It is the summer of 1942. With the setbacks of the previous winter behind them, a reinvigorated German army is poised along a front stretching 2,100 kilometers, ready to strike the final blow to the Soviet Union. A refitted and up-armored panzer strike force with newer, more powerful 75-mm main guns and new leadership awaits along the Ukraine for the opening phase of Operation Blau (Blue). Although not as numerous as the forces that stormed their way into Russia one year before, these experienced troops are determined as ever to put an end to a conflict that has gone on too long. Even the youngest of privates understands that if the war in the east is to be won, it must be concluded with this campaign. Hitler’s overambitious goal was to sweep the Soviet army off the steppes along the giant bend in the River Don straight through to the River Volga, cutting off Stalin’s main oil supply artery to his northern forces. Just as he did the previous year, Hitler suddenly alters his attack plans as Operation Blau unfolds. He strips much of the needed tank and motorized forces from the Sixth Army and diverts them down into the Caucasus region to seize the critical oil production facilities in places such as Maikop, Grozny, and Baku. With the defeat of Russia almost a certainty, combined with his most recent successes in North Africa, Hitler assured himself the swift collapse of the Allied armies and capitulation of the West was not long in coming. At long last, final victory was within his grasp.
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