Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was fought during the Second World War between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. They were fighting for control of the city of Stalingrad. The battle was fought between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943. It was one of the most important battles of the war because it marked the end of Germany's advances. Hitler even blamed his defeat partly on Stalingrad. The Battle of Stalingrad has often been recorded as an example of how brutal a war can be. It is reported that, due to limited supplies, soldiers and civilians had to resort to eating rats, mice, and even cannibalism.
|Battle of Stalingrad|
|Part of the Eastern Front of World War II|
The Barmaley Fountain, one of the symbols of Stalingrad, in 1943, right after the battle
|Commanders and leaders|
At the time of the Soviet counter-offensive:
At the time of the Soviet counteroffensive:
|Casualties and losses|
See casualties section.
See casualties section.
Stalingrad, now Volgograd, was a city on the Volga River. It was an important industrial city, and the Volga was an important transport route. Hitler also wanted to capture Stalingrad because it was named after Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, thus it would embarrass him.
In June 1942, Adolf Hitler launched an attack in southern Russia. By the end of July the German army had reached Stalingrad. With bombs and fire the German Luftwaffe turned the city into ruins. However, the rubble made hiding places from which Russian snipers could attack the Germans. Hitler and Stalin sent in large numbers of soldiers. They both ordered that anyone who retreated would be shot on the spot for treason.
On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched an attack which surrounded the Stalingrad area. Hitler ordered the army to stay there. The German air force tried to supply them by air. By February 1943, the German forces in Stalingrad had no ammunition and food. Rather than freeze, they surrendered, knowing the Soviets were usually cruel to their prisoners.
The battle lasted five months, one week, and three days. 1.6 million people dead or wounded in battle were reported. There were more Russian deaths than German, but it was a victory for the Russians. They had killed so many Germans that Hitler's overall plan to conquer the Soviet Union, started with Operation Barbarossa, was seriously weakened. Also, the Germans failed to get control of Russian oil fields.
About one quarter of the German Sixth Army's soldiers were Russian volunteers called HIWIs. The Battle of Stalingrad was the largest and deadliest battle in the history of warfare.
By the spring of 1942, the German Operation Barbarossa did not defeat the Soviet Union. The war was still going well for the Germans: the U-boat offensive in the Atlantic had been very successful and Rommel had just captured Tobruk.:p.522
In the east, they had captured land including Leningrad in the north and Rostov in the south. There were a number of places where Soviet attacks had pushed the Germans back (to the northwest of Moscow and south of Kharkov) but this did not threaten the Germans. Hitler was confident that he could beat the Red Army after the winter of 1941. Even though Army Group Centre had heavy losses near Moscow the previous winter, 65% of its infantry had not fought and had been rested and given new equipment. Army Groups North and South had also not had a hard time over the winter. Stalin was expecting German summer attacks to again be directed against Moscow.
The Germans decided that their summer campaign in 1942 would be directed at the southern parts of the Soviet Union. The Germans wanted to destroy Stalingrad's industries. The Germans also wanted to block the Volga River. The river was a route between the Caspian Sea and northern Russia. Capturing the river would make it hard for the Soviets to use the river to transport goods.
The German operations were initially very successful. On July 23, 1942, Hitler changed the goals for the 1942 attack. He made occupying Stalingrad one of the goals. The city was important, because it was named after Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union. The Germans thought that if they captured Stalingrad, it would help the northern and western parts of the German armies to attack Baku. The Germans wanted to capture Baku because it had a lot of oil.
The Soviets were aware of the German plan to attack. The Soviets ordered that anyone strong enough to hold a rifle be sent to fight.
Attack on StalingradEdit
The capture of Stalingrad was [a place] where we could block an attack...by Russian forces coming from the east.
The Soviets had enough warning of the German attack to move all the city's grain, cattle, and railway cars across the Volga. But most civilian residents stayed in the city. The city lacked food even before the German attack. The Luftwaffe air attacks made the Soviets unable to use the River Volga to bring supplies into the city. Between 25 and 31 July, 32 Soviet ships were sunk in the River Volga.:p.69
Stalin moved troops to the east bank of the Volga. All the regular ferries were destroyed by the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe also attacked troop barges. Many civilians were moved out of the city across the Volga. Stalin prevented most civilians from leaving the city because he thought that this would make the Soviet armies fight harder.:p.106 Civilians, including women and children, were told to dig trenches. Massive German bombing on 23 August caused a firestorm. It killed thousands and turned Stalingrad into rubble and ruins. Between 23 and 26 August, 955 people were killed and another 1,181 wounded from the bombing.:p.73:p.188–189 [Note 6]
The Soviet Air Force, the Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS), was destroyed by the Luftwaffe. The Soviets lost 201 aircraft between 23 and 31 August. They brought in another 100 aircraft in August.:p.74 The Soviets continued to bring new planes into Stalingrad in late September, but they were destroyed by the Germans.
The city was briefly defended by the 1077th Anti-Aircraft Regiment,:p.106 an all-women's regiment that was actually able to halt an entire German division due to their massive firepower. The Germans eventually swarmed and killed them, but were shocked to discover that this whole time they were being held back by young women that seemed fresh out of high school.:p.108 In the battle, the NKVD organized "Workers' militias" who were often sent into battle without rifles.:p.109:p.110
By the end of August, Army Group South (B) had reached the Volga. By 1 September, the Soviets could only supply their forces in Stalingrad by crossing the Volga under constant bombing by artillery and aircraft.
On 5 September, the Soviet 24th and 66th Armies organized an attack against XIV Panzer Corps. The Luftwaffe helped stop the attack by attacking Soviet artillery and soldiers. The Soviets had to pull back. Of the 120 tanks the Soviets had sent into battle, 30 were lost to air attack.
The Soviets were always being attacked by the Luftwaffe. On 18 September, the Soviet 1st Guards and 24th Army attacked VIII Army Corps . VIII. Fliegerkorps sent Stuka dive-bombers to prevent the Soviets from advancing. The Soviet attack was stopped. The Stukas destroyed 41 of the 106 Soviet tanks that were destroyed that morning. German Bf 109s destroyed 77 Soviet aircraft.:p.80 In the wrecked city, the Soviet 62nd and 64th Armies, which included the Soviet 13th Guards Rifle Division, used houses and factories to hide in.
Fighting in city was very violent. Stalin's Order No. 227 of 27 July 1942 decreed that all commanders who retreated without being told to do so would have to go to a military tribunal.84-5 "Not a step back!" was the slogan. The Germans attacking Stalingrad had many dead and wounded.
Germany reaches the VolgaEdit
After three months of slow advance, the Wermacht finally reached the river banks. The Germans captured 90% of the ruined city and split the Soviet forces into two parts. Ice on the Volga river made it impossible for the Soviets to bring in supplies by boat.
German troops were not ready for fighting during the winter of 1942. The Stavka did a number of attacks between November 19, 1942 and February 2, 1943. These operations started the Winter Campaign of 1942-1943 (19 November 1942 – 3 March 1943), which involved 15 armies.
Operation Uranus: the Soviet offensiveEdit
In autumn, the Soviet generals Georgy Zhukov and Aleksandr Vasilevsky gathered their soldiers in the north and south of the city. The northern side was defended by Hungarian, and Romanian troops. The Don river had never been defended well by the German side. The Soviet plan was to attack and surround the German forces in the Stalingrad region.
On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus. The attacking Soviet units under the command of Gen. Nikolay Vatutin consisted of three armies. This included a total of 18 infantry divisions, eight tank brigades, two motorized brigades, six cavalry divisions and one anti-tank brigade. The Soviets pushed past the Romanian Third Army. The response by the Wehrmacht was disorganized. Bad weather prevented air attacks against the Soviets.
On 20 November, a second Soviet offensive (two armies) was launched to the south of Stalingrad against the Romanian 4th Army Corps. The Romanians were overrun by large numbers of tanks. The Soviet forces moved west and made a ring around Stalingrad.:p.926
Sixth Army surroundedEdit
About 265,000 German, Romanian, Italian soldiers, the 369th (Croatian) Reinforced Infantry Regiment, and other troops including 40,000 Soviet volunteers fighting for the Germans. were surrounded. There were 210,000 Germans on 19 November 1942. There were also around 10,000 Soviet civilians and several thousand Soviet soldiers the Germans had taken captive during the battle. Not all of the 6th Army was trapped; 50,000 were not surrounded. Of the 210,000 Germans surrounded, 10,000 remained to fight, 105,000 surrendered, 35,000 left by air and the remaining 60,000 died.
The Red Army formed two defensive groups. Field Marshal Erich von Manstein told Hitler not to order the 6th Army to break out. Manstein thought that he could break through the Soviet troops and free the 6th Army.p451 After 1945, Manstein says he told Hitler that the 6th Army must break out. The American historian Gerhard Weinberg said that Manstein lied.p1045
Adolf Hitler had said on 30 September 1942 that the German army would never leave the city. At a meeting shortly after the Soviets formed a ring around the Germans, the German army chiefs wanted to try to escape to the west of the Don. Hitler thought that the Luftwaffe could supply the 6th Army with an "air bridge". This would allow the Germans in the city to fight while a new force was assembled. A similar plan had been used a year earlier at the Demyansk Pocket.
The director of Luftflotte 4, Wolfram von Richthofen, tried to get this decision stopped. The forces under 6th Army were almost twice as large as a regular German army unit, plus there was also a corps of the 4th Panzer Army trapped in the city. The maximum 117.5 short tons (106.6 t) they could deliver a day was far less than the minimum 800 short tons (730 t) needed.
To add to the limited number of Junkers Ju 52 planes the Germans used other planes like the Heinkel He 177 . General Richthofen told Manstein on 27 November that the Luftwaffe could not supply 300 tons a day by air. Manstein now saw the problems of a supply by air. The next day he made a report which said that the supply by air would be impossible. He said the Sixth Army should try to escape. He said that giving up Stalingrad would be a difficult loss, but that it would keep the Sixth Army intact. Hitler said that the Sixth Army would have to stay at Stalingrad and that the air force would supply it until the Germans could attack the Soviets.
The Luftwaffe was able to deliver an average of 94 short tons (85 t) of supplies per day. The most successful day, 19 December, delivered 289 short tons (262 t) of supplies in 154 flights. In the early parts of the operation, more fuel was shipped than food and ammunition because the Germans thought they could escape from the city. Transport airplanes also flew out sick or wounded men from the city. The German attack did not reach the 6th Army. The air supply operation continued. The 6th Army slowly starved. 160 German transport aircraft were destroyed and 328 were heavily damaged. Some 266 Junkers Ju 52s were destroyed.
Operation Winter StormEdit
Soviet forces grouped together around Stalingrad. Violent fighting to attack the Germans began. Operation Winter Storm (Operation Wintergewitter), the German attempt to rescue the trapped army from the south, was at first successful. By 19 December, the German Army had pushed to within 48 km (30 mi) of Sixth Army's positions. Some German officers asked Paulus go against Hitler's orders and try to escape out of the Stalingrad. Paulus refused. On 23 December, Manstein's forces had to defend themselves from new Soviet attacks.
Operation Little SaturnEdit
On 16 December, the Soviets launched Operation Little Saturn. It attempted to make a hole through the Axis army (mainly Italians) on the Don and capture Rostov. The Germans set up a defence of small units. 15 Soviet divisions—supported by at least 100 tanks—attacked the Italian Cosseria and Ravenna Divisions. The Soviets never got close to Rostov because of the Italian defence.
The German attempt to break through to Stalingrad was stopped and Army Group A was told to come back from the Caucasus.
The 6th Army could no longer hope to escape. The 6th Army did not have enough fuel. As well, the German soldiers have found it very hard to break through the Soviet lines on foot in the cold winter conditions.
The Germans retreated from the suburbs of Stalingrad to the city itself. The loss of the two airfields, at Pitomnik on 16 January 1943 and Gumrak on the night of 21/22 January, meant an end to air supplies and to the flying out the wounded.:p.98 The third and last runway was at the Stalingradskaja flight school, which had the last landings and takeoffs on the night of 22–23 January. After that, there were no landings except for air drops of ammunition and food.
The Germans were now not only starving, but running out of ammunition. They continued to fight because they thought the Soviets would execute any Germans who surrendered. A Soviet group (Major Aleksandr Smyslov, Captain Nikolay Dyatlenko and a trumpeter) carried an offer to Paulus: if he surrendered within 24 hours, he would receive a guarantee of safety for all prisoners, medical care for the sick and wounded, prisoners allowed to keep their personal belongings, food rations, and be sent to any country they wanted after the war. Paulus was ordered not to surrender by Hitler, so he did not respond.:p.283
On 30 January 1943, the 10th anniversary of Hitler coming to power, Goebbels said "The heroic struggle of our soldiers on the Volga should be a warning for everybody..." Also on that day Hitler promoted Paulus to Generalfeldmarschall. Since no German Field Marshal had ever been taken prisoner, Hitler assumed that Paulus would fight on or kill himself.
The next day, the southern group in Stalingrad was defeated by the Soviets. Soviet forces reached the entrance to the German headquarters. General Schmidt surrendered the headquarters. Paulus said he had not surrendered and refused to order the remaining German forces to surrender.
Four Soviet armies attacked the remaining northern group. On 2 February, General Strecker surrendered. Around 91,000 tired, ill, wounded, and starving prisoners were taken, including 3,000 Romanians (the survivors of the 20th Infantry Division, 1st Cavalry Division and "Col. Voicu" Detachment). The prisoners included 22 generals. Hitler was angry and said that Paulus should have killed himself, but instead "he prefers to go to Moscow." Paulus was Roman Catholic and therefore did not.
The German public was not officially told of the loss until the end of January 1943, though positive media reports had stopped in the weeks before the announcement. Stalingrad marked the first time that the Nazi government publicly admitted a failure in its war effort. It was a major defeat where German losses were almost equal to those of the Soviets. Prior losses of the Soviet Union were generally three times as high as the German ones. On 31 January, German state radio played the Adagio movement from Anton Bruckner's Seventh Symphony, followed by the announcement of the defeat at Stalingrad.
Out of the nearly 110,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, only about 6,000 ever returned. They were sent to prisoner camps and later to labour camps all over the Soviet Union. Some 35,000 were eventually sent on transports, of which 17,000 did not survive. Some were kept in the city to help rebuild.
Some senior officers were taken to Moscow and used for propaganda purposes. Some of them joined the National Committee for a Free Germany. Some, including Paulus, signed anti-Hitler statements that were broadcast to German troops. Paulus testified for the prosecution during the Nuremberg Trials.:p.401 He remained in the Soviet Union until 1952, then moved to Dresden in East Germany.:p.280 General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach offered to raise an anti-Hitler army from the Stalingrad survivors, but the Soviets did not accept. It was not until 1955 that the last of the 5-6,000 survivors were repatriated (to West Germany).
Orders of battleEdit
During the defence of Stalingrad, the Red Army used six armies (8th, 28th, 51st, 57th, 62nd and 64th Armies) in and around the city. An additional nine armies in the final attack on the Germans.:435–438 The nine armies used for the final attack were the 24th Army, 65th Army, 66th Army and 16th Air Army from the north as part of the Don Front offensive and 1st Guards Army, 5th Tank, 21st Army, 2nd Air Army and 17th Air Army from the south as part of the Soviet Southwestern Front.
Counting how many people were killed and wounded in the battle of Stalingrad is hard. One way is to only count the fighting within the city and suburbs. Another way of counting is to count all the fighting on the southern part of the Soviet-German front from the spring of 1942 to the winter of 1943. Different scholars have made different estimates depending on how widely you consider the battle.
The Axis had from 500,000 to 850,000 casualties (killed, wounded, captured) among all branches of the German armed forces and its allies:p.396 and only 5-6,000 returned to Germany by 1955. The remainder of the POWs died in Soviet captivity.:p.196:p.36
On 2 February 1943, the fighting of Axis troops in Stalingrad stopped. Out of the 91,000 prisoners taken by the Soviets, 3,000 were Romanian.
The Red Army had a total of 1,129,619 total casualties; 478,741 men killed or missing and 650,878 wounded. These numbers are for the whole Don region; in the city itself 750,000 were killed, captured, or wounded.
Anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000 Soviet civilians died in Stalingrad and its suburbs during a single week of aerial bombing by Luftflotte 4 as the German 4th Panzer and 6th Armies got close to the city; the total number of civilians killed in the regions outside the city is unknown.
In all, the battle resulted in an estimated total of 1.7-2 million Axis and Soviet casualties, making it possibly the bloodiest battle in all of human history.
Scope of the battleEdit
In the original 1942 plan, the occupation of Stalingrad had not been a goal. Based on the military successes of the Germans in the first month of the attacks, Hitler decided to expand the military goals. Hitler thought that the Soviet forces across the Don river were weak. The new goals included Stalingrad and even capturing the Volga.
Once the Armies began to fight in the for the city, both sides began to feel that it was very important to win. The Germans sent a lot of troops into the city. This meant that their side did not control the Don river and the Soviet bridges. The German side made steady progress in the fighting and eventually held about 90% of the city.
The German focus on the city made them not think of the weakness of their defenses along the Don and the massive buildup of Soviet forces on their sides. After the Soviet breakthrough, the Germans were very disorganized. The 6th Army was eventually reorganized in time for the Battle of Kursk, but was made up mostly of new soldiers and was never as strong as it had once been.:p.386
Germany failed at Stalingrad because they expanded the goals in the second half of July. After one month of success, the Germans started believing they could win the battle. Hitler ordered too many goals and he did not think Soviet reserves were as strong as they were. To the south of Stalingrad, Army Group A was trying to capture the oilfields. Then its goals were expanded to include the whole of the Black Sea coast.
Stalingrad was a turning point in the war. It also showed the discipline and determination of both the German Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army. The Soviets first defended Stalingrad against a strong German attack. Newly arrived Soviet soldiers often died in less than a day. Soviet officers often died in three days.
Historians have talked about how much terror there was in the Red Army. Beevor noted the bravery of the Soviet soldiers.:p.154–168 Richard Overy says that some people think that in the "summer of 1942 the Soviet army fought because it was forced to fight,” but he says this is not true A historian talked to Soviet veterans about terror on the Eastern Front. Many soldiers said they were relieved at the order not to retreat. Infantryman Lev Lvovich’s said he felt better.
For the heroism of the Soviet defenders of Stalingrad, the city was awarded the title Hero City in 1945. Twenty-four years after the battle, in October 1967, a monument, The Motherland Calls, was built on Mamayev Kurgan, the hill overlooking the city. The hill actually used to be much larger, but had been flattened due to constant artillery fire. The statue forms part of a war memorial that includes ruined walls from the battle. The Grain Silo, as well as Pavlov's House can still be visited.
Many women fought on the Soviet side, or were under fire. At the beginning of the battle there were 75,000 women and girls from the Stalingrad area who had finished military or medical training, and all of whom were to serve in the battle. Women staffed a great many of the anti-aircraft batteries that fought not only the Luftwaffe but German tanks. Soviet nurses not only treated wounded men under fire but brought wounded soldiers back to the hospitals under enemy fire. Many of the Soviet wireless and telephone operators were women who often suffered heavy injuries and deaths. Though women were not usually trained as infantry, many Soviet women fought as machine gunners, mortar operators, and scouts. Women were also snipers at Stalingrad. Three air regiments at Stalingrad were entirely female. At least three women won the title Hero of the Soviet Union while driving tanks at Stalingrad.
The German Army showed a lot of discipline after being surrounded. Many German soldiers starved or froze to death. Yet, discipline was continued until the very end. General Friedrich Paulus obeyed Hitler's orders and did not attempt to escape out of the city. German ammunition, supplies, and food became scarce. Generals from both sides suffered from massive stress because of the battle and also because of the fact that they had to report to the most brutal leader in their nation's history. Many generals suffered health problems because of their stress.
Paulus followed his orders and fought to the very end. He asked for permission to surrender, but it was denied. Hitler promoted him to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall. No German field marshal had ever surrendered, and the implication was clear. Hitler believed that Paulus would either fight to the last man or commit suicide. Paulus was taken prisoner.[Note 7]
In popular cultureEdit
The battle is described in many books.
In the novel The Book Thief, one character was presumed to have died or been captured in The Battle of Stalingrad.
- Some German holdouts continued to operate in the city and resist until early March 1943.
- This Army Group was created on 21 November 1942 from parts of Army Group B to hold the line between Army Group A and B to stop the Soviet counterattack.
- The Soviet front's composition and names changed several times in the battle. The battle started with the South Western Front. It was later renamed Stalingrad Front, then had the Don Front split off from it.
- The Front was reformed from reserve armies on 22 October 1942.
- This force grew to 1,600 in early September by withdrawing forces from the Kuban region and South Caucasus: Hayward (1998), p. 195.
- Bergström quotes: Soviet Reports on the effects of air raids between 23–26 August 1942. This indicates 955 people were killed and another 1,181 wounded
- Für so einen Schweinehund wie den böhmischen Gefreiten erschieße ich mich nicht! (I am not going to shoot myself for such a swine as this Bohemian corporal!), quoted in: Ich bitte erschossen zu werden, Der Spiegel, 1949-01-29.
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- Detailed summary of campaign
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