[T]he OKH Organization Branch made a study of Army Group South's readiness for the summer offensive in terms of its basic units, the divisions. The study disclosed, in the first place, that whereas formerly all divisions of one type, say infantry, could be assumed to be nearly identical in quality, that was no longer true. The divisions for BLAU would fall from the outset into three categories.
In the first were fifteen infantry and six panzer and motorized divisions which were either new or fully rebuilt behind the front. They would be at full allotted strength and would have had time to let their experienced troops rest and to break in the replacements.
The second category, consisting of seventeen infantry and ten panzer and motorized divisions, would be the same as the first, but the divisions would be rebuilt in the front, and there would be no time to rest.
In the third category were seventeen infantry divisions, a good quarter of the total number, that would neither be rested nor fully rebuilt. They would be at "approximately" full strength in personnel and material, but they would be short on officers and noncommissioned officers, and they would have to depend on the output of the repair shops for equipment.
In all three categories, some corners had been cut. The infantry divisions' supply trains would be horse-drawn, and every division would have to take about a thousand of the so-called young troops, eighteen- and nineteen-year olds who had no more than eight weeks' training. In the panzer divisions, the rifle battalions would be reduced from five to four companies. The panzer and motorized divisions would also have fewer tracked personnel-carrying vehicles. They would reach about 80 percent of full mobility, but about 20 percent of that would have to be attained by using trucks and, in consequence, would entail some loss of cross-country capability. Since there was nothing in reserve, all equipment would have to come from current output, which meant that the schedules for rebuilding could not be accelerated, and unanticipated losses in preliminary operations could not be replaced.
Army Group South looked at the same divisions in terms of probable performance and concluded:
Owing to diverse composition, partial lack of battle experience and gaps in their outfitting, the units available for the summer operation in 1942 will not have the combat effectiveness that could be taken for granted at the beginning of the campaign in the East. The mobile units, too, will not have the flexibility, the endurance, or the penetrating power they had a year ago. The commands will have to be aware of this, and in assigning missions and setting objectives, they will have to take into account the composition and battle-worthiness of the individual divisions. The attack elements will have to be put together with painstaking care.
The question was how serious the flaws would be. Army Group South saw reason for concern. Others, closer to the front, were downright worried, as the following letter from General Paulus, commander of the Sixth Army, to his corps commanders indicates:
Recently numbers of reports have come to my attention and that of the higher leadership in which division commanders have described the condition of their divisions with extreme pessimism. This I cannot tolerate.
The personnel and material deficiencies afflicting the divisions are well known to the higher leadership. Nevertheless, the higher leadership is determined to carry out its intentions in the eastern theater of war to the full. Therefore it is up to us to get the most out of the troops in their present condition.
I request that you exert influence on the division commanders in this sense.