To Kingfish (about a northern thrust):
Well, IMO the destruction of the Kalinin Front would have a pretty big - and negative - effect on the viability of the Soviet position along the northern axis.
Agree, just like the defeat at Izyum did to that sector of the front
Bagging the Kalinin Front in the Rzhev salient would be a far worse defeat for the Red Army than Izyum was. The 2nd battle of Kharkov resulted in approximately 170,000 Soviet irrecoverable losses (Krivosheev 108), The Kalinin Front likely held upward of 600,000 troops in the summer of 1942, and the frontline was very favorable to a rapid encirclement - much like at Kiev in 1941. As an added benefit, the destruction of the Kalinin Front wouldn't be followed by a month of limited fighting, but would be the opening salvo of the main German offensive, much like Voronezh was for Blau
The Germans succeeded in advancing in this terrain in the autumn of 1941, and the Soviets made rapid progress during the same winter. In early 1944, the Soviets also succeeded in making rapid mechanized advance in this terrain when they relieved Leningrad. I obviously concede that the southern steppe offered, all else being equal, better terrain for offensive action, but I don't see the northern direction as excluding offensive action or dooming the Germans to a costly, and presumably static, "battle of attrition".
I'm not suggesting the offensive would develop into a second Verdun, but the whole point here is a speedy advance to bag large number of Russians at relatively light cost. The terrain simply does not lend itself to it.
The Demyansk - Rzhev salient lends itself better to such an encirclement than the Donetz. Although the second phase of the offensive probably wouldn't see another large encirclement, the original Fall Blau
didn't either and still inflicted massive casualties on the Soviets. Finally, the eviction of the Soviet forces from the northern sector would lead to the collapse of the Leningrad Front and inflict another half-million Soviet irrecoverable losses at a relatively low cost.
I'm not sure the topo map helps any, since it obviously is drawn a good 70 years after the time period we are discussing. I'm sure a topo of Canada (I'm assuming you hail from there) circa 1942 is radically different from what we have today.
Agreed, this weakens my argument. If anyone has a topographical map of the relevant terrain for this period, I'd be very interested.
Again, aren't we talking about Fall Blau in another direction? If the Germans were able to push eastward and capture Stalingrad quickly the forces in the Caucasus would be down to 1 single-track railroad hugging the shore of the Caspian.
The Soviets could supply their forces in the Caucasus with that single-track railroad but also from the Caspian Sea and from LL supplies arriving from the Persian Corridor. The Soviet forces in the Caucasus were also smaller than those deployed along the northern approaches: by the time of Uranus, the Soviets had in theater 816,000 men and 319 tanks
, and this seems to include all the forces in the Transcaucasian Front, including those inactive facing the Turkish frontier. So the problem would be magnified in the North: more troops and
less supplies than in the Caucasus. In any case, the point is moot if the Germans cut the Tikhvin-Vologda line, and I see no reason why they couldn't do it in summer 1942.
I'm just not seeing a radical difference between the two plans. If anything, Fall Blau has the edge by virtue of the terrain.
had the edge in terms of terrain, but also the crippling disadvantage of massively extending the German frontline, thus dissipating the Wehrmacht's offensive power, and advancing along two different axes, thus even more dissipating that offensive power. Lastly, if the offensive failed in decisively destroying Soviet military power, it exposed the Germans to a counter-attack in a practically indefensible front.
In contrast, every phase of a northern offensive would free up additional manpower for the next push
: just the elimination of the Demyansk - Rzhev salient would free up roughly 24 Infantry Divisions - 13 from the 16th Army and 11 from the 3rd Panzer
. And I'm not even counting those forces from the 9th Army facing the left side of the Rzhev salient. It would also result in much larger encirclements than historically (Kalinin and Leningrad Fronts), and thus both more casualties and a faster loss rate for the Soviets. Lastly, it would shorten the German frontline by hundreds of kilometers and thus allow the Östheer to accumulate reserves.
Anyway, what most people fail to realize is that the Axis themselfs recognized their hopeless situation in attrition warfare. Nobody in Tokyo or Berlin belived that they would keep smashing millions and millions of Allied troops until they drain them out of manpower. The Germans recognized the Soviet numerical superiority, but belived they could prevent it's effective deployment. It's in the text I posted recently.
IMO, the hopelessness of the Axis situation stemmed from American involvement in the war, not for any inherent weakness in the German ability to wage attritional warfare against an opponent like Britain or the Soviet Union. Also, I'm not arguing for the Germans just passively waiting for the Soviets to run out of manpower: I'm arguing for them to maximize Soviet irrecoverable casualties to weaken the Red Army to a level allowing the resumption of large-scale advances, with the aim of occupying their primary manpower and resource bases in the shortest timeframe - and thus complete Barbarossa
Regarding peace with Britain:
I agree with Carl that making peace with Britain without disarming her armed forces would in no way remove the Western threat, unless the British government signing the peace could be confidently trusted to really
accept German hegemony over Europe. Otherwise, the British could use the peace to rebuild (and rearm) at will, unhindered by the U-Boots or the long convoy routes, and resume the war at an opportune moment, perhaps in conjunction with the United States. This is, IMO, why making a peace with the Soviets on the post-Barbarossa frontiers wasn't an option either - it would give the Soviets breathing space while still tieing up a large number of German troops on the new eastern border. Once the West had declared war over Poland, and even more so once Germany had upset the balance of power by defeating France, there was IMO no turning back.