The road to Stalingrad.

Army Group South - part 6

Caucasia - Army Group A


Caucasia - Army Group A
Hitler's Directive #43

Army Group A was composed of the 1st Panzer Army, von Kleist, ( 3 panzer, 2
motorised infantry, 7 German and 4 Roumanian infantry divisions ) and Group
Ruoff made up of 17th Army, under Ruoff ( 1 panzer, one motorised infantry,
6 German and 4 Roumanian infantry divisions )  and 8th Italian Army, under
Gariboldi ( 6 divisions).

The German plan to launched another great summer offensive crystallized
in the early months of 1942. Hitler's decision was influenced by his
economists, who mistakenly told him that Germany could not continue
the war unless it obtained petroleum supplies from the Caucasus. Hitler
was the more responsive to such arguments because they coincided with
his belief that another German offensive would so drain the Soviet
Union's manpower that the U.S.S.R. would be unable to continue the
war. His thinking was shared by his generals, who had been awed by the
prodigality with which the Soviets squandered their troops in the fighting
of 1941 and the spring of 1942.

Part of directive #45 :

"The task of Army Group A is to encircle enemy forces which have escaped
across the Don in the area south and southeast of Rostov, and to destroy them.
For this purpose strong fast-moving forces are to move from the bridgeheads
which will be established in the Konstantinovskaia-Tsymlyanskaya area, in a
general southwesterly direction towards Tikhoretsk. Infantry, light infantry, and
mountain divisions, will cross the Don in the Rostov area.

In addition, the task of cutting the Tikhoretsk-Stalingrad  railway line with
advanced spearheads remains unchanged.

Two armored formations of Army Group A (including 24th Panzer Division) will
come under command of Army Group B for further  operations southeastwards.
Infantry division Grossdeutschland is not to advance beyond the Manych sector.
Preparations will be made to move it to the west.

After the destruction of enemy forces south of the Don,  the most important
task of Army Group A will be to occupy the ; entire eastern coastline of the Black
Sea, thereby eliminating the Black Sea ports and the enemy Black Sea fleet.
For this purpose the formations of 11th Army already designated (Romanian
Mountain Corps) will be brought across the Kerch Straits as soon as the advance
of the main body of Army Group A becomes effective, and will then push
southeast along the Black Sea coastal road.

A further force composed of all remaining mountain and light infantry
divisions will force a passage of the Kuban, and occupy the high ground
around Maikop and Armavir.

In the further advance of this force, reinforced at a suitable time by mountain
units, towards and across the western part of the Caucasus, all practical passes
are to be used, so that the Black Sea coast may be occupied in conjunction with
11th Army.

At the same time a force composed chiefly of fast-moving formations
will give flank cover in the east and capture the Grozny area. Detachments will
block the military road between Osetia and Grozny, if possible at the top of the

Thereafter the Bakou area will be occupied by a thrust along the Caspian coast.
The Army Group may expect the subsequent arrival of the Italian Alpine Corps.

These operations by Army Group A will be known by the cover name "Edelweiss"."


Kurt Zeitzler

Franz Halder

Maikop (Maykup), the great oil centre 200 miles south of Rostov, fell to
Kleist's right-hand column on August 9, and Pyatigorsk, 150 miles east
of Maikop, fell to his centre on the same day, while the projected thrust
against Stalingrad, in the opposite direction from Rostov, was being
developed. Shortage of fuel, however, slowed the pace of Kleist's
subsequent southeastward progress through the Caucasian mountains;
and, after forcing a passage over the Terek River near Mosdok early in
September, he was halted definitively just south of that river. From the
end of October 1942 the Caucasian front was stabilized; but the titanic
struggle for Stalingrad, draining manpower that might have won victory
for the Germans in Caucasia, was to rage on, fatefully, for three more
months. Already, however, it was evident that Hitler's new offensive
had fallen short of its objectives, and the scapegoat this time was
Franz Halder, who was superseded by Kurt Zeitzler as chief of the army
general staff.