World War II: Case Blue--Dividing Army Group South (July 1942)

Figure 1.--Case Blue as it developed involved splitting Army Group South. Army Group B with the 6th Army drove east toward Stalingrad. Army Group B drove south into the Caucasus. Inbetween was a vast sistance with virtually no German forces. Thus the two Armny Groups were unable to support each other. This photograp is unidentified, but we believe it was taken in October 1942 somewhwere south of Stalingrad. Click on the image for more detail. The German soldiers are clearly fascinated by the camel. Note the roads tht the Germans had to contend with.

The Wehrmacht split the expanded Army Group South into two elements, Army Group A and B. Hitler here made a deadly error. The central rule of military strategy is to concentrate forces on a vital objective or weak point in the enemy line. This was a key element of Blitzkrieg. The great German Victory in the West was achieved by this dictum as well as the great victories of Barbarossa. Here Hitler's avarice was so great that he split his forces to seize the many assetts he prized. Having learned nothing from the 1941 offensive, Hitler decided to seize not only the oil of the Caucasus, but also Stalingrad as well. Important Wehrmacht commanders including Jodl argued against dividing the limited German forces. In some cases Hitler shouted them down and refused to hear data undemining his decision. He thus divided the German forces, weakening Army Group B's powerful 6th Army, in an effort to move south and seize the oil rich Caucasus. The front had begun over a line of 500 miles, the objectives would mean expanding the front to over 2,500 miles. Instead of focusing his attack, Hitler was again dangerously dispersing his forces. [Fest, pp. 659-660.] Hitler dissatisfied with the progress Army Group A in the south was making toward the oil fields in Caucasus, decided to detach armour forces from Army Group B moving east through the Don Bend toward Stalingrad. This was a blunder of emense proprtions which his generals argued against. The Soviets had expected the Germans to strike in the north and renew the drive on Moscow. The Soviets were thus surprised at the German offensive in the South and as a result in July did not have the forces to mount a successful defense of Stalingrad. A focussed German attack at this time probably would have taken the city. In addition, the attack on the Don Bend and Stalingrad was over flat, open ground perfect for tank warfare and would have allowed the Wehrmacht to have employed its armour to maximum effect. In contrast the drive into the Caucasus was over terriane much less suited to tank warfare. Thus for much of the crucial battle for Stalingrad, major elements of Army Group South were diverted south into the Caucasus and not engaged with important Red Army units. In betwwen the prongs of the German attack barreling toward Stalingrad abd the Caucasus was a vast streach with virtualy no German forces. Not only were German forces in the south divided, but Hitler even ordered some units transferred north to join the attack on Lenningrad.


Fest, Joachim C. Hitler (Vintage Books: New York, 1974), 844p.


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Created: 3:13 AM 4/21/2011
Last updated: 3:13 AM 4/21/2011