When things were going so well for the Gemans, what went wrong at Stalingrad?
They weren't - have a read of Ostkrieg. The Germans were in big trouble before they launched the operation that culminated in Stalingrad. For the operation itself (Operation Blau) essentially the Wehrmacht had too much in the way of objectives and too little army to achieve them.
Blau went wrong almost from the start. Remember, to allow Blue to happen, Army Group's North and Centre were stripped of much men and equipment. When the attack started the Russians retreated, rather than allow themselves to be surrounded and gobbled up by Army Group South's pincers. Then, as the German supply line got longer, the Germans needed to use satellite troops - Italians, Hungarians and Romanians to man the flanks. The troops sucked into the fighting at Stalingrad were therefore ripe for a counter-attack. Hitler also split the Army Group so that a portion moved into the Caucasus. The army available for this job too just weren't strong enough to come even close to success.
The first part is a myth. Looking at Blau one has to split it into three phases. The first phase was to breach the Soviet lines west of Voronezh and gain the city as anchor point. Phase two then called for a destruction of the Soviet forces between Don and Volga (similar to Barbarossa's plan of destroying the Red Army west of Dvina and Dniepr). The third phase finally was planned like a ride into the Caucasus. Phase one itself was very successful, provoking memories of 1941. The Soviets guessed the German objective wrong with Moscow, but they did anticipate the first strike to come at Voronezh (and then turn north instead of south). Thus the forces at Voronezh were quite strong, with a reserve tank army in place. 4th Panzer Army, however, easily breached the Soviet lines and pushed them back to Voronezh.
What happened then is wrongly described as orderly retreat. In reality it was more like a panicked flight. For a short period in July 42 there was a mass panic in the South. Non-Russian units refused to fight, other units simply flooded South, C&C was a mess. There was a reason why Stalin came up with the no-step-back order 227 of July 28th 42, that included the call for blocking detachments shooting guys that were fleeing. But what that massive flight did achieve was preventing the destruction of valuable forces. This actually led to a massive crisis in the German High Command. Von Bock and Halder in early July disagreed on the schedule of operations. While von Bock wanted to secure Voronezh first (the city itself hadn't been captured yet), Halder wanted to rush the units south to encircle the Soviets. This ended in the sacking of von Bock, but Halder, who gave ever new orders of flanking the enemy, had to discover that July 41 had repeated. The Wehrmacht was unable to destroy the Soviet forces, the pre-requisite of those massive territorial gains, this time even failing to capture major forces. By all indications he himself must have realized that the war was lost and there is a compelling thesis that he actually provoked Hitler into dismissing him, as Halder deliberately created conflicts he avoided the previous year.
< Message edited by SigUp -- 1/7/2013 12:46:54 AM >