Battle of Stalingrad

The Battle of Stalingrad
Date Aug 23, 1942 – Feb 2, 1943
Location Stalingrad, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Outcome Decisive Soviet victory
Destruction of the German 6th Army
Axis forces began to decline in Eastern Front
Turning point of World War II in Europe
Flag_of_German_Reich_(1935–1945) Germany
Flag_of_Romania Romania
Flag_of_Italy_(1861-1946) Italy
Flag_of_Hungary_1940 Hungary
Flag_of_Independent_State_of_Croatia Croatia
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union Soviet Union
Military Leaders
Flag_of_German_Reich_(1935–1945) Adolf Hitler
Flag_of_German_Reich_(1935–1945) Erich von Manstein
Flag_of_German_Reich_(1935–1945) Friedrich Paulus
Flag_of_German_Reich_(1935–1945) Hermann Hoth
Flag_of_German_Reich_(1935–1945) Wolfram von Richthofen
Flag_of_Romania Petre Dumitrescu
Flag_of_Romania C. Constantinescu
Flag_of_Italy_(1861-1946) Italo Gariboldi
Flag_of_Hungary_1940 Gusztáv Vitéz Jány
Flag_of_Independent_State_of_Croatia Viktor Pavičić
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union Joseph Stalin
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union Georgy Zhukov
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union Nikolay Voronov
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union A.M. Vasilevsky
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union Andrei Yeremenko
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union Nikita Khrushchev
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union K.K. Rokossovsky
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union Nikolai Vatutin
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union Vasily Chuikov
Military Units in Battle
Flag_of_German_Reich_(1935–1945) Army Group B:
Flag_of_German_Reich_(1935–1945) 6th Army
Flag_of_German_Reich_(1935–1945) 4th Panzer Army
Flag_of_Romania 3rd Army
Flag_of_Romania 4th Army
Flag_of_Italy_(1861-1946) 8th Army
Flag_of_Hungary_1940 2nd Army
Flag_of_Independent_State_of_Croatia Croatian Legion
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union Stalingrad Front:
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union 8th Army
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union 28th Army
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union 51st Army
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union 57th Army
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union 62nd Army
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union 64th Army
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union Don Front
Flag_of_the_Soviet_Union South West Front
Unit Strength
270,000 men
3,000 artillery pieces
500 tanks
600 aircraft, 1,600 by mid-September
At the time of the Soviet counter-offensive:
1,040,000 men:
(400,000 Germans,
235,000 Italians,
200,000 Romanians,
200,000 Hungarians,
5,000 Croatians)
10,250 artillery pieces
500 tanks
732 (402 operational) aircraft
187,000 men
2,200 artillery pieces
400 tanks
300 aircraft
At the time of the Soviet counter-offensive:
2,500,000 men in total
1,143,000 men in Stalingrad area
13,451 artillery pieces
894-4,000 tanks
1,115 aircraft
Casualties and Deaths
Total: Total:
est. 850,000 killed, missing or wounded
including 107,000 captured (only 6000 survived the captivity and returned home to 1955)
900 aircraft (including 274 transports and 165 bombers used as transports)
1,500 tanks
6,000 artillery pieces
Approx. 1,150,000 killed, missing or wounded
including 478,741 killed and missing
650,878 wounded and sick
40,000 civilians dead
4,341 tanks
15,728 artillery pieces
2,769 combat aircraft
Part of World War II

The Battle of Stalingrad is considered to be one of the turning points of World War II. It was fought between the Soviet Union and the Axis powers led by Nazi Germany, over a period of several months between August 1942 and February 1943. Enormous casualties were suffered by both sides. The Germany army suffered particularly heavy losses, bringing an effective end to the Nazi invasion of Russia. In fact, there were no further major German victories on the Eastern Front in the entire war.


After the German advance on Moscow had been halted by the Red Army at almost the last moment, Hitler realized that he did not have sufficient numbers to launch an all-out assault along the front. Instead, he resolved to refocus German attacks on the southern Russian lands which were rich in oil. Operation Blue, as it was known, began in late June of 1942, surprised the Russians who had expected a renewed attack on Moscow. Nevertheless, strong resistance at Voronezh bought the Soviets sufficient time to call in reinforcements.

Hitler quickly became upset at what he saw as the slow progress of his armies, dividing them into two Army Group units named A and B. Army Group A had most of the armor and was ordered to secure the oil fields. Meanwhile, the more lightly armored Army Group B was told to proceed to Stalingrad and capture the city to prevent an attack on the German flank. Stalingrad was strategically vital both for its location on the Volga River and for its propaganda value. Renamed after Soviet ruler Josef Stalin, its fall would send a message to Moscow that Hitler hoped would cause a collapse in morale.

Preparating for Battle

German_Summer_Offensive,_24_July-18_NovemberThe German drive toward Stalingrad was headed by the 6th Army under General Friedrich Paulus. This was supported by the 4th Panzer Army of General Hermann Hoth. At this early stage, around a quarter of a million German troops were involved, while Soviet forces numbered barely 180,000, although a few months later there would be more than one million men fighting on each side of the enormous battle.

As it became clear what the Nazis were intending, Stalin ordered General Andrey Yeryomenko to Stalingrad. When he arrived there, the general ordered that the city be stripped of supplies and prepared for close-quarters combat in the city itself. Many of the buildings were fortified in support of this aim. Some of the city’s civilian inhabitants were allowed to leave, but a large number remained on Stalin’s orders; he felt that a “living city” would give a greater incentive for his soldiers to defend it.

Battle Commences

Stalingrad-RussiansAhead of the advancing ground forces, planes under General Wolfram von Richthofen succeeded in establishing control of the skies over Stalingrad. Huge numbers of bombs were dropped, causing heavy civilian casualties. Meanwhile, Army Group B pushed on west, reaching the Volga to the south of the city by the first day of September. This cut off a supply line for the Soviets, who could now only bring in reinforcements by crossing the river under frequently heavy attack by German forces.

Paulus and his 6th Army began to move into the city itself on September 13, about a week after arriving at the scene. Support was given by the 4th Panzer Army in the southern suburbs. The principal objective at this stage was the river’s landing area and a nearby hill, Mamayev Kurgan, as well as a major train station. The Russian defenders, commanded by Lt.-Gen. Vasily Chuikov, put up a very stiff defense despite their inferior numbers. Chuikov decided to reduce this disadvantage by remaining closely engaged with the Germans.

Fighting in the City

For a number of weeks, bitter street fighting raged in Stalingrad, with many soldiers expecting to live less than a day after being deployed. The increasingly ruined buildings of the city became home to snipers and guerrillas, making the city even more dangerous. The Soviet army’s desperate fighting could not prevent them from being forced back into just 10% of the city by late October, although the Nazi troops had endured huge casualties to get to that point. Hitler ordered that Romanian and Italian soldiers be brought in to guard the flanks, while a number of aircraft were transferred from the North African campaign.

While the street fighting went on, Stalin ordered Zhukov to gather sufficient forces to mount a counter-attack. He, along with General Aleksandr Vasilevsky, massed armies on the wide steppe plains both south and north of the city, and on November 19, Operation Uranus was launched. In this assault, three Russian armies crossed the Don River to destroy the Romanian Third Army. The following day, the Romanian Fourth Army was also shattered by a further attack from two Soviet armies. The Soviets took advantage of this confusion to encircle the city, then the German 6th Army.

The Siege of Stalingrad

With a quarter of a million Axis forces surrounded by the Russians, German generals pleaded with Hitler to allow them to mount a breakout. However, Hitler refused and insisted, with support from Goering, that air-drops could be used to re-supply the encircled soldiers. In the event, as Hitler had been warned, this was not possible and Paulus and his troops began to suffer ever more difficult conditions. Seeing what had happened, some Soviet forces closed in on Paulus while others pushed eastward. By early December, the Germans had been forced into such a small area that a break-out seemed the best option.

In the event, Operation Winter Storm, as the break-out attempt was called, was a failure. The Soviets replied with Operation Little Saturn in mid-month, pushing the Axis forces sufficiently back as to make relief of Stalingrad impossible. With the situation in the city now unbearable, Paulus sent word to Hitler asking to be allowed to surrender. Hitler refused the request and instead promoted him to field marshal – a symbolic act, as no German field marshal had ever been taken prisoner. Paulus was being told that he must commit suicide, although he declined to do so and was indeed captured on January 31. Two days later, the last German resistance was crushed.


Both sides in the Battle of Stalingrad suffered massive losses, with nearly half a million Soviet troops dying and over 600,000 suffering wounds, as well as about 700,000 Axis soldiers being killed or wounded. The desperate conditions of the siege had resulted in as many as 40,000 of the city’s civilian population falling victim either to bombing raids or starvation and disease. Critically, over 90,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner, most of whom would not survive to return home. A few weeks later, the Red Army launched a number of attacks over the Don River, pushing the German Army Group A out of the Caucusus region and securing the oil fields for the Soviets.

One response to “Battle of Stalingrad”

  1. swa says:

    I would like to know why Stalin didn’t drop a nuke on South Africa.

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