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Over 60 years ago, a battle was fought in this great Russian city
that would be the turning point of the Second World War.
It was one of the longest and hardest fought battles of all time.
For five months, German and Soviet troops fought each other
street by street, building by building, and room by room.
Ferocious German attacks
met exceptionally stiff Soviet resistance.
It led to the most intense fighting of the Second World War.
I'll be revealing what it was really like for the soldiers on the ground.
And I'll be explaining how the leaders' tactics
drove their armies to the brink of destruction.
The stakes could not have been higher.
The outcome of the entire war hung on what happened here in 1942
in the Battle of Stalingrad.
In the summer of 1941,
the world was at war.
Adolf Hitler's ruthless ambition and overwhelming military strength
made Nazi Germany seem unstoppable.
Hitler was at the peak of his power.
He and his allies dominated Europe and North Africa.
He seized France, the Netherlands,
most of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
And then he launched the biggest invasion force in history,
more than three million men, at the Soviet Union.
He was determined to destroy Communism
and expand his empire still further.
By the spring of 1942, after nine months of fighting,
the Germans had pressed deep into Soviet territory
but failed to secure complete victory.
So, in April, Hitler drew up a new battle plan.
In the far south of the country there were vast oil reserves
crucial to the Soviet war effort.
Hitler wanted to stop the oil getting to Soviet troops and industry,
first by preventing oil tankers transporting it up the River Volga,
and then by seizing the oil fields themselves.
Oil was the key to the war.
Hitler knew Stalin would fight tooth and nail to protect his oil.
Without it, the Soviet war machine would grind to a halt.
In May 1942, Hitler put his plan into action.
He sent two million men, nearly two thirds of all his troops
in the Soviet Union,
through the Russian steppe towards the oil fields.
With the hot sun beating down on them,
the German troops sped across Southern Russia.
Despite pockets of fierce resistance, they seemed unstoppable.
Some of them even felt like heroes,
pioneers of a new empire for the German people.
"What great spaces the Soviets occupy.
"What rich fields there are to be had here after the war was over -
"only let's get it over with quickly.
"I believe that the Fuhrer
"will carry the thing through to a successful end."
The speed of the German advance, their technical superiority
and the experience of their troops was too much for the Soviets.
Throughout May and June 1942,
Soviet troops fell back in widespread disarray.
Hundreds of thousands were killed or wounded
as they conceded swathes of land to the advancing Germans.
And for civilians, the arrival of German forces into their villages
was a terrifying prospect.
Nazis murdered, raped, looted without hesitation.
Villagers could see the dust cloud from approaching German tanks
up to 40 miles away,
and knew that there was little they could do to escape.
Some were rounded up and transported to prison camps.
Others were killed on the spot and their bodies discarded.
"The world has never seen a more cursed enemy.
"I have seen how the enemy treats the civilian population,
"stealing everything and killing wives and children.
"If I'm killed, let my sons make the enemy pay tenfold.
"I urge my sons to avenge their father's blood."
Throughout June and July 1942, Hitler's generals reported
German victories ever deeper into Southern Russia.
Hitler was so confident and impatient for victory
that he decided to alter his plan of attack.
Instead of trying first to block the Volga and then take the oilfields,
he decided to attack both targets at the same time.
One army would drive south to the oilfields,
the other would seize a city on the banks of the Volga
that would give them a stranglehold on the river's vital supply line.
It was the city that bore the name of the Soviet leader himself -
its name was Stalingrad.
Stalingrad was one of the most vibrant cities in Southern Russia.
Huge factories made equipment for the army.
And workers could relax by strolling along the grand boulevards and parks
leading down to the banks of the river.
The city was the showpiece of the Soviet Union and its leader, Stalin.
Josef Stalin was a ruthless dictator.
Stalin wasn't his real name, but it meant "man of steel",
and fitted his terrifying reputation.
His orders had led to the death of millions of Soviet citizens.
He had absolute control over the Soviet war effort
and was now increasingly alarmed by the German advance.
Faced with a threat to his oilfields and to the city of Stalingrad,
Stalin decided to take desperate measures
to stiffen Soviet resistance.
In July 1942, his order went out -
from now on, there would be no step backwards.
Surrender or retreat would not be tolerated.
Deserters and cowards would be shot.
Throughout Stalingrad, over three quarters of a million people
were told to get ready for war on their doorstep.
Anti-aircraft guns were placed on the high ground
and the civilians helped the military in a desperate attempt
to prepare the city's defences.
Women and children helped dig
anti-tank trenches and built bomb shelters under the city streets.
Soviet soldiers began to surround the city,
and brutal anti-German propaganda filled the newspapers.
One very famous piece of Soviet propaganda was
published in the form of a poem. It urged Soviet troops to kill Germans.
It said, "Kill him, so tears should flow in his home, not in yours.
"Kill him, kill him every time you see him".
The tone was being set
for one of the most savage battles in modern history.
On the 23rd of August 1942, aircraft of the German Luftwaffe
began a colossal aerial assault on Stalin's city.
German pilots flew 2,000 sorties,
dropping 1,000 tons of bombs in 48 hours -
even more than was dropped on London at the height of the Blitz.
Incendiary bombs turned neighbourhoods of wooden houses
Even the modern brick buildings of the city centre
were gutted by flame.
The air was thick with smoke, and in every direction the city was ablaze.
Homes and factories burned uncontrollably through the night.
Bombs hit fuel storage tanks on the riverbank,
unleashing torrents of burning oil onto the water.
A column of black smoke rose over 3.5 kilometres into the sky.
The first few days of the bombardment,
civilians were refused permission to evacuate the city.
Their only chance of survival lay in finding shelter in basements
and cellars, but for many it was hopeless.
Over 25,000 Russians died in just two days.
"There are planes flying day and night.
"My heart is bursting.
"I don't know what to do, and what's going to happen to us.
"I have got nowhere to go to, and I don't want to die here.
"You say to me in each letter that we'll see each other soon.
"Your words make me glad, my dear,
"but it seems to me that we're unlikely ever to meet.
"I think we have already parted forever."
Stalingrad was all but destroyed.
Its elegant avenues and grand buildings had been bombed to ruins.
But the fight for Stalingrad was only just beginning.
It was about to enter a new and even more deadly phase.
Hitler now ordered over 100,000 ground troops to seize Stalingrad
and deliver him a rapid victory.
The task was given to the men of the Sixth Army.
It was Hitler's most powerful and best equipped force.
They'd stormed through Poland, France and the Ukraine
and never known defeat.
Their commander was General Friedrich Paulus.
He was a fine strategic planner, but not an inspiring leader.
Above all else, he was totally loyal to Hitler.
As his army swept towards Stalingrad, Paulus set up his headquarters
in this small village, 30 miles to the west of the city.
Paulus understood his task very clearly.
Hitler wouldn't be content just with occupying Stalingrad,
he wanted it annihilated.
All Paulus had to decide was his line of attack.
Paulus cast his eyes over maps on this very table.
In front of him, Stalingrad sprawled for 30 miles
along the west bank of the River Volga.
It divided roughly into three areas - a factory zone in the north here,
a civic centre here and residential suburbs further south.
The Germans, shown here in blue,
had reached the Volga to the north and to the south of the city.
The Soviet Red Army had been pushed back
and were now isolated and outnumbered two to one.
With the river at their backs, the Soviets were now entirely dependent
on supplies and reinforcements being ferried across the Volga
from the east bank to the west.
Stalingrad looked easy prey for Paulus.
Paulus's plan for a ground assault
targeted two key landmarks in the city.
The central landing stage, where the Red Army unloaded their supplies,
and this prominent hill, Mamayev Kurgan.
It was the city's highest point.
If Paulus could capture this,
his guns would have the river and most of Stalingrad in their sights.
You can see at a glance how vital this hill is...
..commanding the city as it does, right the way along the Volga River
from the industrial area behind me down to the city centre right there.
At dawn on the 14th of September,
just two weeks after the Luftwaffe air raids,
Paulus put his plan into action.
The city shuddered from the ferocity of the onslaught.
And with each passing hour, the Soviets were rapidly losing control.
In little over 24 hours,
German forces had stormed the southern part of the city.
The main railway station was in their control...
..and the landing stage was surrounded and under heavy fire.
Mamayev Kurgan, the city's highest point,
was also under attack from the Germans.
The main Soviet force defending the city was the 62nd Army,
but it had been battered by air raids
and was having difficulty holding off the German attacks.
Its men were outnumbered, exhausted and dispirited.
But what they did have was a tough new commander.
His name - General Vasili Chuikov.
He was chosen for being a dogged and instinctive fighter
with an almost unshakable nerve.
But he knew his troops inside the city were on the verge of collapse.
Chuikov's only hope of preventing the immediate fall of Stalingrad
lay on the opposite bank of the River Volga.
Here on the east bank there were 10,000 Soviet reinforcements
preparing to enter the city. They were elite troops,
but they were short of ammunition,
and one in ten of them didn't even have a rifle.
Nevertheless, at 7pm, they received orders to cross.
Heavy German artillery fire
rained down on the boats crossing the river.
The water soon filled with burning debris and floating human remains.
As the troops neared the shore,
the scale of the devastation would have become clear.
They would even have been able to smell the stench of corpses
rotting in the summer heat.
But there was no chance of turning back.
were thrown straight into the heart of the battle.
Some stormed the shore and secured the landing stage.
From there, they moved quickly through the streets in order
to retake the main railway station.
Others joined the battle for Mamayev Kurgan,
where the fighting was increasingly ferocious.
Artillery fire had turned this whole hilltop into a moonscape of
blackened craters. It was also deafeningly noisy.
One Russian soldier compared it to having steel needles
pushed through his eardrums into his brain.
Bodies of the dead and wounded lay everywhere throughout the city.
"We're often sent into battle armed with nothing but our bare hands.
"And this is happening not just to our division but to others too.
"People hungry and exhausted,
"launched into battle with bare hands, that's how we are fighting.
"Things are bad."
Despite all this, the reinforcements held up the German advance,
at least for the time being.
But it came at a terrible cost. 80% of those Soviet reinforcements
were killed or wounded within a week.
Chuikov had averted a disaster
and he had also sent Paulus a clear message -
Stalingrad would be defended, no matter what the human cost.
But Chuikov knew that if he was to hold on, he'd have to go further.
He'd have to find some weakness in the seemingly-invincible German army.
The German military tactics
which had been so effective in the war across Europe
relied on carefully co-ordinated attacks from aircraft
of the German Luftwaffe,
and tanks on the ground.
In wide-open territory,
this combination had made the Germans unstoppable.
But the fight for Stalingrad
was now confined to the streets of a ruined city. Chuikov realised
this gave him a chance to outsmart the German tactics.
Chuikov told his men to stick so close to the Germans,
the Luftwaffe couldn't bomb them without fear of hitting its own men.
What's more, the streets were so full of rubble and collapsed buildings
that the German tanks found it difficult to manoeuvre.
They were particularly vulnerable fighting at close quarters.
Chuikov said, "Every German must be made to feel he lives
"under the muzzle of a Russian gun".
"Our troops are often separated from the enemy
"by only a few dozen metres.
"While the enemy holds one part of the building, we hold another.
"It often comes to hand-to-hand fighting.
"The hand grenade, the bottle of incendiary fluid, the bayonet -
"such are the weapons which are often used in street
"and house-to-house fighting."
The Soviet troops did their best.
But the Germans' overwhelming firepower
was still too much for them.
On 26th September, the Germans declared that they controlled
the entire south and centre of the city.
But Chuikov's troops still stubbornly refused to give in,
and now, hiding in the ruins of the city,
they found a new way to strike back at the Germans.
Snipers were an invisible predator that could kill without warning.
'To find out more about why snipers were so effective in Stalingrad,
'Dan and I went to the British Army's sniper training centre in Wales.
'I would take on the role of a German commander,
'and Dan would be part of a Soviet sniper team.'
What we have set up here, Peter, is your headquarters.
It would be far enough back from the front line
to provide you with some limited protection,
but it would be close enough for you to influence the battle.
'My headquarters also had radio operators working inside
'and a machine gunner to protect me.
'The task for Dan and his sniper team was to disable the headquarters,
'either by shooting me or my team.
'In this exercise, it would count as a hit if the sniper could identify
'the letter written on my helmet, and then fire a blank round.
'We also gave a letter to the machine gun sentry.
'So the targets were Q, Quebec, and D, Delta.'
A sniper's first job is to find a hiding-place,
from where they can fire at the enemy.
So what are you seeing, Dean? Anything suspicious?
Not yet. Keep looking.
Hopefully, we'll be able to locate anyone that's out there,
-any suspicious movement.
-It could be anywhere.
If there's a sniper it could be anywhere.
It would have been extremely difficult in a large city
that had been so devastated like Stalingrad to identify a sniper
moving around, and in position.
'We'd managed to get into our building without being spotted,
'but to stay hidden, we had to change our camouflage
'to blend in with the new environment -
'just like the snipers in Stalingrad.'
They would have something just like this, different colours of paint,
mud, dirt and just paint the whole thing up.
Bearing in mind all the contacts, all the firing,
was at really short distance. So the better they could blend in,
the better for them if they're being detected.
'Our plan was that, rather than attacking the front,
'we would cover the rear exit from the headquarters.'
OK, you can see straight through there, that is the target area.
That looks to be like a HQ.
'It was now just a question of sitting and waiting,
'but without losing my concentration.'
As I'm sitting here, I'm realising that one of the challenges
to being a sniper is maintaining that focus.
And the guys at Stalingrad would be doing that for a day or even longer.
You just don't know when the target's going to appear and,
as a result, your nerves are on edge the whole time.
'While we kept watch at the back,
'two more snipers - the rest of our team - climbed into position
'in a small building directly in front of the headquarters.'
If they were in one of these buildings they'd be using the shadow
inside the building to hide themselves.
Set back from the window, nice and still.
'The team at the front were now in position.
'They decided to attack the machine gunner,
'because he was the most immediate threat.'
-Keep the enemy on target. Delta.
If he's a reasonably-trained sniper, he's well-practised,
you would pretty much guarantee a hit with the first round.
Range, 225 metres.
You should be able to achieve a shot on to your centre of mass
-at approximately 900 metres.
Shot from just ahead.
We've got to move.
Delta confirmed kill.
'Inside the building, I thought I would be safe from the snipers.'
We know he's out there somewhere.
Confirm one kill. Delta is down.
All other call signs moved into the building.
'With our target inside the building, we decided to use a tactic
'used by snipers in Stalingrad. We called in artillery fire
'on to his headquarters to force him out onto the open.'
O zero, this is two zero delta.
All call signs in building.
Request alpha one, one alpha,
fires X-ray zero zero one, five, now, over.
Now they're shooting at us, aren't they, with artillery?
That's the artillery going in now. That should push them out.
It would only be a matter of time
before you've got a direct hit from the mortars on to this location.
-We have got to move.
'We decided to move to our vehicle at the back of the building
'and use smoke to hide ourselves from the snipers at the front.'
We now have smoke obscuring our view.
Mortars coming rather close.
I can see a Q on his head.
I heard a shot.
I heard a shot. It was somewhere over there. Goodness knows where.
I think that might have been Dad.
-So that's me done for?
Here they are. Hi, Dan.
-I had no idea where you were. No idea at all.
-We could see you.
Are you sure you hit me?
-It was frightening,
because I had no idea where you guys were.
It demonstrates how a very small number of people,
lightly equipped, can keep a serious command post in real trouble.
Really, really quite terrifying, it must have been.
"You don't see them at all. They have established themselves
"in houses and cellars and are firing on all sides,
"including from our rear.
"Barbarians! They use gangster methods."
Soviet snipers were very effective.
The German troops knew that, if they broke cover, they risked being shot.
German snipers were soon brought into the city as well,
and, as the fighting raged above the ground,
the soldiers were driven down into a terrifying new arena.
Troops on both sides began to fight underground.
Soldiers ran through cellars,
tunnels and even sewers like this one,
as they attempted to gain an advantage over the enemy.
The German soldiers soon had a new name for this kind of fighting.
they called it Rattenkrieg - war of the rats.
It was fighting of an intensity and terror unlike anything
the soldiers had experienced before.
It's hot, it's filthy and it's stinking.
And they knew that anywhere in the darkness,
the enemy could be waiting for them.
"I am alive but, in a moment, I might be dead.
"You can get killed any second here.
"The fighting is very heavy and so many people have been killed.
"Corpses lie on the ground and it's dreadful to look.
"Our poor soldiers and Germans lie there, rotting unwanted.
"Tanks drive over dead bodies as if they were logs of wood.
"The tanks are all covered in blood.
"It is a horror to see."
In mid-October, after over a month of fighting,
buildings had been reduced to empty shells.
Thousands of civilians were inside the city.
Some stole food to survive,
but many more died of starvation or from drinking polluted water.
Alongside them, in the ruins,
were tens of thousands of soldiers, also struggling to survive.
The fight for Stalingrad had descended into a vicious series
of battles over individual buildings,
sometimes with the Soviets and the Germans
on different floors of the same one.
Troops could spend days trapped in a single room.
In all the chaos, any sign of a clear front line simply vanished.
But despite the tenacious Soviet defence,
the Germans were increasing their stranglehold on the city.
The landing stage where vital Russian supplies
were brought across the River Volga remained under heavy German fire,
and fighting continued to rage
for control of the city's highest point, Mamayev Kurgan.
It had now changed hands several times, without
either side establishing control.
After six weeks of fighting, the German forces
had managed to gain control of much of the shattered city.
The Soviets only had this narrow strip of land,
but somehow they were clinging on.
Hitler was becoming increasingly impatient and demanded that
Paulus launch a decisive blow, this time, on Stalingrad's
industrial heart - the factories in the north of the city.
They were the Soviets' last major refuge.
If they lost these, they would have almost nothing left of the city.
Their key stronghold was the tractor factory
that dominated the entire area.
The factory had been converted to tank production
to support the war effort and, despite the battle raging around it,
tanks continued to roll out through its gates.
A lack of raw materials meant
they couldn't actually make new tanks here, but they could repair
battle-damaged ones and get them back into operation.
Sometimes, they were driven straight out into combat
by the factory workers themselves.
But that was soon to end.
On October 14th, the attack on the factories began.
Luftwaffe air raids blitzed the entire factory district.
Planes flew 3,000 sorties a day,
even more than in the original blitz on the city seven weeks earlier.
Supported by 200 tanks,
thousands of German infantry began to storm the factory complex.
Explosions shattered these enormous windows,
sending deadly shards of glass raining down
on the troops below.
Even by the brutal standards of Stalingrad, it was clear
that the fight for the city had reached a new level of ferocity.
8,000 Soviet Commandoes tried to defend the factory,
but soon the walls were covered with blood.
Over half of them were killed or wounded, including their commander.
He was buried alive up to his neck
in rubble when his command post received a direct hit.
He was rescued a few hours later, but he collapsed in shock
when he tried to tell General Chuikov what had happened.
With the resistance in the factories crumbling,
Chuikov realised that even he would now have to retreat.
The German advance through the factory district forced Chuikov
to pull his headquarters back here to the bank of the Volga.
He was suffering severe casualties.
More than a quarter of all his men
had been killed or wounded since the attacks on the factories began.
Units which had come to Stalingrad
with 7,000 or 8,000 men were now down to a few hundred survivors.
The Soviets were once again staring defeat in the face.
The unrelenting German attacks had forced Chuikov's troops
back into a handful of enclaves only 200 metres -
just over 200 yards - deep in some places.
One up here in the north...
..another toehold in the factory area,
and the larger area further south.
Chuikov had lost 90% of Stalingrad but still refused to admit defeat.
The battle was well into its third month,
and the heat of the summer was a distant memory.
Temperatures had plummeted to well below zero.
But just as it seemed that things couldn't get any worse
for Chuikov's men, the River Volga started to freeze.
This made it hard for boats to ferry supplies into the city.
The men were cold, hungry, exhausted and running out of ammunition.
"Everyone has lost the belief that we will hold Stalingrad.
"Now it's clear we will not be victorious.
"Our poor motherland,
"you have been crippled and dropped into the abyss."
Hitler was now convinced that the city was finally in his grasp.
In a speech to party veterans on the 8th of November,
he effectively claimed victory.
But the Germans were in for a dreadful shock,
because while Hitler was obsessed with the fighting in the city,
Stalin's High Command had been planning a bold offensive
that would change the course of the whole battle.
On 19th November, the Soviets launched one of the most awesome
counter-attacks in modern history. Field guns, mortars and rockets
began a ferocious bombardment 75 miles to the west of Stalingrad.
It was the earth-pounding product of two months' secret planning.
For 80 minutes, artillery thundered,
then, at 8.40am, they suddenly fell silent.
Just minutes later, wave upon wave of Soviet tanks broke out
from beneath their camouflage.
The key phase of the Soviet battle plan was now under way.
Hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops and thousands of tanks
had been hidden in the countryside around Stalingrad,
and now they were on the attack.
The weather was appalling.
Snow and freezing fog
made it almost impossible to see where they were going.
Urged on by their commanders, the troops surged forward.
Infantrymen carrying their rifles ran alongside the tank
and some even hitched a ride. They clung on the back up here
as the tank plunged through gullies and banks of snow.
These men were leading a great Soviet comeback,
thrusting deep into enemy-held territory.
Paulus got the news at his headquarters here.
This is it on our map case right here.
The German front line ran from down here,
through Stalingrad, in front of Paulus,
and right the way back to his rear.
It was here in the north that the Soviets had mustered a massive force
which had broken through behind Paulus.
There was even worse news to come. Just 24 hours later,
more Soviet tanks broke through the front line in the south
and headed north to link up with the others.
Soviet forces were closing like huge jaws around Paulus
and his entire Sixth Army.
On 24th November, the jaws closed near the town of Kalach.
The terrible reality dawned on Paulus.
As many as 300,000 men in Stalingrad
and the surrounding countryside were trapped in an area
that became known as the "Kessel", a German word for "cauldron".
The Soviet troops were jubilant.
They had outwitted and outmanoeuvred the Germans.
Just five days before,
the Soviets had been on the brink of defeat in Stalingrad.
Paulus was stunned.
No-one had believed the Soviets had the strength
to mount such a massive operation.
Paulus asked Hitler permission to withdraw from Stalingrad
and to punch a hole in the ring of Soviet troops surrounding him.
But, just like Stalin four months earlier, Hitler told his troops
there was no question of their being allowed to withdraw from Stalingrad.
Hitler ordered his troops inside the Kessel to continue fighting
while he prepared two tank divisions
to break through the encirclement from the outside.
But it would take weeks for the forces to get into position
and ready for the assault.
Inside the Kessel, cut off from their supply lines,
conditions for the trapped German troops were deteriorating rapidly.
Food, fuel and ammunition were all running out.
To make matters worse,
many of the German soldiers had never received winter uniforms.
There was little they could do except huddle together
in whatever shelter they could find.
Hitler's decision to leave his army trapped inside the Kessel
was an enormous gamble.
He believed he would be able to keep them fighting
with the support of an airlift.
Flying supplies into airfields in the Kessel was a huge undertaking.
There were 300,000 troops trapped around here
and Hitler's staff calculated that it would require
800 cargo planes flying night and day.
It was an extraordinarily ambitious plan,
but the head of the German Air Force, the bombastic Herman Goering,
convinced Hitler that it would work.
To succeed, they would need to land, here at airfields in the Kessel,
an absolute minimum of 300 tonnes of supplies every single day.
But they had made some fatal miscalculations.
Within days of the airlift starting,
it became clear that Hitler and Goering had massively
overestimated the capacity of their air force to supply the Sixth Army.
The combination of Soviet fighter aircraft and appalling weather
meant that, on average, only 120 tonnes of supply
reached the Kessel each day - less than half of what was required.
"We have no winter clothes.
"We have been swindled and have been condemned to death,
"and we shall die of the war or the frost."
Inside Stalingrad, the fighting continued,
and the Soviets unleashed a new kind of assault.
Day and night, loudspeakers throughout the Kessel broadcast
propaganda messages in German.
They called Stalingrad a mass grave
and urged German soldiers to surrender.
"I can tell you that it's terrible to sit in this trap.
"In the dugouts, it's dark...
.."and outside, the temperature is minus 20 or 30.
"I can only say that if it wasn't for our strength of will
"and our inspiration in the fight for Germany,
"the whole business would have been broken long ago."
Despite the psychological battering, the frostbite and the starvation,
most German troops still refused to surrender.
Some feared that they'd be tortured or shot by their Russian captors,
but most simply refused to believe that Hitler would abandon them.
Then, at long last, a rumour went round that salvation was on the way.
Two German tank divisions, backed up by infantry
and aircraft of the Luftwaffe,
were on the way towards their colleagues trapped in the Kessel.
Leading the attack was one of Hitler's most successful commanders.
His name was Field Marshal Erich von Manstein.
He had masterminded Germany's whirlwind victory in France
and now he was leading the mission to rescue the Sixth Army.
With the airlift failing,
everybody realised that this was the last chance for the starving troops.
Manstein's tanks had to break through the front line,
which was now down here, and then fight their way
across the Soviet controlled territory surrounding the Sixth Army.
The German troops surged forwards towards their stranded colleagues,
but, within days, the Red Army intercepted the German advance
30 miles short of the trapped Sixth Army.
The Soviet defences had formed an impenetrable barrier,
and Manstein's rescue attempt could advance no further.
But on the 20th of December, the news got even worse.
Manstein heard that the Soviets had launched a new offensive
way off to the west
which threatened to cut off all the German forces in Southern Russia.
He had no choice but to veer off to deal with this new threat
and abandon his attempt to breakthrough to Paulus.
With Manstein's departure went the last hope of the Sixth Army.
"The Russian radio has announced the defeat of Manstein.
"Ahead of us is either death or captivity."
Realising their fate,
many German soldiers now wrote letters to their families.
"We are men who know how to bear everything.
"The main thing is that you and the children are all right.
"Don't worry about me.
"Nothing can happen to me any longer.
"Today, I have made my peace with God.
"I give you all my love and a thousand kisses.
"I love you to my last breath."
Six weeks into the encirclement,
Soviet planes dropped thousands of leaflets into the Kessel.
They promised the Germans safety,
food and medical attention if their commander conceded defeat.
But the message ended with a chilling warning.
If surrender was rejected, everyone inside the Kessel
would be wiped out.
Once again, Hitler refused to allow his troops to surrender,
so, on the 10th of January 1943,
the Soviets began the final operation
to destroy all German troops that remained inside the Kessel.
Frozen, weakened by starvation and exhausted,
the Sixth Army was no longer capable of defending itself properly.
The only chance of escape
was to make it to one of the two airstrips inside the Kessel
and try to squeeze on to a plane.
This is all that remains of Gumrak Airfield, just west of Stalingrad.
It's difficult to imagine the scene of chaos and desperation here,
in the New Year of 1943.
Everyone knew that each plane leaving here could be the last.
And people were crushed in the fight to get aboard.
Some desperate men even clung to the wings of taxiing aeroplanes,
but as the pilots accelerated,
one by one, these men tumbled to the ground.
For two more weeks,
German troops inside the Kessel were pushed relentlessly back.
The German airfields were soon overrun.
Now there was no way out.
Survivors were chased into the freezing ruins of Stalingrad.
Among them was General Paulus.
Paulus moved his headquarters to the basement of this shop
in the city centre.
He was now a broken man.
But Hitler wanted to portray Paulus and his Sixth Army as martyrs,
fighting to the death for Germany. On the 31st of January, 1943, Paulus
received a message from Hitler, promoting him to Field Marshal.
No German Field Marshal had ever given himself up alive,
and Hitler no doubt expected Paulus to commit suicide.
Within hours, Soviet troops had surrounded Paulus.
Trapped in his basement, he made his decision.
At 7.45am, on the 31st of January, 1943,
Paulus chose not to commit suicide but to surrender himself.
Under armed guard, he was taken to a house on the outskirts of the city.
Two days later, after five months of horror, the fighting finally ended.
The Battle of Stalingrad was over. The whole world had witnessed
a catastrophic defeat for Hitler's Nazi Empire,
and for the Fuhrer himself, it was a personal disaster.
He had been totally committed to victory,
and was now utterly humiliated.
The aura of invincibility that had surrounded Hitler's army
for so long was gone forever.
In Stalingrad alone, 150,000 German troops had been killed.
And 90,000 more were now beginning the long slow journey
to Soviet prison camps.
Only 5,000 of them would ever return home.
In this grassy field on the outskirts of the city
was one of the last German command posts.
It still bears the scars of battle.
More than 60 years later, the evidence is everywhere.
These are just some of the thousands of bones discovered every year.
A gruesome reminder of the horrific death toll.
Although his city lay in ruins, Stalin had won.
But victory had come at a terrible price.
The Soviets lost more men and women during the Stalingrad campaign
than Britain and America lost during the entire war.
This park is a monument to the defenders of Stalingrad
who ultimately helped change the course of the Second World War.
Stalingrad was the battle that marked
the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.
Over the next two years,
Stalin chased Hitler's armies all the way back to Berlin.
In 1945, the Nazi Empire was finally crushed
between Britain, America and their allies in the West,
and Soviet forces in the East.
The irony is that Stalin went on
to replace one oppressive empire in Eastern Europe
with another of his own. And the Soviet Union,
which had been the West's ally during the Second World War,
became its bitter opponent during the Cold War,
which lasted another half century.
Next time, we bring you the battle for Korea.
I will be describing the enormous shifts in the fortunes
of the United Nations allies,
as they fought against a communist enemy.
And I'll be telling the story of what it was like for
the ground troops when these two very different armies clashed.
In three long years of war,
one of the most decisive battles was fought here.
It was the battle of the Imjin River.
Peter and Dan Snow describe battles that transformed the 20th century, here telling the story of one of the most epic battles of World War II. With cutting-edge graphics, Peter describes how the tactics of Hitler and Stalin resulted in tragedy on both sides. Whilst Soviet citizens held on for life in the shattered city, Hitler's army froze to death in the countryside.
They film inside the infamous tractor factory, where Dan recounts one of the vicious clashes that flared up in the battle. And on a training exercise, experts from the British Army teach them how snipers would have operated around the city.