The Chances of Fall Blau 1942.

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Reich Ruin
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The Chances of Fall Blau 1942.

Post by Reich Ruin » 23 Sep 2005 04:46

I have seen many other topics relating to Fall Blau or the German offensive in Russia during the summer of 1942. However I wanted to ask and perhaps discuss the strategic reality behind this move by the Wehrmacht and Hitler in particular. The reason behind my curiosity is that after reading the alternate history novel Fatherland by Robert Harris and other stories or "What-If" theories there seems to be a repeating trend to say that if Hitler's forces won in the Caucasus or Stalingrad they could have won the war. 8O :x

However I take issue with this since by 1942 the Russians moved most of their industry far behind the Urals out of reach of even the Luftwaffe. Also the the Centre and Northern sectors of the Eastern Front still bogged down the German's. Both Moscow and Leningrad would have been almost if not just as difficult to subdue as Stalingrad. Also Nazi Germany's war economy had not yet reached it's peak and really the Wehrmacht seems outnumbered compared to the entire Red Army. Could the Soviet Union been defeated through Fall Blau's success or is this another western "myth". :?

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Post by César C. » 23 Sep 2005 06:22

Hello Reich Ruin.

The strategical objectives set by Hitler for Blau were, I think, totally beyond the capabilities of the forces available for the offensive. That is especially true regarding a deep strike beyond the Caucasus mountain passes, towards Batumi and Baku.

Having said that, IF the Germans had somehow managed to get away with it, the Soviets would have found themselves in dire straits, as almost all the Soviet oil came from the Caucasus oil fields. With no oil, the fact that the heavy industry had relocated beyond the Urals, out of range of the Lufwaffe, would have amounted to nothing, since there would have been no fuel for the tanks and aircraft these factories were turning out by the thousands. A situation similar to the one experienced by Germany from July-August 1944 onwards.

Likewise, with the oil fields out of Soviet hands -though not necessarily "in German hands", since they would have been sabotaged by the Soviets and rendered unusable to anyone for at least a couple of months- the capture of Moscow would have been irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
Evidently, Moscow would have been the objective for the German offensive of 1943, which would have meant the coup de grâce for the USSR. Stalin would had been left with no option but to negotiate his way out of the war. Thankfully, it never happened that way. No Eastern Front equals no Angloamerican landing in France (nor even in Italy perhaps).
At the very least, the capture of the Caucasus oil fields would have made impossible the creation of the Soviet steamroller of 1943-45.
That's my opinion on the matter, for what it's worth. :)

César.

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Post by alephh » 23 Sep 2005 07:01

César C. wrote:Soviets would have found themselves in dire straits, as almost all the Soviet oil came from the Caucasus oil fields. With no oil, the fact that the heavy industry had relocated beyond the Urals, out of range of the Lufwaffe, would have amounted to nothing, since there would have been no fuel for the tanks and aircraft these factories were turning out by the thousands.
And it's not just about Oil, but food, iron, etc. Lot of natural resources were in the southern area.

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Post by Lars » 23 Sep 2005 12:51

Case Blue was delayed by two weeks as a result of the Sevastopol operation and the two minor AGS offensives imidiately preceding Case Blue Fredericus II and Wilhelm.

So skip Sevastopol and the two preliminary offensives (where the Soviets learned the art of elastic defence), start Case Blue on the 14th of June instead of on the 28th of June, and the offensive is off to a much better start.

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Post by Victor » 23 Sep 2005 15:28

Lars wrote:So skip Sevastopol and the two preliminary offensives (where the Soviets learned the art of elastic defence), start Case Blue on the 14th of June instead of on the 28th of June, and the offensive is off to a much better start.
The 11th Army that took Sevastopol did not participate in Fall Blau. How did the siege of Sevastopol interfere with that operation?

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Post by Michate » 23 Sep 2005 15:57

The 11th Army that took Sevastopol did not participate in Fall Blau. How did the siege of Sevastopol interfere with that operation?
Availability of air support from Luftflotte 4 might be one of the reasons.

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Post by César C. » 23 Sep 2005 18:11

Michate wrote:
The 11th Army that took Sevastopol did not participate in Fall Blau. How did the siege of Sevastopol interfere with that operation?
Availability of air support from Luftflotte 4 might be one of the reasons.
Hello Michate,
I thought otherwise. In preparation for Blau, OKL had sent many reinforcements to Lutflotte 4, tranferring units not only from other sector of the EF (AG North was left with 375 aircraft, AG Centre, with some 600 aircraft), but also from the Mediterranean, since the planned attack on Malta had been abandoned. By 20 June, there were 2,644 German aircraft on the EF, 1,610 of them attached to Löhr's fleet in the South. (I don't have at this moment the approximate Luftflotte 4's OoB around 20 June.)
It appears that Richthofen's Fliegerkorps VIII, whose HQ had been moved up to Kursk on 24 June, and Pflugbeil's Fliegerkorps IV, managed to provide effective assistance to the Army during the initial days of the attack, having no problem in securing air supremacy over the general area, as VVS presence was very light and the Russians, south of Voronezh, were retreating rapidly towards the Don bend. In Hayward's Stopped at Stalingrad, Richthofen appears pleased with state of affairs for his (and even Pflugbeil's!) units during the opening stages of Blau, which would be the time when some of the ground attack units were still in the Crimea.

cheers,
César

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Post by Lars » 23 Sep 2005 22:08

Quote from "Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Welkrieg, vol. 6 page 868 (my translation):

"Initially this "Case Blue I" offensive should have started two weeks earlier, on June 15, but at the end of May it was clear that the time needed for the build up (of Blue I) on the one hand and the carrying through of the operations at Volcansk ("Wilhelm") and at Sevastopol ("Störfang") on the other hand, made a change of the attack date neccesary - a time loss which Hitler hoped to make good by an earlier attack date of the second and third fase of the offensive.

As late as June 8 did Halder believe that an attack was possible by the 18th, but Hitler´s impulsive decision in the favour of operation "Federicus II" destroyed this hope."

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Post by César C. » 23 Sep 2005 22:44

Hello Lars.
In all probability, Timoshenko's May offensive toward Kharkov, though ended up in costly failure, did force the Germans to delay the launching of Blau I, while forces were relocated and resupplied. Also, Wilhelm and Friedrich II were, as I understand, necessary preliminaries for Blau, as the ground gained in both operations provided better launching points for the main summer offensive.

What would have been gained by starting Blau two or three weeks before the date it was eventually launched?

Cesar

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Post by Lars » 23 Sep 2005 23:10

César C. wrote:Hello Lars.
In all probability, Timoshenko's May offensive toward Kharkov, though ended up in costly failure, did force the Germans to delay the launching of Blau I, while forces were relocated and resupplied. Also, Wilhelm and Friedrich II were, as I understand, necessary preliminaries for Blau, as the ground gained in both operations provided better launching points for the main summer offensive.

What would have been gained by starting Blau two or three weeks before the date it was eventually launched?

Cesar
1/ Less Soviet mastery of the elastic defense doctrine which the Soviets hammered out during Wilhelm and Fredericus II,

2/ A major part of why Hitler decided to split the forces - to do Caucasus and Stalingrad at once- was that he felt the time pressure to finish the Soviets before a second front in Europe was a reality. By August 1942 this fear had a clear influence on his decision to split the German advance. Hitler found himself in a hurry. Start two weeks earlier gives the Germans two weeks more before Hitler gets worried about the West (and start to make silly decisions on that account).

3/ Less time pressure to get to the two mountain passes at the Ossetian and the Georgian military highways which closed down due to snow in mid-September.

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Post by Reich Ruin » 24 Sep 2005 05:47

Thank you all for I lack the details on the battlefield logistics and realities of the eastern front war...probably because we are only getting a clear picture now. Please continue this discussion...

Well it seems mainstream thought is correct in thinking that had Blau succeeded, the Soviet Union would meet it's own "twilight of the gods". However the fighting in the Caucasus even if Hitler didn't interfere would have been bloody, savage, costly in men and material and tedious due to the mountian terrain. Also Stalingrad would have to be taken care of since the Soviet's could attack the flank of the Wehrmacht offensive.

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Post by César C. » 25 Sep 2005 08:31

Lars wrote: 2/ A major part of why Hitler decided to split the forces - to do Caucasus and Stalingrad at once- was that he felt the time pressure to finish the Soviets before a second front in Europe was a reality. By August 1942 this fear had a clear influence on his decision to split the German advance. Hitler found himself in a hurry. Start two weeks earlier gives the Germans two weeks more before Hitler gets worried about the West (and start to make silly decisions on that account).
I never thought Hitler in July 1942 was so worried about a second front in Europe. For one thing, the only thing the Allies managed to organize in 1942 was the raid on Dieppe. Aerial reconaissance over England did not find anything to suggest an imminent invasion on a grand scale (troop concentrations, landing craft assembled all along the south coast of England, etc.) U.S. land forces did not go into action until November 1942, and that with a landing on French North Africa.

Just as Sealion required the destruction of the RAF before any German cross-channel invasion, an Anglo-American invasion of Western Europe required first the elimination of the Luftwaffe from the European skies. Harris had just been put in charge of Bomber Command at the end of February 1942, at a time when it had only 378 serviceable aircraft, 69 of them heavy bombers. As for the 8th Air Force, its first heavy-bomber mission was carried out on August 17, 1942, when twelve B-17s attacked Rouen. Its first raid on German territory did not take place until January 27, 1943, against Wilhelmshaven. All in all, IMHO, neither the Allies nor Hitler considered possible a big cross-channel invasion in 1942.
Lars wrote: 3/ Less time pressure to get to the two mountain passes at the Ossetian and the Georgian military highways which closed down due to snow in mid-September.
I understand the second phase of Blau started on July 9, two weeks ahead of schedule! As it was, the advance towards the Don bend was severely hampered due to the lack of fuel for the panzer and motorized forces and the summer thunderstorms, as the Soviets were retreating skillfully to the East, fighting only rearguard actions.

César

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Post by Michate » 25 Sep 2005 10:25

Hello Michate,
I thought otherwise. In preparation for Blau, OKL had sent many reinforcements to Lutflotte 4, tranferring units not only from other sector of the EF (AG North was left with 375 aircraft, AG Centre, with some 600 aircraft), but also from the Mediterranean, since the planned attack on Malta had been abandoned. By 20 June, there were 2,644 German aircraft on the EF, 1,610 of them attached to Löhr's fleet in the South. (I don't have at this moment the approximate Luftflotte 4's OoB around 20 June.)
It appears that Richthofen's Fliegerkorps VIII, whose HQ had been moved up to Kursk on 24 June, and Pflugbeil's Fliegerkorps IV, managed to provide effective assistance to the Army during the initial days of the attack, having no problem in securing air supremacy over the general area, as VVS presence was very light and the Russians, south of Voronezh, were retreating rapidly towards the Don bend. In Hayward's Stopped at Stalingrad, Richthofen appears pleased with state of affairs for his (and even Pflugbeil's!) units during the opening stages of Blau, which would be the time when some of the ground attack units were still in the Crimea.
Hi César,

your description is correct and matches closely with what I have read so far, though I had in mind that the attack on Sevastopol would have interefered with the originally planned starting date of the Blau operation (not the historical starting date).

I would suggest the Soviet Kharkov attack actually helped the Germans with Blau, as quite a number of Soviet units were eliminated that the Germans otherwise would have had to face during the start of the attack.
Wilhelm and Fridericus II were probably zero sum games concerning whether they made Blau more difficult or easy.

As to Hitler fearing a landing in France (or Norway) there are clear indicators he did so. Basically he regarded the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse in July 1942 and his reasoning was that the Western allies could just not let that collapse happen without the gravest effects for their own war effort. The mentioned work of "Das deutsche Reich und der zweite Weltkrieg" has to say more on taht.

Best regards,
Michate

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Post by Lars » 25 Sep 2005 10:46

Cesar,

Hitler believed that the chances of an Allied second front was a function of the German degree of sucess in Russia. In other words, the greater the succes of Case Blue, the greater the risk of an Allied landing in order to take the pressure of the Soviets.

A couple of more quotes from the aforementioned book (my translation) p. 894+895:

"In the overall strategic picture, during the summer, the rising time pressure became the main concern of Hitler"..

"...a soon landing in Norway, the Nederlands or France seemed natural to him (Hitler) and more likely the clearer the German succes in the east became".

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Post by Lars » 25 Sep 2005 10:57

Cesar,

It is true that the second phase of Case Blue started two weeks ahead of schedule but this was because Case Blue I failed to reach its strategic purpose, the destruction of the Soviet forces at the front. The Soviets withdrew and the Germans had to fight the same forces again in front of Stalingrad and across the Don.

Basically, the fact that Case Blue II started two weeks ahead of schedule was a measure of failure not of succes, as it meant that instead of destroying the Soviets close to the front, the Germans would now have to destroy the Soviets at the very end of a long, long German supply route. Bad news for the capture of Stalingrad and the Caucasus!

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