By August of 1942 reinforcements sent to assist Army Group B's drive on Stalingrad had transformed the German Sixth Army from a potent assembly of men and machines to the most powerful army in the world, with 22 divisions and supporting units under the command of General Friedrich Paulus. Facing the Sixth Army, and Fourth Panzer Army's seven German and four Romanian divisions, was a Soviet Stalingrad Front that had been decimated in July.
Last week I examined the U-boat war in the Arctic. This week I'd like to turn your attention roughly 2,000 miles to the south. There in the Black Sea, the Soviet Navy faced off against the Axis powers in a poorly understood war that nevertheless featured: amphibious landings, to big-gun fire support for ground forces, convoys, sea-control, sea-denial, anti-ship, ASW, mine, and submarine warfare.
In this article we shall look at the battle beneath the waves. More specifically, how the Germans employed U-boats in the Black Sea, and to what extent those U-boats proved effective - or not.
The Nazi war against the Soviet Union defined the Second World War's outcome. Had the Germans focused single-mindedly on fighting that war (following their unprovoked June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union code-named Operation Barbarossa) the world may look very different today. Thankfully, they did not. In fact, during the war's critical years of 1941-1942 the Mediterranean theater would prove to be the biggest drain on the German war effort. Nonetheless, and somewhat paradoxically, another problematic distraction would prove to be the naval battles in the frigid Arctic Ocean.
By September 26, 1942 the German Sixth Army had taken the bulk of Stalingrad's southern and central sectors. Though the 62nd Army stood nearly as strong on September 26th in terms of personnel as it had two weeks prior it's tank strength had dropped considerably from where it had once been. For instance, the primary armored reinforcements sent into the city consisted of light tanks that failed to replace the much more valuable T-34 medium tanks and KV-series heavy tanks lost in the September fighting. In short, the 62nd Army was in trouble.
Late in August of 1942 the German Sixth Army bore down on Stalingrad. The German commander, General Freidrich Paulus, had much to contemplate regarding how he would approach the task of seizing the city that would become the bane of his existence and end his military career in catastrophic fashion. Stalingrad sprawled down the broad Volga River's western bank in a long (at over 25 miles) strip of land. Problematically for it's defenders, the Volga's western bank rose significantly higher than it's east bank.
When most people think of the Red Army circa 1942 they imagine a war machine on the rise, and blessed with fleets of wordclass T-34 medium tanks. On the one hand it's true that by the spring of 1942 Soviet tank factories cranked out far more T-34's than they had during the nadir of Soviet fortunes late in 1941. But, for a number of reasons (including both T-34 losses at the front as well as the decision to parcel out T-34's in independent tank brigades versus concentrating them in the Tank Corps) there were never enough of these reliable, well armed armored fighting vehicles to go around.
For instance, did you know that the federal government granted Michigan contractors ten percent of U.S. spending on war related purchases. This meant Michigan garnered the second most war related funding of any state (The State of New York came in first). What did that money buy? Quite a bit.
Perhaps most impressive is that Willow Run (see picture of B-24's being manufactured there) was only a part of the
I have previously written about the circumstances surrounding the Red Army's spring 1944 siege of Tarnapol, as well as a general overview of the siege. Here I would like to delve deeper into the composition of the beseiged garrison, and the German relief effort's operations - using Schwere Panzerjager-Abteilung 653's employment in the relief force to help explain why the Germans failed.
During the March-April 1944 offensive launched by Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov's 1st Ukrainian Front (see the previous article in this series for more) an amalgation of German units caught up in
Dr. Boris Sokolov's Marshal K.K. Rokossovsky offers a unique look at not only the life of one of the Red Army's top Second World War era senior officers, but also interesting insight into a Red Army at war.
The World War Two era USS Independence (CVL-22) was one of many US Navy ships to carry the name independence (leading up to today's Littoral Combat Ship: LCS-2). What made this Independence unique was that it was the lead ship in a class of light aircraft carriers produced from converted cruisers.
What many forget today is that in 1941 the US Navy was desperate to find additional decks to support its existing carrier fleet, which throughout the first years of the Second World War was outnumbered by the Imperial Japanese Navy's carriers.