Armavir-Maykop Defensive Operation

The 'Armavir-Maykop Defensive Operation' was the Soviet second of the five sub-operations together constituting the 'North Caucasian Strategic Defensive Operation' (6/17 August 1942).

The other sub-operations were the 'Tikhoretsk-Stavropol Defensive Operation' (25 July/5 August), 'Krasnodar Defensive Operation' (7/14 August), 'Novorossiysk Defensive Operation (19 August/26 September) and 'Mozdok-Malgobek Defensive Operation' (1/28 September).

The German 'Edelweiss' operation was planned in order to gain control of the Caucasus and seize the oil fields of the Baku area as part of the summer campaign of 1942. The operation was authorised by Adolf Hitler on 23 July, and the primary force committed to its execution included Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm List’s Heeresgruppe 'A' controlling Generaloberst Ewald von Kleist’s 1st Panzerarmee, Generaloberst Hermann Hoth’s 4th Panzerarmee, Generaloberst Richard Ruoff’s 17th Army and General de armatâ Petre Dumitrescu’s Romanian 3rd Army, with air support provided by part of Generaloberst Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen’s Luftflotte IV.

With approval from above, List’s staff decided to change the direction of the army group’s main attack, the 17th Army's formations being tasked in the west with the capture of Krasnodar in the Kuban area and the 1st Panzerarmee in the centre with the seizure of the oil fields of Maykop and a sweep round to the west to reach the eastern coast of the Black Sea in the area of Tuapse, thereby encircling the main Soviet forces of Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza Semyon K. Budyonny’s North Caucasus Front in the Kuban area.

The North Caucasus Front comprised General Major Andrei A. Grechko’s 12th Army, General Leytenant Fyedor V. Kamkov’s 18th Army, General Major Aleksandr I. Ryzhov’s 56th Army and General Major Sergei K. Goryunov’s 5th Air Force, as well a the I Separate Corps, XVII Cossack Cavalry Corps, Azov Military Flotilla and Kuban Separate Detachment of ships of the Azov Flotilla with one river gunboat, four armoured boats and 22 patrol boats.

After crossing the Don river and advancing to the south, on 6 August units of the 1st Panzerarmee took Armavir and continued their offensive in the direction of Maykop. To prevent the Germans from breaking through to Tuapse and thereby to prevent the encirclement of the Soviet troops in the Kuban, the Soviet command organised the defence of this area by the 12th Army, 18th Army and XVII Cossack Cavalry Corps. For four days there was fighting on the Kuban, Belaya and Laba river before, on 10 August, the Germans took Maykop and continued their offensive on Tuapse. The German forces attacked in two groups: the units of Generalleutnant Hans-Valentin Hube’s 16th Panzerdivision and Generalleutnant Erich Diestel’s 101st Jägerdivision at Apsheronsky and Neftegorsk, and the units of Generalleutnant Traugott Herr’s 13th Panzerdivision, SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Felix Steiner’s SS-Division 'Wiking' and Generalleutnant Ernst Rupp’s 97th Jägerdivision at Kabardin and Khadyzhenskaya. These attempted to encircle the 18th Army. On 12 August, the Germans captured Belorechenskaya and seized a bridgehead on the left bank of the Belaya river, but failed to break through to Tuapse on the coast.

At the same time, the 17th Army launched an offensive against Krasnodar, and from 7 August stubborn battles were fought for the city, which was defended by units of the 56th Army and the Krasnodar People’s Militia. During the afternoon of 10 August, German troops reached the town’s north-eastern outskirts, and then used the forces of Generalleutnant Siegmund Freiherr von Schleinitz’s 9th Division, Generalleutnant Rudolf von Bünau’s 73rd Division and Generalleutnant Hubert Lanz’s 1st Gebirgsdivision to advance farther to the south-east in an effort to take the Pashkovsk river crossing, which was held by the 30th Division, and thus cut off the Soviet forces in Krasnodar. Very bitter fighting ensued in this area, and on 12 the Germans took Krasnodar as the culmination of 'Anlauf', and the 17th Army reached the Kuban river.

By 17 August, the German offensive had been brought to a halt along the line connecting Samurskaya and Khadyzhenskaya to the south of Klyuchevaya and Stavropolskaya.