Last Chance Lost

The forces of the Third Reich threw away their last chance for survival, let-alone victory, in the USSR, 73 years ago today.

Through a winter-frozen mix of fatigue, apathy, and totalitarian vanity, the command of the Wehrmacht 6th Army– a quarter-million men– on 19 December 1942 rejected an order to try to break through their complete encirclement by the Red Army.  The Soviets’ circular-siege was anchored in northern Stalingrad.

The 6th Army command disobeyed the breakout order even though another formidable Nazi force had struggled at great cost to try to help 6th Army.  The 57th Panzer Corps, commanded by the gifted Colonel General Hermann “Papa” Hoth, had fought its way to Stalingrad’s southern exurbs, not-far from the Soviets’ circular-siege of the 6th Army.

Hoth’s mission was, from the outside, to smash into the Soviets’ siege-circle at the same time and place 6th Army was to smash out-of the siege-circle.  Thus the Nazi high command in the USSR anticipated a corridor through a ruptured siege-circle.  Through the corridor, much if not most of 6th Army would escape.

But it was not to be, because of a Nazi decision.

Because of this disobedience by command of a Nazi Army:  the huge loss of all Nazi strategic-initiative in the USSR.  From 19 December 1942– in the larger, strategic,
view– Nazi forces in the USSR effectively were walking backward.

flour mill volgograd pub
The flour mill atop the West-bank Volga-River bluffs, above the main landing stages for Soviet forces, in the center of the former Stalingrad. September 2015.
© Landis McGauhey 2015

 

 

© Landis McGauhey 2015