Battle for the Caucasus, which lasted 442 days (from 25 July 1942 to 9 October 1943), and was held back from the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk, has played a huge role in the development and completion of the process of radical change in Russian war majestically. Her defensive move covers the period from 25 July to 31 December 1942 the Wehrmacht during fierce fighting and suffering enormous losses, unable to get out to the foothills of the Head of the Caucasus mountain range and the river Terek. But on the whole German plan "Edelweiss" was not realized. The German troops were not able to get into the Caucasus and the Middle East, which would lead to the entry of Turkey into the war on Germany's side.
Plans of the German command
June 28, 1942 4th Panzer Army under the command of the Wehrmacht Hermann Hoth broke the Russian front between Kursk and Kharkov, and continued coming toward Don. July 3 German troops was partly captured Voronezh, and Timoshenko troops defending the Rostov area were shrouded from the north. 4th Panzer Army quickly moved to the south between the Donets and Don. July 23 was captured by the Germans, Rostov-on-Don. As a result, the path to the North Caucasus has been opened.
The strategic plans of the German military and political control seizure of the Caucasus, where before the war, producing about 90% of Russian oil, was given a huge place. Adolf Hitler was aware of the limitations of raw materials, energy base of the Third Reich and the meeting in Poltava in June 1942 said: "If we fail to seize oil of Maikop and the Terrible, then we will have to end the war!" In addition, Hitler took into account the importance of the Kuban and the Caucasus as a source of food (grains), and the presence here of supplies of strategic raw materials. Namely, there is housed Tyrnyauz deposit tungsten-molybdenum ore. Plan of the German commanders on the Soviet-German front in the summer of 1942 foresaw the application of the main blow in the Caucasus with the simultaneous advent of Stalingrad, the principal transportation hub and a great center of the military industry. Some researchers believe that it was a strategic blunder of Hitler, because the division of limited military resources and led to the dissipation of the Wehrmacht, and ultimately to the defeat at Stalingrad and the Caucasus directions.
July 23, 1942, Hitler approved the plan of operation "Edelweiss" (German for Operation Edelwei?). He foresaw the environment and destruction of Russian troops to the south and south-east of Rostov-on-Don, the seizure of the North Caucasus. In the upcoming, one group of troops was to attack passing the head of the Caucasus mountain range to the west and grab the Novorossiisk and Tuapse, and the second — to advance from the east to seize the oil-producing areas of the Terrible and Baku. Immediately made the holding of a workaround, the German High Command was planning to break through the Greater Caucasus mountain range in the central part of it, so go to Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Sukhumi. With the breakthrough of the Wehrmacht in the South Caucasus, solved puzzles to destroy the bases of the Black Sea fleet, establish complete domination of the Black Sea, establishing a specific connection with the Turkish armed forces and the involvement of Turkey into the war on the side of the Reich, the prerequisites for the invasion of the region of the Near and Middle East. In addition, the German command was calculated that a number of peoples of the Caucasus and the Cossacks will support them, that will solve the problem of with auxiliary troops. In part, these expectations are met.
A column of German StuG III assault guns on the march to the Caucasus.
To solve large-scale problems as the German command concentrated in the Caucasus significant shock group. For the coming of the Caucasus Army Group "South" was singled Army Group "A" under the Field Marshal Wilhelm List (September 10, 1942 took over the command of Hitler, and from November 22, 1942 — Colonel-General Ewald von Kleist ). It consisted of: 1st Panzer Army — Colonel-General Ewald von Kleist (until 21 November 1942, then Colonel General Eberhard von Mackensen), 4th Panzer Army — Colonel-General Hoth (first stepped on the Caucasian direction, and then was assigned to the group "B" — at Stalingrad), 17th Field Army — Colonel-General Richard Ruoff, 3rd Romanian Army — Lieutenant General Peter Dumitrescu (in September 1942 the army was transferred to Stalingrad direction). Initially, in the advent of the Caucasus was to take the role and the 11th Army stein that after the siege of Sevastopol in the Crimea was located, but part of it was transferred under the Leningrad part divided between the Army Group "Center" and the Army Group "South". Army Group "A" supports parts of the 4th Air Army Wolfram von Richthofen (about 1 thousand aircraft). Just a shock group to 25 July 1942 was about 170 thousand soldiers and officers, 15 thousand oil workers, 1130 tanks (July 31 — 700 tanks), higher than 4.5 thousand guns and mortars.
German troops had the highest combat effectiveness, had the highest morale, which strengthened nedavneshnie resounding victory. Many of the compounds involved in the defeat of the Wehrmacht units of the Red Army in Kharkov, south-west of Voronezh, in the June fighting, when they moving to the lower reaches of the Don, the move fixed on its left bank. In Berlin, were convinced of victory before the battle even established oil companies («Ost-Ol» and «Karpaten-Ol»), which received the exclusive right to a 99-year exploitation of oil fields in the Caucasus. Was harvested a huge number of pipes (who later went to the USSR).
German troops confronted the troops of the South (Rodion Malinovsky) and part of the North Caucasus Front (Semen Budennyi). In the southern front were the 9th Army — Commander Major General FA Parkhomenko, the 12th Army — Major General AA Grechko, 18th Army — Lieutenant General FV Kamkov, 24th Army — Major General DT Kozlov, 37th Army — Major General P. Kozlov, 51th Army — Major General NI Trufanov (July 28 she was transferred to the Stalingrad Front) and 56 — Army — Major General A. Ryzhov. Provided air support to the 4th Air Army Major General Aviation Vershinin (September, Major General Aviation NF Naumenko). At first glance the Front was impressive, but n
early all of the Army, not counting the 51 th, suffered huge losses in earlier battles, were drained of blood. Southern Front had about 112 thousand people, a significant gap between the Germans were in technology — 120 tanks, more than 2.2 thousand guns and mortars, and 130 aircraft. So Makar, the front of which took the brunt of the enemy, the enemy gave way in men 1.5 times as airplanes almost 8 times in the tanks — more than 9 times, guns and mortars — in 2 times. Added to this is the lack of a stable system of command and control, which has been violated in the course of their frisky retreat to Don. July 28, 1942 Law Firm has been abolished and its troops entered the North Caucasus Front.
Of the Red Army was standing in front of a very difficult task: to stop the coming of the enemy, to tire him in the defensive battle and prepare for the transition to the offensive. 10-11 July 1942, the Supreme Command (SHK) gave orders to the South and the North Caucasus areas to organize a defensive line along the Don River. But this order was difficult to perform, since the forces of law firm at the time were engaged in heavy fighting with the surging forward by German troops in the Rostov area. At the command of law firm had neither the time nor significant reserves for this purpose to prepare defensive positions on the left bank of the Don. Control of the troops in the Caucasus at this point and failed to return. In addition, more attention SHK at this time paid Stalingrad, the Germans rushed to the Volga. Under intense pressure from the enemy army of LF by 25 July retreated to the south-sparing p. Don in the band 330 km from Verhnekurmoyarskoy to the mouth of the river. They were drained of blood, lost a lot of heavy weapons, some army had no relationship with the staff of the front.
At the same time, it should be noted that in the region there were other forces, who also took part in the battle for the Caucasus. The troops of the North Caucasus Front under the Marshal Budennogo at the time defended the coast of the Azov Sea and the Dark to Lazarevskaya. The composition of GFR were: 47th Army — under the supervision of Major General GP Kotov, 1st Infantry and 17th Cavalry Corps. Air support provided 5th Air Force Colonel General Aviation SK Goryunova. Part of the Transcaucasian Front under the supervision of Ivan Tuleneva defended the Black Sea coast of Lazarevskaya to Batumi, the Soviet-Turkish border and provided communications Russian factions in Iran. In addition, part of the FS were in the area of Makhachkala and covered the coast of the Caspian Sea (44th Army). In the Transcaucasian front were the beginning of the fight for the Caucasus 44th Army — Lieutenant General V. Khomenko, 45th Army — Lieutenant General F. Remezov, 46th Army — VF Sergatskov (August K. Leselidze) and 15th Cavalry Corps. The front was strengthened by 14 aviation regiments. First, in August 1942 FS were transferred to the 9th, 24th (28 August disbanded) and the 37th Army, formed in late August, the 58th Army. First, in September passed a few more armies — 12th, 18th, 56th. It should be noted that the seals received in February 1942, the purpose of the position of commander of the Polar Division, did a great job of creating lines of defense in case of invasion from Turkey. He insisted on the construction of defensive lines in the area of the river Terek and the Terrible, was strengthened by the defense in advance of the Head of the Caucasus mountain range. Actions battle for the Caucasus have shown loyalty solutions leader.
The Black Sea Fleet under the Philip October after the loss of Sevastopol and Kerch based in the ports of the Caucasian coast, even though they were in the zone of operations of the German Air Force. The Navy had puzzle conduct interaction with ground forces to protect coastal areas, to provide marine transportation, and storm the enemy maritime communications.
The value of the Caucasus to the USSR
Caucasus at that time had a tremendous importance for the country, has been an inexhaustible source of industrial and military-strategic materials, the principal food base of the Union. During the years of Russian prewar five-year industry Transcaucasian republics increased significantly, the efforts of the people here was created by a powerful industry. There were built hundreds of new companies the heavy and light industry. Thus, only in the Baku region in the period from 1934 to 1940. was conducted drilling 235 new wells, but only on the terrain of the region by 1940, was launched in 1726 new wells (approximately 73.5% of the wells, which entered service in the Soviet Union during this time). Played a huge role Baku oil region. He gave up 70% of the country's total oil products. It is clear that only the loss of Baku region could dramatically bad for the industry of the USSR, its defense capability. Great attention was paid to the development of oil production in the Chechen-Ingush and Kuban.
Along with the oil industry, is rapidly developing natural gas production. Gas industry of Azerbaijan gave the country in 1940, about 2.5 billion. cubic meters of natural gas, ie, about 65% of the total gas production of the USSR. The rapidly growing energy base, majestically before the war in the Caucasus were built new power-Union and local importance. In Georgia, developed manganese ore having a great economic and military-strategic importance. So, Chiatursky mines were given in 1940, 1,448.7 thousand tons of manganese ore, or about 56.5% of the total production of manganese ore in the USSR.
Of fundamental importance was the Caucasus and the Kuban, as one of the bases of the USSR food. The region was one of the richest in the country for the production of wheat, corn, sunflower and sweet beets. South Caucasus created cotton, sweet beets, tobacco, grapes, tea, citrus and ethereal-oil plants. Thanks to the rich livestock feed has been developed. On the basis of agricultural production in the pre-war years were developed by food and light industry. Were built, cotton, silk, weaving, wool, leather and shoe factories, canning factories for processing of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, wine factories and tobacco factories, etc.
Of great importance was the region in terms of communications and external trade. Through the Caucasus region and its ports on the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea held a large flow of products. Specifically, 55% of total exports and 50% of Russian imports of the Union was going through the south, including the Caucasus, ports. Communications of the Dark and Caspian seas associated with Persia, Russia and Turkey, and the Persian Gulf and the Straits with the ways of the oceans. It should be noted that during the war of communication that went through the Persian Gulf, Iran and the Caspian Sea took second place in the transport of weapons, equipment, ammunition, food, and strategic raw materials from the United States and territories of the British Empire subordinates. The value of the Caucasus lies in its unique geographical position: the Caucasus is situated in a strategic area of the principal planets, through which are commercial and strategic ways that connect to a single host countries in Europe, Asia, the Near and Middle East. We should not forget the mobilization capacity of human resources in the region.
Russian cavalry reconnaissance in the Caucasus Mountains.
North Caucasus strategic defensive operation
July 23, 1942 the Germans occupied Rostov-on-Don and started coming to the Kuban. Forces of the 1st and 4th Panzer Army was dealt a powerful blow to the left of LF, where the defense held 51th and 37th Army. Russian troops suffered heavy losses and retreated. The Germans in the defense of the 18th Army broke through to Bataysk. In the defensive zone of the 12th Army do first situation was not so good and the Wehrmacht failed in the first day to cross the Don. 26 July 18 th and 37-th Russian Army, having received reinforcements tried strike back, but without result. As a result, from the very first days of battle situation in the defense of the Law Firm dramatically worsened, there was a danger of German troops in the area of Sales, dissection of the Southern Front in two and out the enemy in the rear of Russian group, which continued to defend the south of Rostov. Russian commanders tried to withdraw the left flank to the limit of the south bank of the river and Kagalnik Manychsky channel. But part of the law firm in the criteria of the overwhelming advantages enemy armored forces, air force and artillery, could not orderly retreat to their designated positions. Retreat turned into rout. German troops are not encountering any serious resistance, kept coming.
Under these critical criteria Supreme Command has taken steps to remedy the situation. July 28 Southern Front, in order to combine efforts and improve command and control, has been disbanded. His army fled to the North Caucasus fronts under the Marshal Budennogo (almost two fronts combined). Front Command obeyed Black Sea Fleet and Azov Flotilla. GFR was the coming of the puzzle to stop the German forces and bring back the position of the front on the left bank of the river Don. But this was almost an impossible task, because the enemy had a strategic initiative and led a well-organized advent of superior forces and means. One must also take into account the factor that controls the troops to be organized on the strip length of more than 1 thousand km, and it is in the criteria for the collapse of the front and the successful advent of the enemy. Because rate identified in the SCF two operational groups: 1) Don group led by Rodion Malinovsky (it included the 37th army, The 12th Army and the 4th Air Army), she had to cover up the Stavropol area, and 2) Maritime Group under the Colonel-General Yakov Cherevichenko (18th Army, 56th Army, 47th Army, 1st Infantry , 17th Cavalry Corps and the 5th Air Army, the Azov Flotilla), one had to defend the Krasnodar area. In addition, the 9-th and 24-th army was taken to the area of Nalchik and the Terrible, 51th passed Stalingrad front. Troops FS Front received puzzle and take to prepare for the defense of the approaches to the Caucasus range to the north. The Military Council of the Transcaucasian Front prepared battle plan, which was approved by the Stavka August 4, 1942. Its essence was to ensure to halt the coming of German troops at the turn of the Terek River and passes the Head of the Caucasus mountain range. Part of the 44th Army of the District of Makhachkala, Baku were moved to defensive positions on the rivers Terek, Sulak and Samur. She had to defend Stern, to cover the Georgian Military and Ossetian Military Road. At the same time, with the Soviet-Turkish border and the Black Sea coast to the limit of the Terek and Uruha were deployed and other parts of the FS. Immediately to the transfer of parts of the FS to combat German troops make up for the rate of the reserve forces of the front. So, on August 6 to September ZB got 2 Guards Rifle Corps and 11 separate brigades.
At this time, the German command had brought the 4th Panzer Army at Stalingrad sector of the army group «B». Maybe the thought that Russian front fell in the Caucasus and the remaining troops will be sufficient for the intended purpose solutions.
Combat actions in the Caucasus in late July — early August was just fierce, sporty character. The Germans had used as a numerical possessing the advantages and strategic initiative, developed in the direction of the coming of Stavropol and Maikop Tuapse. August 2, 1942 the Germans continued coming to Sal direction and has 5 August they captured Voroshilovsk (Stavropol). The Krasnodar towards the Wehrmacht could not immediately break through the defense of the 18th and the 56th Army, Russian troops tried to counterattack, but soon retreated behind the Kuban River. 6 August 17th German Army launched a new advent in the Krasnodar area. August 10 had to be evacuated from the coast of the Azov Azov flotilla, Aug. 12 fell Krasnodar.
The German command decided to use the benefit of time and cut off Russian troops south of the Kuban. Part of the strike force that captured Stavropol, was oriented to the west. August 6 of the 1st Panzer Army captured Armavir, August 10 — Maikop and continued to move on the Tuapse. In the direction of Tuapse was also the offensive part of the 17th Army, from Krasnodar. August 15-17, only to parts of the Red Army managed to stop the coming of the enemy and not give the Wehrmacht break to Tuapse. As a result, the first step in the process of coming (July 25 — August 19) German command was able to partially fulfill the assigned tasks: Reddish Army in the Caucasus has suffered a serious defeat (although there were no large "boiler"), was captured most of the Kuban region, part of the North Caucasus. Russian troops were able to stop the enemy only in Tuapse. At the same time, the Russian command did a great preliminary work on the reorganization of troops, new defensive positions, troop FS and a reserve, which ultimately led to the failure of the German and the coming victory in the battle for the Caucasus.
German soldiers in the Caucasus.
Bid to restore the combat capability of Russian troops and ensure the defense of the northern areas of the Caucasus, August 8, joined the 44 th and the 9 th Army in the northern group of the Polar Division. Its commander was appointed Lieutenant General Ivan Maslennikov. August 11 in North group was included and the 37th Army. In addition, the rate paid great attention to the defense of Novorossiisk and Tuapse. The activities carried out since the middle of August 1942 have a positive impact on the situation at the front, the resistance of the enemy has increased dramatically.
To be continued ….