The Battle of Stalingrad took place from August 23, 1942 to February 2, 1943 and was the bloodiest battle of World War II. This battle was also one of the worse strategic decisions for Adolf Hitler. It involved Germany and its allies attempting to take control of the city of Stalingrad from the Soviet Union. Below is a brief synopsis of this epic WWII battle.
Prior to the Battle
Prior to the onset of the battle, the Soviet’s had received sufficient warning of Germany’s advance which gave them the necessary time to ship out vital food supplies including grain and cattle. As a result, the city experienced a food shortage even before the Germans arrived. Most of the civilian residents, however, remained in the area.
On August 23rd, the Germans reached the outer area of Stalingrad. The Luftwaffe had already bombed and sunk 32 of the Soviet’s ships and crippled an additional nine. The Battle of Stalingrad officially began, however, when the German’s heavily bombed the city of Generaloberst, reducing the majority of it to rubble.
A Look at the Battle
Throughout this WWII battle, there were continual close quarter combats. Coupled with little regard for both military and civilian casualties, the Battle of Stalingrad is known as one of the bloodiest battles, not only of World War II, but in military history. This battle was also one of the most decisive strategies of the war as the German forces were unable to regain initiative in the East for the balance of the war.
Germany’s effort to gain control of Stalingrad started in the summer of 1942. They used the 6th Army and some elements of the 4th Panzer Army coupled with support by the Luftwaffe’s intense bombing. Eventually, the fighting on the ground was reduced to building-to-building combat. Both the Germans and the Allies sent in reinforcements.
On November 19, 1942, Operation Uranus was launched by the Red Army. This plan called for a two-prong attack, which targeted the Romanian and Hungarian forces protecting the German’s 6th Army flanks. However, the Axis forces were overrun and the 6th Army found themselves surrounded and cut off in Stalingrad. Hitler ordered the troops to remain in the city and make no attempts to leave. He had supplies flown in and made an effort to break the encirclement from the outside.
It wasn’t until February of 1943 that the Axis inside the city had finally exhausted their supplies and those left in the 6th Army surrendered. At this point, they were not running out of ammunition, but they were also starving. At this point in the fighting, both sides had suffered brutal affects. Even the commanders from both sides were left afflicted with stress related problems.
The loss at the Battle of Stalingrad was the first time the Nazi government openly admitted any defeat on behalf of the war efforts. It was also the first time the Russians were able to sustain losses equal to the Germans. In past battles, the Soviets would generally suffer three times the loss of the Germans.
Some speculate that had the German troops withdrawn just a few months earlier when all hopes of victory were diminished, their defeat may have been held off for another few months and possibly years. However, Hitler’s ego would not allow him to make that decision, making the Battle of Stalingrad one of the most decisive battles in the outcome of World War II.