Stalingrad

Discussion in 'The Eastern Front' started by History Buff, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. History Buff

    History Buff Junior Member

    After the Germans failed to win the war totally in 1941, they decided to start a fresh effort, and hoped that this would lead to victory. This effort eventually led to the city of Stalingrad in 1942.

    Different from the the three pronged attack of the previous year, this one had two spearheads. One from Kharkov to Stalingrad, the other from the Crimea to Caucasus. Though, this push was still very large. It included 78 Axis divisions, almost two million men. It's main purpose was to cut Stalin's supply along the Don and Volga rivers, therfore, cutting him off from oil in the Caucausus' and "Lend-Lease" aid from the west. This battle would last for more than a year, and could be considered one of the most important battles of the war, mainly because of two large, powerful armies meeting each other head on.

    Originally, Stalingrad hadn't really been an objective. It became one however after Hitler grew to have a personal obsession with it. It being named after Stalin himself, his enemy. The loss at Stalingrad could be partially blamed on Hitler himself. He withdrew into a shell during this period, concentrating on nothing more than the city. In the meantime, allowing for things to crumble around him. Fortunately for Hitler, an equally obsessive leader faced him. Stalin had a similiar obsession with Moscow, and it's defense. Though it isn't debatable whether or not Moscow was an important city to be in posession of, Stalin refused to believe where the German attack would be. Even after viewing a captured copy of this plan.

    So, the attack began, and believe it or not, it went on without a problem. Only in July, 1942, did this good luck begin to diminish. They were few and far between at first, but gradually built up unease at German Headquarters. There were debates as to attacks on Vorozneh, or whether a move towards the oilfields was in order. By August, Hitler decided to move his attention towards Stalingrad, just when Soviet forces had started to break up before him.

    On August 7th, General Hoth's Panzerarmee came within 30 kilometres of Stalingrad, and Paulus' 6th Army arrived to begin its main assault on August, 23rd. Before this, there was a huge aerial bombardment that destroyed most of the outer suburbs, thus pushing back the Russian's to their middle line of defence. Because of the German bombing, the rubble which had accumulated provided easily defensible posistions. The horriblly inefficient Russian's were now able to maintain some sort of defensive line, however, foolish charges into enemy lines only achieved marginal success at times. When it came right down to it though, the Russians had sized the battle down to house to house fighting, a style of combat which, although the German's could perform, would not allow them to take advantage of their superior equipment.

    By the end of the first week of September, Hitler realized that his offensive was not cutting through the enemy as promised. Despite renewed major pushes by the attackers on October 14th, and November 11th, the defence line, (which was now isolated into three sections) was never reduced. Angering Hitler, he quickly replaced some of his generals.

    Meanwhile, while all this bungling, and well, embarassment went on, Soviet staff was preparing for a flanking battle, which would envelope 6th Army into a large pocket, and bring about its total destruction. General Zhukov and C. General Alexander Vasilevsky had recently visited the front with orders to explore the chances of a counter-offensive. Leaders now knew that large forces around Moscow could be released to aid in this counter-offensive. But, something that was exploited even more by the Soviet's, was that the defenses around the Don River Line on either side of Stalingrad, was defended by Axis Allies...namely Italians, Hungarians, and Roumanians. It would be assumed that these units would not fight as hard or as well as the Germans. Zhukov knew that several well-planned attacks against these weak links would entrap stronger ones within within these lines. Thus proving that, "A chain is as strong as its weakest link." So, a secret and very complicated build-up of forces began, also known as "URANUS".

    This build-up was indeed massive.

    * 1 Million Men
    * 1500 tanks
    * 6000 guns
    * 10,000 mortars

    Using deceptive tactics, known as Maskirovka, the Soviets managed to place five armies to the north of the city, and two armies to the south. All this without raising too much of a stir at German Headquarters. Only the supposedly useless Roumanians noticed what was brewing, but, there concerns were simply thrown away. When the attack finally came on November 19th, the Germans had realized how careless they had been.

    The two Roumanian armies that were attacked were practically wiped off the face of the earth, leaving big holes in the Axis lines. The German XLVIII Panzer Korps put up a little bit of a fight in the north, but on November 23rd, only five days later, the two spearheads joined hands at the Kalach Bridge. Thus, completing the encirclement of 6th Army. Over the next few days, more Soviet reinforcements arrived to ensure that there would be no German breakout.

    Though, it could be said that the Russians needn't even be worried about a German breakout. As said before, Hitler had become so obsessed with the city, that he wouldn't even allow one. Instead, he relied on Hermann Goering's hollow promises that the Luftwaffe could supply the 6th Army with all the supplies it needed. However, there were not enough transport aircraft, weather played havoc with the flights, not to mention the Soviet Air Defences among other things. So, when 6th Army needed about 600 tonnes of supplies each day, they ended up getting around 100. The Army was running out of material, now making a breakout nearly impossible.

    Now, realizing the desperate situation, Hitler allowed the planning of a "break-in" to relieve the 6th Army. In charge of this operation was Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. His task would end up being his worst enemy. First, he was limited in his freedom because of Hitler, and he had few reserves to work with. He finally managed to scrape together 11 divisions for relief, which started on December 12th, but it was too little too late. Also, his attention also had to be given to Army Group A, which was fighting encirclement in the Caucasus. Manstein managed to authorize the pullout of Army Group A, but its diminished rescourses rendered it fairly ineffective. It would simply find solice in the rubble of Stalingrad.

    Now the waiting began. General Paulus swore he could stay in the defensive posture until Easter, but in January, it was apparent that it would be impossible.

    On January 10th, the Soviets launched Operation Ring, which would, and did, cut the 6th Army in two. Near the end of this epic story, Paulus was promoted to Field Marshal, a sinister hint, implying that the fact that no other Field Marshal had been captured alive, would force him to commit suicide. Paulus took this honour, but, decided to stay alive, and went into captivity.

    The battle was now over, and the Russian people and military found renewed strength. It could be said that this battle was the turning point of the war, signalling the eventual end of the Third Reich.
     

Share This Page