Though Hitler suffered his first defeat near Moscow in December 1941, the Germans made significant military advances in 1942. Confident of victory, Hitler raced to conquer Stalingrad, Stalin’s showpiece city on the Volga River, and to occupy the resource-rich Caucasus. On July 28 Stalin issued order 227: “Not a Step Back” and Lieutenant General Vasily Chuikov was brought in to hold the city or die trying. Street fighting from house to house began in September 1942, with unfathomable casualties: 80 percent of the 13th Guards division of 10,000 perished in the first week. Overcoming such losses and skillfully adapting to the street combat environment, Chuikov accepted the surrender of the Wehrmacht’s 6th Army on January 31, 1943. Stalingrad’s heroic stand captivated the nation and became a powerful symbol of Russia’s resistance. To avenge the loss of Stalingrad Hitler amassed troops and weapons at Kursk, showcasing the Wehrmacht’s new, seemingly indestructible machines: Tiger and Panther tanks, and the Ferdinand self-propelled gun. The Battle of Kursk was launched on July 5, 1943 but Germany’s advance ground to a halt by July 12 in the greatest tank battle in history. The Wehrmacht, substantially weakened, was unable to recover from the enormous loss of troops and machines, and the Red Army began to take the offensive.
Arrival at Stalingrad.