The Chances of Fall Blau 1942.

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Lars
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Post by Lars » 25 Sep 2005 12:51

I agree with Reich Ruin, a very good discussion!

There were several problems with the historical Case Blue (see map for developments until July 23rd 1942):

http://www.dean.usma.edu/history/web03/ ... p%2022.htm

The German mobile divisions were too few for the task at hand, the area which had to be covered was too great, the stagewise German offensive ensured that the Soviets could withdraw their forces in good time. And - as it turned out- the necessity to take Stalingrad ahead of the Caucasus wasn´t heeded.

Given the few German mobile forces and the time pressure - there really weren´t supplies and time to secure the northern flank and clear the area west of Voronesz and Voronesz itself. This goes for the southern flank as well: Taking Sevastopol, though desireable, should have been skipped.

If I were to do Case Blue this would be how (A look at the map from the above link would be useful):

Skip the Voronesz operation - though desiable in itself as the city was a legitimate target - but the operation counsumed the first week of Case Blue and a lot supplies. Besides, too many German mobile forces got stuck around the city when the Sovits counterattacked and the German infantry was moving up too slowly from the rear.

Without the northern Voronesz operation the German front is 200 km shorter. Without the Sevasopol operation time, men and supplies are saved.

So:
1/ Start Case Blue by striking out from the Taranrog area on the Black Sea coast with 1st Pz Army. Simultaniously strike out from east of Kharkow with 4th pz army.

2/ The two pinzers meet at the Millerova-Kamensk area 100+kilometers behind the Soviet front. The pincers close at about 5-6 days into the offensive. Only a few Soviet units have escaped. 6 Soviet armies, the 38th, the 9th, the 37th, 12th, 18th and 56th are surrounded. After another 5-6 days, the Soviet armies are destoyed. The prisoner count is 3-400,000.

3/ After the encirclement battle at Millerova-Kamensk, the 1st and 4th Pz army run like hell to Stalingrad. The city is completely secured 1 month after the begin of Case Blue.

4/ A little over a month into Case Blue, the attack across the Don with the aim of taking the Caucasus starts. The absense of 5 armies that historically were in this area, the 9th, 37th, 12th, 18th 56th armies, is a severe blow to the Soviet defense of the Caucasus.

5/ Two months into Case Blue, the passes at the Ossetian Military Highway and the Georgian Military Highway are in German/Axis hands.

Though the Soviet resistance is crumbling (the Soviets are too few and their mainly Caucasus troops are unreliable, especialle the south Caucasian troops and the Muslims), the German advance slows down mainly due to heavy logistical problems.

6/ However, three months into Case Blue the Black Sea coast is largely cleared of Soviet forces and Baku is either under siege or taken. As the Soviets have poured their remaining troops (many of which surrenders if given a chance) into Baku, the Caucasus is now in effect in German hands.

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Post by César C. » 26 Sep 2005 04:25

Hi Lars.
I would say that neither Voronezh nor Sevastopol were objectives the Germans could affor to skip before the main offensive towards the Volga.

First, Sevastopol: the only source of natural oil for Germany were the Ploesti oilfields. Hitler's worst nightmare during the war was the possibility of these fields being attacked by heavy bombers, either British or Soviet. That was the reason for the costly airborne assault on Crete in May 1941. Hitler did not want to see Crete being turned into an unsinkable aircraft-carrier from where British bombers could strike Ploesti.
The same logic applies to the Crimea, which was the other place from where Ploesti could be bombed. Adolf Hitler had to make sure that the Crimea didn't become a base for Soviet or even British heavy bombers. It had to be taken.
Now, today we can say "rubbish!, the Soviets never had the idea of developing a strategic air force during World War Two; they had more immediate concerns; as for the RAF, they would have never gotten permission to operate from Soviet soil". True, but that is a retrospective comment, given with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, Adolf Hitler had to make day-to-day decisions with the worst-case scenario in mind.

Second, Voronezh: that city was the hinge on which the Geman drive along the southern bank of the Don was anchored. Securing the general area Orel-Voronezh was of paramount importance before any offensive against the Volga and then the Caucasus was attempted, as any Soviet offensive along the axis Voronezh-Belgorod-Kharkov would cut communications and spell doom on the entire German summer campaign.

Be as it may, after 4th Pz.Army and 6th Army met at Starii Oskol, closing an almost empty pocket as the 40th Army had managed to escape to the Don, Hitler made the flight to Poltava on 3 July to tell Bock to leave Voronezh alone for the time being, and sent everything down the southern bank of the Don at once. It was Bock who forced Hitler's hand, and sent 24th Panzer Division and Großdeutschland division across the Don to storm the city, ignoring Hitler's advice. As it was, 24th and 48th Panzer Korps could not join in the advance of 40th Motorized Korps before July 9. If I am not mistaken, the poor results of Blau I and the week lost in the fighting for Voronezh were the main reason for Hitler to sack Bock on July 13. Actually, this is another instance of Hitler being blamed for another man's fault.
1/ Start Case Blue by striking out from the Taranrog area on the Black Sea coast with 1st Pz Army. Simultaniously strike out from east of Kharkow with 4th pz army
The way I see it, you are leaving behind Golikov's forces, intact, on the west bank of the Don. A perilous situation.

Cesar

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Post by Lars » 26 Sep 2005 10:20

Cesar,

On Sevastopol

I belive that a more proper question is whether the Germans could afford to attack Sevastopol when they had too few forces in the first place to do Case Blue?

By mid-1942 there was absolutely not threat from Sevastopol against the Ploesti oil-fields. The number of Soviet air crafts at this time in Sevastopol was 80 at the most, IIRC, and there was no chance whatsoever that the Soviets could fly in or sail in the huge amounts of bombs, petrol, crews, ground personel, etc to start a bombing campaing from Sevastopol. And Hitler knew that. After the initial heavy shelling of Sevastopol in late May/early June failed to break break the city, Hitler considered calling off the attack completely. So Sevastopol can´t have been paramount to Hitler by mid-1942. The huge amounts of munitions, men, petrol, and time which the capture of Sevastopol, the strongest fortress in the world, required would be better spend by getting faster to Stalingrad.

On Voronesz

If you do the Voronesz operation, there is no chance whatsoever that you can surround the 6 southernmost Soviet armies later. They will be gone just as they were in real history and the Germans will only surround air.

Not doing the Voronesz operation is a calculated risk as the Soviets will hit 4th pz army in its left flank when they gather enough forces, that much is true, but it is better than the alternative. It is better to use the munitions, men, petrol, and time to surround the 6 southernmost Soviet armies and get quickly to Stalingrad than to attack Voronesz.

The opening move of Case Blue HAS to be the surrounding of the greatest possible number of Soviet armies. If this fails Case Blue goes down the drain.

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Post by Qvist » 26 Sep 2005 11:37

Hi Lars

I do not see how Sevastopol affected Fall Blau directly? The operation was over well before the start of Blau, and if the Germans had wanted to used AOK 11 in Blau, they could easily have done so. However, they preferred instead to send it North to reinforce the forces around Leningrad. Presumably they would have wished to do so even if the Sevastopol operation had not been carried out, so the result would have been the same for the Blau forces in any case.

As for the utility of the Voronesh-Voroshilovgrad offensive, it should be recalled that the Soviet losses here were very, very heavy - 568,347 between 28 June and 24 July, according to Krivosheev. One sometimes gets the impression from much literature that the German summer offensive in the south in 1942 failed to inflict any large scale damage on the Soviet forces, as they withdrew East. This is not correct - the Soviet losses July-September 1942 were in fact almost as heavy as during the same period the year before, and is only eclipsed by one further quarter through the whole war, the summer of 1943. . During these three months, the Red Army suffered 2,317,473 combat losses, compared to some 2.6 million in the same quarter the year before - and that includes 8 disastrous days in June. In addition to the heavy Voronesh losses, a very large proportion of the approximately 650,000 casualties suffered on the approaches to Stalingrad until 20 November, and of the roughly 375,000 casualties suffered on the Caucasian apparoaches until December, were incurred during this period. In short - especially when one considers that the Germans were only pursuing active operations on about a third of the front, the Red Army suffered exceptionally heavy during the summer, so Blau can hardly have been very unsuccessful in inflicting damage on their adversary.

All in all, I would say that the traditional judgment on the 42 summer campaign seems to contain a number of paradoxes when compared to the Soviet data of their own losses. One can easily get the impression that Blau in the early phases failed to achieve damage to the Red Army that is comparable to the results of the year before. Clearly, this is a problematical judgment, to say the least. The Soviet losses were as said just as heavy as the year before despite the more limited action, and also if one look at the Front strengths compared to the losses, it is clear that the soviet formations defending from Voronesh and southwards suffered losses that considerably exceeded their strength as of early July. To all practical purposes therefore, the forces the Germans were facing in early July were destroyed in the following weeks and months, despite the relative absence of large pockets. Also, there is an implication that this failure to bring about spectacular pockets led to the Soviet survival inthe south, and then to the check at Stalingrad and the debacle of the Soviet counteroffensive. This does not on the face of it seem to me a very reasonable proposition - rather it would be more reasonable to ascribe this to the great extent to which the Red Army were able to continously reinforce and thus maintain their Fronts in the South despite the grieveous losses, and then the ability to accumulate, form and unleash large operational reserves in offensive action from late November. It was not largely forces salvaged from encircelement in the summer that made up the forces who stopped Blau and then rolled it back.

So, I would more than suggest that any absence of encircelement in front of 6 Army in the early phases of blau was not the problem, hence the steps you suggest are not the solution. And finally - the losses the Red Army suffered in the Voronesh operation in fact exceed the strength of Stalingrad Front in Mid-July, so to trade away that operation for a chance to defeat SF more completely would in practice inevitably have resulted in much less damage to the Red Army.

And, come November, how would you have felt about your flank between Izyum and Kalatch, with no river line to anchor it on, considerably longer than a Don Flank and much closer to your vital arteries, with HG A much deeper into the Caucasus and and Voronesh Front and Southwestern Front undamaged and positioned along it with an ideally placed functional railroad running due south from Rossosh?

cheers

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Post by Lars » 26 Sep 2005 14:12

Qvist wrote:Hi Lars

I do not see how Sevastopol affected Fall Blau directly? The operation was over well before the start of Blau, and if the Germans had wanted to used AOK 11 in Blau, they could easily have done so. However, they preferred instead to send it North to reinforce the forces around Leningrad. Presumably they would have wished to do so even if the Sevastopol operation had not been carried out, so the result would have been the same for the Blau forces in any case.
Sevastopol wasn´t captured until after Case Blue had started and the Kherson peninsula was cleared even later. Sevastopol was captured on July 1st and the Kherson peninsula to the south of Sevastopol was only taken on July 4th. Case Blue began on 28th of June.

The Germans expanded huge amounts of materiel on Sevastopol. It was bombarded with 46,750 shells and 20,000 tons of bombs. VIII Luftwaffe Corps flew 23,751 sorties! Add to this whatever the Rumanians used. And supplying Sevastopol wasn´t easy as there were insufficent rail connections from the German supply source to the Crimea. The supply to Sevastopol strained the German supply system at a time when every possible shell, solder and litre of petrol should have been stockpiled to the coming Case Blue campain.

To repeat myself, with the huge task of taking Stalingrad, Batumi and Baku at hand, could the Germans afford to take Sevastopol?

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Post by Epaminondas » 26 Sep 2005 14:30

Problems with Fall Blau:

- Soviets managed to escape encirclements to a large degree. Fall Blau was predicated on the ability of the Germans to encircle and destory large numbers of soviets ala 1941. It didn't happen.

- Logistics: from my reading, I have the impression that during the execution of Fall Blau, Hitler swaped objectives and drove the panzer armies in circles; while the supply lines were severely overextended.

Germany just didn't have the logistically system to support a drive on Stalingrad and the oil fields at the same time; and Hitler compounded that problem by wasting alot of fuel. (driving the 4th Pz Army to the oil fields, then to Stalingrad, then back to the oilfields.).

Hitler and German high command lacked vision as to the fundamental principals of warfare on the strategic level, and made more mistakes then the allies....

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Post by Lars » 26 Sep 2005 14:38

Qvist wrote: As for the utility of the Voronesh-Voroshilovgrad offensive, it should be recalled that the Soviet losses here were very, very heavy - 568,347 between 28 June and 24 July, according to Krivosheev. One sometimes gets the impression from much literature that the German summer offensive in the south in 1942 failed to inflict any large scale damage on the Soviet forces, as they withdrew East. This is not correct - the Soviet losses July-September 1942 were in fact almost as heavy as during the same period the year before, and is only eclipsed by one further quarter through the whole war, the summer of 1943. . During these three months, the Red Army suffered 2,317,473 combat losses, compared to some 2.6 million in the same quarter the year before - and that includes 8 disastrous days in June. In addition to the heavy Voronesh losses, a very large proportion of the approximately 650,000 casualties suffered on the approaches to Stalingrad until 20 November, and of the roughly 375,000 casualties suffered on the Caucasian apparoaches until December, were incurred during this period. In short - especially when one considers that the Germans were only pursuing active operations on about a third of the front, the Red Army suffered exceptionally heavy during the summer, so Blau can hardly have been very unsuccessful in inflicting damage on their adversary.

All in all, I would say that the traditional judgment on the 42 summer campaign seems to contain a number of paradoxes when compared to the Soviet data of their own losses. One can easily get the impression that Blau in the early phases failed to achieve damage to the Red Army that is comparable to the results of the year before. Clearly, this is a problematical judgment, to say the least. The Soviet losses were as said just as heavy as the year before despite the more limited action, and also if one look at the Front strengths compared to the losses, it is clear that the soviet formations defending from Voronesh and southwards suffered losses that considerably exceeded their strength as of early July. To all practical purposes therefore, the forces the Germans were facing in early July were destroyed in the following weeks and months, despite the relative absence of large pockets. Also, there is an implication that this failure to bring about spectacular pockets led to the Soviet survival inthe south, and then to the check at Stalingrad and the debacle of the Soviet counteroffensive. This does not on the face of it seem to me a very reasonable proposition - rather it would be more reasonable to ascribe this to the great extent to which the Red Army were able to continously reinforce and thus maintain their Fronts in the South despite the grieveous losses, and then the ability to accumulate, form and unleash large operational reserves in offensive action from late November. It was not largely forces salvaged from encircelement in the summer that made up the forces who stopped Blau and then rolled it back.

So, I would more than suggest that any absence of encircelement in front of 6 Army in the early phases of blau was not the problem, hence the steps you suggest are not the solution. And finally - the losses the Red Army suffered in the Voronesh operation in fact exceed the strength of Stalingrad Front in Mid-July, so to trade away that operation for a chance to defeat SF more completely would in practice inevitably have resulted in much less damage to the Red Army.

And, come November, how would you have felt about your flank between Izyum and Kalatch, with no river line to anchor it on, considerably longer than a Don Flank and much closer to your vital arteries, with HG A much deeper into the Caucasus and and Voronesh Front and Southwestern Front undamaged and positioned along it with an ideally placed functional railroad running due south from Rossosh?

cheers
Quist,

You are right of course that the Soviets suffered considerable losses during June-September 1942. However, as opposed to 1941 many of these losses were temporary as the soldiers were "only" wounded and not POWs and later returned to the frontline.

The German Voronesz operation drew in Soviet reenforcements from the Bryansk Front including an entire tank army. The Soviets fought so hard to recapture Voronesz because Stalin feared that the Voronesz operation was the prelude to a southern attack on Moscow. So there was probably no trade off between Stalingrad and Voronesz at least no in early July. Stalin had stacked his best units to the west and south of Moscow and he was unwilling, at least initially, to let those forces depart from the Moscow area and take up positions elsewhere.

While the Soviet attack on Voronesz cost the Soviets a lot of casualties, the German mobile forces were so few that they couldn´t afford to get locked in a set piece battle like at Voronesz.

I know it is a gamble not to do the Voronesz operation, don´t get me wrong, but this folder is about the chances of Case Blue. And with the time and forces available, I just don´t see how the Germans could take Voronesz first and then go on and take Stalingrad and the Caucasus.

But if you can suggest a scenario where the German forces start out with the Voronesz operation and take Stalingrad, the entire Black Sea coast and Baku, I shall read it with interest.

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Post by Qvist » 26 Sep 2005 20:29

Hi Lars
You are right of course that the Soviets suffered considerable losses during June-September 1942. However, as opposed to 1941 many of these losses were temporary as the soldiers were "only" wounded and not POWs and later returned to the frontline.
Well, I would suggest that this difference is far less essential than often seems to be assumed. Certainly, about 75% of the Red Army losses in that quarter of 1941 were in dead and missing. But roughly half the summer 1942 losses were also ditto. Also, approximately a third of the wounded did not return to duty, and those that did required on average something like three months to do so. So what the difference boils down to is really another 3-400,000 men available as returning convalescents sometime in late 42 or early 43 - not a huge difference. And whichever way we twist it, there are only two quarters of the whole war where one can find Soviet losses higher than these. Thus it seems difficult to argue that any failure on the Ostheers part during this period resided in the amount of losses it inflicted on the Red Army. In any case, even purely in terms of Soviet irrecoverable losses, no degree of victory over the Soviet forces south of Kharkov could have compensated for the absence of the roughly 370,000 killed and captured inflicted on the Red Army during the Voronesh operation.
But if you can suggest a scenario where the German forces start out with the Voronesz operation and take Stalingrad, the entire Black Sea coast and Baku, I shall read it with interest.
Well, if you can suggest a scenario where they do take Stalingrad, the entire Black Sea coast and Baku, and fare better in avoiding subsequent complete disaster despite stronger and more intact Soviet forces and an inherently much more critical flank situation both on the left (with a longer flank hanging in loose air between Izyum and Kalatsch) and the Right (with a Soviet bridgehead on the Crimea), I shall read that with interest. :)

I do see your point however, and I think in many ways your reasoning reflects a good grip on the essentials in the situation. But I think you underestimate the need for at least some flank security for Fall Blau (bear in mind that what they did have in that way, while far better than you would give them was nevertheless a recipe for disaster), and also that you do not correctly gauge the impact of the early summer operations on the Soviet strength, and the effects their absence would have had. There's not much point in getting to Stalingrad and Baku if your forces are subsequently destroyed, and ultimately, the chief weakness of Blau resided less in the inability to reach objectives than in the ability to avoid disastrous operational defeat leading to the loss of entire armies.

cheers

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Post by César C. » 26 Sep 2005 23:08

Hello Epaminondas.
Logistics: from my reading, I have the impression that during the execution of Fall Blau, Hitler swaped objectives and drove the panzer armies in circles; while the supply lines were severely overextended.
Well, Hitler did not exactly swape objectives, which remained the same: get to Stalingrad, and then drive all the way south past the Caucasus mountains towards Baku. What he did on July 23 with Directive 45 was to order that both missions were to be carried out simultaneously, rather than in succession. In any case, it was unavoidable that the supply lines were to become severely overextended due to the distances involved and the lack of good roads. I would say that the severe shortage of fuel that affected the panzer and motorized units during the advance had more to do with the lack of adequate reserves of oil rather than with Hitler's driving the panzer armies in circles, though it certainly made matters worse.

Actually, when one comes to think of it, Hitler may had inadvertently eased the Wehrmacht's logistical nightmare when he started to disband Army Groups A and B, so to speak, in the middle of the campaign: SS Division LAH was sent to France at the beginning of July, Großdeutschland Division was sent to Army Group Center (initially it was also destined to go to France!), as were 9. and 11. Pz-D, not to mention almost the entire 11th Army, which was sent to Army Group North. On 1 August Army Groups A and B had between them 57 German divisions, against the 68 with which Army Group B had started the campaign on June 28. In exchange, they had more satellite units (36 against 26), which in any case where poorly mechanized.

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Post by Qvist » 26 Sep 2005 23:35

Sevastopol wasn´t captured until after Case Blue had started and the Kherson peninsula was cleared even later. Sevastopol was captured on July 1st and the Kherson peninsula to the south of Sevastopol was only taken on July 4th. Case Blue began on 28th of June.
Ah, there you have me - my recollection was at fault. But I do not think it matters greatly - AOK 11 could certainly still have played an important role even quite early in Blau. And with no Sevastopol operation, much of it might have been forced to remain in the Crimea.
The Germans expanded huge amounts of materiel on Sevastopol. It was bombarded with 46,750 shells and 20,000 tons of bombs. VIII Luftwaffe Corps flew 23,751 sorties! Add to this whatever the Rumanians used. And supplying Sevastopol wasn´t easy as there were insufficent rail connections from the German supply source to the Crimea. The supply to Sevastopol strained the German supply system at a time when every possible shell, solder and litre of petrol should have been stockpiled to the coming Case Blue campain.

To repeat myself, with the huge task of taking Stalingrad, Batumi and Baku at hand, could the Germans afford to take Sevastopol?
Well, against that one could put the question of whether they could afford to live with a strong and intact Soviet base in what would be the deep rear of their planned advance? Again, I think it needs to be considered that there isn't much use in taking either of these objectives unless they could be secured, and to reach them at the expense of elementary flank security would seem to aggravate the German situation rather than improve it. Could the Germans afford to head for Stalingrad and Baku if it could only be achieved by accepting such irresponsible risks?

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Post by Lars » 27 Sep 2005 10:14

Quist,

Regarding Sevastopol:
What exactly was the flank threat from Sevastopol by mid-1942 that required the massive German and Rumanian effort? When Novorossisk was taken - perhaps even earlier - Sevastopol would be out of supply anyway.

Regarding the low POW-count and Case Blue: The German planners wouldn´t agree with you that this was of minor concern. The whole Case Blue operation depended on taking 700,000 POWs in the opening battles along the front. That didn´t happen. Army Group A had taken only 309,000 POWs in the period of July 1st - August 10th! This was seen as a major disappointment as the Germans would have to fight the escaping soldiers again far away from the German supply sources.

Regarding Voronesz. Voronesz was a worthwhile target in itself, no doubt about that, and flank security is a noble aim. However, crossing the Don and entering Voronesz - against Hitler´s advice but not against the original plan - ensured that the Germans met with instant Soviet counterattacks. The few German mobile forces were caught in a set piece battle around the city when they should have been racing south down the western bank of the Don and capture the retreating Soviets.

The major problem with the Voronesz operation was that it took time, fuel and munition, while giving the Soviets the starting gun to their strategic retreat all along the front. As Hitler rightly feared the German mobile forces didn´t move fast enough from the north down to the south. The battle of Voronez was a major explanation for this.

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Post by Qvist » 27 Sep 2005 11:58

Hello Lars
Regarding Sevastopol:
What exactly was the flank threat from Sevastopol by mid-1942 that required the massive German and Rumanian effort? When Novorossisk was taken - perhaps even earlier - Sevastopol would be out of supply anyway.
Sevastopol was an intact base situated in the deep German flank that could be supplied by sea. Its exact utility depends of course on the overall situation, but IMO it was an entirely sensible precursor to Blau to eliminate it.
Regarding the low POW-count and Case Blue: The German planners wouldn´t agree with you that this was of minor concern. The whole Case Blue operation depended on taking 700,000 POWs in the opening battles along the front. That didn´t happen. Army Group A had taken only 309,000 POWs in the period of July 1st - August 10th! This was seen as a major disappointment as the Germans would have to fight the escaping soldiers again far away from the German supply sources.
Yes I know, this is the traditional German analysis of the battle, to be found among other places in Müller-Hillebrand. But in this case I would argue that too much weight has been given to the perspective of the German planners, who were not aware of several of the factors shaping the situation - for instance such things as the strength of the Red Army, either on the Stalingrad axis or more generally, and also not the extent of their force generation and the amount of military force they were able to accumulate over the autumn.

The Germans essentially assumed that the hard winter and spring fighting had absorbed most of the Soviet force generation, and that (as they had also thought the previous year) it was primarily a question of destroying the deployed Soviet forces comprehensively and quickly. In the German estimation, the Red Army would not have the resources to recover from such a blow. Hence the primary importance assigned to successful battles of annihilation in the early phase.

Here the German planners were, of course, completely wrong. Despite it's heavy losses during the winter and spring, the Red Army had continued to grow at a fast pace, a pace that would only quicken in the fall. They could and did make good the great damage inflicted on them in the summer battles, while simultaneously building the operational reserves that would carry out the decisive counteroffensives.

It seems to me that the assumptions of the German planners has continued to be put at the root of far too much analysis, without taking sufficiently into account the realities of the situation:

* 309,000 POWs in a little more than a month by a single HG may have been too little relative to planning expectations, but it in fact compares quite well with even the major annihilation battles of the year before. Hence, it contrasts fundamentally with a reading of the situation as one where Soviet formations largely eluded capture.

* The view that a key factor was the need to continue to fight soviet forces had eluded encirclement earlier is extremely difficult to combine with the fact that the soviet formations facing the Stalingrad drive suffered losses higher than their strength at the start of the battle. Essentially, the Germans did destroy the forces they were facing in late June, and if they did not do this in the manner and at the time they intended, they primarily achieved this during the summer fighting. The reason the Soviet formations were still in the field come mid-autumn was not due to large numbers of soldiers saved from encirclement in July, but to a continual and heavy reinforcement of which the Germans did not think the Red Army would be capable. It lies close at hand here to suggest that initial assumptions have unduly influenced conclusions on later events: It was assumed that the deciding factor in defeating the Red Army would be the destruction of the southern formations in the summer, the Red army was not defeated, hence the reason must be that too large elements of the southern formations escaped destruction. One frequently reads similar assessments of the 1941 battles, where they are even more starkly out of place.

* As such, the fate of Blau did not depend on taking 700,000 Soviet prisoners in the opening battles. This is just the planning assumption, and it must be seen against the fact that they were gravely underestimating the actual and short-term potential strength of their opponent - hence, the loss of 700,000 POWs would not have had the effect on the Red Army that they assumed, and it is essentially an arbitrary figure except as an expression of the badly based expectations of the German planners.

* When all is said and done, the Red Army lost almost 1.2 million dead and missing in the period July-September, an achievement the Ostheer bested only once, namely during the same quarter in the preceding year.

And - once more: If a high POW count was neccessary, this is a strong argument for, not against, the Voronesh operation, which cost the Red Army almost 400,000 killed and missing.
Regarding Voronesz. Voronesz was a worthwhile target in itself, no doubt about that, and flank security is a noble aim. However, crossing the Don and entering Voronesz - against Hitler´s advice but not against the original plan - ensured that the Germans met with instant Soviet counterattacks. The few German mobile forces were caught in a set piece battle around the city when they should have been racing south down the western bank of the Don and capture the retreating Soviets.

The major problem with the Voronesz operation was that it took time, fuel and munition, while giving the Soviets the starting gun to their strategic retreat all along the front. As Hitler rightly feared the German mobile forces didn´t move fast enough from the north down to the south. The battle of Voronez was a major explanation for this.
1. The geographical point is less Voronesh as such than the achievement of defensible line on the left flank and a fairly secure space for the Eastward drive.
2. The point is not just geographical, but also the need to defeat the Soviet Fronts in the area.
3. If you look at the strength of the various soviet formations involved, it seems completely obvious that no amount of additional damage the Germans could have inflicted on the southernmost Fronts could have compensated for the absence of the very great losses the Red Army suffered in the Voronesh operation. Hence, if Soviet losses is the aim, skipping Voronesh brings you further from, not closer to, that goal.

Let's look at some data points (Krivosheev):

Voronesh-Voroshilovgrad defensive operation 28.6. - 24.7. (Voronesh, SW, Brjansk Fronts):
Strength of Soviet forces at beginning:1,310,800
Losses through period: 568,347

Stalingrad defensive operation 17.7.-18.11. (Southeastern, Stalingrad Fronts)
Strength of Soviet forces at beginning: 547,000
Losses through period: 643,842

North Caucasus Defensive operation 25.7.-31.12. (Caucasus, North Caucasus Fronts)
Strength of Soviet forces at beginning:603,200
Losses through period: 373,911

Note incidentally that the losses in the last two are only from mid and late July respectively. Hence they do not capture those suffered earlier in the month.

4. Flank protection is not a noble aim - it is a basic neccessity, and especially if you are facing an enemy strong enough to take advantage of any weaknesses in this area. In this particular campaign, it also turned out to be the single most critical factor of all.

Most fundamentally - your logic seems to assume that the success of the campaign hinged on the ability of the Germans to reach certain geographical points as quickly as possible. To me it rather seems obvious that it hinged on the ability (or lack of it) of the Germans to combine any advances made with an ability to successfully engage whatever forces the Soviet could put against them. As things were, they were not able to do so, and suffered a disastrous defeat that rendered previous advances completely meaningless - in these, it was exactly the large overstretch resulting from these advances that in many ways enable the Soviets to defeat them. If they had advanced to Stalingrad more quickly, this would not have improved that situation. If they had done so at the price of a much more threatening left flank, failure would have come more easily, and almost certainly at a considerably higher price when first it came. If they had stood at Baku rather than in the Caucasian foothills, it would merely have aggravated the situation. The problem, in a nutshell, was overreach - and a speedier and more far-reaching advance would deteriorated rather than improved that problem.


cheers

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Victor
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Post by Victor » 27 Sep 2005 15:49

Lars wrote:Regarding Sevastopol:
What exactly was the flank threat from Sevastopol by mid-1942 that required the massive German and Rumanian effort? When Novorossisk was taken - perhaps even earlier - Sevastopol would be out of supply anyway.
Why would the fall of Novorossyisk mean that Sevastopol won't be supplied anymore? The ChF proved capable of carrying out many landing operations from other ports on the Black Sea coast. It wasn't incapacitated by the loss of Novorossyisk.

But even considering your theory correct, Novorossyisk was taken at the beginning of September 1942. That would give the ChF two whole months to land forces in Crimea once again and create a crtitical situation like it did in December 1941-January 1942. Sevastopol would have tied down the entire 11th Army in Crimea and its German forces would have later be sent north to Leningrad.

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Lars
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Post by Lars » 27 Sep 2005 17:06

Quist, your points are well taken but I´m still left with the question: "Yes, but..".

The original question was about the chances of Case Blue. Only one goal was really the true success criteria of Case Blue as seen by Hitler and others and that was the capture of Baku. So far I´ve given my take on the question. Skipping the Voronesz operation and Sevastopol and start out by encirkling 6 Soviet armies is a radical solution - I know. But in my opinion Case Blue requires a radical fix to bring the German to Baku. Only a narrower and more focused Case Blue can do that. But like I said earlier, if anyone can bring up another credible fix to Case Blue, I genuinely like to know. I´m willing to chance my view if a better more credible scenario is shown.

The encirclement of 6 Soviet armies at the start of Case Blue would be a drop - though a rather large large one - in the ocean when it came to Soviet man power. However, if you look at the 600,000 number you mentioned as the Trans Caucasus front's strenght, no less than 5 armies of the later Trans Caucasus fronts armies could have been encircled at the beginning of Case Blue. In other words, a succesful encirclement battle at the beginning of Case Blue would mean that 5 armies would be missing from the historical Trans Caucasus front. This would be mortal blow to the defence of the Caucasus. Instead of defending the lower Don-Caucasus area with 8-9 armies - one of which was guarding the border to Turkey - the Trans Caucaus Front would have to do with 3-4 armies.

When that is said and done, I wholeheartedly agree that the damage which Case Blue did to the Soviets is generally underestimated: The loss of Donbas coal was a very severe blow. The cutting of the Volga was a severe blow. Disruption of the oil-transports from the Caucasus hurt to the point where the Soviets introduced fuel restrictions in August. Loss of Ukrainian grain was a problem. That doens't mean however, that the Germans couldn´t have incflicted even greater damage.

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Qvist
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Post by Qvist » 27 Sep 2005 21:03

Hi Lars
The original question was about the chances of Case Blue. Only one goal was really the true success criteria of Case Blue as seen by Hitler and others and that was the capture of Baku. So far I´ve given my take on the question. Skipping the Voronesz operation and Sevastopol and start out by encirkling 6 Soviet armies is a radical solution - I know. But in my opinion Case Blue requires a radical fix to bring the German to Baku. Only a narrower and more focused Case Blue can do that. But like I said earlier, if anyone can bring up another credible fix to Case Blue, I genuinely like to know. I´m willing to chance my view if a better more credible scenario is shown.
Well, one can discuss that with hindsight, or without it. With hindsight, there's really only answer to the question: The Germans do not have the resources to take Baku and hold it, so they had better not try. If you presuppose that they nevertheless have to try because of Hitler's insistence, then we are talking damage control: The less ambitious the plan in terms of advance, the better. We know it is going to fail anyway, by the measure set for it. Without hindsight, you have to presuppose that there is a realistic chance for both. If so, it is natural to concern yourself with putting the advance ojn a sustainable basis. The obvious problem is the long and vulnerable left flank, and the only place where it can be anchored on anything fairly firm is the Don, which also puts your flank at a certain remove from your vital arteries. Equally, Sevastopol is a thorn in your right side that you do not want if you can avoid it - and you can. The solution you propose sort of falls between two chairs - it presupposes that it is worthwhile to try and reach Baku, but also that this is so difficult that it can only be attempted by means of huge risks and vast disregard for elementary precautions. It is not really a viable starting point either from the point of view of hindsight, or without it. In the latter case, if this was your estimation of the situation, the logical conclusion AFAICS would be to reject the feasibility of the attempt altogether.
The encirclement of 6 Soviet armies at the start of Case Blue would be a drop - though a rather large large one - in the ocean when it came to Soviet man power. However, if you look at the 600,000 number you mentioned as the Trans Caucasus front's strenght, no less than 5 armies of the later Trans Caucasus fronts armies could have been encircled at the beginning of Case Blue. In other words, a succesful encirclement battle at the beginning of Case Blue would mean that 5 armies would be missing from the historical Trans Caucasus front. This would be mortal blow to the defence of the Caucasus. Instead of defending the lower Don-Caucasus area with 8-9 armies - one of which was guarding the border to Turkey - the Trans Caucaus Front would have to do with 3-4 armies.
The question though is whether this is a worthwhile tradeoff for a perpetual Damocles sword of a left flank and 568,000 casualties not suffered by SW, Brjansk and Voronesh Front. :)
When that is said and done, I wholeheartedly agree that the damage which Case Blue did to the Soviets is generally underestimated: The loss of Donbas coal was a very severe blow. The cutting of the Volga was a severe blow. Disruption of the oil-transports from the Caucasus hurt to the point where the Soviets introduced fuel restrictions in August. Loss of Ukrainian grain was a problem. That doens't mean however, that the Germans couldn´t have incflicted even greater damage.
My point here really concerned only the Soviet military losses during the summer campaign, and the strange tendency of much analysis to speak as if the Soviet losses during this period had been light, or more hard-won for the Germans than in the previous year, which is not the case.

Anyway, thanks for bearing with me - I know from own experience what it's like to put forward a counterfactual scenario that some people seem strangely reluctant to accept.:) But these are instructive discussions for all concerned, I think.

cheers

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