Seeking the philosopher's stone: Luftwaffe operations during Hitler's drive to the South-East, 1942-1943 (1996)
AuthorsHayward, J. S. A.show all
After February 1943, the shadow of Stalingrad ever lengthened ahead of Adolf Hitler. The battle for that city had ended in disastrous defeat, shattering the myth of his military "Midas touch", ending his chances of defeating the Red Army, permanently damaging relations with Italy, Rumania, Hungary and other allied nations1, and, of course, inflicting heavy losses on his eastern armies. More than 150,000 Axis soldiers, most of them German, had been killed or wounded in the city's approaches or ruins; 108,000 others stumbled into Soviet captivity, 91,000 in the battle's last three days alone. (Although Hitler never learned of their fate, only 6,000 ever returned to Germany.) The battle has attracted considerable scholarly and journalistic attention. Literally scores of books and articles on Stalingrad have appeared during the 50 years since Stalin's armies bulldozed into Berlin, bringing the war in Europe to a close. Most have been published in Germany and, to a lesser degree, Russia, where the name "Stalingrad" still conjurs up powerful and emotional imagery. Comparatively few have been published in the English-speaking world. This is understandable; because no British, Commonwealth or American forces took part in the battle, they can number none of their own among its many heroes, martyrs, prisoners and victims. Moreover, although the German defeat at Stalingrad was immediately seen in the West as a turning point, its effects were not directly felt by the Anglo-American nations. The main focus of Stalingrad historiography, including the dozen books published in 1992 and 1993 to commemorate the battle's 50th anniversary, has been the 'fighting, encirclement, suffering and destruction of Paulus' Sixth Army. Few books and articles have devoted adequate attention to the activities of the Luftwaffe, although it made substantial contributions to all battles throughout the 1942 summer campaign-of which Stalingrad was the climax-and was alone responsible for the maintenance of Sixth Army after Zhukov's forces severed it from all but radio contact with other German army formations. This dissertation provides a detailed history of the Luftwaffe's operations during the entire summer campaign, as well as during its essential prelimary operations in the Crimea and the ill-fated airlift that grew out of its failure. A paucity of previous works on the subject-most of little worth and focusing only on the airlift-allowed me to interpret documentary evidence according to my own understanding, without having soaked up the biases and views of others and with no compulsion to make my views conform to received opinion. Nonetheless, I owe a debt to the late Generalleutnant Hermann Plocher, whose work on German air operations in Russia provided me with a basic chronological outline of planning and operations as well as a helpful starting point for archival exploration.