Soviet victory in the epic Battle of Stalingrad was in part due to Joseph Stalin’s notorious Order No. 227, known as “Not One Step Backwards!” Officers who permitted their men to retreat without explicit orders were to be arrested and “treated as traitors,” while rank-and-file “panickers and cowards” were to be shot on the spot or forced to serve in penal battalions. On July 28, 1942, Stalin had concluded that the severest measures were needed to restore discipline and punish those who might flinch in the line of duty. Any further retreat would not be tolerated: “It is necessary to defend to the last drop of blood every position, every meter of Soviet territory, to cling to every shred of Soviet earth and defend it to the end.”(Order 227)
For those unfamiliar with the Battle of Stalingrad, a great brief summary can be found @ Battle of Stalingrad (1942-43). By 1942, Hitler had a new plan on the Eastern front. A south-east advance into the Don, Kuban, and Volga regions were calculated first steps in the conquest of oil-rich Transcaucasia (Freeze 380). The conquering of Transcaucasia was of the utmost importance if Hitler wanted to continue fueling his military conquest. The vast amount of oil and raw materials of the region were a priority for Hitler’s Army. By mid-July 1942 it was evident that the Germans were driving for Stalingrad, an industrial important city named after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (Freeze 380).
The capture of Stalingrad was important to Hitler for two primary reasons. Firstly, it was a major industrial city on the Volga River, a vital transport route between the Caspian Sea and Northern Russia. Secondly, its capture would secure the left flank of the German armies as they advanced into the oil-rich Caucasus region, with a goal of cutting off fuel to Stalin’s war machine.
The battle of Stalingrad was one of the largest battles in human history. It raged for 199 days. Numbers of casualties are difficult to compile due to the vast scope of the battle and the fact that the Soviet government did not allow estimates to be made, for fear the cost would be shown to be too high. In its initial phases, the Germans inflicted heavy casualties on Soviet formations. At time the Germans held up to 90% of the city. Yet Stalin’s Red Army fought on fiercely, eventually being successful in defense of the city (The Aftermath). Russians consider it to be the greatest battle of their Great Patriotic War, and most historians consider it to be the greatest battle of the entire conflict. It stopped the German advance into the Soviet Union and marked the turning of the tide of war in favor of the Allies.
All in all the Battle of Stalingrad was one of the bloodiest and most gruesome stages of the war. With somewhere around 2 million battlefield and civilian deaths, Stalingrad is regarded as one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the world. At times it seemed Hitler and the Germans would be able to take the city in stride and deliver a powerful blow to the Soviets that could have potentially lead to Nazi victory on the Eastern front. Without Stalin’s Order No. 227, Stalingrad could have fell to the Germans and the war could have concluded in an entirely different manor.
Freeze, Gregory. “Russia A History” 3rd Edition.
Feature Image : http://www.geopolintelligence.com/unseen-pictures-from-battle-of-stalingrad/
Order 227 Picture: http://beewinter55.deviantart.com/art/Stalin-s-Order-227-602438089
Battle of Stalingrad: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Stalingrad#/media/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-W0506-316,_Russland,_Kampf_um_Stalingrad,_Siegesflagge.jpg