The Battle of Stalingrad

The victory of Stalingrad was of great military and political significance. It became the turning point of both the Great Patriotic War and the WWII. The battle lasted for 200 days and nights, from July 17, 1942 to February 2, 1943. The battlefield stretched for more than 100 000 km2.

5 April 1942

The government of the Nazi Germany based its Summer Campaign of 1942 on the Führer’s directive Nr.41 of April 5, 1942, which basically became the beginning of the Operation Barbarossa. The Wehrmacht believed that in order to defeat the USSR, they had to get to the oil reserves of the Caucasus, to take over such regions with fertile soil as Don, Kuban, North Caucasus and Lower Volga, as well as to get to the Volga river itself.

June 1942

After the heavy casualties suffered in Crimea and near Kharkiv the Soviet troops did not have enough time to wait for the reinforcement and could not secure their positions. The South-West reserves were almost completely depleted during the intense battles of May and June. Thus our military unit in the South-West part of the country became extremely weak by the late 1942.

23 July 1942

At that time the balance of power was in favour of the German troops. According to the Führer’s directive Nr. 45 of July 23, 1942, in preparation for the offensive, Army Group South was split into two army groups: Army Group A and Army Group B. The Army Group A was supposed to take Caucasus. The German Sixth Army was a specifically assigned formation of the Army Group B and was led by the Colonel General F. Paulus. The army of the enemy was outnumbering the Soviet Army by a factor of 1.7. In terms of artillery and tanks the German Sixth Army had the advantage over the Soviet Army by a factor of 1.3, while in terms of aircraft the Sixth Army was twice as equipped as the Soviet one. The German troops were advancing, having control over the situation and demonstrating more combat experience. And the German Sixth Army was one of the best armies of the Wehrmacht.

The troops of the South-Western Front were suffering heavy casualties and could not stop the advance of the Nazi troops to the east. The troops of the Southern Front were trying to repel the attacks of the 1st tank army and the 17th army of the Army Group A, advancing from the East, North and West, which made the Soviet Army start moving closer and closer to the Rostov defence zone. They had to make quick decisions to stop the enemy on its way to Stalingrad and Caucasus. But the inability of the chief command to figure out the plan of the enemy became the reason for having only 12 divisions of the 62nd and 63rd Armies (166 000 people, 2 200 guns and mortars and about 400 tanks) to protect Stalingrad in July of 1942. The air fleet had 600 aircraft, including 150-200 long-range bombers and 60 fighter aircraft. Four perimeter defences were built near Stalingrad: the outer perimeter, the middle perimeter, the inside and the city perimeter.

19 November 1942

All of the battles in Stalingrad were extremely intense and almost never ceased. The resilience of the Soviet soldiers was admired even by the Wehrmacht generals. The Soviet soldiers were fighting for each and every street, house and even every piece of land. There could be Soviet troops on one floor of the house and German troops on the other. The strategic operation on the Eastern Front (with the codename of ‘Uranus’) lasted from November 19, 1942 until February 2, 1943 and involved the forces of Don, Stalingrad, the left wing of the Voronezh Front as well as the Volga flotilla.

The main idea of the counteroffensive was to use Don lodgements in Serafimovich and Kletsky as well as the region of Sarpinsky island to attack German flanks and to finally link up at the town of Kalach-on-Don, encircling and destroying the main German forces near Stalingrad.

On November 19, 1942, after the artillery preparation was over the forces of the Southwestern and Don Fronts started the offensive. The result of this offense was that 22 divisions and 160 units of the 6th field army as well as 330 000 of German soldiers and officers of the 4th tank army were encircled by Soviet troops. The codename for the encirclement of the Nazi forces was the Ring Operation. The operation was supposed to be completed in three stages: the first was to cut off and destroy the enemy in the western and the north-eastern parts of the encircled area; the second was to destroy the enemy right next to the city; and the third stage was to destroy the enemy inside the city.

8 January 1943

This operation was assigned to the Army Group Don. At this stage the strength was 212 000 Soviet troops against 250 000 German soldiers, 6860 guns and mortars against 4130 guns and mortars of the enemy, 257 Soviet tanks against 300 German tanks, 300 Soviet aircraft against 100 German aircraft. On January 8, 1943 the Soviets offered the Nazi army to accept their terms and surrender. But the offer was rejected. Then on January 10, the Soviet troops started an all-out offensive. The artillery supported the infantry and tank’s attack with a fire barrier. The aircraft were opting for distant and shallow attacks.

26 January 1943 года

On January 26, 1943 the troops of the 21st army linked up with the 62nd army at the North-Western side of Mamayev Kurgan. This link-up resulted in cutting the Nazi troops into two. On January 31, 1943 the southern part of the Nazi troops ceased their resistance. On the same day, the 6th Army led by the field marshal F. Paulus were captured in the basement of the Central Department Store. On February 2, the northern part of the Nazi troops also ceased their resistance.

2 February 1943

On February 2, the northern part of the Nazi troops also ceased their resistance. The Wehrmacht and the German Allies lost then about 1.5 million people, some of them were dead, others wounded, captured or missing in action, which was one fourth of the enemy’s forces on the Soviet-German Front. The Red Army’s losses comprised 1 129 619 people.

The victory of Stalingrad had significantly improved the international image of the Soviet Union and its armed forces, becoming the key determinant of the further development of the Allies of the World War II.