This fountain left standing in the middle of Stalingrad came to symbolize the struggle and triumph of the city.

This fountain left standing in the middle of Stalingrad came to symbolize the struggle and triumph of the city.

Now some historians might say that the Battle of Kursk is where the tide turned in favor of the Red Army in World War Two, however I have a different theory. The Battle of Stalingrad was the real turning point in the war for two reasons; one the Battle of Kursk was all but decided before the battle even started mainly due to the fact that the Russian armies had ample time to prepare their extensive defensive positions for the German offensive that they knew was coming in the summer of 1943, secondly the Battle of Stalingrad was a much more strategic loss for the German war machine because it was an all out offensive that needed to be successful for the Germans to have a shot at defeating the Russians in the long run. The main reason for this is that the Baku oil fields to the South were the main fuel suppliers to all of Soviet Russia and their armies and cutting this off would make them vulnerable to the famous Nazi Blitzkrieg which relied on tanks and aircraft but those could only be provided by capturing the oil fields.

 

Funny enough the call to lay siege to Stalingrad was not General Friedrich von Paulus’s, who commanded the German Sixth Army which was the primary attacker on Stalingrad. In fact it was Hitler’s magnificent idea to attack Stalingrad mainly because he thought it would be nice to take the city who is named after the Soviet leader. I can also think of another time, (D-Day), when Hitler opted not to send his Panzer divisions to reinforce the Normandy coast because there was no way the Allies would be so daring to invade from the sea. Look how that turned out.

The German army did have the advantage going into the siege, “The Sixth Army commenced its advance on August 21 and, after over two months of withering bombardment gained control of nine-tenths of the nearly totally destroyed city,” (SMSH). Now most Generals throughout military history would look at this situation and see a lost cause, not General Georgii Zhukov though he was more afraid of Stalin than Hitler, and also his orders were to hold the city at all cost. These orders came down from Stalin himself in the famous, “Not One Step Back,” (Stalin Order No. 227) memo. Taken straight from the memo, “From now on the iron law of discipline for every officer, soldier, political officer should be – not a single step back without order from higher command. Company, battalion, regiment and division commanders, as well as the commissars and political officers of corresponding ranks who retreat without order from above, are traitors of the Motherland. They should be treated as traitors of the Motherland. This is the call of our Motherland,” (Stalin Order No. 227).

Fortunately the Russian Army was able to hold out long enough for a Russian counterattack to take place on the flanks of the German army. The Russians numbered around a million soldiers and were able to surround the German army now trapped inside the city of Stalingrad. Trapped inside and no where to go the remaining German soldiers suffered horrible fates as the miserable russian winter wore on. Out of the 400,000 German Soldiers at the beginning of the assault only 112,000 made it out alive after newly promoted  Field Marshall Paulus surrendered on February 2, 1943. Thus halting the entire German advance in its tracks and turning the tide of the entire war.

 

Sources:

 

Text: (SMSH) http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1943stalingrad&Year=1943&navi=byYear

(Stalin Order No. 227)http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1943step1&SubjectID=1943stalingrad&Year=1943

Picture:   Tsaritsyn–Stalingrad–Volgograd. Volgograd: Izdatel’. 2000.