The Army just built this computer simulation of Stalingrad to teach its future leaders

It was one of the most devastating urban fights in history, inflicting nearly 2 million casualties and leaving a city in shambles.

For eight months the battle of Stalingrad raged, with the Red Army and German Wehrmacht delivering horrific blows to each side — sometimes gaining only yards of territory with each engagement.

(WATM Archive)

Though fought nearly 75 ago, Army researchers say the battle has lessons for its combat leaders even today.

That’s why the Combined Arms Center based in Leavenworth, Kansas, has created a “virtual staff ride” of the wartorn city in hopes of preparing soldiers for the kinds of warfare they may see again today.

“Through digital rendering of Stalingrad as it existed in 1942, the historic battlefield comes to life, allowing leaders at all levels to study timeless lessons on tactical, operational, and strategic aspects of war,” the Combined Arms Center says. “This virtual staff ride also provides important insights into military operations, leadership, and the human dimension of warfare through focused study and detailed analysis of one of the most significant battles of World War II.”

Stalingrad’s 140,000 building were left in shambles after the battle, making it difficult for Army researchers to simulate what the city would look like. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers used a wide range of imagery, documents and news reel footage to build the Stalingrad scenario, which is included in the Army’s Virtual Battlespace 3 gaming platform. One of the challenges included how much of the city to build into the simulation since much its 140,000 buildings were destroyed during the fight, with software builders settling on a city that was about 50 percent destroyed.

The simulation includes “more than 150 pages of information including instructor notes, battle timeline, vignettes, character studies, maps, photos, and other data.”

Another cool thing about the virtual Stalingrad battle scenario is that the software can be used for a variety of unit formations — everything from a corps or division-sized maneuvers to company-level engagements.

The German army quickly made it to the center of the city in Stalingrad, but it was eventually cut off from resupply and forced to surrender in early 1943. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

“For example, units can follow the 14th Panzer Division as it advanced on the Dzerzhinsky tractor factory,” the Combined Arms Center says. “Also, leaders of battalion- and company-size units can focus on the tactical elements of urban combat such as the week long fight for the grain elevator.”

“Free movement through the dense urban terrain of Stalingrad allows leaders at all echelons to understand the decisions, doctrine, and logistics that shaped the battle for both the Soviet Red Army and the German Army,” the researchers added.