The Siege of Stalingrad

The Germans did not have this battle all their own way. In the southern part of the city one defense line still held. Its strong point was the grain elevator. The first German attack on 16 September erupted in a savage firefight. On 18 September the fighting entered the elevator itself. Soon the grain caught fire and the fighting took place in thick smoke.

In the north the Soviets counterattacked on 19 September. The battle raged for two days. Each night Soviet Po-2 biplanes bombed the enemy flying 600 sorties.

On 20 September the Germans attacked the grain elevator using tanks. Soviet resistance broke two days later and the grain elevator fell to the Germans in spite of air attacks directed from the ground using rockets, smoke signals and tracers to indicate targets.

The Air Force for Long Range Operations (AFLRO) attacked German airfields. Flights of fighter aircraft, operating as hunters, drove enemy aircraft out of their forward airfields.

By 27 September the battle shifted to the residential and factory districts.

The 16th Air Army had 232 aircraft, 152 of them serviceable. This included 13 night bombers, down from 31 after their previous work.

Most of the southern and central parts of Stalingrad had fallen to the Germans. Only the northern factory district held out. The Germans had suffered 7,700 dead and 31,000 wounded. The Russians lost 80,000 casualties.

On 2 October General von Paulus renewed his attacks on the northern factory district. Aerial and artillery bombardment exploded the oil reserves at the Red October Ordnance Factory. Burning oil poured into General Chuikov’s headquarters dugout. Tanks and infantry attacked the Red October factory, the Barricades Plant, and the Tractor Factory. Fighting extended into the plants, the cellars, and the sewers. The German soldiers, assisted by Stukas, advanced their front toward the Volga by more than 400 meters by 8 October.

On 14 October General von Paulus began his ‘Final Offensive.’ Three infantry divisions and two tank regiments took parts of the Tractor Factory and surrounded the rest. By 23 October half of the Red October fell and most of the Barricades was taken.

From 27 through 29 October the 8th Air Army and the AFLRO raided and damaged thirteen German airfields in 502 sorties. During the month of October 260 mass air battles occurred in the Stalingrad area. The Luftwaffe lost eleven percent of their aircraft in four months of fighting.

From 1 September to 1 November only five Soviet infantry divisions crossed the Volga into Stalingrad. At the same time 27 fresh infantry divisions and 19 armored brigades were activated. These forces were concentrated between Saratov and Povorino, northwest of Stalingrad and received training and combat experience.

By 7 November General von Paulus held 90% of Stalingrad, but it was no longer a town.

Sources: Red Army Resurgent, John Shaw and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Time-Life Books, Inc., Chicago, IL, 1979

“Stalingrad: The Onslaught,” Alan Clark, History of the Second World War Magazine, 1970s

The Soviet Air Force in World War II, Edited by Ray Wagner, Translated by Leland Fetzer, Doubleday & Company Inc., Garden City, NY, 1973

War Over the Steppes: The Air Campaigns on the Eastern Front 1941—45, E. R. Hooton, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, U.K.,2016

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