The Battle of Stalingrad was fought between the German 6th Army and a large number of Soviet Armies lasted from 23 August 1942 until 2 February 1943 for control of the city of Stalingrad in the south-western Soviet Union. The city itself was of vital strategic importance to both, but more than that the prestige of capturing the city with Stalin’s name on it made it, for Hitler, an irresistible target.
The fighting was marked by constant close quarters combat and, at first, a number of direct assaults on civilians by air raids. The battle is seen as the largest and bloodiest battle in the history of warfare.
The heavy losses incurred by the Wehrmacht make it the most strategically decisive battle of the Second World War. It was a turning point in the European theatre, after this battle the German forces never regained the initiative in the East and were compelled to withdraw a large military force from France to replace their losses.
All pictures and captions come from the RIA Novosti archive:
“The defenders of Stalingrad”. Right: General Andrei Yeryomenko, Commander of the Red Army’s Southeast [Stalingrad] Front. Second right: Alexei Chuyanov, First Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party’s Stalingrad Regional Committee. Third right: General Alexei Kirichenko, Member of the Military Council of Stalingrad Front in Charge of Military Logistics. Fourth right: Nikita Khrushchev, Member of Politburo of Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, First Secretary of Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine.
The German offensive to capture Stalingrad began in late summer 1942 using the 6th Army and elements of the 4th Panzer Army. The attack was supported by intensive Luftwaffe bombing that reduced much of the city to rubble. The fighting degenerated into building-to-building fighting, and both sides poured reinforcements into the city. By mid-November 1942, the Germans had pushed the Soviet defenders back at great cost into narrow zones generally along the west bank of the Volga River.
On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, a two-pronged attack targeting the weaker Romanian and Hungarian forces protecting the German 6th Army’s flanks. The Axis forces on the flanks were overrun and the 6th Army was cut off and surrounded in the Stalingrad area.
Adolf Hitler ordered that the army stay in Stalingrad and make no attempt to break out; instead, attempts were made to supply the army by air and to break the encirclement from the outside. Heavy fighting continued for another two months. By the beginning of February 1943, the Axis forces in Stalingrad had exhausted their ammunition and food. The remaining elements of the 6th Army surrendered.The battle lasted five months, one week, and three days.
“General Borisov”. General Mikhail Borisov at the memorial plaque with his name. The plaque of the Mamayev Kurgan memorial complex bears the names of units and commanders that distinguished themselves in the Battle of Stalingrad.