How was the Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad. The turning point of the Second World War, the battle of Stalingrad was a fierce urban conflict, in which tens of thousands of German and Soviet soldiers died.
This is where the Red Army proved that it could not only contain the Wehrmacht, but also defeat the apparently invincible German war machine.
Data from Stalingrad
Who: The 6th German Army under the command of General Friedrich Paulus (1890-1957) versus the 62nd Soviet Army under the command of General Vasily Chuikov (1900-1982).
How: The Germans, stuck in urban combat, where their mobility tactics were useless, were unable to take the city; they were trapped by the Soviet counteroffensive, and the 6th Army surrendered.
Where: The city of Stalingrad, on the Volga River, south of the Soviet Union.
When: September 14, 1942 – February 2, 1943.
Why: The Germans were trying to take Stalingrad to deal a blow, both material and psychological, to the subsequent Soviet resistance.
Result: Stalingrad was the turning point of the war on the Eastern Front when the Soviets won their first major victory.
Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, was the largest land invasion in history.
It also pitted 3.6 million German soldiers and their allies against some three million Soviet soldiers in the Soviet Western Tactical and doctrinally superior Soviet Union.
The Germans advanced further and faster than any other modern army, capturing some three million prisoners.
However, the Soviet Union did not collapse, as Hitler had predicted. Unclear strategic objectives, excessively forced logistics, unexpectedly long Soviet resistance and the terrible Russian winter meant that the Germans failed to defeat their enemy in 1941.
In fact, the Red Army was able to launch a counteroffensive in Moscow on December 5/6, which caught the Germans off guard, rejecting them for more than 100 miles in some places before the line stabilized.
Barbarossa had cost the German army 1.1 million casualties. Only eight of the 162 divisions of the Eastern Army were fully staffed. Vehicle losses were also high.
In the spring of 1942, there was no possibility of resuming the offensive; the Germans had only resources for one advance.
In addition, Stalin and the Soviet high command predicted that the Germans would resume their assault on Moscow and accumulated their reserves in the region.
The United States in the war
Despite this, Hitler decided to move south towards the Transcaucasus and the oil fields, which supplied 90% of the Soviet fuel.
As a result, this would deprive the Soviets of fuel and provide resources for a prolonged war against England and the US.
He also stated this view in the Führer’s directive no. 41 of April 5, 1942, stating that: “All forces will be concentrated for operations in the southern sector, in order to destroy the enemy before reaching the Don, to capture the oil fields of the Caucasus and the passages through the Caucasus mountains”.
Operation Blue, codenamed after the plan, was launched by the Southern Armies Group, which consisted of one million Germans and 300,000 allied soldiers, backed by Luftflotte 4 with 1,500 airplanes.
Although there were two main axes of advance: Armies Group A would head for the Caucasus, while Armies Group B would protect the northwest flank from advance along the Don and Volga rivers.
The operation began on June 28, 1942, and the Germans initially made rapid progress.
Although they managed to inflict a series of resounding defeats on the Soviets, Stalin had given the Red Army permission to exchange space for time, and the retreat was conducted in an orderly fashion.
As a result, Group A arrived at the Maikop oil fields on 9 August, but progress slowed down thereafter when resources were sent to Group B.
Its main formation was the 6th Army, under the command of Colonel General Paulus, which was advancing towards the city of Stalingrad, located at the main crossing of the Volga River. On July 23, Hitler ordered to take the city.
There were some military reasons for capturing Stalingrad because it would block a starting point for a Soviet counterattack.
However, the main motivations were political and psychological. Capturing the city that bore Stalin’s name would be of great value to the morale of Germany and its allies.
Stalin also understood the importance of the city. On July 12, he established the Stalingrad front, consisting of 62nd, 63rd, and 64th armies.
A week later the city itself was put on the warpath, although there would be no mass evacuation of the population, as Stalin believed that the troops would fight better for a “living city”.
On 23 July it issued Order No. 277, according to which the Red Army would not take”a single step backward”. German commanders observed a clear hardening of Soviet resistance but managed to make their way through the 64th Army and across the Don on August 23.
On the same day, Luftflotte 4 launched a massive air strike over Stalingrad, killing 30,000 people. The first German spearheads reached the Volga via Rynok and entered the northern districts of Stalingrad.
However, progress slowed in the city. Thus, the bulk of Paulus’ army only reached the outskirts of downtown Stalingrad in early September.
Herman Hoth’s 4th Motorized Army (panzer) had similar difficulties reaching the southern neighborhoods.
The opposing forces
The Soviets estimated that they faced some 170,000 men, 500 tanks and 3,000 pieces of artillery on the 64-km front around Stalingrad and its surroundings.
They themselves could gather about 90,000 soldiers, 120 battle tanks and 2,000 cannons. The defenders of the narrower front of the city itself faced a similar imbalance, with the 54,000 troops of the 62nd German Defence Army against some 100,000 Germans.
These figures fluctuated throughout the battle due to losses and reinforcements, but the balance of power remained reasonably constant.
The main German commander was Paulus, an excellent officer, and capable soldier, although he was probably not cut out for the fierce and disorderly urban battle of attrition he faced.
The great Vasily
In addition, Vasily Chuikov, commanding the 62nd Army, contrasted with the neat and scrupulous Paulus. Hard, rude, and stubborn, he was the perfect man for the arduous task ahead of him and his troops.
Chuikov had also thought a lot about how he was going to defeat his opponent. The Soviets had chosen their land well.
In the campaigns that preceded Stalingrad, the Soviets had proven to be tactically and operationally inferior in combat in the wide open spaces of the steppes.
In fact, the key to Germany’s success had been the coordination of its infantry and armored personnel, and particularly close air support.
Up to this point, they had avoided urban combat in the main conurbations. However, military necessity, and politics forced the Germans to fight in an environment where their maneuvering skills were irrelevant.
More importantly, their close air support would be less effective. On the contrary, the proven defensive tenacity of the Soviets, their ability to fight at close range and their willingness to accept losses would be considerable advantages.
The mamayev kurgan
The first German attempt to take the city began on September 14 with a two-pronged assault by the LI Corps in the center and south, backed by an advance from the southern end neighborhoods by the 4th Motorized Army.
The objective was to capture the dominant high ground of Mamayev Kurgan, where Chuikov had his headquarters, and capture the central pier, dividing the 62nd Army in two and isolating it from re-supply.
An artillery attack eliminated Chuikov’s CG, and the Germans advanced over Mamayev Kurgan, to Stalingrad Railway Station No. 1 and the Volga River jetties.
Chuikov sent his final tactical reservations and begged his front commander to send him the 13th Elite Guard Division of Major General Rodmitstev.
The division had to make its way from the jetty to the station and on the southeastern slopes of Mamayev Kurgan.
The station changed hands 15 times and was finally occupied by the 71st German Division on 19 September. By then, the 13th Guard, which had entered combat with 10,000 troops, had only 2,700.
The three German Divisions
South of the city, the 4th Motorized Army encountered intense resistance, culminating in the battle over the grain silo, where 50 Marines and guards held three German divisions.
However, on September 26, the 4th Motorized Army had reached the Volga and separated the 64th from Chuikov’s 62nd Army. The 6th Army occupied the crest of Mamayev Kurgan and made significant progress in the center.
Paulus declared that”the Reich battle flag flies over the Party building in Stalingrad”, but the battle was not over.
The volga crosses
Although fighting continued around Mamayev Kurgan, the main German effort moved to the factory district on 27 September.
The German attacks on Soviet positions around the Red October industrial complexes, Barrikady, and the tractor factories were intended to capture the jetties behind them. Controlling the Volga was the key to the battle because it was the vital umbilical cord of the 62nd Army.
Despite the tactical dominance of the Luftwaffe and the efforts of the German artillery, they failed to stop the flow of supplies and men across the river. After a week of fighting, the 6th Army managed to isolate the tractor factory.
After a break in combat the Germans redoubled their efforts in the factory district, eventually capturing Barrikady and most of Red October.
At the end of October, they occupied 90% of the city and had all the areas controlled by the Soviets under fire. However, this had only been achieved at the enormous cost. The 6th
The army was exhausted. The Red Army had endured all that the Wehrmacht could throw at it, and it still clung to the banks of the Volga.
On November 11, Paulus launched his last major assault, again in the factory district. German troops managed to reach the west bank of the river.
To maintain momentum during the seven weeks of house-to-house combat, the German command reduced the length of the front defended by the 6th Army and the 4th Motorized Army, leaving the flanks covered by Italian and Romanian forces.
Stalin had commissioned General Georgi Zhukhov (1896-1974) to organize a counterattack to isolate the 6th Army in Stalingrad.
He accumulated one million men and 900 battle tanks behind the Volga, undetected by the Germans. Zhukhov launched his assault, Operation Uranus, on November 19.
Three armies from General Vatutin’s south-west front crushed the Romanian 3rd Army and the Yeremenko front swept the Romanian 4th Army in the south.
Both fronts met in Kalach on November 23, completing an encirclement that trapped some 250,000 German and Axis soldiers in Stalingrad.
Paulus asked permission to make his way, but Hitler refused. The head of the Luftwaffe, Herman Goring, pledged to supply the 6th Army by air, and Hitler ordered Field Marshal Von Manstein (1887-1973) to prepare a counterattack to aid Paulus’ trapped troops.
Operation Winter Storm, launched on 12 December, was to cover some 100 km. She was stopped about 60 km south of Stalingrad.
Meanwhile, Zhukhov launched his offensive, called”Little Saturn”, threatening the German position in the south.
Winter Storm was the last hope of the 6th Army. The Luftwaffe barely managed to unload a third of the necessary supplies and, since 10 January, the German position has been increasingly constrained by Operation Ring, the Don front under General Rokossovsky and his attempt to close the stock market.
The Soviets were impressed by the resistance of the German defenders. However, they took about half the bag in one week and, after the fall of the last airfield, Paulus asked Hitler for permission to surrender.
He was denied. On 29 January, the Germans had been reduced to two bags in the city, one around the Unimag warehouses in the center and the other in the factory district. On January 31, Hitler promoted Paulus to the quarterback.
The implications were obvious; no German commander of that rank had been captured alive. However, Paulus surrendered.
German casualties at Stalingrad were about 200,000 men, and 110,000 6th Army troops were held captive by the Soviets. Only 5,000 made it home.
It is believed that more than 1 million people died in bloodshed in Stalingrad when Soviet forces stopped and then shifted the tide over the invading Nazi forces.
The ceremony takes place in the city now known as Volgograd which includes a parade with armored vehicles, one for each year since the victory, led by an old T-34 tank, the war horse of the Soviet army in times of war.
Stalingrad was a decisive turning point in the war against Germany. The Soviet army had defeated the Wehrmacht.
While Germany would maintain a tactical advantage, at Stalingrad the Soviets showed a greater understanding of the operational and strategic level of the war.
The Red Army had drawn the Wehrmacht into a battle of attrition. However, it had also been able to launch a large-scale mobile”maneuver” operation, which destroyed the 6th Army. Stalingrad’s victory would be followed by many more.