** war and social upheaval: World War II Eastern Front -- consequences of Stalingrad

World War II: Consequences of Stalingrad (1943)

Figure 1.--Stalin did not evacuate the civilians in Stalingrad while the German Panzers moved toward the city. While the most ferocious battle of World War II raged in the city, civilians huddled in the cellars and rubble. The Germans shot Jews they encountered. Russian civilians were transported west for slave labor. There wasn't much left of Stalingrad after the battle, but the Soviets had it. Here Russian boys in the ruins of the city sport captured German weapons, including machine guns. We suspect the snapshot here was taken with a captured German camera. The Germans produced some of the finest machine guns of the War. Germany had a larger industrial base than the Soviets and occupied important industrial centers. The Soviets managed to move some war plants east, but more importantly their industrial policy made better use of what hey had. And even before Hitler declared war on America, the Arsenal of Democracy was beginning to shift balance of power. The Germans not only suffered terrible casualties, but lost huge quantities of equipment and arms to the Red Army as a result of the Soviet 1941 Winter Offensive and again in the 1942 Winter offensive that began with the encirclement of Stalingrad. The Germans could not begin to replace the losses of men and equipment on such a scale. The Soviets and Western Allies could. Click on the image for a fuller discussion of the image here.

The consequences of the Stalingrad battle were enormous. The result in the end was the complete loss of the entire 6th Army as well as associated units, the most powerful formation in the German order of battle. There were 20 German divisions destroyed and more severely damaged. War material equal to 6 months production of German war plants was lost or destroyed. These were losses that the Germans simply could not replace. One historian writes, "The Battle of Stalingrad ... tore the guts out of the Germany Army--destroyed it, wrecked it, devastated it--and yet it went on fighting for another two and a half years. No other army in the world, then or now, could have done that, and yet Stalingrad was the turning point of the whole Second World War ... The real significance of Stalingrad lay in the realization by both Germany and Russia that the Red Army not only would resist, but could resist, and that Russia was just to vast to be conquered without far more armored and mobile units and far more men than Germany possessed. There could not now be a swift victory over the Soviet Union, or indeed anything other than a stalemate at best." [Corrigan] Military historians debate just where the turning point of the War occurred. While there is no unanimity, many historians believe that the Russian offensive before Moscow (December 1941) ended any real hope of Germany winning the War. Not winning and losing a war or two very different outcomes. We believe that it was the Red Army offensive before Moscow and subsequent Winter offensive (December 1941-April 1942) that ended any possibility of the Germans defeating the Soviet Union. The loss of the 6th Army at Stalingrad probably ensured the defeat of NAZI Germany now that America had entered the War. Even a stalemate for Hitler and the NAZIs were no longer possible. The surrender of the 6th Army was followed by not only a series of further Red Army offensives, but critical developments in the West. The Germans were being beaten into a Tunisian pocket. The Americans joined Britain in the Around the Clock strategic bombing campaign. And even more importantly, American Lend Lease began reaching the Soviet Union in substantial quantities. One of the important consequences of the Soviet Stalingrad victory was that it kept the southern route, the major conduit for Lend Lease, open so American supplies could reach the Red Army. Especially important were the trucks. The Soviets made trucks of their own, but not in the numbers needed. Possession of large numbers of trucks (which arrived laden with other supplies), gave the Red Army a vastly increased mobility that the Germans could not begin to match. and it was of course mobility that had been the Wehrmacht's great advantage. This would make a big difference in 1943, in 1944 it would give the the Red Army the ability to smash the Wehrmacht. The Germans after the Stalingrad disaster (February 1943) and even Kiev (July 1943) believed that there considerable territory held in the East and still sizeable military would provide a barrier to Soviet advances while the forces being assembled in the West protected by the Atlantic Wall destroyed the anticipated cross-Channel invasion in 1944. The growing strength and mobility of the Red Army stunned OKW and the German formations in the East.


Corrigan, Gordon. The Second World War: A Military History.


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Created: 7:29 AM 7/27/2012
Spell checked: 11:00 PM 1/31/2022
Last updated: 11:44 PM 1/31/2022