By: Ahmad Syah Ejaz Bin Hj. Ismail
Battle of Stalingrad was fought between the Nazi’s Wehrmacht and Soviet’s Red Army in the City of Stalingrad from 17 July 1942 until February 2nd, 1943. It was considered as one of the most brutal battle of the German military history and its worst defeat. In this writing I will focus on the reason for the Wehrmacht failure to hold the city (the reason why I use the word hold is that, Wehrmacht did eventually managed to took over the city, but it lead to self defeat when Wehrmacht itself ended up defended Stalingrad from the Soviet’s Red Army after the Operation Uranus launched by the Soviet Union).
Here are the reasons why the Wehrmacht lost the Battle of Stalingrad:
1. Hitler meddling in the Wehrmacht affairs:
Hitler was buoyed by his success in taking over France at the early year of 1940s lead to his self beliefs that he is the one that should lead the Wehrmacht in Russia. The battle in Soviet’s Russia was fought with strict Hitler discretion on every decision even though General von Paulus was the commander in chief in Stalingrad. Hitler’s decides to monitor and control every Wehrmacht move from afar (from his Berchtesgaden or Wolf’s lair in Germany), and refused to receive any suggestion from the front line commander leads to self defeat decision.
2. Hitler’s oblivion:
Hitler was obsessed yet again with the success of the 1940 Blitzkrieg in France made he forgets to prepare the Wehrmacht for any winter equipment (clothes, and horses – during the Russian winter, most of the Panzer tank proved useless due to mechanical failure). Many of the Wehrmacht soldiers died not to the fighting but due to hunger and freezing.
3. Soviet’s Red Army fighting spirit:
Hitler considered the Russian Bolsheviks or the Red Armies’ as inferior to the Germanic Aryan race and thinks that it is easy to defeat such enemy. But the reality proved different where Russian people fought the Wehrmacht from teeth to teeth and refused to retreat. The battle of Stalingrad was fought for inches and not yards. The Soviets introduced a new type of war called “The rat’s war” and the Wehrmarcht cannot cope with the new Soviet’s tactics.
4. Soviet’s War productivity:
Even though the German Panzer Tanks was far more superior compare to the Russian T-34s, but the Soviets managed to produce T-34 in large number in short duration of time. The high production of the T-34 tanks proved to be a major factor especially in Soviets battle capabilities in counter-offence every Wehrmacht thrust into the Soviets conclave. There are reports that T-34 upon finished doesn’t need any paint and were driven straight to the battle. Even though the German panzer was far better than the T-34, but rolls of T-34 tanks that kept on coming, finally exhausted the Panzer tank formation and depleted its reserve.
5. Nazism and Fascist beliefs:
The Nazism and Fascist beliefs of the Wehrmacht prove to be self defeat when the Wehrmacht failed to capitalize on the Russian Red Armies deserter who shunned fighting for the Soviets in the early battles. It was recorded that the figures amounted to hundred thousand of deserters which ran for the German line seeking protection. The Wehrmacht upon considered the Russian as inferior race, began to segregate the Russian deserters and even killed the deserters upon capturing them and their action proved fatalistic and self-defeat.
In the war effort, Hitler reject the idea of using women at home to help in producing Planes, Bombs, and equipment for the soldier on the front line (according to Nazism, women was only to bear children for the Aryan stocks). These prove self-defeat where the productivity of Germany is slow compared to Russia where women were used for the war effort either at the factory and even for the front line infantry.
6. Katyusha rocket launcher:
The Soviet relied heavily on its Katyusha rocket launchers known as “Stalin organ (due to its sound)” to bomb the Wehrmacht position in Stalingrad. The rockets proved to be effective and do demoralized the Wehrmacht for any counter offensive operations. Even though Wehrmacht army do have its own version of rocket launchers (the Nebelwerfer), but Katyusha rockets is more accurate and mobile compared to Nebelwerfer that needs to be tug by motorized vehicle or horses.
7. Hitler’s obsession with Stalingrad:
Hitler was very much obsessed with Stalingrad. Taking over the city is to deflate Russian Bolsheviks especially Stalin himself (the city was named after Stalin). Even though the city was a major factory producing material, but Hitler begin to neglect that the main important objective of the Barbarossa and Blue was to capture southern Caucasus and its oils wealth. Hitler start to concentrates the Wehrmacht for Stalingrad solely and neglect the necessity for the Southern Don and lower Don defends.
8. Russian arctic winter:
The most formidable enemy that was faced by the Wehrmacht perhaps wasn’t the Red Army, but the Arctic winter of the Stalingrad. Hitler at first thought to emulate and repeat the 1940 Blitzkrieg in France ended up facing the worst Russian winter that demolished everything that he had built in the Sixth Army.
By the time Paulus agreed to surrender, the Wehrmacht still in their thin grey rat’s colour uniforms and were still not supplied with the necessary uniform for artic conditions. Most of the time, the Wehrmacht had to endure -35 degrees of cold without food in its effort to thrust into the Russian conclave.
Lice begin to bring uncomfortable situation for the Wehrmacht to fight in Stalingrad and the situation got worst when the Luftwaffe failed to supply the fighting forces with the much needed supplies. Strained by the lack of food, equipment and uniforms for the artic conditions, the Wehrmacht begin to demoralize which eventually leads to self defeat. Most of the Wehrmacht army ends up dead due to hunger and frost bite.
I personally think that the Wehrmacht still can bring the Soviet to its knees if it isn’t for the Russian artic conditions apart from this factor; the Wehrmacht was still superior in technology and air domination over Russia.
9. Stalingrad location:
The location of Stalingrad is not strategic from my point view where the Wehrmacht could not do anything with the Soviets reserve preparing to assault the Western sector of Stalingrad. The city itself was divided into two where the Volga river had gave the Soviet an advantage for military build up and land base for artillery and Katyusha rocket launchers. The bombing of the city itself had created a bunkers and cellars for the Soviet Red Army to launch an ambush and shelters during the battle itself.
Hitler in order to capture Russia should begin a military thrust in the upper Don or upper Volga in moving towards Moscow instead resort to self obsession in capturing Stalingrad which bring to his self defeat.
Stalingrad, Antony Beevor. Penguin Books, 1999.