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Luftwaffe and the Battle of Stalingrad

MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a notable writer on military history.



Hitler came to power on the back of a general election. The aging President Hindenburg invited Hitler to form the government as the Nazi party was the largest single party in Parliament. In 1934 after the death of Hindenburg he seized absolute power. His one burning ambition was to restore German pride, badly damaged during World War I and the Treaty of Versailles ( 1919). The terms of this treaty were very harsh. One of the clauses pertained to the German Air Force, forbade it to have an Air Force capable of offensive action. An example of the harshness can be seen from the fact that Germany was forbidden to develop the engines of the Zeppelin the airship and the same engines had to be utilized in the Maybach car.

Hitler's rise was facilitated by the German People who began to lionize him. He announced the removal of all restrictions on the Air Force put in force by the Treaty. He gave carte blanche to Messerschmitt and Folk Wulf to develop new warplanes. This bore fruit and a new breed of fighters appeared like the Messerschmitt 109 fighter which was superior to the Spitfire and Hurricane of the RAF.

At this time a German World War I ace pilot named Herman Goering joined Hitler. In hindsight, this was a catastrophe because Herman Goring though being a pilot had little knowledge of the concept of strategic air warfare and bombing. He thought the concept of dive-bombing and interceptor aircraft was the be-all of airpower. Hitler entrusted the air force to Goering and conferred the title of Reich Marshall.

With war clouds building up one vital component of the Air Force long-range aircraft was not on the table.No stress was laid on building large planes capable of flying long distances. The Germans were to pay heavily for this blunder and it came to the fore in 1942 in the battle of Stalingrad.



The Luftwaffe and the Army:early success

In the mid-30s there was a debate in Germany for building a long-range plane. Unfortunately, Goering seconded by Hitler forbade the development of large 4 engine planes. At that stage, Goering had no vision of strategic warfare as enunciated by Guilio Douhet and B Mitchell. Their concept of the airforce was hinged on the use of the airplane as a dive bomber to support the ground troops. The success of the Polish and the French campaign reinforced this belief that the dive bomber was all that was needed for the German air force.

Despite restrictions, Dr. Kurt Tank of Focke Wulf produced one 4 engine plane. This was the FW-200 also known as the Condor. This was the only 4- engine plane produced in Germany, though the German technology could have easily produced aircraft of the type of B-29 or the B-17 used later by the United States Army Air Force. Even the Condor in comparison to the Strato Fortress and the Liberator of the USAF was a puny machine and could just carry 26 troops, though it did have a range of over 3500 km. Even the RAF Lancaster was bigger and sturdier than the condor.

The victories of 1939-40 and the initial stages of the Russian campaign was like butter on top of the bread for the concept of dive-bombing in which Goering believed. The Germans could use the Luftwaffe for close air support in a tactical war theater. The German think tank successfully integrated the dive-bombing concept with the operations of the army.

At that stage, the United States had not yet put into operation the B-29 and the B-24 long-range heavy bombers, and the German air force and the army had no concept as to how much havoc they could cause.

The German military think tank was smug in their belief as the German armies adopted the tactics of blitzkrieg or lightning war. This concept stood the Germans in good stead as they overran Poland, the low countries, and France and also conquered Norway. The Luftwaffe using dive bombers, which were closely integrated with the German army brought success.

The same tactics were used in Russia when Operation Barbarossa was launched on 22 June 1941. The German army supported by the Luftwaffe heralded a close integration of the Luftwaffe with the German ground troop. The result was stupendous victories and over 2 million Russian soldiers including 35 generals were taken POW. Three German army groups with over a million soldiers advanced deep into Russia and by 1942 had reached Moscow, surrounded Leningrad, and were on the verge of capturing Stalingrad.

German POWs

German POWs

Failure at Stalingrad:Beginning of the end

Hitler ordered an all-out assault on Stalingrad and the German Panzer divisions reached the Volga river. Both Hitler and Stalin knew the significance of Stalingrad and in case the Germans had crossed the Volga they would have had a great drive into Asia. Hitler grave great importance to the capture of Stalingrad because it carried the name of the man who he considered to be his enemy and secondly it was the road to Central Asia, the Caucasus, and India.

General Von Paulos was given command of this operation. Opposing him was the best Russian General Marshall Zhukov. Stalin also sent Nikita Khruschev to Stalingrad to organize the defence of the city. He later became the first secretary of the Soviet communist party and brought about the process of destalinization in Russia. This was after his secret speech to the Supreme Soviet in 1956. Nikita Khrushchev was a hard nut and he passed the word to the Russian army that there was no land beyond the Volga for them and they had to either die or throw the Wehrmacht back.

The problems of 1941 now came up again in 1942 for the Germans. This was the onset of winter when temperatures reached sub-zero. In October 1943, in extreme cold, the Germans had taken a part of the city but the Russians were not giving up and there was street fighting. In November the Russians launched a massive offensive and they linked up with the result that the army of Von Paulos was completely surrounded.

The German commander sent a secret message to Hitler requesting permission to break out and join the main army which was under command of Field Marshal Manstein. The request was refused and Manstein made an attempt to break the Russian cordon but he failed.

At that moment an event of great significance took place. Hitler had a meeting with the Reichmarshal Goering and asked him how the 6th army could be saved. The chief of the Luftwaffe made a bombastic comment that he had the planes to keep the army supplied with weapons and food throughout the winter. He was confident that the Luftwaffe would keep the supply lines open to the beleaguered troops. This was an empty boast and perhaps Goering himself did not believe it but Hitler would not have listened to any other advice.

Goering ordered an air bridge to be established to supply materials to the encircled German army. He authorized the use of the FW 200 ( condor ) for the airlift. This was the fatal error and sealed the fate of the army of Von Paulos. The Luftwaffe had no large cargo plane and the entire air bridge was doomed to collapse. During the initial days, a few of the FW 200 landed and were cheered by the troops when they saw these four-engine planes landing but within a few days, there were no planes as Russians now controlled the airspace. The plane also had service problems and many times the engines refused to start in the severe cold.

The FW -200 had a lot of limitations. Firstly, it could carry very limited cargo and secondly, the plane was not conditioned to operate in the Russian winter. Thirdly the German air force could not give any fighter cover to the Condor with the result that most of the planes were sitting ducks. The much-vaunted air bridge collapsed inside five days.

The situation inside the German lines in Stalingrad was becoming worse and morale had become low. Paulos repeatedly informed Hitler of the dire situation, but Hitler replied by promoting Paulus to Field Marshal. This had no effect as Paulos was a realist and in the absence of supplies including food and clothing he threw in the towel and surrendered. 93000 German troops were taken captive. The Russians sent them to prison camps and used them for labor and only about 5000 of them returned home in 1955.

Paulos joined Russians and frequently broadcast from the radio Moscow. After the war in 1955 he was repatriated to East Germany where he died.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 28, 2020:

Switzerland always had a dubious approach. I remember reading the remnants of the India Legion were marching to enter Switzerland because they expected to get refuge there. I believe some sort of assurance had been given to Bose. They were arrested by the Americans before they could enter Switzerland. Even Benito Mussolini was trying to escape to Switzerland. Hundreds of Europeans from various countries joined up with Germany to fight in Russia. French were the biggest culprit and as I have written in one of my articles they were among the last persons fighting to save chancellery in Berlin.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 27, 2020:

The knife attacks in the UK have been mainly former youth detention detainees 'brainwashed' and radicalised by others who've been brainwashed elsewhere. The one on London Bridge was a radicalised former prison convict released into the Parole Board's hands. He'd been at a meeting of fellow former detainees on the day he went off the rails.

That there were 800 Swiss involved in 'Barbarossa' is possibly not as much of a surprise as it should be. There were also Spaniards, Belgians, Dutch, Norwegians and Finns, although the Finns didn't officially pass beyond the Karelian peninsula north of (as it was known at the time) Leningrad. There were Swiss who sympathised with the Germans, and Swiss banks tipped off Gestapo agents in Switzerland about Jewish refugees who'd deposited money and valuables in their banks. Their relatives were unable to claim their valuables etc for lack of paperwork which went up in smoke with the depositors in the ovens at Auschwitz. There was a huge outcry, backed by the US government on the issue. The Swiss banks finally caved in and coughed up. So much for Swiss neutrality.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 26, 2020:

Tom, yes, many nationalities had misplaced priorities and fought against the Russians.

tom jose on September 26, 2020:

800 swiss fought in barbarossa ,russians destroyed 360 german divisions

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 26, 2020:

Joyce is done and gone but if I am correct there won't be any more hangings as the death penalty is put in cold storage. I wonder if it is the correct thing but then people must have decided they don't want it. The Poles and others who come to the UK will integrate, the problem is emigrants from the Middle East, etc, When I come to London I am taken aback at the number of TV channels these people run, and it's free for all. All these knife attacks in the UK, who are doing it?

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 26, 2020:

William Joyce didn't even seem to want to leave Germany. He went about as if he belonged. Maybe he felt at home, in which case maybe for his own sake he should've kept his mouth shut. He provided enough amusement here from where he was, with his lack of knowledge about England. They say Hitler came here after WWI, to Liverpool to stay with a sister. He didn't learn much either, did he?

Same applies to migrants who come expecting handouts - I'm not talking about the thousands of Poles who've made this their home, as some of their predecessors did before and after WWII to get away from the Russians and Nazis - and are advised by traffickers to throw away any ID they carry so they can't be shipped back.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 26, 2020:

Lord Haw-Haw was unlucky as if fell foul of the times and the prevailing atmosphere. He had no place to escape maybe he tried Spain but that was very far away. Many Nazi escaped to Spain and Franco gave them refuge. Maj Skorzeny the man who rescued Mussolini also escaped to Spain.

The problem of the minority is acute. I wonder if you have had a look at the problem. Its connected to the birth rate of the EU which is much below required to sustain a population which us 2.1. That is the reason guest workers were imported .Another 2decades and the high birth rate of the refugees , man its not going to be funny.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 25, 2020:

The funny thing about 'Lord Haw-haw', aka William Joyce is he was an Irish-American, born in New York City. He was here before the war to visit his sister, I remember reading. He applied for a British passport and had become therefore a naturalised British citizen. However, before his passport arrived at the address he'd stayed at he bunked off to Germany and offered his services to the Nazis. They gave him the job of broadcasting to the British in their propaganda department under Josef Goebbels, and set him up to spout Goebbels' misinformed rubbish. He was therefore an enemy agent, classed in the same way as a spy and instructed to demoralise the British population, military and civilian alike.

When WWII ended some British soldiers were on a search in North Germany. Joyce asked if they were lost and offered to help. They recognised his voice and took him in for questioning under guard. He was obviously unaware that he was officially a British citizen. The upshot of it was that he was tried for treason as you know, and hanged - the punishment for High Treason until the Labour Government under Harold Wilson reduced the sentence for High Treason to life imprisonment. His broadcasts may seem harmless in a modern world, but at the time aim of his employer Goebbels was the disenchantment and demoralisation of the British people against the government of the day and in turn against the sovereign, King George VI.

One anecdote: when the Germans bombed a fake target a British bulletin was aired on the radio and intercepted. The story was the Germans had bombed at random. He immediately broadcast to his listeners that the 'Glorious Luftwaffe had destroyed the English city of Random'.

(Did you know that defacing a passport is equivalent to an offence against the sovereign head of state, i.e., the Queen? That's an imprisonable offence).

The Swedes are so laid back they wouldn't turn a hair at an Islamic takeover attempt. Again, an attempt to overturn the Swedish common law could be seen as an offence against their sovereign head of state, i.e., their monarch and lay them open to a charge of treason. The law's the law, even in laid-back Sweden. The Swedes, way back in the early middle ages reached Baghdad and elsewhere in Asia Minor as merchants, established the Rus state under Rurik - now russia - and formed a large part of the Byzantine emperor's Varangian Guard. They may be easy-going but they're not fools.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 25, 2020:

Alan, when I read your comments I find you have a wealth of information. I remember reading that a few of the Dutch and the Norwegians did volunteer to fight in Russia. I think they must've been plain silly. Regarding the hanging of radio broadcaster Lord Haw haw I think was a bit of a tragedy and his crime did not merit hanging maybe a life imprisonment or something.

To my way of thinking the refugees are going to be a big problem for the EU for the simple reason they follow a alien religion and do not integrate with the local society. I went to Stockholm and came to know that the minority there have their own ghettos and they follow the sharia and the Swedish police don't enter inside. With a birth rate, three times that of the home country the demographic composition is going to change in another two decades and I wonder what's going to happen then.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 25, 2020:

Mike, it's a great pleasure to read your comments.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 25, 2020:

There were a number of British 'takers' in POW camps, emge. Those that survived - there's not much on them, as the wasn't reported on widely - were arrested, as were those Belgians, Dutch, Danes and Norwegians who enlisted. As they hadn't been entrusted with state secrets and passed them on they were sentenced to time in the 'glasshouse' (army prison) and cashiered on release, their war records withheld. Prospective employers would've been wary of taking them on, as if the rest of their workforce knew there'd be unrest and/or beatings, possibly killings. Feeling was high here after the War in Europe was over and 'Lord Haw-haw' hanged for treason.

We still have problems with 'refugees' trying to cross the Channel in everything from rubber mattresses to rowing boats. With the change in the weather the Channel will be rougher now, the migrants unable to cross in anything less than a motor launch. The traffickers are still out for profit regardless of danger to their 'clients'.

Whether French authorities turn their backs on migrants' Channel crossings after 31st December remains to be seen, and EU citizens in the UK - particularly England - will need to have employment to stay. Many Romanians have come here, their fares paid for them - to beg on city streets. They'll be turned away along with anyone unable to prove employment.

The French authorities seem to have selective memories, considering it was with Anglo-American help they managed to be freed from the Nazis' yoke. The Russians have awarded British merchant seamen medals every decade or so of their lives, for the rest of their lives for their part in getting military supplies to Murmansk around the North Cape regardless of who was in government, which is more than successive British governments have done. Until late in the war British merchant seamen whose ships were sunk in military or food convoys had their pay stopped until they found another ship to work on.

Readmikenow on September 25, 2020:

Excellent article. I think of events like this that happened in history and wonder how I would have handled fighting the Nazis. I enjoyed reading it.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 25, 2020:

Thank you Tom, as I have written it was a nice movie. Thank you for sparing time and commenting

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 24, 2020:

Alan, I didn't know about this Cumberian aristocrat. But I know that Hitler had formed a Free British army group.He couldn't get very many to join this group and it was an exercise in futility. Probably Ribbentrop had thought that captured POW's like the Indians who joined Hitler's India legion , the British would also join. But the two parallels were different so Ribbentrop's plan failed. But I understand one British soldier did join but I don't know what happened to him.

The Covid 19, I call it the China virus is not letting up and till last count 200,000 Americans have died , more than the combined death of all American wars. I have also no doubt that this was a diabolical plan by China and looks at the moment they have succeeded but History can be funny and the dragon may yet fail. The UK is lucky it has got out of the EU because now another problem is coming the resettlement of one million Muslim refugees now languishing in Greece etc to be distributed to all the 27 countries. Europe is asking for trouble.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 24, 2020:

You've mentioned before, emge, about the Russian clergy's about-turn on Stalin. Memories shorten under stress, I believe...

On the Yesterday channel there was a programme about a Cumbrian (NW England) aristocrat of Norman descent who took up the call from the Holy Roman Emperor at the time, Friedrich 'Barbarossa' and took a number of his household troops to join the Germans on their Baltic 'crusade'. He didn't last that long, being cut down by one of the defenders and dying in a boat attended by his men on his way home. There weren't that many in England who felt the calling as he did. In summer the worst thing was the heat and the flies, in winter the icy cold wind from the east (it's about like the Netherlands, open to the Continental 'easterlies').

Take care, emge. This Covid-19 thing ain't over by a long chalk!

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 23, 2020:

I will further add that Stalin is a much respected figure in Russia and many Russians are nostalgic of his rule. After the collapse of the Soviet Union I found many Russians almost revering Stalin for making Russia a great power. Such is history and perception is better than reality. It surprised that even the Church rehabilitated him though he gave no support to the church when he was in power. Perhaps it has something to do with Russian character as they like strong men and dictatorial order. No wonder Putin is "re-elected" so many times and I am sure he will be president for life.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 23, 2020:

Thanks Alan, This racial theory of superiority was one of the reasons for his defeat as well. You have rightly pointed out that when the German army entered Ukraine, many of the peasants held up crosses signifying that they welcomed the Germans , I have seen photographs of this. But within a short time they learned the opposite when the Germans began to crush them. I remember seeing a photo of Ukraine girls lined up to be selected for partnering the soldiers with the better looking for officers. The German officer cadre put up a defense at Nuremberg that they only " obeyed orders" but it didn't cut much ice and even Manstein and others repeated the orders passed by Hitler and enforced them.

As far as Sea Lion is concerned irrespective of what the OKW told him, Hitler thought he had won the war in 1941 and turned his attention to Russia. He feared if he delayed Stalin would attack him later. In addition he always felt the Slav race to be inferior and he needed Russian lands for the good of the German people. I wonder how good strategic sense deserts a person who is a fanatic and swayed by racial or religious theories. The ISIS dream of a Caliphate is something similar.

The Balkan states were converted to Christianity by the sword, I remember writing an article about it.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 23, 2020:

Hitler had the outlook on Slavs that they were inferior. One of his henchmen - Himmler I believe - reminded him that the Croats were Slavs, and that they'd been loyal allies of the Habsburg empire as well as the Roman Catholic Church (same as the Poles to some degree, at least in Silesia until Prussia annexed it in mid-19th Century, but that didn't help the Poles in 1939). Some Ukrainians would've been glad to oblige him in ridding his Reich of both Communists and Jews, although there were many others in the Ukraine who felt a tie to Russia, witness recent events in the Ukraine.

He wanted to enslave all Slavs in the east, which is odd considering the welcome the Ukrainians gave the German Army in 1941/42. They learned the hard way when the German edict went out that only those Ukrainians who worked for the Germans would eat. The rest, across all ages, starved in the streets. The Ukrainians seem to suffer from 'selective memory syndrome' in being pro-Nazi.

And as we agree, emge, the Russians officially back democracy but hanker after a Stalinesque father figure.

As for 'Operation Sea Lion', when the Luftwaffe failed to gain air superiority the Army and Navy threw in the towel, realising that without air superiority over the Channel and North Sea the operation would be doomed. Further, there was the scare put about by 'turned' Nazi agents that fuel oil would be spread over the sea near the landing areas and ignited under the barges. The OKW understandably weren't happy with that. Outcome: "Call off the invasion". He needed his army onside, didn't he. Better to take on a country where they wouldn't need to get their feet wet in an invasion.

Friedrich 'Barbarossa' (Red Beard) was a Hohenstaufen emperor who took the Teutonic knights into the Baltic states to 'Christianise' them. He didn't come off too well either, losing a lot of his own men and allies into the bargain. Hitler was no student of history.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 23, 2020:

Thanks Alan, good comments. The battle at Stalingrad need never have taken place in case Hitler had allowed operation Sea Lion the invasion of the UK to go through. I wonder if he didn't want to carry out the invasion of England why did he waste precious aircrew in the air battle in the Battle of Britain? In 1941 the UK stood alone and a mere 22 miles separated them from the continent , which was German controlled.

Hitler and OKW allowed personal likes and dislikes to control the campaign. So he forgot about the UK and turned on Russia. He should have drawn a lesson from the 1812 invasion of Napoleon when half a million French soldiers perished and in the ultimate analysis sealed his fate.

If he was a statesman he could have rallied the Russians who were opposed to Bolshevism but in the ultimate analysis he headed a gangster regime.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 23, 2020:

As I mentioned, emge, the Stalingrad pocket shrank as Soviet forces also destroyed their allies' hold on the 'bridge' to the airfield. Goering's boast to Hitler that he could supply X-thousand tons of supplies a day was grossly exaggerated, certainly, but they also left the link to the airfield in the hands of their Romanian and Italian allies, who lacked heavy armament. So even if the Luftwaffe WAS able to supply the 6th Army in theory, in practice the airfield proved unsafe and was eventually overrun by Soviet troops. It was a no-win situation for Von Paulus.

In stretching his front line to the Volga, Hitler had effectively sentenced the survivors of his army to penal servitude.

Don't forget also the size of the AVRO Lancaster, built in Britain and Canada for load-carrying such as 'Tallboy', used on the V2 bunkers in north-western France and the 'Tirpitz' in northern Norway by a single Lancaster that flew in low from the direction of Sweden. Also 'Upkeep', the bouncing bomb used on the Ruhr dams would've been too much for either the twin-engined Dornier or Heinkel bombers. The load-bearing capacity of Luftwaffe bombers - was limited by their size, restricting them largely to incendiary loads and individual mines dropped everywhere in Britain between London and Belfast (they even dropped bombs on neutral Eire - southern Ireland). The port city of Hull was bombed for weeks at the height of the 'Blitz', incendiaries being the main armament dropped there. The red glow could be seen from the East Coast Main Line and York.

Any sympathy for the Germans in Russia is wasted, as damning evidence of atrocities by Army, SS and Nazi-recruited Ukrainians in German uniform puts them 'beyond the pale'.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 22, 2020:

I have seen the movie "Enemy at the gates" and the sniper duel. I am told it is factual and the rifle used by the Russian sniper is in the museum. However the failure of the Luftwaffe to build an air bridge had a direct effect on the campaign.Hitler should have been wiser about Goering's capability especially after he lost the air war in the Battle of Britain. He had very little strategic concept as his decision to forbid the development of the bomber unless it could dive. Same with the Japanese , they had built the world biggest battleship( Yamato) and many aircraft carriers but no long range bomber. Even Russia could not produce a long range bomber while the Americans produced legendary planes like the B-24 and B-29.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 22, 2020:

In addition to the shortage of long-range cargo planes - one they had, converted from two bomber fuselages, and another capable of carrying tanks designed for the Western Desert campaign, but that needed two bombers to help get off the ground - the Stalingrad Pocket shrank and the airfield they were using was therefore further and further away from the by then besieged 6th Army. One plane's consignment consisted of pepper and condoms.

German bombing had reduced Stalingrad to a heap of ruins; not good for tank warfare, and Russian snipers were able to pick off crews who tried to abandon their tracked 'fortresses'. A weapon designed for open land warfare, those the Germans had in the 'pocket' were useless.

A good reference for the campaign seen from the Russians' perspective is "Enemy At The Gates" that starred amongst others as Nikita Khrushchev. A very good insight to what happened 'on the ground'.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 22, 2020:

Neil, thank you for your comment

Nell Rose from England on September 22, 2020:

So much going on back then. My mother was in the WAAFS (womens airforce) she was a Sergeant, and my dad was in the Army. I lost an uncle, Ron, in bomber command. It seems that these days the younger ones are trying to go that way again, only blaming it on the far left.

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