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Featuring specially drawn full-color artwork and expert analysis of the Maikop operation, this assessment of the dramatic raid that delivered intact Soviet oil-production facilities into Nazi hands casts new light of the German special-forces operations on the Eastern Front.
With his forces having conquered a huge swathe of formerly Soviet territory in the months following the launch of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, Hitler planned to continue the Germans' strategic offensive against the Soviet Union's oil-production capacity in the southern Caucasus region during the summer of 1942. To help pave the way for regular forces, the Abwehr (German military intelligence) sent forward 'Brandenburger' commando units to pave the way using tactics that had proven successful throughout the previous Western and Balkan campaigns. These commandos would secure oil-producing assets until more conventional forces from 1. Panzerarmee and 17. Armee could arrive in strength. Specially trained in foreign cultures and military vehicles, small-unit tactics, parachuting, sabotage, reconnaissance, assassination and deception techniques, these elite commandos usually operated in company-sized units or smaller and recruited many 'non-Aryan' native speakers of those languages spoken in the target countries.
In early August 1942, a small Brandenburger unit of Baltic and Sudeten Germans led by Freiherr Adrian von Fölkersam penetrated far ahead of German regular forces to seize Soviet oil facilities around Maikop. Disguised as members of Stalin's NKVD, the repressive police organisation dreaded by most Soviet citizens and soldiers, Fölkersam's command passed through the Soviet front lines using captured trucks and moved deep into hostile territory, where the chaos of the Soviet battlefield situation aided in their passing as 'official'. As regular German forces approached after several days, the Brandenburgers went into action using grenades to simulate an artillery attack before disabling Maikop's military communication network. Having previously seen Fölkersam with their commander, and lacking any communications to rebut or confirm his statement, the Soviets began to evacuate Maikop at Fölkersam's urging. The German spearhead entered the city on 9 August 1942 against minimal resistance and found that several oil-production facilities were still functioning.