Whoa there skippy, the way you lay out this new attack it sounds as though the Germans are blitzing the Leopard IIs and the Russians are all cardboard cutouts.KDF33 wrote:Why is an offensive northwards any different? Well, have a look at this map. By going North, the Germans can greatly reduce HG "Mitte's" frontline by closing the Demyansk - Rzhev salient, which incidentally would probably result in a higher count of Soviet irrecoverable losses since it was the ideal target for a great encirclement. They can then drive northward in the direction of the Finns and Lake Onega (not shown on the map, but roughly where it ends), thus even more shortening the line, this time in HG "Nord's" sector. Again, this second phase would inflict large casualties on the Soviets - there is no reason to believe, in fact, that it couldn't inflict losses on the level of the opening phase of Blau.
After that, Leningrad Front is completely cut off, about 100 kilometers behind the frontline, and can thus be finished off at will, adding another half-million irrecoverable Soviet losses. So, what's the final tally of this offensive? Maybe 1.5 million irrecoverable Soviet losses, more if you add the DoW and disabled, inflicted much faster than the 6 months it took to inflict 1 million irrecoverable losses in the original Blau. A front shorter of hundreds of kilometers. The possibility to accumulate reserves for further offensive action and/or for a successful defense against a Soviet winter counter-offensive. Overall, a weaker Red Army and a stronger Östheer.
Lets compare the two attacks, one historical and the other proposed, because I believe there are several factors that would prevent a northern strike from achieving the same results as Fall Blau.
First, Fall Blau benefited greatly from the victory gained against the abortive Russian Izyum offensive. While total Russian losses vary, the general consensus is ~250K. That was a major blow to the Russian's chances of stopping, or at least delaying the subsequent German attack. An attack in the north would not have such benefit, although I would agree a pincher movement against the Rzhev salient could produce the same initial result.
The second, and in my view more important factor, deals with terrain and topography. The southern Ukraine is steppe country, pure and simple. There are very few places in the world that rival this area in terms of suitability for mechanized warfare, and the Germans took full advantage of it. In contrast, a northern strike would take the German spearheads deep into a vast expanse of pine forest cross-crossed with numerous rivers and lakes. This would invariably slow down the advance and force the Germans into a steady battle of attrition, the very thing they were trying to avoid.
In addition, Fall Blau also benefited from the topography of the proposed AoO. The Don River served as a flank safeguard while the advance drove deep into the Caucasus. While not an impenetrable barrier by any means, it allowed the Axis forces to cover more ground with less density than in otherwise open terrain. That itself allowed the advance to drive deeper with greater strength. On the other hand, A quick check of the proposed northern route shows no natural topographical feature for which the Germans could anchor the flank. Yes, the forested terrain would serve both Russian and German defense equally well, but the burden is on the Germans to strike fast and deep in order to achieve their goals. All the Russians have to do here is defend and grind down the opposition.