Saturday, December 6, 2014

German Officers on the Drive to Stalingrad

Small briefing in the Kalmuck/Kalmyk Steppe of a German Army company commander (Kompaniechef) with the rank of Oberleutnant (left) and his platoon commander (Zugführer) with the rank of Leutnant on their drive to Stalingrad, Russia, 21 June 1942. The 6. Armee began its involvement in the Russian Campaign as the spearhead of Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South). Shortly after being promoted to Field Marshal, Walther von Reichenau (Oberbefehlshaber 6. Armee) died in an aircraft accident while being transported to a hospital after a heart attack in January 1942. He was succeeded by his former chief of staff, General der Panzertruppe Friedrich Paulus. Paulus led the 6. Armee to a major victory at the Second Battle of Kharkov during the spring of 1942. This victory also sealed the 6. Armee's destiny because it was selected by the OKH for the attack on Stalingrad. On 28 June 1942, Heeresgruppe Süd began Operation Blau; the German Army's summer offensive into southern Russia. The goals of the operation were to secure both the oil fields at Baku, Azerbaijan, and the city of Stalingrad on the river Volga to protect the forces advancing into the Caucasus. After two months, the 6. Armee reached the outskirts of Stalingrad on 23 August 1942. On the same day, over 1,000 aircraft of the Luftwaffe's Luftflotte 4 bombed the city, turning it into a massive inferno. Destroyed in a matter of hours, Stalingrad was now a charnel house; defended by the weak Soviet 62nd Army under the command of General Vasily Chuikov. Despite having the initiative, the 6. Armee failed to obtain a quick victory. The Red Army put up determined resistance, taking the fight to the rubble-clogged city streets. Though having almost complete air superiority over Stalingrad, and with more artillery pieces than the Soviets, progress was reduced to no more than several meters a day. Soviet casualties in the ghastly urban fighting were horrendous, while German casualties were just as appalling. Eventually, by mid November, the 62nd Army had been pushed to the banks of the Volga; holding only three small bridgeheads along the riverfront. However, despite continued fighting, the 6. Armee was unable to eliminate the remaining Soviet troops holding out in Stalingrad.


No comments:

Post a Comment