A German Infantry squad, including a 50mm (1.9 inch) mortar crew, reconnoiter the battlefield at Stalingrad. The Leichter Granatenwerfer 36 (Light Grenade Launcher Model 36) was the standard infantry support weapon for the German Army from 1939-1942, but it was too complex for mass manufacturing, carried too small of a charge, and despite being designed with a telescopic sight, too inaccurate. The sight was dispensed with in 1938. Production ceased in 1943 with over 25,000 weapons and 22.1 million mortar rounds made. Still, the large number of Granatwerfer 36 available, and the pressing needs of the German Army, kept the Granatwerfer 36 in combat through the end of the war. At Stalingrad, mortar fire was often the best infantry support weapon for urban fighting. German Lieutenant Weiner of the 24th Panzer Division wrote, "We have fought during fifteen day for a single house, with mortars, grenades, machine guns and bayonets. Already by the third day, fifty-four German corpses were strewn in the cellars, on the landings, and the staircases. The front is a corridor between burnt out rooms; it is the thin ceiling between two floors. Help comes from neighboring houses by fire escapes and chimneys. There is a ceaseless struggle from noon to night. From story to story, faces black with sweat, we bombard each other with grenades in the middle of explosions, clouds of dust and smoke, heaps of mortar, floods of blood, fragments of furniture and human beings. Ask any soldier what half an hour of hand-to-hand struggle means in such a fight. And at Stalingrad, it has been eighty days and eighty nights of hand-to-hand struggle. The street is no longer measured by meters but by corpses. Stalingrad is no longer a town. By day it is an enormous cloud of burning, blinding smoke; it is a vast furnance lit by the reflection of the flames. And when night arrives, one of those scorching, howling bleeding night, the dogs plunge into the Volga and swim desperately to gain the other bank. The nights of Stalingrad are a terror for them. Animals flee this hell; the hardest stones cannot bear it for long; only man endures."
Photographer's Rank or Affiliation:
Caption ©2009 MFA Productions LLC
Please Do Not Duplicate or Distribute Without Permission