German tanker monitors burning oil storage in the area of Maikop
В stories of the battle for the Caucasus, which unfolded in the second half of 1942, there is a remarkable moment associated with the oil-producing region located near Maikop, or with the Maikop oil. In July 1942, the German Army Group "A" crossed the Don, defeated the Southern Front and began to pursue the retreating Soviet troops across the steppe. The 17th German army was advancing west, in the direction of Krasnodar, the 1st German tank the army advanced eastward to Armavir. The tank army managed to achieve significant success, on August 6, 1942, they captured Armavir, on August 9 - Maykop, and then the 1st Panzer Army advanced south, on the left bank of the Kuban, in the direction of the coast and Tuapse. True, they did not manage to reach the port, the offensive fizzled out on August 15-17, and then the tank army was transferred to the eastern direction, to Mozdok.
The 17th Army took Krasnodar on August 12, 1942 and continued its offensive on Novorossiysk. On August 31, the Germans managed to capture Anapa, on September 11, units of the 17th Army reached Novorossiysk. The fighting there was extremely heavy, the Germans failed to capture the entire city, and from September 26, 1942, German troops in Novorossiysk went on the defensive.
The scheme of the German offensive in August-October 1942
This is the general outline of the German offensive in August-September 1942, during which they got the Maykop oil-producing region for some time. The Maikop oil was at the forefront of the 1st Tank Army's attack, since the oil fields were located in a vast area southwest and west of Maikop. Soon after 1st Panzer Army withdrew east, the area came under the control of 17th Army and the commander of rear area 550 (Korück 550), subordinate to the command of 17th Army.
Micromyth comes from war propaganda
In this regard, a kind of micromyph has developed in the literature, the essence of which is that the fields and equipment of Maikopneft were almost completely destroyed, so that the Germans did not get anything. I saw this myth in several variations, little different from each other, as an example, you can cite the article by E.M. Malysheva "Russian oil and oil workers during the Great Patriotic War", see "Economic Journal", 2008, No. 4 (14). There it is said in some detail about this.
First, it claims that Germany was running out of oil in Romania, and all the salvation was only in the seizure of the Black Sea oil. This, of course, is not entirely true, or even not at all true, and a separate analysis can be devoted to this interesting issue.
Secondly, it is said that 850 wells were liquidated at Maikopneft, an oil refinery in Krasnodar, compressor stations with 113 compressors, well equipment and drilling equipment were destroyed. 52 thousand cubic meters of oil were also destroyed during the fighting, about 80 thousand tons of oil products at the refinery. So it was impossible to use the Maikopneft oil fields.
Thirdly, there is a well-known article from the Grozny Rabochiy newspaper of October 10, 1942, which is quoted in almost all works that pay attention to the Maikop oil:
“Having occupied the area of Maikop, the Germans immediately rushed to the oil fields. However, the Nazis' hopes for Maikop oil did not come true, they found ruins on the site of the fields. The wells were blocked, the oil pipeline was destroyed. From this the Maykop partisans began their work. They did not give the enemy oil. Maykop became a dead city. People tried not to be seen by the fascist thugs. Life went into the forests and mountains, where several partisan detachments operated. In vain are the fascists looking for oil workers. They are here. The partisan detachment killed 100 German soldiers and officers on forest roads in a short time. The Germans cannot find the oil workers of Maikop, but the oil workers find the Germans every day and mercilessly destroy them. "
In general, stories in the style: "Not a single liter of oil to the enemy!" In my opinion, such a presentation of events is a derivative of the military propaganda of that time. As an example of war propaganda, the article in Grozny Rabochiy looks great. The situation was difficult and it was necessary to somehow encourage the soldiers at the front and the rear workers. The Germans first cut into the Southern Front, then the North Caucasian Front, in a month they captured a huge territory. They stopped their advance with great difficulty. What could political instructors and agitators say to people in such conditions? Here's just this: yes, we retreated, but at least the Germans did not get oil, thwarted their plans of plunder, without oil the Germans would not fight for a long time, and so on.
After the war and the victory, when it was no longer relevant to encourage the soldiers and workers of the rear, it would have been possible to understand the issue in more detail and in detail, with the study of German documents. But that did not happen. The outlined micromyph was a rehash of the propaganda of the war years, and Soviet and Russian historians did not go further than this.
Why didn't this happen? Firstly, because the researchers would have to learn German, correct the exit permit, and dig into the German archives. The case itself is suspicious. And besides, one could read all sorts of things in German documents: like how the engineer Filippov repaired the oil fields in Ilskaya or how the 1st Cossack regiment "Platov" (which later became part of the 1st Cossack division of von Pannwitz) guarded the Ilskaya road - Derbent. For such archival finds one could receive a "reward" in the form of dismissal with a wolf ticket. Secondly, a detailed examination of the issue would show that the situation was not at all as dashing as described in the newspaper Grozny Rabochy. Those who knew well the pre-war economy of Maikopneft, of course, understood that, in addition to destruction, there were also factors that prevented the Germans from using oil, but preferred to keep quiet. Why do people need difficulties? Rewrite a newspaper article in your scientific work - and the task is completed.
My interest in this issue consisted in answering the question: why did the Germans fail? Oil was indeed very important to them and they made an attempt to restore oil fields by sending a special unit of Technische Brigade Mineralöl (TBM) to Maikop. It was impossible to answer this question without German documents. However, Bundesarchiv kindly scanned several files from the 550 rear area archive, among which there were three files (RH 23/44, RH 23/45, RH 23/46) dedicated to the oil region of Maikop. These documents were mainly devoted to the protection of the oil production area, the recruitment of oil specialists among the civilian population and prisoners of war, providing them with food, various administrative issues and correspondence. But among them were several reports on the state of the oil fields, as seen by the German troops.
This, of course, is not all, since the documents of the technical brigade itself were not there (perhaps they will be found somewhere else), but it already allows you to look at the Maikop oil fields captured by the Germans in great detail.
How much oil did the Germans get?
"The Germans immediately rushed to the oil fields ..." German documents, however, do not confirm this at all. Units of the 1st Panzer Army appeared southwest of Maykop in mid-August, August 10-15, 1942, and the oilfield area was occupied by units of the SS Viking division, which created the Ortskomandatura there. According to the chief of the Ortskomandatura I / 921 Major Merkel, the SS men left the area on September 19, 1942, handing over their commandant offices in Neftegorsk, Oil, Khadyzhenskaya and Kabardinskaya security battalion 602 (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/44 Bl. 107).
Only after that did the Germans go to inspect the oil fields. On October 13, 1942, the security battalion drew up a report on what they found during a survey of the area from September 28 to October 2, 1942. We will return to this report a little later.
A month and a half had passed since the seizure of the oil fields, before the Germans took care of inspecting the captured economy. They very slowly "rushed to the oil fields." There was a good reason for that. Units of the 1st Panzer Army, in particular the SS Viking division, from mid-August to mid-September 1942 tried to advance south on Tuapse, and this was a priority for them. For them, it was more important to defeat the Soviet troops, and the oil wells will not go anywhere, the trophies can be dealt with later.
There was another reason why the Germans "rushed to the oil fields" so slowly. Judging by the letter from the Ortskomandatura I / 918 dated October 10, 1942, they had not yet captured part of the oil fields. The letter indicates that work can only be carried out in Neftyanaya and Khadyzhenskaya, the village of Asfaltovaya Gora, 6 km from Khadyzhenskaya, was under artillery fire, and some other oil fields were occupied by Soviet troops (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/45 Bl. 91). Hence it is quite obvious that the German tank units, with their initial onslaught, captured only a part of the oil fields, their eastern half. There is a report that the Asphalt Mountain and Kutaisi oil fields (west of Khadyzhenskaya) were captured by October 24, 1942 (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/44 Bl. 40). By December 1942, the front passed about 20 km west and 40 km south of Khadyzhenskaya. Artillery shelling no longer reached the oil fields. And in general, on the Khadyzhenskaya - Tuapse direction, the Germans tried to launch an offensive twice, in mid-October and in mid-November 1942.
German front line scheme for December 1942: TsAMO f. 500, op. 12473, d. 121, l. nineteen
"They found ruins at the site of the trades." When security battalion 602 went to inspect the area, apparently instructed in advance what exactly he should look for and what to reflect in his report, his findings were still larger than ruins.
For example, well 341 (clogged). With her were found: 20 long drill rods, 60 sucker rods, a damaged pumping unit, two oil tanks, one destroyed drill tripod and one hook. Well 397: destroyed wooden oil rig, 30 drill rods and 30 sucker rods, damaged pumping unit (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/45 Bl. 68). And so on.
Beginning of the report of the security battalion 602 on the results of the survey of the oil fields: Bundesarchiv, RH 23/45 Bl. 68
The total finds were:
Drilling rigs (fit for service) - 3
Oil tanks - 9
Gas tanks - 2
Drill rods - 375
Sucker rods - 1017
Pump pipes - 359
Borehole pumps - 5
(Bundesarchiv, RH 23/45 Bl. 68-72.)
This is only in the fields, without finds in other places.
Pipes captured at the Maikop station. Photo by Italian correspondent Lamberti Sorrentino
This report and other reports make it possible to say definitely that the Maikop oil fields were badly destroyed, but not completely. A number of wells went to the Germans in working order. Out of 34 wells, 6 worked in the Adagym area (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/45 Bl. 104). Utash - out of 6 wells, 2 wells worked. Dzhiginskoe - 11 of 6 wells remained in working order (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/45 Bl. 113). Kaluga (south of Krasnodar) - 24 wells, of which one well with a blown-up pump and pipeline and two more without pumping units; the rest of the wells were closed. The oil field worked until August 4, 1942 and was destroyed in haste. The Germans got 10 drilling rigs, and they assessed the damage to the pumps and pipelines as minor (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/45 Bl. 129, 151). Ilskaya (south-west of Krasnodar) - out of 28 wells, 3 wells remained in working order. At well 210, a concrete plug was squeezed out by oil and gas pressure. It was on this well that the engineer Filippov and 65 assistants from the civilian population worked. In well 221, oil also began to squeeze out a concrete plug (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/44 Bl. 53). Khadyzhenskaya - from well 65 oil was poured directly onto the ground (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/45 Bl. 151).
In general, having collected from various documents references to the estimated production capacity of wells that were in working order or could be easily restored, I made the following list (tons per month):
Adagym - 60
Kesslerovo - 33
Kievskoe - 54
Ilskaya - 420
Dzhiginskoe - 7,5
Kaluga - 450
Neftegorsk - 120
Khadyzhenskaya - 600
Total - 1744,5 tons.
This is very little. The production of 1744 tons per month corresponds to 20,9 thousand tons per year, or 0,96% of the pre-war production level (in 1938 - 2160 thousand tons). This, I note, even before the restoration work began (this data was collected at the end of September - in October 1942), even before the clogged and cemented wells were opened, that is, so to speak, immediately available.
Well, and in a bunch: "In vain are the fascists looking for oil workers." The Germans really had problems with recruiting workers for the oil fields. But it would also be a mistake to say that the Germans could not win anyone over to their side. On November 3, 1942, the Technical Brigade sent to the command of the rear area 550 a statement about their personnel and vehicles. They had in different places: 4574 German soldiers, 1632 civilians and 1018 prisoners of war. The brigade had 115 motorcycles, 203 cars and 435 trucks at the disposal of the brigade (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/44 Bl. 30). At a meeting on October 24, 1942, the commander of the Technical Brigade, Major General Erich Homburg, said that if he was given, in addition to 600 prisoners of war already engaged in the restoration of oil fields, another 900 immediately and another 2500 before the onset of winter, he would be able to put the Ilskaya field into operation ( Bundesarchiv, RH 23/44 Bl. 40).
Small loot and uncertain plans
In the studied German documents, almost nothing is said about oil production. Only on Ilskaya, as follows from the message of the headquarters of the security battalion 617, in early October 1942 a small distillation plant with a capacity of 1 ton per day was installed. She received 300 liters of kerosene, 200 liters of gasoline and 500 liters of oil residues. Fuel was supplied to collective farms in the Severskaya area (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/44 Bl. 53). Another example of the use of oil is a bakery in Anapa, which worked for the needs of the 10th Romanian division. Its furnaces were fueled by oil, and the Romanians took oil from Dzhiginskaya, to the displeasure of the German Ortskomandatura I / 805 in Anapa (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/45 Bl. 45). The Germans used this oil for the municipal economy and enterprises of Anapa.
Why did the Germans not attend to the early restoration of oil production? There were several reasons for this.
First, they had good trophies in various places, contrary to the assurances of the Grozny Rabochy newspaper:
Naphtha - 157 cubic meters (124 tons).
Petroleum - 100 cubic meters (79 tons).
Fuel oil - 468 cubic meters (416 tons).
Engine oil - 119 cubic meters (107 tons).
Tractor fuel - 1508 cubic meters (1206 tons).
Gasoline - 15 cubic meters (10 tons).
A total of 1942 tons of oil and oil products in tanks and barrels (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/44 Bl. 152-155). This is slightly more than the monthly production of the remaining wells in working order. Moreover, most of these trophies are ready-made tractor fuel, most likely naphtha.
Secondly, the Krasnodar oil refinery, which before the war had a capacity of about 1 million tons per year and processed about half of the Maikop oil, was actually destroyed, first by German bombing, and then by detonation during the retreat of Soviet troops.
Photo of the ruins of the Krasnodar oil refinery, taken in August 1942
Another snapshot of the destroyed Krasnodar refinery, more detailed. In essence, the plant was to be rebuilt. Although the railway station was less destroyed, which made it possible to set up a temporary plant operating on the oil supply by rail
The technical brigade worked to dismantle the ruins and, according to the brigade commander, it was possible to build a temporary plant with a capacity of 300 tons per day (about 110 thousand tons per year) until January 1943 and 600 tons per day until March 1943.
Third, the power supply to the oil fields and a significant part of the pumps were destroyed. Therefore, it was possible to extract oil only by hand, it was poured out by itself. And not only from wells. The Germans discovered 12 oil wells (Brunne in German) with a total capacity of 12 tons per day or 360 tons per month.
Fourth, the export of oil to Germany was impossible. Although the Germans seized an oil pier in the port of Novorossiysk, where pipelines, a loading station, pumps and five tanks with a capacity of 4500 cubic meters were in good condition (Bundesarchiv, RH 23/45 Bl. 63), they could not use it due to ongoing fighting and lack of the necessary oil fleetto take oil at least to Odessa. The Germans never captured the port of Tuapse.
For these reasons, the Germans refused to immediately restore wells and resume production, limiting themselves to only small production of oil for local needs, mainly for various local enterprises: mills, bakeries, water pipes, collective farms, partly working for the Germans and Romanians, partly for the local population.
What further plans did they have? Judging by the distribution of forces, the main attention was paid to the restoration of the field infrastructure and oil pipelines in Khadyzhenskaya, Neftyanaya and Neftegorsk, the Khadyzhenskaya-Kabardinskaya-Krasnodar and Khadyzhenskaya-Belorechenskaya-Armavir oil pipelines. In Khadyzhenskaya, Absheron and Kabardinskaya there were 2670 people from the Technical brigade and 860 people in Armavir. Apparently, it was supposed to restore or build large oil depots in Maikop and Armavir. Armavir, as one can assume, was conceived as a transshipment base, from where oil could be sent by rail to Krasnodar or to other places. There were very few forces at the refinery in Krasnodar: 30 Germans, 314 civilians and 122 prisoners of war. Apparently, they were clearing the ruins and awaiting the delivery of refinery equipment. Only then could the refinery become a major center for the supply of petroleum products.
The plans are somewhat vague, and, in general, are designed, rather, to supply the troops. For now, I will not put an end to this, since there may be other archival finds that can shed light on this issue. We can only say that the Germans clearly did not regard the Maikop oil as a source capable of supplying Germany, at least in the foreseeable future for them.
Don't make up myths
As you can see, the history of the captured Maikop oil fields is very noticeably different from what is usually written about it in the literature. The micromyph about the Maykop oil is completely unsatisfactory, because it is presented in such a way that it distorts the whole picture. First, the myth focuses on destruction, although according to German documents it is clear that the proximity of the front and the activity of the partisans were the main factor hampering the restoration work. In addition, the front line passed in such a way that it cut off the Maikop oil from the ports in Novorossiysk and Tuapse, as well as from the Grozny oil refinery.
Secondly, even before the war, the Maikop-Krasnodar region was not self-sufficient in oil refining. The Krasnodar refinery processed only half of the production, the rest was sent to ports for export by sea, to the Grozny refinery (which was powerful - 12,6 million tons, and by today's standards, large; while Grozneft produced 1938 million tons in 2,6 oil; the refinery processed mainly Baku oil) or was consumed locally in raw form. Therefore, given the position of the front, which took shape at the end of 1942, and even if the entire oil production, transport and processing infrastructure remained completely intact and ready for work, the Germans would still have to cut oil production by half due to the impossibility of exporting it. This feature of Maikopneft was well known to oilmen, but oil historians did not ask.
Third, the destruction was great and could not be repaired with a snap of the fingers. The Germans began work only at the end of October 1942, and already in January 1943, the Black Sea group began an offensive, which on January 12-19, 1943 managed to break through the German defenses near the village of Goryachy Klyuch and reach the approaches to Krasnodar. Here the Germans, under the threat of encirclement, had to abandon everything and retreat to Krasnodar and Novorossiysk. Maykop was taken on January 29, 1943, which for the Germans meant a complete loss of Maykop oil. Thus, they had not five and a half months for all the work, as they say in the literature, but only a little more than two months, from the end of October 1942 to the beginning of January 1943. As you might guess, winter is not the right time for restoration work.
In addition, after the liberation of the Maykop oil, Soviet oil workers also had to spend a lot of time and effort to fix the oil fields. In July 1944, the daily production reached 1200 tons, or 438 thousand tons on an annualized basis - 20,2% of the pre-war production. This is the result of more than a year's work, and in conditions incomparably better than those of the Germans, because they were not threatened by a close front and there was the possibility of exporting oil to Grozny.
The moral of the story is simple: Don't make up myths. The real story turns out to be more interesting and entertaining than the rehash of propaganda from the war.