Hitler's Strategy…



  • @Imperious:

    Stalingrad at the point where it became the objective was less than desirable. Hitler didn’t understand that he also had to maintain control of Baku which was impossible considering the length of the front. Hitler didn’t have the capabilities to control access to the Caucasus. He should have just finished off Leningrad and Moscow and shortened the front in 1942. Stalingrad was only a personal struggle between Hitler and Stalin, it had little importance based on the material they wasted on holding it. Moscow was the main juncture that controlled most the the logistical railines and roads to all parts of the front. Stalingrad campaign was like another faulty strategy like thinking attacking the Soviets was going to make England surrender after Hitler tried to defeat them in the Battle of Britain. Moscow campaign fails and they think rather than go back after Moscow, they fight for a new objective which has no bearing on defeating the Soviets.

    In 1942, the Soviets were expecting the German offensive to occur in the center. Immense Soviet forces were positioned to prevent exactly the anti-Moscow offensive you described. By launching a major offensive on the southern front instead, the German high command was able to take the Soviets by surprise, resulting in significant early victories and a very favorable exchange ratio.

    I agree that the conquest of the Baku oilfields was beyond Germany’s means. But I’d argue that the conquest of Moscow in 1942 was likewise beyond Germany’s ability. Any attempt to decisively defeat the Soviet Union in 1942 was going to be a long shot.

    Which long shot should Germany have pursued? The conquest of the northern Caucasus and the Baku oilfields would have deprived the Soviet Union of 90% of its oil supply. (While also solving Germany’s significant oil-related problems.) Germany would also have obtained access to vital raw materials in the Caucasus, including half the Soviet Union’s manganese production, and vital wheat fields and farmland. One could easily argue that Germany gaining all that would have had a significantly greater effect on the war than the conquest of Moscow would have. This is not to downplay Moscow’s significance as an industrial center, transportation hub, and population center. The conquest of Moscow would have been big, the conquest of the Caucasus even bigger. Had Germany been able to effect the latter, it might then have made sense for Hitler to attempt to negotiate a peace treaty with the Soviet Union. The invasion would have served its purpose–or at least enough of its purpose for the cost of further war to outweigh the benefit.

    Even a partial conquest of the Caucasus would yield significant benefits for Germany. The most important of those benefits would have been access to some of the Caucasus oil. Access to that oil would have dramatically expanded the German military’s options. For example, Germany’s lack of oil meant that its supply lines mostly involved coal-powered trains to move supplies most of the distance necessary, and horses to move them from the train stop to the soldiers in the field. Gasoline or diesel-powered trucks were used to supplement this supply system and extend the distance from the train that supplies could be shipped. But lack of oil imposed severe constraints on Germany’s ability to supply its troops in the field. Those constraints were the main reason why many German soldiers failed to receive adequate winter uniforms prior to the winter of '41 - '42. In 1942, Germany was sometimes unable to use its heaviest fighting vehicles in its offenses due to lack of fuel.

    Also, partial success would have meant (and did mean) that the Germans obtained some very favorable exchanges with Soviet armies unprepared for a major offensive in that area. Besides all that, Germany did conquer a very large portion of the Caucasus in 1942. Holding that territory was another story, especially because by the fall of '42 the Soviet force in the Southern front was stronger than its German counterpart. (Even before the destruction of Germany’s Stalingrad force.) Dealing with that problem would have required Germany to use the “backhand method” that von Mannstein masterfully employed to shore up Germany’s southern front after the fall of Stalingrad.

    In hindsight, it would have made more sense for Germany to have surrounded and besieged Stalingrad, as opposed to attempting to take it street by street. Probably when the decision to take the city was made, it had not been realized how strongly the Soviets would defend it, or how painful the conquest cost would be. Once those things had become clear, Germany should have abandoned its attempt to conquer the city via a frontal attack.


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    In 1942, the Soviets were expecting the German offensive to occur in the center. Immense Soviet forces were positioned to prevent exactly the anti-Moscow offensive you described. By launching a major offensive on the southern front instead, the German high command was able to take the Soviets by surprise, resulting in significant early victories and a very favorable exchange ratio.

    In 1943 this was the case as well at Kursk. It made no effect on the German plans however.

    Germany did not have the means to take Baku, so it is a faulty objective given the material and position of the German army.

    Leningrad capture would have freed up the Finnish who were blocked up and made the defense of Moscow more difficult with new forces coming from the north. Also, Archangel could be threatened and cut off the short route of Lend Lease.

    All the talk about Baku is just a pipe dream. It could only be an objective if Moscow was taken first. Once that happened the Germans could secure the Don properly and avoid getting cut off.



  • @Imperious:

    In 1942, the Soviets were expecting the German offensive to occur in the center. Immense Soviet forces were positioned to prevent exactly the anti-Moscow offensive you described. By launching a major offensive on the southern front instead, the German high command was able to take the Soviets by surprise, resulting in significant early victories and a very favorable exchange ratio.

    In 1943 this was the case as well at Kursk. It made no effect on the German plans however.

    Germany did not have the means to take Baku, so it is a faulty objective given the material and position of the German army.

    Leningrad capture would have freed up the Finnish who were blocked up and made the defense of Moscow more difficult with new forces coming from the north. Also, Archangel could be threatened and cut off the short route of Lend Lease.

    All the talk about Baku is just a pipe dream. It could only be an objective if Moscow was taken first. Once that happened the Germans could secure the Don properly and avoid getting cut off.

    If you look at the map I mentioned earlier, you’ll see that the German summer offensive of '42 had reached about 500 miles east of the Black Sea, and was less than 100 miles from the Caspian Sea. Had the Germans reached the Caspian, all Soviet forces between the Black and Caspian Seas south of the German advance would have been cut off from the main Red Army. Had that occurred, it probably would have been possible to capture or destroy the cut off Soviet force. Even if that force was evacuated either via the Caspian Sea or Persia, Germany would still have ended up with the Baku oilfields. (Assuming, of course, that the force which reached the Caspian was not pushed back by a Soviet counterattack.)

    You mentioned that conquering Leningrad would have freed up Axis forces for use elsewhere. That same logic was probably an important component in Hitler’s decision to take Stalingrad (as opposed to imposing a Leningrad-style siege on it). The upside to taking a city is that doing so frees up what would otherwise have been your besieging force. The downside (especially for Germany) is that the Soviets obtained a roughly 1:1 exchange ratio in street-to-street fighting. Germany could not afford a ratio even close to that in its overall war against the Soviet Union.

    During the summer of '42 the Germans achieved offensive successes by attacking the Soviets where they were weak. By the fall of '42 the Soviets had shifted much of their strength to the south. At that point the Red Army proved the stronger. I would argue that by the fall of '42 the Red Army minus the anti-Japanese force was stronger than the German Army minus the forces deployed in Norway, France, Italy, and Africa. This means that the German Army was not particularly well-positioned to make (let alone hold) major strategic gains against the Soviet Union that year.


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Hitler wasted alot of German and Finnish forces that were engaged against Leningrad. This ‘siege’ also tied up the Finnish in the northern flank. It was mush more sensible to finish off Leningrad and use the forces directed against Moscow.

    If Hitler could even reach the Baku it would have been destroyed and soon another Stalingrad would have occurred with the cutoff of many Germans in the Caucasus. It would have been easier to do this and probably resulted in greater damage to the German army.

    Hitler should have counter attacked after Zhukov’s abortive Mars campaign in spring 1942, which gave the Soviets a drubbing.

    Just wasting resources besieging Leningrad and Stalingrad and not taking anything is losing tempo because the Soviets had time to play games and grew stronger, while Hitler could not replace his loses. All siege campaigns had the effect of producing no result but attrition of which the Soviets are much better prepared.

    No sir Hitler had to finish the war with Moscow or face defeat. Caucasus was not part of the capabilities of the Germans while other parts of the front had not been decided first.



  • @Imperious:

    Hitler wasted alot of German and Finnish forces that were engaged against Leningrad. This ‘siege’ also tied up the Finnish in the northern flank. It was mush more sensible to finish off Leningrad and use the forces directed against Moscow.

    If Hitler could even reach the Baku it would have been destroyed and soon another Stalingrad would have occurred with the cutoff of many Germans in the Caucasus. It would have been easier to do this and probably resulted in greater damage to the German army.

    Hitler should have counter attacked after Zhukov’s abortive Mars campaign in spring 1942, which gave the Soviets a drubbing.

    Just wasting resources besieging Leningrad and Stalingrad and not taking anything is losing tempo because the Soviets had time to play games and grew stronger, while Hitler could not replace his loses. All siege campaigns had the effect of producing no result but attrition of which the Soviets are much better prepared.

    No sir Hitler had to finish the war with Moscow or face defeat. Caucasus was not part of the capabilities of the Germans while other parts of the front had not been decided first.

    Had Hitler elected to take Leningrad, the German and Finnish armies would have paid a very heavy price in street-to-street fighting. It’s true that after taking Leningrad the forces used could have been thrown into an attack on Moscow. Given the Soviet strength along its center front, it’s doubtful that the Moscow attack would have worked. Even if it had, the Soviets would have kept fighting. Yes, the loss of that city would have represented a serious setback to the Soviets’ long-term war-making potential, and yes, there are only so many such setbacks the Soviet Union could have afforded before it had reached its limit.

    Modern day Moscow has 11.5 million people. Assuming that WWII Moscow’s population was roughly similar, that means that Moscow represented about 6.8% of the Soviet Union’s prewar population. After taking into account the percentage of the Soviet population Germany had already conquered, that 6.8% becomes higher. On the other hand, large numbers of Soviet factory workers had been evacuated eastwards in the face of German conquests, and that pattern would almost certainly continued had Moscow been threatened with capture. Because Moscow was a major transportation center, evacuating its workforce would have been easier than (for example) evacuating the workforce of the Caucasus.

    Also, taking Moscow in a series of street-to-street battles would have cost Germany soldiers it could not hope to replace.

    The point I’m making was that in 1942, Germany was in no position to deal a death blow to the Soviet war effort. Yes, Germany should have sought to inflict major blows against the Soviet Union anyway, on the theory that a small chance is better than none at all. But it needed to do that within the context of maintaining a sustainable exchange ratio with the Red Army. By “sustainable” I mean that the ratio needed to have been 3:1 in Germany’s favor at the very least. In the early and middle stages of Case Blue Germany achieved a sustainable exchange ratio. At the Battle of Stalingrad it did not.

    After the Soviet Union won the Battle of Stalingrad, and the Red Army sought to exploit the resulting German weakness, von Mannstein was able to achieve an 8:1 ratio in Germany’s favor, while also regaining some of the land Germany had lost after Stalingrad. Had Germany achieved such favorable ratios more often, it would have significantly increased its long-term staying power in the war, while also increasing its short-term opportunities. Step 1 would have been to attain highly favorable exchange ratios in a series of battles to reduce the strength of the Red Army. Step 2 would have involved taking advantage of the Red Army’s weakened state to capture critical objectives.


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    The defeat of Leningrad would have been easier than Stalingrad.

    The loss of Moscow would have been much greater loss than Baku and resulted in a shortening of the front of which a latter southern drive could succeed without fear of getting cut off because at that point all logistical support for Soviets would be coming entirely east of the Don and this country is not too developed. The last Soviet Factories would be in range of Axis bombers and the front would have rolled up more easily, than committing the 6th to Stalingrad with all other Soviet logistical and political objectives are intact allowing easy reinforcement from rail heads running south from Moscow.


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