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This map shows the wire communications available to the Red Army at Stalingrad on 15 September 1942.
Stalingrad 1942, Peter Antill. One of the most monumental and widely discussed battles in the history of World War II, Stalingrad was a major defeat for Germany on the Eastern Front. The book provides a detailed breakdown of the armies on both sides, discusses the merits of the commanders, the ways in which these influenced the battle and the Germans allowed themselves to be diverted from their main objective and concentrate such large resources on what was, initially anyway, a secondary target. [see more]
Why Stalingrad still matters
Stalingrad &ndash How the Red Army Triumphed by Michael Jones, offers fresh insights and invaluable lessons into how defeat was turned into victory, not only in the face of overwhelming odds but also in direct conflict with Stalin.
Hitler&rsquos rise to power and eventual defeat may appear to some people as distant history. But for many, including myself, the nightmare of fascism was a shadow that hovered over my childhood as it had irrevocably altered the lives of my parents and grandparents. I heard from them how men had left for a distant front, never to return or how so many had suffered from hunger and homelessness during and after the war. People like my parents, who could read other languages and were widely travelled, were only too aware that much of what they were told by the Nazi state was lies and propaganda.
In Britain and the US, the Soviet contribution to Hitler&rsquos defeat has long been played down. Central in this lack of recognition was not only the sacrifice made by the people of the Soviet Union, but also how they defied the misleadership and repression of Stalin and his machine. Michael Jones&rsquo book, based largely on the accounts of Soviet veterans, has the merit of setting the record straight in this important respect.
Stalingrad was probably the most momentous battle of the last century. It was and still is seen by many as the main turning point in the struggle to defeat Hitler&rsquos armies, which until then had not tasted a major defeat. The battle occupied the minds and hearts of countless people around the world. In Britain, contemporary Home Office intelligence reports described public involvement in each turn of the conflict as an &ldquoobsession&rdquo.
The battle for Stalingrad continues to fuel the imagination. Jean-Jacques Annaud&rsquos Enemy at the Gates (2001), starring Jude Law and Bob Hoskins, provided a romantic account of the conflict between a Soviet and German sniper against the background of the smouldering ruins of Stalingrad. Before that, British historian Antony Beevor&rsquos book Stalingrad: the Fateful Siege 1942-1943 topped the best-seller lists. Joseph Vilsmair&rsquos 1993 anti-war Stalingrad, a film about a group of soldiers shocked a new generation of Germans by re-enacting the battle through the experiences of a rank-and-file Wehrmacht soldier. Countless other books, websites, and even computer games have stimulated debate and discussion.
Some of the myths have been debunked through these portrayals and the debates they have engendered. But even outstanding historians like Beevor (whose 560-page epic account incorporates many interviews with German and Russian survivors and makes use of the Russian document collections opened up by Gorbachev&rsquos glasnost), are being challenged as still more secrets have surfaced.
There is no doubt that there was a monumental miscalculation on the German side. It is true that in the last analysis, Hitler and his generals &ldquofailed to achieve victory over the Soviet Union because of its vast manpower and industrial resources as well as its ability to force the Germans into fighting an attritional battle over a particular objective&rdquo (Stalingrad 1942 by Peter Antill). While these facts undoubtedly contributed to the eventual defeat of the German armies, the issue of leadership itself still remains key to understanding the outcome of the battle.
At the beginning of the war, neither the size of the Soviet Union's armies, nor its resources, nor its great distances prevented German forces from penetrating right into the heart of the Soviet Union, nearly capturing Moscow and actually taking most of Stalingrad. The reason is not hard to fathom.
As Antill says: &ldquoThe Red Army had been effectively decapitated just before the outbreak of the Second World War by the Great Purge enacted by Stalin&hellip. At least 30,000 officers were imprisoned, tortured or executed with the victims including three out of the five marshals and 14 out of the 16 army commanders.&rdquo One of those executed in 1937 was the civil war commander in the Red Army under Trotsky, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Soviet chief of staff in the 1920s. Tukhachevsky was also a notable military theorist.
ISBN 13: 9781848842014
Michael K. Jones's new history of Stalingrad offers a radical reinterpretation of the most famous battle of the WW2. Combining eyewitness testimony of Red Army fighters with fresh archive material, the book gives a dramatic insight into the thinking of the Russian command and the mood of the ordinary soldiers. He focuses on the story of the Russian 62nd Army, which began the campaign in utter demoralization, yet turned the tables on the powerful German 6th Army. He explains the Red Army's extraordinary performance using battle psychology, emphasizing the vital role of leadership, morale and motivation in a triumph that turned the course of the war.
Colonel-General Anatoly Mereshko fought throughout the battle as staff officer to the commander, Chuikov. Working with the author much of Mereshko's testimony is entirely new - and will astonish a western audience. It is backed up by accounts of other key veterans and the recently released war diary and combat journals. These show that the oft-repeated descriptions of Stalingrad's two critical days of fighting - 14 September 1942, when the Germans broke into the city, and 14 October, when they launched a massive attack on the factory district - disguise how desperate the plight of the defenders really was. In their place is a far more terrifying reality. Grasping this, we come to see Stalingrad as more than a victory of successful tactics - rather, as an astounding, improbable triumph of the human spirit.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Michael Jones is well-known for his innovative, controversial studies of warfare. A former university lecturer in medieval history, he now works as a freelance writer, presenter and battlefield tour guide. He has written numerous articles on warfare for journals. Since 1984 he has been guiding visitors around battlefields, including Stalingrad, Bannockburn, and the battlefields of the Hundred Years' War.
It is fitting to memorialize this epic battle today, the seventieth anniversary of its turning point. Throughout the summer and fall of 1942, the fascist hordes had thrown the Red Army back across to steppes, all the way to the banks of the mighty Volga. They had massacred their way through western Russia and the Ukraine, successfully continuing the blitzkrieg tactics resulting in the encirclement and near annihilation of multiple Soviet armies. Soviet propaganda then and subsequently put a stoic face on it all, but realistic accounts betray the sense of hopelessness and despair prevalent in the army as they saw their best and bravest cut down in unequal matches again and again, never ending it must have appeared at the time. The massed armor, air support, and superior organization and communications of the Wehrmacht seemed invincible.
Something happened in the fall of 1942 that changed not only the outcome of a single battle, but the course of the Second World War and of 20th century history. The Red Army found a way to fight back in the streets and factories, before long the ruins, of Stalingrad. Stalin issued the order, "Not a Step Back!", he and Zhukov and other military leaders made the plans, the Soviet people and the Red Army executed those plans. A Red Army soldier in the ruins would cannily resist, stiffening the resolve of all who witnessed the act or heard about it. Think of Vasily Zaytsev, portrayed in the movie Enemy at the Gates, which misses details but absolutely captures the social and military essence of the rising fight-back.
This video from the Soviet point of view gives an idea of the brutality of the battle, including the difficulty of supplying the army from across the river when the Luftwaffe controlled the air - click the "Full screen" icon at the bottom right to show full screen. Fighting raged in streets, houses, factories, and ditches - many a spot changing hands numerous times throughout the battle. Women participated in great numbers as soldiers, medical workers, and in other frront-line positions. General Vasily Chuikov, the Red Army commander on the scene, makes a cameo appearance towards the end. His command post was only a few hundred yards from the Nazis throughout much of the battle it was under high bluffs right up against the Volga and the Nazis once got close enough to send explosives down on a rope (soldiers higher up severed the rope to save their commanders).
Chuikov, a hardened Communist and atheist, carried his mother's prayer card with him at all times. By some miracle, he survived the battle and became a high military leader in the Soviet Union after the war. Shortly before death, he asked to be buried on the Mamaev Kurgan, a central hill in Stalingrad where some of the bitterest and most sustained fighting had taken place. This account by one of Chuikov's officers from Michael Jones's recent book Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed explains how he led and what it meant:
When Chuikov took command a guiding principle spread amongst us: there should no longer be a divide between commanders and ordinary soldiers. As a result, we shared our food together, and slept in the same trenches and dug outs. Battalion and even regimental commanders stayed in the line and fought with their men. Our rule became: every man is equal to another. It changed the mood amongst our soldiers. Once, when my men were overrun by the enemy, and small groups were fighting on in encirclement, Andryushenko (a higher officer) personally came with reinforcements and restored the situation. He fought his way through and rescued us. Actions like this created an atmosphere of extraordinary trust - and in return, no one wanted to let their commanders down.
Stalingrad was a fitting place for this showdown. Named after Stalin for his exploits in the vicinity during the civil war of the early twenties, the old city became an industrial powerhouse and showpiece during the Soviet period. Its massive factories had been retrofitted for war production, the same factories whose walls contained brutal mini-battles for months on end. Earlier in the season, before the Nazis penetrated the city limits, tanks drove off the production line unpainted, straight into battle. The Red October Factory, Pavlov's House, the Tractor Factory, the House of the Railway Workers, these are some of the places through which the battle seesawed for months.
The fighting ground on through September, October, November. There were many harrowing scenes where the enemy was on the verge of overrunning the entire city, only to be stopped by super-human effort and just enough resources delivered to just the right place at the right moment. It escaped the Germans that the balance in this war of attrition was slowly but decisively tipping away from them. The German Sixth Army was being ground down and losing its punch. The Soviet Stavka (central military council headed by Stalin) steadily and stealthily planned a massive counter-offensive involving over a million soldiers.
On November 19th the Red Army struck from north of the city, on November 21st from the south, with the object of surrounding the Sixth Army. The German flanks were weak and held down by allied forces, most Romanian. The Soviets made short work of them and their two groups met at Kalach behind Stalingrad on November 23rd. It had become bitterly cold all of a sudden Wehrmacht equipment failed - they were outnumbered, outgunned, and out-hustled. In one incident, Russian mice had occupied the wiring compartments of German tanks and gnawed trough the wires, incapacitating an entire unit. The Red Army tightened the ring, rushing in reinforcements. Hitler forbade the Germans from attempting a breakout, the only possible way to save the situation. Even that possibility quickly became untenable, the supplies, morale, and military effectiveness of the Sixth Army degrading by the day. Leading Nazi Hermann Goering, head of the Luftwaffe, promised resupply by air, a daunting task by any measure. It quickly became ridiculous as the Red Army started widening the ring and forcing longer flights at one point, Soviet tanks literally rammed Luftwaffe planes sitting on a resupply air field as they overran it. As in other respects, Stalingrad turned the tide in the air, the Luftwaffe never again gaining the unchallenged supremacy they enjoyed as late as September 1942.
Some 300,000 soldiers were trapped, never to return to the fight. The pocket was reduced over a period of weeks and the last remnants surrendered on February 2, 1943. The German public was surprised and shocked by this reverse, the Soviet public less so. This was one of those great events in history whose significance almost everyone in the world understood at the time. The Russo-German war was by far the largest theater in World War II, perhaps 80% of the German war effort. It was inherently a war of attrition the Germans could not replace those lost soldiers, the Soviets could and did. The Red Army regained its fighting spirit and learned how to win, how to combine air, armor, and infantry on mobile battlefields as the Germans had done so successfully. There was more hard fighting, much more, but everyone knew how this was going to end. On to Berlin!
The real story has been obscured, minimized and even falsified in the West for ideological reasons. Michael Jones retells the tale in a convincing and moving way (cover at top featuring Chuikov). One of his chapters is titled "An Army of Mass Heroism" and the phrase sticks, the valiance of Lyudnikov, Zholudev, Rodimtsev, Batyuk, and so many others almost beyond comprehension. They revived General Suvorov's old maxim, "Perish yourself but rescue your comrade!". Bravery, but also coolness under fire, oneness between officers and soldiers, and leadership from the front. Jones interviewed many Stalingrad veterans and is particularly compelling in explaining what really happened in the trenches. The Soviet people knew and the closer they were to it, the better they knew.
Were there any question of bias in Jones's account, it is dispelled by the foreword of David M. Glantz, formerly a United States Army officer who served in Vietnam. Colonel Glantz was a historian for the army, and has become one of the leading authorities on the Russo-German war, specializing in research in the Soviet archives. Glantz says Jones's Stalingrad is "highly effective and utterly captivating . the finest history of its type published to date".
Chuikov was tough and demanding and had a terrible temper, not always held in check. He exemplified as well as led the Red Army in this titanic struggle. His son Alexander recounted:
If he had just been a tough, abrasive, ruthless leader I think the battle would have had a different outcome. But crucially he also had a most unusual quality, a kind of warmth - a special empathy for ordinary soldiers and an ability to get really close to them. I will never forget one extraordinary incident, much later. We had been travelling by military train with my father - now Marshal of the Soviet Union - and made a short, unscheduled stop. My father was walking ahead of us with his adjutant when suddenly an almighty commotion broke loose. A circle of curious onlookers quickly gathered, with the adjutant flitting around in a state of total bewilderment.
Inside the circle I saw my father with a woman, totally overcome with emotion, her face streaming with tears, and I realized straightaway that she was a Stalingrad veteran. She kept repeating again and again, "Vasily Ivanovich, Vasily Ivanovich - God has sent you back to me!" They embraced each other - my father had also become very emotional and was crying as well. The surrounding crowd stood silent, absolutely mesmerized. Afterwards, I thought about that moment a lot, for the woman wanted nothing from my father - she was not trying to get any money or anything she was just overjoyed to see him again. It was as if a curtain had briefly lifted, allowing me to glimpse the deep affection that had existed between the commander and his army. Later, I saw it again when veterans of Stalingrad visited my father's house. The thing that struck me most was the spontaneous warmth he evoked from ordinary people.
7 Answers 7
A number of things went wrong in the German advance on Stalingrad. One of them is that after Paulus made it to the Volga in late August, 1942, he was supposed to chase the Russians into Stalingrad where the Luftwaffe would supposedly bomb them to death. But the Luftwaffe bombed Stalingrad before the Russians retreated, which is to say that most of them survived, and then fortified the ruins, which made excellent cover, instead of killing them.
Then there was the issue that the Sixth Army consisted of only 18 divisions, less than the Germans had used in previous sieges. To "encircle and besiege" Stalingrad, they needed more units, which Hoth's Fourth Army could have supplied-- if it had not been shuttled back and forth between Stalingrad and the Caucasus.
Third, the Russians actually concentrated most of their defensive strength OUTSIDE Stalingrad, on the flanks, which effectively prevented a German encirclement, and led to the later Russian encirclement of the Germans.
Basically, the "path of least resistance" for the Sixth Army was through Stalingrad itself, if the Luftwaffe had timed the bombing of the defenders properly. The Germans almost pushed through the survivors, and would probably have prevailed against a "lesser" number.
He was obsessed with the political damage the falling of a city named "Stalingrad" would have upon Stalin and the USSR, and wanted it more or less destroyed, so he explicitly ordered von Paulus not to encircle the city and wait for it to die(as the normal procedure would be), but to capture and raze it. Paulus was hesitant, but obedient, and he did as he was bid, which was a grave and fatal mistake, as we all know, and should have been apparent to anybody even back then.
Source: memories from a few books of Bevin Alexander, common knowledge, Wikipedia, tales
The problem was that Stalingrad is actually a huge city. It lies for miles on the west bank of the Volga. The Volga in many places is a mile wide or more and if defenders are in the city it would be easy to supply them by barge from the river. Establishing a force on the east bank would have been pointless because there was nothing to attack there and there would have been no way to supply those troops.
One of the big problems is that the Germans had little heavy weaponry and ammunition. Normally, if defenders are holing up in a city like that, you can easily defeat them just by blasting them to smithereens with heavy guns, but the Germans simply did not have the ammunition supply necessary to do that, so they were running around fighting with rifles street to street which was useless. The Red Army won the battle because they improved their artillery supply to a decisive degree.
Germany never attempted to cross the Volga at any point during the campaign. It was simply not part of the plan at any time, on any level. The Maykop oil fields was the main objective of Fall Blau, and Stalingrad was chosen as an optional objective only because it was a communications hub on the Volga that would make a convenient spot for the northern anchor to the Blau campaign.
Kleist later said after the war: The capture of Stalingrad was subsidiary to the main aim. It was only of importance as a convenient place, in the bottleneck between Don and the Volga, where we could block an attack on our flank by Russian forces coming from the east. At the start, Stalingrad was no more than a name on the map to us.
Hitler changed his mind a number of times about the objectives of Army group B (the norther arm of Blau). First Voronezh was optional. Then Voronezh became a target for an on the fly capture, which the Germans did manage. Then the 4th panzer army was diverted to support Army Group A. Then Hitler changed his mind again and redirected the 4th panzer army back to Army Group B to support the attack on Stalingrad (but not before giving 1/2 its forces to Army Group A)
Basically all this is to illustrate that the main goal was the oil fields in the south. And the German high command had very ambivalent/vague attitudes towards the goal of the Army Group B.
In truth, Army Group B had just one job. Protect the flank of Army group A.
Therefore, Voronezh was optional, and so was Stalingrad.
Hitler intended to fight in Stalingrad it was not a mistake. At one point, the German 6th Army was tying down 60 Russian divisions, this allowed the rest of Army Group South to reach the oil fields almost unchallenged however, the mountain terrain added weeks to the objective - weeks which the army group were supposed to have returned north to relieve 6th Army at Stalingrad.
Well, the problem with encircling Stalingrad is that it is located on the far bank of the "River Volga". So, it's nearly impossible to encircle a city that is located on the far side of a river. But, the germans could have just surrounded the area outside of Stalingrad, and that is possibly the closest they will get to "encircling Stalingrad". Moreover, if Hitler wanted to capture the oilfields of Baku, it would be extremely difficult because Germany's supply lines would have been stretched too far out. But, let's just say they capture the oil fields. Well, bringing the oil back is another issue. It is back the Baku is more than 1,000 km from Stalingrad and MORE THAN 3700 KM FROM BERLIN! So, that means they will have to get past Partisan Movements, through Soviet counterattacks, through ariel raids, and through the harsh environment. I don't know about you guys, but if I was Adolph Hitler, I would have listened to my generals to not be obsessed over Stalingrad, and go for the main target the Caucasus. Also, if I could not capture the Caucasus, I would just bomb it. I know this will sound crazy too many of you. But, it is strategically correct. The Soviet got approximately 75% of their oil from the Baku. So, if there is no oil in Baku, then there is no way the Soviet can continue the war. I don't know about you guys. But, if the Soviets are low on oil, and oil from the Baku is vital for them. I would just snatch it away. It definitely will not be the best thing to do. But, as long as the Russians aren't getting any oil, I am okay with that
The house was a four-story building in the center of Stalingrad, built perpendicular to the embankment of the river Volga and overseeing the "9th January Square", a large square named for Bloody Sunday. In late September 1942, between 30 and 50 soldiers of the 42nd Guards Regiment, 13th Guards Rifle Division secured the large apartment blocks from German control, following its reconnoiter by four soldiers four days beforehand which Yakov Pavlov himself led.
The position was quickly fortified under the command of Lieutenant Ivan F. Afanasiev, who ordered the men to lay land mines in all approaches to the square, barbed wire around the perimeter of the apartment block, and to position multiple machine guns in the windows as well as a PTRS anti tank rifle. The Soviets also had large amounts of artillery support from the opposite side of the Volga. Supply and communication trenches were created leading from the rear of Pavlov’s House to the river bank of the Volga, which received supply from supply vessels which were often shelled by German artillery when crossing the river.  
The strategic benefit of the house was that it defended a key section of the Volga bank. The tactical benefit of the house was its position on a cross-street, giving the defenders a 1 km (0.62 mi) line of sight to the north, south and west.  [ incomplete short citation ] After several days, reinforcements and resupply arrived for Pavlov's men, bringing the unit up to a 25-man understrength platoon and equipping the defenders with machine guns, anti-tank rifles, and mortars.
In keeping with Stalin's Order No. 227—"not one step back"—Sergeant Pavlov was ordered to fortify the building and defend it to the last bullet and the last man. Taking this advice to heart, Pavlov ordered the building to be surrounded with four layers of barbed wire and minefields, and set up machine-gun posts in every available window facing the square. In the early stages of the defense, Pavlov discovered that an anti-tank rifle—a PTRS-41—he had mounted on the roof was particularly effective when used to ambush unsuspecting German tanks once the tanks had approached to within range of the weapon, their thin turret-roof armor was exposed to AT rifle fire from above, and they were unable to elevate their weapons enough to retaliate. 
For better internal communication, Pavlov's soldiers breached the walls in the basement and upper floors, and dug a communications trench to Soviet positions outside. Supplies were brought in via the trench or by boats crossing the river, defying German air raids and shelling. Nevertheless, food and especially water was in short supply. Lacking beds, the soldiers tried to sleep on insulation wool torn off pipes but were subjected to harassing fire every night in order to try to break their resistance.
The Germans attacked the building several times a day. Each time German infantry or tanks tried to cross the square and to close in on the house, Pavlov's men laid down a withering barrage of machine gun and AT rifle fire from the basement, the windows and the roof. The defenders, as well as the civilians hiding in the basement, were eventually relieved by counter-attacking Soviet forces after holding out from 27 September to 25 November 1942.
It has been argued that whilst the house was heavily fortified, there were limited assaults against it and it was amongst the first buildings in Stalingrad to be restored after the war, having received comparatively limited damage. German archives do not support the claim for heavy fighting for the building, and Soviet military archives attach no particular importance to the house as a defensive structure. Whilst the building was originally captured by Pavlov, the commander of the position was Lieutenant Afanasev. The garrison was disbanded on the night of November 24 with troops returning to their original units. These units were then sent on the offensive with Pavlov, Afanasev. Many members of the house's garrison were killed and wounded whilst assaulting the German held "Milk House" on November 26. 
Sources conflict on the date at which the siege began, and the date at which the Soviet reinforcements reached the building and lifted the siege.
"On September 27, a 30-man Russian platoon was ordered to retake a four-story apartment building the Germans had just captured. until November 25, 1942, [. ]" 
"[. ] the defenders of Pavlov's House who participated in it's [sic] defense from 26 September 1942 till 25 November 1942." 
"The defenders had fought off every German attack for a total of 58 days." 
Pavlov's House became a symbol of the stubborn and dogged resistance of the Soviet forces during the Battle of Stalingrad, which eventually ended in a decisive victory for the Soviet forces after months of fighting and heavy casualties on both sides. The inability of the German blitzkrieg to make headway against such grinding and self-sacrificial attrition warfare made the failure to capture Pavlov's House (despite numerous attempts) stand out as a symbol of resistance against a supposedly superior force.
Vasily Chuikov, commanding general of the Soviet forces in Stalingrad, later joked that the Germans lost more men trying to take Pavlov's House than they did taking Paris.   
Pavlov's "House" was rebuilt after the battle and is still used as an apartment building today. There is an attached memorial constructed from bricks picked up after the battle on the East side facing the Volga.
Pavlov was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union for his actions. 
A Russian TV documentary in 2009, Legendary Redoubt, (Легендарный редут) on the Russian Channel One reported on Pavlov's House. The last member of Pavlov's group, Kamoljon Turgunov from Turakurgan District, Namangan Province, Uzbekistan died on 16 March 2015, aged 93. 
After the war Pavlov communicated little with his ex-comrades, with many of them bewildered by his fame and in disagreement with the story that had been built around Pavlov. In 1985 a memorial was erected, listing the names of the garrison. 
A Historic Recount of the Battle of Stalingrad
The battle of Stalingrad raged from August 1942 until the German surrender on 2 February 1943. Significantly, it was the first catastrophic defeat to befall the Wermacht Army who not only lost the battle but were severely humiliated. Indeed, the German Army never fully recovered from this blow to its morale. Upwards of 270,000 troops were killed and 91,000 prisoners were taken by the Red Army included in this latter number were 23 German Generals. Conversely, morale in the Red Army soared as a consequence of Stalingrad giving the Russians increased strength and confidence. This battle represented a turning point in the Second World War.
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By successfully defending the city of Stalingrad the Soviet Union were able to deny Hitler his summer 1942 objective of paralysing the Soviet war effort by interrupting Russian oil supplies and seizing the Caucasus oil fields. This achievement was made possible through the stubborn and ferocious resistance of the Red Army within the confines of Stalingrad and the meticulously planned counteroffensive which led to the encirclement of the entire 6th army outside the city. In addition, compared with their German counterparts, the Red Army were highly organized, they had superior lines of communication and were better equipped.
Stalingrad, reduced to a burning shell within days of the first German assault, was defended by the Soviet 62nd Army led by General Chuikov. Although German troops captured 90% of the city, Chuikov maintained his hold on a strip of land a mile long. Stalin had issued the order ‘not a step backwards’ therefore discipline was harsh and traitors were killed without sentiment. The Red Army were merciless, executing over 13,000 of their own men. It was however the counteroffensive, Operation Uranus, launched on 19th November 1942 that saved Stalingrad. The plan, a dual attack 50 miles north and south of the city involved over 1 million men and was the idea of Generals Zhukov and Vasilevsky. Stalin authorized the covert operation but did not interfere with the details. Part of the reason for its success was due to this unified command. Stalin, in contrast to Hitler during this period, listened to reasoned arguments. He surrounded himself with a small group of competent advisors, listened to the advice of field commanders and usually accepted it. The Red Army strategically out maneuvered and virtually annihilated the Axis force during the operation but they were also helped by excessive German ambitions and in cohesive military strategies.
The Essay on Stalingrad Red Army
. southern attack failed at Stalingrad. After weeks of chaotic retreats and easy German victories, the Red Army solidified its defence and . surprise to the leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin. Despite repeated intelligence warnings, which included the precise day . the battered city. In November 1942 Operation Uranus was launched by the Soviets, and the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad was .
Hitler concentrated too much of his military strength on Stalingrad. The capture and destruction of the city was of more symbolic value than strategic advantage. The military high command was in disarray due to a combination of disagreements and dismissals. Hitler frequently interfered in detailed operations overriding the decisions of his military commanders. This caused confusion throughout the chain of command and resulted in a distinct lack of unity. One consequence was the existence a long and vulnerable flank along the Don River manned by troops from Hungary, Italy and Romania. These troops lacked motivation and were left ill equipped, making the task of the Red Army an easier one. It is interesting to speculate that had Hitler kept out of military planning, events may have been considerably different. The German defeat resulted in a forced withdrawal from the northern Caucasus and most of the Ukraine.
Soviet victory at Stalingrad significantly raised the morale of the war weary Russian people and increased patriotic feeling. Stalin, hailed a hero, regained his credibility and was appointed Marshal of the Soviet Union. Red Army Generals were rewarded with military decorations and their statues were erected in their native cities. Propaganda also received a boost as newsreels showed the long columns of German POWs. Stalin personally took credit for the victory and military defeats prior to Stalingrad were depicted as part of his pre-arranged plan.
The Term Paper on Military School Napoleon France Army
The Hundred Days counts the approximate number of days that Napoleon came back into power after having been exiled. The Treaty of Fontainebleau had given to him sovereignty over the island of Elba and his title of emperor, along with an annual pension of two million francs. He had retired there on the 20 of April 1814, after his well-awaited abdication. Louis XVIII was put into power right away, .
Stalingrad was a turning point in the war but not a decisive one. Stalin believed victory placed him in a greater position of strength within the Grand Alliance. He was therefore more confident during 1943 in pushing negotiations for the opening of a second front. The Red Army fought with renewed vigor on the ‘E’ front and within 18 months had recovered all Russian territory taken by Germany. In 1943, the question was no longer ‘if’ Germany could be defeated but ‘when’. However, Stalingrad alone did not turn the tide of war in favor of the allies. The battle did play a vital role but other factors must be considered American victories in the Pacific, allied landings in North Africa and the defeat of Rommel at el-Alamein.
Who Was To Blame For The Cold War 3
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Stalin And The Ussr
. Stalin took over the premiership from MOLOTOV. The German invasion (June 22) found him unprepared at war's . socialism in one country. The military was reorganized along czarist . YALTA CONFERENCE Stalin gained Western recognition of a Soviet sphere of .
Essay On Stalin World War
. war, Stalin easily outwitted the allied leaders of the Teheran and Yalta Conferences.With the Red Army's invasion of German soil, Soviet . third accomplishment is Hitler s military tactics. The blitzkrieg was a very impressive German move. Their ability .
Stalingrad Red Army
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Former university lecturer and battlefield tour guide Michael K. Jones presents Stalingrad: How the Red Army Survived the German Onslaught, a compelling military history and analysis that lives up to its title. Based heavily upon Jones' extensive interviews with Russian veterans, Stalingrad especially emphasizes the role of psychology - including leadership, morale, and motivation - in turning the tide of war. Of especial interest is the testimony of former deputy commander of the Warsaw Pact, Colonel-General Anatoly Mereshko, who was staff officer to the 62nd Army's commander Chuikov and one of the principal surviving witnesses to historical events. Stalingrad reveals how desperate the defenders truly were, especially when the Germans broke into the city in 1942, painting the city's defense as more than solid tactics, but also a triumph of resolute human spirit. A "further reading" list and an index round out this one-of-a-kind testimony grounded in the words of the people who witnessed history itself.
- Reviewed by Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)
This book is a great addition to the literature on the battle of Stalingrad and is a "must" to be on the shelf of every reader interested in World War II.
The vast majority of books about the Eastern Front (Germany against the Soviet Union) available in the US are written from the German side due to the availability of source material from the Germans and the paucity of non-propaganda material from the Soviets. The battle of Stalingrad has been no exception. Lately, however, historians like David Glantz and others have been attempting to rectify that deficiency, and this book fits into that genre.
However, this work by Jones is even more important than most as it makes much new material available to the American reader. Books such as Marshal Chuikov's memoirs were written hewing to the Soviet line and could not be taken at face value. With this book, Chuikov's memoirs are effectively modified to what actually took place.
Jones clearly outlines that the German 6th Army could have easily taken Stalingrad had the high command not altered Case Blue and transferred the 4th Panzer Army into the Caucasus. Almost no one in the Soviet armies fighting at that time south of Voronezh thought Stalingrad could be defended successfully -- a belief that continued through the battle until November.
From the Soviet side the successful defense of Stalingrad was an incomprehensible miracle, based on the unbelievable courage and fighting by small groups of Soviet soldiers. Twice it looked like catastrophy loomed and defeat was at hand, and twice the Germans were beaten back. Once was on September 14th when Rodimstev's 13th Guards Division was forced to cross the Volga in daylight and under heavy bombing, artillery, and machinegun fire. Less than half of the first wave of reinforcing troops crossed successfully to attack the German spearheads and bolster the defense. Again in the middle of October the situation became critical, and by the middle of November the entire Soviet 62nd Army was reduced to about 7,000 effective fighters with limited ammunition.
Jones carefully depicts the psychological forces at work holding the morale of the 62nd Army together and the new tactics devised by Chuikov that were effective in slowing down and halting the German advance. He contrasts the German commander Paulus who was more of a staff officer, administrating and issuing orders from afar, with Chuikov who led from the front with a headquarters less than 800 yards from German lines.
Communism and Fascism rarely make appearances in this account, and much of the new material comes from former Soviet participants of the battle (& Chuikov's son & Rodimtev's daughter) who are no longer fettered by having to produce communist propaganda. As a result, the work possesses an authenticity not present in earlier works.
In short, all students of World War II and especially those of the Eastern Front should BUY and READ this book.
It deserves the five stars I gave it, and my only (very small) criticism is that it becomes a little repetitious at times on some of the details. The crisp writing, however, easily overcomes such minor faults.
- Reviewed by David M. Dougherty (Arkansas)
This new history of Stalingrad offers a radical reinterpretation of the most crucial battle in World War II. Focusing on the first half of this epic clash, it reveals new information on how nearly the Germans succeeded, and the incredible courage of the Soviet fighters who held on.
Red Army chief of staff Vasilevsky called August 23, 1942, when the Germans reached the Volga, "an unforgettably tragic day." The Russians had never been able to stop a good-weather German offensive, and it appeared that Stalin's namesake city would be lost. Indeed, Soviet armies on all sides were falling back before Hitler's summer offensive, and only one, the 62nd Army, was assigned to hold out in the city to defy the Wehrmacht. Who could have guessed that this sole force, surrounded on three sides, the river at its back, hiding out in ruins, would create such a bleeding sore that the Wehrmacht was never to recover?
Combining eyewitness testimony of Red Army fighters with fresh archive material, this book gives dramatic insight into the thinking of Soviet commanders and the desperate mood of ordinary soldiers. Col-General Anatoly Mereshko, a staff officer to 62nd Army commander Chuikov, worked closely with the author and provided testimony that is entirely new. His accounts of the battle are supported by other key veterans and recently released war diaries and combat journals.
For three months in Fall 1942 the Germans held a preponderance of force in Stalingrad as they tried to root out the diehards of 62nd Army. The latter force was nearly annihilated on several occasions, as guns from across the river failed to stem the German attacks and the Luftwaffe plunged into the chaos, bombing at will. The Russians could only respond by going underground, in caves near the river and in the labrynthine ruins of the city itself. Yet, as the rest of the Motherland held its breath, the small, surrounded force-motivated by inspirational leadership as well as a grave sense of the battle's vital importance-continued to deny the Nazis a victory.
As we now know, Stalin was not idle while the courageous remnants of 62nd Army continued to defend his city. On November 19 and 21, new Soviet armies in overwhelming strength counterattacked across the Volga, turning the tables on the Germans to begin one of the most pitiful sagas in Western history.
The more famous siege of the Germans, concluding on February 2, 1943, has dominated the literature of Stalingrad. This book reminds us that the greater time-line of the battle consisted of the Russians besieged, and just barely holding on.
"Of all the books written about Stalingrad, there have not been many like this one. . . . Michael Jones probes the minds of men at the edge of the abyss, digging into the psychological factors that allowed them to withstand hopeless odds and untold horrors, and still emerge victorious."-STONE and STONE
". outstanding new book. important for two reasons: it provides a previously too-often ignored Soviet point of view of t he battle and the compelling eyewitness testimonies of the Red Army Veterans who fought it cuts through much of the Communist era mythmaking about how the battle actually unfolded. compelling reading. "Armchair General
". a compelling Military history and analysis that lives up to its title. one of a kind testimony grounded in the words of the people who witnessed history itself."The Wisconsin Book Watch 12/2007
"Although the epic quality of the battle has attracted many historians. Jones' contribution is special for two reasons. First, he seems to have been able to dig deeper into the Soviet archives than previous authors, and he got some extraordinary testimony from survivors. Second, he addresses the core question of just what it was that motivated these men to keep on fighting, given the low probability of survival and the terrible conditions. The order to hold every position until death was well known, but Jones demolishes the notion that the soldiers fought solely under duress. . compelling and moving."Foreign Affairs, March/ April 2008
". compelling, draws us into a vivid, illuminating account of how much of a "near run thing" the legendary Red Army victory was. "World War II Magazine, 04/2008
How the Soviets Trapped the German 6th Army in Stalingrad
In the fall of 1942, the Red Army had its back to the wall once again. During the first six months of the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht had killed or captured almost three million Russian soldiers. December brought the Soviet Winter Offensive, which sent the German Army reeling back at the cost of another million Russian dead.
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Hitler Takes Aim at the Oilfields in the Caucasus
Overextended Soviet supply lines, coupled with the onset of the spring thaw, brought the offensive to a halt, allowing both sides to regroup. As replacements and reinforcements rushed to the front, Adolf Hitler began planning a new offensive that he hoped would economically strangle his communist enemy.
Codenamed “Blau” (Blue), the offensive was aimed at seizing the oilfields in the northern Caucasus and establishing a defensive line running along the Don River from Stalingrad to Voronezh. The move would deprive the Russians of valuable oil and, at the same time, provide that much needed commodity to the German armed forces.
It was an ambitious plan—one that would stretch German armies in southern Russian to their limit. To bolster the German attack forces, Hitler called upon his Italian and Romanian allies to supply divisions for the offensive. In response, Mussolini ordered his 8th Italian Army to participate while Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu offered the 3rd and 4th Romanian Armies. Hungary and Slovakia also contributed to the cause.
The Soviets’ Disastrous Results
Stalin had ambitious plans of his own. In mid-May, he ordered the Red Army to recapture Kharkov, which had been under German control since the previous fall. The offensive was a disaster, costing the Russians almost 300,000 casualties and shattering five Soviet armies. As the Russians reeled from this latest defeat, preparations went forward for Blau, with orders being sent out to corps and division commanders detailing their part in the operation.
For the Russians, the Kharkov offensive was another blow for an army still trying to find its way in the Blitzkrieg era. From Stalin downward, commanders had made mistakes costing millions of lives. By mid-1942, the situation seemed like it would not improve in the foreseeable future.
In the far north, the Germans were advancing on Murmansk. Leningrad was besieged and starving, and a German salient around Rzhev was only about 150 miles from the Kremlin. In southern Russia, the Kharkov offensive had failed and the Crimean port of Sevastopol was almost certain to fall within a few weeks. Now it appeared that the Germans were grouping for a southern offensive of their own, and staff and intelligence officers in Moscow were working day and night trying to figure out where and when the Germans would strike.
Operation Blau’s Plans Fall into the Soviets’ Lap
For once, the Fates intervened on the side of the Soviets. On June 19, nine days before Blau was scheduled to begin, Major Joachim Reichel, the chief of operations of the 23rd Panzer Division, was flying back to his divisional headquarters after an aerial inspection of the front. His light aircraft, a Fiesler Storch, either developed engine problems or ran into turbulent weather. Whatever the cause, the Storch went down, forced to land behind the Russian lines.
Against orders that forbade classified material being taken into the forward areas, Reichel had kept the operational orders for Blau in his briefcase when he took off on his inspection flight. As he frantically tried to burn the briefcase, a Russian patrol appeared. Reichel’s fate is not known, but less than an hour later the plans were sitting in front of the commander of the 76th Rifle Division.
It was all there—orders of battle, divisional operational plans, maps, and timetables. The gold mine of information made it quickly up the chain of command. Army and Front commanders gleefully waited for orders from Moscow concerning how the information could be used, but they were sorely disappointed. When news of the find reached Stalin, he dismissed the papers as either forgeries or a deception plot. He had the plans for Blau, and he did nothing.
On the German side, Hitler was furious when told about the debacle. Several officers were sacked, and an air of uncertainty spread through the German high command. Did Reichel manage to destroy the documents or were they now in Soviet hands? No one knew. Nevertheless, Hitler was determined to achieve his goal. The offensive would not be called off.
Hitler Green Lights Blau, Then Changes the Plan
Blau began on June 28 with Generaloberst (Colonel General) Maximillian Freiherr von Wiechs’s 2nd Army and Generaloberst Hermann Hoth’s 4th Panzer Army advancing on Voronezh. On June 30, General Friedrich Paulus’s 6th Army began its attack to clear the Donets corridor. The Soviets fell back in disarray, suffering heavy casualties as they retreated.
In mid-July, Hitler astounded his commanders by assigning more objectives for the offensive. He divided the powerful Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South), his main attack force, into Heeresgruppe A (Field Marshal Wilhelm List) and Heeresgruppe B (von Weichs), and set a new list of priorities. List, with the 11th Army, 17th Army, and the 1st Panzer Army, was ordered to take all the oilfields north of a line running from Batumi, near the Turkish border, to Baku on the Caspian Sea. Von Weichs’s Heeresgruppe B (2nd Army, 6th Army, and 4th Panzer Army) was still assigned the mission of establishing a protective flank along the Don River, but Paulus was given one more objective for his 6th Army: capture Stalingrad!
Hitler had hardly mentioned the city before July, but the idea of capturing a great industrial center named for his arch enemy slowly became a fixation. In designating Stalingrad as a major objective and adding objectives in the Caucasus, the Führer had upset the operational planning of his entire southern front.
To accomplish his new plan, Hitler diverted Hoth’s 4th Panzer Army south to help in the Caucasus operation and to protect Paulus’s right flank, leaving a weakened Heeresgruppe B to continue slugging it out with the Russians in the Donets corridor. Despite Hitler’s meddling, von Weichs’s troops continued to press forward. In the south, Rostov was taken, allowing the motorized and panzer divisions of Heeresgruppe A to drive a deep wedge into the Caucasus.
Hitler Fixates on Capturing Stalingrad
Hitler was ecstatic as he read List’s reports, but he grew increasingly impatient about von Weichs’s operations in the north. He complained about the slow progress in reaching Stalingrad, conveniently forgetting that he had stripped most of the motorized divisions from Heeresgruppe B. Growing more anxious, he made another astounding move by ordering the 4th Panzer Army to disengage in the northern Caucasus and return north to help in the drive to the Volga.
The order angered both List and Generaloberst Franz Halder, the chief of staff of the German Army. When they protested to Hitler, he dismissed them both, personally taking command of Heeresgruppe A. Other commanders cautiously brought up the fact that the drive on Stalingrad, coupled with the enlarged Caucasus operation, was dangerously stretching the German flanks to the limit.
Hitler dismissed the danger, reminding his generals that the Italians, Romanians, and Hungarians were on the way. He assured them that these reinforcements could handle the flanks while German forces pursued their objectives. It was an amazing statement, considering the quality of the men and equipment that would be tasked with guarding those flanks.
The equipment in the three allied armies was mostly obsolete, some dating back to World War I. Much of the artillery was horse-drawn, and heavier caliber weapons were sorely lacking. Officers in the Romanian and Italian Armies generally treated their men as ignorant peasants, and there was a vast difference in lodging and dining privileges between those that gave orders and the common soldier.
Although allies of Germany, Romanian and Hungarian units could not co-exist on the same sector of the front. Age-old religious and ethnic rivalries remained ingrained, and the two sides could just as easily open fire against each other as they would on the Russians.
The Battle for Stalingrad Begins
When reviewing all these factors—Hitler’s meddling, dubious allies, and an increasing list of objectives—it seems incredible that the Wehrmacht made it as far as it did in the fall of 1942. On August 23, Paulus reached the Volga north of Stalingrad, and the battle for the city began in earnest. The 2nd Army had taken Voronezh, establishing a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Don, and Heeresgruppe A continued its drive south, reaching the Kuban River and heading for the Caucasus oil wells.
The void left by these operations was filled by the arriving allied armies. With the 6th Army, assisted by elements of the 4th Panzer Army, engaged at Stalingrad, General Petre Dumitrescu’s 3rd Romanian Army (two cavalry and eight infantry divisions) took over a defensive line northeast of the city that ran for about 90 miles along the Don River. To his right was General Giovanni Messe’s 8th Italian Army, which formed a wedge between the Romanians and the 2nd Hungarian Army.
General Constantin Constantinescu’s 4th Romanian Army (two cavalry and five infantry divisions) was thrown in south of the city. It occupied a line running approximately 170 miles from Straya Otrada to Sarpa.
Georgi Zuhkov: Miracle Worker
The dispositions of the allied armies were a clear invitation for disaster. Stalin had already ordered that Stalingrad be held at all costs, but the meat grinder was destroying units almost as fast as they could make their way into the city. He needed a miracle to break the stranglehold at Stalingrad, and he found his wizard in the person of Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgi K. Zhukov.
Born in 1896, Zhukov was conscripted into the Army at the beginning of World War I. In 1918 he joined the Red Army. For more than 20 years, he served in the Red Army’s cavalry and armored forces until joining the Soviet high command in 1939. Escaping the purges that ravaged the Red Army in the 1930s, Zhukov was sent to the Far East, where the Japanese had already made two incursions into Soviet territory the previous year.
In May 1939, the Japanese struck again and drove toward the Khalkin Gol River. Fighting raged for four months until a counterattack, led by Zhukov, encircled and all but annihilated the Japanese 6th Army. Zhukov’s meteoric rise to fame was assured as a result of the victory.
As chief of the general staff, Zhukov was involved in organizing western Russian defenses in early 1941. When the Germans struck in June, he helped organize the defense of Leningrad. He was also instrumental in developing the plans for the Soviet winter offensive that drove the Germans back from the gates of Moscow.
In August 1942, with the Germans fast approaching Stalingrad, Zhukov was made deputy supreme commander of the Red Army. His plan to save Stalingrad was to trade land for blood. The longer the Germans had to fight for each mile of Soviet territory, the more time he had to gather reinforcements for the signature counterattack that had already brought him fame. He was willing to take enormous losses to achieve his goals, and he made no excuses for his actions.
Zhukov’s cold-blooded approach to warfare was balanced by his genius for operational organization. His offensives and counteroffensives were marked by meticulous work from his hand-picked staff. Careful placement of artillery, armor, and infantry at the precise point of an intended breakthrough was his hallmark. His method of fighting also showed careful consideration: Let the enemy overextend himself while fighting bloody engagements at every turn. When the enemy’s offensive momentum faltered, strike him at his weakest points and annihilate him.
The Soviets Hatch the Plan for Operation Uranus
The battle for Stalingrad and the Caucasus raged throughout September and October as both sides continued to pour more men into the region. Meanwhile, using the maxims that had served him so well, Zhukov and the general staff were working on a plan that would change the balance of the war in the east once and for all. The plan was known as Operation Uranus.
Looking at the extended front in the Stalingrad sector, Zhukov and his staff immediately grasped the opportunities afforded by the large areas held by the Axis allies. The Soviets had two extensive bridgeheads on the western bank of the Don facing Dumitrescu’s forces, which would provide them with their northern strike points. Constantinescu’s army, with its long, thinly held defensive front, would provide the perfect spot for the southern strike.
The Russians were already masters of deception and camouflage, but Zhukov and his staff turned it into an art. As the plans for Uranus got under way, the Soviets launched several small attacks against Heeresgruppe Mitte. Dummy formations with their own radio nets were set up in the sector, giving German intelligence officers the impression that the Russians were concentrating forces for a late fall or early winter offensive against the Heeresgruppe.
Generaloberst Reinhard Gehlen, the head of the German high command’s Fremde Heeres Ost (Foreign Armies East), was in charge of gathering and deciphering intelligence information on the Eastern Front. Although surprised at the number of Russian divisions identified during the first few months of the 1941 invasion, his office still did not appreciate the vast manpower reserves possessed by the Soviet Union.
With the purported buildup of Soviet forces in Heeresgruppe Mitte’s sector, Fremde Heeres Ost was convinced that the Russians could not possibly possess enough men to launch any sort of major offensive in the south. When nervous Romanian commanders brought up the subject of a possible Soviet offensive, they were told not to worry because the Russians were already stretched to the limit.
The Challenge of Keeping Operation Uranus Secret
Zhukov faced a daunting security problem. Massing the divisions for his offensive without being discovered by the Germans meant that the units could only be moved at night or in bad weather as they neared the front. During the day, the trains and convoys transporting men and materiel for Uranus would stop, and troops would camouflage the vehicles, making them invisible from the air.
In all, Zhukov would have 11 armies to mount his offensive. They would be augmented by several separate mechanized, cavalry, and tank brigades and corps. About 13,500 artillery pieces and mortars were assembled along with 115 rocket artillery detachments, 900 tanks, and more than 1,000 aircraft. It was a tremendous logistics operation, but the Russians were able to pull it off without the Germans being any the wiser.
Although stationed in Moscow, the Soviet marshal made extensive visits to the front to confer with his commanders about Uranus. Although they were not privy to the overall scope of the operation, the Front and Army commanders made suggestions about objectives in their particular sectors and coordination with neighboring units and gave other opinions that the marshal sent back to his Moscow staff.
The supreme headquarters and Zhukov’s staff incorporated many of the suggestions into the final plan for Uranus. Intelligence concerning opposing enemy units was also funneled directly to Moscow. As German and Russian soldiers fought and died in the rubble of Stalingrad, the buildup continued. By mid-October, the final plans for Uranus were being fine-tuned, and it was hoped that the operation could begin sometime in the first week of November.
As November approached, German commanders in the 6th Army were facing shortages in both men and materiel. They were also becoming increasingly nervous about unconfirmed reports that the Soviets were massing on their flanks. Zhukov’s deception had worked for the most part, but even the Russians could not totally mask the movements of such a massive force as it came within earshot of the Germans. Motors rumbled and horses neighed, and the sounds carried well in the crisp late fall air.
Strecker Worries About the Romanians on his Left
On Paulus’s left flank, General Karl Strecker’s XI Army Corps had three divisions to cover a front of more than 60 miles along the Don bend. Strecker knew that this was too much for his divisions to defend, so he pulled them back to well-prepared secondary positions, cutting his frontage by half.
Lieutenant General P.I. Batov immediately took advantage of the situation by sending units of his 65th Army across the Don to establish yet another Soviet bridgehead. Batov then conducted several spirited attacks against Strecker’s new positions, but the Germans were too firmly entrenched to make any progress.
While pleased with his own divisions’ performance, Strecker kept a wary eye on the Romanians to his left. The 3rd Romanian Army was woefully short of everything, especially antitank weapons. Their own were obsolete, and Dumitrescu continually badgered the Germans for more effective pieces. Some 75mm guns had been transferred to his army, but not nearly enough to stop any major Russian attack.
Berlin had also ordered General Ferdinand Heim’s XLVIII Panzer Corps to disengage from its sector on the front and form a ready reserve behind Dumitrescu’s army. Elements of the 14th Panzer Division and the 1st Romanian Tank Division were also ordered to the area. It seemed a good plan, but the nucleus of Heim’s corps, the 22nd Panzer Division, was equipped mostly with outdated Czech tanks. Also, one of its panzergrenadier regiments had been detached from the division and moved to another sector of the front.
Delays Plague the Launch of Operation Uranus
Zhukov planned to begin Uranus on November 9, but the date had to be postponed after the marshal made another series of visits to his commanders. Arriving in Serafimovich, a small Cossack farming and fishing village on the middle Don, he conferred with Generals Konstantin K. Rokossovsky and Nicholai F. Vatutin, the commanders of the Don and South West fronts. They pointed out that the freezing rain and hard frosts of the previous week had made things very difficult for the forces trying to reach the front. They also said that shortages in winter clothing had to be addressed before they felt their men were ready for battle.
Moving on to the headquarters of General Fedor I. Tolbukhin’s 57th Army south of Stalingrad, Zhukov was told that men and equipment were not arriving on schedule and that the artillery had yet to be entrenched and targeted. He returned to Moscow and postponed Uranus until November 17. Upon hearing that air units marked for the offensive might not be ready on that date, Zhukov postponed the operation for two more days.
Stalingrad was on the verge of collapse as Uranus was postponed not once, but twice. The more time that elapsed, the more chance that the Germans would find out about the massive buildup. Luckily, Berlin had other problems to deal with. On November 8, the Allies landed in French North Africa, threatening Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s rear and dooming the vaunted Afrika Korps and Panzer Army Afrika. The German high command now had to split its attention, focusing on potential disasters on two fronts.
As the 19th approached, Zhukov sent out his final orders. Uranus would involve a double envelopment of Stalingrad with a primarily infantry force encircling the city itself. An outer ring, consisting of tank, mechanized, cavalry, and infantry units, would form a steel buffer against any possible German counterattack. German and allied units caught between the two rings were to be systematically destroyed and, if the opportunity arose, Soviet forces in the south would advance to Rostov and trap the divisions of Heeresgruppe A, which was still engaged in the Caucasus.
The first phase of the operation involved Vatutin’s South West Front attacking the 3rd Romanian Army out of the bridgehead on the west bank of the Don. At the same time, Rokossovsky’s Don Front would begin the envelopment of Stalingrad from the north and east. A day later, General Andrei I. Eremenko’s Stalingrad Front would attack the 4th Romanian Army in the Lake Sarpa area south of Stalingrad.
Both fronts were to send armored and mechanized forces to link up near Kalach. At the same time, other units of the fronts would spread out and head west to protect flanks as the outer ring formed.
The Surprise Attack Begins
The senior Soviet officers got very little sleep during the night of November 18. Shortly after midnight, the Russian artillery started firing smoke shells from the eastern bank of the Don. Soviet propaganda units had already set up loudspeakers close to the front weeks before, so the Germans and their allies paid little attention to the political messages and music that blasted through the night air. As usual, Axis soldiers regarded the loudspeakers as more of a nuisance designed to keep them from getting a good night’s sleep.
This time, however, the smoke and noise from the Russian line had a different purpose. Under cover of these distractions, Soviet armored and mechanized forces streamed across the Don to the already established bridgeheads. A little after 2am, more than a million men from the three attack fronts received their orders. They were told that they were about to participate in a deep raid toward the enemy rear. The word “encirclement” was not mentioned to the troops in case something went wrong with the plan. Nevertheless, the old timers knew that something was up. There were too many men and too many vehicles for this to be just a raid. Are we, they wondered, finally starting to see the beginning of the road to victory?
The Russians were helped by snow and a thick fog that cut visibility down to almost nothing. On the German-Romanian line, sentries strained to see just a few feet ahead of them, but all seemed fine except for the damned Soviet loudspeakers blaring in the distance. Only a few yards away, Red Army engineers, camouflaged in white uniforms, had been working their way toward the enemy lines all night, clearing mines and cutting wire obstacles to make a path for the Russian assault forces.
On the Soviet side, commanders anxiously looked at their watches. The fog offered good concealment and would not hinder the effects of the planned Russian artillery bombardment, as the guns had been pre-sighted for just such a situation. Minutes ticked away until, at 7:20am Moscow time (5:20am German time) the Soviet artillery commanders received the codeword “Siren.”
A Devastating Attack is Unleashed
The earth trembled as battery after battery of Katyushas (Stalin Organs) sent their rockets screaming toward the enemy lines. A ghostly glow reflected off the fog as the batteries fired again and again. To be on the receiving end of the rockets tested the courage of the best German units. For the Romanians of Dumitrescu’s 3rd Army, the effect was devastating.
Strongpoints and trenches literally disintegrated as the rockets struck their preplotted sites. Communications between the forward outposts and higher headquarters were shattered, and many of the ammunition dumps close to the front were destroyed in spectacular explosions. Many of those not killed outright in the bombardment were already fleeing to the rear, trying to escape the carnage.
Ten minutes later, the massed Russian artillery was given the order to fire. Thousands of guns roared at once, causing many an artilleryman to bleed at the ear from the concussions caused by so many artillery pieces firing at the same time. Almost immediately, shells began crashing into Romanian artillery emplacements and secondary positions behind the front line. Those fleeing from the opening bombardment were now caught in a second rain of steel, which further decimated the retreating troops. Black earth churned up from shell impacts was interspersed on the snow with red blotches that had a few seconds earlier been men fleeing for their lives.
The bombardment kept up for one hour and 20 minutes. Dazed Romanians lucky enough to escape death from the rain of explosives were in a state of near paralysis as they desperately tried to dig their way out of their shattered positions. Wounded men howled in agony for their comrades to help them while the surviving NCOs and officers worked to regain control over their troops.
Above the cries of the wounded, a new sound was heard. It was not the sound of artillery or tank motors, but the deep, guttural sound of a beast preparing to pounce on its prey. The Romanians strained to see through the fog, hoping not to see what they knew was coming. As the fog lessened, shapes appeared—first hundreds and then thousands. Coming toward them were the massed echelons of Romanenko’s 14th and 47th Guards and 119th Rifle Divisions. The sound that the Romanians now heard—the one that struck fear into their very souls—was the Russian battle cry coming from thousands of soldiers: “Urra! Urra! Urra!”
In some sectors of the Romanian front, soldiers made split-second decisions on whether they would live or die. Hundreds of them threw down their weapons and, with hands held high, hoped for the best as the Russians bore down on them. For the most part, the Soviet assault forces bypassed them and continued their advance, leaving the surrendering Romanians to be picked up later by units in the second or third wave of the attack.
In other Romanian sectors the story was different. The 13th Romanian Infantry Division, for example, occupied a sector of the front opposite the 21st Army. When the Soviet infantry attacked, survivors in the front trenches repulsed them. A second attack, this time supported by tanks, met the same fate. Frustrated, Christyakov ordered another round of shelling. At the same time, he ordered A.G. Kravchenko’s 4th Tank Corps and P.A. Pliev’s 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps to prepare to attack.
Christyakov wanted to hold these units in reserve until the Romanian line was broken, but the resistance of the 13th and some other Romanian divisions had already upset his timetable. Together with fresh waves of infantry, the Soviet assault smashed the remaining positions of the Romanian IV Army Corps, allowing the 21st Army to advance.
To the west of the IV Corps, the Romanian II Army Corps, facing the 5th Tank Army, was undergoing its own personal hell. Following the bombardment and infantry assault, Romanenko unleashed V.V. Butkov’s 1st Tank and A.G. Rodin’s 26th Tank Corps, followed by the 8th Cavalry Corps. The attack hit the Romanian 9th, 11th, and 14th Infantry Divisions like a sledgehammer, and their positions crumbled as the Russian armor rolled forward.
The Soviet cavalry spread out toward the west, severing communications between the Romanians and General Giovanni Messe’s 8th Italian Army. As the Romanians fled, the cavalry formed a barrier against any possible counterattack while the armored and infantry forces swung southeast toward the Chir River and Kalach.
The gods smiled on the Soviets about mid-morning as the fog dissipated enough for the Red Air Force to enter the fray. Aircraft from K.N. Smirnov’s 2nd and S.A. Krasovsky’s 17th Air Armies swooped down upon the retreating Romanians with a vengeance. The Luftwaffe was nowhere to be seen as the Soviet pilots bombed and strafed enemy troops and positions.
On the Don Front, the going was more difficult. Batov threw his 65th Army at General Alexander Freiherr Edler von Daniels’s 376th Infantry Division, but his infantry made little progress against a determined German defense. Batov found easier going at the junction of the 376th and the 1st Romanian Cavalry Division, and the Soviets were able to advance as they pushed the Romanians aside. Von Daniels was forced to arc his left flank to prevent the Russians from breaking into his rear as a result of the Romanian cavalry’s retreat.
In Stalingrad, Paulus was informed of the Soviet attack at 9:45am, but he seemed relatively unconcerned. The German general ordered Heim’s XLVIII Panzer Corps to advance toward Kletskaya to support the Romanians and then went back to briefings concerning the fight for the city.
Heim put his units on the road and headed toward his objective, but at 11:30 new orders arrived, this time from Hitler’s headquarters. The feisty panzer general cursed roundly as he read the message ordering him to turn his forces northwest to the Bolshoy area and stop Romanenko’s armored units. Valuable time and fuel were lost as he reformed his attack force.
Paulus Reacts Slowly Chooses Poorly
Meanwhile, Paulus began receiving more reports concerning the Russian attack. The first fragmented information had caused little alarm. After all, they were coming from Romanians, and everyone knew that they tended to exaggerate and were prone to unnecessary panic.
Toward noon, the situation became clearer. This time the staff officers of the 6th Army definitely took notice. A Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft reported hundreds of Soviet tanks advancing across the steppes northwest of Stalingrad. Clear reports from German liaison officers flatly stated that the 9th, 13th, and 14th Romanian Infantry Divisions had been shattered and were no longer capable of any organized resistance.
Although Paulus had three panzer divisions (14th, 16th, and 24th) and three motorized divisions (3rd, 29th, and 60th) at his disposal, he did nothing to form a strike force to stop the Soviet armor. Preferring to keep them engaged in and around Stalingrad—a pure waste of armor in an urban battle—he relied on Heim’s panzer corps to deal with the Russian attack.
A German panzer corps in 1942 was a formidable weapon that could take on a Soviet Tank Army and usually come out on top. Heim’s corps, however, was a panzer corps in name only, something that seemed to slip by the generals that were expecting him to stop the Russians.
By the time Heim was ordered to attack, his 22nd Panzer Division had only about 30 combat-ready tanks. His motorized elements were critically short of fuel, and the orders changing the direction of his attack only made the problem worse.
Heim’s mechanized units were also plagued by the forces of nature. While bivouacked, mice had gotten into the tanks and armored personnel carriers and had gnawed on or through some of the electrical wires in the vehicles, causing them to break down as the systems shorted out. Another problem was the width of his tank treads. The Russian T-34 had a wide, gripping track while German tanks had narrow tracks, causing them to slip and slide on the icy terrain. Nevertheless, Heim and his men pushed forward, hoping to surprise the Russian spearhead.
The weather worsened during the afternoon of the 19th, with the freezing mist lowering visibility to almost zero, and maps were practically useless as the Soviets continued their drive. Taking into account the possibility of bad weather, Russian commanders had enlisted area peasants as guides, but even they were having a difficult time traversing the mist-shrouded landscape.
It started getting dark before 4:00pm, which only added to the difficulties faced by the Russian tank crews as they pushed toward their objectives. To make things worse, the wind picked up and snow began falling, which led to almost blizzard-like conditions on the steppes.
Heim’s Suicidal Engagement
Having essentially obliterated the Romanian defenses, the Soviet tank commanders felt reasonably assured that their only threat would come from a possible German counterattack. All things considered, that attack would probably be directed against Kravchenko’s 4th Tank Corps, as that unit was advancing closest to the main 6th Army forces at Stalingrad.
It would have worked that way if Heim had not received new orders sending him toward Bolshoy. Heim’s panzers, now numbering about 20, hit Butkov’s 1st Tank Corps near the Chir River at Pestchany. It was an uneven battle from the start, with the Germans being outnumbered, outgunned, and outmaneuvered. In an almost suicidal action, an armored group led by Oberst (Colonel) Hermann von Oppeln-Bronikowski tore into the Russians. Supported by the 22nd Panzer’s antitank battalion, von Oppeln’s tanks managed to isolate and destroy several Soviet tanks in Butkov’s spearhead.
The Soviets regrouped, and the unequal struggle continued into the night until Heim ordered the battle to be broken off. He told his commanders to make for the Chir River crossings and get to the west bank of the river, thus saving his panzer corps from encirclement and annihilation. Those retreating units would remain a thorn in the side of the Russians for days to come.
The retreat order had the expected consequences for Heim as a furious Hitler recalled him to Berlin, stripped him of his rank, and had him imprisoned. He was released 10 months later without having been tried. On August 1, 1944, his rank was restored, and he was appointed commander of Fortress Boulogne on the Western Front.
At Heeresgruppe B headquarters, Generaloberst Baron von Weichs recognized the danger he faced earlier than most. He issued directives at 10:00pm on the night of November 19 to try and forestall the looming disaster.
“The situation developing on the front of the 3rd Romanian Army dictates radical measures in order to disengage forces quickly to screen the flanks of 6th Army,” he wrote.
Among those measures was ordering all offensive operations in Stalingrad to cease. He also directed Paulus to detach two motorized formations, an infantry division, and all anti-tank units he could spare to stop the assault forces of Vatutin and Rokossovsky. These measures may have blunted the Soviet advance, but it was already too late. On November 20, the second stage of Uranus began as Eremenko’s southern anvil began moving to meet the northern hammer.
The same bad weather plaguing the northern Soviet forces also hampered the Russians in the south. Icy fog made the going slow as the assault forces of the Stalingrad Front edged closer to Constantinescu’s 4th Romanian Army. At 10am, the Russian artillery opened up along the front. Soon after, the initial assault troops were already pouring through the Romanian line.
German soldiers in the 297th Infantry Division, adjacent to the 20th Romanian Infantry Division, watched in awe as the human flood of Russians advanced. As on the northern sector, some of the Romanians fled or surrendered almost immediately, while others fought bravely until being overwhelmed. Reports came in speaking of Romanian antitank crews firing their pitiful 37mm guns until they were crushed beneath the marauding Soviet tanks of the initial attack forces.
The leading Russian armored and mechanized forces performed well, but command and control problems, the bad weather, and problems getting across the Volga River crossing points delayed the spearhead units designated to exploit the breakthrough. Maj. Gen. V.T. Volsky’s 4th Mechanized Corps, designated to advance with Maj. Gen. N.I. Trufanov’s 51st Army, was supposed to strike between Lakes Sarpa and Tsatsa, but its units had not yet concentrated. The same could be said for Colonel T.I. Tanaschishin’s 13th Mechanized Corps.
Angry messages flew back and forth as the delay continued. The spearhead units were supposed to attack at 10am, but it was already well after noon, and there was still no sign of movement from the corps. General Markian M. Popov, the deputy commander of the Stalingrad Front, headed to Volsky’s headquarters and confronted him directly.
The angry exchange between the two lasted for some time before Volsky finally gave in and ordered his still disorganized units forward. Tanaschishin was also ordered forward immediately. It was already past 4pm, and the Soviet timetable was hours behind schedule. As they moved out, Volsky’s units became intermixed, causing further confusion as they headed westward.
The Germans reacted much more quickly to the southern attack than they had on the previous day. General Hans-Georg Leyser’s 29th Panzergrenadier Division, nicknamed the Falcon Division, was ordered to hit the flank of Tanaschishin’s 13th Mechanized Corps. The 29th was a first-rate division, and its troops moved out quickly to meet the foe.
About 10 miles south of Beketovka, Leyser’s armored columns slammed into elements of Tanaschishin’s corps. The panzers bloodied the Russian tanks and sent the mechanized units reeling, causing the Soviets to beat a hasty retreat. It was a shining moment in an otherwise dismal day for the Germans, but the victory was short lived.
Farther west, the Soviets were running rampant through the retreating Romanians. Leyser was ordered to turn his division around to protect the exposed southern flank of the 6th Army, leaving the field to Tanaschishin’s forces, which were regrouping for a counterattack.
While the fighting raged south of Stalingrad, the northern sector reeled under hammer blows from the South West and Don Fronts. General Strecker’s IX Army Corps, its left flank left hanging by Dumitrescu’s retreat, was forced to form an arc to meet the advancing Russians. General von Daniels’s 376th shifted its front westward to meet the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps, while General Heinrich-Anton Deboi’s 44th Infantry Division, forced to leave much of its heavy equipment in place because of lack of fuel, extended its line to cover the gap left by von Daniels’s shift.
Meanwhile, Kravchenko’s 4th Tank Corps turned toward the southeast. Its objective was the Don River town of Golubinski, which happened to be Paulus’s headquarters. At the same time, units of the 5th Tank Army continued to smash isolated pockets of Romanians that tried to stand and fight.
The Jaws of the Trap Close in on the Germans
The Russian infantry was now moving steadily forward, leaving the armored and mechanized units to continue to work on closing the jaws of the trap. Rodin’s 26th Tank Corps took Perelazonvsky, about 80 miles northwest of Stalingrad. Butkov’s 1st Tank Corps snapped at the heels of Heim’s XLVIII Panzer Corps, which was starting to retreat to the southwest, while the 8th Guards Cavalry Corps continued its drive to the Chir River. Despite several difficulties, the 20th had been an excellent day for Uranus.
On Saturday, November 21, the 21st Army spearhead continued moving southeast, closing on Golubinski. Paulus, finally realizing the disaster overtaking him, asked Berlin for permission to pull his army out of Stalingrad and for a new defensive line on the Don. He then relocated his headquarters to Nizhnye Chriskaya, a village about 40 miles to the southwest.
Later that day, Paulus received two messages from Hitler. The first one read: “The commander-in-chief will proceed with his staff to Stalingrad. The 6th Army will form an all-round defensive position and await further orders.”
Later in the day, Hitler sent Paulus the following message: “Those units of the 6th Army that remain between the Don and the Volga will henceforth be designated Fortress Stalingrad.”
The two messages not only sealed the fate of the 6th Army, but they also meant that Zhukov would not have to worry about any kind of breakout attempt by the Stalingrad forces. In effect, it gave him the opportunity to start solidifying his inner ring around the city while concentrating on closing the outer ring.
Between the inner and outer rings, Germans and Romanians were still fighting. Heim’s XLVIII Panzer Corps, trying to make its way to the Chir River crossings, actively engaged Soviet forces in several pitched battles as they made their bid for freedom. General Mikhail Lascar had gathered remnants of the V Romanian Army Corps farther north and was resisting repeated Russian attempts to overrun his hastily constructed defenses. Hoping for German support, Lascar would wait in vain for any relief effort.
While these clashes were taking place in the north, Eremenko’s southern offensive was running into problems, despite having effectively split Hoth’s 4th Panzer Army in half. Most of Hoth’s German units were trapped inside the ever tightening ring around Stalingrad. The 4th Romanian Army, which had been subordinated to Hoth’s Panzer Army, was in disarray, and the 16th Panzergrenadier Division, the only German unit outside the Stalingrad sector, was making a fighting withdrawal through heavy opposition.
It was a golden opportunity for the Russians, but command failure was still a problem that plagued even the highest ranks of the Red Army. Tolbukhin’s 57th Army and Shumilov’s 64th Army were making good progress closing the inner ring around Stalingrad. Trufanov’s 51st Army was a different matter.
Once the breakthrough was achieved, Trufanov was supposed to send his 4th Mechanized Corps and 4th Cavalry Corps speeding northwest to Kalach while the bulk of his infantry was to head southwest as a shield for his left flank. The coordination and complexity of controlling both armored and infantry forces moving in different directions proved too much for Trufanov and his staff.
Instead of the quick thrust toward Kalach, the mechanized and cavalry forces moved sluggishly to the northeast, giving many of the retreating Romanians a chance to flee for their lives. The flanking infantry advanced even more slowly, amazing even Hoth as he followed their progress. Although his remaining forces could have been destroyed by a more aggressive Soviet posture, all he faced on the battlefield before him was “a fantastic picture of fleeing (Romanian) remnants.”
Sunday, November 23, found the Russians in the north advancing on the Don in force. In the predawn hours, an assault unit captured a newly constructed bridge across the river at Berezovski near the primary objective of Kalach. It was the first Soviet victory of the day, but it would not be the last.
By now, communications between the 6th Army headquarters and outlying units had almost completely broken down. At Kalach itself, word of the Soviet breakthrough only reached the garrison on the morning of the 21st. The troops occupying the town, which was located on the eastern bank of the Don, consisted mostly of maintenance and supply personnel and included the workshops and transport company of the 16th Panzer Division. They were augmented by a Luftwaffe flak battery and a small force of field police.
There had been no other word about the breakthrough since a message concerning the breakthrough in the south was received on the afternoon of the 21st. Tasked with defending both Kalach and the western bank, the garrison faced an impossible situation. The town commander had no idea that three Soviet corps were heading directly for him, and even if the Germans had known, the garrison had no way to stop them.
With the Berezovski Bridge in Russian hands, Maj. Gen. Rodin sent Lt. Col. G.N. Filippov and his 19th Tank Brigade speeding along the Don to Kalach. Using captured German vehicles to lead the way, Filippov’s men overwhelmed the detachment guarding the Don bridge. On the western heights, Luftwaffe 88mm field guns opened fire and destroyed several Russian T-34 tanks.
Filippov, not waiting for his mechanized infantry, ordered a detachment of tanks to cross the river and form a bridgehead on the eastern banks while other T-34s continued to duel with the 88s. When the infantry did appear, he once again split his forces, sending some infantry across the river and ordering the rest to support the tanks trying to take the heights. A combined assault finally silenced the German guns, and the heights were taken by midmorning.
The Soviet Spearheads Meet at the Karpovka
From their new vantage point, the Russian tanks on the western bank poured round after round into Kalach, while their comrades on the eastern bank stormed the town’s flimsy defenses. Those Germans that could escape loaded themselves on anything drivable and fled toward Stalingrad. By early afternoon, Kalach was in Russian hands.
In the south, Trufanov was finally getting his forces under control. Although his infantry was still slowly plodding westward and southwestward, his mechanized units were advancing at a faster pace. By the end of the day, Volsky’s 4th Mechanized Corps had taken Buzinovka and was moving toward Sovietski, a few miles east of Kalach near the junction of the Don and Karpovka Rivers.
In essence, by the end of the day any German or Romanian units east of the mechanized ring had only one place to go—Stalingrad. General Lascar, surrounded and running low on ammunition, refused several Russian requests to surrender. His force was overwhelmed, its survivors forming long gray columns marching east toward a very uncertain future.
By now, there was little to stop the northern and southern spearheads from completing their missions. Volsky reached the south bank of the Karpovka a little after noon on November 23. The 45th Tank Brigade of Kravchenko’s 4th Tank Corps arrived on the opposite bank around 4pm. Zhukov’s trap was finally closed, with about 300,000 of the enemy in the giant cage called Stalingrad.
The meeting of the northern and southern pincers was later restaged for Soviet propaganda films, but there is little doubt that the emotions shown on the screen were the same felt by Volsky’s and Kravchenko’s troops as they first joined. Although Heeresgruppe A was able to make a masterful withdrawal from the Caucasus in the months to follow, the Red Army had bottled up the 6th Army and a good deal of the 4th Panzer Army. It was a great victory.
Operation Uranus was only the first step in the annihilation of Fortress Stalingrad, but it was a giant one. Despite control problems, Zhukov and his commanders in the field had shown that they had learned the lessons vital to modern mechanized warfare. Methods developed during Uranus were finely honed and used again by Zhukov and others in later operations that would shake the foundation of the German military and finally bring it crashing down.
This article originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.
The World Since 1945
The World Since 1945 by P. M. H. Bell,Mark Gilbert Summary
A masterly synthesis of the history of the contemporary world, The World Since 1945 offers the ideal introduction to the events of the period between the end of the Second World War and the present day. P. M. H. Bell and Mark Gilbert balance a clear narrative with in-depth analysis to guide the reader through the aftermath of the Second World War, the Cold War, decolonization, Détente and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, up to the on-going ethnic strife and political instability of the 21st century. The new edition has been thoroughly revised to fully reflect developments in the history and historiography of the post-war world, and features five new chapters on the post-Cold War world, covering topics including: - The rise and fall of American hegemony - The decline of Europe - The rise of Asia - Political Islam as a global force - The role of human rights The World Since 1945 challenges us to better understand what happened and why in the post-war period and shows the ways in which the past continues to exercise a profound influence on the present. It is essential reading for any student of contemporary history.