Operation Blaue-Linie (i)

Blue Line

The 'Blaue-Linie' (i) was the German defensive line on the eastern side of the 'Gotenkopf' lodgement in the Taman peninsula opposite the eastern tip of Crimea (January/9 October 1943).

The only other two fully established defence lines of World War II comparable in length with the 'Blaue-Linie' (i) were the 'Ligne Maginot' in France and the 'Mannerheim linj' in Finland. Designed to shield the Axis forces which had settled in the Taman area after the defeat of the German 'Edelweiss' offensive into the northern Caucasus region during the summer of 1942, the line was built largely by Soviet civilians forced to work for the Germans, and came to include 577 bunkers and pillboxes, 23.33 miles (37.5 km) of minefields up to 545 yards (500 m) wide and comprising 2,500 mines per kilometre, 54 miles (87 km) of barbed wire entanglements, 7.5 miles (12 km) of felled trees, and a complex of trenches in several lines.

The 'Blaue-Linie' (i) extended in an essentially north/south line from the southern coast of the Sea of Azov in the north to the northern coast of the Black Sea in the south, and covered the eastern approaches to the Taman area. There were two defensive zones each of three lines and associated cut-off positions. The two defensive zones were between 12.5 and 15.5 miles (20 and 25 km) deep, and each line had strongpoints, bunkers, pillboxes, machine gun positions and artillery sites. All of the lines and larger positions were connected by a system of lateral trenches and communication trenches. Comprising three or four positions covered by minefields and anything between three and six lines of barbed wire entanglements, this main defence line had a depth of between 3.1 and 4.35 miles (5 and 7 km), and the second defence line lay 6.2 to 9.33 miles (10 to 15 km) to its rear. Together with three defensive zones and cut-off positions, the death of the defences was 37.3 miles (60 km).

The northern section of the 'Blaue-Line' (i) included large areas of swamp, flood plain and deep estuaries, while the southern section passed through forested and mountainous areas.

The 'Gotenkopf' lodgement was held by Generaloberst Erwin Jaenecke’s 17th Army, and after the initial Soviet efforts to break through the line in the spring of 1943 the line succumbed to a new Soviet assault in the 'Novorossiysk-Taman Offensive Operation' on 9 October 1943. The German and Romanian forces in the lodgement then fell back and were evacuated across the Strait of Kerch to eastern Crimea by sea in the 'Krimhilde-Bewegung'.