Episode 5: The Motherland Strikes Back

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.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-021-2081-31A,_General_Friedrich_PaulusGerman 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. Russland, Kesselschlacht StalingradSoviet 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)

If you would like to watch some Star Wars interpretations of the Second World War, please watch Part 1 and then Part 2!

 

 

Citations:

Freeze, Gregory L.. Russia: A History (pp. 380-391). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Note: For some articles, use google translate.

13 thoughts on “Episode 5: The Motherland Strikes Back

  1. Ethan, I really enjoyed the research that you put into this post! You gave a great overview on Stalingrad and the importance of this battle to the Soviet Union in WWII. I think the importance of urban street fighting is an often overlooked but very important aspect of the battle, and I like how you highlighted its importance later in the war. Great work!

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  2. One thing I particularly liked with your post was the quality of your sources! I wasn’t very familiar with urban street fighting but after reading your post and following some of your sources it is actually super interesting!

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  3. Regarding your last paragraph, in retrospect to the Battle of Stalingrad, WWII or any conflict in general it is interesting to think about other possible outcomes that could have happened. To win a war it is imperative to have intelligent strategists and advanced weapons but also just plain luck.

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  4. It’s crazy how if one event in history had gone different the world we know as today we be dramatically different. The reason you wrote this post stood out the most to me, it was very interesting and made me want to sit back and think about the implications of the war.

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  5. I always enjoy reading about the battle of Stalingrad. If you have yet seen it, I recommend watching the movie Stalingrad (1993). It gives depiction of what the German soldiers went through leading up to the battle of Stalingrad and throughout the battle itself.

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  6. My comments are going to seem kind of random, but here goes: 1) That Open Access journal article is fascinating. I had a “worlds’ collide” kind of moment that won’t make sense to others, but just wanted you to know that it happened. 2) Your production values are generally better than the two You Tube videos you reference — and your historical perspective MUCh more persuasive. 3) Let’s talk about counter-factuals….

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  7. As always, you really put yourself into your work, and it goes towards making a very entertaining and informative post each week. I really appreciated the hyperlinks that you posted throughout the blog for those who are interested in learning more. Overall, the overview of Stalingrad was very well put together, and you were very effective at providing context and commentary throughout. Great job.

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  8. I think that Hitler was one of the main reasons the Nazi’s lost Stalingrad. If he had let the Wehrmacht retreat, they might have been able to get supplies and the course of the war may have changed. Also, the death of one German soldier was a lot worse than the death of a Soviet soldier logistics wise. The Germans didn’t have the same manpower reserves as the USSR to take sustained losses like that.

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  9. Your articles are always so interesting to read, I love your writing style. But like many others have pointed out, the chance that if something had even gone slightly different our world wouldn’t be how it is now, is a terrifying and insane concept. You did a really good job of explaining how these decisions made the war end how it did and I really enjoyed reading this.

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  10. Ethan I was very impressed with your post, but especially with the links and images you included in your post! I also had not heard of these oil fields before or their significance so it was interesting to learn more about them and the significance they would play.

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  11. I really enjoyed this post and the amount of research you put into it. The images that you picked were sources of reference as you progressed. Keep up the great work and may the force be with you!

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