Why Stalingrad Was the Bloodiest Battle of World War II (and Perhaps of All Time) by Daniel L. Davis
Since July 2012, the world has watched in horror as the once-beautiful and vibrant Syrian city of Aleppo has been transformed into a perpetual battlefield. Those killed in Aleppo, as well as throughout the rest of Syria during the civil war, are reported to be approximately three hundred thousand. During the U.S.-led war in Iraq from 2003–11, one study reported that 405,000 Iraqis were killed as a direct result of combat, and from 2001–15, an additional 91,991 people were killed due to war in Afghanistan, for a three-country total, over a fifteen-year period, of 796,991. As staggering as the death toll in these wars have been, it pales in comparison to what remains the world’s most barbaric city fight, the Battle of Stalingrad, in which an incomprehensible 1.9 million German and Soviet soldiers and civilians are estimated to have been killed in six months.
In June 1941 Hitler ordered a surprise invasion of the Soviet Union, and for most of the next year the German army routed the Soviet troops, capturing thousands of square kilometers of their country in the process. In August 1942 the German VI Army had pushed all the way to the banks of the Volga River, near the industrial heartland of the USSR. Once captured, the Nazis could sever the Volga, and potentially destroy Moscow’s ability to continue fighting. All they had to do was take one more city. Stalingrad.
The prewar population of Stalingrad was four hundred thousand. It was home to a key river port as well as numerous important war and civilian industries. Because the city bore the name of the leader of the USSR, Joseph Stalin, Hitler took particular interest in capturing the city as a personal hit on the Soviet leader. Stalin likewise placed great importance on holding the city to prevent Hitler from capturing the city carrying his name.