World War II in Europe. From Warsaw to Berlin. Part 6-Battle of Stalingrad

Great turning point

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World War II in Europe. From Warsaw to Berlin. Part 6-Battle of Stalingrad

The medal

The medal "For Defense of Stalingrad". For the great turning point

auctions - Catawiki

The medal "For Defense of Stalingrad". For the great turning point

auctions - Catawiki

auctions - Catawiki

The medal "For Defense of Stalingrad". For the great turning point

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After Kiev and Eastern Ukraine (where the war is right now) fell, Hitler was ready to bring his new plan into life. This plan was a plan of war campaign for 1942. He intended to capture theSoviet oil fields in the cities of Maykop, Grozny and Baku. The plan was called “Blau” which means “blue”.

Axis’ plan for war campaign for 1942. “Blau”.

The Army group  “South” (the one that fought in Ukraine and Crimea) was divided into two : Army Group  “A” and “B”. “A”‘s attack was going south to those oil fields. Without oil, the USSR would have lacked the fuel for tanks, planes etc. “B”‘s attack was going farther east to Stalingrad and Volga. This would have prevented deliveries from the US and the UK that were coming via Iran. It also would have prevented the Soviet army from surrounding the group “A” in Caucasus. This article is about Stalingrad.

Stalingrad. In July of 1942, the German Army Group “B” started its offense on Stalingrad. Against them there were 2 Soviet Armies- the 62nd and the 64th.

The battle between these two forces took place on the river Don. To be more specific, in place where Don almost “touches” the Volga river. Even though the Red Army had a slight advantage over the 6th Army (Army Group “B”.),  Paulus

(the commander of the 6th Army) could concentrate his forces on delivering an accurate strike from the west, instead of stretching his army for 500 km, like the Soviets. The waterfront of the Don is 25-30  meters high. The defenders had two choices — to defend and win or to die. They decided to defend. They detained the enemy for a whole month. In August, Paulus got more soldiers and continued his offense. He crossed the Don, and continued his way to Stalingrad.

Germans, Romanians and Italians forces all fight in Stalingrad. Here, they crossing the Don river.

Soon, the first bombardment occurred in Stalingrad. 80% of all buildings were destroyed on that day-August 24, 1942. After that, there was no army to defend Stalingrad. It seemed that Stalingrad would fall. But generals Zhukov (again Zhukov!) and Vasilevsky attacked the 6th Army from the North and saved Stalingrad. The 62nd, and 64th armies were “fixed” and ready to fight. But still, the clashes of the armies were going IN the city. Hundreds of people died, transportation became dangerous and the USSR lost its oil fields in the town of Maykop.

By September, situation became even worse. Germans were now on the shore of the Volga river. They were really close to the “main ferry”. This ferry transported food and soldiers to Stalingard (to the right bank of the Volga), and wounded soldiers from Stalingrad (to the left bank of the Volga). If Germans could occupy it, the Fate of Stalingrad would be decided on that very day.

Luckily, the 13th Guards Division saved the day (or, I should say, the night)! On the night of September 14th to15th, their forces landed on the right bank of the Volga and kicked the Germans from the bank of the Volga to the nearby mill. After the Germans were kicked out from the mill, the guards of Stalingrad attacked a very important bridgehead (the strategically important area of ground) called “Mamayev Kurgan” By the September 17, they succeeded. Their commander was Alexander Rodimtsev! The same Rodimtsev who defended Kiev with his paratroopers (see Part 4)!

In October, a sergeant named Yakov (Iakov) Pavlov and his squad liberated one house on today’s “Ulitsa (street) Sovetskaya, 39”. For two months they defended this house from the Germans, Romanians, Italians etc. That house was named “Pavlov’s House”.

Sergeant Yakov (Iakov) Pavlov and Pavlov’s house.

In November, Soviet generals started planning operations to end the Battle of Stalingrad. «Operation Uranus” had been worked out with an aim to get the 6th army into a cauldron and to prevent the Nazis from transferring their army to Stalingrad (I will write about it in Part 8). And to destroy the Fascists in that cauldron, another operation -Operation “Saturn”  had been developed.

Operation "Uranus"

The operation “Uranus”. Two Fronts (Stalingrad and South West (western)) met at the town of Kalach on November 23, 1942. Under the name of the front, the name of generals who were in command.

The “Uranus (Uran)” was a success, and “Mars” too. But “Saturn” failed. The Nazis felt what was going to happen, and started developing an operation “Winter Thunderstorm”. Paulus got an order not to give up, and try to meet the help. German tanks started an attack in a place where the adversary had no tanks, — there were only infantry (regular soldiers) of General Malinovsky. Other army forces tried to stop the 6th |Army. Malinovsky had to wait until other forces approached him.  Surprisingly, he and his soldiers managed to hold until reinforcements (with tanks) approached. And then, German tanks were pushed away and destroyed during operation “Small Saturn”.

After the “Small Saturn”, there was planned an entire new operation to liberate Stalingrad. Today, it is known as “Operation Ring”. This time, the decision was to divide the cauldron into two parts — northern and southern. The southern would be captured by the Stalingrad Front, and the northern by the Don Front (see the map). General Paulus got an order from Hitler to evacuate himself from the cauldron, but Paulus flew into Stalingrad instead. It was a long operation. Finally, by the end of January, 1943, both “halves” met in Stalingrad. And then, on January 31, 1943, General Paulus and the whole Southern Pocket (half) surrendered. And on  February 2nd, 1943, the Northern Pocket (half) surrendered, and the Battle of Stalingrad came to an end, and it was the greatest victory of the Soviet Army!

At the same time as the Battle of Stalingrad, another battle was raging nearby. Group “A”… the attack on oil fields… the Battle of Caucasus…

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