Battle of Stalingrad WW2

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Battle of Stalingrad WW2

Battle of Stalingrad

The Battle of Stalingrad (1942-43) was a major turning point in World War II. While not Germany's first setback, it was one of the most important, and one from which it never fully recovered.

Table of contents
1 Stalingrad Background
2 Stalingrad Operation Blue
3 Stalingrad Rattenkrieg
4 Operation Uranus
5 Operation Neptune
6 The Stalingrad Battle Ends

Stalingrad Battle Background
The first major military setback for the Third Reich occurred on the outskirts of Moscow at the end of 1941. Left in poor defensive positions, the Soviet Union counter-attacked and drove the Germans back. The reasons for the scale of the defeat included the Germans' lack of preparation for the harshness of the Russian winter, the overextension of their supply lines across their newly-captured areas, and Hitler's unwillingness to consider retreat.

As the winter continued the situation for the Germans improved as more attention was put on equipping them. Meanwhile newly formed units were being sent forward from Germany, and by early spring the army should have been back in fighting condition. Everyone, the Soviets included, expected them to launch a summer offensive with another massive attack towards Moscow by the German Army Group Center.

However the German generals were aware of their weakness after the losses in front of Moscow, and demanded a more modest offensive. The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) developed a plan involving Army Group South in an attack into the Caucasus, cutting Russia in two and capturing the majority of Soviet oil fields and grain producing regions. This type of surprise attack over great distances was the hallmark of the German Blitzkrieg, which sought to avoid direct battle by attacking where least expected and then advancing as fast as possible giving the enemy no chance to plan a defence.

Stalingrad Operation Blue
Their plan, Operation Blue, split Army Group South into two groups. Army Group A consisted of two armies, commanded by Erich von Manstein and von Kleist, who were to attack south towards Rostov, and then fan out through the Transcaucasus heading for the Caspian Sea while taking the oil-fields at Maikop. Army Group B included Friedrich von Paulus's 6th Army and Hoth's 4th Panzer Army, who would sweep through the corridor between the Don and Volga rivers to arrive on the Volga just north of Stalingrad (known today as Volgograd). Their primary task was to provide a strong northern flank along the Don, while cutting the vital Soviet freight traffic on the Volga. CIA / KGB intelligence game. Run your own operation game. Travel around the world and set up espionage game, trade with state secrets, weapon systems, spy codes, WMD, hire secretaries, agents, lawyers and soldiers, establish secret agent stations, cells and bases and search for criminals and politicians. Involve in agent game. Game contains more than 40 missions including Nuclear Game, Cold War Game, Secret Agent, CIA Games, USAF, Prime Minister, RAF, Bin Laden, Sadam, KGB, Operations Iran…

While the plans were finalized, there remained a threat from a significant Soviet presence at Sevastopol in the Crimean. The siege of this important city had been dragging on for four months at this point, and the Soviets still had 150,000 men in and around the city. Eventually Operation Blue was suspended to provide more troops for the siege, and the original launch date in May was cancelled. Manstein was sent south with a number of fresh German and Romanian units under Operation Sturgeon, and were battle ready by early June. By the end of the month the siege was over, the Soviets losing all 150,000, although the German/Romanian side suffered 35,000 casualties as well. The battle was largely over by the 25th, and Operation Blue was implemented.

Commencing on June 28, 1942, the attack started off well. So well in fact that Hitler felt that the 4th Panzer Army was not needed with Army Group B, and sent them south to join Army Group A. By this point they had passed the 6th Army (as was expected, they were motorized) and had to cross the 6th's path and march on their way south. The resulting traffic jam took several days to clear. This confusion, along with provisions originally intended for the 6th being given to the 4th instead, slowed the advance towards Stalingrad by almost two weeks. With the advance now delayed, Hitler then changed his mind again and ordered the 4th to rejoin the original line of march.

This delay would prove critical. The slow advance made the target of Army Group B clear to the Soviets, and gave Red Army General Andrei Yeremenko time to consolidate what forces he had into a new line on the eastern bank of the Volga to block them. He ordered the troops reeling back from the Germans on the western side to head for Stalingrad, leaving the field to the Germans. This did not go unnoticed, as von Weichs, in overall command of Army Group B, realised that the Soviets had figured out what was going on. Hitler instead chose to consider the same reports as proof of absolute victory.

By the end of August, Army Group B had finally reached the Volga to the north of Stalingrad, before many of the Red Army troops to their south had. General von Paulus asked for permission to turn south and take the city as soon as possible, but Hitler refused to allow this until his infantry had caught up to form a defensive line. This delay would also prove critical, as it allowed the Soviet forces to pour into the city over the next few days, strengthening its defences.

Stalingrad Rattenkrieg
Units of the Red Army in Stalingrad were quickly organized into the new 62nd Army, under the command of General Lopatin. When Lopatin expressed his fears about the upcoming battle, Yeremenko immediately replaced him with Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov, who had previously fought around Stalingrad against the White Army. Yeremenko directed Chuikov to hold the city at all costs, and issued an order similar to Stalin's own, "Not another step back". Countersigned by Nikita Khrushchev, this order was backed up with instructions for the NKVD to shoot anyone who failed to comply.

By September 1st Stalingrad was completely surrounded by the German 6th Army. Chuikov refused to meet the Germans outside the city, and had instead set up a huge number of strongpoints in the houses and factories inside. The Germans found themselves facing dug-in troops, and the battle quickly developed into what the Germans referred to as Rattenkrieg, rat-war. With both sides promoting a no-retreat, no-surrender policy, intense street fighting ensued — often descending into hand-to-hand bayonet struggles — and parts of the city changed hands as many as three or four times a day.

German tactics during the battle increasingly relied on air power to block re-enforcements being sent in from the east side of the river. A running battle started between the Luftwaffe and the VVS and Soviet anti-aircraft guns. Although German losses were high, they won control of the river. The re-enforcement operations simply switched to moving during the night, thereby eliminating the airborne threat.

Meanwhile attempts were made to start the ground fight moving with increasingly heavy artillery barrages, eventually culminating in the delivery of several gigantic 600mm German mortars. As time would prove, however, the Soviets were quick to take up positions in the resulting rubble.

Although losses were heavy, the 6th Army slowly pushed the 62nd back to the Volga. Eventually the Soviet forces were split in two and Chuikov lost communications with the other half of his army. After another two weeks the 62nd Army consisted of less than a division's worth of men in a small sliver of land on the southern end of town, but continued to fight on as hard as ever. The strain on both commanders was immense: von Paulus developed an uncontrollable tic in his eye, while Chuikov was experiencing an outbreak of eczema that required him to bandage his hands completely.

In Berlin, the situation frustrated Hitler. He became increasingly convinced that the battle in the city represented the end of the war itself, and the ability to claim that they had captured "Stalin's City" was a victory worth more than the original battle plan. With grave concerns over the exposed left flank, Franz Halder, chief of the OKW, continued to express his misgivings to Hitler. In mid-October 1942, with no immediate end to the battle in sight, Halder and Hitler quarrelled for the last time. Hitler dismissed Halder, replacing him with the more tractable General Kurt Zeitzler.

Meanwhile the rest of the line was being ignored. While the possibility of a counterattack along the long northern flank on the Don had been discussed on several occasions, Hitler's increasingly irrational orders meant no defensive work could be carried out. One particular stretch of the line did not actually run on the Don, leaving the Red Army several beachheads directly in front of the Romanian 3rd Army. The 3rd had proven itself in combat at Sevastopol that summer, but were now stretched out along 150 km of the front after taking over from German and Italian units. The Romanian commander had asked for tanks to clear out the pocket on several occasions, but in vain. His requests for bulldozers to cut through the frozen ground and make defensive works were also refused.

In early November Luftwaffe reconnaissance flights started showing a massive buildup of Red Army units just north of the Romanian 3rd Army, preparing for an offensive on the beachhead. Increasingly desperate messages dispatched to the OKW from the 6th Army HQ were ignored, or returned with admonishment about getting on with the task at hand. Von Paulus eventually gave up asking and moved the 22nd Panzer Division into position south of the Romanians. However they arrived in terrible condition with only 50 serviceable tanks, but were nevertheless formed up with the only Romanian tank division to form the newly-named 48th Armoured Corps.

Operation Uranus
On November 19, 1942 the Red Army unleashed Operation Uranus. General Vatutin's attacking units consisted of three complete armies, the 1st Guard, 5th Tank and 21st Army, including a total of 18 infantry divisions, eight tank brigades, two motorised brigades, six cavalry divisions and one antitank brigade. The vast majority of these units were sent against two points in the Romanian lines.

The Romanian troops conducted an almost miraculous defence and managed to hold the line for one day. The situation was hopeless however, they were outnumbered some 3 to 1 (almost 7 to 1 in tanks), and had little modern equipment to face the fresh units being sent in against them. On the 20th their line had been breached and huge numbers of Red Army divisions began streaming south.

Also on the 20th a second attack was launched to the south of the city against points held by the Romanian 4th Army, made up primarily of cavalry, and this army collapsed almost immediately. The Soviet attackers met in a pincer movement near Kalach two days later, trapping 300,000 Wehrmacht soldiers of the 6th Army and about half of the 4th Panzer Army in and around Stalingrad, and shattering both Romanian armies in the process.

Hermann G?ring promised that all the necessary supplies for the 6th Army could be delivered by the Luftwaffe. This would allow them to fight on while a ground force was assembled to re-open the line. If this worked, the tables could be turned, with the Red Army units on the "far side" of the Don suddenly surrounded by troops in the city and newly arriving units from the west. This strategy had been used to great effect the year before, but on a much smaller scale and during the summer. Supplying the 6th Army would require 300 tonnes to be delivered each day, and by any count the number of planes needed to achieve this was clearly not available. However the claim, once stated, could not be withdrawn, and Adolf Hitler backed G?ring's plan and re-iterated his order of "no surrender" to his trapped armies.

The supply mission failed almost immediately. The winter weather offered few occasions when the planes could be flown in, with one or both ends of the flight-path covered in clouds and snow. On days with good weather about 280 tonnes would arrive, but there were only two of these over the next two months. In general only 1/10th of the needed supplies were able to be delivered. The supply planes evacuated sick and wounded Sixth Army soldiers when taking off from the besieged enclave.

By this point the Red Army had had enough time to set up defences of their own, and any hope of a forced breakout by the 6th Army was now futile. Meanwhile the forces that had not been trapped were desperately setting up a defensive line along the Don and Chir rivers around 40 miles to the west of the city, organised into the new Army Group Don with von Manstein in command. Although they were under constant attack by various Red Army units, the Soviets did not exploit this opportunity and focused entirely on taking the city.

By early December 1942 a battlegroup had been formed southwest of the city from troops withdrawn from the Caucasus. Although these were excellent troops with an excellent commander, by this point they were tired and badly in need of rest and refit. Moreover the majority of the troops in the Caucasus were left where they were in order to guard their hard-won advances in the months prior. Facing this newly-reinforced 4th Panzer Army was the 2nd Guards Army, one of the Soviet Union's better units. On 12 December 1942 the Panzers launched their attack towards Stalingrad, but the attack ran out of momentum and stalled some 25 kilometers from the city. The attack was called off on the 23rd. At this point any hope of rescue was dashed.

Stalingrad - Operation Neptune
In January the Red Army launched Operation Neptune, another massive attack from the northern flank, this time against the Italian 8th Army located just to the west of the former Romanian positions. Their aim this time was to drive to Rostov on the Black Sea, thereby cutting off all of Army Group South.

Hitler continued to make repeated "no retreat" demands to the troops, and von Manstein grew so tired of these he eventually demanded to either be left alone or replaced. Hitler relented, and von Manstein started a mobile defence using Panzers as "fire brigades" that would be ordered into holes in the line. The defence was considerably more successful than might have been expected given the state of the troops, and the Red Army was unable to get anywhere near Rostov. Nevertheless their advance did drive the German lines back further, and now Stalingrad was some 250 km away.

The Stalingrad Battle Ends
Realizing all hope was lost, Friedrich von Paulus, in command of what remained of the 6th Army, started forming plans for surrender. Realising this, and hoping to rescue something of the battle, Hitler promoted him to Field-Marshal on January 30th, 1943. No German Field-Marshal had ever been taken alive in war, and it was hoped this would force him to fight on, or take his own life.

Instead von Paulus saw this as yet another example of Hitler's increasing irrationality. On January 31, 1943 von Paulus ordered the 6th Army to surrender on February 2 in Stalingrad. A force of 300,000 was now reduced to only 91,000 tired and starving men. The Soviets force-marched them to detention camps, many dying of starvation on the way. Only some 5,000 would return to Germany after the end of the war.

By any measure the battle of Stalingrad was one of the bloodiest battles in modern history, with some 300,000 Germans killed or captured. Soviet battle deaths were at least 400,000, possibly much higher, with more than 100,000 civilians killed in Stalingrad and its suburbs. No accurate figures have been given for the numbers of Italian and Romanian soldiers killed in the battle.

The historian William L. Shirer, in his history of World War II, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, summarised the importance of the Battle of Stalingrad with these words:

Coupled with El Alamein and the British-American landings in North Africa it marked the great turning point in World War II. The high tide of Nazi conquest which had rolled over most of Europe to the frontier of Asia on the Volga and in Africa almost to the Nile had now begun to ebb and it would never flow back again. The time of the great Nazi blitz offensives, with thousands of tanks and planes spreading terror in the ranks of the enemy armies and cutting them to pieces, had come to an end.

Battle of Stalingrad - Order of Battle


Sixth Army (von Paulus)

VIII Army Corps (Heitz)

11th Infantry Division (von Armin)
76th Infantry Division (Rodenburg)

XI Army Corps (Strecker)

384th Infantry Division (von Gablenz)
44th (Austrian) Infantry Division (Deboi)
376th Infantry Division (von Daniels)

XIV Panzer Corps (Hube) *

16th Panzer Division (Angern)
3rd Motorised Infantry Division (Schl?mer)
60th Motorised Infantry Division (von Arenstorff-Oyle)

LI Army Corps (von Seydlitz-Kurzbach)

71st Infantry Division (von Hartmann)
79th Infantry Division (von Schwerin)
295th Infantry Division (Korfes)
305th Infantry Division (Steinmetz) including

578th Infantry Regiment - from the northern shores of Lake Constance which Ludger Fischer tells me means it is a Swabian unit

389th Infantry Division (Magnus)
100th (Austrian) Jaeger Division (Sanne) including:

Croatian Regiment 369

14th Panzer Division (Kuhn) including

103rd Panzer Grenadier Regiment

24th Panzer Division (von Lenski)

Luftflotte IV


64th Army

29th Infantry Division

112th Infantry Division

214th Infantry Division (Biryukov)

229th Infantry Division

783rd Infantry Regiment
804th Infantry Regiment

66th (Motorised) Naval Infantry Brigade

154th (Motorised) Naval Infantry Brigade (Smirnov)

40th Armoured Brigade

137th Armoured Brigade

5 Heavy Tanks
10 T-34
20 T-60

October 1942

From Naval Infantry Brigades, Chuikov (1963), Fowler (2005), Erickson (1993) and Beevor (1999):

62nd Army (Chuikov)

10th NKVD Rifle Division (Sarayev)

2 x Infantry Brigades

13th Guards Rifle Division (Rodimtsev) - landed 14 Sep 1942 - including:

34th Guards Regiment
39th Guards Regiment
42nd Guards Regiment (Yelin)

35th Guards Rifle Division (Dubyanski)

37th Guards Rifle Division (Zholudev) - landed 2 Oct 1942 - including:

1st Guards Rifle Regiment
114th Guards Rifle Regiment
117th Guards Rifle Regiment (bit confusing, I've got them in the 39th Guards too.)

Initially without anti-tank guns

39th Guards Rifle Division (Guriev) - landed 30 Sep 1942 - including

117th Guards Rifle Regiment (bit confusing, I've got them in the 37th Guards too.)
118th Guards Rifle Regiment (probably based on their fighting on 11 Nov)

Raised from 5th Parachute Corps in Aug 1942.

45th Rifle Division (Sokolov)

95th Rifle Division (Gorishny) including

161st Rifle Regiment
241st Rifle Regiment

At some point sailors from the far east reinforced this division.

112th Rifle Division (Sologub) including:

416th Rifle Regiment
524th Rifle Regiment

138th Rifle Division (Lyudnikov) including

650th Rifle Regiment

193rd Rifle Division (Smekhotvorov)

685th Rifle Regiment

196th Rifle Division

Comprised mostly of Kazakh, Uzbek and Tartar men.

244th Rifle Division

284th (Siberian) Rifle Division (Batyak) - landed 22 Sep

308th (Siberian) Rifle Division (Gurtiev) - landed 2 Oct 1942 - including

117th Rifle Regiment

84th Tank Brigade - landed 2 Oct 1942

20 T-70s
5 KVs
24 T-34s

137th Tank Brigade

189th Tank Brigade

92nd Naval Infantry Brigade - landed 16 Sep 1942

2 Battalions

42nd Special Brigade (Batrakov)

115th Special Brigade (Andryusenko)

124th Special Brigade (Gorokhov)

140th Special Brigade

160th Special Brigade

Text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Importance of Stalingrad
The capture of Stalingrad was important to Hitler for 2 reasons. First, it was a major industrial city on the Volga River – a vital transport route between the Caspian Sea and northern Russia. .
As a result, the German capture of the city would effectively sever the transportation of resources and goods to the north. Second, its capture would secure the left flank of the German armies as they advanced into the oil-rich Caucasus region – with the strategic goal of cutting off fuel to Stalin's war machine. The fact that the city bore the name of the leader of the USSR, Stalin, would make its capture an ideological and propaganda coup. The


The Soviets realized this and, though they were under tremendous constraints of time and resources, ordered that anyone strong enough to hold a rifle be sent to defend the city.
The Red Army, at this stage of the war, was less capable of highly mobile operations than the German Army; however, the prospect of combat inside a large urban area, which would be dominated by hand-held small arms rather than armored and mechanized tactics, minimized the Red Army's disadvantages.

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Battle of Stalingrad WW2