"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."-Winston S. Churchill

"The wandering scholars were bound by no lasting loyalties, were attached by no sentiment of patriotism to the states they served and were not restricted by any feeling of ancient chivalry. They proposed and carried out schemes of the blackest treachery."-C.P. Fitzgerald.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Stalingrad on the Euphrates 

The Approach to Stalingrad, Summer, 1942

In the first days of 1942, Hitler had decided on a less ambitious approach to the conquest of Russia. The aftermath of the battle of Smolensk in July tempted the German warlord to intefere with the progress of Fall Barbarossa. Hitler's dilletantism had led to the dramatic reversals before Moscow the following winter. Stalin, for his part, expected a renewed push on Moscow and its important central rail hub. Hitler had decided on the conquest of resources, however. To that end, he ordered the OKW General Staff to plan for Fall Blau (Case Blue), the conquest of the Don Basin, the Crimea, and the Caspian oilfields.

As the Russian winter offensive petered out in the Spring of 1942, the Germans secretly repositioned most of their panzer arm in Army Group South's area of responsibilities, opposite a weakness in the Russian line. Stalin, focused as he was on Moscow, was caught completely unawares as the Wehrmacht roared out of the Ukraine and into a seemingly endless procession of wheatfields and rolling hill country. The Red Army was forced into pell mell retreat, much as it had been the previous summer. Case Blue had, as its ultimate aim, Russia's oil resources. Stalin had to find a way to make a stand and force Hitler to fight him on a ground of Stalin's choosing.

The Red Army staff chose to reinforce Stalingrad. Named as it was after the Big Cheese himself, the Russians put up a stout defense early on, forcing Sixth Army and Fourth Panzer Army to slug it out as they entered the city. Stalin had his battle, and more and more German resources were sucked into a positional battle for a city. Stalin had judged Hitler well. He knew that the City of Stalin was an irresistable propaganda target for Hitler. So the battle was fought.

Stalingrad comes back to me now as we ponder Fallujah, a medium sized town on the Euphrates River. But it does not bother me for the reasons that most on the Left might suppose. Rather, as a fragile ceasefire begins to come apart, I shall show you why the Iraqi insurgents and their jihadist allies have made a terrible blunder, much like Hitler had done so many years before.

In the next post, of course.

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