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Most important turning point of WW2

LAURENCE REES: What was the single greatest turning point of the war?

RICHARD OVERY: There’s always a discussion or argument about what the greatest turning point in the war is, and it’s the kind of question to which it’s very difficult to give an answer because it’s essentially a counterfactual question, you know, if X had not happened or if Y had happened in a different way. If I had to choose a turning point I think it’s going to be a very obvious one: the Battle of Stalingrad. The Battle of Stalingrad is not a turning point necessarily in strategic terms because a lot more has to be done before the Soviets can be certain of defeating Germany. The West has still got a lot to do to get its act together properly. But it’s the extraordinary symbolic power that Stalingrad has for the Soviet people and it’s the point at which they suddenly begin to believe in themselves, and suddenly historic Russia has been saved. Suddenly the Germans are vulnerable. And this is a message that goes round the world, much more than Alamein, which was important for British pride after two years of defeat.

Stalingrad goes round the world and comes to symbolise this extraordinary thing. And I think it links back in a sense to the early stages of the war when people saw this now as Armageddon, a real battle between the forces of light and darkness. Stalingrad has all the ingredients for that. And a comprehensive Soviet victory at Stalingrad was important for everybody, but it’s very important for the Soviet people and very important for the Soviet armed forces who’d been led badly throughout the early part of the war and suffered terrific losses. The encirclement of Paulus and the defeat of the German Sixth Army in Stalingrad is evidence of a mature operational art. The Red Army has come of age after 20 years when there have been lots of question marks about its capacity.