Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

From an Angry Reader:

Dear Professor Hanson,

 

I read your article on Stalingrad and I wanted to respond.

 

The German 6th army in Stalingrad had Slovakian and Croatian units in the city. On the flanks of the 6th army was the Italian 8th army which played a huge role in Russia and was successful in Russia and was a revere[d] force. The Italians committed many troops for army group south and by the way this is coming from a Greek. I would also stress the importance of the Hungarians and Romanians.

 

You write, “It marked the turning point of World War II.” I would say that R.H.S Stolfi has argued that Kursk was the turning point, because a counter attacked at Kharkov won a major battle that regained the stability on the eastern front, in his book Hitler’s Panzers East. I would also add that my view is that operation Bagration was more a turning point in 1944 because it destroyed Army group Center and annihilated whatever remained of the German infantry forces which had been severely weakened and its allies like the Hungarians and the foreign SS units. Operation Bagration also moved soviet forces closer to Hungary and Romania and pushed army group north to be closed off to Germany. I would call that a greater victory then Stalingrad. However your view on Stalingrad as the turning point is conservative which is somewhat true. Also the soviets overextended, still was losing battles even in 1944, and the Germans captured more troops before Stalingrad, which had destroyed the red army, and half of the USSR’s industry and agriculture was captured. The Germans fixed the inept railroad systems. The Soviets were able to gain ground because the Germans were exhausted, but German units were murdering Soviet divisions.

 

Sincerely, Angelo

 

Ευχαριστώ Πολύ (Thank You)

 

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Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

 

Dear Sort of Angry Reader Angelo,

 

Patton’s Third Army included the 2nd French Division as well; so are we then wrong to call it an “American army”? The Sixth Army was overwhelmingly German and to call it such is just fine and does not deprecate the sacrifices of other Axis armies. The invasion of the Soviet Union was one of the most multinational efforts in military history, involving eventually Germans, Romanians, Hungarians, Italians, Spaniards, Finns, and Western and Eastern European volunteers.

 

After Stalingrad, the Germans could not complete Hitler’s original agenda of controlling Russia to the Volga River. The later “tie” at Kursk and even a German victory there would have made no ultimate difference, given the increasingly lethal Anglo-American bombing that was siphoning off huge artillery assets, even before D-Day, and successive open German wounds in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy—as well as vast diversions of Luftwaffe and artillery assets to offset Allied bombing.

 

Bagration came much later than Stalingrad when Soviet numerical and logistical superiority was unquestioned. In contrast, at Stalingrad the forces were much more evenly matched, and thus it was a turning point after which things went downhill for the Germans. Bragration was a continuation of what happened at Stalingrad to the nth degree, given far greater resources at the Red Army’s disposal.

 

Do not define German superiority in terms of killing ratios (anywhere from 3 to 7 / 1) or the German ability to destroy more tanks than it lost. There were no finer soldiers than those of the Wehrmacht but it eventually mattered little against a 12.5 million man-military, which received 20 percent of its supplies under Lend-Lease, at a time Germany was bombed 24/7 and under assault after June 1944 in Europe and Italy without much help militarily in Europe from its Italian and Japanese allies.

 

Sincerely, Victor

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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