TheMarcksPlan wrote: ↑
14 Jan 2021 08:11
Particularly remarkable - and under-remarked IMO - is that the less-numerous 1941 RKKA with WW1-standard mobility was able to kill/wound Germans at about the same rate as the monstrous 1943-45 RKKA with better mobility. That the Ostheer was on the offensive contributes some - but then again RKKA was attacking during much of '41 and Ostheer's operational offensives enabled tactical defense in many circumstances. It emphasizes the decline in RKKA training standards and probably educational levels after 1941. There's a suggestion (or maybe assertion) in Walter S. Dunn's books (Stalin's Reluctant Soldiers
and Why Stalin's Soldiers Fought
) that the early-war RKKA was disproportionately drawn from the urban classes, whereas as the latter war army was more peasant. This would make sense, as the urban proletariat was more supportive of the regime than the peasants. The prewar army and reservists had at least something of a volunteer component; the war-time army was conscripts.
Agreed. I'd go so far as to suspect that the RKKA was at its wartime peak, qualitatively speaking, on 22.6.1941. This was occulted by material factors, both in terms of manpower and equipment, that favored the German-led coalition.
I'd argue that the conventional wisdom has it upside-down: the RKKA's relatively high proficiency at the beginning of the war was neutered by its numerical and material weakness, whereas its latter low proficiency (both compared to the Ostheer and to its own first incarnation) was compensated by its growing numerical and material advantage.
This would largely account for the lopsided casualty exchange rate of the Soviet-German war: initial Soviet losses were so high that they created a negative feedback loop of compressed training regimens which, in turn, led to continued high losses and further pressure on the reinforcement, and thus training, timetable. An (anecdotal) case in point are the divisions raised in June 1942 as part of the 9th and 10th Reserve Armies: they were committed to the battle line less than 3 months after their very creation.
IIRC, and as a point of comparison, an American division was considered unemployable until it had gained 1 year of training as a cohesive unit.
Much is made of the degradation in the quality of the Heer due to the losses sustained in 1941. This is likely true to a certain extent, but, inasmuch as it pertains to the East, any qualitative decline in German combat proficiency must have been offset by an even larger decline in RKKA proficiency. We can actually chart this, given how Qvist provided estimates for Heer quarterly average strength
a long time ago.
Losses are KIA/WIA/MIA for Germans, the same for Soviets from 1Q1942. In the case of 1941, I have substituted adjusted Soviet POW numbers from German records for MIA, due to the fragmentary nature of Soviet records for that year.
Average quarterly strength is front only, Heer + Waffen-SS (without 20. Gebirgs) for Germans, all arms for Soviets.
1941/3: 527,549 / 2,800,000 = 18.8% Germany --- 3,022,640 / 3,594,600 = 84.1% USSR
1941/4: 274,909 / 2,675,000 = 10.3% Germany --- 2,066,368 / 3,099,100 = 66.7% USSR
1942/1: 273,640 / 2,525,000 = 10.8% Germany --- 1,606,376 / 4,437,400 = 36.2% USSR
1942/2: 218,964 / 2,600,000 = 8.4% Germany --- 1,313,280 / 5,343,300 = 24.6% USSR
1942/3: 385,420 / 2,825,000 = 13.6% Germany --- 2,248,003 / 5,946,600 = 37.8% USSR
1942/4: 199,647 / 2,900,000 = 6.9% Germany --- 1,196,899 / 6,618,500 = 18.1% USSR
1943/1: 473,339 / 2,800,000 = 16.9% Germany --- 1,812,378 / 6,146,600 = 29.5% USSR
1943/2: 111,187 / 2,850,000 = 3.9% Germany --- 376,373 / 6,715,260 = 5.6% USSR
1943/3: 505,452 / 2,850,000 = 17.7% Germany --- 2,507,984 / 7,043,600 = 35.6% USSR
I'll post the rest tomorrow, but this gives the general picture. By the end of September 1943, Germany had taken cumulative losses equivalent to 106% of its average strength of 1941/3, whereas the Soviets had taken the equivalent of 449% of theirs.
Note that Soviet losses are concentrated among the ground forces, which are on average a good 800,000 men lower than the above figures. Therefore, the difference between German and Soviet attrition is actually larger than the preceding table suggests.
This doesn't even factor in that Soviet training schedules were not just constrained by losses, but also, and unlike the Germans, by rapid growth.
In light of all this, comparatively low Soviet combat proficiency no longer appears as an anomaly, but as the inevitable consequence of effectively losing the pre-war Red Army, and then having to reconstitute it on an even larger scale, all the while taking constant heavy losses. Seldom acknowledged is that once the negative feedback loop was established, the RKKA couldn't really recover from a qualitative standpoint during the war, at least not below the higher command echelons.
It is widely accepted that the German Jagdwaffe collapsed as an effective fighting force in 1944 due to its heavy losses and compressed training schedules. AFAIK, a comparable phenomenon, this time affecting the RKKA, has seldom been afforded a similar rigorous treatment in the historiography of the Soviet-German conflict**. It should instead constitute a cornerstone to our understanding of the war.
**Admittedly, in the English-language historiography. Russian historiography might already be there. If any poster is familiar with it, I'd be curious.