Stalingrad: 4 million troops involved?

I can see stats for how many German and Soviet forces were at Stalingrad at the beginning and at its height, but is there a figure for all combatants involved who ever got a piece of the action at any point from beginning to end?

…4 million ish?ll

Also, are armed civilians usually included in such tallies or only true military guys?

There is a lot of misinformation about this battle. Not least from the Russians. The Hollywood notion of Soviet soldiers only having one rifle between two men is just that - Hollywood. The definition of ‘soldier’ is blurred as the entire population of the city was fighting the Germans.

This newspaper article with graphic illustrations gives some idea of the scale of it.

Right - I knew around 2 million died - just wondering if it’s true that 4 million people in total were “in” the battle at some point or other (even just briefly).

The Germans lost the sixth army with 350,000 (killed or surrendered and subsequently died in captivity), plus some 50,000 from the units that tried to break the ring. German allies are reported to have lost around 230,000 with slightly less than that wounded.

Soviet losses range from 400,000 killed to 650,000 casualties (of whom many survived.)

It’s the civilian population that’s tricky. From an original 1.2 million, less than 50,000 were alive when the German pocket was cleared. No one’s sure how many non-combatants died and how many managed to flee.

War… sucks.

Just trying to visualize that many bodies is mind boggling. Then thinking that the pile of corpses starts right outside your ruined, shell-blasted door is a sobering, terrifying notion. And then thinking that the corpses start there because you just barely, through luck or fate, managed to shank the invader seconds before he bayoneted you…

War sucks, man. War sucks.

If anyone is seeking a preview of the Battle of Armageddon, Stalingrad is about as close as it gets.
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OK, but is 4 million about right?

The problem is the scale of it. If it’s just the siege of Stalingrad, then you have the German 6th army of 350,000 vs the initial Soviet force of around 220,000. But the whole German army group south numbered more than 2 million Germans and their allies while Soviets had more than 1.0 million east of the Volga. The Soviets, as the battle progressed, built up at least 1.1 million west of the Volga, while the Germans eventually committed 1.0 million into the battle.

2.2 million at the height of the fighting is about right.

I agree the largest operation on the Eastern Front you could say was ‘Stalingrad’ was the Soviet counteroffensive along the more southerly portion of the front in November 1942, Operation Uranus, the inner part of which surrounded the Axis force in Stalingrad. That involved around 1.1 million Soviet personnel in three army groups and the wiki page gives around 800k Axis (German, Italian, Romanian, Hungarian). “Great Battles on the Eastern Front” by Dupuy (which is all about stats of the EF, but written before the fall of the USSR) says the Soviets estimated the Axis force at about the same as theirs and gives a slightly lower number for the Soviets.

4 million isn’t the total on the whole EF either, that was more like ~10mil at that time, almost 3 mil German some 100’sk more other Axis, 6+mil Soviet.

The biggest German operation in the east, and would have been the biggest encirclement in military history had it been successful was Kursk, with 950,000 Germans against 2.5 million Soviets at the height of the fighting.

The biggest successful encirclement was Kiev during the early months of Barbarossa with 500,000 Soviet troops trapped by Guderian’s southern swing, linking with Rundstedt’s units.

You could certainly find a way to include 4 million men, but bear in mind what that means:

  1. It doesn’t mean 4 million men were actually at the front lines fighting. The strength of the two army groups includes combat support (artillery, engineers, air assets, electronic warfare, etc.) and service support (logistics, field hospitals, transportation pools) personnel.

  2. The number of soldiers involved over the course of the battle does not means they were all involved at the same time; men died, were wounded, or were rotated out and were replaced by other men.

There is a pretty strong argument that Stalingrad was the single largest battle in history, but again it depends how you define “single battle.” The Hundred Days’ Offensive of 1918 involved a staggering number of troops but I don’t think that’s a “single battle.”

Thanks everyone for the info.

Seems like the Wehrmacht was obsessed with encircling the Soviets time and time again. Was Cannae a popular thing in military academies around 1920-1940?

Cannae was a very different thing from the German large scale maneuvers in WWII.

For one thing, Cannae was a small scale battle taking place along a mile wide main front.

For another, Cannae was an example of deception. The center of the Punic line designed to be pushed backwards. The Roman center went into the developing fold and got attacked by stronger troops on the flanks of the center.

The Germans in WWII generally went for straightforward envelopment by penetration in depth on the flanks.

It’s the “in depth” thing that was difficult for pre-modern armies to attempt. It took the Soviets several years to get a handle on that.

The Germans were obsessed with the fear that Soviet forces would evade them and escape into the nearly limitless expanse of the steppes. Their war plan from the start emphasized the need to encircle Soviet forces and prevent retreat.

The Germans called their dynamic method of warfare blitzkrieg (“lightning war”). It was characterized by penetration of a front at a chosen point (the “schwerpunkt”) with massive mobile forces, supported by airpower, and the rapid exploitation of that penetration by follow-on forces.

Blitzkrieg has significant weaknesses – principally, that the penetrating and exploiting forces are increasingly vulnerable to being cut off themselves if the defenders don’t panic, and attack the flanks of the exploiting columns. Even failure to defeat the exploiting forces can result in them being bogged down in battle on a new frontline. Historian John Keegan has pointed out that for blitzkrieg to succeed, it usually needed “cooperation” of some form (involuntary of course) from the opposing force. In Poland, that wasn’t really a factor because Poland was geographically vulnerable, hit by surprise, and invaded by the Soviets too. But in France that “cooperation” took the form of the Allied forces advancing into Belgium and Holland willy-nilly (intending to keep the battle as far from French soil as possible) and thus falling into the trap at Dunkirk. In Operation Barbarossa, that “cooperation” came in the form of Stalin trying to defend every inch of his newly-seized frontier and forbidding retreat.

By the time of the battle of Stalingrad, the Soviet high command (particularly Zhukov) had regained enough influence to modify Stalin’s influence. They still made a firm stand at Stalingrad, but Zhukov cold-bloodedly gave the defenders just enough support to hold on, and held back the rest to accumulate enough reserves for an enveloping counter-attack.