Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

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Konig_pilsner
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Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by Konig_pilsner » 19 Nov 2018 19:07

Historically AGC attacked Minsk and then Smolensk creating an open flack between it and AGS. What if Kiev became the target post-Minsk, creating an open flank at Smolensk between AGC and AGN?

Since Kiev would fall in July instead of September, it would be Smolensk being surrounded in mid-August putting the Panzers in a direct path to Moscow after the reduction instead of being far to the south.

I think this would save both time and wear on the vehicles, and avoid the conflicts between the commanders and OKW since it would be a part of the plan of Barbarossa and not a deviation like Kiev would become. The Smolensk pocket might have been even bigger then the Kiev one became, as the Red Army would have been heavily re-enforcing the bulge during late summer. Lastly after Smolensk falls the motorized divisions could head straight for Moscow in better weather putting the Wehrmacht in a better position for Typhoon.

Smaller advantages:

i) Ukraine is a more populous region and depriving its population from the Russians earlier effects force generation.
ii) AGS gets some help early and can push to Orel, Karkov or both faster.
iii) the long sweeping attack to Kiev occurs earlier and more importantly closer to the frontier and the supply chain.

As always open to thoughts, as long as they don't involve bull dozers...

KP

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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by BDV » 19 Nov 2018 23:15

Well, obviously.

This would put Germans in a better situation, I wager.

But it would not amount to a hill of beans if different strategic choices are not made.

If the under-supplied Wehrmacht and its Auxiliaries are beaten back from Vladimir and Samara, as opposed to Moscow and Stalingrad, the final outcome would still be the same.
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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by BDV » 19 Nov 2018 23:33

Taking the "well, it still ends in the bunker" off the table, it would require to replicate in the Southern half of Barbarossa what was Planned and prepared by sacrifice (but not executed) on the northern half (the pincer between 3rd and 4th Panzer Group). Here, it would be between the 1st and 2nd (their respective northernmost and southernmost panzer korps). It would bag a nice number of Soviet troops linking around Ovruch. Then, with the infantry units having had time to clear the path and join in the starting line, the diverging attacks towards Leningrad and the Kiev kessel could've been executed (successfully?) in late July, early August.
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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by Konig_pilsner » 20 Nov 2018 16:42

If the plan is to extend the flanks first before pushing on Moscow, then I agree after Minsk the 2nd could push south towards Kiev while the 3rd could move north to Velikiye Luki. Both groups of AGC working with their neighboring army groups.

As for the North, getting past the Valdai Hills and capturing Bologoye puts a lot of pressure on Leningrad and gives you a double railway line to Moscow which wasn't captured historically. (even though Hitler said it was a prerequisite to an attack on Moscow) So the first step to Valdai is Velikiye Luki. Once the flanks are extended and Smolensk is finally surrounded, an attack on Moscow from Bologoye, Smolensk and Orel gives the Germans three double track rail lines to supply their forces. During Typhoon the northern pincer and center shared the same supply limiting the deliveries.

The question would be how well would the Russian Western front perform during the attacks on the flanks. Certainly they would need time to reorganize after the fall of Minsk, but it would also take time for the Germans to refit after taking Kiev/Velikiye Luki and launching an attack on Smolensk.

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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by Avalancheon » 21 Nov 2018 05:36

Konig_pilsner wrote:
19 Nov 2018 19:07
Historically AGC attacked Minsk and then Smolensk creating an open flack between it and AGS. What if Kiev became the target post-Minsk, creating an open flank at Smolensk between AGC and AGN?

Since Kiev would fall in July instead of September, it would be Smolensk being surrounded in mid-August putting the Panzers in a direct path to Moscow after the reduction instead of being far to the south.

I think this would save both time and wear on the vehicles, and avoid the conflicts between the commanders and OKW since it would be a part of the plan of Barbarossa and not a deviation like Kiev would become. The Smolensk pocket might have been even bigger then the Kiev one became, as the Red Army would have been heavily re-enforcing the bulge during late summer. Lastly after Smolensk falls the motorized divisions could head straight for Moscow in better weather putting the Wehrmacht in a better position for Typhoon.

Smaller advantages:

i) Ukraine is a more populous region and depriving its population from the Russians earlier effects force generation.
ii) AGS gets some help early and can push to Orel, Karkov or both faster.
iii) the long sweeping attack to Kiev occurs earlier and more importantly closer to the frontier and the supply chain.

As always open to thoughts, as long as they don't involve bull dozers...

KP
Theres really no way the Germans could undertake such an action. The geography would not permit it. Have you ever looked at a map of the Pripyat marshs? It is basically a swamp the size of a small country, located in southern Belorussia and northern Ukraine. It is a natural obstacle that separates AG South from AG Center, forcing them to fight their battles separately. Lines of communication between the two Army Groups were tenuous at best: Only a handful of German divisions went into the Pripyat marshs.

At the time in question (early to mid July), it would not be possible for AG Center to move south in a drive to the Ukraine. This could only be done if they drove further east of Minsk, all the way to Smolensk. Once they have moved past the western portion of the Pripyat marshs (which is the worst portion by far), THEN the Germans can have AG Center turn to the south. So this part of the campaign cannot go any differently than it did in real life. Smolensk must come before Kiev.

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Konig_pilsner wrote:
19 Nov 2018 19:07
Historically AGC attacked Minsk and then Smolensk creating an open flack between it and AGS. What if Kiev became the target post-Minsk, creating an open flank at Smolensk between AGC and AGN?

Since Kiev would fall in July instead of September, it would be Smolensk being surrounded in mid-August putting the Panzers in a direct path to Moscow after the reduction instead of being far to the south.
Having Panzer Group 2 down in the Ukraine wasn't actually that big of a disadvantage for the Germans. When the attack on Moscow commenced, Guderians forces were able to approach from a direction the Red Army wasn't expecting. They quickly captured Orel with a coup de main and attacked Bryansk from behind, helping to trap them in a huge pocket. Though to be fair, all that running around had left Panzer Group 2 pretty worn out by that time. Hence why their extended push onto Tula petered out.

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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by Avalancheon » 21 Nov 2018 05:45

But with all that said, it isn't a foregone conclusion that the Germans couldn't have taken Kiev any earlier than they did. In early July, von Kleist actually wanted to use Panzer Group 1 to take the city with a direct attack (as called for in the original Marcks plan). Instead, Hitler split his forces into three separate groups and had them each pursue different objectives. This enabled them to create the Uman pocket, but did not allow Kiev to be captured. If von Kleist had been allowed to concentrate Panzer Group 1 against the capital, they would have taken it alot sooner.

Its unclear just how advantageous this would really be to the Germans, however. Sure, they wouldn't have to worry about that huge salient between AG Center and AG South. But they would also miss the opportunity to create the Uman and Kiev pockets that eviscerated the Red Army. Maybe they would be able to do a smaller encirclement in the capital itself, by doing a river crossing to the east of Kiev. That would enable them to bypass that nasty line of fortifications.

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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by Konig_pilsner » 21 Nov 2018 18:11

Hi Avalancheon,

I don't know about having to go to Smolensk. Gomel is at the edge of the Pripyat marshes and 24th Pz was almost there in late June facing little opposition. The 56th, 57th, and 39th Pz were near Polotsk and capable of encircling 3 Russian Armys (3rd, 16th, 29th) opening the way to Velikiye Luki.

Historically the marshes were taken with infantry, and AGC had plenty of it to protect the flank of a German attack south towards Kiev, set up a defence line at Orsha and assist to the North at Polotsk. If you have read the Halder Diaries he scolds Gudarian for his choice of starting the thrust so far east, so it was at least of his opinion that AGC's attack towards Kiev was feasible closer to Minsk.

As for Panzer Group 2, I dis-agree. Their launching point was too far from Moscow after months of driving North and South when the German army needed to be going East. It is no surprise that it was Gudarian's army group that had the least amount of success during Typhoon.

I do concede changes would limit the amount of POW's at Kiev and possibly Uman, but the Russians weren't changing their strategy in 1941. Other encirclements would happen most namely a much larger one at Smolensk once the flanks had been secure.

KP
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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by Avalancheon » 23 Nov 2018 03:24

Konig_pilsner wrote:
21 Nov 2018 18:11
Hi Avalancheon,

I don't know about having to go to Smolensk. Gomel is at the edge of the Pripyat marshes and 24th Pz was almost there in late June facing little opposition. The 56th, 57th, and 39th Pz were near Polotsk and capable of encircling 3 Russian Armys (3rd, 16th, 29th) opening the way to Velikiye Luki.

Historically the marshes were taken with infantry, and AGC had plenty of it to protect the flank of a German attack south towards Kiev, set up a defence line at Orsha and assist to the North at Polotsk. If you have read the Halder Diaries he scolds Gudarian for his choice of starting the thrust so far east, so it was at least of his opinion that AGC's attack towards Kiev was feasible closer to Minsk.

As for Panzer Group 2, I dis-agree. Their launching point was too far from Moscow after months of driving North and South when the German army needed to be going East. It is no surprise that it was Gudarian's army group that had the least amount of success during Typhoon.
Fair enough. But you are essentially forcing Army Group Center to commit divergent attacks on two separate axis'. Panzer group 2 and 3 are now pursuing separate objectives, one in Veliki Luki and one in Gomel. They are missing out on the opportunity of crushing a large concentration of Soviet troops at Smolensk, which pose an imminent threat to themselves. One of the pre-requisite conditions for success as outlined in the Marcks plan was to destroy Red Army before it could retreat too deeply into Russia.

In the original timeline, panzer group 3 was at least in close enough proximity to panzer group 2 that it could offer some limited support. With your approach, such mutual support is not possible: They'll each have to go it alone. Both groups will be getting hit on their flanks as they move north and south, respectively. You can use infantry corps to hold off concentrated attacks from Soviet mechanised corps, but they tend to take quite heavy casualties when doing so. The Roslavl–Novozybkov offensive being just one example of this.
Konig_pilsner wrote:
21 Nov 2018 18:11
I do concede changes would limit the amount of POW's at Kiev and possibly Uman, but the Russians weren't changing their strategy in 1941. Other encirclements would happen most namely a much larger one at Smolensk once the flanks had been secure.

KP
If your objective was to make the Smolensk pocket even bigger than OTL, thats easy to achieve. You basically have everything unfold in the same manner as it did in real life, with one exception: Rather than allow panzer group 2 to take the bridgehead at Yelnya (which they were eventually forced to give up under heavy pressure), simply have them turn north and link up with panzer group 3. That would form a much tighter encirclement of Smolensk, and bag many more prisoners.

All speculation aside, the city was probably the right objective to go after in July. The forces were in position to make it happen, and Smolensk is a worthy objective. Its situated on the 'land bridge' between the Dnieper and Dvina rivers, after all.

BTW, about your map. It seems to be a screenshot from the video Eastern Front animated: 1941. Its an excellent presentation, however, there appears to be a mistake. The video has the 56th panzer corps (under Manstein) in a position it did not occupy. In the July 3-10 period, it shows them present at Rezekne: In fact, they were actually moving from Pskov to Soltsy.

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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by Konig_pilsner » 23 Nov 2018 19:02

Hi again, as before I appreciate your response,
Fair enough. But you are essentially forcing Army Group Center to commit divergent attacks on two separate axis'. Panzer group 2 and 3 are now pursuing separate objectives, one in Veliki Luki and one in Gomel.
and
With your approach, such mutual support is not possible: They'll each have to go it alone.
and
Both groups will be getting hit on their flanks as they move north and south, respectively.
That isn't really what I proposed, since they would be conducting operations with support from AGN and AGS. Historically the 2nd Panzer group didn't rely on support from the 3rd when it attacked Kiev the southern pincer came from AGS. Also when it did drive south its flanks were getting smashed the whole way to Gudarian's dismay and Halder's fury so little would change except it being a month earlier.

Yelnya is the exact situation I wish to avoid in this situation. It was taken against Hitler's orders by Gudarian and left an exposed bridgehead when the decision to attack Kiev was already made. This was done to try and change OKW's mind and instead cost time and thousands of casualties. If the plan is already in place to clear the flanks of AGC before a drive on Smolensk/Moscow, then less fumbling is going on in the early months of the campaign.

Remember too that after Minsk around the 6-7th of July the Russians attacked AGC with over 1500-2000 tanks north-east of Minsk and were soundly defeated by the Wehrmacht. While that would open a door for a drive east, it would also give the AG respite from further large attacks around Orsha if the German's attacked north and south instead.

While I would anticipate a later battle of Smolensk to yield higher prisoners, that really isn't why I am advocating the change. The greater benefits are that when the drive for Moscow takes place the units involved are in better position, condition, and earlier then historically. Also the attack can originate from the Valdai Hills axis as well as Smolensk/Orel and the flanking AG's get some help earlier to possibly project them further in the opening months of the campaign.

Btw I agree, that guy did a great job with the video and I am sure there would be a few errors in it, but it is a terrific map he used and it gives a general overview of the progression of the campaign.

Cheers,

KP

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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by BDV » 26 Nov 2018 15:16

Konig_pilsner wrote: As for the North, getting past the Valdai Hills and capturing Bologoye puts a lot of pressure on Leningrad and gives you a double railway line to Moscow which wasn't captured historically. (even though Hitler said it was a prerequisite to an attack on Moscow) So the first step to Valdai is Velikiye Luki. Once the flanks are extended and Smolensk is finally surrounded, an attack on Moscow from Bologoye, Smolensk and Orel gives the Germans three double track rail lines to supply their forces. During Typhoon the northern pincer and center shared the same supply limiting the deliveries.
Bologoye is a target far, far, of what is feasible for the Wehrmacht given the logistic resources it has available. I think that nothing northeast of the Pskov - V.Luki line is worth the required effort; nor does the Wehrmacht have the time for it. Leningrad is a big target, but there is nothing until it, and nothing beyond it; only God-forsaken marshland, even now, the sparsest populated in European Russia.

(Incidentally, this puts a lie to the fact that Polesie was intractable - Polesie marshland are not more or less intractable than Luga basin marshlands or Volkhov basin marshlands or Demyansk area marshlands - it is however very logistically/effort intensive, so these battles have to be chosen wisely. In late 1943 the Korosten area was the site of very heavy fighting at the peak of fall rain/mud season.)

Luftwaffe could have a go at the Leningrad's industries, from Estonia it is only a stone throw's away, the safety of Finnish friendlies even closer. Even after Soviets get their bomber defenses up, beam guided night-bombing from 200 miles away should be feasible into 1944.

An attack on Moscow from Rzhev area is also supported by a major trunk line - Riga-Moscow. Wehrmacht could attack Moscow from the Rzhev, Orel, and Vyazma line.

The question would be how well would the Russian Western front perform during the attacks on the flanks. Certainly they would need time to reorganize after the fall of Minsk, but it would also take time for the Germans to refit after taking Kiev/Velikiye Luki and launching an attack on Smolensk.
STAVKA would send the same forces as historical; the three armies that got caught in the wurst-kessel at Smolensk. OTOH the ATL actions would catch 3rd and 5th RKKA armies in the south, and the 22nd and 27th RKKA armies in the North, plus the 8th Army would meet a questionable fate in Estonia if the 18th Army attack is supplemented by the 41st Panzer Korps.

The link-up between 2nd Panzer and 1st Panzer in the Ovruch-Korosten area is a must, otherwise RKKA will keep battering the continuously elongating flanks with the RKKA units already in the area. Both northern flank of AGS advance and the southern flank of AGC campaign were the site of severe Sovjet counterattacks.

Ignoring these forces in a joint movement (or a lone drive of 2nd Panzer) is likely to bring Stoltsy-style setbacks, but with entire Panzer Korps playing the role of 8th PanzerDivision.
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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by Konig_pilsner » 27 Nov 2018 21:20

Hey BDV,

Bologoye is 350km from Velikiye Luki.

Tula is 375km from Bryansk.

Tikhvin is 415 from Pskov.

Explain to me why if Velikiye Luki is captured in the first week of July how Bologoye is too far, especially given your claim that the geographical challenges were the same if not better than the drive to Tikhvin?

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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by BDV » 29 Nov 2018 23:29

Konig_pilsner wrote: Bologoye is 350km from Velikiye Luki.

Tula is 375km from Bryansk.

Tikhvin is 415 from Pskov.

Explain to me why if Velikiye Luki is captured in the first week of July how Bologoye is too far, especially given your claim that the geographical challenges were the same if not better than the drive to Tikhvin?

Well, to have clarity, how do you exactly propose Germans get to Bologoye, route and forces involved?

Also, Opochka fell on July 9, so July 15-20 is likely the earliest Novosokolniki/Velikiye Luki can fall to joint PzGroup 3/PzGroup 4 attack. In the historical timeline, after crossing the Stalin Line and capturing Pskov (July 8-10), PzGroup 4 jumped to the Luga line (including Erich "120 wristwatches" Manstein's Stoltsy debacle) instead of linking with PzGroup 3 (which at least sent one division NorthEast to link with PzGroup 4).
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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by Konig_pilsner » 06 Dec 2018 17:29

Well I'm not big on drawing arrows on maps but getting to Bologoye through Ostashkov is the most direct route. As for the forces involved it would be a combination of units from the 3rd and 9th Armies.

A big problem I have with Barbarossa is the divergence of the AG's away from each other, especially between North and Center. It is no surprise the biggest Russian gains during the winter counter offensive occurred precisely in this gap. Army Group North's drive on Leningrad along Pskov was the most direct, but Lake Ilmen creates a natural separation that funnels the advance and prevents co-operation between AG's.

If the 3rd and 9th Armies envelop Velikiye Luki, afterwards they can diverge with the 3rd advancing towards Ostashkov and Rzhev while the 9th heads North to Staraya Russa. This would coincide with the 2nd Armies attack on Kiev forming a large bulge at Smolensk.

Following Kiev's surrender the 2nd Army would have to head back North and now the attack on Smolensk would occur with the 3rd Army stopping it eastern attack and driving south.
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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by BDV » 07 Dec 2018 23:43

You have both the 9th and the 3rd Panzer advance over very difficult terrain (the marshes around Demjansk), terrain basically without paved roads. At Bologoye, they would be liable to attack from three sides (from Leningrad direction, from Moscow direction, and from Yaroslavl direction) by forces supplied by rail. Meanwhile, flanks would be battered endlessly (think Totenkopf at Staraya Rusa x3-5).

Also, go all the way to Bologoye, when Rzhev, closer and on a trunk line (a major road), and rail line straight shot from Riga, can serve as a jump-off position against Moscow just as well?

Leningrad is what messed up the plan big time, it got 3rd and 4th panzer operating in difficult terrain, where the war of maneuver had limited effectiveness.
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Re: Kiev before Smolensk July 1941

Post by jesk » 08 Dec 2018 08:27

Captured in 1941 and 1942. The big difference. Army groups "Center" and "North" were not capable of carrying out active operations and this is important. The new "Barbarossa" in 1942 led to the collapse of the USSR stump.

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