25 October 2014

After Action Report: War in the East - Case Blue Finale

And now for the conclusion to Gary Grigsby's War in the East by Stuart Hunt. Will he be able to stave off the German attack?

Published on 30 NOV 2010 1:30pm by Scott Parrino

 

Week 3

This week, along the upper Don and before Stalingrad, the Red Army managed to avoid the series of terrible defeats it had suffered at the hands of the panzers of Army Group South up until now. The Germans had succeeded in breaking the Chir line, but this was only ever a holding position, and we were able to fall back to avoid encirclement. Elsewhere, although pressed back, the lines held and were reinforced by both men and by the shovel!

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Situation before Stalingrad.

Further South the situation was far more ominous. FM von Sabre had exploited his excellent air reconnaissance, and had detected, then probed, then breached the weakest point of our defence along the entire Don. Audaciously, he switched his entire axis of attack South, sweeping the thin screen of defenders along the Donets before him. He then punched over the Don itself. I tried in vain to locate a means of counter-attack, something at least to slow him down but against such powerful armoured columns as 13th panzer division and SS Wiking, the renowned bravery of the Soviet rifleman counts for little.   I moved what defenders I could into the path of the two likely axes of advance, three good divisions behind Rostov and a hedgehog of brigades and less powerful divisions to the North and East of the breach, but I am not at all clear they will be able to hold.

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The Don is breached.

A sketch of the strategic position shows just how serious the situation has become at this point. The drive over the Don immediately threatened the whole Rostov defence. Subsequently the panzers would be able to drive North to envelop Stalingrad from the South West, or pour into the Caucasus. Either way, the Don had provided us with the last significant geographical obstacle to help the defence. Now we must place our trust in time, blood and the vast distances the invader must travel.

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The strategic position.

It will be useful to compare casualties, as far as they can be estimated, at this stage in the campaign. The final column shows the totals. The number of prisoners is clearly unsustainable even for the Red Army.

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Casualties.

A final reckoning by STAVKA Staff Officers of overall numbers remaining in the field is also informative:

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Order of battle.