Suppose Stalingrad was Not a German Defeat?

Stalingrad was surrounded by Russian forces in 1942 (November). As everyone knows, the German 6th Army was starved and forced to surrender-this marked the beginning of the end for Germany. the loss was severe, over 1 million of Germany’s best soldiers, plus thousands of vehicles, guns and tanks. Suppose the Germans had been able to break through the Russian lines and rescue Von Paulus’s trapped army? Would this have been enough to have enabled the Germans to resume offensive operations in 1943? Or would the Russians have been able to defeat them anyway?

The Germans simply didn’t have the troops or supplies to sustain wide ranging operations that deep inside of Soviet territory, even if they resorted to poorly equipped allied armies on the flanks. By the time it was encircled, there really was no way to really save the 6th army. Technically some kind of wildly lucky offensive could let troops get to the sixth army and they could bring back a flag and some fragment of the men, but the army would not be functional, and total losses would probably be significantly higher.

If Germany had given up the entire 1942 campaign and focused on limited offensives and defense (which wasn’t actually possible without a coup overthrowing Hitler) they would not have taken such huge losses, but they still would have been massively outnumbered, outgunned, and outmaneuvered by the Soviets. They might have held up a little bit better in 1943, but were not going to gain significant territory, and still were going to collapse in 1944 to the growing and improving Soviet armies.

If it hadn’t been Stalingrad it would have been Othergrad. In other words, that disaster was waiting to happen, and it would have happened eventually, long before Russia could have been conquered.

There was no population sympathetic to Germany in Russia, the Russians were convinced of German atrocities if they lost, and Stalin was not about to let wholesale slaughter of his own people get in the way of what he wanted. Stalin would have kept feeding people into the battle if he had to equip them with pocket knives.

A Germany with only one front and better supply lines might have been able to brute force their way through that, but they never had the resources in the real world. They needed Russia to be like a bigger version of Poland and that wasn’t ever in the cards.

Barring a coup that ousts Stalin in favour of someone with no will to fight… no.

The German army committed more like 400k to Stalingrad, and it would have been lucky to rescue 200k in a breakout operation.

The Germans actually did resume strategic offensive operations, their last in the East, in 6/43 in the Kursk campaign, where they ran up against a stone wall and were bloodily repulsed. 200k more troops would not have effected the outcome.

Paulus was not a “von”, a fact which even some professional historians cannot seem to grasp. Or maybe it is their editors.

If it was going to survive, 6th Army was going to have to retreat; there was simply no way a rescue force was going to be able to punch a hole through to Stalingrad and hold it without itself becoming encircled and destroyed. The problem was Hitler refused to consider abandoning Stalingrad to the Russians and insisted 6th Army continue to hold Stalingrad. As it was the Germans were lucky enough to avoid an even bigger disaster and keep all of Army Group A from being cut off and destroyed by retreating out of the Caucasus and back across the Don in time.

PS the Germans did have enough left, even in the immediate aftermath of the Stalingrad disaster, to mount a successful 3?/31 strategic counteroffensive for repossession of the major city of Kharkov. I do not think they were able to hang onto it for the rest of the year, though.

Look, Cold War Propaganda need to die down now. Stalin was a nasty piece of work, but the Germans were imposing a genocidal war on the U.S.S.R; any leader would have continued tio fight; hell he would not have needed to encourage the people.

As to the question; no, by the time the Germans (and Italians, Hungarians, Romanians et al) were trapped in Stalingrad; their goose was well and truly cooked. An escape would simply have effected the casualty figures.

Now if the Germans had stuck to their original plan of reducing rather then taking Stalingrad; then they might have ben in business; historically they did break into the Caucases and have cut of Stalingrad as the main link between the Volga and Don rivers/ The Caucases campaign might have succeeded if the don’t have a whole Field Army stuck in Stalingrad.

I agree with AK84. The Germans would have been better off just isolating and going around Stalingrad.

And I’m not sure the Russians could have kept up throwing troops into the meatgrinder. Germany could have adapted a strategy of strategic retreats with limited counterattacks to fortified positions and letting the Russians keep smashing into them. Eventually Stalin would have exhausted his resources especially as they kept pushing west.

They also should have moved more of their 88 mm guns into the anti-tank role instead of trying to use them as anti-aircraft guns.

History suggests that the Russians were able to do this.

Actually; despite Chuikov made sure to only commit enough troops to tie the Germans down; and build up reserves. It was those reserves which then undertook the encirclement.

They really ought to have just crossed the Volga above and below the city, and just surrounded it/bypassed it. Cutting off river traffic on the Volga would have been an effective strategic goal in its own right. There was no rational reason whatsoever for them to get involved in such a protracted city-fight over such an inconsequential place.

That would have both saved the Germans a great deal in blood and treasure, and then also not tied them down in one place strategically/operationally. That’s what got them in trouble- Hitler’s insistence that they HAD to take Stalingrad and that they couldn’t withdraw.

If not for those things, I suspect that they wouldn’t have been in a position for the Soviets to trap the 6th Army in Operation Saturn in late 1942/early 1943.

Hitler’s obsession with Stalingrad is bizarre-his senior generals advised against its capture, and Hitler knew that capturing it would cost the army thousands of lives.
Stalin also was not rational-in the August 1943 Kursk battle, he held all the cards-yet he ordered offensive operations against the very aggressive German front line units. Ultimately, this would cost the Red Army some 3X the casualties taken by the Germans-why? It would have been better just to let the Germans batter themselves to pieces against the very strong Soviet defensive lines.

I agree completely with your evaluation of the commitment to war of Soviet leadership and citizens. Thank God for their incomparable, victorious sacrifice.

However, I think the other member’s absurd comment (reply #4) is a reflection of his own unsound grasp of history rather than a commonly prevailing Western view held during the Cold War.

What the West should be faulted for is its virtually complete lack of appreciation for the Soviet contribution to victory, and the terrible cost in blood to the people. They tied down about two thirds of the German Army and about half the German Air Force, and killed well over a million Germans while they were at it, thus sparing the West immense casualties of its own.

IMO in this regard prevailing Western attitudes cross the line into intellectual criminality.

I agree completely.

IMO one German Army (6th) plus allies of questionable value would have been insufficient to hold both the front line Northwest of Stalingrad and the front line East of it. IOW the Soviet army would have broken through somewhere anyway when the weather turned bad and would have compromised the entire German position east of the Don.

I have always wondered exactly what was going on with the German 11th Army after it reduced the last Soviet positions in the Crimea in the summer of 1942. I read that it was transferred to the Leningrad front, but its commander, von Manstein,showed up later in the Southeast to lead the Stalingrad relief attempt. However, I am not sure one additional German Army would have been enough to salvage the German position.

I should hasten to say that many SDMB contributors are very highly literate in history, including the history of the WWII Eastern Front.

Of course the people here are in general far above the intellectual norm.

I think that the East should be faulted for its virtually complete lack of appreciation for the Soviet contribution to Nazi early war victory, which led to terrible cost in blood to the people of Europe, and later to the Soviet union itself. They joined the Nazis in invading Poland, supplied them with war materials throughout the stunning victories of 1938-1941, and allowed them to leave only a bare garrison on the Eastern border while dealing with France and trying to deal with the UK.

If you’re going to accuse someone of ‘intellectual criminality’, you probably should remember 1938-1941 in addition to 1941-1945. The Soviets didn’t have any allies on continental Europe because they helped the Nazis defeat everyone else in the area, not because the West abandonded them. The Soviets took high casualties initially because of Stalin’s purges and reorganizations, not because of anything the West did to them - he in fact ignored direct warnings about Barbarossa. It’s not really reasonable to expect a medal for shooting yourself in the foot twice.

Stalin himself was on the verge of collapse. Stalingrad also crushed German morale and raised Soviet morale.
*Regardless of the strategic implications, there is little doubt that Stalingrad was a morale watershed. Germany’s defeat shattered its reputation for invincibility and dealt a devastating blow to German morale. On 30 January 1943, the tenth anniversary of his coming to power, Hitler chose not to speak. Joseph Goebbels read the text of his speech for him on the radio. The speech contained an oblique reference to the battle, which suggested that Germany was now in a defensive war. The public mood was sullen, depressed, fearful, and war-weary. Germany was looking in the face of defeat.[96]

The reverse was the case on the Soviet side. There was an overwhelming surge in confidence and belief in victory. A common saying was: “You cannot stop an army which has done Stalingrad.” Stalin was feted as the hero of the hour and made a Marshal of the Soviet Union.[97]*

The USSR and/or Stalin could have simply collapsed.

True, but some Western observers also should be faulted for not recognizing these facts.

And then we have the problem of gross understimation/ignorance of the importance of Allied aid to the Soviets in their campaigns against the Nazis - a viewpoint long encouraged by Soviet propaganda, but which has been breaking down recently.

To be fair, the Ruskies probably get more notice for their part in WWII, in the US, than the French get for their part in the American Revolutionary War. The American people probably would have been just as happy to have had Lafayette as the first POTUS as Washington, and now the French are Cheese Eating Surrender Monkies. At least the USSR earned their low position in our minds. The French haven’t done anything but be French.

No kidding… nobody realizes that as part of the French involvement in the war, they fought 4 fairly large fleet actions vs. the British, with a few more smaller ones as well.