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The arrogance of Adolf Hitler and the German high command was heightened by the enemy’s stupendous losses in Operation Barbarossa. The great offensive of 1941 might not have destroyed the Soviet Union, but more than 3 million Russians were dead. Three million more were in German prison camps. Add to those grim statistics the tens of thousands murdered, or dead from deliberate starvation and mistreatment at the hands of the Wehrmacht and the SS. German flags flew over the Ukraine, Russia’s granary, and over the Donbas, industrial heartland of the Soviet Union. A third of the country’s rail network was in German hands; its heavy industrial production was down by three-fourths. The Red Army had become a blunted instrument, its tanks and aircraft destroyed, its best divisions chewed up and spat out by the blitzkrieg, its winter 1941 counterattack met, then checked, by a German army at the very nadir of its own resources and fortunes.

German damage to the Soviets, however, had not been achieved without cost. More than 900,000 Germans were dead, wounded or missing — almost a third of the invasion force. As late as May 1942, some German infantry formations were at little more than a third of their authorized strength. More than 4,200 tanks had been destroyed or damaged, and an overburdened industrial system no longer had any hope of replacing all of them. Roughly 100,000 trucks and other motor vehicles were gone, as were more than 200,000 horses — the latter arguably more important than the lost machines.

Since June 1941, Nazi Germany had been at war with both the world’s largest land power, the Soviet Union, and its greatest mercantile empire, Great Britain. In December it added the biggest industrial power, the United States, to its list of enemies. Hitler understood that his Third Reich did not possess anything like the resources to match such a coalition. He did not intend to try. On December 10, 1941, he had assumed personal command of the Eastern Front. Many of the key figures of Operation Barbarossa, such as Heinz Guderian, Gerd von Rundstedt and Fedor von Bock, were relieved of command or transferred. In their places stood new men, with reputations and careers to make. Like Hitler, they viewed the winter setbacks as temporary. And in many ways he was right. A hundred thousand men, cut off in the Demyansk pocket south of Leningrad, had been supplied by air from January to the end of April 1942, and were then relieved. A month later, German and Romanian troops under Erich von Manstein completed the conquest of the Crimea, driving its last Soviet defenders literally into the sea in a series of frontal attacks. Even when they operated on a shoestring, nothing seemed beyond the German Landser — the infantry in worn field-gray uniforms, the men who crewed the tanks and manned the guns, and the junior officers and NCOs who led them.

The German army in the spring of 1942 remained a superbly tempered instrument, combining the best features of an ideologically motivated citizen army and a seasoned professionalized force. The months in Russia had pitilessly exposed weak human and materiel links. New tanks and weapons still existed mostly on drawing boards, but officers and men knew how to use what they had to best advantage. The 37mm anti-tank gun, so helpless against Russian armor that it was nicknamed the ‘army door-knocker,’ was giving way to a high-velocity 50mm piece. The Panzerkampfwagen (Pzkw.) Mk. III tank remained the mainstay of the armored divisions, but it too appeared in an upgunned version. Its longtime stablemate, the Pzkw. Mk. IV, was beginning to exchange its short-barreled 75mm gun for a high-velocity version that could match all but the heaviest Soviet armor. Nothing spectacular — but enough to enhance the conviction among the German soldiers that they had the measure of their enemies and were still able to defeat them. From highest to lowest, the German soldiers believed that their mobility, shock power, communications and above all disciplined initiative, resting on the base of comradeship and confidence fostered by the bitter fighting of 1941, would bring victory in 1942.

The losses suffered and the lessons learned during the previous year nevertheless structured planning for the next year’s campaign. Instead of three offensives moving in different directions, Hitler’s directive of April 5, 1942, projected only holding actions in the northern and central sectors. The focus for the spring campaign would be in the south, with a major drive toward the Caucasus. The objective would be the destruction of Soviet forces in the region and seizure of oil fields that were vital to the German war effort. A secondary objective was Stalingrad — not for its own sake, but in order to cut the Volga River and isolate the Russians south of the industrial city.

Despite its reduced scale, the proposed offensive was risky. It would be launched on a 500-mile front. If it gained the set objectives, it would create a salient of more than 1,300 miles. Hindering the drive was the fact that the road and rail networks would grow thinner the farther the Germans advanced. The main attack was scheduled to begin at the end of June — at best, four to five months before rain and snow would put an end to mobile operations. Even if the offensive succeeded, however, there was no guarantee that the Soviet Union would collapse. It had other major domestic sources of oil — not to mention the promise of support from its new ally, the United States, which was committed to keeping Russia in the fight at all costs.

Such wider issues were not raised among German officers, who were focusing their energy on preparations for the upcoming campaign, which was dubbed Operation Blue. German planning staffs focused on the war’s operational and tactical levels. The army’s rapid expansion since Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 had left it so short of qualified staff officers that everybody was too immersed in details to have any energy left for evaluating the big picture.

For their part, Soviet concerns in early 1942 primarily involved buying time — time for American assistance to arrive, time to re-establish an industrial base physically transplanted east of the Ural Mountains, and time to reorganize and re-equip an army shaken by disaster. Stavka, the Soviet high command, advocated a defensive strategy. Soviet Premier Josef Stalin wanted to mount local offensives, designed in part to wear down the Germans and keep them off balance, and in part to restore Soviet domestic morale, which was far too low for the dictator’s peace of mind.

It was increasingly clear that the security and propaganda apparatus that had intimidated and inspired the Soviet people through the privations and purges of the preceding decades was by itself insufficient to counter the pressures presented by the German invasion. Only the Germans’ bestial behavior in territory they had conquered and their reluctance to consider mobilizing opponents of the Soviet regime under their flag had kept disaffection with the Soviet regime from reaching explosive proportions. Stalin expected the revitalized Red Army to provide a safety valve by winning small-scale victories. Instead, the Germans checked and threw back its ill-prepared efforts. In May, a Soviet attack briefly recaptured the city of Kharkov but collapsed when a German counterstrike surrounded and destroyed four entire armies. Then, on June 28, Germany’s Army Group South tore the Russian front wide open.

Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, who had led Army Group Center almost to within artillery range of Moscow before being relieved of command in 1941, was getting a second chance. He had 68 divisions, nine of them panzer and five more motorized. He possessed 750 tanks. The Luftwaffe provided more than 1,200 aircraft, including the close-support specialists of the VIII Air Corps under General Wolfram von Richthofen, a cousin of World War I’s ‘Red Baron.’

Bock’s order of battle included 25 divisions from German allies and client states as well. Mostly Italian and Romanian, those formations were not as well equipped, trained, led or motivated as their German counterparts. Aware of that, Bock intended that they would simply play screening roles, serving as flank guards, and occupy less vulnerable sectors. Nevertheless, their direct participation in the offensive indicated the weakness of the German army in 1942 relative to its responsibilities — and implied a promise of trouble should things not go according to plan.

For the first few weeks, the German offensive was a repeat of the lightning advances of Operation Barbarossa. German mechanized spearheads rolled forward across the steppe under an air umbrella impenetrable to a Red air force still woefully short of skilled pilots. But the ground gained was not matched by Soviet losses. Frustrated, Hitler fired Bock and split Army Group South in two. Army Group A, under Field Marshal Wilhelm List, was to turn south, take Rostov and drive into the Caucasus. Army Group B, commanded by Field Marshal Maximilian von Weichs, would thrust east and cut the Volga while screening the left wing of the offensive.

The new organization gained ground but produced no great tokens of victory. The Red Army’s abortive spring offensives had cost it more than a half-million casualties, which were suffered primarily among its best formations. Stavka’s officers argued that, temporarily at least, space must be exchanged for time. Stalin reluctantly concurred. Even after he authorized a strategic retreat on July 6, some Soviet formations were cut off by the successive German pincers. While some of the trapped Russians fought on, others surrendered with only token resistance. Enraged, Stalin issued Order Number 227 on July 28. Distributed to all fighting units, it called for an end to retreat and demanded that each yard of Soviet territory be defended. The penalty for failure to comply ranged from summary execution to service in a penal unit. During the course of the war, more than 400,000 Russians were sentenced to penal battalions and another 250,000 were sentenced to be shot for failure to obey 227.

Frustrated by a perceived lack of progress, Hitler became more deeply involved in the campaign’s operational aspects. On July 16, he diverted the Fourth Panzer Army, and with it the bulk of Army Group B’s mechanized forces, south to Rostov, hoping to encircle Soviet forces there. At the same time, he not only sustained Army Group B’s mission to drive toward the Volga but, on July 20, specifically ordered its Sixth Army to attack Stalingrad.

A week earlier, Stavka had established an independent Stalingrad Front, and on July 19 Stalin put the city on a war footing. At the time, both seemed little more than gestures. The Front’s three armies were an uneasy mixture of green troops and formations hammered in the earlier fighting. But Order 227 was more than a set of draconian threats. It was a reminder that there was nowhere else to go. The Russian people realized that not only the Soviet state was at stake. Despite the horrors of Stalin’s regime, the citizens responded, not merely by digging ditches and filling sandbags, but by reporting to work and finishing their shifts.

On August 9, German troops captured the oil producing center of Maikop but found it completely wrecked. As supplies ran low and the Red Army’s resistance stiffened, the German advance stalled on August 28 — well short of its objective, the Grozhny oil fields. Hitler dismissed the responsible commander at the end of August and began directing Army Group A himself.

Meanwhile, Army Group B found itself locked into increasingly bitter, close-quarters fighting as it clawed its way toward the Volga. Weichs initially intended to use the pincer movements that had served the Germans so well for a year. The Sixth Army from the north and the Fourth Panzer Army from the south were to break through the front and cut off the Soviet forces west of Stalingrad. Both met determined resistance in terrain that handicapped the small-unit tactical maneuvers that often gave the Germans an advantage over their numerically superior foes. When it was man to man and tank against tank, casualties were higher and advances shorter. Nevertheless, the little flags on the map tables of both sides kept moving in the same direction, toward the Volga and Stalingrad.

On August 21, the tide seemed suddenly to turn. German infantry crossed the Don River, the first waves in rubber boats. Pioneers built bridges under Luftwaffe air cover. The next day, a panzer corps moved through the breach, and on the 23rd the spearheads of the 16th Panzer Division reached the Volga. As they advanced, however, the Germans found themselves under counterattack by everything the Soviets could throw at them, including civilians with rifles and armbands, and tanks fresh off Stalingrad’s production lines. Most of them were T-34s, whose gunpower and mobility the Germans had learned to respect earlier in the summer. But the German crews were better trained and more experienced, and they picked off the green Russians by the dozens as the Luftwaffe set Stalingrad ablaze and German reinforcements pushed toward the river.

Still determined to complete his pincer movement, Weichs ordered both his armies forward, setting their junction point at the town of Pitomnik, 10 miles west of Stalingrad. Instead of staying in place to be destroyed, however, the Russians retreated into the city — whether on their own initiative or under German pressure depends on the nationality of the analyst. Convinced that this movement symbolized the end of significant resistance, Weichs ordered an advance into Stalingrad’s suburbs.

The German commander was less inhibited at the prospects of fighting in the streets of Stalingrad than his armor commanders, most of whom were dubious about committing to a fight that denied their panzers freedom of movement. Their opposition ended, however, when one panzer corps commander was relieved for recommending withdrawal in his sector. The man directly responsible for that relief had assumed command of the Sixth Army in January. General Friedrich Paulus had a good record as a staff officer and a corresponding image as a soft-shoe type rather than a muddy-boots commander. Nevertheless, he had taken the Sixth Army across the steppe, and by August 31 most of his divisions were closing on the Volga, clearing what seemed to be Red Army die-hards holding out in Stalingrad’s rubble.

At this stage Paulus and Stalin had a common perspective: Both believed Stalingrad was doomed. On August 26, the Soviet leader played his trump card. He appointed Georgi Zhukov his deputy supreme commander in chief. Zhukov typified a new breed of Soviet general: as fearless as they were pitiless, ready to do anything required to crush the Germans and not inhibited by threats, actual or implied. Arriving at Stalingrad on August 29, he insisted that further counterattacks with the available resources were futile. Stalingrad must and would be held — but in the context of a wider strategic plan.

Even as the situation around Stalingrad worsened and Zhukov busied himself with putting together a workable defensive plan, Stavka’s strategists insisted that the Red Army must not merely respond to enemy attacks, but concentrate its own strength and seize the initiative. In Zhukov’s absence, staff officers began developing plans for a winter campaign involving two major operations. Uranus involved committing large mobile forces north and south of Stalingrad, then encircling and destroying enemy forces in the resulting pocket. Uranus was to be followed by Saturn, which would cut off and annihilate whatever remained of Army Groups A and B. Mars was the other half of the plan. With all eyes focused on the south, this operation would go in against a seemingly vulnerable sector on the hitherto quiet front of German Army Group Center: a salient around the city of Rzhev. Described for years in Soviet literature as a diversion, Mars now appears to have been instead a complement to Uranus, intended like its counterpart to be followed by a second stage that would shatter Army Group Center and put the Red Army on the high road to Berlin. It was an ambitious strategy for an army still improvising its recovery from the twin shocks of Barbarossa and Blue. Its prospects depended entirely on the ability of Stalingrad’s defenders to hold out.

That critical mission was, in turn, the responsibility of Lt. Gen. Vasili Chuikov. On September 12, he was appointed commander of the Sixty-second Army, the city’s principal operational formation. On one level his mission seemed obvious: hold or die, with the threat of army firing squads and the pistols of the secret police keeping his men on the line as long as any remained standing. Chuikov, however, was also a student of tactics. The Germans, he argued, had prevailed through complex combined-arms attacks. The broken terrain of an urban warfare environment like Stalingrad worked against that kind of sophistication. The Soviet commander used that to his advantage. Rather than simply sitting back and waiting for the Germans to batter him, Chuikov ordered his troops to ‘grab them by the belt’ and engage them as closely as possible, to fight not merely street by street and building by building, but floor by floor and room by room. Such tactics would neutralize the Germans’ firepower and would deny them even the limited maneuvering space they needed for tactical initiatives. It would also cost lives, but the Soviet Union had lives to spend.

On September 14, the final German drive for the Volga began. By that afternoon Chuikov’s command post had been silenced and the fight was decentralizing to rifle-company level as German spearheads flicked toward the landing areas along the Volga that were Stalingrad’s last hope. With the fate of the city in the balance, a desperate Chuikov secured a single division from Zhukov, Aleksandr Rodimstev’s 13th Guards. That night the division crossed the Volga, clawed out a bridgehead and held it for five days. It was long enough for further reinforcements to reach the city. It was also long enough to create doubts on the German side about the wisdom of clearing the massive factory and warehouse complexes along the river that were becoming the focal points for a defense whose ferocity surpassed anything they had ever experienced.

Stalingrad became a city of rubble, smoke and ash, where seeing and breathing became chores and movement invited anything from a sniper’s bullet to an artillery barrage. In one of modern history’s great examples of leadership, Chuikov kept his men fighting by the force of his character. He offered no rhetoric and made no promises. Instead, he projected a dour fatalism that linked the fate of the city and its garrison. German generals and colonels also led from the front, hoping that inspiration would make up for lost mobility. Compelled to substitute courage for skill and lives for maneuver, however, the German army in Stalingrad was ‘demodernizing,’ losing the capacity to fight anything but a close-quarters battle of attrition.

German Chief of Staff Franz Halder warned of the risks and was dismissed on September 24. The message was clear. To meet Paulus’ calls for reinforcements in the face of mounting casualties, Weichs began stripping less active sectors north and south of Stalingrad of German formations and replacing them with Romanians and Italians. The gamble might have been justified if the German-tipped spearhead had somehow been able to recapture the initiative. Instead, the most capable German formations were being chewed up in fruitless attacks in Stalingrad. A Luftwaffe never designed for sustained operations was suffering from increasing maintenance problems. Artillery pieces were wearing out. Tanks were breaking down. The Soviets by contrast had succeeded in systematizing their reinforcement and resupply system across the Volga. More and more heavy guns were supporting the infantry.

On September 30, Hitler had announced Stalingrad’s imminent capture. Instead, it was the Germans who were pinned in place, able to drive forward only locally and episodically, with losses far out of proportion to either military or propaganda gains. As the October rains heralded winter’s approach, the Fhrer hinted at great rewards for Paulus when the city was finally secured. The Sixth Army launched its final coordinated attack on October 14. It broke into and through Chuikov’s lines, once again driving spearheads to the Volga’s banks, halting the movement of reinforcements across the river. The German plan called for an urban encirclement, a battle of maneuver and annihilation following Stalingrad’s street network. It almost worked. Chuikov, as matter-of-fact a man as ever wore a uniform, talked about an inexplicable force driving the Germans forward. It was, however, merely a last brilliant flash of the fighting power, skill and spirit that had taken the Wehrmacht across Western Europe, North Africa and into the heart of Russia. Pressed against the riverbank, the Soviets rallied and held, fighting the Sixth Army to a standstill.

On October 31, Chuikov counterattacked. His force was only a division strong and gained less than 200 yards of polluted rubble, but it thrust at the heart of six weeks’ worth of denial on the part of the Germans. Twenty of the German army’s best divisions were packed at the tip of an immense salient hundreds of miles inside Russia. The salient’s flanks were held by troops for whom ‘dubious’ was a compliment. The main supply route was a railroad that at one point ran barely 60 miles from the front line, and winter was setting in. It was at this moment that Zhukov unleashed Operation Uranus.

For a month Stavka had held its hand, building up forces in the face of Stalin’s demands for action, waiting for the rains to end and the ground to freeze. Those forces now numbered a million men, 1,000 modern tanks, 1,400 aircraft and 14,000 guns — all of it undetected by a German intelligence blinded by Soviet deception measures, and by its own conviction that the Soviets were as locked into Stalingrad as were the Germans. On November 19, a new Southwest Front, commanded by one of Zhukov’s protgs, General Nikolai Vatutin, hit the Romanian Third Army. A day later, another tank-tipped sledgehammer struck the Romanian Fourth Army on the Stalingrad salient’s southern flank. Hopelessly outgunned, the Romanians in both sectors collapsed. On November 23 the Soviet spearheads met near the town of Kalach, 50 miles from Stalingrad, in a textbook encirclement.

It took a week to complete the encirclement of the 20-odd divisions and 330,000 men caught in what soon became known as the ‘Stalingrad pocket.’ Within days, internal friction among Soviet commanders slowed the advance and stiffened German resistance. Nevertheless, by November 30 a 100-mile gap existed between the Sixth Army and the rest of the Wehrmacht.

Professionals at the time and armchair generals since have argued that Paulus erred in not breaking out immediately, with or without orders. His best chance, the argument runs, was before the Soviets could consolidate the envelopment. Weichs ordered him to cease offensive operations the same day that Uranus began. But the Sixth Army was locked in close combat with an opponent determined not to let go. Breaking contact at the front was only the first step in what would have been an incredibly complex maneuver. Even had Paulus acted to break out, there was no guarantee that the army’s fuel and ammunition reserves would be sufficient for a fighting retreat across the steppe in midwinter.

The response to the unfolding disaster among the Sixth Army’s command structure was conditioned by the decline of the maneuver-war mentality after two months of static operations. Too many of the German sergeants, captains and colonels who knew how to fight in the open were dead, or had been promoted to replace other casualties. The new hands — so far as replacements had been forthcoming — were conditioned to moving a few yards at a time, and very cautiously. When Hitler proposed to relieve Stalingrad from outside, he reinforced an attitude held by many in the Sixth Army.

The Fuhrer’s plans called for Weichs to stabilize the front and to launch the new Army Group Don toward Stalingrad. The new army group’s commander was Erich von Manstein, who since the start of Barbarossa had established a record as the Eastern Front’s specialist in difficult missions. Manstein’s command, however, was scraped together from various bits and pieces. It was not until December 12 that he was able to concentrate a half-dozen divisions for Operation Winter Storm, the projected grand advance to relieve what Hitler now proclaimed Fortress Stalingrad. Meanwhile, the garrison was dependent on supply from the air.

There is strong evidence that on November 20, alluding to the earlier success at Demyansk, Luftwaffe Chief of Staff Hans Jeschonnek told Hitler that under the right conditions Stalingrad could be supplied from the air — not Reichsmarshall Hermann Gring, as has so often been asserted. Hitler used that information as a springboard for discussions with Gring, who assured the Fhrer of the Luftwaffe’s ability to successfully conduct the mission. By that time Jeschonnek had investigated further and concluded that the Sixth Army’s bare-minimum requirements of 500 tons of supplies a day could not be met by the available aircraft. Gring ordered him to keep his data to himself.

Doomed to failure from the start, hundreds of Luftwaffe pilots and aircrews soon set off on an operation to supply Paulus’ army. In the end nearly 500 aircraft were lost to weather and to a sophisticated Soviet defense system combining rings of guns and ground-controlled fighters. Only a steadily diminishing fraction of the required supplies arrived in a pocket under constantly growing pressure on the ground from increasingly superior Soviet forces. An increasing proportion of the reduced deliveries was necessarily ammunition. When Kurt Zeitzler, Halder’s successor as chief of staff, reduced his food intake to the level of Stalingrad rations as a gesture of solidarity with the besieged troops, he lost more than 25 pounds in two weeks.

The situation soon worsened even further. Operation Mars began on November 25, under Zhukov’s personal command. Its initial successes were countered by German armored reserves, and after losses appalling even by Soviet standards, Zhukov broke off the operation in mid-December. That ended Stavka’s original ambitious plan. As Manstein’s forces began assembling and advancing, Operation Saturn was in turn modified to Little Saturn, aimed at checkmating Manstein’s breakthrough by enveloping and crushing its left flank.

Little Saturn’s preliminary stages had already absorbed much of Manstein’s projected relief force by the time the main attack began on December 16. Soviet armor destroyed the Italian Eighth Army and temporarily overran the air base at Tatsinkaia, which was vital to the German airlift. Manstein drove forward with a single panzer corps on an ever-narrowing axis of advance in steadily worsening weather. Thirty-five miles from Stalingrad, the attack bogged down against Soviet armor. On December 19, Manstein informed Hitler that it was impossible to break through to Stalingrad and sustain a corridor. He recommended that the Sixth Army break out to meet him. Manstein flew his intelligence officer into the pocket to go over details of the plan and found the Sixth Army staff unwilling to risk such an attack until spring.

Whatever Winter Storm’s odds, it was the last chance to salvage the Sixth Army. In refusing to order the breakout, Manstein and Paulus showed an absence of the moral courage that is the principal requirement of high command. Instead they temporized, deferring to Hitler’s well-known and increasingly determined refusal to ‘abandon the Volga.’ For three days the debate among the German commanders continued as the Soviets drove into the German flank and rear. Then, on December 22, the question became moot. The newly arrived Second Guards Army opened an attack that drove Manstein’s slender spearhead back toward its start line. To an officer who subsequently flew into Stalingrad as Hitler’s emissary, Paulus said simply, ‘You are talking to dead men.’

With Soviet tanks and cavalry running wild in its virtually undefended rear areas, Army Group Don fell back and the Germans’ attention focused not on the fate of the Sixth Army but on the survival of their position in southern Russia. Hitler initially refused to make reinforcements available and shorten the front by withdrawing from the increasingly untenable Caucasus salient. Manstein made the best of what he had. In a series of brilliant tactical-level ripostes between January and March 1943, he enabled most of Army Group A to escape. In doing so he confirmed his reputation as a battle captain and blunted an operation already suffering from Stalin’s determination to pursue the offensive beyond the Red Army’s capacity to sustain it.

Stalingrad, hopelessly isolated, was now expected to tie down as many Soviet forces as possible — a mission the Soviets initially sought to deny by negotiating a surrender. When Paulus refused, the final offensive began. On January 10, more than 7,000 guns and mortars began firing on every corner of the pocket within range. Tanks and infantry advanced simultaneously in all sectors, against resistance whose initial determination amazed even veterans of the earlier fighting. Even before the few remaining airfields were overrun, the Germans were living on rations measured in ounces, supplemented occasionally by horsemeat and the occasional rat. Conditions in the hospitals were beyond medieval. By January 17, the pocket had been reduced to half its size. Once again Paulus was summoned to surrender; once again he refused. German die-hards fell back into the city’s ruins, using tactics learned from the Russians to prolong the end as ammunition ran out and men sought terms at bayonet point. On January 31, Paulus’ headquarters was overrun. The field marshal, newly promoted by Hitler, was lying on his bed when a Russian lieutenant burst in and captured him.

Organized resistance continued until February 2. The Soviets took longer than that to sort out their 90,000 prisoners and start them on their long march into captivity. In Germany, radio stations played the funeral march from Richard Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods. In Russia, the propaganda machine tooled up to publicize the triumph of the Soviet motherland. Stalin and his generals began plans for a new campaign to crush the invaders once and for all. And from Alsace to Vladivostok, families waited for news of their missing men. In June 1942, Nazi Germany was looking forward to victory. Six months and a million casualties later, the Reich had barely averted catastrophe.

This article was written by Dennis Showalter and originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of World War II magazine. For more great articles subscribe to World War II magazine today!