20

The Germans spent a large amount of manpower in adverse territory for this city, even after long exhausting continuous combat.

After the war, Kliest wrote:

The capture of Stalingrad was subsidiary to the main aim. It was only of importance as a convenient place, in the bottleneck between Don and the Volga, where we could block an attack on our flank by Russian forces coming from the East. At the start, Stalingrad was no more than a name on the map to us.

Yes it is a fact that Stalingrad was not significantly resourceful to fight for. Why then did the Germans, after seeing that it was to be a long affair, not just encircle the city? Instead they kept fighting for it in close quarter combat for the city's buildings, which is almost always a disadvantageous, slowing and depleting affair for an invading force. Considering the momentum of their initial advance, could they have fared better by crossing the Volga, and laying siege to city?

27

A number of things went wrong in the German advance on Stalingrad. One of them is that after Paulus made it to the Volga in late August, 1942, he was supposed to chase the Russians into Stalingrad where the Luftwaffe would supposedly bomb them to death. But the Luftwaffe bombed Stalingrad before the Russians retreated, which is to say that most of them survived, and then fortified the ruins, which made excellent cover, instead of killing them.

Then there was the issue that the Sixth Army consisted of only 18 divisions, less than the Germans had used in previous sieges. To "encircle and besiege" Stalingrad, they needed more units, which Hoth's Fourth Army could have supplied-- if it had not been shuttled back and forth between Stalingrad and the Caucasus.

Third, the Russians actually concentrated most of their defensive strength OUTSIDE Stalingrad, on the flanks, which effectively prevented a German encirclement, and led to the later Russian encirclement of the Germans.

Basically, the "path of least resistance" for the Sixth Army was through Stalingrad itself, if the Luftwaffe had timed the bombing of the defenders properly. The Germans almost pushed through the survivors, and would probably have prevailed against a "lesser" number.

  • 1
    Accepted for the close reference to on-field conditions. – Rohit Jul 31 '15 at 10:21
14

The answer is Hitler.

He was obsessed with the political damage the falling of a city named "Stalingrad" would have upon Stalin and the USSR, and wanted it more or less destroyed, so he explicitly ordered von Paulus not to encircle the city and wait for it to die(as the normal procedure would be), but to capture and raze it. Paulus was hesitant, but obedient, and he did as he was bid, which was a grave and fatal mistake, as we all know, and should have been apparent to anybody even back then.

Source: memories from a few books of Bevin Alexander, common knowledge, Wikipedia, tales

  • 1
    Another source for this is Antony Beevor's book "Stalingrad". Although the logistical problems highlighted in other answers no doubt played a big part too. Hitler might have been more willing to listen to Paulus, and indeed Paulus might have been less spineless in his objections, if there was a stronger case for encircling or bypassing the city. – Bob Tway Jul 29 '15 at 8:54
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    Sorry, but while it seems true that Hitler ordered the assault of Stalingrad against his generals' judgement, it doesn't look like its encirclement was in the original plans. For the siege the Germans would need to cross Volga twice, which is... well, about twice as hard as crossing it once after capturing the city. On the contrary, original plans were a lot less ambitious and called simply for establishing a foothold somewhere on Volga, preventing its use to transport goods from Caspian Sea. – IMil Jul 29 '15 at 16:41
9

The problem was that Stalingrad is actually a huge city. It lies for miles on the west bank of the Volga. The Volga in many places is a mile wide or more and if defenders are in the city it would be easy to supply them by barge from the river. Establishing a force on the east bank would have been pointless because there was nothing to attack there and there would have been no way to supply those troops.

One of the big problems is that the Germans had little heavy weaponry and ammunition. Normally, if defenders are holing up in a city like that, you can easily defeat them just by blasting them to smithereens with heavy guns, but the Germans simply did not have the ammunition supply necessary to do that, so they were running around fighting with rifles street to street which was useless. The Red Army won the battle because they improved their artillery supply to a decisive degree.

  • In the other shore there was heavy artillery support, logistics, reinforcements waiting to cross, headquarters. Hardly "nothing to attack". Anyway, the point that an operation through a mile long river is quite difficult is right. – SJuan76 Jul 28 '15 at 15:04
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    The Volga at what is now Volgograd is not "a mile wide or more". Google Maps clearly shows that it's less than a kilometer wide along the whole length of Volgograd, except for a very short section at the extreme northern end that probably wasn't even within the city, seventy-five years ago. – David Richerby Jul 29 '15 at 8:23
  • a far bigger problem than the river allowing resupply of the city was the German lack of river crossing and bridging equipment which they'd have needed to get their forces across and keep them supplied. Tanks and field guns on the banks could (and at times did) effectively have engaged Soviet supply efforts (as could the Luftwaffe, speaking in a hypothetical case where the Germans had got across the river the Luftwaffe might also have built forward bases close to the city after all). – jwenting Jul 29 '15 at 11:20
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    "Just a mere kilometer wide river" - how easy to throw bridges in the mind over these tiny obstacles (twice) and draw lines and arrows on a blank map. This kind of strategizing got the Germans out on a limb in Stalingrad and the Caucasus in the first place. – Oldcat Jul 30 '15 at 16:48
0

Hitler intended to fight in Stalingrad; it was not a mistake. At one point, the German 6th Army was tying down 60 Russian divisions, this allowed the rest of Army Group South to reach the oil fields almost unchallenged; however, the mountain terrain added weeks to the objective - weeks which the army group were supposed to have returned north to relieve 6th Army at Stalingrad.

  • 2
    This answer would benefit from sources (and punctuation and capitalization). – Mark C. Wallace Apr 21 '16 at 11:10
0

Germany never attempted to cross the Volga at any point during the campaign. It was simply not part of the plan at any time, on any level. The Maykop oil fields was the main objective of Fall Blau, and Stalingrad was chosen as an optional objective only because it was a communications hub on the Volga that would make a convenient spot for the northern anchor to the Blau campaign.

Kleist later said after the war: The capture of Stalingrad was subsidiary to the main aim. It was only of importance as a convenient place, in the bottleneck between Don and the Volga, where we could block an attack on our flank by Russian forces coming from the east. At the start, Stalingrad was no more than a name on the map to us.

Hitler changed his mind a number of times about the objectives of Army group B (the norther arm of Blau). First Voronezh was optional. Then Voronezh became a target for an on the fly capture, which the Germans did manage. Then the 4th panzer army was diverted to support Army Group A. Then Hitler changed his mind again and redirected the 4th panzer army back to Army Group B to support the attack on Stalingrad (but not before giving 1/2 its forces to Army Group A)

Basically all this is to illustrate that the main goal was the oil fields in the south. And the German high command had very ambivalent/vague attitudes towards the goal of the Army Group B.

In truth, Army Group B had just one job. Protect the flank of Army group A.

Therefore, Voronezh was optional, and so was Stalingrad.

  • No sources no upvote. Please attribute your quote. Was it this thebattleofstalingrad1942-1943.weebly.com/… ? – LаngLаngС Dec 4 '18 at 17:13
  • You never know if someone is actually interested in how you came to know my most secret desires, or not. After all, I never told anyone and you could make all that up? – LаngLаngС Dec 4 '18 at 18:11
-1

Well, the problem with encircling Stalingrad is that; it is located on the far bank of the "River Volga". So, it's nearly impossible to encircle a city that is located on the far side of a river. But, the germans could have just surrounded the area outside of Stalingrad, and that is possibly the closest they will get to "encircling Stalingrad". Moreover, if Hitler wanted to capture the oilfields of Baku, it would be extremely difficult because Germany's supply lines would have been stretched too far out. But, let's just say they capture the oil fields. Well, bringing the oil back is another issue. It is back the Baku is more than 1,000 km from Stalingrad and MORE THAN 3700 KM FROM BERLIN! So, that means they will have to get past Partisan Movements, through Soviet counterattacks, through ariel raids, and through the harsh environment. I don't know about you guys, but if I was Adolph Hitler, I would have listened to my generals to not be obsessed over Stalingrad, and go for the main target the Caucasus. Also, if I could not capture the Caucasus, I would just bomb it. I know this will sound crazy too many of you. But, it is strategically correct. The Soviet got approximately 75% of their oil from the Baku. So, if there is no oil in Baku, then there is no way the Soviet can continue the war. I don't know about you guys. But, if the Soviets are low on oil, and oil from the Baku is vital for them. I would just snatch it away. It definitely will not be the best thing to do. But, as long as the Russians aren't getting any oil, I am okay with that

  • As I remember, Stalingrad was on the side of the Volga that the Germans were coming from. – David Thornley Dec 4 '18 at 18:10
  • @DavidThornley Your memory is largely correct, but not entirely: imgur.com/gallery/4X80q – LаngLаngС Dec 5 '18 at 10:37
-3

Hitler split up his Eastern Front army... Bad decision.. He should have kept his army intact, took the oil fields of southern Russia and while having his army intact, he could have taken and kept Stalingrad... He tried to swallow a huge 5 course meal in one bite and inevitably choked to death.

  • 5
    Four sentences isn't really enough to critique a country's whole strategy during a four-year war. The situation was clearly more nuanced than you suggest and more detail would be very helpful. But an answer that seems to be saying that Germany would trivially have conquered the USSR if only they'd used this simple strategy that is obvious to everyone has essentially no credibility. It's never that easy. (And my comment is already longer than your answer.) – David Richerby Jul 29 '15 at 8:27
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    @DavidRicherby The number of sentences is irrelevant. It is all about the detail and quality of the answer (not length). Using some facts that support your theory would greatly improve your answer. Since this is a History community, I am guessing they would want more fact based answers. You could be correct, but there is nothing to support your claim. – Warlord 099 Jul 29 '15 at 13:36

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