When Germany's Sixth Army advanced to Stalingrad in 1942, its long-extended flanks were mainly held by allied armies-the Romanians, Hungarians, and Italians. But as history tells us, these flanks quickly caved in before the massive Soviet counter-offensive which commenced that November, dooming the Germans to their first catastrophe of the war. However, the historical record also makes clear that one allied unit held out to the very end, fighting to stem the tide-the Italian Alpine Corps. When the Don front collapsed under Soviet hammer blows, it was the Alpine Corps that continued to hold out until it was completely isolated, and which then tried to fight its way out through both Russian encirclement and "General Winter" to rejoin the rest of the Axis front. Only one of the three alpine divisions was able to emerge from the Russian encirclement with survivors. In this all-sides battle across the snowy steppe, thousands were killed and wounded, and even more were captured. By the summer of 1946, only 10,000 survivors returned to Italy from Russian POW camps.