The German advance south towards the oilfields of Russia was making good progress. On the 9th August they reached the first of the oil towns, Maikop, one of the smallest of the oilfields. If they could continue this progress and seize the bulk of the oilfields they would deprive Soviet Union of the life blood needed to continue the war.
Erich Stahl had been a journalist until he entered the military. Now he joined the SS Panzer Division ‘Wiking’:
We moved again through shoulder-high tobacco fields in full bloom, through sunflower fields and past waving grain. To me it was a release when I found myself in the thick of heavy fighting a few hours later.
The anti-tank battalion was composed almost entirely of self-propelled guns armed with the former Russian 7.62cm gun, a very respectable caliber. Unfortunately, they suffered from the disadvantage that they were as big as a barn door, being more than 3 meters high and just as long.
Yet with all that, their armor was so pitifully thin that any antitank round went straight through like a knife through butter. We were in fact only protected against infantry weapons and not even that completely, as Number One, the gunner, and Number Two, the loader, were exposed in the back. We suffered many casualties as a result.
We had reached the Maikop area, and the village ahead of us was held by the enemy, who hung on tenaciously and would not give way. We made a snap decision and set the thatched roofs alight to burn the enemy out. Within a few moments of opening fire with incendiary rounds, the first houses were on fire. The infantry then began to make good progress. In accordance with my orders, I moved my gun forward to the center ofthe village square to cover the infantry attack against possible surprises from the south. But there was not a single enemy tank to be seen.
German film of the advance into the deep south of Russia: