Battle of Kalach
The Battle of Kalach took place between the German Sixth Army and elements of the Soviet Stalingrad Front between July 25 and August 11, 1942. The Soviets deployed the 62nd and 64th Armies in a Don River bridgehead west of Kalach with the intent of impeding the German advance on Stalingrad. In the initial period of the battle, the Germans attacked and managed to surround part of the 62nd Army. In reaction, the Soviets temporarily forced the Germans onto the defense. Following resupply of German forces, the roles again reversed and the Germans attacked into the flanks of the Soviet bridgehead collapsing it; the German victory positioned the Sixth Army to cross the Don River and advance on Stalingrad, which became the site of one of the most decisive battles of World War II. Following the occupation of the Crimea and the Battle of Kharkov, the Germans launched their 1942 summer offensive with the objectives of occupying the Don Basin and the Caucasus. Advancing as part of Army Group B, the German Sixth Army pushed toward the town of Kalach on the Don River as a step toward the capture of Stalingrad.
As defenders, the Soviets were reacting to German initiatives, but they knew Stalingrad was a German objective and were determined to defend the city as far forward as possible. To meet this goal, while the Soviets were withdrawing before the German offensive, they retained a bridgehead across the Don at Kalach with lines behind the Tsimla and Chir Rivers; the battlefield was the steppe country northwest of Kalach. The terrain of the battlefield is open with occasional treelines that obscure lines of sight and fire; the land rolls and exhibits small rises with an average elevation of 100 to 200 meters above sea level. Cross country vehicular movement is constricted by balkas, steep stream banks that have been cut by erosion. Between the treelines and balkas, the countryside is agricultural with occasional villages and fewer towns; the open nature of the terrain favors long-range direct fire weapons such as the long 75-mm cannon that were mounted on German Panzer IV tanks. A lack of commanding terrain and structures made observation for artillery fire challenging and rewarded the opponent who could fly aerial observation missions.
In the event, the German forces enjoyed air superiority over the Kalach battlefield with the commitment of the entire VIII Air Corps under the command of General Fiebig. German Sixth Army had ranged from north to south the VIII, XIV Panzer, LI, XXIV Panzer Corps, commanding some 270,000 men, over 500 tanks, 3,000 guns and mortars; the German forces had superior battle experience and excellent gunnery skills. Their movement and attacks enjoyed air support, but the Sixth Army had temporarily outrun its supplies in the cases of fuel and ammunition. Soviet opposition in the Don bend was still weak. 62nd Army had 6 rifle divisions, a tank brigade, 6 independent tank battalions on its half of the line, 64th Army had 2 rifle divisions and a tank brigade. To the north of the 62nd Army was the 63rd Army; the force committed by the Soviets to defend in front of Kalach included 160,000 men, some 400 tanks, 2,200 guns and mortars, but suffered from serious shortages of anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns. Rifle divisions of the Stalingrad Front were in a perilous state, with over half of them understrength, ranging in strength between 300 and 4,000 men.
Between the Volga and the Don, 57th Army was being reformed as the front reserve and the Headquarters, 38th and 28th Armies, together with those of their troops that had survived earlier battles, were being used as cadres for building the 1st and 4th Tank Armies. The tank armies would be committed before their organization was complete and without the cohesion enjoyed by more experienced and better trained formations; the Soviet forces in the Kalach Bridgehead were subordinated to the Stalingrad Front under the command of General-Lieutenant Vasiliy N. Gordov. After a ten-day hiatus caused by a lack of transportation, German Sixth Army returned to the offensive. On 23 July, Paulus submitted his plan to take Stalingrad, he proposed to sweep to the Don on both sides of Kalach, take bridgeheads on the run, drive a wedge of armor flanked by infantry across the remaining thirty miles. On 23 July the German main body started its advance toward the Don River; the Germans now met with increasing Soviet resistance from the 62nd and 64th Armies of the newly formed Stalingrad Front.
German Sixth Army had been running into and over 62nd and 64th Armies' outposts since 17 July without knowing it. On the 23rd, Sixth Army hit the Soviet main line east of the Chir River; the VIII Corps, on the north, encountered several Soviet rifle divisions in the morning, those delayed its march east four or five hours. The XIV Panzer Corps, bearing in toward Kalach, reported 200 enemy tanks in its path and claimed to have knocked out 40 during the day; the German advance of 23 July caved in part of the 62nd Army's front and encircled two rifle divisions and a tank brigade of the army. On the 24th, VIII Corps cleared the northern quarter of the Don bend except for a Soviet bridgehead at Serafimovich and another around Kremenskaya and Sirotinskaya. To the south, as the daily report put it, Sixth Army "consolidated," because XIV Panzer Corps ran out of motor fuel and the infantry could not make headway against stiffening resistance north and east of Kalach. General Major K. S. Moskalenko, who had taken command of 1st Tank Army three days before, began the counterattack on 25 July, with General Vasilevsky present as Stavka representative.
The 1st Tank Army was given the mission of pushing to the northwest, relieving the encirclement of the 62nd Army fo
Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen
Wolfram "Ulf" Karl Ludwig Moritz Hermann Freiherr von Richthofen was a German field marshal of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Born in 1895 into a family of the Prussian nobility, Richthofen grew up in prosperous surroundings. At the age of eighteen, after leaving school, he opted to join the German Army rather than choose an academic career, joined the army's cavalry arm in 1913. On the outbreak of the First World War, Richthofen fought on the Western Front, winning the Iron Cross Second Class. In 1915 he was posted to the Eastern Front, where he stayed until 1917; the Richthofen family produced several notable personalities that would become famous during the First War. His cousins, the brothers Lothar and Manfred von Richthofen both became flying aces and they encouraged him to join the Luftstreitkräfte, he did so, joined Manfred's Geschwader, Jagdgeschwader 1. On Wolfram's first mission with his cousin, on 21 April 1918, Manfred was killed. Wolfram continued flying and went on to claim eight aerial victories before the armistice in November 1918.
Lothar survived the war but was killed in a flying accident in 1922. After the war Richthofen resumed civilian life after being discharged from the army, he studied engineering at a university before rejoining the Reichswehr, the German armed forces of the Weimar Republic era. In 1933 Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, the Reichswehr was transformed into the Wehrmacht. Richthofen joined the new Luftwaffe, he served as part of the Condor Legion which supported the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. During this time, he recognised the need for close air support in military campaigns and championed the dive bomber the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, he believed in improving ground-air communications, put into effect in the Second World War, after his experiences in Spain and Poland. The combination of effective air-ground communications and powerful concentration of dive bombers would lead to personal success for Wolfram in the first half of the war. By 1941, a high standard of air to ground communications became a uniform facility in the Luftwaffe.
When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Richthofen commanded a specialised ground-attack air unit, Fliegerkorps VIII, first as a small active service unit in the Polish Campaign, as a full-sized Air Corps in Western Europe, from May to June 1940. The effectiveness of his units proved decisive at certain points in the French Campaign covering the German thrust to the English Channel, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 23 May 1940, in view of his achievements. He continued in frontline service during the Battle of Britain and the Balkans Campaign in 1940 and 1941. Richthofen achieved his greatest success on the Eastern Front. In particular, he achieved notable success in the Crimean Campaigns during 1942. Despite offering vital tactical and operational support to Army Group South, after the victory at the Third Battle of Kharkov he was moved to the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations, where he commanded Luftwaffe forces in the Italian Campaign, he remained in active service until late 1944.
Soon after the capitulation of Germany in May 1945, he was taken prisoner by the United States Army, but on 12 July he died in captivity of a brain tumour. Richthofen was born on 10 October 1895, at the Richthofen Barzdorf estate, near Striegau, Lower Silesia to an aristocratic family, his father, Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, mother, Therese Gotz von Olenhusen were of the Silesian nobility, the family had been ennobled 350 years before Wolfram's birth. Richthofen was the second oldest son of four children, his older sister, Sophie-Therese, was born in 1891. His brother Manfred was born in 1898 and Gerhard in 1902, he was the fourth cousin of the German World War I flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, popularly known as the "Red Baron", the baron's younger brother Lothar von Richthofen. As the son of a nobleman, he enjoyed a life of privilege; the family's noble status dated back to the 1500s, by the 1700s the Richthofens owned 16 estates in Lower Silesia. When Frederick the Great annexed Silesia in 1740, he granted the title of Baron to one of Richthofen's direct ancestors.
The family remained in Silesia for a further three generations. Richthofen's home, an eighteenth-century estate, was only one of 25 Richthofen-owned properties totalling 140 square kilometres. Barzdorf, where he lived, was a modest 350 hectares, of which 269 was farmed and the rest was forest. Wolfram, as the oldest son did not inherit the estate. Instead, on the death of his father in 1922, it was given to Manfred; some years before, Wolfram's uncle General of Cavalry Manfred von Richthofen, his father's brother, had asked him to inherit his estate to keep it in the family, as he himself had no children. Wolfram inherited the estate after Manfred adopted him; the general died in 1939. He had a close one with Manfred. Unlike most Prussian nobles Wolfram von Richthofen went to the local Gymnasium and did not have private tutors at home, he attended school in Striegau. His grades in mathematics and German language were good, he found studying language to be boring, but did learn Italian and could converse competently in it in life.
He became good friends with his cousins and Manfred
Battle of Voronezh (1942)
The Battle of Voronezh, or First Battle of Voronezh, was a battle on the Eastern Front of World War II, fought in and around the strategically important city of Voronezh on the Don river, 450 km south of Moscow, from 28 June-24 July 1942, as opening move of the German summer offensive in 1942. The German attack had two objectives. One was to seed confusion about the ultimate goals of the overall campaign. There was widespread feeling by all observers Soviet high command, that the Germans would reopen their attack on Moscow that summer. By attacking toward Voronezh, near the site of the German's deepest penetration the year before, it would hide the nature of the real action taking place far to the south. Soviet forces sent to the area to shore up the defenses would not be able to move with the same speed as the Germans, who would turn south and leave them behind; the other purpose was to provide an defended front line along the river, providing a strong left flank that could be protected with light forces.
The plan involved forces of Army Group South, at this time far north of their ultimate area of responsibility. The attack would be spearheaded by the 4th Panzer Army under the command of General Hermann Hoth. Hoth's mobile forces would move eastward to Voronezh and turn southeast to follow the Don to Stalingrad; as the 4th moved out of the city, the slower infantry forces of the Second Army following behind them would take up defensive positions along the river. The plan called for the 2nd to arrive just as the 4th had cleared the city, Hoth was under orders to avoid any street-to-street fighting that might bog down their progress; the city was defended by the troops of the 40th Army as part of the Valuiki-Rossosh Defensive Operation of General of Army Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin's Southwestern Front. Hoth's powerful armored forces moved forward with little delay and the only natural barrier before the city was the Devitsa River, an arm of the Don running through Semiluki, a short distance to the west.
For reasons that are unclear, the bridge over the Devitsa was not destroyed, Hoth's forces were able to sweep aside the defensive forces placed there and reach the outskirts of Voronezh on 7 July. Soviet forces mounted a successful counterattack that tied up Hoth's forces. At this point they should have been relieved by the infantry forces, but they were still far from the city. Intense house-to-house fighting broke out, Hoth continued to push forward while he waited. At one point the 3rd Motorized Division turned back; the Soviet command poured reserves into the city and a situation not unlike what would be seen at Stalingrad a few months broke out, with the German troops clearing the city street by street with flamethrowers while tanks gave fire support. The 2nd did not arrive for another two days, by which time the 4th was engaged and took some time to remove from the line; the 2nd continued the battle until 24 July, when the final Soviet forces west of the Don were defeated and the fighting ended.
Adolf Hitler came to believe that these two days, when combined with other avoidable delays on the drive south, allowed Marshal Semyon Timoshenko to reinforce the forces in Stalingrad before the 4th Panzer Army could arrive to allow taking of Stalingrad. The Soviet forces recaptured the city in the Battle of Voronezh of 1943. SourcesGlantz, David M. & House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, ISBN 0-7006-0899-0
World War II
World War II known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries; the major participants threw their entire economic and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China, it included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, the only use of nuclear weapons in war. Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific, was at war with China by 1937, though neither side had declared war on the other. World War II is said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. Following the onset of campaigns in North Africa and East Africa, the fall of France in mid 1940, the war continued between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. War in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history; this Eastern Front trapped most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States as well as European colonies in the Pacific. Following an immediate U. S. declaration of war against Japan, supported by one from Great Britain, the European Axis powers declared war on the U.
S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Rapid Japanese conquests over much of the Western Pacific ensued, perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance and resulting in the support of several armies from defeated territories; the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942. Key setbacks in 1943, which included a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, Allied victories in the Pacific, cost the Axis its initiative and forced it into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained its territorial losses and turned toward Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in Central China, South China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands; the war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.
Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and its invasion of Manchuria, Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945, cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies. Tribunals were set up by fiat by the Allies and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and the Japanese. World War II changed the political social structure of the globe; the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonisation of Africa and Asia.
Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic expansion. Political integration in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and create a common identity; the start of the war in Europe is held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred and the two wars merged in 1941; this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935; the British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the fo
Third Battle of Kharkov
The Third Battle of Kharkov was a series of battles on the Eastern Front of World War II, undertaken by the German Army Group South against the Red Army, around the city of Kharkov between 19 February and 15 March 1943. Known to the German side as the Donets Campaign, in the Soviet Union as the Donbas and Kharkov operations, the German counterstrike led to the recapture of the cities of Kharkov and Belgorod; as the German Sixth Army was encircled in Stalingrad, the Red Army undertook a series of wider attacks against the rest of Army Group South. These culminated on 2 January 1943 when the Red Army launched Operation Star and Operation Gallop, which between January and early February broke German defenses and led to the Soviet recapture of Kharkov, Kursk, as well as Voroshilovgrad and Izium; the Soviet victories caused participating Soviet units to over-extend themselves, though this was due to Manstein's strategy of controlled retreat towards the Dneiper. Freed on 2 February by the surrender of the German Sixth Army, the Red Army's Central Front turned its attention west and on 25 February expanded its offensive against both Army Group South and Army Group Center.
Months of continuous operations had taken a heavy toll on the Soviet forces and some divisions were reduced to 1,000–2,000 combat effective soldiers. On 19 February, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein launched his Kharkov counterstrike, using the fresh II SS Panzer Corps and two panzer armies. Manstein benefited from the massive air support of Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen's Luftflotte 4, whose 1,214 aircraft flew over 1,000 sorties per day from 20 February to 15 March to support the German Army, a level of airpower equal to that during the Case Blue strategic offensive a year earlier; the Wehrmacht flanked and defeated the Red Army's armored spearheads south of Kharkov. This enabled Manstein to renew his offensive against the city of Kharkov proper on 7 March. Despite orders to encircle Kharkov from the north, the SS Panzer Corps instead decided to directly engage Kharkov on 11 March; this led to four days of house-to-house fighting before Kharkov was recaptured by the 1st SS Panzer Division on 15 March.
The German forces recaptured Belgorod two days creating the salient which in July 1943 would lead to the Battle of Kursk. The German offensive cost the Red Army an estimated 90,000 casualties; the house-to-house fighting in Kharkov was particularly bloody for the German SS Panzer Corps, which had suffered 4,300 men killed and wounded by the time operations ended in mid-March. At the start of 1943, the German Wehrmacht faced a crisis as Soviet forces encircled and reduced the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad and expanded their Winter Campaign towards the Don River. On 2 February 1943 the Sixth Army's commanding officers surrendered, an estimated 90,000 men were captured by the Red Army. Total German losses at the Battle of Stalingrad, excluding prisoners, were between 120,000 and 150,000. Throughout 1942 German casualties totaled around 1.9 million personnel, by the start of 1943 the Wehrmacht was around 470,000 men below full strength on the Eastern Front. At the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the Wehrmacht was equipped with around 3,300 tanks.
As the forces of the Don Front were destroying the German forces in Stalingrad, the Red Army's command ordered the Soviet forces to conduct a new offensive, which encompassed the entire southern wing of the Soviet–German front from Voronezh to Rostov. On 2 February, the Red Army launched Operation Star, threatening to liberate the cities of Belgorod and Kursk. A Soviet drive, spearheaded by four tank corps organized under Lieutenant-General Markian Popov, pierced the German front by crossing the Donets River and pressing into the German rear. On 15 February, two fresh Soviet tank corps threatened the city of Zaporizhia on the Dnieper River, which controlled the last major road to Rostov and housed the headquarters of Army Group South and Luftflotte 4. Despite Hitler's orders to hold the city, Kharkov was abandoned by German forces and the city was recaptured by the Red Army on 16 February. Hitler flew to Manstein's headquarters at Zaporizhia. Manstein informed him that an immediate counterattack on Kharkov would be fruitless, but that he could attack the overextended Soviet flank with his five Panzer Corps, recapture the city later.
On 19 February Soviet armored units approached the city. In view of the worsening situation, Hitler gave Manstein operational freedom; when Hitler departed, the Soviet forces were only some 30 kilometers away from the airfield. In conjunction with Operation Star the Red Army launched Operation Gallop south of Star, pushing the Wehrmacht away from the Donets, taking Voroshilovgrad and Izium, worsening the German situation further. By this time Stavka believed it could decide the war in the southwest Russian SFSR and eastern Ukrainian SSR, expecting total victory; the surrender of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad freed six Soviet armies, under the command of Konstantin Rokossovsky, which were refitted and reinforced by the 2nd Tank Army and the 70th Army. These forces were repositioned between the junction of South. Known to the Soviet forces as the Kharkov and Donbas operations, the offensive sought to surround and destroy German forces in the Orel salient, cross the Desna River and surround and destroy German Army Group Center.
Planned to begin between 12–15 February, deployment problems forced Stavka to push the start date back to 25 February. Meanwhile, the Soviet 60th Army pushed the
Eberhard von Mackensen
Friedrich August Eberhard von Mackensen was a German general of the Wehrmacht during World War II who served as commander of the 1st Panzer Army and the 14th Army, was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. Following the war, Mackensen stood trial for war crimes before a British military tribunal in Italy where he was convicted and sentenced to death, however the sentence was commuted and Mackensen was released in 1952, died in West Germany in 1969. Eberhard was born on 24 September 1889, in Bromberg, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire, the fourth of five children to Field Marshal August von Mackensen and his wife Dorothea. Mackensen joined the Imperial German Army in 1908, where he became a Fahnenjunker of the XVII Corps stationed in Danzig, was promoted to lieutenant on 22 March 1910. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Mackensen served as a regimental adjutant in the 1st Hussar Regiment. On 25 February 1915, he was promoted to first lieutenant, but after a severe wound on 23 August 1915, Mackensen was transferred to a staff job in the General Staff of the Army Group Scholtz.
On 20 May 1917, he was promoted to captain. Following the armistice in 1918 ending the war, Mackensen remained in the army where he served as chief of the 1st squadron of the 5th Rider Regiment in Belgard, but in 1919 joined the Freikorps paramilitary group and fought in the Baltic states. In 1925, Mackensen was commanded the army transport department of the German General Staff of the Ministry of the Reichswehr in Berlin. After his appointment as a major on 1 February, 1928, he served from 1930 in the staff of the 1st Cavalry Division in Frankfurt, while serving in this position was promoted on 1 October 1932, to lieutenant colonel From 1 November 1933, Mackensen was made chief of the staff of the General Inspectorate of the Cavalry, was promoted to colonel on 1 September 1934. Mackensen became chief of staff of the X Army Corps in Hamburg, the successor of the cavalry in the newly-formed Wehrmacht. In 1937, Mackensen became commander of the 1st Cavalry Brigade in Insterburg. Mackensen was appointed major general on 1 January 1938, on 1 May 1939 became commander in the Army Group Command V in Vienna, where he became chief of staff under Field Marshal Wilhelm List.
At the beginning of World War II in September 1939, Mackensen served as the chief of staff of the German 14th Army in the invasion of Poland. He was made chief of staff of the 12th Army and fought in France. On 1 January 1940, he was promoted to lieutenant general and eight months to General der Kavallerie. On 15 January 1941, Mackensen was made commanding general of III Army Corps under the 1st Panzer Army in Army Group South, on 27 July 1941, received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Mackensen's forces were the first to reach Kiev at the First Battle of Kiev during the German invasion of the Soviet Union. In November 1942, when General Paul Ewald von Kleist was given the command of Army Group A, Mackensen took up led the 1st Panzer Army in the Third Battle of Kharkov in March 1943. For his achievements in the Second Battle of Kharkov, Mackensen was honored on 26 May 1942, with the Oak Leaves added to his Iron Cross award and promoted to colonel general on 6 July 1943. Shortly after his promotion to Generaloberst, Mackensen was transferred to Italy as commander of the 14th Army.
In March 1944, Mackensen was the first senior officer to be informed by Kurt Mälzer, the city commander of Rome, of a partisan attack against the SS Police Regiment Bozen where 32 German soldiers were killed. Mälzer had requested the immediate round-up and summary execution of Italian residents of the Via Rasella, the street where the attack had occurred. Mackensen was superior to Mälzer and refused his request for being "excessive", instead ordered directly by Adolf Hitler, in consultation with Field Marshal Albert Kesselring and Generaloberst Alfred Jodl; the matter was referred to Kesselring, superior to Mackensen, discussed the issue with Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, resulting in orders that called for the execution of ten Italians for every German soldier killed. Units under Mackensen's command and members of the Bozen Police Regiment themselves refused to participate in the execution, while according to other sources, Mackensen himself gave the order for the shootings. Responsibility fell to the SS security service in Rome, under the command of Herbert Kappler, who approved the action.
Mälzer organized a firing squad led by Erich Priebke, an SS hauptsturmführer under Kappler, leading to the Ardeatine massacre. Mackensen retired from active service in the army in the summer of 1944. Following the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945 Mackensen became a prisoner of war, on 30 November 1946 was convicted of war crimes by a British military court in Rome, where he was sentenced to death. In mid-1947, his sentence was commuted to 21 years imprisonment, but he was released on 2 October 1952, serving only five years. After his release, Mackensen lived a secluded life in Alt Mühlendorf near Nortorf in Schleswig-Holstein, West Germany. Mackensen died on 19 May 1969 in Neumünster, 79 years old. Clasp to the Iron Cross 2nd Class & 1st Class Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves Knight's Cross on 27 July 1941 as General der Kavallerie and commander of III. Armeekorps 95th Oak Leaves on 26 May 1942 as General der Kavallerie and commander of III. Armeekorps
Case Blue was the German Armed Forces' name for its plan for the 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia between 28 June and 24 November 1942, during World War II. The operation was a continuation of the previous year's Operation Barbarossa, intended to knock the Soviet Union out of the war, it involved a two-pronged attack: one from the Axis right flank against the oil fields of Baku, known as Operation Edelweiss, one from the left flank in the direction of Stalingrad along the Volga River, known as Operation Fischreiher. Army Group South of the German Army was divided into Army Groups A and B. Army Group A was tasked with crossing the Caucasus mountains to reach the Baku oil fields, while Army Group B protected its flanks along the Volga. Supported by 2,035 Luftwaffe aircraft and 1,934 tanks and assault guns, the 1,370,287-man Army Group South attacked on 28 June, advancing 48 kilometers on the first day and brushing aside the 1,715,000 Red Army troops opposite, who falsely expected a German offensive on Moscow after Blau commenced.
The Soviet collapse in the south allowed the Germans to capture the western part of Voronezh on 6 July and reach and cross the Don river near Stalingrad on 26 July. Army Group B's approach toward Stalingrad slowed in late July and early August owing to constant counterattacks by newly deployed Red Army reserves and overstretched German supply lines; the Germans defeated the Soviets in the Battle of Kalach and the combat shifted to the city itself in late August. Nonstop Luftwaffe airstrikes, artillery fire and street-to-street combat destroyed the city and inflicted heavy casualties on the opposing forces. After three months of battle, the Germans controlled 90% of Stalingrad on 19 November. In the south, Army Group A captured Rostov on 23 July and swept south from the Don to the Caucasus, capturing the demolished oilfields at Maikop on 9 August and Elista on 13 August near the Caspian Sea coast. Heavy Soviet resistance and the long distances from Axis sources of supply reduced the Axis offensive to local advances only and prevented the Germans from completing their strategic objective of capturing the main Caucasus oilfield at Baku.
Luftwaffe bombers destroyed the oilfields at Grozny but attacks on Baku were prevented by the insufficient range of the German fighters. The possibility that the Germans would continue to the south and east, link up with Japanese forces in India, was of great concern to the Allies. However, the Red Army defeated the Germans at Stalingrad, following Operations Uranus and Little Saturn; this defeat forced the Axis to retreat from the Caucasus. Only the Kuban region remained tentatively occupied by Axis troops. On 22 June 1941 the Wehrmacht had launched Operation Barbarossa with the intention of defeating the Soviets in a Blitzkrieg lasting only months; the Axis offensive had met with initial success and the Red Army had suffered some major defeats before halting the Axis units just short of Moscow. Although the Germans had captured vast areas of land and important industrial centers, the Soviet Union remained in the war. In the winter of 1941–42 the Soviets struck back in a series of successful counteroffensives, pushing back the German threat to Moscow.
Despite these setbacks, Hitler wanted an offensive solution, for which he required the oil resources of the Caucasus. By February 1942 the German Army High Command had begun to develop plans for a follow-up campaign to the aborted Barbarossa offensive – with the Caucasus as its principal objective. On 5 April 1942, Hitler laid out the elements of the plan now known as "Case Blue" in Führer Directive No. 41. The directive stated the main goals of the 1942 summer campaign on Germany's Eastern Front: holding attacks for Army Group Centre, the capture of Leningrad and the link-up with Finland for AG North, the capture of the Caucasus region for Army Group South; the main focus was to be the capture of the Caucasus region. The Caucasus, a large, culturally diverse region traversed by its eponymous mountains, is bounded by the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east; the region north of the mountains was a production center for grain and heavy farm machinery, while its two main oilfields, at Maykop, near the Black Sea, Grozny, about halfway between the Black and the Caspian Seas, produced about 10 percent of all Soviet oil.
South of the mountains lay Transcaucasia, comprising Georgia and Armenia. This industrialized and densely populated area contained some of the largest oilfields in the world. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, was one of the richest, producing 80 percent of the Soviet Union's oil—about 24 million tons in 1942 alone; the Caucasus possessed plentiful coal and peat, as well as nonferrous and rare metals. Manganese deposits at Chiaturi, in Transcaucasia, formed the richest single source in the world, yielding 1.5 million tons of manganese ore annually, half of the Soviet Union's total production. The Kuban region of the Caucasus produced large amounts of wheat, sunflower seeds, sugar beets, all essential in the production of food; these resources were of immense importance to the German war effort. Of the three million tons of oil Germany consumed per year, 85 percent was imported from the United States and Iran; when war broke out in September 1939, the British naval blockade cut Germany off from the Americas and the Middle East, leaving the country reliant on oil-rich European countries such as Romania to supply the resource.
An indication of German reliance on Romania is evident from its oil consumption.