Thursday, 17 July 2014

World of Tanks: Today in History: Battle of Stalingrad

In July of 1942, plans for the German summer offensive have been altered. The German command split up Army Group South: one was sent to the Caucasus as planned (Army Group A), the other (Army Group B) was sent to the Volga to cut off Soviet supply lines and take Stalingrad.

Army Group B counted 270,000 soldiers and officers, 500 tanks, and over 2000 guns and mortars. The 4th Air Fleet of Wolfram von Richtofen supported it from the air. The Soviet South-West Front (renamed to Stalingrad Front on July 12th, 1942) could only offer 160,000 soldiers, 400 tanks, and 2200 guns in opposition. Several divisions were severely lacking in manpower.

On July 17th, the German army went on the offensive. This is the day that is considered the start of the Battle of Stalingrad. By July 22nd, the Germans pushed Soviet forces back nearly 70 kilometers, to the outskirts of Stalingrad. On July 28th, another event occurred that cannot go unmentioned. This was the day that the famous Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #227 was passed, more commonly known as "Not one step back". This document, in all its harshness, was positively received in the army, and improved the situation with breaches in discipline.

In late July, Soviet forces were pushed out beyond the Don and fortified for a defense in the outer fortification rim of the city. On August 23rd, the Germans, supported by aircraft, penetrated the defensive lines of the 62nd and 4th Tank Armies and reached the Volga. On that day, German aircraft made 2000 sorties. Many districts of the city lay in ruins, the fuel warehouses burned, nearly 40,000 civilians were killed. The enemy reached the Rynok-Orlovka-Gumrak-Peschanka line. Fighting raged on at Stalingrad's walls.

Battles in the city began on September 13th, and continued until November 19th, when the Red Army began a counterattack. At the beginning of the offensive, Stalingrad still contained Paulus' 6th Army, von Salmuth's 2nd Army, Hoth's 4th Tank Army, and the Italian, Romanian, and Hungarian armies.

On November 19th, the Red Army began a massive offensive operation, codenamed Uranus. It began with fire from about 3500 guns and mortars for a two hour barrage. Because of this, November 19th is known as the day of artillery.

On November 23rd, the ring closed around Paulus' and Hoth's armies. On November 24th, 30,000 Italians surrendered near Raspopinskaya station. By then, the Germans controlled a scrap of land 40 kilometers east to west and 80 north to south. Paulus demanded a breakthrough, but Hitler expressly forbade it. He still hoped that it was possible to reach Paulus' forces. This mission was given to Manstein. Army Group Don, under his command, was supposed to deliver a strike from Kotelnikovskoye and Tormosino and free Paulus' army in December of 1942.

On December 19th, Manstein's forces came across Rodion Malinovskiy's 2nd Guards Army. On December 25th, the German offensive stalled in the snowy Don steppe. The Germans rolled back to initial positions with heavy losses.

Paulus was doomed. On January 10th, 1943, the final operation to destroy surrounded German forces in Stalingrad began, codenamed "Ring". The Germans fought as they could. The Soviet offensive even halted from January 17th to January 22nd. After regrouping, the Red Army moved to attack once more, and by January 26th, the German forces were split into two parts, one near the Barricade factory, and the other, with Paulus in it, near the city center.

On January 30th, 1943, Hitler awarded Paulus the rank of Feldmarschall. At noon on January 31st, Paulus surrendered. In another two days, Stalingrad was cleared of Germans. On February 2nd, it was over. The Battle of Stalingrad ended.

90,000 German soldiers and officers were captured. The Germans lost 800,000 men. 160 tank and around 200 aircraft were captured.

Original article available here.

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