The Battle of Stalingrad: The Germans' Catastrophic Defeat

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The battle of Stalingrad raged from August 1942 until the German surrender on 2 February 1943. Significantly, it was the first catastrophic defeat to befall the Wermacht Army who not only lost the battle but were severely humiliated. Indeed, the German Army never fully recovered from this blow to its morale. Upwards of 270,000 troops were killed and 91,000 prisoners were taken by the Red Army; included in this latter number were 23 German Generals. Conversely, morale in the Red Army soared as a consequence of Stalingrad giving the Russians increased strength and confidence. This battle represented a turning point in the Second World War.

By successfully defending the city of Stalingrad the Soviet Union were able to deny Hitler his summer 1942 objective of paralysing the Soviet war effort by interrupting Russian oil supplies and seizing the Caucasus oil fields. This achievement was made possible through the stubborn and ferocious resistance of the Red Army within the confines of Stalingrad and the meticulously planned counteroffensive which led to the encirclement of the entire 6th army outside the city. In addition, compared with their German counterparts, the Red Army were highly organized, they had superior lines of communication and were better equipped.

Stalingrad, reduced to a burning shell within days of the first German assault, was defended by the Soviet 62nd Army led by General Chuikov. Although German troops captured 90% of the city, Chuikov maintained his hold on a strip of land a mile long. Stalin had issued the order 'not a step backwards' therefore discipline was harsh and traitors were killed without sentiment. The Red Army were merciless, executing over 13,000 of their own men. It was however the counteroffensive, Operation Uranus, launched on 19th November 1942 that saved Stalingrad. The plan, a dual attack 50 miles north and south of the city involved over 1 million men and was the idea of Generals Zhukov and Vasilevsky. Stalin...
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