The road to Stalingrad.

Army Group South - part 5

The Summer campaign of 1942.

Operation Blue  - The German Summer Offensive of 1942

 map - Hitler's directive 41

The plan for the 1942 offensive (Operation Blue) took no account whatsoever
of the principles of the armoured idea. Indeed, steps were taken to guard against
their use. On this point, Hitler's Directive #41 was quite specific. The Furher stated :
"It must not happen that, by advancing too quickly and too far, the armoured and
motorised formations lose connection with the infantry following them or that
they lose the opportunity of supporting the hard-pressed, forward-fighting infantry
by direct attacks on the rear of the encircled Russian armies."
With this, OKH was in full agreement. Encirclement was to dominate, although,
and here the Army leaders were more sceptical, not in the grand, classic manner.
Hitler believed that "Experience has sufficietly shown that the Russians are not very
vulnerable to large operational encircling movements. It is therefore of decisive
importance that individual breaches of the front should take the form of close
pincer movements. We must avoid closing the pincers too late, thus giving the
enemy the possibility of avoiding destruction.
Therefor, instead of there being one massive encirclement of all the Soviet troops
within the bend of the Don, as might be attempted the previous year, Hitler envisaged,
two, to be undertaken by three separate attacks."

At the beginning of the offensive there were 74 divisions, of which 54 were German,
6 Hungarian, 8 Roumanian and 6 Italian. Of these, 9 were panzer and seven motorised
infantry ( 2 of them Waffen SS ).

The first phase of the offensive, code-named, Blue I, was to consist of an attack
2nd Army, 2nd Hungarian Army and 4th Panzer Army from the area of Kursk eastwards
to the east bank of the Don (Voronezh). There, the infantry would consolidate the
front, while 4th Panzer Army moved south, along the river.

The second attack, Blue II, would take place two days after the first from the
Kharkov area, 6th Army would move east, almost to the Don, where it would turn
south - eastwards on the right flank of 4th Panzer Army. (Stalingrad)

The third trust, Blue III, would begin a few days later from the area around Taganrog
whence 1st Panzer Army, 17th Army and 8th Italian Army would move along the lower
Don to Rostov and Stalingrad.

Start of Operation Blue - 28th June 1942.

Von Weichs 2nd Army and the Hungarian second Army with 4th Panzer Army moved
in the direction of Voronezh. 24th Panzer Division crossed the Tim river and Ksjen river
and is running straight to Voronezh. The Soviet Command beliefs that Moscow is still
the objective.

A first encirclement was completed at Star Oksol. The Soviet resistance is collapsing

At the village of Jefrossinowka, on their way to Voronezh, units of the 24th Panzer
Division are ready to attack the 40th Russian Army. But the staff of the 40th Russian
Army has left, leaving the Army behind.

The start of operation Blue for 6th Army and the XXXXth Panzer Corps. They also
moved in the direction of Voronezh and are attacking the Soviet front. 24th Panzer
Division is half way to Voronezh. A big counterattack, led by Lieutenant General
Fedorenko  (head of the Panzer Units) against Hoth's 4th Panzer Army, is a complete

A first envelopment was completed at Star Oksol.

The seventh company of the motortised infantery regiment Grossdeutshland takes the
mainbridge over the Don direction Voronezh. German engineers provided the destruction
of the bridge. The German 6th Army hooks up with the 4th Panzer Army northeast of

German tanks reach the Don on either side of Voronezh.
The Soviets create a new "Voronezh Front" to cope with the situation, under General
Vatutin. Russian resistance is patchy and disorganized as the Germans thunder on.

The German 4th Panzer Army is managed to reach Boguchar. 150 miles-240 Km south
of Voronezh and 200 miles from Stalingrad.

Hitler is directing Hoth to move south, to help Kleist's attack on Rostov / Don
area, instead of south-east along the Don and orders one Panzer Corps to execute
a short encircling movement in conjunction with 1st Panzer Army in the area of
Kamensk-Shakhtinskij. This is the first modification of the plan, a desperate attempt
to cut off the retreating enemy. But von Bock has already ordered the Panzer Corps
south-east, along the Don, and so, by the time it returns back and meets up with von
Kleist's forward units, only 14.000 enemy soldiers are taking in the encirclement.
(9th July 1942)

The diversion of Hoth's 4th Panzer Army from the Stalingrad area to the lower Don
area was a fatal mistake.

von Kleist remembered :

The 4th Panzer Army was advancing on my left. It could have taken Stalingrad
without a fight, at the end of July, but was diverted to the south to help me crossing
the Don. I did not needs it's aid, and merely congested the roads I was using.
When it turned north again, a fortnight later, the Russians had gathered just
sufficient forces at Stalingrad to check it.

The panzers continue to roll in Russia, gaining ground against feeble opposition. But
there are few prisoners, and the only captured items are flags and broken-down
vehicles. Up to now, for the 'Blue' campaign only some 130.000 Soviet troops
had been captured and it was obivious that most were escaping accros the Don.
The Soviet army is retreating in good order.

The other armies could not make progress against Stalingrad in the absence of
4th Panzer Army. The 2nd Army was occupied with Soviet counter-attacks around
Voronezh, the 2nd Hungarian Army was defending 100 miles-160 km of front along the
Don between Voronezh and Pavlosk, and the 6th Army was left to cover the flank from
Pavlosk and at the same time, advance 250 miles-400 km into the Don bend to
Stalingrad. It was a task beyond its resources, even when 8th Italian Army arrived to
take over the sector of the front south-east of Pavlovsk.

German forces breaks through the Voronezh defense line and cross to the east bank
of the Don.

On 13th July Hitler fired Field Marshall von Bock, apparrently because he did not want
to share the glory of victory with anyone, and he refused to let the general staff be
mentioned in articles of his victories. Von Bock is also fired because his failure on the
9th of July.( some sources says that he's fired the 14th of July.)
Von Bock was replaced by von Weichs.

The 1st Panzer Army drove 250 miles from its starting line and captured Rostov on
July 23.

Again Hitler changed plans, he transferred Manstein's five divisions from the Crimea to
the Leningrad front instead of the Caucasus, assuming that the Russian were almost

Once his forces had reached Rostov, Hitler decided to split his troops so that they
could both invade the rest of the Caucasus and take the important industrial city
of Stalingrad on the Volga River, 220 miles northeast of Rostov. Army Group South
was divided in two parts. Army Groups A and B. In the north,  Army Group B,
(Stalingrad) commanded by von Weichs. In the south, List commanded Army Group A
(Caucasus). Hitler's generals are stunned.

This decision was to have fatal consequences for the Germans, since they lacked
the resources to successfully take and hold both of these objectives.

For the continuation of the Summer Offensive, Operation Blue which had been
redesignated 'Operation Brunswick', the Fuhrer issued Directive #45 of 23 July.

If you want to see a good map of the German summroffensive click here.