Hitler's new offensive in the East
28th June 1942: The massed Wehrmacht and Waffen SS forces launch 'Fall Blau', heading deep into the south of Russia, ignoring Moscow
Just over a year earlier Hitler had stunned the world with his massive surprise attack on the Soviet Union. Operation Barbarossa had been intended to smash the Red Army apart and overcome Russia within a matter of a few months.
It had very nearly succeeded until the vast distances and extremes of climate had stalled the Wehrmacht in its tracks. The Soviet state had demonstrated remarkable resilience, with seemingly inexhaustible sources of manpower it had pushed the Germans back over the winter and stabilised the threat to Moscow.
On the Eastern Front 1942 had seen major battles at Kharkiv and on the Crimea, where the Red Army had fought to the death at Sebastapol. These battle had seen already seen casualties on both sides that dwarfed anything that would be seen in the Desert war. Yet now Germany launched her major offensive for 1942.
Hitler now decided to strike out for the deep south east of the Soviet Union. Moscow was no longer the objective. If he could reach the oilfields in the Caucasus he could cut off the fuel supply to the Red Army, the life blood of the Soviet war machine. The distances were vast, the gamble was huge.
Once again the Wehrmacht had built up its resources readying itself for a massive attack. On the 28th June it launched itself across the River Tim.
Wilhelm Pruller1 was there:
Sunday, 28th June 1942
At 02.15 the artillery corps let out their first shot, and in that same instant, as the shell was winging its way towards the Russian installations, the heavy guns start a barrage the like of which none of us in the whole Battalion has ever heard before. Guns of every sort and calibre, batteries without number, spew their deadly shells at the enemy bank. The 8'8 flak barks, the 2 cm. flak chatters, the heavy mortars roar, the artillery thunders - all in rapid-fire confusion. In between, the bombs of our new weapon howl - the rocket mortars [the Nebelwerfer].
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to World War II Today to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.