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Battle Field Archaeology_Stalingrad

Interesting article from The Voice of Russia. I have a few comments below the article.

Secrets of the Stalingrad Conveys.

A unique underwater search expedition, “The Secrets of the Stalingrad Convoys”, has been completed on the Volga River. It was dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Stalingrad.  A team of Russian divers needed 3 days to examine the Volga river-bed, searching for the boats that sunk there during the Second World War.

–The German offensive to capture Stalingrad commenced in the late summer of 1942. The fascists planned to cut off the Volga River, which was a strategically important water artery, because it was used for the transportation of oil products for all fronts. That is why it was necessary to do whatever was possible and prevent the enemy from occupying the city. 

There are many books and films about the Battle of Stalingrad, which is regarded as one of the major battles of the Second World War. However, quite a number of the war-time episodes dealing with the military operations on the Volga River are not known yet. Meanwhile, experts say that many events concerning the ferrying across the Volga, remain unprecedented. Under tornado fire, armoured patrol boats, trawlers and other ships made more than 35,000 voyages and ferried more than 90, 000 people to the right bank of the Volga River. During the Battle of Stalingrad the Volga river fleet lost at least 200 vessels.   

Now, 70 years later, Russian divers have started searching for the sunken ships, Expedition Head Alexander Yolkin told the Voice of Russia.

“The main objective of this expedition is searching for the sunken ships that were listed missing. We worked in the area where the passage of the German tanks to the bank of the Volga River was difficult, and also not far from the place where the “Iosif Stalin” ship sank. In the post-war times it was raised to the surface. However, we have found some fragments there.”

Dozens of people from many Russian cities took part in the underwater search on the Volga River. Most of them were experienced divers who took part in similar diving operations in many parts of the world. Searching for the sunken ships, all of them used the information they had received with the help of the hydro-acoustic equipment and with the help of satellite systems. And still, we failed to examine all the objects we had planned to examine (approximately 15) due to the difficult weather conditions and because of the limited time frame, the expedition head says.  

“The Volga River is nearly 35 metres deep there. Besides, the water was very cold, and there was absolute darkness there. And still, we have found an oil-loading barge named “Ob” that sank there in 1942 as a result of an air attack. We have also found some waterborne platforms there.”

Next year the search team plans to continue its work, Alexander Yolkin said. In the future the participants of the search expedition “The Secrets of the Stalingrad Convoys” plan to discover more sunken objects. Should they find any documents or personal belongings of all those who sank in the Volga together with their ships, they would be able to identify those who died during that war. And this, in its turn, would open new pages in the history of the Battle of Stalingrad.–

My first thought in reading the article was thinking of opening scene in Enemy at the Gates.

Estimates vary as to how many soldiers and civilians died during the Stalingrad Campaign but historians like Anthony Beevor claim that the Soviets lost over one million men in the city fighting itself. The scenes in Enemy at the Gates that depict the Soviet disregard for the lives of their own men are not far-fetched.

Cover of "Stalingrad"

Excellent read on the Stalingrad Campaign

It will be interesting to see what is found at the bottom of the Volga. On land graves of Soviet, Romanian, Italian and German soldiers are still being found.

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