“Pavlov’s small group of men, defending one house, killed more enemy soldiers than the Germans lost in taking Paris.” – Lt. Gen. Vasily Chuikov
The Battle of Stalingrad is the single bloodiest battle in human history. Over the course of sixth months of non-stop, ultra over-the-top-in-a-bad-way combat, this unfathomably-violent blood fiesta ended the lives of two million people, almost single-handedly obliterated an entire generation of Russian and German men, and reduced a modern, sprawling industrial city to shrapnel-riddled rubble unfit for . To put the scale of this carnage in perspective, it’s like taking every article on Wikipedia, turning that into a person, and then shooting them in the head. It’s a number that’s larger than the combined populations of Monaco, Bermuda, Estonia, Iceland, Lichtenstein, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. Yet, despite all of this devastation and tragedy, in the middle of this blood-scorched wasteland of miserable ass-sucking awfulness, one man proved himself a hero equal in epicness to the battle that raged around him – a lowly sergeant from some unknown village in Russiawho almost single-handedly tipped the scales in the battle that changed the course of World War II in Europe. Jacob Pavlov of the 42nd Regiment, 13th Guards Division, had been little more than a proud-yet-insignificant peasant farmer at the beginning of the war. But at Stalingrad his iron-willed ability to kick the crap out of Fascist Nazi Deutschbags with a skill that has never been witnessed by human beings before or since altered the course of the battle, and, with it, the course of World War II itself.
On the afternoon of September 28th, 1942, Sergeant Pavlov was crouch-running his way across a snow-covered, smoke-swept field towards an ordinary-looking four-story apartment building on the edge of Solechnaya Street, part of what used to be downtown Stalingrad before downtown Stalingrad simply became a festering pile of rubble and Nazis. Facing the burned-out husk of what once was the town square, this sturdy building had somehow withstood the bomb-riddled horribleness that had leveled almost the entire rest of the city, but aside from that (and, you know, the MG42s spewing a steady stream of lead death out of every other window), it was otherwise relatively unremarkable. 7.92mm bullets zipped past his helmet as Pavlov charged across the coverless field, his PPSH submachine gun blaring, while one by one the German machine gun teams methodically cut down his squad as they raced across the open ground. By the time Pavlov got anywhere near the house, all that remained of his 30-man platoon were himself and two other men. This didn’t seem to bother the sturdy peasant warrior, and he wasn’t the sort of unstoppable assreaming maniac who would come all the way across a bullet-strewn field just to surrender to the enemy like some total dumbass (plus it’s not like he could have expected mercy from the Germans, either). Another couple bursts of fire from his submachine gun (and a few close calls) later and he slammed his back up against the brick and mortar exterior and lobbed a pair of expertly-placed grenades right through the windows of the building, dropping them conveniently on the enemy weapons emplacements. The Germans that weren’t gibbed into bite-sized morsels dropped their rifles and ran for it, and Pavlov, by virtue of the fact that he was the only non-commissioned officer that wasn’t currently either dead or screaming for a medic, was now the senior ranking member of his unit. He ordered his two surviving men to sweep the building while he began administering first aid to the wounded Russian POWs and civilians he found inside. Within minutes the quick-minded sergeant had organized a defensive position, set his men on watch for counterattacks, and was firmly in control of a tiny, crumbling apartment building 200 meters on the German side of the Volga River. His orders were simple – do not let the Germans take this structure. Do not let them reach the river. Hold until death. Keep holding after death, if possible.
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