A. Plan of the Investigation
This investigation will evaluate the following question. To what extent did the Battle of Stalingrad contributed to Germany’s defeat on the eastern front in World War II? To analyze the extent to which this battle contributed to the overall defeat for the Germans on this front, this investigation will analyze the German and Russian military strength before, during, and after the battle. The number of troops, supplies, the position of the armies, and the condition of the armies as a whole will be assessed in this investigation to evaluate each sides’ strength. This investigation will also discuss potential outcomes had other military decisions been made to reinforce the evaluation of the battle’s effect on the German defeat on the eastern front.
B. Summary of Evidence
In the summer of 1942 Hitler was in a happier mood than at any time since the fall of France. “The Russian is finished,” Hitler told his Chief of Staff on July 20 (Clark 209). The Germans were coming off three victories at Kerch, Kharkov, and Sebastopol. In addition they continued to gain ground in the Caucasus
On the 23rd and 24th of August the German Air force(Luftwaffe) sent the city of Stalingrad up in flames, hoping to stop the Russians from resisting ( Clark 218). Russian morale was low as their forces retreated to Stalingrad. Despite Russian resistance the German’s superiority in weapons and training had them in a good position (Werth 449).
As the Germans arrived at Stalingrad the Russian forces were badly outnumbered in terms of tanks and soldiers. Reinforcements from across the Volga River prevented the Germans from gaining an edge. To prevent the Germans from effectively using their artillery and aircrafts, Soviet Commander Chuikov employed the strategy of close quarter fighting close to the German line. This prevented a quick German advance, and fighting often lasted a few days for the same few buildings and factories. The Germans eventually gained most of the city and took the river, but had lost valuable soldiers, supplies, and weapons (Erickson 371).
In 1942, the Red Army began their counteroffensive called Operation Uranus which targeted the weak German flanks that were disorganized and lacked proper weaponry (Jukes 85). After the flank was overrun the Russians surrounded the Germans inside of Stalingrad. Confident the army could be relieved by the army of his field marshall Erich von Manstein, while receiving supplies from the Luftwaffe, Hitler ordered his forces to remain inside of the city (Jukes 89).
The air supply the Germans received in Stalingrad was insufficient, they grew low on food and supplies (Chuikov 247). Despite many requests to attempt to escape from the city, Hitler refused to let them break out to Field Marshall Manstein’s troops who had gotten close. In December the Russians pushed past axis forces and eliminated the potential saving of the Russian Army in Stalingrad (Chuikov 250).