Called Tsarityn officially founded in 1589. Was named Stalingrad in 1925 after Josef Stalin, due to his role in helping in its defence against the White Army between 1919 and 1920. Situated on the left bank of River Volga, it used to be major trading port. Under Stalin, it became a centre for heavy industry.
Case Blue or Operation Braunshweig, was laid out by Hitler on 5 April 1942, which was his goal of achieving victory in 1942. In the Southern Region, it involved capturing the oilfields of Baku, Maykop and Grozny, a region which produced over 80 percent of Soviet oil (area marked A). Attacks on Voronezh (B) and Stalingrad (C) were just to protect the northern flanks of the strategic attack.
The German offensive started on 28 June 1942. The offensive was initially successful, however the Axis forces were held back by logistical difficulties. This resulted in the German Sixth Army halting on the route to Stalingrad in July 1942 due to fuel shortages for eighteen days, when it was lightly defended.
20 July – 8 August 1942
On 2th July 1942, the German Sixth Army attacked the Soviet 62nd and 64th Armies, encircling majority of them by 8 August 1942. Surviving soviet forces fell back to defensive positions around Stalingrad.
23 August 1942
The first day of air raids on Stalingrad. At 4pm, the Luftwaffe launch a bomber raid, involving over a 1000 aircraft. 40,000 civilians lost their lives during that air raid.
23 August - 12 September 1942
The Germans launched their attack on the city of Stalingrad. Soviet losses were very heavy, but the Soviet military and political leadership enforced the ‘Not One Step Backwards’ order, to prevent total collapse.
12 September – 19 November 1942
Period of core Battle of Stalingrad, or Rattenkreig (rats war). General Chuikov was appointed to lead the 62nd Army, initially with less than 100 tanks and 20,000 ill trained troops, against an Axis force of over 100,000 well trained men. But he kept frontline within 50 metres of Germans to counter their air superiority, had snipers in all key positions and ordered hand to hand street fighting to wear down the attackers. Though the Germans captured about 90% of the city, and the frontline was 180 metres from the Volga, the Soviet defence was kept alive by the constant ferrying of reinforcements across the River Volga.
19 November – 22 November 1942
The Soviets launch Operation Uranus. Marshal Zhukov and Vasilevsky had been planning the operation in absolute secrecy since 12 September 1942. They envisaged a huge trap, by just keeping the defence of the 62nd Army alive, making the Germans pour in more resources to capture the city, then to attack the German flanks, which were defended by Romanian troops. It involved over 1.5 million troops, attacking the North and Southern flanks of the sixth and part of the fourth German Army, meeting deep to their rear at Kalach, thereby encircling twenty two divisions of men.
23 November – 12 December 1942
Hitler forbade his generals from attempting a breakout from the circlement. Instead, he promised an air bridge of supplies, after assurances it was possible from Luftwaffe head Hermann Goering. On the best day of the airlift, the encircled troops were still short by 150 tons of supplies. Despite protests from generals like Seydlitz, General Paulus lacked the moral courage to defy Hitler and attempt a breakout.
12 December - 22 December 1942
Operation Winter Storm was launched by Field Marshal Von Manstein of Army Group Don, to relieve the German forces in Stalingrad. The attack came within sixty miles of Stalingrad, but it was to be halted, due to bad weather and the inability of the Sixth Army to link up with Von Manstein. Also, the Soviet launched Operation Little Saturn on 16 December 1942, which threatened to cut off Von Manstein’s forces.
16 December - 8 January 1943
The Soviet launched Operation Little Saturn, a modified version of Operation Saturn. The initial plan of Operation Saturn was to increase the area controlled by the Soviet Army to Rostov and Kharkov, but it had to be scaled down due to Operation Winter Storm on 12 December.
9 January 1943
Soviet General Rokossovsky sent three truce envoys to German lines to convince Paulus to get their encircled army to surrender, guaranteeing fair treatment of prisoners. Their offer was turned down, under orders from Hitler.
10 January – 2 February 1943
Operation Ring was the last part of the Battle of Stalingrad. It was launched by General Rokossovsky 21st and 5th Tank Armies to finally crush the Kessel. On 26 January, troops of the 21st Army linked up with troops of the 62nd Army on Mamaev Kurgan, thereby splitting the Kessel into two. The Southern pocket were led by General Paulus, whereas the northern larger German pocket were led by XI Corps Commander General Strecker.
On 31 January, Paulus was promoted to rank of Field Marshal by Hitler. He saw it as an offer to commit suicide, as no Field Marshal had ever been taken prisoner. He refused to commit suicide ‘for the Bohemian corporal’. He was captured by the Russians at his headquarters and taken prisoner. He refused to order soldiers of the southern pocket to surrender, as he said he was no longer in command. A lot of the resistance in the southern pocket however ceased on 31 January. On February 2, in the northern pocket, General Strecker told his officers to negotiate terms of surrender. Thereafter organised resistance in Stalingrad ended, thus the end of the Battle of Stalingrad.
Over 350,000 Axis troops were killed or captured in the Stalingrad encirclement. Out of 91,000 German prisoners taken, only 6000 returned to Germany. Over 1.1 million Soviet troops were killed or wounded. Almost three million people were killed or wounded during the Battle of Stalingrad, making it the bloodiest battle in history.
1. The Germans did not win any major battles on the Eastern front after the Stalingrad debacle. From then on, they were in retreat mode.
2. Germany's allies Romania, Hungary, Italy and Croatia, whose troops suffered heavy losses, were no longer effective fighting forces. Eventually, all ended their Axis alliances.
3. Within a week of the end of the Stalingrad battle, at the Casablanca Conference Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President F.D. Roosevelt announced they will fight till the unconditional surrender of the Axis forces. There was complete confidence about the outcome of the war.
4. Resistance to national socialist rule in Germany became more overt, culminating with the almost successful attempt on Hitler's life on 20 July 1944.
Old German Front Line Today
Outline of Operation Uranus
Surrender at Stalingrad
Objectives of Case Blue
Germans infantry marching to Stalingrad
Fire after initial air raid
Victory at Stalingrad