The Chances of Fall Blau 1942.

Discussions on WW2 in Eastern Europe.
César C.
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Post by César C. » 29 Sep 2005 14:39

Hello Lars
Regarding the German strategic bombing of Baku: If you have Hayward´s excellent "Stopped at Stalingrad", he does to some extent discuss this possibility. His conclusion is that there was a window for strategic bombing of the oil fields and that it should have been seized by Hitler. The window to bomb Baku closed in September however, as the Soviet air force became too strong and the German forward air fields came under attack and had to be abandoned. There is an article by Hayward on his homepage which goes more into detail.
Yes, I have Stopped at Stalingrad...actually I am re-reading it at the moment . :D In the book, Mr. Hayward already mentions in passing the idea of the "time window" for a viable strategic bombing offensive against Baku, a subject he goes on to discuss in more detail in the article available on his website.
As you see, I borrowed a lot from Hayward's in my "alternative Blau". The idea does not sound so far-fetched once you come to think about it.

Hello Qvist
Nor do I think that Hitler's insistence on the absolute neccessity of the Caucasian oil for the German war effort should be taken wholly at face value, as something that was an immediate and pressing precondition for the continued prosecution of the war. While the German war effort certainly was seriously handicapped by oil shortages, they still kept it up for 2 1/2 years after Stalingrad.
I would say Hitler was not far off the mark regarding the oil situation as a pressing precondition for the continued prosecution of a long-drawn-out, two-front war to a successful conclusion, both against and increasingly mechanized Red Army on the Eastern Front and the USAAF fighter squadrons in the skies of Western Europe and Germany. Yes, I agree Germany could survive with Ploesti and the Hungarian and Polish oilfields, as well as the synthetic oil, but not go anywhere but downhill. (not that even if Germany could bath itself in oil, she would have avoided defeat in the long run, but I guess that would be the subject of another discussion).

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Lars
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Post by Lars » 29 Sep 2005 17:53

Qvist wrote:
There are some strong indications that the forces deployed in the southern forward armies in July did not represent more than a limited part of the forces they could field in the Caucasus during the remainder of the year. These were the formations under the control of Southern and North Caucasus Fronts. On 25 July, these had 300,000 and 216,100 men respectively - not very strong.

Now, on 1 September, these Fronts were dissolved, and absorbed into the Caucasus Front. On 1 January, when the North Caucasus offensive kicked off, S Front was re-established to join C Front with a strength of 393,800, while C Front retained 685,600. Hence, the strength of the frontline forces in the Caucasus had apparently more than doubled since July, despite absorbing almost 350,000 casualties from late July on. And these do not even represent the full scale of the forces in the Caucasus - Norrth Caucasus Front was reactivated in late January, and remained in existence until November. During this period, it had an average strength of 416,000. It is conceivable that it took over command of some of SF and CF's forces, but both of these fronts have average strengths for 1943 that are even higher than their 1 January strength (and CF was dissolved in April) , so it does not seem very likely that NCF contained no considerable forces beyond these.

Hence, it would appear that the forces under command of S/NC Fronts in late July were augmented by at least a further ~ 900,000 (difference between 25 July and 1 January strengths, plus the losses suffered during the period) until the end of the year, additional forces who were either already present in the Caucasus in July (but not under the command of the armies you are talking of destroying), or were brought there during the course of the autumn. Obviously, it would be preferable to rely on a more detailed analysis of the formations in question, but even these macro figures do suggest that even the complete defeat of S and NC Fronts would not have left the Red Army with an almost bare cupboard in the Caucasus.
Qvist,

On July 25th the North Caucasus Front had 7 armies at the middle and lower Don. 5 of these could have been encircled at the opening of Case Blue. It would be a shattering blow to the defense capabilities of the North Causus Front no matter which way one looks at it.

As for the numbers game, the crucial question is when and how those reenforcements arrived. Did they arrive by train from Astrahkhan, by road, or by ship across the Caspian Sea? The thing is that the Caucasus was relatively isolated when it came to the rest of Russia once the Germans had taken Stalingrad. Even more so, if the Germans cut the Astrahkhan-Makhalakaja railorad (they never did).

With a faster, more focused Case Blue, the Caucasus would be isolated in a strategic sense by early fall. This would in turn make the whole question of the historical reenforcement figures moot.

Besides, another really interesting question is whether Zhukow would have had any luck in persuading Stalin to postpone the general Soviet attack until winter. Zhukow barely did so in the real war. If Stalingrad is taken by the Germans at the beginning of August, I believe that Stalin would pressure the Red Army into a number of premature offensives at Stalingrad and along the Don. And that would not be good news for the Red Army (though the Germans and their allies would get a number of minor shocks).

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Post by César C. » 29 Sep 2005 23:32

Michate wrote: Actually it was more along the lines "Oh, they won't dare to try that simultaneously at two places.
:) Actually, three places: Serafimovich, Kletskaya, and Beketovka.
Michate wrote:From August some of the German commanders became worried about a Soviet attack across the Don into the flank of 6th armiy (including 6th army's staff and even Hitler, after Gehlen had presented to him a map showing a similar attack executed during the Civil War). However in the subsequent months Foreign Armies East collected more and more intelligence that pointed, whether correctly interpreted or not, to a large attack against 9th army's sector at Rshev, and Gehlen predicted an encirclement operation with the pincers closing at Smolensk.

Besides the maskirovka measures to conceal the real Soviet intentions, it appears that Stavka's decision to train the newly-raised reserve divisions under "live-fire" conditions, so to speak, which led to a build-up of Soviet forces directly in front of 9th Army (a more or less quiet sector of the front), with plenty of patroling activity, had the inadvertent effect of misleading Gehlen's staff into believing that the Soviet winter offensive would be launched towards Rzhev. Be that as it may, by the beginning of November it became all too clear that the Soviets would attack in the sector of the 3rd Romanian Army.
Michate wrote:In late October and early November, when signs of a Soviet buildup at the Don bridgeheads became apparent, an attack against the Romanians and Italians holding that sector was also predicted. This however was rated as a much more limited attack than took place historically, because the Red Army was rated as too weak to attack decisively at two places. This seems to have caused even ignorance of own intelligence on behalf of Gehlen, such as identification of Soviet 5th Tank Army in the Don bridgeheads.
I agree, the Germans never expected the Soviet offensive -if it came- to take the form of two pincers striking simultaneously north and south of Stalingrad, aiming at Kalach.
It seems that AG B and 6th Army were expecting at most only a self-limited Soviet offensive on the sector of the 3rd Romanian Army, with the purpose of diverting German forces away from Stalingrad.
The ill-fated attacks against 24th PzK north of Stalingrad seem to have convinced 6th Army HQ that the Red Army was at the moment in no shape to mount a big offensive.
I guess this total lack of adequate information regarding true Soviet intentions and capabilities goes a long way to explain the lack of German reaction during the first hours of Uranus, and the delay in ordering 24th and 16th Panzer Divisions to disengage from the fighting in Stalingrad.

regards
César

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Post by Qvist » 29 Sep 2005 23:54

Hello Lars
On July 25th the North Caucasus Front had 7 armies at the middle and lower Don. 5 of these could have been encircled at the opening of Case Blue. It would be a shattering blow to the defense capabilities of the North Causus Front no matter which way one looks at it.
Yes of course, what I am questioning is that it would neccessarily have had such far-reaching consequences as you are assuming.
As for the numbers game, the crucial question is when and how those reenforcements arrived. Did they arrive by train from Astrahkhan, by road, or by ship across the Caspian Sea? The thing is that the Caucasus was relatively isolated when it came to the rest of Russia once the Germans had taken Stalingrad. Even more so, if the Germans cut the Astrahkhan-Makhalakaja railorad (they never did). With a faster, more focused Case Blue, the Caucasus would be isolated in a strategic sense by early fall. This would in turn make the whole question of the historical reenforcement figures moot.
You are assuming far too much. Yes, I agree that it is important when and from where these forces were brought in. But there is so far no basis for assuming that these were all, or for that matter predominantly, forces brought in later from outside the Caucasus, or brought in so late that even a speedy German advance to Stalingrad and the Astrakhan railway would have prevented it. There were very considerable forces present in the Caucasus region that were not part of of these Fronts in July, and it seems more than likely that a significant portion of the strength increase emanated from these. Apart from anything else, the Trans-Caucasus Military District contained very numerous forces deployed on the Turkish border. And of course, in the case of a shattering early defeat of NC Front, that would just have been so much more an incentive to reinforce the Caucasus more strongly and quickly than historically, which the Germans could not have prevented at this stage. My point here is that there are plenty of warning signs against assuming that an early destruction of the bulk of North Caucasus Front's forces would neccessarily mean the collapse of Red Army strength in the region within a context of the next few months.
Besides, another really interesting question is whether Zhukow would have had any luck in persuading Stalin to postpone the general Soviet attack until winter. Zhukow barely did so in the real war. If Stalingrad is taken by the Germans at the beginning of August, I believe that Stalin would pressure the Red Army into a number of premature offensives at Stalingrad and along the Don. And that would not be good news for the Red Army (though the Germans and their allies would get a number of minor shocks).
Sorry Lars, but this is really little more than speculation.

cheers

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Post by Michate » 30 Sep 2005 07:01

Actually, three places: Serafimovich, Kletskaya, and Beketovka.
You are correct, I had in mind the big picture (Rzhev and Stalingrad) however.
Besides the maskirovka measures to conceal the real Soviet intentions, it appears that Stavka's decision to train the newly-raised reserve divisions under "live-fire" conditions, so to speak, which led to a build-up of Soviet forces directly in front of 9th Army (a more or less quiet sector of the front), with plenty of patroling activity, had the inadvertent effect of misleading Gehlen's staff into believing that the Soviet winter offensive would be launched towards Rzhev. Be that as it may, by the beginning of November it became all too clear that the Soviets would attack in the sector of the 3rd Romanian Army.
I think it was something more than just live-fire training. The Soviets had attacked in some force at Rzhev in August and the build-up in autumn was real. And if Mars was a diversion, then one of the strongest ever executed, so there is still some dispute about the intentions behind it. FWIW, both Gehlen and Heusinger still rated Mars as a stronger attack than Uranus in the 70's.
It seems that AG B and 6th Army were expecting at most only a self-limited Soviet offensive on the sector of the 3rd Romanian Army, with the purpose of diverting German forces away from Stalingrad.
The ill-fated attacks against 24th PzK north of Stalingrad seem to have convinced 6th Army HQ that the Red Army was at the moment in no shape to mount a big offensive.
This was definitely true for OKH and Foreign Armies East, but 6th army and AG B may have expected something more than just a diversion.
At least Schmidt, 6th army's chief of staff had triggered some contigency planning for an encirclement of his army already in October.
I guess this total lack of adequate information regarding true Soviet intentions and capabilities goes a long way to explain the lack of German reaction during the first hours of Uranus, and the delay in ordering 24th and 16th Panzer Divisions to disengage from the fighting in Stalingrad.
I think it was less the lack of adequate information, as the Soviet build-up was noticed quite accurately, it was more the reluctance of higher commands to accept information that did not fit their preconceptions.

Regards,
Michate

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Lars
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Post by Lars » 30 Sep 2005 10:11

Qvist,

There were probably significant forces to the south of the Caucasus, though from what I know only one Soviet army was guarding the Turkish border at this time (either the 44th or the 46th army, I do´have my books with me right now). Plenty of people lived in Georgia and Azerbaijahn so there´s no reason to think that the Soviets couldn´t have scraped the manpower barrel further, if the North Caucasus Front had to do without 5 of its 7 armies. The question is the quality of these forces, their training, motivation and equipment. Soviet troops from the south of the Caucasus were considered unreliable by the Soviets as they surrendered too quickly for Soviet taste, especially when the Germans were advancing. The same went for the Muslims (which were partly from the same area (South Caucasus).

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Lars
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Post by Lars » 30 Sep 2005 10:24

Qvist wrote:
Besides, another really interesting question is whether Zhukow would have had any luck in persuading Stalin to postpone the general Soviet attack until winter. Zhukow barely did so in the real war. If Stalingrad is taken by the Germans at the beginning of August, I believe that Stalin would pressure the Red Army into a number of premature offensives at Stalingrad and along the Don. And that would not be good news for the Red Army (though the Germans and their allies would get a number of minor shocks).
Sorry Lars, but this is really little more than speculation.

cheers
Qvist,

Oh yes, but it is also speculation that Stalin would have reacted in the same way - be persuaded to hold back the attack until November -under very different strategic circumstances. If Stalingrad is taken early by the Germans and it looks as if the Caucasus and the oil will fall into German hands, what makes you think that Zhukow would get lucky again and persuade Stalin to hold back until November?

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Post by Lars » 03 Oct 2005 12:51

César C. wrote: So for the campaign of 1942, Hitler, failing to get to Baku, had to achieve two things:
a) Make the Volga unsafe for navigation. For that, he had to reach the Volga at Astrakhan or at the very least at Stalingrad, and then start shelling anything that moved upriver or downriver.
b) Establish a firm foothold north of the Caucasus mountains north of the Terek river, setting up airfields from where He-111s and Ju-88s could deliver non-stop bombing strikes against Grozny, the Caspian sea traffic, and even Baku itself. (As the USAAF bombing campaign against the synthetic plants in Germany later in the war demonstrated, bombing refineries and oilfields with success is not beyond the real capabilities of a bombing force).

Operations: That could probably have been done, IF:
(1) Fourth Panzer Army, having reached the Don at Tsymiliansk on July 17, was immediately sent northwards instead of letting it cross the Don and continue its drive into the Caucasus. That way, it could have supported Paulus' advance to Stalingrad, a city that with aid of Hoth's panzers could have been reached before the end of July and taken by the infantry of Sixth Army by the middle of August, if not before.
The Volga is cut, Fourth Pz Army panzer and motorized divisions constitute a mobile reserve in the Don bend, and Sixth Army can take up positions along the banks of the Don.

(2) First Pz Army and 17th Army advanced rapidly southwards with the help of VIII and IV Fliegerkorps, crossing the Kuban and taking Novorosiisk, Maikop (damaged), Voroshilovsk, Armavir and reaching the Terek, all during the first two weeks of August.
At that point, mountain passes turn out to be very well defended and the offensive comes to a stop. No problem. The German, Italian, and Rumanian mountain divisions seal off the Caucasus passes and stay where they are. First Pz Army stays behind the Terek, as the logistical problems do not allow it to advance any further.

(3) Then it is the turn of the Luftwaffe: Fliegerkorps VIII and IV, reinforced by Luftwaffenkommando Ost, if possible, start to do in August what historically they did only in October, when it was very late, as there were not enough bombers for the task and the VVS presence had become much stronger: a strategic bombing campaign against Grozny and Baku.

Conclusions:
* By the beginning of September, the Germans have consolidated their position on the banks of the Volga at Stalingrad (they start perhaps to think about taking Astrakahan before winter sets in.) The Volga is cut to all naval traffic. The Sixth Army and Fourth Pz Army stand prepared against any possible Soviet offensive along the Don.
*The frontline in the South is fixed: in the West, the Caucasus mountain passes, in the East, the river Terek. The Luftwaffe, flying from bases around Voroshilovsk, Armavir and Maikop, destroys the oilfields at Baku, the refineries at Grozny, and closes the Caspian to all naval traffic.

Come November 1942 the Soviets have lost the Caucasus oil and are not sure about launching an offensive across the Don. They have not lost the war, but the campaign of 1943 will more likely be defensive in nature, at least until the British can begin sending sufficient oil to the USSR from the Gulf via Persia.
Cesar,

Your alternate Case Blue is certainly more operationally sound than the original Case Blue, especially when the limited Axis capabilities are taken into consideration. I have a comment regarding the Joel Hayward inspired bombing campaign of Baku, though.

Joel Hayward stresses that the window of uppertunity to bomb Baku closed by early September. The forward airfields were not conquered before early August. And the fighting around Maikop even continued for weeks after its capture on August 8(?)th.

Bacially, you have a month to fly in the bombers to the forward airfields. Then stack supplies like bombs, crew, fuel, etc. Fly in additional bombers from AGC like Hayward proposes. Bomb the crap out of Baku until early September, and this all while AGA and AGB are crying out for close air-support and air lifted supplies, and AGC prays that the next Soviet attack doesn´t occur while its bombers are away bombing Baku 8O

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Post by César C. » 08 Oct 2005 17:54

Lars wrote: Your alternate Case Blue is certainly more operationally sound than the original Case Blue, especially when the limited Axis capabilities are taken into consideration. I have a comment regarding the Joel Hayward inspired bombing campaign of Baku, though.

Joel Hayward stresses that the window of uppertunity to bomb Baku closed by early September. The forward airfields were not conquered before early August. And the fighting around Maikop even continued for weeks after its capture on August 8(?)th.

Bacially, you have a month to fly in the bombers to the forward airfields. Then stack supplies like bombs, crew, fuel, etc. Fly in additional bombers from AGC like Hayward proposes. Bomb the crap out of Baku until early September, and this all while AGA and AGB are crying out for close air-support and air lifted supplies, and AGC prays that the next Soviet attack doesn´t occur while its bombers are away bombing Baku 8O
Hi Lars.
Your reference to the lack of time for the bombing campaign is entirely valid.
As I understand, the window of opportunity brought forward by Mr. Hayward is based mostly on two elements:
1) the availability of serviceable bombers for the campaign, which by the end of September was too low to have significant results
2) the strength of the Soviet air defenses in the Baku area, which had grown considerably by the beginning of October.

In the "what-if" scenario I proposed, things would -I would guess- come out differently.
1- the dramatic fall in total number of bombers and in the percentage of serviceable aircraft was caused mainly by the attrition suffered by the Luftwaffe during its operations against Stalingrad, in support of Sixth Army's struggle to clear the entire city of Soviet troops.
Since the above-mentioned scenario contemplates that Sixth Army and Fourth Panzer Army reach Stalingrad by the end of July, and take it rapidly in a coûp de main, the Luftwaffe would have been spared the attrition suffered as a result of its bombing missions against the city, the ports, and the river traffic during July-October.
That also means that A.G. "B", having its mission fulfilled, just stands on the defensive, waiting for the Soviet offensive across the Don to materialize. Since this offensive will come only in November, A.G. "B" wouldn't really have been crying neither for close-air support nor for airlifted supplies until then.
The close-air support needed by A.G. "A" would have been provided by the Stuka wings, leaving the Bomber wings ready for the campaign against Baku.
2- The ability of the Luftwaffe to reorganize and shift its forces from one area to another is shown by the impressively quick response to Timoshenko's May offensive against Kharkov, where most of the Luftwaffe assets operating against Sevastopol were quickly sent north to support Paulus and Hoth.

As for A.G. "Center", they would have to do with fighter cover for the time being.

Anyway, as you see this is just imagination at work. Many unpredictable and unforeseen events had to happen along the way. But I guess this is the best alternative Blau I can come up (basically following Hayward) considering the inability of the Wehrmacht to reach Baku by land.

Best Regards,

César

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Post by cpa95 » 20 Jul 2006 17:15

Hi,

by collecting maps i have found a strange subject:

in July 1942 german troops crossed the Don near Rostov in the southern direction. A typical map:
http://www.dean.usma.edu/history/web03/ ... p%2022.htm
Heeresgruppe Süd was divided in the parts HG A and HG B.

The operations of HG A were ordered in the Caucasus direction, and later the german troops had cut through the railway line STALINGRAD-KRASNODAR. The german expectation was, that the russian side could not longer move troops to supply the Caucasus front, because there might be no railway line EAST of Maikop. So the rest of the russian troopps north of the Causasus, battled by Rostov, should be pursued without greater risks. I think, in July 1942 this had been an important point of the german plans. And the origin plan for the summer offensive had ordered, to bring the Volga near Stalingrad under full german control to cut off supplies to the south.

On 20.8./21.8.1941 the war diary of OKW and the war diary of Halder stated with surprise, that a russian railway line (SARATOV-)ASTRACHAN-MOSDOK is operational. So the russian side was still able to carry troops to the Caucasus front (some days before the railway was reported as "under construction"). Small units of 16. ID mot. came to the nearness of the railway line, but they could not cut her off. A few days later, OKH ordered to bomb the railway line. In September the front of HG A was nearly fixed in the Caucasus.

Image
(printed after the war in "Der Große Vaterländische Krieg der Sowjetunion 1941-1945")

This map is similiar to OKH-Heereskarten (maps) printed SINCE August 1942, and it is different to maps printed bevor August 1942, concerning to the railway line.

Are there more informations to this topic?
Greetings
Thomas

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Lars
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Post by Lars » 21 Jul 2006 16:07

There used to ba an exempt from a Paul Carrel book about the 16th ID (mot) long range patrol to this railroad in September 1942, but I can´t find it now. The long range patrol takes a Soviet rail-road crossing, shoots up a very large oil transporting train coming up from Baku, but then suddently the telephone rings 8O It is the railroad central in Astrakhan asking if it ok to send a train south. The Germans try to get the Soviets to send another train but the Astrakhanis suspect a trap and alterts the Red Army. Then the Germans leave.

The reason why the Germans didn´t discover this railroad earlier is twofold: 1/ The railroad was only completed in the late sping of 1942; AFAIR, and 2/ The usual crappy German strategic air reconnaince (as opposed to their tactical air recon).

It was idiotic of the Germans not to try to cut the rail-road. They could have done so though they were at the end of their supply lines. The railroad carried oil north to Astrakhan one way and reenforcements to the Soviet Caucasus armies in the south. But in the western Caucasus Hitler focused only on Grozny.

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Post by cpa95 » 21 Jul 2006 16:37

Hi Lars,

from Kriegsgeschichte der Windhund-Division (16.ID mot.), p. D 1290: 8.8.1942 Beschreibung des Kaukasusgebietes,
No.6 Railways: Batum-Rostow, Coastal Railway Black Sea, Tans-Caucasian Railway Baku-Tiflis-Btum

Division Order 24.8., under No. 1: much traffic on the railway Astrachan - to the south (???), expected in the direction Jenotajewsk.

p. 1324: The railway line Astrachan-Baku was discoverd, because a lot of unexspected russian troops appeared at the Terek. Then airborne reconnaissance was ordered.
p. 1325: A task force under Leutnant Gottlieb had to cut off the railway line, later a task force unter Rittmsiter Schlieb. They were supplied for 14 days, moved over a distance of 500 km (300 km aerial distance). The unit stood also at the beach of "Kaspisches Meer". The destroying of one train is reported (p. D 1339, 1353).

4 Me109 of JG 3 were operating in the aerea of 16. ID. They should destroy trains on the railway line Astrachan-Baku (p. D 1370). They reported, that damages on the railway line were soon repaired.

Greetings
Thomas

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Re: The Chances of Fall Blau 1942.

Post by Entschuldigung » 08 Oct 2019 09:25

I believe that had all the objectives of Fall Blau been achieved (those being the capture of Voronezh, Stalingrad, Astrakhan, and the oilfields of Maykop and Grozny - I don't believe Baku was necessary) would have simply prolonged the war in the East.

Here's why:

Although shipments of materiel via Lend-Lease over the Caspian and into Astrakhan would have been disrupted, no doubt another route would have been quickly established further East (keeping in mind Russia is still receiving supplies via the Arctic Convoy's into Murmansk due to the failure of operation Silver Fox, and is therefore not completely starved of oil as suggested but certainly deprived of sufficient quantities to slow down production, operational capabilities for at least 6 months).

Also, even if the Wehrmacht had conquered the area required (roughly the size of France) the number of garrison troops required would have left some sectors of the front still vulnerable to an operation Uranus type offensive...Furthermore, the oilfields of Maykop and Grozny have been sabotaged, and take at least two months to repair and get up and running.

The best possible scenario for the Wehrmacht in succeeding with Fall Blau is that it gives them valuable breathing space. It buys them at best 6 months of time in which to retain the initiative, though more importantly is how the Soviet Union reacts.
If the success of the Wehrmacht campaign shatters Red Army morale an armistice may have been sought, though unlikely. More importantly, is how the Western Allies view the overall strategic picture in Europe and whether opening a second front is now viable given Hitler has attained enough resources to wage war almost indefinitely.

If the U.S decides that Europe is lost, it may still support the British in North Africa so as to secure the oil of the Middle East, but refuse to commit to a European invasion which leaves Germany in a possible 'North Korean' type situation - isolationist and too dangerous to attack.

Much like in 'Fatherland' guerilla fighting or small skirmishes continue on the Eastern Front continuously.

I love this topic so immensely because so much could have resulted from what was potentially a winnable campaign, yet we'll never know if it would have been the decisive turning point for the Germans as much as it was for the Allies due to its failure.

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