A critical year

The Eastern Front during 1942 was a critical period in World War II. The year began with the Soviet Union still reeling from Operation Barbarossa: the German invasion the previous year, which had seen the Nazis capture vast territories and threaten to encircle Moscow.

However, despite their initial setbacks, the Soviets were able to mount a successful counteroffensive and push the Germans back. The Soviet Union, under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, faced off against the German forces, led by Adolf Hitler and his top commanders,

Soviet forces

The Soviet Union had a vast amount of men and equipment at their disposal, with millions of soldiers and thousands of tanks, artillery pieces, and aircraft. The Red Army was also supported by a large number of partisan units, which operated behind enemy lines to disrupt German supply lines and communications.

By 1942, Soviet forces on the Eastern Front covered several fronts and included numerous divisions. The Southwestern Front, under the command of Marshal Semyon Timoshenko, was responsible for the southern sector of the front and included the 21st, 38th, and 40th Army divisions.

The Western Front, under the command of Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky, controlled the central sector and included the 16th, 19th, and 20th Army divisions.

The Northwestern Front, under the command of Marshal Georgi Zhukov, was responsible for the northern sector and included the 42nd, 43rd, and 45th Army divisions. Other notable units on the Eastern Front in 1942 included the 1st Guards Tank Brigade and the 5th Tank Army.

Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky, Commander of Soviet forces in the central sector, including the 16th, 19th, and 20th Army divisions.

Konstantin Rokossovsky | Константин Константинович Рокоссо… | Flickr

Colourised by Klimbim

A T-34 on the Eastern front, 1942.


Bundesarchiv Bild 169-0014

The Red army used a variety of vehicles on the Eastern Front. The main battle tank used by the Soviet was the famous T-34, which was a well-armed, robust and reliable medium tank that packed a punch with its powerful 76 mm gun. It would be produced in large numbers and prove to be one of the outstanding weapons of the Second World War.

The Soviet also used the KV-1, which was a heavy tank that was heavily armored and heavily armed. Additionally, the Soviet Union used the lighter and faster BT-series of tanks, which were mainly used as reconnaissance tanks. The Soviet also used the SU-122 and SU-152, which were SPGs (Self-Propelled Guns) that were heavily armed and well-protected.

The Soviet Union also used a variety of trucks and tractors, such as the GAZ-AA and ZIS-5, for transport and supply purposes. The Soviet also used a variety of other armored vehicles, such as the BA-10, which was a heavily armored reconnaissance vehicle.

Soviet soldiers at a river south of Voronezh, Eastern Front 1942.

Soviet soldiers at a river south of Voronezh 1942 | Original… | Flickr

Colourised by Za Rodinu

German forces

Generalfeldmarschall Georg von Küchler, commanded Army Group North which included the 6th, 18th, and 20th Army divisions.

The German forces, on the other hand, were smaller in number but better equipped and trained. The Wehrmacht had a total of 3 million soldiers, along with thousands of tanks, artillery, and aircraft. The German forces were also supported by a number of allied and satellite armies, including those of Romania, Hungary, and Italy.

Hitler's armies on the Eastern Front included several army groups and numerous divisions. Army Group South, under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, was responsible for the southern sector of the front and included the 1st Panzer, 4th Panzer, and 17th Army divisions.

Army Group Centre, under Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge, controlled the central sector and included the 2nd, 9th, and 4th Army divisions.

Army Group North, under Generalfeldmarschall Georg von Küchler, was responsible for the northern sector and included the 16th, 18th, and 20th Army divisions.

Other notable units on the Eastern Front in 1942 included the SS-Totenkopf and SS-Wiking divisions.

A Panzer III on the Eastern Front during Operation Barbarossa.

german army | panzer III tank and german infantry of the 1st… | Flickr

The German Wehrmacht used a variety of armoured and unarmoured vehicles on the Eastern Front. The main battle tank used by the Germans was the Panzer III, which was a medium tank that was well-armed and well-armoured and had been produced in high numbers. The Germans also used the Panzer IV, which was a more heavily armoured and with a more effective gun.

Additionally, the Germans used the lighter and faster Panzer II, which was mainly used as a reconnaissance tank. The Germans also used the SPG (Self-Propelled Gun) Stug III, which was a tank destroyer that was heavily armed and well-protected (the lack of turret made it cheaper to produce).

The Germans also used a variety of half-tracks, such as the Sd.Kfz. 251, which was used to transport troops and supplies and had an anti-aircraft machine gun mounted on top.

The Germans also used a variety of other armoured vehicles, such as the Schwerer Panzerspähwagen, which was a heavily armoured reconnaissance vehicle.

A German soldier of Panzer-Grenadier-Division Großdeutschland lets a kitten play with the magazine belt of an MG-34 machine gun in the compartment of a Sd.Kfz. 250A light half-track. Russia, 1942.

Colourised PIECE of JAKE - History is all about colour (cpoj.nl)

German troops sorting through mail on the Eastern Front in 1942. With hundreds of thousands of troops spread across three army groups, the Deutsche Reichspost (German postal service) had a challenging task..

Eastern Front in Color Photos, 1942 ~ Vintage Everyday


In 1942, both the German and Soviet air forces were actively engaged in operations on the Eastern Front, but there were significant differences in the strength, capabilities, and tactics of the two sides.

The German Luftwaffe, under the command of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, had a significant advantage in terms of overall air power.

The Luftwaffe had a wide range of aircraft types, including fighters, bombers, and ground attack planes, which were well-trained, experienced, and equipped with the latest technology.

They also had a large number of experienced pilots who had been battle-tested in the early years of the war. 

This advantage in air power allowed the German to achieve air superiority in many areas of the Eastern Front, which was crucial in supporting ground operations.

n October of 1942, a German Junkers Ju 87 “Stuka” dive bomber attacks during the Battle of Stalingrad.

The bloody battles of The Eastern Front through photographs, 1942-1943 - Rare Historical Photos

The German Luftwaffe used a variety of aircraft types on the Eastern Front. The main fighter aircraft used by the Germans was the Messerschmitt Bf 109, which was a single-engine, single-seat fighter that was fast, maneuverable, and well-armed.

By 1942, the Luftwaffe was also using the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, which was a newer, more advanced fighter that was also used in ground-attack roles. The main bomber used by the Germans was the Heinkel He 111, which was a twin-engine medium bomber that was used for both strategic and tactical bombing.

The Luftwaffe also used the Junkers Ju 87 "Stuka" dive bomber, which was specially designed for ground-attack missions and was known for its distinctive siren. Additionally, the Luftwaffe used reconnaissance and transport aircraft such as the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch and the Junkers Ju 52.

A Ju-88 silouhetted in a Russian sunset, 1942.

Soviet Air Force

The Soviet air force, on the other hand, had a much weaker air power at the beginning of 1942.

The Red Air Force had a limited number of aircraft types, and many of them were outdated, poorly maintained, and lacked advanced technology.

Additionally, the Soviet pilots had less training and experience than their German counterparts, which made them more vulnerable in air combat.

However, the Soviet Air force had a much larger number of aircraft and pilots, which made up for the lack of quality. Additionally, the Soviet had a relatively large number of ground-based anti-aircraft weapons, which helped to protect their ground troops and airfields from German air attacks.

The pilot and navigator Soviet Light bomber Petlyakov Pe-2 discussing the upcoming sortie 9 March 1942.

Pe-2 - Colorizations By Users | Gallery (ww2incolor.com)

Despite these weaknesses, the Soviet air force was able to make significant contributions to the war effort on the Eastern Front in 1942.

The Red Air Force played a crucial role in providing close air support to ground troops and in carrying out reconnaissance and bombing missions. They also played an important role in protecting Soviet cities and industrial areas from German bombing raids.

Additionally, the Soviet air force was able to mount a number of successful counterattacks against the German air force, which helped to reduce its overall effectiveness.

Soviet pilots near a bomber after a combat flight, Leningrad, 1942.

Soviet Army WWII In colour | MilitaryImages.Net

The Soviet Union used a variety of aircraft types on the Eastern Front. The main fighter aircraft used by the Soviet was the Lavochkin LaGG-3, which was a single-engine, single-seat fighter that was relatively fast and well-armed.

The Soviet also used the Yakovlev Yak-1, which was a newer, more advanced fighter that was also used in ground-attack roles.

The main bomber used by the Soviet was the Petlyakov Pe-2, which was a twin-engine light bomber that was used for both strategic and tactical bombing.

Additionally, the Soviet Union used the sturdy Ilyushin Il-2 "Shturmovik" ground-attack aircraft, which was heavily armoured and heavily armed and was used to attack ground targets.

The Soviet also used reconnaissance and transport aircraft such as the Polikarpov R-5 and the Antonov An-2.


In 1942, the main operations on the Eastern Front were conducted by the German Army Group Centre, Army Group South, and Army Group North.

  • Army Group Centre was responsible for the front line stretching from Leningrad in the north to Moscow in the south. They launched a major offensive in the summer of 1942, with the goal of capturing Moscow, but were ultimately stopped short by the Soviet counteroffensive.
  • Army Group South was responsible for the front line stretching from the Black Sea to the Caucasus. They launched several offensives in the summer of 1942, with the goal of capturing the oil fields in the Caucasus and the city of Stalingrad.
  • Army Group North was responsible for the front line stretching from Leningrad to the Baltic Sea. They were primarily focused on the Siege of Leningrad, which lasted for 900 days and resulted in the deaths of over 1 million civilians.

'High Tide' - the furthest extent of the German attempts to conquer the Soviet Union. From this point onwards, German gains steadily shrunk.


Scorched Earth

1942 saw some of the most brutal fighting of the war on the Eastern Front.

The German Army used Scorched Earth tactics, burning villages and crops and killing civilians.

The Soviet Union responded by conscripting millions of men into the Red Army and by implementing a scorched-earth policy of their own.

The fighting was particularly brutal in the cities, where the German Army used heavy artillery and airpower to destroy buildings and kill civilians.

The Eastern Front also saw the use of concentration camps and extermination camps by the German Army. These camps were used to imprison and murder millions of Jews, Roma, and other minority groups. The Holocaust, as it became known, was one of the most heinous crimes in human history.

German soldiers passing a burning Russian village.

Scorched Earth Policy - World War II (weebly.com)

In January 1942, the Eastern Front of World War II was in a state of flux. The German army had launched a major offensive in the previous month, known as Operation Typhoon, with the goal of capturing Moscow. The operation had initially been successful, with German forces advancing deep into Soviet territory and capturing many key cities and towns.

However, by the end of December 1941, the German advance had been halted by a combination of harsh winter weather and fierce Soviet resistance.

Wehrmacht cameraman shooting action on the eastern front, 1942.

Colorization by R. White

In January 1942, the German army was faced with the difficult task of maintaining their positions in the face of a Soviet counteroffensive. The Red Army had begun a series of counterattacks, aimed at pushing the Germans back and relieving the pressure on Moscow. The fighting was intense, and both sides suffered heavy casualties.

The German army was also faced with logistical difficulties, as the harsh winter weather made it difficult to supply their troops.

Despite these challenges, the German army managed to hold on to their positions and prevent a Soviet breakthrough. However, the failure of Operation Typhoon had a significant impact on the course of the war on the Eastern Front.

German soldier being comforted after having his arm blown off. 1942

The anti-aircraft gun crew of Sergeant Fyodor Konoplyov shooting at enemy planes in Leningrad,.

RIA Novosti archive, image #594303 Anatoliy Garanin CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photographs of the Leningrad Siege 1941 – 1944 (warhistoryonline.com)

The German army had suffered significant losses, and their offensive capabilities were greatly diminished. The Soviet counteroffensive, meanwhile, had forced the Germans to divert significant resources to the defense of their positions, which limited their ability to launch further offensives.

The Soviets also launched their own offensive - the Rzhev–Vyazma strategic offensive operation – on the 8th of January, designed to force the German Army Group centre away from Moscow. The Soviets intended for the 22nd Army, 29th Army and 39th Armies supported by the 11th Cavalry Corps to attack West of Rzhev and penetrate deep into the western flank of Army Group Centre's 9th Army.

Lyuban offensive operation is launched by the Red Army on 7 January 1942 It was carried out by the Red Army's Volkhov and Leningrad Fronts with the purpose of lifting the siege of Leningrad and encircling and destroying the German forces carrying out the siege.

A German Wehrmacht soldier stands in the frigid cold at a front line observation post in the Kholm Pocket, January, 1942.

A German Wehrmacht soldier stands in the frigid cold at a front line observation post in the Kholm Pocket (January, 1942) (ww2live.com)

The Kholm Pocket was the term given to the Red Army's encirclement of German soldiers near Kholm, south of Leningrad, on the Eastern Front, from 23rd of January 1942 until the 5th of May 1942. For 105 days, 5,500 German soldiers held out in the Kholm pocket. Because the enclave was too small for planes to land, supplies had to be dropped in and gathered by the German troops.

February 1942 on the Eastern Front was marked by a continuation of the Soviet counteroffensive - Rzhev–Vyazma strategic offensive operation - that had begun in the previous month. The Red Army was focused on pushing the German army back and relieving the pressure on Moscow, which had been under threat during the previous German offensive, known as Operation Typhoon.

The Red Army was focused on pushing the German army back and relieving the pressure on Moscow, which had been under threat during the previous German offensive, known as Operation Typhoon.

The Soviet counteroffensive was successful in some areas, particularly in the center and north of the front, where they managed to retake several key cities and towns. In the south, however, the German army was able to hold on to their positions and prevent a Soviet breakthrough.

The fighting was intense and both sides suffered heavy casualties. The harsh winter weather also made it difficult for the German army to supply their troops, and many soldiers were facing starvation and disease.


A German soldier riding a motorcycle in the snow of the Eastern Front. The temperature could have been as low as minus 40 degrees, 18th February 1942.

World War II History: A German soldier riding a motorcycle in the snow of the EasternFront. The temperature could have been as low as minus 40 degrees.18 February,1942. (worldwarmemorries.blogspot.com)

Despite this, the German army was able to hold on to their positions, preventing the Soviet army from achieving a significant breakthrough.

The Soviet counteroffensive had also forced the Germans to divert significant resources to the defense of their positions, which limited their ability to launch further offensives. This led to a relative stalemate on the Eastern Front, which would last for the next several months.

The Demyansk Pocket was the name given to a pocket of German forces besieged by the Red Army around Demyansk, south of Leningrad. The pocket existed mostly from 8th February until 21st April, 1942.

The effective defence of Demyansk was accomplished with the use of an airbridge, which was a key advancement in modern warfare. Its success influenced the Army High Command's decision to use the same technique during the Battle of Stalingrad, but it failed to save the Sixth Army, led by Friedrich Paulus.

Further north, Convoy PQ 11 sailed from Loch Ewe, Scotland, on 7 February 1942, to Kirkness, Iceland, where she arrived on 14 February before continuing to Murmansk on 22 February. In the uninterrupted darkness of the arctic night, the convoy went unnoticed by German aircraft or U-boats and arrived safely at Murmansk, the Soviet Union's only ice-free Arctic port delivering vital supplies to the Soviet Union.

In March 1942, the Eastern Front of World War II was marked by a continuation of the relative stalemate that had developed in the previous months. The Soviet counteroffensive, which had begun in January, had failed to achieve a significant breakthrough and the German army had been able to hold on to their positions. Both sides were now focused on consolidating their gains and preparing for the next phase of the conflict.

Soviet reconnaissance troops near Pulkovo Heights, on south of Leningrad, March 1942

RIA Novosti archive, image #62126 Boris Kudoyarov CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photographs of the Leningrad Siege 1941 – 1944 (warhistoryonline.com)

In the centre and north of the front, the Soviet army was focused on reinforcing their positions and preparing for a new counter-offensive. The Red Army was able to move troops and supplies to the front thanks to the completion of the Moscow-Volga Canal, which made it easier to supply the troops in the region.

The fighting on the Eastern Front in March 1942 was relatively limited compared to the previous months. Both sides were focused on consolidating their positions and preparing for the next phase of the conflict.

Hungarian soldiers with a captured Soviet Voroshilovets heavy artillery tractor, 1942.

31 Incredible Color Photos Capture Everyday Life of Soldiers During WWII ~ Vintage Everyday

However, Nazi atrocities in the east continued. The Dünamünde Action was a Nazi German occupying force and local collaborationist action in the Biernieki woodland in Riga, Latvia. Its goal was to execute Jews who had lately been deported from Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia to Latvia.

The murders are frequently divided into the First Dünamünde Action, which occurred on March 15, 1942, and the Second Dünamünde Action, which occurred on March 26, 1942. The first attack killed approximately 1,900 individuals, while the second killed approximately 1,840.

The victims were led to their deaths by a false promise of easier employment at a (non-existent) relocation site near Daugavgrva (Dünamünde), a former Latvian neighbourhood.

Rather than being relocated to a new facility, they were trucked to the forests north of Riga, shot, and buried in mass graves that had previously been dug. The elderly, the ailing, and children were the most common casualties.

Soviet Pe-2 Bomber And Crew, 1942

Photograph by Ria Novosti

Petlyakov Pe-2 Art - Fine Art America

Operation Bamberg was launched on 26th March and was a Nazi security warfare operation during the Occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany. The aims of the operation were to:

  • Annihilation of the main partisan bands.
  • Pacification of the country.
  • Collection of grain and livestock.

The operation resulted in widespread atrocities and massacres committed against the civilian population in the occupied territories.

In April 1942, the Eastern Front was in a state of flux.

The Soviet Union had been on the defensive since the German invasion in June 1941 but was beginning to mount a counteroffensive in certain areas.

The German Army had pushed deep into Soviet territory but was now facing increasing resistance from the Red Army.

The ongoing Battle of the Kerch Peninsula, which had started in December 1941, was now in its fifth month. 

The German Army, with support from Romanian and Italian troops, had launched an invasion of the peninsula, and after a series of offensive, had started to grind down the Soviet forces, inflicting enormous losses and securing a vital foothold in the region.

A farewell in Leningrad, in the spring of 1942. The German Siege of Leningrad caused widespread starvation among citizens, and lack of medical supplies and facilities made illnesses and injuries far more deadly. Some 1.5 million soldiers and civilians died in Leningrad during the siege – nearly the same number were evacuated, and many of them did not survive the trip due to starvation, illness, or bombing.

The bloody battles of The Eastern Front through photographs, 1942-1943 - Rare Historical Photos

From the 4th to the 30th April, the Luftwaffe Operation Eis Stoß (ice impact) is launched on the Leningrad front but despite repeated attempts, it fails to sink Soviet Baltic Fleet ships iced in at Leningrad.

Overall, April 1942 was a mixed month for the German Army on the Eastern Front. They were able to make some gains, but at the cost of heavy casualties. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, was beginning to mount a more effective resistance, and the tide of the war on the Eastern Front.

At sea, Convoy PQ 14 was dispatched from Britain by the Western Allies to aid the Soviet Union.

The convoy included six British, ten US, two Soviet, one Dutch and one Panamanian-flagged merchant ships and set off in April 1942.

The convoy encountered heavy fog and sailed through hazardous pack ice for twelve hours, throwing the convoy into disarray and resulting in many of the ships suffering damage.

Eventually sixteen vessels were forced to return to port due to ice damage and one was sunk by enemy action. However, seven ships arrived safely in Murmansk, Russia on the 19th of April.

Murmansk, a regular destination for Artic convoys, was bombed 792 times during the Second World War.

hKVfod8.jpg (1200×872) (imgur.com)

One of the key battles on the Eastern Front was the Second Battle of Kharkiv which took place from 12th to 28th May 1942. The German Army launched a surprise attack on the city, which had been retaken by the Soviet Union in February. The battle was intense and bloody, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. In the end, the German Army was able to capture the city, but at a high cost.

Soviet "tankodesantniki" (tank riders) dismounting from a Matilda tank during a breakthrough, Second Battle of Kharkov, May 1942.

The Axis counter-offensive against the Red Army's Izium bridgehead attack on the Eastern Front from May 12 to May 28, 1942. Its goal was to destroy the Izium bridgehead over Seversky Donets, also known as the "Barvenkovo bulge," which served as a staging ground for the Soviet onslaught. The Kharkov assault was a new Soviet attempt to expand upon their strategic initiative after a winter counter-offensive that drove German soldiers away from Moscow but exhausted the Red Army's reserves. It failed to secure a substantial element of surprise.

Soviet prisoners of war march through Kharkiv in a largely unguarded column after the battle.

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B26082 / Schneider / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B26082, Kriegsgefangene auf dem Marsch durch Charkow - Second Battle of Kharkov - Wikipedia

The battle was won by the Germans by an overwhelming margin, with 280,000 Soviet deaths compared to only 20,000 for the Germans and their allies.

The German Army Group South pressed its advantage, encircling the Soviet 28th Army in Operation Wilhelm on the  13th June and pushing back the Soviet 38th and 9th Armies in Operation Fridericus II on the 22nd June as a prelude to Case Blue, which launched on 28 June as the main German offensive on the Eastern Front in 1942.

German Summer Offensive, 7 May — 23 July 1942.


The Adzhimushkay quarry defence took place between 16th May and October 1942, during Nazi Germany's annexation of Crimea. When the Wehrmacht invaded Kerch in November 1941, a group of Soviet partisans was already operating in the Great Adzhimushkay catacombs system in Kerch.

By May 1942, the Red Army had been routed, and the partisan group had absorbed retreating soldiers and citizens leaving the city, growing to several thousand people. However, the catacombs were unsuitable for defence due to a lack of supplies and easy access to water. German soldiers surrounded the tombs and shelled the partisans.

Most of the Soviet guerrillas died, as the group ran out of ammunition, food and water. On 30th October 1942, German forces entered the catacombs and captured the remaining defenders, with only a few hundred left out of the original 13,000 defenders.

The Germans were not content to sit idly by, however, and they soon launched a new offensive in June of 1942. This goal of this operation – codenamed ‘Case Blue’ - aimed to capture the oil-rich region of the Caucasus for two reasons: to resupply the Germans' short fuel supplies and to prevent the Soviet Union access to them, effectively bringing the Soviet war effort to a halt.

Operation Edelweiss was a two-pronged offensive from the Axis right flank on Baku's oil fields, while Operation Fischreiher was a left flank attack to protect the initial attack, heading in the direction of Stalingrad along the Don River.

The commander of a Cossack unit on active service in the Kharkov region, Ukraine, on 21st June 1942, watching the progress of his troops.

The bloody battles of The Eastern Front through photographs, 1942-1943 - Rare Historical Photos

The German Army's Army Group South was divided into Army Groups A and B. Army Group A was entrusted with carrying out Operation Edelweiss by crossing the Caucasus mountains to reach the Baku oil fields, while Army Group B was charged with protecting its flanks along the Volga.

The 1,570,287 man Army Group South began the offensive on 28 June, supported by 2,035 Luftwaffe aircraft and 1,934 tanks and assault guns, advancing 48 kilometres on the first day and easily brushing aside the 1,715,000 Red Army troops opposite, who falsely expected a German offensive on Moscow even after Case Blue began.

In the north, disaster overtook Artic Convoy PQ-17.  Sailing from Hvalfjörður, Iceland, for the port of Arkhangelsk in the Soviet Union, it was attacked by German forces in 1942. The convoy consisted of 35 merchant ships carrying supplies from the UK to the Soviet Union.

Setting sail on June 27, 1942, the convoy was ordered to scatter on the 4th of July due to fear of imminent attack by a large German surface fleet.

This led to the ships being vulnerable and easily picked off by German submarines and aircraft. As a result, 24 out of the 35 ships were sunk and hundreds of lives were lost.

The attack on Convoy PQ-17 was a major blow for the Allies and a significant victory for the German Navy.

Escorts and merchant ships at Hvalfjord before the sailing of Convoy PQ-17. Behind the destroyer Icarus (1.03) is the Russian tanker Azerbaljan. The sea voyage to the north Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel was the shortest route for sending Allied supplies to Russia. But it was also the most dangerous owing to the large concentration of German forces in northern Norway.

The convoy PQ-17 was decimated by U-boats and the Luftwaffe after a communication from the Admiralty on 4 July 1942 ordered the escort to 'scatter'.



The successful launch of Case Blue continued and by the 5th of July, forward troops of the Fourth Panzer Army had crossed the Don River near Voronezh and were engaged in the assault to take the city. Stalin and the Soviet command continued to anticipate the main German drive in the north against Moscow, believing that the Germans would swing north after Voronezh to threaten the capital.

In response, the Soviets hurried reinforcements into town in order to defend it at all costs and counterattacked the Germans' northern flank in an attempt to cut off the German spearheads. Major General A.I. Liziukov's 5th Tank Army had some modest wins when it launched its attack on 6 July, but was driven back to its starting positions by 15 July.

Weary German Wehrmacht soldiers of the 17th Army returning after heavy street fighting in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia - July '42.

On the 9th July, Army Group South was split into Army Group A and Army Group B as part of the second phase of the campaign, with Wilhelm List designated as commander of Army Group A and Maximillian von Weichs as commander of Army Group B.

However, only two weeks into the operation, on July 11, the Germans encountered logistical obstacles, slowing their advance. Fuel shortages caused constant delays for the German Sixth Army. And by the 20th July, eight days later, gasoline shortages were still hampering operations, with numerous units unable to carry out their orders.

Soviet troops catch a lift on a T-34 during on the Eastern Front, summer, 1942.

Newly Released Colourised Images Alongside Video Footage Of The Battle Of Stalingrad Show Why This Is Still Known As One Of The Bloodiest Battles Of WW2 | Media Drum World


The Battle of the Caucasus refers to a series of Axis and Soviet operations in the Caucasus region on the Eastern Front. On 25th July 1942, German troops took Rostov-on-Don, Russia, giving the Germans access to the Caucasus region of the southern Soviet Union, as well as the oil reserves at Maikop, Grozny, and, eventually, Baku. Adolf Hitler had given a directive two days before to launch such an expedition into the Caucasus region, dubbed Operation Edelweiß.

As Operation Little Saturn threatened to cut them off, German soldiers were forced to retire from the area that winter.

On 23 July, the main body of Army Group B started its advance toward the Don. On the 29th July, the Germans cut the last direct railway between central Russia and the Caucasus, causing considerable panic to Stalin and Stavka, which led to the passing of Order No. 227 "Not a step back!"

Italian units on the march on the Eastern Front. Summer, 1942. The Italian Army in Russia (ARMIR) was an army-sized unit which fought on the Eastern Front between July 1942 and April 1943. The ARMIR was also known as the 8th Italian Army and initially had 235,000 soldiers.

Italian units on the march on the Eastern Front – military photo (waralbum.ru)

Despite the ongoing issues with fuel, Case Blue continued. In the south-east, the Wehrmacht advanced menacingly on Grozny and Baku, two significant petroleum centres. During the Russian retreat, more installations and industrial centres fell into German control, many of which were intact or only slightly damaged.

The Taman Peninsula and a portion of the Novorossiysk naval facility were taken in August and September. The Germans advanced towards Tuapse on the Black Sea coast, while Elista was captured on 13th August in the east. After seizing Mozdok on 25th August, the German offensive was halted north of Grozny.

German soldiers crossing a Russian River on their tank on the 3rd August 1942.

The bloody battles of The Eastern Front through photographs, 1942-1943 - Rare Historical Photos

The First Panzer Army arrived in Maikop, in the foothills of the Caucasus highlands, on 9th August, having marched more than 480 kilometres (300 miles) in less than two weeks. The western oil fields near Maikop were seized in a daring commando assault on 8th - 9th August but the oil fields had been sufficiently destroyed by the Red Army that repairs would take nearly a year.

Pyatigorsk was seized shortly after.

By 10th August, the Red Army had been driven off the west bank of the Don, but Soviet resistance remained in some areas, causing Army Group B to be delayed even more. The Wehrmacht's approach on Stalingrad was further hampered by supply shortages caused by poor Soviet road conditions.

On 12th August, Krasnodar was seized, and German mountain forces flew the Nazi flag atop Mount Elbrus, the Caucasus' highest peak.

Evidence of the bitter street fighting which took place during the occupation of Rostov, Russia by German forces in August of 1942.

The bloody battles of The Eastern Front through photographs, 1942-1943 - Rare Historical Photos

The Sixth Army crossed the Don on 23rd August, and Army Group B constructed a defensive line on one of its bends. Later that day, the Sixth Army arrived in Stalingrad's northern suburbs, kicking off the Battle of Stalingrad.

Further north, the Sinyavino offensive was a summer 1942 operation planned by the Soviet Union and launched on the 19th August to break the siege of Leningrad, which had begun the previous summer, and to provide a reliable supply line to Leningrad.

At the same time, German forces were organising Operation Northern Light, which would allow them to conquer the city and join forces with Finnish forces. Because neither side was aware of the other's preparations, the fight unfolded in an unexpected manner for both.

German Advance To Stalingrad, 24 July — 18 November 1942.

Eastern Front Maps of World War II | by Inflab | Medium

Operation Schamil was the codename for a German Abwehr effort to airdrop special soldiers ahead of the main attacking force against the Soviet city of Grozny, which was a key oil production and refining centre.

Five groups (57 men in total) were parachuted into the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in August-September 1942.

They were successful in taking the oil refinery in Grozny, but were forced to flee when the main German army was stopped some 55 miles (89 kilometres) away.

In August 1943, three additional groups of 20 men were sent to thwart the Soviet counter-offensive.

Operation Wunderland ("Wonderland") was a large-scale operation conducted by the German Kriegsmarine in the waters of the Northern Sea Route near the Arctic Ocean in the summer of 1942 from the 16th of August – 5th of October 1942.

The Germans were aware that several Soviet Navy ships had sought sanctuary in the Kara Sea due to the security given by its ice pack for ten months of the year.

Admiral Hubert Schmundt, commander of German naval forces during Operation Wunderland.

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1971-078-74

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1971-078-74, Hubert Schmundt - Hubert Schmundt - Wikipedia

The operation had moderate success resulting in the destruction of several Soviet cargo ships and gun boats.

One of the most brutal battles of the war – The Battle of Stalingrad – was now underway. The Sixth Army led the offensive into Stalingrad against the 62nd Army, while the Fourth Panzer Army guarded the southern flank. The city was a 24 km (15 mi) strip along the Volga's west bank, forcing the Germans to launch a frontal attack, and the city's ruins offered the defenders an edge.

General Vasily Chuikov, commander of the 62nd Army, ordered his forces to "hug" the Germans in order to negate German tactical mobility.

German sniper in Stalingrad, September 1942.

Third Reich Color Pictures: Battle of Stalingrad in Color

The Luftwaffe suppressed Soviet fire on the Volga's east bank and caused many losses during Soviet attempts to support the west bank defenders. From mid-September to early November, the Germans launched three major raids on the city and engaged in costly warfare.

On 5th September, the Soviet 24th and 66th Armies launched a tremendous assault on the XIV Panzer Corps. By extensively attacking Soviet artillery positions and defensive lines, the Luftwaffe assisted in repelling the offensive. After barely a few hours, the Soviets were compelled to retreat at lunchtime. Thirty of the Soviets' 120 tanks were destroyed by air strike.

The Soviet 62nd Army had been reduced to 90 tanks, 700 mortars, and 20,000 soldiers by the time they retreated into the city on September 12th. The remaining tanks were employed as stationary strongholds across the city. The initial German onslaught on 14th September attempted to storm into the city.

The Soviet 1st Guards and 24th Army launched an offensive against the VIII Army Corps in Kotluban on 18th September. To prevent a breakthrough, VIII. Fliegerkorps launched wave after wave of Stuka dive bombers. The assault was repulsed. Stukas claimed 41 of the 106 Soviet tanks destroyed that morning, while Bf 109s accompanying them killed 77 Soviet planes.

Russian soldiers fighting amongst the ruins of Stalingrad.

Stalingrad brought to life in colour 75 years later | Daily Mail Online

Royston Leonard

Meanwhile in occupied Belarus, on 12th September, 1942, the Lenin Garrison in the Pinsk region was destroyed during a partisan rebellion against the Nazis. To safeguard the town, a German garrison of 100 people and 30 local police officers was stationed in Lenin. The Soviet "Kalinin" partisan unit, aided by two neighbouring groups, planned an attack on the stronghold (in total about 150 people). Boris Ginsburg, a Jewish combatant, served as the contact between the partisan battalions.

The German garrison was abruptly attacked on 12th September 1942, and the partisans suffered serious losses, possibly killing three German commanders (including commandant Grossman), 14 troops, and 13 policemen. The ghetto quarter was destroyed by fire. The remaining Jews joined the partisans in the woods.

The Battle of Stalingrad raged on. After receiving reinforcements from the Caucasus theatre, the Luftwaffe increased its attacks against the last Red Army forces desperately holding the west bank in mid-October.

On 14 October, Luftflotte 4 performed 1,250 sorties and dropped 550 tonnes of bombs while German soldiers surrounded the three facilities. Stukageschwader 1, 2, and 77 had largely silenced Soviet artillery on the Volga's eastern bank before shifting their focus to the shipping that was once again attempting to replenish the Soviet pockets of resistance.

Antitank gun crews of the Red Army prepare to fire against approaching German tank units, on an unknown battlefield, on 13th October 1942, during the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

The bloody battles of The Eastern Front through photographs, 1942-1943 - Rare Historical Photos

The 62nd Army had been split in two and was receiving substantially less material support as a result of intense air attacks on its supply boats. Over 1,208 Stuka missions were launched in an attempt to kill the Soviets, who were trapped into a 1-kilometer (1,000-yard) strip of territory on the Volga's western bank.

Until the end of October, fighting continued within the Barrikady Factory. The Soviet-controlled area shrank to a few strips of land along the Volga's western bank, and in November the fighting centred on what Soviet newspapers dubbed "Lyudnikov's Island," a small patch of ground behind the Barrikady Factory where the remnants of Colonel Ivan Lyudnikov's 138th Rifle Division resisted all ferocious German assaults and became a symbol of the Soviet defence of Stalingrad.

A German tank rolls up to its defeated enemy tank which burns near the edge of a patch of woods, somewhere in Russia, on 20th October 1942.

The bloody battles of The Eastern Front through photographs, 1942-1943 - Rare Historical Photos

The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (abbreviated UPA) was a Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary and subsequently partisan force created on 14th October 1942 by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Violence was recognised as a political instrument against both foreign and local adversaries of their cause, which they hoped to achieve by a national revolution led by a dictatorship that would drive out occupying powers and establish a government representing all regions and social classes.

During WWII, it participated in guerilla warfare against the Soviet Union, the Polish Underground State, Communist Poland, and, on occasion, Nazi Germany.

Operation Uranus was the codename for the Soviet Red Army's strategic operation on the Eastern Front of the Second World War that resulted in the encirclement of Axis forces at Stalingrad: the German Sixth Army, the Third and Fourth Romanian armies, and sections of the German Fourth Panzer Army.

The operation was carried out by the Red Army about the halfway of the five-month-long Battle of Stalingrad, with the goal of destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad.

The planning for Operation Uranus began in September 1942, concurrently with plans to encircle and destroy the German Army Group Center (Operation Mars) and German forces in the Caucasus (Operation Mars).

Two weary Wehrmacht soldiers on the Eastern Front, 1942.

Soviet T-34 tanks and horse-drawn supply sled in southern Russia during Operation Uranus, Nov 1942.

[Photo] Soviet T-34 tanks and horse-drawn supply sled in southern Russia during Operation Uranus, Nov 1942 | World War II Database (ww2db.com)

A 1942 Soviet propaganda poster OTOMSTIM ("We Will Get Our Revenge") by Sergey Mochalov.

A 1942 SOVIET WWII PROPAGANDA POSTER BY SERGEY MOCHALOV (1902 -1957) — International Fine & Decorative Art Auction - Shapiro Auctions

On 19th November, at 07:20 a.m. Moscow time, Soviet forces attacked the Axis forces' northern flank at Stalingrad; attacks in the south commenced the next day.

Despite successfully repelling the first Soviet advances, the Third and Fourth Romanian armies were in retreat by the end of 20 November, when the Red Army bypassed many German infantry divisions.

The German mobile reserves were too weak to parry the Soviet mechanised spearheads, and the Sixth Army was too slow to disengage German armoured units in Stalingrad and re-orient them to face the impending threat.

By late 22nd November, the northern and southern Soviet forces had joined forces at Kalach, encircling approximately 290,000 Axis personnel east of the Don River.

Rather than trying to break free from the encirclement, German leader Adolf Hitler decided to hold Axis forces in Stalingrad and resupply them by air.

Out of a daily air transport capability of 106 tonnes, the Luftwaffe was able to deliver an average of 85 tonnes of supplies. 

The Luftwaffe delivered 262 tonnes of supplies in 154 flights on the most successful day, December 19.

However, various issues hindered the Luftwaffe from fully utilising its transport units, resulting in an inability to deliver the quantity of supplies required to sustain the 6th Army.

The battle of Stalingrad was still ongoing, with the German 6th army trapped in the city and unable to break the Soviet encirclement. The battered Germans were running low on supplies, suffering heavy casualties and the morale of the troops had plunged.

The crew of a German anti-tank gun, ready for action at the Russian front in late 1942.

The bloody battles of The Eastern Front through photographs, 1942-1943 - Rare Historical Photos

Operation Winter Storm was launched in an attempt by the German 4th Panzer army to break the Soviet encirclement of the German 6th Army during the Battle of Stalingrad.

The German onslaught caught the Red Army off guard and gained significant gains on the first day. However, by the 13th of December, Soviet resistance had significantly delayed the German assault. Despite taking the area surrounding Verkhne-Kumskiy, the Red Army launched Operation Little Saturn on 16 December and smashed the Italian 8th Army on Army Group Don's left flank, endangering Manstein's force's existence.

Standing in the backyard of an abandoned house in the outskirts of the besieged city of Leningrad, a rifleman of the Red Army aims and fires his machine gun at German positions on 16th December 1942.

The bloody battles of The Eastern Front through photographs, 1942-1943 - Rare Historical Photos

On the 18th and 19th of December, the 4th Panzer Army attempted to open a passage to the 6th Army but was unable to do so without the assistance of forces inside the Stalingrad pocket. Manstein called off the assault on 23rd December, and the 4th Panzer Army began to retire to its starting position on Christmas Eve.

Because the 6th Army was unable to break free from the Soviet encirclement, the Red Army was able to continue the "strangulation" of German forces in Stalingrad.

The Eastern Front was also affected by the harsh winter conditions, which made it difficult for both sides to continue their offensives. The Soviet Union was better equipped to deal with the winter conditions and was able to maintain its offensives, while the German army was forced to retreat and regroup.

Operation Winter Storm and Operation Little Saturn, December 1942.

Eastern Front Maps of World War II | by Inflab | Medium


It is estimated that the following casualties occurred on the Eastern Front in 1942:

  • Soviet Union: Approximately 2 million soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded. Approximately 1 million civilians were killed or wounded as a result of fighting, bombing, and other war-related events.
  • Germany: Approximately 400,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured. Thousands of civilians were killed or wounded as a result of bombing and other war-related events.

These figures are rough estimates, and the actual number of casualties is difficult to determine with certainty due to a lack of accurate records and the scale of the fighting. However, it is widely acknowledged that the Eastern Front was one of the bloodiest theatres of World War II, with staggering casualties on both sides.

T-60 light tanks surrounded by casualties knocked out on the Eastern Front in 1942.


One of the key factors in the German failure on the Eastern Front in 1942 was the harsh winter weather, which greatly hindered their operations.

The German army was not properly equipped for the cold and suffered greatly from frostbite and other cold-weather injuries.

Additionally, the Soviets had a significant advantage in the form of their superior logistics, which allowed them to keep their troops and equipment supplied even in the most remote and hostile areas.

The Luftwaffe suffered a steady attrition of its airpower throughout 1942 with a significant amount of those losses occurring on the Eastern front.

Strategy for Defeat: The Luftwaffe 1933-1945 (ibiblio.org)

Another important factor in the German failure was the lack of coordination and cooperation among the German commanders. Hitler's interference in military operations and his tendency to micromanage the war effort led to confusion and conflicting orders among the German commanders, which hindered their ability to achieve their objectives.

German soldiers fighting at Stalingrad. Despite their best efforts, after months of fighting the city would eventually be surrounded by Soviet forces and the German 6th Army forced to surrender. Around 91,000 exhausted, ill, wounded, and starving German prisoners would be taken including 22 generals.

In addition to the military implications, the 1942 Eastern Front had major geopolitical effects. The Soviet victory at Stalingrad strengthened the Soviet Union's position in the international community and demonstrated its military power, while the German defeat weakened its position and contributed to its eventual defeat.

However, despite the German failures on the Eastern Front in 1942, the war on the Eastern Front would continue to rage on for another three years, with the Soviet Union and Germany engaging in a series of brutal and bloody battles that would ultimately lead to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Further reading








Bundesarchiv Bild 169-0014





Za Rodinu




Evan Mawdsley (2015). Thunder in the East (2nd Ed.). Bloomsbury Academic.


Mitcham, S. W. Jr. (2009). Blitzkrieg No Longer: The German Wehrmacht in Battle, 1943. Stackpole Books.





Soviet Army WWII In colour | MilitaryImages.Net


Royston Leonard


RIA Novosti archive, image #62126 Boris Kudoyarov CC-BY-SA 3.0


RIA Novosti archive, image #594303 Anatoliy Garanin CC-BY-SA 3.0








Anthony Beevor, “Stalingrad”

John Erickson

Barbara W. Tuchman

Richard Overy

Gerd Niepold, "The Eastern Front 1941-45: German Troops and the Barbarisation of Warfare"



Time magazine