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Thread: The Battle of Stalingrad & Case Blue

  1. #21

    Croat legion in Italian Service

    The Light Mobile Regiment (Laki Prijevozni Zdrug) was formed on July 26, 1941, after a meeting between Italian General Antonio Oxilio and Poglavnik Ante Pavelic. The gist of the meeting was: Mussolini's pride was injured by the participation of Croat volunteers in the German and not in Italian armed forces. A majority of the troops for the unit came from a battalion of volunteers that were intended as reinforcements for the 369th Regiment that was fighting as part of the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union.

    The regiment was formed with 1100 soldiers, 70 NCO's and 45 officers (1215 total), divided into 3 infantry companies, 1 machine-gun company, 1 (81mm) mortar company and 1 (65mm) artillery battery. The commanding officer was Lt.-Colonel Egon Zitnik (a Croat).

    The unit first trained in Varazdin, Croatia, where they awaited the Italians to organize their expeditionary force for the Eastern Front. During training, the unit performed sweeps in the Kordun, Banija and Bosanska Krajina regions of Croatia, searching for small groups of Yugoslav soldiers and bands of outlaws that were hiding in the forests and fighting against the new Croatian state.

    On December 17th 1941, the unit travelled to Italy where they received their full complement of weapons and transports. 3 months of intense training exercises followed. At the end of the training schedule, the regiment was visited by General Ugo Cavallerio of the Italian Headquarters Staff, and the Minister of Defense of Croatia, Slavko Kvaternik. The regimental battle flag was presented at this ceremony, and the men took their oath to Italy, Croatia, the Duce, the Italian King, and the Poglavnik.

    The regiment arrived on the Eastern Front on April 16th 1942, near the town of Harcjusk. Here they were attached to the Italian 3rd Rapid Division "Principe Amadeo Duca D'Aosta", and received the remainder of their equipment and transports (44 trucks, 3 automobiles and 6 motorcycles). On the 11th of May, near the town of Pervomajska, the regiment fought its first battle, alongside the 63rd Blackshirt "Tagliamento" unit. 5 men were lost in this minor engagement.

    The regiment, during the next 10 months, fought around the towns of Stokovo, Greko-Timofejevka, and Veseli-Nikitovo. On July 11th 1942, the regiment was transfered to the Italian XXXVth Corps. The very next day, with a battle-group of Blackshirts, the regiment fought its way 30km deep into Soviet lines. Battles follow around Vladimirovka, Krasna Poljana and Fjodorovka. On July 28th 1942 the regiment crossed the Donjec River at Lubanskoje. On August 25th 1942, the Soviets counter-attacked and the regiment was involved in heavy fighting. The Croatians managed to hold their lines, inflicting 20 casualties and capturing 101 Soviet soldiers. The Croatians lost 8 dead and 12 wounded. For this battle, the regiment was decorated by the commander of the XXXVth Corps.

    On December 19th 1942, the regiment was holding Hills 210 and 168 near Hracin. Here they were surrounded by a massive Soviet attack, but continued fighting till December 21st 1942, when they ran out of ammunition and were over-run. There were no survivors and the unit was totally destroyed.

    After the destruction of the "Light Mobile Regiment", the Italians sponsored the creation of a new "Legion" unit. It came into existence in May of 1943, only 4 months before the Italian collapse, as a 1,800 man strong infantry regiment, reinforced with its own replacement battalion and an artillery battalion of 2 batteries. This "Legion" was sent to northern Italy, to the Lake Garda area, and then the Italo-Slovene border area. After the Italian surrender, the men of the Legion were used to reinforce the existing German-Croatian Divisions, mostly the 373rd "Tigar" Division.

  2. #22
    6th army lives matter
    Chlodovech's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drömmarnas Stig View Post
    After the failure of "Barbarossa" in 1941, despite capturing around 1 mio. soviet soldiers and gaining enormous ground, the Wehrmacht failed to seize Moscow and decisively beating the Red Army. The following counter attack a.k.a. Russian winter offensive caused massive loss of German forces and held territory.
    The Germans lost some territory to the Soviets during the Winter Offensive, but suffered more combat related losses going into the U.S.S.R. than during the Soviet counter offensive in the winter of 1941-1942 - frostbite was a bigger enemy at the time. The Soviet offensive itself was a failure on all fronts, but it did officially halt the Germans and pushed them back away again from key cities such as Moscow, Rostov and Tikhvin.

    In 1942 the Wehrmacht was thus not able to launch another full scale operation. It only had the capability to strike either north or south.
    Or the center of the front: Moscow once more. It's here Stalin expected the main German thrust of 1942.

    The OKW (high command) advised to take the northern ports of Murmansk and Archangelsk to cut the Soviets off of the vital shipments of the allies and capture Moscow.
    Murmansk and Archangelsk never received the attention they should've received from the Germans. Especially Murmansk should've been seized early on, Archangelsk was much harder to reach, all the more so without controlling Moscow first. It would've made a massive difference if the Soviets could not get American and British supplies from these harbors anymore. This front was always treated as an unwanted stepchild by the Germans, however.

    The industry however convinced Hitler to take on the south, capturing the precious oilfields of Baku.
    A wise decision, as it was the least bad option the Germans had.

    Of course Hitler was not only stupid enough to listen to the industry, but also to screw up the campaign himself.
    Hitler was correct in marching South instead of going into the middle of nowhere and waste the last stockpile of German fuel to enable an offensive of this scope to take Archangelsk or something impossible of that nature.

    After a great beginning and massive territorial gains, the Wehrmacht failed to seize the oilfield and the seizure of Stalingrad.
    It was just like the good old days in the beginning, and there were massive territorial gains - the classic German operational art of war at its finest - but no prisoners like back in 1941. The pincers of the panzer forces turned up empty handed this time. Something which disturbed the Germans who were racing against the clock and whom expected to take many prisoners. It didn't bode well, having to fight the fleeing Soviets in the future again, without being able to rob their manpower pool of 100.000s of soldiers.

    The Germans seized the oilfields of Maikop but not Grozny. But like I've said every other time Fall Blau came up: the Germans weren't after the Caucasus resources for themselves but rather to deny the Soviets access to them, something in which they succeeded by reaching the Wolga. Stalingrad is only mentioned once in the original plans for Fall Blau and it was decided to encircle the city (more like a half encirclement because there was no way the Germans wanted to cross the Wolga) if it could not be taken on the march, but ultimately deemed not important.

    The German springtime offensives in order to correct the frontlines here or there prior to Fall Blau, like that on the Crimea, netted lots of prisoners though, these were big German successes.

    The question is why?
    The land mass to be conquered boggles the mind.

    The Germans required one or two entire full army groups to carry out Fall Blau. That's to say: Army Group South would've needed every other Axis soldier (or at least one out of two of them) active on the Eastern Front to reach the Wolga in the Staligrad area, Astrakhan on the shores of the Caspian sea, the oilfields of Maikop & Grozny and then the guard all the terrirotial gains along the long Don and Caucasus fronts.

    There were not enough Axis soldiers available for such an undertaking, and if there had been, Germany's logistical nightmares would've been off the scale. These troops would've found it terribly hard to advance all at once for any length of time or whenever it was required of them. Without sufficient supplies these troops are more vulnerable for Soviet counter attacks too.

    Why did the campaign end in catastrophy?
    From the start, when the Germans hardly took any prisoners? When Paulus' progress towards Stalingrad was slower than anticipated? When Hitler lost his nerve due to Paulus' slow progress along the Don and decided to do everything at once; marching to the Caucasus first before properly protecting his northern flank by reaching Astrakhan and taking all Soviet land to the west of the Wolga and south of Stalingrad and the Don, as Fall Blau required? When he attached Hoth's army to the Caucasus front instead of having him support Paulus' drive on the Wolga and Stalingrad? When Hoth and Paulus failed to encircle the Soviets outside of Stalingrad? When the Germans and mainly Paulus and Hoth decided to enter the city instead of encircling it, with Halder thinking it would fall within ten days? When Paulus didn't commit enough troops to the initial assault because some of his infantry was unnecessarily manning too wide a front to the north of the city? When the Germans were inside the town and on the verge of overrunning the city center in a matter of days but local commanders made some poor tactical decisions on the spot? Or was it always more important to clear the last pockets of Soviet resistance that still existed along the German occupied side of the Don in the opening weeks of the battle, pockets from which later Operation Uranus, the Soviet counteroffensive, was to be staged? When Paulus failed to react timely to Operation Uranus by protecting the most important town and escape route in his rear area, the road from and to Kalach? Was it the constant attrition? The inevitable logistical mess with so little infrastructure, trucks, transport planes and trains and tremendous distances to overcome? The lack of available manpower and supplies due to Army Group South amazingly not being considered a supply/reinforcment priority by the OKW throughout Fall Blau?

    It has to be a bit of everything, but I think what the Soviets did right here is at least as important as what the Germans got wrong.

    In the end, and almost unbelievably given the horrible odds, the Germans achieved their goals - sort of - especially their primary objective: starving the Soviets and denying them access to their resources in the Caucasus. So even though the Germans could've done things differently and made Fall Blau more of an operational success rather than the semi-strategic victory it was (before it became a total disaster), the Soviets had to do something right of their own to fix the dire situation they were in themselves (but it was much easier for them to win this campaign than for the Germans).

    The Germans never thought Soviet generals were capable of performing such a complex manoeuver as Operation Uranus, as in they lacked the skill for it, nor that they had enough men and tools to pull it off. Surely that has to be the first reason for the disaster for the Sixth Army at Stalingrad itself. The Germans thought they were still dealing with the same Soviet enemy they had been fighting for a year and a half. They didn't think the Soviets were capable of a double envelopment of the forces in and around Stalingrad, instead they expected an isolated Soviet winter offensive coming from the Don area (which was scary, but not as scary as encirclement) The Germans underestimated the Soviet ability to learn from defeat. Operation Uranus was also the first Soviet offensive of the entire war which the Soviets had time to properly prepare for without Stalin pressuring his generals to use all their reserves on ill-planned counterattacks and it showed. Soviet deep battle doctrine proved its validity in a real combat situation.

    Only with a sizeable armored reserve in Paulus' rear the Germans could have stopped the Soviet breakthrough on both fronts, but Germany's designated reserves for the Eastern Front were occupied in other defensive actions - so to have a kind of mobile reserve available for Army Group South the Germans should've stayed out of Stalingrad or seized it quickly while at the same time reaching all their other objectives before Operation Uranus kicked off - or German intelligence and Hitler should've found out about the size of the threat in advance, taken it seriously, and moved what little panzers and motorized troops it had in Western or Southern Europe to the Wolga Front, if available at all. Or perhaps not reinforce Rommel stuck at El Alemein but Army Group South instead.

    1. Hitler insisted on a frontal assault instead of encircling the city which would have been the far better option.
    Hitler did not insist on such a thing, at least not at first. If his generals had not initiated a frontal assault, Hitler would've been fine with that. Afterwards it became an obsession of his.

    2. He and the most stupid Göring ordered a strategical bombardement upon the city. They bombed the city into a fortress.
    It didn't help, but it did cause a lot of confusion in the city while fighting still raged outside of it.

    Without this bombardement the frontal assault could have even been successful.
    It's one factor amongst many, but not the main cause for the failure to take Stalingrad. As much in ruins as Stalingrad was, the Germans made some good progress in the first days after entering the city, despite dodged Soviet resistance. The Germans were experts are urban warfare themselves, but it was not the kind of war they wanted to fight if they were to win WW2.

    3. Hitler split the army group in two parts which is mostly a bad decision. He weakened the 6th army ever more to take faster control of the Caucasus. Again, stupid decision.
    Yes, it was the wrong move to let Paulus deal with the entire Wolga front by himself. Hitler lost precious time before understanding this mistake and rectifying it.

    4. The panzer corps of General Hoth, one of the most formidable panzer commanders of the Wehrmacht, was ordered to support the Caucasus forces.
    Primarily he was thought to support the 6th army to conquer Stalingrad.
    In a last minute order, Hitler changed this plan.
    So the 6th army was left behind without any serious tank support.
    Hoth underperformed in this campaign though: when he was finally given the order to march on Stalingrad he was hardly an unstoppable whirlwind. Not entirely his fault, but some of it was.
    “War is waged by men; not by beasts, or by gods. It is a peculiarly human activity. To call it a crime against mankind is to miss at least half its significance; it is also the punishment of a crime.” - Frederic Manning, The Middle Parts of Fortune

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