The Junior Patriot: Stalingrad

It was August 1942.  The German army, consisting of an estimated 170,000 troops, were poised to attack Stalingrad.  The Soviets, only able to muster 90,000 men, made up for lack of men with endurance and skill.

Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Soviet Russia, had already begun in July of 1941.  The German Sixth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army, which was made up of deadly tanks, were charged with invading Stalingrad.  Why?  First of all, Germany strategically needed Stalingrad to cover its flank in an attack against southern Russia. Sitting on the Volga River made it important for supplies.  Second, it would defeat Soviet morale because it bore Stalin’s name.

Okay, back to the action.  The Germans attacked the southern and central parts of the city first, aiming for the dominating heights of Mamayev Kurgan.  They were to be assisted by the Luftwaffe, or the German Air force, which had been previously dominating the skies.  However, the Soviets hugged the German line, making it dangerous to bomb.  If the Germans had attempted to bomb the Soviets, they would run the risk of hitting their own troops.

The Soviets stubbornly fought back.  Fighting was intense and the battle turned deadly for both sides.  The Germans fought and died for every foot of ground.  South of the city, 50 guardsmen and naval infantry fiercely defended a burning silo!  For three days they held the German Panzer division at bay!  After nearly two months, the Germans controlled 90 percent of the city.  However, they could not stop the flow of supplies and reinforcements across the Volga, which was the Soviet Lifeline.  November 11th marked the last major German assault of the battle.  They had hoped to gain the three main factories of Stalingrad.  Successfully taking two of the factories, the Nazi forces were bogged down by heavy fighting for the third factory.  This is when the tide of the battle turned in favor of the Soviet Red Army.

Unknown to the Germans, the Soviets had amassed one million men and 900 tanks for a counter attack.  Operation Uranus began on November 11th.  Having endured three months of fighting, the Soviets threw all they had against the Germans.  By the 25th of November, the Soviets had surrounded the Nazi forces.  Over the next four months, the Soviets gradually wore down the German defense.  On the 2nd of February, 1943, the German forces surrendered.  Of the 110,000 Germans who went into captivity, only 5,000 came back.

Though the war would go on for another two years, this was to be the beginning of the end of the Nazi dominance over Europe.  The Germans would never get as far as they did in 1941.  The Soviets endured against overwhelming attacks and came out victorious against what seemed like an unbeatable force.  Although we disagree with their ideals and morality (which was just as bad as the Nazis), we can learn at least one good lesson from the resolve of the Red Army in Stalingrad: they never quit, even when the situation was hopeless.  Just as the Soviets, we need to stand when things are hard.  Instead of collapsing, we need to give it all we’ve got.  We will never succeed if we quit.  And we might just be victorious too.



Photo credit:

Wikipedia (and the German Federal Archive) – see here

Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-W0506-316 / Georgii Zelma [2] / CC-BY-SA 3.0

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