Pavlov's House

As you may or may not know, the biggest campaign of WWII was not the Pacific, was not D-Day, was not even anything to do with the US and the UK. It was the Eastern Front. The battle between Stalin and Hitler was bitter, dirty, and personal. They were the two biggest mass-murderers in history, the iron-men of their time and after Hitler turned on Stalin, they fought the greatest war in the history of mankind.

The epicenter of that was Stalingrad. The Germans wanted it badly, and in the beginning had a clear advantage in troops, position, morale, equipment, air-superiority... pretty much everything. By the end, the German 6th army faced a winter encircled by Russians, expecting reinforcements that never came, eventually surrendering with 100,000 men. It is estimated that there were 850,000 Axis casualties and 1,200,000 Russian casualties in the battle for Stalingrad.

In the midst of the utter destruction, a small band of Russians were able to fortify and defend an apartment block against the advances of the Germans, and with many months of limited supplies and communication.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/Pavlov%27s_House.jpg

This is this story, from wikipedia but brief and well worth the read:

Pavlov's House (Russian: дом Павлова—dom Pavlova) became the name of a fortified apartment building during the Battle of Stalingrad from 27 September 1942 to February 2, 1943. It gained its popular name from Sergeant Yakov Pavlov, who commanded the platoon that seized the building and defended it during the long battle.

The house was a four-story building in the center of Stalingrad, built parallel to the embankment of the river Volga and overseeing the "9th January Square", a large square named for Bloody Sunday. In September 1942, the house was attacked by Nazi Germans, and a platoon of the Soviet 13th Guards Rifle Division was ordered to seize and defend it. The platoon was led by Junior Sgt. Yakov Pavlov, a low-level noncommissioned officer serving as acting platoon commander since the unit's lieutenant and senior sergeants had all been wounded or killed. The attack on the building was successful, although the fighting was brutal, with only four men in the 30-man platoon surviving the assault.

The strategic benefit of the house was its position on a cross-street giving the defenders a 1km line of sight to the north, south and west. After several days, reinforcements and resupply arrived for Pavlov's men, bringing the unit up to a 25-man understrength platoon and equipping the defenders with machine guns, anti-tank rifles, and mortars. In keeping with Stalin's order of "not one step back", Sgt. Pavlov was ordered to fortify the building and defend it to the last bullet and the last man. Taking this advice to heart, Pavlov ordered the building to be surrounded with four layers of barbed wire and minefields, and set up machine-gun posts in every available window facing the square. In the early stages of the defense, Pavlov discovered that a PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle he had mounted on the roof was particularly effective when used to ambush unsuspecting German tanks; once the tanks had approached to within 25 meters of the building, their thin turret-roof armor became exposed to AT rifle fire from above, but they were unable to elevate their weapons enough to retaliate. Pavlov reportedly personally destroyed nearly a dozen tanks using this tactic.

For better internal communication, they breached the walls in the basement and upper floors, and dug a communications trench to Soviet positions outside. Supplies were brought in via the trench or by boats crossing the river, defying German air raids and shelling. Nevertheless, food and especially water was in short supply. Lacking beds, the soldiers tried to sleep on insulation wool torn off pipes, yet usually the Germans kept shooting at the house with deafening machine-gun fire day and night.

The Germans attacked the building several times a day. Each time German infantry or tanks tried to cross the square and to close in on the house, Pavlov's men laid down a withering barrage of machine gun and AT rifle fire from the basement, the windows and from the roof top, devastating the German attackers and forcing them to retreat. By mid-November, Pavlov's men reportedly had to use lulls in the fighting to run out and kick over the heaped piles of German corpses so they could not be used as cover for the next round of attackers.

Eventually the defenders, as well as the Soviet civilians who kept living in the basement all that time, held out during intensive fighting from 23 September until 25 November 1942, when they were relieved by the counter-attacking Soviet forces.

Pavlov's House became a symbol of the stubborn resistance of the Soviet Union in the Battle of Stalingrad, and in the Great Patriotic War in general. It stands out prominently because the German armies had previously conquered cities and entire countries within weeks; yet they were unable to capture a single half-ruined house, defended most of the time by just over a dozen soldiers, in spite of trying for two months. It is reported that the building at the "9th January Square" was marked as a fortress in German maps.

Chuikov, the defender of Stalingrad, wrote that Pavlov's men killed more Germans than were lost in the fall of Paris.
Pavlov's "House" was rebuilt after the battle and is still used as an apartment building today. There is an attached memorial constructed from bricks picked up after the battle on the East side facing the Volga.

Pavlov was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union for his actions.

File:Dom Pavlova Volgograd.jpg

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