On losses -
They can be 5 to 1 instead of 10-20 if it makes an accountant happy, it won't
change the conclusions one iota. The loss ratio vastly exceeds the capacity
ratios, which are 1 to 1 for industrial capacity and no better than 2 to 1
favor the Russians in manpower capacity. Arguably less, when one considers
how much of the prewar populace lived in areas the Germans captured in 1941,
and the help of the Axis minors in manpower terms.
As for where I get the notion, though, Fedlgrau gives total german kia + mia
in 1941, june to december, all fronts, as 306,000. Figures for Russian MIA
alone run 3 million (2.3 million at the low end). Yes the Germans have plenty
of WIA as well, but large portions of WIA on both sides got right back into
the line within 6 months. And in equipment, the Russians lost over 20k tanks
in calendar 1941, with production not yet sufficient to cover it. Fleet strength
falls by 2/3rds. German tank production is barely ticking over, around 400
a month, but is still sufficient to increase the overall fleet size because losses
are so low. (The spearheads still fall in "runners" significantly, however,
because the Germans don't get them forward or have the down time to get
repair cases running).
You can't win a war of manpower attrition losing 5 to 1 from a base only twice
as large as the enemy, if he tries equally hard. You can't win a tank production
war losing 5 to 1 or higher from an equal industrial base and with equal peak
production achievements, if the enemy gets to his peak as fast as you do and
stays there just as long. But the Russians did win a war of manpower and tank
attrition against Germany. They routinely had a tank fleet 3-5 times as large
even though their overall production was only twice as large, and their losses
ran 5 times German losses. How?
By using more of their capacity than the Germans used, and by using it earlier,
and by keeping the level of capacity being used at peak levels for longer, thus
achieving a much higher integral of total mobilization effort.
That they managed to do this despite the Germans knowing the war was going to
happen 6 months earlier than the Russian did, and the Germans had complete
strategic and operational surprise, and the Germans occupied territory
containing 40% of Russian prewar capacity and stayed there for years, while
their own homeland was unscathed for years - this reflects a simply stunning
differential in overall effort in the first half of the war. The overconfident
Germans did not think they would need to break a sweat, while the Russians
worked their tails off.
Other signs of this - German war plant is still running one shift a day into
early 1942, Russians are running 3 shifts around the clock. "Kick in the door,
and the whole rotten structure will fall to the ground" beforehand, and
"the Russian is finished" after Kiev. The first total mobilization speeches
are made by Goebbels 3 months after *Stalingrad* (February 1943). Only 40%
of German steel output is going to the war program in 1942; they are still
supporting civilian construction projects. See Milward. German armaments
production goes up on a diagonal to the mid 1944 peak without sharp breaks;
Russian armaments production switches from a peacetime "off" position to a
near war maximum "on" position within 9 months.
The condition for trying as hard as you possibly can is thinking you will have to.
In strategy, arrogance is suicide.
On German commitment -
total Wehrmacht personnel rise from 8.1 million to 12 million between 1941 and the
1944 peak, despite taking 10 million total military casualties over the whole war.
Total mobilized manpower at any time is on the order of 20 million, and less than
half of it has been used by the time of the decisive early fighting in Russia.
It is utterly ridiculous to pretend Germany could not commit more manpower to
the war in 1941 or 1942, when they committed them and more in 1943-4 under
far less favorable circumstances. Yes a few more million come of age in the
meantime, but not more than double those tapped so far.
Of the 9 million in service, only 3 million are ground forces on the Russian
front. The replacement army is as large as the entire field army in Russia.
German tank output does not peak until late 1944, at a rate over 1500 tanks a
month. The Russians get to 2000 tanks a month by 1942, despite German
occupation of territory containing 40% of Russian prewar industrial capacity.
The industrial capacities of the two are dead equal, incidentally. See Milward.
The relevant comparison is not the trickle of German inductees passing through
the replacement system to the field army each month in 1941 compared to in 1943, but
the total force generation of the Germans in 1941 compared to the total force
generation of the Russians in 1941. Whether as new formations or replacements
to existing ones. And the fact is, the Russians field 34 new armies in 6 months,
while the Germans fail to replace their lower combat losses, resulting in a
field force that is weaker in front of Moscow in December than it was at the
border in June.
Source on weaker in front of Moscow - Glantz, also Guderian, everybody knows
On 34 armies and their deployment specifically, see Glantz Before Stalingrad.
On weakest after Bryansk, um, if you don't do Kiev then they still have the extra
1 million men that KOed. The field army is only weakest in October because they
suffer both Kiev and Bryansk in succession. And Bryansk works so well in part
because the Russian southern flank is hanging, as a direct result of Kiev - this
is what Guderian's group exploits. You can't get Bryansk as it happened without
Kiev before, both because you have a million men on your right flank and because
the Russians don't have no left flank.
Also, the 7 new armies they had to send to Kiev in August get to go to the Moscow
axis instead (actually perhaps as many as 9, counting Leningrad not being so
pressured). They had to send 2 more later to hold some sort of line in the
south, as well.
On Kiev being the biggest crisis of the campaign, regardless of field strength
low point, people just refuse to take two steps to the other side of the board
and look at the Russian problem.
In case everybody just forgot, Zhukov resigns as chief of staff because his warnings
about Kiev are ignored. He sees the exact threat that transpired and knows that
it is the best German move. In analyzing say a chess game, the opponent grandmaster's
opinion is usually thought to count for something. And he gives his reasons,
and they are entirely cogent.
Direct route to Moscow the Germans are not strong enough, they need to clear
their flanks, bring up their infantry divisions, and refit their armor.
Leningrad they can only hit seriously with additional forces. The most
successful German drive is in the far south, south of Kiev, into the
Dnepr bend. But the most vulnerable spot is the gaping hole north of
Southwest Front. He predicts the Germans will use their armor to turn
south, exploit this, and catch Kiev between it and the southern armor.
Exactly correct. Why? Because it is obvious, it is The Right Move (TM).
What does he suggest they do about it? Send 5 armies to the north side of
Southwest Front in a new grouping under Vatutin as their most energetic
front commander - one drawn from SW Front farther south, one from the Moscow
axis, one from Stavka reserve, two newly forming. And he says they have to
be willing to abandon Kiev to maintain the integrity of SW Front, saving which
is the real point of the operation - not terrain.
Entirely correct. Would have been something of a race but might well have
stopped Guderian's turn south, and would at least have gotten most of SW Front
out of the trap.
Stalin's reaction? He explodes at the suggestion that they abandon Kiev,
calls it nonsense. Zhukov says if all he can do is spout nonsense, there
is nothing left to be done and asks to be sent to the front with an operational
command, effectively offering his resignation.
Stalin, incredibly, holds him to it and puts an utter incompetent in charge.
Zhukov is thus sacked. Stalin can't afford to lose him entirely - he volunteers
to lead something as small as a division - and leaves him his Stavka appointment
and puts him in charge of Reserve Front and the counterattack operations on
the Moscow axis.
Stalin then proceeds to order SW Front to stand stock still, driven into the
ground with stakes far to the west, as the exact operation Zhukov foretold
surrounds and annihilates it. He gives them half hearted authorization to
abandon Kiev after they are already surrounded and lost, operationally
speaking. It is indeed the most glaring and disasterous higher political
interference in the conduct of the campaign, but it isn't on the German side.
All of this is in Erickson, it is ancient history, only people who never look
at a Russian source can be ignorant of it.
The Russian problem is to make effective use of their huge replacement
stream to stop the string of lopsided German victories. The obstacle
standing in their way is not the glorious uberness of the maneuverist
dogmas of the Panzerwaffe, but their own command and staff failings.
By staff failings I mean the complete absence of anything resembling combat
service and support (CSS) for the Mech arm, which is the root cause of
entire Mech corps evaporating on contact without the Germans much
noticing. And no, this is not because the Germans dealt with them so
effectively through operational virtuousity. The assymetry is, German
panzer corps hits Russian rifle division, annihilates it and is in the
house in 48 hours. Russian mech corps hits German infantry division,
the attacking Mech corps evaporates within 96 hours.
No, this is not because the mech corps are sent to the wrong spots on the
map, as though the Russians of all people don't know how to play chess.
All the operational movements of the mech are sensible if the formations
behaved like later war tank armies, let alone German panzer groups. But they
simple do not, instead they all evaporate on contact. Higher dispositions
that counted on them performing as one would expect fail when they do not.
The infantry armies are all being pegged too far west and not retreating
enough, in part because the mech corps are expected to at least stop
German penetrations if not cut them off - but do not because they are busy
evaporating on contact.
On a few occasions the Germans report trouble for a few days, when the formations
hitting them have on the order of 300 modern tanks, and the force they
hit is as small as a single Panzer division with Czech tanks or at best
mixed IIIs and IVs with old 1941 guns, if not an ID or two. Even these
cases clear up on their own in less than a week. The Russian formations
involved are not penny packets, they have 1000 tanks. They are not completely
lacking transport, they have 1000 trucks apiece as well. The Russian side
reports of their loss are a giant excuse factory - we lost them in swamps,
the enemy controls the air, the neighboring unit wasn't where it said it
What is actually going on is the tanks are suffering routine mechanical
breakdowns on the march and the men are incapable of servicing them. They
are abandoned in place. Other formations take incorrect routes, burn their
available gas, and no additional POL is arranged to make them mobile again.
The trucks meant to move the supporting artillery and motorized infantry are
instead cannabilized to supply a subset of the tank formations, which then
attack piecemeal without combined arms or prior recon and are easily stopped
by ordinary infantry division formations, using light ATGs on the T-26s and BTs,
and gun lines of divisional howitzers on the occasional T-34 group. The older
obsolete tanks are burning all the gas and taking all the road space, repair
efforts, and staff attention that should have been going to the capable modern
tanks. Which are therefore weaker with the addition of the older tanks than
they would have been had the latter not existed at all.
The second failure is triggered by the previous and concerns the top
echelon, Stalin in particular as well as the party generally, and their
incorrect diagnosis of the root of the problem. They think it is all panic
and cowardice - probably projection, frankly. They therefore try to deal with
the snowballing defeats by demanding no retreats, hamstringing rational
maneuver, and by cashiering officers accurately relaying the bad news and
sensibly recommending a backpeddling defense. They interpret this as "defeatism"
and refuse, and instead issue more and more senseless counterattack orders,
under the impression that the Germans are winning merely because attacking
is easier than defending. (Exactly what maneuverist nonsense preaches).
The Russians have to solve these problems in the opposite order. They first
need the higher command to get realistic and allow the entirely competent
Front level officers to run their own operations rationally, when that means
defensive deployments, backpeddling, layered reserves of entire armies, and
adaptation to the direction of German attack. They need the fresh formation
stream to be correctly directed at the *next* point of attack, not the *prior*
one. When they get this they can actually hold somewhere and avoid losing
a Front per month. When they manage to avoid losing a Front per month, the
fielded force ratio will finally move in their favor, thanks to the lack of
a German reinforcement stream to match their own. That in turn will help
them hold, and holding will calm the panic at the top, and allow more rational
direction of the war by the military professionals.
It is because it stresses this specific Russian weakness that Kiev is the
greatest crisis of the campaign for the Russians. It loses them another
entire Front directly, all of Ukraine to the Donbas including 20% of prewar industrial
capacity, a rail net at least as important as Moscow, a civilian population
passing into captivity from which they could have continued to draw probably
another entire Front's worth of personnel. And it loses them Zhukov as chief
of staff, and a competent if hamstrung front commander in SW Front (all of whose
recommendations were sensible, but none of which were implemented because Stalin
would not let him).
As for the other staff level problem in the Mech arm, it is solved only by
abolishing the pre war Mech corps and going back to independent tank brigades.
Those are as large as the existing CSS can actually support in the field, and
they allow the strength of new modern tanks coming out of the factories to have
some use in a defensive role. Of course, they have to learn more and reinvent
the smaller tank corps of 1942 to have anything useful offensively, but they
at least get on that road.
As for the claim that the prewar formations had to be better than the fresh ones
raised in the summer and fall because gosh, they had professionals in them,
instead of high theory look what they actually did. Those glorious professionals
were the ones who had the pre war Mech corps in a state sufficient to evaporate
on contact without result. You can put it down to the prior purges, to chaos
at the doctrine level, to political brownnosing, whatever you like. But competence
was not the leading characteristic of the prewar "professionals" at corps and below.
What actually solves the staff and command incompetence problems is the combination
of a huge rate of new formation creation with a fantastic loss rate. The dead wood
is, well, dead. Anyone doing anything sensible goes up the ranks like a ballistic missile.
The Germans are preaching merciless selection as a racist ideology, but in
practice a third of the armed forces are replacement army sinecures and another
third are REMFs, with some of the highest tail to teeth ratios in military history.
At the top they are sacking Guderians and Rundstadts like they are unnecessary luxuries.
Meanwhile in the Russian army, none but the fit live out the month. That is why the
Russian army is palpably improving despite the constant flow of green men into its
ranks, while the German is not. The relatively skill differential is objectively
highest in June or July, right at the invasion, and by December it has already clearly
fallen. And it goes right on falling right through to mid war, at least.