History

Watch the rare footage from the Battle for Stalingrad

Known as one of the bloodiest campaigns of all of World War II, nearly one million people lost their lives during the Battle for Stalingrad.


The battle was a colossal matchup between European dictators Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Throughout the campaign, thousands of bombs were dropped, killing innumerous innocent civilians and leaving nothing but ruins and a massive maze of defensive positions for the Soviets.

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Wehrmacht soldiers getting the order to advance within the ruins of Stalingrad.

As the Germans moved forward, they came within meters of their Russian enemy and, in some cases, combat devolved into hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, talented snipers set themselves up in burned-out buildings and would egress out immediately after taking a single shot — discovery in such close quarters was otherwise inevitable.

Although the Germans took heavy casualties during their push into the city's high ground, their losses couldn't compare to the enormous dent they made in Russian personnel.

It would take nearly four weeks of intense and grueling combat for the Germans to reach the Mamayev Hill.

A view from the top of Mamayev Kurgan, Stalingrad.

As the Germans continued to push forward, the Russian frontline began to rapidly collapse. Members of the Red Army began retreating from their positions en masse, some even forfeiting their weapons to nearby troops.

Many Russian troops felt the battle was unwinnable. Their iron-fisted dictator, however, refused to back down. Today, many military strategists feel that if Stalin had ordered a retreat and had given his men time to regroup, they could have successfully reestablished defenses sooner.

Although it appeared Stalingrad would soon fall, Hitler's infantry was spreading a little too thin.

A German soldier sets up a firing position during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Then, the Russian's introduced their well-engineered T-34 tank, which struck fear in the Germans. The armored vehicle was a sturdy as Stalin's confidence. As time went on, what once felt like an easy victory for the Germans become a titanic beating.

Although the Russians were regaining ground, they continued to suffer heavy casualties throughout. For Hitler, losing a city named after his nemesis was unacceptable.

After five months of carnage, the Battle of Stalingrad finally came to a halt. It officially ended on Feb. 2, 1943, with a Soviet victory.

Also Read: This is how Stalingrad's most epic sniper duel ended

Check out the Smithsonian Channel's video below to watch remarkable and intense footage from the battle.