Last Updated 09 Jun 2020

Battle of Stalingrad

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The battle of Stalingrad was one of the biggest, cruellest and most important battles of the World War II. The city was called in the name of Stalin, the leader of the Red Army and if the Germans captured it would be great propaganda for them and it would decrease the Russian morale, so Stalin made his army fight until death. Also if the Germans took control of Stalingrad, then the way to Moscow would be open and the Germans might win the war. The city also controlled a lot of crucial water and rail communications with the rest of Russia.After the fail of the Operation Barbarossa, Adolf Hitler began a new offensive in June 1942. General Frederich Paulus, the commander of the 6th German army got an order to invade Stalingrad. The city controlled a lot of rail and water communications. In the summer of 1942 Paulus sent an army of 250000 men, 500 tanks, 7000 artillery guns and 25000 horses. The progress was slow, because there was a lack of supplies until the 7th August 1942. By the end of the month the army killed or captured around 50000 USSR soldiers. At around 35 miles left till Stalingrad the fuel supplies stopped again.

When the supplies came the progress continued but Paulus was conserving the fuel, so he only sent his 14th Panzer corps. The Red Army was now giving more resistance and the Germans were forced to stop just outside of Stalingrad. Paulus ordered to delay the attack until the 7th September because his north flank was under attack. While he was waiting the Luftwaffe bombed the city. The USSR suffered lots of civilian casualties and most of the city was reduced to rubble. Stalin brought most of the Russian army together, even from Siberia.

Millions of soldiers were in Stalingrad now defending the most important part of Russia. More and more soldiers were needed as more and more German tanks and planes attacked. General Georgi Zhukov the Russian military that was yet not defeated in a single battle was put in charge of the Stalingrad defence. As the Germans progressed through the city the Red Army was fighting for every single building the further the advance was the more casualties each side suffered. The German tanks were not much use in street battles and most of the fighting was done with sniper rifles, machineguns and hand grenades.

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Germans had problems with very well and cleverly camouflaged Russian artillery and machinegun nests. The Red Army also used sniper squads, which were based in the ruins, particularly well. On the 26th September the 6th German army was able to put their flag up over the Red Square of Stalingrad, but the street fight continued. Adolf Hitler ordered Frederich Paulus to take Stalingrad at any cost, but General Kurt Zeitzler, the Chief of General Staff was critically against continuing the attack and asked Hitler to let the German army leave Stalingrad.

Hitler denied it and said to the German people on the radio: “You can be sure, that no one will ever be able to push us out of Stalingrad”. When General Gustav von Wietersheim, the commander of the 14th Panzer division was complaining about great losses at the front, Paulus replaced him with General Hans Hube. Paulus, however, who lost 40000 men entering the city, was short on soldiers and on the 4th October 1942 begged Hitler for reinforcements. A few days later five engineer battalions and a tank division came to Stalingrad.

On the 19th October snow replaced rain as Paulus still tried to progress despite the harsh conditions. In November he controlled about 90% of the city, but he was running out of men and supplies. Despite that Paulus planned another big offensive on the 10th November. His army received great casualties in the next two days and the Red Army knowing what happened launched a counterattack and Paulus was forced back south. When he reached the Gumrak airfield Adolf Hitler ordered Paulus to slowdown and resist the Russians. He also promised that the Luftwaffe would supply his army via air.

The Paulus’ High Officers were sure that the Russian winter airspace would restrict the air supplying. All the battalion commanders were saying that a successful counterattack was the only option, but Paulus restricted his moves to Hitler’s orders. During the December the Luftwaffe dropped 70 tonnes of supplies a day, but the surrounded German army needed about 300 tonnes a day. All the soldiers only had a third of the normal food portion a day and they also started killing their horses for meat. By the 7th December the 6th army was living on one loaf of bread per five men.

The army was about to surrender because of hunger when Hitler ordered the 4th army to launch a rescue operation. The 4th army only had 30 miles until the city, when the Russians stopped them. By 27th December 1942 the 4th army was also surrounded by the Red Army. In about a month over 28000 German soldiers died. Because of the food shortage Erich von Manstein ordered to stop feeding the 12000 useless injured men. Then he wanted to make a massive breakthrough and run away, but his men were too weak to do that and the idea was scrapped.

30th January 1943 Adolf Hitler made Paulus a field marshal, and sent him a message saying that none German field marshals were captured yet and suggested to commit suicide. Paulus stood strong and preferred to surrender to the Russians. The last of the Germans surrendered on the 2d February 1943. The Battle of Stalingrad was over. More than 91000 men were captured, and 150000 men died during the siege. All the German prisoners were sent to Siberia and 45000 of them died on the way there. Only 7000 German survived the war.

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