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Battle of Stalingrad Summary

This article provides a brief summary of the battle of Stalingrad, which was a bitter six month struggle between the armies of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

The battle of Stalingrad was fought between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943. It was one of the most hard fought battles of the Second World War – there were high levels of civilian and military casualties, and much of the city was reduced to rubble during the battle.

The ultimate outcome of the battle was a crushing victory for the Soviet Union, which turned the tide of the war in their favour.

This article gives a brief battle of Stalingrad summary, including key dates, and a brief assessment of the impact of the conflict.

Background – Why Fight for Stalingrad?

Stalingrad was a vital transport hub, based on the Volga River. Its capture would open the way to Baku, and the oil reserves of the Caucasus for the oil-thirsty German Army. That the city was named after Hitler’s great adversary would also mean a massive morale boost for Germany if it were to capture the city.

Battle of Stalingrad Summary

The Battle for Stalingrad Begins

The German assault on Stalingrad began with a heavy bombing campaign in August – the Soviet Air Force was no match for the Luftwaffe, and there was little that could be done to prevent them from destroying much of the city’s industrial and residential infrastructure from above.

German ground forces reached the River Volga on August 23rd 1942. and launched their first ground assaults on the city itself on September 13th. German forces battled their way through the city to reach the banks of the river Volga and, by November, they controlled 90% of Stalingrad.

Soviet Counter-Offensive – Operation Uranus

General Paulus, the German commander, had committed most of his best troops to the battle for the city, leaving his flanks defended by Romanian, Hungarian and Italian troops. The Soviet Army, led by General Zhukov and General Vasilyevskiy, recognised the vulnerability of the German flank, and launched a counteroffensive – Operation Uranus – on November 19th 1944. So successful was the counter attack that, by November 23rd, the German Army – more than a quarter of a million men – had been encircled by Soviet troops.

Surrender of General Paulus

The Soviets gradually squeezed the German pocket, until it became clear that defeat was inevitable. Hitler, determined that his forces should fight to the bitter end, rather than surrender, promoted General Freidrich Paulus to the rank of Field Marshal, on the assumption that a German Field Marshal had never before been taken prisoner, and Paulus’ honour would demand that he fought to the bitter end.

Hitler was mistaken, though, and three days later, on 2 February 1943, Paulus surrendered. Although a few German troops battled on to the bitter end, fearing that being taken prisoner by the Soviets would be a fate worse than death, the majority of the 91,000 remaining German troops trapped in the Stalingrad pocket surrendered with Paulus.

Impact on the War

Almost 200 days of fighting left the city of Stalingrad a ruin, an estimated 40,000 civilians killed, and countless more wounded or forced to become refugees.

Military casualties on both sides were immense. German and its allies suffered approximately 750,000 casualties (killed, missing or wounded) and the Soviets suffered 478,741 killed or wounded, plus another 650,000 wounded. The Soviets also captured over 90,000 German troops, many of whom would not live to return home after the war.

The defeat was a massive blow to German morale, and more importantly the defeat of an entire Army group left its Southern flank exposed to a larger scale Soviet Counter-offensive – one that would eventually roll all the way to Berlin.

Further reading

If you found this article helpful, you might also be interested in our Battle of Stalingrad facts summary. We also recommend the books listed below, which can be purchased from Amazon.

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