KDF33 wrote:I don't think the extent of the damage the opening phase of Blau inflicted upon the Soviets is fully understood.
In July, Army Group South (and then B and A) recorded taking 400,095 prisoners, which compares quite well with the results of the previous year, given that we're talking here of a single army group. Compare with, say, July 1941, during which 701,246 prisoners were recorded captured, for the three army groups.
This success was achieved for a cost of 57,381 combat casualties, which already gives a ratio of close to 7-to-1 without even including Soviet KIA/WIA.
The extent of the damage is reflected in RKKA manpower, which fell by 776,313 men between July 1 and August 1.
Contrary to the popular image of an immediate failure, Blau actually shattered the Soviet forces facing HGS. The reason why the Soviets reconstituted their front is because Stavka reserve, by July 1, had 750,000 men on hand in 62 Infantry Divisions, 3 Cavalry Divisions and 5 Tank Corps, among assorted units. These forces were tapped during July; by 1 August there were just 23 Infantry Divisions and 2 Tank Corps left in reserve.
The Germans proved incapable to repeat the scale of their July success in August and afterwards, given the lengthening of the front and the consequent dilution of offensive power to guard the flanks; supply problems due to overextension; and the lack of a clearly-defined Schwerpunkt for the offensive.
As for the Soviets, even though they recovered balance in the ensuing months, it took them until March 1943 to regrow the RKKA to the manpower it boasted at the beginning of Blau. Simply put, the Red Army of the summer of 1942 could no longer absorb damage on a scale approaching that of 1941, which I believe suggests that a German strategy focused on attriting the Red Army, rather than capturing far-flung territorial objectives, would have substantially changed the outcome of the campaign in 1942, even the overall Soviet-German war.
If I understand the gist of your argument correctly, instead of pushing onward to the Caucasus in order to deprive the Soviet Union of one of the sources of its oil, it would have served the Germans better to maintain their own manpower reserves by engaging in a war of maneuver.