was part of the German Heer
during World War 2
which has become legendary because it was the main military force which fought against the Soviets
in the Battle of Stalingrad
, and ultimately was destroyed at the hands of its own leader.
In 1942, Hitler ordered the Russian city of Stalingrad to be taken at any cost, and a massive battle ensued in September 1942. It become obvious by late november that the Axis forces were unable to take city from the Soviets despite the fact that the Germans were inflicting massive casualities on the Soviets and the Germans occupied 80% of the city, but Hitler refused to accept defeat and allow for a strategic retreat, which would have saved thousands of lives. Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich von Paulus, the commander of the 6th Army, insisted on a strategic retreat as the fighting got more and more desperate and his army became more entrenched. But, Hitler refused. Because of his refusal to accept reality and allow for a strategic retreat, the entire German 6th Army (~250,000 men) was first encircled, then destroyed by the more numerous Soviet forces. Most of the men in the 6th Army never saw home again. Other axis forces, including Italian forces, met their doom also at Stalingrad.
The tragic fate of the 6th army is a key example of why heads of state should leave military strategy to generals. Hitler's generals had more reasonable and sound ideas on how to handle the military crisis at Stalingrad then Hitler did, but rather Hitler insisted that the German troops fight to the last man and thus he condemned 250,000 of his own troops to destruction. Despite the defeat of the 6th Army, it must be said that it was an elite military unit, by far superior to the Soviet armies. The main reason for defeat was simply that the Soviets fielded more men than the Germans and could afford to lose more lives.
The fate of the 6th Army after the battle ended is still shrouded in mystery, but it is known that of the 250,000 men in the 6th Army, only 6,000-10,000 ever returned home to see their fatherland. A large number (100,000-150,000) were killed in the brutal street fighting, and another large number were taken prisoner and didn't survive captivity in Soviet hands. There can be no doubt that Hitler is to blame for the tragedy of the 6th Army, the 6th Army had the chance to retreat when it was clear that victory was impossible, but Hitler refused to entertain such a notion. In March of 1943 the German 6th Army was reformed and reorganized with new troops as the war continued to rage, but for the men who served with the 6th Army at Stalingrad, the war was over. After the defeat of the 6th Army, the German advance in the USSR was completley halted, and after the defeat at Kursk 6 months later, the Soviets began a massive rout which drove the Germans out of Russia, through Poland, and ultimately to Berlin.
Let us never forget the bravery of the 6th Army.