Stalingrad, Battle of

(1942–43) Unsuccessful German assault on the Soviet city in World War II. German forces invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 and had advanced to the suburbs of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) by the summer of 1942.

Met by a determined Red Army defense commanded by Vasily Chuikov, they reached the city's centre after fierce street fighting. In November the Soviets counterattacked and encircled the German army led by Friedrich Paulus, who surrendered in February 1943 with 91,000 troops. The Axis forces (Germans, Romanians, Italians, and Hungarians) suffered 800,000 deaths; in excess of 1,000,000 Soviet soldiers died. The battle marked the farthest extent of the German advance into the Soviet Union.

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      (summer 1942–February 2, 1943), unsuccessful German assault on the city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in the Russian S.F.S.R. during World War II that marked the farthest extent of the German advance into the Soviet Union. As a major industrial centre, Stalingrad was an important prize in itself, and control of the city would have cut Soviet transport links with southern Russia via the Volga River. The German campaign against Stalingrad also served to anchor the northern flank of the larger German drive into the oil fields of the Caucasus.

      During the summer of 1942 the Germans advanced to the suburbs of Stalingrad but failed to take the city itself against a determined defense by the Red Army, despite repeated attacks by the 6th Army under Friedrich Paulus (Paulus, Friedrich) and part of the 4th Panzer Army under Hermann Hoth. By September they reached the city's centre, where they encountered stiff resistance from the Soviet 62nd Army under General Vasily I. Chuikov (Chuikov, Vasily Ivanovich). The city's Soviet defenders had been driven almost to the Volga by mid-October, but the Germans' supplies were beginning to run low, their tanks were of little value in the constant street fighting, and winter was approaching.

      On November 19 the Soviets launched a counterattack in the form of pincer movements north and south of the city, and by the 23rd they had encircled the 6th Army and part of the 4th within Stalingrad. A German attempt to relieve Paulus failed in mid-December. Under orders from Adolf Hitler (Hitler, Adolf), Paulus continued to fight on, making possible the eventual escape of the beleaguered German forces from the Caucasus. On January 31, 1943, Paulus disobeyed Hitler and surrendered, and on February 2 the last of his remaining 91,000 troops turned themselves over to the Soviets. The Soviets recovered 250,000 German and Romanian corpses in and around Stalingrad, and total Axis losses (Germans, Romanians, Italians, and Hungarians) are believed to have been 800,000 dead. Official Russian military historians estimate that 1,100,000 Soviet soldiers lost their lives in the campaign to defend the city.

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Universalium. 2010.

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