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  • An Alternative To Stalingrad.

    Dear All,

    This may well have been covered previously on the forum, but I think it an interesting 'What If' nonetheless.

    I have just been re watching 'The World At War' episode that deals with the Stalingrad Campaign.

    What were the realistic options/alternatives open to the German Army in 1942, apart from a lunge into Southern Russia (always assuming - not likely - that Hitler would be open to suggestions)?

    What could his options be? Another lunge at Moscow, dig in where they were, fall back to shorten the line?

    I am not sure what difference any alternative campaign would have had on the Eastern Front in the long term - As Montgomery once said, 'Rule number 1, never march on Moscow.' (or words to that effect).
    HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

    "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Dogsbody67 View Post
    Dear All,

    This may well have been covered previously on the forum, but I think it an interesting 'What If' nonetheless.

    I have just been re watching 'The World At War' episode that deals with the Stalingrad Campaign.

    What were the realistic options/alternatives open to the German Army in 1942, apart from a lunge into Southern Russia (always assuming - not likely - that Hitler would be open to suggestions)?

    What could his options be? Another lunge at Moscow, dig in where they were, fall back to shorten the line?

    I am not sure what difference any alternative campaign would have had on the Eastern Front in the long term - As Montgomery once said, 'Rule number 1, never march on Moscow.' (or words to that effect).
    Well:the aim of Fall Blau was to deprive the Soviet Union of the oil of the Caucasus hoping that the SU would collapse or would be willing to a compromise peace . Stalingrad was not important :capture Stalingrad was to protect the left flank and to eliminate the Wolga as a supply line . Was there an other possibility for the Germans to obtain a decisive result ? Leningrad :no . Maybe (but a very big MAYBE ) an attack in the direction of Moscow,in the hope that the SU would commit her strategic reserves . But if they didn't ? There is no proof that the capture of Moscow would have as result the collapse of the SU .An alternative was ;the strategic defense and let the Red army bleeding . But time was against Germany and the SU became stronger . Thus I see no other option than Fall Blau .

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    • #3
      Originally posted by ljadw View Post
      Well:the aim of Fall Blau was to deprive the Soviet Union of the oil of the Caucasus hoping that the SU would collapse or would be willing to a compromise peace . Stalingrad was not important :capture Stalingrad was to protect the left flank and to eliminate the Wolga as a supply line . Was there an other possibility for the Germans to obtain a decisive result ? Leningrad :no . Maybe (but a very big MAYBE ) an attack in the direction of Moscow,in the hope that the SU would commit her strategic reserves . But if they didn't ? There is no proof that the capture of Moscow would have as result the collapse of the SU .An alternative was ;the strategic defense and let the Red army bleeding . But time was against Germany and the SU became stronger . Thus I see no other option than Fall Blau .
      I agree about the strategic attempt to deprive the oil supplies but I suppose the alternative option or should I say the more sensible option was not to get involved in the attrition battle in the streets. They could've bypassed and surrounded the city and controlled the river and surrounding territory to cut off the Volga to the North. How might that have played out?

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      • #4
        Around the time of Fall Blau the Germans planned to start a decisive offensive on Leningrad called "Operation Nordlicht". It is still unclear whether it was thwarted by the 3rd Sinyavino offensive purely by accident or the Soviet HQ had received intelligence about its start and took countermeasures.

        From Wiki:

        The first Operation Nordlicht was devised by the German high command, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht ("High Command of the Armed Forces") after a year-long battle for Leningrad when Adolf Hitler ordered a final assault on the besieged city. [1] The main objective of the operation was to capture Leningrad using forces of Army Group North under Field Marshal Georg von Küchler [2], and thereby bring an end to the siege and free up hundreds of thousands of troops. Meanwhile, the Germans were also preparing for the Battle of Stalingrad. Both attacks on Leningrad in the North and on Stalingrad in the South were synchronized by the Germans so as to confuse the Soviets.

        Operation Nordlicht was to begin on 23 August 1942 with a massive artillery bombardment of Leningrad, following with aerial bombardments by the Luftwaffe. But when the Soviets launched the Sinyavin Offensive on 19 August, the forces that were intended to be used for Nordlicht were transferred from the planned offensive to the defense of the German lines. Although the Sinyavin Offensive was a failure, it caused the Germans to cancel Operation Nordlicht and would never be able to launch an offensive against Leningrad.
        www.histours.ru

        Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by ljadw View Post
          Well:the aim of Fall Blau was to deprive the Soviet Union of the oil of the Caucasus hoping that the SU would collapse or would be willing to a compromise peace . Stalingrad was not important :capture Stalingrad was to protect the left flank and to eliminate the Wolga as a supply line . Was there an other possibility for the Germans to obtain a decisive result ? Leningrad :no . Maybe (but a very big MAYBE ) an attack in the direction of Moscow,in the hope that the SU would commit her strategic reserves . But if they didn't ? There is no proof that the capture of Moscow would have as result the collapse of the SU .An alternative was ;the strategic defense and let the Red army bleeding . But time was against Germany and the SU became stronger . Thus I see no other option than Fall Blau .
          Good points, and I'd bet that your evaluation is largely correct.

          Taking a more 'global' view (if that is the right phrase), would there have been any mileage in really backing the Afrika Korps and pushing through the Middle East (if done so in the first months of 1942)? If this theatre of operations was persued more effectively, would it have ever paid off (from a German point of view)?
          HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

          "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Dogsbody67
            ...What were the realistic options/alternatives open to the German Army in 1942, apart from a lunge into Southern Russia (always assuming - not likely - that Hitler would be open to suggestions)?...
            Nazi Germany was a dictatorship and as such it had to show that it held the initiative, that it was in control. Just as in 1941 and 1943 the Germans must take the offensive in order to show the neutrals and the home front that all was well.

            Moscow was out of the question, the Germans could not afford the attrition battles involved in taking on the main strength of the Red Army. The army was no longer strong enough for that. I think the same could be said of Leningrad, while the Germans planned to attempt its capture, imo, they would have failed to do so (city, forest, swamps,... not the Germans army's forte).

            If one must attack but cannot afford the attrition cost with a numerically stronger opponent then the Case Blue plan (economic objectives) seems the best option. The problem was that the Germans were not strong enough to reach the oilfields and take them (but the drive did cause major disruption). Considering the weakness of the axis position in the east the end result was never really in doubt... the Germans did not have a chance for victory in 1942 and it was only a matter of time before the Red Army got their measure of the opposition and defeated them.
            The Purist

            Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Dogsbody67
              ...Taking a more 'global' view (if that is the right phrase), would there have been any mileage in really backing the Afrika Korps and pushing through the Middle East (if done so in the first months of 1942)? If this theatre of operations was persued more effectively, would it have ever paid off (from a German point of view)?
              As has been discussed plenty of times,... no.

              Rommel *was* supported by about as much as could be done. Since the ports could not manage to supply the troops that were in Africa (port capacity simply was not there) adding more troops would have only made the situation worse. The largest port was Tripoli and it could only berth four ships at a time. Benghazi, the next largest could handle less than half of Tripoli's capacity and Tobruk only a single ship. There was also a lack of coastal shipping and the Italian navy and merchant fleet was constantly short of fuel (it came from the same sources as the Germans,... Ploesti) Furthermore, aircraft and submarines operating from Egypt made the use of Tobruk untenable, forcing the Italians to use the other two ports thus adding mileage to every delivery.

              The round trip for the trucks carrying supplies from Tripoli was around 4500 km and the trucks ended up using more fuel than they delivered. The distances involved and the poor lines of communication ate up German and Italian trucks at an alarming rate that simply could not be maintained by either country's automotive industry. The Germans used every captured British lorry, they bought trucks from Vichy France and the Italian dismounted an entire motor division in order to add to the truck totals. It didn't matter much in the end.
              Last edited by The Purist; 29 Sep 09, 11:13.
              The Purist

              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

              Comment


              • #8
                So, in a nutshell.... whatever they did with the forces available to them and using the strategies decreed by The Fuhrer, the Germans were always going to be in the long run.

                A pity so many had to die in the mean time.
                HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

                "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Fall Blau was far from the only option for the German forces on the Eastern Front in 1942. Two other options - inherently more sensible - would have been to proceed with the elimination of Leningrad, a realistic possibility which would have freed up an entire German army as well as a substantial number of Finnish divisions. Another possibility would have been to eliminate the Soviet bulge between Rzhev and Demyansk and then proceed to the capture of Moscow. Even more realistic would have been to capture Leningrad first, and then transfer the German 18th Army to Army Group Center to assist with the capture of Moscow. This approach also could have involved utilising the Axis armies (Italians, Hungarians and Rumanians) in clearing up the large partisan groupings around Bryansk and Vyazma, rather then having the hold important strategic sectors of the front. Fall Blau was a disaster in the making from the very beginning. The capture of Baku - besides being a logistical pipe-dream, would certainly not have meant the demise of the Soviet Union - unlike the capture of Leningrad and Moscow and the capture of the Volga basin.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dogsbody67 View Post
                    So, in a nutshell.... whatever they did with the forces available to them and using the strategies decreed by The Fuhrer, the Germans were always going to be in the long run..
                    Arguably Germany was lost when Hitler invaded Russia.
                    The Purist

                    Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                      Arguably Germany was lost when Hitler invaded Russia.
                      You know, strange as it apparently may seem, I do not think this is true. It was extremely unlikely that Germany could have knocked the USSR out in one year's campaigning, but through a combination of a more enlightened occupation policy - especially towards the Ukrainians and Baltic states, but even to the Russians themselves - conjoined with a more realistic assessment of the erosion of German combat effectiveness and supply problems late in 1941 - dictating an assumption of the defensive following the initial success of Operation Typhoon, the Germans could have indeed been poised for victory in 1942. This latter, of course, dependent upon pursuit of a more military focused campaign, rather than one pursuing avowedly economic goals. There was a tremendous amount of initial goodwill towards the Germans during the initial weeks of OB, very quickly wasted. What was lacking was the British experience in Empire building.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dogsbody67 View Post
                        G
                        Taking a more 'global' view (if that is the right phrase), would there have been any mileage in really backing the Afrika Korps and pushing through the Middle East (if done so in the first months of 1942)? If this theatre of operations was persued more effectively, would it have ever paid off (from a German point of view)?
                        They would probably have been better off withdrawing from Africa altogether. An extra 400-700 Panzers for Army Group South may have had a critical impact.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Gooner View Post
                          They would probably have been better off withdrawing from Africa altogether. An extra 400-700 Panzers for Army Group South may have had a critical impact.
                          The Africa investment paid dividends. The alternative would have been to begin fortifying positions across southern Europe. Without the German presence in North Africa, the British and Free French would have likely invaded Algeria a lot sooner, and Italy would have been subjected to massive aerial attack a lot earlier. The problem was that the investment was not big enough at a time when it could have achieved a victory in the Mediterranean.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by skoblin
                            ...., but through a combination of a more enlightened occupation policy - especially towards the Ukrainians and Baltic states, but even to the Russians themselves - conjoined with a more realistic assessment of the erosion of German combat effectiveness and supply problems late in 1941 - dictating an assumption of the defensive following the initial success of Operation Typhoon, the Germans could have indeed been poised for victory in 1942. This latter, of course, dependent upon pursuit of a more military focused campaign, rather than one pursuing avowedly economic goals. There was a tremendous amount of initial goodwill towards the Germans during the initial weeks of OB, very quickly wasted. What was lacking was the British experience in Empire building.
                            Everything you point to would have been impossible under the Nazi regime. Hitler's racial policies meant war with Russia and all that followed. Remove the Nazis and you remove the possibility of war. What needs to be examined were the possibilities open to the German military within the framework of the Nazi regime.

                            Starting from the end of operations in March 42 we would have to look at what is possible for both sides. The first thing one is drawn to on the map is the situation in the south. If, as some would like to think, the Germans could make a go for Moscow, they would have to begin redeploying both the 1st or 4th Pz Armies at the very least and these would have to depart prior to the opening of the campaign season.

                            However, the Russians struck first in May 42 at Kharkov (surprising the Germans) and it was only the presence of these two pz armies, relatively rested and refitted, that stopped the southern from collapsing. The situation in Crimea would also have added to the Germans problems if the panzers had been withdrawn. No drive on Moscow could begin until the Red Army offensive had been defeated and this would have drawn German resources back to the south.

                            The war in Russia between 1941 and mid 43 *was* an economic war as both sides struggled for the control of (or to deny the control of) Russia's resources in the south. Moscow in 1942 would have been the German army's grave yard. The Germans simply did not have the strength to commit to such an operation. As it was they could just manage to support the offensive operations of four armies and two of these were infantry formation. Even so logistical support could only be managed by immobilising the rest of the front and stripping mobile formations of the bulk of their equipment and, in particular, their logistical transport units.
                            The Purist

                            Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by skoblin
                              The Africa investment paid dividends. The alternative would have been to begin fortifying positions across southern Europe. Without the German presence in North Africa, the British and Free French would have likely invaded Algeria a lot sooner, and Italy would have been subjected to massive aerial attack a lot earlier.
                              I would agree. The Germans committed only some 2% of it land power to Africa yet it occupied the full available strength of the British/CW armies between 1941 and early 1943.

                              Originally posted by skoblin
                              ... The problem was that the investment was not big enough at a time when it could have achieved a victory in the Mediterranean.
                              Unfortunately for the axis that was never a possibility. Even in May 1941, with DAK sitting on the Egyptian frontier there was no possibility of defeating 8th Army. While the axis army was smaller than it would be a year later it was no so much so that the problems of port capacity and the distances from Tripoli could be overcome. DAK's two divisions were already so short of supplies that Rommel was forced onto the defensive while he built up supplies for the next attempt to take Tobruk.

                              Imo,... the best the axis could hope to achieve in Africa would have been a long term delaying action (rather than immolation at Alamein) followed by a slow retreat out of Africa once the Allies had landed in Algeria and Morocco. Consider the possibilities for an extended campaign had Rommel stood on the frontier and forced Montgomery into a mobile battle. He could have slowly retreated his army westward (cleaning out his port depots as he went) arriving in Tunisia with an intact force to link with axis reinforcements landed there.

                              An army based on a mobile reserve of five German and Italian armoured divs plus three motor divs supporting the German and Italian leg infantry divisions (another 8? divisions) could have held a large Tunisian bridgehead that would have required an expanded allied commitment. An extended campaign may have meant no Sicily or Italian campaigns and just might have saved Italy from being knocked out of the war in 1943.
                              Last edited by The Purist; 29 Sep 09, 13:48.
                              The Purist

                              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                              Comment

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