The Stavka was the high command of the armed forces in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. In Imperial Russia Stavka refers to the administrative staff, to the General Headquarters in the late 19th Century Imperial Russian armed forces and subsequently in the Soviet Union. In Western literature it is sometimes written in uppercase, incorrect since it is not an acronym. Stavka may refer to its members, as well as to the headquarter location; the commander-in-chief of the Russian army at the beginning of World War I was Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaievitch, a grandson of Tsar Nicholas I. Appointed at the last minute in August 1914, he played no part in formulating the military plans in use at the beginning of the war. Nikolai Yanushkevich was his chief of staff. In the summer of 1915 the Tsar himself took personal command, with Mikhail Alekseyev as his chief of staff. In the years 1915–1917 Stavka was based in Mogilev and the Tsar, Nicholas II, spent long periods there as Commander-in-Chief; the Stavka was divided into several departments: Department of General-Quartermaster Department of General on Duty Department of military transportations Naval department Diplomatic chancery The Stavka was first established in Baranovichi.
In August 1915, after the German advance, the Stavka re-located to Mogilev. 19 July 1914 – 18 August 1915: Lieutenant-General Nikolai Yanushkevich 18 September 1915—01.04.1917: General of Infantry Mikhail Alekseyev 10 November 1916 – 17 February 1917: General of Cavalry Vasily Gurko 11 March 1917—05.04.1917: General of Infantry Vladislav Klembovsky 5 April 1917 – 31 May 1917: Lieutenant-General Anton Denikin 2 June 1917 – 30 August 1917: Lieutenant-General Alexander Lukomsky 30 August 1917 – 9 September 1917: General of Infantry Mikhail Alekseyev 10 October 1917—03.11.1917: Lieutenant-General Nikolay Dukhonin 3 November 1917—07.11.1917: Major General Mikhail Dieterichs 7 November 1917—02.1918: Major General Mikhail Bonch-Bruevich The Stavka of the Soviet Armed Forces during World War II, or the headquarters of the "Main Command of the Armed Forces of the USSR", was established on 23 June 1941 by a top-secret decree signed by Joseph Stalin in his capacities both as the head of government and as the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
According to this decree Stavka was composed of the defence minister Marshal Semyon Timoshenko, the head of General Staff Georgy Zhukov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, Marshal Semyon Budyonny and the People's Commissar of the Navy Admiral Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov. The same decree organized at Stavka "the institution of permanent counsellors of Stavka": Marshal Kulik, Marshal Shaposhnikov, Kirill Meretskov, head of the Air force Zhigarev, Nikolay Vatutin, head of Air Defence Voronov, Kaganovich, Lavrenty Beria, Zhdanov, Mekhlis. Soon afterwards, the deputy defence minister of the army, was arrested following false charges made by Beria and Merkulov. Meretskov was subsequently released from jail on the same day, at the end of the first week of September 1941, called for by Stalin. Stavka's Main Command was reorganized into the Stavka of the Supreme Command on 10 July 1941; this action occurred after Stalin was named Supreme Commander, replaced Timoshenko as head of Stavka.
On 8 August 1941 it was again reorganized into Stavka of the Supreme Main Command. On the same day Strategic Directions commands were instituted. A 17 February 1945 decree set out the membership of Stavka as Stalin, Aleksandr Vasilevsky, Aleksei Antonov, Nikolai Bulganin and Kuznetsov. General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Creation of the Main Command of the Armed Forces of the Union of USSR
Order No. 227
Order No. 227 was an order issued on 28 July 1942 by Joseph Stalin, acting as the People's Commissar of Defence. It is known for its line "Not a step back!", which became the primary slogan of the Soviet press in summer 1942. The order established that each front must create one to three penal battalions, which were sent to the most dangerous sections of the front lines. From 1942 to 1945, a total of 422,700 Red Army personnel were sentenced to penal battalions as a result of courts-martial; the order directed that each army must create "blocking detachments" at the rear that would shoot "panic-mongers and cowards". In the first three months, blocking detachments shot 1,000 penal troops and sent 24,000 to penal battalions. By October 1942, the idea of regular blocking detachments was dropped. Intended to galvanise the morale of the hard-pressed Red Army and emphasize patriotism, it had a detrimental effect and was not implemented by commanders who viewed diverting troops to create blocking detachments as a waste of manpower.
On 29 October 1944, blocking detachments were disbanded by Stalin's order No. 349 citing the changed situation at the front. During the first part of the war on the Eastern Front, the Soviets suffered heavy losses along with mass retreat and desertion. Stalin released order No. 227 intending to re-establish discipline in the Red Army in the battle against the Wehrmacht: The enemy throws new forces to the front without regard to heavy losses and penetrates deep into the Soviet Union, seizing new regions, destroying our cities and villages, violating and killing the Soviet population. Combat goes on in region Voronezh, near Don, in the south, at the gates of the Northern Caucasus; the German invaders penetrate toward Stalingrad, to Volga and want at any cost to trap Kuban and the Northern Caucasus, with their oil and grain. The enemy has captured Voroshilovgrad, Rossosh, Valuyki, Rostov on Don, half Voronezh. Part of the troops of the Southern front, following the panic-mongers, have left Rostov and Novocherkassk without severe resistance and without orders from Moscow, covering their banners with shame.
The population of our country, who love and respect the Red Army, start to be discouraged in her and lose faith in the Red Army, many curse the Red Army for leaving our people under the yoke of the German oppressors, itself running east. Some stupid people at the front calm themselves with talk that we can retreat further to the east, as we have a lot of territory, a lot of ground, a lot of population and that there will always be much bread for us, they want to justify the infamous behaviour at the front. But such talk is a helpful only to our enemies; each commander, Red Army soldier and political commissar should understand that our means are not limitless. The territory of the Soviet state is not a desert, but people - workers, intelligentsia, our fathers, wives, children; the territory of the USSR which the enemy has captured and aims to capture is bread and other products for the army and fuel for industry, plants supplying the army with arms and ammunition, railways. After the loss of Ukraine, Baltic republics and other areas we have much less territory, much less people, metal and factories.
We have lost more than 70 million people, more than 800 million pounds of bread annually and more than 10 million tons of metal annually. Now we do not have predominance over the Germans in reserves of bread. To retreat further - means to waste ourselves and to waste at the same time our Motherland; therefore it is necessary to eliminate talk that we have the capability endlessly to retreat, that we have a lot of territory, that our country is great and rich, that there is a large population, that bread always will be abundant. Such talk is false and parasitic, it weakens us and benefits the enemy, if we do not stop retreating we will be without bread, without fuel, without metal, without raw material, without factories and plants, without railways; this leads to the conclusion, it is time to finish retreating. Not one step back! Such should now be our main slogan, it goes on to state that The Supreme General Headquarters of the Red Army commands: 1. Military councils of the fronts and first of all front commanders should: a) Unconditionally eliminate retreat moods in the troops and with a firm hand bar propaganda that we can and should retreat further east, that such retreat will cause no harm.
C) Form within each Front from one up to three penal battalions where commanders and high commanders and appropriate commissars of all service arms who have been guilty of a breach of discipline due to cowardice or bewilderment will be sent, put them on more difficult sectors of the front to give them an opportunity to redeem by blood their crimes against the Motherland.2. Military councils of armies and first of all army commanders should.
138th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
The 138th Rifle Division began service as a standard Red Army rifle division, was converted to serve for two years as a mountain rifle division back to a rifle division. The division played a leading role in defending the Barricades ordnance factory in the Battle of Stalingrad, for which it was raised to Guards status as the 70th Guards Rifle Division. A new 138th was raised a few months and fought through Ukraine and the Carpathian Mountains of Czechoslovakia from August 1943 to May 1945; the division was based on a regimental cadre from the 48th Rifle Division and began forming in September, 1939, with the following order of battle: 554th Rifle Regiment 650th Rifle Regiment 768th Rifle Regiment 295th Light Artillery Regiment 198th Antitank Battalion 203rd Signal Battalion 155th Reconnaissance Battalion 179th Sapper Battalion 436th Tank Battalion 135th Medical BattalionThe division was under the command of Col. A. I. Pastarevich. By December the 138th was engaged in the Soviet-Finnish Winter War.
Fighting as a separate rifle division, part of 7th Army on the Karelian Isthmus, the 138th performed better than the stereotypical Red Army formation of that war. When the fighting was over, the division had collectively won the Order of the Red Banner, three officers were awarded the Gold Star Hero of the Soviet Union. Between Mar. 14 and Apr. 15, 1941, the division was converted to a mountain rifle division with a specialized order of battle featuring four rifle regiments made up of oversized companies, with supporting arms, capable of independent operations in difficult terrain and backed by light and mobile mountain artillery: 344th Mountain Rifle Regiment newly formed 554th Mountain Rifle Regiment from 554th Rifle Regiment 650th Mountain Rifle Regiment from 650th Rifle Regiment 768th Mountain Rifle Regiment from 768th Rifle Regiment 295th Mountain Artillery Regiment from 295th Light Artillery Regiment 536th Howitzer Regiment added to division following the Winter War 230th Antitank Battalion from 195th Antitank Battalion 155th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron from 155th Reconnaissance Battalion 179th Sapper Battalion as previous 203rd Signal Battalion as previous 135th Medical Battalion as previous 408th Truck Company newly formedAt the outbreak of war with Germany on June 22, 1941, the 138th was near Leninakan in the 23rd Rifle Corps of Transcaucasian Military District, became part of 45th Army in July.
In October it was shifted to 46th Army, added the 82nd Machine-gun Battalion to its order of battle on the 10th. On Dec. 25 it went into the'active army' in the 47th Army of Crimean Front. On Jan. 15, 1942, 650th Rifle Regiment took part in an amphibious landing near Sudaka on the Kerch peninsula. The balance of the division followed, fought under 51st Army in February and March, suffering heavy losses until being pulled back into reserve near Feodosiya, it began reforming on Mar. 30, on Apr. 8 it was once again the 138th Rifle Division. Its mountain rifle regiments became the 292 Mortar Battalion was added. One month Erich von Manstein's Eleventh Army began its attack into the peninsula; the 138th escaped intact from the Kerch Naval Base, evacuating to Krasnodar on the night of May 19 – 20. On May 28 the division came under the command of Col. Ivan Ilich Lyudnikov. In late June the German forces launched Operation Blue, aiming for, among other objectives, Stalingrad; the 138th was railed north to join the forming 4th Tank Army.
The division fought along the approaches to the city in this Army in the 64th, back to the rebuilding 51st in an Operational Group under command of Lt. Gen. Vasili Ivanovich Chuikov. On the night of October 16 - 17 the 138th crossed the Volga into Stalingrad, coming under Chuikov's orders again, now as part of 62nd Army, defending the Barricades ordnance factory:"1; the enemy has taken the Stalingrad Tractor Plant, is developing an attack from the STP to the south along the railway line in an attempt to seize Barricady. "2. 62 Army continues beating off fierce enemy attacks. 3. 138th Red Banner RD from 04.00 hours 17.10.42 to occupy and stubbornly defend the line: south of the suburb Derevensk, Sculpturnyi. Under no circumstances to allow enemy to approach Leninskii Barricady factory. 650th Rifle Regiment/Major Pechenyuk: 138th Division/to take up positions in Barricady, establish ring of fire-points and not to permit enemy penetration into the factory." The men and women of the division were pushed back so close to the west bank of the Volga that the divisional artillery had to be evacuated to the east bank, but when the Soviet counteroffensive began the 138th was still holding on, at much reduced strength, after the German Sixth Army was encircled the division went on the counterattack over the next two months, under command of Don Front.
On January 27, 1943, Colonel Lyudnikov was promoted to the rank of Major General. The men of Sixth Army laid down their arms on February 2, four days while being moved to the Reserve of the Supreme High Command, the 138th Rifle Division became the 70th Guards Rifle Division. A new 138th Rifle Division began forming at Kalinin in the Moscow Military District in May, 1943 from the 6th Naval Brigade and the 109th Rifle Brigade, under 52nd Army in the Reserve of the Supreme High Command. At this point in the war, the Red Army was trying to amalgamate separate rifle brigades into rifle divisions, which were much more efficient on the battlefield; the division first joined the Voronezh Front during the fighting around Kharkov went to 2nd Ukrainian Front reserves to 4th Guards Army in that Front, where it served in 21st Guards Rifle Corps until March, 1944. In
13th Guards Rifle Division
The 13th Poltava Guards Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army that earned honours during the Great Patriotic War. On 6 November 1941, the 87th Rifle Division was re-formed and placed under the command of former corps commander Alexander Rodimtsev. On 19 January 1942, the 87th Rifle Division was awarded Guards status and was re-designated as the 13th Guards Rifle Division. In May 1942, the 13th Division was involved in the Soviet counter-offensive at Kharkov, where they fought on its northern axis, thus escaping the encirclement and destruction of a substantial portion of the Soviet forces engaged, followed by the Russian defeat. During this offensive, the division suffered more than fifty-percent casualties, most of which were sustained in the repelling of fierce German counter-attacks, it was during one of these attacks that an Artillery Captain of the 13th earned the first Order of the Great Patriotic War 1st Class to be awarded. Following his unit's success during this offensive, Colonel Rodimtsev was subsequently promoted to Major General.
On 13 September of that year, German infantry divisions made their first advance into Stalingrad, marking the opening salvos of the Battle of Stalingrad. By the end of the day the German 71st Infantry Division had reached the city centre, north of the Tsaritsa Gorge. A Stavka directive ordered the 13th Guards Division to the Volga River and Stalingrad. After being briefed by Lieutenant General Vasily Chuikov, the commander of the 62nd Army, Rodimtsev famously and determinedly declared:"I am a Communist! I have no intention of abandoning the city!" Because of the recent influx of new recruits, the division was now inexperienced and untrained, lacked both maps and knowledge of Stalingrad's rubble-strewn streets, which would prove enormously difficult to overcome in the struggle ahead. However, thanks to his experience fighting in the Spanish Civil War, Major General Rodimtsev was well versed in urban warfare. At 17.00, 14 September, the forward elements of the 13th Guards swiftly crossed the river to reinforce a line, being held by a mere 15 tanks and few hastily assembled combat groups.
It is estimated that more than half of the first wave perished during the river crossing, more than 3,000 being killed in just the first 24 hours. After heavy losses on both sides, the German advance was repelled. Rodimtsev's soldiers recaptured the Mill and secured the central river crossing for other regiments of the 13th Guards; the following morning one of Rodimtsev's junior officers, Lieutenant Anton Kuzmich Dragan was ordered by Chuikov to hold a key railroad station in downtown Stalingrad against an impending German assault. Dragan proceeded to gather a platoon of less than fifty men and moved them over to the railroad station. Here, the small but determined force prepared itself for the German attack. Soon after digging in, a substantial force of German infantrymen arrived to seize control of the station; the Russians proceeded to frustrate the Germans in an epic room-by-room struggle for control of the depot for nearly three weeks. Breaking through walls, crawling over rafters, burrowing under the floorboards, the Russians would yield but a portion of the structure to the Germans, only to emerge elsewhere and start the struggle all over again.
Exchanging gunfire down hallways, hurling grenades back and forth between rooms, Dragan's men inflicted significant casualties on the Germans. In spite of this heroic resistance, Dragan's platoon was reduced to a handful of men. After running out of ammunition, with their rations gone, one of the Soviet Guardsmen took out his bayonet and carved on a wall, Rodimtsev's Guardsmen fought and died for their country here. Under cover of darkness and the five remaining soldiers under his command slipped out of the building, made their way through the German lines, were reunited with the remainder of the division; the Battle at the Mamaev Kurgan Park began three weeks after the brutal fighting between the German and Russian infantrymen had begun in the outskirts of Stalingrad, on 15 September. During this portion of the battle, the division fought several Wehrmacht divisions for control of the park's central hilltop summit, which changed hands multiple times. Meanwhile, other divisional units fought in different sectors of Stalingrad.
The division was in the midst of the combat throughout the city in the remains of the bombed-out buildings and factories, on the slopes of the Mamaev Kurgan hills, in the Red October Tractor Plant and in the key strategic building known as "Pavlov's House". Most accounts state that of the 10,000 men of the division that crossed the Volga into the Battle of Stalingrad, only between 280 and 320 of them survived the struggle; this profligacy with life seems incredible to Western eyes, but was unremarkable during the conflict on the Eastern front. Following the Soviet victory at Stalingrad and the destruction of the German 6th Army, the 13th Guards are again pulled from the lines for re-fit and re-supply. Alongside the 5th Guards Army, the Division were held in reserve south of Kursk, in order to counter the forthcoming German offensive there – Operation Citadel; the original intention was for these two formations to counter-attack the Germans after the German assault had been ground down by the front line Soviet units, but both formations were committed to prevent a possible breakthrough.
After several days of continuous fierce fighting (including the tank b
Operation Winter Storm
Operation Winter Storm was a German offensive in World War II in which the German 4th Panzer Army unsuccessfully attempted to break the Soviet encirclement of the German 6th Army during the Battle of Stalingrad. In late November 1942, the Red Army completed Operation Uranus, encircling some 300,000 Axis personnel in and around the city of Stalingrad. German forces within the Stalingrad pocket and directly outside were reorganized under Army Group Don, under the command of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. Meanwhile, the Red Army continued to allocate as many resources as possible to the eventual launch of the planned Operation Saturn, which aimed to isolate Army Group A from the rest of the German Army. To remedy the situation, the Luftwaffe attempted to supply German forces in Stalingrad through an air bridge; when the Luftwaffe proved incapable of carrying out its mission and it became obvious that a successful breakout could occur only if launched as early as possible, Manstein decided on a relief effort.
Manstein was promised four panzer divisions. Due to German reluctance to weaken certain sectors by redeploying German units, the task of opening a corridor to the German 6th Army fell to the 4th Panzer Army; the German force was pitted against several Soviet armies tasked with the destruction of the encircled German forces and their offensive around the lower Chir River. The German offensive made large gains on the first day; the spearhead forces were able to defeat counterattacks by Soviet troops. By 13 December, Soviet resistance slowed the German advance considerably. Although German forces took the area surrounding Verkhne-Kumskiy, the Red Army launched Operation Little Saturn on 16 December. Operation Little Saturn crushed the Italian 8th Army on Army Group Don's left flank, threatening the survival of Manstein's entire group of forces; as resistance and casualties increased, Manstein appealed to Hitler and to the commander of the German 6th Army, General Friedrich Paulus, to allow the 6th Army to break out of Stalingrad.
The 4th Panzer Army continued its attempt to open a corridor to the 6th Army on 18–19 December, but was unable to do so without the aid of forces inside the Stalingrad pocket. Manstein called off the assault on 23 December and by Christmas Eve the 4th Panzer Army began to withdraw to its starting position. Due to the failure of the 6th Army to break out from the Soviet encirclement, the Red Army was able to continue the strangulation of German forces in Stalingrad. On 23 November 1942, the Red Army closed its encirclement of Axis forces in Stalingrad. Nearly 300,000 German and Romanian soldiers, as well as Russian volunteers for the Wehrmacht, were trapped in and around the city of Stalingrad by 1.1 million Soviet personnel. Amidst the impending disaster, German chancellor Adolf Hitler appointed Field Marshal Erich von Manstein as commander of the newly created Army Group Don. Composed of the German 4th Panzer and 6th Armies, as well as the Third and Fourth Romanian Armies, Manstein's new army group was situated between German Army Groups A and B.
Instead of attempting an immediate breakout, German high command decided that the trapped forces would remain in Stalingrad in a bid to hold out. The encircled German forces were to be resupplied by air, requiring 680 t of supplies per day. However, the assembled fleet of 500 transport aircraft were insufficient for the task. Many of the aircraft were hardly serviceable in the rough Soviet winter; the German 6th Army, for example, was getting less than 20% of its daily needs. Furthermore, the Germans were still threatened by Soviet forces which still held portions of the Volga River's west bank in Stalingrad. Given the unexpected size of German forces closed off in Stalingrad, on 23 November Stavka decided to strengthen the outer encirclement preparing to destroy Axis forces in and around the city. On 24 November, several Soviet formations began to entrench themselves to defend against possible German incursions originating from the West; the Soviets reinforced the encircling forces in order to prevent a successful breakout operation by the German 6th Army and other Axis units.
However, this tied down over ½ of the Red Army's strength in the area. Planning for Operation Saturn began on 25 November, aiming for the destruction of the Italian 8th Army and the severing of communications between German forces west of the Don River and those operating in the Caucasus. Meanwhile, planning began for Operation Koltso, which aimed at reducing German forces in the Stalingrad pocket; as Operation Uranus concluded, German forces inside the encirclement were too weak to attempt a breakout on their own. Half of their remaining armor, for example, had been lost during the defensive fighting, there was a severe lack of fuel and ammunition for the surviving vehicles, given that the Luftwaffe was not able to provide adequate aerial resupply. Manstein proposed a counterstrike to break the Soviet encirclement of Stalingrad, codenamed Operation Winter Storm. Manstein believed that—due to the inability of the Luftwaffe to supply the Stalingrad pocket—it was becoming more important to relieve them "at the earliest possible date".
On 28 November, Manstein sent Hitler a detailed report on Army Group Don's situation, including the strength of the German 6th Army and an assessment on the available ammunition for German artillery inside the city. The dire strategic situation made Manstein doubtful on whether or not the relief operation could afford to wait to receive all units earmarked for the offensive. Stavka
35th Guards Rifle Division
The 35th Guards Rifle Division was a division of the Soviet Red Army in World War II. Formed from an airborne corps in the summer of 1942, the division fought in the Battle of Stalingrad with the 62nd Army served through the war with the 8th Guards Army, it was stationed in Germany postwar before its disbandment in mid-1946. In October 1941, in the city Ekgeym Volga Military District was formed the 8th Airborne Corps, it included the 18th Airborne Brigade and 19th Airborne Brigade. By January 1942 the 8th Airborne Corps was relocated to the Moscow Military District conducted combat training there. In winter and spring 1942 the corps did not participate in fighting. On July 30, 1942, in connection with a serious complication of the situation on the Soviet-German front, the 8th Airborne Corps was transformed into the 35th Guards Rifle Division, at the same time on the basis of the 17th Airborne Brigade was formed the 100th Guards Rifle Regiment, 18th and 19th Brigade became the 101st and 102nd Guards regiments respectively.
In August, the division was assigned to the Stalingrad Front and fought on the approaches to Stalingrad, in the city as part of 62nd Army Army. Guards divisions were one of the first defenders of the Stalingrad grain elevator. On September 27, 1942, the division was withdrawn from the front line and sent to re-form in the Saratov region. In January – February 1943, the division participated in the attack on the Donbass area, it freed Starobelsk. On February 11, 1943 released the station Lozova, Sinelnikovo. During these battles was awarded the Order of the Red Banner, awarded the division on June 23, 1943 by the commander of the 6th Army, Lieutenant General Ivan Shlemin. Order of the Supreme Commander was awarded the honorary name "Lozovskaya." After retrofitting again took part in the fighting. It freed Barvenkovo/Barvinkove. In September 1943, the division crossed the Dnieper and was fighting on the beachhead, involved in the Nikopol operation, it fought at Stalingrad, in the Don Basin, at Pavlograd, Kryvyi Rih, Odessa, the Magnuszew Bridgehead, Küstrin, in the Battle of Berlin.
It was with 4th Guards Rifle Corps of the 8th Guards Army of the 1st Belorussian Front May 1945. The division was disbanded in August 1946, along with the 4th Guards Rifle Corps headquarters in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. Feskov, V. I.. I.. A.. A.. Вооруженные силы СССР после Второй Мировой войны: от Красной Армии к Советской. Tomsk: Scientific and Technical Literature Publishing. ISBN 9785895035306. Afanasyev, N. I.. От Волги до Шпрее: Боевой путь 35-й гвардейской стрелковой Лозовской Краснознаменной, орденов Суворова и Богдана Хмельницкого дивизии. Moscow: Voenizdat
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was the largest confrontation of World War II, in which Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in Southern Russia. Marked by fierce close quarters combat and direct assaults on civilians in air raids, it was the largest and bloodiest battle in the history of warfare. After their defeat at Stalingrad, the German High Command had to withdraw vast military forces from the Western Front to replace their losses; the German offensive to capture Stalingrad began in August 1942, using the 6th Army and elements of the 4th Panzer Army. The attack was supported by intensive Luftwaffe bombing; the fighting degenerated into house-to-house fighting. By mid-November 1942, the Germans had pushed the Soviet defenders back at great cost into narrow zones along the west bank of the Volga River. On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, a two-pronged attack targeting the weaker Romanian and Hungarian armies protecting the German 6th Army's flanks.
The Axis forces on the flanks were overrun and the 6th Army was cut off and surrounded in the Stalingrad area. Adolf Hitler ordered that the army make no attempt to break out. Heavy fighting continued for another two months. By the beginning of February 1943, the Axis forces in Stalingrad had exhausted their ammunition and food; the remaining units of the 6th Army surrendered. The battle lasted one week and three days. By the spring of 1942, despite the failure of Operation Barbarossa to decisively defeat the Soviet Union in a single campaign, the Wehrmacht had captured vast expanses of territory, including Ukraine and the Baltic republics. Elsewhere, the war had been progressing well: the U-boat offensive in the Atlantic had been successful and Erwin Rommel had just captured Tobruk. In the east, they had stabilized their front in a line running from Leningrad in the north to Rostov in the south. There were a number of salients, but these were not threatening. Hitler was confident that he could master the Red Army after the winter of 1942, because though Army Group Centre had suffered heavy losses west of Moscow the previous winter, 65% of its infantry had not been engaged and had been rested and re-equipped.
Neither Army Group North nor Army Group South had been hard pressed over the winter. Stalin was expecting the main thrust of the German summer attacks to be directed against Moscow again. With the initial operations being successful, the Germans decided that their summer campaign in 1942 would be directed at the southern parts of the Soviet Union; the initial objectives in the region around Stalingrad were the destruction of the industrial capacity of the city and the deployment of forces to block the Volga River. The river was the Caspian Sea to central Russia, its capture would disrupt commercial river traffic. The Germans cut the pipeline from the oilfields; the capture of Stalingrad would make the delivery of Lend Lease supplies via the Persian Corridor much more difficult. On 23 July 1942, Hitler rewrote the operational objectives for the 1942 campaign expanding them to include the occupation of the city of Stalingrad. Both sides began to attach propaganda value to the city, based on it bearing the name of the leader of the Soviet Union.
Hitler proclaimed that after Stalingrad's capture, its male citizens were to be killed and all women and children were to be deported because its population was "thoroughly communistic" and "especially dangerous". It was assumed that the fall of the city would firmly secure the northern and western flanks of the German armies as they advanced on Baku, with the aim of securing these strategic petroleum resources for Germany; the expansion of objectives was a significant factor in Germany's failure at Stalingrad, caused by German overconfidence and an underestimation of Soviet reserves. The Soviets realized, they ordered that anyone strong enough to hold a rifle be sent to fight. If I do not get the oil of Maikop and Grozny I must finish this war. Army Group South was selected for a sprint forward through the southern Russian steppes into the Caucasus to capture the vital Soviet oil fields there; the planned summer offensive, code-named Fall Blau, was to include the German 6th, 17th, 4th Panzer and 1st Panzer Armies.
Army Group South had overrun the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1941. Poised in Eastern Ukraine, it was to spearhead the offensive. Hitler intervened, ordering the Army Group to split in two. Army Group South, under the command of Wilhelm List, was to continue advancing south towards the Caucasus as planned with the 17th Army and First Panzer Army. Army Group South, including Friedrich Paulus's 6th Army and Hermann Hoth's 4th Panzer Army, was to move east towards the Volga and Stalingrad. Army Group B was commanded by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock and by General Maximilian von Weichs; the start of Case Blue had been planned for late May 1942. However, a number of German and Romanian units that were to take part in Blau were besieging Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. Delays in ending the siege pushed back the start date for Blau several times, the city did not fall until early July. Operation Fridericus I by the Germans against the "Isium bulge", pinched off the Soviet