- Location: Stalingrad, Southwestern Russia
- Date: July 17th, 1942- February 2nd, 1943
- Nations Involved: Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, and Croatia vs. the Soviet Union
Strategy Relevant to the Battle
Operation Blue: The plan was to concentrate all available forces in the southern flank of the long front, destroy the front line Russian forces there, and then advance in two directions to the primary and secondary objectives, which were the two most important remaining industrial centers in South Russia:
1. First, Advance far southeast, through the mountainous Caucasus region, to capture the rich oil fields on the Caspian Sea.
2. Second, Advance East, to Stalingrad, a major industrial and transportation center on the West bank of the wide Volga river, the main waterway of inner Russia, that runs all the way from North of Moscow to the Caspian Sea in the South.
In order to reduce losses, Chuikov’s strategy was to narrow the gap between the Russian positions and the German positions to the absolute minimum, so close that the German Stuka dive bombers will not be able to drop their bombs on the Russian positions without risking the German soldiers.
General Zhukov planned and prepared a massive Russian counter attack, code named operation Uranus that would attack the German flanks at their two weakest points, 100 miles West of Stalingrad, and 100 miles South of it. The two Russian forces will meet far Southwest of Stalingrad and encircle the entire German 6th army near Stalingrad and cut its supply lines.
It was a classic large scale Blitzkrieg plan, except that this time the Russians will do it to the Germans. Zhukov’s goal was to win not just the battle of Stalingrad but the entire campaign in South Russia.
At the national level, Stalin ordered General Zhukov to leave the Moscow front and simply go to South Russia and save what he can. Zhukov, the best and most influential Russian General of World War 2, practically served as Stalin’s military “crisis solver”.
At the local level, General Vasily Chuikov, the deputy commander of the 64th army South of Stalingrad, and an aggressive and determined commander was called to the regional command post. Before he left, he was asked “How do you interpret your mission?”. Chuikov’s answer was “We will defend the city or die”.
His personal leadership during the following months, which projected catching determination and fatalism to Stalingrad’s defenders, shows that he meant it. In the summer of 1942, Paulus advanced toward Stalingrad with 250,000 men, 500 tanks, 7,000 guns and mortars, and 25,000 horses. Progress was slow because fuel was rationed and Army Group A was given priority.
At the end of July 1942, a lack of fuel brought Paulus to a halt at Kalach. It was not until 7th August that he had received the supplies needed to continue with his advance. Over the next few weeks his troops killed or captured 50,000 Soviet troops but on 18th August, Paulus, now only thirty-five miles from Stalingrad, ran out of fuel again.
Events of the Battle
- The German attack in South Russia began on June 28, 1942, a year after the invasion of Russia began. On July 28, 1942, in a desperate attempt to stop the collapse, Stalin issued “order 227” that “every granule of Soviet soil must be stubbornly defended to the last drop of blood.”, and secret police units were placed behind the Russian front units to kill anyone who deserts or retreats.
- In September 1942, German commander General von Paulus advanced toward the city of Stalingrad with his Sixth Army along with the Fourth Panzer Army.
- On August 23, 1942, German Sixth Army captured the city of Volga (north of Stalingrad). German. Other units of the Army reached the outskirts of Stalingrad and along with the Luftwaffe, began heavily bombing the city.
- At the end of October 1942, the Russians held only a narrow strip and some isolated pockets in Stalingrad, and the Germans tried one more major attack in an attempt to take it before winter, but the exhaustion and rising shortage of ammunition stopped them, but fighting continued.
- On November 19th, the Russians were in a position whereby they could launch a counter-offensive planned by Zhukov.
- Zhukov planned to surround the Germans by attacking them from 100 miles West and 100 miles South of Stalingrad.
- The Russians began their offensive with 14,000 heavy artillery guns, 1000 T-34 tanks and 1350 aircrafts and managed to trap the Germans in Stalingrad.
- The Luftwaffe was unable to supply the German army with 5 tonnes of supply a day which they needed to survive.
- The Germans faced harsh conditions and below-freezing temperatures. Despite the shortage of supplies they kept on fighting. Hitler refused Paulus from retreating.
- On January 10, 1943, 47 Russian divisions attacked the 6th army from all directions.
- The Germans realized they were fighting a hopeless battle and On February 2, 1943, Paulus surrendered with his remaining 91,000 troops.
Technology key to the outcome of the battle was won due to lack of technology as opposed to key technology. The Germans had rifles, machine guns, Panzer tanks, and even support from the Luftwaffe. However, the battle came down to hand-to-hand combat in individual street battles. The Russians won because they overpowered the Germans with their manpower. General Zhukov divided his men into six armies to surround the city of Stalingrad and trap the Germans.
Casualties and Winners
When the battle was over, the Axis powers had lost 150,000 men and another 90,000 men were taken prisoner by the Russians. The Russians lost 400,000 men however they managed to stop the German drive to the east and forced the Germans to retreat. German commander General von Paulus surrendered on February 2, 1943, ending the battle of Stalingrad and resulting in the Russian victory.