Encyclopedia of War

World War II
1942 Europe-Africa

Stalingrad

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At the beginning of 1942 the Soviets launched their winter counter-offensive.
But the German forces were far too strong for the Russians and held their lines with ease,
By spring soviet forces were pushed back as German forces pressed forward.

Hitler igorned advise to unite the German Axis forces and push southwards along the don and donets valleys,
and capture Rostov and stanligrad  and then push into the Caucasus and take control of the massive oil reserves.

Hitler was impatient and decided on simultaneous thrusts against Stalingrad and the Caucasus.
This meant dividing  his forces and creating  a huge gap between the two forces.

August 1942,German forces concentrated on the capture of Stalingrad,Hitler issued commands to general Friedrich Paulus and the Sixth Army ,they would take the brunt of the heavy fighting .
meanwhile Army Group B held the line north of Stalingrad,while Army Group A led the line south of the city .

Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov was Stalins leading general.Georgy Zhukov
He was awarded the honour of Hero of the Soviet Union for his victories against the Japanese in Manchuria.
Now Stalin put his faith in Zhukov  to defend Stalingrad and for once would let his gerenal deal with the situation without political interference.

Zhukov observed that the German flanks were covered by Italian Romanian and Hungarian troops and far less armed and committed to the cause.
Soviet plans were to hold the city until they could bring up more forces to launch  counter-attacks on the weak German flanks.
The German offensive eventually became mired in building-to-building fighting; and despite controlling nearly all of the city at times, the Wehrmacht was unable to dislodge the last Soviet defenders clinging tenaciously to the west bank of the Volga River.
The rubble created by the intense fighting stopped tanks from advancing and fighting quickly became hand to hand fighting while snipers  used the rumble to there advantage the pressure on both sides was immense.On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, a two-pronged attack targeting the weak Romanian and Hungarian forces protecting the 6th Army's flanks.
More than a million men,with almost a thousand tanks struck north and and south taking the Germans completely by surprise.Zhukov judged the Germans flanks just right and the began to crumble under the pressure from soviet forces with many surrendering .they quickly surrounded the German Sixth Army inside Stalingrad 

By the 22 November Soviet forces linked up and realizing the danger of encirclement Paulus wanted to pull out of Stalingrad but Hitler was obsessed with beating Stalin and refused to let the Sixth Army to retreat  and so they became trapped.

The Luftwaffe promised to relieve the trapped soldiers but soviet aircraft created a blockade and the Luftwaffe couldn't get the supplies through that the sixth needed.Panzer divisions attempted to break through,but were pushed back by stiff resistance from Soviet tank crews.

Almost a quarter of a million German soldiers remained inside Stalingrad running short on food medical supplies and ammunition they were in a poor state. under constant bombardment by Russian artillery morale began to fade.
On the 10 of January Zhukov launched a massive assault to crush the remaining German soldiers inside Stalingrad.

The met ferice resistance as the Germans now fought with the same desperation that the soviets showed in earlier battles.
But they couldn't hold out and on the 31 of January Paulus surrendered his army to Zhukov.Hitler condemned Paulus for his betrayal.At least 147,000 German troops were dead and some 90,000 taken prisoner most of whom would never see there homeland again.This soviet victory give them the belief that the could win this war  and past defeats were quickly forgotten.

El Alamein

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In january 1942,Rommel launched his second offensive and pushed the Eighth Army back to benghazi.German tanks proved adept at threatening the Allied positions and the Eighth Army were forced back to Egypt.
Tobruk fell and the situation seemed perilous for the Allies.
Rommel controlled the region and one more push would give him Egypt,hitler urged Rommel to take the Suez Canal, but because his supples lines had been stretched so thin,largely due to the massive distances travelled and the fact Hitler was fully committed to the war with the Soviet Union and so Rommel failed to take the Canals.

Since July 1942,Rommel had been only 160km (100miles) from the british naval base at Alexandria,Cario was in a state of emergency and Rommel was preparing for final stage of his campaign in Egypt,He was hoping to catch the British off guard with a surprise assault on 31 August using his panzers,but Montgomery was waiting for him.

German tanks had initially overlapped the British left flank,only to be stop in their tracks at Alam el Halfa by a tank brigade that had dug themselves in,with support from the RAF the British armored unit pushed the Germans back.
Montgomery waited and did not counter-attack,instead he prepared his forces for his knockout blow.

German forces in North Africa under Rommel seemed invincible and looked to be on the brink of taking Cairo when the British staged a major counter-attack and pushed the Axis forces backwards.
Using artillery Montgomery began his attack with massive bombardments using a thousand-gun barrage along a 10km (six mile) front and this was followed up by aerial attacks on German panzers.

Montgomery launched a diversionary attack near Qattara Depression,but the main assault came from the north with the Allied Corps attacking the weaker Axis left flank,which was defended by the Italians troops.
As this was happening British infantry cleared two corridors through the mine fields which tank units could pass through.
Italians put up a far tougher fight than expected along with a German panzer counter-attack which nearly halted the Allies advance.

On the 26 October Allied Forces concentrated their efforts to push along the coast,with the Australian 9th Division battled the German 164th Division against the sea,while Axis and Allied tanks battled for nearly a week,but with Allied air-surperiority the Axis tanks got pounded,And Rommel began to lose his armor very quickly,with the demand for fuel ammunition and new vehicles he soon found his forces at breaking point,along with the German 164th division nearly surrounded by the Australian 9th Division,he ordered his forces to pull back to a new defensive line on the 1 November.

Rommel would get no rest bite as Montgomery knew the impetus was important at this stage of the battle. Allied forces regrouped and pushed ahead south of kidney hill using a heavy barrage to shield the New Zealand 2nd division to clear another route through the minefield for more armor to follow.

German Panzers fought a last ditch attempt to halt the Allied advance,but with only 35 tanks left there was little they could do.
Rommel wanted to withdraw but hitler insisted that he face the Allied advance.
Two more days of fighting followed and the Afrika Korps were bled dry of supplies,and Allied forces finally broke through art Kidney hill and so Rommel had no option to disregard hitlers orders and retreat,leaving the Italians behind.

Some fifty nine thousand German and Italians had been killed wounded or capture with some five hundred tanks and four hundred guns had been destroyed.
Allied losses thirteen thousand,with 432 tanks destroyed.

El Alamein proved to be a decisive victory for the Allies it ended Axis power in the Mediterranean region and would lead to the invasion of Italy by Allied forces.

 



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1943