In 1918, when the White Army was approaching Tsaritsyn, the semiliterate, emblematic Red army commander Aleksandr Parkhomenko said, "Moscow is Russia's head and Tsaritsyn is its heart!"
Today, the battle of Stalingrad is rightly called the Battle of the Century. As a matter of fact, this was also known during World War II but what is great becomes clearer with the passage of time.
Army General V. Lobov, Doctor of Military Science (the last Chief of Central Command of the USSR Armed Forces) wrote, "It is interesting to draw a parallel between this and the events of 1812 the 190th anniversary of which we are celebrating now. Basically, Hitler first copied Napoleon's strategy. While Napoleon intended to defeat the troops and capture the capital of a state after which the state would of course capitulate, Hitler acted in almost the same way. He basically copied Napoleon in the beginning of the war, in the theatre of military operations and in the strategic direction. He amassed his troops in the same place and struck a blow on Moscow in an effort to reach it as soon as possible, hoping that Russia would capitulate after that.
But he failed. Then Hitler decided to deprive us of BAKU OIL, I.E. THE RAW MATERIAL SOURCES WHICH WOULD NOT ONLY HAVE STOPPED OUR MILITARY EQUIPMENT BUT ALSO OUR DEFENCE INDUSTRY… (highlighted by the author)".
G. Kumanev, Doctor of History, Professor, Director of the National Academy of Sciences' Centre of Military History of Russia, continues this line of thought, "Yes, the south was chosen as the main direction of the German offensive in summer 1942. After the offensive on the Caucasus with the passage to oil regions, Hitler planned to cross the Main Caucasus Range and reach the oil-bearing regions of Iran and Iraq."
Colonel A. Bondarenko, editor of history, literature and arts at Krasnaya Zvezda army newspaper, described this strategy of Hitler's as "Napoleonic plans and oil reality". In our opinion, this is a very accurate, almost mathematical definition!
"The German General Staff believed the loss of Baku oil would have disastrous effects for the Soviet armed forces," wrote Viktor Ivanovich Ilyukhin, head of the State Duma Safety Department, a professor and a man far from any sympathy for Baku. "THAT WAS ONE OF THE FEW SHARED OPINIONS IN BOTH THE GERMAN AND SOVIET GENERAL STAFFS [highlighted by the author]. That is why the German armed forces were defeated in November and December 1942 on the distant approaches to Baku, driven away from the Caucasus and suffered a shattering defeat near Stalingrad."
Suvorov writes of the battle for Stalingrad briefly and plainly, "The occupation of the Caucasus meant almost the certain collapse of the Stalinist regime. The Caucasus is oil. The fall of Stalingrad implied the same: oil crossed the Caspian Sea and went up the Volga. The simplest way to cut this oil artery was to get to Stalingrad. All they needed was just to break through to the river bank, place a couple of tanks on the slope and start sinking oil tankers."
That was their minimum program, the maximum one being the occupation of Baku and then of everywhere else.
In the 1970s the legendary hero of Stalingrad Chuykov said of the victory in that battle, "We won because we had Great Russia and Mother Volga behind us!" Great Russia stood behind the Red Army soldiers in Moscow, Leningrad and Kursk as well, in one word, in any battlefield. Oil was a further inspiration behind Mother Volga!
In choosing this direction, Hitler had other strategic aims alongside the oil factor. One crossing is known to have existed on the Volga, in the region of Stalingrad. Industrial assets, hundreds of plants, workers and their families, were evacuated across this bridge. Large numbers of cattle were evacuated across this bridge, which has been completely forgotten today, as were the rural population. The mass of retreating troops, defeated in Ukraine and Belorussia, without command, who had lost communication with their units crossed the bridge, while defence troops with their command also retreated across the bridge to put up resistance on new borders. From the other side, reserves were moving up from the depths of country.
In other words, the Volga was the dynamic core of the whole state.
The great Mikhail Botvinnik, many times a world chess champion whom I was lucky enough to meet at the chessboard, used to say that in order to achieve success on the chessboard you should choose debuts that surprise your opponent, that have not been studied very much and are considered dubious - as a rule your opponent does not expect such moves. Hitler knew full well that Stalin expected a fresh offensive on Moscow and was gathering his main forces there. Alongside oil and other factors, Hitler probably thought that a strike on the south would be unexpected for Stalin. According to many military historians, Hitler's calculation worked well in many ways.
After the war, on 30 September, 1946, Wilhelm Keitel said, "The aim and the meaning of the operation for the Fuehrer were as follows. By making the first advance towards Voronezh, about half-way between Moscow and Donetsk, to confuse the Russians about our plan, to disorient them and to give them the impression that we were going north to Moscow, to contain their reserves there. Then he wanted to sever different railway lines (north-south) between Moscow and the industrial and oil regions; to move the troops rapidly and suddenly along the Don, to the south, to occupy the Donetsk coal basin, the oil region of the Caucasus and at Stalingrad block the Volga water transport route which supplied oil from Baku to the troops via hundreds of oil tankers. The troops of the Axis states (Romania, Hungary and Italy) were to cover the protracted northern flank of the operation with their 30 divisions along the Don, the latter being a water barrier, where they seemed protected against supposed attacks from the river."
The Allies realized the significance of Stalingrad as well. When the Nazi troops launched their summer advance, rushing towards the Volga and the Caucasus with the objective of occupying Stalingrad with its immense industrial base supplying the Red Army with arms, including T-34 tanks, and isolating the country from the oil sources of the Caucasus, a worried Roosevelt wrote to Stalin on 9 July, 1942. In his letter, Roosevelt told Stalin that he had given orders for the immediate dispatch of 115 medium-sized tanks with ammunition and spares in addition to all the tanks already dispatched under previously agreed conditions. The Germans seized Kharkov, the main tank factory, besieged Leningrad, the second largest industrial centre where the Kirov plant was located, and bombed the Stalingrad tractor plant; only the Red Sormovo plant in Moscow remained but it produced a small amount of old-fashioned tanks, while work across the Urals was just beginning. Roosevelt could picture the future of the USSR, and not only of the USSR, if the Germans were to gain the upper hand in Stalingrad.
Everyone understood the significance of Stalingrad.
Well-known American scholar of Azerbaijani origin, L. Zadeh, declared the principle of incompatibility: a high degree of accuracy is impossible for high-complexity systems. Postulates of a too general or elusive nature cannot be derived or substantiated by means of precise reasoning and familiar methods. The "fuzzy set" theory which he developed later had a widespread application in the identification of complex systems. The whole system of the USSR and Red Army was a "fuzzy set", according to various leading politicians of the world who assessed the capabilities of the system. The USSR leaders used to present it as an "indestructible rock" in the ocean of world capitalism. Hitler used to call the USSR a "colossus with feet of clay". Leading Western politicians disagreed on this problem, as it was indeed a great problem. The immediate pre-war years also failed to clarify the matter. The Red Army's disgrace in the war with Finland was quite balanced out by Khalkhin-Gol and the ambiguity remained. The situation was no clearer after the defeat of the Red Army in the first months of the war either, for it was soon followed by the defeat of the Germans outside Moscow, the first defeat since the beginning of World War II. THE MOMENT OF TRUTH OCCURRED IN STALINGRAD - WHATEVER THE OUTCOME, THE RED ARMY WAS TURNING FROM A "FUZZY SET" INTO AN ACCURATE AND QUITE PREDICTABLE SYSTEM WITH SPECIFIC CAPACITIES! And this is what happened after Stalingrad. The Red Army turned into a clearly defined system and it became clear to everyone, both friend and foe, that the main force in Europe was the Red Army with its inexhaustible resources. But this clarity appeared only after that terrible battle.
It is sufficient to look at the map of oil deposits and oil pipelines in the East during World War II (see map 2) to imagine the possible development of the war if Stalingrad had fallen. In that case the Germans would have controlled the Volga, the main artery of the USSR, and the Urals, where virtually all the factories had been evacuated, would have been cut off. Oil reserves in the isolated part of the USSR, where the main body of the Red Army was deployed, would have lasted for 10 or 15 days. Moreover, these reserves were mainly located at Moscow oil depots and some in Kuibyshev (Samara), the reserve capital. The Red Army would have been left without tanks and tank fuel, for the 30 or 40 tanks produced every month by Red Sormovo in Moscow and the oil in storage depots would not have solved anything.
In such circumstances, lifting the blockade of Leningrad (Leningrad in its depleted state, stripped of material resources, was no longer an economic force in the country) and joining up with the main body of forces, the Germans would have struck Moscow and this time Moscow would have had no chance of hold out, without tanks, fuel and Siberian regiments.
Operation Edelweiss would have been developed after the fall of Stalingrad, as the Soviet troops concentrated in the region would have been cut off from the main forces and would not have been able to show serious resistance to the German army.
If the Nazis had seized Baku, just 450 km away from them (see map 3), the USSR would have been left with just 2.2 million tones of oil and two oil refineries in Saratov and Ufa which would have been immediately bombed by the Luftwaffe, no doubt.
With so little oil and without large oil refineries the USSR would have had to stop serious resistance in several months. American oil supplies for the whole USSR via Murmansk were a kind of science fiction!
At the final stage of Operation Edelweiss, when the Germans would have come very close to Baku, there would have been three possible variants of development. 1. Baku oilfields would have been destroyed by Stalin's saboteurs. 2. Baku oilfields would have been bombed out by British strategic aviation. 3. To protect the oilfields, the Germans would have landed troops in Baku.
Stalin's intention to destroy the Baku oilfields is beyond any doubt, that was a part of his vast and almost fantastic plan concerning this region. Sudoplatov writes in his memoirs that when the Germans approached the Caucasus he was sent by Stalin's order to Tbilisi to organize underground subversive groups (?!) to oppose the future occupiers. And it appears that Stalin himself intended to lead the struggle against the future occupiers from the territory of India. Stalin's personal interpreter V. Berezhkov published his amazing memories before his death. Berezhkov recalls, "After a conversation with Churchill that ended at about three in the morning, Stalin charged my colleague Pavlov with accompanying the British premier to the so-called state dacha No 7 provided for the latter as a residence; I was to draw up the text of a telegram for our embassy in Washington, and the telegram was to be signed by Stalin, as usual… While I was engaged in this task, Stalin was walking about the patterned carpet strip, puffing his pipe. Molotov stayed at the other end of the table where he had been sitting during the conversation with Churchill. That was when I heard from our leader what he had hesitated to tell anyone so far. 'Vyacheslav (Molotov - Author), what if have to add to the list of governments-in-exile?' Stalin asked in a muffled voice. 'If the Germans advance beyond the Urals, it can happen…' (These events happened in late 1941. - Author)
"'But that is tantamount to death,' Molotov's response was somewhat embarrassed.
"'We always have time for death. But now we'd better weigh up all the possible variants. Churchill said that if Britain is occupied by the Nazis, his government will continue the struggle against the enemy from abroad, for instance from Canada.' Stalin went up up to a roll on the wall, pulled a cord and unfolded a map of the Eastern hemisphere… Passing his good hand over the territory of the Soviet Union, he went on, 'Certainly, we should not take the route to London where over a dozen governments-in-exile are residing even without us. It was for a reason that I told Churchill yesterday that I had already been to London at a convention of the Bolshevik party with Lenin. That is enough for me. But India could be quite an appropriate place…' and he waved his pipe over the big subcontinent. I have never heard of this incredible plan again from anyone. Obviously, Molotov did not share it with anyone and took it to the grave."
Leading psychologists have said many things about Stalin. The above conversation between him and Molotov leaves a strange impression.
Churchill would have undoubtedly tried to bomb the Baku oilfields. Where the UK's supreme interests were concerned, Churchill spared neither friend nor foe, which was perhaps right at that time. When cryptographers reported that the Germans were plotting an air raid on a British town, Churchill ordered that the population of the town should not be informed of the coming raid and that just fire-fighting squads should be prepared, so that the Germans did not guess that the British had deciphered their codes.
On 7 June, 1943, in the first days of the Kursk battle, the military manager of the Penemuende project, General Walter Dornberger, and the research manager of the project, Werner von Braun, were invited to report to Hitler. After that the missile programme was declared top priority for the Wehrmacht.
On the night of 17-18 August 600 British bombers made a raid on Penemuende. About 600 foreign workers died in the air raids, although the British were being aware of their presence. The same summer the British struck another, more tangible blow on the German missile programme. They bombed the Zeppelin plants andFriedrichshafen where the FAU-2 ballistic missiles had been produced since early 1943; foreign workers were killed in these raids too. And finally, on Christmas Eve, 24 December, 1943, 1,300 British and American aircraft bombed the launching platforms that the Germans had built along the English Channel.
If it had been expedient for British interests, Churchill would not have stopped at bombing the Baku oilfields either, despite the inevitable losses for the civilians of Baku!
Map 2 shows clearly that if events had developed in that way, the "pincers" would have inevitably and very quickly closed in on the vast oil region of Azerbaijan - Iran and later everywhere else, for Britain would not have been able to protect the area against German attacks from two directions. Britain would have had insoluble problems with oil from the very beginning of military action in the region, as oil would have stopped to flow from there.
The main oil artery of the`Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was located in the region of Khuzestan (with the centre in Abadan). Those deposits produced 12 million tonnes of oil annually. For Britain, "the loss of Abadan and the island of Bahrain would have meant catastrophe, as it would have sharply cut its military potential" and would probably "have made the continuation of military operations in some regions impossible". The Joint Chiefs of Staff assessment, dated July 1942 shows the immense significance of the Abadan oil region for Britain, "The occupation of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania would be the best contribution to the maintenance of security in the Middle East. But even at the worst, if the Russian front is penetrated and extra reserves fail to be deployed, it would be more efficient to hold the region of Abadan, even risking the loss of Egypt, as the main goal of all our efforts in the Middle East is to protect oil sources and sea communications by means of which oil is transported to the metropolis." Even such a pessimistic situation assessment by the Joint Chiefs of Staff is very optimistic indeed.
Churchill fully understood the consequences of such a development of affairs for Britain and the whole of Europe. The USSR ambassador to England, I.I. Mayskiy, remembers, "Arguing with the prime minister, I said (quoting from the record in my diary on 16 February, 1942), "I do not know your opinion but we are facing a menacing situation now. A really crucial moment in the course of the war has come. Either - or. What is the situation? Germany is preparing a serious advance for this year. Germany is gambling on this year. If we manage to crush Germany's spring attack, the war is basically won. The backbone of Hitler's military machine will be broken this year. It will remain merely to finish off the mad beast. The rest will be relatively easy if they are defeated. But let us imagine that we fail to crush the German attack in the spring. Let us imagine that the Red Army has to retreat again and we begin losing territory and the Germans succeed in breaking through to the Caucasus, what then? For Hitler will not stop in the Caucasus. He will go farther - to Iran, Turkey, Egypt and India. He will shake hands with Japan somewhere in the basin of the Indian Ocean, will reach for Africa. Germany's oil, raw materials and food problems will be solved. The British Empire will collapse, and the USSR will lose territories of the utmost importance. Of course, the USSR would continue the struggle even in such circumstances [that was meant for Stalin's ears! - Author]. But what would our chances for a victory be? Here is the choice: now or never!"
Churchill who had listened to me frowning, with his head bent to one side, suddenly rose up and said very excitedly, "We would better die than put up with such a situation!"
Eden, who was sitting next to the prime minister, added, "I quite agree with the ambassador. This is an exact statement of the question, now or never!"
It is important to mention that in any case, even if the Baku and Iranian oilfields had been destroyed, the Germans had in stock synthetic fuel (which Britain failed to produce for various reasons), a considerable amount of Romanian oil and some oil from Hungary and Poland. And by seizing the Crimea the Germans had secured the Romanian oilfields.
This was was the cost of the battle for Stalingrad, first of all for Moscow and London, and therefore for the whole of Europe.
The Stalingrad epic had begun! On 28 March, 1942 a meeting in Hitler's headquarters discussed the plan for the summer advance of the Nazi troops. General Warlimont, who attended the meeting, mentioned later that "Moscow was still rather irrelevant as an object of attack".
On 5 April, 1942 Hitler signed Wehrmacht Supreme Command Guideline No 41 which said that all forces were to be concentrated to conduct the main operation in the south with the purpose of occupation of the oil-bearing regions of the Caucasus, passage across the Caucasus range and further actions in the southern direction.
Before the advance began, Hitler flew to Poltava on 1 June where he set objectives and delivered ardent speeches, surrounded by his generals, among whom was Col-Gen Paulus, the commander of the 6th Army.
So, the choice was made, the main, crucial battle of World War II began - the battle for Stalingrad that can rightly be called "The Big Battle for Big Oil"! To ensure the surprise of the attack, the German command took numerous measures to conceal the direction of the main strike in the summer campaign. A semblance was to be made as if the Wehrmacht were going to launch the advance in the central part of the front to seize Moscow. For this purpose, on the orders of the Wehrmacht Supreme Command von Kluge's staff worked out a disinformation operation under the code name Kreml (Kremlin). According to this plan, an aerial photography operation of Moscow defensive positions was carried out, units and command staff were deployed as a diversion, equipment to cross water barriers was delivered and even road signs were produced. As a result, the summer advance of the Wehrmacht in the south was a big surprise for Stalin.
All the heavy armaments from all fronts had been pulled to the Southern front, which had been overlooked by Soviet intelligence, according to a number of military experts. In autumn 1942, Hitler's tanks, painted yellow, the colour of African deserts, appeared on the Don steppe. Looking ahead, we can say that this support for the Stalingrad battle was a blow to Rommel and eased the victory in North Africsa for Montgomery.
The siege of Stalingrad began on 2 September, when Soviet General Chuykov retreated with his 62nd Army into the city. The 64th Army of General Shumilov, that was also subordinate to Chuykov, retreated to positions next to its left flank and thus stood face-to-face with the northern flank of the 4th Tank Army. Both Soviet armies received good reinforcements, as the Volga Flotilla supplied them with foodstuffs, ammunition, fuel and fresh forces carried across the Volga by ferries throughout the entire battle.
Looking ahead again, we can say that in the very same 1942 Germany planned to strike at Baku through the Caucasus. According to the plan for Operation Edelweiss, the A Group of armies had the following tasks: to entrap and defeat the Soviet troops south and south-east of Rostov by means of tank and motorized units that went to the lower reaches of the Don from 20 July, 1942, and to seize the Caucasus. Then one group of troops was to go round the Main Caucasus Range from the west to the Black Sea, seize Novorossiysk and Tuapse, while the second was to occupy the oil-bearing regions of Grozny and Baku. At the same time a workaround was planned to get over the Main Caucasus Range in its central part across the mountain passes Sancharo, Klukhor, Marukh and others, to the regions of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Sukhumi and farther to Zugdidi (see map 4).
The A Group of armies, reinforced with the SS Viking division, and mountain hunters of the Edelweiss division under the command of Col-Gen Kleist, who had promised to drink a glass of champagne to the health of Hitler in Baku before the winter came, reached the bend of the Terek and stormed the passes of the Main Caucasus Range. The German breakthrough to the Caspian was stopped in the gorge called Elkhot Gates. About 300 German tanks were destroyed in the battle.
The main events were taking place in Stalingrad, however.
It should be mentioned separately that oil battles were especially frenzied. Here is a description of an oil battle from the Cossack village of Chervlenaya (the Northern Caucasus) in August 1942, by N. Baybakov, "… I saw from the trenches two fierce massed attacks of German units. Despite the dense fire of our artillery and aircraft, as a result of which the field was cratered by bombs and shells and literally carpeted with bodies of the killed and wounded, they went on and on without stopping. They were falling and rising again, running, crawling, emerging at the Russian trenches with faces fanatical from horror, and falling on their backs shot point-blank by our soldiers. Several thousand German soldiers were killed before my eyes. I will never forget this terrible scene."
A more formidable spectacle, incomparable with the battles in the Northern Caucasus, was on stage in Stalingrad, and this was where the fate of the Northern Caucasus was hanging in the balance!
The unprecedented defence of Stalingrad disrupted the German plans to break through to the Volga, the main transport artery for the delivery of Baku oil to Tsarist Russia.
At 1800 on 23 August, 1942, the Germans committed all the aviation of the 4th Air Fleet to the bombing of Stalingrad. That dreadful night the city was bombed by 600 aircraft and several tens of thousands of people were killed.
When General Yeremenko asked Stalin to permit the evacuation of the population of Stalingrad, the latter replied, "If we evacuate the population and mine the facilities the Germans will think we are leaving Stalingrad!" Thus, Stalin divided the entire population of the city into "the living and the dead", the dead being much more numerous than the living. A veteran of the Stalingrad battle, Maria Vasilyevna Belyankina, recalls, "That was 25 August, 1942, my birthday, near Baskunchak. I was just a private then, not head of the picket.
"The raid begins and I count: 28 Junkers-88. I report their coordinates to RDF (radar direction finding). Meanwhile they descend, fly to the station and begin the bombing. There is the three-storeyed military hospital building at the station and nine tanks with oil for Stalingrad on the tracks. Everything is burning, crashing, exploding. It was such fear and terror, and my baptism of fire came on my birthday, my 18th birthday…"
German aircraft bombed the city day and night. A glow hung over Stalingrad, as huge oil storage tanks and oil tankers on the Volga were burning. The spilled oil was burning on the surface of the river. A veteran of the Stalingrad battle said on TV that a solid wall of fire stood over the Volga and the river seemed to be ablaze. To leave the Soviet troops without fuel during the battle for Stalingrad German aircraft heavily bombed the S.M. Kirov oil refinery in Saratov, seriously damaging the facility and temporarily paralysing its work. Now fuel was coming only from Baku.
To paralyse navigation on the Volga, German aircraft dropped a large number of mines into the river in the Stalingrad region. Crossing the Volga in 1942 was called the "fire crossing". Foodstuffs and ammunition were delivered and the wounded were evacuated under bombs, shells and mine explosions with oil burning on the surface of the water. It was a hellish sight. Nazi pilots tried to hamper fuel deliveries to the combat army, especially in the region of Stalingrad.
The Germans formed special temporary Luftwaffe subunits to chase the fuel tanks. There were fierce air battles for every tank of fuel. Nazi pilots shot furiously at tanks with armour-piercing bullets. Brigades of military railwaymen used wooden plugs, rags and clay to repair the damage to the tanks immediately, thereby saving the fuel. An enormous amount of fuel transported across the Volga was eliminated by German gunfire; this was when the failure to build even a single oil pipeline across the Volga in the pre-war years showed its adverse effect.
The great Volga had never seen such things in its centuries-long history - it was burning now! Despite the huge losses of fuel, the flow of oil from Baku did not stop for a single moment. The river flotilla suffered great damage because of the lack of armaments on board the vessels. After the enemy reached the Volga and broke through the traffic of oil tankers, the river fleet in the Volga-Kama basin found itself in an even more difficult situation. Of the 316 vessels available, 142 were converted to wooden fuel due to the shortage of oil, which decreased their capacity and speed and made them easy pickings for German aircraft.
On 12 September, 1942 in his headquarters in Vinnitsa, Hitler ordered, "Stalingrad is to be seized and that will be the end!" And on 14 September the Germans attacked the tractor plant and Malakhov Kurgan in order to seize them and then get to the Volga which really would have been the end of the entire battle.
And when the Germans were 100 metres from the Volga, Lieutenant General Chuykov gave an order, "If the Germans break through to the Volga, direct fire from the southern bank towards all of us together with the Germans!"
At this critical moment, the General Rodimtsev's 13th division reached the site of the battle and having scarcely got to the river bank entered the deadly fight. Chance means so much even in great events! According to historians, Napoleon had more troops than Wellington at Waterloo but the Grouchy's cavalry came up against across a many kilometre long trench which Grouchy had not even known of and arrived at the battlefield when everything was over! Had the German bombers been luckier when Rodimtse's divisionwas crossing the Volga, who knows how everything would have ended.
The above is just a small fragment from the events in Stalingrad. IT WAS THE MOST STRIKING EXAMPLE OF MASS HEROISM OF GENERALS, OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS, OF THE MILITARY AND CIVILIANS OF THE CITY IN THE HISTORY OF CONTEMPORARY WAR!
Vasilevsky writes about the battle for Stalingrad in his memoirs Lifework, "…However, we had no overall advantage at Stalingrad. Here is the correlation of forces and facilities as of 19 November, 1942. The Soviet troops: manpower - 1,106,100; guns and mortar-guns - 15,501; tanks and mobile artillery - 1,463; combat aircraft - 1,350. The enemy's forces were correspondingly 1,011,500 troops; 10,290 guns and mortar guns; 675 tanks and mobile artillery and 1,216 combat aircraft. Therefore, by the beginning of the counterattack we had just a small advantage in artillery and tanks…" He does not give other figures. As the powers were virtually equal, Vasilevsky believes that the crucial factor was the warcraft of the Soviet commanders and heroism of Soviet soldiers and officers. That is the truth, but not the whole truth.
All military commanders, military historians, war veterans and so on have stressed that both the Soviet and German soldiers and officers showed miracles of heroism in Stalingrad, for both sides were well aware of the cost of the Stalingrad victory and did not spare their lives. It is relevant to mention here the words of General de Gaulle. Visiting the ruins of Stalingrad, General de Gaulle told one of the accompanying journalists, "Yes, this is an outstanding people, a great people indeed." The correspondent supposed he spoke of the Russians. "No, no", de Gaulle answered. "I am talking not of the Russians but of the Germans. They went so far!" As for the warcraft of the Soviet military command in general, I am no expert in the military arts and can refer only to the opinion of veteran writers and independent military experts - their opinion differs greatly from Vasilevsky's.
|Combat aircraft||Manpower, millions||Ordnance and mortars||Tanks and
|Counterattack outside Moscow. December 1941||-||-||+||-||+||+||-||+|
|Battles at Voronezh and in Donbass, June 1942||-||-||-||-||+||+||+||+|
|Caucasus, the end of June 1942||-||-||-||-||+||+||+||+|
|Counterattack at Stalingrad, 1942||+||+||+||+||-||-||-||-|
|July 1943 in the direction of Kursk||+||+|
|Smolensk direction. August 1943||+||+||+||+||-||-||-||-|
|Liberation of Kiev. November 1943||*||+||+||+||*||-||-||-|
|Belorussian operation, June 1944||+||+||+||+||-||-||-||-|
|Summer campaign, 1944||+||+||+||+||-||-||-||-|
|Passage of the Soviet troops to the coast of the Gulf of Riga||+||+||+||+||-||-||-||-|
|Moravia-Ostrava and Bratislava-Brno operations, 1945||+||+||+||+||-||-||-||-|
|Kuestrin-Berlin direction, April 1945||+||+||+||+||-||-||-||-|
|Line of Yaslo - Stropkov-west Trebishov-Turna-Levitse-Esztergom, 1945||+||+||+||+||-||-||-||-|
|Berlin operation, 1945||+||+||+||+||-||-||-||-|
The works of Soviet writers, novels and short stories, the epic film Liberation and so on depict the Soviet commanders as a single family operating as a single mechanism and always making the right decisions, unlike the German generals. But this was far from the truth, for blunders, conflicts among them before, during and after the war, indecisiveness in many instances ("that's what we were taught!") etc. were commonplace. It is not surprising, for they were human beings and trained by Stalin! You can read much about the the blunders of the Soviet generals in the book Tank Pogrom of 1941. We should not forget that the Soviet commanders had a considerable advantage in manpower and equipment in all the major battles (see the table). "The phenomenon of mass repressions", N.A. Zenkovich writes in his book Marshals and General Secretaries, "among the military cadre in 1937-1938 has not been studied properly yet. Not all sanctions were given from above. Here are the statistics. More than 90% of arrests were initiated from below. Denunciation assumed monstrous proportions. They recollected old insults, took revenge for anything - for a neighbour's more rapid advance, for his more beautiful wife, for his showing off. Everything that was foul and odious spilled out of the gloomy cellars of the soul. The safest way to get even with your enemy was to make a statement of his political unreliability, contacts with Trotskyists and other opposition. Any common incident, any talk during a night out with friends could be turned into political issues." These relationships existed among the military commanders both during and after the war - everything they had been keeping in their heart of hearts spilled out. When after the war, Khrushchev made a show of exposing Zhukov, six important generals, Zhukov's closest associates, spoke against him, ascribing to the latter all the failures on all the fronts. Konev, saved by Zhukov from arrest which Molotov and Voroshilov had suggested to Stalin during the war, particularly distinguished himself. Brezhnev, who was in charge of the meeting, had to stop him, reminding him of the regulations. Marshal of the Soviet Union Konev described Zhukov as a stupid, good-for-nothing martinet and villain.
Other Soviet commanders "kept up with" Konev.
Marshal of the Soviet Union Andrey Ivanovich Yeremenko was in January 1943 lieutenant general and commander of the Stalingrad front. A note in the diary dated 19 January, 1943 says, "Zhukov, this usurper and boor, treated me very badly, he was just inhuman.
"He trampled everyone on his path. I worked with Comrade Zhukov before, and I know him as well as a beggar knows his bag. This is a dreadful and narrow-minded man. A careerist of the best brand." Marshals Konev, Yeremenko, Chuykov, Zakharov, General Kazakov… Not a single word of encouragement, sheer accusations.
Rokossovsky: "Zhukov followed the wrong line, though he admitted his conceit, vanity, ambition and pledged to correct his mistakes in 1946, when he was deprived of his post as commander-in-chief of the Ground Forces and deputy minister for the Armed Forces and sent to Odessa to head the district." Is it that Rokossovsky, Kostya, his friend? Zhukov had persuaded Stalin to free Kostya from prison in 1941, put the latter at his disposal and immediately gave him a mechanized corps.
In October 1961 Marshal of the Soviet Union Golikov told the whole world that Zhukov was Chekhov's character, the petty tyrant, Sergean Prishibeyev. He said this at the 22nd congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union attended by delegations from almost 100 communist parties and correspondents from all the world's leading news agencies.
After the war Stalin said of Zhukov, "Marshal Zhukov lost all modesty and was obsessed by personal ambition, thinking that his services were underrated and taking credit in conversations with his subordinates for the development and realization of all the main operations in the Great Patriotic War, including operations he had nothing to do with."
Zhukov himself gave as good as he got from his chief and his colleagues, saying different things at different times!
"We won because we were led from one victory to another by our great leader and genius commander, Marshal of the Soviet Union Stalin!" declared Zhukov at the Victory Parade on 24 June, 1945.
"At last this pock marked … has had to show his true colours!" he said about Stalin during the break after Khrushchev's speech at the 20th party congress, which was confirmed to the writer V. Karpov by the former commander of the Turkestan Military District, Army General N.G. Lyashenko who heard these words.
Rokossovsky kept pace with Zhukov.
A. Antonov-Ovseyenko writes, "In 1968 Marshal Rokossovsky was dying of cancer in the Kuntsev hospital. Before he died he was able to say something about Stalin as a commander, 'This unqualified priest just got in everyone's way. We used to fool him: no matter what absurd order he might give, we only played along but did it in our own way…"
Once at a Central Committee plenum, after the 20th party congress,,they began to talk about the past war. The members of the Politburo turned out to have forged the victory, too. Georgiy Zhukov stood up and said to Molotov and Malenkov, "Together with Stalin you were sending people like cattle to the slaughter." And that was true. Zhukov himself used to send soldiers "like cattle to the slaughter", according to many military historians. In the Encyclopedia of Warcraft, the Commanders of World War II, (Literatura Publishing House, Minsk 1997) describes some of Zhukov's actions during the war and in peacetime, which is important for an understanding of his personality, "When the massive attack on the fortified areas the Germans had built over several months with some delays ordered by Stalin got bogged down, Zhukov sent infantry across the minefields saving time on mine-sweeping. However he was not ashamed of his cruelty and even boasted of it before the Allies which shocked Eisenhower. Even many years later, the American general wrote in his memoirs with indignation, "I can hardly imagine what would happen to a general in our army if it occurred to him to give such an order." As for us, not only can we imagine it, we know for certain what happened to Georgiy Zhukov. He received the third Hero's Star.
"Georgiy Zhukov distinguished himself in this post [USSR minister of defence- Author] with his order to test the atomic bomb on living people. On 14 September, 1954, 40,000 military servicemen were cast into a nuclear hell at the Tots test site near Orenburg. Three-quarters of the soldiers died of burns and radiation sickness. Another 10,000 remained handicapped for the rest of their lives. This is typical of Zhukov's attitude towards soldiers as the cheapest consumable material. Soon after the Tots explosion the Marshal received his fourth Hero's Star."
It is typical for communist leaders to shift the blame for dark deeds onto one another leaders. Long before World War II, at the eight Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) Lenin was indignant at the losses at Tsaritsyn, where 60,000 Red Army soldiers had been killed through the fault of Stalin and Voroshilov, "We would not have lost 60,000 people if there had been experts there, if we had had a regular army." Lenin was wrong, experts and a regular army appeared but the losses vastly increased!
Much of what was said about the war in the post-war years does not look quite so convincing today, apart from one thing - the selflessness of the Soviet people and of the Soviet, and first of all Russian, soldiers. Prewar diplomacy was lame, military doctrines dubious, the actions of the supreme military command and others were flimsy. "The possibility of crisis situations at the beginning of the war was ignored," A.M. Samsonov writes, "the principles of defensive operations deep in the heartland were not determined, virtually ruling out the possibility of a breakthrough by the massed forces of the enemy. When such a variant was tried in one strategic game, Stalin noted acidly, 'Why cultivate retrograde sentiments? You are not planning to retreat, are you?'"
"We should have lost the war," famous writer D. Granin, himself a war veteran, wrote. "We won it on account of the immense losses among the people, at the cost of their blood."
Tribune newspaper published the following remarks by the writer V. Astafyev, "We were fighting poorly, just by instinct. Hitler was better, more professional and humane towards his soldiers. We succeeded at the cost of blood and great devastation. Twelve million people were in camps, with just as many watching over them. Three million were taken prisoner. The rest fought without having recovered properly in hospital and were called to arms for a fourth time. Besides, a million people were shot; the wounded and the dead were left in the fields and so on." Words spoken with pain and honesty.
Summing up, the Soviet top brass was by no means a harmonious team of like-minded persons. Blunders and miscalculations are as natural in such a team as a baby's smile, thick volumes have been written on the strategic mistakes of Soviet military commanders in World War II.
And it is just not serious to talk of the superiority of the Soviet generals over their German counterparts in the battle for Stalingrad.
But it should be mentioned here that some outstanding Soviet commanders did take part in the battle for Stalingrad - Rokossovskiy, Yeremenko, Vatutin, Chuykov, Lyudnikov, Shumilov, who in their turn were in no respect inferior to the German generals. They were fearless, trained and familiar with modern methods of warfare. Their distinguishing feature was their willingness to take responsibility and make decisions by themselves.
They all received the rank of general for their services, knowledge and courage. Many commanders thought Rokossovsky better than Zhukov and said so far and wide. Rokossovsky is known to be one of the few generals who did not defame his colleagues in Stalin's torture chambers.
It is commonly known that General Yeremenko firmly promised Stalin to stop Guderian's tanks , risking his own neck. When soldiers were throwing anti-tank mines at the German tanks right through the windows, General Chuykov who was among them shouted to the Germans, "This is not Paris for you! You won't pass here in a march!" What was important was that these commanders esteemed and loved their soldiers, unlike Zhukov. For instance, Yeremenko stayed with them forever and wanted to be buried with the defenders of Stalingrad. Grateful Russia has not put up a monument to Chuykov. At the same time, the Russian mass media says that a site is being chosen in Moscow for a monument to the national snack, gherkins!
The German side was also represented in the battle of Stalingrad battle by the cream of German command: Friedrich Paulus, Walther von Reichenau, Gustav von Wietersheim, Viktor von Schwedler, Walter Heitz, Karl Strecker, Walter von Seidlitz-Kurtzbach, Artur Schmidt, Wolfgang Pickert, Erwin Jaenecke, Hans-Valentin Hube. Their military biographies are impressive. There was also a dynamic, intellectual balance in the top brass in Stalingrad on either side!
Objectively comparing all the main positions of the sides at Stalingrad, we can speak with good reason of a dynamic equilibrium in intellectual and military power during the German advance. But there was one position, on which Vasilevsky and others remained silent, that tipped this balance in Stalingrad in favour of the Soviet troops. THAT WAS FUEL FOR AIRCRAFT, TANKS, MOTOR-CARS TO TRANSPORT SOLDIERS ETC., FUEL DELIVERED FROM BAKU TO THE BATTLEFIELD WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY AND IN A COMPLICATED WAY.
"OUR STALINGRAD IS IN EVERY WELL" was a slogan in the oilfields of Baku! Never in the history of the Azerbaijani oil industry had the resources and the people been so strained as they were during the battle for Stalingrad - oil workers did not leave the oilfields, nor did refiners.
By the beginning of the crucial battle in April 1942 505,500 tonnes of petroleum products had been transported across the Caspian, with 436,000 of them delivered to Astrakhan. The transportation of such an amount of fuel from the Caucasus to the upper reaches of the Volga and the Kama played the decisive role in supplying the Red Army with fuel when the battles of Mozdok and Stalingrad began.
In the decisive days of the battle for Stalingrad, the seamen of Caspflot and Casptanker were constantly supplying Astrakhan with fuel, foodstuffs and other cargo and repeatedly became the targets of raids by enemy aircraft.
Overall 149,000 tonnes of fuel were consumed in the battle for Stalingrad, over 42,000 of them during the counterattack and almost as much, by a modest computation, was eliminated in bombing by the Luftwaffe. But there were sufficient reserves, thanks to Baku oil. When the Soviet counterattack began, they did not experience a lack of fuel, while the Germans actually had neither reserves nor fuel and their armies lost mobility.
It is important to point out here that even taking into account the difficult situation in Stalingrad and the main priority of supplying Soviet troops with fuel in the battle for Stalingrad, Baku also took care of other fronts. In summer 1942 Baku sailors achieved the impossible, when the enemy came close to the Volga, fierce fights were under way at the walls of Stalingrad and the waterways to transport oil to the other fronts became cut off. For the first time in the world they floated railway oil tank cars and used tugs to pull them from Baku to Krasnovodsk (Turkmenbashi) and oil tankers with a capacity of several thousand tonnes from Makhachkala to Krasnovodsk. In those circumstances the only way "to be or not to be" lay through Krasnovodsk and the Kara-Kum sands. Thanks to that route, the central fronts could get Baku oil, too.
"Please accept our sincere gratitude for your practical assistance in the timely delivery of aviation fuel to the Air Forces of the Black Sea Navy…" Sevastopol wired.
"The entire Armed Forces of our Motherland, including our Army of Guards constantly feel and highly appreciate the really heroic work of the oil workers of Baku who send an endless stream of transport with fuel to the front every day," the commander of a combat unit thanked the Bakuvians on behalf of his soldiers.
By mid-November 1942, the Soviet command centered a quarter of all their aircraft at Stalingrad. Stalingrad was the destination point for the important strategic cargo of Convoy PQ-17. After the convoy was crushed, the air regiments of the 8th and 16th Air Forces deployed in Stalingrad nevertheless received new aircraft, including from the Allies, via the route Iran-Baku.
Baku did its best for Stalingrad! Production of Molotov cocktail was stepped up sharply and the whole consignment sent to Stalingrad. The defenders of Stalingrad used them to make anti-tank fire barriers, burying them in the ground.
The wounded in the battle for Stalingrad were transported across the Caspian to Baku.
A turning point was to come in the great battle, and it did come.
The day 22 November became fateful in the history of Nazi Germany. The vanguard of the Soviet troops advanced from two directions and merged at Kalach putting the 6th Army into a pocket 30 miles long and 24 miles wide (from north to south).
When the 6th Army was encircled by the Soviet troops on 6 November it had 90% of the territory of the city in hand - the Germans had no reserves and fuel to continue the military actions.
Soviet intelligence worked brilliantly during the battle for Stalingrad.
Norman Polmar and Thomas B. Allen write in their Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage, "The triumphant return of this department took place during the battle for Stalingrad in 1942-43. Colonel David Glantz, the leading American military expert on Red Army reconnaissance, wrote in this regard, 'And though the determining factor was the numerical superiority of the Soviet troops over the German group, protecting this advantage is an achievement of Soviet intelligence. The Russians managed to define the position of the German troops quickly and accurately and secure the initiative when the counterattack began. The unusual depth of the Soviet advance is explained by this fact in particular.'"
Alfred Jodl wrote of the counterstrike in Stalingrad, "That strike proved altogether unexpected to us. One would think that there was nothing there yesterday and suddenly such forces appeared that they dealt this blow quite unexpectedly," which confirms the words of the Americans.
New archive documents show that the plan for a counterstrike at Stalingrad was worked out deep in the General Staff. It was General Staff employees, in particular Colonels Ryzhov, Bokov and other officers of low rank who took part in the development of this unique operation.
The Stalingrad battle was over. Out of 274,000 soldiers encircled on 22 November, 13,000 were Romanian and 19,700 Russian from supporting units. Some 25,000 sick and wounded German soldiers were taken away through an air corridor and 90,000 surrendered to the mercy of the enemy. Thus, 150,000 Germans were killed or died of hunger during the siege of Stalingrad. The total losses exceed 240,000 (excluding those evacuated).
On 21 November the Romanians, with half of their tanks disabled by mice who had gnawed through wire coverings, were defeated. "Absolute terror", a Romanian officer wrote hastily in his diary. "What sins have we or our fathers committed? Why should we suffer so?" Because you poked your nose into other's affairs! A quarter of the entire Wehrmacht forces at the Eastern front were defeated at Stalingrad.
The city of Stalingrad also suffered grave damage. Some 41,000 domestic buildings (90% of housing stock in the city) were destroyed in Stalingrad in five months of fighting and bombing; 309 industrial facilities and 113 hospitals and schools were ruined. The census showed that only 1,515 people remained out of over 500,000 people that had lived in Stalingrad in summer 1942. The majority were killed in the first days of the battle or left the city and settled temporarily in Siberia and in Central Asia. No-one knew how many of them had been killed but the losses were undoubtedly enormous. German troops advancing on the Caucasus were in a different situation with regard to fuel from the troops in the Stalingrad battle.
Paulus led the advance on Stalingrad with 20 divisions, 25,000 people, 500 tanks, 7,000 guns and 25,000 horses at his disposal. His advance was immensely slow as Hitler supplied fuel first of all to the A Group which he thought to be delivering the main blow.
Hitler broke the principle of a specific target which fatally affected the outcome of the entire summer campaign. In Kleist's opinion, Stalingrad could be seized without a fight by late July but Paulus ran out of fuel when he was 150 miles west of Kalach. He stood there motionless until 7 August when he finally got a chance to strike at two Soviet armies who were defending Kalach west of the Don. The bulk of the Soviet 1st Tank Army and 62nd Army had been smashed, 50,000 Soviet soldiers taken prisoner by 11 August. The Soviets also lost about 270 tanks and 600 guns.
By 18 August Paulus was already 35 miles from Stalingrad but he again suffered a breakdown in fuel supply.
"It is rather bitter and ironic", Chief of Land Forces General Staff Halder wrote in his diary then, "that the closer we got to oil, the greater shortage of it we suffered."
As early as the beginning of summer 1942, i.e. on the eve of the advance south , the German troops faced the problem of fuel and lubricating oil for tanks and motorized units and aircraft. Then Hitler demanded that the General Staff and Wehrmacht Supreme Command implement the Blau plan.
Serious anxiety about fuel shortages arose in the first half of June 1942 Here is the conclusion drawn up by the chief of the Land Forces General Staff, Colonel-General Halder, on 13 June 1942 on the basis of the report of Land Forces Quartermaster-General E. Wagner, "The fuel issue. According to his (General Wagner) calculations, fuel for Operation Blau will last only till mid-September." When Operation Blau was drawn up, fuel was to last until September 1942, Halder wrote. The German military command had to cut the fuel supply rate for their armies at the Eastern Front as early as in late June.
On 25 June, 1942 Halder wrote anxiously, "Consequences of the restriction in fuel supply (at the direction of the Wehrmacht Supreme Command) for the plans and actions of the Centre and North army groups." A month later, on 26 July, he exclaimed in his diary, "Lack of fuel!" The same day Halder listened to a report of General Staff Officer Major Count Kielmansegg who had returned from his trip to the A army group. "A vivid and striking narration about the hardship amongst our troops caused by the shortage of fuel and motor-cars," Halder writes.
On the eighth day of Operation Edelweiss, i.e. 1 August, 1942, it became clear that the fuel shortage threatened to upset the plan to occupy the Caucasus. General Halder wrote, "The resistance of the enemy rearguard south of the Don is somewhat increasing in the strip of Ruoff's army (the 17th Field Army - H.M.I.)… We cannot launch our own offensive because of the lack of fuel and ammunition."
Regardless of grave losses in manpower and equipment, the German troops were rushing for the oil regions of Grozny to eliminate the fuel crisis and move on farther to the USSR's largest centre of oil production and refining, Baku. The German command pinned all their hopes for their intentions in Middle East and India on the occupation of Baku. After the 1st Tank Army headed by von Kleist approached Mozdok, a record appeared in the operations log, "The Army has reached its first great target." On 1 August the following record was made in the log, "The eyes of the Army are directed at the oil-bearing regions of Groznyy."
On 2 August Col-Gen Halder notes, "There is still trouble with fuel in the A army group."
On 24 August he stresses the same, "There are small changes with the 17th Army: local success at Novorossiysk. The 1st Tank Army has no essential progress. Fuel trouble."
By the end of the summer the lack of fuel and lubricating oil could be felt in almost all the German armies at the Soviet-German front. The Nazis pinned their hopes on the oil of Maykop. But their hopes proved futile. The Maykop oilfields had been destroyed under the command of N. Baybakov, and the German command had no time to reconstruct them. The Germans also had high hopes of Kuban oil. "On 9 August, 1942, the day the German troops entered Krasnodar, Berlin radio hurried to announce that henceforth the 'black oil' of Maikop would serve the German Reich."
N. Baybakov remembers, "In 1942, in July, the Germans burnt their fingers in Moscow and Leningrad and moved part of their troops to Stalingrad and part to the Northern Caucasus. I was urgently called by Stalin, being the first deputy people's commissar of the oil industry, and told, 'Hitler said that if he did not seize Caucasian oil he would lose the war. You are to fly to the Caucasus immediately and "help" Hitler lose this war.'
"The Krasnodar oilfields the Germans were eager to occupy produced 19,000 tonnes of oil daily. Well, Hitler did not get a single drop of it!
"On my command all 1,300 wells were blocked up with reinforced concrete…" The logical ending of Baybakov's story is missing - and the whole weight of supplying the Red Army with fuel fell to Baku.
On 31 August Halder wrote down for the commander of the A army group General-Field Marshal List, the essence of the guidelines he had received from the Fuehrer, "The main objective of the 1st Tank Army is to crush the enemy in the bend of the Terek… To continue the advance on Groznyy with all forces available, first of all mobile columns, and to get our hands on the oilfield region." After the 6th Army crossed the Don, the supply problem was getting worse and worse.
According to the data given by Doerr, over 70 days the 6th Army received by air a total of 94.16 tonnes of cargo per day on average.
"Calculations show that a sufficient air supply is doubtful even for LI A.K., therefore it is completely ruled out for the army. What 31 Junkers (for 23/II) or the promised extra 100 Junkers can deliver is just a drop in the ocean. Hoping for that is clutching at straws. And it is strange where the extra number of Junkers required for the supply maintenance of the army can come from. Even if they are available, they would have to be re-deployed from across Europe and from the north. The fuel demand for these aircraft, given the distance they would have to cover, would be so great that the possibility of finding such reserves seems rather doubtful due to the current fuel shortage, let alone the consequences of such an excess expenditure of fuel for the whole war in general. Even if 500 of the aircraft land daily instead of the supposed 130, no more than 1,000 tonnes of cargo can be delivered, which is insufficient for an army of 200,000 people, conducting large-scale battles without reserves. It is not worth expecting more than being able to meet the minimum fuel demand, a small part of the demand for some types of ammunition and probably a small part of the people's demand for food."
Wilhelm Adam writes in his book A Difficult Decision, "In mid-October the headquarters of the 6th Army was visited by Land Forces General-Quartermaster Lieutenant General Wagner. Our new operations officer Colonel Elchlepp told me later that General Wagner had spoken his mind about the situation in Hitler's headquarters. Everyone there is intimidated by the Fuehrer's hysteric fits of frenzy. Wagner himself pointed out the fuel shortage to the supreme commander and demanded that military operations planning be coordinated with the supply situation. Hitler interrupted him, saying, 'I could not expect any other response from my generals, thank you.'"
The attempt of the German Supreme Command to supply the 6th Army by air failed. The enemy aircraft suffered serious damage. Colonel Roden writes, "Units of transport aviation had lost about 500 aircraft and 1,000 aircrew by the end of their supply operations in Stalingrad. That did mean something for the Air Force, given the difficult conditions when they were needed at all the fronts, so many valuable soldiers having been lost in nearly nine weeks in a small part of the line who could be used at the front only after long and expensive training. The irreplaceable equipment had also to be written off."
It was clear that the air bridge had collapsed. All horses, dogs, cats and even sluggish rats had already been eaten in Stalingrad. Only 40,000 Nazis out of the 270,000 encircled could fight actively. The majority of German soldiers had to sleep in bomb craters or right on the frozen ground, as even a third of them could not be quartered. Absolutely no fuel was left in the city (all wooden buildings had been burnt long ago) and thousands of people were freezing to death, tens of thousands suffered frostbite. On 7 December the daily ration was a loaf of stale bread for five persons. And then even this disappeared. "Soldiers no longer try to save themselves from Russian shells," one of them wrote. "They have no strength to move, run or hide."
The information above shows that the fuel crisis contributed in many ways to the collapse of the German army at Stalingrad. G. Yastrebtsov describes the fuel issue for the Germans in the battle for Stalingrad as follows, impartially, based on pure facts. "Soviet tanks used diesel fuel that was unfit for German tanks. German tank divisions in the Caucasus often had to stand idle for several days waiting for fuel deliveries. Trucks transporting fuel were also slow as in their turn they were running out of it, too. The desperate Germans even attempted to use camels to transport motor oil. By November 1942 the last attempts of the German troops to break through across mountain passes to Groznyy and Baku had been completely averted.
Stalingrad became the arena of a fierce battle in the winter of 1942-43. And here the Germans also suffered a disastrous lack of fuel. Tank General Guderian wrote to his wife from the Stalingrad front, "Piercing cold, lack of shelter, equipment, heavy losses, the awful situation with fuel supply, all this turns a commander's duty into a torment." Field Marshal Manstein pleaded with Hitler by phone to reassign to him the German troops in the Caucasus and switch them to assist the army stuck at Stalingrad. "No," the Fuehrer responded, "the occupation of Baku is important for us. If we do not get the oil of Baku we will lose the war."
I do not think that fuel was the decisive factor in the battle for Stalingrad, but not mentioning it, as Vasilevsky and many others omit to do, is to trespass against the truth and keep silent about the contribution of the Baku oil workers, refiners, naval and merchant seamen to the Victory and to the battle for Stalingrad.
In finishing the chapter, to be fair we should note a difference in opinion on the battle for Stalingrad. Two colleagues of the economist Alec Nove made apposite comments on the fact that the battle took place at all. One said that "the outcome of the battle for Stalingrad proves that Stalin was right", while the second objected, "If a different policy had been conducted, the Germans would never have reached Stalingrad." Both statements are quite convincing. The war revealed both the best and worst of the Soviet system, but the main thing that secured the Victory WAS THE HEROISM OF THE SOVIET PEOPLE.
When the Germans broke through to the centre of Stalingrad Churchill wrote to Roosevelt, "Planning our operations we should take into account the fact that the defeat of the Russian army is inevitable and I cannot see any power that could prevent it." However such a power did exist - it was the Soviet and, above all, the Russian people!
At the beginning of his book The Secret of Stalingrad, published in 1976, the American journalist Walter Kerr wrote, "Here is the history of a secret undiscovered for more than 30 years. How did the Soviet Union manage to win the Stalingrad battle without a miracle?" And he adds later, "No, there was no miracle in Stalingrad."
That's right, there was no miracle. "Diamond cut diamond", or rather steel scythe struck firestone!
It was in Stalingrad that the global German pincer operation failed.
It was after the battle for Stalingrad that Albert Einstein, who understood the significance of it, sent the following telegram to the USSR, "Filled with highest respect and admiration, I send my most sincere congratulations on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Red Army and Navy which secured the protection of the outstanding achievements of Soviet culture and industry and eliminated the deadly peril for the future development of human progress."
No less surprising is another acknowledgement. According to American sources, on 5 April, 1945, when the circle of Soviet troops began to squeeze Hitler's bunker in Berlin, Hitler ordered that Wilhelm Canaris should be executed. Late in the evening of 8 April Canaris was interrogated once more. On returning to his cell around midnight, Canaris sent his last message before death to the prisoner in the next cell (by tapping).
"I am dying for the Motherland. My conscience is clear. As an officer, you will understand that I just did my patriotic duty trying to oppose the lawlessness of the demented Hitler who has brought Germany to collapse. Everything was in vain, now I know for certain that my country is sinking to the bottom. I KNEW IT EVEN IN 1942, THOUGH (highlighted by the author)."
Soon after that, at 0530 on 9 April, 1945, the SS tightened a piano string around Canaris' neck and hung him - the execution was slow and agonizing.
The year 1942 mentioned by Canaris in his death note was the year of the battle for Stalingrad battle.
A great scientist - Canaris can undoubtedly be called both a great intelligence officer and a great physicist - made a final diagnosis of fascism after the battle for Stalingrad. Everyone analysed the event in their own way.
More recently a book by a historian of the new generation, Jeffrey Roberts, was published in England entitled Stalingrad. A battle that changed the course of history.
The title requires no commentary.
If the Allies had not landed in Europe, Stalin and Zhukov would have defeated Hitler anyway, sending another million soldiers to their deaths. Roosevelt reasonably noted, "If affairs continue in this vein in Russia… the second front will probably be unnecessary, Russia will win the war without our help!"
DEFEAT AT STALINGRAD WOULD HAVE LED TO THE INEVITABLE LOSS OF BAKU AND EVERYTHING WOULD HAVE BEEN OVER, FOR BAKU WAS THE MAIN ARTERY OF THE ENTIRE SOVIET ARMY AND THE ONLY ENERGY BASE OF ANTI-NAZI EUROPE.
BAKU WAS THE MAIN EUROPEAN CENTRE IN THE BATTLE FOR BIG OIL, WITH ITS CONSIDERABLE RESERVES OF OIL, AND THE BEST ROUTE TO MIDDLE EAST OIL.
IF BAKU HAD BEEN LOST, THE SECOND FRONT WOULD HAVE BEEN UNNECESSARY!
The English writer H.G. Wells said in those years, "Now after the victory on the Volga the outcome of the war is beyond any doubt!" The same could have been said if the battle for Stalingrad had gone the other way.