Article

Battle of Stalingrad

Reina Pennington

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0020
Battle of Stalingrad

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The battle of Stalingrad was part of the strategic conflict that occurred in the southwestern Soviet Union in 1942–1943. One of the largest and longest battles in history, it encompassed both maneuver and static warfare, steppe and urban fighting, and summer and winter conditions. It began with Operation Blau (Blue), the German summer offensive in 1942, aimed at capturing the oilfields in the Caucasus region, and it ended with massive Soviet counteroffensives in November, culminating in the surrender of the German 6th Army in February 1943. Casualty figures range from 1 to 2 million civilian and military deaths. These events were a turning point in the war—some say, the turning point. After Stalingrad, Germany never regained the strategic initiative. Stalingrad (now called Volgograd) was not, in fact, Germany’s primary objective when it first planned Operation Blau, but a secondary objective designed to protect the flank of the forces engaged in the Caucasus and to prevent Soviet reinforcements. It achieved primary importance, largely because of the symbolism of its name, by the late summer of 1942. After a fighting retreat across the steppe from the Don River to the Volga, the Red Army made a stand at Stalingrad, as directed by Stalin’s Order No. 227, often referred to as “Not a Step Back.” The German attack on the city began in late August with massive Luftwaffe bombing, turning the buildings and extensive industrial facilities to rubble. Fighting degenerated into urban warfare, with the Red Army desperately holding its bridgeheads and the Wehrmacht equally desperately trying to take control of the entire city. The 62nd Army was sent just enough reinforcement to prevent a collapse, while the Soviets channeled their main effort into building forces for the counteroffensive. Operation Uranus, launched on 19 November 1942, was a major success, easily blowing through the Axis forces on the German flanks and leaving the 6th Army encircled and trapped. Subsequent Soviet operations reduced the “ring” and forced the surrender of an entire German army, and its field marshal commander, for the first time in history. The battle of Stalingrad has achieved mythic proportions, eclipsing the massive operations that preceded it (Operation Blue) and those that ended it (operations Uranus and Saturn). Popular histories in particular have tended to focus on the dramatic urban warfare phase, neglecting the much larger operations that occurred before and after. Many of the best works are available only in Russian or German.

Article.  8827 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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