On this day in 1942, Joseph Stalin, premier and dictator of the Soviet Union, fires off a telegram to the German and Soviet front at Stalingrad, exhorting his forces to victory. “That part of Stalingrad which has been captured must be liberated.”
Stalingrad was a key to capturing the Soviet Union, in many ways as important as capturing Moscow itself. It stood between the old Russia and the new, a center of both rail and river communications, industry and old-world Russian trade. To preserve Stalingrad’s integrity was to preserve Russian civilization past and present. As the Germans reached the Volga, thrust and counterthrust brought the battle to a standstill. Everyone from Russian factory workers to reinforcements of more than 160,000 Soviet soldiers poured into Stalingrad to beat back the German invader. Despite dwindling supplies, such as tanks and troop reserves, Hitler would not relent, convincing himself that the Russians could not hold out for long.
But Stalin appealed not only to Russian patriotism but also to Allied armaments. Requests to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for aid had not gone unheeded, as five British merchant ships arrived in northern Russia, loaded with supplies