On this day in 1943, the last German troops in Stalingrad surrender to the Red Army, ending one of the pivotal battles of World War II. In August 1942, the German Sixth Army made advances across the Volga River while Nazi air divisions pounded the Russian city of Stalingrad to rubble. German General Friedrich von Paulus estimated that it would take 10 days to capture the city. However, his Sixth Army faced a bitter Red Army that was employing the ruined city to its advantage, transforming destroyed buildings into natural fortifications.
The opposing forces broke into small squads that fought each other for every yard of territory. In November, the Soviets launched a massive counteroffensive, and within three days, the entire German force of over 200,000 men was encircled. For the next two months, the Germans desperately hung on, waiting for reinforcements that never came. Starvation and the brutal Russian winter took as many lives as the merciless Soviet troops. When German Field Marshal Paulus finally surrendered in early 1943, only 90,000 Germans were still alive.