Interesting

Was the average lifespan of a soldier deployed within Stalingrad only 24 hours?

Was the average lifespan of a soldier deployed within Stalingrad only 24 hours?


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The military history YouTube channel The Armchair Historian opens their episode on the Battle of Stalingrad with the line "The average lifespan of a soldier in Stalingrad was just 24 hours."

The YouTube channel is a generally reputable source but this fact made me skeptical. When looking for confirmation of this fact the Britannica article on Stalingrad lists that the lifespan for a Soviet solider is 24 hours, whereas the video seems to depict a German solider as the host recites his opening line.

The thought that life could be so disposable during the Battle of Stalingrad is already difficult for me to come to terms with, and the slightly differing reports of which combatants had the shorter lifespan creates additional ambiguity. Other aspects such as "does this quote encompass the immediate area outside of Stalingrad" or "was this fact true for only specific operations during the battle" are unclear. An answer may reflect either a specific operation or the battle as a whole.

Did Soviet soldiers deployed to Stalingrad have an average lifespan of 24 hours? Did German soldiers have the same life expectancy too?


The question really relates to which group of Soviet soldiers had average life expectancies of 24 hours. But during the battle, there were in fact some such groups,

One example was Rodimtsev's 13th Guards division, which lost all but 300 members out of its original 10,000 men complement (crossing the Volga into Stalingrad on September 13, and recapturing the key ground of Mamayev Kurgan and the center of the city). There were only six survivors from the most embattled battalion of some 1,000 men.

Another was Zholudov's 37th Guards division, which took 75% losses in two days (average life expectancy of 24 hours) and 97% overall defending the Tractor Factory.

This loss ratio did not apply to most other arrivals or to the relief force, so it is not an "average." But it did apply to soldiers placed into the most intense locales and periods of fighting.


Not a direct answer, but I have seen a study showing that the death/shot down rate for Allied fighter pilots in WW2 dropped off dramatically once they survived their first five combat missions. Training was adjusted to try to get them past that danger point.

The reason, I assume, was a combination of better awareness and suppression of deer-in-headlights syndrome - i.e. they adapted to their surroundings, their situational awareness went up and they regained some mental agility and capability to function under extreme threat.

Now, wrt Stalingrad, it is quite possible that the first few days of a newly arrived soldier similarly saw their most vulnerable point in time. Past that, rather than attritioning at that same rate, they could then have been much more likely to survive a week or a month, even if the combat losses remained horrendous and they were unlikely to live 3 months.

So, you'd have valid "average survival is 1 day", but it wouldn't mean that 8 soldiers would last only 3 days as in 8 => 4 on 1st day, 4 => 2 2nd day, 2 => 1 3rd day. You might see 4 deaths/severely wounded on the first day then a much/somewhat lower rate going forward.

Also, militaries typically count in terms of casualties, which are dead, wounded and POW. A soldier receiving a severe enough wound would be evacuated, at least on the pre-Uranus German side (Russians evacuees would have to cross the 1km wide Volga to be taken out) so they'd live, even if their "combat lifespan" was cut short.


Let us count. Notice, we are talking about mere evaluation, not about strict numbers.

According to wiki, there were about 1,100,000 people from the Russian side at the peak. And 1,100,000 losses - dead, lost, wounded, or sick. If a person is (let alone lives) at battle lines only 24h, then the battle would last for one day. But the battle lasted for 5 months and a half - from the start of the defence in the middle of August 42 and finishing by the 31st January 43. It is 165 times longer. So, the expected length of participation in the battle from the Soviet side was 5 months and a half, not one day.

As for the Axis side (Not "Germans", please, for there were really a great number of Magyars, Romanians and Italians around Stalingrad), it was about 1 million participants and 0.8 million casualties of all sorts. So, their expected length of participation was about 5.5*1/0.8=~7 months.

Of course, the numbers of participants changed rapidly and irregularly, and that could change the number twice or thrice, but this could not change half a year into a day.

Maybe, somebody counted the number of fighters around Pavlov's house or another critical point and for the days of the most mayhem, too. And somebody extrapolated that number for hundreds of square kilometres of the battle. That sounded nice to them.