastern banks of the Dnepr near Cherkassy. These cavalry divisions would recieve immediate support from Southwest Front, with reinforcements following in echelon attached to Transcaucasus Front. These would be the recently awarded Guards Rifle Divisions as well as the surviving mountain divisions. These forces constituted the northern spearhead of the Soviet winter offensive in the south. Their goal is to march southwest, avoiding being tied down assaulting Kirovograd in favor of a march between the Sinyukha and Ingul rivers.
Late rains had prevented the river from freezing solid by the beginning of December and consequently attacks across the expanse were limited. Around Cherkassy Southwest Front made an effort to clear a bridgehead between the high ground and the city, and was able to send across several rifle divisions to help maintain the foothold.
Prisoners collected from patrols determined the return and location of Romanian cavalry and Italian troops to the Dnepr river banks south of Cherkassy. Attacks were launched against these groups that evicted the invaders and lay waste to their fortifications. No effort was made to keep any bridgeheads while the river was still thick with ice, but the officers were happy to be given a 'trial run' for the trial to come.
The main assault begins as the Dnepr north of Zaporozhye finally freezes solid.
With the bridgehead secured the week prior the Soviets pour across the frozen river and work to quickly expand the salient. Cavalry corps are in the vanguard, followed closely by the Guards Rifles and Mountain divisions.
Further south Southern Front and Southwest Front move troops into narrow bridgeheads, bypassing the mountain troops that flank Cherkassy, and flowing around the high ground occupied by German pzr/mot formations.
Direct assaults on the panzers defending Dnepropetrovsk's flanks are avoided. Instead pressure is brought on the panzers flanks, with communications to Dnepropetrovsk reduced to a 10 mile corridor defended by the 22nd Air Landing Division.
Farther south the river still has not frozen solid, and consquently the southern assault forces must continue to bide their time. Five cavalry corps, under the command of Transcaucasus Front are gathered near the mouth of the Dnepr, with plans to cross that river, bypass Nikolaev to the north, and follow the Yuzhny Bug river northwest to link up with Coastal Army cavalry corps at the confluence of the Sinyukha and Yuzhny Bug.
As additional rifle divisions are brought up to the front line they will be organized under the leadership of Transcaucasus Front and fed as reinforcement into the southern pincer's axis of advance.
Three more cavalry divisions are gathered under N.Caucasus Front, with the intention of forming a new corps and committing them to slice into the 'neck' of the D-Z Salient.
Cavalry corps chase the German infantry divisions across the steppe. Southwest Front's tank brigades fan out from the bridgehead, which is now over 50 miles wide. The Cherkassy Salient is roughly 60 miles wide and 70 miles deep.
The Germans try to pull their armor back from the banks of the Dnepr, but the soviets have begun to cut them off. 5th Pzr Div is routed from its perch and tries to reform east of Krivoi Rog.
Dnepropetrovsk is surrendered without a shot as the pzr and mot division start shuffling west. Heavy pressure just west of Dnepropetrovsk scatters the Rumanians that held that flank.
With the rivers now frozen to sea the second half of the operation finally gets underway. The Rumanians and their shear German corset that tried to contain the Red Army behind the lower Dnepr are handled roughly.
German panzers are still on the Dnepr at the neck of the D-Z Salient. Stavka hopes these panzers remain committed while the real encirclement happens 80 miles west.
Rifle and tank brigades are used to keep contact with the enemy as two of the cavalry corps emerge from the swamps and begin moving past Nikolaev. The other three cavalry corps will finally cross river next week, nearly 3 weeks behind plans.
SS Motorized, evacuated earlier from opposite Zaporozhye on the Dnepr, try to stem the tide of cavalry and tanks from Cherkassy. They seem more likely to be caught in the current.
Kirovograd is stormed against weak opposition as the northern pincer continues to reach south and southeast. The Cherkassy Salient now reaches 80 miles south of Cherkassy and 80 miles to the southeast. By the faintest of margins they fail this week to link up with the southern pincer and close the Krivoi Rog Pocket.
However, Pzr/Mot are cut off trying still to escape from the high ground they occupied on the Dnepr line.
The D-Z Salient is also cut off, with tank brigades forming the roadblocks for the bulk of 1st and 2nd Panzer Group. The cavalry corps forces a retreat from the only unit likely to actually pose a threat to the tank brigades. This puts a nice bow on the christmas present for Stalin.
The cavalry corps of Transcaucasus Front push straight north along the Ingul river, trying to reach the elements of Coastal Army cavalry. 13th Cavalry Corps loses touch with its brother formations, and stands alone between the Krivoi Rog Pocket and freedom.
The first rifle division reinforcements to Transcaucasus Front's southern pincer arrive and cross the Dnepr.
Southwest Front tank brigades continue racing west, trying to encircle a Slovakian mobile division and cutting off Hungarian armor and mountain troops with some dejected German comrades.
Southwest Front and the northern pincer forces trap the SS Motorized. At this point only a few pzr/mot formations are left in the sector.
13th Cavalry Corps held out and was relieved by assaults from northern and southern pincers. A 30 mile corridor was formed, trapping the bulk of AGS around Krivoi Rog.
Southern Front and N. Caucasus Front make quick work of the D-Z Salient hold outs. Southern Front tanks even make it into Krivoi Rog without a shot fired.
Hungarians and friends sent to Siberia
Krivoi Rog Pocket reduced and survivors begin marching farther east than they ever imagined.
Cavalry corps make a final pincer plunge and bracket the remainder of identified German pzr/mot units.
All objectives met, will need to analyze supply situation to determine February stop line. Initial plans for reinforcing the Yuzhny Bug may be shelved for a picnic on the Dnestr by April?