Operation Attika

Attica

This was a German operation by Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm List’s Heeresgruppe ‘A’, under the direct command of the Oberkommando des Heeres from 10 September 1942, to break out of the so-called ‘Gotenkopf’ bridgehead on the Taman peninsula on the southern side of the Sea of Azov and take Tuapse (23 September/18 November 1942).

The undertaking was designed to restore impetus to the stalled ‘Blau III’ operation toward the oilfields at Maykop and the Caucasus mountains between Maykop and the oilfields at Baku on the Caspian Sea side of the mountains.

In the western Caucasus and on the Black Sea front, Generaloberst Richard Ruoff’s 17th Army had made only slow progress against determined Soviet resistance. The 17th Army’s objectives remained unaltered: the occupation of the Taman peninsula and the Black Sea ports of Novorossiysk, Tuapse and Sukhumi against the forces of General Major Vasili F. Sergatskov’s (later General Major Konstantin N. Leselidze’s) 46th Army of General Ivan V. Tyulenev’s North Caucasus Front.

By the end of August Romanian cavalry had occupied the coast town of Anapa, and at the beginning of September the Taman peninsula had been cleared of Soviet forces. On 6 September German troops took the naval base of Novorossiysk as well as part of the town, before being brought to a halt by marine brigades and General Major Grigori P. Kotov’s 47th Army (single mountain and infantry divisions). Meanwhile one German and five Romanian divisions had been transported across the Strait of Kerch into the Taman peninsula, their passage being covered by U-boats and S-boote, which had reached the Black Sea from the North Sea via the Elbe and Danube rivers.

On 23 September the 17th Army (14 German and seven Romanian divisions) launched a major attack, the seven divisions of General Karl Allmendinger’s V Corps and General Rudolf Konrad’s XLIX Gebirgskorps, supported by elements of Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein’s 11th Army, attacking the 18th and 56th Armies under the command of General Leytenant Fyedor V. Kamkov and General Major Aleksandr I. Ryzhov, later replaced by Leselidze and General Major Andrei A. Grechko respectively. In one week the Axis forces managed to advance a mere 7 miles (11.25 km) toward Tuapse in the face of very determined resistance. By 7 October General Polkovnik Yakov T. Cherevichenko’s Black Sea Group of Forces had managed to stabilise the position, but a week later the Germans resumed the attack and the situation deteriorated once more. Cherevichenko was replaced by General Leytenant Ivan Ye. Petrov, who operated within the context of Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza Semyon M. Budyonny’s Caucasus Front (combined North Caucasian and Trans-Caucasus Fronts), and by the middle of December the the Axis offensive had been halted only a few miles short of Tuapse at the end of a campaign which the Soviets designated as the 'Tuapse Defensive Operation' (25 September/20 December 1942).