OPERATION BLAU

DIRECTIVE NO 41: 5th APRIL 1942

There can be no doubt that Hitler himself conceived the plan for the German summer offensive. In addition to designating the principal objectives, he plotted most of the details and even went so far as to dictate the text. His self-confidence as military leader had greatly risen since he had overcome the winter crisis without abandoning a major part of Germany’s territorial gains in Russia. In his recently acquired position of commander in chief of the Army he seemed less than ever disposed to listen to his advisers. Whereas the plans for Operation BARBAROSSA had been prepared according to German General Staff procedures, those for Operation SIEGFRIED—the summer offensive of 1942—were drafted by General Halder and his immediate assistants according to detailed instructions received from Hitler who dictated the final version. In so doing, the Führer completely rewrote Directive No. 41, adding very important parts pertaining to the conduct of operations in particular. At the same time the code designation SIEGFRIED was changed to BLAU, and Hitler specified that the services be given separate instructions regarding the maintenance of secrecy and the scope of strategic propaganda directed at the Caucasus area.

DIFFERENT CONCEPTS OF STRATEGY

According to the postwar conclusions of Generals Halder, Heinrici, etc., the German summer offensive should never have been launched. The German Army had emerged greatly weakened from the ordeal of the winter 1941- 42. It had no strategic reserves. To concentrate the essential forces for a large-scale offensive, wide sectors of the Russian front had to be stripped of all their local reserves. Even though the Russians were equally weak by spring 1942, they had manpower reserves and natural resources that were not available to the Axis Powers.

In Halder’s opinion the appropriate German strategy for the summer of 1942 would have been to stabilize the front, eliminate the numerous Russian salients and dents in the German lines, and shorten the front line to save personnel. While using active defense tactics at the front, the German Army could have reorganized and refitted for an offensive to be launched at the first favorable opportunity.

Hitler, however, was adverse to any such delay in the continuation of the offensive. In his opinion the Russians had been hard hit during their winter onslaught, and if given time, would get back on their feet. He doubted whether the German Army would be in a more favorable position in 1943 than in 1942. Also, Germany would have to seek a decision in Russia that year, because the Allies might attempt an invasion of western Europe in 1943. While direct and indirect United States aid to Britain and Soviet Russia was steadily increasing, Italy’s military and economic power was gradually deteriorating. The crushing blows suffered by the Italian armed forces in the African and Mediterranean theaters had affected the staying power of Germany’s principal ally in Europe. Moreover, by adopting a defensive strategy, Germany would lose face with Japan and the neutral powers. Finally, Hitler believed that a dictatorship, to maintain itself, had to produce an incessant stream of successes. An offensive in 1942 would be all the more necessary because, with the military-economic situation steadily growing worse since the start of the Russian campaign, time was working against Germany.

DIFFERENCES OVER THE CHOICE OF OBJECTIVE

The original objective of the campaign against the Soviet Union was “to eradicate the remaining Russian military potential and deprive the Soviets of the resources on which their economy was still based.” The experience of 1941 indicated that this objective could not be attained unless the Russians were prevented from withdrawing. Halder at the time asserted that this would be extremely difficult in the south, where the Russians could afford to trade space for time without suffering a decisive defeat.

The situation could have been different in the center, where the Russian capital was still within German reach. A deep enveloping sweep launched from the Voronezh-Orel region to points east and northeast of Moscow would have had a telling effect. There was little doubt that the Russians would again have summoned all their strength to defend their capital as they had done during the preceding winter. An offensive in this area would therefore have given the Germans a far better chance to deal the Soviets a knockout blow than an operation in the south.

The German offensive in 1942 was, however, launched in the south because Hitler felt that a decisive victory could be won in southern Russia. Germany’s growing shortage of strategic materials influenced the Führer’s thinking so much that he became convinced the Soviets were suffering from similar handicaps after having lost so many rich provinces to the Germans. He argued that if their vital oil supply from the Caucasus was threatened, they would use all their remaining manpower and materiel for its defense. Another factor was that possession of this oil would be of greater importance to the German war effort than anything Moscow had to offer.

According to the postwar writings of General Halder and his associates, Hitler’s decision to launch an offensive in the summer of 1942 in the southern part of the Russian theater was at best a doubtful gamble. His objective could have been obtained only if the Russians had committed the bulk of the Red Army in the Don bend and if the Germans had succeeded in cutting off and destroying these Soviet forces.

Hitler’s directive was issued on 5th April 1942. It read essentially as follows:

A INTRODUCTION

The winter battles in Russia were approaching their end and the Germans had won a “defensive success of unequalled magnitude.” The Russians had suffered extremely heavy losses and used up the reserves they had earmarked for subsequent operations.

As soon as weather and terrain conditions permitted, the Germans would regain the initiative so that they could eradicate the remaining Russian military potential and deprive the Soviets of the resources on which their economy was still based. All available forces of Germany and its allies were to be employed for this purpose, taking into account that the occupied territories in northern and western Europe, and especially their coast lines, had to be safeguarded.

B OVERALL PLAN FOR THE RUSSIAN THEATRE

While Army Group North was to seize Leningrad and establish contact with the Finns, Army Group Center was to hold. In the south, German attack forces were to penetrate into the Caucasus. To attain the latter objective, the Army would have to proceed by phase lines. In planning the conduct of this offensive factors to be considered were the course of the front lines along which the winter fighting would be brought to a conclusion and the availability of manpower, equipment, and transportation.

All available forces would have to be concentrated for the principal operation in the south in order to first destroy the enemy forces in the Don bend, then seize the oil resources of the Caucasus, and finally cross the Caucasus mountain ranges. The Leningrad operation was to be made contingent upon developments in the overall situation.

C CONDUCT OF OPERATIONS

As a first step toward accomplishing these missions, the Army was to consolidate its position along the entire Russian front. That would require a number of limited objective attacks which would have to be conducted with maximum power to assure local superiority and rapid success, and to strengthen the German troops’ self-confidence.

Once this consolidation had been achieved, the Kerch Peninsula would have to be cleared and Sevastopol captured. During these preliminary operations the Luftwaffe and Navy were to disrupt Russian communications in the Black Sea. Moreover, the Russian forces that had dented the German lines at Izyum would have to be cut off along the Donets and destroyed.

After these preliminary operations the Army was to launch the Caucasus offensive proper. During the initial phases the Russian forces south of Voronezh and west and north of the Don would have to he destroyed. Since the divisions available for this operation could not detrain and assemble simultaneously, the offensive would have to be executed by consecutive phases that were to complement one another. The delivery of individual attacks in different parts of the theater would have to be so coordinated that maximum power could be developed at the right time at the decisive point.

Encirclements of Russian forces resulting from German breakthroughs and envelopments would have to be tight; the enveloping forces would have to avoid any delay that would offer the Soviets an opportunity to escape. While movements were underway, the armored and motorized infantry units were to avoid losing contact with the infantry divisions; whenever the latter were unable to make headway, motorized elements were to lend them support.

The offensive was to start with a breakthrough from the area south of Orel in the direction of Voronezh. Two enveloping forces were to seize Voronezh. During the second phase, while some of the infantry divisions established a strong defensive line from Orel to Voronezh.

THE PARTICIPATION OF GERMANY’S ALLIES

During the summer of 1942 Germany’s allies were to play a much more significant part in the Russian theater than heretofore. In an effort to intensify their participation in the struggle against the Soviet Union, Keitel had visited Hungary and Romania during the preceding winter and Hitler had made a personal appeal to Mussolini. The Armed Forces High Command was to provide all the weapons and equipment it could spare for the allied contingents. The political differences were to be partly overcome by interspersing Italian corps or armies between Hungarian and Romanian ones. In compliance with requests received from Germany’s allies, Hitler on 15th April ordered national units to fight under the command of their own army or at least corps headquarters. This decision was to cost the Germans dearly when their allies collapsed along the Don front under the blows of the Russian counteroffensive.

To ascertain smooth cooperation at different levels of command, the German Army organized a number of liaison staffs to be attached to allied division, corps, and army headquarters. Hitler showed his continued anxiety over the morale of the allied troops a few weeks later, when he stated that Italian and other allied military achievements should be given proper credit in German news releases. Fanatical loyalty on the part of the Germans would in turn inspire their allies with similar feelings.

The Germans counted on the assistance of the following allied forces:

On the other hand, Hitler was unable to satisfy the requests of Generaloberst (Gen.) Erwin Rommel after his meeting with Mussolini at the beginning of April 1942. No motorized army artillery and engineer units could be made available for the North African theater before the successful conclusion of the Caucasus offensive in the autumn of 1942. By June, however, Rommel’s advance into armored and motorized divisions were to continue their southeastward drive along the Don, performing another double envelopment in conjunction with forces thrusting eastward from the Kharkov area.

During the third phase of the offensive the forces following the course of the Don were to link up near Stalingrad with those advancing eastward from the Taganrog area. Every attempt was to be made to seize Stalingrad or at least bring the city within reach of German artillery so that the Soviets would be deprived of its production and transportation facilities. Subsequent operations would be greatly facilitated if the bridges at Rostov could be seized intact and bridgeheads could be established south of the Don.

The German attack force on the right advancing eastward from Taganrog was to be reinforced with armored and motorized divisions in order to prevent major Russian elements from escaping across the Don. Defensive positions would have to be built along the Don while the advance was in progress. These positions would have to be amply provided with antitank guns and so constructed that, if necessary, they could be of service during the winter. Allied forces, supported by German troops, would have to man these positions, and German divisions would have to serve as strategic reserves behind the Don front.

Because of the advanced season the movements across the Don toward the south would have to be so timed that the Caucasus could be reached without major stoppage.

D THE LUFTWAFFE

Apart from giving direct support to the ground forces, the Luftwaffe was to protect the concentration of forces in the Army Group South area by strengthening the antiaircraft defense, particularly those of the Dnieper railway bridges. In the event that reconnaissance information should indicate the assembly of Russian attack forces, the Luftwaffe would have to disrupt Soviet lines of communications and above all destroy the railroad bridges across the Don.

E THE NAVY

In the Black Sea the Navy’s main function was to carry out naval transports. Since the Russian Black Sea fleet had so far not been affected by military events, German naval vessels transferred to these waters would have to be prepared for combat without delay. The Russian Baltic fleet was to be neutralized in the Gulf of Finland.

Special security precautions were to be taken, which—together with strategic propaganda—were the subject of instructions issued simultaneously. The number of persons initiated in the plan for the summer offensive was to be held to a minimum; conversations about possible operations were strictly forbidden; no long-distance calls discussing preparations were to be made beyond army group, air force, and VIII Air Corps. All orders and messages were to be forwarded by courier in writing, and differences of opinion were to be cleared up in personal conferences or through an exchange of coded messages. Germany’s allies were to be informed of only the most essential facts.

Strategic propaganda was to be directed at the Caucasian tribes – independence was to be promised. Liaison officers were to be attached to allied propaganda agencies to guarantee adherence to German policies.

This directive leaves no doubt that Hitler’s principal objective for the summer offensive of 1942 was the possession of the Caucasus and its oil resources The shortage of combat troops and the precariousness of the transportation network made it necessary to place great emphasis on the preliminary operations, whereas the main drive toward the Caucasus was outlined only in its initial phase—the seizure of bridgeheads across the Don. More specific orders for a Caucasus operation were not issued until 23rd July 1942, when the operation was in full swing and Hitler signed Directive No. 45. At the time Directive No. 41 was written, no basic conflict between the eastward thrust toward Stalingrad and the southward drive into the Caucasus was anticipated. Like Voronezh, for instance, Stalingrad was to be a stepping stone along the approach road toward the Caucasus. In the Führer’s mind, however, the desire to conquer the city on the Volga by house-to-house fighting gradually became a fixation. This was all the more difficult to understand because in 1941 he had rejected any direct attack on Leningrad and Moscow. The diversion of more and more forces toward Stalingrad was made to the detriment of the principal drive into the Caucasus, and eventually both efforts were to bog down for lack of strength.

ESTIMATES, DELAYS AND DISAPPOINTMENTS: APRIL 1942

INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE

Despite the bitter experiences of the winter 1941-42, the Germans continued to underestimate their Russian opponent. According to an estimate submitted by the Eastern Intelligence Division on 10th April 1942, the Red Army had been greatly affected by the winter fighting. Newly activated units showed deficiencies in training, weapons, and equipment. Not only was there a shortage of manpower, but the limitations imposed by the loss of armament production capacity would hamper the further activation of armored units.

In 1942 the Russians would limit themselves to defensive operations, possibly interrupted by intermittent limited-objective offensives to harass the Germans. Being aware of the German plans for an offensive in the southeast, the Russians could be expected to use every means at their disposal to maintain their lines of communications with the Caucasus. As yet there was no indication that the Russians intended to launch a spoiling attack in the south. In the center they would try to consolidate the defense system around Moscow, whereas in the north the relief of Leningrad would probably be given top priority.

Few Russian units appeared to be at full combat efficiency. While the activation of new rifle divisions was feasible, that of armored divisions seemed no longer possible. Steel production was the bottleneck. No major Russian offensive was to be expected in the foreseeable future. The bulk of the Soviet forces would probably be massed in the south.

Making these ideas his own, Halder reported to Hitler that the great number of Russian divisions identified since November 1941 seemed to indicate that the Red Army had mobilized all its manpower resources and had used up a major part of them during the winter offensive.

DELAY IN THE PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS

On 16th April Generaloberst (Gen.) Fritz Erich von Manstein, commander of Eleventh Army in the Crimea, suggested to Hitler that the attack on the Kerch Peninsula be delayed until 5th May because he was still short some essential items of supply. Hitler approved Manstein’s request, adding that the Luftwaffe would have to give strong support to the ground forces. As soon as Kerch was cleared, Army Group South was to pinch off and eliminate the Izyum salient, after which the siege of Sevastopol was to be begun. The timing of these three preliminary operations was to be made contingent upon the availability of essential air support. Because of the delay in the start of the first attack, the Sevastopol operation would not begin before mid-June at the earliest.

THE SITUATION AT ARMY GROUP CENTRE

As a result of the shifting of forces to the West, to Army Group South, and to rehabilitation centers, Army Group Center was forced to abandon the attacks on Ostashkov and Toropez. Despite its reduction in strength, however, the army group was ordered to eliminate the partisan forces in its rear, consolidate its front line, reorganize its remaining units, and set aside reserves. After these missions had been accomplished, the army group was to undertake a series of limited objective attacks.

CHAIN OF COMMAND

The first phase of the summer offensive was to be conducted by Army Group South, composed of Second and Sixth Armies, Fourth Panzer Army, and the First Army. During the second phase First Panzer Army, the Italian Eighth Army, and probably also Eleventh Army were to intervene. The newly activated Army Group A was to assume control of the movements foreseen for the following phases, while Army Group South would become responsible for securing flank protection along the Don front.

TRANSPORTATION

The divisions that were to participate in the German offensive were to be moved up in three echelons. The 41 divisions—21 of which were allied—that were to reinforce the units stationed in the south were none too many for an offensive of such dimensions. Since the Russians had the better railnet for their assembly, they might be able to jump off before the Germans. Much would depend upon the quantities of lend-lease equipment they would receive via Murmansk by June 1942.

The delays in the start of the preliminary attacks would necessarily affect the time of the offensive proper, all the more so because as late as April the Russians were still holding the initiative.

Divisions to be moved up for the Summer Offensive

TURKEY REMAINS NEUTRAL

Hitler, who believed that Turkey would sooner or later join the Axis Powers, ordered the German Ambassador in Ankara to offer the Turks 150 million marks worth of military equipment at a time when he could hardly spare a rifle. However, the deal was not consummated because Turkey refused the passage of German submarines and PT boats through the Dardanelles into the Black Sea. In his search for another solution Hitler ordered the boats disassembled, transported cross country, and reassembled in Black Sea ports. This order was carried out, but it produced no significant results.

LOGISTICAL PREPARATIONS

TIMING

During the first phase—the drive on Voronezh—the offensive forces were to be supplied from the supply depots of the Kursk district. After the seizure of Voronezh, the railroad connecting that city with Kursk would become the principal feeder line for the Don front. Nonorganic truck transportation columns were to carry the supplies for the spearhead divisions.

The Kharkov supply district was to support the attack forces participating in the second phase. An advance base was to be set up at Valuiki as soon as the Voronezh forces linked up with those coming from Kharkov.

During the third phase additional advance bases would have to be set up along the railroad leading from the Stalino supply district to Stalingrad and east of Valuiki along the Don. Supply points would also have to be established south of the lower Don as soon as German troops crossed the river for the drive into the Caucasus.

To carry out these different missions, a large number of truck transportation columns would have to be held in readiness. Special supply reconnaissance teams were to follow the spearheads during each movement.

CHAIN OF COMMAND

Until Army Group A assumed control in the southern part of the Army Group South area, the supply preparations for Operation BLAU were to be the responsibility of the newly formed Command Staff South.

SUPPLIES

Aside from the initial issue carried by the troops, the following quantities of supplies were to be stored in depots:

Detailed preparations could be made only for the first two phases for which the necessary data were available. Depots in the Kharkov and Kursk districts were to break down supplies according to the estimated requirements of the forces that were to be assembled in these areas, whereas at Stalino supplies were to be stored in bulk.

MOTOR VEHICLES

By the start of Operation BLAU it was hoped that most of the participating units would be adequately equipped with motor vehicles. Prime movers were still scarce. The preliminary operations as well as the long distances some of the motorized units would have to cover to reach the assembly areas might cause further attrition in organic motor vehicles before the start of the offensive proper. Despite intensive maintenance and repair efforts the spearhead divisions would probably have only 60 percent or less of their organic motor vehicles by the time the offensive was launched. Truck transportation columns with a total capacity of 11,000 short tons would be available by 20th June 1942 to compensate for the shortage of organic vehicles.

RAIL TRANSPORTATION

During the initial phases of the operation the attack forces could rely on three major rail lines with detraining points in the Kursk, Kharkov, and Donets Basin areas. During the third phase the left arm of the pincers directed at Stalingrad would lack rail support as it extended southeastward along the Don. The right arm would be dependent upon the single railroad connecting Stalino with Stalingrad. This was the only railroad by which the attack forces could be supplied once they were approaching the Volga.

SUMMARY

The supply situation during the first phase appeared satisfactory with sufficient ammunition and rations apparently available for the second phase. But POL reserves would be consumed by 15th July, and the continuation of the offensive would have to be assured from current shipments.

ORGANIZATIONAL PROBLEMS

REHABILITATION UNITS

The predominant problem facing the Organization Division of the Army High Command was the rehabilitation of units. Altogether three armored and five infantry divisions committed in the Russian theater were selected to be exchanged for one armored and nine infantry divisions stationed in the West. The troops to be withdrawn from the Russian theater were to be deloused twice: first before entraining and then again after detraining.

Some of the army and corps troops as well as the divisions that were to be rehabilitated within the theater could not even be pulled out of the front. They were to be rehabilitated in place, a very unsatisfactory procedure not propitious to raising the combat efficiency of the respective units. Leaves were to be granted to all those men who had served uninterruptedly in the theater since the start of the campaign. Two leave trains per week were scheduled for each army group.

SHORTAGE OF TECHNICIANS

The armored divisions complained about the continued shortage of technicians and the weakness of their cadres. Tank and truck drivers were at a premium. Several orders were issued requesting field commanders to return technicians and specialists to the assignments for which they were trained. To relieve the manpower shortage within the theater, native units were to be activated from the prisoners of Tatar, Caucasian, Georgian, Armenian, and Cossack nationality who would probably be captured during the summer offensive. These units were to assume some of the routine duties heretofore curried out by German troops, thus permitting a more judicious employment of the latter.

CONSTRUCTION OF FORTIFICATIONS

On 26th April General Halder issued an order calling for the establishment of a defense system. In view of the general weakness of the front lines, enemy breakthroughs could be prevented only by constructing fortifications, establishing switch positions, and building specific fortified areas.

The front lines were to be fortified in depth. Switch positions were to protect the Bryansk-Kharkov line. Since there was not sufficient manpower to construct continuous lines in the rear, it would be necessary to establish fortified areas that could be held for prolonged periods by weak forces against superior enemy pressure. These fortified areas were to secure important supply and communications centers, such as Melitopol, Dnieperopetrovsk, Poltava, Bryansk, Roslavl, Smolensk, Nevel, Luga, Gatchina and Pskov.

By securing the most important road and rail junctions, river crossings, etc., situated between the front line and the fortified areas in the rear, the Germans could create a defense system capable of successfully withstanding any Soviet armored elements that might break through the front.

Engineer staffs were to be responsible for the construction of the fortifications. Only indigenous labor was to be used because of the shortage of German manpower. The material needed for the construction program would also have to be procured from local resources.

OIL BRIGADE CAUCASUS

The Oil Detachment Caucasus, formed in the spring of 1911, was expanded because of recent experiences with the Russian scorched earth policy. Since the oil fields would be more severely damaged than originally presumed, the detachment was brought to a strength of 10,794 men and redesignated Oil Brigade Caucasus. The brigade was issued 1,142 vehicles and six planes and ordered to stand by, ready to move into the Caucasus oil fields immediately behind the combat troops.

CASUALTIES AND REPLACEMENTS

At the end of the winter fighting, on 30th April 1942, total German casualties, excluding sick, numbered 1,167,835 officers and men. A number of measures to save personnel had been introduced, such as lowering the T/O strength of the infantry divisions. Nevertheless, by 31st October 1942 the estimated shortage of replacements in the Russian theater would amount to 280,000 men, even if all operations proceeded according to plan. The Organization Division believed that it would be impossible to provide sufficient replacements for all three army groups. The three solutions therefore taken under consideration at the end of April were as follows:

1 To give Army Group south its full complement of replacements, in which case the situation at Army Groups Center and North would not be relieved until July 1942;

2 To fulfill only 80 per cent of the Army Group South requirements, as a result of which the position of the other two army groups would improve quite considerably by July 1942; or

3 To give Army Group South its full complement and accelerate the arrival of additional replacements by transferring during May and June to each of the two other army groups 100,000 men with only two months of training.

General Halder chose the third solution, fully cognizant of the disadvantage incurred by committing replacements with only two months of training. Actually, he had little choice in the matter. The monthly report on the rehabilitation of units in the Army Group Center area during April 1942 indicated that the unabated intensity of the defensive fighting as well as the withdrawal of divisions for transfer to the West had almost completely obstructed the reorganization and rehabilitation of the units that stayed in place. In general, the divisions which were to be rehabilitated in place would have only limited mobility and reduced combat efficiency, the shortage of motor vehicles and horses being their greatest handicap.

THE PARTICIPATION OF GERMANY’S ALLIES

During the summer of 1942, Germany’s allies were to play a much more significant part in the Russian theater than heretofore. In an effort to intensify their participation in the struggle against the Soviet Union, Keitel had visited Hungary and Romania during the preceding winter andHitler had made a personal appeal to Mussolini. The Armed Forces High Command was to provide all the weapons and equipment it could spare for the allied contingents. The political differences were to be partly overcome by interspersing Italian corps or armies between Hungarian and Romanian ones. In compliance with requests received from Germany’s allies, Hitler on 15th April ordered national units to fight under the command of their own army or at least corps headquarters. This decision was to cost the Germans dearly when their allies collapsed along the Don front under the blows of the Russian counter-offensive.

To ascertain smooth cooperation at different levels of command, the German Army organized a number of liaison staffs to be attached to allied division, corps, and army headquarters. Hitler showed his continued anxiety over the morale of the allied troops a few weeks later, when he stated that Italian and other allied military achievements should be given proper credit in German news releases. Fanatical loyalty on the part of the Germans would in turn inspire their allies with similar feelings.

The Germans counted on the assistance of the following allied forces:

Allied Divisions Available for the Russian Theater (Summer 1942)

On the other hand, Hitler was unable to satisfy the requests of Generaloberst (Gen.) Erwin Rommel after his meeting with Mussolini at the beginning of April 1942. No motorized army artillery and engineer units could be made available for the North African theater before the successful conclusion of the Caucasus offensive in the autumn of 1942. By June, however, Rommel’s advance into Egypt seemed so promising that Hitler suddenly decided to divert to North Africa a number of tanks, trucks, and weapons which had been reserved for the rehabilitation of two Russian-theater divisions.

Aside from Germany’s allies, a number of European states, even some of the recently vanquished ones, offered contingents of volunteers who desired to participate in the campaign against the Soviet Union—which for a time tended to assume the characteristics of a crusade against Bolshevism. But Hitler, distrusting his former enemies, reluctantly permitted only a limited number of Frenchmen to serve in national units up to regimental strength. Party political considerations induced him to transfer the responsibility for organizing foreign military volunteer units from Army to National Socialist Party (Waffen-SS) control.

REAR AREA SECURITY

Anxious to secure the lines of communications of the combat forces, General Halder decided that three German security divisions plus Hungarian and Romanian troops were to follow behind the advance. Each security division was to be composed of one infantry and one security regiment, one motorized military police, one artillery, and one signal battalion, as well as one Cossack troop. Military administrative headquarters and prisoner of war processing units were to be formed in addition.

ARMY GROUP SOUTH’S DEFENSE LINE

One of the problems that constantly preoccupied Hitler during the preparatory period was the exposed flank that would extend from Voronezh to the area northeast of Kursk. The Führer ordered this defense line amply provided with antitank guns. A total of 350-400 self-propelled 75-mm antitank guns—more than half of them captured French weapons—and some 150 captured Russian 76-mm guns were to be distributed along this front to repel Soviet medium and heavy tanks. Tractors and captured prime movers were to be employed to give a certain degree of mobility to those guns which were not self-propelled.

THE ROLE OF ARMY GROUP A

The new Army Group A was to be formed under the command of Field Marshal Wilhelm List. To prevent premature discovery of the German intentions by the Russians, the arrival of all higher headquarters in the assembly areas was to be delayed to the last possible moment. The Army High Command was to control the movements of all Army Group A and Fourth Panzer Army units as well as those of the army and corps troops.

The cover names given to each of the Army Group A units were to convey the impression that they were engaged in fortification work. List himself was not to arrive in the theater until shortly before the start of operations. The forward echelon of his headquarters was transferred to Poltava on 12th May, the remaining elements were to arrive at Stalino later in May. By approximately 15th June, when the first phase of Operation BLAU was to be launched, Army Group A headquarters was to be ready to secretly assume command over the Eleventh and Seventeenth Armies, and possibly over the First Panzer Army. The overt assumption of command was to take place shortly afterward.

FEINT AND COUNTERFEINT

At the beginning of May 1942 Molotov flew to Great Britain and the United States, where he was promised that a second front would be opened before the end of the year. On 2d May a news agency report from Moscow indicated that the Russians were expecting a German spring offensive launched from the Bryansk-Orel-Kursk area. The probable objective was Voronezh, after which the German troops would advance down the Don to seize Stalingrad, while other German forces thrusting from the Kharkov region would advance eastward.

This news report must have produced a certain effect, since only five days later the Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff issued a new directive concerning deception. Referring to the previous directive on the same subject dated 12th February 1942, Jodl divided the period before the start of Operation BLAU into two phases.

During the first phase, which was to last up to 25th May, the existing uncertainty with regard to the true German intentions was to be increased, and the preparations and movements for Operation BLAU were to be dissimulated by showing no point of main effort. Since some of the troops needed for the preliminary operations around the Izyum salient were to assemble behind Army Group Center, the Russians would have difficulty in recognizing the objective of the next major offensive. To German units the troop movements were to be explained as a series of simple exchanges of battle-weary divisions from the Russian theater for fresh divisions from the West. The rehabilitation of numerous divisions had long been overdue. As soon as the preliminary operations got under way, maps of the Moscow area up to the middle Volga were to be distributed to the Luftwaffe units.

The second phase was to start after 25th May. By that time the Russians would be at least partly aware of the German distribution of forces. If their attention was drawn away from Army Group South toward Army Group Center, it might be possible to deceive them with regard to the real German main effort and objective. This deception was to be achieved by replacing German units with allied ones at the front, thus simulating a weakening at a point where in reality strength was being built up. An attack on Moscow was to be simulated by assembling some of the attack forces at the boundary between Army Groups South and Center. By intensifying reconnaissance activities along sectors of the Army Groups Center and North fronts one might simulate offensive intentions. Other means suggested were deceptive radio traffic and supply activities; the formation of fictitious staffs; night march movements of rear elements of security divisions; the erection of dummy planes on airfields in the Army Group Center area; rumors spread by military attachés assigned to neutral countries; the planting of articles in military magazines published in neutral countries, in which special emphasis was placed on Moscow’s significance as the center of Russian resistance, as the hub, and the key to armament production, indicating that after the loss of Moscow the Red Army would be unable to offer active resistance west of the Volga.

To judge by the results, the net effect of these deceptive measures was disappointing, since on 16th June another news agency report from Moscow contained details concerning the German intentions and came very close to the real plans.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.