It was a dark time for the Soviet Union. By the summer of 1942, the Nazi southern objective was the oil fields of Baku. If captured by the Germans, it would stop the flow of oil to the Red Army. Adolf Hitler, leader of the German Third Reich, sought a symbolic victory in the German capture of Stalingrad, diverting forces from the advance on Baku to the city named after the Soviet Union’s fearless leader Joseph Stalin.
In August of 1942, the Nazis began their assault on the city starting the Battle of Stalingrad. German General Friedrich von Paulus led his forces across the Don and into the city. The German Sixth Army managed to take 90 percent of the city after heavy bombardment within the first two months of the battle.
German General Friedrich von Paulus (far left) planning military operations in Russia, January 1942.
The Germans underestimated the will of the Soviets who had no plans of capitulating. As abled Soviet General Chuikov held strong defenses against the Germans, Soviet Marshal Georgii K. Zhukov planned a counteroffensive. Prompted by Stalin’s Order No. 227 “Not One Step Back!” the Soviet Army encircled Paulus forces. Surrounded on all sides, stuck in horrible winter conditions, the Germans were at a loss. While Soviet artillery kept Luftwaffe supply drops grounded, ground fighting during the battle was brutal. Urban street frightening became an essential part of warfare during the battle. Soviet forces rush into buildings during urban fighting in the battle of Stalingrad.
The Germans were surrounded, and under direct order by Hitler, they were told not to assault outwards, but to hold their ground. “Compared to an original contingent of 400,000 troops, the Sixth Army contained only 110,000 including two thousand officers by the time Paulus surrendered on February 2, 1943” unable to be resupplied and without food and ammunition, the battle was over for the Germans. At the end of the battle, losses were heavy on both sides. The Soviets casualties totaled over 750,000.
I chose this topic because of the profound impact it had on the course of the war. If Hitler had not diverted troops to take Stalingrad and hold the Baku offensive during the Battle of the Caucasus, the war may have taken a very different turn. Without these oil reserves the Soviets would have been at a loss, and the Germans would have been able to continue their mechanized hold over Europe. Another thing to think about was Hitler’s direct control over the German Army and the effects it had. It is believed that if Hitler had told the surrounded Germans during the Battle of Stalingrad to retreat, they would have successfully broken through the Soviet line, but instead, the entire Sixth Army was lost. Another interesting fact about the Battle of Stalingrad was the momentum and strategic value it gave the Red Army, a lot of the urban fighting tactics learned during the battle would be heavily used later in the war, especially when the Soviets captured Berlin ending the Second World War in Europe….(Comrade’s Corner)
Freeze, Gregory L.. Russia: A History (pp. 380-391). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.
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