After failing to defeat the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa in 1941, Adolf Hitler planned a new campaign for the summer of 1942 that was intended to achieve a decisive victory: Operation Blue (Case Blau). In this new campaign, Hitler directed that one army group (Heeresgruppe A) would advance to seize the Soviet oilfields in the Caucasus, while the other (Heeresgruppe B) pushed on to the Volga River.
The expectation was for a rapid victory – instead, German forces had to fight hard just to reach the outskirts of Stalingrad, and then found themselves embroiled in a protracted urban battle amid the ruins of a devastated city on the Volga. The Soviet Red Army was hit hard by the initial German offensive but held onto the city and then launched Operation Uranus, a winter counteroffensive that encircled the German 6. Armee at Stalingrad. Despite a desperate German relief operation, the Red Army eventually crushed the German forces and hurled the remnants of the German southern front back in disorder.
This first volume in the Stalingrad trilogy covers the period from 28 June to 11 September 1942, including operations around Voronezh. The fighting in the Don Bend, which lasted weeks, comprised some of the largest tank battles of World War II – involving more armour than the tanks employed at Prokhorovka in 1943.