Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

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stg 44
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Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by stg 44 » 29 Dec 2014 21:17

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1 ... .VKGd1MABA
Abstract
When studying the battle for Kursk, one of the climactic engagements in the German-Soviet war (1941–1945), many authors have maintained that the Germans would have won the battle had they not delayed their attack from May until early July 1943. This article subjects that assertion to recently released archival materials to conclude that this premise is patently incorrect.
This article makes a pretty convincing case that Citadel was doomed from the start, as the Germans could not replace their losses earlier enough to matter in terms of taking the offensive. Just thought the community would appreciate the argument and archival research that went into answering the question.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by maltesefalcon » 01 Jan 2015 19:13

The terms of victory would need to be modified somewhat.

Kursk had three aims:

Shorten and straighten the front line to allow greater depth of coverage and allowace to remove some for a reserve force. (Of course the front line would be shorter for the Soviets as well so this may have been a zero sum gain)

Neutralize the forces inside the pocket. It would be a smaller victory in May, as the Soviets would have had less time to fill the pocket with troops and equipment. Therefore unless the Soviets surrendered, some of the troops encountered in July IRL would have to be dealt with later.

Hitler had been approached by Stalins representatives for a potential negotiated settlement. Hitler wanted to see if the assault would succeed and thereby negotiate from a position of strength. Another mass encirclement of Russian forces may have forced Stalins hand, despite the events at Stalingrad.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by Erwinn » 14 Jan 2015 09:07

They would've been succeed considering Russians had few troops there at that time. After they intercepted the plans via ULTRA network, they begun building the largest concentration of defences and filled it with troops. When you attack a position like that, you know you cannot win. Also the 200 Panther's which they promptly waited for, a majority of them broke down by technical failures at first day.

Start the operation in May without Panther or lousy Elefants and you succeed.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by stg 44 » 14 Jan 2015 14:39

Erwinn wrote:They would've been succeed considering Russians had few troops there at that time. After they intercepted the plans via ULTRA network, they begun building the largest concentration of defences and filled it with troops. When you attack a position like that, you know you cannot win. Also the 200 Panther's which they promptly waited for, a majority of them broke down by technical failures at first day.

Start the operation in May without Panther or lousy Elefants and you succeed.
That's the point of the article, it couldn't have succeeded in May either. The first few defensive belts were built by the time the Germans were minimally ready to attack and the force ratios were still unwinnable for them.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by History Learner » 27 Dec 2020 02:32

stg 44 wrote:
29 Dec 2014 21:17
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1 ... .VKGd1MABA
Abstract
When studying the battle for Kursk, one of the climactic engagements in the German-Soviet war (1941–1945), many authors have maintained that the Germans would have won the battle had they not delayed their attack from May until early July 1943. This article subjects that assertion to recently released archival materials to conclude that this premise is patently incorrect.
This article makes a pretty convincing case that Citadel was doomed from the start, as the Germans could not replace their losses earlier enough to matter in terms of taking the offensive. Just thought the community would appreciate the argument and archival research that went into answering the question.
Having read the article in question finally, I have to say the case the author presents is very uncompelling. Case in point:
For example, on 30 March 1943, the Central Front under Colonel General6 K. K. Rokossovsky had a total of 304,464 officers and soldiers, but by 5 May its strength had grown by 61,167 men to 365,641,7 which amounted to 78 percent of its numerical strength at the start of the Battle of Kursk. At the same time, the strength of its 13th Army under the command of Lieutenant General N. P. Pukhov, which would receive the main attack of Model’s Ninth Army, over this same period of time rose by 42,552 men to 114,456, or 86 percent of its numerical strength on 5 July. This increase in manpower primarily came through the transfer of three rifle divisions to it, although the average strength of its inherent divisions also grew noticeably, by 18 percent (from 6,378 to 7,527). For Pukhov’s army, April 1943 was the period when it took in the greatest number of replacements over the entire time of preparations for the summer fighting. By 29 May, another 14,701 men came under its command, and thereby its total strength grew to 129,157 officers and men, or 97 percent of those available on 5 July. Meanwhile, the overall manpower of the Central Front at the end of May amounted to 451,179 men, or 97 percent of the total number of officers and men it would have at the start of Operation Citadel.8
The early May start sees Central Front missing 22% of its manpower, a considerable combat power reduction that the author handwaves away. Further:
The replenishment of Rokossovsky’s and Vatutin’s forces with tanks didn’t go so smoothly or swiftly. On 3 May the Central Front had 674 tanks and 38 self-propelled artillery vehicles, or 40 percent of their availability on 5 July, while the 13th Army had 137 tanks,11 or 64 percent of the number it had by the start of the battle. However, the situation with armor on the southern shoulder of the Kursk bulge at this time was significantly better.
and further still:
Thus at the beginning of May, the Central Front was substantially weaker than its neighbor: On 15 May the Voronezh Front had 1,380 serviceable tanks and self-propelled guns, or 76 percent of that number that it would receive by the start of the Battle of Kursk, while the Central Front had twice fewer.
So Central Front is missing 60% of its AFVs and 22% of its infantry, while Voronezh Front is missing 24% of its AFVs. These are serious, major lackings in combat formations that can have drastic impacts on the battle. For those who do not know, historically AGC was stalemated very early on in the operation but here would be a facing a substantially weaker opponent. AGS is facing about the same it defeated in terms of infantry and artillery, but its enemy AFV totals have been reduced by a quarter. How about defenses:
It was not only the condition of our forces in the Kursk area that notably contributed to the failure of Operation Citadel, but also the skillfully constructed, deeply echeloned defenses. Although the German general and Western scholars almost never point to this factor as the decisive one in the Wehrmacht’s failure, I nevertheless consider it important to stop here and give it brief consideration. If the main efforts of both N. F. Vatutin and K. K. Rokossovsky in May–June 1943 are analyzed in detail, it is clear that they were directed toward improving the defensive lines and training the troops to use them effectively. There were also serious objective reasons for this. For example, as the inspections conducted in the first half of May by commissions sent from the General Staff testify, almost all the work on the first and second lines in the armies’ main belt of defenses in the Voronezh Front’s sector had been completed. As concerns the second and third belts, here the commissions found substantial, although not critical, shortcomings in their construction and layout (light mine laying in the zone between the belts, shallow trenches, poor camouflage, etc.), which had already to a significant degree been eliminated by the beginning of June. For example, prior to 5 May the 6th Guards Army had managed to deploy only 17 percent of its 90,000 anti-tank mines and 16 percent of its 64,000 anti-personnel mines, which nevertheless were all emplaced by 5 July. In the 7th Guards Army, the given indicators were also extremely low on 16 May, though higher than its neighbor’s: Approximately 22.4 percent of its 65,000 anti-tank mines and 16.9 percent of its 84,000 anti-infantry mines had been laid.23 Yet by 5 June, this situation had also sharply changed: the 6th Guards Army had carried out 50 percent of the plan regarding anti-tank mines and 62 percent of the plan regarding anti-personnel mines. The corresponding figures for the 7th Guards Army were 46.2 percent and 35.7 percent respectively.
Here, a note needs to be made that he only covers the state of the Voronezh Front, only speaking of Central Front in generalities without any real data on it; that is a red flag to me. To hyper focus in regardless, however, this means that in May only those defenses that AGS historically broke had been completed, meaning that in this ATL, they would then found themselves in the exploitation phase with no further defenses to breakthrough, giving them the operational space to run wild in especially given Voronezh Front is missing 24% of its AFVs. 1941-1942 shows what happens in those circumstances...

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by Futurist » 28 Dec 2020 05:47

History Learner wrote:
27 Dec 2020 02:32
1941-1942 shows what happens in those circumstances...
The Soviets were also caught with their pants down in 1941-1942, no?

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by History Learner » 28 Dec 2020 09:39

Futurist wrote:
28 Dec 2020 05:47
History Learner wrote:
27 Dec 2020 02:32
1941-1942 shows what happens in those circumstances...
The Soviets were also caught with their pants down in 1941-1942, no?
Not exactly; partial mobilization had started in April of 1941 and local commanders in many cases had an impression something was coming. Whether or not the Soviets know of anticipated German actions is different from their ability to contain/blunt such.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by Lars » 29 Dec 2020 16:22

The difference would perhaps be most noted on minefields. An earlier Kursk and the Soviet minefields are not as deep and prolific. Minefields killed the German panzer momentum. Things like Prokhorovka were bound to happen once the Germans were free of minefields.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by History Learner » 29 Dec 2020 19:20

Decided to run some calculations on this (I hate unemployment).

Historically, Central and Voronezh Fronts held 1,337,166 men by the time of Operation Citadel. Steppe Front, acting as their reserve, held another 573,195 men. Here, however, Central Front has 365,641 and Voronezh Front has 351,459 for a total of 717,100. The article in question does not provide any details for Steppe Front, other than to say it was already developing as a reserve force. Central Front has 76% of its July manpower rate and Voronezh has 84%, so I took their median value (80%) and applied it to Steppe Front's historical July rate to get 458,556 men.

In total, that is thus 1,175,656 men compared to the historical 1,910,361 men.

From here, we can thus run a Lanchester Equation to figure out the ramifications of this. Running the numbers, with the assumption the Germans still deploy 778,000 men in counter to the Soviets (Correct me if wrong in May, but as far I can tell this is close enough), I found the Soviets had a 0.114 CEV value. Fixing German casualties at their historical rate of 54,182 men and dividing it by said CEV produces our new alternate casualty total of 475,280 men for the Soviets; for those who do not know off the top of their head, historical losses by the Red Army during Operation Citadel was 177,847 men.

Losing roughly one third of their starting force already looks pretty bad, but we can take the analysis further. Historically, Central Front suffered 19% of Soviet casualties during the Battle, Voronezh Front took 42% and Steppe Front received 39%. For the sake of ease-even though Central Front here is actually the weakest of the three fronts compared to OTL-I decided to apportion the alternate casualty total among the three fronts based on the aforementioned percentages. Thus:

Central Front ATL = 90,303
Voronezh Front ATL = 199,617
Steppe Front ATL = 185,359

To convert that into percentages:

Central Front - 25%
Voronezh Front - 56%
Steppe Front - 40%

Steppe Front is still about at its historical loss rate, while Central Front is worse but not decisively so. Voronezh Front, however, is essentially destroyed as a fighting force. As I said earlier, I think Central Front would in actuality be extremely devastated here, given it is much weaker compared to its historical starting force, but I am, again, using the OTL distribution to be illustrative. Also another thing to note here is that, in May, both Central and Voronezh Front held 2,092 AFVs (Tanks and SPGs). Assuming the historical German loss rate of 288 Tanks and SPGs still occurs, then using the historical Soviet loss rate of 6:1 (Antony Beevor says 5:1, so mix and match how you feel comfortable here) results in a loss of 1,728 Soviet AFVs here, or 82% of their starting force.

Conclusions:

In short, by the end of the battle both Steppe Front and Voronezh Front are combat ineffective, having been depleted of tanks and men to an excessive extent. Central Front is worse off than historically, but not exceedingly so; this is a bare bones analysis, however, and one more skilled than me in the mathematics of such (Cough, TheMarcksPlan, cough) could provide much greater insights there. It will take months, at a minimum, to rebuild all three Fronts and that carries grave strategic issues for the USSR.

With Steppe Front and Voronezh Front no longer capable of offering serious resistance and hotly engaged by Army Group Center, Central Front can be compelled to join her sister Fronts in withdrawing from the Kursk salient and therefore handing a major strategic victory to the Germans. Here, they have seriously chewed up a fifth of the Red Army while shortening their overall front and thus protecting their control over Ukraine and its resources. I cannot see a serious Soviet threat in the region until early 1944 at the earliest and even then, the deteriorating manpower and food situation in the USSR makes me wonder if they will even be capable of doing such.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by stg 44 » 01 Jan 2021 18:50

Hi History Learner. Very interesting, but I'm noticing only a focus on weaker Soviet forces, but no estimation for how much weaker German forces were in May in terms of armor, artillery, infantry, supply, etc. It seems like you're making your calculations based on them being equally strong, not also quite a bit weaker in striking power vs. in July. Correct me if I am wrong though.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by History Learner » 01 Jan 2021 20:18

stg 44 wrote:
01 Jan 2021 18:50
Hi History Learner. Very interesting, but I'm noticing only a focus on weaker Soviet forces, but no estimation for how much weaker German forces were in May in terms of armor, artillery, infantry, supply, etc. It seems like you're making your calculations based on them being equally strong, not also quite a bit weaker in striking power vs. in July. Correct me if I am wrong though.
Beyond the issue of armor on the German side, the article doesn't provide any real numbers, so I ran it as if they were the same size manpower wise. On the specific issue of armor, in absolute numbers the Germans are weaker but relative to the Soviets they're not; IOTL by July the Soviets had over an over 2:1 advantage in armor but here, it's about 1.5 or even 1.3 depending on the sector.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by stg 44 » 01 Jan 2021 21:51

History Learner wrote:
01 Jan 2021 20:18
stg 44 wrote:
01 Jan 2021 18:50
Hi History Learner. Very interesting, but I'm noticing only a focus on weaker Soviet forces, but no estimation for how much weaker German forces were in May in terms of armor, artillery, infantry, supply, etc. It seems like you're making your calculations based on them being equally strong, not also quite a bit weaker in striking power vs. in July. Correct me if I am wrong though.
Beyond the issue of armor on the German side, the article doesn't provide any real numbers, so I ran it as if they were the same size manpower wise. On the specific issue of armor, in absolute numbers the Germans are weaker but relative to the Soviets they're not; IOTL by July the Soviets had over an over 2:1 advantage in armor but here, it's about 1.5 or even 1.3 depending on the sector.
That's very interesting then. The one thing that really mattered for OTL Kursk for the Germans though was artillery. They used 300% more shells than the Soviets during the battle, I don't think they had nearly as many ready to go by mid-May. Even with less fortifications to break through a lack of artillery and ammo would be a huge problem given that it was a rather decisive advantage they had over the Soviets until 4th Kharkov. It mattered a great deal to offset the numerical disadvantage without exposing the infantry or armor to damage as in direct fighting.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by The Ibis » 02 Jan 2021 18:02

History Learner wrote:
27 Dec 2020 02:32
stg 44 wrote:
29 Dec 2014 21:17
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1 ... .VKGd1MABA
Abstract
When studying the battle for Kursk, one of the climactic engagements in the German-Soviet war (1941–1945), many authors have maintained that the Germans would have won the battle had they not delayed their attack from May until early July 1943. This article subjects that assertion to recently released archival materials to conclude that this premise is patently incorrect.
This article makes a pretty convincing case that Citadel was doomed from the start, as the Germans could not replace their losses earlier enough to matter in terms of taking the offensive. Just thought the community would appreciate the argument and archival research that went into answering the question.
Having read the article in question finally, ...
You have quite the reading list if it took six years to get around to this! :lol:
"The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided." - Casey Stengel

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by History Learner » 02 Jan 2021 22:35

stg 44 wrote:
01 Jan 2021 21:51
History Learner wrote:
01 Jan 2021 20:18
stg 44 wrote:
01 Jan 2021 18:50
Hi History Learner. Very interesting, but I'm noticing only a focus on weaker Soviet forces, but no estimation for how much weaker German forces were in May in terms of armor, artillery, infantry, supply, etc. It seems like you're making your calculations based on them being equally strong, not also quite a bit weaker in striking power vs. in July. Correct me if I am wrong though.
Beyond the issue of armor on the German side, the article doesn't provide any real numbers, so I ran it as if they were the same size manpower wise. On the specific issue of armor, in absolute numbers the Germans are weaker but relative to the Soviets they're not; IOTL by July the Soviets had over an over 2:1 advantage in armor but here, it's about 1.5 or even 1.3 depending on the sector.
That's very interesting then. The one thing that really mattered for OTL Kursk for the Germans though was artillery. They used 300% more shells than the Soviets during the battle, I don't think they had nearly as many ready to go by mid-May. Even with less fortifications to break through a lack of artillery and ammo would be a huge problem given that it was a rather decisive advantage they had over the Soviets until 4th Kharkov. It mattered a great deal to offset the numerical disadvantage without exposing the infantry or armor to damage as in direct fighting.
The base Lanchester Equation is not the best, admittedly, because it needs refinements to account for issues like that; it's the only one I can run, however, with my limited resources (a laptop and calculator) as well as my limited math knowledge. In terms of giving a general idea, however, I think it is instructive if for nothing else than the suggestion it provides.

On the same subject as artillery, though, Glantz and others note the long preparation time the Soviets had allowed them to drill extensively with their own artillery, setting up firing sectors, hardening their communication lines, etc and this helped to address their own shortcomings in this field that might make lesser German artillery a wash in that they cancel out. The lack of mines and the significant lack of Soviet tanks, likewise, will also significant reduce German infantry losses.

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Re: Would an earlier Kursk have made a difference? (article)

Post by History Learner » 02 Jan 2021 22:36

The Ibis wrote:
02 Jan 2021 18:02
History Learner wrote:
27 Dec 2020 02:32
stg 44 wrote:
29 Dec 2014 21:17
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1 ... .VKGd1MABA
Abstract
When studying the battle for Kursk, one of the climactic engagements in the German-Soviet war (1941–1945), many authors have maintained that the Germans would have won the battle had they not delayed their attack from May until early July 1943. This article subjects that assertion to recently released archival materials to conclude that this premise is patently incorrect.
This article makes a pretty convincing case that Citadel was doomed from the start, as the Germans could not replace their losses earlier enough to matter in terms of taking the offensive. Just thought the community would appreciate the argument and archival research that went into answering the question.
Having read the article in question finally, ...
You have quite the reading list if it took six years to get around to this! :lol:
Lack of access and time haha; I was in High School when this came out.

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