This is the story of the highest battlefield of World War Two, which brings to life the extremes endured during this harsh mountain warfare. When the German war machine began faltering from a shortage of oil after the failed Blitzkrieg against the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht launched Operation Edelweiss in the summer of 1942, a bold attempt to capture the Soviet oilfields of Grozny and Baku and open the way to securing the vast reserves of Middle Eastern oil. Hitler viewed this campaign as the key to victory in World War Two. Mountain warfare requires unique skills: climbing and survival techniques, unconventional logistical and medical arrangements and knowledge of ballistics at high altitudes. The Main Caucasus Ridge became the battleground that saw the elite German mountain divisions clash with the untrained soldiers of the Red Army, as they fought each other, the weather and the terrain.
Table of Contents
List of figures; List of maps; List of tables; Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations; Introduction: the path towards the top summits of World War II; 1. Russia's historical experience in mountain warfare; 2. Soviet preparations for war in the mountains; 3. First battle tests and the handicaps of selective learning; 4. Contest of follies: plan Edelweiss and the German offensive across the High Caucasus; 5. 'Not a step back!': the German mountain corps hits the wall; 6. The Soviet counteroffensive: a stalemate snatched from the jaws of victory; 7. Mosaics of mountain warfare: comparative military effectiveness in the High Caucasus; 8. Learning mountain warfare the hard way; 9. Lessons ignored: déjà vu at Tuapse (1942) and in the Carpathians (1944); 10. Disdain for military professionalism as a component of the universal Stalinist paradigm; Bibliography; Index.