02 June 2023
WILLIAM E HIESTAND
Number 34 in the Air Campaign series looks at the doomed attempt to resupply the trapped 6th Army at Stalingrad by air. This particular story is a little different from the usual ones in the series, being less about inflicting defeat on the opposition with a strategic view, and more about keeping the 6th Army going after Hitler refused to let Paulus attempt a breakout. However, the same structure as the others in the series is applied, so it looks at the capabilities of the Luftwaffe and of the Soviet airforce first. Then there's the campaign objectives and the actual, 77 days of air lift itself.
For all the colourful artwork, photos and strategic maps, perhaps the most telling element is the small chart listing how much tonnage was delivered and how many days it was delivered for, The bare minimum for the 6th Army was 300 tonnes, which the Luftwaffe managed on only four days. While the initial emphasis was for fuel, later on this switched to rations to simply keep the soldiers alive. Even so, thanks to how little got through, roughly a third of what was promised, by the end the soldiers still alive were starving and malnourished. Of the 91,000 that were taken captive, only 6,000 survived into the 1950s to return home to Germany.
As the book makes clear, the cost to the Luftwaffe for even attempting the airlift was disasterous anyway, losing planes that it could ill-afford. With the overall Stalingrad campaign losing half a million men from the German, Hungarian and Rumanian armies, it truly was a disaster on an epic scale, and one that the airlift simply contributed to.
- Osprey Publishing
- ISBN: 978-1-4728-5431-5
- 98 pages. Softcover. £16.99
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