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Liveblogging World War II: September 29, 1942

Josef Furman, writing to his family in Irkutsk:

Today is my second day on the frontline, where the greatest battle in human history is taking place. Not a second passes without the sound of artillery salvoes, the shriek of falling shells, the rattle of machine gun fire. Everywhere there are corpses. I do not know what will happen in the next hour...

Michael Jones: Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed:

Every soldier felt a heady mixture of exhilaration and terror on entering this ghastly battlefield. But Furman had caught a real truth about the mighty clash of arms between Germany and the Soviet Union which became a defining moment of the Second World War.... This book concentrates on the Russian defenders of the city: the embattled 62nd Army.... The life expectancy of one of these soldiers was less than two days.... Yet those who survived this terrible initiation developed an extraordinary will to survive. Red Army veterans believe it was this spirit – forged in the most horrifying conditions – which enabled them to withstand an annihilating enemy offensive.... [T]he story of this famous battle has usually been told in terms of the strategic blunders of Hitler and his High Command. But Stalin and his commanders also made serious mistakes. They had never intended to leave Stalingrad’s defenders cut off in the city for so long. But in September 1942 poor military planning led to the failure of one Soviet relief effort after another, forcing the 62nd Army to fight the overwhelming might of the Germans entirely on its own. How it managed to do so still mystifies surviving Russian veterans of the battle....

Colonel Ivan Lyudnikov, the commander of the 138th Division, was visiting a regimental HQ. The regimental commander, Major Gunyaga, was unhappy about being so close to the Germans. ‘I need normal conditions to work effectively – and I don’t have them’, he complained. ‘I know’, Lyudnikov commiserated. ‘Here nothing is normal in terms of the usual practice of war. But we broke the rules ourselves. We forced the enemy to fight in a way he didn’t want to.’ Then Lyudnikov added: ‘We are cut off from the rest of our people and have to be our own judges...The soldier sees your command post near his frontline trench. He knows how hard it is for you but you don’t leave. And because you – the regimental commander – trust the ordinary soldier in this fashion, he won’t give up. There’s nothing dearer in the world to him than this trust.’ The truth of this was proved time and again at Stalingrad...

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