Famous Battles in History WWII and the Battle of Stalingrad

About the famous battle of Stalingrad between the German and Russian armies during World War II.


STALINGARD, 1942-1943

Assuming direct command of the German armies, Adolf Hitler planned an attack on the industrial and transportation center of Stalingrad on the Volga River in southern Russia. The German Army Group B, with the 6th Army spearheading, attacked eastward from the Donets River basin on June 22, 1942.

At first the German blitzkrieg appeared to be a complete success, reaching the outskirts of Stalingrad on Aug. 24. But then it took Gen. Friedrich von Paulus's 6th Army a month of house-to-house fighting to gain the center of the city, after suffering heavy casualties. Soviet soldiers and civilians--constantly exchanging the admonition "Comrade, kill your German"--desperately defended the rubble heap which Stalingrad had become.

Although most of the city had fallen and the Volga had been reached, the German position was tenuous. Stalingrad was at the eastern apex of a German salient, with the north and south flanks of this protrusion weakly guarded by unreliable Romanian, Italian, and Hungarian troops. Russian Gen. Georgi Zhukov secretly concentrated a million soldiers against these flanks while the Germans were storming Stalingrad. The German army had stuck its tongue into a meat grinder.

On Nov. 19, the Russian armies struck the north and south flanks of the salient. By the 23rd, the Soviet pincers had met, surrounding the 300,000-man German 6th Army in Stalingrad. Von Paulus asked permission to fight his way back to the German lines, but Hitler replied, "Where the German soldier sets his foot, there he remains." Ranting "I won't leave the Volga," Hitler approved of Goring's plan to supply the besieged Germans by air. However, the German Luftwaffe failed miserably, landing hardly any supplies while losing 600 transport planes.

Meanwhile the Russian ring was squeezing the 6th Army to death. Dying of starvation, the Germans ate horses, cats, dogs, and rats, as the temperature dropped to 30 below zero. Through December and January, the Germans stubbornly resisted the attacks from all directions. But, even though Hitler had ordered them to fight to the death, Von Paulus and 91,000 German soldiers surrendered on Feb. 2, 1943. With their surrender, the myth of Nazi invincibility was destroyed.

Stalingrad cost the Germans 600,000 men and the Russians 400,000. The loss of weaponry and men weakened the German army so badly that it never regained the offensive on the eastern front. The Soviets now turned to the attack, which ended only in Berlin.

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