A Soviet soldier waving the Red Banner over the central plaza of Stalingrad, 1943 (German National Archives)
The decisive campaign of the Second World War in Europe began as a German offensive into the Soviet Caucasus to secure oil in the summer of 1942. It evolved into a months-long battle in urban factory cellars and apartment hallways, fought mostly for the prestige of the two nations’ leaders—one determined to take the city of Stalingrad at all costs, and the other to defend it to the last. It ended with the encirclement and annihilation of an entire German army of 250,000 men.
Stalingrad marked the turning point of the Soviet–German War, a conflict that dwarfed the 1944–45 Allied campaign in Western Europe both in numbers and ferocity. But Stalingrad’s outcome was not pre-ordained. On many occasions, Hitler and his generals might well have avoided or mitigated the disaster, while Stalin and his commanders initially considered their own counteroffensive there as secondary to a main effort elsewhere.
In addition to addressing these aspects, Timothy Mulligan, an author and retired archivist at National Archives, who specialized in captured German and related American military records of World War II, also considers the battle’s broader strategic context, personalities of leading Soviet and German figures, and such particular aspects as the role of snipers and the fate of Russians serving with the Germans. He also examines the political aftermath and the vast human cost of the Battle of Stalingrad.
Afterward, educator Al Gaspar presents a miniature war-game battlefield created to depict the events at Stalingrad.
Listen to Timothy Mulligan’s interview on the Not Old Better podcast with host Paul Vogelzang.