One of the reasons Hitler attacked Russia in 1941 was to get the mineral-rich Caucasus region in the Soviet Union. How far did the German army penetrate into the region? And why couldn't it go further?
April 5th: Hitler orders plans for the execution of Fall Blau (Operation Blue), the new summer offensive on the southern front in the East, designed to reach the Volga, as well as to capture the Caucasus oilfields
Stalingrad. That is the reason why Von Kleist's Ist Panzer Division could not go further onto Baku and occupy the rest of Russia in the Caucasus.
Hitler obsessed with Stalingrad drained away men and supplies from there and poured it into Stalingrad. So the German advance stopped at Nalchik and Mozdok.
In conclusion; it was all about oil after all....
“The war was decided by engines and octane.” – Joseph Stalin
“Above all, petrol governed every movement.” – Winston Churchill
German advance to the Caucasus and Stalingrad. July 24, 1942 to November 18, 1942 ( CLICK TO ENLARGE MAP) Source
VIDEO: BATTLE FOR NOVORSSIYSK OCTOBER 1942 (German Newsreel)
OPERATION 'FALL BLAU' (CASE BLUE): HITLER'S BLUNDER?
HOW FAR DID THE GERMANS GO IN THE CAUCASUS?
POINT TO PONDER: CASE BLUE
GERMANY'S QUEST FOR OIL: HENCE THE BATTLE IN THE CAUCASUS
INTERESTING SIDELIGHTS: WHO WERE HILFSWILLIGERS (HIWIS)?
- First: Soldiers mobilized by German troops, so-called Cossack sections, attached to German divisions.
- Second: Voluntary Assistants (Hilfswillige) - Local civilians or Russian prisoners who volunteer or Red Army soldiers who desert to join the Germans. These wear full German uniform with their own ranks and badges. They eat like German soldiers and they are attached to German regiments.
- Third: Russian prisoners doing the dirty jobs, kitchens, stables and so on. The categories are treated differently, volunteers treated best."
GERMAN DREAMS IN THE CAUCASUS
It would relieve the shortage of petroleum products which was hampering the German armored forces, hindering the German navy, and immobilizing the Italian navy even as it made Germany dangerously vulnerable to the effects of any air attacks on her synthetic oil works and the Romanian oil wells.
Secondly, the converse of this was, of course, that of depriving the Soviet Union of a very high proportion of its oil resources. Even if her allies could replace some of this, it would necessarily be at the expense of other weapons and supplies they could have sent instead.
Finally, a German force in the Caucasus would be poised for an operation the following year into Iraq and Iran from the north, collapsing the Allied position in the Middle East, turning that region's oil resources from Allied control to the Axis, offering a real opportunity for a meeting with the Japanese and in any case severing the southern supply route of the Western Allies to the Soviet Union.
The fact that along the road to such splendid prospects the Germans would seize those portions of the important industrial region of the Donets basin still under Soviet control, as well as the rich agricultural region of the north Caucasus, only made this whole direction more inviting, even mouth-watering.
CAUCASIAN OIL AND STALINGRAD
That was an ill-considered move, however, in that it certainly doomed the Soviet Union to German attack. Most of Hitler’s crude oil came from the Romanian fields at Ploesti, and Stalin’s border land grab on that nation thus put the Red Army uncomfortably close to critical German supply lines. It was at that point Hitler irreversibly committed his nation to an invasion.
In a postwar interrogation, Hans Kolbe, a U.S. spy in the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin, offered this assessment: “The German need to obtain Soviet oil was deemed the primary reason for the attack. Since the Soviet deliveries were insufficient to satisfy German needs for bringing the war [in the west] to a conclusion, the only recourse appeared to be the seizure and exploitation by the Germans of the oil resources of the Soviet Union.” Of course, Hitler had political and military objectives in his invasion as well, namely the destruction of the Soviet regime and the Red Army. Those objectives came into conflict with the need for oil once the attack began. In his directive of 21 August 1941, Hitler showed clearly what he saw as the critical goal of the invasion: “The most important aim to be reached before the onset of winter is not to capture Moscow, but to seize the Crimea and the industrial and coal region on the Donets, and cut off the Russian oil supply from the Caucasus area.”
That latter area was the one from which flowed 84 percent of the oil produced in the entire Soviet Union. An amazing 72 percent flowed from around Baku alone, the rest from the smaller complexes at Maikop and Grozny. During the second year of operations in the east, those fields became the primary targets of the German army and the greatly expanded Technical Oil Brigade.
That still was not the limit of Hitler’s ambitions. Had he won the war on the eastern front, his next big operation would undoubtedly have been one aimed at gaining the oil of the Middle East through pincer attacks launched from the Caucasus and the Balkans, then linking up with the Afrika Korps driving up through Palestine. It was a grandiose scheme, but with the Soviets out of the way it might well have succeeded. Fortunately, though, the next Axis oil paradox came into play before Hitler had any chance to begin such a move.
By the early fall, Maikop was in German hands, and by December oil was once again flowing from it, despite vigorous efforts by Soviet partisans and saboteurs. But Army Group A never reached Grozny or Baku. Hitler lost sight of his material goal and instead fastened on one of only symbolic importance – Stalingrad. He transferred eight divisions from Army Group A to B, and with its drive thus weakened, A was unable to break into the mountains. Neither could it resist the Soviet counterattack when it came, and Maikop had to be given up on 18 January 1943.
A campaign that was supposed to have lasted only weeks had stretched into months, then years. Fully half of Germany’s oil reserves were poured into the eastern front. At the start of the 1942 drive, Hitler said, “If I do not get the oil of Maikop and Grozny, then I must end the war.” He should have taken his own advice.
he Caucasus and the Oil, The German-Soviet War in the Caucasus 1942/43
The author begins his narrative by describing the importance and natural wealth of the region. Besides the wealth, the region had access to the Black Sea and eventually the Med. It was also close to Turkey, Iraq, and Iran and a way to reach Egypt from the east. Controlling this region would also stop US supplies from reaching the Soviets. It held great importance to the Soviets but also to Hitler. If Hitler had followed his original Operation Blue plans, he might have taken the Caucasus but as it was, he didn't come close to reaching his main objective of Baku.
The main tactical coverage begins in July 1942 when 1st PzA and 17th Army launch from the Don River and will work its way to October 1943 with the liberation of Novorossiisk and the Taman Peninsula and the evacuation of 17th Army from the Kuban. The coverage includes the battles on the steppes, in the mountains, along the key rivers and along the Black Sea and into the Crimea. Some of the battles covered are Rostov, Bataisk, Salsk, Armavir, Tikhoretsk, Novorossiisk, Modok, Tuapse, Nalchik. It also covers well the crossings of the Manych, Kuban, Terek Rivers and even includes several small engagements on the Black Sea.
If the Germans had captured and held the Caucasus, the war could have evolved much differently but after reading this book, Hitler never had a real chance to capture this region; he just didn't have the resources and it was too far away.
The author presents a daily tactical / operational reconstruction of the battles of troop movements, cities captured, rivers crossed; there is little first person accounts. The level of detail on the German side was quite impressive; often times drilling down to battalion level or lower. With this type of detail, the reading is sometimes laborious for the casual reader but you do get a better understanding of the events. The author not only presents a clear understanding of the individual battles in the region but also shows how the losses Germany suffered here will impact on the rest of the war. This book is for the serious student of WWII who clearly wants to know as much as possible of this overlooked theater.
In addition to the narrative, the author provides many hand drawn maps. They're a little crude but effective and will help the reader follow the action. There are also photos of German officers and battle scenes and an appendix but no footnotes, bibliography or index.
This is not an exciting story but there is a good opportunity for tacticians to study this campaign from the wealth of information presented. There is also a second book that is equally good by Marshall Grechko who participated with the 12th Army in the campaign. He gives a Russian-centric view of the war and between the two books, the reader will have an excellent understanding of the events.
This book by Wilhelm Tieke and Andrei Grechko's "Battle for the Caucasus" are two excellent full length tactical books of this important theater and are highly recommended.