The Siege of Leningrad, The Attack on Pearl Harbor, The Battle of Stalingrad: Historical Analytical Essay

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The Siege of Leningrad

The siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) lasted from 8 September 1941 to January 27 1944, totaling 872 days. In the June of 1941 the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany, and in September the Germans were approaching Leningrad, attacking from the west and south. The people of Leningrad worked to build anti-tank fortifications to help the 200 000 Red Army soldiers defending the city. Hitler ordered the troops to stop the attack to prevent casualties, and instead blockade the city. September 8 Leningrad was encircled by the Germans, who cut off supply lines and railways. Germany blockaded Leningrad and shelled it from a distance. Hitler’s goal was to completely wipe Leningrad off the map, his goals clearly shown in a directive sent to the German army Generals that said 'After the defeat of Soviet Russia there can be no interest in the continued existence of this large urban center…Following the city's encirclement, requests for surrender negotiations shall be denied… we can have no interest in maintaining even a part of this very large urban population.” In 1942 650 thousand died in Leningrad due to starvation and from the German shelling. Small amounts of fuel and food got into Leningrad by boat across nearby Lake Ladoga, and on ice sleds in the winter. Lake Ladoga was the only way in or out of the city, and was under constant fire from the Germans. The 2.5 million citizens of Leningrad survived on extreme food rationing, while some of the children and the sick/elderly tried to evacuate across the “Road of Life”. The Road of life was an ice bridge across Lake Ladoga that was chosen by military commanders after careful consideration as best way to cross the massive lake that had fluctuating weather conditions. The first trucks of flour made the perilous trip on 22 November 1941. Bread was mixed with cellulose and bran to stretch supplies, and the daily ration was 125 grams of bread per person. People were forced to eat wall paper, soup made from boiled leather, and window putty to stay alive. To stay warm they burned first furniture, then eventually books. Despite the conditions, the people of Leningrad endured, and never surrendered. By 1943, almost all open ground in the city had been converted into functional gardens to ease the rationing. Soviet counter attacks in 1943 broke through part of the German blockade, letting in far more supplies. The Red Army pushed the Germans West in the January of 1944, ending the siege after 1.1 million people had died due to starvation and hypothermia. During the siege the Road of Life had allowed 1.3 million military personnel ad civilians to evacuate, as well as some of the most valuable art and artifacts of their heritage. Leningrad was given the Order of Lenin in 1945 and was the first city ever to receive the title of Hero City of the Soviet Union in 1965. A monument was unveiled in 1975, in remembrance the heroism and sacrifice of the people of Leningrad enduring one of the most brutal sieges in history.

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The Attack on Pearl Harbor

On December 7th, 1941 the US was attacked at Pearl Harbor on Oahu Island, Hawaii. The US supported China in trade. In 1931 the Japanese government took over the Chinese province of Manchuria. On July 7 1937 Japan entered open warfare with China at the Marco Polo bridge, near Beijing. July 1939 the US ended its 1911 treaty of commerce and navigation with Japan. In 1940 the US began to restrict the export of war materials to Japan. Japan joined the Axis Powers in 1940 with Italy and Germany. By 1941 Japan controlled Indochina, and had cut all financial and commercial connections to the US. The US continued to aid China. With Germany attacking the Soviet Union Japan had an opportunity to attack the US without fear of the Red Army. Negotiation between Japan and the US continued in 1941 until the day of the attack. Nov 5th the Japanese fleet was ordered to Hawaii, but were prepared to return without attacking if negotiations went well for Japan. The US military knew an attack was probably coming, but did not prepare sufficiently. They intercepted a message that indicated an incoming attack, but did not warn the military base at Pearl harbor until the attack had already begun. 4 hours before the attack, they spotted Japanese sub off the coast. The radar units stationed at Pearl Harbor also saw planes on their radar, but the timing coincided with an expected return of US planes, so the sighting was ignored. 440 km North of Pearl Harbor, 360 Japanese planes were launched. At 07:55, Sunday December 7th, the first wave of the attack began. It included nearly 200 planes, and the tightly-packed US planes on the ground were easy targets for Japans bombers. US ships that were in harbor were also attacked. At 08:50 the second wave of the attack was launched, doing a lot of damage, but slightly less than the first. Soon after 09:00 the Japanese withdrew. In total, the Japanese destroyed two battleships, damaged six battleships, and 3 destroyers, three cruisers and other ships were also destroyed. US casualties were of 3400 (2300 of which were killed), but Japan lost twenty-nine to sixty planes, five subs and less than one hundred men. Six US battleships were eventually repaired and Japan didn’t destroy the crucial oil storage facilities on the island. The US declared war on Japan on December 8th. After the attack, the unpreparedness of the military stationed at Pearl Harbor led to some of those in charge there being replaced and in 1941 a full-scale congressional investigation into who was at fault for the Loses at Pearl Harbor began. The committee gathered documents and testimonies, totaling over 19 000 pages of information to consider. The final decision of the committee was that although they found many errors in judgement were made by US officers in charge of Pearl Harbor, “[t]he ultimate responsibility for the attack and its results rests upon Japan.” The recommendations of the committee led to the creation of the US Department of Defense, the CIA and the National Security Act (1947).

The Battle of Stalingrad

The battle of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) took place from July 17, 1942 to February 2, 1943. Stalingrad was a large industrial city that produced armaments and was a transportation link to southern Russia. Germany wanted to take Stalingrad because of its strategic importance, economic resources, and because it would be a large personal victory for Hitler, and very useful for propaganda. June 28, 1942 German operations in the area began and were initially very successful. On July 9th Hitler split his forces to attack Stalingrad and the Caucus at the same time. The Soviet army escaped encirclement by retreating east towards Stalingrad between the gap in the two German forces. On July 28th Stalin ordered that his soldiers at Stalingrad would take “not one step back,” and refused to allow the evacuation of civilians, hoping to motivate the soldiers to fight harder to protect them. On August 23rd the Germans reached Stalingrad, forcing the Soviets back into the city. The Germans used incendiary bombs to set fire to the wooden housing in Stalingrad, and pulled troops from their flanks to concentrate on the attack. This put even more strain on the German-allied soldiers at the back that were already spread out over 1300 km. There was concentrated and close-quarters combat within the city streets, and even individual buildings were fought over with small groups of troops. By October 14th the Soviet soldiers had been pushed back so far that their supplies and reinforcements coming from behind, across the Volga River came under fire from German machine guns. On November 19th the Soviets launched “Operation Uranus,” which was two spearheads 80 km north and south of the German salient at Stalingrad. The soviet troops cut around the bulk of the German forces, and attacked the vulnerable flanks, and on November 23rd the two spearheads met at Kalakh, 100 km west of Stalingrad. Hitler refused to let his encircled troops break through and retreat to the east, demanding that they stand and fight. In mid-December Hitler ordered a second group of his soldiers to attack the soviet encirclement from the east, but did not allow the trapped soldiers to attack towards the west, this mistake ultimately caused the loss of his trapped soldiers. The rescue force was not able to break through the Soviet line on their own, and the trapped troops were supplied an insufficient amount by the Luftwaffe. The Soviets then resumed attacking the pocket of Germans, and with the Volga now frozen over, the Soviets were receiving more supplies across the ice. Hitler ordered his troops to fight to the death, and promoted their leader Friedrich Paulus to field marshal, a rank which no German officer had ever had and surrendered with. On January 31st Paulus disobeyed Hitler and surrendered with is twenty-two generals. On February 2nd 91 thousand Germans surrendered, all that was left of the 6th army. Total axis casualties were over eight-hundred thousand, only 5-6 thousand of the Germans who surrendered returned home after the war, the rest died in prison or labor camps. There were over 1.1 million Red Army casualties and 40 thousand civilian casualties. The battle of Stalingrad was by far one of the bloodiest ever, but also one of the most important in WW2. It stopped the German advance into the Soviet Union and marked the tide of the war turning in favor of the allies. In 1945, Stalingrad was named a Hero City of the Soviet Union. In 1959 construction started on the Mamayev Kurgan memorial complex, commemorating the heroism of the Red Army defending Stalingrad. In 1967 the memorial was completed, including a massive underground area that Vasily Chuikov, who led the defense, was later buried in. On top of the hill that the memorial was built in, a massive statue entitled Родина-мать зовёт! (the motherland calls) was built. It reaches eighty-five meters into the air, and on its construction was the largest free-standing sculpture in the world.


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The Siege of Leningrad, The Attack on Pearl Harbor, The Battle of Stalingrad: Historical Analytical Essay. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
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