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     There are many ways to date the beginning of the Battle of Stalingrad. I've chosen August 23 because that was the date of the intensive German air bombardment that reduced the city to the piles of rubble and twisted steel so familiar from pictures of the fighting. I could as easily have chosen September 13, the date of German 6th Army's first major ground offensive. However one dates its beginning, the Battle of Stalingrad was truly the Mother of All Battles. It was the most significant battle of the Second World War and the one that broke the back of the German war machine. After the remnants of the 6th Army surrendered on February 2, 1943 Germany's defeat was inevitable. The rest of the War on the Eastern Front was a series of desperate rear-guard actions as the Germans retreated to the west before the Red Army.

Operation Barbarossa

      Barbarossa was the code-name of the German plan to invade Russia. Hitler had laid out his intentions in Mein Kampf back in 1926. He believed that the Reich needed lebensraum. Farm land was limited in the Germany and inadequate to feed the German people. The solution was to seize the rich agricultural lands of Russia. The Slavic untermenschen were to be driven off or starved and the land colonized by Germans.The invasion of the Soviet Union commenced on June 22, 1941, in violation of the 1939 German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, and was spectacularly successful at first.

      The Red Army was totally unprepared for Blitzkrieg. Their equipment was obsolete and the best of their officer corps had been victims of Stalin's paranoid political purges. Millions of Red Army soldiers were captured in huge encirclements and most of their aircraft destroyed on the ground. Stalin refused to believe initial reports of the invasion and holed up in his dacha, astonished that one genocidal dictator would lie to another. The German plan called for three Army Groups to attack on a broad front across the entire Soviet border. Army group North attacked towards Leningrad, Army Group Center attacked through Belarus towards Moscow and Army Group South advanced through Ukraine. The plan was to defeat the Soviet Union in a single season and it seemed to be working until the invasion stalled on the outskirts of Moscow in the winter of 1941. American intelligence had assured the Soviets that the Japanese did not intend to attack from the east and they were able to transfer Siberian reserves into the Battle of Moscow. The capital was saved and the Germans dug in and prepared to renew offensive operations in the spring of '42.


      Katyusha, Katie or Cathy in English, is the title of a song that was hugely popular in Russia during the War. Written in 1938, it's about a young girl whose true love has been called away to defend the Motherland.


      Katyusha was also the nick-name of an innovative, and very effective, Soviet weapon system. Simple steel rails were mounted on truck beds and used to launch rockets. As many as 48 unguided rockets could be ripple fired in seconds. The rockets were not as accurate as regular artillery but they didn't have to be. The effect of all those warheads going off in rapid succession within a few hundred square yards must have been terrifying. The music video above was shot in modern times but the truck that the singer is standing on is a vintage ZiS-5 of the type that was originally used for the Katyusha rocket launcher. The final version of the system, standardized in 1942, used Studebaker 6x4 trucks. First sent to Russia as part of Lend-Lease, and later manufactured in Russia, the American trucks were more reliable and had better off-road performance than Russian trucks.

Case Blue

      Case Blue was the code-name for Army Group South's campaign in the summer of 1942. Germany was not self-sufficient in oil, no small matter for a mechanized army. The plan was for Army Group South to attack southwards into the Caucuses to capture the oil fields at Baku. Part of the group was to attack westward towards the Don River to cover their left flank. The Führer, military genius that he was, changed the plan. He split Army Group South into two groups, A and B. Army Group A was to carry out the original mission of seizing the oil fields. Army Group B, which now included the unfortunate 6th Army, was to take Stalingrad, an industrial city on the Volga River. The destruction of Stalingrad would shut down its tank production. It would also allow Germany to control river traffic, as the Confederates did at Vicksburg.

      Just like Barbarossa in '41, Army Group B's 1942 campaign started off pretty well. Elements of Army Group B crossed the Don on August 21. On August 23, the same day that Stalingrad was being flattened by the Luftwaffe, German units reached the Volga. There was another big air raid on the 25th. The situation was desperate for the Soviets. The Stalingrad Front, the Red Army equivalent of an army group, was reorganized for the defense. General Yeremenko was put in charge. In those days the Red Army had a dual-command system. In each unit, down to platoons in some cases, a Bolshevik Commissar shared command with the regular army commander. Yeremenko's Commissar was Nikita Khrushchev. The two of them put General Chuikov in command of the 62nd Rifle Army and told him to hold the city. By September 3 the 62nd was clinging to what was essentially a bridgehead on the west bank. The west bank is higher than the east bank. Chuikov's HQ was a dug-out in a ravine in the bluffs overlooking the Volga. Supplies and fresh troops were brought into the pocket by boat. Casualties and a few civilians went out the same way. Every serviceable boat for miles up and down the river was pressed into service. The NKVD tightly controlled the landings on each bank. When General Rodimtsev's 13th Guards Rifle Division was ferried across on September 14 they got off their boats and went on the attack immediately, straight up the bluffs just a few meters away. Although the Germans had air superiority and could attack the crossing from the air, bombing and strafing the boats, operations on the east bank could be continued with relative security. Supplies could be stockpiled, reserve units assembled, and the wounded cared for. Soviet artillery, massed on the east bank and firing across the river, played a huge role in the battle. The key thing was for Chuikov to hold his position on the west bank. His soldiers were the bait in the trap that was about to be sprung on the Germans.

Order No. 227

      One of the things that helped stiffen Red Army resolve was Order No. 227. Issued by the Premier of the Soviet Union and capo di tutti capo of the Bolshevik mafia Joseph Stalin on July 28, 1942, the order was commonly known as the "Not One Step Backwards" order. It was read to all the troops in the Red Army. This order introduced blocking battalions and punishment battalions. Blocking battalions were well-armed detachments who set up a line behind the first wave of an attack in order to shoot any "traitors to the Motherland" who turned back. An estimated 13,500 Red Army soldiers were executed during the Battle of Stalingrad. Punishment battalions were organized from miscreants who had breached regulations and GULag inmates. These units were given the most dangerous, often suicidal, assignments with the promise of freedom if they survived. And yes, they were sometimes used to clear minefields by marching through them.


      The fighting in Stalingrad was house-to-house. Often opposing armies occupied different floors of the same building. The Germans called it "rat war." It was a deliberate tactic, initiated by Chuikov. If both sides were close to each other, the German air advantage was nullified. They wouldn't bomb if there was a good chance of hitting their own. Ruined factories and apartment houses became strong points. The most famous of these was Pavlov's House. A platoon of the 42nd Guards Regiment occupied a 4-story building with a good field of fire in early September. Their officer was blinded and Sergeant Jakob Pavlov took command. Pavlov and his men held that position for 58 days until relieved. Chuikov used to joke that they killed more Germans than the French did in the defense of Paris.


      Snipers were very important in the Red Army. There were a couple of famous ones at Stalingrad. During one of the Soviet Union's 5-year plans, a coal miner named Stakhanov mined more than his required quota of coal. He was made a "role-model" for all Soviet workers. His achievement was exaggerated in Party propaganda. He was an official hero; written about and dragged around the country to talk to workers. From then on there were Stakhanovite Workers in every field. Vasily Zaytsev was a Stakhanovite sniper, said to have 225 confirmed kills. He trained apprentices and started a movement in the Army, "sniperism." The book Enemy at the Gates, and the movie made from it, are dramatizations of Zaytsev's exploits at Stalingrad. The highest scoring sniper in the Red Army was a woman, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who was credited with 309 kills.

Operation Uranus

      While all the sniping and house-to-house was going on in town. Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov, Deputy CinC of the Red Army, who was in overall command of the Southwestern Front, was planning a counter-offensive. It was to be a classic double envelopment. While Chuikov's forces on the west bank were holding on with their fingernails, Zhukov was massing troops north and south of the Germans. The left flank of the 6th Army was guarded by Germany's ill-equipped and less-than-Teutonic Romanian allies. On November 19, 1942 Soviet units attacked the 3rd Romanian Army from the north. The next day the other arm of the pincer attacked the German 4th Panzer Army from the south. The two Soviet spearheads met at Kalach on November 22. The Germans were surrounded.

The Cauldron

      This is the final stage of the battle. Once the encirclement was established it was strengthened with double inward and outward facing lines. The 6th Army's rail and road communications were cut. Goering assured Hitler that "Fortress Stalingrad" could be supplied by air. The 6th Army estimated its needs at 700 tons/day. Hitler asked Goering if 500 were possible. Goering checked with his staff who said 350 tons might be possible. With that the 6th Army was doomed. The airlift was never able to supply even the bare minimum of 300 tons/day. Food, fuel and ammunition all had to be flown in. It was impossible. German soldiers could not fight and they began to die of starvation and exposure. On December 24 Russian tanks showed up suddenly at Tatsinskaya airfield and began to shoot up German aircraft. Anything that could fly left the airfield under fire, never to return. "Tazi" as the Germans called it, was where the airlift transports took off from. When it was taken, air supply of any kind was out of the question.  

My Two Cents

     This fuzzy map shows the stages in the reduction of the Kessel. I'm no Field Marshal, but this is where I would have stopped. The 6th Army is no longer a threat. If they want to follow Hitler's "No Surrender" order, fine. Let 'em starve. It seems to me that the Kessel is now a big POW camp. Instead of wasting men and materiel forcing the Germans into a smaller and smaller ring, I would have tried to cut off Army Group A who were still in the Caucuses. Anyway, as you can see by the map, the Soviets just kept tightening the noose. The two little airplane symbols are the remaining airfields, Pitomnik and Gumrak. The Luftwaffe was no longer able to get much in at all, but flights out from these fields were very hot tickets indeed.

The End

     The Commander of the German 6th Army, Field Marshal Von Paulus, surrendered to the Soviets on January 31, 1943. The rest of his army, with the exception of a few isolated hold-outs, surrendered on February 2. Estimates vary of the number of Axis soldiers trapped in the Kessel. The lowest estimate I've seen is 195,000. On December 6 the German Quartermaster reported German ration requirements at 275,000. The Soviets took 91,000 POWs, of which less than 6,000 ever made it to back to Germany. The Red Army reported exactly 1,219,619 casualties, along with between 25,000 and 40,000 civilian deaths.


      Thanks to all who read and commented. I'm always surprised at how well informed Kossaks are; so many good historians and armchair generals in this thread. I often tell people to be sure about what they write here because, whatever your subject is, somebody out there has a PhD. in it. This has actually happened to me, by the way.

Lagniappe, from the cutting room floor

The Red Baron

      The Luftwaffe commander who directed the bombing of Stalingrad in August was Colonel-General Wolfram von Richthofen, cousin of the more famous but much less bloody Red Baron. He had commanded the Condor Legion in Spain and pioneered terror bombing at Guernica.

Tank Factory

      There was a factory at Stalingrad that manufactured T-34 tanks. During the battle they were driven directly off the assembly line, loaded and sent into action. They were unpainted and not fitted with gun sights. The gun was sighted by the the loader who looked out at the target through the bore before loading.

In Soviet Union, You Bite Frost

      The Germans had many casualties from frostbite, which they treated as legitimate injuries. In the Red Army getting frostbite was a punishable offense. This was Russia after all, where people grew up around frostbite and ought to have known how to avoid it. Who but a malingerer would have frostbite ? Off to the shtrafbat. The Germans discovered that Russian style foot-rags were actually warmer than socks.


I haven't put any links in, supposing that you guys can google the stuff as easy as I can.
Here are Wikipedia links for:
Operation Barbarossa
Battle of Stalingrad
Marshal Zhukov
General Chuikov
Vasily Zaytsev
Katyusha Rocket Launcher
Order No. 227

My main sources were Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege by Antony Beevor and A Writer at War, selections from the wartime notes of Vasily Grossman, edited by Beevor.

Originally posted to Azazello on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 06:40 PM PDT.

Also republished by History for Kossacks, World War II and Holocaust History Library, The Royal Manticoran Rangers, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent bit of history, thanks. (26+ / 0-)

    Not widely acknowledged in the US, but it was primarily the Soviets who defeated the Nazis in the last half of WWII. The US invasion was critical in saving Western Europe from the Soviets. I shudder to think what the region would look like today had we not stopped them from going all the way to the Atlantic, which they easily could have done.

    The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

    by TheOrchid on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 06:58:49 PM PDT

    •  Most of us in the US, (23+ / 0-)

      certainly the "Greatest Generation," believe that "we" beat the Germans. I always point out that the Soviets lost 10 million men in the war, we lost 350,000 total, both fronts. The Russians lost that many in the Battle of Berlin.

      The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

      by Azazello on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 07:05:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Small correction, surrender was on 1/31/43. (11+ / 0-)

        This was for the southern half of the pocket where Paulus had his HQ.  The northern half of the pocket surrendered on 2/2/43.

        You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

        by Cartoon Peril on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:08:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Typo, fixed, thanks. (7+ / 0-)

          The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

          by Azazello on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:22:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The Germans... (4+ / 0-)

          ...tried to get Paulus to sign an order telling the other pocket to surrender after they captured him. He wouldn't do it.

          One of Hitler's major 'blunders' was in his cult of personality and refusal to listen to stuff he didn't want to hear. So a lot of his commanders ended up people like Paulus, who wasn't exactly an independent thinker and needed approval from high command to do anything. It ended up destroying the Sixth Army by delaying desperately-needed plans to break out of the pocket until it was far too late.

          Interesting fact: the Russians set up loudspeakers around the German pocket and endlessly blared sinister-sounding tango music at the German lines all night. They would intersperse this with things like a ticking clock and a voice saying "every seven seconds, a German dies in Stalingrad" before starting up the maddening tango music again.

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 12:23:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  One of the reasons (9+ / 0-)

        The Russian lost so many men was because they did things like march them into mine fields in order to clear them. For the first part of the war they were basically using civil war human wave tactics against a highly mechanized, trained, and disciplined enemy.

        Our generals were much more conservative in their use of men. The Germans found us tentative and cautious as compared to the Russians when we finally met in battle in North Africa.

        "'club America salutes you' says the girl on the door/we accept all major lies, we love any kind of fraud"--The Cure, "Club America"

        by Wheever on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 09:02:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  90% of all battle and civilian casualties (7+ / 0-)

        in Europe were on Germany's Eastern Front, something we in the West generally haven't heard.

        The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

        by Jim P on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 09:07:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Poor taste, perhaps? (5+ / 0-)

        I find the arguing over who won the war in somewhat poor taste.  Might the Soviet Union been able to wipe out the axis without allied help?  Perhaps, but not necessarily.  All sides took enormous casualties and suffered great costs.

        •  I've always thought it to be an equal contribution (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Grabber by the Heel

          by both east and west allies. Without the sustained US and British aerial bombardment of German factories and railroads, Berlin would likely have been able to supply its Eastern Front forces much more ably.  German shortages of provisions and equipment were primarily due to these US efforts. Not to mention the US and British presence in North Africa helped starve Germany of desperately needed petroleum.  The bottom line is that we all needed each other.

          Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

          by bigtimecynic on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 03:49:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Russian swarm attacks caused staggering losses (5+ / 0-)

        in men and equipment. But this was probably unavoidable given the education levels and difficulties in training millions in the last great peasant army. Getting equipment and men in the field was paramount while the nazi's were murdering and looting the populace and country. The Russians  also developed some cutting edge weapons systems. Often better in quality to German systems and certainly produced in greater numbers.  No question the sacrifice of the Russian people tore the guts out of Hitler's war machine.

        English and American convoys to Murmansk could, if arriving without too many losses, equip an entire army with medicine, cloths, tanks, food, radios, etc. But it was American trucks that were most useful to the Soviet armies. The German armies were never completely mechanized. So not only did the Soviets eventually have more canons and weapons systems of all kinds, they could move them faster.

        Could a Pittsburgh have held on as Stalingrad did? A Chicago hold out like Leningrad?

        Nasty as the Soviets were, the world owes them a great debt for the sacrifice of their WW II generation. If they weren't the greatest they sure were the toughest.

        •  Soviet industrial capacity... (5+ / 0-)

          ...was a massive 'achievement'. German intelligence thought the Russians could make 500-1200 tanks per month, max. In reality, they were churning out something like 2200 tanks per month.

          The Soviets didn't exactly have OSHA and they drove their industrial production like they did their front lines: absolutely relentlessly. They basically didn't care about industrial accidents or anything like that. The only question was "can doing this let me make more tanks?"

          Also, their workers were driven and patriotic and apparently genuinely desperate to help 'the Motherland' repel the invaders. My understanding is that even prisoners in the Gulag felt this way.

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 12:55:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Photos of Soviet women soldiers... (6+ / 0-)

            During the war (Soviet & other nationalities):

            Many years later (Soviet only) (these are B&W; I could swear I've seen color shots from the same event, but can't find them at the moment):

            When looking at those pictures of old, old women proudly wearing their war medals, don't even try not to cry.

            "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

            by HeyMikey on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 01:23:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Without a strategic bomber the Germans assured (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Soviet factories were, in time, as safe as factories in Detroit.

            My Dad convoyed to Murmansk more than once. He hated the Russian dockworkers who sometimes threw rocks at American sailors, and he thought the Russians he did meet were stand offish in general. No trading cigarettes and bottles of coke for vodka with these guys. The Russian rules that kept him and his shipmates from getting out of the port area to blow off steam after a really rotten experience, angered him and his shipmates too. He died before he learned that many of these workers were prisoners of the gulag system. And even if they were rooting for Mother Russia, they knew better than to interact with western sailors or get caught with western 'luxuries'.  

            Pops still gave these Russians credit for the terrific fight they put up, a fight he was part of after all. And the fact that the German attacks didn't stop until Russian air cover flew over the convoys wasn't lost on him.

          •  Prisoners in the Gulag (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Astonishingly, generals who had been imprisoned and tortured were released from prison and sent right back to command. The pioneers of Russia's ballistic missile program were imprisoned under Stalin and put to work when released.

            •  What was the name of the Russian poet released (0+ / 0-)

              from the gulag and sent to her home in Leningrad? Her son was released as well. She made radio broadcasts and worked like hell in that starved stricken city to bolster Leningrader's moral. She was jailed for supporting the Leningrad sailors who had fallen afoul of Lenin even though they sparked the revolution. She and her son were jailed again after the war or maybe even before Berlin fell.  

              I have a copy of one of her poems somewhere and read about her the first time in the book on the Leningrad siege, The 900 Days.

              As I read about her and others jailed by the Soviets, upon their release they fought for Russia with the same zeal that they fought to preserve what justice came from the Revolution. And so many were simply rounded up by Stalin again after he had his use of them.

              That fucking Stalin was meaner than a Wall Street capitalist.


              •  Anna Akhmatova. And she was not jailed, as her son (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Azazello, Joncleir, Sandy on Signal

                , but had 900 pages of compiled spying and wiretaps put together to indict her. She avoided prison though her son was jailed again after the war. Her poetry was published again in 1955 excepting her poem 'Requiem' which is about the Stalinist purges. A subject she manages to describe with a heartbreaking patriotic sadness that only a Russian could  manage.

                This is a great diary and comments, and an example of the unexpected discussion one can have with other Kossacks.

                Thanks everybody.

        •  Hmm. Interesting question. (2+ / 0-)
          Could a Pittsburgh have held on as Stalingrad did? A Chicago hold out like Leningrad?
          Given the HUGE strategic importance of the Volga as a defensive line, I would say that Pittsburgh's three large rivers and its rugged topography (not to mention it's 1940's claim as America's mightiest heavy industrial city) very well could have allowed its people to hold out as well as Stalingrad.

          Of course, the defenders would have been endlessly giving away their positions every time they burst into a Steelers fight song, so maybe it wouldn't have lasted.

          Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

          by bigtimecynic on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 03:55:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  We won the Pacific War, the Soviets won the (2+ / 0-)

        European War.

        The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

        by magnetics on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 05:28:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  A Soviet occupation of Western Europe (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wreck Smurfy

      would have resulted in a liberalized communism. Following the staggering losses incurred while defeating Fascism, the Stalinist state, exhausted by first a civil war for survival, then the furious onslaught of the Blitzkrieg, was forced to harden its defenses against a fresh enemy in the West. The post-war encirclement of the Soviet Union that resulted in the Cold War is a grand historical error.

    •  The heroism of the Red Army at Stalingrad is why (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wreck Smurfy

      we speak English and not German today -- and of course those belonging to disfavored minorities would not be here to speak at all.

      Sometimes I feel it is my duty as an American patriot to wear a Soviet flag pin.

      The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

      by magnetics on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 05:27:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Apocalypse then (21+ / 0-)

    Whenever I think of what the final destruction of humanity will be like, I never have to go further than Stalingrad. For the most part, we don't really appreciate or understand what the Russians went through in the Great Patriotic War, and how important their battles we're to winning it - and not understanding what happened to them, and how it affected their pysche, was an important part of the distrust and enmity of the Cold War.

    It's no co-incidence that so many post-apocalyptic movies and video games are set in locales that borrow so much from the battle of Stalingrad.

    Oh and I do recommend the movie 'Enemy at the Gates', it does a pretty good job of telling the story - of course they have to throw a silly romance into it, but the rest of the story is very entertaining, and Ed Harris is really good as a ruthless German counter-sniper sent to hunt down Zaytsev.

    (romney)/RYAN 2012 - I could never eat as much as I'd like to vomit.

    by Fordmandalay on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 07:00:06 PM PDT

    •  I love that movie. (12+ / 0-)

      It's one of the few that I'll watch again and again. If you know the history, you can see how it's made up of fictionalized versions of actual events. The opening scene looks like it's based on the 13th crossing the Volga and going straight into combat. In the movie, every other man gets a rifle, the rest a loaded clip. In real life only 10% of Rodimtsev.s men had no rifles. The writer who teams up with Zaytsev early in the film and promotes his achievemnets is probably based on Vasily Grossman, only Grossman promoted a different sniper, named Chekov.  The climactic sniper duel never took place. There is no German record of a special hit-man sniper being sent in to get Zaytsev, and they would have kept such a record. The scene where Zaytsev shoots an opposing sniper in the eye through his scope was based on actual (?) incident in 'Nam where Carlos Hathcock is said to have made such a shot. The romance in the film is, of course, total bullshit.

      The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

      by Azazello on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 07:15:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, you could look at the siege of Leningrad (5+ / 0-)

      The city was cut off for 3 years. The people were alotted 125 grams of "bread" a day. (I've seen what 125 grams of this bread was - it's about the size of a Dove bar) And it was made mostly of dust and sawdust.

      I am progressive. I am liberal. I make no apologies. - Kos

      My political compass: - 8.38,-6.97

      by pucklady on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:43:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I respectfully disagree. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, kalmoth, jds1978

      EatG is a terrible movie. It contains gross distortions of historical fact, and is actually based on a novel, War of the Rats, by David Robbins.
      There is no record of any Major Koenig existing, so the sniper duel could not have happened. Zaitsev scored the vast majority of his kills after the encirclement was completed. The Red Army did not lock their men in boxcars on the way to the front; what would have happened if they came under air attack? The Red Army did not send unarmed men into the attack, although that did happen in the Russian Army in WWI. I could go on, and on.
      As for the silly romance, that did happen. Zaitsev and Tanya Chernova were lovers during the battle.

      -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

      by Wreck Smurfy on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 07:41:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If your only criteria is historical accuracy, yes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But as a film, it's quite entertaining. No film based on historical facts is accurate, unless it's a documentary. But if a movie 'based on historical facts' entertains, at least it gives a bit of knowledge, and may interest people to learn more about the events presented. I could spend hours pointing out the inaccuracies of 'Apollo 13', 'Patton', 'The Great Escape', etc., but does that make them bad movies?

        (romney)/RYAN 2012 - I could never eat as much as I'd like to vomit.

        by Fordmandalay on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 08:53:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I understand that sometimes you have to (0+ / 0-)

          change the facts to tell the story. But there`s no excuse for a director or writer to add inaccurate details which do nothing to advance the plot. It`s simply sensationalism. Or in this case, `war porn`.

          -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

          by Wreck Smurfy on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 01:34:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  My grandfather in law... (4+ / 0-)

        (a genuine WWII hero with BOTH Soviet and US medals) liked that movie, but mostly because of Rachel Weisz.

      •  Whoa there. I just watched last night on cable (0+ / 0-)

        a 1 hour recap of the Battle of Stalingrad.  One interview was of a former Soviet officer in the battle (looked like a 1970s interview), where the officer gave an account that sounded a LOT like the movie (man in front gets the rifle, when he gets shot, the man behind him picks it up). I'd be interested to see a source that dispels this account. Do you have one?

        Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

        by bigtimecynic on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 04:04:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  "Enemy at the Gates" worth seeing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fordmandalay, Azazello

      just for the opening, where troops arriving from the East, locked in train cars for days, arrive and are completely immersed in battle the instant they get off the train and head to the boats which carry them across to Stalingrad.

      It gives a feel for what it was like that I've seen in no other battlefield film.

      The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

      by Jim P on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 09:10:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Saving Private Ryan--D-Day scene (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, Jim P

        I'd give props to Spielberg's D-Day landing scene as well.  

        •  But nothing matches the Russia film (4+ / 0-)

          "Come and See." German's burned over 600 villages in Belarus, along with the inhabitants who weren't just shoot and beaten, and this film documents it. Not for the squeamish. Hell, not really for the tough.

          This is a great film.

          A British reviewer wrote "makes Saving Private Ryan look like an episode of Danger Mouse."

          In the theatre, the bombardment comes close to making you deaf. Don't think you can get that effect at home.

          WARNING: the trailer is not easy to see, though it skips the worst of it.

          The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

          by Jim P on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 11:49:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Good lord, that D-Day scene had me literally (0+ / 0-)

          shaking by the time it was over.  I'd rank it as the best (i.e.. worst) battle scene I've seen in a movie.

          Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

          by bigtimecynic on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 04:05:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  According to William Shirer (18+ / 0-)

    Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, the German commander General von Manstein had immediately planned a breakout attempt once the Germans were surrounded on November 22nd.  But Hitler the great military genius refused to allow General von Paulus to assist the relief effort by attacking westward in an attempt to break out of Stalingrad with his army rejoining the main German forces.  Instead, Hitler ordered Paulus to sit still in Stalingrad while the Germans launched their offensive to reach their trapped comrades.  The attack was launched December 12 and by December 21 the Germans had pushed to within 30 miles from their doomed comrades but could go no farther.  Shirer quotes several German generals who stated that the attack would almost certainly succeeded, and history rewritten, had not Hitler ordered his "no retreat" order to Paulus.  With the Germans attacking from both sides simultaneously, instead of from just one side, they may have been right.

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 07:15:59 PM PDT

    •  I hit the wrong button again, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      furi kuri, Larsstephens, Wee Mama

      that's my reply below, "Shirer's account ..."

      The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

      by Azazello on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 07:22:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's correct. Hitler had a bad habit of (14+ / 0-)

      declaring various towns "fortresses" and then issuing "defend to the last bullet" type of decrees.  By 1944 it had gotten so bad that experienced German commanders avoided taking positions in any town that might be designated a "fortress" by Der Fuehrer.

      You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

      by Cartoon Peril on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:10:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting sidelight (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cartoon Peril, Azazello
        German commanders avoided taking positions in any town that might be designated a "fortress" by Der Fuehrer.
        Since Patton's strategy was to avoid any heavily fortified town, just run around it, isolate it and move on...

        “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

        by markdd on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 10:25:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Respectfully disagree. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Patton spent nearly three months (and a lot of lives) fighting for the fortified city of Metz.

          -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

          by Wreck Smurfy on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:50:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Retreat from the Caucusus (5+ / 0-)

      Hitler was a terrible commander, but the Germans were facing potentially even worse problems than the loss of the army at Stalingrad that November.  The Germans were trying to keep the supply lines open through Rostov on the Sea of Azov that fall as their army group stumbled back from the Caucusus.  If von Paulus withdrew prematurely and allowed the Soviets to release those troops otherwise involved in the Stalingrad street fight to move on the supply lines, the Germans could foresee the loss of the two army groups which made up the their entire southern flank in the Russian front, up to four armies like von Paulus's.  Von Manstein's idea to withdraw and hit back to keep open the supply lines to 6th Army makes sense - if one had the forces handy to do it.  Even when he launched his counterattack from the Don bend a month later the Germans had been able to put together at best a very weak panzer corps rather than the mailed fist they would need to punch through the Soviet lines.  No additional German panzer troops were available in the fall 1942 and it doomed Manstein's plan from the start.

      Although they were sideshows, the ongoing combat in North Africa did act as a distraction.  The 2nd Battle of El Alamein started around the same time and the American landings in North Africa were taking place.  The Germans rapidly learned the defects of a top-heavy decisions structure when the Decider is getting his attention pulled in multiple directions.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 05:54:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I post above (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wreck Smurfy

      Hitler's purges and cult of personality meant that a lot of his commanders tended to be toadies and yes-men. It might be unfair to put that label on Paulus, but he definitely had those tendencies. Of course, Paulus couldn't exactly disobey orders either, but his tendency to get approval for everything tended to hamstring him.

      By the end of the battle, Paulus was very ill and in a state of complete emotional and psychological collapse. His 'assistant', Schmidt, was basically running the show and shoving orders under his nose to sign.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 12:35:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Paulus disobeyed Hitler's last orders to him (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, Wreck Smurfy

        Fight to the last man and, via surrendering following his promotion to Field Marshal, Hitler's unspoken order to commit suicide (he was the first German Field Marshal to be captured alive).

        Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

        by GeoffT on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 02:35:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  True (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Wreck Smurfy

          But he literally obeyed (I believe) every other order than the 'order' to kill himself. He wasn't obedient in a bulldog fanatic kind of way, he was obedient in a "not making waves" and fearful kind of way. Not the kind of guy to kill himself on orders.

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 03:06:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Sgt. Marks 'o Lot (16+ / 0-)

    an eloquent blogger who once visited my blog had this to say about Stalingrad.

    Thought I'd share.

    At Stalingrad, the Wehrmacht fed what they had into the fire, piece by piece. The Soviets responded with what was available and scratch units equipped with weapons scavenged from corpses. Germany slogged on, Krasny Oktyabr won, Barriakdy, half won, the Tractor Factory, every meter of rubble won then lost again. Chuikov hanging by a thread, driven back into the ravines of the Volga, Soviet Marines fighting for 3 days in burning grain elevators. Unseen, the Soviets were building reserves on the flanks.

    From Clark, November 18, 1942: "During the night the crackle of small arm and the thud of mortars died down and each side began to take in its wounded. Then, as dawn came to lighten the smoke clouds, a new and terrible sound overlaid the dying embers of the battle in Stalingrad - the thunderous barrage of Voronov's two thousand guns to the north. Every German who heard this knew that it presaged something quite outside of his experience."

    "Fascism is attracting the dregs of humanity- people with a slovenly biography - sadists, mental freaks, traitors." - ILYA EHRENBURG

    by durrati on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 07:21:46 PM PDT

  •  Shirer's account is essentially correct. (13+ / 0-)

    It was all the Soviets could do to stop Manstein and he almost succeeded. The problem with a dual attack is that, by that time, the 6th Army was down to only a couple tanks and very little fuel for those.

    The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

    by Azazello on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 07:21:48 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the history (13+ / 0-)

    As magnificent achievement D-Day was, Stalingrad was the battle that was the true turning point in the war.  Until 1944, the Soviets faced 80% of the German army and it was in retreat when the second front was opened up in France.

    If I understand what I learned from my in-laws, my mother-in-law lost three brothers (my wife's uncles) at Stalingrad.  (My spouse is German.)

    Someone is supposed to have said WW - II can be understood as a movie: The Brits are the stars, the Russians are the bit players, and it was all financed by the US

    Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

    by MoDem on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 07:37:02 PM PDT

  •  This is great, Azazello (11+ / 0-)

    I'm usually bored by military history (see the telling and retelling of Gettysburg), but this is very well told, and it's absolutely why the US was freed for the Pacific Theater. To be frank, we got out of both World Wars easy.

    Then again, we had already had our equivalent, compared to European death tolls, between 1861 and 1865.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:00:18 PM PDT

  •  I have the book "To the Gates of Stalingrad" (12+ / 0-)

    by David M. Glantz right here beside the computer.  Glantz is probably the foremost expert on the Soviet army in World War II, he speaks Russian and has the advantage of having been a combat soldier himself.  

    He's written a whole trilogy on Stalingrad, much of which is based on fairly recently released Soviet sources.  )Maybe Mrs. Peril will let me buy one of them after I return the present volume to the library.)

    By this time (August 23, 1942), the Soviets were fighting on the outskirts of Stalingrad as well as far to the south in the Caucasus and along the Terek river in the the Maikop/Grozny region.  If Stalingrad could be captured, and the Caucasus mountains crossed, the entire southern half of the Soviet Union might be captured.

    People always think the Allied victory was "inevitable" -- but it certainly would not have seemed that way in late August 1942.

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:05:35 PM PDT

    •  If Germany had captured the Baku oil fields (8+ / 0-)

           there might have been no stopping them.

      The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

      by Azazello on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:15:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, fortunately the Soviets were able to put (8+ / 0-)

        up a defense of the high Caucasus passes, where winter weather comes early, with basically whatever they troops they could scrape together (training units, border guards, naval troops, etc.), and kept the Germans out of the Grozny oil region, which Stalin would never have allowed to fall intact to the Germans.

        Hitler insisted on advancing on both Stalingrad and into the Caucasus, which pretty much fatally weakened both attacks.

        You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

        by Cartoon Peril on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:26:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  David Glantz' books on the Eastern Front (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, Cartoon Peril

      are absolutely essential reads if one wants to understand the most important campaign of the 20th Century.  They are very tough reads, but the themes he develops in, for example, the Stalingrad Trilogy, are quite easily understood.  What is difficult to compehend is the vast scale of the fighting in Russia, both in terms of distance, numbers of combatants and casualties.

      It is not far off to say that the Soviets bled the Germans white, but even with the vast levels of manpower available to Stalin, with the industry of the West keeping them going in 1941-43, and with the fatally flawed German war machine, it is amazing that a few decisions made differently by Hitler could have changed the course of history.

  •  very.nice..T&R (8+ / 0-)

    Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
    I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
    Emiliano Zapata

    by buddabelly on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:13:55 PM PDT

  •  Churchill called Stalingrad (14+ / 0-)

    "The Hinge of Fate" where the "the hinge of fate had turned”...

    Perhaps your next installment, Azazello, might be "The Battle of Kursk" where the swinging door to The Soviet Union hit the retreating Wehrmacht in the ass....

    "Fascism is attracting the dregs of humanity- people with a slovenly biography - sadists, mental freaks, traitors." - ILYA EHRENBURG

    by durrati on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:36:41 PM PDT

  •  I have (8+ / 0-)

    It's excellent. The Germans had one last chance to regain the initiative at the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943, but I agree that along with Midway, the battle was the turning point in the war.

    "It is, it seems, politically impossible to organize expenditure on the scale necessary to prove my case -- except in war conditions."--JM Keynes, 1940

    by randomfacts on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 08:54:26 PM PDT

  •  from wiki (10+ / 0-)
    Khrushchev reached the Stalingrad Front in August 1942, soon after the start of the battle for the city.[59] His role in the Stalingrad defense was not major—General Vasily Chuikov, who led the city's defense, mentions Khrushchev only briefly in a memoir published while Khrushchev was premier—but to the end of his life, he was proud of his role.[60] Though he visited Stalin in Moscow on occasion, he remained in Stalingrad for much of the battle, and was nearly killed at least once. He proposed a counterattack, only to find that Zhukov and other generals had already planned Operation Uranus, a plan to break out from Soviet positions and encircle and destroy the Germans; it was being kept secret. Before Uranus was launched, Khrushchev spent much time checking on troop readiness and morale, interrogating Nazi prisoners, and recruiting some for propaganda reas
    i wonder if Nixon knew any of this history

    Our president has his failings, but compared to Mitt Romney he is a paradigm of considered and compassionate thought.

    by OMwordTHRUdaFOG on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 09:33:05 PM PDT

    •  All True But Almost Immaterial (9+ / 0-)

      We forget Stalin's operational structure at our peril.  Khrushchev might not have played a major operational role in battle planning itself, leaving that to the professionals who were commanding.  However, we should be under no illusions about what would have happened to Khrushchev if the Soviets had been forced out of Stalingrad or suffered worse losses.  Khrushchev had been sent to Stalingrad with a "return with victory or on your shield" order from Stalin.  He was expected to die with the troops fighting under Chuikov's direct command or produce a win.  Stalin's practices were brutal but pretty direct and uncomplicated.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:05:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  what i think IS material (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, Wreck Smurfy, subtropolis

        The larger point i was hoping to express...
        I didn't learn any of this in HS. I learned 'we' beat the Germans & were @ (cold) war w/ the soviets
          How they were effected by living thru the battle of Stalingrad & their unimaginable losses never seamed to enter into the larger equation.  

        Our president has his failings, but compared to Mitt Romney he is a paradigm of considered and compassionate thought.

        by OMwordTHRUdaFOG on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 10:11:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The leadership (4+ / 0-)

          That had much to do with the leadership of the country. Stalin was just as responsible for the start of WWII as Hitler was and attacked five neutral countries that were no threat to the Soviet Union - totally occupying three of them. I doubt Stalin cared very much for the suffering of his people - he'd caused equal amounts of suffering inside the Soviet Union prior to the war - he just didn't want anyone to get the jump on him again as Herr Hitler had done.

          Language professors HATE me!

          by Zornorph on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 02:24:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary (15+ / 0-)

    One historical quibble:

    Stalin had one of the greatest spies in history, Richard Sorge, in Tokyo monitoring the Japanese situation and their intentions to attack the Soviet Union in Siberia. Although the Soviets defeated the Japanese at Khalkhin Gol in 1939, Stalin was unsure whether the Japanese would try another invasion from the East.

    In mid-September, Sorge told Stalin that Japan would not attack unless Moscow was captured. Going on this advice, Stalin and the Stavka transferred several Siberian divisions toward the Moscow front; without those extra troops, Germany likely marches into Moscow in November 1941

    It wasn't our intelligence that tipped Stalin off, it was his own spy

  •  Greatest battle (15+ / 0-)

    of WWII. After Stalingrad, Germany's hopes of winning the war were over. DDay was essencially a sideshow . Germany was beat and we only invaded to keep the Soviets from taking over Europe. Growing up we never learned this in school. It was always USA, USA, we won the war. The Eastern Front  was hardly mentioned. Fact is that we never had more than 50 Divisions in Europe at one time. The Germans had about 250. The Soviets had 500 Divisions. Nine out of every ten Germans killed in WWII was killed by a Soviet soldier. There is a good movie about Stalingrad from the German side that is available on UTube. It's in German with subtitles. Worth watching.

    “The past is not dead. It isn’t even past.”–William Faulkner

    •  Totally agree. (10+ / 0-)

      If the German film you're talking about is this one, I've seen it a couple times. Good movie. I have a copy of the Soviet one from 1948. They used Red Army troops as extras and had lots of the original vehicles. Of course, Uncle Joe was still alive, so Zhukov was almost completely pushed to the background while "The Boss" was depicted as the true military genius.

      The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

      by Azazello on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 10:21:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Soviet and German divisions numbered 30% less (4+ / 0-)

      in actual number per division than a US division.  Still not enough to make up the disparity, but the divisions are not apples to apples. German divisions were self sustaining whereby soviet rifle divisions were just that.  Had Hitler succeeded in securing a separate peace with the western Allies, as Stalin feared, there is the strong probability the German Army would have stopped the Soviets.
      Great diary.

      "If the past sits in judgment on the present, the future will be lost." Winston Churchill

      by Kvetchnrelease on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:54:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting conversation. (4+ / 0-)

        Like you said comparing divisions is like apples to oranges. That said, the average division size in WWII was 15,000-20,000 for the US. 10,000-20,000 for Germany and 10,000-12,000 for the Soviets. In 1939 Germany had 78 divisions, Soviets 194 and the US 8. In 1945 the numbers were 375, 491 and 94. Military deaths were 3.25 milllion Germans, 12 million Soviets and 407,000 Americans.
        We could start a whole different discussion about Germany winning if the West made peace. I seriously doubt Germany could have beaten Russia no matter what.

        “The past is not dead. It isn’t even past.”–William Faulkner

        •  keep in mind that the TOE of the German (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          .....formations changed with their losses.  A tank division circa 1944 was not the same beast that it was in 1941.

          Hitler loved the bigger Pzr V & VI models that took longer to build and were much more expensive.  Add in the fact that the majority of staff generals in the Heer were from either artillery or infantry and you start getting things like SP artillery guns (great for offense, not so good in defense) being rushed out the German factories instead of AT guns and medium tanks.

          Plastic People, Oh Baby Now, Yer sucha Draaaag

          by jds1978 on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 05:43:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Also very worth reading: (13+ / 0-)

    Grossman's (very thinly veiled) fictionalization of the battle, Life and Fate.  It's without doubt one of the great Soviet novels, thick but fleet, beautifully humanistic, and so keen on the minutiae of life in Stalingrad that you can almost smell the ash.  

    After the battle Grossman continued to travel with the army and was one of the very first foreign journalists to see the Nazi extermination camps.  He was a complicated, difficult man who led a complicated, difficult life.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 11:49:20 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for stopping by, (9+ / 0-)

      my fellow slavophile. In my opinion, Life and Fate is the best Russian novel of the 20th Century. I always wonder; Life & Fate, War & Peace ? He must have been thinking of that comparison.

      The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

      by Azazello on Thu Aug 23, 2012 at 11:57:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I dunno about the whole 20th century: (5+ / 0-)

        my vote would have to go to Bely's Petersburg, which blows me away every time I read it.   But for Soviet-era novels it's at or near the top, along with Platonov, Bulgakov and Erofeev.

        But yeah, Grossman was definitely thinking of Tolstoy when he wrote the book: he discusses Tolstoy pretty directly in his journals and notes, although it's clear that philosophically he has more of an affinity for Chekhov (like all good readers should!)  As far as Grossman's fiction, I actually prefer the admittedly less well-written Everything Flows for the concentration of its rage and strange, unresolved structure.  It's quite a read, and too bad he didn't get to finish it, really.

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 12:21:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  And great diary, by the way. (7+ / 0-)

        This is the kind of history that's seared in the brains of Russians, but comparatively little-known in the West.  One of the most grueling campaigns of modern, urban warfare.  Street by street, house by house, sometimes floor by floor.

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 12:25:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I am planning to read Life and Fate (0+ / 0-)

        but I have to put in a plug for my favorite novel of Stalingrad, Front-Line Stalingrad by Victor Nekrasov. A very compelling read.

        -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

        by Wreck Smurfy on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 07:06:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Why was Lebensraum so "necessary" ? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Lone Apple, Wee Mama, Azazello

    "Farm land was limited in the Germany and inadequate to feed the German people."

    I could grab a time machine and show a map of present-day Germany with much of it's historical territory torn off from it to the German people in the 1930s and tell them "This is what will happen to your country if you vote for those clowns in office.  Yes, I understand that the Versailles treaty sucks for you, but consider a more sensible alternative to revolt against the system."

    A more sane and moderate 'nationalist' government would have used simple diplomacy to reclaim Danzig, and by having a large number of Germans residing in Poland and Bohemia would have made them a strong political minority in those respective countries anyhow.

    Instead, their country was bombed to ruins because Hitler attacked every country in sight.  The conquest of France made him stupidly overconfident that made him believe he could actually repeat the same success in Russia.  There's an anecdote somewhere that says that Hitler was the only human being that Stalin ever loved.

    I don't buy the theory that Stalin ever even planned to attack Germany.

    •  Because Hitler Was Crazy (9+ / 0-)

      Single-minded in his goal of conquest and hatred. He seduced military who were a lot smarter than him and seduced the entire German population. Such is the power of feeding into the egos of human beings.

      This head movie makes my eyes rain.

      by The Lone Apple on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 03:15:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  WW1&2: Death paroxysm of the Imperial System (5+ / 0-)

      The american Revolution 1775-1783 and the subsequent Drench Revolution marked the beginning of the end of the Era of European Imperialism. The end of the end of that era was marked by WW2.  

      During that era that was how things were done. In order to increase your national wealth you took wealth from someone else. The best sort of wealth was land.

      I am not trying to minimize Hitler's personal evil. But if Hitler did not live during a time when the general public saw going to war as the most natural thing in the world, even a desirable thing, then he would not have been able to stampede the German population.

      The end of the European empires took place over some 170 years. In America the beginning of the end of laissez faire capitalism began with the New Deal not even 80 years ago. So don't expect every battle to be won during Mr Obama's four or eight years in office.

    •  Lack of farmland in Deutschland has been ongoing.. (7+ / 0-)

      For many, many years. My direct ancestor from Germany was one of five sons, being something like #4 or 5 in the succession. He had no chance to inherit any of the family land, so at 15 he got permission to emigrate to the US, thus beginning my family's saga here. That was in 1856, by the way. The family consisted of farmers and woodworkers primarily, coming from an area of central Germany that is not overly crowded even today (east Hessen/west Thuringia, back then Bavaria).

      Generally, it was the oldest son who inherited it all, and IIRC, German law forbid the parceling out of land, so it was a major factor in the decision of many a rural German lad to seek his fortune elsewhere in the world.

      My ancestor, Adam Wxxx, came to Cumberland, Maryland, where he began his American life as a carpenter building canal boats for the C&O canal. He married the bosses' daughter, inherited the business, and sold it before the canal traffic completely dried up after the Civil War. He began the long trek West, which meant his grandson, my grandfather, was born in Washington state, as was my father and I.

      In 2007, I went to Germany on a vacation, and I stopped to see my distant cousins, the offspring of the family members who didn't leave. I had never met them before, but knew how to locate them, and they were pleasantly surprised to have an Ami kusine visit them.

      The grandfather related a story from the 40's: his family had been put on a list by the local Nazi Party as "volunteers" to re-settle the East when victory had been achieved. Their crime was to not have joined the Party nor given up their Catholic faith. He and his wife love Americans, as we liberated them and then gave them food (K-rations) that first, bad winter of '45-'46. Otherwise, they might have starved to death, since there had been virtually no crops that year.

      Further, they live in the Fulda Gap region, only about 20 miles from the old inter-German border. The American Army was the only thing between the Russians and themselves for 50 years, and the specter of an invasion was all too real for them. They love America, warts and all.

    •  It wasn't just about food, it was resources. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, OMwordTHRUdaFOG

      But remember the German people had experienced the blockade of WWI, and that reduced them to starvation. So clearly Germany couldn't produce the food it needed on its own. At least, given the then-current distribution of land, workers available, and farming techniques. Today, I don't know.

      Of course, a sane person would have pushed for Germany to become excellent traders, backed by their skilled, imaginative, and dedicated workforce, instead of stealing other people's land and enslaving them to work it.

      The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

      by Jim P on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 09:24:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hitler believed that the German 'race' (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      was the most highly evolved 'race' of the human species, to the point that it effectively constituted a new species. (This belief was an offshoot of social Darwinism and not uncommon in his day.)
      Hitler also foresaw that, inevitably, this 'race' would be swamped by interbreeding with other 'races', because there were so many of 'them'.
      He was correct in this. Inevitably the distinctions between the 'races' will break down; it is already happening. Whereas we would say 'so what', Hitler and his ilk saw this as an upcoming tragedy. Life would have no meaning, for them, if the most highly evolved 'race' was to be subsumed into a mass of 'subhumans'. The whole Victorian ideal of progress comes into this.
      Hitler proposed his solution in Mein Kampf. The German 'race' must be grown at least 10 times larger than it was in his time, to a sizeable minority of the human population of his time (say, 800,000) to preserve the precious advanced genes.
      But in order to do so, the master 'race' would need vast new lands to grow the necessary food and allow their expansion to such numbers. Hence, Lebensraum. The black-earth lands of the Ukraine to the east would do nicely. And the extermination of the 'sub-humans' who already lived there was not only a necessity, but a positive benefit to the entire scheme.
      Hitler proposed a 'Thousand-Year Reich' because he believed his plan would protect the 'master race' for such a period, until they could become so advanced as to exterminate or enslave the rest of humanity.
      Whenever I hear the anti-abortion rhetoric of the Republican Party today, I am reminded of Hitler and his ideas.

      -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

      by Wreck Smurfy on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 07:36:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My FIL fought in Stalingrad (17+ / 0-)

    for the Germans. He was later taken as a POW and ended up walking home. The only thing that saved him was being a foot soldier and having no Nazi party affiliation. He lost his mind, but once in a while was lucid enough.  His ghosts chased him until he died a few years ago. He was such a gentle man it was sad to see what war had done to hiim.  

    •  My Uncle fought in Stalingrad too, as a German (8+ / 0-)

      I first met the man my aunt married when he came to the US in 1958.  He told me that he had been with the German 6th Army, and that he had escaped surrender to the Russians (they knew what that would mean) and fought his way back to Germany to surrender to the Western troops - the Americans it turned out.  Then he gave me one of four pair of Russian long underwear he had kept to remind him of that horror.  He took them all off dead Russians, as he did everything it took to survive the trek.  "Never forget," he said, and the whole thing certainly made an impression.  He and my aunt lived a full and happy life.  I am proud to have him in the family, and needless to say, he is a remarkable man.

      I visited his family home in Northern Germany.  It was built from the rubble his family found when they came out of the bunker in their back yard (still there).  The kitchen sink is a mosaic of broken porcelain.  You have never met a more anti-war group of people.  There is no way to verify their description of the process of Nazi takeover of their nation, but they describe it as a surprise their lives were suddenly captured by a totalitarian state while they weren't paying attention.  His parents were gentle, simple, friendly people.  

      He is still alive, by the way, and still sharp.  I haven't talked with him about Russia for 50 years.  I am quite sure that is not part of his life he wants to recall.

      •  Very lucky indeed... (7+ / 0-)

        My grandfather was a German Jew who got out through Denmark in 1935, came to the States and then he enlisted in the US Army after Pearl Harbor (an original Inglourious Basterd!) One of his best friends was a pilot in the Luftwaffe who was shot down over the Eastern Front and was a POW of the Soviets for many years.  As much as my grandfather loved talking about his experiences, his friend never said a word about it to anyone and suffered terribly until the end of his life in the late '90s - the war never ended for him.  Very sad.

        "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." --Mark Twain--

        by malthus on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 07:14:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this diary (6+ / 0-)

    forwarding it to my dad and some friends.

    Stalingrad was the turning point of the war.  The battle and defeat was epic, I could read about it all day long- after what everyone went through in terms of destruction and heartbreak caused by  the Nazis, this battle always overwhelms me with joy.   The casualties were high, but the ferociousness and determination by the Russians deserve everyone's respect.  They deserve the credit in being the game changers in WWII.  

  •  I have just finished Beevor's D-Day (5+ / 0-)

    The detail and personalities were very much to my liking. I have also read Stalingrad and Berlin and will track down a copy of The Second World War. A most remarkable epoch.
    Thank's so much for putting this together.

    What happens when we all take the road less travelled?

  •  Great summary, easily understood! n/t (4+ / 0-)

    I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.

    by plankbob on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 03:55:55 AM PDT

  •  European perspective. (24+ / 0-)

    Having grown up in post WWII Europe it was inescapable to become intimately aware of history's complexities and ambiguities at a very early age. I clearly recall when being four years old and on the day that the USSR exploded their first H-bomb, hearing my father wearily observe; "Now help us if the Russians lose their head and start a war.".
    Upon that, I remeber being shocked and I asked him; "But papa, aren't the Germans the enemy?".
    He replied;"Yes they were and some still are, but the Russians are far more dangerous. Once they start fighting, they  don't stop for anything.".
    Then he continued with tears in his eyes;"But if it weren't for the Russians, we'd all be speaking German or Japanese... or in our case most likely not at all."
    I then told him;"Then I'm glad that they did."

    Both my parents are still alive and both are concentration camp survivors. My dad in a German one, from which he managed to escape and my mum in a Japanese one where she was liberated by the Allies.

    From them I later heard and learned that WWII was a lot different than what I read in the mostly Western propaganda laced history books at school.
    While I served in Germany as an infantry officer in NATO forces during the Cold War, I had the opportunity to visit the sites of the former concentration camps and even those by then sanitized places impressed on me the enormity and horrendous suffering which had taken place there.

    Also I saw the Iron Curtain, which acted as a sort of contrast to put things into perspective and drove home the sense of the raw and vile animosity, with which totalitarian regimes express themselves against their own.
    Yet, I still felt a grudging sense of gratitude towards the Soviets and the sacrifices they made in the. what they call "The Great Patriotic War".
    I also increasingly to be irritated with the Western cockiness about the Allied role in WWII.
    Specifically the American attitude of superiority and exceptionalism, when seen against the backdrop of the then still raging Vietnam conflict and later the Honduras shenannigans, I found very much vexing.

    A while back, my dad went back to Germany to forgive and make peace with his former captors and having seen the ravages that the concentration camps had wreaked upon its victims I had great difficulty understanding that.

    When I expressed this to him, he smiled and told me:"Listen, I am old and weary and I will eventually die. Life is too short to have that hatred festering inside until they shove me into my wooden sleeping-bag."
    Then I came to understand him perfectly and am grateful for his wisdom in that sense.


    There were never any good old days, they are today, they are tomorrow! It's just a stupid thing to say, cursing tomorrow with sorrow! (Eugene Hutz)

    by Kalong on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 05:36:53 AM PDT

    •  The power to forgive something as horrendous (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, Quicklund, wilderness voice

      as internship in a concentration camp is a profoundly moving example for those of us who harbour hate for far less transgressions. It's stories like yours that inspire hope.

      "If the past sits in judgment on the present, the future will be lost." Winston Churchill

      by Kvetchnrelease on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 07:07:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wow, thank you for your and your father's (4+ / 0-)


      As a boy, I was seduced by the propaganda for glory and heroism in war that is US textbook "history" of WWII.  Plastic guns (playing "Cowboys and Indians" ugh), little green plastic soldiers, GI Joe, etc.  Ugh.

      Those who have seen combat/it's ravages know what is real.

      Blessings to you and your father ~ JV

      The GOP says you have to have an ID to vote, but $ Millionaire donors should remain anonymous?

      by JVolvo on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 07:40:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Kernel Inside the Pith (10+ / 0-)

    The German troops were, unfortunately for them, the kernel inside the pith of their extended defensive perimeter.  When the Soviets' Operation Uranus struck the weakly defended flanks to Stalingrad, it crushed the essentially infantry-dominated Axis allies.  Being stuck on the southern Russian steppe with little ability to maneuver doomed them from the start.  

    The one thing that the diary didn't mention about the Romanian, Hungarian and Italian troops which made up those flanks was the animosity which existed between some of them  For example, the Italian forces deployed in Russia had to be placed between the Hungarian and Romanian troops because the latter were barely on speaking terms.  They had that little dispute over Transylvania still simmering between therm and it did not help military cooperation in the field.  

    One final factioid on the Romanian officer corps - its members received an official allowance for make-up (as in lipstick, eye liner, rouge, etc.) during the war.  Make of it what you will.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 05:42:08 AM PDT

  •  A few quibbles...German defeat far from inevitable (7+ / 0-)

    ....after Stalingrad. It was an enormous blow to the Wehrmacht, but the Germans still had numerous advantages over Red Army, from basic tactical prowess to competence in handling armor that would continue to elude the Soviets until the summer of 1944. I think a stronger argument can be made that Kursk doomed the Germans, because they stupidly wasted their carefully rebuilt Panzer divisions hammering away at dense Soviet defense belts with the Russians knowing in advance exactly where they were going to attack.

    After Stalingrad, the outcome of the Soviet/German conflict was still in doubt. If the Germans had been smarter about what they did next, they could have easily regained the operational initiative. After Kursk, there was no more doubt. The escalating imbalance in combat power in the Soviets' favor made the final outcome inevitable.

    •  It's a matter of opinion, (5+ / 0-)

           when the turning point was. Some authors claim it was Moscow.

      The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

      by Azazello on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:30:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  i agree with you (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, mightymouse

      glad to see the comment here. i had a history professor in college that made the point that the Germans could have reverted to a flexible defensive posture after Stalingrad, essentially doing to the Russians what the Russians had done to them. if they had 1943 would have looked very different on the Eastern Front.

      Instead, Hitler insisted on going back on the offensive at Kursk and the power and maneuver imbalance that resulted after their defeat was too much.

    •  It might have lasted to 46 or 47 (4+ / 0-)

      But starvation from food and oil would have done in Germany. Not to mention having no remaining navy and Britain/US opening up the inevitable western front. Germany was out-weighed and her "final solution" ensured no negotiated end would occur short of complete surrender. The allies held every economic, military, and diplomatic trump card.

      •  Not necessarily true. Read Mercatante's.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, Seeds, Quicklund

        "Why Germany Nearly Won". This excellent revisionist history spells out in great detail how frighteningly close to winning Germany actually came.

        Right through to the summer of 1944, the Germans were able to exact horrific losses on every Soviet advance because of their superior tactical skill. Only after the Panzer divisions had been ground to pieces, and with them the possibility of active mobile defence, were the Soviets able to consistently push the Germans back. And if the Germans hadn't squandered their panzer forces at Kursk, they would almost certainly have kept the Soviets pinned back in Ukraine right into 1944.

        Moreover, the Germans actually had a larger industrial base than the Soviets; if Speer had imposed discipline on German war production a year earlier than he did, things would have gone very differently in 1944.

        Finally, Germany was on the verge of introducing the revolutionary Type XXIII submarine in 1944. This craft was so quiet and advanced it would likely have reversed the course of the 'battle of the Atlantic' overnight. Scores of them were partly completed at the end of the war. But for allied bombing and German industrial incompetence, the D-Day fleet might have been savaged by them.

        •  Fat-Man and Little-Boy? (4+ / 0-)

          US developed Atomic Bomb with intent of beating Hitler and Germany.  And to beat Hitler to developing the Atom Bomb.  If US was still at war with a Germany that had hung on longer then probably Germany would have been first target.

        •  Iron Coffins (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Quicklund, Azazello

          One of my favorite books is Iron Coffins by a german U-Boat commander.  Towards the end of the war, these new submarines come out and he's assigned to command one of the older models, which everyone knows is close to a death sentence.  

          Also near the end, he's back in Germany and he and some other officers realize Germany is going to lose and they plan to take one of these new model submarines and escape.   I don't recall why but the plan doesn't go forward.  

          Good read.

        •  I don't deny it's possible to construct a scenario (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Azazello, Wreck Smurfy

          There are no absolutes in life. But the odds approach 0 For Germany after Stalingrad.

          Of course there is casualty advantage to the side on the strategic defense. The Confederates had the defensive advantage too. They also thought their tactical superiority wold enable them to fight off a much more powerful foe. Land like Nazi Germany, the CSA fought to support a system so undeserving, there was no hope of foreign intervention to save the day.

          Germany could have fought on, but once again the Allies would never stop coming until the Third Reich was destroyed. Minor and transitory advantages like slightly better tanks and defensive advantages notwithstanding.

          Even without the atomic bomb aspect, the Axis were going to lose.

        •  The supersub (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Azazello, jds1978, Wreck Smurfy

          i don't care how quiet a handful of subs would be, one new sub would not reverse the war in the Atlantic. By 1944 the Allies had air dominance over the entire Atlantic. By 1944 the Uboat bases in France were lost. By 1944 all North Africa was an allied staging ground. A few subs were not going to shut down the North and South Atlantic.

  •  Great diary, thanks... (6+ / 0-)

    I'd add another recommendation for the book Enemy At The Gates by William Craig), as well.  It does a great job of interlacing big picture strategy with individual stories, whether it's from the POV of a Russian sniper or a German artillery captain.  I had very little understanding of the incredible human toll suffered by both sides until I read this book. As unpopular as it may be to say it, we owe a huge debt to the Soviets for what they endured in this war at the hands of the Nazis.

    Check out The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer, too. It's the autobiography of a German grunt infantryman (born in France, lived in Alsace and drafted i to the German army)  on the Eastern Front and it follows him as his unit fights against the Russian advance in the final years of the war. A deeply intimate and horrifying memoir.  It's been the subject of a good deal controversy with some academics for historical inaccuracies, but a lot of those seemed pretty minor to me.

    Beevor's book is great, too, and his book Berlin, also recommended above, made me forget that the Germans were the enemy while I was reading it. After everything the Russians suffered through in the earlier stages of the war, from the siege of Leningrad and the battles of Moscow and Stalingrad, this book really defines payback being a real bitch.

    "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." --Mark Twain--

    by malthus on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 06:49:27 AM PDT

    •  Sajer's book was very engrossing, whether (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, malthus

      every detail is historically accurate or not. He gives the details of what it was like to be on that front very plainly and viscerally.

      I was most struck by his account of his "cosmic experience" while lying in a truck, wounded, frozen, and starving and seeing the sky through trees.

      It made me reflect -- and I'm sure many many had profound insights in reaction to the total stress of battle -- that if enough people were able and willing to go straight to the "cosmic experience" on their own, there probably would be no wars. I think that type of experience is why many warriors come to glorify war, being pushed out of the humdrum daily existence, and attributing the profundity to the war, instead of the bedrock essence of the human spirit.

      The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

      by Jim P on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 09:34:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Most significant battle of WW2? I think not...... (5+ / 0-)

    Without a doubt, the MOST significant battle of the WHOLE of the conflict was the Battle of Britain. No less an authourity than Genral H . H. Arnold stated that, in the summer of 1940, the Royal Air Force 'took off to save everything; and they did'.

    The RAF loses? Britain falls. Hitler takes the whole of Europe. There is NO 'impregnable aircraft carrier',  NO 8th Air Force assault, NO D-Day.

    Hiltler lets the Soviet/German non-aggression pact run another 12 months or so, until the timing is right, then smashes the Soviet Union.

    It's over....for the full effect, read 'Fatherland'


    Former Deputy Airshow Co-ordinator
    Battle of Britain Airshow Office
    Royal Air Force

    •  From an English-speaking England/American (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, mightymouse, Quicklund, jds1978

      point of view, you are indeed right. But would Germany have succeeded in invading and conquering Great Britain? I think not, maybe occupy the southeast for a brief time but even that would have consumed mass resources with modest returns and an inability to sustain itself. It would have forced the USA into the war sooner. Hilter then may have delayed or never launched the invasion of Russia.
      Given the massive effort it took the allies to return to the far shore, Germany wasn't capable of invading Great Britain.
      The battle of Britain is remarkable in that it involved thousands, working in unison, possessing incredibly great intelligence. It also had one of the greatest promoters - Winston. He's tireless, focused energy is what made the difference.  

      •  I agree consequences of "losing" the BoB would be (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, Sparhawk

        probably not high.
        1) If the RAF was in danger of being annihilated they could have pulled aircraft to fields north and west of London (impossible for luftwaffe to reach without bases in the UK.
        2) After Norway the German surface navy was virtually non existent, plus the slow, leaky craft being prepared to transport an invasion force were verrrry slow and unseaworthy.
        3) Any invasion before mid-August was impossible due to dealing with French army remnants, supply arrangements, getting ad hoc invasion forces ready, etc.
        4) By August British land forces would have been significantly reorganized and begun to be resupplied.
        5) German navy was ecxtremely skeptical and only willing to try to defend a narrow front landing in the southeast (an area easily contained by the British.
        6) Tank and tank support transport by Germans minimal to the UK.
        7) Should an invasion be attempted a recuperated RAF (training and resupplying north of London) could advance to a.) protect the Royal Navy coming south and east and b.) attack German invasion fleet.
        8) German paratroops would have an even harder time then they did in Crete and could do little unreinforced (see 1944 allies at D-Day and Arnhem).
        9) D-Day was difficult with virtual 100% British/American air and sea dominance and years to prepare. The Germans had weeks (and the Soviet Union to watch).

        Mind, had I been in the UK in 1940 I'd probably view things somewhat differently, but objectively Sealion was only feasible after a (highly unlikely) British collapse in morale.

        "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ". C. S. Lewis

        by TofG on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 11:18:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  All Hitler needed was peace with Great Britain (0+ / 0-)

        If he'd been able to invade, GB might have sued for peace, taking them out of the war, no second front and probably gained Germany some of the British possessions in the Empire.

        "Reason is six-sevenths of treason," said one of his neighbors. "Intelligence is what the enemy uses," said another.

        by Misterpuff on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 01:17:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "If he'd been able to invade", but Germany (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Quicklund, Sparhawk, Wreck Smurfy

          couldn't successfully invade. A few divisions and paratroops might have established a bridgehead, but it could not have been sustained. I don't see how British resistance to invasion would have been less then Soviet, and the always unpredictable Channel weather would make any effective German reinforcements doubtful, even without fanatical British resistance on land and the Royal Navy.

          "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ". C. S. Lewis

          by TofG on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 01:30:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Good points, somewhat true, but Stalin (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, Wreck Smurfy

      was in the midst of reorganizing and updating equipment for his armies. There is on record an address of his announcing that Summer 1942 would be the time where they would be able to absorb a German attack and then counter-attack.

      If the invasion had come a year later, I don't think the Germans would have had anything like the successes they did in 1941, and might well have been conquered earlier than the were, West or no West.

      What blew up in his face was that he had expected Hitler to avoid a two-front war, that he wouldn't move until Britain was defeated or subsumed. He expected he had another year to prepare.

      The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

      by Jim P on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 09:46:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for the reminder of the 70th (4+ / 0-)

    anniversary. It was a tremendous battle, although I would argue that the Nazis never had any chance of defeating the Soviet Union.
    There is a great deal of more recent scholarship that debunks or clarifies some of the myths of the Cold War era. For example, it was the Soviets` own agent Richard Sorge who determined that Japan would not attack in the Far East. Also, the much-vaunted Siberian reserves amounted to a grand total of 6 rifle divisions, which were certainly helpful, but hardly decisive in saving Moscow in 1941. (Walter S. Dunn, Stalin`s Keys to Victory, Stackpole Books, 2006, pp 82-3)

    -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

    by Wreck Smurfy on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 08:11:33 AM PDT

    •  Moscow was saved... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello, mightymouse, milkbone Hitler.  The attack on the Soviet Union was supposed to begin May of 1941, which would have given the German armies enough time to capture Moscow before the onset of the Russian winter.  Hitler, however, wanted to crush an anti-German coup in Yugoslavia, so he ordered his Army to attend to that, postponing the invasion date for five weeks (bad weather also played a part in the delay).  By the time the Germans arrived at Moscow, winter set in, preventing further fighting, and the Russians survived to fight another year.

      The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

      by TheOrchid on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 08:52:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  IIRC (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the Yugoslav partisans acted for exactly this reason, at Russia's request.  I wonder if that was the reason they were never occupied later by Russian troops/

        •  The partisan movement in Yugoslavia (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wilderness voice

          did not begin until 1942 at the earliest. They were not occupied by the Soviets in 1944 - 45 because they had liberated their own country before the Red Army arrived, due to German withdrawals.
          But there is no question that the Yugoslavian resistance was a major drain on Nazi resources, all through the war in the east. Good on them!

          -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

          by Wreck Smurfy on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 07:56:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Must disagree. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, GeoffT

        The spring of 1941 was very wet in eastern Europe and the rivers were in consequence very high. The Nazis would not have been able to launch their attack any earlier than they did.
        More importantly, the Nazis were not logistically capable of advancing any faster or farther than they did. Their plan was predicated on the notion that the Soviet system would collapse almost immediately. Hitler himself said

        we only need to kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure will collapse.
        Sounds like certain quotes from certain military experts about 10 years ago.
        When the Red Army showed it was capable of real resistance, Barbarossa was doomed. Have a look at Operation Barbarossa and Germanys Defeat in the East by David Stahel. A very eye-opening read.

        -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

        by Wreck Smurfy on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 01:52:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  My understanding is that the spring of 1941 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wreck Smurfy

        Had been particularly wet, making the western Soviet Union muddy and hence unsuitable for the fast movements required of blitzkrieg, so Barbarossa's start date was not affected by the diversion in Yugoslavia.

        Also, Hitler ordered AG Centre's Panzergruppe 2 south and Panzergruppe 3 north because he'd changed his mind about the whole Moscow thing, before changing it back again.

        Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

        by GeoffT on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 03:22:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Read 'Bodyguard of Lies' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Wreck Smurfy

    the common narratives of the second world war often miss the influence of intelligence and counter-intelligence. The roles of many individual actors acting in concert or opposition played a greater influence that commonly thought.  
    Thanks for the excellent post. Most Americans have no idea what the soviet people when through in WWII.

  •  Great diary, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and thanks Azazello! T & R'd.

  •  Soviet troops were underarmed, and in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Joncleir

    Stalingrad, they were sent on the attack with instructions for the completely unarmed men to pick up the rifles of the men in front of them who were killed.

    Can you imagine the terror of being in that situation? Knowing that if you turned back you'd be shot by your own side.

    Reading now Ernst Topitsch's "Stalin's War." Makes a good case that Stalin was the strategic genius of the day, running circles around Hitler, Churchill, FDR, and the Japanese.

    Through his pacts with first Hitler then Japan he let them free to attack those he considered his major enemies, the US and Britain. He wanted the Capitalists powers to exhaust themselves in war, then he would simply roll his massive, and newly-equipped and reorganized, armies through all of Europe.

    In the event, he did manage to grab all of Eastern Europe, partially as a result of his previous strategy of letting the Allies and Germany slug it out with each other while he sat back.

    The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

    by Jim P on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 09:54:07 AM PDT

    •  I think most of the credit (10+ / 0-)

      for the Red Army's successes should go to Zhukov. Stalin's only talent was ruthlessness in protecting his own personal power. It was he, after all, who purged the army's best officers, see Rokossovsky, while leaving senile idiot Budyenny in command for far too long. Stalin was the head of a violent mafia, plain and simple. His purges amounted to a holocaust of his own citizens.

      The GOP ... Government of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

      by Azazello on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 10:13:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  For sure, Stalin was psychotic scum. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello, FG

        But politically more astute than any other player on the international scene during the run-up, and through, the War.

        It seems the military catastrophes he insisted on producing came from his ignorance of reality, and that Soviet doctrine had only an "Attack" component, and no "Defense" component. So we get the forward placement of most of the army at the time of invasion, the disastrous counter-attack after the push on Moscow was stopped, etc. That attack was emphasized and defense ignored, I'm pretty sure that was Stalin's doing, and not the surviving military leaders' (if they weren't so cowed by Stalin.)

        btw, if you've not read them, Montefiore's 2-vol biography of Stalin is very informative. "Young Stalin" covers before he is fully in power, "Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar" after.

        I was amazed to find that the young Stalin was a "life-of-the-party" type, full of fun and jokes and song. Many of his contemporaries opined that he would have been the most famous singer in Russia, had he chosen that path.

        And then there's all the murder, betrayal, and robbery side of Young Stalin.

        A revelation, too, on how much the Bolsheviks depended on Stalin's thefts to finance themselves through the early days of the Revolution. Which explained why he had such prominence and support in their structure. (my grandfather fought the Bolshies, a Captain with the Whites, btw, which is why I'm here)

        The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

        by Jim P on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 10:35:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I don't know about that (4+ / 0-)

      Finland completely humiliated the Red Army because of horrific planning, tactics, and equipment used in that operation.

      Plus Stalin's generals were warning him for weeks about the Nazi buildup on their border in 1941 and he ignored them. Stalin had no mobilization, and post Nazi invasion he sat around for about a 2 week period stunned that Hitler would do that. As a result the Germans captured millions of prisoners, killed millions of soldiers, and cut off the importation of food and goods to the rest of Russia.

      So, I don't agree at all with that thesis from that book. In fact I think Stalin was pretty amateurish in terms of governing and strategy. I think Hitler greatly outsmarted him with the non-aggression treaty, and did not anticipate England would be as unwilling to sign a peace treaty as they were. He thought and wrote about their history as a white race having much in common with the Nazis and thought they'd be more than willing to want and have peace.

      If he would have been correct on that assumption he'd have won. I have no doubt about it. A singular 1 pronged war and Germany would have annihilated Russia.

      If Germany had defeated all else and England was no longer involved and had signed a peace treaty, he'd have put all his forces and resources on the Russian border. I think that was the point of the non-aggression treaty, because he read Stalin like a book, knowing Stalin would never believe he'd attack. So it would have been a surprise invasion with all his focus there and I think they might have gotten to Moscow in 40 days, perhaps less, and the world would be vastly different.

      "When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained." - Mark Twain

      by Moon Mop on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 10:24:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Finland debacle was the first phase, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        new (and surviving) commanders made short work of the Finn's after that.

        Again, politically, the results speak for themselves. Germany fighting Britain? Check. Japan fighting Britain and the US? Check. Stalin in no war for the first 1.5 years? Check. Gaining a large part of Europe at the end of the War? Check.

        If Hitler hadn't started a two-front war, if the Soviets had another year of their furiously-ongoing rearming with modern weapons, and reorganization, with a what? 10 to 1, 20 to 1, man/woman-power advantage, and 20-, 30-, 40-1 advantages in tanks, artillery, and planes...

        That makes Stalin smarter than Hitler, clearly.

        Hitler misjudged the Brits and he should have known from centuries experience the Brits would not tolerate a continental power dominating Europe. But his racialist fantasies blinded him. Stalin had no such fantasies, though he did fear that Hitler might be able to unite with Britain as Capitalists. But he played both sides well enough. It was just that counter-to-all-doctrine-ever two-front war Hitler started which blew up Stalin's plans.

        The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

        by Jim P on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 10:47:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good post, thanks for sharing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Sparhawk, Wreck Smurfy

    possibly re-published to World War II and Holocaust History Library, (don't know if I've mastered the keystrokes yet)

    Good history and very revealing comments.  We Americans forget that the war started in 1939 and involved more than Pear Harbor, D-Day, Iwo and Hiroshima.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 11:25:39 AM PDT

  •  Thank you! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, MBNYC, Wreck Smurfy

    Grossman's diaries are a very good (and underappreciated) source.

  •  Great Diary on this pivotal battle.. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, Quicklund, Wreck Smurfy

    Also a reminder that the US did not win WW2 all alone We had allies who sacrificed as much or in my opinion more as in Russia's case to win the war. That list included the UK , Canada, Australia,the free armies of France Poland. Given what has gone on in the US this past decade, the we can do it alone crap, i think that this bit of our history needs to be explained in that light.

    America, We blow stuff up!!

    by IndyinDelaware on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 12:35:07 PM PDT

  •  This is a fantastic piece of writing. (6+ / 0-)

    One of the best history pieces I've honestly ever seen here. Profoundly well done.

    One small oversight: the value of Stalingrad wasn't just strategic, it was symbolic. The Volga is deeply revered in Russian folklore on the one hand, and on the other, Hitler very much wanted the propaganda coup of taking the city named after his enemy, Stalin, after having lost the battle of Moscow.

    But again, extremely well done. Shared, tweeted, tipped, rec'd, all that.

    Fuck me, it's a leprechaun.

    by MBNYC on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 02:22:22 PM PDT

  •  Soviet's contribution to allied victory cannot... (7+ / 0-) understated: Even if you discount the fact that they faced and eventually destroyed the very best of the Wermacht's Panzer divisions - between 75-80% of Germany's armed forces were engaged on the Eastern Front between 1941 - 1944. Even with air superiority, it's hard to imagine how the Western Allies would have been able to successfully invade France had the Americans & Great Britain been forced to contend with the full might of the German's military machine. Without the Soviet Army's defeat of the Wermacht, I believe it's highly likely that the Allies would have had to employ the atomic bomb to defeat Germany and unseat the Nazis from power.

  •  ...awesome diary... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, ybruti, Sandy on Signal dad was in the Navy in the South Pacific...mine sweeper...very, very serious...he was the radar operator (radar was brand new then...he finished 2nd in the first class for radar in the Navy)...

    Granddad, however, was a doc in WWI...trench war fare in France...brutal...hideous...

    Well, thanks for this incredible diary Azazello!

    (great granddad died fighting for the Union [Pennsylvania] having had his leg shot off from a cannon ball)

    Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences.

    by paradise50 on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 04:51:57 PM PDT

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