Behind Soviet Lines: Hitler’s Brandenburgers capture the Maikop Oilfields 1942 Paperback – Oct 21 2014
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About the Author
David R. Higgins attended the Columbus College of Art & Design, and received a BFA from Ohio State University and an MISM from Keller. In addition to the Roer River Battles he has written over twenty articles for magazines such as Strategy & Tactics, Armchair General, and World at War, as well as MCSGroup, a conflict simulation provider for the US Defense Department. He lives in Columbus, Ohio. The author lives in Columbus, OH.
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This book, like all in the Osprey "Raid" series, is relatively short, at only 80 pages of text, about a third of which (very roughly) consists of illustration of one type or another. Hence this reviewer was expecting only a basic introduction to the topic that would be only a summation of previously published works. Instead, the book is an original work with significant research from primary German language sources. As a result it is a new contribution to the subject, not just a summation of what has previously been written in other texts.
The book, following the typical Osprey Raid series, starts out setting out the strategic situation, what the goals were of each side and how, on the strategic level, this was to be achieved. In short, Germany was short of fuel and Hitler thought that a push into the Caucasus oil fields would solve this problem. As the author points out, this was very flawed as just having access to crude oil fields would not solve this problem. Crude oil needs to be refined and, for that, the Germans would have to transport it all the way back to Germany or Rumania. This the Germans could not do. Hence the whole operation's goal was not achievable. However, this was not to stop Hitler from trying.
The book then goes into the meat of the subject, which is the Brandenburg troops. The book covers where they were trained (in the town that bears their name), how they were trained (very, very thoroughly), who they were (primarily Germans from the areas they were to operate in and hence fluent in the languages and customs) and how they actually operated. Everything is superbly researched and presented. In this particular operation, to capture the oil fields intact, they were to operate disguised as Russian NKVD troops. They were trained to operate NKVD weapons, tactics and even habits (such as great arrogance and little regard for soviet troops in general). Their training was extraordinary.
They ran ahead of German conventional troop formations and captured key targets such as bridges as well as spreading chaos and disinformation and destroying communication networks. They did a great deal to facilitate the German advance (which is also very well covered). Eventually, they are only able to capture a small percentage of the oil fields in the Caucasus, primarily in the Maikop. Many of the oil facilities, however, had already been destroyed by the Soviets. Only a small percentage were ever made to produce any crude oil. Hence the operation's goal proves a failure. In addition, thanks to Hitler's unrealistic optimism in the German's ability to capture that oil, the Germans even lose the ability, through the bombers they had available, to cause serious damage (about seven months' worth according to the author) to Soviet oil production.
In addition, there are a few excellent illustrations showing how the Brandenburgers were fitted out as NKVD troops as well as an excellent map of their final goal - the Maikop oil fields. However, the book is missing a large strategic map showing the many locations that are constantly discussed in the book. In addition, tactical maps covering how they captured bridges are not existent. Lastly, in the E-book, some of the maps are extremely difficult to make out due to size and resolution (i.e., when magnified they become unreadable). These problems prevent this author from giving this book a five star rating. All and all though, the book is very well researched and an original contribution to the literature, as well as being very interesting. For this reason, it is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the topic, even a specialist.
PS- as a companion to this volume this reviewer highly recommends Dr. Robert Forczyck's "The Caucasus 1942-43: Kleist's Race for Oil" (Campaign series of Osprey Publishing). It does an excellent job at providing an overview of the Caucasus campaign the Brandenburgers were involved in.
DAVID R. HIGGINS
OSPREY PUBLISHING, 2014
QUALITY SOFTCOVER, $18.95, 80 PAGES, MAPS, PHOTOGRAPHS, ILLUSTRATIONS
Although the British Commandos and U.S. Army Rangers are better known, Germany's commando force, Division Brandenburg, was the first special operations unit to see action in World War II. Not to be confused with the Panzergrenadier division of the same name, the Brandenburgers were subordinate to the Abwehr, Germany's military intelligence service. They were the first German troops to invade Poland in 1939. Precedin the invasion by several days, they seized bridges, tunnels, and other key choke points and facilities. They conducted similar operations during the invasions of Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, France, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union.
Originally formed as independent "sabotage teams," the Brandenburgers' success in Poland led to their official establishment on 25 October 1939. Candidates entering the Brandenburg Division had to meet the highest mental and physical criteria. Officers were expected to be multilingual. The five to seven month training course included reconnaissance, swimming, hand-to-hand combat, demolition, marksmanship (with both German and Allied weapons), conventional infantry training, and other specialized instruction. The resulting elite troops performed phenomenal feats of arms, sometimes operating up to 200 kilometers behind enemy lines for weeks at a time.
BEHIND SOVIET LINES-HITLER'S BRADENBURGERS CAPTURE THE MAIKOP OILFIELDS, 1942 is the detailed and remarkable account of one of the many raids conducted by this extraordinary unit. Planning began for this mission in July, 1942 at Allenstein, East Prussia under the command of an experienced combat veteran, Lt. Adrian Freiherr (Baron) von Folkersam. His command consisted of 62 Bradenburgers (Baltic and Sudeten Germans) with a further 24 who would secure the vitally important bridge over the Belaya River. These staunchly and well-trained soldiers had suffered under nearly two years of Soviet occupation and were looking for a chance to get back at the Soviets. The author takes the reader from the initial importance of oil in the invasion of the former Soviet Union to the start and conclusion of the mission as well as its impact on the German invasion.
There are a few points that need to be clarified in this excellent book and they are listed below:
*Page 22-The oilfields weren't located near Maikop but much further into the mountains.
*Page 25-This wasn't a deeper penetration into enemy territory than any other German unit, except possibly at that particular moment on that particular front. Elsewhere German forces were already further east and further south than Maikop. Furthermore, at that moment on that front not only were other German units advancing rapidly, but so were the Romanian Cavalry Corps and the Slovak Rapid Division. The Brandenburgers were pushing at an open door.
*Page 64-The Soviet Army comprehensively demolished the Maikop oil wells so effectively that the Germans didn't get a usable drop out of them in six months of occupation despite the employment of the 3rd Technical Mineralol Brigade to repair them. This doesn't mean that the Soviet Army had panicked while withdrawing from Maikop.
*Pages 65 to 66-On a strategic level, Maikop was abandoned as part of a major Soviet withdrawal from the North Caucasus to the defensible Caucasus Mountain Line. The lowland area in front of this, Maikop included, were given up without a fight because it was indefensible in the face of Axis mechanized operations. The Soviet Army did well to get any of its infantry divisions out at all.
Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard
This book looks at the use of the Brandenburgers, the Wehrmacht's own commandos, to seize their oilfields before the Soviets could destroy them. They employed the ruse of disguising themselves as NKVD "soldiers," who were feared by the Red Army's rank-and-file and officers alike. Their intense training on the Russian language and NKVD practices made this scheme a success.
The book details the larger German campaign, based upon panzer and battle-group tactics which had proved their worth over the last three years and which made the Brandenburg attack possible. The author has done a very good job of setting the stage for this operation and keeping the reader engaged. The artwork and maps are excellent, as always, and the photos mostly add to the overall product. The only outright error I found was in the key on page 56 which described one of the two figures a sergeant and the other as a major. In fact, the rank insignia on the collars of BOTH are that of a sergeant.
As the only book I've ever seen on this topic, it seems to be quite complete. I enjoyed it very much.
PS The book cover illustration at first threw me, until i discoved the Brandenbergers disguised themselves as NKVD.
This operation was seizing Stalin's oil fields. Order of battle information and details on people, places and things (including equipment) enough for amateur historians, scale modelers, and people who re-enact historical events.
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