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If the objective of Sixth Army was to close the Volga to Russian shipping while simultaneously protecting the left flank of the Caucasus forces, then attacking Stalingrad could be seen as a distraction.

If the attack was a case of a change in the objectives on the fly, is there any information explaining the particulars and what objections (if any) were voiced when it came up?

Site member "Oldcat" gave me one source (David Glantz' Books) which I intend to follow-up on. However, that will take awhile. Anyone know of internet sources, readily available that shed light on this?

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    I'm not sure I follow why taking Stalingrad would be a distraction from closing in Volga - it sits right on the river, and in fact was renamed Volgograd because of that. – Comintern Apr 5 '15 at 1:42
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    Please take the time to actually read the help center Center and topics you should and should not ask about. Requests for resources are generally discouraged. – CGCampbell Apr 5 '15 at 2:33
  • Mr. Campbell, I got the following response regarding use of this very question a couple of hours ago: "Also, feel free to open another question with what you edited".– Evil Washing Machine2 hours ago I just made the assumption that if that member in good standing, who just completed an audit and said the last question that was voted closed should not have been in his opinion. He also stated he thought this was a good question. So, I thought it was good. My mistake, I guess... – kevin king Apr 5 '15 at 2:52
  • Mr. Comintern, The Volga could have been closed down from the west bank either 30 miles north or 30 miles south of Stalingrad without fighting a pitched battle for over 6 months. Thus, the objective could have been reached easily without the massive losses in men, equipment and supplies used in the attempt and ultimately failure in capturing Stalingrad. – kevin king Apr 5 '15 at 2:58
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    @kevinking I did some more research into Case Blue and updated my answer to a more definitive "yes". – Schwern Apr 6 '15 at 22:27
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Yes it was. While neutralizing or bypassing Stalingrad may been a good idea, capturing it was a colossal waste of resources. The original, achievable German plan did not feature crossing the Volga. The main German attack was in the opposite direction, to the south.

The original goal of Case Blue was the capture of the Caucus oilfields which Germany desperately needed to conduct a mobile war as Romanian supplies dwindled. Fourth and Sixth Panzer Army were to anchor the northern flank by reaching the Don and Volga rivers, cutting off the Caucus region. Once that task was complete, First and Seventeenth Armies would attack the troops now cut off in the Caucuses. The capture of Stalingrad was not deemed necessary, the Germans did not plan to advance past the Volga that year. This was an achievable goal within the limits of German supply and manpower and the area's logistics.

The Germans forgot their strategic objectives and the capture of Stalingrad took on a mythical propaganda value for both sides. It took a very mobile army and subjected it to grinding siege warfare. They should have stuck to the plan of holding the Soviets at the Don/Volga line while their mobile forces ran amok capturing oilfields and resources. This also would have cut off the Soviet army in the Caucuses in another grand encirclement (though it could still be supplied via Lend-Lease) and considerably shortened German lines. Refueled with Soviet oil, 1943 may have seen a grand pincer movement on Moscow.

Hitler's constant amateur meddling in the southern front resulted in confused logistics. This would often kill the momentum of successful attacks while the Germans sorted out their units and allowed the Soviets time to regroup. The transport in the area simply couldn't support transferring whole armies from one front to another, but the inexperienced Hitler did not understand this from pushing flags around a map.

The biggest blunder was Hitler splitting Army Group South into Army Group A and B and sending them off on different objectives simultaneously. Hitler (again) greatly underestimated the strength and reserves of the Soviet armies. Not only could the new armies groups not support each other, they had to kill their momentum to sort themselves out, and now had two armies taxing the area's logistics.

The strategic mistakes made by Hitler on the Southern Front are well covered by the Wikipedia page on Case Blue. Changing objectives, splitting armies disbursing their power, overconfidence, overstrained logistics... it all lead to slowing and diffusing the, until then, very successful German army advance into southern Russia. Had Hitler not meddled and clogged the roads with his own vehicles, Stalingrad may have been taken in July before the Soviets were able to regroup.

I don't have a reading recommendation specifically for Case Blue, I would recommend "Enemy At The Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad" by William Craig. It's more about the siege itself than the surrounding mistakes of Case Blue, and more from the Soviet perspective, it is an excellent read and William Craig does an excellent job of telling history through personal stories. Ignore the movie (or, at least, realize it has little to do with history).

  • Even before the split into A and B, Blue was an operational absurdity for the Germans. The tank forces basically rode in a vast circle inside the Don / Donets river basin, dispersing some Russian forces but capturing nobody. At the end they were sitting near Rostov where they started, having gained a chunk of empty steppe. A problem with trying to cut the Volga farther south is that the river bends away east below Stalingrad, giving more land to hold. The only rail connections to the area go through Stalingrad. – Oldcat Apr 6 '15 at 18:47
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    @Oldcat I did some more research on Case Blue and discovered it was never the intention to cross the Volga. The Germans planned to advance to the Don / Volga line, hold the Russians there, and then attack south into a now cut-off Caucus region. This plan, done in steps, was achievable. The Germans did not have the supplies or strength to do both at once, but they tried anyway. – Schwern Apr 6 '15 at 22:27
  • It seems to me that adding a thousand miles of front to one that you couldn't defend adequately the previous winter isn't the best plan. But if you do, you need to think about guarding that northern direction. Blue at least tried to do that. Ignoring the northern flank is out of the question. – Oldcat Apr 6 '15 at 22:30
  • @Oldcat The Germans needed the oil and resources, full stop. It would also cut off lend-lease shipments coming up from the Middle East. And it was an attack in a surprising direction, the Soviets were slow to realize the Germans were not going to attack Moscow that year. The Germans also believed the Soviets were incapable of mounting a counter-offensive. They were wrong. But if Case Blue had gone as planned, the Germans would have had mobile forces (4th & 6th Pz) to deal with it rather than being ground up in Stalingrad. – Schwern Apr 6 '15 at 22:36
  • Need doesn't give you the ability to make it happen. Neither does a stupid battle plan. There's not a shred of sense in the reasoning that the Soviets could not strike back, as they already had the year before and Blue had done nothing to change matters except put theGerman's own necks on the chopping block. – Oldcat Apr 6 '15 at 22:50
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No, it was not a distraction.

Bypassing Stalingrad was not an option. The essential problem was that the Don River has a geography that would makes it difficult to establish supply lines across except in the vicinity of Stalingrad or much farther north, in the Kursk area. By controlling the Stalingrad area, the Sixth Army would theoretically have a base which would have allowed the Germans to flank the Red Army. With Stalingrad in hand they would be in position to advance all the way to Saratov (the next big objective). Such an advance would have collapsed the entire Don salient and allowed the Germans to put much more pressure on the Kursk salient and eventually Moscow.

The area between the Don and Stalingrad is narrow and has no railway other than the one through Stalingrad itself, so it is tank only; there would have been no way supply an army past Stalingrad without controlling Stalingrad. There would simply have been no way to get food and fuel north of the Don bend without controlling Stalingrad.

After failing to pass Stalingrad, the Germans attempted to attack Kursk directly instead of flanking and we know how that turned out--not good.

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