Fall Blau - Is a rethinking in order?

(Fair warning, this is long with large quotations of text from books)

The Third Reich winning Stalingrad (Or more accurately, the overall Case Blue offensive) has long been a staple in Alternate History at large and, to be expected, on these forums as well. The general consensus, whenever one of these threads pops up, is that the Germans had no chance to accomplish their objectives and the operation was doomed to failure. I used to agree with this assessment, until the last time a thread concerning this came up and produced an informative conversation on the topic. Several of the posts within it were rather interesting to myself, and compelled me to spend the last roughly two weeks searching through sources available from my University’s library collection to see what I could find. Thus, what follows is the result of that and is presented with “some” commentary by myself.

My overall conclusion is that, in light of what is stated here by these sources, I think the forum does need to reconsider its position with regards to Case Blau and its abilities to affect the course of the Eastern Front in WWII. I’m certainly no expert on this subject however, so if you feel my interpretation of these books is misinformed please feel free to correct me on this. I’m hoping overall that this thread can, if at least for me personally, make a decision on this topic.

First, from Robert Forczyk’s Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front, 1941-1942: Schwerpunkt -

By 10 August, von Kleist had Malinovsky’s forces on the run, with XXXXPanzerkorps pushing southeast down the main rail line to Grozny and Baku,while III and LVII Panzerkorps mopped up around Maikop. By this point, Malinovsky’s only armored unit was Major Vladimir Filippov’s 52nd Tank Brigade – a low-quality unit equipped with a mixed group of forty-six T-34s,T-60s, Valentines and Lees. A total of 4,500 tankers who had escaped into the Caucasus after abandoning their tanks – a shocking indictment of the low state of morale and training in the Red Army’s tank units in mid-1942 – were sent to the Urals to reequip with new tanks.

It was at this point that the Germans decided to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm List was one of Hitler’s uninspired choices to lead his main effort in the 1942 campaign,since he had limited experience with armour – just the brief Balkans campaigns –and had completely missed the first year of the war on the Eastern Front.List brought an old-school, First World War mentality to his handling of Heeresgruppe A and he was concerned when von Kleist’s panzers went charging off toward Grozny and Baku, while leaving AOK 17 to clear out the Kuban and the coastline. He believed that Soviet forces in these areas posed a threat to his right flank, even though the 47th and 56th Armies had minimal combat strength remaining and just fifteen light tanks.

Nevertheless, on 12 August List ordered von Kleist to divert both the III Panzerkorps and the LVII Panzerkorps to support a drive westward to Tuapse to cut off the two Soviet armies and clear the coast. During 12–18 August, SS-Wiking, the 13.Panzer-Division and the 16.Infanterie-Division were tied up in this ridiculous diversion, which consumed their limited fuel supplies on a secondary objective. List sent this collection of armour down a narrow road into the mountains, which was easily blocked – and they never reached Tuapse. Meanwhile, von Kleist continued toward Grozny with just 3.Panzer-Division and part of 23.Panzer-Division; even though the Wehrmacht had nineteen panzer divisions on the Eastern Front, the schwerpunkt aimed at the critical objectives of the entire summer offensive was reduced to less than two. List also diverted much of Heeresgruppe A’s limited supplies toward his efforts to clear the Kuban and the coast, leaving von Kleist’s spearhead to sputter for lack of fuel.

Nevertheless, on 15 August the 23.Panzer-Division managed to capture Georgievsk, 200km from Grozny, before its fuel began to give out. Heeresgruppe A managed to repair the rail line all the way from Rostov down to Pyatigorsk by 18 August, but it was a single-track line that could only handle very limited throughput. Given a respite from von Kleist’s pursuit, the Stavka sent reinforcements to the Caucasus, including the 10th Guards Rifle Corps, which enabled Malinovsky to build a more solid defensive line behind the Terek River.Once the German drive on Tuapse stalled, List finally allowed the III Panzer-korps to rejoin von Kleist’s advance toward Grozny, but the 13.Panzer-Division and 16.Infanterie-Division (mot.) ran out of fuel en route and were immobilized, then the OKH decided to transfer the latter unit to Heeresgruppe B. The XXXXIX Gebirgskorps was supposed to support von Kleist’s armour, but List diverted it westward to Sochi – which was never taken.

Kleist made it to the Terek river with the 3, 13 and 23.Panzer-Divisionen by 23 August, but with only two infantry divisions of LII Armeekorps in support. While von Kleist had a 3–1 numerical advantage in armour over Malinovsky, the Soviet commander had considerably more infantry. By this point, Malinovsky had scraped together three OTBs to supplement Filippov’s 52nd Tank Brigade, but he had virtually noT-34s; rather, he had about forty-three Valentines, sixty-three Lees and a handful of T-60s. Due to the difficulty of shipping T-34s from the Urals on the single rail line remaining into the Caucasus, Malinovsky forces were almost entirely dependent upon Lend-Lease American and British armour arriving through Persia. On the German side, von Kleist still had most of his armour since there had been relatively light combat in the Caucasus, and he was beginning to receive upgraded Pz.IIIL and Pz.IVG tanks. However, his fuel situation was abysmal and most of his air support had been stripped away as well.

Von Kleist realized that time was running out and he decided to try and get across the Terek River with the forces available. The 3.Panzer-Division managed to seize Mozdok on the northern side of the Terek on 25 August, but efforts to cross the wide river were repulsed. On the morning of 26 August, Generalmajor Erwin Mack, commander of the 23.Panzer-Division, and one of his battalion commanders, was killed by Soviet mortar fire while observing operations along the Terek. The river proved too wide, deep and fast-flowing to cross under fire and von Kleist was stymied. In desperation, Oberst Erpo Freiherr von Bodenhausen, commander of the 23.Panzergrenadier Brigade, was selected to lead a mixed armoured kampfgruppe toward Chervlennaya on the north side of the Terek, where the junction of the Baku-Astrakhan rail line ran. Von Bodenhausen succeeded in reaching the rail junction on 31 August – only 27km from Grozny – and briefly interrupted Soviet rail traffic from Baku (still 490 km distant), but his force was too small to hold this exposed position and he fell back toward the main body.

Von Kleist’s forces were completely out of fuel and he was not able to make another attempt to get across the Terek River until 6 September. The 13.Panzer-Division succeeded in finally getting across the river, but it was too late; Malinovsky’s forces had steadily been reinforced and his numerically-superior troops were too well dug in to budge. Hitler finally relieved List three days later and took personal control over Heeresgruppe A – surely one of his weirdest command decisions of the Second World War. While fighting would continue along the Terek River until early November, when the first snow arrived, von Kleist’s offensive had culminated and the front became static.
Does his assessment that List’s diversion probably doomed the effort of von Kleist to take Grozny, as well as interdict the Astrakhan-Baku railroad have merit? If so, that means Army Group A could have directly occupied around ~15% of the USSR’s oil while partly interdicting the ~80% that came out of Baku by cutting the Astrakhan-Baku railway as well as having VIII Fliegerkorps hit the infrastructure up north in the Volga area. This also nearly cuts off the Persian Lend Lease route, as it means the Soviets can’t import overland and the Germans had already largely cut off the Volga trade. Lastly, and I’m not sure on this one, but could the Trans-Caucasus Front be threatened with destruction by the cutting of the aforementioned railway, as I think its logistics came from said railroad?

Our next data entry is from David Glantz’s To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April-August 1942 -

In addition to unhinging the right wing of Shumilov's 64th Army, 24th Panzer Division's penetration to Basarguno Station also facilitated a further advance by Sixth Army's LI Corps, which by days end on 31 August had already penetrated 62nd Army's defenses along the Rossoskha River and was about to reach the Kalach-Stalingrad railroad line near Novyi Rogachik. If it did so, it would likely cut off and destroy all off 62nd and 64th Armies forces already half-encircled...If these forces were destroyed, and if LI Corps continued its eastwards march, it was likely the corps would have sufficient forces to penetrate into Stalingrad from the west.
So in essence, 6th Army destroys two armies and then takes Stalingrad off the march while also avoiding months of attrition in urban warfare. This would be essential, as it complements the next source. Also, as an aside, 6th Army taking Stalingrad means they nab the Tractor Factory and thus reduce Soviet tank production by 20% right off the bat.

Lastly, here is an article by Gerald D. Swick concerning the Romanians at Stalingrad on History.net:

THE STALINGRAD FRONT

Ordered to advance toward Stalingrad on September 19, 1942, Romanian VI Corps of General Constantin Constantinescu-Claps’ 4th Army impressed the Germans by marching nearly 500 miles in two months, covering over half the distance in just 20 days, often while encountering Soviet resistance.

Ordered to protect the Germans’ exposed right flank, 4th Army’s VI Corps (1st, 2d, 4th, 18th and 20th infantry divisions) took up positions beyond some lakes south of Stalingrad. On September29, a strong Soviet counterattack penetrated all the way to VI Corps’ headquarters. Additional attacks during October drove 1st and 4th divisions back behind the lakes with heavy casualties before the Romanians stabilized their line. In the first two weeks of November, Romanian VII Corps (5th and 8th cavalry divisions) joined 4th Army,compacting divisional frontage but exacerbating supply problems. Its“160-mile front” was closer to 185 miles wide.

In September, Romanian 3d Army arrived. Consisting of I Corps(7th and 11th infantry divisions), II Corps (9th and 14th infantry divisions), IV Corps (13th and 15th infantry divisions and 1st Cavalry Division) and V Corps (5th and 6th infantry divisions), it replaced Italian and German troops south of the Don River to the northwest of Stalingrad. The army’s commander, General Petre Dumitrescu, had received Germany’s Ritterkreuz, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, for his performance in the September-October 1941 Battle of the Sea of Azov.

Dumitrescu immediately recognized a serious threat. In late August 1942, Soviet counterattacks against the Italian and German divisions that Romanian 3d Army was replacing had seized two bridgeheads south of the Don, near Serafimovich and Kletskaya. Since the Don River was Dumitrescu’s primary defensive barrier, he appealed for German assistance to push the enemy back across the river. But the Germans, fixated on Stalingrad, showed little interest in clearing a bridgehead 150 miles to the northwest. No help was forthcoming, even though Romanian 3rd Army was protecting the only rail supply line into the embattled city.

The Soviets tested 3d Army’s mettle with a series of probing attacks and heavier assaults beginning October 14 and continuing into November. Sergeant Manole Zamfir of the Pioneers Company,36th Regiment of 3d Army’s 9th Infantry Division, wrote: “Pushed forward by their officers, the Russian soldiers were yelling [in Romanian]: ‘Brothers, why are you killing us? Antonescu and Stalin drink vodka together and we’re killing each other for nothing.’”

The Romanians repulsed each attack, inflicting heavy losses but also losing over 13,000 of their own soldiers. Romanian 13th and 14th divisions suffered the most casualties – a fact not lost on the Soviet command.

Romanian 3d Army’s front stretched approximately 85 miles. Divisional reserves were sent to expand the front lines, leaving only 15th Infantry, 7th Cavalry and1st Armored divisions in reserve. Barbed wire and landmines were in short supply, like everything else.

Many Romanian soldiers wondered, “Why die for Hitler?” Others believed they were fighting a “holy war against bolshevism” or “for a fully restored Romania,” but continuing hardships sapped morale. Pay could barely purchase a liter of milk a day. Rations often consisted of a single, small hot meal once a day and a small portion of bread; this was particularly true among Romanian 4th Army south of Stalingrad,which went 10 days without resupply in November.

In late October, reconnaissance by the Royal Romanian Air Force (Aeronautica Regalã Românã) indicated a Soviet buildup on the north side of the Don. The Germans were skeptical, but when their own intelligence confirmed it they began delivering a little more of the equipment they had promised, but some was still second-rate. For example, each Romanian division at Stalingrad received a half-dozen 75 mm Pak 97/38 anti-tank guns – converted French field pieces only marginally better than the small-caliber anti-tank guns already in use.

On November 17, Romania’s defense minister Mihai Antonescu, a distant cousin of the Conductator, pressed Germany’s ambassador Manfred Freiherr von Killinger for more supplies and equipment: “The Russians are right now preparing a big action in exactly the region where our troops are situated. … I don’t want to lose [our army], for it is all we have.”

The “big action” was Operation Uranus, a plan to smash through the Axis flanks and encircle German 6th Army in Stalingrad. To assault the 155,500 Romanians and 11,000 Germans south of the Don, the Soviets’ South West Front and Don Front combined had massed over 338,000 men. Four rifle divisions would strike Italian troops west of the Romanians, but the crushing blow was aimed at strung-out 3d Army.

THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS

Operation Uranus opened with a massive Soviet artillery bombardment at 7:30 a.m. on November 19. The ground shook 30 miles away. The morning’s frozen mist concealed Romanian trenches, but Soviet gunners had ranged in during weeks of probing attacks, allowing for accurate targeting. Romanian artillery crews, however, couldn’t see to fire effectively on the advancing Soviet columns.

When the 90-minute bombardment ended, Russian infantry moved out through snow and mud, with some men riding atop tanks that crushed barbed wire or on sleds pulled behind the tanks.

The attackers may have expected to roll over a demoralized foe,but most Romanians held firm, cutting down enemy riflemen and knocking out light tanks as the Soviets came on in single-echelon formation. The attack fell behind schedule. The attackers penetrated in places, but progress was slow or stalled by late morning, when the Soviet 5th Tank Army ordered the mass of its tanks to attack on a 4-mile front. Between noon and 1 p.m., the spearhead crashed through the weakened Romanian 13th and 14th divisions. When 9th Division’s right flank collapsed, the division pivoted into an L shape and held – but the Romanian line was broken and the enemy poured through.

Tanks struck the Romanians’ weak rear areas. Elements of Soviet 4th Tank Corps rolled into Grominki, three miles from Kletskaya, around 2 p.m., setting 13th Division’s headquarters to flight; 14th Division’s headquarters had already been overrun. A counterattack by 15th division was driven back by Soviet tanks, but the division took a position among some small hills and inflicted enough casualties to force back the Soviets.

Romanian 7th Cavalry Division counterattacked in support of the broken 14th Infantry Division, but when it was struck by Soviet 8th Cavalry Corps, it retreated with very heavy losses. Romanian 11th Division bloodily repulsed an attack, foiling the Soviet plan to unhinge 3d Army’s left wing.

Throughout the morning, most of the attacking Soviet rifle divisions had failed to break through Romanian defenses until sufficiently supported by tanks and cavalry, but the afternoon saw Soviet armor and horsemen rampaging in the rear of 3d Army’s center. Hospitals and other rear echelon units fled south toward the Chir River.

To Germany’s famed Stuka pilot Ulrich Hans Rudel, flying below the low clouds with Stukageschwader 2 to bomb and strafe the Russians, the scene was one of unmitigated disaster – masses of Romanians were racing for the rear, some throwing away their weapons. “It is a good thing for them I have run out of ammunition to stop this cowardly rout,” he wrote in his memoir, Stuka Pilot.

SEND IN THE TANKS

Romanian 3d Army’s only fully mechanized reserve was its 1st Armored Division. German observers described Romanian tank crews as almost suicidally willing to fight, but their armor strength was weak. Of 105 serviceable tanks, 84 were Czechoslovakian Skoda S.IIa light tanks (LT-35s) weighing 10.5 tons each, with armor thickness of just 0.47-1.38 inches and carrying only a 37 mm gun and two 7.92 mm machine guns. Other Czech tanks (LT-34s), each armed only with a machine gun, had been distributed among the infantry divisions.

Romanian 1st Armored had received 11 each of German PzKw IIINs and PzKw Mark IVGs on October 17 but staged their first battalion drill just three days before the Russian assault began; only 19 of the 22 panzers were available on November 19. Two captured Soviet light tanks rounded out the division’s armor.

Romanian 1st Armored along with German 14th and 22d panzer divisions had been formed into the XLVIII Panzer Corps to provide a tank reserve in 3d Army’s rear, near the towns of Perefazovskii and Petrovo. However, XLVIII Panzer Corps had fewer than 85 medium and 100 light tanks with which to halt a Soviet force of nearly 150 heavy, 320 medium and 270 light tanks.

German 22d Panzer, ordered to counterattack, discovered that mice nesting in the tanks’ straw camouflage had chewed through electrical wires, as if even Russian rodents had joined the Soviet partisan effort. The 14th Panzer and Romanian 1st Armored were ordered to attack toward Kletskaya, but 1st Armored was disrupted in mid-deployment when Hitler intervened and insisted the two divisions attack southwest instead of southeast. After dark,1st Armored’s headquarters was hit by a surprise attack; the Soviet attackers were driven off but not before the German wireless through which XLVIII received its orders was destroyed.

Far to the rear, reports of the day’s actions were muddled. Lieutenant Colonel I. Chermanescu, with a radio company at Stalinosome 300 miles west, wrote: “I am optimistic, as [are] the majority around here, because even if we will lose some of our forces and a little ground, it’s them that will end up defeated.” Two days later, however, he called 3d Army's situation “critical.”

Romanian 3d Army’s center was breached on November 19; the flanks were assailed on the following days. Fragments of units on the eastern flank were forced back into the Stalingrad Pocket. In the west, Soviet 21st Cavalry, reinforced with tanks, broke through on the night of November 21-22. Groups of Romanian soldiers wandered the battle area aimlessly.

An ad hoc force – named the Lascar Group for its commander, Knight’s Cross winner General Mihai Lascar – was formed from Romanian 5th, 6th and 15th divisions and portions of 13th and 14th. On November 20, 15th Division, attacked by as many as 40 T-34 tanks, drove off the enemy by cutting down the two supporting Soviet infantry battalions.

Forbidden by Antonescu from breaking out, Lascar Group refused a surrender demand on the afternoon of November 22, saying, “We will continue to fight without thought of surrender.” By November 26, Lascar Group had ceased to exist. Its commander – soon to become the first non-German awarded a Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves – was on his way to a Soviet prisoner of war camp. He survived captivity to become Romania’s minister of defense, 1946-47.

Like Lascar Group, Romanian 1st Armored Division fought on as long as possible, rushing here and there, trying to stamp out individual flames in a fire beyond control. By December 2 it was behind the Chir River and down to 70 percent of its strength.

In all, Romanian 3d Army lost to combat and frostbite all but 5 percent of its combat troops and half of its rear services personnel. When facing only enemy infantry, it generally held, often inflicting sharp losses; but it proved too weak to knock out the masses of Soviet tanks thrown at it.

Defensive stands and local counterattacks continued along the Chir River line well into December. Italian XXIX Corps on the Romanians’ left was dislodged on December 18, and Russian tanks again poured into the rear, virtually annihilating Romanian 7th, 9th and 11th divisions before German Major General Hermann Balck’s 11th Panzer Division halted the Soviet attack. (See Battle Studies, September 2013 ACG.) On December 26, 3d Army fought its last significant battle before being withdrawn, striking a motorized rifle brigade of Soviet 1st Guards Mechanized Corps and knocking out two tanks, two armored cars and 10 anti-tank guns.

4TH ARMY DISINTEGRATES

South of Stalingrad on November 20, the Red Army’s Stalingrad Front sliced into Romanian 4th Army, just as the Soviet South West and Don fronts had done to 3d Army the previous day. At the time, 4th Army units were far below their authorized manpower strengths. Present for duty strength ranged from a high of 78 percent (18th Infantry Division) to lows of 30 percent (2d Infantry Division) and 25 percent (1st Infantry Division). Romanian 4th Army’s only mobile reserve was the 1,075-man, 120-vehicle 6th Motorized Rosiori.

At dawn on November 20, three Soviet rifle divisions, 4th Mechanized Corps and 4th Cavalry Corps tore through Romanian 1st Division’s left wing and 18th Division’s right and struck into 4th Army’s rear. Romanian 6th Motorized Rosiori, supported by a mechanized squadron and motorized 105 mm artillery battery, counterattacked in the afternoon, but a portion of its force was surrounded and destroyed. Only a minefield in which the Soviets lost 50 tanks slowed the enemy onslaught.

In the northern sector of this offensive, other Soviet rifle divisions broke through the weak Romanian 2d Division, opening a gap that allowed Romanian 20th Division's Right wing to be overrun. A counterattack by 55 medium tanks of German 29th Motorized Division came to the rescue before being ordered to defend German 6th Army’s southern flank. Romanian 20th Division would soon be forced into the Stalingrad perimeter.

Early on November 21, Romanian VI Corps’ headquarters was attacked and forced to retreat, but it formed a defense to the southwest from remnants of battered divisions and 6th Motorized Rosiori, aided by a few tanks and assault guns that a German liaison officer appropriated from German 4th Panzer Army’s workshop. This force offered a stiff but brief resistance when attacked on the night of November 22-23 before falling back south of the Aksai River.

Romanian 4th Division was unmolested until November 23, when it was outflanked due to Romanian 1st Division’s loss of a key position the previous day. It began a fighting withdrawal but was outflanked on both the east and west by evening and lost some artillery before establishing a temporary defensive position.

Romanian 4th Army’s commander, General Constantinescu, wanted to pull all his units into a perimeter around Kotelnikovo but was ordered by German 4th Panzer Army to hold advanced positions: A relief column was being formed under German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein to break through to Stalingrad from the area held by 4th Army. (See What Next, General? in the November 2012 ACG.)

A German detachment of motorized and armored troops with motorized Romanian heavy artillery arrived to drive back a Soviet thrust on November 26 and secure the Romanian flank; but by month’s end Constantinescu’s band of survivors had lost the Aksai River line, falling further back before the lead units of Manstein’s column began arriving.

Ordered to cover Manstein’s assembling troops, the Romanians gave ground but bought time with blood. By December 8, Constantinescu’s army was down to fewer than 40,000 men, over two-thirds of them rear area service personnel.

Four days later, Manstein’s Operation Winter Storm began. Romanian 4th Army, after a few days to rest and reorganize, was assigned to protect his right flank. It recaptured a few small towns and established a bridgehead across the Aksai before the Soviets counterattacked on December 24 with nearly 150,000 men and 635 tanks. On the night of December 26-27, Constantinescu ordered a withdrawal of all units, but apparently he didn’t notify the Germans. The highly mobile Soviet offensive caught the retreating Romanians anyway, virtually destroying 4th Army. Manstein blamed Romanian failures for the forced retreat of his LVII Panzer Corps, but he never explained how Constantinescu’s ragged band was supposed to stave off five Soviet mechanized, tank and cavalry corps.
(I don’t have the book to confirm it so, but doing some research on that article suggests a lot of its data also came from Glantz’s Stalingrad trilogy)

This confirms to me that the Romanians were a lot more effective than commonly given credit for here on the forums, and it also opens a lot of “What Ifs”. Without the attrition on both men and equipment by the 6th Army of OTL, I can definitely see the Romanians being better equipped with more air support from the VIII Fliegerkorps going into the October battles. I can also see 6th Army reinforcing the Romanians for a counter-punch then as they were requested to do so historically. This gives them the opportunity to destroy the Soviet bridgeheads over the Don or at least inflict even greater losses on the Soviets. If the bridgeheads are crushed, the Romanians could then establish a stronger defensive line directly on the Don. Either way though, greater Soviet losses in these October battles could probably delay Operation Saturn and that plays into the German favor here. By December, both the 6th and 11th Panzer will be available and by January the SS Panzer Corps will be as well. All of these divisions were rather formidable, with the SS Panzer Corps IOTL inflicting at least 8 to 1 losses on the Soviets in terms of armor at Kursk. Once all of them get activated, I just don’t see the Soviets being able to do their encirclements in such situation.

Okay, now with all that said, what would be the effects of a successful Case Blue?

Food Crisis - The German advance into the Caucasus collapsed Soviet food production to just 38% of what it was in 1940, and triggered a rapid price increase from the fall on into the early Summer of 1943. Even after the Soviets regained all the land Case Blue took, food production in 1943 still decreased (Likely as a result of the two years hard fighting and scorched earth twice) to 37%. This set off a large amount of starvation deaths within the USSR that didn’t taper off until 1944, when food production increased back to 54% of the 1940 total due to Ukraine being reclaimed. Here, the Soviets wouldn’t have reclaimed any of the valuable agricultural land, and further adding on to this would be the fact Lend Lease food shipments through Persia might possibly be curtailed. For reference on this, here are two sources:

The Bread of Affliction: The Food Supply in the USSR during World War II, by William Moskoff -

"The central fact behind the increased importance of the collective farm market was the drastic drop in food production, especially in 1942 and 1943, and the diminished proportion that went to the civilians. In 1943 overall agricultural production was only 38 percent of the 1940 level. In 1943, however, the Red Army began to recapture agricultural areas of the Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Caucasus and by the next year, 1944, agricultural output had risen to 54 percent of the 1940 level. Not surprisingly, the collapse of the food economy led to astonishing increases in prices. The most rapid rate [Emphasis by author] of increase in prices took place in 1942 and began to taper off in mid-1943."

The Soviet Economy and the Red Army, 1930-1945, by Walter Scott Dunn -

"By November of 1941, 47% of Soviet cropland was in German hands. The Germans had 38% of the grain farmland, 84% of the sugar land, 38% of the area devoted to beef and dairy cattle, and 60% of the land used to produce hogs. The Russians turned to the east and brought more land into cultivation. In the fall of 1941, the autumn and winter crops increased sharply in the eastern area. But despite all efforts, farm yields dropped from 95.5 million tons of grain in 1940 to 29.7 million tons in 1942. Production of cattle and horses dropped to less than half of prewar levels and hogs to one fifth. By 1942, meat and dairy production shrank to half the 1940 total and sugar to only 5%. Farm production in 1942 and 1943 dropped to 38% and 37% of 1940 totals."​

Manpower - The guys over on the Axis History Forums have produced two excellent threads, with primary sources, to show how serious the manpower issue was becoming for the Soviets by this time.

Was the USSR Running out of Manpower by 1943?
Soviet manpower-how large exactly?

As they show, by September of 1942 the Soviets were down to “2,461,000 easily mobilizable men, of which 900,000 were of limited fitness”. This is important to consider, as Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege 1942-1943 states the Soviets suffered a total of 1.1 Million casualties with ~486,000 dead. Further, as the first link shows, the Soviets were rather dependent on the liberated territories from 1943 onward to make good on losses. This all comes together to show that the Soviets will have likely exhausted their manpower supply rather rapidly in the aftermath of a successful Case Blue.

Oil (and related) - This one may not be as serious in the short to medium term, as I have seen ObessedNuker state the Soviets had up to a year’s oil storage on hand. I don’t know the specifics on that, but I think we can all agree he is more than knowledgeable on Soviet matters to accept his word for such. On the long term, however, the issue is that by 1944 the Soviets will be out of oil even with a year’s storage (Which would get used up over 1943). I also think that the loss ~95% of their oil production would drastically affect farming mechanization along with fertilizer production, making the Food Crisis even worse.

Alright, with all of that said, hopefully we can have an informative discussion concerning this and I eagerly await any responses.
 
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Part of the issue is it seems you've covered everything, so unless someone (obsessednuker perhaps) wants to take issue, you're just going to get likes.
Honestly I thought part it was that I posted it on a Sunday evening and it's Spring Break for a lot of Universities right now, so I kinda thought it was just a matter of no one having been able to see it. I was hoping to get some discussion going, because if I was wildly off-base with my assumptions I was hoping to get corrected.
 
Honestly I thought part it was that I posted it on a Sunday evening and it's Spring Break for a lot of Universities right now, so I kinda thought it was just a matter of no one having been able to see it. I was hoping to get some discussion going, because if I was wildly off-base with my assumptions I was hoping to get corrected.
Perhaps that might have been an issue, but I think more of it might just be you're on base and no one is able to dispute it. You might want to repost this on AHF and see if you get more of an serious critique. Try the Eastern Front section.
 
Part of the issue is it seems you've covered everything, so unless someone (obsessednuker perhaps) wants to take issue, you're just going to get likes.
Can't, because I don't exactly disagree with the overall assessment. I could quibble on a few points, but they are either pedantic to the point of not really making a difference or don't really undermine the overall thrust of the possible outcomes.
 

CalBear

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I generally refrain from commenting in threads where I have had to wave the Mod badge. However, the OP has specifically requested I comment so...

I would agree that you have made a strong case. The Case Blue offensive had a reasonable chance of at least limited success; its absolute catastrophic, war losing result was due to the ever increasing mission creep that altered it almost beyond recognition.

The 1942 Southern Offensive was the first time that Hitler's utter failure as a military planner was first fully exposed. His earlier failures had been largely hidden by remarkable luck, the even greater (and less understandable) strategic failures of his opponents, and a couple handy scapegoats. The decision to keep diverting formations from 6th Army, while also increasing expectations, was a terrible error, one compounded by the selection of a pure staff officer who had last seen combat in 1914 and had something of a reputation for indecisiveness, to lead the main body of the Offensive.

The handling of the "Allied" axis formations is another example of an untrained amateur meddling in matters that required trained professionals. Hitler treated all divisions as if they were of the same strength and quality. The Italian and Romanian forces along the Don fought at least as bravely as their Heer counterparts, but they lacked the combat weight of Heer forces half their number. It was convenient at the time for the Nazis (and since for those who have looked for a way to reduce the credit due to the Red Army) to lay the blame on the Allied Axis formations rather than credit the planning of the Red Army and criminal failure of the German formations to support their allies.

One of the most significant errors in the operational planning that I didn't see mentioned in the excerpts already posted was the failure to secure the West Bank of the Don near Serafimovich and Kremenskoya. This inexplicable error allowed the Red Army to build up forces on the West Side of a major river (the Don in this region runs between 225 and 300 meters in width) rather than have to force a crossing under fire. When Uranus began this left the 4th Romanian facing a full tank army already in good order and secure supply lines. The failure to secure the enire West Bank in the region also left the Wehrmacht supply depots on the same side of the river as significant Soviet formations. In large part this error can be directly laid at the feet of Hitler, whose fixation on Stalingrad denuded the formations needed to push the Red Army out of their bridgeheads.

Case Blue was far from a slam dunk for the Reich. However, if properly planned and executed it had a reasonable chance for success. Hitler's lack of education (and his obsession with capturing Stalingrad) ensured what was a challenging, but operationally feasible (at least in part) operation into the strategic defeat of the War.
 
Can't, because I don't exactly disagree with the overall assessment. I could quibble on a few points, but they are either pedantic to the point of not really making a difference or don't really undermine the overall thrust of the possible outcomes.
Hard to have a discussion when OP laid out the argument in full and everyone pretty much agrees.
I was expecting one (or both) of you to come in, then post one link or reference some book that completely invalidates everything I said before explaining in great detail how wrong my argument is. The fact there is no great disagreements with my conclusions is shocking, especially considering how I have only seen you both agree on one topic before. Could any of you possibly answer about the point with regards to Persian Lend Lease the supply situation of the Trans-Caucasus Front? Those were two things I was definitely unsure on, and would greatly value your inputs.

I generally refrain from commenting in threads where I have had to wave the Mod badge. However, the OP has specifically requested I comment so...

I would agree that you have made a strong case. The Case Blue offensive had a reasonable chance of at least limited success; its absolute catastrophic, war losing result was due to the ever increasing mission creep that altered it almost beyond recognition.

The 1942 Southern Offensive was the first time that Hitler's utter failure as a military planner was first fully exposed. His earlier failures had been largely hidden by remarkable luck, the even greater (and less understandable) strategic failures of his opponents, and a couple handy scapegoats. The decision to keep diverting formations from 6th Army, while also increasing expectations, was a terrible error, one compounded by the selection of a pure staff officer who had last seen combat in 1914 and had something of a reputation for indecisiveness, to lead the main body of the Offensive.

The handling of the "Allied" axis formations is another example of an untrained amateur meddling in matters that required trained professionals. Hitler treated all divisions as if they were of the same strength and quality. The Italian and Romanian forces along the Don fought at least as bravely as their Heer counterparts, but they lacked the combat weight of Heer forces half their number. It was convenient at the time for the Nazis (and since for those who have looked for a way to reduce the credit due to the Red Army) to lay the blame on the Allied Axis formations rather than credit the planning of the Red Army and criminal failure of the German formations to support their allies.

One of the most significant errors in the operational planning that I didn't see mentioned in the excerpts already posted was the failure to secure the West Bank of the Don near Serafimovich and Kremenskoya. This inexplicable error allowed the Red Army to build up forces on the West Side of a major river (the Don in this region runs between 225 and 300 meters in width) rather than have to force a crossing under fire. When Uranus began this left the 4th Romanian facing a full tank army already in good order and secure supply lines. The failure to secure the enire West Bank in the region also left the Wehrmacht supply depots on the same side of the river as significant Soviet formations. In large part this error can be directly laid at the feet of Hitler, whose fixation on Stalingrad denuded the formations needed to push the Red Army out of their bridgeheads.

Case Blue was far from a slam dunk for the Reich. However, if properly planned and executed it had a reasonable chance for success. Hitler's lack of education (and his obsession with capturing Stalingrad) ensured what was a challenging, but operationally feasible (at least in part) operation into the strategic defeat of the War.
With regards to the Mod bit, I deserved what I got due to my ignorance. I would be remiss, however, if I didn't request you give your own insight into this topic. You, as well as Wiking and Obessed are probably this board's main experts, and thus I greatly value all of your inputs on this topic.

As to the question of the Romanians, from what I understand from Swick's writing, that's essentially what the proposed counter-offensives were meant to address. After they threw back the Soviets, they wanted the Germans to divert support to them so that they could hit the bridgeheads over the Don before the Soviets recovered with the goal of eliminating them. This would've allowed the Romanians to establish a stronger defense directly along the Don. From what else I could gather, the Soviet attacks were supposed to be some sort of prelude to an earlier Soviet counter-offensive but the continued hard-fighting in Stalingrad, Mars, and then the unexpected tenacious defense of the Romanians lead to a delay.
 
I was expecting one (or both) of you to come in, then post one link or reference some book that completely invalidates everything I said before explaining in great detail how wrong my argument is. The fact there is no great disagreements with my conclusions is shocking, especially considering how I have only seen you both agree on one topic before. Could any of you possibly answer about the point with regards to Persian Lend Lease the supply situation of the Trans-Caucasus Front? Those were two things I was definitely unsure on, and would greatly value your inputs.
If you'd like I can tell you you're wrong about everything, but unfortunately no links, sorry.

What was the point about Persian LL? That with the Volga cut it would interdict it? AFAIK the Persian route had shipping via the Caspian shifted to the Ural river and the city of Atyrau (modern name)/Guryev (WW2 name) once Astrakhan was being bombing and the Volga cut. So unless the Germans advanced further and/or managed to mine/interdict the Ural river/Caspian sea shipping routes the flow of Persian LL would continue. The T-C Front was being heavily supplied via Persia, IIRC 40% or more of their AFVs came via that. That came in via rail and shipping to Baku AFAIK.

One of the most significant errors in the operational planning that I didn't see mentioned in the excerpts already posted was the failure to secure the West Bank of the Don near Serafimovich and Kremenskoya. This inexplicable error allowed the Red Army to build up forces on the West Side of a major river (the Don in this region runs between 225 and 300 meters in width) rather than have to force a crossing under fire. When Uranus began this left the 4th Romanian facing a full tank army already in good order and secure supply lines. The failure to secure the enire West Bank in the region also left the Wehrmacht supply depots on the same side of the river as significant Soviet formations. In large part this error can be directly laid at the feet of Hitler, whose fixation on Stalingrad denuded the formations needed to push the Red Army out of their bridgeheads.

Case Blue was far from a slam dunk for the Reich. However, if properly planned and executed it had a reasonable chance for success. Hitler's lack of education (and his obsession with capturing Stalingrad) ensured what was a challenging, but operationally feasible (at least in part) operation into the strategic defeat of the War.
In terms of Stalingrad, wasn't Hitler's obsession with securing it also a necessity for the reason you say they should have secured the West bank of the Don? Don't leave the enemy with an important bridgehead they could build up in and attack out of.
 
If you'd like I can tell you you're wrong about everything, but unfortunately no links, sorry.

What was the point about Persian LL? That with the Volga cut it would interdict it? AFAIK the Persian route had shipping via the Caspian shifted to the Ural river and the city of Atyrau (modern name)/Guryev (WW2 name) once Astrakhan was being bombing and the Volga cut. So unless the Germans advanced further and/or managed to mine/interdict the Ural river/Caspian sea shipping routes the flow of Persian LL would continue. The T-C Front was being heavily supplied via Persia, IIRC 40% or more of their AFVs came via that. That came in via rail and shipping to Baku AFAIK.
The Persian LL was related to what effect, if any, the cutting of the Baku-Astrakhan Railway would have in addition to a more firm blocking effort on the Volga. If the Persian route is still able to operate until the Germans reach the point they can begin mining the Caspian, it would seem it would largely stay open as you note. As for the Trans-Caucasus Front, if they were that dependent on Baku, then I do now wonder whether or not the cutting of the railway at Chervlennaya might have been able to collapse their logistics had it been held in the long term.
 
I don't claim to be an expert on the 1942-3 offensives, but even if the Soviet winter offensives were a partial failure, then provided they can encircle Stalingrad, the Germans are going to be knocked pretty heavily off-kilter, especially considering that the relief efforts are likely to struggle if the Soviet's can launch something similar to Little Saturn.

The other issue is that in the medium term, the Western front will start to become an issue in German planning - Given that the situation on the Eastern front might not be considered quite so dire the temptation might be to send more units to Scilly to ensure that the Allies are driven back into the sea. These might be drawn from the Eastern front.
 
The Persian LL was related to what effect, if any, the cutting of the Baku-Astrakhan Railway would have in addition to a more firm blocking effort on the Volga. If the Persian route is still able to operate until the Germans reach the point they can begin mining the Caspian, it would seem it would largely stay open as you note. As for the Trans-Caucasus Front, if they were that dependent on Baku, then I do now wonder whether or not the cutting of the railway at Chervlennaya might have been able to collapse their logistics had it been held in the long term.
The Baku-Astrakhan RR was built during the war as a result of the Germans cutting the Black Sea coast line via Stalingrad, so it was a low capacity line and not at all related. Supply from Persia was shipped via the Caspian to Astrakhan and then up the Volga, as that was a lot cheaper than rail shipment, but as the Volga was cut shipping via the Caspian to the Ural river was done instead and supply from the rest of the USSR down to Baku was partially done via the new Astrakhan-Baku RR. T-C front did get supplies via Baku from Persia. It would seem that Chervlennaya would likely cut supply to any Soviet units west of that unless Turkey allowed supplies through.
 
My gut feeling is that with how Blau was ultimately planned, it needed a lot of things going right for it to succeed. That low margin of error is not really a recipe for success.

A slightly less ambitious plan with a bigger margin for error would likely have succeeded and kept the Soviets down for another year or so.
 
The Baku-Astrakhan RR was built during the war as a result of the Germans cutting the Black Sea coast line via Stalingrad, so it was a low capacity line and not at all related. Supply from Persia was shipped via the Caspian to Astrakhan and then up the Volga, as that was a lot cheaper than rail shipment, but as the Volga was cut shipping via the Caspian to the Ural river was done instead and supply from the rest of the USSR down to Baku was partially done via the new Astrakhan-Baku RR. T-C front did get supplies via Baku from Persia. It would seem that Chervlennaya would likely cut supply to any Soviet units west of that unless Turkey allowed supplies through.
Alright, so we can discount any effect on Lend Lease until 1943 at least but it would indeed seem that the Trans-Caucasus Front will suffer as a result of this.
 
My gut feeling is that with how Blau was ultimately planned, it needed a lot of things going right for it to succeed. That low margin of error is not really a recipe for success.

A slightly less ambitious plan with a bigger margin for error would likely have succeeded and kept the Soviets down for another year or so.
The way it was planned it was sustainable...the problem is that Hitler threw out the plan and when von Bock protested he fired him and Hitler took command of the operation. Instead of sticking to Blau I, II, III, and IV Hitler jumped from I to III and then belatedly returned to II and then went for IV at the same time. Hitler was just too desperate for the Caucasian oil and to try and trap Soviet forces as they retreated and ended up achieving little of any of the above.

Alright, so we can discount any effect on Lend Lease until 1943 at least but it would indeed seem that the Trans-Caucasus Front will suffer as a result of this.
Assuming the Germans got deep enough...but the problem was it was unsustainable for them to do so. They needed to penetrate less into the Caucasus to be sustainable in 1942 and defeat threats to the Don Flank in a timely fashion/
 
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