Hitler ordered his forces in Stalingrad to fight to the “last man and last round.”

A century and half earlier, a more respected German commander, Marshal Blücher claimed upon his surrender to the French at Lübeck, “I capitulate since I have neither bread nor ammunition.” Basically, Blücher fought to the last round and last crust, though not to the last man (he was outnumbered 4 to 1). Subsequently, many outnumbered and surrounded German units fought to the last round and then surrendered the surviving men.

How much ammunition did the Germans have when the last incoming flight arrived at Gumrak Airfield on January 22, 1943? Were they out of ammunition when they surrendered at the end of January? Did it make sense for the Germans to shoot off the last of their ammunition (at normal military usage) on any given day, and then surrender Blücher-style at least a week before they actually did? Or did Hitler give explicit orders to conserve ammunition and buy time (apparently ammunition was rationed when the Germans ran low at Stalingrad)?

1 Answer 1


You seem to overestimate the pure fact of the loss of the Goumrak airfield (on 21st of January), as even after that the 6th army still got the supplies by air (by another small airfield near Goumrak and by using parachutes) until the very end (which is not the end of January 1943, but exactly the 2nd February 1943, when the Strekker's group (ca. 40000 men) had capitulated).

It seems that virtually all sources agree that the Germans in Stalingrad got the following daily air-cargos:

25-29th Nov. - 53,8 tons per day
1-11th Dec. - 97,3 tons per day
13-21st Dec. - 137,7 tons per day
23 Dec. - 11th Jan. - 105,45 tons per day
12-16th Jan. - 60 tons per day
17-21th Jan. - 79 tons per day
22-23th Jan. - 45 tons per day
24 Jan. - 2nd Feb. - 77,9 tons per day

So the main problem was rather the effectiveness of the Soviet air-blockade (i.e. the increasing casualties in the Luftflotte 4), plus the advances and operations against the external air-fields and bases (such as Raid on Tatsinskaya), which eventually made air distances to rise from 200 to 450 kilometers, and finally the advance of 10th-14th January which led to the capture of the main air-field at Pitomnik.

Thus, the Germans in Stalingrad could never "run out of ammo" literally. However, the amount of supplies even in December 1942 was too low compared to the real needs of the 6th army. And an average ratio was probably even close to 1/10th, as per the prognose given by von Weichs in his report to Hitler on 22nd Nov. 1942.

Did it make sense for the Germans to shoot off the last of their ammunition, and then surrender Blücher-style a week before they actually did?

Well, what is sense and how many lives it's equal to? And why it is only "a week before"? In fact, the operation "Ring" costed a lot for the Soviet army, so Paulus' resistance cannot be called insignificant. Nonetheless, many people suggest that Paulus should have accepted the ultimatum on the 8th January. For example, Hans Doerr in his "Der Feldzug nach Stalingrad" says that after the 22nd of December (the fail of the "Winter Gewitter") Paulus had the perfect right to disobey Hitler's orders, and already on the 8th of January the 6th army was literally "in the same situation as Bluecher in Ratekau".

  • Your comment about January 8th makes a great deal of sense. I used January 22, 1943 as the "cut off" (the last flight into Gumrak), ignoring any thing that happened after, but also overlooking the fact that the Germans were "short" ammo before that. I did not realize that the Germans were receiving supplies in meaningful quantities after Gumrak was lost. Put another way, it made sense for Paulus to hold out until the failure of the Manstein relief expedition, shoot off his ammunition (at normal rates), and surrender around Christmas, when he would be effectively out of ammo (and bread).
    – Tom Au
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 17:51

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