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The most brutal bombing in the history of the wars (Stalingrad August 23)

August 23, 1942. On this day, according to historians, the Luftwaffe aircraft made up to two thousand sorties in the Stalingrad region. As a result, according to rough estimates, more than 90 thousand people, mostly civilians, died.


To understand the extent of the bombing

Death toll

Dresden bombing 35,000

Nagasaki 60.000-80.000

Hiroshima-80.000-166.000

Stalingrad Over 90,000-200.000



It was a cloudless morning on August 23. The sun, which had risen from behind the Kazakh steppe, illuminated the front-line city and its environs ever brighter. In Stalingrad itself, the morning began as usual. Puffs of smoke from undamped fires rose in many districts of the city, the MPVO engineering battalions raked up numerous debris, sanitary litter blocks crowded with dusty streets, circling piles of bricks and anti-tank obstacles, drove the victims to crowded hospitals and hospitals. Day shift workers were in a hurry to work, because all enterprises, despite the bombing, continued to work. Unpainted T-34 tanks regularly left the tractor plant workshops and, clanging caterpillars, immediately went to the front. Hasty loading of evacuated equipment was in progress, ships and ferries clumsily snooped between the left and right banks in the morning haze. Crowds of refugees who spent the night right on the slopes of the shore woke up waiting for loading onto steamboats. In the west, where the horizon was still dark, a distant rumble of artillery cannonade was heard. For a month now, the Stalingradites had been living in constant tension, but no one suspected that it was precisely at these hours that a terrible threat loomed over the city.


In the center of Stalingrad in 1942, a few days before the battle on the Volga


Photograph of the southern outskirts of Stalingrad, taken from the board of Ju-88 from KG76


A 12.7 mm DShK machine gun is being watched by a pair of Il-2 during battles in Stalingrad. 42


Back at 06.30 in the morning, Moscow time, German tanks, crossing the Don at night, rushed at full speed across the steppe directly to the Volga. Roaring engines and raising clouds of dust, armored vehicles raced forward, ignoring the scattering rear units of the Red Army. Stalingrad was about 40 km away. "Junkers" and "Heinkels" struck another blow to the Soviet fortifications on the outskirts of the city. At the same time, replenishment arrived at the airfields of bomber aircraft. He-111 from the KG55 headquarters, as well as the I./KG100 Viking Air Group, landed in Morozovskaya. This was due to the fact that the command of the 4th Air Fleet in the coming hours was preparing massive raids on Stalingrad. At noon, when the August heat was in full swing, the Luftwaffe made a new massive raid on Soviet positions. Tankers of General Hube, rolling along the deserted steppe, not meeting resistance, leaned out of the hatches and saw clouds of planes flying east. Black shadows covered the steppe, and the air was filled with a howl of sirens. Soon, machine guns crackled in the sky and smoky traces of falling cars appeared.

2-Fighters of the 178th shooter. NKVD regiment build defense. construction in Stalingrad. 07.42


A giant pillar of black smoke over burning oil storage facilities. Photo taken by gunner Ju-87D from StG2 Immelman


The downed German bomber He.111 on the street of Stalingrad.

Two groups of the 51st Bomber Squadron were already on their second mission to support the advance of the 4th Panzer Army, moving from the southwest along the Salsk-Stalingrad railway. At 13:00 Berlin time, Ju-88 of Commander III./KG51, Major Ernst von Bibra, was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery during a dive bombing and made an emergency landing in the steppe near the Soviet positions of the Nar. Chir. Seeing this, the pilot of one of the "Junkers" from the 7th squadron landed right there, and all the crew members of the downed aircraft quickly got into it. After that, the bomber, packed full of people, took off under the fire of Russian infantrymen and headed for the airfield. Landing in Tatsinskaya, von Bibra immediately took the new Ju-88 in order to immediately participate in the next flights. Around this time, painstaking work was going on. Mechanics refueled the aircraft, eliminated minor problems, gunsmiths hung high-explosive and heavy incendiary bombs from the aircraft. The next target was directly the city of Stalingrad


On the outskirts of the hometown


Aerial view from a German reconnaissance aircraft. An explosion of a tank with oil products is circled in the center, the number “1” indicates a burning barge on the Volga


Messerschmitt Bf.109E in Stalingrad

In order to completely destroy the main engineering and transport infrastructure of the city, to prevent organized resistance in the city blocks and to demoralize the retreating Soviet troops, Wolfram von Richthofen decided to use all the bomber and assault forces at his disposal from the 4th and 8th air corps, throwing them at Stalingrad in waves that are constantly replacing each other. Each squadron and group received a specific sector, on which it was necessary to drop high-explosive, incendiary and fragmentation bombs. Large objects (factories, factories, train stations and large buildings) were divided between squadrons, with each navigator receiving a detailed aerial view of the city. The main objectives were water intake stations on the Volga, plants: tractor them. Dzerzhinsky, "Red October", "Barricades", the factory "Lazur", as well as oil storage on the banks of the Volga. Flight routes and attack levels were also determined individually for each air group.


Residents of Stalingrad install anti-tank hedgehogs.


Ju-87D from StG2 Immelman over a plant in the northern part of Stalingrad


Horse on the street of destroyed Stalingrad

At 16.00 Moscow time, the entire steppe in the Stalingrad region was filled with the ominous rumble of aircraft engines. He-111 from KG27 Belke, III./KG4 General Wefer, I./KG100 Viking, I. and III./KG55 Greif participated in the raid; Ju-88 from I. and III./KG51 Edelweiss and KG76; Ju-87 from II./StGl, StG2 Immelman and I./StG77. They were accompanied by the Messerschmitts Bf-109 from I./JG53 “Peak Ac”, JG3 “Udet” and III./JG52.

The first bombing of Stalingrad. anti-aircraft gun fires on him. airplanes


In the sky over Stalingrad.


Soviet soldier fires on German aircraft


The anti-aircraft gunner of the 748th ZenAP M.I. Matveeva recalled:


“I hear a rumble different from what comes from the north. Go!


- The air! Course 90, massive aircraft noise! Olga pushes me to the side:


- What are you! This is the same course 180!


They are already visible. And a course of 90, and a course of 180, and 45, and 125, and ... from all sides. Heinkels. These are above all. The Dornier [99]. Too high. Behind them - below more, and more, and more. "Junkers-88", "Junkers-87" - the entire album of German aircraft, on which we once studied them. "


Stalingrad anti-aircraft gunners

Richthofen's air squadrons hit Stalingrad. August 23, 1942


In the sky over Stalingrad.


Reflection enemy air raids


At 4.20 p.m., an air raid was once again announced in Stalingrad, anti-aircraft guns rumbled angrily, and soon the first bombers appeared in the sky. Workers did not have the right to leave the workshop without the permission of the director and, hearing the beeps of air raid, continued to work. Many tried to remain calm, some still panicked, others quietly prayed for salvation. Soon, against the backdrop of deaf pops of anti-aircraft guns, a terrifying howl of aircraft sirens and motors was heard, and then a chilling whistle of falling bombs.


Me Bf. 109 from the 3rd group of the 3rd fighter squadron "Udet" in flight to Stalingrad


German aircraft bomb ferry across the Volga with evacuating residents of Stalingrad


People flee from a bombed ship


Work continued at the Krasny Oktyabr metallurgical plant when nine Ju-88s, coming from the Volga, dropped bombs on its hull from a dive. Powerful explosions raised the roofs of the workshops, tossing pillars of fire and smoke into the sky. Then the Junkers roared over the rooftops, howling from the peak. The hell began at the factory. In foundry building No. 3, multi-ton channel channels and beams, roof fragments fell right on the workers with a roar. A blast wave blasted from blast furnaces, streams of liquid metal poured onto the floor, burning fuel oil flowed from the broken pipelines. Those who had not yet been crushed or torn to shreds immediately flared up and screamed with frantic cries in the smoke. Workers who were lucky enough not to be in the hotbeds of defeat, no longer waiting for an “official order”, rushed to run into the street. Some jumped into cracks dug nearby, while others rushed away from the workshops.


German aerial photography of one of the districts of Stalingrad.


Stalingrad repels Nazi aerial attack




The Stalingraders, whom the bombing found at home, did not immediately appreciate the scale of what was happening. Those who were afraid for their property remained in the apartment, nervously glancing out the windows, others descended into the basement or through the cracks. Thousands of townspeople found a raid in transport or just on the street. After the first explosions, all of them, looking at the sky, saw the following groups of bombers approaching from all sides from across the river, from the south and the west. Pillars of fire and smoke rose already in the northern part of the city above the tractor factory and somewhere in the south. When they reached shelters, often in the form of simple trenches, Stalingraders looked up with fear. It was clear that silver-white objects fell out and immediately scattered from fans of planes in steady order. Soon they turned into huge "umbrellas", so that the whole sky soon turned milky white.


Above the ruins of Stalingrad


These were the special Luftwaffe incendiary bombs, which the Soviet MPVO service called "incendiary leaflets." Tens of thousands of strips of phosphorus-coated foil, flashing upon contact with the air, slowly descended into the city center and surrounding neighborhoods. It was as if spellbound Stalingraders looked up, watching in a daze, as a fiery leaf fall approaches the roofs of houses. In contact with the surface, the "leaves" began to glow with a violent blue-white flame of enormous temperature. And in a matter of minutes, hundreds of fires had already occurred throughout the city.

Ju-87 in flight over Stalingrad.


But after a while new groups of Heinkels and Junkers appeared. Many black dots are separated from them. These are already high-explosive and fragmentation bombs. A long whistle, then the dull sounds of explosions, clods of earth, fragments, broken glass, smoke .... Those who have not died breathe a sigh of relief and pray that the next series of infernal machines will not fall on them. Chuyanov later recalled: “Houses are burning, the buildings of the Palaces of Culture, schools, institutes, theaters and many institutions are collapsing. The city is turning into hell ... Firefighters and air defense fighters do everything possible: they pull down burning roofs, remove people from the wreckage ... And bombs continue to pour from the blackened sky from smoke ... The central part of the city is engulfed in flames of incredibly large proportions. From the overheating of the air and tremors, an unprecedented force rose in the wind, it lengthens the fiery wings of fires, and now it seems that the sky and the whole space are being ignited - from horizon to horizon. ”


Richthofen's air squadrons hit Stalingrad. August 23, 1942


Due to numerous explosions of high-explosive bombs, the operation of the water intake stations at 16.42 was completely paralyzed, and extinguishing mass fires was practically impossible. In all areas, telephone service failed, and power was cut off. Silent even loudspeakers monotonously taldychivaya "Citizens! Aerial alert! ”Meanwhile, bombers, wave after wave, again entered the city. Several bombs fell on the territory of the city zoo. The frightened elephant, who was his main exhibit in peacetime, overcame the fence and began to scamper along the streets, complementing the eerie picture of the apocalypse ...


Ju 87 in the sky of Stalingrad


Fighters of the 102nd Air Defense IAD also performed a combat mission and were constantly in the air. During the day, some pilots completed seven sorties. First they flew up with regiments, then with squadrons, units and individual planes. In the confusion, they landed at the first airdrome that came across to replenish ammunition and fuel, and again rose into the air. However, the effect of these flights was small. Soviet fighters approached the city in scattered groups and were immediately intercepted by the Messerschmitts. Only pilots of one I./JG53 won that day in the sky over the Volga city 17 victories.


Ju 87 in the sky of Stalingrad



Meanwhile, the raid continued. New waves of bombers approached the city. One of the pilots of the 5th KG27 Squadron Belke recalled: “The first attack, consisting of several units connecting to the city of Stalingrad. Together with us, the Stucks, attack aircraft and fighters attacked. The grand anti-aircraft defense of the Russians. We fly at an altitude of 7500m. "The bombs were dropped at a drop point above the outskirts of the city, because otherwise they could hit their own planes flying below us."


Ju 87 in the sky of Stalingrad


Anti-aircraft gunner Matveeva said: “On the Volga, she still peers through the curtain of explosions, closing the half-sky, a gigantic fire fountain rises. The flame explodes upward, swirling in clubs there, emits black smoke. Flames scatter to the sides. Flames fall into the river. The flame licks water, eats it, and a wide ribbon of fire flows along the Volga. I was stupefied - the Volga is on fire! Everything burns - earth, sky, water. In this conflagration, nurse girls scurried, they carried the wounded from the battle to the crossing on a stretcher, and they themselves fell under fire. No screams could be heard from the volleys of guns. The wounded jumped from the fifth floor, because the houses scattered from the explosions ... In order not to suffocate from smoke, the anti-aircraft gunners took cotton wool from the medical orderlies, soaked in liquid ammonia and brought it to the nose. The guns were heating up red-hot. The soldiers dipped bags on the Volga and so cooled gun barrels. "


Ju 87 in the sky of Stalingrad


Soon, pungent black smoke covered the whole sky, black flakes of soot flew in the air, a shortage of oxygen began to be felt. Many residents who did not die from the bombs and hid in the basements and ravines began to die from suffocation. In addition to smoke, limestone mist, which rose above the city, covered a tall sheet with a white sheet, the Volga, stretched for tens of kilometers, crawled south to Beketovka and Krasnoarmeysk. Gradually, the whiteness of the fog disappeared, mixing with the yellow-gray smoky haze of fires. Hundreds of bombing explosions merged into a monotonous hum, the cast-iron weight of which made the earth tremble in the Volga region, there the glass of wooden houses tinkled and the leaves on the oaks moved.


Children of Stalingrad


Residents of Stalingrad leave their hometown after the barbaric bombing


Residents of Stalingrad leave their hometown after the barbaric bombing


The fire that burned over one building connected with the neighboring fire, and as a result, entire streets burned. Flames were thrown from tree to tree, bursting into apartments, onto landings, instantly burning everything in its path, jumping from roof to roof. Even the asphalt burned! In the center of the city, trying to escape from the flame, people jumped from the upper floors, climbed onto balconies and cornices, hung on gutters, but death overtook them there. Fire engines at first still tried to fight the fire, but due to lack of water and numerous debris in the streets, their actions were completely useless.


Stalingrad. Hitler's first air raids

Soon giant fire whirlwinds formed, drawing in the remnants of oxygen and engulfing the street outside the street. The most powerful tornadoes occurred in the area of ​​the factory "Red October" and in the city center. Running away from them was useless. Choking with suffocation, people fell one by one, writhed on the ground for a while and froze. Then their bodies flashed like torches and instantly charred.


Aerial photography of fires in Stalingrad

A huge conflagration was visible for dozens of kilometers on the left bank of the Volga, and the inhabitants of the farm of Burkovsky, Verkhnyaya Akhtuba, Tumak and Gypsy Dawn, as if spellbound, watched this end of the world. Fleeing the flame, thousands of residents rushed to the banks of the Volga and to the city ravines, hoping to escape there. Bombs were tearing around, some fell into the thick of the people, tearing them to pieces. The rest, splattered with blood and blinded by flashes of explosions, darted from the corner of one building to another and, tripping over corpses, colliding with each other, rushed on.


Ruined stalingrad, heroic fire brigade trying to put out fires


Fire fighting


Olga Kozyreva, who was living in Stalingrad at that time, recalled: “I was 10 years old then. I grabbed my seven-month-old brother in my arms and ran. Mom is behind us. The doomsday began, it was even worse than an earthquake. Everything was shaking, cracking and crumbling. Children shouted not in their own voices ... Houses, schools, theaters, kindergartens, train stations and piers, poles and trees fell apart and burned down. In the black smoke, both the sun and the sky disappeared. Crowds of people fled to the Volga. Mom and I hid in the basement of our house. Brother cried all the time. The old women read “Our Father” and asked: “Repeat after us.”


Residents of Stalingrad carry their things, going to the evacuation


Explosion of a bomb on a square in Stalingrad.


Residents of Stalingrad after the bombing


. Burning oil products swiftly covered an ever-increasing surface of the water, hundreds of people trying to swim across the river were choked with fuel oil, burned. Some frantically raked into clean water, but fire quickly overtook them. The inhuman dying screams screamed endlessly over the river. The ships, trying to maneuver among the flames and smoke, also perished one after another. Those who remained on the shore watched in horror as the next ship was engulfed in flames, and it flashed with a torch, burning sailors jumped into the river and their figures quickly disappeared in fire and smoke. The burning skeleton carried away downstream. And from above, the shadows of German planes chasing the surviving ships sometimes flashed through the smoke. Powerful explosions shook the coast from time to time, and fragments of buildings flew from adjacent streets. In total, on that day, 25 different steamboats and barges were lost on the Volga near Stalingrad. In the port, 19 floating cranes, 14 warehouses, 25 stationary conveyors, as well as hundreds of units of auxiliary equipment, were destroyed.



Stalingrad after the bombing


A resident of Stalingrad near a burned-out house


After 19.00 local time, the bombing ended, but huge fires continued to burn. When it got dark, a fiery glow was visible 150 km from Stalingrad, it was observed by the residents of Elton, Gorny Proleika and Kamenny Yar. On the night of August 24, German bombers raided the city, dropping bombs on burning ruins from an altitude of 300-400 m. Anti-aircraft guns were demoralized, the ammunition ran out, and the Germans practically did not encounter resistance from air defense.


Stalingrad in the station area, burning from German bombing.


Residents of Stalingrad look at the consequences of German air raids


Only after midnight, when the bombing finally stopped, the city leadership was able to fully appreciate the consequences of what happened. The chairman of the city defense committee Chuyanov made a detour of the streets, and his eyes saw the most terrible paintings that he had ever seen in his life. The collapsed walls of the houses exposed the stairwells, apartments with burnt beds. Burnt corpses and pieces of human bodies lay everywhere, entire blocks of the once beautiful high-rise buildings towering over the Volga turned into piles of ruins, among which were swarmed women, old people and children looking for relatives. Later he recalled: “Suddenly the door of the burning hut opened wide and a boy of six and a girl of four ran out of it, holding hands. They are almost half-naked: a boy in pants and a T-shirt, a girl just in a nightgown. The boy said that their mother was killed, and they are waiting for their father from work. I stood in front of the children in a daze. The wrecker lay the murdered mother of these children. He called the girls from the rescue team and instructed them to send the children to the left bank of the Volga. ”


Central crossing in the early days of the bombing of Stalingrad


Artist of the Stalingrad Youth Theater rescues his instrument from a broken theater


Of the large enterprises, the Krasny Oktyabr metallurgical plant suffered the most, where all blast furnaces failed and hundreds of workers died. Tractor Plant them. Dzerzhinsky Germans bombed relatively weakly, because they were afraid to cover their units, which went to the Volga nearby. Therefore, here, despite the damage to a number of workshops, work continued, and on the night of August 24 several T-34 tanks were again launched.


Stalingrad in the smoke

The raid on Stalingrad on August 23, 1942 became the most massive operation of the Luftwaffe bombing aircraft since the beginning of the war. At the same time, the task set by Hitler's directive of July 23 was completely completed. Stalingrad, as a city and an industrial center, was destroyed. Dry hot weather, prolonged intense bombing, the Germans using a large number of different incendiary bombs - all this gave a huge destructive effect. Such important enterprises for the country as the Krasny Oktyabr factory and the Barricades artillery factory were completely disabled. According to unknown source data, over 40 thousand people died as a result of the bombing, and about 150 thousand were injured. In fact, no one was seriously involved in counting victims. As well as the number of civilians who were in the city at that moment was not known. Therefore, it is impossible to talk about a specific figure, it is only clear that there were tens of thousands of dead.


Smoke over Stalingrad after the bombing


The aircraft of the 4th and 8th air corps performed about two thousand sorties on August 23, only the KG51 Edelweiss bomber squadron flew five times in full force! At the same time, the losses of the Luftwaffe were minimal, only three aircraft. Among them was He-111 from III./KG55, which was damaged by anti-aircraft fire over Stalingrad, and then finished off by a Russian fighter. His entire crew - pilot sergeant-gunner Gunter Hoyer, navigator Hauptmann Hans Eismann, flightradist non-commissioned officer Gunter Raiman and flight mechanic chief corporal Johan Armani - went missing.


Smoke over Stalingrad after the bombing


On the same day, at about 2 pm Moscow time, another important event occurred: at the height of air raids, tanks Pz.III and Pz.IV from the 16th Panzer Division reached the Volga coast north of Stalingrad. Thus, the Volga region was cut by the Wehrmacht into two parts and through navigation on the river was in danger of a complete stop. In connection with this, the People's Commissar of the River Fleet 3. A. Shagpkov soon ordered the cessation of movement along the Volga through Stalingrad. Ships earlier sent from Astrakhan with 165 thousand tons of oil products were forced to turn back.


Aerial photograph of Stalingrad


On the morning of August 24, the view of the city was truly terrible. Overturned trams, burning cars, rows of funnels, pieces of bodies lying around everywhere and fragments of buildings - all this made a depressing impression on the survivors. Some streets almost turned into heaps of ash, even asphalt was charred and spread in places along the side of roads. Hundreds of people wandered between the ruins, some were looking for water, others - for their relatives, others were simply in a trance.


The attack aircraft Ju-87D from StG2 Immelman over the Stalingrad Kremlin (now extinct)



In some places, the MPVO fighters tried to disassemble the rubble and provide assistance to the victims, but there were so many of them that most people were left to their own devices. There were no time to carry numerous corpses and remains to cemeteries, meanwhile, decomposition in the heat of August occurred very quickly. Therefore, the dead were thrown into large funnels from bombs, becoming mass graves, or buried directly in squares and in the yards. Thousands remained to lie under the rubble. Fires in the city from now on did not stop.


The bombing of a cannery in the southern part of Stalingrad. Top left is the Ju-87D coming out after the attack.

In addition to bombs, the Germans literally overwhelmed Stalingrad with leaflets urging them to stop senseless resistance, avoid new casualties and give up. In response to the decision of the city defense committee, a sticking-up of appeals began on the streets with a call to turn every house and every street into an impregnable fortress. Residents were also encouraged to go out on the construction of the barricades. The appeal ended with the words: “Bey, who is able to carry weapons, to barricades, to defend his native city, home!” True, the printing house of the newspaper “Stalingradskaya Pravda” was also destroyed by bombardment, so the circulation of the appeal turned out to be small, and the German campaign on the streets turned out to be more. The work of the NKVD, which was responsible for collecting leaflets, was also disorganized for a while, as the regional government building completely burned down and numerous damage to telephone lines interrupted communication with the district police departments.



by aleksak